Malady – Ainavihantaa Review

Malady might be the best-kept secret here at Angry Metal Guy World Headquarters. Aside from myself and old-soul-in-a-youthful-body El Cuervo, I don’t think anyone else has heard of them, let alone loved their first two albums the way we did. Maybe it’s because ElC and myself love to find obscure prog acts. Maybe it’s because these guys aren’t even remotely metal – in fact, maybe it’s because they remind us of early-era King Crimson and other prog-rock acts from a half-century ago that they tickle our fancy. Regardless, here they are with their third album, Ainavihantaa,1 and I get to tell you all about it.

Similar to fellow countrymen and label mates Sammal, Malady specialize in the retro-prog aesthetic, interweaving lush tapestries of Mellotron and Hammond organ with slinky bass grooves and jazz-tinged drumming. The music can have a meandering feel to it, but can also be compellingly charismatic. Vocals are sparse, and when they do pop in they do so in soft Finnish. With a few exceptions, Ainavihantaa is a wonderful album to listen to. Opener “Alava vaara” brings to mind an even more laid back, serene version of King Crimson’s “Starless.” It’s a gorgeous track that fills the room with washes of Mellotron augmented by soft saxophone and the occasional space-age synth tones. The greatest opening belongs to “Sisävesien rannat” as it begins with a funky guitar riff born in the 70’s. Once again the song drifts in and out of our conscience with ease as it alternates between breezy organ/sax lines and sharp guitars.

I’ve mentioned the sax a couple of times; Taavi Heikkilä is new to Malady, and the saxophone is a mixed blessing. At times the way it accents the rest of the song is the perfect little touch, but at other times, most notably in “Vapaa ja autio” and to a lesser degree “Haavan väri,” the solos and melodies are far too moribund. Malady are not progressive in the off-kilter experimental way; more so in the intricate ways the musicians interact with each other, and while this is true of the rest of the band (Ville Rohiola in particular is stellar on the keyboards), Heikkilä could have certainly taken more chances with his parts. This is an overall minor quibble, but on a 38-minute album there is no room for missteps, and that’s what a couple of these solos are.

The tape-flanged intro to “Dyadi” illustrates two elements of Ainavihantaa, and honestly all three of Malady’s albums, that I’m absolutely in love with. First, Jonni Tanskanen writes some fantastic bass lines, more groove than complexity yet still deceptively intricate. And second, Juuso Jylhänlehto’s drumming is stellar, beaten only by what has to be the greatest snare drum sound of the year. It is literally perfect, and an absolute joy to listen to after hundreds of brickwalled albums where the snare drum disappears in a wash of sound. Ainavihantaa is a sonically beautiful album to listen to, everything mixed just so and in its perfect place. Even Babak Issabeigloo’s vocals, while not the most captivating, sit perfectly in the mix and never detract from the songs.

El Cuervo and I both had high hopes for Ainavihantaa, and Malady did not disappoint us. ElC may like the album a tad more than I, but rest assured despite my sax-y gripes this is one of the best prog-rock albums of the year, a hair’s breadth below both Toinen Toista2 and “great” status. Along with Wobbler, Malady are my favourite young retro prog-rock band. Ainavihantaa is another very strong offering from them, and hopefully they start getting the attention they deserve.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 320kbps mp3
Label: Svart Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: December 10, 2021

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Perennially Verdant in Finnish.
  2. The band’s excellent second album, released in 2018.
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