Svart Records (23 May 2014)
The great bells groan, the choirs cry out, the amps are turned right up and the doom metal pours out like grey rain from a veiled sky. Following the heavenly/sinister delicacies of the instrumental opener, the second track ‘Väärän Ristin Valtakunta’ hits you with the force of a colossal hammer to the teeth. Its monstrous riff grabs you like the huge fist of some gruesome troll and drags you off to its lair to be willingly, cheerfully chewed alive. To make you more palatable Vainaja’s apocalyptic drums pulverise your flesh, while the deep, relentless bass turns your bones to jelly.
‘Kadotetut’ is based around stories of an evil cult that did some nasty stuff in 19th Century rural Finland, and is sung in the Finnish language. The singer Wilhelm Parvieinen sounds like he has swallowed a 1950’s tractor engine and a gallon of glue, and his guttural gurgling is mesmerisingly horrible to behold.
In parts the album resembles Candlemass’s underrated ‘Chapter VI’ album – played through a cement mixer. The massive, majestic keyboard-backed epicness is swiftly countered with slow, filthy heaviness – Vainaja offer the best of both worlds. This three-headed band is inspired by 1990’s death metal, and there are clear reflections of early Morbid Angel. The album also features a couple of upbeat Amon Amarth moments and, on the song ‘Risti Kädessäni’, an almost-pornographic Celtic Frost-ish passage that not only saves the track from drifting but also underscores this band’s inventiveness and ability to amaze.
It is something that they do not do quite often enough, and the album falters a little in its second half. There’s a two-minute interlude of jangling guitars and spoken word samples, perhaps in the misguided view that the listener requires a breather to put the kettle on or send a few emails. Later, a couple of the songs feel slightly aimless, and too much time is consumed creating a creepy atmosphere at the expense of the meatier riff-based music.
‘Kadotetut’ finishes on a spectacularly high note. ‘Kadotettu’ is an instrumental song that reaches quite ludicrous proportions of epicness and heaviness. The church bells return, the choirs resume their sorrowful song and the world trembles at Vainaja’s incredible power. Those evil 19th Century cultists probably did not imagine that a few generations later their kinsfolk would be writing bleak, crushing doom metal songs about them. But thank God they have, because this is a really impressive album that redefines the word ‘heavy’.