MOONSORROW — Kivenkantaja (review)

MOONSORROW — Kivenkantaja album cover Album · 2003 · Viking Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
MOONSORROW had already come a long way after starting as a laughable lumpen gathering of pissed off stray cats that found their way into the lo-fi underworld’s recording studio but quickly found that black metal sounded a tad more original when played with Nordic folk and quaint drinking songs. While not the inventors of the style, the band nevertheless channeled its potential into more fertile grounds and added epic atmospheres, irresistible melodies and legendary subject matter revolving around Norse mythology, paganism and the world of the Vikings. While concocting a satisfying anthemic and heroic style on their first two albums “Suden Uni” and “Voimasta Ja Kunniasta,” MOONSORROW suddenly got the progressive bug and created an even more intense larger than life album with the third release KIVENKANTAJA (“Stonebearer") which showcased a triumphant evolution in compositional fortitude and a knack for pulling out all the punches. Folk tinged extreme metal would never be the same.

In addition to the now established folk remedies and black metal bantering MOONSORROW found a new source of inspiration from neighboring Sweden in the form of Bathory’s Viking metal classic “Hammerheart.” Gone are the blatant drinking song jigs in grim reaper fashion and in are more nuanced compositions that offer the grandiloquence of galloping guitar riffs, epic percussive drive, synthesized cumulous cloud covers and chanting vocal exchanges that alternate between the raspy harsh metal vocals of Ville Sorvali and the powerful clean vocal style of Henri Sorvali backed up by a cranking choir effect. Vikings may have been Norse in origin but MOONSORROW with Finno-Ugric origins proves they have what it takes to summon the proper aural spectres to join their Western neighbors in a good game of pagan ritual worship and pilfering plunder but despite the Viking metal tag so carefully attached to their resume, the band itself insists that their style is nothing more than “epic heathen metal.”

Epic indeed right from the getgo as vocal chants and atmospheric creeping is suddenly rudely interrupted by the twin guitar stomping power of Henri Sorvali’s and Mitja Harvilahti’s pristine precisionism as they navigate the choppy progressive Viking waters and chug out the percussive counterpoints in rhythmic mode save the stray guitar solo fluttering into the sonicscape. Likewise the melodic development is provided by the one two punch of the myriad vocalists in cahoots with the keyboards which provide not only the proper ambient brume of mood setting schemata but also cranks out the extra touches of horn instrument sounds as well as wild woodwinds. Sticking to the Viking metal playbook despite contempt for the term, MOONSORROW bedazzles and enchants with the lush tapestry of folk instrumentation heard from the accordion, jew’s harp and fiddle (through the dirty little finger’s of guest musician Jaakko Lemmetty "Hittavainen.) Add the fretted and fretless bass of Ville Sorvali, the multitude of electric, acoustic and 12-string guitar strums and the percussive prowess of the skin and cymbal smasher in chief, Marko Tarvonen and most a exciting sonic storm is guaranteed to please the metalhead’s sensibiltiies.

Stretched out into five tracks of epic heathen metal splendor, KIVENKANTAJA is stuff that far reaching progressively inclined metal dreams are made of. While the Gregorian chant rich opening “Rauniolla (At The Ruins)” provides a rather gentle false sense of tranquility, the following “Unohduksen Lapsi (Child Of Oblivion)” provides the proper soul crushing metal bombast to keep the headbangers happy all the while layers of synth-drenches atmospheric touches ooze by in the background as the guitars stomp their way into the heat of battle. KIVENKANTAJA is where the classic sound of MOONSORROW gelled into its permanent state of awesomeness as all the ingredients and simmered down into a delectable stew of metal palatability. While the album keeps a great pace of mixing the heavier elements with the softer more sensual folk remedies, the final track provides a departure with a pure Pagan folk ritual along with the feminine divine goddess charm of guest vocalist Petra Lindberg. KIVENKANTAJA is equally as divine without missing a beat and cemented MOONSORROW’s status as one of the premier folk metal bands of the millennium.
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