Mokoma
Tämän Maailman Ruhtinaan Hovi

Without a doubt, Mokoma became Finland’s best kept secret with last year’s thrash assault album, Kurimus. The album made sure that the band would be remembered as one of Finland’s most original and inspirational groups ever. The quality of the song writing, the excellence in the lyrical field and the pure professionalism and excitement that shined through, left many crave for more. And when the people want, the leaders provide. If they know what’s good for ‘em anyway. But there’s a problem in such a situation: how to meet the expectations that the success has without a doubt raised? After all, Kurimus basically came out of nowhere and part of the victory is indeed the element of surprise – just like Col. Hackworth realized in 1969 while taking the Hardcore Company through the thickest of bushes ever seen by man.

One could find himself quite small compared to the world in such a situation. The pressure could probably be compared to the tight grip of a cannibalistic whore giving a blowjob… Anyhow – about a year later the band’s back it again and they seem to have kept their cool under fire and goals clear to pick up another scalp to their collections. The band seems to have all the trust in their own material without caring too much about if it’ll please the crowd or not; the perfect mentality to gain the necessary advantage over the odds against. And it turns out that Tämän Maailman Ruhtinaan Hovi is not Kurimus Part Two. It avoids the basic mistake of repeating last year’s winning formula. That said, it’s still a clear continuation from last year’s maelstrom.

Yes. There’s plenty of thrash. Yes, there’s plenty of neck breaking, bone smashing riffs. And yes, there’s plenty of improvement so that it all sounds fresh again. A perfect example of being who you are and yet progressing onwards rather than ‘selling out’ by taking down the easy road to Disneyland. First of all, Annala, the primus motor of the band’s soul returns to the graveyard even meaner than before. He’s the Morning Star that is pure evil but knows exactly when and how to show the humane side in order to confuse the mortal fools under his will. The lyrics are no less than hypnotizing and genius. The playing with the words, phrases and structures makes it apparent that indeed when executed with finesse, vocals and lyrics become as important instruments as the instruments used to create the actual sounds – adding even more depth to the world. Listening becomes rewarding. Unfortunately, those that can’t decipher Finnish and its advanced details will indeed miss a part of the charm. Not to worry though, since the vocals are indeed universally laid out, the message will carry over one way or another over the lingual barricades.

Musically, the band has never been better. The core that was mainly derived from thrash has gotten a few more elements to strengthen the foundation. Hints of Death Metal can be heard in various tracks alongside with a great deal of ‘technicality’. The beginning of the album will surely thrown many of those familiar with Kurimus down from their feet. The guitar tones and soundscapes are recognizable (excellent production job again by Janne Saksa) but everything sounds a bit bigger, a bit serious and quite a lot more darker (which does not shut out the small ironies and hints of sarcasm that made the previous one feel more personal). The starting track “Toista Maata” (or “Of Different Nature” in loosely translated English) dwells deep in the piles of corpses and forcing its way slowly into your ear drums. In a way, the wall of sound reminds me of the certain classic barrages of Meshuggah. An excellent opener that crabs you right into the slumber of misery and hopelessness and also underlines the fact that they’ve developed their own musical concepts even further. And just to fuck up with the balance, the following track “Haudan Takaa” throws in melodies and harmonies from At the Gates and other bands of such nature. And this is where the band stumbles a few steps; the track is the weakest link (and possibly the only one) of the album. Upright and brisk, it just doesn’t go well with the float and is sub par with the rest. The third track “Hiljaisuuden Julistaja” then brings the jolly good men back to the proper track where the music beats you to a bleeding pulp even when they’re playing thrashy and touchy ballads.

The overall tempo is probably slightly faster than what it was on Kurimus, where tracks like “Silmäterä” calmed things down before showering some more spit at your face. Sure there are some slow moving songs too such as “Sudet Ihmisten Vaatteissa” with its love-related lyrics, but the (almost Fear Factory type) hammering in between the vocal parts just make it out to be mean. The song is a good example of the varied songwriting displayed through out the album, where one song can have two faces (just like love in real life, huh?). And just like “Silmäterä”, the track calms things down to make the pummeling attacks of the guitarist duo (Tuomo Saikkonen, Kuisma Aalto) and drummer Janne Hyrkäs even more violent. And just like “Liiton Loppu” in Kurimus, “Uni Saa Tulla” ends the album in much more hope inspiring yet somehow saddened tones. And in between this track and “Haudan Takaa” are plenty of headbang moments (like “Vade Retro, Satana!” and the name track) to ‘strengthen’ your neck to the level where your head will fall off. As it was with the previous album, “TMRH” is full of small musical details that you start noticing more and more with each listen. Distant background vocals that you can barely hear, all sorts of small noises and clicks that don’t distract the listener from the music but put even more emphasis on it. It’s great to learn something new every time you pop the CD in.

It’s hard to improve something that’s already up there with the best, but Mokoma manages and delivers more than what they were expected to deliver. Did I expect something like this? Yes, but not to this extent. Tämän Maailman Ruhtinaan Hovi points out and fixes the flaws in Kurimus; this is not to undermine the importance of that album – on the contrary. The albums support each other and gives the band a huge repertoire of material which many bands would kill their mothers for. In the light of this, the band has brought an album that is not only a defining moment in the world of Finnish Metal, but also in Metal all around this tormented universe of ours. It’s a shame very few people will come to realize this. Be that as it may, Tämän Maailman Ruhtinaan Hovi is and always will be an important release.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Mikko K.
May 12th, 2004

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