Album: Kohti Valon Kuolemaa
Label: Wolfspell Records
Release date: 17 November 2023
Format Reviewed: High-Quality Digital Recording
Masters of Finnish darkness for the past decade, Kalmankantaja released their 25th full-length album, Kohti Valon Kuolemaa, maintaining their reputation as a particularly hard-working band who never seems to take a break. This is actually their fourth release of the year, and at this point, I am truly wondering if the band members are actual humans. The band’s style evolved a lot over the years, starting from DSBM in the early days and progressing toward atmospheric black metal as time went by. Although going through several lineup changes throughout the years, the band has been a 2 piece since 2016.
Kohti Valon Kuolemaa sees the band maintaining their atmospheric black metal style which they had been developing for some time now. Compared to other releases by the band like Kaski, Routamma, or Tyhjyys with the latter being regarded as a Finnish black metal classic, Kohti Valon Kuolemaa may seem nothing special, and rightfully so. It doesn’t stand out anywhere as much as the other two. However, calling it a bad album would be nothing short of blasphemous. Perhaps its simplicity was what made me enjoy this album most.
2023 has been marked by plenty of amazing black metal releases by both classic bands and underground ones, many of them being masterpieces. However, after all of this, there seems to be a wish for something simple, something calming. This is what Kalmankantaja has done, at least for me, with this particular record. It is just a calm atmospheric black metal beauty that feels almost like a return to nature. The album cover certainly helps emphasize this feeling.
One strong aspect of the album is its flowy nature which makes it a very easy listen, at least by black metal standards. This quality is also emphasized by the similar song structures and general sound throughout the album, yet it doesn’t end up sounding unoriginal or boring, which I would attribute to the excellent atmosphere built on synth passages and some particularly expressive guitar riffs. Speaking of riffs…
One thing that Kalmankantaja always seems to get right is the guitar work. I can assert that I have listened to a fair amount of music by them and what always stood out the most to me like it is the case with this record. The riffs are, of course, tremolo-based, more on the “simple and effective” side, but they are also epic and melancholic. This set of emotions is emphasized by the synth in the background, which is the main driving force of the melody, and also by the drumming, which features faded-out blast beats that give the overall composition a balanced sound. Something that sounds interesting on this record is the choice of vocals. It features unexpectedly harsh vocals, which have a layer of distortion added to them, an unusual choice in the context of the overall sound, but although it may seem shocking at first, it actually feels right in the given musical context, and the shock value fades quite quickly, turning fairly pleasant.
As I mentioned previously, Kohti Valon Kuolemaa is a fairly easy, flowy album to listen to, the kind that takes the listener by surprise when it’s finished, despite this, there are definitely some standout tracks to take into account. I would consider them to be the opening track titled Raunioiden Tuhkasta, Usvanhenki, and Roudanraiskaama. Out of these three, I can affirm that the opening track was my favourite, probably because it captures the essence of the album slightly better than the rest of them. It really gets the listener into the atmosphere of the record, making it the decisive part of the album’s enjoyment. Also, it contains all the key elements that are to be found throughout the records, from the ambiance to the actual instrumental and to the vocals.
From what I have mentioned so far, this album can be considered a strong listen, but it definitely isn’t perfect, and compared to other records of the band’s discography, it may be viewed as generic or boring at times. This may be caused by the fact that there is little to no tempo variation and the song structures aren’t quite as well defined as it is the case with other of the band’s records.
Wrapping it up, Kohti Valon Kuolemaa is surely not a bad record, having a respectable amount of qualities. Despite this, its almost monotonous course doesn’t really work well in every situation, given that there is a special mood required to enjoy it. I personally found it quite calming and relaxing, and I don’t doubt that there are plenty of people who would agree, although this is definitely not something for everyone. Overall, I’d give it a 7/10 Ioana
7/10 Victory is possible
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