Album Review – Whispered / Metsutan – Songs Of The Void (2016)

Armed with their powerful fusion of Melodic Death Metal and eccentric sounds from the East, these unstoppable Scandinavian samurais strike again with another thrilling tribute to the Japanese culture.

Rating4

whispered2400pixThe term “Samurai Metal” might not make sense to most fans of heavy music who have never had any contact with Melodic Death/Power Metal act Whispered. And if you think the band hails from Japan, you’re absolutely wrong, as those metallic samurais come from a country well-known for their Heavy Metal bands, but that has nothing to do with the Japanese culture and history. Whispered are a group formed in 2004 in the city of Tampere, Finland by lead singer and guitarist Jouni Valjakka, and despite all members having a pure Scandinavian background, their hearts are filled with the passion, talent and courage of real samurais from the “Land of the Rising Sun”.

It’s not only their Samurai-inspired face-painting, outfits and lyrics that refer to the ancient Japanese culture, but the music itself is a fusion of Scandinavian Melodic Death Metal with Japanese folk music, blending heavy riffs and growls with the sounds of traditional instruments such as the shamisen, the shakuhachi and the koto. After releasing their debut album Thousand Swords in 2010 and the more brutal Shogunate Macabre in 2014, both which led them to share the stage with renowned Finnish bands like Korpiklaani, Turisas and Ensiferum, appearing in major festivals like Tuska Open Air and Nummirock, and even supporting Battle Beast during their 2013 tour in Japan, it’s time for Whispered to strike again with their guitars and katanas in Metsutan – Songs Of The Void, their third full-length installment.

The very entertaining intro Chi No Odori (or “the dance of Chi” in English), with all its wicked sounds and voices, tells the listener the battle is about to begin in the fast-paced hymn Strike!, with its lyrics depicting the relationship between a Samurai warrior and his sword (“And he moves / with the swift pace unrivaled / unseen by the aspirants’ eyes / And he knows / in his heart so unbridled / That he’ll soon execute / the flawless / STRIKE!”). This is the perfect example of how awesome the mix of Melodic Death Metal with Orient Metal (as well as other elements from Japanese culture) can be, with the guitars by Jouni and his fellow swordsman Mikko Mattila adding a lot of electricity to the musicality. Exile Of The Floating World is fury to the second power, a melodic devastation led by drummer Jussi Kallava where the elements from the East become even more evident; followed by Sakura Omen, a thrilling Melodic Power Metal madness showcasing Arch Enemy-inspired riffs and a headbanging rhythm in what is undoubtedly one of the best of all tracks in the album. At this point of Metsutan – Songs Of The Void, there’s absolutely no doubt that “epicness” is a word that can be used to describe all songs by Whispered, don’t you agree?

whispered_promopicWhile listening to Kensei (or “restraint” in English), it truly felt like watching a Japanese anime or a tokusatsu due to its totally adventurous pace and background elements. However, it’s the band’s furious Melodic Death Metal that stands out in this good composition where once again Jussi is relentless on drums; whereas in Our Voice Shall Be Heard the band simply slashes the listener with their razor-edged instruments, with all atmospheric breaks, guitar solos and ancient sounds being inserted in the right place and moment, therefore boosting the song’s impact. And in Tsukiakari (or “moonlight”), the second longest track of the album, a calm intro represents the serenity of our warriors before heading into the battle, with highlights to its melodious passages and riffage following the lines of classic Swedish Melodic Death Metal.

Warriors Of Yama, a three-minute instrumental track that pays homage to the Asian culture, introduces us to the violent Victory Grounds Nothing, with its lyrics portraying the fortunes of a Samurai life (“Age of strife has finally turned away / Fear so strong and sound fades to bliss of the day / Bloodstains on the sword will scene the tale / manifold test of might, honor, verdict and pain”). This high-speed composition feels like a sharp sword cutting our flesh, where Jussi and bassist Kai Palo craft a solid base for Jouni and Mikko to keep delivering their blazing riffs. And lastly, we have Bloodred Shores of Enoshima, the longest and most epic of all tracks divided in 5 distinguished acts: “五頭龍 – Gozuryu”, “The Chord of a Goddess”, “Divine Affection”, “The Fury of the Five” and “龍口山 – Tatsu-no-kuchi Yama”. Each act has its purpose, ranging from imposing and symphonic instrumental passages to pure metallic music led by the growls by Jouni, all enhanced by its outstanding background choir until it reaches its climatic ending, resulting in a masterpiece of the East.

Featuring a powerful artwork by Japanese artist ToK, Metsutan – Songs Of The Void can be purchased from Record Shop X, iTunes or Amazon, and in case you want to know more about this exciting fusion of Scandinavian and Japanese music you can go check the band’s Facebook page, YouTube channel and SoundCloud. As an admirer of both Finnish and Japanese cultures, I must say it’s impressive how these Scandinavian samurais are capable of creating such a powerful fusion of Melodic Death Metal and different sounds from the East without sounding cheesy, incongruous or even desultory. And that, in the current state of heavy music, is definitely worth gold.

Best moments of the album: Strike!, Victory Grounds Nothing and Bloodred Shores of Enoshima.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Chi No Odori 1:51
2. Strike! 4:50
3. Exile Of The Floating World 4:12
4. Sakura Omen 7:31
5. Kensei 5:29
6. Our Voice Shall Be Heard 5:43
7. Tsukiakari 8:05
8. Warriors Of Yama (Instrumental) 3:07
9. Victory Grounds Nothing 3:20
10. Bloodred Shores of Enoshima 11:23

Band members
Jouni Valjakka – vocals, guitar
Mikko Mattila – guitar
Kai Palo – bass
Jussi Kallava – drums

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