Tuesday 17 October 2023

Kaunis Kuolematon - Mielenvalta (2023)

Country: Finland
Style: Melodic Doom/Death Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 13 Oct 2023
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Here's another excellent new melodic doom/death metal album, but it's plenty different from the Wizards of Wiznan album that impressed me so much last week. Kaunis Kuolematon are Finns and they've been around for a decade and change, with this their fourth album. They play their doom/death with a heavy side of black metal, as is perhaps most evident as they start out, with Surussa uinuva. It's sweet and melodic, a sort of subdued epic, until a raucous black metal shriek bursts in and we're suddenly in something very different. It's definitely still melodic but it's heavy, fast and blistering too, more so than I'd expect from doom/death.

Now, this does slow down to find a more traditional doom/death speed, just as Elävältä haudattu does that the other way around, but these tracks enjoy shifting their intensity levels substantially, most playing out in what feel like movements, even though none are identified and only the closer unfolds at epic length, lasting almost nine minutes. Everything else ranges from just under five to just over six and a half, which is a consistent window and not a particularly epic one.

Elävältä haudattu is easily my favourite song here and it has a whole swathe of movements. It's a heavy doom song as it begins, with slow and patient drumming, but that grows into a section with a delicate melody unfolding in front of a building black metal wall of sound. The singer here is Olli Suvanto, the band's lead vocalist, who I presume delivers both the harsh vocals, halfway between a rich death growl and the wicked black metal shriek that ramped up Surussa Uinuva. Then it drops away for a long section with Mikko Heikkilä, the band's rhythm guitarist, at the mike, singing clean with a resonant voice. When it ramps up again, it's very heavy, but it finds another clean moment and ends with a cool harmonisation of voices.

It's a peach of a song and it does a lot. Elävältä haudattu translates to Buried Alive, so maybe this frequent change of movements represents actions in a story. I could see a battle as someone tries not to be buried alive, then to escape, only to fail and experience peace for a while in surrender, a feeling that doesn't last, leading to the heavy and frantic sections later in the song. I don't speak Finnish so maybe I'm projecting considerably here but the musical variation does imply a story and that seems to make sense.

Frankly, the contrasts are what make this special, not just in general but in specific moments. That initial black metal shriek in Surussa uinuva felt like a plane crashing into a hitherto flawless lake. There's a shift from melodic piano to harsh vehemence in Peilikuva that's especially delightful too. This band can shift entirely on a dime and they seem to enjoy the experience. However, it wouldn't be as effective if they couldn't sell both their core styles, the black metal infused doom/death and the peaceful slow and melodic diversions with clean vocals. They absolutely sell both and at points, like in Peilikuva, overlap the two with wonderful effect.

That's three songs and there are half a dozen more to come, starting with the title track, which is Mind Power in translation. However, there's not much more to say once we get past these. This one kicks off with what sounds like an ethnic horn but could be a voice, I suppose. It literally commands our attention and suggests a shift into folk metal that never comes, even with an excellent female voice in the midsection that utterly surprised me. The rumbling behind it and effective developing melody are exquisite atmosphere and then we slam back in hard, as we ought to expect by now.

The rest of the album continues in much the same vein, setting up new contrasts and creating new moments, but it doesn't add anything new. It also doesn't disappoint, though it rarely matches the early sparks of brilliance, and it doesn't get old. In other words, I may not like this as much as I did the Wizards of Wiznan album, but I've happily played it on repeat half a dozen times now and I still find new elements to enjoy even this many times through. It's immersive stuff and it's hard to pull myself away from it so I can focus on another album to review.

The best news is that Kaunis Kuolematon means Beautiful Immortal, which bodes well, and I'm not seeing a line-up change. This was created by the same five people as their self-titled debut EP back in 2012. That sort of thing always suggests a solid compatibility behind band members that allows them to grow their sound without growing apart. Now, I have three earlier albums to seek out and I look forward to the next one.

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