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Moonsorrow - Jumalten Aika CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.85 | 53 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'Jumalten aika' - Moonsorrow (85/100)

Moonsorrow are one of the most consistent bands in metal history. They've built their sound around elevating folk metal conventions to a scope rivalling Western classical music, and they've done managed to do so without skipping a single mark in their career. Everyone will have their favourites (V: Hävitetty holds a particularly special place for me) but the fact remains that the band's reputation encourages high expectations. With each new album it's expected that Moonsorrow will reinvent the folk metal template somehow, and that they'll achieve that by means of an epic scope and masterful execution.

Jumalten aika is certainly masterful. It's also easily the most epic sound bite yet released in 2016. Once again, Moonsorrow get across the impression of being a full-bodied folk metal symphony. The compositions are lavish and involved, and no expense has been spared on fleshing out the arrangement with authentic and nuanced sound. I don't think I'd have needed to hear Jumalten aika to be able to describe the album as such. Was any part of Jumalten aika really a surprise?

This is just the sort of album I could expect from Moonsorrow. All of the things I've loved about their past work are here as well. Such as it is, Jumalten aika was one of those rare cases where I felt like I'd heard the music before from my first listen onward. Five years was a long time to wait for a new album, but from the sounds here, they've made it worth the while. Strangely enough, despite my initial thought being that every expectation had been met, Jumalten aika's been one of the biggest growers in their discography for me. Essentially structured as a journey spread across four epics and a shorter song, it takes a few listens for the wealth of musical detail to really sink in.

One of Moonsorrow's greatest strengths has been their ability to lend appropriate weight to longer songwriting. Structured similarly to Verisäkeet, Jumalten aika is best seen as a single journey, with four epics each comprising a movement in the bigger picture. Like Verisäkeet, the latest work offers an opportunity for Moonsorrow's black metal affectations to shine through. "Ruttolehto" and "Mimisbrunn" come close to Nokturnal Mortum in the way black metal is incorporated with the pagan folk textures. Riffs and earworms tend to take a backseat to the cinematic atmosphere and bombastic arrangements. Even so, while the album took a few spins to grow, it's never inaccessible. The album hits hard and immediately, and repeated listening has only nurtured my appreciation. For all the influence they've taken from progressive rock, Moonsorrow have escaped all of its pomp and pretensions.

Of the five tracks, "Ruttolehto" and "Mimisbrunn" are the two that really stand out. All of the pieces here are superb, but those two are the ones that could rival anything else the band has done. "Ruttolehto" pairs off pagan black metal passages with longform Finnish folk and Bathory-type anthemry. True to tradition, the different parts of a composition flow together organically. Moonsorrow escape a lot of the common pitfalls of writing epics. "Mimisbrunn" is less over-the-place than "Ruttolehto", but for the way it builds and triumphantly erupts, it could well be my favourite track ever from them.

I remember being really disappointed when I heard the single "Suden tunti" prior to the album's release. Now that I've heard the full album, the track seems to gracefully accept its role as the intentional lowpoint. It may be a sight plodding, but the more rock-oriented approach is a welcome respite from the more involved material. "Suden tunti" is a worthy plateau to an album that's been structured like a mountain. If "Ruttolehto" and "Mimisbrunn" represent the treacherous slopes, the first and last tracks represent ground. Jumalten aika doesn't achieve quite as many of the eargasmic moments of Verisäkeet or V: Hävitetty, but it's graced with a near-impeccable sense of flow.

Despite their instantly identifiable sound, I could always count on hearing evolution in Moonsorrow's work. See: The difference between the folk-proggy Kivenkantaja and the balls-out aggression on Verisäkeet, or the way they tightened themselves up on Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa following the sprawling V: Hävitetty. If I needed to ascribe a negative trait to this latest album, it'd be that I don't feel like Moonsorrow have pushed their sound forward this time around. In many ways, it actually sounds like they tried to retread the territory on Verisäkeet rather than to reinvent themselves once again. This is a bit of a double-edged sword. As much as Jumalten aika could have been more individually memorable with its "own" sound, the return to Moonsorrow's best sound cannot be a bad thing. They're approaching their art with all of the same tact and inspiration as you might expect. The only difference is that the experience is already familiar this time around.

The progression from "Jumalten aika" ("The Age of Gods") to "Ihmisen aika" ("The Age of Men") makes a simple, but powerful statement about paganism and belief in general. Moonsorrow are incredibly rooted in history and folk culture, but I can't help but interpret the theme of the album as being very relevant to the modern world. How are spiritual beliefs supposed to survive in the face of liberal scepticism and science? And perhaps more importantly, how is an authentic connection with nature possible in an increasingly digital, industrialized society? The end of an "age of gods" may carry cynical undertones, but ample proof of hope lies in the music itself. This is organic, folkish, nature-oriented art, and no 21st century travails have seen fit to rob Moonsorrow of their power.

Originally written for Heathen Harvest Periodical

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |


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