Crimfall - AmainLongtime readers may recognize the name Crimfall, as I’ve beaten the drum in their favor two times previously: 2009’s As the Path Unfolds… and 2011’s The Writ of Sword. These two records were the first two parts of a four-part cycle, for which I was very excited back in 2011. That excitement waned, however, when 2013 came and went and the band’s gifted singer, Helena Haaparanta, left the band. Crimfall then went into hibernation. They surfaced briefly with news about a new singer, a single, and the possibility of a new album back in 2014, only to fade back into the mists. In March of 2015, the band began uploading videos of the making of the third album. This continued, with pictures of different singers and guest musicians along the way—Netta Skog (Ensiferum, ex-Turisas), Emmi Silvennoinen (ex-Ensiferum), vocal choirs, and even a (slightly NSFW) picture of the reference shots which became the cover art for Amain. Hope bloomed for real again on January 1st of 2016, they announced officially that Helena had rejoined the band.

One year ago—almost exactly—the band headed off to Fascination Street Studios in Örebro to “finalize the album,” the ending to “this 5 year long battle.” They announced the album was finished on the 30th of September, 2016, but no release announcement appeared. Despite the Herculean efforts of a cast of actors the size of a DreamWorks production list, the “third album” seemed to be sitting in someone’s vault, with no label ready to release it. I had kind of assumed that there would be no third Crimfall album, until I heard that Amain would be released by Metal Blade records in “early summer.” Then, in late June, the street date was finally announced and the album was given a name. Amain was set to be released on August 25th—1 year after they finished recording, and fully 4 years after they demoed the album’s opening track “The Last Stands” in, I can only assume, the hope of securing a new record deal after being dropped by Spinefarm. Six years have passed since I wrote, “my guess is that […] the follow up [to Writ of Sword] in a couple years will be even better.” Was I right?

Every new album has resulted in a development in Crimfall‘s sound. As the Path Unfolds… eased comparisons to Nightwish, while being upbeat and folky: with a nod to Finntroll‘s Visor om slutet or Nattfödd. The follow-up, The Writ of Sword—the winter album—added the sound and feel of Moonsorrow and October Falls to the band’s tapestry. Writ‘s songs were longer, with a black metal edge and a bleak feel. As one might expect, Amain—the Spring album in the cycle1—steps away from this black metal edge, and introduces a sound that is both gentler and more taciturn, with strains of the bombast the band lost during the winter. However, if this is spring, it is a Scandinavian spring: cold and dour, with winter still licking at your heels, until the world explodes with colors and scents.2 This seasonal juxtaposition is heard in opener “The Last Stands,” which balances something akin to Ensiferum with Lumsk.

Crimfall‘s sound is well-honed and original for two reasons. First, Crimfall has two fantastic singers: Mikko and Helena. Helena is one of the most talented vocalists in metal. Her voice is full and throaty and her approach to the music is powerful and dynamic. While she doesn’t go really ‘operatic’ on Amain, she does use her dynamic voice to joik, accent songs with silsul—or the vocal trills associated with music from MENA—as well as rocking a very strong, straight ‘pop’ delivery. Her range is large—hitting some pretty high notes along the way, like on the opening track—and her voice peppers musical arrangements in a way that never detracts from them. Mikko is a dynamic screamer, who has a classic power metal delivery introduced on Amain for the first time [turns out, this is wrong; the part I’m referring to is actually a guest vocal appearance from Rob Lundgren of Aldaria – Ed.]. When Helena’s voice is combined with Mikko’s screams, growls and [the vocal backers’] harmonies, it weaves one of the best vocal tapestries in metal since Ásmegin’s unimpeachable Hin vordende sod & sø.

Second, Jakke Viitala’s compositions are fresh and adroit, using the more mournful side of Amain to great effect. These moments—”Songs of Mourn,” “Dawn without a Sun,” for example—do a great job of differentiating Crimfall from peer comparisons. And Amain outdoes itself in terms of its orchestrations. The orchestras swell, and savvy arrangements gird Viitala’s excellent sense of melody. The orchestrations, in the whole tapestry, remind me of Turisas‘ best work: detailed, cinematic, and engrossing.3 Combined, the musical and vocal talent contained on Amain are impressive. The extraordinary efforts exhibited here pay off in a sound that is unique and accessible, detailed and anthemic. Amain is a towering accomplishment.

While Amain towers, however, minor cracks in its base are just visible (er, audible?). The development of the softer side to the band’s sound introduces untested performances and ideas into the tapestry which prove hard to execute on a couple of occasions. “Far from Every Fate” is a great song on the back-half, but the young woman’s spoken voice nudges dangerously close to [Luca Turilli’s] Rhapsody [of Fire]-style “funny due to a lack of self-distance.” Similarly, “It’s a Long Road” is an epic song that borders on power metal, but the 80 seconds of guest vocalist Rob Lundgren’s cleans which start it off stumble; sounding undisciplined and flat. Such fumbles seem bizarrely out of place in an otherwise so diligently crafted and perfected work of art like Amain, and are fortunately few and far-between.

The bigger problem is that like most everything coming out of Fascination Street these days, Amain is brickwalled. It’s a “better” listen if you don’t normalize your library—thus living in the illusion of dynamics induced by loudness—but the album clearly suffers from an Industry Standard Mastering Job even then. The production, while expertly balanced and layered, obfuscates the band’s vision.4 It does not ruin the album for me—it’s very rare that production totally kills good music—but it leaves me wondering what this would have sounded like if given room to breathe.

Crimfall is Finland’s best kept secret, and I hope that Amain—which is a testament to the work ethic and genius of this gritty band—is a step toward correcting that. The fact that Crimfall never backed down speaks to the vision—and bullheadedness—of its members. Fortunately, Amain demonstrates that belief in their vision was well-founded. Aside from minor quibbles (and longstanding critiques of the music industry), I think Amain is a great addition to the Crimfall catalog. These guys are quietly creating a discography that’s rewarding to listen to from front-to-back. Listening to the three albums in a row makes me appreciate every compositional choice even more, and the subtle differences between the albums emphasize the under-appreciated vision of Crimfall.


Rating: Great!
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: v0 mp3
Label: Metal Blade
Websites: crimfall.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/crimfall
Releases Worldwide: August 25th, 2017

Show 4 footnotes

  1. Though, with Wintersun having put out the flabby, piece-of-shit publicity stunt that simultaneously managed to insult the legacy of Antonio Vivaldi and the power and purpose of crowdfunding, the band have elected to not emphasize this. All of this surely proves that there is no justice in this world and that Amain was probably cursed.
  2. But Scandinavians call that “summer,” having essentially skipped spring altogether
  3. The kind of thing that drove Nygård to start writing stripped down records because they stressed him the fuck out.
  4. This, of course, leads to the following questions which no one will ever deign to answer but which I can’t help but ask: Why use real violins when you’re going to rob them of their dynamic range? If you won’t master your intro track like the rest of the album—because you want the epic, lush sound, why would you master the rest of the album like that? It feels like an admission that you want it to be more dynamic—to have the lush textures of orchestras and the rumble of real bass.

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  • El_Cuervo

    Not long enough, needs more words. 4/10.

    • Don’t encourage him.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      And he has yet to realize the full potential of footnotes

  • A Feed From Cloud Mountain

    I fully expected the worst when I saw the Rhapsody tag, but the embedded track really wasn’t too bad. Nice hooks, guitar work, not too heavy on the folk side. I could get into it.

    • Grymm

      Same. I’m actually digging this, and curious to hear more.

      • Thatguy

        The inconsequencialists above – and I include myself among them – disagree. I think.

    • HeavyMetalHamster

      Didn’t Rhapsody use Christopher Lee for voice overs?
      I’ve heard worse…..

      • basenjibrian

        my favorite voice overs (for realz) are in Godspeed You Black Emperor. Including the interviews with the crazy street preacher.

      • A Feed From Cloud Mountain

        That is true, totally forgot about that. Guy was a legend.

  • Brutalist_Receptacle
    • Thatguy

      Very good, but I will be more blunt. The embedded song – and I suspect this band’s entire oeuvre – sucks.

      • Brutalist_Receptacle

        Oeuvre? Go back to Franceland, Frenchie!

      • HeavyMetalHamster

        SAY “CHOWDER”!

      • Gaynebula

        Why do you even listen to metal if you’re such a misanthropic twat and hate everything so m-

        Oh… Right… Carry on.

  • Dethjesta

    I’d actually forgotten about this band. Good to hear they’re back I liked The Writ of Sword.

  • Sophocles

    Killer Album!

  • Norpal Nordickson

    I’m glad AMG is still blaring the Crimfall trumpet; this band (and the album) really deserves it. And he’s not wrong about Helena either, she is fantastic.

    Just a little bit of trivia: The song It’s a Long Road is actually a cover. The original is from the soundtrack of the first Rambo movie, First Blood.
    It’s also not sung by the band’s own Mikko Häkkinen, but by a guest vocalist whose name I can’t remember just now. Some Swedish guy, I believe.

    • Ah, shit. I didn’t get liner notes with the album, unfortunately. Will correct.

      You’d think given how long this took me that I’d’ve had that base covered…

  • Wow, this is good. I Youtubed the embedded track and after it was over, it recommended this one which is even better IMO:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcTmunax5OE

    What in the hell was Spinefarm thinking not keeping this band? This is right up their alley! Good for Metal Blade though for picking them up! This may be premature, but I already see this on my year end list somewhere….

    • sir_c

      yeah fully agree. The embed under the review did not strike me much, but this song is really, really good.

      And a compliment too that with a female fronted band, the video shows all band members and and not just certain assets of the vocalist. Amon Amarth I am talking to you here.

      • Here’s Johnny

        What is wrong with Johan Hegg’s assets?

        • sir_c

          Ha ha what beer does to a mind. I was listening Amon, but I meant to write Arch Enemy!
          And I think you now know which assets I was referring to.

    • This track was embedded from Bandcamp in the review. Sorry that got missed.

  • AnnieK13

    Really enjoying this album, glad to see the positive review. This is definitely one of my favorites this year.

  • wayne the devil

    ssss…..narcotic wasteland….ssssss

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Every time I see the name Turisas pop up in a review, I keep hoping that someday soon there’ll be a Turisas .

    • VikingSchism

      I saw somewhere a rumour there might be one soonish. I hope

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Me too. That would be great. Thanks.

  • Feytalist

    Been listening to this since it came out; I’m very happy with it. Just about as good as The Writ of Sword. Waited much too long for it.

    Also the rare Lumsk mention! Always glad to see them talked about.

    I would never have guessed that album cover came from a photo shoot…

  • Levly

    I coulnd’t agree more on the quality of the music or the shitty production. It is probably the only of my favorite bands that hasn’t disappointed this year (looking at you Ensiferum). This record is close to a masterpiece, and the production lets it down so much. Metalblade has put the vinyl on Youtube, I think I’m going to try to rip it and sees if it sounds any better…
    Still, I’m in love.

  • Planex

    This isn’t my kind of thing but I can see why people would like it. Also glad to see AMG posting reviews again.

  • The Unicorn
  • Hmm without female vocals I’m hearing a decent folk metal with nice orchestrations and soloing (kinda hard to keep track on, because Jens “YU so loud again” Bogren, but still)…
    And everytime her voice enters, the whole thing immediately turns into full Disney.
    Anyway, I admire the band’s persistence with releasing this despite all the obstacles.

    By the way, I like and appreciate the format of a longer review, with many embedded tracks, photos and footnotes. More time-consuming to write, I’m sure, but more rewarding to read.

    • I think she’s very un-disney and I completely love her vocals, but I get it.

      Also, yeah, this was hard to write. And I cut 500 words in the editing process. But I agree that when it’s called for, it’s a very giving process.

  • Tardsmat

    any source on nygard being stressed out by writing orchestrations? I thought Turisas2013 was supposed to be a one-off thing.

    • Nope, that’s baseless speculation that I got from word of mouth off someone vaguely near the band. Nygård has said in interviews that The Varangian Way was too much, though. That he wanted to strip down on some of that because of how intense the workload ended up being.

      • Tardsmat

        Alright. Kind of a shame since the Varangian way is fantastic. (and also a good candidate for yer metal is olde this year, just sayin’). I’m confident that he will manage to cook up something great regardless, he hasn’t disappointed me yet!

  • HeavyMetalHamster

    They should have called themselves NIGHTBALLS cos it’s like Nightwish with balls…….
    Crimfall sounds like the name of a Hobbit. ….

    • Mollusc

      Singer’s punching the guys behind in the nuts without looking, too.

      • HeavyMetalHamster

        Looks like she’s double fisting.
        She’s got “balls envy”.

        • Mollusc

          I’ve got a feeling double-fisting might be something else entirely… Didn’t realise balls envy was a thing either!

          • HeavyMetalHamster

            Knowing is half the battle. …

          • Name’s Dalton

            One fist is technically half the battle… actually, it’s most of it. After that, its pretty much a crapshoot.

  • Gustaf_H

    I’ve been waiting months for this review, I really thought you’d be throwing this review onto the site as soon as the album dropped. But yeah, I largely agree, but I find the spoken part of Far from Every Fate pretty brilliant. The orchestration with the tuba (I guess) and kantele the spoken voice is great and then it goes into the double bass drum riff (which is also awesome, with especially a brilliant bass line) with a punch.

    Anyway. Good review, great album, definitely worth the wait!

    • Yeah, been working on that dissertation, man. And wrote this review, but it got lost in the mix. Published six weeks after I wrote it…

  • Mollusc

    Is “juxtaposition” no longer banned?

    • Tofu muncher

      for lowly staff yes. Not for HIM is not.

    • Name’s Dalton

      Why is it banned when it’s often the perfect word? Why blame the word for being perfect? This is why we can’t have nice things. I weep for mankind.

  • pfk505

    I have always really wanted to like Crimfall, as MH’s band Draugnim are a long time treasured band for me, but I just cant get into them. Something is just off in the execution. 2.5.

  • Wilhelm

    That dude’s death vocals were kind of bad, the female voice was good though and the music was pretty average. She should lend her talents to a proper gothic or doom metal band, which could be killer.

  • Tofu muncher

    dayum, this one is good. Them vocals in Mother of Unbelievers are just unbelievable ;-)
    Getting this one for sure.

  • Piet

    Oh wow, this is very very good. Thanks for this AMG!

  • Danny

    I was sold as soon as he said Nightwish, Turisas, and Moonsorrow together. Downloaded “Path” and it is fucking great, will check this out soon. I love the way they blend the pagan vibes into more accessible songs.

    • So glad to hear that. I love selling people on this band.

      • Danny

        Sempai noticed me!

  • IAmNotKenM

    I had hopes after this review. But after two songs I was unable to extricate myself from the cheese, so I gave up.

  • Svampmoln

    Definitely thought this band was dead, great to see a new album, going to give this a listen for sure. As the path unfolds has been a go-to for years now for me, Write of sword not so much, but still, I´m excited!

  • Man, I am mostly tired of beauty and the beast vocals, and I’m mostly tired of folk metal, but gosh if this record manages to do BOTH brilliantly and in a fresh way!

    • I think these guys are much better than your average beauty and the beast vocal duo because she’s so good.

      • For my money, the best Beauty and the Beast album was Theater of Tragedy’s ‘Aegis’. A classic! Tristania’s ‘Widow’s Weeds’ was also very good too.

        • I like Velvet Darkness better, but yeah, great stuff.

          • Its a tough call between those two because I love them both. Velvet Darkness has some of their best work on it, but I think that as an album, Aegis flows better. I can still listen to that album in it’s entirety and enjoy it, whereas I’ll skip some tracks on Velvet. Side note, “And When He Falleth” prompted me to rent “The Masque of the Read Death”. I’ll say, the song is better than the film! :)

          • But you have to admit that And When He Falleth is basically the finest moment in sampling. It is perfect, no one has used samples as well as that song (that I’ve heard).

          • I agree 100%. it was so well done that when I watched the movie, I never realized that that Vincent Price dialogue is actually 3 different points in the movie, all edited together into one perfect seamless doomy beauty and the beast metal perfection! :)

          • You know….Velvet Darkness They Fear was released in 1997. Dont you guys like to do the “Yer Metal is Olde” posts on anniversary years? Its 20 years old this year. If you don’t want to do it, I’ll write one for you! :)

          • I should revisit my fawning review from when I just started the site.

  • Zadion

    As a long time reader, I’ve been meaning to check out this band since the blog’s early years, but never got around to it because… well, I didn’t care enough. However, I finally got this one because it’s new and relevant and things new and relevant are worth caring about.

    And it’s fucking awesome. It sounds so much like a grittier version of Wilderun to my ears. Especially the “Ten Winters Apart” tetralogy bears a similar vibe to the “Ash Memory” tetralogy from Sleep at the Edge of the Earth.

    I like this a lot. In one day and four listens its quickly creeping up my AOTY list.

  • Gaynebula

    Honestly can’t decide if I’m a fan or not. I love the verses but I find the choruses underwhelming.