Svart Records Double Review: Ajattara & Tusmørke
A Finnish man reviews two Finnish bands with albums dropping tomorrow. Black metal and 70s prog: which is better?
AJATTARA – LUPAUS
Ajattara have been gone for several years and the end wasn’t from a fairy tale. Since their latest record they’ve endured a change of drummer as well, so even if demand has existed – a return hasn’t always seemed obvious. Undoubtedly, many would answer they’ve risen up to the task, but I am not so sure. Their music has remained very much the same – rocking rhythms delivering stark riffs via deep and crunching guitars alternating with facile, melodic tremolos. The metallic clang of the bass constantly pushing up and rootin’ down – the gaps filled with keys, adding to the intrigue, thickening the sound, but carefully keeping away from the focal points, the lone exception provided at the end of “S.I.N.Ä”, one of the album’s highlighting moments.
Ajattara has often been called “the most dangerous black metal band in Finland”, but the reason hardly lies within their songs or more-intricate-than-usual lyrics. No, mostly Ajattara follows a formulaic path in songwriting, while avoiding becoming tedious, they don’t seek to exhilarate through squiggly curlicues either. The simplicity is rather on point and pronounced – almost like intrinsic absolute value in itself – used to drive the message home. A daring recipe to use for so many years, but it has paid of for one reason. Itse Ruoja Suruntuoja – his work in Amorphis and Shape of Despair has been of quality, yes, but Ajattara is where he truly shines – after all, this is his band through and through.
There’s a demented rage to every word he spits out, every sentence that parts from his lips does so as a mighty curse – not often is a man’s passion for his work this clear. Even more so is it clear on those few occasions he switches to cleans, like on the chorus of “Suru“, incidentally one of the best songs the band has put to tape, his melancholic rasp can hardly be called beautiful, rather reminiscent of Quorthon’s way of commanding his songs with a trembling voice through raw emotion, regardless of technical talent.
Unfortunately that passion can elevate the record only so far. For each moment of greatness there is too much dead weight to keep afloat. Although no song enters autopilot, most of them could use a shake-up. The aforementioned chorus of “Suru”, the piano melody at the end of “S.I.N.Ä”, the unhinged roaring of “Saatanan Sinetti” and the riff following the first chorus on “Ave Satana” as well as Ruoja’s performance are all worthy of a higher score, but the rest of the album simply doesn’t keep up.
If Ajattara has been a band you’ve liked before, you’ll love them now. And if you didn’t, you won’t be persuaded. If you’re a deviant who likes their black metal perversely hooky you’re in for a treat. As far as I am concerned, Lupaus earns itself…
3/5 Flaming Toilet’s ov Hell
TUSMØRKE – HINSIDES
Tusmørke took me by surprise with last years exhilarating Fort Bak Lyset, a dark journey into Rickenbacker-fuelled folk and 70’s prog with a dashing of psychedelia. Still such a regular visitor on my plate, I’ve not had a chance to try their earlier material – I was more than eager to give Hinsides a spin. This time around, the warm fuzz has peeled away the folk and replaced it with some extra nightmare fuel. Hinsides may not be as absurdly
Danish happy as it’s predecessor, but this is mainly thanks to its far more mischievous nature than its festive older brother’s. Instead of dancing Troll Kings ov The Forest, it paints pictures of devilish pranksters having their fun.
“Hjemsokte Hjem” kick-starts the album with impish organ funk before transitioning into the absurdly jovial chorus and prancing flutes that (while not quite as dominating as on Fort Bak Lyset”) seek to command your experience of the album. Halfway into the track, Tusmørke undertakes a journey into outer space – and comes out as a darker, more menacing band. Perhaps it is the use of English, a language I actually speak, but “I Feel Like Midnight” seems satisfyingly evil despite the prevailing happiness, before it too, shifts into a medieval dance-off.
Hinsides makes it obvious how skilled the band is at agglomerating modern and old elements into a unique sound, while slowly progressing through both obvious and unexpected territories. All the while making even their most preposterous choices, like a goddamn kazoo-duo at the end of “Lyssky Drøm”, seem natural.
Before saying goodbye, Tusmørke apparently set themselves one more goal – to scientifically prove that the correct combination of sounds can speed up the passage of time. “Sankt Sebastians Alter” is the experiment, and let me tell you – this hypothesis has been successfully proven true. They waste no time building up and down before climaxing like a washed up collective of post-metal hacks (no offense to the genre), but let go from the beginning – essentially crafting a miniature version of the ride that Hinsides has already been. Eventually their fervor drives them to such heaviness that if a guitar player was actually employed, this’d be considered doom. Instead they continue on their deranged orbit, having created another unique piece unconventional music via conventional means.