'Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa' - Moonsorrow (7/10)
No stranger to the grandiose and epic in it's most sincere form, Finnish folk metal legends Moonsorrow show no sign of slowing down with their latest album, entitled 'Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa'. 'As Shadows We Walk Through The Land Of The Dead' in their native tongue, the band here certainly doesn't seek to revolutionize their sound, but instead draws upon the existing 'epic' sound to craft an hour-long journey of music that lacks in variety or dynamic, but makes up in the sheer scale of the sound.
Firmly planted within the style of Viking metal once innovated by the legendary Bathory, and now popularized by such acts as Equilibrium, Moonsorrow plays a fairly upbeat brand of metal, incorporating catchy hooks into the soundscape and heavy layerings of guitar work underneath some typical black metal raspings. Although the lyrics here are sung in Finnish (and would be nearly undecipherable otherwise anyways through the snarl of vocalist Henri Sorvali), there is a clear narrative taking place here; detailing the travels of a voyager through snowy lands and a proverbial 'land of death'. Although the music is certainly not dark enough to reflect this naturally, Moonsorrow gives the sound a very triumphant and anthemic feel, so there's always the feeling that regardless of the lyrics themselves, the content itself is certainly of a widescale and heroic nature.
While 'Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa' may have seven tracks, there are only five real songs, the two remainders being interludes that generally entail a man walking through snow, and panting as he does so. While this may tie in well with the narrative of the music, they do become somewhat unwanted breaks after a few listens, and could have done with some actual music in them, even were it ambient in nature. Musically, there is very little to deviate from the mid-tempo epic folk metal sound here, and with songs passing the fifteen minute mark, the uniformity of the music here can wear thin, should the listener not be in the proper mood or mindset for it. That being said; what Moonsorrow does, they do incredibly well.
Although the tracks here all feel quite formulaic with one another, each is an epic composition that manages to get the grand, nature-inspired feeling across. Highlights of mine would include 'Muinaiset' for its spectacular riffs and beautiful folk moments, and 'Huuto', for having a great central theme from which to build off of. The music is not particularly technical, but all things here are quite professionally produced. Of special note is drummer Marko Torvonen, who manages to take the generally mid-tempo anthems and put some real complexity into his work that isn't quite so profound among the rest of the instruments. Vocally, Henri Sorvali can be a bit inconsistent at times, but his rasps generally do the track for the most part. The greatest vocal work here however is from the choirs and the vocal arrangements, whose ominous chants convey the Norse theme beautifully.
'Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa' is a great album for Viking metal, but there is no doubt throughout that while the musical ideas here are very strong, the music does overstep its bounds by dragging each of the particularly long compositions for a few minutes too long each time. For someone looking for a truly epic hour's worth of music without caring too much about the details however, Moonsorrow's latest is just the thing.