Moonsorrow // Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa
Rating: 5.0/5.0 —A Masterpiece
Label: Spinefarm
Websites: moonsorrow.com | myspace.com/moonsorrow
Release Dates: UK: 21.02.2011 | EU: 28.02.2011 | USA: Unknown

Moonsorrow - Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden MaassaMoonsorrow is one of the few bands I can think of that no one I know doesn’t like. They seem to unite all fans of underground metal because of their amazing music and authenticity. Let’s face it, a band who writes 15 minute dirges in their native, and arguably alien, tongue doesn’t want for authenticity. Only a few other bands I can think of, like Primordial and Enslaved really have the respect of everyone in what they do. It’s like they’re playing on another plane of existence or something. That, predictably, raises expectations for new Moonsorrow records through the roof (to say the least). But unlike others, Moonsorrow never fails to deliver and Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa (Like Shadows we Walk through the Land of the Dead) is a monument to what atmospheric black metal should be like and to Moonsorrow‘s impeccable legacy.

Coming four years after the band’s superb, and ridiculously epic V: Havitetty, Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa is similar in scope and sound to both it’s forerunner and Veriskeet. The songs are huge, sweeping arrangements with black metal screams and interspersed viking chants that pull one back to Bathory‘s viking metal era. Peppering all of these dirgey tracks is folk inspired keyboards, accordions and folk melodies and ideas that stick with the listener long after the record has quit playing. Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa also has 3 intercut tracks that sound like someone walking through the snow (a legacy of Ulver we will never escape) and, finally, dying (?) in it. It’s hard to say because of language difficulties and no access to lyrics, but the record flows in a way so that there is a sense of a journey from the opening strains of “Tähdetön” (Starless) to the closing chords of “Kuolleiden Maa” (Land of the Dead), which incidentally are the same. A story reaching its close.

Moonsorrow - 2011Of the four epic tracks “Huuto” is definitely my favorite. Melodically it builds a gorgeous theme at the beginning which is held throughout, but has a lot of different strains that really show off the talent of the band, in my opinion. I think largely because of the drone and repetition, it’s easy to get lost in the fact that Moonsorrow actually has some progressive tendencies. Here they show up in different places, including several areas with rotating time signatures that are cleverly disguised and that feel heavy and shake you without feeling disjointed. But the wall of sound that is built here, and it really can only be described as a wall, with the drums like distant cannons and the bass almost lost in the mix but rumbling like thunder, is something that sweeps over the listener a little bit like watching the rain come at you from across a field. All those sounds blend together, and  yet each is distinguishable, and in the case of Moonsorrow, each is excellent (the bass work on this record deserves a special mention for being excellent).

If there is a ‘low point’ about this album, I can’t find it. I guess it would have to be track three “Muinaiset,” which is arguably the weakest of the four tracks, but since that still makes it better than anything else I’ve heard this year I guess I’d say there is no weakness contained within. Instead, Moonsorrow has given us everything that listeners want: epic, ponderous, thoughtful, melodic, folky black metal in one big slab that you could never imagine listening to as separate tracks. This record deserves to be listened to in an atmosphere that matches its darkness, melancholy and genius. And as the first perfect record of the year, it is incumbent upon you to purchase it.