Alamaailman Vasarat - Huuro Kolkko
Nordic Notes
Instrumental Folk/Prog/Jazz
9 songs (39:48)
Release year: 2009
Alamaailman Vasarat, Nordic Notes
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

I’ve always been interested in the weirder side of folk music, less the depressing singer-songwriter side and more the creative chaos that can result from very talented musicians playing traditional instruments in new and exciting ways. The genre at its best shares a lot of jazz’s freeform experimentation and willingness to explore, and this, an album from Finnish six-piece Alamaailman Vasarat (‘Hammers of the Underworld’) is a perfect showcase. Somewhere between the avant-garde, prog, folk, klezmer and jazz, the band create rather wonderful soundscapes and explorations with their various instruments that makes for fascinating listening whether you’re a hardcore neofolk fan or you enjoy the humppa side to Finntroll’s sound. I first heard of the band a long time ago but was only reminded of them when linked to a live recording, typically heavy and skilful with a clear edge of the humour that so enhances folk music.

It’s hard to sum up the various songs as they are, being fully instrumental and based around the life of an explorer (the band explain the album fully here). Yet just listening is enough of a pleasure even with the explanatory notes, the band highly skilled and travelling through multiple genres over the course of the album. Of most interest will be the metallic aspects, something Alamaailman Vasarat do have as the speedy crunch of Tujuhuju shows off with scissoring and stomping cello riffs beneath a riotous klezmer whirl. I suppose an obvious comparison to be made is to the Norwegian Shining’s Blackjazz album, although Alamaailman Vasarat are far less electronic in sound and less metal overall.

Of course, I don’t want to give the impression that Alamaailman Vasarat are something that they’re not, and without a doubt this is folk first and foremost. You’ve rarely heard folk like this, however, the smoky jazz-club ominous vibes of Luola, the swinging melodies of Mielosaurus, the distinctly King Crimson-esque Liskopallo. Prog as a genre is often pigeonholed to deliberately exclude this sort of music; a stunning shame, as this is far more exciting and experimental than whatever Yes tribute act is currently flavour of the month in prog’s elitist circles. Take the psychedelic mix of sounds in Meressä Ei Asuta, big band brass over a swirling undercurrent of melodies, climbing atop each other like the insects on the artwork. Or the sweet and gentle Natiivit, peaceful with just a hint of fear...

What we hear in a particular piece of music is up to our imaginations, yet few are as capable as Alamaailman Vasarat at telling their story, painting the picture with their instruments. Folk is always more inviting than other genres, and this is especially good at gleefully breaking down inter-genre barriers and inviting you atop the wreckage to dance. As an introduction to Alamaailman Vasarat’s world, it’s brilliant, and a wonderful reminder of what skilled musicians can do when they try.

Tujuhuju (live)
Killing Songs :
All, especially Mielosaurus, Liskopallo, Meressä Ei Asuta, Tujuhuju, Luola
Goat quoted 86 / 100
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