Rippikoulu
Ulvaja EP

Despite Ulvaja being the band’s debut EP, the story of Rippikoulu goes all the way back to 1990, when they started out playing punk. Within just a couple years’ time, they somehow morphed into one of Finland’s darkest and heaviest death metal bands of all time. If you’re familiar with Finnish death metal, you know that’s really saying something. Their ‘93 demo, Musta Seremonia (re-released by Svart Records in 2010 and once again to coincide with this new EP), mercilessly heaved massive chunks of doom amidst earth-shaking death metal. Unfortunately, that ended up being the last thing anyone would hear from them. The death of their guitarist, Marko Henriksson, in ‘95 also meant the end of the band…until now. It seems that the remaining original members are finally ready to move forward, but that tragic loss has sent them in an even darker direction.

It goes without saying that comebacks are all the rage nowadays (with mixed results), but unlike some others, Rippikoulu is not attempting to shallowly resurrect the past. Ulvaja is the sound of a band with genuine and forward-thinking motivations. So, if you’re looking for more typical Finnish death, you might be in for a disappointment. But, if you have a bit more breadth in your taste, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Ulvaja may not be quite what everyone was expecting, but it is a logical next step. The atmospheric doom that was a secondary element on Musta Seremonia has now taken over. “Jää hyvästi kaunis kesä” opens the EP with some of the bleakest sounds since Unholy called it a day. As touches of early Bethlehem mingle with the plodding heaviness of Celtic Frost’s Monotheist, it’s hard to believe this is from a band just coming off of a nearly 20-year hiatus. They must’ve spent those two decades just brooding and practicing. “Loputon” tries to break free from the oppressive misery with some blackened guitars over a mid-paced rumble, but soon collapses into the hypnotic title track. Awash in soft, female chanting, piano, and lush keyboards, “Ulvaja” hulks and churns its way through the gloaming as the deep, Finnish-spoken growls of Anssi Kartela sound more desperate than ever.

Frankly, it’s a little surprising that Rippikoulu isn’t taking advantage of the current old-school death metal movement. With their legendary status, they easily could. I commend them for obviously doing what they want without regard to what’s most favored and expected of them. This is a must-hear for doom fans. Those looking for Musta Seremonia, Part II should adjust their expectations and witness one of the strongest, but likely most underappreciated, recordings of this comeback era.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Adam Palm
August 29th, 2014

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