Väki – Kuolleen Maan Omaksi Review

I enjoy a rather hesitant dance with black metal. It doesn’t take a whole lot to turn me off to a sampling of the style – I’d say I’m pretty picky here. But I just can’t help myself trying. Väki, who hail from Finland and purport a strong fascination with death, are the latest to pique my interest, and I couldn’t initially put my finger on why. Is it the album art? The language barrier? The simple allure of a black metal debut in 2020? I have no idea. But regardless, Kuolleen Maan Omaksi (Succumbed to the Dead Soil) is here, it’s dark, it’s chaotic, and I’m happy to say it’s pretty good too.

Väki recommend their music to fans of such acts as Misþyrming and The Great Old Ones, which makes a good deal of sense to me. Kuolleen Maan Omaksi is pummeling, dense, claustrophobic black metal with a slightly melodic touch and a thick atmosphere that plays well into the band’s apparent fascination. The two guitars work really well together, supported by a strong (if somewhat buried) bass to get inside the listener’s head and cut them off from the land of the living. Unhinged shrieking dances across the surface, with tremolos rising and falling through the gloom to add texture and a sense of destination. Väki are less concerned with creating memorable, easily-navigable black metal, and instead aim to suffocate you until you share their worldview. Kuolleen Maan Omaksi is, in this sense, a strong slab of modern Scandinavian black metal.

This style is both an asset and a drawback for Kuolleen Maan Omaksi. On the one hand, Väki have a clear strength in their songwriting style, and they stick to it, creating a consistent album that goes on for a respectable 45 minutes.1 Songs like “Iliuni” (“Eternal Sleep”) gallop by, chaotic and frenzied, with transitions and passions that are thrilling to listen to. On the other hand, songs like “Ennustus” (The Divination) take a different approach, and demonstrate that the band might just be limiting themselves for most of the album. “Ennustus” is nine minutes and feels only half as long – it’s a slow burn, ever-increasing in pace and complexity until the chorus comes, an explosion of impassioned wails and an epic tremolo that I can’t get out of my head. It is so much stronger than the surrounding tracks that the rest of the album winds up feeling comparatively lifeless.2 The ending of “Ikuisen kuoleman alttarille” (To the Altar of Everlasting Death”) takes a moment to perform some quiet contemplation, which doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the album, but is, in isolation, another strong moment.

So Kuolleen Maan Omaksi winds up feeling like a good album with some moments of special excitement scattered throughout. “Vaisto” (The Instinct), the album opener, is a solid black metal tune that lacks memorability, but succeeds in establishing the oppressive atmosphere that persists throughout the album. Väki bring great performances to the material, and if I’m not completely sold on their songwriting, I am consistently sold on their ability to convey feeling amidst chaos. The end result is an engaging listen, even as songs like “Ennustus” make me wish the band embraced its melodic instincts a little more often. Kuolleen Maan Omaksi is consistently good, but hints at even greater potential.

I expect I’ll be coming back to this one in the near future. It’s actually not often that I enjoy feeling suffocated by music – and when I do, I leave that for doom-laden styles – but Väki’s dance with death is fascinating and promising. I think I’ve stated my hopes for their future releases plainly enough above, so I’ll simply end by saying that Kuolleen Maan Omaksi is a really promising slice of black metal, and I sincerely look forward to hearing more.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Redefining Darkness Records (North America), Saturnal Records (Europe)
Websites: vaki-fi.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/vakiofficial
Releases Worldwide: July 17th, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. 53 in some versions with a bonus track at the end.
  2. “Comparatively” lifeless – not actually lifeless.
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