I’ve probably said this a thousand times now, but music that falls under the ‘doom’ label can wind up being a challenging and difficult listen. With long and drawn-out songs that rarely clock in at under five minutes, and lots of ideas repeated over and over in a song before you finally move on to a new section, it can sometimes be fairly difficult to connect with. But Tulijoutsen by Kuolemanlaakso is different. It breaks the rules and makes its own path – Kuolemanlaakso have created an absolute masterpiece with this album.
Tulijoutsen gets off to a perfect start with Aarnivalkea. An absolutely gripping opener, it begins with fairly simplistic solo guitar before the full band kicks in and there’s a great keyboard riff that helps to build atmosphere before the haunting vocals begin, which are one of the things that make the album great. To say that vocalist Mikko Kotamäki has some of the most stunning vocals I’ve ever heard is somewhat of an understatement. There’s a soft and atmospheric tone to his vocals in the opening, before progressing to whispered/spoken vocals that are simply incredible, before you’re treated to passionate and powerful harsh vocals which lead perfectly into smooth and deep clean vocals atop of an acoustic section before juxtaposing with harsh vocals once more. A singer with a lot of versatility to their voice makes for a much more interesting listen than someone who simply excels in one area – quite simply, his vocal performance from start to finish on the album is absolutely mindblowing.
Of course, the album progresses well from Aarnivalkea with great inclusions such as the more energetic track Me Vaellamme Yössä and the largely-acoustic number Glastonburyn Lehto. Both of these tracks play on the band’s strengths, as they simultaneously show that they’re not afraid of limiting themselves to one rigid genre along with the fact they can write absolutely stunning songs in completely different styles to one another – and that takes a lot of talent. It’s certainly not just the vocals that are versatile on the album.
Tulijoutsen closes with Raadot Raunioilla, a stunning blend of aggression and melody mixed up into one entity, and it’s both a satisfying and stunning end to the album because it just feels like everything has been nicely rounded off, with all loose ends tied up, and to say this album is a work of art is an understatement. Kuolemanlaakso have created something with no room for improvement – Tulijoutsen is absolutely perfect.