Released: 2011, Spinefarm Records
Reviewer: Luxi Lahtinen
Finland´s pagan/folk/viking metallers Moonsorrow have traveled a long way since the formation of the band (Moonsorrow was formed in 1995 in case someone still needs this tiny piece of info), gaining lots of respect and reputation over the years as one of the finest and most respected acts of its marginal genre. All this, has only been accomplished by the band´s hard and determined work, focusing on their own thing – and believing it from right from the very start.
Moonsorrow´s two previous releases, V. HÄVITETTY (2007) and TULIMYRSKY EP (2008) pretty much culminated in the massive and ambitiously written 30-minutes tracks that sort of gave the fans at least a few things to ponder: How do actually they do it – and has the band reached that milestone when it comes simply impossible, even pointless, to stretch the length of their songs any more?
Well, on the band´s sixth full-length studio album, titled VARJOINA KULJEMME KUOLLEIDEN MAASSA (a rough translation to this could be “As Shadows We Walk in the Land of the Dead”, has possibly reached that point in Moonsorrow´s glorious career when our beloved warriors in the mighty Moonsorrow have said ´goodbye´ to their overly lengthy 30-minutes-or-so tunes – and decided to put more serious weight on songs that vary ´only´ between from 12 to 17 minutes in length. By Moonsorrow´s standards these songs, that have been wrapped around a less-than-twenty-minutes time frame, must feel like running a quick sprint. For the fans of the band, Moonsorrow´s new album is definitely way easier to swallow and digest than 2 of their previous releases – may I say, due to the songs´ more ´human length´ this time, there´s just no question about that.
VARJOINA… is a concept album that deals with life after the end of the world, so this theme alone, creates a pretty darn grim, cold, scary and crushingly apocalyptic atmosphere for the songs on this new album. In fact, in my humble opinion, the Moonsorrow camp have succeeded in recording their most grim and heaviest album so far content-wise. They venture into a ravaged, scorched and dead world in which a flicker of hope comes as even a rarer item to spot than as to say, finding the exactly right words to describe somehow a very cleverly and intelligently written and composed script of this very concept album in question. Both the music and the lyrics on here go hand-in-hand together, supporting each other – and as a result out of all this, succeed in giving a very strong yet beautiful – in its strangely harsh way, wholeness to all the Moonsorrow fans around this slowly but still securely dying planet.
There´s 4 actual songs – added with 3 some sort of preludes in between each song on this pompously yet victoriously moving opus that are meant to link up the songs together – and obviously giving a real, almost warm skin-to-skin feel of a concept album.
And that´s what they indeed do so perfectly. Speaking of things grim and utterly emotionally moving, one should carefully follow the lyrics in order to get the album´s desperate and grim concept fully exploded - at full blast and on maximum level, in the listener´s mind. With each concentrated listen, a listener comes a bit closer to all that lies beneath the surface on this magnificently made Moonsorrow record. It may take a few spins – and a couple of extra glances at the lyrics to get the final concept of this record in its entirety. Once you have reached that level, it´s extremely hard to put this record aside while until you cannot avoid an excruciating temptation to play it all over again and again and again.
In short, a real strength of the songs on VARJOINA… lies upon the guys´ incredible ability for using a vast amount of different and unusual instruments (at least in extreme metal music; mandolin, bouzouki, saw, mouth harp, etc. – you name it) on the record, and simply making the very best out of them – Ville´s screeching and unadorned black metal snarls and beautifully arranged and hair-raisingly powerful ´Viking warrior´ type of choirs that have firmly become an essential part of their folk-ish pagan/viking metal over the years, create that trademark Moonsorrow sound itself and capture the very soul of the band. I really love how well each song melts into the next on this record, maintaining the intensity and epical story-telling of the songs through the whole album.
It´s kind of unnecessary and completely pointless to underline possibly the best or very favorite track out from VARJOINA…, keeping in mind this is a concept album and one couldn´t do without the other. All the fours songs deserve an honorable mention to be on this record as each play their own role as a significant part of the whole storyline behind the album.
I must confess here´s undoubtedly a serious contender for winning the ´Album Of The Year´ title in my personal list in this ongoing year 2011. Moonsorrow is just an amazing band, it truly is – and this camp´s 6th studio album did not prove this fact wrong.