Time to celebrate – Kuolemanlaakso is back! However, it’s not in the way you may expect; this is a solo album from band mastermind Laakso under the Kuolemanlaakso moniker, and it features a somewhat different and almost stripped-back style in comparison to the doomier ‘full band’ releases – yet still manages to capture the melancholy and darkness encapsulated so well in the previous albums.
One of the best things about this album for me personally is the lyrics being in English – I’m a big fan of the translated Finnish lyrics from prior releases (and I’ve been assured by several people that the lyrics prior to translation are even more beautiful!) so with this album it’s nice to be able hear and understand the lyrics exactly how they were intended to be heard. The storytelling sends shivers down your spine, with a particular highlight being closing track My Last Words (which is also my personal favourite on the album). The lyrics are so heartfelt and comforting, yet also have a stunning tear-jerking rawness to them that will definitely leave their mark on you. Words can’t quite do justice to how beautiful these lyrics are; the emotion in them is something else and need to be heard to be fully appreciated.
On a musical level, the album is top-notch too. Opener Children Of The Night is an early favourite, and it’s a very strong beginning to the album – it’s most definitely an earworm of a song. There’s been more than a few times where I’ve found myself humming the tune of the bridge in the latter half of the track whilst going about my business at work and home. It may only be a fairly simplistic section consisting of a few repeated lines, but it is extremely effective at getting stuck in your head and rattling round for days afterwards.
Third track Where The River Runs Red is a high-octane fast-paced number with a fantastic amount of energy to it (the chorus seems like it would be perfect for a bit of crowd participation in a live environment) and it leads well into fourth track The World’s Intolerable Pain, which is another great inclusion. Featuring additional vocals from Crimfall’s Helena Haaparanta, her vocals complement Laakso’s perfectly and it’s a beautiful song that will certainly leave a lasting impression on you. Additionally, the key change in the end is a nice touch and it gives the track an extra lift.
Somewhat ironically, the weaker link on the album is No Absolution, which is arguably the doomiest track on there (and subsequently the most ‘Kuolemanlaakso’ track if you’re going by past releases). It’s still a good track and you’ll not want to skip past it, but it doesn’t quite get under your skin in the same way as the other songs and takes a little longer to connect with. However, the heaviness of this song juxtaposes well against the following track Deeper Into The Unknown, which is a light and airy acoustic track with gently delivered lead vocals from Helena before the aforementioned My Last Words kicks in, which is the perfect way to finish and round up the album.
M. Laakso – Vol. 1: The Gothic Tapes is a stunning album, to put it plainly and simply. It may not be your ‘standard’ Kuolemanlaakso album, and it may not sound like you expect it to, but it is an addictive piece you’ll keep wanting to return to – so what more can you want from it than that?