Album: Metsutan – Songs of the Void
Label: Redhouse Finland Music Publishing
Whispered first caught my attention after the release of their debut album, Thousand Swords, in 2010. Thousand Swords presented a mature band – Whispered being formed 6 years earlier – performing a modern melodic death/power metal hybrid, utilizing various traditional Japanese instruments in their sound. I thought that the band had amazing potential despite the debut’s material varying a fair bit in quality and partly suffering from thin production. I managed to forget about the band completely, until in 2013 Whispered released the first single, “Jikininki,” off their upcoming sophomore album, Shogunate Macabre.
“Jikininki” instantly made me a fan. I remember my first thoughts being: “Damn, this band has the potential to go all the way!” The single showcased Whispered on a whole new level on all fronts. At this point, numerous metal publications had Whispered on their radars, securing them a slot at Tuska Open Air in 2013. The release of Shogunate Macabre next year, alongside a bunch of gigs at Finnish summer festivals, has attracted a steady fanbase for the band, so it goes without saying that the upcoming album, Metsutan – Songs of the Void, is quite highly anticipated.
Listen to the full album now:
The record starts with an instrumental intro song, “Chi No Odori,” but when the first actual song, “Strike!” starts off, the game is ON. “Strike!” is a perfect opener and, if possible, even tighter a song than “Jikininki” was on Shogunate. The chorus stucks in your head on the first listen with with its excellent guitar lead melody.
Check out “Strike!” here:
The second song, “Exile of the Floating World,” turns up the heat even more with fast blast-beat sections combined with more thrashy verses, with singer Jouni Valjakka’s dirty screaming voice working nicely in the mix. Both “Strike!” and “Exile” are surely going to be killer live songs: Whispered is angrier than ever before!
The first single off the new album, “Sakura Omen,” felt a bit long in its length of 7½ minutes when released last summer, but in an album context the track works like a charm! The song balances nicely between more mellow interlude sections and faster themes. The middle section of the song features speech sections spoken by an old man – first introduced on the debut album – until the song suddenly changes towards the finale, which utilizes HUGE brass orchestrations.
Check out “Sakura Omen” here:
The fifth song, “Kensei,” starts off slower than its predecessors, but explodes suddenly into a raging blast-beat in its chorus. The track is probably one of the more “ordinary” songs on the album, but “Our Voice Shall Be Heard” up next returns to the more oriental sound. The beautiful middle section gives room to the various traditional instruments.
Probably my personal favorite off Metsutan is the seventh track, “Tsukiakari.” The song begins with a beautiful, almost cinematic, intro section so good that it could easily have been written by Nobuo Uematsu himself. Again, starting more atmospherically but growing immensely towards the song’s climax ending, “Tsukiakari” more resembles an opus than a traditional album song. In its length of over 8 minutes, the track is probably too long to be a staple in Whispered’s setlists, but boy, would I want to hear this one live some day!
Driving towards its end, the album features an instrumental track, “Warriors of Yama.” The song gives the listener a chance to catch their breath in its 3 minute length. After the instrumental, something very strange happens as Whispered pretty much renders Ensiferum obsolete with “Victory Grounds Nothing.” The almost folk metal-ish blast-beat frenzy is insanely catchy and a spot-on live hit, featuring everything that makes Ensiferum what they are, without sounding copied at all.
Both Thousand Swords and Shogunate Macabre have concluded themselves with a longer, more story-driven opuses, and Metsutan doesn’t make an exception to this rule – the album culminates with an over 11-minute long monster of a song, “Bloodred Shores of Enoshima.” If “Victory Grounds Nothing” stepped on Ensiferum’s toes, on “Enoshima” Whispered gives Wintersun a run for their money. As with “Tsukiakari,” “Enoshima” begins with a cinematic intro passage, but once the band joins in, the song erupts into a full-out battle. Largely reminiscent of Wintersun’s latest work – but not plagiarizing it a bit – “Bloodred Shores of Enoshima” is a journey where fast-paced sections mellow out towards more serene choir passages and the narrative old man’s voice first heard on “Sakura Omen.” The battle comes to a full stop towards the end, only to raise to the final assault before fading into nothingness. Such quality!
To describe the album as a whole, I don’t even know where to begin. Given the band’s track record, Whispered has again evolved immensely, considering that Shogunate Macabre was released not 2½ years ago. The album’s material is ridiculously strong throughout and the band’s technical prowess is outstanding. When compared to Shogunate, the songs are probably a bit more straightforward – you won’t hear surprises like the saxophone solo in “Kappa” on Metsutan – and while this can cause the “typical third record” -feeling for some older fans of Whispered, I’d be surprised if the album won’t attract a LOT of new listeners.
Production-wise, Metsutan is top-notch. The guitars sound heavy, drum sounds hit hard without being too clinical or compressed, and Valjakka’s trashy growls are clear and nicely mixed. The traditional Japanese instruments are given a lot of room in the soundscape. I noticed weird “quiet” parts here and there, but these may have been exclusive to the promo copy. Too bad that the songs’ lyrics weren’t provided along with the music; I would’ve wanted to get in touch with the story, especially in “Bloodred Shores of Enoshima.”
All-in-all, Metsutan – Songs of the Void is an exceptionally well-written and played melodic death metal record and a frighteningly strong effort from one of our most promising metal acts. Everything in Whispered’s doings gives out the notion that the band is 110% committed to the cause. How many Finnish bands (outside the black and Viking metal scenes, at least) dress up in matching Samurai outfits and paint their faces on stage anyway? While the once-great Finnish metal giants like Children of Bodom and Sonata Arctica have taken a step back, becoming rather irrelevant in the past several years, Whispered is blasting ahead at full speed. If Metsutan doesn’t lead the band’s way to the big league, I don’t know what will.
1. Chi No Odori
3. Exile of the Floating World
4. Sakura Omen
6. Our Voice Shall Be Heard
8. Warriors of Yama
9. Victory Grounds Nothing
10. Bloodred Shores of Enoshima
Text: Atte Valtonen | Ed: Amy Wiseman