Havukruunu – Uinuos Syömein Sota Review

Oh, Great Warrior. Wars not make one great. -Yoda

Anyone who’s seen The Empire Strikes Back at least once remembers this classic line — the sharp quip from the Jedi master to Luke when he frustratingly explains to Yoda that he’s seeking a “Great Warrior” for guidance. And what does make a Great Warrior? Thinking back on the heroes of my youth, they were the ones that held fast to their moral compasses in the most trying of times. The temptation of an easy resolution against the most trying odds denied to the point of self-sacrifice for a cause they believed in; within this lies the true heart of a warrior of the great myths and legends from past to present. Keep in mind, the true warrior is never motivated by glory, nay, the spirit of the great hero serves a higher purpose than that of the self-satisfaction of immortality: They do it because it needs to be done, heeding the call and stepping up with purpose and vigor.

Release date: August 14th, 2020. Label: Naturmacht Productions
Havukruunu has possessed the warrior’s heart in black metal since they first stepped into the greater arena with their 2015 debut, Havulinnaan. Translating the epic heavy metal might and fascination with lore found in the US power metal scene, the grandiosity of the Hellenic black metal scene, and the pagan sorcery of the Scandinavian and Eastern European scenes through a distinctively Finnish black metal lens, Havukruunu leaped into the ravine with swords at the ready, combining epic riffing with powerful intertwining vocal work, cloud-scraping solos, and an electrically charged rhythm section.

As with any great epic, a tone is set from the opus of Uinuos Syömein Sota, the band’s third full-length following 2017’s excellent Kelle Surut Soi . The call-and-response a cappella at the onset of the self-titled opening track (which translates to “Asleep I Ate War”) opens a continent of scope, as though panning over vast forests, mighty fjords, lofty mountains, and fortified front lines packed with countless legions of battle-hardened warriors charging at one another en masse. With a strike of a chord and an adrenaline shot of drum fills, it’s as though our hero is leaping off a cliff, breathing in deeply and taking in that final moment of solstice — a moment of zen, if you will — above the hordes. With a single, thundering blast of cannon fire, our champion hits the ground running and doesn’t stop for the next 46 minutes. There is a specific joy in the rush that follows. Certainly, the center of a bloody conflict is a life-or-death situation and requires a sense of immediacy, but Havukruunu takes it all in stride, riffing with not just adequacy to the tempo but with grace and style and, hell, a swagger. Images of our hero dancing around the clash of swords and the swinging of axes beneath a cloud of arrows and catapult shots immerse the listener in the soundscape. This is epic black metal on the 5D IMAX THX Deluxe 8000 scale. It’s possible to smell the sweat and drying blood over the near-never-ending run of the kick drums pacing with a quickness and a purpose, dead set on delivering the hero towards their goal.

The leads beneath the barrage of drums shine, but not too brightly. There’s a subtle focus in their purpose of carrying the melody beneath songs like “Ja Viimein On Yö.” As accomplished as the musicians are as individuals, together their synchronicity becomes a hundred times greater than the sum of its parts. Bass, guitars, vocals, drums — everything is working together. Much like the warrior must master many disciplines to keep themselves in tune between mind, body, and spirit, Havukruunu operates as a whole. Even when certain sections are highlighted, such as the tension-building rhythm breakdown on “Pohjolan Tytär,” the additional components are there to execute the release of energy as the band’s hefty claymore swings true through its foe. Not only are they skilled in the art of war, but there’s a magical component to Havukruunu as well. It’s near impossible not to let out a battle cry of your own as the emotion of the music takes hold. It’s one of those special connections where the spirit of the recording seeps its way into current reality, a tough feat to accomplish in its own right.

One of Havukruunu’s secret weapons is their use of grand vocal choirs to add a particular vigor to the release. At times it’s front and center, generally more gruff and rag-tag in the manner of a war chant to garner the spirits and inspire a sense of unity amongst the ranks. More subtly, clean choirs add a sense of divine purpose beneath the ongoing battle, such as those found in the bridge of “Kunnes Varjot Saa,” further solidifying the idea of Havukruunu as a paladin of sorts amongst the ranks of the dark warlocks and evil sorcerers generally found in black metal. Another specialty attack is the ability to set their blade aflame with some seriously blistering solos. While few and far between, the limited use of this weapon increases its potency. The cries and wails echo across the chambers of war on “Vähiin Päivät Käy” and especially adding peak power to the Special Meter on the bombastic closer of “Tähti-Yö Ja Hevoiset.” There’s a classic 80s metal inspiration behind the interplay of the guitars that should send any fan of the roots of metal into the glory of the battles of yesteryear.

Special tactics aside, it’s really the cohesiveness that sells Uinuos Syömein Sota as a completely realized album. Much like how the power behind Havukruunu is greater than the sum of its parts, Uinuos Syömein Sota is more than simply a collection of songs. It’s a fully realized and masterfully executed work of black metal on a cinematic scale, ebbing and flowing from track to track, telling a story through the emotion behind the music regardless of the listener’s ymmärtäminen of the Finnish language. Something in the music inspires the spirit, and creates hope that the type of hero we remember from our childhoods can and does exist within the human consciousness — that a part of those legends we grew up with can and does reside outside the realm of fiction. With the darkness slowly closing in on the world around us, leaving the spark but flickering dimly within, Uinuos Syömein Sota serves to fan the flames a little brighter. May that warrior spirit spread, because we could use a few more heroes about now.

Posted by Ryan Tysinger

I listen to music, then I write about it. On Twitter @d00mfr0gg (Outro: The Winds Of Mayhem)

  1. Album of the year. I’ll always consider myself a “black metal kid” at heart but over the last 10+ years I’ve found it difficult to locate many bands who truly capture the spirit I found so special when discovering the genre. This album nails it perfectly

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    1. It’s going to be hard to top for sure! I’m with you, from first listen this thing was electrifying, it really does ignite the imagination in a way that seems harder and harder to come by as we grow older and perhaps a little jaded. What a band.

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  2. Harder Farter Darker August 17, 2020 at 3:55 pm

    This and Creature’s Ex Cathedra are hands down the most stunning and exciting pieces of music to have come out this year, by very far. Strangely, both extensively and uniquely use choirs.

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    1. I haven’t checked out Ex Cathedra yet, bumping it up the list. All about some unique choirs! Thank you

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      1. Harder Farter Darker August 17, 2020 at 6:45 pm

        You’re welcome. This band came out of nowhere and released something so thrilling and unheard… it’s quite admirable to have a seasoned listener like me excited like a little girl!

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        1. Chasing that feeling is so much of what makes it worth it!

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  3. Harder Farter Darker August 20, 2020 at 5:44 am

    So true! Reason why I’m so grateful for bands like those two!

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    1. Gave Creature a listen this morning!! Very cool, I like how it’s skewed left of center without losing the musicality. Those symphonic bits absolutely sell the whole package for me.

      Some good symphonic stuff this year in general! Did you try that Lamentari EP? Zach covered it in our What We Missed feature last month

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      1. Harder Farter Darker August 20, 2020 at 9:45 pm

        Cool! Yeah, as you said, Creature is definitely very far from your typical whatever, he really invented his own sound, experimenting a lot while always remaining exciting, musical and avoiding boring arty pitfalls. I don’t think I’ve ever heard symphonics elements used that way before, and I just can’t get enough of those brass! At first I thought the package was a little much to take in, but after a few spins the genius is undeniable and unescapable, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
        Really my biggest surprise in a year full of them. Havukruunu I knew would kick my ass based upon previous albums haha!

        Actually I think I did try Lamentari, I think I remember it sounding a lot like Dimmu which I am not that fond of, but I might need to listen to it again. A favorite of yours?

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        1. I’ll give Creature a few more spins! I loved a lot of the ideas but it seemed to run a bit long (an issue I seem to have with a lot of I, Voidhanger bands). Might just take some time to fully digest, and there was enough to love to bring me back. Agree about the unique use of those elements, it’s very ambitious and that always gets points in my book.

          Also agree with the Dimmu comparison, and I’m not huge on that sound either. Something about it just works for me, even if it’s pulling from a lot of that somewhat overcooked area in black metal. It’s just fun, the way that solo comes out of the pause on “Lacrimosa” just hit me right. Even if it is a bit campy at times, the orchestration is just so over the top and pompous that it works for me. To me it’s like Dimmu if they had the Limbonic Art knack for composition in the synth department.

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          1. Harder Farter Darker August 20, 2020 at 11:47 pm

            I, Voidhanger releases often do run a bit long, but for Creature, I feel that it is not the case, but a matter of digesting novelty, and adjusting with the composer’s mind. With each subsequent spin I was able to grasp the album more and became more and more ecstatic about it, in a “can’t believe what I’m hearing” kind of way. I hope you’ll feel that way too in the end!

            You’ve convinced me to give Lamentari another try, i’ll let you know what I thought of it! If you’re into symphonic stuff, a weird and good one that came out this year is Golden Ashes – In The Lugubrious Silence Of Eternal Night. No guitars, only synths, by the Gnaw Their Tongues dude. Pretty eerie and intense.

          2. I’ll give it a proper lights out focused spin this weekend and not when I’m at work!

            And I reviewed the Golden Ashes album here! Terrific stuff, scooped one of those vinyl releases for it as well.

  4. Absolutely incredible! Great review also. Nice that a black metal band can bring so much joy into this year 🙂 I’m also gonna check out the Ex Cathedra band as well. Thanks for the heads up everyone!

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    1. Thank you! And yes, I think Havukruunu captured a spirit we can all find some sort of hope in, if only for weathering the storm

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  5. Harder Farter Darker August 24, 2020 at 7:44 am

    @Ryan Tysinger
    For some reason I can’t reply under your last comment addressed to me.

    Listened to Lamentari again, and you are right, the instrumentation is mostly sick! I’m not really on board with the vocal stylings, and some of the ruptures in the songs, but that’s pretty minor, the ep kicks a lot of butt. And yeah that solo in the title track is really cool!

    And awesome for Golden Ashes haha, I had no idea you were the one to actually review it! It’s a great album, very different from most of other bm acts.

    Since our tastes seem to align a lot, I’m curious: what are some of your favorite records this year?

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    1. No idea why you couldn’t reply! Puzzling.

      In black metal, I’ve really enjoyed the new Malokarpatan and Selbst (review coming tomorrow!). Thought the latest svrm was fantastic, especially if you like Ukranian black metal a la Drudkh. For Big Riffs, that Kvaen album really caught me by surprise, and Primeval Mass has some of the best black/thrash I’ve heard in a while – it starts pretty straightforward but just starts twisting as the album progresses. Pretty cool stuff. Don’t know if it’s gonna make my year-end list, but I thought the Golden Light album was pretty neat and might be very up your alley if you haven’t heard it. Very hypnotic stuff, and feels like a play on a one-off Obtest track from one of their demos.

      And anyone on the crew can tell you how obsessed I’ve become with Old Nick. Raw stuff with some really weird synths, and the aesthetic looks like a total joke but it WORKS.

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  6. Harder Farter Darker August 25, 2020 at 9:36 am

    Ha! Primeval Mass was one of the first records of the year I was really enthusiastic about! The music is savage and thrashing while also keeping some surprises up its sleeve, really cool somewhat 1st wave bm with a twist.

    Old Nick I have never heard of, but I’ll trust you on it and will give it a listen asap.

    The others I have listened to and enjoyed (Golden Light and Kvaen especially), although not nearly as much as the earlier two discussed (Havukruunu & Creature) albums hehe.

    On my side, I’ll recommend the latest Esoctrilihum (that you must already know), as well as:
    – Brii // Entre Tudo que é Visto e Oculto, mesmerizing bm with trance-like progressions, very original.
    – Thy Catafalque // Naiv. Really cool piece of avant-garde, with a lot of traditional music and electronic leanings mixed in. Works surprisingly well.
    – Echushkya // The Lanterne. For some reason I really love this album and get lost in it. (modern atmospheric BM with grandiose leanings)
    – The True Werwolf // Devil Crisis. Straightforward and ripping bm, with some fantastic tracks (just listen to Chi No Namida!!!)

    Aaaand that’s it for me! The earlier discussed albums are my favorites, but these are all well worth more than a spin! Hope you’ll find stuff that you’ll enjoy! Let me know if you can! Cheers

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  7. Harder Farter Darker August 25, 2020 at 9:48 am

    Additional note: Holy f*ck Old Nick is definitely something special! Really liking what I hear, but there seems to be dozens of releases, scattered amongst various labels. Any release that you particularly recommend?

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    1. Yeah I’m kinda weird on Esoctrillihum, I liked a few of the earlier ones but that last one just did not do it for me. Something weird in the production or the drums or something just gave me a headache after a while, which was a shame because some of the riffs sounded cool! Haven’t tried the new one but I’ll give it a chance! Few of those others I’ve enjoyed, and a few new ones to me, thanks!

      As for Old Nick, my favorite is Haunted Loom, I covered it in the last Black, Raw, and Bleeding ( https://yourlastrites.com/2020/07/20/black-raw-bleeding-another-dive-into-the-nethers-of-the-black-metal-underground/ ). Few others in there you might like, probably Svrm and Despondent Moon

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      1. Harder Farter Darker August 26, 2020 at 5:41 pm

        Regarding Esoctrilihum: The new one is maybe my favorite. I agree that the one right before (“The Telluric Ashes…”) was a little bit less enjoyable than the earlier ones, especially Inhüma which has a few fantastic iffs and moments. But the new one took all the best elements of each, and improved upon them, imo obviously.

        Thanks for the article man, I somehow missed it. Will take the time to delve in the recs!
        And Old Nick is definitely very good! Listened to almost all I could find, and I really like what they have going. Great sound, with some very nice twists. It actually doesn’t feel gimmicky at all, surprisingly. Our tastes definitely seem to overlap quite a bit, so I will defintely closely follow you rec from now on!
        Thanks for the talk!

        Reply

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