Album: Jumalten kaupunki
Label: Century Media
I’d be genuinely surprised if there’s a single person in the world who can claim that Moonsorrow is a “bad” band. You may not like their music or their style, but simply calling them bad? I don’t think that’s possible. I’ve been aware of them for a good few years now and I’ve enjoyed the odd song here or there, like “Raunioilla” and “Jumalten kaupunki,” before the release of Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa in 2011 and falling in love with what I truly believe to be one of the greatest and most beautiful songs of all time: “Huuto.”
With that in mind, I decided that whenever Jumalten aika [The Time of the Gods] was released, I would give it the proper listen it deserved. I was a bit afraid that the black metal elements the band has been known to use would put me off, or even merely the length of the songs, but I clung to the glory of “Huuto” and hoped that the band would impress me once more. In order to provide a clearer perspective on the album, I sat down with our occasional guest photographer, Mika Ringman (who is both more Finnish than me, and more familiar with the band), and we gathered our thoughts on the album, as he’s been looking forward to the album for so long that there was just no way I could leave him out.
Album now available here:
First of all, in the traditional Moonsorrow way, the album clocks in at an impressive 67:05 with only five tracks. The album gets off to an extremely strong start with the title track, “Jumalten aika.” We were pleased to note that the sound quality of the album is very nice – there’s none of this “bad quality on purpose” that has plagued many black metal albums throughout the ages. Not to call this black metal, necessarily – it’s really more melodic pagan black metal, or whatever – but I mean to say that that genre has been known to have rather bad quality on purpose and these guys have followed suit from time to time. There’s nothing wrong with sounding nice though, and the new sound is crisp and clean and good. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still brutal, but it’s almost… can I say beautifully brutal? The growling is harsh, but not grating on the ears. Mika likened it to Ajattara’s vocal sound in Murhat (2011), which is quite appropriate, as they had some seriously brutal vocals in there. It’s less black metal from the woods and more pagan metal from 2010, as Mika put it, with a fairly updated sound, even compared to the last album.
Musically, the first track doesn’t disappoint either. Prepare yourselves, because I feel like you’ll be hearing a lot more of the word “epic” in this review. Everything sounds really fresh, and it’s surprisingly accessible. Even if you’re not much into black metal’s vocal style (which is the main piece they borrow from that pie), this album feels very easy to get into and the vocals are very inoffensive. And the folk? Oh man, what a blend! By the time “Ruttolehto” was halfway through, Mika was already nominating this for best album of the year (or at least most epic). About halfway through this one, you can definitely get a strong taste of that Sorvali flavor that is often present in Finntroll’s music as well.
“Suden tunti” is the low point of the album quality-wise, almost providing an intermission in the midst of all the epic greatness. While still harsh and totally metal, it’s less dynamic and beautiful than the first two tracks (or the last two, for that matter), but also happens to be the shortest, not even reaching 8 minutes in length, so as the low point, you could still feasibly call it brief (at least by Moonsorrow’s standards). However, you could also call it a necessary brevity. You know the phrase “too much of a good thing”? It’s actually nice to have a bit of a breather between two sets of epics clocking in at around 15 minutes each.
Here’s the music video to “Suden tunti,” for your viewing pleasure:
“Mimisbrunn” brings it back up instantly, and has a definite poetic feel to it. Once you get a few minutes in, I feel drawn to it the same way I felt drawn to “Jumalten kaupunki” from Kivenkantaja. Moonsorrow certainly has their own particular sound and brand of magic in their music. I also have to say that there’s something special to their chants. I’ve mentioned in the past that bands like Týr really bore me because I find their vocals to be extremely adynamic and uninteresting. Moonsorrow manages to avoid that somehow. Perhaps it’s because they don’t only chant, but when they do, it manages to sound rather lovely. This might be my favorite track.
“Ihmisen aika” is a wonderful closing song. Moonsorrow certainly knows how to make a long outro work without getting boring. I find it hard to write specifics about this sort of music because its just so complex and moving. This has some of the most brutal vocals, and yet still manages to not be offensive to the ears. I’d like to take a moment here as well to praise Henri Sorvali as the only person who has ever made the munniharppu (mouth harp) sound consistently amazing in everything he does. Most of the time that instrument is used for hillbilly music, but it adds the perfect hint of wilderness and folk magic to whatever he touches with it. It’s really impressive.
For the both of us, the norm with Moonsorrow has been to find one or two songs from an album we like, and then more or less forget about the rest. However, Jumalten aika manages to be nearly consistently good throughout. “Suden tunti” is certainly overshadowed by the magnitude of the preceding and following tracks, with their great melodies and folk music, but still manages to serve a purpose in the overall feel of the album. With regard to the vocal sound, Ville‘s (Sorvali, vocals) always been very solid in his growling, but some of the production/mixing choices in the past have been… let’s call it questionable. In this album, however, he sounds nothing short of fantastic. We’re both certain that anyone who’s a fan of Moonsorrow, and perhaps man people who are not, will dig into this album and come out with a child-like grin that only gets bigger and bigger after every listen.
I’ll give it a 9/10, but Mika wants to give it an 11/10. You may make your own decision, but I guess this still averages out to a full score from us.
1. Jumalten aika
2. Ruottolehdo incl. Päivättömän päivän kansa
3. Suden tunti
5. Ihmisen aika (Kumarrus pimeyteen)
Text: Amy Wiseman, Mika Ringman | Photo: Moonsorrow press promotion photo collection