Alamaailman Vasarat - _Huuro Kolkko_
(Laskeuma Records, 2009)
by: Noel Oxford (9 out of 10)
Vowels. And Ks. And brilliance. Lots of horns. Beards like woah.

What's all this about, then? Avant-garde progressive Finnish folk, you say? On a metal website? Do me a lemon, pal. I've got a stack of records taller than you to get through, all full of shouting white men fumbling away at many guitars.

In retort, dear reader, I humbly submit that, despite taking its title from the sound accompanying a Saturday night kebab shop doorway-based regurgitation episode, _Huuro Kolkko_ is a sodding brilliant record and if you don't like it, you're an idiot.

If the beards alone don't qualify Alamaailman Vasarat for inclusion in this periodical, then their name surely does. It translates to Hammers of the Underworld, which, for those sorts of people who care about that kind of thing, is officially "Metal as Heck". Because I said so, that's why.

Armed with a slew of brass and woodwind, a couple of cellos and a pump organ -- not a guitar in sight -- Alamaailman Vasarat are capable of churning out a slurry of noise, thicker and fuller than many of these so-called "downtuned" beat combos I hear you kids are so fond of nowadays. It's a moody record, chock full of attitude, atmosphere and ambience. Also, the saxophone player has a marvellous line in top hats.

Much of the work here is busy, upbeat music I could see myself dancing to if my arse wasn't grafted to this computer chair. "Tujuhuju", by way of example, creeps guiltily out of its bedroom past midnight, to the accompaniment of plaintive cello scrapes, before loping effortlessly away out the front door and off into the wilderness, harnessed to the back of a frantic punkish beat. Then, as if gripped by an abrupt change of heart, its last minute or so chugs like a fratboy one beer away from a stomach pump.

God knows what "Mielisaurus" means in English, but it's an appropriately Jurassic-sounding name for a tune that is frankly monstrous, a loose assemblage of low-register brass honks and mean strings, swinging merrily away at each other like a couple of one-eyed boxers. And "Natiivit" is a lump of pure delight, a shuffling, lilting refrain reminiscent of old-school New Orleans.

"Luola", by contrast, is a more sober moment, like a funeral held in the shadow of the Wailing Wall, its muscular groove standing in counterpoint to the record's overall pace. It's a reedy, dissonant cry laid on top of a chunky backing labouring patiently uphill in first gear when, literally out of nowhere, it emerges into a gentle piano recital not dissimilar to Ravel's "Bolero". Or let us consider "Meressä Ei Asuta", which sounds like some sort of catchy 1970s TV theme filtered backwards through a special Scandinavian tea strainer made of petrified wood and nightmares about wolves.

As comically abstract and oblique as all of these descriptions are, they fail utterly to capture the full immensity and intensity of the Alamaailman Vasarat sound, something so unlike anything else I can think of that _Huuro Kolkko_ has claimed a spot in my rotation on that basis alone. There are no vocals to speak of, which suits me to a tee, and which has the direct consequence of pushing out the boundaries of the music on offer, drawing the focus of the ear to plains hitherto uncharted.

Ultimately, this is the best way I can summarise it: _Huuro Kolkko_ sounds almost precisely like a fully loaded percussion delivery truck careening directly through an Hasidic wedding party after losing it on a tricky bend coated in treacherous Finnish black ice. It is utterly smashing.


(article published 4/11/2009)

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