Album Review – Vorna / Ei Valo Minua Seuraa (2015)

A stunning expedition through the depths of human mind, crafted by proficient Finnish metallers whom no light follows.

Rating3

vorna_cover640As I stated earlier this year in the review for the self-titled debut album by Stoner/Progressive Metal band Sata Kaskelottia, and also in the review for the 2005 classic Metallitotuus, by Power Metal band Teräsbetoni, anytime I receive material from a band from the land of ice and snow that’s sung in their mother tongue I get quite excited about what I’m about to listen to. It couldn’t be any different with Finnish Black/Pagan Metal orchestra Vorna (named after a character from the Finnish folklore), who have just release their second full-length album, an incredible full-bodied expedition through the depths of human mind entitled Ei Valo Minua Seuraa (or “No Light Follows Me”, in English).

Dealing with themes like nature, myths and struggles of mind, this ascendant six-piece group formed in 2008 in Tampere, Finland are an exquisite treat for all fans of Black, Pagan and Folk Metal, and their new album will blow your mind no matter how much you love (or even hate) those subgenres of metal music. From its minimalistic and gorgeous artwork, designed by Jarno Lahti (KAAMOS Illustration & Design Studio), to its intricate passages and somber atmosphere, Ei Valo Minua Seuraa offers all metalheads a memorable feast of darkness, all spiced up by the uniqueness of the Finnish language, of course.

The name chosen for the album is already legitimated by its opening track, the pleasant and dark Harmaudesta (“Away from Grey”), where the orchestrations blend perfectly with the harsh vocals by Vesa Salovaara, while the obscure keyboard notes by Saku Myyryläinen, together with the precise drumming by Mikael Vanninen, boost the song’s impact significantly. In Jälkemme (“Heritage”), a sense of epicness emanates through its soaring ambience, inducing a strong feeling that the battle is about to begin. In addition to that, Arttu Järvisalo and Henri Lammintausta do an excellent job with their flaming guitars by adding elements of Black and Viking Metal to their riffs.

vorna_promophoto_2015Their symphony of darkness goes on with a fusion of Melodic Black Metal and the band’s core Pagan Metal in Itsetön (“Soul Shriven”), a hellish waltz flawlessly crafted by the entire band until everything morphs into a melancholic ending; whereas Sieluni Varjossa (“In the Nightside of Self”) presents a sharper sonority thanks to the beats by Mikael and to the solid and resonant bass lines by Niilo Könönen. Moreover, the second half of the song is pure obscurity, perfect for afflicting your soul before the serene Vaipunut (“Of Life Descended”) arises full of melancholy and sorrow. It’s almost like a Dark Metal ballad, very interesting and gripping, showcasing the band’s versatility and Vesa’s clean vocals, which sound as powerful as his guttural.

All that sorrow keeps flowing in the amazing Yksin (“Alone”), with Saku leading Vorna’s metallic orchestra while Arttu and Henri continue to darken the music with their riffs, turning this song not only into the best of all tracks but, more important than that, into a beautiful aria of solitude, fear and sadness. And Vorna lead the listener to one final fight in Hiljaiset Rauniot (“Silent Ruins”), an emotive and razor-sharp chant with an inspiring intro and atmospheric keyboards, and where you can feel death is imminent through both the growls and clean vocals by Vesa, efficiently ending such a distinct album.

This proficient Finnish orchestra can be reached at their official Facebook page and YouTube channel, and their Stygian concerto Ei Valo Minua Seuraa can be purchased through the Inverse Store, Record Shop X or CDON.COM. Indeed no light follows Vorna, but that doesn’t mean their music is dull or unreverberant. Quite the contrary, Ei Valo Minua Seuraa is doubtless one of the brightest releases of the year.

Best moments of the album: Jälkemme, Vaipunut and Yksin.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2015 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Harmaudesta 3:57
2. Jälkemme 7:37
3. Itsetön 8:07
4. Sieluni Varjossa 6:58
5. Vaipunut 3:47
6. Yksin 6:40
7. Hiljaiset Rauniot 8:48

Band members
Vesa Salovaara – vocals
Arttu Järvisalo – guitars
Henri Lammintausta – guitars
Niilo Könönen – bass
Saku Myyryläinen – keyboards
Mikael Vanninen – drums

Album Review – Fjorsvartnir / Mzoraxc’ Forbandelse (2015)

Loyal to the foundations of Black Metal, this talented one-man army from Denmark offers an action-packed album that, above all things, sounds fresh and unique at all times.

Rating4

FJORSVARTNIR - 'Mzoraxc' Forbandelse' , front cover 2015Fans of Scandinavian mythology, Vikings, battles, drinking and atmospheric extreme music, behold the brand new opus by Danish Melodic/Pagan Black Metal one-man army Fjorsvartnir, the excellent Mzoraxc’ Forbandelse, or “Mzoraxc’ Curse” in English. Not only the album took three years to be concluded, but it’s also the first of the band’s three full-length releases to be fully in Danish, and by that you can imagine how organic it sounds and how connected to the themes proposed the music is.

Founded in 2007 in the stunning city of Copenhagen, Denmark by multi-instrumentalist Fjorgynn (who’s supported by three other musicians when it’s time to materialize his music during the band’s live performances), the music by Fjorsvartnir can be at the same time a demonic onslaught and a melodic aria of melancholy, depending on the topic chosen by Fjorgynn when composing his songs. If this is not enough to show you the depth of Fjorsvartnir’s music, maybe the explanation for the name of the band can help you understand that. Fjorsvartnir is another name for Rimfaxe, the black horse that runs over the sky carrying the moon in its chariot, driven by a giant woman named Nat. With that said, are you ready for battle now?

Pagan and nature elements kick off the opening chant, entitled Ravneskrig Og Ulvehyl (“The Raven Scream And The Wolf Howl”), which after a brief acoustic intro becomes a powerful and symphonic exhibit of Scandinavian Black Metal. In addition, it’s impressive how Fjorgynn is capable of crafting such organic and imposing music all by himself, where not only his vocals sound truly demonic but his riffs are also exactly what good extreme music demands. The following tune, Nordens Genopstandelse (“Nordic Resurrection”), is more inclined to traditional Black Metal, with the incorporation of symphonic elements in the background creating a beautiful melody that supports the sonic havoc presented from start to finish. Besides, Fjorgynn delivers desperate vocals mixed with deeper guttural growls, sounding violent and harmonious at the same time.

Embraced by a very solid instrumental, Fjorsvartnir offer us an epic and ominous tune forged in the fires of hell named En Rejse Igennem Fortidens Riger (“A Journey Through Past Kingdoms”), where its keyboards act like a melancholic ray of light in the middle of all the darkness generated by the other instruments, reminding me of some old songs by Dimmu Borgir. Moreover, its last part feels like an ode to anguish, only making it even more enjoyable to fans of Black and Doom Metal. The Viking/Pagan instrumental tune Riget (“Empire”) is a pleasant surprise after so much despair, with Fjorgynn doing a superb job showing his music is more than just pure Black Metal, before Mzoraxc – Mødet Med Underverdenen (“Mzoraxc – Meeting With The Underworld”) rumbles the earth with a creepy intro and a somber rhythm led by its guitar riffs. It has those mesmerizing blast beats found in traditional Black Metal boosted by the harsh growls by Fjorgynn, and although I (unfortunately) do not speak Danish I’m absolutely sure the story told during the song is complex, intense and gripping.

FJORSVARTNIR - promo photo 2015Tailored for fans of complex Extreme Metal, Krigssat contains elements from the most obscure Black Metal from Norway, the more melodic lines from Sweden and the symphonic vibe found in bands from Norway, Finland and the UK, with the gentle and operatic female vocals being a welcome touch of beauty to the song, followed by Det Sidste Slag (“The Last Battle”), a highly recommended soundtrack for an epic battle. I love how the song keeps changing its rhythm and emotions; for instance, you can enjoy sheer brutality through its sick blast beats or feel enfolded by its ominous passages, as there’s excellence for all types of extreme music fans (especially if you are a true black metaller, you’ll go crazy with this incredible composition). Once again, Fjorgynn sounds like a demon incarnate on vocals, which only adds more wickedness to the song. And to properly wrap things up, the melancholic outro Valkyrie provides the listener the sensation of a sorrowful aftermath in a precise and passionate way.

Fjorsvartnir, the Norse creation by the talented Fjorgynn, can be reached through their Facebook page, YouTube channel and ReverbNation, and the energetic Mzoraxc’ Forbandelse can be purchased at the band’s official BandCamp page. Loyal to the foundations of Black Metal, Fjorsvartnir created an action-packed album that, above all things, sounds fresh and unique at all times, even amidst so many other extreme music bands available worldwide.

Best moments of the album: Ravneskrig Og Ulvehyl, Nordens Genopstandelse and Det Sidste Slag.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2015 Grom Records

Track listing
1.Ravneskrig Og Ulvehyl 6:35
2.Nordens Genopstandelse 6:52
3.En Rejse Igennem Fortidens Riger 8:42
4.Riget 2:40
5.Mzoraxc – Mødet Med Underverdenen 6:42
6.Krigssat 6:20
7.Det Sidste Slag 7:48
8.Valkyrie 2:00

Band members
Fjorgynn – vocals, all instruments

Live
Fjorgynn – vocals, lead & rhythm guitar
Helgarm – lead & rhythm guitar
Onslaughter – keyboards
Arent – drums

Concert Review – Paganfest America Part V (The Opera House,Toronto, ON, 05/01/2014)

An awesome multicultural festival in the world’s most multicultural city.

paganfest_2014Let me start by asking a very simple question before I actually talk about the amazing festival that happened last night: who the hell had the brilliant idea of scheduling a festival at SIX O’CLOCK ON A THURSDAY, a  day and time where pretty much EVERYONE is still at work and there’s also a lot of traffic? Because of that, I guess many people that attended PAGANFEST AMERICA PART V yesterday at The Opera House, in Toronto, missed at least the opening act, American Folk Metal band Winterhymn, and maybe even some of the other bands. Fortunately I was able to get there before 7:30pm and could watch half of the concert from the following band and the rest of the festival, which is where this review starts!

VARG

01paganfest toronto_vargPeople dressed up accordingly (which means Viking, warrior and/or pagan costumes), corpsepainting, lots of good and cold beer, friends hugging each other and dancing together, metalheads screaming with their fists and horns in the air, and German Melodic Death Metal band Varg kickin’ ass on stage! The first impression from the festival was very positive, and knowing the Pagan Metal community in Toronto is so big was great for me. Not only that, getting in contact with Varg for the first time was also amazing as their music has that kind of energy I love, and although I don’t know German (they sing only in their mother tongue) it was easy to follow their message in each song. Highlights to the excellent song Guten Tag and to the girls the band called on stage to headbang like crazy, and I promise I’ll go after more of their material in the future.

Band members
Freki – vocals, guitars
Managarm – bass, backing vocals, guitars, lead guitars
Hati – guitars
Fenrier – drums

CHTHONIC

02paganfest toronto_chthonicA few microphone issues, a relatively short setlist and the absence of keyboardist CJ Kao didn’t prevent Taiwanese Orient Metal warriors Chthonic from delivering an unforgettable performance at The Opera House. “WE ARE CHTHONIC FROM TAIWAN!”, screamed an all fired-up Freddy Lim to the fans, who promptly responded screaming and raising their fists in the air. The band looked pretty excited to be back in Toronto for the first time since their tour with Arch Enemy in 2011, and their music sounded even more powerful and cohesive this time.

After the beautiful intro Arising Armament, our beloved Taiwanese icons Freddy, Jesse, Dani and, of course, the stunning Doris Yeh, kicked off their concert with the superb song Supreme Pain for the Tyrant, from their 2013 album Bú-Tik, and it was impossible not to scream at full force with them “Let me stand up like a Taiwanese! Only justice will bring you peace!”, lyrics that make total sense even for non-Taiwanese fans like myself. We’re all together in this war, right? By the way, almost the whole setlist was based on the Bú-Tik album, with the exception of the classics Oceanquake and Takao, which closed the show. Highlights to the great songs Sail Into the Sunset’s Fire and Defenders of Bú-Tik Palace, which sounded even more amazing live.

Last but not least, all band members are not only exceptional musicians, but also really good people. It’s easy to be mesmerized by Doris’ performance on stage, or by the unique sound of the erhu beautifully played by Freddy, but things get even better when you have a chance to interact with them offstage. Freddy, Doris and Jesse were extremely relaxed, happy and very, very considerate of all their fans, taking pictures, answering any questions and having a beer with everybody. At least for me, that explains a lot why they are so successful and becoming so important in the world of heavy music. All I can say is THANKS, CHTHONIC! It will always be my pleasure to “stand up like a Taiwanese” with you guys!

Setlist
1. Arising Armament (intro)
2. Supreme Pain for the Tyrant
3. Oceanquake
4. Next Republic
5. Sail Into the Sunset’s Fire
6. Defenders of Bú-Tik Palace
7. Takao 

Band members
Freddy Lim – vocals, erhu
Doris Yeh – bass, backing vocals
Jesse Liu – guitars, backing vocals
Dani Wang – drums
CJ Kao – keyboards*

* Missed the concert in Toronto due to personal issues.

TURISAS

03paganfest toronto_turisasIn my opinion, the show by Finnish Symphonic Power Metal band Turisas was the most anticipated concert of the night, and also the one where you could see the highest amount of smiles on the faces of the crowd. I don’t remember seeing so many people dancing and prancing like yesterday, especially when they played their cover version for the discotheque classic Rasputin, by Boney M., but they kicked ass during the whole gig, of course.

There were very few moments where either the songs were too long or too slow, but the fans didn’t care too much about that and enjoyed every single second of that “Viking fest”. Besides the awesome craziness of Rasputin, the most memorable songs were Battle Metal, Stand Up and Fight and We Ride Together. Did you notice all their best songs are related to battle, courage and loyalty? That’s what has always made Heavy Metal so powerful in regards to inspiring people to face their fears and challenges in life, and I’m sure all fans that are studying, working or doing anything else today are a lot happier and feeling better than during the previous weeks or even months.

The whole band was on fire, especially frontman Mathias “Warlord” Nygård and violinist Olli Vänskä, who didn’t stop banging their heads for a single moment. Those guys love what they do, and will keep on rockin’ for the rest of their lives without a shadow of a doubt.

Band members
Mathias Nygård – vocals
Jussi Wickström – guitar, backing vocal
Jesper Anastasiadis – bass guitar
Jaakko Jakku – drums, percussion
Olli Vänskä – violin, backing vocal

KORPIKLAANI

04paganfest toronto_korpiklaaniAfter Turisas were done, many people had to leave as it was getting really late and they probably had to get ready for a full day at work the next day. Unfortunately those who left missed all the dancing in between concerts when the DJ played some excellent old traditional Finnish songs, but the fans that could stay to the end of the festival were able to enjoy that and, of course, another “dance party” with Finnish Folk Metal band Korpiklaani and their music tailored for drinking beer and dancing with your friends.

It was my first Korpiklaani concert and I was impressed by frontman Jonne Järvelä’s charisma and bassist Jarkko Aaltonen’s technique. Jarkko is a beast with his bass, which could be easily appreciated in fun songs such as Tuonelan Tuvilla, Vodka and Ievan Polkka. How come this awesome bass player has never been mentioned in any lists of “top bassists” that I’ve seen? Or maybe I’m checking the wrong lists? Anyway, it was another great heavy music concert, which made every cent spent with the event ticket even worthier than before.

Band members
Jonne Järvelä – vocals
Kalle “Cane” Savijärvi – guitars
Matti “Matson” Johansson – drums
Jarkko Aaltonen – bass
Tuomas Rounakari – violin
Sami Perttula – accordion

And that was the end of a truly multicultural festival with bands from the United States, Germany, Taiwan and Finland, with fans from several different backgrounds speaking different languages, in the most multicultural city in the world. Honestly, I have no idea how it can get any better than this. Maybe Paganfest VI next year can answer that question, right? Well, until then, I’ll proudly wear my Chthonic’s NEXT REPUBLIC T-shirt on the streets to show everyone that it doesn’t matter if you’re Canadian, Brazilian, Taiwanese, German, Finnish or anything else: if you’re a headbanger, you’re definitely part of the unbreakable and unique republic of HEAVY METAL.

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Album Review – Dub Buk / Цвях (2014)

If you’re a fan of extreme music, you should definitely take a listen to the excellent new album from this East Slavic Melodic Black Metal band.

Rating4

coverI’ve never had to use Google and Google Translator so much in my life to try to understand what a band wants to say in their music as I had now with Ukrainian Melodic Black Metal band Dub Buk and their new album, the violent Цвях. Even with the help of Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s creations, it was still pretty tough to get the whole message (if you’re Ukrainian, please correct any stupid mistake that I might have made with the translations below), but the high quality of their music outshines that language barrier and makes listening the entire album a very pleasant and, of course, boisterous experience.

Цвях, which according to Google is pronounced “Tsvyakh” and means “Nail” in English (and it makes sense, as per the bloody nail in the album art), is in my opinion the most professional and polished release from this Kharkiv-based band formed in 1997. And before you ask, that doesn’t weaken the brutality in any of the songs presented in the album: quite the contrary, the high end production allowed the band to better display their technique and enhanced the sonority of all instruments.

The first track of the album is called Всуе (Vsue, or “Vain” in English), and it’s a fuckin’ awesome massacre. The astonishing level of violence in this song pumped me up to listen to the rest of the album and check if all songs could keep up with the same excellent instrumental, especially drums and riffs, and the totally demonic vocals. Fortunately for my total delectation the following track, Галиматья Блаженных (Halymat’ya Blazhennykh, or “Blessed Nonsense”) is Black Metal at its finest, with a very nice groove and an excellent guitar solo, testifying the band’s capacity.

Then we have Бунт 917 (Bunt 917, or “Riot 917”), another track that corroborates these guys are nonstop machines, with great vocals (although I don’t understand a word he’s saying) and a drummer that is a total beast; Дохлый Живьём (Dokhlyy Zhyv’ëm, or “Dead Alive”), the longest track of the album, which starts with an awesome scream and has riffs with some hints of more modern Slayer; and the also violent but not so good Ислам (Yslam, or “Islam”). I’m almost sure they’re not saying good things about Islam in this song, but again, I really don’t care and prefer focusing on the music here.

Свиное Ухо (Svynoe Ukho, or “Pork Ear”) is another highlight of the album, with a narrated intro in Ukranian, Slayer-ish riffs and guitar solo, a goddamn heavy passage at around 2 minutes, and disturbing pig sounds at the end. In other words, a complete Black Metal extravaganza, followed by А-Человек (A-Chelovek, or “A-Man”), an average song with a slower rhythm that falls flat after a while.

dub_bukClosing the album we have the sonic massacre Копоть (Kopot’, or “Soot”), with more awesome riffs, some beautiful female vocals, a drummer completely on fire, and I have to say I really enjoyed all the breaks and variations in this song especially after the third minute; and the only song entirely in English in the album,Execute Them All, a very professional cover version for one of the songs from Swedish Death Metal icons Unleashed, with highlight to the deeper guttural used in this track.

As I mentioned above, I tried to understand parts of the lyrics just to see what type of message Dub Buk tries to send to their fans. I know they usually sing about anti-judeochristianity, paganism and other controversial themes, and although I do not agree nor disagree with their beliefs, that didn’t stop me from enjoying some very good quality extreme music. Furthermore, I recommend taking a look at this album, which can be purchased at the EastHate website. If you love Black Metal, you won’t regret buying it by any means.

Best moments of the album: Всуе, Дохлый Живьём, Свиное Ухо and Копоть.

Worst moments of the album: Ислам and А-Человек.

Released in 2014 Eastside Records

Track listing
1. Всуе 5:21
2. Галиматья Блаженных 3:26
3. Бунт 917 4:42
4. Дохлый Живьём 6:03
5. Ислам 5:22
6. Свиное Ухо 4:27
7. А-Человек 4:58
8. Копоть 5:35
9. Execute Them All (Unleashed cover) 3:22

Band members
I.Z.V.E.R.G. (И. З. В. Е. Р. Г.) – bass, vocals
Vsesvit (Всесвит) – drums
Istukan (Истукан) – guitars
Cwietuszczaja Knjazna (Цветущая Княжна) – keyboards