Cast your mind back to the last time you were due to sit an exam you had under-prepared for, henceforth resulting in last-minute revision cramming. Do you remember the ghastly sensation of reading over the same paragraphs again and again with not one single word, phrase or idea sinking in? If the answer is ‘yes’ then you will have some sort of empathy with the situation I have found myself in with ‘Uljas Uusi Maailma’.
This has been a tough one to review if I’m honest. It has been one of those strange albums that, despite doing a lot right, has failed almost completely to register anything memorable within my brain. There is the odd riff, a few sections here and there but by and large, despite many listens, it’s a real struggle to recall much of this record. And this leads to one inescapable conclusion looming on the horizon – that ‘Uljas Uusi Maailma’ is rather unremarkable.
I wish it wasn’t so as fundamentally, there are some good ideas here. Indeed, the whole ethos of this project is commendable. It’s a Finnish supergroup of sorts, the star name being Mikko Kotemaki of Swallow the Sun fame delivering the vocal bile. It is however actually the brainchild of guitarist Laakso and he’s clearly spent considerable time and energy putting this outfit together to fulfil his vision.
Fusing the morbid, pounding stomp of latter-day Celtic Frost/Triptykon with doom/death and elements of atmospheric black metal is a promising cocktail. And it should be as the moments when Kuolemanlaakso hit the spot are excellent – the final few minutes of ‘Nostos & Algos’ are a lesson in how to write a strident climax, the chorus of the title track is a Negura Bunget tinged infectious chant whilst album closer ‘Aurinko’ deploys melancholic, delicate despond with aplomb. It’s the strongest song here by a long way.
These are great moments to be sure but they are isolated islands in a sea of mediocrity. A polished, ultra-clean production devoid of any ambience certainly doesn’t help matters but vast chunks of ‘Uljas Uusi Maailma’ plod by in an unmemorable stomp of mid-paced chordal riffing and by-the-numbers synth sounds.
Curiously, the first two tracks are amongst the weakest, deeply beige affairs which – the ‘black ‘n’ roll’ bass break in ‘Kuun Lapset’ notwithstanding – deliver very little in the way of anything particularly memorable or exciting. Not only this, but some of this record is just plain bad – ‘Ikiuni’ is frankly embarrassing, jaunty melodic death metal with jingly keyboards that has one leaping for the skip button. It’s very strange in that the same band who crafted the excellence of the closing song are responsible for this sort of nonsense occurring only a few minutes beforehand.
So, as you can probably tell it’s very much a mixed bag and a hard one to get a handle on. The good bits are good, granted – sadly, there aren’t really enough of them for this to receive anything more than a cautiously average summation.
(6.5/10 Frank Allain)