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Alamaailman Vasarat - Maahan CD (album) cover

MAAHAN

Alamaailman Vasarat

RIO/Avant-Prog


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5 stars The waiting is finally over. The new Alamaailman Vasarat album's unbeliveable ! After the "Kinaporin Experience" the band come back, with joy, to her sound. Excellent mix of Klezmer, folk, chamber music and, of course, progressive rock. Personnaly better than Käärmelautakunta and Vasaarasia, the band don't disappoint with Maahan. No weak or bad tracks. This is the apogee of Alamaailman. Go for it, try the experience, you'll don't be disappointed.

5 STARS !!! One of the best albums from last years.

Report this review (#121586)
Posted Thursday, May 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars One of the best albums of 2007, the best album by Alamaailman Vasarat. A whole array of different genres, all have extremely solid hooks and instrumentation, no sleeper songs on this at all. Very strong album. Maahan proves that you don't need guitars to make even the heaviest of metal fall to its knees.
Report this review (#129959)
Posted Monday, July 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog-jester
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Only third review and the first one from a Collaborator (Prog Reviewer actually :) ). Are we sleeping?

It was an experiment. I'm still afraid to recommend it, though I liked it immensly. I ain't Avant devotee, and getting all three studio albums by Hammers of the Underground (or how do they call themselves?) is a huge risk. I began with "Maahan", and the following two simple became pale on further listenings! "Maahan" is like Emir Custurica band plays "Jack the Ripper" from UNIVERS ZERO but hundred times faster!!! Unusually dark mood fills klezmer and polka tunes here, cellos on fuzz rock more than overdriven guitars ever could, and the whole atmosphere of cheerful insanity is pretty unique (probably due to my little experience in Avant realm...or AV are REALLY exceptional!). Balkanian funeral, this is it. And the most frightening thing is that these guys are from Finland! What then? Siberian metalheads playing samba and salsa? This globalisation has gone too far dude :)))

Report this review (#136843)
Posted Friday, September 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars The very first Rio/Avant album I ever had the great pleasure to listen to was Maahan by Alamaailman Vasarat's, this of course opened up a whole new world of music to me. This album was later followed by Höyry-Kone's Huono Parturi and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum's Of Natural History which to me has re-engergised my spirites.

I have to admit, I was tired of progressive rock as releases like PT's Fear of the Blank Planet and Phideaux's Doomsday Afternoon while quite excellent, and masterpieces in their own right didn't over joy me, driving me to listen to it day and night like an addiction as say like when I discovered modern prog (anglagard) or Italian Prog (Rosenbach, PFM), and hell, even when I first discovered prog (King Crimson). But Maahan is just one of those albums which have leaded me to stay up to late hours listening to every note in pure bliss. I was astounded by this and the two other Avagrade/RIO albums so much that it has led me here with the need to write my now second review.

Perhaps one of the most intriguing things about this album is I don't know why I like the music, under any other circumstance I'd normally find the instruments annoying, a shallow listen would leave me with an impression it was rubbish. In fact I rolled my eyes thinking the whole distorted chello without any guitar was just a cheap gimmick, but my god, I was wrong. For some reason this album has the greatest replay-ability of any CD I have ever listened to. Usually after numerous listens I will usually switch CD out of fear that I will eventually tire of it, but I have no feelings like that when I listen to Maahan. As far as a Genre, that easy, my Jewish friend calls it Jew Metal (aka Gold), myself I hear several Asian, African, Russian and several other influences. Another great appeal is the fact everybody around me thinks I'm either weird or ethnic when I listen to it,I have not gotten such a response of abhorrence from people since I started loving progressive rock many years ago, if you like the thought of this, buy it now. Another interesting fact about this band is that they have created perhaps the only progressive rock you can dance to.

First song and tital track isn't too special, while listening to it; I thought I'd see a New Orleans Funeral marching in front of my car. 2/5

The Second song Kyyhylly is perhaps one of my favorites, although I have many favorites on this album. It starts off by basically demonstration its uniqueness from anything else you have ever heard. Like much on this album it's quite dark compared to their previous works, which I absolutely adore. It is also one of the hardest songs on the album. 5/5

This song Helmi Otsalla is silly, very silly, fast and very silly. I would love to see someone dancing too it. It is somewhat similar to many of the songs these guys have made previously on their other albums with a unique dark and interesting twist at the end. Worth listening to just for the neat little tidbit at the end. 4/5

The next song Luiden Valossa, Naapurin talossa is another one enclosed by the deep growling chellos which fade in and out, mixed together with the piano, it has the darkest atmosphere of any other Alamaailman Vasarat album. It reminds me of something stalking or praying on someone in a dark forest. A few parts in it sort of remind me of something mystical, say like harry potter. 4/5

Wow, Huikeuden Lienio reminds me a lot of Hamarapuolella from their album Käärmelautakunta, and can be declared the most symphonic sounding song of the bunch. It starts fast and sort of jolly like many of their previous songs, but near ¼ into the song it quickly turns very dark again with the distorted chellos and clarinet. 5/5

Elaimet Huutaa is a very enjoyable listen for me; it begins by sounding quite sad and would fit in a war movie easily. 1/3 into the songs it really builds momentum almost suddenly and once again we are treated to the distorted chellos which I at this time have become completely in love with. This is really not all that hard but is one of my favorites on the album. Perfect 5/5

Hmm, the next song Lumeen Nukkuneet is not very beloved by me, I am somewhat glad I got the experience it, but 5 listens are usually enough and I find myself skipping it. Again, thought this song was taken from Live and Let Die during the New Orleans funeral. 3/5

Katkorapu starts off fast the very veracious as purely the most fuming song on the album and later calms down into a silly little ditty that is quite uplifting with its great "undistorted" string section. Not much to say, other than this was my favorite song at first, but upon further listening, while I love it just as much, it does not make my favorites. 5/5

Kaarme Toi Ruton Kaupunkin would be my favorite song if I was forced to pick. It like a few others is in the vein of Alamaailman Vasarat's previous work but has somewhat more substance than anything they have previously recorded. 5/5

Rooman Ruumiit is very hard, although it can't match the depths which some of their earlier work have gone. Nothing too special, although I do enjoy it. 4/5

Elukka really does not have much special going for it; once again, it's just sort of an afterthought, a way to end the album. 3/5

This is indeed one of the most memorable albums I have listened to in a while and deserves great success, but sadly as with every great album, I have great doubts that this will ever happen. If you don't like this album, feel free to email me, and send me a virus, I dare you.

Report this review (#138722)
Posted Sunday, September 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
Man With Hat
COLLABORATOR
Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team
4 stars Alamaailman Vasarat are back...and with power.

Of all the AV albums, this one takes the cake for heaviness. Maahan is a bit less folky and a bit more metal/avanty...which is not necessarily a bad thing. However, one thing they do not dispose of is their energy. Even on songs that are slower and more avant- garde than rock, there is still a feeling the riverbed under the water moving, so to speak. This is perhaps one of my favorite things about The Hammers. They constantly change, to bring something new to the table while keeping everything under the Avant-Jazz- gypsy-RIO that they are now undeniable experts at.

As I've stated eariler, this is their heaviest work to date. Songs like Kyyhylly, Helmi Otsalla, and Huikeuden Lierio can move the earth when being blasted out of your speakers. However, there is a balance with quieter, more avant-garde styled songs (in a way that is similar to their debut album). These songs just to show that AV are no one trick pony, and have improved their song writing throughout the years. Elaimet Huutaa gives an almost dream like quality to the first part of the song before a more upbeat folky circus like theme. This song continues to contort its way through until it reaches an even bizarrer ending. Lumeen Nukkuneet follows in the endings haughting footsteps and sets an uncomfortable mood for the next five minutes. Its a brooding ride down into the depths of their underworld.

All in all, this is one hell of an album, and one of the best to come out of 2007. Needless to say, the musicianship is top notch, and I believe that their song writing ability has gotten better. Songs like the above show they are not afraid to add new things to the mix, while songs like Katkorapu and Kaarme Toi Ruton Kaupunkiin show that they still have the raw insanity from their previous albums. In this way, they are progressing from record to record, which make them one of the true progressive bands around now-a-days. While I don't enjoy this album as much as their second it is very exciting to listen to and provides an ever thrilling ride. There is also much to discover here, thus there is a lot to sustain on repeated listens. Recommended.

Report this review (#158001)
Posted Tuesday, January 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
Ricochet
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars As of 2007, we have a fourth studio album from the Höyny Kone off-shot that made it tremendously big, we have another coup of avant-esque music from this strange yet stunning Finnish group that constantly came with something else than homeland Sibelusian, mystic, aurorally intense specialties, leaning rather on Balkan folk, Klezmer music or Gypsy rock. Here's Maahan, an album that's Alamaailman Vasarat's factual return to form, after 2003's Käärmelautakunta, seeming to be as much of a top spinner as the 2003 effort.

Persisting a bit more on the Maahan-Käärmelautakunta relation, it is for some strange reason that I considered AV to have sorted out a weaker instrumental range and peculiarness than before; not true however, as we're still talking heavy brass music, the grave sound of the tuba being even more fastidious here than anywhere else, because it gives you utter chills, plus has a hard to achieve technique. The sax and the trombone rule out, and Hänninen's drumming speaks its own weirdness or agitation. Less forward, but more experimental are clarinets, "other woodwinds" or even the cello!

The particular disappointment would be that, overall, the drug for Maahan was set on heaviness, a royal of Eastern dances and traditional-induced rhythms, dynamic explosions that weight more than you can carry, with a contrast of slower or experimental (even rock, but rare) bits. What's the actual disappointment in this? The appetite for fast, tapping or crushingly avant-esque rhythms and heaps, whilst in anything prior to this there was still more art and intricacy - Maahan is remarkably played, vividly imagined and tastefully listenable, but more shallow on attaining something truly special. If one remembers the dashing Lentävä Mato from Käärmelautakunta, that album's sole high-adrenaline/cheap-profoundness dance (think it as a folk word, of course), a lot of short aromas from Maahan are of the same calibre. The dynamite explodes, the fireworks are splendid, but the mood is just casually contented. This is what Maahan lacks.

Judged in a different way, this album is mostly an avant-heavy show, avant being the basic ingredient regardless of the prime Eastern influences (not so much because of professional personal interpretations, but because of the mood, the deciphered style of each bit and everything altogether), while heavy, previously regarded as pure metal, is now more relaxed, but still plugged to enough power as to put current through your veins. There are crazy moments when you can't stay put, loud and fast excerpts like these are half a delicacy, half AV's currently profound spirit. In less exacerbated moments, the band chips a bit of experimentalism, of heterogeneous sounds & samples. I truly feel jazz isn't at the core of some fisting improvisations, instead there's a bit of funk added to the taste, without alternating the whole dish.

As length and size, AV keep it short and casual as always, but even if Maahan is their shortest album up to date only by a minute or so, it's the substance that counts more, and here there isn't much to be crazy about, as we're talking a slim work, out of which multiple pieces can be your favourite without striking an essential cord. I won't go again over what I've mentioned as disappointing, fact is this creative and interesting experience is also split in sequences. I'm even set on describing three major parts Maahan would be split into, excepting the much obvious and very ceremonial prologue, just like the very filler-esque Elukka: the first, from Kyyhylly to Huikeuden lieriö, straps you heavily and parties ravishingly, except for the dark Luiden valossa...; the middle part of the album is also the best, topping with a funeral/weeping tune that's beautiful and surprising, Luumen Nukkuneet; meanwhile the last part has a great avant track in Katkorapu, but slightly mellows with the shallow, wobbling Käärme toi ruton kaupunkiin and with the rock-funkier (at least by its first minute) Rooman ruumiit, that goes back to brassing too late in order to be considered that good any longer. Still, even with only the central pieces being truly worthwhile, Maahan still turns up to be a wildly achieved work.

Jammed to 3.5 stars, I could upset spirits by choosing to go low with the rating, but overall what I've said is a simple matter of taste: the fireworks could count, in real time, the most, and they're nothing short of dynamic, fun, saucerful and highly enjoyable. So Maahan is a fair success, a must for AV's long-term fans, and I'll personally head to the rest that was made by this band, one that impressed me more than I could have imagined.

Report this review (#178195)
Posted Friday, July 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

After the temporary collaboration with local folk hero Tuomari Nurinio, AV resumes their discography with their third album, which finds a Silence label release (it wasn't so with that collaboration), but this time, not in digipack and with very bright red colours showing the right ear of each of the six members. So aside the unusual package (there s a wink on the back cover to Kaarmelautakunta with what's become AV's double hammer logo), the least we can say about Maahan is: back to business as usual.

Out of nowhere we get this now familiar Jazz Manouche (Gypsy Jazz) so close to Eastern European folklore mixed with these amazing cellos that try to reiterate what they had done on Kaarmelautakunta, but only partly succeeding so. So we get nothing new under the sun out of this latest AV album, but at least we get in large amount and impeccably played. The two wind players Saarkula and Haukala are their usual selves, blowing their lungs out, crying out Eastern European Jewish and Gypsy painful memories and joys. The cello duet of Helminen and Maninnen is still the base, the heartbeat and much of the rhythm of the group, but often offering the most poignant and gloomy moments in AV's soundscapes. Too bad they're not a little more present on this album. As for Huttunen on keys and Haninen on drums, they are often the star of the show, especially the latter and his manic frantic playing.

So if you liked their first two albums, and less their collaborative effort with Nurinio, the good news is that AV's third album should please you a lot. The lesser good news is that they fail to match the absolute craziness of the second Kaarmelautakunka album, but Maahan remains a worthy album. On the downside, I was hoping they would progress experimentally a little more with this one, but hopefully this will happen with their next one.

Report this review (#183382)
Posted Wednesday, September 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This is such an interesting recording. I don't know their earlier stuff but Brandon from "Ground & Sky" says "If you enjoyed the first two albums you are likely to find much to like here. If anything the compositions are more concise and hard hitting...". What I find interesting is that there is no lead guitar or bass guitar on this album, instead we get dual cellos that just rip it up like the guitar normally would, and this growly bass clarinet in place of the bass guitar. Lots of horns and drum work as well. This album kicks some serious butt at times and of course it's a little crazy, in fact if I wasn't giving it my full attention I found it quite annoying. Very cool album cover by the way. I like that it clocks in at just under 40 minutes as well.

"Maahan" is the 1 minute horn intro. "Kyyhylli" opens with heavy drums then it settles with bass clarinet as other horns come in. "Helmi Otsalla" is very uptempo with a full sound. "Luiden Valossa, Naapurin Talossa" is a top three for me. It opens with drums, piano and other sounds. It kicks in with a great sound then settles again. Lots of bass sounds here. Contrasts continue. Another top three is "Huikeuden Lierio" which opens sounding very much like the band AREA. Drums join in then it settles with piano a minute in. It kicks back in with bass clarinet. Amazing ! Contrasts continue.

"Elaimet Huutaa" is led by slow moving cellos until the tempo picks up and the sound gets fuller before 2 minutes. Horns are just a blasting at one point. The tempo continues to change.It's pretty intense 4 minutes in. Cool sounds end it. I don't know what they are though. "Lumeen Nukkuneet" has this haunting atmosphere with piano. Then we start to get this slow rhythm the rest of the way. "Kattkorapu" features heavy drums, bass clarinet and horns. What a great song. "Kaarme Toi Ruton Kaupunkiin" has these horns and drums leading the way as cellos come and go. "Rooman Ruumiit" is the final top three tune for me. This is heavy duty. This is a beast ! Drums, cellos and bass clarinet bring the heat. The final song is "Elukka" features a slow moving melody with growly bass clarinet.

Certainly not for everyone but this is unique enough and hard hitting enough that I have to give it 4 stars.

Report this review (#245047)
Posted Saturday, October 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Really nice Finnish band's album! Reeds,strings,distorted organ,grand piano and percussion play hot mix of Balkan/Gypsy folk and chamber music!

I listened tones of Balkan tunes (in original versions) few years, and even there are not too big difference in melodies and single songs, very energetic and hot dance-able rhythms and high emotional level always catch me every time I just hear first hordes. Another thing, that there are few tricks in musicianship, and you will hardly find something new after you heard dozen of songs.

Using of Balkan/Gypsy folklore as component in more complex music is old trick, and theer are many original Balkan jazz bands using it. Some last years such move became more popular between some Nordic bands. AA is one of them, and possibly one between best known.

Great thing is Balkan folk element doesn't dominate there in their music, and chamber rock (with zeihlish flavor in a moments) is great another ingredient to make the sound well balanced. As a result, Balkanika doesn't sound there as somewhere in the Guča pipes fest in Eastern Serbia, and strings/reeds are not such dry and cold as often.

The only thing I missed there is better compositions - musical components and musicianship level are both great, but compositions are often too faceless and remind Balkan/chamber jamming. Still easy accessible and pleasant to listen album, not too essential though.

Report this review (#381491)
Posted Monday, January 17, 2011 | Review Permalink
Matti
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Alamaailman Vasarat ( = Hammers of the Underworld) is an instrumental descendant of the 90's legendary Finnish RIO group HÖYRY-KONE, which featured the internationally established tenor Topi Lehtipuu as their vocalist. The strange, loonie music of AV is well described here by much more advanced listeners of RIO/Avant Prog than me. In fact I'm now listening to this band for the first time. I know some of you don't give much value to first impressions, but you're free to ignore my review; there are better ones on this and other albums by this band, I guarantee.

The instrumentation is very unconventional: a couple of cellos (or is the plural form celli?), piano, pump organ, melodica, trombone, slide trumpet, saxes and other wind instruments, and percussion. No guitars, not even bass guitar, nor synths. This is like an idiot bastard son of Klezmer (the Zappa pun intended). The tempo is often high and the atmosphere circus-like, but that's not the whole story. There are a lot of odd time signatures, and the dynamics between instruments are variating heavily even within tracks. To me it's exactly those slower, less frenzy moments approaching chamber music that save this music from being an exhausting listening experience; when the brass is silenced and perhaps the grand piano takes the attention.

In addition to Klezmer, circus/ revue music and chamber music, this brave mix includes also elements of heavy rock and jazz. Track titles, as well as the music itself, are filled with humorous aspect. Of newer Finnish artists I have met similar spirit in the two albums of UTOPIANISTI (which is more clearly in the Fusion genre). Translation attempts wouldn't do any justice to titles with witty wordplay such as 'Katkorapu' or 'Kyyhylly'. The latter would literally mean a viper shelf, but it naturally is a twist from kuuhullu, moonstruck.

I can't (yet) evaluate this album against AV's other output, but it's obvious that if you're good friends with hilariously crazy instrumental stuff drawing influence from several genres, ALAMAAILMAN VASARAT is worth checking out.

Report this review (#1179576)
Posted Tuesday, May 27, 2014 | Review Permalink

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