Sounds of Metal
The New Dark Age is the 3rd full length album from the Finnish metal warriors Kiuas. One might think that they'd only get better each time around, that they'd improve every aspect one bit every time they have a go at another album. But if that were to apply, where would it inevitably end - since the first album (The Spirit of Ukko) was, in itself, a masterpiece? I won't say that they've come a long way since their first album, because they haven't. Now that is not necessarily a bad thing. They simply achieved the unachievable - they got it right the first time. Only the most inveterate listener could discern a progression in their music. Luckily for you, I am that listener.
They did pretty much everything I hoped for in this release. They kept doing what they do best - the partly unique riffing that only Mikko Salovaara can do, Ilja still provides his distinguished vocal work and they still have that special Kiuas-sound where they mix the power metal with elements from the much darker side of the spectrum. The keyboard and synth-sounds from the previous album have always been a bright point for Kiuas, something that I'm glad that they've kept, because it adds that certain atmosphere while avoiding being even remotely annoying - which is often the case for a majority of the other power metal bands where the keyboards tends to be overused.
Now what they have changed (more like very slightly altered) is actually the aggression, because now songs seem heavier. Tracks like the title track 'The New Dark Age' starts out truly immense, and so does several other tracks, therefore making the contrasts between the pure power metal choruses (the choruses are even better in this album I might add) and the heavier parts greater than before. I think that would have to be it. They've stepped things up speed-wise. Now the interludes seem heavier, the intros seem heavier and the riffs seem crunchier, darker and heavier - slightly reminiscent of black metal. But only slightly. Or is it death metal influences that adds this new layer to the music? I frankly cannot tell. It's always a good sign when music gets you thinking and being extra careful while listening.
Besides the aggression being taken to another level, it also seems that they have dropped a bit of the folk/pagan part that used to be quite vital. It's still there, no doubt about that, but it's not as prominent as in previous albums. The lyrics no longer orbit around the same theme, it would seem. I haven't read any lyrics yet (shame on me) so I might not be spot-on here. The folk/pagan sound of the album is something I can be certain about though, and that is something that is slightly less prominent now.
There is hard to find a word that describes Kiuas and their music well enough, which is why I'm advocating that a new word, or atleast a new expression, is invented. You can immediatly tell a Salovaara-solo from any other guitar solo, but still there is nothing that fully satisfies my describing-needs. "Salovaarian" or "Kiuasish" perhaps? Bah, I'll leave the semantics up to someone else, all I can say is that this is a really good death/black/heavy/power metal album that you - no matter of preferences in music - should definitely check out.