Thursday, April 4, 2024

Full Length Review: Juha Jyrkäs "Väinämöinen" (Earth and Sky Productions) by Dave Wolff

Artist: Juha Jyrkäs
Location: Helinski
Country: Finland
Genre: Kantele folk metal
Full Length: Väinämöinen
Format: Digital album, CD, limited edition digipak CD
Label: Earth and Sky Productions
Release date: February 29, 2024
With kantele, bass kantele, strings and traditional instruments, Juha Jyrkäs' debut album “Sydämeni kuusipuulle” raised the question of whether it was metal, folk metal, pagan metal, or something far more worldly. Exploring previously unexplored territory, the album's extensive background in Finnish mythology, nature mysticism, and occultism placed it in league with any of these subjects. He appears to widen his perspective with the release of his second full-length “Väinämöinen”.
In the 90s, Viking metal bands such as Enslaved and Borknagar touched upon a musical expanse as vast as their unconventional guitar scales and chord progressions. Most of the pagan elements incorporated into the songs were surreptitious, but revealed elements that could go far beyond the irreverent themes of bands that preceded them. Throughout the evolution of extreme metal, those constituents became equally important to defining a band's sound as the traditional instruments were.
“Väinämöinen” adheres to the substance inaugurated into metal by bands like the ones I mentioned (as well as by bands like In Extremo). The shades of folk and Viking metal have become more prominent than before. The variety is expanding exponentially with massive advancements in innovation. With numerous variations on the kantele and the percussion, the songs personalize the mythical Finnish demigod Väinämöinen, and the lyrics are written in Kalevala-metre, a traditional Finnish meter.
There is more distinction between metal and folk, which refines the increased nuances on this album. Riffs written with bass kantele, along with guitar solos in “Äidinmaan puolustus” and  “Metallikantele” and bass kantele solos in songs like “Syntysanat” and “Jo veri jokena juoksi”, Jyrkäs embellishes the material with more variety, maintaining a harmonic, cohesive feel. The contrast between harsh and melodic vocals heightens the album’s dramatic nature to the extent of a film soundtrack.
Building upon what was a relatively simplistic songwriting technique in the 90s, he has taken it to new imaginative heights. –Dave Wolff

Juha Jyrkäs: Vocals, bass kantele, percussion
Olga Kolari: Keyboards, concert kantele,15 stringed kantele, 16 stringed kantele, copper stringed kantele, viola, violin, jouhikko, concert harp
Janne Väätäinen: Drums
Henry Kolari: Soundscapes
Antti Röksä: Guitar solos
[More information at the Bandcamp link to “Väinämöinen” above]

Track list:
1. Voima nousee
2. Syntysanat
3. Jo veri jokena juoksi
4. Helkatulet
5. Ukkosloitsu
6. Äidinmaan puolustus
7. Kultapyärä
8. Metallikantele

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