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Thursday 4 February 2021

Reviews: Korpiklaani, Yoth Iria, Sarin, Black & Damned (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Korpiklaani: Jylhä (Nuclear Blast)

Now eleven albums into their career the Finnish band can be considered to be the leading act in folk metal having been citing vodka and beer fueled party pits at festivals and gigs since 2003. The band have fully embraced their niche so with so many records under their belts they were able to take a few risks on this record. The albums title doesn't translate properly but can be considered to be close to "rugged in a beautiful way" and that's the sort of sound they are going for here. 

According to singer/guitarist/songwriter Jonne Järvelä this is the most planned Korpiklaani record since the beginning, they have made a point of trying to bring in as many different musical concepts as possible from biting speed metal on Verikoira but elsewhere there's reggae touches, Spanish guitar melodies and even some swampy banjos that add to their already dense sound cultivated by the use of accordion and violin against the traditional backing of electric guitar, bass and drums, new drummer Samuli Mikkonen giving a freshness to the compositions that make the heavy numbers heavier but also adding a deftness to slower, torchlight anthems. 

Lyrically as well Tuomas Keskimäki (poet and the bands lyricist) has dealt with some darker content including the Lake Bodom murders on Kiuru adding a new dimension to the band's Suomi lyrics. Jylhä shows that Korpiklaani are the most recognisable folk metal name for a reason. 7/10

Yoth Iria: As The Flame Withers (Pagan Records)

I reviewed Yoth Iria's EP Under His Sway back in January 2020 and it seems that it takes a year and global pandemic to create yet another slice of Authentic Hellenic Black Metal, I say authentic as Yoth Iria is made up of Jim The Mutilator, founding bassist of Rotting Christ and vocalist The Magnus founding member of Necromantia so it's about as authentic towards the original Hellenic black metal sound as possible. This record much like the EP before it has been conjured with the Old Gods in mind, defying the religious conventions of their home country with a much more pagan outlook that is very much In League With Satan, just check out final track The Luciferian if you want that link to show strongly. 

Obviously with the band basically a duo, you will guess that the rest of the band are guests and you'd be right as ex-Rotting Christ man George Emmanuel plays guitar, Dephosphorus man JV Maelstrom is behind the kit as John Patsouris adds the Gothic keys. Musically it's exactly what you would want from any band that is so intrinsically linked with Hellenic Black metal for every raging torrent of furious riffs and punishing blast beats there's also clean melodic soloing and more atmospheric tracks such as the excellent Hermetic Code, which also has some nifty guitar work from Emmanuel. The Mantis too is exactly the sort of explosive fierce extreme metal you'd want from everyone involved as Red Crown Turns Black adds to things with a grinding doomy sound. As The Flame Withers is a welcome return for Yoth Iria, building on that EP for a more rounded, epic, sound. As The FLame Withers could be one of the pinnacles of Hellenic Black metal this year. Well worth the investment! 8/10

Sarin: You Can't Go Back (Prosthetic Records)

From the Great White North of Toronto Canada, Sarin's third album is a unique one, their sound is described as post-metal, but this 35 minute shot-in-the-arm manages to be both dynamic and direct. Musically sitting somewhere between, Gojira, Cult Of Luna and Mogwai, the intense down-tuned heaviness of tracks such as the disturbing Reckoner where you are subjected to a ear-bashing from the outset are offset by the more euphoric moments of shimmering ambience and clean lines at the end of the crushing Thick Mire and all the way through Otherness. It's music that has been meticulously crafted to be listened to in one sitting the clean atmospheric phases never hanging around shifting into the heaviness as often as possible. The record deals with crumbling relationships and it's full of dense emotion but also self-realisation, it's a cathartic record where the music is used to convey these feelings to the listener. I'd never heard of Sarin before this record but on the back of it expect them to become a much more prominent name to audiences outside of their native Canada. 7/10 

Black & Damned: Heavenly Creatures (ROAR! Rock Of Angels Records)

Coming from that heavy metal heartland of Germany Heavenly Creatures is the debut full length from Black & Damned formed by axe man Michael Vetter and singer Roland Seidel this album was pretty much recorded through the 2020 global lockdown all the songs written by these two men with additional instrumentation from Axel Winkler (drums), Axel Mackenrott (keys) Ali Gözübüyük (bass) and Aki Reissmann (rhythm guitar) Heavenly Creatures is a multi-layered record that has more than a whiff of Andi Deris fronted Helloween due to the heavier guitar sound (Born Again) and huge keyboard swathes that add a cinematic quality to War Is Just Another Word For Hell. The whole record plays on religious iconography adding a darker element to it and they have some well written and performed songs however mostly this record is your middle of the road heavy metal that as I've said is very similar to the latter period of Helloween, though some of the songs are a little too long. Not much else I can say about it really, it's a heavy metal by the numbers but entertaining enough. 5/10

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