We’re reaching the tail end of winter here in the United States, so the colder days soon will be a thing of the past, and people can go outside and get some relief from their mental strife. At least I hope so. But the change of the seasons is a luxury of sorts when you look back at history and some events that caused climates to react strangely, something that always could happen again.
For their new album “Kuusumu,” doom powers Kuolemanlaakso sunk back into the volcanic winter of 536 and the subsequent decade-long winter the Western hemisphere endured at the time, which was one of the most dramatic weather shifts in documented history. It impacted crops and cultures, later was met by the Bubonic plague and famine, and that led to a miniature ice age that lasted all the way to 660. Grim. Frostbitten. It’s been a little while since we heard from Kuolemanlaakso, eight years to be exact, and the band—vocalist Mikko Kotamäki (also from Swallow the Sun), guitarist/backing vocalist Laakso, guitarist Kouta, bassist Usva, drummer Tiera, and guest vocalist Lotta Ruutiainen (of Luna Kills)—combines for seven weighty tracks that are dark, foreboding, sometimes alarmingly gorgeous, and completely buried in wintry oppression.
“Pimeys laski” begins with thunder and piano melting, creating a dreary landscape that leads to the power kicking in and bruising. Clean calls blend with the growls emitted from Kotamäki, mixing nightmare with dream, and that duel continues as the song progresses, the track dramatically crash landing at the end. “Katkeruuden malja” begins with guitars jolting and the pace getting more aggressive, with a great chorus enhanced by Ruutiainen’s singing. The playing keeps mashing as clean vocals sweep, Ruutiainen rises again, and the emotion swirls as the title is called repeatedly, knifing into your chest. “Surusta meri suolainen” lands in a doomy haze as the vocals walk through foggy tones, and gothy pumps add an essence of mystery. Synth clouds whir as the drums get more aggressive and the growls devastate, growing more violent and volatile as things end in tornadic glory.
“Kuohuista tulisten koskien” crushes hard as the growls mar, and a melodic fog lifts and surrounds you with intimidating force. The vocals become a larger phantom, Ruutiainen and Kotamäki combining and making your blood rush, the mists increasing, and the track dissolving into a heatwave. “Surun sinfonia” delivers melting guitars, glorious speaking that booms, and the guitars creating a bright glaze before morbidity sets in. Gruff speak singing pushes into the verses as the moodiness increases, and Euro-style melodies are generated by the keys, the chorus sweeping back for one more ride as the final moments swell your chest. “Pedon vaisto” punches in as the growls settle, carving through at a glacial pace. The track rumbles back and forth from aggressive to calming, spooky keys make your nerves tingle, and the playing gets even more intense. The leads move back in and tear things apart, the speed increases, and everything ends in a heavy dose of disorientation. “Tulessakävelijä” closes the record with a gothy, punchy gust and a chugging pace, the growls welling and collecting blood. Ruutiainen returns to add her dreamy textures, and the storm increases, stirring and haunting. The final moments gather all voices together, keys that make your blood rush, and synth swirling out into the unknown.
An eight-year wait between records didn’t hurt Kuolemanlaakso’s momentum as all as “Kuusumu” is a properly dour, oftentimes elegant record that picks at all the right nerve endings. The material that gave the record its inspiration is dark and threatening, and its wintry vibe can be felt through this entire thing, chilling you to the bone. Hopefully we don’t wait another eight years for this band to return, but as long as the music is as good as this, we’ll maintain our patience because we know it’ll be worth it.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/kuolemanlaakso
To buy the album, go here: https://svartrecords.com/product/kuolemanlaakso-kuusumu-album/
For more on the label, go here: https://svartrecords.com/