Kuolemanlaakso – Tulijoutsen by Lee Carter

Band Name: Kuolemanlaakso
Album Name: Tulijoutsen
Rating: 4/5
Distributor/label: Svart Records
Released: 2014

Buy Album: http://www.svartrecords.com/shoppe/en/home/2492-kuolemanlaakso-tulijoutsen-lp.html
Band Website: http://kuolemanlaakso.net/
Kuolemanlaakso - Tulijoutsen

Band line-up:

Mikko Kotomäki – Vocals
Markus Laakso – Guitar, Keyboards
Savon “Kouta” Surma – Guitar
Toni “Tiera” Ronkainen – Drums
Tuomo “Usva” Räisänen – Bass.

Track Listing:

1. Aarnivalkea
2. Verihaaksi
3. Me Vaellamme Yössä
4. Arpeni
5. Musta
6. Glastonburyn Lehto
7. Tuonen Tähtivyö
8. Raadot Raunioilla


Finland’s KUOLEMANLAAKSO know a thing or two about heavy. Featuring members of CHAOESWEAVER and SWALLOW THE SUN, these veterans of doom have come together for a brooding and menacing sophomore effort in “Tulijoutsen”. They’re Svart Records debut heralded a fine entrance to the scene and this carries the baton onwards and upwards.

A winter release for this album is nothing but appropriate; it begs to be listened to at night whilst picturing the howling weather outside. It is frequently cold and Kotomäki’s roar frequently crosses over into an isolating shriek which only further chills the listener whilst adding a small hint of malevolence to the lumbering leviathan attack. Whilst every track ebbs and flows, they all (with the exception of the blues-folk “Glastonburyn Lehto”) maintain a low-to-mid tempo lurch; favouring the mammoth combination of emotion and sheer sonic weight instead of rapid assault. Even when Tiera utilises double bass, it is still amongst sprawling dissonant arpeggios and lead-heavy riffs; a combination of which adds a sense of urgency and even aspects of fear/panic to the fold.

Each song, while all in excess of five-minutes, is well-crafted. They blend together devastating heaviness with melancholic ambience that beautiful complements the overarching emotions brought forth in the lyrics (“inspired by the grandeur of the Finnish forests, serene eeriness of the lakes and early 1900s poetry and folklore”). It certainly creates a spectacle to behold and an enjoyable one at that. For some, the fact that each track exceeds five minutes (with an average track time of around seven minutes) may make this album somewhat indigestible especially with the constant mid-tempo pace but there is enough ebb to make it that bit more palatable.

As previously stated, the album excels in sounding like a doom-bringing behemoth; a wall of searing guitars, distorted bass and bludgeoning drums flecked with those aforementioned roars, shrieks and even the brooding, mournful croons fans of SWALLOW THE SUN will be familiar with. Tracks like “Verihaaksi” demonstrate the above and then some, with the rasping vocals adding a sense of maliciousness that is peppered throughout, whilst “Arpeni” opens with sludge-like lurch; augmented with an ominous church bell ring. The only oddity about “Tulijoutsen” is the previously mentioned “Glastonburyn Lehto” – a dramatic curve-ball into the realms of blues and folk that seems wholly out-of-place anchoring an album of such heaviness. It almost sounds like the band have been hanging out with or listening to too many bands that would normally grace the UK’s favourite mud-pit festival! Drop it from the album and there seems to be more consistency to behold.

Lead work from Laakso and Kouta isn’t flashy and it doesn’t need to be – everything is melodic and emotive, playing for the song and nothing more. Saying that makes it feel like an understated aspect but it is a great addition to the bigger picture. This bigger picture would be nothing without a great piece of production and luckily for KUOLEMANLAAKSO, it has been delivered once again by TRIPTYKON guitarist V. Santura. Presenting a balanced mix with a crushing guitar/bass combination (the bass is actually FELT when the trio of axe-smiths slam into a low-ringing chord), crisp drums and sparklingly-clear vocals, everything has a place and all adds to a great body of work.

Odd trip to blues-folk aside, KUOLEMANLAAKSO’s “Tulijoutsen” is an excellent sophomore to continue the great work they started with their debut “Uljas Uusi Maailma”. Aggression and a brooding malevolence is the name of the game and fans of the members’ other bands will certainly find enough here to get their teeth into. These Fins have created a weaving audible tale of snowy woodland, lakes, poetry and folklore that manifests itself in a very real way over the course of the record. Even “Glastonburyn Lehto” conjures images of travelling through icy lands, despite its odd inclusion. If you like your metal a little dark and brooding, cast yours ears this way.

Oh, and dat artwork. Just look at it!

Review by Lee Carter