(Death Doom, Denmark)
Preview: Forest Of Insomnia
This was one of my most anticipated albums and as it was only released at the end of November 2012, the waiting seemed to be almost intolerable. When I finally had the record in my hands, I was afraid to push play: what if it fails me? What if they simply do not deliver this time? All my prejudices were put aside by the time the second song, Wind Torn, started. I span the album vigorously through the first two weeks in December and I was sure that my number one has been set. If my list was released on 1st of January, this would have been the winner.
However, I allowed myself to linger and took the time to jump back to my back catalogue before posting the final verdict on my blog. I came to the conclusion that while the record is still pretty much badass and awesome, I felt like my fan boy enthusiasm got the best of me and it was in the beginning so damn good as the waiting had been six long years. Later I felt I needed to downgrade it for a few positions based on my emotions while not listening to the album for about two or three weeks.
The compositions follow the doom laden, slow, atmospheric path where the vocals vary from mellow whispers to clean and deep growls. The contrast is really overwhelming and Saturnus sends you from the beautiful, soul crushing emotions of A Lonely Passage to the sad, depressive and haunting Forest Of Insomnia. If you are a fan of death doom metal, don't hesitate to pick up this album!
(Symphonic Power Metal, Finland)
Here is another album that took almost forever to be released. I first heard about Time about two or three years ago and things were moved forward for Mr. Jari Mäenpää (ex-Ensiferum). He had signed a record deal with the mighty Nuclear Blast and things were looking really bright. Then the troubles began: the demo tapes were lost, they were stolen, his PC for the orchestrations broke down etc. Luckily with Nuclear Blast donating Jari a new Mac to fulfil his dream, things were on a roll again. What I have learnt about Mr. Mäenpää is that he is a work alcoholic and a perfectionist and doesn't stop until he has his way. Doesn't sound like an easy way to live, but he stated at some point "If my music is the only thing for people to remember me by when I'm gone, I am going to make it count and don't settle for anything mediocre. This is my music and I want them to have only the best I can offer!".
It took eight long and winding years for the world to hear Time I. So is it any good? I have to admit that at first it didn't floor me. I was in awe of his talent and it sounded like a symphonic power metal album (with harsh vocals) that would have sent me flying backwards if I were still in my 20's. Now do not get me wrong people: what I am trying to tell here and my taste has changed a bit from my hardcore power metal days when I was 20 something, but I still do listen it (and my theory is that almost every metalhead does, but they don't want to admit that) and power metal suits my mood best in the summer. Time I was released in October, so in my books the season and the genre didn't quite meet but it did have a profound impact on me and it still does. Let's take e.g. the song Sons Of Winter And Stars. This song is the epitome of epic: clocking over 13 minutes, orchestrations and choirs to die for, a chorus that will stick in your head immediately, stellar musicianship and song writing.
What I really adore in this album is that all the song go well together, the atmosphere stays strong and when it ends, you just know that it is left unfinished. I can understand from the selling point of view that splitting the album into two parts gives the record company more money and 80 minutes (if that is the final duration of Time I + Time II) of music could be too much for some people to digest in a single blow. Take it or leave it, you either love Wintersun or consider the waiting too hyped and move on. My suggestion is: give it a shot, be open-minded and make up your mind after a couple of spins.
(Progressive Metal, Norway)
Preview: Thoughts Like Hammers
Enslaved blew my mind with their previous album, Axioma Ethica Odini. It was my choice for the AOTY in 2010 and just slightly beat Agalloch's superb Marrow Of The Spirit. Before I started to contemplate my TOP40 list, I could have sworn makes my top 5 with flying colours. I have to admit that it was "only" in the TOP10 a couple of weeks ago, but made its way finally towards the top positions.
RiiTiiR is Enslaved's longest, most versatile, progressive and in my eyes most ambitious album to date. The album has been generally well received among metal community, but has had its fair share of complaints as well. This album has only a few self-explanatory black metal parts (blast beats and riffs), but I wouldn't label it purely black/Viking metal album. The mastermind duet Ivar Bjornson and Grutle Kjellson have increasingly and wisely added Herbrand Larsen's clean vocals since he joined the band in 2004 and there are clean vocals in every song on this album. I think the use of layered vocals has made them more contemporary and strengthened their sound, but I have a feeling that the best moments are yet to come. It doesn't strike odd to me that the growling is diminished, but I doubt they would completely abandon it.
On the average, the songs are pretty long with the title song, RiiTiiR, being the shortest clocking just under five and a half minutes. It is clear that Nuclear Blast have given them free hands to fulfil their artistic creativity and I feel they use this power wisely. My favourite moments include Death In The Eyes Of Dawn, Roots Of The Mountain, RiiTiiR and Forsaken but there are no weak songs in this album. This is one thing I have about Enslaved, the songs are all killer and no filler. I hate skipping mediocre songs and that is why I am always doing playlists, luckily with RiiTiir you can just push play and enjoy the ride from start to finish.
Enslaved rank is well deserved and they have become one of favourite bands nowadays and I cannot wait to see them live again!
(Folk Metal, Germany)
Preview: Nicht Als Asche
I am a huge fan of Folk Metal. There is just something very primordial, masculine and patriotic combining folkish interludes or melodies / chants to metal. Moonsorrow and Primordial are among my top five bands currently and I was kind of sad neither of them released anything new in 2012. Enter Finsterforst, a relatively new Folk / Pagan Metal band from Germany. Their sound is just perfect for my liking as the songs are extremely well written, epic, versatile and long. Another element I have to mention here is the accordion. The bloody accordion, which I have kind of hated in the past, but not anymore. Accordion in metal? Works beautifully and only adds another level to music. Some may find whistles, pipes, hurdy gurdys, bagpipes, fiddles, flutes, accordions, banjos, trumpets or saxophones or whatever instrument I forgot to mention unsuitable for metal, but that is not me. It's not that only when the non-metal instruments are added I am intrigued, its the whole package. In this case the accordion fits beautifully and I can already see myself head banging to it on a hot summer's day in metal festival.
Rastlos consists of seven compositions, two of which are only short interludes. The total running time is over 75 minutes, so you get a very good run for your money! My favourites are Fremd, Ein Lichtschein and the epic closing track Flammenraush which is close to the duration of an entire grindcore album (and don't get me wrong people: I love my grindcore!!) The lyrics are in German, but even if you wouldn't know it, don't let that bring you down. They songs flow very effortlessly and they have a great way to giving enough air for the songs to breathe. Once again the artistic freedom works nicely here and the songs can build up slowly and majestically. Rastlos is best served in a wooden cabin somewhere in the woods, where you warm by the flaming fire sipping your whiskey and looking at the moonlit frostbitten sky and the cold winter wind howling in the corners.