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Maybe you know that feeling about a new release of a fave of yours, when after the first wave of ecstasy you hesitate, experiencing a second wave of sheer terror - what if I don´t like it? As a reviewer, I also face the problem: how to express my disappointment and maintain my level of integrity, and still not hurting an appreciated artist too much? I got to confess, every output of a Tuomas Saukkonen project had triggered this fear in my heart, that I have to face such a dark day of ”negative review”.
But it is not this day.
Wolfheart, the so far independent new pretty-much-one-man project, has not disappointed me – fulfilling my expectations as well as offering some surprises. The Hunt opens the album with a gentle acoustic tune, which leads the listener on a rollercoaster of emotions: melodic-atmospheric parts, ear-candy riffs with this heartbreakingly beautiful ”lone guitar” tune spicing it all up, maybe THE Saukkonen-trademark. Then those massive, majestic, almost brutal sound walls of epic dimension, driven by aggressive blast beats and growls directly from hell - a bow to the Black Metal scene, which was brilliantly executed already in the Black Sun Aeon project. Plus, a homeopathic dose of synth, to add more substance to the massive riffing. And – wait – is this gentle sad melody in the outro played by a cello? OK that might do to describe the first song... The following Strength and Valor rather channels the Before The Dawn feeling, before Routa pt. 2 (a clear reference to BSA already in the title) reveals that it is indeed a cello. And well, just this song – almost the longest on the album – is worth to buy it. A masterpiece, counterbalancing fragile acoustic and aggressive, almost industrial-BM-brutal parts into an elegy of sadness that makes you cry of joy...
The album continues with this very balance of brutality and beauty (excellent mixing and mastering work of BTD partner-in-crime Juho Räihä). Gale of Winter features a gentle piano sound, almost inaudible, whereas the cello adds more volume to the massive-aggressive features. Ghosts of Karelia might be the most brutal track – blast beats as if the drummer got paid by hits – and also the most experimental (for me there could have been even more of such experiments) with Groove- and Thrash-parts and some more cello (sounds). The latter shines the most perhaps in the final track Breathe – a heartbreaking Apocalyptica-moment in a strangely evil-melodic, almost Doom-atmospheric song. Some Doom feeling is also present in the slower but very heavy Chasm, which has some Pagan Metal air to it. ”I” is another masterpiece, rather developing BTD further than BSA – instant ear candy. The most outstanding guitar solo I find in Whiteout – those (and 4 more) were added by the only guest musician Mika Lammassaari (Eternal Tears Of Sorrow), who presumably will also be part of the Wolfheart live line up (premiering in Helsinki, Oct 11, at Metalheim-fest, Nosturi).
As overall impression, Winterborn represents the ”best-of” elements from every Saukkonen-project in the past - and will therefore surely appeal to Before The Dawn as well as Black Sun Aeon fans. And surely win new ones, who never knew the previous bands and simply appreciate a monolithic masterpiece of Melodic Death. Especially to those who don´t like clean vocals, as you won´t find any here. What surprised me – besides more of acoustic parts and the cello – are the growl vocals - doubling/slight overlapping makes them even sound like ”singing” occasionally, which adds much more dynamic to an inevitably ”one-dimensional” pitch. And of course, those little details - the piano, for example – which you will discover listening to this album over and over again.
Which you will, I am sure.
The day I rate Saukkonen product 10/10 might be lurking on the horizon...
but it is not this day… simply because I have the feeling I need to have at least a little room left to the max for Wolfheart´s future releases....
Pre-orders here (with a special treat): http://www.recordshopx.com/artist/wolfheart/winterborn/#cd
1. The Hunt
2. Strenght and Valour
3. Routa pt.2
4. Gale Of Winter
6. Ghosts of Karelia
bonus tracks for the pre-orders only, included with the cd in a download voucher:
11. 4:19 am
Link to album previews: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FFgrbFVyrw and http://youtu.be/wmHngql_fDA