Yesterday I discovered some new music, quite a lot of it actually. I picked two of those new discoveries as a pair for this post, but not because they are anything alike. In fact, they could hardly be more different — and that’s why I’ve paired them together.
This band’s Finnish name means “Death’s Valley” or “Valley of Death”. It began as a one-man project of guitarist Markus Laakso (Chaosweaver). After recording a handful of demo tracks, he recruited a group of talented comrades to flesh out the band: vocalist Mikko Kotamäki (Swallow the Sun, Barren Earth), guitarist Savon Surma (“Kouta”) (Chaosweaver, ex-Verjnuarmu), bassist Tuomo Räisänen (“Usva”) (Elenium, The Nibiruan), and drummer Toni Ronkainen (“Tiera”) (Discard, Cult of Endtime).
Together they recorded an album at Woodshed Studio in Germany with V. Santura of Triptykon and Dark Fortress fame, who also mixed and mastered the music. The album is named Uljas uusi maailma (“Brave New World”) and it was released by Svart Records in November 2012. It was very good.
In August of this year the band recorded a second album with V. Santura, this time convening in a cabin in the Finnish woods near the shores of a lake. This morning I spent time I didn’t have reading Markus Laakso’s day-by-day studio diary, because it was both interesting and entertaining (and mouth-watering — this group ate well while together in the woods). If you have the time, and even if you don’t, I recommend it.
photo by Susanna Honkasalo
It turns out that the band recorded not only songs for the new album but also a group of four other tracks that have been collected for release on CD and 12″ vinyl. Three of the songs are original and one is a cover, and the EP’s title is Musta aurinko nousee (“The black sun rises”). Yesterday I was alerted to the EP’s existence, and the streaming of that cover song, via an e-mail from long-time Finnish NCS supporter jeimssi. The cover song is the one that gives the EP its name — “Musta aurinko nousee”. It was originally recorded by Juice Leskinen, a figure who jeimssi explained has near-legendary status in Finland, dating back to the 70s and 80s, as a kind of father-figure of Finnish rock ‘n’ roll.
I haven’t tracked down the original, but Kuolemanlaakso’s doom-y cover is a dark, slow rain of huge riffs, pounding rhythms, and shining keyboards. Mikko Kotamäki’s mix of morose baritone singing with harsh gravelly growls is great, as is the song’s guest guitar solo by V. Santura (there’s something about the Finnish language that by itself makes metal songs sound more brutal). And the melody is undeniably infectious.
This next band first came to my attention via an e-mail earlier this month from fellow blogger fireangel. She usually focuses her attention on Finnish metal, but Heavy Hoempa are based in a town named Uden in The Netherlands. She came upon them through a video of the band playing at this year’s ProgPower Europe festival, which took place a couple of weeks ago in the Dutch village of Baarlo.
Well, Heavy Hoempa didn’t actually play in the ProgPower festival. They played on the town’s market square nearby. The video that fireangel found is the band’s entire set. But to give you a chance to figure out whether the whole set would be worth your time, I’m first embedding a clip of just one song, which the band loaded on their Facebook page. As you will see, this is metal, in more ways than one. It will bring smiles instead of tears.
Also, fireangel tells me that next year Heavy Hoempa has been booked to perform as part of ProgPower 2014’s opening party. Nice work dudes!