Moonsorrow’s folk-led Pagan metal bursts with rustic energy on charging new ‘Jumalten aika’

MoonsorrowSpring has arrived here in North America, and while it might be snowing and blustery as I write this, it won’t be long until every day is warm, nature explodes, and sojourns into the woods are incredible adventures once again. I thought about that a lot as I threw myself into new music by Moonsorrow, their first album in a half decade.

I’m generally not a major listener to Euro folk-infused metal, not that I harbor any ill will toward it. It just generally isn’t my cup of tea, but there definitely are major exceptions such as Finnish dreamers Moonsorrow. On “Jumalten aika,” the band’s new, seventh album, they offer up more material that feels like it’ll settle perfectly during day-long trips into nature, with green and animal life swelling the experience. You practically can imagine the sticks and leaves crackling under your feet during these five tracks, as they spread their Pagan wonders over 67 fresh minutes of material. We last heard from the band in 2011 on “Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa,” and since then they’ve signed to Century Media and have a nice, giant company behind this massive new effort.

Moonsorrow coverMoonsorrow have been captivating minds for the past two decades now, having formed in 1995 and started their mission of unearthing folklore, tales of war and death, and many other dark subjects. Their initial full-length arrived in 2001 on “Suden uni” (it translates to “Wolf’s Dream), and from that point, they remained on a steady clip, releasing four more records with regularity through 2007. “Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa” arrived after a four-year layoff, and now “Jumalten aika” (translated means “Age of Gods”) makes it their second album in the past nine years. Nonetheless, Moonsorrow remain on top of their game, as the band–Ville Sorvali (bass, lead vocals), Henri Sorvali (guitars, keyboards, vocals), Mitja Harvilahti (guitars, vocals), Markus Eurén (keyboards), Janne Perttilä (guitars, vocals), Marko Tarvonen (drums, vocals)–proves on this record that is rustic, heavy, and ridiculously glorious when it needs to be.

The title track begins the record, a 12:43 smasher that starts calmly enough with winds and whistles but then ignites with folkish black metal. The synth pours amazing melody onto this marcher, while majestic and savage playing spills blood and teases your nostrils with the aromas of cook fires kicked over in battle. The back end of the song lights up with rage, while the surging melody takes over and leads the song into chaos. “Ruttolehto incl. Päivättömän päivän kansa” simmers in group vocal harmonies before the song ignites and heavy riffs do their damage. The 15:20-long track has many peaks and valleys, and while quite epic in length, is exciting and exhilarating its entire run. There are fast, heavy parts that feel downright rowdy, but then on the next trail, whistles team up and make the song feel like a hero’s welcome soundtrack for a “Lord of the Rings” character. Late in the song, group chants team up with charging playing, and a calm after the storm rises and lets the track trickle away. “Suden tunti” is the shortest track of the bunch at 7:06, and it begins with a super-heavy, black metal-fed riff that crushes, followed by creaky growls, a folk storm arriving, and the tempo then switching to more atmospheric. Many voices call out during this one, including female vocals that add a sense of beauty, and then the whole thing disappears into the mist.

The final two cuts make up more than a half hour of this record, beginning with 15:55-long “Mimisbrunn” that sets in with acoustic guitars, waters babbling, and and a cool sense of serenity taking hold. It’s short lived. Anguish and punishment are around the next corner as the band unloads with emotional, gut-wrenching vocals, sheets of synth, and a tempo that surges hard. Calm returns momentarily before the band launches into heavy thrashing balanced with a murky serving of keys, wild howls that sound primal, and a final eruption of power that opens up old wounds that had since congealed. The 16-minute closer “Ihmisen aika (Kumarrus pimeyteen)” wastes no time getting going, as a massive riff attacks right away, strong melodies take hold, and an infusion of heathen life bursts into this thing. Keys bleed in and enrapture, while the song rushes monstrously, with creaked growls and almost regal melodies adding layers. The cries continue to be harsh and delivered from the gut, while a huge deluge of pounding and thrashing makes up the final moments of the song, with the band leaving you heaving on the ground as fires crackle around you.  

Moonsorrow reign as one of the frontrunners of the Pagan metal movement is unquestioned, and they keep creating powerful material two decades into their run. This record would sound perfect climbing huge hills in the spring, or even imagining yourself dueling with invading villages as you look to keep your land clean. This is great escape music, the type of stuff that can help you dream of adventure while clashing and crushing skulls in your mind.

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