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Moonsorrow - Verisäkeet CD (album) cover

VERISÄKEET

Moonsorrow

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal


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5 stars Moonsorrow is essentially a Folk Metal band, but while aiming for an epic sound they morphed into a Progressive Metal band...with strong folk elements. Verisäkeet is not their most progressive album. However, it is something of a fan favourite. For the more progressive I would recommend V: Hävittety and for the slightly less progressive but lighter sound I would recommend Kivenkantaja. Verisäkeet is very, very dark. If this appeals to you, please, read on!

As stated before, they are influenced by Metal and Progressive music. However, their music doesn't seem to be written to show off so much as to achieve a certain sound. This album in particular is closer to Black Metal, with the occasional unmistakable Burzum sound being integrated into the many layers. This album makes use of some very interesting folk instruments, including some of the instruments commonly used in Folk Metal, like fiddles and tin whistles. A couple of typically Finnish instruments are played on this record - the jouhikko and kantele. All of these instruments contribute to the massive sound with hidden complexities that allow the listener to hear something new every time.

The instruments themselves allow Moonsorrow to have a rather unique sound, but I feel the compositional style is also very distinctive. They make use of riffs that sometimes sound like those of typical metal bands, but each section of music morphs seamlessly into the next. Even the tracks themselves morph into the next, making the album truly feel like a journey. Clean vocals, choral vocals, and screams are all used. Unlike many bands, these screams make sense within the music and are not often too prominent. All the vocal styles work well and contribute to the overall feel in such a way that even someone who is not a fan of metal vocals can appreciate it. All the lyrics on this album are in Finnish, and I believe this is true of all their work apart from some of the Tulimyrsky EP. The beauty of the language lends itself to the music, which generally evokes images of dark Finnish landscapes. The words need not be understood for the listener to understand the music.

Repetition is definitely used, but not in a tiresome way. Sections morph before getting tiresome and appear again at suitable intervals, sometimes with variations. The mix hides many complexities, not all of which are entirely musical. Birdsong, wind, and battle sounds are all used in the mix, slightly predictably, but work fairly well by adding to the already bleak atmosphere. As the tracks fade out there is often a lot still going on and not necessarily in a repeat till fade way. In fact, new musical ideas are often subtly brought in very near the end.

The highlight of the album for me is Pimeä. Ville Sorvali's vocal performance is fantastic. I feel it is even more heart-felt and mournful than on any of the other tracks. There are clean vocals for what could be the chorus. The harmonies rise above the guitar's distortion beautifully. This choral style is used at various points throughout the album using primitive, yet effective harmonies. The guitar solo on Pimeä is also nicely understated and allows the music to flow on without disturbance.

The album then gets a little gentler and the Folk influence becomes more prominent. Jotunheim is a wistful and desolate track which ends on a more triumphant note, quite like the music on the previous album, Kivenkantaja. The last track is acoustic and comparatively simple, yet a necessary end to the album.

I give this album 4 stars because it isn't truly essential, but extremely enjoyable. I recommend this to anyone open to Extreme Progressive Metal. Be warned though; the progressive side of it is not incredibly strong.

2016 EDIT: I would like to go back to my review 8 years later. I was 17 when I wrote this review in 2008 and I now do not agree with everything I said in light of my own maturity and a better understanding of the album. Moonsorrow have also released more (fantasic) material since my review. I have changed my rating to 5 stars. This is because I feel this album still holds up. It does not feel at all dated and I still listen to it regularly with the same awe as I ever did. This is not something I can say about many albums. In light of further releases it is also clear how important a turning point this was in Moonsorrow's discography. I have come to appreciate the structure of the album as a whole better than I did and now believe it to be a fine example of progressive music in the context of extreme metal. Highly recommended.

Report this review (#180941)
Posted Wednesday, August 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 'Verisakeet' - Moonsorrow (91/100)

Any major criticisms I have towards folk metal require an exception be made in the name of Moonsorrow. Despite the surface similarities to other similarly folky, similarly Finnish bands, each of their records offers a level of depth and quality that's virtually unprecedented elsewhere in their style. A big part of this distinction, I think, stems from the fact that Moonsorrow have long been a progressive rock group in folk metal disguise. In an interview I conducted with Ville Sorvali a few years back, he mentioned the influence bands like King Crimson and Jethro Tull had on him and his cousin from an early age. You can definitely hear that influence in virtually everything Moonsorrow has done.

From what I consider to be Moonsorrow's golden trilogy, beginning in 2003 with Kivenkantaja and ending with Viides Luku - Havitetty, the "middle child", Verisakeet, may be the best album they have ever done. That's not a judgement made lightly either; even if they weren't already my favourite folk metal group, the consistency with which they've dished out records is astounding by itself. On some days I find myself going to other Moonsorrow records, but I'm hard-pressed to think of another folk metal album with replay value like Verisakeet. Four mammoth pieces of music (not including the folk-ambient outro "Kaiku") make this out to be the metal equivalent to Tales from Topographic Oceans. However, unless the Yes classic, there's never a moment on Verisakeet that feels overindulgent or drawn. If Moonsorrow distinguish themselves from other folk metal on the merit that they embrace a prog influence, they certainly distinguish themselves in turn from other proggers, for the fact they can make such long tracks worth every blissful minute.

Verisakeet looks like a long album from glancing at the track listing, and I suppose 71 minutes is pretty long. Maybe it even feels that way too, but for the way they deftly handle the songwriting, you'll be left happy they blew up these tracks as far as they could go. Some listeners will have a chosen favourite between the four behemoths on Verisakeet. I think many more will find themselves torn between two or more. On most albums where there is some kind of epic, a band usually pours their best ideas into it: look to Rush's 2112 or Agalloch's The Mantle for proof. Of course, there's no such sanctuary for a band that opts to build an album from nothing but the cream of the crop. I had been thinking of trying to describe these track one by one, but erased my work, realizing there was so much variety from one to the next. What good would referencing the black metal parts on "Karhunkynsi" be, for instance, if I didn't also acknowledge the dreamy Floyd-ian passage halfway into it? The more I listen to Verisakeet, the more I realize that the four tracks, big as they are, are parts of an even greater whole. Is that a cheap way of summarizing four involved, multi-layered pieces? It would be cheaper still to define them with a sentence each. It also would run against the experience I've had listening to this album. Veriakeet feels seamless between tracks. It's always felt like a single, encompassing piece of work. That's why an 8 minute winded denouement in "Kaiku" makes sense.

Even if Verisakeet can be seen as the result of a genre fusion, part of the album's joy lies in how well these sounds are seamlessly combined. I've seen the album referred to as Moonsorrow's dive into stricter black metal territory. I don't think they're black metal any more than they are strictly progressive. Verisakeet is harder-edged than Kivenkantaja, but it's still cut from the same proverbial cloth: rich, epic and multi-layered. Moonsorrow's sound has the "Finnish melancholy" I've heard in so many of their compatriots, but their tone is remarkably triumphant. Nonetheless, I wouldn't be surprised if Moonsorrow had intended this record to be more blackened than the rest, if only for certain parts of it. I hear very distinct nods to black metal classics in passages on Verisakeet. Riffs on "Pimea" are backed by the infamous Burzum synth tone from "Dunkelheit". Even he last few minutes on "Karhunkynsi" sound like a hi-fi rendition of Mayhem's "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas", complete with Atila-type operatics. Although the Burzum is subtle enough, hearing Moonsorrow throw in a passage like the Mayhem mimicry feels forced. Most of their navigation between sounds is incredibly smooth on Verisakeet, so the few exceptions stand out as a result.

Folk metal tries to evoke feels of epic triumph, history and whatever else but only Verisakeet feels like a veritable hero's journey. There are so many things in this genre that could potentially appeal to me. Moonsorrow conjure the best folk metal can offer by bringing it to its most ambitious conclusions. Viides Luku - Havitetty arguably took that ambition further in certain ways by upping the ante to the point of near-half hour epics, but Verisakeet still sounds like their best-realized record. I wouldn't say this for many albums, but try to give this your fullest attention the first time you hear it. Listen and see if you can glean a story from the music. Give it time and patience. For an album that struck me with awe from the start, the depth has kept it fresh for all the years since.

Report this review (#446816)
Posted Thursday, May 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
EatThatPhonebook
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars 9/10

Folk Metal's greatest achievement so far, where the word epic acquires a new meaning.

Moonsorrow's masterpiece "Kivenkataja" ended up being the tip of the iceberg: the follow up to that album is "Verisakeet", an album that is just as haunting and well done, although the two are completely two different beasts. But it is definite now that Moonsorrow are one of the best cult Metal bands of all time, thanks mostly to these two landmark achievements, and have not, so far, released an album that was less than really good.

Like it was mentioned, "Verisakeet" is completely different than "Kivenkantaja": the songs are significantly longer, less in quantity, richer in instrumentation, and boast beautiful production and polished sound. There is a more progressive approach in structuring these long winded, complex and diverse songs, where there is an even larger use of exotic, Nordic instrumentation. All of the instruments(flutes, acoustic guitars, flutes, or synthesizers) individually have a prominent place, somewhere here, in this more than an hour long experience. But there is also a significant amount of blast beats and traditional Black Metal here, and a certain passage can go on for several minutes without there being any Folk elements. Nevertheless, this is compensated by the moments in which these Folk elements are present, and they become absolutely essential for that particular passage. There are also, in the beginning and end of each song, some nice nature recordings: this last element gives the impression that legends, with the passing of time, fade in and fade out, but nature remains the same.

Compared to other Moonsorrow albums, "Verisakeet" is the one in which there are more nature themes; it is the most earthly LP of the band, still somewhat focused on battles, but more emotions, such as fear, are heavily connected with the lyrics, in a time before or after a tragic war. If "Karhunkynsi" narrates the pre-battle and how it is not wanted by the people fighting it, "Haaska" is about the devastating aftermath, describing the bleak battlefield, and how futile the event was. "Pimea" is the most pessimistic track, depicting a dying world, another typical latter Moonsorrow theme. The final words that to me are interesting in this album are the ones sung in the intimate "Kaiku", a brief elegy of forefathers.

Musically, each one of these songs is amazingly done, starting from the huge opener, the fourteen minute epic; possibly the heaviest, more Black Metal driven song, but it has massive riffs which reoccur in a beautifully studied way throughout the track, thanks also to great production and musicianship. The second track is less accessible but almost as high of a level and just as long, with more additional instrumentation ( the acoustic guitar gives the main hook for the entire song), more complex, more triumphant, but still of supremely high quality. "Pimea" is still another very long and intricate listen as a whole, with the glossy keyboards giving a strong addition to some melodies, but it has a handful of quite beautiful Folkloric moments, as well as haunting hooks played with either guitars or exotic instruments. "Jotunheim" mixes a huge amount of sounds together, as well as another handful of successful riffs, and amazing musicianship. What differs in this track is that it has a more climactic nature, but also it boasts the most emotionally challenging riffs of the album, them being very desolate sounding. When the final moments of this track, consisting of the routined nature recordings, blend in with the starting moments of "Kaiku", the final track, it is obvious that this amazing journey is coming to an end: this last track is a melancholically campfire-set acoustic jam between an intimate chorus of vocals and acoustic guitar.

"Verisakeet" is possibly the most complete and successful Moonsorrow release; it's possibly also the greatest, most important Folk Metal of all time. With more and more years increasing the album's age, it's quite possibly going to become a Metal classic. For now, this remains stuck in a somewhat cult status, but that doesn't diminish its quality one bit.

Report this review (#756926)
Posted Tuesday, May 22, 2012 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Moonsorrow's Verisakeet is folky black metal (or perhaps blackened folk metal) that has a bit more staying power with me than many examples of the folk metal subgenre; rather than having folk instruments playing in a folk style whilst metal instruments play in a metal style, as some less satisfying folk metal groups do, here the group weave folk rhythms and motifs into the very fabric of their compositions, so the folk instruments play in a folk style during the quiet sections and the metal instruments play in a folk style during the loud sections. Progressively minded without being aggressively prog, Moonsorrow work nature sounds in here and there, going so far as to open and close album finale Kaiku (a more or less entirely folk-based number) with birdsong and other sounds of nature. Intriguing stuff; on repeated listens, I find that on balance it's not really my cup of tea, but I'm more inclined to recommend it than many other examples of the folk metal genre.
Report this review (#1003785)
Posted Tuesday, July 23, 2013 | Review Permalink

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