The Black League - Utopia A. D.
Spinefarm Records
Dark Heavy Music
13 songs (59'32")
Release year: 2001
The Black League, Spinefarm Records
Reviewed by Alex

I don’t know how this review will come out, but I know one thing – it is a travesty not to have this album reviewed on our site. I am going to take on this unenviable task, so our readers know what they are missing if they have not yet introduced themselves to The Black League.

Describing the style of music The Black League plays is a futile attempt, as they cross over so many genres. Having their origin in Death Metal and Heavy Rock’n’Roll the band touches on Gothic, Stoner and Blues. As a result they create an entrancing dark music which is undeniably artistic. It is as beautiful, as it is non-commercial, and, most likely, not easy to get into from the first few listens. A bit of history would help understanding the roots of The Black League. The band is the brainchild of Taneli Jarva, former enigmatic bassist and singer of Sentenced. He split up from Sentenced after a classic Amok album, and Love and Death EP. At the time, Sentenced were swerving away from pure Death Metal. Jarva took the Amok direction, as I am going to call it, and developed it to new heights with The Black League. He authored or co-authored just about every song on Utopia A.D. and previous album, Ichor , wrote the lyrics and was in charge of the excellent production.

The album starts with an instrumental intro Transit Gloria Mundi which reminds me of the flock of wild geese flying in the grim northern sky. It is appropriate to mention that The Black League hails from Oulu, a town in Finland to the north of the Polar Circle, so they don’t see the sunlight for half a year. At the end of the intro Jarva asks “Are you ready for the Truth?” The following track Empiria sets the tone and is a good example of how the rest of the album sounds (other representative tracks are Blue Sky Magic and Citizen Cain , in my opinion). Guitar work on Utopia A.D. is simply outstanding. Maike Valanne goes for the heavier dirtier sound which sometimes reminds me of Motorhead with a prominent touch of Blues added in. Alexi Ranta is more of a technical player and complements Valanne in the best way possible. The leads in the songs aren’t long, but guitar melodic undercurrents never go away throughout. The rhythm section deserves special mention. Florida’s bass lines are solid. His additions to the leads in spots make them so much better. I am familiar with Sir Luttinen as a drummer of Melodic Black Metal band Catamenia. Here, he is light years more intricate and detailed with his drumming. Except the aggressive cut Rex Talionis the straight death beat is practically not used. Instead, the drumming is really diverse with funky non-stop fills. Harbor of Hatred is probably the best example of the drum/bass interplay. Above all I have to mention the vocals. I swear there is no other vocalist in Metal like Taneli Jarva. He uses so many delivery styles they are almost unique in every song. The range is really wide – from the clean low tone singing to the distorted whispers and throat gurgling. This approach really helps him to convey all emotions he packs in the carefully thought through lyrics. An extra touch of atmosphere is added by keyboards on some tracks, especially the slower ones.

I would love to lock myself with The Black League in a dark room filled with heavy smoke and have them perform just for me. I wouldn’t mind at all if only the guitar tracks were played first. I think this is how this music was meant to be digested. The Black League wrote it for themselves, but they don’t mind sharing it with the like-minded individuals, one or small group at a time. If you get it, you become a part of The League. If you don’t they would continue with what they believe in no matter what. Thankfully, I get it most of the time and consider this an outstanding album.

Killing Songs :
All are good, but my favorites are Empiria, Day One, To Suffer and To Smile, Citizen Cain, Utopia A.D.
Alex quoted 89 / 100
Other albums by The Black League that we have reviewed:
The Black League - Mans Ruin Revisited reviewed by Alex and quoted 80 / 100
The Black League - Ichor reviewed by Danny and quoted 79 / 100
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