Kuolemanlaakso – Tulijoutsen (Svart Records)

Thursday, 27th February 2014
Rating: 7.5/10

Kuolemanlaakso is a melodic death/doom metal band out of Finland, releasing its sophomore effort after its 2012 debut with Tulijoutsen.  A five-piece band featuring vocalist Mikko Kotamäki, who is also the singer for genre favorites Swallow the Sun, Tulijoutsen delivers heavy, thunderous grooves with some crushing guitar riffs, almost evoking a Tom G. Warrior feel.  These are combined with tasteful keyboard atmospheres, massive bass sounds, and of course the vocals – which are quite good.  In fact, fans of STS who might have felt a bit put off by their last album may want to give this a listen, as Mikko is a real channel for darkness on this outing.  Here we find him singing in predominantly harsh tones and flexing some good versatility with his rich voice, in deeper speaking tones as well as in some tastefully done clean episodes and effective multi-tracking for some pretty great textures.

Sounding perhaps a like blend of Triptykon/Celtic Frost and Cult of Luna, it’s not surprising that the album was recorded in the German studio of V. Santura (Triptykon).  Featuring all Finnish lyrics, the theme of the album comes from the poetry of Eino Leino, a revered Finnish poet who dealt with themes of nature, love and despair.  Maybe getting off to a sluggish start, track three “Me Vaellamme Yössä” is where things start to take off for the band, unleashing the first groove on the album that might stay with you in the long run.  Kuolemanlaakso also does possess a bit of range in their sound, just take a listen to album standout “Glastonburyn Lehto” which shows the band at its most versatile, evoking California-era Mr. Bungle while still maintaining their somber Finnish ethos.

A pretty gloomy affair as a whole, the album has an interesting balance to it between crushing darkness, placid melody, infectious doom grooves and atmosphere.  Rounded out with excellent musicianship and stellar album production, although every song is not a home-run (but neither is there anything particularly weak about it) Tulijoutsen is a convincing album, to say the least.  It’s an album to take in and brood upon.

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