So, what have we here? Some sort of modern-time Hakkapeliitta yelling “Ei! Ei! Oh!” as they storm the stage? Scary! And it does not seem to fit, now, does it? This band is coming from Finland, not Japan.
But then again it does: ‘Cause it’s called Samurai Metal, that’s what!
I must say, this piping hot and spicy miso soup Whispered have created with their third album Metsutan: Songs of the Void will fill your metal heart with joy.
In fact, this somehow sounds like the latest of Insomnium gone East with a dose of Children of Bodom that just got itself an extra Death Metal injection. A refreshingly new version of traditional Melodic Death Metal, on a bed of thrash. All of this is mostly delivered in unclean vocals. But some select passages are actually coming through in clear voice.
And what about this taste of the orient?
The band successfully weaves Japanese archaic instruments – mostly koto, shamisen, flutes, and drums – into their tune creating this alluring cocktail of Folk Metal and Thrash infused Melodic Death Metal from the cold North. A bit reminiscent of Stormtide. Only the latter did not succeed all that well.
Mix all of that well in a shaker, pour and you got this very heavy version of spiritually laden mead, ahem – sorry – saké that Whispered serves you with the gusto only a Japanese chef can master during a meal. They must be high on Teriyaki sauce or something.
And then, let’s face it.
Same as the Viking theme, what other storyline would fit metal better than the tradition-laden samurai lore? So, as the #1 spot in Viking Metal is already taken by Amon Amarth and the likes, here we have some guys deciding to invent a new style and carve out their own niche. And they started this back in 2004 already, now cutting loose their 3rd studio album. Hai, sensei!
Metsutan will hook you with powerful and stellar musicianship!
Given the quality of the record, you will even forgive them for the garish album art, or the band pictures seemingly cut out of some fantasy computer game gone awry. And don’t get me wrong, Samurai lore is studded with mysticism, so all this is not entirely down in the loony pit. It is only that my teeth just start grinding when looking at the cover.
As usual, the intro sucks, but thou shalt be forgiven, oh Whispered. Metsutan: Songs of the Void clad themselves in the iron armor of some sort of oriental tremolo-infused Death Metal, so – hey – this goes with the territory. Same as the cheese that comes oozing out of some of the tracks. They have cut it down to acceptable levels, though, unless others in the Power Metal universe, where you literally drown in fondue.
But then, oh boy! Metsutan really lets loose.
Strike will – well – strike at you in a somewhat addictive fashion. High octane riffing, the way their brethren should deliver the goods. And this is cool stuff, really gets me out of my rocking chair, madly dancing around the backyard with my huge drivers all over my head.
The second track Exile of the Floating World thrashily murders your metal, moving inexorably towards an epic, bombastic end. Some sort of a mix between Blynd and the latest of Cradle of Filth with a mighty shot of 10-year-old Yoichi whiskey. This is one of the best tracks of the album right there.
It is always a bit dangerous to include previously released singles into a new album, taking away from its freshness in a way. Sakura Omen will however still take the cake.
Mixing folksy parts into a somewhat bizarre blackened metal brew. The filet piece of the play, even if this is old goods. The track seemingly employs the concept of Onmyodo of olden times (or a version of it), always revisiting the same theme in metal and folk versions – alternating good and bad.
A real symphonically powerful metal track is Tsukiakari. Not a lot of moonlight in this, but real Melodeath, Japanese style in the beginning, then taking on a more Prog flavor. This track features one of the best real solos on Metsutan, a pretty cool one too. Only to descend into thrashy madness once again towards the end. One of my favorites.
Towards the second half, the album moves more and more into bombastically heavy territory. Culminating in some sort of epic saga called the Bloodred Shores Of Enoshima of some 11+ minutes. Pretty good Folk Metal in my book, up there with Eluveitie, only with Eastern-based instruments. And they did it again: A pretty stiff solo appears somewhere toward the middle of the piece. Not the best track in my book, kind of operatically overdone, but noteworthy in any case.
You’ll need to search far to find fault with Metsutan: Songs of the Void. Like everything Japanese, things are of pretty high quality (and Finland is not even in Japan…). From musicianship to song structures, to mixing and mastering. Basically Whispered display a faster, somewhat thrashy Melodic Death Metal style, influenced by some stuff Power Metal usually delivers. And the album surpasses their last offering Shogunate Macabre, no doubt about it.
Should you get a copy of Metsutan?
Absolutely. The album and band really convince through an authentic and passionate approach to their own brand of metal and direction, as real samurais must. And I’d say, with this 3rd full-length album Whispered earned their very own slice of the metal universe, now safely called Samurai Metal! Cool stuff.