As a young lad, my dear mother strove to teach me two important things: first, don’t be an angry metal boy/guy, and secondly, never judge others. Well, as an angry metal guy reviewing albums I’d say I’m a major disappointment, but I really can’t say that I’m as big of a disappointment as the meaning of the Finnish band Kiuas‘ name. Kiuas is a Finnish word that roughly translates into sauna stove or stove of sauna. So, in essence, this band is called “SAUNA STOVE?” These guys lose Angry Metal Points.
Despite the goofy name, Kiuas has been thrashing about since 2000 and its members hail from the Finnish extreme metal scene. Their previous platters have featured an intriguing, oddball amalgam of power metal infused with doses of folk, viking, black and death metal. Indeed, it is difficult to categorize Kiuas, which is to their credit as artists. Branding them as power metal simply doesn’t do them justice since they have so little in common with the Gamma Ray, Stratovarius, Sonata Arctica, Weenie Happy Metal bands that have come to define that genre. Kiuas is not a happy sounding band and have opted to put the power back in power metal with crunchy, thrashing guitars and dramatic, aggressive vocals that run the gamut from clean to rough all the way to death metal roars.
Lustdriven is the band’s fifth crusade and marks a turning point in the band’s direction and approach. Gone are the death metal vocals and in their place is an increased emphasis on mood and melody at the expense of aggression. This is a less furious and speed oriented affair and sometimes that works very well while at other times it doesn’t. Things get off to a blistering and self-referential start with “KiuasAssault” (translation: sauna stove assault and all the awful images that may bring to mind). This is classic Kiuas complete with ripping guitars, pounding drums and aggressive singing and screaming from Ilja Jalkanen, who is an extremely gifted metal vocalist who does a lot of interesting things with his range and vocal dexterity. This is a great opener!
However, what follows the classic, ripping opener are several far weaker songs. “Cry Little Angel”, halts the forward momentum because of its painfully sappy lyrics and mediocre chorus. While the gothic stylings of “Of Love, Lust and Human Nature” partially sets the record back on course, it, too, is followed up by other weaker tracks. It isn’t until track 8 that we get the blockbuster of the album in “The Quickening.” This is a brilliant metal song that shows what Kiuas is truly capable of. Powerful, epic, heroic metal that makes you want to lift the family war hammer and charge directly into hell. This one truly grabbed me on the first listen and when Ilja sings “I was scorched once by the fire, on one of those long trips to hell,” I was ready to rock and rumble. And while the album closes out quite strong with “Summer’s End” and “Winter’s Sting,” which are both solid tracks that showcase Kiuas’s folk metal elements, none of the other tracks quite measured up to the mighty standard of “The Quickening”.
Overall, this is a solid album by a very talented band with what is likely a bright future ahead of them. Sadly, I cannot say Lustdriven is as strong as 2008’s The New Dark Age and there are several songs I wish were left on the recording studio floor. However, as the album marinates inside your head, it does get better and better and fans of top notch musicianship and powerful music are encouraged to seek this out for a listen. Check out ‘The Quickening” if nothing else because this song is an early candidate for metal song of 2010 and should not be missed. Bring back the death vocals next time boys and rethink that damn name!”