Released: 2003, Spikefarm Records
Reviewer: Luxi Lahtinen
Finland´s epic Heathen Metal warriors Moonsorrow return with a follow-up album to last year´s very successful, highly praised and adored VOIMASTA JA KUNNIASTA (“OF STRENGHT AND HONOR”). This is their 3rd in order, titled KIVENKANTAJA. The band went into its full armory to the famous Tico Tico Studios in November 2002 in order to record 6 new Moonsorrow battle sagas within a month or so - carrying all the swords, bucklers and battleaxes with them just to make sure they would obtain the right mood and the truest spirit for this brand-new manual of ancient and brave Viking warriors also known as KIVENKANTAJA.
Well, did those hard efforts pay off for them then? Actually I leave it up to a listener to decide whether they succeeded there or not, but here´s rather briefly (ed. note: ha!) MY OPINION about the songs on KIVENKANTAJA…
First off, 6 songs in 54-minutes… It means that an average length of each song reaches an amazing 9-minute line, so let´s talk about some pompous ´epic´ songs here once again…
Ok, I hear you asking has anything changed in the band´s bombastically vivid sound then? Well, to answer to the question simply, ´yes´ and ´no´. There are a hella lot of the same Viking, folky, atmospheric, mighty, chillingly growing, colossally moving, developing, changing, etc. elements that they already used on their previous album VOIMASTA JA KUNNIASTA. Those elements (like a full arsenal of several different instruments – including an arpeggiator, mouth harp, and a 12-string acoustic guitar as examples) can be tracked down very easily and without too much effort as it becomes clear and obvious very soon. All that has almost remained the same on this new album with the exception that the songs are connected to each other way better than on their previous album. They have this strong tendency to make you even more addicted to their powerful and exceptionally melodic Heathen Viking Metal compositions. It´s like one story there on the album with 6 different chapters without having either a clear beginning or end. It´s an endless story about a journey of gruesome, but noble Vikings - kind of a true survival of the fittest of its own kind and in another world.
“Raunioilla (“At the Ruins”)” starts off the album – and after spinning the song a few times I can bravely announce rather convincingly that this one wins the award for the song with the strongest epic feel. Similarly, the closer tune called “Sankaritarina (“Warrior´s Tale”)” on the VOIMASTA JA KUNNIASTA album was that album’s most epic track. It´s simply as godlike epic and symphonic as it could possibly get. To say it could be even more, I think it would start to sound like a bit of an exaggeration. A special ´5 horns up!´ -mention goes to the well arranged and catchy choir parts in this particular song that are guaranteed to make you hum the song every time it blows out from your speakers. The song crawls into your mind with its whole unforgettable harmonies without you even knowing it. “Raunioilla” proves quite well why many people with guts already hail Moonsorrow as the most promising conquerors of the throne since Bathory´s TWILIGHT OF THE GODS album as far as this whole ´Viking Metal´ concept is concerned.
“Unohduksen Lapsi (“Child of Oblivion”)” contains nicely captivating choir sections; a mouth harp gets its role as a skillfully yet ambitiously played instrument amongst other instruments here and wins a warrior helmet as the heaviest Moonsorrow song on KIVENKANTAJA as well.
“Jumalten Kaupunki – Tuhatvuotinen Perintö (“City of the Gods” including “Legacy of a Thousand Years”)” scratches the 4 letters “e-p-i-c” on the forehead of a mutilated and desecrated enemy again and basically offers you all the same and strong weapons (i.e. majestically strong choir sections, etc.) that are to be spotted from the album’s first two tunes. This song somewhat turns out to be the most orchestrated song on the album and has now become one of my favorite Moonsorrow songs written ever.
The title track “Kivenkantaja (“Stonebearer”)” happens to be very magnificently orchestrated as a single song. It oddly contains a decent number of folky, yet pretty familiar, elements that brought Finntroll´s trollish spirit to my mind at times. I can only wonder in honest excitement about Moonsorrow’s never-ending flow of great ideas for their battle sagas. Even if they could not ´re-invent the steel´ any longer; their incredible ability to come up with better, more mind-sticking, and more ´larger-than-life´ ideas is what I respect and adore them for. “Kivenkantaja” surely gets credited with a ´five-horns-up!´ honor mark from me personally for having some of these noble and essential ingredients that carry the album toward “The best album of 2003” classification when time has come to make such a list.
“Tuulen Tytär – Soturin Tie (“Daughter of the Wind” including The Way of Warrior”)” is a long, very folk–inspired instrumental song with a few ´spoken words´. You are almost able to hear the whole arsenal of different sounding instruments that these heathenish warriors have learned to use. The song is surprisingly (dare I say) very ´danceable´, too – believe it or not.
“Matkan Lopussa (“At the Journey´s End”)” features female vocals on Moonsorrow´s album for the very first time in the band´s entire history. A girl named Petra Lindgren does a great job with her fragile voice and her voice actually fits in surprisingly well with the dramatic atmosphere of the album´s ending song. The whole atmosphere in “Matkan Lopussa” is very calm, melancholic and relaxed yet it´s kind of mournful at the same time. This leaves the listener feeling alone with the album’s majestic and mighty harmonies and atmospheres that continuously keep on coming to mind when surviving this far with all the 6 songs on KIVENKANTAJA.
What am I thinking all this as ´summa summarum´? Well, let me be this honest with each of you. My sincere and wild guess could be that one ´rather known (!)´ creator for some Viking Metal themes may be polishing and re-animating some of his written, abandoned & forgotten ancient sagas of brutal Viking battles and wondering how on Earth he managed to be that creative and productive in those ´good´n ´ol´ days after (possibly) getting a chance to hear the Finnish stonebearers Moonsorrow´s latest offering. Then, as I assume, this ´he´ would bleed pure enviousness towards Moonsorrow´s direction as ´he´ could eventually realize that his time is gone and the mighty mantle for achieving the strongest, boldest and mightiest Viking Metal sound has been given away to the Moonsorrow battle division. They deserve it….oh dear, they truly deserve it…
KIVENKANTAJA is simply a masterpiece in many ways that has surely started another chapter in the whole ´Viking Metal´ movement. I´m surely not any Nostradameus, but I bet it’ll be remembered long amongst the cultivated community of metal people many years after its release. Some pure genius penned, but moreover very addictive moments reign on KIVENKANTAJA.