In January, German folk metal giants Falkenbach returned with a great effort entitled Tiurida. Despite considering myself a pretty big fan of Falkenbach, I actually had no idea the album came out until well after it had hit internet blogs and music sites everywhere. The same could not be said for the folk metal giants that were releasing their return to the limelight in the month February. That band was Moonsorrow, and much like I did with Enslaved, Melechesh and Agalloch in 2010, I could barely contain my excitement for their new album. Unlike Falkenbach, Moonsorrow are still in their prime. It was 10 years ago, also in the month of February, that they dropped their debut with Suden Uni. Since then, their acclaim has built up with each passing album. Most will point to their 2003 release Kivenkantaja or, more likely, their 2005 release Verisakeet as being their absolute best work, but to me they hadn’t made anything better than their most recent release, Havitetty.
With expectations flowing and giddiness present, I gave Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa it’s very first spin and I was… well, I was underwhelmed. I feel that Moonsorrow have only had one minor hiccup in their career, their sophomore album, Voimasta ja kunniasta. It was still a good album, something that most bands would be beyond proud to have released. I felt the same way about Varjoina as I did about Voimasta. I’m not sure exactly why this was, but it was actually the same thing that happened to me with Verisakeet. It was strange considering Verisakeet was my first Moonsorrow album and since I finally “got” it, I had instantly fallen in love with their other works. I wasn’t upset, but it was a little surprising that such an insanely consistent band had dropped so far. Of course that was just one listen. I was hoping that it might just be a grower. I’d give it a couple of listens and see if I felt different about it. That wasn’t necessary, though. My second listen to this album had me. Moonsorrow still had that magic.
Alright, enough about me. The reason Moonsorrow have always stood out is because they have one of the most consistent discographies around. They play a style that can easily get repetitive and, though they do play from a very familiar and similar base and formula, they manage to change things up just enough on each release to avoid being a different album same music kind of band. What they on Varjoina better than on album of their’s I have heard is to capture their heritage and their pride like I’ve never seen before. Sure, they’ve always been a band that has embraced their culture, their ancestors and their land, but there is just an atmosphere here that embodies what I imagine life in Finland to have been like. Of course that works incredibly well with their song-writing. Obviously this is an album that focuses mostly on combining the melody, spirit and story telling of the folk side of things with the rawness, emotion, intricacy and power of black and progressive metal in a way that is somehow refined and calculated yet distinctly primitive and real.
I wouldn’t say that at this time this is an album that can match Havitetty or Verisakeet in overall quality, but it is getting extremely close and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is an album that eventually finds itself considered amongst the greatest folk metal albums of all time. It certainly will be considered one of the best metal efforts of 2011