Sunday, December 11, 2005

Review: Heorot - Yö Jahti (2005)

Heorot [ MySpace ]
Yö Jahti
(2005)
self-released

The best part about this job is occasionally discovering that hidden gem of a band that blends originality, strong songwriting, and solid talent to create an album which is as fresh as it is exciting. I was very happily surprised to stumble across Finland's Heorot, whose demo Yö Jahti  is an outstanding example of atmospheric Viking/folk metal and gives a good indication that only the best is yet to come. Formed in 2002 by frontman Modsognir and drummer Mikko Mokelainen, the band's line-up solidified in 2003 and work began on what would ultimately become four songs inspired by the pre-Christian Norse heritage of the band members.

Yö Jahti opens with the majestic "Kansaansa vastaan". I've never visited the breathtaking fjords of Scandinavia, but having lived in Alaska for a time I'd like to think I can relate in some small way to the grandeur of it all. The lush, atmospheric piano intro from Jani Ambrusin evokes an image of still, almost glasslike waters flanked by mist enshrouded and snowcapped peaks. One can almost see the longships pulled up on the gravelly shore, the smoke from cook fires lazily rising to intermingle with the morning mist. Such magical, image-laden songwriting persists throughout the album and is what makes Heorot such a find. After a minute of Jani's mystical melodies, the rest of the band bursts forth with a thunderous beat from Mikko Nokelainen and grinding riffs from Raidokan and Timo Nokelainen, while frontman Modsognir unleashes an angered snarl and embarks on a gnarled delivery of the lyrics. Timo is the main contributor of traditional instrumentation on the album, and carries the opening melody through the song on the flute backed by Jani's keys. The song contains several breakdowns over its 7-minute length, involving cleanly-styled group choruses, classic metal riffs, and a heavy bass groove from Kimmo Intke. The song closes with an acoustic rendition of the opening melody, this time played by Timo on the acoustic guitar. A very fine way to close a spectacular song. "Kansaansa vastaan" is unquestionably my favorite track on the demo, though the rest are just as admirable in their own ways.

The title track again incorporates fine flute melodies from Timo, unpolished riffs, and barren drum beats. Modsognir snarls the lyrics without overreaching, instead essentially keeping his delivery to a low growl. The latter half of the song switches gears slightly, with the underlying melody remaining but instead the use of traditional percussion instruments take to the fore and the band begins a group chanting harmony, sometimes significantly off key, eventually reaching a point where I can't help but envision a musty Viking hall filled with the smells of meat and mead, and groups of grizzled warriors toasting heroic sagas of days past and joining one another in raucous drinking songs. Sure, my imagination is running rampant but Heorot possesses that precious ability to stir the imagination and leave the imprint of their music on your soul.

"Ragnarök" is a tale taken directly from the Edda, telling the Viking belief of the coming end of the world. Having a doomy, unhurried pace, the song is flavored by tense keyboard accompaniment and interesting choral hooks. The shouts of "Ragnarök!" during the refrain, combined with a quickened beat from Mikko, keep the gait from settling into routine. There are several time changes in fact, all arranged expertly to hold interest and impart the vast emotional range of the subject matter. The final track of the demo, "Sowelu" is a somewhat brief instrumental track showcasing a wide array of traditional instruments. Once again, Heorot manages to call to life the epic history of the Vikings through their clever use of traditional melodies and devotion to their ancestors' beliefs and way of life.

For a demo recording, Yö Jahti excels. Fans of Finntroll, Einherjer, and Falkenbach will find Heorot to be a band to keep their eye on. A new demo is soon to be released, and it is one that I am waiting for with much anticipation.


Track Listing
1 Kansaansa vastaan 7:08
2 Yö Jahti 4:04
3 Ragnarök 6:53
4 Sowelu 2:27



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