From the cold north of southern Finland (wait, what?) comes Havukruunu with their third release, fusing viking metal with black and adding big, manly choirs to the mix, making this one of the more enjoyable extreme metal releases of the year.
Within the vast ocean of releases washing over us across all musical genres, you will inevitably miss a release or two over the year. You will move into the cold of December under the assumption that your end of year list is ready to go. The board is set, the pieces are in place and the final lines about your absolute favourite albums have been written. And then comes along a release that pulls the rug out from under you, upsetting everything and utterly shattering that false feeling of safety. It has happened before and it will undoubtedly happen again, and 2020 is the year that Havukruunu fucked things up. Thanks guys.
Havukruunu (meaning “coniferous crown”) hails from Finland and has been around since 2005, although they’ve only been releasing material from 2013 onward and their full length debut releasing as recently as 2015. Uinuos syömein sota is their third release and it’s really something else. Google translates that title to “Asleep I Ate War” but I feel something may have been lost in translation there. Whilst not war per se, it’s a hearty meal of viking and black metal in the vein of Bathory (who stood at the cradle of both genres) and Immortal.
Uinuous syömein sota is one of those albums that grabs you from the very start with the immense sounding title track. Male choirs immediately belt at you about how they’re going to eat war in their sleep before a wall of sound is thrown at you. If that does not make you sit up and take notice, I don’t know what will. It’s a magnificently potent opener that does a more than decent job of drawing you in. Between the choirs and black metal screams, cries of war are heard and swords clatter loudly. It’s a battlefield, although I doubt you’ll get much sleep in the proceedings. More importantly, it’s black metal with a twist, and doing something different within an oftentimes stale genre is always a good thing.
The album runs for forty-six minutes and is an absolute blast, with enough happening to keep you enticed until Tähti-yö ja hevoiset dies off on a soothing, star-filled ocean of keyboards. The album’s closing track’s last three minutes are, interlude Jumalten hämär aside, the only moments of rest you will get on Uinuous syömein sota. There are quieter moments sprinkled throughout, such as the crashing of waves accompanied by an acoustic guitar on Kuin öinen meri (Bathory’s A Fine Day To Die anyone?) but overall Havukruunu means business and really puts the pedal to the proverbial metal. This makes Uinuous syömein sota a largely speedy affair with lots of rolling blast beats and heavy riffing. The guitar leads are strong and also remind often of old Viking-era Bathory. What makes Havukruunu’s particular brand of black-ish metal stand out however, is the choir of burly Norsemen interspersed with the harsh screams and blackened riffs. Sounding suitably big, this element gives the material a sense of grandeur that not only makes it feel more unique but accessible at the same time. The very idea of accessibility will surely rub the black metal elite the wrong way, but if it helps Havukruunu in reaching more people I don’t see how that’s a bad thing.
Perfectly fusing the best influences of the epic Bathory albums and modern black metal, Uinuos syömein sota is a fantastic album that deserves a spot somewhere at the top of any top ten list featuring more extreme forms of metal. It’s both epic and brutal and the band does a more than fine job at balancing that particular tightrope. The album is varied enough to keep you invested throughout the ride, and at forty-six minutes it absolutely flies by. It’s a great album to spend some time with during the cold winter months and I very much recommend you do so if you like your black metal a little different. And don’t let the fact that it has been out since August prevent you from Havukruunu still messing up your year lists.
Label: Naturmacht Productions, 2020
- Uinuos syömein sota (05:47)
- Kunnes varjot saa (05:00)
- Ja viimein on yö (04:44)
- Pohjolan tytär (06:03)
- Kuin öinen meri (05:56)
- Jumalten hämär (01:23)
- Vähiin päivät käy (09:09)
- Tähti-yö ja hevoiset (08:31)
- Stefan – vocals, guitars
- Henkka – guitars
- Sinisalo – bass
- Kostajainen – drums, percussion
Review by Ralph Plug