REVIEW: Kuolemanlaakso – EP: Kuolleiden Laulu

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Just a few months after releasing their long-awaited third full-length, Kuusumu,” Finnish doom-death masters KUOLEMANLAAKSO surprised us with a 3-track EP, out via Svart Records on December 16th, 2022.

The three tracks from this release were recorded during the same session as “Kuusumu,” but did not really fit that album’s mood, so they were published separately. It is worth mentioning that Aleksi Munter (ex-SWALLOW THE SUN) played as a guest musician on this release as well, and the role of producer was covered once again by V. Santura. The EP title is fairly evocative: “Kuolleiden laulu” in fact can be roughly translated as “Song of the Dead” or “Song of the Fallen,” which is also its opening tune.

Admittedly, I was quite shocked when I listened to this the first time; I thought I knew the band pretty well, but they caught me off guard, as they decided to leave their comfort zone and deliver an equally radio-friendly and melancholy-infused song, which features a collaboration with Lotta Ruutiainen of LUNA KILLS on vocals. The tune is shamelessly catchy, almost danceable, and it is clearly reminiscent of a bunch of Finnish rock bands such as VIIKATE and KOTITEOLLISUUS, thanks to the peculiar way of conveying a melancholic vibe in a rockish general mood. The main melody, as much as the chorus, does also have a strong Gothic-rock flavor, which seems to be clearly linked to Laakso’s solo album, released back in 2016. The guitar solo reminds me of SENTENCED’s mid-career works: intense, passionate, and classy, as if it was written by Miika Tenkula himself. Kotamäki’s vocals, on a low register, are always very effective in delivering the message depicted in the lyrics. They took a step out of their comfort zone for sure, but at the same time, their signature sound is still present, if we take the lack of boundaries in Laakso‘s self-expression as an artist into account. Still, quite a brave move…

“Juuret jalkojeni alla” (“Roots under my feet”), was written by KUOLEMANLAAKSO’s bass player, Usva, and it sounds nothing like the previous song. A blues-infused intro evolves into a doomy, lullaby-like main melody where Kotamäki’s clean vocals give shape to an apocalyptic and ritualistic tale, which is related to the topics found in “Kuusumu.” His signature growls take over in the chorus, making this tune significantly heavy as they combine with guitars, drums, and bass. If compared to the opening track, this one is a bit closer to the band’s trademark sound, but it is also pretty evident that the mind behind the composition was not the usual one.

The closing tune, “Rautasiivet” (“Iron Wings”), was composed by guitarist Kouta and reveals a previously hidden side of the band’s multifaceted and beautifully complex personality. The intro is closely reminiscent of what Finnish doom metal is all about nowadays, and it sounds as if SWALLOW THE SUN’s typical mood has had a big impact: gloom and melancholy at their finest, where clean guitars and soft drums provide a mellow yet sorrowful atmosphere. Kotamäki’s very low-pitched vocals bring to mind both Peter Steele and Finnish iskelmä singer Topi Sorsakoski, but the thing I am still kind of shocked about is his performance in the chorus: he delivered a completely new singing style never-before-heard, more grunge-rock oriented, as heartfelt and coherently doleful as it can be in such a context. The tune has an overall epic vibe, due also in part to its dramatic lyrics.

What can I say? It is great to see how many shades of high-quality melancholy a single band can express in a 3-track release, proving that artistic freedom is still a thing, and a so-called common thread does not prevent further and braver steps in these musicians’ fruitful creative journey.

Written by Licia Mapelli

Tracklist

  1. Kuolleiden Laulu
  2. Juuret Jalkojeni Alla
  3. Rautasiivet

Lineup

Laakso – guitars

Kotamäki – vocals

Kouta – guitars

Usva – bass

Tiera – drums

Label

Svart Records

Links

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Bandcamp