Floorless Finnish folk
Paul ‘how many points is this song worth in Scrabble?’ Castles gets to grips with Moonsorrow’s latest album, out now via Century Media Records
Moonsorrow visit Birmingham tonight as part of their extensive co-headline tour with Finnish compatriots Korpiklaani. They have a new album out in Jumalten Aika and we’ll no doubt be hearing plenty of it at the Academy this evening (April 25).
The whole folk metal thing, and the ribald rivalry of the likes of Finntroll, is perhaps an acquired taste and one that not all metalheads share. Moonsorrow though have traditionally put more meat on the bones than most who plough through this holistic musical plain.
Not for them the happy-clappy approach. In fact since coming together just over 20 years ago Moonsorrow have forged a reputation as exponents of darker, melancholic symphonies, usually with a pagan heart.
Jumalten Aika which translates as the ‘Age Of Gods’ is their seventh album, and their first recorded for one of metal’s bigger labels in Century Media – in itself a statement of intent and an acknowledgement of how their career curve has continued in an upwards direction since their debut album Suden Uni in 2000.
This is their first full length release in five years and comes in at a challenging 70 minutes. With only five songs to fill that expanse of time, Jumalten Aika is an invitation to invest time in its work. There are no quick hits here. The songs demand time to breathe and develop and you need to go along with them to be touched by their pagan power and poetry.
As is their way, Moonsorrow stick to their native tongue when singing, the mysterious song titles also wreaking havoc with your computer’s spellcheck function.
Proceedings open with the album title track and a few monastic chants but the sandals and robes are quickly swept to one side for some of Moonsorrow’s more conventional musical medleys.
Once again the balding men of faith signal the start of second song ‘Ruttolehto’ with some hearty bellows but once in Moonsorrow’s hands the song develops teeth and starts snapping away at you like an overexcited Terrier.
The sweeping harmonies that take over this song like a surfer’s dream wave have ‘crowd-pleaser’ written all over them, and if ever a metal audience is going to let rip with a few whooahs then this song is probably it.
At one point some obscure mutterings are barely audible over a penny whistle that sounds as though its sending weary soldiers back to where the action is bloodiest.
The third song ‘Suden Tunti’ is the shortest by some distance but is a pounding pleasure that drives steadily forward. The darker dimension is maintained on the atmospheric ‘Mimisbrunn’, a track far bleaker than what would pass for folk metal in most circles.
The fact that only a smattering of Moonsorrow’s global army of fans can actually understand what Ville Sorvali is singing about is secondary. The emotional outpouring can simply be felt as much as understood.
Final number ‘Ihmisen Aika’ at 16 minutes is something of an opus but despite the longevity it retains its sound superbly throughout. At times Sorvali’s barbed cries through the mist carry echoes of fellow pagan protagonists Primordial mouthpiece AA Nemtheanga.
Firm favourites of the summer festival season, those venturing across the Channel this year may well renew acquaintances with Moonsorrow at Hellfest or Graspop.
8 out of 10
- Jumalten Aika
- Ruttolehto incl. Päivättömän Päivän Kansa
- Suden Tunti
- Ihmisen Aika (Kumarrus Pimeyteen)