One of 2009’s most pleasant surprises for this Angry Metal Guy was Black Sun Aeon‘s Darkness Walks Beside Me. To say that I was slightly addicted to the album would be an understatement: I was totally addicted to that record. It’s like there’s something in the water (Koskenkorva?) in Finland that leads to the ability of these Finnish bands to build some of the most incredible melancholy into their already heavy, beautiful music. Black Sun Aeon‘s debut full length was definitely on the same level as many of the other excellent Finnish doom and melodic death bands out there. While maybe not as melodic as some, or maybe a little bit more simplistic than others, Darkness Walks Beside Me was a tremendous success.
To say that I was surprised when I found out that Tuomas Saukkonen was going to be releasing a double record entitled Routa (“Ground Frost” from Angry Finnish Translator Girl, not sure if this just means frost on the ground or if it is talking about permafrost or something). I was surprised, but also happy, and have awaited the album with baited breath. It is incredibly hard to live up to a solid debut album and Tuomas Saukkonen is trying to do it with this new double album. The record is indeed a double record, but it’s still only about 30 minutes more of music than was on Darkness Walks Beside Me. It is, however, differentiated into two parts “Talviaamu” (Winter Morning) and “TalviyÃ¶” (Winter Night).
Musically, it is easy to say that Routa is the audio clone of Darkness Walks Beside Me. Keyboard-laden synth over thick, downtuned guitars knocking out slightly black and death metal influenced doom. The vocals are for the most part death metal growls and there are some good clean vocals as well in a lower register. Never faster than mid-paced death metal, the record really shines when dynamic parts are thrown in, adding to that sense of dreariness and melancholy that is built on every track. For fans of the first release, the sound will definitely appeal to you as a listener, how could it not? But, the question is whether or not it will replace the first one.
Honestly, while this is a very good album, I’m a little bit disappointed with the fact that it’s not a step in a new direction at all. Hastily produced, these songs don’t seem to have had time to gestate and grow into something a little bit more than what the previous record had to offer. While 45 minutes of this probably would have been totally fine, pushing it out into two CDs, which while named Winter Morning and Winter Night don’t seem to have the differences of night and day, just pushes the length over what is reasonable to sit down and listen to in a single sitting and find enjoyable. After about an hour my mind starts to wander.
That said, I find that if I sit down and listen to one or the other, I enjoy it very, very much. The melodies are strong, evocative and emotional. The tracks have great groove, good playing and the production is very strong, something that shouldn’t go without mentioning. This record is one of the few I’ve gotten in a long time that doesn’t suffer from a loudness issue, so drums sound like real drums and not like tinny metal kegs being hit with a stick. This double record is worth your time if you’re a fan of doom or gothic metal, and if you loved the first album, you’re guaranteed to at least like this one if not have the same kind of infatuation you had with the first one. Now I think that Mr. Saukkonen should let this sit and focus on his other projects for a while so that this doesn’t get stale.