The Finnish doom squad, KUOLEMANLAAKSO, are about to release their first album in 8 years via Svart Records. The new outing is their third full-length studio offering, titled “Kuusumu,” and it is due out on March 4th, 2022. The recording break stretched rather long – but in doom metal, there is no rush! The album is co-produced, mixed, and mastered by the TRIPTYKON and DARK FORTRESS guitarist, V. Santura, with whom the band has worked with on all of their previous releases. It not-so-subtly suggests that the release is going to be well worth the wait for those who know the score. The lyrics are loosely based on the sudden global cooling that occurred in 535, leading to an endless winter that lasted for 10 years and eventually darkened the sun for more than a year. Yes, I guess we cannot totally avoid grinning at the inter-textual reference to SWALLOW THE SUN here, what with their extremely versatile vocalist, Mikko Kotamäki, starring also at the helm of this bunch, albeit this time singing and growling in Finnish. “Kuusumu” is a winter album, no doubt, after those previous two albums characterized by a distinct autumn-like feel. The cold and desolate atmosphere is crafted in such a meticulous manner that it can almost make your body temperature drop like a rock while giving you the shivers in the most pleasantly chilling way possible. The new album is, by turns, dark and heavy like the polar night – and light as the feather. The infinitely crushing melancholy is nicely balanced with Kalevala-infused melodic twists and turns, resulting in the type of doom aesthetics that sound unequivocally Finnish.
The opening track, “Pimeys laski,” kicks off with a somewhat SWALLOW THE SUN -like, slow-crushing gloom. The subtle StS vibe maybe stems from the piano and keyboard motifs, produced and co-arranged by Aleksi Munter (SWALLOW THE SUN, INSOMNIUM, GHOST BRIGADE), but the impression is soon dissolved by the harmonic guitar legatos. There is a subtle “Kalevala” flavor – a thing that might be a little hard to explain for non-Finnish listeners. Being a Finn, it’s something I have absorbed in mother’s milk, obviously. Maybe, in order to get the flavor, I would have to suggest listening to those 1990s albums by AMORPHIS, as well as the releases of VERENPISARA… or to simply continue listening. The follow-up track, “Katkeruuden malja,” gears up on that particular vibe, featuring stellar guest vocals by Lotta Ruutiainen (LUNA KILLS). The “Kalevala” feel is probably best described as Slavic melancholy with a twist.
The ominous, delayed guitar motif on the track, “Surusta meri suolainen,” slowly evolves into an old-school riff maelstrom which, along with the vocal melodies, echo the radio-friendly heavy-metal aesthetics of TIMO RAUTIAINEN & TRIO NISKALAUKAUS. The steamrolling coda further pronounces this feeling, especially during the clean vocal passages. What really sets the song apart is Kotamäki‘s broad-ranged vocal delivery that also resonates in turns with the air of black-metal and brutal, old-school death metal.
Speaking of harsh vocals, “Kuohuista tulisten koskien” leans heavily toward death-metal aesthetics, whereas “Pedon vaisto” treads more deeply in the black-metal realms of bands such as DARKWOODS MY BETROTHED. The vocal delivery is rather prominent throughout the album, whether it is clean crooning, brutal and guttural growling, or barbed black-metal screaming. Hence, I feel tempted to say that Kotamäki is one of the most proficient vocalists in the Finnish metal scene at the moment. I’m sure it gives the band a much broader sonic palette to craft the songs with – and on their new outing, KUOLEMANLAAKSO does indeed stretch their artistic boundaries further rather brilliantly. Their previous album, “Tulijoutsen” (2014), was selected as one of the best releases of the year in numerous music publications in Finland. “Kuusumu” is such a strong and triumphant homecoming after a lengthy hiatus that I wouldn’t be surprised if it pulled that same stunt this year again.
In spite of drawing inspiration from grief and misery, just like you would expect from a true doom-metal offering, the album ends on a high note of a kind. The closing track, “Tulessakävelijä,” has such a diabolically catchy chorus that you kind of forget that the lyrics are all about raining blood and such.
In the midst of winter, it always feels like the darkness will last forever. Maybe it does, in a way, but as luck would have it, the dismal feeling can be ushered away with 46 minutes of even more profound darkness á la KUOLEMANLAAKSO. Maybe it’s an utterly Finnish thing to do but, anyway, I highly recommend you try it out! When the abyss gazes into you, you just gaze back until it blushes.
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- Pimeys laski
- Katkeruuden malja
- Surusta meri suolainen
- Kuohuista tulisten koskien
- Surun sinfonia
- Pedon vaisto
Kotamäki (Mikko Kotamäki) – vocals
Kouta (Petteri Ruotsalainen) – guitars
Laakso (Markus Laakso) – guitars
Usva (Tuomo Räisänen) – bass
Tiera (Toni Ronkainen) – drums