Sound — 8
Ikuinen Kaamos started as a simple black metal band. But after their first breakup and subsequent reformation, an entirely different entity has stepped in their place. What can be heard on the bands first album, "The Forlorn" is nothing short of musical ecstacy. An ever mournful and lamenting atmosphere, created intricately through melancholic acoustic passages, melodic and searing distorted passages, and of course the backing orchestration that adds so much color and life (of the abysmal nature, of course). The album continues along in a fashion that mixes a myriad of musical genres, pulling from straight black metal, progressive, doom, death metal, symphonic, and hints of dark folk. It all comes together to form an album that will captivate the listener completely, suffocating him/her and engulfing them in an atmosphere of the most sorrowful kind. Now, this is not your standard "black metal band using symphonies and acoustics," type of music. Ikuinen Kaamos has often been compared to Opeth in the fact that, the genetic make-up of their music is what they are, not just something they DO. All the music is held effortlessly together by an underlying doom-type vibe, but, like Opeth, the transitions here are flawless. There is never a moment when you think to yourself, "that riff sounds out of place." Hell, you'll most likely be caught so far into the atmosphere that you'll forget that you're even listening to music. It will truly take you to another place, another time. With the shortest song being 7:27, the longest at 13:28, the skill and craftmanship that went into creating this masterpiece is apparent, the musical motifs never dying out, the epic arrangements and soaring concepts always ringing true. The guitar work here is superb, not necessarily in it's technicality, but in it's ability to utilize just the right notes and melodies. Instances of melancholic leads ringing out over vicious blast beats as well as solemn acoustics is perhaps one of the best things about the album. The riffs are violent and sorrowful, yet flow ever so smoothly, giving the music a desperate, vindicative tone that will reach down to depths of your emotions, show you what true music is all about. And of course, sprinkled within each and every song, are the awe-inspiring acoustic interludes and transitions, often absent of any other instrument. They never cease to amaze. The orchestration on the album is simple and subtle, yet has an undeniably huge impact on the music. It's nothing ever flashy, never takes the spotlight over the other instruments. Rather, what you get is a swooning set of strings that compliments the overall tone perfectly, allowing acoustic passages to breathe, adding tons of emotion to their already emotional music, creating somewhat of an epic and grandiose atmosphere that goes along nicely with the concept of the album. I will say this though, and it's even more of a testament to the magnitude of songwriting. Despite it's epic qualities, the orchestration always exudes a feeling of isolation, as if you were right there, in the story, by yourself, experiencing the ups and downs, the emotional turmoil, the desperate colors of insanity and grief. It truly is an amazing feat. Lastly, another noteworthy feature, something I will touch upon in lyrics, is the ability of the music to convey perfectly the emotion of the story. The Forlorn is indeed a concept album, with each song focusing around a different scenario involving an old man. The music follows right along with the lyrics, becoming almost overbearingly depressing in songs like "Frailty," yet soaring to furious and violent heights in songs like "Delusion," a song that would call for agression if there ever was one. It's songwriting at it's absolute best. Whatever you think this album sounds like, whatever you're imagining based on the aforementioned genres, forget it. Yes, this is black metal. Yes, this is doom metal. Yes, it's sad, sorrowful, slow to mid-paced, melodic and brutal. I'm sure you can think of a million bands that fit that description. But forget them. Because above all, IK is progressive. They blend these genres in a way that I've never heard before, and in the process have created a gem of an album that any self-respecting metal fan must listen to at least once. They're not compared to Opeth for nothing.
Lyrics — 10
As if the amazing music wasn't enough, part of the reason this album has recieved so much praise is largely due to the lyrics. Written in the style of narrative poetry, The Forlorn is a concept album based around an Old Man, who, living isolated in a small shed, somewhere in the distant mountains, murders his wife and child in an alcohol induced rage/paranoia. The scene makes small (never focal) hints to anti-Christianity sentiment, as in he murders his family fueled by religious motives, under the hallucination that they were indeed demons. The actual murder scene/flashback is covered in one song, "Delusion" and it involves perhaps some of the most chilling lyrics I've ever read, especially in context with the theme and the music itself. "His fearful eyes darted around the desolate room/And caught a shotgun hanging on the wooden wall/The man sat at the edge of a bed/And farewelled his sleeping family/The cold barrel pressed against their forehead/In a calm devotion before the blast/The thunder silenced into a whisper/And raised the smoke of lost tomorrow." The rest of the lyrics focus around his life after the incident, a spiraling maelstrom of grief and guilt, of depression, mourning, sorrow, of, most importantly, insanity. The song titles portray this progression. In order, they are: Frailty, Grace, Delusion, Ascent, Fall. Obviously, the story culminates in the last song. From the title, you should be able to imply what happens. I won't ruin it here. But the lyrics have an excellent sense of depth to them, and never fail to evoke the most nostalgic and haunting imagery. All of this is passed on to the listener by way of extremely clear gutturals, clear in the sense that you can understand every word. Some songs feature more black metal-esque high vocals, but most of the songs are centered around low to mid-ranged growls that sound absolutely fantastic. To give another example of just what you're in store for, I'll give a set of my favorite lyrics, taken from probably the best song on the album, "Grace." "He kneels at the foot of the graves And touches the time-worn epitaph/Blessed are the pure in heart,/for they shall see God./He touches the grass with the palm of his hand/And lets the wind sway him towards the past/He follows the path of forgotten oblivion/And vanishes in the rain on his dying day." Probably not as good out of context, but I think you get the idea. Amazingly written lyrics, deeply intricate story, perfect score in this category.
Overall Impression — 10
It's a rare occassion when a band like Ikuinen Kaamos comes along. The perfect blend of emotion and art; of auditory aesthetic and landscapes deep in mourning, painted ever so gracefully by an enigma of progressive doom. I've tried my best to describe the album in words, but I'm afraid I can't nearly do it enough justice. It's truly one of those albums that just needs to be experienced. There aren't necessarily any stand out songs, although "Grace" and "Frailty" would be at the top of my list, along with "Delusion" for its godly acoustic interlude. However, this is more of an album in the sense that it is one continous piece of work. It's meant to be listened to and experienced as a whole, both in lyrical and musical context. There are some albums that are meant to be more than music. More than just "good metal" or "kick-ass riffs." This, I believe, is one of those albums. The intent of the composers was to take the listeners on a journey through the dark side of the human spirit, and I feel as if they have successfully completed that mission. Sit in the dark, put on your headphones, press the play button. This is what music is supposed to be. This is what art is supposed to be. Regardless of whether you like this type of music or not, give it a try. And more importantly, watch out for releases from Ikuinen Kaamos in the future, because I only can only see great things coming from this truly amazing band.