Kouta - Kaarnaköydet review
|Release date:||April 2023|
01. Äitimaan Laulu
02. Turjan Takaa
05. Kurja Raakile
07. Kylmä Kalvaa
Add one spoonful of hard chugging black metal riffs. Then add heapings of icy screams and blend in just the right amount of clean backing vocals. Top it all off with a Karelian folk music flair and a story about the psychological effects of killing your own brother. Is this a Netzach album? Sure is.
Kouta are named after some dark, mysterious forest entity and that's about as much as I've figured out about their band name. Their music is inspired by dark folk tales from the deepest depths of Finland (and possibly Karelia, but I might be wrong about that, and it used to be a part of Finland anyway until you-know-who waged a(nother) useless and failed war against our Eastern brothers during WW2).
The beautiful, soothing voice of—ah, shit, they have three vocalists and I don't know who does what—opens up the acoustic folk song "Äitimaan Laulu" (Song Of The Motherland), with at first inconspicuous lyrics singing about how "Mäen takana on metsä, jossa taivas aukeaa" (Behind the cottage, there is a forest in which the heaven opens up). So far, so good. The lyrics slowly delve into darker territories though, about how the roots entwine down where the worms already are eating the dirt and how every step leads further beyond the shadows of oblivion. There is a point to all of this, of course, because it quickly turns out that the heavens opened up to welcome a dead person who is now rotting in the ground in the cold motherland.
This person isn't just any person, because in the following song "Turjan Takaa" (Beyond The Kola Peninsula), where we are greeted with high-octane blast beats and harsh screaming supported by some well-layered choral arrangements that bring out the melody in the vocals, the story starts to unfold. Now, I haven't had the fortune to find the lyrics anywhere (please release them, Kouta, so I can follow the story), but from what I can gather behind the truly hard rocking, chugging riffs and rhythmic vocal delivery, two brothers live in a remote cabin in the tundra and one of them murders the other one.
Yep, it's an album about fratricide, but where many bands would delight in the gory parts of it, on Kaarnaköydet (Bark Ropes), we are treated with the psychological terror the murderer experiences after killing his own brother. First, he goes through the rage and "Häpeä" (Shame), which is the least melodic (and shortest) song on here, and just exudes anxiety and regret. "Veriaura" (Blood Aura) explores the more melodic side of Kouta, beginning with a Karelian folk singing that wouldn't be out of place on a Moonsorrow album.
The best cut on Kaarnaköydet is "Kurja Raakile" (A Wretched Figure, if my Finnish serves me right) which explodes out of the gate with a pseudo melodic riff over which the highly memorable mantra "kylmä äitimaa" (cold motherland) is repeated and broken off with some more mellow yet still harsh and cold parts. The penultimate song doesn't wear out its welcome either, showcasing more of the clean singing to good effect before erupting into a folk-tinged black metal assault.
It is all highly memorable, but here comes the main gripe: the final song, "Kylmä Kalvaa" (The Cold Eats Away). It is experimental, which I respect, but it feels out of place and is too long. The female vocals are a nice touch and half of it is good but then the male vocals attempt some really anguished, shamanistic singing style which is grating on the ears and makes me want to turn the album off before it ends. The baritone singing in the opening song was wonderful and I think the band overreached a bit with the theatrics here, even though I appreciate what they were going for.
All in all, this isn't an album you should miss out on, because there's quite a unique riffing and singing style going on and a great story to boot exploring the aftermath of fratricide. I just wish I could read along with the lyrics (hint to the band if you read this). If not for the mishap in the closing song, I'd have given it a 9, but for excellence, it has to be great all the way through. Most of the songs here have been stuck in my head forever though, and I'm sure they will in yours too.
||Written on 23.05.2023 by|
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