Finnish black metal is like Finnish ice hockey, and always has been. Producing a steady stream of high quality players, building a solid and winning reputation, but rarely sending any individual off to the big leagues abroad. Impaled Nazarene, Barathrum, Horna, Clandestine Blaze… All throughout second wave BM history, Finland has spewed forth an endless row of bands who are big on the BM scene, but probably do not make a whole lot of money off of their music. Obviously the ice hockey simile goes only so far (luckily, since I know next to fuck-all about ice hockey). If Finland’s national team is brilliant, while the country send few players off to the NHL, it can probably be explained by some principle of training emphasizing team work, creating effective teams but limiting the possibility for individual excellence.
Finnish black metal, on the other hand, is hardly characterized by welfare state type collectivism, and it is rather the characteristic Finnish outsider individualist that rears his head here. Making big money from metal takes adaptability, smoothing your rough edges and gaining a commercial appeal, perhaps while pretending you’re really against all that. While there are plenty of Finnish bands in other metal genres that do precisely that, Finnish black metal bands generally don’t. That is true even when their particular style of BM is theoretically quite accessible, as Havukruunu’s sophomore album Kelle Surut Soi proves.
This album contains pagan/folk black metal with a tangible heavy metal vibe. There are plenty of catchy rhythms, brilliant melodies, epic sequences and mighty choirs. Conceptually, as far as I can tell, there is none of the extreme political or sexual controversy that (often at the same time) surround some Finnish underground bands. Even so, there are several things that will keep Havukruunu from going to the rock’n roll equivalent of the NHL. All of these things are good.
First of all, all lyrics are in Finnish. If you don’t know this particular language, it will severely hamper your ability to sing along. This is excellent: anything worth doing is worth doing without making it accessible to every asshole on the planet. Second, the vocals are goddamn insane. There is desperation and aggression in these screams, and a sense of absolute despair mixed with anger. While melodic, “Viking”-style choirs appear every now and then to add a little folky melody, the rabid main vocals are way more pronounced. Finally, the production is filthy as living hell, and not at all the polished, modern heavy metal type production that accompany less blackish folk metal bands. It sounds great, and matches the somber, primitive cover art very well.
As far as genre categorization goes, the black metal clearly has the upper hand here. There are touches of Bathory, a hint of Falkenbach, and even Immortal (at least in the opening of “Myrskynkutsuja”, which sounds very much like “Mountains of Might). The heavy and melodic metal aspect of the music would probably have been far more dominant if the production had been more pansy-ass. As things stand, it is not, which means that Kelle Surut Soi goes down in history as a very brutal piece of traditional, if unusually melodic, Finnish black metal.
The album is released on the 29th of April, and is available for pre-order from Naturmacht at a very good price right now.