DEATH/DOOM METAL | HELSINKI/ FINLAND
RELEASED ON 23.11.2012 BY SVART RECORDS
It looks like 2012 has been a quite busy year for Mikko Kotamaki (singer of Kuolemanlaakso) with the releases of Barren Earth and Swallow The Sun, and now with Uljas Uusi Maailma. Although Kuolemanlaakso (which also includes members of industrial blacksters Chaosweaver) is also playing doom/death (as is the case with the other two projects mentioned above), it is a quite different case altogether. Mainly it is not as melodic as Barren Earth, and is heavier than Swallow The Sun, and is definitely a stranger sounding album (an example being the use of keyboards and synths which are creating an almost dissonant sound).
The guitars are really heavy and have a remarkably saturated sound to them, resembling the sound that the old Swedish and Finnish death metal scenes used (think of the Demigod guitar sound or, even more, the early Amorphis sound, from The Karelian Isthmus). Another influence of the band is definitely Celtic Frost with many parts paying homage to the Swiss legends. The engineering, mixing and mastering of the album was done by Santura (guitarist for Dark Fortress and Triptykon, also produced records of Pestilence, Obscura and Secrets of The Moon to name a few) and he does a great job making the album sound heavy as fuck on the whole.
The vocals on the entire album are excellent, with Kotamaki focusing much more this time on his growls rather than clean singing (there are still clean vocals parts on the album like chants, but not as much as in his other bands). But there are also a few twists on the album, one quite obvious is the keys that have an almost hellish sound to them which actually works quite well with the highly distorted guitars (an example is about three minutes in the opening song Mina Elan) and then some synths to enhance the ambience of the album, the most impressive one being halfway in Kuun Lapset. Another interesting turn is Ikiuni, the whole track, where Kuolemanlaakso turn into an almost black/death metal band, picking up the pace and blasting relentlessly still using their synths to make their sound more ambient. Also the interlude of the album, Roihusydan, is quite intriguing, being a tribal (kind of like a Native American) ritual song.
Of course the main direction of the album is still doom/death, with songs like Etsin showing their slow (almost ceremonial) side, probably the most impressive song of the album due to the heavy guitars played in a slower tempo, and also Nostos & Algos (in which there is also a really cool effect on some of the clean vocals) that could easily have been a song that Amorphis would include in The Karelian Isthmus. Their more straightforward songs like Etsin and the title track (Uljas Uusi Maailma, which has a twisted hellish part on the synths) also manage to convey an almost epic feeling to the listener.
All in all Kuolemanlaakso is an interesting band. If you are into doom/death metal bands but you also want some sound experimentation then this album is for you. Do not think twice, although it might need a couple of listens to fully appreciate what Kuolemanlaakso is trying to do. Only thing I would like to know is what their lyrics are about (band says they are influenced by the poetry of Eino Laine) but since they are in Finnish, it is a long shot. [9/10 – SPYROS STASIS]