Ajattara - Kuolema
Spikefarm Records
Darkened Black Metal
10 songs (33'31)
Release year: 2003
Ajattara, Spikefarm Records
Reviewed by Crims

Kuolema, meaning “death” in the Finnish language is the second offering from Finland's Ajattara. The band consists of Ruoja (guitars, synth, vocals), Atoni (bass), and Malakias (drums). While none of those names might look familiar to you, unless you’re already familiar with the band, almost all of you will know Ruoja by his other name: Pasi Koskinen, who is better known for his vocal work in Amorphis. So can we expect a band that sounds like Amorphis? Not even close! Ajattara is a completely separate entity from Amorphis and are based on an entirely different concept and influence, so that’s the last time we’ll mention Amorphis in this review. Kuolema has a lot of strong points but it’s not perfect, never the less, this is one of the most original sounding slabs of Metal you’ll find coming out of Finland and I’ll explain why.

Ajattara is one of a few bands these days that you can’t even begin to compare to other current bands because they simply don’t sound like anyone else. There are influences from certain genres but I have not heard any other band that gives off this type of atmosphere and feeling that Ajattara produce with their brand of Dark, mid-paced Black Metal. However, I must state that this isn’t Black Metal in the traditional sense, Ajattara sort of use Black Metal as a basis for their atmosphere and style of guitar playing (though slowed down)- so to be fair to traditional black metal bands, it’s more accurate to state that Ajattara loosely base their music on Black Metal. Regardless though this is very dark music, and if you happen to know Finnish the lyrics are very dark too, as they mostly deal with death, corpses, and whores; and as you probably figured out all the lyrics are in Finnish which to my ears give the vocals are even more sinister sound than if it they were done in English. And speaking of the vocals, you would never guess that this is Pasi Koskinen. Only a couple of songs have traces of clean vocals, the rest of the CD is done in a very sinister raspy Black Metal style. A lot of the times the vocals are doubled, which some people might consider “cheating” but I think it really sounds good in this case… now, if only Koskinen and Tomi Koivusaari would both do their harsh vocals on the next Amorphis CD (oops, I mentioned them again) then I would be one happy metal head.

The guitars are once again, based on Black Metal and have a very heavy tone to them. Ruoja (Pasi) won’t win any awards for technical prowess in guitar playing but what he lacks in technical ability he more than makes up for in clever song writing and dark power chords, which this time are mixed with some subtle melodic mini-leads. Because of these basic leads Kuolema is a lot more melodic than the bands first CD, and this is a good thing. The tempo is mostly mid-paced but there is a lot more double bass on this release than their last as well; this is also a good thing. There aren’t any blasts or even fast drumming, but you can still head bang pretty good to this style of song writing, which is something you can’t always say for a band that focuses on atmosphere. While the vocals and guitars are well done, the highlight of this band is definitely the synth work. Simply put, this is what really makes Ajattara sound so unique. Likewise, there is nothing flashy about the synth but the dark melodies and almost space-like sounds produced by the synth add an amazing amount of texture, atmosphere, and feeling to the music, and that’s what I hope for in band who decides to go the route of keyboard usage.

Most of the songs are around the 3 to 5 minute mark, so there isn’t a lot of progression going on here but the songs do keep your attention, not through a lot of change ups, but instead through almost constant vocal work; and the short amount of vocal breaks are usually emphasized with especially cool synth work. My only complaint about this CD, which is the same problem I had with Itse (their first release), is some songs do sound very similar, in both structure and riffs. Having said that though, in general, the song writing is a lot better than it was on Itse and because of that it’s not the major problem it was on that release. And as mentioned, there is more double bass, which adds dynamics to the music, and the guitar work isn’t as basic, both through added melodies and slightly different styles of riffing (on Itse it was basically one style of guitar playing through the whole CD), so it’s obvious to me this band has improved and Ruoja has shown a noticeable improvement in guitar technique. There is still room for improvement in this regard but this is a band that’s just going to get better over time and more unique, in my opinion, and you’re still going to be hard pressed to find something else that sounds like this.

Killing Songs :
Antakaa Elää , Surman Henki, Huoran Alla, Ikiyössä, Sielun Särkijä, Helvetissä On Syntisen Taivas, Rauhassa
Crims quoted 83 / 100
Other albums by Ajattara that we have reviewed:
Ajattara - Murhat reviewed by Charles and quoted 75 / 100
Ajattara - Noitumaa reviewed by Charles and quoted
Ajattara - Itse reviewed by Joe and quoted 70 / 100
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