I know that a lot of you out there are ready for the oncoming warmer weather – and to be fair, there’s certain aspects of the summer that I do certainly look forward to. The fishing, the hiking, the outdoor cooking – you’ll get no argument from me that these are just some of the perks of the warmer, greener months. But I gotta tell ya, up here in the north last week we just jumped from, like, 40 degrees to 86 in A DAY. I wanted to die. I was dying. I was not physically, mentally or emotionally ready to deal that kind of heat and, if I’m honest, I’m not 100% sure I’ll ever be. I’m just not built for that shit.

Luckily, being spring in the North, reality snapped back into place and it’s been rainy and in the 40s all week since. But I know that heat won’t stay away forever – soon enough stretches of 80… 90… 100 degree days will be the rule, and I’m already sweating just thinking about it. So thank the gods, ever-dependable Finland has sent me exactly what I need to stay in the kind of cold, barren headspace I need to keep my cool when mother nature is trying to murder me – the kind of Doom-drenched, moody and atmospheric Melodeath/Folk that only the Finns can pull off with this kind of perfection and flair. Vorna doesn’t know it, but they may have just staved off my inevitable “death by summer,” even if only for one more year.

That said, Vorna does seem to continuing an effort to add more light to their sound. For one, the band has continued to make vocalist Vesa Salovaara’s excellent clean vocals a more prominent feature – a trend started on 2019’s criminally under-the-rader Sateet Palata Saavat. Even despite my complete ignorance of the Finnish language, the vocal melodies he weaves on tracks like opener “Hiljaisuus ei Kesta” or the really well-balanced “Aika Pakenee”  are no less effective at getting stitched right into your brain until you’re absently humming along youself. The effect gives the band an overall much more grandiose, progressive feel not unlike that of a modern-era Borknagar or Enslaved record, though delivered in a tighter, more concise way (unlike their Norse counterparts, a Vorna track rarely ever breaks the 6-minute mark). Also like those two bands, Vorna continues to move a bit further away from their formerly more blackened-selves and, again, really is settling into that nice Viking/Progressive groove that balances beauty and brutality so well – and in fact after listening to this album through, it’s not difficult to assume they’re real big fans of just about everything in the Borkna-verse, with plenty of moments bringing to mind the likes of ArcturusVintersorgICS Vortex, etc. etc, though all still wrapped in a distinctly sort of gloomy, doomy Finnish quality that makes the band sound all their own.

Despite what I’d describe as the band having a very pretty and evocative sound, they’re still more than capable of getting your head banging, too. The previously-mentioned “Aika Pakenee” (if you can’t tell, this is one of my favorite tracks on the record) has a brilliant stretch on the back-half of the song where guitarists Arttu Jarvisalo and Henri Lammintausta really lay down a hefty, chugging riff paired with Salovaara’s harsh screams and drummer Mikael Vanninen’s almost militaristic drums that should have no problem giving your subwoofer a good rumble. The heft is made even more majestic with the pairing of keyboardist Saku Myyrylainen’s beautiful pianos and choir tone keys that just make the whole thing sound absolutely massive.

That’s only one of many such examples found throughout  Aamunkoi, with “Raja” providing yet another bruising sort of breakdown that sounds every bit as bombastic and heroic, before the band once again shows off their duality by following up with a delightful vocal line over rhythmic drums, bringing a sense of calm and serenity like the eerie silence after a storm.

I also really love how willing the band continues to be to push their own boundaries and experiment a bit, in particular I love some of the different tones used on the keys, like on “Harve Paattaa Hyvasteistaan,” that give the track an almost otherworldly sound, like some alien life is telepathically attempting communication (probably to make sure we don’t shoot them).  It almost feels like it’s bringing the album’s striking cover to life, bringing the weird, sprouting humanoid into the waking world to creep the ever loving fuck out of me for real.

Again, the keys give a real sense of unique atmosphere on follow-up “Valo,” using a nice mix of eerie tones, epic choirs and beautiful pianos to paint quite a vivid picture, and while every member of the band is delivering an impressive performance – it’s Myyrlainen’s work that really pushes Vorna onto another level here. But the band as a whole having pretty much all been together since the band’s inception really show in their overall cohesiveness. The keys elevate the whole product, but it’s only because they’re so in sync with everything else. This is a band obviously very confident and clear about who they are and how to play off one-another, and the results are clearly better for it.

So while Vorna aren’t exactly delivering the ice-cold, barren earth chill of a Scandinavian winter (in fact, the overall tone of Aamunkoi is quite, dare I say, hopeful?), there’s still a sort of undeniable chill in the air that makes this album a refreshing, and thoroughly enjoyable experience. It’s the kind of album that can endear itself to you, thrill you, make you contemplate your life and surroundings, and yes, it can make you puff out your chest and bang your head in it’s grandness. Enslaved may get the bulk of attention for this kind of product this year, but make no mistake, Vorna is more than deserving of your attention, and Aamunkoi is nothing short of superb.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
June 1st, 2023


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