kuolemanlaaksoThis third album by Kuolemanlaakso is far more of a solo effort than the previous ones, as other than drums and bass by Tiera and Usva respectively, Laakso takes care of vocals, guitar and keyboard duties here. Granted there are also some guest musicians in the form of V. Santura on guitars and backing vocal, and Mikko Kotamäki, Helena Haaparanta and Jaani Peuhu as guest vocalists. Add to this that the album is sung in English rather than in Finnish like the previous releases, but most importantly as the title suggests this has more of a Gothic feel to it than melodic doom death, even though that does feature every now and then anyway.

A heavy bass rumble with accompanying guitar is tinkered over by a gentle keyboard on “Children of the Night” in a very mid-90’s Paradise Lost style. The deep vocals have a gentle quality to them too as they alternate between whispered and melodically sung. It even becomes rather allegro towards its end.

The heaviness of the guitars on “Roll the Dice with the Devil” is belied by the fact they aren’t played very fast, however there’s no mistaking the heaviness of the death vocals when they join in with the clean vocals.

“Where the River Runs Red” could quite easily be a Sisters of Mercy track in its bouncy delivery with buzzing guitars and ultra-catchy chorus. And as a complete buzzkill “The World’s Intolerable Pain” is rather slow and depressing but oh so beautifully delivered with the melodic guitar harmonies and male vocals accentuated by the female vocal harmony.

The very Amorphis keyboards on “She Guides Me in My Dreams” give the song a rather distinctive Arabian flair with the melody.

The raspy death vocals on “No Absolution” somehow work rather well as a complete antithesis of the slow drawn out doom death and clean vocals in the way they are rather quickly spat out venomously.

The very stripped back “Deeper into the Unknown” truly showcases Helena’s vocals as the acoustic guitars give her nothing to hide behind as she brings tears to your eyes.

Just shy of 10 minutes “My Last Words” is a dark and broody song with deep resonating vocals ala Nick Cave, and while the keyboard is the main focus when the slow guitars come in the heaviness of the track increases exponentially. A fitting finale to the album.

(8/10 Marco Gaminara)