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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Viima releases in 2009 their second album, Kahden Kuun Sirpit (Two Crescents), with a new lineup in which only two members are left from the previous album. The new people in the band are drummer Mikko Väärälä, vocalist flutist and saxophonist Hannu Hiltula and bassist Aapo Honkanen. Continuing from the first album is keyboard player Kimmo Lähteenmäki. The album contains four songs, one instrumental piece (Sukellus) and an epic title track. This title track is about the history of the city of Turku (where the band rehearses) and also about an individual's life in the city. As the band sings in Finnish, it is a welcome gesture that the booklet has translation into English of the lyrics alongside the original Finnish version.

We start with Autio Pelto which resonates the sound of the previous album with its charming flute in the foreground and the guitar backing it up while the keyboards administers a soothing background base line to support its "comrades". The folk elements are still here (though to a lesser extent than the previous album) continuing the "sympholk-prog" style of the previous album, though this time it sounds less cheerful than before, but as rich sounding. Gone are the female vocals of Päivi Kylmänen and enter the male vocals of Hannu Hiltula. This is to me unfortunate as I thought her vocals were superb and gave much life and vitality to the music. It could have added a great deal here, supplying another layer of delightful vocal layer to the mix. Hannu's vocals, while doing the job well, are in places somewhat weak, as in the last song, the title track Kahden Kuun Sirpit (around the two minute mark, where he sings almost without backing instruments but as for the rest of the song it's fine). But overall, he does a pretty good work. In addition he does a fine work playing the flute and saxophone.

The music is beautiful and emotional-sounding; it is not over the top and doesn't get too sophisticated but it is sufficiently intricate and very captivating to have me listen to it attentively and repeatedly. One point where it gets quite dynamic and thrilling is in Unohtunut, towards the end of the fifth minute where a lightning effect springs in and the guitar gets more vocal than usual and yet even here restraint is noticeable as the pace doesn't pick up and they could have gone for a very loud segment, but instead remain faithful to their style. Not to say they don't get loud enough; certainly there are peaks in the music and high points reached but these climaxes sound carefully controlled to me. On a different note, Viima continues to provide attractive melodies and develop them nicely, shifting slightly to introduce it from different sides, adding layers to it in the form of playing it differently or adding instruments. A good example is the third track Sukellus. This track, an instrumental piece, has a gorgeous transition in its middle and on the other side it becomes another gorgeous theme in which the saxophone played by Hiltula has a spellbinding lead line, which is then picked up by the guitar. This track reminded me of Camel for some reason (as did parts of their previous album); perhaps the way the guitar is played and its mellow sound and the soothing effect the music has on me. The title track, an ambitious piece of almost twenty three minutes shows Viima's strong 70's symphonic prog influence while introducing elements of fusion alongside what some might call "experimental" approach, but to me is them trying new ways to enrich their sound (this is only found in the beginning of the song). This song also features a string quartet that adds to the attractiveness of this piece. The song becomes minimalistic sounding at times with a few instruments playing at the same time. I feel that here a combination of vocalists would have done wonders to make this sound better: a high-pitched vocalist and a low-pitched one. But aside from that, the music itself is magnificent; going from quiet and as mentioned minimalistic sounding, to rich and surrounding. This piece requires repeated listening to absorb it all and to follow its multi-part structure. Overall, it's a fine accomplishment, but I wish there were more dynamic and faster segments in here. As for the music itself, the melodies are, as usual, compelling and spacious and the musicianship as good. The climax at minute twenty one is highly emotional and evocative. This is one thing that Viima excels at.

A fine album that I enjoy listening to and come back for more; different somewhat than the previous one, but carries on with many of the elements and sounds found there and builds on that to create a new listening experience in this album. Gorgeous melodies are abundant, beautiful instrumental passages, rich sounding and day-dream inducing. Recommended.

Report this review (#211735)
Posted Sunday, April 19, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Captivating sophomore effort from this Finnish outfit.

Apparently a more folk-oriented act on their debut album, a more or less total change of crew have also resulted in a different approach on this follow-up.

Vintage sounding progressive rock is the main result; dominated by symphonic elements but also bborrowing a fair few elements from folk, classical and jazz. In overall sound Camel often comes to mind - that is the parts of their production with a jazz and folk tinge rather than the ones with a more mainstream oriented sound - and in the most majestic moments there's also a fair likeness to Genesis (from the era long before they admitted not to be able to dance mind you).

The closing epic, which also covers about half the length of this production, is the one with less obvious influences to it though. Organ and mellotrons aplenty see to it that the sound is distinctly vintage though; and the overall scope of the composition is tangibly more symphonic than the rest of this excursion.

In short - those who appreciate symphonic prog as it was made in the 70's better put this one one their shortlist of stuff to check out.

Report this review (#228525)
Posted Sunday, July 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars This sounds quite different than their more folky debut with another line-up including a female vocalist. But I'm happy to find out this is not a disappointment at all, even if the vocals (by Hannu Hiltula who also plays sax and flute) are not any special. Emotion comes primarily from the music, and Hannu's commonplace baritone vocals do fit in very well. Lyrically this album is a clear improvement over the rather naiive debut, partly thanks to using poetry of respected classic Finnish poets Uuno Kailas and Aaro Hellaakoski (from early 20th century) on two first tracks. The long epic sharing the album's title is written by the drummer Mikko Väärälä (I hope I'm getting these details right out of my memory!) and its lyrics seemed quite fine though I don't memorize anything of them now. Anyway, the emphasis all the way is on the music, not vocals, rather the same way as with CAMEL, one of the bands VIIMA is repeatedly compared with.

This music full of soaring melancholic melodies in very progressive compositions (but where complexity never gets self-poignant), is almost guaranteed to please the friends of the classic 70's prog from England or Scandinavia. Finnish comparisons could be TABULA RASA and NOVA, but especially Swedish KAIPA's debut from 1975 came to my mind. The sound - both instruments and vocals - is quite similar, and why not the atmosphere too. All these comparisons don't mean VIIMA would merely circulate vintage prog sounds. And so what if they did, they do it excellently, without copying any band in particular. Yes, this music really could date from the seventies, and in my opinion this is a good thing these times, when too many prog bands get heavier. I hope this group stays around. (A definite 4½ stars if there was such an option!)

Report this review (#504619)
Posted Wednesday, August 17, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars On `Kahden Kuun Sirpit' the band Viima offers a wonderful collection of expertly played progressive music that is mostly symphonic prog based, but with many classical, folk and occasional slight jazz elements too. At no stage does the band ever sound derivative or clichéd, this album has its own identity and truly stands out. Sometimes brief moments remind a little bit of Camel or Genesis, but the band has more than their share of original ideas to bring to the listener.

This album really is the perfect prog package - wonderful playing, exciting arrangements, great musical variety, beautiful cover. I bought the vinyl edition a few years ago, and the front artwork is fascinating and very striking. Well worth trying to track down on this format, though I'm not sure of its availability anymore.

Viima's singer Hannu Hiltula occasionally sounds a little flat and monotone, but after a few listens his vocals become very interesting, to the point where I think they're among some of the most distinctive and unique that I've heard in my prog collection! While they are a little inconsistent, they do make the band sound quite different, and there are times when he performs extremely well, very grand and emotional. I should also add that his soprano sax and flute playing is first rate throughout too.

Guitarist Mikko Uusi-Oukari steals much of the album. His electric guitar tone sounds so much like David Gilmour's from his early 70's, pre `Dark Side' work in Pink Floyd. His solo in the second half of the instrumental track `Sukellus' is exceptional, as is his slowly unwinding slide guitar solo in the middle of the side-long title track. Outstanding work all around from this talented musician.

Kimmo Lähteenmäki offers a great variety of keyboard sounds throughout the album, but the arrangements never sound over complicated or too busy. In fact, there's such a sense of tasteful restraint and space through the entire album that many other bands could benefit from taking this approach. Plenty of wonderful Mellotron and organ, of course, too!

Both Aapo Honkanen on bass and Mikko Väärälä on drums do some terrific work on the album as well. Lets face it, you don't get rubbish players on prog rock albums!

The albums begins with an almost fanfare sounding track, `Autio Pelto'. Featuring wonderful flute and electric guitar melodies that compliment each other perfectly back and forth, restrained organ adds to the epic sound. At about the three minute mark we hear the vocals for the first time, forceful and powerful. Overall a very striking and captivating theme to open with.

Booming church organ in the first minute of `Unohtunut', very overwhelming. That sound dominates much of this piece. The whole album has many mournful and darker moments such as these, but is constantly complimented by more uplifting musical melodies and arrangements to find a perfect balance. The church organ solo in the middle reminds me a little of the Glass Hammer `Shadowlands' album.

`Sukellus' is a joyous and uplifting instrumental, with a nice variety of keyboards and very low-key and effective Mellotron. The second half features an electric guitar solo with a sound very similar to David Gilmour's early 70's Floyd work. Some terrific sax playing on this one! All of the instruments come together for the majestic finale.

The obligatory `epic' to close the album! The title track is a side long piece, but not a wasted moment or any needless padding, standout moments throughout all of it. Several minutes in the middle feature a beautiful mournful slide guitar solo that is so reminiscent of early 70's Floyd, it's possibly the highlight of the album. The last part of the track features a reprise from the beginning, with a gorgeous searing electric guitar solo to take the album out on a high note, before bringing you back with a soothing Mellotron outro. Perfect way to wrap up the album.

I used to merely think this album was simply decent, nothing more, but as I've had it for a few years now and given it repeated listens, it's grown on me immensely, and I enjoy it more each time, discovering new details with each additional listen. As usual, it's the albums that don't grab you straight away, that you have to commit to listening to over and over, that prove to be the most rewarding. When I gave it the most recent listen, I realised after all this time just what a terrific piece of music it is, and a well deserved addition to any serious prog lovers collection. The players in the band Viima should be hugely proud of this work, and I hope we get a follow up album from them in the future.

My fellow friend from the Prog Archives Tom Ozric recently brought up this album in conversation, and he sort of matter-of-factly mentioned "You know, that Viima album we bought years ago.....might actually be a bit of a total classic..." I think he might be on to something there...

Report this review (#755491)
Posted Sunday, May 20, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars Although receive in PA a slightly better rate than their previous album "AJATUKSIA MAAILMAN LAIDALTA", I think which "Kahden Kuun Sirpit' , stay quite faraway from the excellence demonstrated in the first album ! In my opinion this album shows an approximation of symphonic prog in detriment to prog folk style, so that this approach "turns pale" the features that call me atention in their first album (Review #1579897 Posted Saturday, June 18, 2016 ) "the use of strong electric guitar melodies and some synthesizers", besides this the change of vocals don't be pleasurable to me : minus due the change ( female to male) and more for Hannu Hiltula's vocal timbre. So, this fact make this album turns ONLY A GOOD symphonic-prog album, without greater attractions !!! My rate is 3 stars !!!
Report this review (#1580234)
Posted Sunday, June 19, 2016 | Review Permalink

I was very pleased with Finnish progrock band their first album entitled Ajatuksia Maailman Laidalta, their blend of early Renaissance and mid-Genesis delighted me so I was very curious to this second effort.

Well, on Kahden Kuun Sirpit the sound is a bit different, due to the changed line-up, only the keyboard player and guitarist-flute player remain as original members. Unfortunately the female singer left, I miss her wonderful voice although the Finnish vocals on this album sound OK. The musical direction has moved towards a more Seventies Camel and Focus inspired sound. Especially on Autio Pelto and Sukellus (strong saxophone sound): melodic with fluent shifting moods, flowing and powerful guitar leads, pleasant flute work and warm vintage keyboards (Hammond, Minimoog and Mellotron). In Unohtunut we can enjoy a fine balance between mellow and bombastic parts, with delicate work on flute and Mellotron and fiery electric guitar.

My highlight is the epic final composition Kahden Kuun Sirpit: mainly a bit laidback climate but at the right moments compelling and bombastic featuring a varied instrumentation, from jazzy Fender Rhodes electric piano and the distinctive lap steel guitar and Hammond organ sound to sensitive electric guitar and majestic Mellotron eruptions.

I prefer Viima their first album but this second CD also delivers very pleasant music if you appreciate Camel, Focus and bands like Rousseau.

My rating: 3,5 star.

Report this review (#1952814)
Posted Saturday, July 28, 2018 | Review Permalink

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