Marrasmieli – Between Land and Sky Review

At any given time, it’s a safe bet that I’m craving new atmospheric black metal. Take your blackest metal impulses, turn down the fury and turn up the melodies, and I’m probably a happy fan! I enjoy black metal a lot, but tend to prefer less angry and more melody in the style. So seeing Marrasmieli and their debut album, Between Land and Sky labelled as “folk/black metal” in the Promo Pit was plenty good enough for me. This Finnish three-piece consists of Nattvind on vocals, synths, and drums, Zannibal on guitars and synths, and Maelgor on bass. It’s all sounding good so far, so I embarked with a familiar attitude: “give me atmosphere or give me death!”1 And good news, everyone – I’ll be living this day.

We begin with the sounds of crashing waves and quiet flutes, transitioning quickly into an explosion of energy, in tremolo riffing and a maintained flute melody. I’m reminded of Wodensthrone; “Embrace the Eternal” is a perfect start to the album. Its peaks and valleys include acoustic guitars, mesmerizing leads, and atmosphere aplenty. A far cry from raging black metal, Marrasmieli is looking to make you feel something far deeper on Between Land and Sky, and at this, they are an absolute triumph. Whether in the brilliant fusion of folk and black elements that texture “Embrace the Eternal,” or symphonic elements that elevate “Karakorum,” Between Land and Sky is an experience more akin to “closeness with nature” than it is “closeness with fury.” The lyrics, both in English and Finnish, are carefully thought out and strengthen this connection – as does nearly every aspect of the album.

Not counting the forty-nine second opener, Between Land and Sky is a forty-six-minute album of five songs. In a lot of ways, the album structure reminds me of In Memoriam (Mistur); each track maintains a unique identity that borrows from the band’s core sound without ever becoming repetitive. “Karakorum” leans the strongest towards symphonic black metal, upping the atmospheric elements noticeably, and making sharper use of choral chants to accent its melodies. “Those Who Are Long Gone” is an angry, altogether darker song, with punishing riffs and furious vocals. The core sound is strong, however; every song highlights great riffing, awesome melodies, and naturally-integrated folk elements. I will be remembering Marrasmieli as the band who used an accordion in a black metal track and made it awesome2 (the song is “Aallot,” and the accordionist is Dødkveld).

From a production standpoint, Marrasmieli have taken obvious care to enhance the simultaneously energetic and ethereal nature of their music. There is no muddiness here, no fuzzy guitars, no ambiguous riffs that are just sort of there to be there. When the band begins playing acoustic guitars, it’s rarely as an interlude, in the style of October Falls, but instead is played right alongside the epic, sweeping, often-icy riffing by their electric counterparts – and they’re perfectly audible. Every time. The same is true of the bass guitar, a meaty thrum that absolutely lifts the riffs like the coolest-looking bar weight around. I could wish that the drumming was a bit higher in the mix, but this is a plenty energetic record even while they aren’t. Between Land and Sky sounds great, and the forty-six minutes fly by far quicker than you’d expect of an album of this structure and style.

That Between Land and Sky is a debut is shocking to me. I can’t find any previous credits for the members of the band. Aside from a two-track self-titled EP3, this is the only music the band has, to my knowledge, ever released. And yet, I would swear I’m listening to hardened veterans of the atmospheric black metal genre. Everything about this album, from the songwriting to the performances to the production4 speaks to experience, careful forethought, and an expertise that most bands haven’t found by albums long after their first. Between Land and Sky is, in a word, beautiful. It is powerful and touching, and ends on exactly as strong a note as it begins on, with nothing but quality in-between. I have no idea how Marrasmieli could top this one going forward, but I cannot wait to hear them try.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 276 kbps mp3
Label: Naturmacht Productions
Websites: |
Released Worldwide: January 27th, 2020

Show 4 footnotes

  1. Incidentally, I feel the same way about everyday living.
  2. Though I’m open to other contenders, if there are any to be had.
  3. Also worth checking out.
  4. The mixing is credited to Nattvind.
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