Reviewed: December 2020
Released: 2020, Noble Demon
Reviewer: Kieron Hayes
There’s a particular subdivision of metal that I tend to think of as “melodeath-doom”. Seems pretty self-explanatory, a merger of melodic death metal with death-doom, or more generally, melodeath that has a strong melancholic leaning. While maybe not super distinct, there are a number of groups that specialise in this particular brand of heavy music: Insomnium, Swallow the Sun, Be’lakor et al. Finland’s Kaunis Kuolematon seem, on this, their third full-length, to be another addition to this group.
Given any familiarity with the above, you likely know much what to expect in terms of general sound: Kaunis create a dark, doom-y atmosphere, but it’s done more with depressive melodies than consistently slow pacing. The vocals, riffing and percussion can all sway into more extreme territory and tempos when needed to accentuate the tortured, anguished feeling of the music. The lyrics are done entirely in Finnish, though it says something about the effectiveness of the atmosphere that they convey their meaning pretty well regardless of whether you speak the language or not.
Their music also leans heavily into the soft-harsh contrast approach: soothing, gentle, melodic passages will intertwine with vicious spikes of savagery, like fragrant blooms among piercing, cutting edges. The success of this technique can vary from song to song: at its best, it can work well with the gloom and doom vibe, as in one of the best tracks on the album, “Paha Ihminen”, where a soft, soothing build later erupts with a truly stirring guitar melody, then just piles on the anguished rasps. Or in “Syttyköön Toinen Aurinko”, where the rough rhythms put me in mind of Scar Symmetry, while the symphonic influences shine through and add some extra weight with their ominous flourishes.
These are the highlights, but there are also parts where it doesn’t mesh quite so well. “Kylmä Maa” has some great sorrowful melodies early on, sitting with masters of mournful immersion like The Foreshadowing or Draconian. But when the harsher side kicks in, this is discarded and lost, and the track shifts into something notably more generic where the rapid fire beats and angry vocals add nothing.
Still, it would be disingenuous to suggest that the bad outweighs the good here. Syttyköön Toinen Aurinko is a highly competent and often wonderfully effective piece of melodic death-doom, and anyone who’s a fan of some of the luminaries of the style will find plenty to sink into here.