I don’t say this enough: I fucking love metal. I love the culture, I love the music, and I love the variation from one sub-genre or sub-sub-genre to another. I love the passion from the bands, I love the passion from the fans. I love that people can stay true to a band even after four decades of discovering (and rediscovering) themselves. And I love that there’s always that one guy that supports their favorite local group, even though the rest of the world thinks they suck. I love that we can bicker and fight about a band or record and can still be friends. Friends that share a passion for a message, a form of music, and a lifestyle that many can’t understand. I love that the reasons for a band being my favorite can also be the same reasons others hate them. And I love that certain bands just have something that I “get,” even if others around me don’t get it. So, for the same reasons I “get” Bathory and Immortal, I also “get” Havukruunu. Many have argued that Havukruunu are a copycat outfit, preying on a style created decades ago. But debut album Havulinnaan was more than that. And now, Kelle surut soi is even more than Havulinnaan.
But, because I’m a little biased toward this flavor of black metal, let’s set a few things straight. Are Havukruunu the greatest black metal band on the planet? No. Are they practitioners of the Mayhem/Darkthrone ways of black metal? No. Do they care if you can’t interpret their Finnish album titles, song titles, or lyrics? Not a chance. Are they out to recruit all the genre haters with their brand of folky black metal? I doubt its even crossed their mind. What they do has been around for decades. With a style synthesized by old Quorthon and made heavy as fuck by Abbath, et al., there’s no need for reinvention. All that’s needed are adjustments to the subtleties and a band willing to borrow just as much from their forefathers as forge their own path. And that’s exactly what Havukruunu is all about.
Case in point: opener “Jo näkyvi pohjan portit.” This track is as close to anything you can find on Bathory‘s Blood Fire Death. It has everything from acoustic guitars, building atmospheres, reverberating Viking vox, and that crushing bass/drum/guitar work that only Quorthon and Abbath (and Rimfrost) are capable of achieving. But the thing to note about the opener is its holistic atmosphere and its desire for melody. Though it sounds like a continuation to Havulinnaan, it’s the thick layers of emotion that actually set it apart from its predecessor. From opener to closer, Kelle surut soi is on a well-defined mission to engulf you in the mist that surrounds it. Speaking of the closer, it trumps the opener in every way. The title track has unbelievable atmosphere and all that black/folk/Viking emotion, that has been building up the entire album, finally explodes. The result of said explosion is massive riffs and stunning guitar leads that settle deep inside you. It has just the right amount of addictiveness and an all-encompassing attitude that makes it impossible for me to ignore as I listen to it for the hundredth time.
“Verikuu” is similar in approach to the closer, using a heavy dose of Viking melody and voices to build a bridge between Havukruunu and I/Immortal. And another bridge between “Myrskynkutsuja” and “Kelle surut soi.” But, where “Verikuu” uses melodic builds to support its crushing riffs and Viking power, “Myrskynkutsuja,” instead, uses its crushing riffs to support its melodic character. “Myrskynkutsuja” is the closest representative of the dominant sound found on Havulinnaan. It’s got those aggressive, yet fun, qualities of I and Immortal, while maintaining an originality that makes it an effective piece on the record. And that’s Havukruunu in a nutshell: a band that can borrow from its influences while injecting their own uniqueness. A uniqueness made real via the soaring solos of “Vainovalkeat,” the throat-ripping attack of “Vainajain valot,” and the untoppable atmospheres toward the back-half of “Kelle surut soi.”
Kelle surut soi is every bit as much as the debut, except it’s more. The mix and dynamics are on par with Havulinnaan and there’re even inklings of Borknagar/Vintersorg and Dissection interspersed between the thick layers of Bathory, Immortal, and I. Yet, what you hear is the emotion and heaviness of Havukruunu. Though the vocals may be the weakest part of the record, they work better here than on the debut. Being the huge fan I was of their debut, I really didn’t think it could get better. But I was wrong to doubt this Finnish duo. And I’m not afraid to admit that I was wrong.