Already the mystical castle-like shape on the cover art talked to us. Shrouded in terrible mists and surrounded by forests, it positively screams Black Metal. A true visual metaphor for all those extreme things metal has on offer for us. But will the record head down the path of synth-laden tracks plagued by the terrible drum machine? Or will it wander about the well-trodden routes of traditional atrocities? I guess we’re about to find out.
And as is the custom this year, the RMR crew is looking for new contenders for the Malevolent 2022 Series. And here we have a record that could just fit that narrative here. So, the RMR crew was ecstatic to find the Finns from Iku-Turso and their newest studio album Into Dawnless Realms. The band borrowed its name from the mythical sea monster that’s prominently mentioned in the Kalevala. So, ’tis yet another band that draws inspiration from the famous Finnish epic, by the way.1)
Now, whilst the band’s cranky yet pretty excellent 2020 album Pakana let its pagan-flavored tentacles escape far into Moonsorrow‘s hunting grounds, this time around things are a bit more austere. Into Dawnless Realms is one piece of mature Black Metal that seems to step right out of the olden times where Bathory set the pace and Burzum2) let ‘er roar. The record now syncs pretty much with the direction taken by contemporary and excellent acts like Sidious, Wolvencrown, or – to an extent – Sidus Atrum.
Wrath Of The Woesome Woods starts the record with some very fine Black Metal. That’s trve old-style Scandinavian BM that seems to step straight out of the ’90s. And it’s only towards the end of that track that deviations appear with some weird clear vocals. In fact, by the time At the Crack of Dawn hits yer earphones, Iku-Turso just inserted some subtle melody and enough atmospherics to keep things interesting. Discreet keys, subtle orchestration, and the creaky typical rasp of the vocalist provide that dark and haunting soundscape important to a modern Extreme Metal piece.
Yet sometimes, atmospherics get indeed pushed to a point to drive Caladan Brood to tears. In other words, less might have been more in that case. Into the Dawnless Realm also tends to overstay its welcome some with a few overly lengthy tracks. Argusogen, for instance, has a tendency to endlessly noodle about those darkened mists. To the point that this reviewer got a severe case of the wandering mind caused by all that bloat. And that’s never a good thing in a world where an album should be able to keep your attention to the very last second.
And that’s a pity. Because Iku-Turso here injected enough variation to please. Traditional Black Metal, the atmospheric kind, and even some truly doomy passages, it’s all there. Sometimes in line with the age-old church burners, and sometimes thrashily meaty (Valor, for example). And the record sports this ability to change from a stately, slow-marching beat to a reasonably speedy delivery on The Cranial Galaxy. You know, the track with the stellar progression towards the end. That said, however, whilst the record gets off to a pretty snazzy start, the B-side lost a lot of its earlier luster, a few cool nuggets notwithstanding. And that’s keeping the record moving from good up to great.
So finally, did Into Dawnless Realms slam a smile on my face like other contenders did this year? Not quite. But Iku-Turso nonetheless managed to send us a Black Metal piece able to depict those ice-cold landscapes. A place where evil lurks at every bend of that path through that dark forest and onto the terrible ramparts of the black fortress. Old-style Scandinavian BM sloth recreated, with gusto and just enough melodics, atmosphere, and a general sense of the weird to keep things interesting. Somewhat frugal, but good.