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Alamaailman Vasarat


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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

This absolutely crazy acoustic band is one of the legacy of the crazed Hoyry Kone . Somehow relatively close to the spirit of the now defunct HK, three members united (though not necessarily as musicians) to make some totally acoustic fusion music not far removed from the Gypsy Jazz music that you would hear from an Emir Kusturica movie (Underground or Time of the Gypsys). A completely acoustic quintet, where the duo brass attack (I know the sax is a wood, but WTH), much of the rhythm comes from Maninen's cello replacing the bass and rhythm guitar (ac or el) and is part of much of the group's original sound, especially in the manner of recording the cello, although they will fine-tune that later on. The frantic drumming is provided by Haninen and often comes to the festive mood that was HK's. Completing the quintet is Huttunen on piano, but also the pump organ, which provides again a weird personality to the group, often between the accordion and the harmonium. Their first album is adequately released on the highly-specialised Swedish label Silence (thinking of Von Zamla etc.) and comes in a superb digipack with an intriguing escalator artwork and in the booklet itself, a wintery and night urban décor that fits the music rather well.

As said above, the musical directions heads out east and southbound, to the eastern European soundscapes of the Gypsy and Jewish traditions, adding a certain rock feeling and energy that would make a rear granddad raise from his grave and dance once more one of those polkas of yesteryears. There is an unreal and slightly grotesque/satirical facet of their music (much as you'd find on most of Zappa's music) that can eventually tire out quickly some progheads, especially those who are more prone to symphonic soundscapes. Personally I prefer AV's slower (and usually longer) tracks, rather to the all-out cosmic-speed playing of the faster (and shorter) polkas. The general AV canvas is alternating between the two types of extremes, with no middle ground.

Some tracks provide a welcome rest between the relatively similar polka to avoid repetition but ultimately, given the full duration of the album, it is relatively ineffective in the long run. Highly atmospheric (even gloomy ala UZ) tracks like Hakumies, an impressive crescendo that transforms into a sort of tango, or the dramatic finale Siltojen Alla, with its almost metallic doom-metal cello alternating with speed-thrash-metal polka played at breakneck speed. My personal favourite track on this album is Tankkaustunti, where Haukkalla's trombone teams up with Maninen's cello to give crunchy riffs and chords (that most metalheads would love to invent acoustically) over an eerie pump organ in the background, the whole thing turning almost in a bolero with its war-like drumming. Lakeus also draws an honourable mention.

But once the surprise gone, in regards to repetitive listenings, the music settles is a sort of monotonous way to become relatively quickly uninteresting (even though it is impeccably played) and really tiresome as the album reaches the last track. The fact that this is totally instrumental does not help as you need to constantly look up to the deck display to see which track is playing. Though the follow-up is better, if you're a glutton for punishment, I'd tell you to start with that one, knowing that this one is much less inventive, therefore you'll save yourself a bit of enjoyment for their marginally better second album.

Report this review (#32727)
Posted Monday, September 6, 2004 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Just like a fellow Prog Collaborator so accurately stated before me, Alamaailman Vasarat's music is heavily rooted in the Eastern European gypsy folk, not unlike their more rock-oriented precursors Höyry-Kone: a fact undisputedly evidenced from the opening track of their debut "Vasaraasia". In fact, the typical exotic drive from gypsy folk is magically enriched by a sense of genius folly which seems to arise not only from the influence of HK, but also Samla Mammas Manna, Slapp Happy, and in general, the most satirical side of RIO. There is also an aggressive facet in AV's music, which is provided mainly by the two cellists. Here and there you may hear what seems to be a series of quasi-punk fuzz guitar riffs, but what is really going on is that the cellists are playing powerful chord progressions on their instruments, previously supplied with bizarre effect tools. The opening track 'Mamelukki & Musta Leski' is a wonderful source of motivation: its beautiful melodic lines and the contagious electricity emanated by the performers, all at once, make it a recommended listen for those minutes after you've just awakened, and still haven't made up your mind to get up our of your comfortable bed. Track 2 keeps the good vibrations working, with a slightly lesser degree of intensity. Even though there is a large amount of fast numbers in "Vasaraasia", there are others that don't feel so uplifting: in fact, there's also room for some languid, dark pieces, at times bordering on the somber - 'Jano'/'Tankkaustunti' and 'Hakumie' are IMHO the most accomplished dark pieces. All things considered, though, the listener is likely to find himself in awe of the frontal candor exhibited in most parts of the album, especially the interplays between sax and trombone and the well articulated complementation of the pump organ chords with the rhythm section. There's tons of electrifying energy condensed here, and yet there's more electronic stuff in the effects than in the instrumental arsenal itself. Well, eventually the circus has to leave town to take its tricks and gags somewhere else, but the circus caravan won't leave quietly: the ultra-fast 'Delhin Yot' seems designed to cause the audience's farewell applauses, while the finale serves as a musical background for the technicians dismantling the stage and quickly picking up all packages into the trucks. Overall mark: 3 ½ - 4 stars.
Report this review (#32728)
Posted Saturday, February 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars The aggressive and unique blend of avantgarde rock and klezmer folk influences show a huge amount of uniqueness, but what here hits to my ears is the sense of humor following from their predecessor band Höyrykone, which I personally do not like. The greatest innovation here in my opinion is the amplifying of cellos with fuzzbox, making a real killer sound. But this solution would have helped to create a more memorable end result if the basic philosophy of the group would be more solemn and serious. It is very possible, that I characterize more myself by disliking this "crazy" humor present in artistic music than this record, but it does not contain the substances which I seek from arts, and thus this record nor band never grew dear to me.
Report this review (#32729)
Posted Thursday, March 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars 01. Marmelukki & Musta Leski (9.5/10) 02. Perikunta (8/10) 03. Lakeus (7/10) 04. Unikkotango (7.5/10) 05. Asuntovelka (9.5/10) 06. Kebab Tai Henki! (9/10) 07. Jano (6.5/10) 08. Tankkaustunti (7/10) 09. Merikaarme (7/10) 10. Hanta Hellii Kaarme (10/10) 11. Hakumies (7.5/10) 12. Delhin Yot (8.5/10) 13. Siltojen Alla (9/10)

Alamaailman Vasarat is excellent because they play a blend of metal and tango, which would tend to be the background music to an ancient bar fight between two burly guys with impressive beards. The band only consists of cellos, trombone, sax and keyboards, but they create a hectic and lushly orchestrated instrumental avant-prog that is surprisingly, incredibly catchy. In my opinion, their sound is something I keep coming back to because of how unique and just how cool it is. From the snarling polka of Marmelukki & Musta Leski, to the brooding pirate anthem of Lakeus, Alamaailman Vasarat consistently impresses throughout the entire album, sometimes catching you off guard with heavy grooves, or just dazzling you with melody. I'd also like to add here that this is definitely the coolest use of a cello I've ever heard, because sometimes it's distorted, and retains the bowing sound, it's definitely something to be heard. Sadly, the album tends to lose steam towards the end, and for such a steam engine-like band, it can be disappointing. However the album never entirely loses momentum to me because the music always grabs me. The album picks back up in intensity with Hanta Hellii Kaarme, in my opinion it's the most thoughtful song on the album because it's melody is so strong and it covers their sound in one swoop. In conclusion, Vasaraasia is a surprisingly fresh and inventive album. I've never heard anyone like this, and I'm glad I haven't.

Reviewer's Tilt: (9/10)

OVERALL SCORE: 8.2/10 or 4 stars

Report this review (#41882)
Posted Saturday, August 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars On the aftermath of Ho’ry-Kone, there was much to expect from the now called "Hell's Hammers". The first striking difference between the two bands is the absence of singer Topi Lehtipuu, but then we should enter on this album for what it has to say, not necessarily for what we want to ear from it. Alamaailman Vasarat gained a strong jazz inclination in opposite of Ho’ry-Kone, but like the latter they seem to have this amazing ability of making things collapse together to create their own grammar. You'll find hints of klezmer music, jazz as said earlier, but also a touch of metal. The contrasts are not so obvious than what they did with their former band but "Vasaraasia" is a promising debut that certainly hooked the attention of Naked City, Creedle and Mr.Bungle's enthusiasts.
Report this review (#43047)
Posted Tuesday, August 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars It's a nice album, but it has a bit too much of useless try-outs on it. Some of the song sound too much like party music to make a real impact. The general atmosphere of the album is quite nice however. Sometimes loud, sometimes softer, some nice change. But the songs don't stay with me, 3*
Report this review (#63588)
Posted Saturday, January 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Rejoice, all prog fans! Here we have some good music that, on top of it all, you can dance to!

All seriousness aside, this is a very very good album. I've been spinning a lot recently, getting used to the intense craziness that this band offers. Up until this point, I've never heard any band with this type of style of music. They have the really fast point where you lose your head in the intensity (usually a good thing here), and you have the slow parts with the inventive themes that pull you in. Even though not every track is a full winner, they are basically all fun and, as I said before, you can dance to almost every one of them. And who doesn't love that.

My favorite song on the album is, probably, the very first song, kicking off the album in a whirlwind of crazy polka-ish music. The other songs cover many different music forms as well. Slower songs like Lakeus have slow, building themes, which is followed right by Unikkotango, and you don't need to know Finnish to know that this is indeed one unique tango (even though I don't think that's the actual translation, according to the above track listing). And of course, there's the insane fast happy-go-lucky march of Kebab tai henki! Tankkaustunti just scares you to death with its opening riff, and so on and so forth. Of course, the other songs are worthwhile, but these just show the different form of song on the album.

If you have an open mind, get the album and see what you think. It is one unique experience, I can tell you that much. 3/5 stars.

Report this review (#63641)
Posted Saturday, January 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I cannot imagine giving this colossal mindblowing finnish weirdos less than 4 stars.

I bought this album 2-3 years ago and it is still spinning in my CD player regullary. It even appeals to most of my friends and peers, who are not easily convinced by my taste of music. The reason for that maybe is that Alamailman Vasarat really is dancable RIO. This phrase of course seems to approximately describe a paradoxon if you think of other Bands of that Genre... But the Avantgardness is obviously (I mean, i have never heard such furious and original sound) and if Tracks like the first one, Kebab tai henki! doesn“t urge you to throw your feet up in the air and dance ,... well at least it urges you to freak out... And the best thing is: Exactly when you have reached the Point when your feet turned into steaming ...something.., more quiet Tracks or powerful slow songs appear, which are really enjoyable for listening. Similarities to other bands are hardly found. Maybe you could describe them as a version of CRO MAGNON (or other bands like this) totally gone wild..

Report this review (#75345)
Posted Tuesday, April 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars welcome to the fun world of alamaailman Vasarat, enjoy this musical gypsy circus. Fabulous highly skilled musicians in a pandemonium of cheerfull tunes and fast paced delightfull tunes. Even the more sad songs can't escape a cheerfulness unmatched before.

Fabulous and fun to listen.

Report this review (#103030)
Posted Wednesday, December 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Taking from the point Morphine managed in the 90's, in their sax-driven rock, Alamaailman Vasaria messed up even further rock's structure. Adding this, guitars and bass were abandoned and substituted by a crafted crusade of cellos and trombones. Music was an amalgam of genres, from progressive rock, folk music, eastern popular orchestral music, even a touch of tango and a gypsies/post-circus fragrance all over. The result lyes between the boundaries of an odd, dissonant paranoia, an elegy relying much more on a mesmerizing humorous craziness than on elegance.

Nevertheless the band doesn't neglect the most subtle side of music, "Lakeus" or "Hakumies", it is not as particularly effective as it would expect from the combination of these instruments. Few times the effort is compelling and memorable, like on "Memelukki & Musta Leski", while many other moments seem to be a parody carillon: "Perikunta", "Kebab tai Henki" or "Delhin Yöt". They inevitably couldn't avoid touching Scandinavian death metal on "Asuntovelka", with the intelligently distorted effects on the cello almost resembling heavy guitar riffs.

While mixing all those influences in this eclectic melting pot, they recreated something somewhat original but, nonetheless, ended to be a failed intent to make a revolution: it is not convincing enough to please the masses, nor sufficiently intriguing to captivate the intellectual elite. 3,5 stars.

Report this review (#123087)
Posted Tuesday, May 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars On their debut album, Alamaailman Vasarat doesn't waste any time letting you know they play a completely different breed of music. Alamaailman Vasarat play very fast and chaotic acoustic gypsy folk with a bit of metal with saxophones, trombones, organs, pianos and two cellos that are often electrified to sound like a distorted guitar. It's really quite unique music. The music possesses very playful and lighthearted energy that is actually quite fun to listen to. The band plays passionately and frantically throughout the entire album.

The album is all instrumental, which (like many other great instrumental albums) is a good move because there's simply so many musical ideas going on, singing would only get in the way. Most of the songs are shorter, around the 3 minute mark but a few are considerably longer. These songs are mostly characterized as energetic bursts of energy, which, thankfully, are kept short because if they were any longer they would most definitely be extending their welcome. The longer songs are usually slow, more drawn out with a dirge- like feel to them. The band predominately sticks to these two extremes with little variation.

That's really my main issue with the album, though. While there's nothing bad, only like half of it is really good. It suffers from a lack of direction and, especially in the second half of the album, it sounds like the are just repeating ideas from earlier with little variety. That's actually kind of a shame considering how interesting the music is. But those concerns aside, Alamaailman Vasarat should be considered nothing less than fresh, which provides for a fun listen.

Standout songs: "Mamelukki & Musta Leski", "Häntä hellii käärme"

Report this review (#126222)
Posted Monday, June 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
James Lee
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars It is almost inconceivable to me than anyone wouldn't love this band. Imagine a Bar Mitzvah played by Apocalyptica...or Finntroll with 60% less Black Metal and 80% more authentic instruments...or even John Zorn with a Gypsy fetish. How about Tom Waits' backing band doing Univers Zero cover tunes? What's not to love?

Seriously, though, I do understand that insane ethnic party jazz metal isn't everyone's cup of tea. Still, I dare you not to get a smile on your face from the very first few seconds. And I dare you not to be blown away by the sheer proficiency of the musicians (whether you approve of their choice of instruments or not).

And it's not all party. There's plenty of dramatic, even dark moments on the album ("Lakeus" could scare the pants off of you if you were in the right frame of mind, and some of the other songs can certainly evoke a sinister circus or a New Orleans funeral from time to time). The dynamic and thematic range is pretty broad, given the specific genre (a genre of one? Who else sounds quite like this?). From intricate blazing exoticism to death-metal-heavy martial moments ("Tankkaustunti" is an excellent example), this is one band that can cover a lot of exotic territory (like a wave of Cossacks, raping and pillaging across the musical Eastern landscape...okay, now I'm getting carried away with the metaphors).

I'm always raving about Comus, but it's not all that strained a comparison; though drastically different in form, the two bands manage to achieve the same ecstatic menace, that evil abandon that you just know is going to lead impressionable youth to kinky bonfire scenes and maybe a blood sacrifice or two...if only enough impressionable youths would listen to this kind of music (unlikely, for better or worse).

No, really, this is mostly just good crazy fun. Does humor belong in music? If you've checked yours at the door, don't bother with this band. Just give your copy to the next acidhead Rabbinical student you meet (and hide the cutlery!). Freedom Freedom Freedom Oy!

Report this review (#216008)
Posted Friday, May 15, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Vasaraasia is the debut of Alamaailan Vasarat, a Finnish band with a fine mix of kletzmer-styled RIO with dots of 'metal'. This could potentially turn into a kind of a gimmick, and it kind of does. But I believe the material and musicianship remains strong and varied enough to support continued listening pleasure.

The band really fires through all sorts of instrumental polka and gypsy tunes, they add some jazz, a hint of avant-rock, and something that sounds like heavy metal guitars. Not too much, not even in every song, but where applied it gives this already very dynamic music another boost of energy. Surprisingly, the heavy sound is created with cellos and low-key trombone, but it sure sounds like distorted electric guitar to me.

The closest bands to compare them with would be Von Zamla, or Zorn's Masada injected with a shot of punk energy and aggression. Also the Norwegian polka-indie-rock of Kaizer's Orchestra comes to mind, be it that that band has vocals, use electrical guitars and are generally much better songwriters.

Alamaailan Vasarat's debut makes for an interesting listen where kletzmer folk music meets the energy of rock, a very alluring combination of sadness and vitality, perfect for my taste. With a keen eye for good hooks and the high level musicianship they've kept me engaged for the entire 51 minutes of this album. A great find. 3.5 stars

Report this review (#284606)
Posted Wednesday, June 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars I just heard the sad news regarding the passing of Alamaailman Vasarat's Jarno Sarkula at the age of 47. He was the saxophone player (alto and tenor) for the band who's name translates to "hammers of the underworld" in English.

I am not typically a huge fan of RIO or avant garde music but can appreciate it when it is done well. Even in a genre where musicians strive to be original Alamaailman Vasarat strike me as being a pretty unique band. They are all instrumental with saxophone, trombone, keyboards(including pump organ and grand piano), cellos and drums.

My personal story with the band began in 2003 when they played the fifth edition of the North East Art Rock Festival(or Nearfest for short). I didn't really know much about them but did see them mentioned online about a year or two prior to their appearance at Nearfest. I thought they were good and unique and liked how they were able to get an almost heavy metal sound with no guitars. Instead the distorted cellos provide the metal element. I wound up talking to some of the members outside and also inside the venue where most of them(including Jarno)autographed my copy of their first album.

This is probably the kind of album you have to listen to more than once to appreciate. It works as both background music and music you can pay closer attention to. While there isn't necessarily a whole lot of variation in sound there are some tracks which are more light and mellow and then others which are more energetic and typically feature the use of distorted cellos. If one didn't know any better they could easily be fooled into thinking they were guitars. In fact this band could maybe even be considered heavy metal klezmer music if such a thing existed and if it doesn't well I suppose this band are the first to do such a thing.

Needless to say, Alamaailman Vasarat were one of the more interesting bands of Nearfest that year(along with Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and Magma). As such this is a worthy album for those who don't mind stepping outside of the box of normal prog from time to time. If you are already a fan of RIO and Avant but don't know this band then you should definitely check them out.

Report this review (#2420049)
Posted Thursday, July 16, 2020 | Review Permalink

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