The story of Kiuas began in 2000, but not until now do they release their first full-length album "The Spirit of Ukko". The song writing approach and the vocalist on this album are what differs Kiuas from the other power metal acts. Ilja Jalkanen (singer) experiments with his voice, and thus "The Spirit of Ukko" contains everything from death metal grunts to raspy and clean vocals. Jalkanen only sings with his "normal" voice on few songs (and that's a shame, although I do love diversity). He sings with his natural voice on "Warrior Soul", for example, and that song is one of the "better" songs on this album.
The music on this album is a blend of power metal, death metal and thrash metal with Zakk Wylde approach on guitar playing. There are some groovy parts, and each of the players on this band have the technique figured out rather well. Nonetheless, their song writing skills are a bit more on the weaker side. The material tends to sound middling at least regarding the first half of the album, but I must admit there are some cool sounding guitar leads scattered throughout the whole album. Fortunately, the material on this album improves towards the end, and the last song is already rather good. However, few good songs aren't enough to make an album worthwhile. The weak songs balance this recording to attain the imprint of mediocrity.
Also the production on this album is a bit middling (although resides more on the "good" side than "bad"). While the recordings are clean (for the most part), the quality of sound varies. The rhythm guitar tone, for example, happens to change every now and then between powerful, good sounding tone to a bit overly distorted fuzz (the rhythm guitar tone on the title track, for example, isn't as good as on the other tracks). This album has been mixed in order to make it sound as powerful as possible. However, this is a bit of a problem since the headroom is often too small and thus the dynamics of the mix are somewhat weak. Fortunately the clean sections do have more headroom and the mix sounds atmospheric and rather good on those sections. Nonetheless, overall the production is good and fitting to the genre.
The decision is yours to make; you either regard the good songs as a reason enough to acquire this album or you might want to skip this release. My recommendation for you is to give it a listen before buying.
MAGE (May 2nd, 2005)