Vorna – Aamunkoi (Lifeforce Records)Monday, 24th April 2023
Folk metal has been around for a while now, which makes this scribe feel a tad old. Hitting a fever pitch in the mid 2000’s, the market then got oversaturated with uninspiring copycats. Compound that with innovators such as Ensiferum, Turisas, Korpiklaani, etc., releasing several subpar albums, resulting in the luster dulling awfully fast. However, there certainly have been numerous acts who are developing creative and sonically pleasing efforts within this subgenre. Finland’s Vorna is one such act, who have been going strong since 2008 with three acclaimed full-lengths. Now the sextet’s fourth album is upon us in the form of Aamunkoi, and suffice to say, the well is far from dry.
What has helped Vorna – named after a warrior in Finnish folklore – stand apart from others is intricate songwriting that’s filled with melody and atmospheres that paint a lush picture. Yet, the band doesn’t forego the harshness and a cutting black metal foundation that’s integral to their overall sound, forging the two forces to maintain a harmony. Nothing exemplifies this notion more than album opener “Hiljaisuus ei kestä.” Beginning with pacy acoustic guitars and a marching drumline, soon complimented by Vesa Salovaara’s forceful clean vocals (comparable with Heri Joensen of Týr), the song builds subtly with grace. Black metal soundscapes quickly make their presence known, with memorable leads and vicious snarls to satisfy the need for abrasiveness.
Entries such as “Harva päättää hyvästeistään” and “Muualle” showcase Salovaara’s vocal versatility, along with huge hooks and infectiously solemn guitar leads and harmonies. Sentimental entries “Valo” and “Aika pakenee” flex their folk muscles strongly while embracing soaring choruses balanced by gorgeous keyboards via Saku Myyryläinen. “Kallioilla” is a welcome downtrodden reprise, driven by somber piano and a sobering clean vocal performance; a worthy musical accompaniment for a taking in a view overlooking one of Finland’s many serene lakes. Other standouts include the gloomy and doom-like “Meri” and the grand title track that’s one of the heaviest on offer, but not without significant melodic qualities that mesh together nicely.
Speaking of Finland’s natural beauty, if it wasn’t already obvious, the entire album is sung in the band’s native Finnish, befitting of the aura that Vorna is trying to portray. The mix importantly allows the music to not become over cluttered, allowing space for each instrument to play their part. The result is an atmosphere that isn’t domineering, and breathes organically, as music in this style is best suited.
Vorna continue to establish themselves as a top tier folk/black metal band, shining where others have faltered. While this writer feels that their magnum opus is still to come, there aren’t many missteps to hear on Aamunkoi. Included are many differing elements – from folk rock, melodic death metal, amongst others – that fold together homogeneously without coming off as awkward or contrived. Aamunkoi further engrains Vorna within the crowded folk metal genre, being a notable example of how to devise fresh and interesting compositions that proudly stand tall.