Kuolemanlaakso - _Tulijoutsen_
(Svart Records, 2014)
by: Aly Hassab El Naby (8 out of 10)
Translations from the Finnish language, which seems rather bizarre to the uninitiated, were briefly included in an earlier review for Moonsorrow's magnum opus _Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa_ and they are featured again in this one. Now far be it from me to claim even the slightest elementary knowledge of this mystical language from the north of Europe, but the Internet does help a lot. Therefore allow me to introduce Kuolemanlaakso (Finnish for "Death Valley"). Kuolemanlaakso are currently on the rise in the Finnish and European metal scene thanks to their thunderous and tumultuous second album _Tulijoutsen_ (Finnish for "The Fire Swan") and its captivating artwork and very well composed music.

Looking at and into the cover art reveals that it's a hand-drawn image of a gigantic fire swan flying in the night sky above a terrain of frosty lakes and woody trees, much like the Finnish terrain. Aside from the stimulating visuals, _Tulijoutsen_ includes a vast compendium of aural influences; from crushing doom segments, to semi-black metal shrieks and even keyboard-laden progressive rock tinkering. The guitars focus more on creating an almost impenetrable wall of sound which pairs marvelously with the firm pulsating flow of the rhythm section. This creates a very un-flashy album that doesn't leave a lot of hooks after it's had its first fifty five minute spin; but that's enough to plant the seeds.

Slowly but steadily, the seeds of _Tulijoutsen_'s creativity emerge from the muddy soil around which it was spawned. "Verhaaksi" crushes downwards with ruthless magnitude while "Me Vaellamme Yössä" puts on a patient build up with deeply growled vocals that add a new dimension to the slow-morphing main melody. Kuolemanlaakso shows a less vicious side on "Glastoburyn Lehto", which starts off like a blues piece until the clean vocals and keyboards give it a more folk-like vibe. The keyboards also make their mark on the much more dynamic "Tounen Tähtivyö" which combines high pitch and clean vocals to full effect.

There aren't many vocalists out there who can echo such excruciating pain with their shrieks like Mikka Kotamäki does on "Arpeni", and indeed there aren't many bands that can pull off a track like "Musta", which is essentially slowed down black metal, and still leave the listener interested. The experience of each of the band's members is indeed a major factor regarding how good _Tulijoutsen_ came out. This is definitely an album that's worth a couple of listens just to sink in, but once it does, the multiple listens that will follow afterwards will be totally justified.

Contact: http://kuolemanlaakso.net/

(article published 6/5/2014)


ALBUMS
11/27/2012 D Lake 7.5 Kuolemanlaakso - Uljas uusi maailma
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