While it might seem that it couldn’t be further away from metal aesthetically, Tenhi remains as one of the heaviest bands around. The weight does not come from razor sharp riffing, bowel-depth vocals or blistering drums for that matter, although percussion does play a big role in the group’s spellbinding sonic witchery. No. The band rises beyond that and brings the burden of the soul to the playground as Maaäet takes the listener to a cumbersome, rocky path deep down to the Finnish psyche; bottled in a jar and carved into a playable form.

The band’s progressive take on folk-oriented music caresses slightly the infamous and diverse post rock-genre, where bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor dwell. Still, the connections to metal lie well founded underneath, as there is a certain bond to nature-inspired groups like Agalloch, and to the serenity of the Finnish funeral doom bands (Shape of Despair springs to mind). Just like Tenhi’s previous efforts, Maaäet takes its vast variety of acoustic melancholy and romantic sorrow from the unpolluted and uncorrupted forest landscapes and dreams of calm solitude.

The musical plagues ‘hurry’ and ‘rush’ are nowhere to be sensed here , as the band paints small nuances comparable to those only seen when you really want to receive the solemn, but ever living world of the woods. Very minimalist at first sight, but true enough, filled with detail after detail to admire and ponder; surges in the calm water, engravings in stones created by time and hints of passing time are all there to be experienced.

While the image portrayed might indeed be primeval; laden with withering bark and decay, the unmatched beauty of what once was and still remains in the form beyond technology’s corrosion. In a very warm and humane way, the scenes studied by the music really bring that timelessness back to the thoughts of the modern heart. The pure bond between man and earth; connection with our origins, where we come from, where we are, and most importantly who we are, are here to be sensed.

Needless to say, Maaäet is an album that requires almost trance-like state to be fully appreciated, and without even the slightest of distractions to remind you of your current state of mind. Whether it be the mournful but life breathing violins or echoing, captivating and intoxicating key arrangements, it all supports the ideal enlightenment of finding one’s place in a world without worry. Where the course of life; birth and death, are greeted with understanding, respect and welcome.

Compared to the band’s previous masterpiece, Väre, Maaäet steps a few steps away from the down-to-earth-but-epic prairies and streams of Lapland to get more closer to the living and walking beings; us. It’s far more closer to the bands tranquil Kauan-release. The soft, questioning and reassuring singing and speaking seems to have increased, although for the reasons explained before, I did not time and compare them with the past efforts. This isn’t a bad thing, as while one is braced with the idea of being one and peacefully in the quietness, the listener also gets to feel like he’s not alone and without aid if the need be in the search for the true, uniting soul. There also seems to be more traditional structures within the songs this time around, making the road easier to follow but still maintaining the open endlessness (for thoughts) that these kinds of releases require.

The course of drama in the album is nicely balanced as the changes in temp correlate perfectly with the movement of listener’s own thought. The opener “Varpuspäivä” (Sparrow-Day) really calls you in as the simple yet skillfully crafted melody invites you right into the new old world. And as the borderline religious experience is starting to come to a close, the ending “Rannalta Haettu” (From the Shore) really does as the name suggests: it comes and picks you up from the boat ride of your own consciousness, finally sending you kindly off on your way back to reality.

While explaining the Finnish psyche and relationship with nature, the star gazing mentality and lust for harmony in mere words is a job next to impossible; Tenhi does a great job at introducing it to all those willing to learn, hear and most of all experience. The lack of knowledge in the complex and rich, but at the same time very softly crafted language isn’t an obstacle, as the lyrics are translated in the booklet and the shamanistic hymns heard are in fact, quite universal. The nice packaging supports all of this. The layout of the booklet is done with care, filled with tender, romantic paintings of the peaceful wilderness. In combination with the music, it’s definitely one of the most visually stimulating outputs that I’ve seen in a while, and it reminded me of the same commitment and artistic philosophy that the souls over at the Neurot Recordings are known for.

A spiritual journey that despite the melancholic nature, is also as much of a journey of and to consolation. Maaäet is an album that makes you truly feel, rather than just follow the pulses in your brain caused by whatever chemical reaction ä and that is a treat to be cherished. Tenhi has delivered yet another trip worth taking and it wouldn’t surprise me if it’ll be the best damn trip of the year.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Mikko K.
February 28th, 2006


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