Damn, I’m freezing! It is this cold, cold gale blowing down on us from the arctic North. Or is it the cold metal blasting out of my boom boxes? Luckily the winter is over soon and the frozen tundra and wind-blown plains between the Russian border and eternity will warm up. If not, these guys up in Finland will continue to find dark and cold tunes that will ice our bones and souls. And there is a bunch of them trying to drive us to tears with doomish and dark soundbites that flow towards us.
Now speaking of cold and desolate: The Finnish horde Wolfheart just blessed us with their newest full-length album Tyhjyys. And it is a mighty metal platter of iced good ‘ol Melodic Death Metal that is being served.
By the way, the band must not to be confused with the now defunct folks of the same name from Raahe or others scattered around Europe. More precisely, this is Tuomas Saukkonen‘s outfit, started in 2014 as a standalone, but quickly morphed into a full band. Three albums later, the band is now fully ensconced in the genre. Saukkonen was of course already active well before that – for example with Before the Dawn or Black Sun Aeon. And that means he is one of the shapers of the genre that conquered the world from Scandinavia.
But does Tyhjyys pack the guts to go beyond the mean mainstream?
I have mixed feelings. The raw power and teeth-gnashing aggressiveness emanating from their last record Shadow World kind of meekly evaporated. In its stead we find a more generic brand of Melodic Death Metal that is very close to what the usual culprits provide these days. In other words, having to remind myself way too often that it is Wolfheart and not Insomnium I am lending an ear to can turn into a fucking nuisance after a while. They really sailed their mighty viking warship very close to this very particular cliff and just about avoided to be pounded to pieces on it.
But let’s step back for a moment: That Wolfheart explore a decidedly known territory does not mean that the output is bad. And even if they lost some of their rage, their tune still packs enough punch to delight your metal heart. Tyhjyys meanders between the aggressive stance of Arch Enemy and the solemn sounds of the aforementioned Insomnium. In addition, the band expertly mixes their dark, throbbing sound with doomish elements that will make Paradise Lost turn yellow with envy.
Here I have to admit that I am a big fan of Nordic Melodic Death Metal. So, Wolfheart getting more of this kind of juice out into the open lets my little fanboy heart jump with joy. And in the end, Mr. Saukkonen takes his ship back to the beginnings of the genre, where it all began.
So what is in this Pandora’s Box?
You know, it shows. It shows that this record guns for a live audience. Shores of the Lake Simple – the first track – comes complete with a clutch of acoustics first and then takes off with some fist-pumping riffs, complete with somewhat questionable ‘Hey‘s thrown in for good measure. All that will for sure get the audience cooking off, once Wolfheart start on them on stage. I am not so sure what purpose this hey-thing should serve in a record.
But the album really takes off with Boneyard, the second track. If I were to judge by tracks alone, this one would fetch a 10/10. It perfectly catches the essence of the album, once this wolf-drawn sled roars out of its shed into the starry, arctic night. The sullen growly menace projected by hefty croaks, muscle-laden riffs and thundering blast beats suddenly morphs into acoustics. Just to get back into the same type of groove after the interlude ends.
Now, we talked about the goodly portion of Doom Metal woven into the fabric of this disc. The Flood (another 10/10) and especially Tyhjyys – the title song – catch this specific facette of the album pretty well. I like the way Wolfheart managed to marry Doom and Melodeath into a heavily metalized amalgam.
None of the tracks are fillers or otherwise redundant. I do like the flow of the album. Not as good as other players managed to portray their own offerings, but still not bad. In addition there is nothing discernibly wrong with the mixing and mastering of the tune. Albeit the loudness of the record could have been turned down just a trifle.
There is a lot of déjà-vu woven into Tyhjyys and this is a pity. To the point that absolutely stellar tracks like The Flood lose some of their luster. And I daresay this cost them a fair share of points on the overall rating. The album does however remain an expertly crafted piece of Melodic Death Metal in all its blackened glory. Their ability to knock Melodic Death Metal, Doom Metal and acoustics together into a coherent result is proof of the proverbial pudding. My advice? If you are thrown by the change of direction, give the record some time to mature. The disc will grow on you like old wine, I guarantee. If you are already happy with the outcome, consume without moderation. Good stuff.