Wednesday, September 06, 2006

do the black stomp

ajattara - 'kuolema'

released: may 2003
playing time: 33'43"

songs: 1.antakaa elää 2.surman henki 3.haureus 4.huoran alla 5.ikiyössä 6.musta leski 7.sielun särkijä 8.kituvan kiitos 9.helvetissä on syntisen taivas 10.rauhassa

Their new album 'Äpäre' is just out, but before I review it in a couple of weeks I think it's worth it to look back to 'Kuolema', this Finnish band's finest hour so far. Ajattara were originally a side project of Pasi Koskinen, the former vocalist for Amorphis. Before you draw any conclusions, the sole similarity between the two bands (including Pasi's vocal performance) is the usage of ancient Finnish history as their lyrical theme. Even so, the focus here is on much darker topics thereof.

Ajattara is a bit like Pasi's evil twin spewing out all the bad blood. Although Pasi (who goes by the name of Ruoja here) was still in Amorphis when this came out, it's understandable why he felt safe enough to dedicate himself 100% to Ajattara shortly after. Initially a very basic band, the sophistication both in composition and sound has grown over the years, and 'Kuolema' is a mighty slab of heaviness that stands very well on its own merits.

The title means 'death', in case you were wondering, and it quite fits the overall feel. The mid-tempo black/death stomp lends itself well to the general malaise fumes hovering around these compositions - Pasi knows well that you don't have to speed up all the time. Aided by the excellent near-military drumming, most of the time he's happy to grind your face into the ground with sheer weight, like the crushing 'Huoran Alla' (erm, 'Under The Whore'). A song like 'Ikiyössä' is as fast as it gets, really. The sick feel is enriched by the hatred with which Pasi spits his vocals out. Forget anything he's done in Amorphis - here it's either near-black vocals or creepy chanting, and the lyrics are as nasty as they can get. They're all in Finnish, so either you understand the language and get creeped out by their content, or you don't and the alien feel creeps you out anyway. A special word of note for the keyboards - despite only being at the forefront in opener 'Antakaa Elää', they're used splendidly for atmosphere throughout, and would constitute a good example for some of the cheesier black metal bands on how to use this instrument properly.

Comparable to the more grinding moments of Aura Noir or to a darker, less folk version of Finntroll, 'Kuolema' is a great underrated gem. Despite its lack of tempo changes, it'll appeal to those who like the blacker side of metal.

the good: pounding mid-tempo songs, truly evil feel, great use of keyboards
the bad: lack of tempo changes


  1. Cool, I'll definitely have to check this band out. I love when bands delve into folklore/mythology. Metal certainly allows for plenty musical exploration into these subjects. By the way you were right about some of the newer Amorphis albums. i picked some up (Tuonela, Am Universum). Both are great, but are a little more diverse than early Amorphis.

  2. it does, and it's interesting how there are several approaches to the folk thing, from the more fairytale-like approaches to the downright vicious like this one.

    i'm glad you liked those amorphis records, they really show a different side of the band.