Moonsorrow - Jumalten Aika Review

Moonsorrow - Jumalten Aika
Century Media Records

Finland’s Moonsorrow returns with Jumalten Aika (“The Age Of Gods” in Finnish) the band’s seventh full-length album, and their first for Century Media Records, one of metal’s major record labels. Formed in 1996, Moonsorrow has maintained a stable lineup for most of their existence, resulting in a solid string of albums and EPs that have cemented their status as being perhaps the best of the pagan/folk subgenre.

Moonsorrow's Sound

Moonsorrow has not changed their sound much over the years, and have become masters of their craft as a result. Starting off with a base of black metal with harsh vocals and a somewhat thin sound, Moonsorrow also masterfully weaves in melodies and the use of traditional Finnish folk elements with keyboards, flutes, and clean vocals. Rather than sounding silly, bouncy or saccharine as many other bands that play this style are prone to do, Moonsorrow has maintained an air of seriousness and an epic sweep to their music that is hard to compete with.

Jumalten Aika contains no surprises in that it’s instantly recognizable as Moonsorrow. Consisting of five long songs sprawled out over a total running time of just over 67 minutes, Jumalten Aika is epic in scope with most of the songs approaching or eclipsing the fifteen-minute mark. Songs tend to begin with a quiet introduction, build to a crescendo, and then slowly fade.

The focus throughout the album alternates between harsh moments with riffs and a hard-hitting tempo, and quieter, introspective moments enhanced with melody and folk instruments. Harsh vocals from Ville Seponpoika Sorvalid dominate the music, but clean vocals accompany the quieter moments to give the music the necessary sense of scope and majesty.

Journey Through Jumalten Aika

A journey through Jumalten Aika is a journey through storytelling, stories based on old pagan myths. The incorporation of traditional folk elements is an important part of that storytelling; Jumalten Aika probably contains those elements more than any other Moonsorrow release since Verisäkeet, their classic album from 2005.

The title track, clocking in at nearly 13 minutes in length, opens the album with drums, flutes, a Jew’s harp and clean vocals, only to soon launch into the song’s main riff with a solid, mid-paced tempo. About halfway through, the riffing changes and the tempo shifts upwards to a gallop to lead to the song’s conclusion.

The second song, “Ruttolehto incl. Päivättömän Päivän Kansa,” continues in much the same vein, with soaring, clean vocals as an intro, and with a melodic interlude about midway through that anchors the song. Blastbeats, used very sparingly on Jumalten Aika as a whole, eventually lead to a quiet conclusion.

The shortest song on the album, “Suden Tunti” appears at the halfway point, and, although only about seven minutes long, the song has an epic sweep that fits in nicely with the longer tracks. “Suden Tunti” also serves as a lead into “Mimmisbrun” and “Ihmisen Aika (Kumarrus Pimeyteen),” two very long songs to close out the album’s last half hour.

By themselves, these two songs are nearly half the album’s length with “Mimmisbrunn” containing the album’s hardest hitting moments with a solid riff to back up a galloping blastbeat near the song’s conclusion. “Ihmisen Aika (Kumarrus Pimeyteen)” begins with a hard-hitting dirge and a slower tempo, but also features blast beats appearing about midway through. The harsher elements eventually lead to a quiet outro to close out the album.

An Epic Album

Jumalten Aika is a huge, sprawling epic album; Moonsorrow may have crafted their most ambitious album to date with its emphasis upon variation, atmosphere, and storytelling. Longtime fans will rejoice at the scope, and Jumalten Aika also serves as an excellent introduction to Moonsorrow for new fans. Undoubtedly, being signed to Century Media Records will increase Moonsorrow’s visibility even further and will hopefully lead to a long overdue tour of North America.

(Released April 1, 2015, on Century Media Records)