About three to four months ago, which actually feels like a very long time, I travelled to a Finnish metal festival called Sauna Open Air. There I saw Kiuas and various other bands live, including metal legends like Slayer and Megadeth. It's only part of my crappy luck that I did not make a report of that killer festival back then, 'cos it would have deserved its place in GD. But hey, I wasn't a staff member back then, only a casual reader. Maybe next year, then. But anyway, every single band in the festival played a killer show, but one particular band caught my eye. Kiuas. The show they put on actually impressed me quite a fucken bit. These young (like I can talk) innovative guys channel their Pagan fury into their epic music, which combines many influences from both new and old styles of metal, as well as Finnish folk music and power metal. The closest genre I would therefore drop them into would be melodic death metal - that is, if I were ugly and stupid like most idiots who trust in the name of genres, and not music. Ahem...
You want fast stuff? You want epic and slow stuff? You want kickass melodies? You want tracks which are heavy like a ten ton thunder hammer pounded to your head over and over again?
Kiuas, the Finnish Pagan warriors, fucken deliver all this and more with superior musicanship.
First off, the opening track, "The Spirit of Ukko". It's ultimately the best track of the album, like polished steel which rips and tears your very flesh from your bones. I have to confess that at first I blasted only this opener on repeat, 'cos there is absolutely nothing but good about it. I love the lyrics, I love the vocals on it, and most of all I absolutely fucken love the music. If I would rate this album only judging from the opening track, Kiuas would deserve nearly seven and a half points out of ten. And now, about the other tracks. The album is nicely split into two parts; the fastest and most brutal stuff are to be found on the first four tracks of the album ("The Spirit of Ukko", "On Winds of Death We Ride", "Warrior Soul", "No More Sleep For Me") and the more gentle, epic and slower stuff on the remaining four tracks ("Until We Reach The Shore", "Across The Snows", "Thorns of a Black Rose", "And The North Star Cried). The album includes super prouduction, and everything is very, very fucken perfect. I have yet to find flaws or something they have messed up, but I know I won't. The tracks are long enough, everything is more than four minutes, the epic of the album nearly reaching seven minutes. Talented musicians tend to make long songs very good, and Kiuas are no fucken exception to this little rule of mine. Ukko himself, the highest Finnish Pagan God of thunder, whom Kiuas and traditional Finnish Pagans revere, is surely very fucken proud of this album and these guys... for they have managed to capture the very spirit of Ukko into this album (har har, ain't I smart).
Like I said, the musicianship is superior. Althought Ilja's vocals are not bad, they are definitely better live on a stage (where he dominates). Trust me, I have seen and experienced it, like I said in the beginning of this review. Remember that, do you? Ilja has a nice voice, most of the time clean and sometimes raspy and evil, but he manages to get on my nerves on a few occasions, because his spelling and pronunciation are not perfect. Nor is his technique... but that will surely be honed to perfection in time. Experience brings its awards. Then again, you don't always get what you wish for, and I do enjoy the hell out of his performance, for he puts his heart into this band's music, and I actually couldn't really imagine Kiuas without Ilja and his voice. He sings nearly all tracks on this album (on one track some singing in Finnish is included too, now K probably hates this album, haha), other than that there are some choirs by the band, and good angry growls performed by the guitarist Mikko.
When I played the fourth track, "Warrior Soul", to a friend of mine who has played drums for nearly ten years, the first thing he said was "Holy shit!" The intro is just purely balls-to-the-fucken-walls. Markku is an exceptionally good drummer, and knows his shit on both fast and slow tracks. Bass player Teemu is not to be left without notice either (I really liked how he played live). Keyboard player Atte delivers some solos and manages to create nice atmosphere on most of the tracks where he plays. Good good. This is definitely not an album where the keyboards just drown out the overall sound and make people angry.
Guitarist Mikko has a nice style, I like it a great deal. He is nothing like Amoral's two fucken madmen, for example, but he's plain good. His solos are something very cool and different, from ultra fast to very gentle. I have yet to become bored with a single riff or lead on this album. The very heavy, although sometimes very fast guitars kick a lot of Christian ass, and the acoustic parts are very enjoyable. Mikko even plays a kantele on this album. But how is this different from the many Finnish metal bands with some folk influences that include a kantele on their slow tracks, like Ensiferum for example? In many ways - one being the truth that it's played by a metal guitarist and another being because this old Finnish instrument is just perfect for Kiuas and all those other bands too. If you don't know what a kantele is, go die now.
The band play perfectly together, 'nuff said. Pagan fucken brotherhood, that's what I love. And many others too.
The album ends with the epic track "And The North Star Cried" which includes a cello, two violins and a viola. It's a sad track which, in my view, tells of the desperate fight of the Finnish Pagan people against the Christian conquerors from the other side of the sea. Look at these lyrics if you wanna know what I'm rambling about...
"On the darkest of winters evil arrived from across the sea Disguised as a wooden cross - as the coming of salvation Death and destruction they brought and clahes of steel filled the nights"
Kiuas tell it all in three fucken lines... but enough of this, that was a long time ago. But least we forget, sweet and brutal retribution is coming your way. You know who and what I speak about.
To sum it all up, this damn album kicks a lot of motherfucking ass. After nearly 30 consecutive listenings of this album I'm still not bored with a single fucken track. Everything I have said in this review are exact points made from my sheer love for these fuckers. Like I have said many times, and will be saying many times in the future, Kiuas are something definitely worth checking out. When these guys release their second album, I will be in Sauna Open Air once again (and this time I will be making the fucken report...), enjoying the hell out of an even more killer show. Still, I'm not giving "The Spirit of Ukko" a 10 out of 10, like someone would think judging from a review where I only praised this band, 'cos it leaves me some leverage to say something about the second album too. The road is long, and there are more battles to be won. But I know that Kiuas will survive those battles and come out as winners in the end.
My Pagan fucken heart will be burning for this album for a very long time... most probably for all my life. Maybe it's because im from Finland too, or whatever, but I find a lot in common with Kiuas and their views on life. Like these lyrics from "The Spirit of Ukko":
"Let's bring back the good old times When the true Gods used to reign the northern skies For centuries they've been away But the memory and spirit still remains"
Hell yeah! Palvokaa Ukkoa!
9 bloodthirsty Pagan warriors racing to the battlefield out of 10