REVIEW: Saarnastuoli (Demo)

SAARNASTUOLI
‘Savusauna Palaa’
Demo, 2014
8/10

Finland’s Saarnastuolo deliver a very enjoyable combination of robust Sabbath-style riffs with an unusual death-whisper vocal style, interspersed with big, epic choruses that are reminscent of Count Raven and feature clean singing. This creates an interesting juxtaposition of muscle and majesty – it’s not quite yin and yang, but it does build a keen sense of anticipation as the listener discovers which style will take over next.

The band’s latest demo, recorded at T.Spot studio in Hämeelinna, Finland, is a step forward from last year’s recordings, which had a more simplistic approach and the dramatic sensibilities of Paradise Lost-esque goth rock. Here, there is a greater confidence and maturity in the song writing, and patience in the arrangements.

The first of the two tracks, ‘Signaali Ei Kanna Taulamaanvuoren Yi’ is six minutes of quality, flowing like a river of doom lava, and destroying anyone and anything in its path. Its central riff is bigger than a Brontosaurus and this is supplemented with some blissful guitar parts and sensitive, emotive vocals. It’s the kind of neat, well-proportioned song that you can listen to over and over.

After the gentle opening strains, it is clear that the second track ‘Sorkkarauta’, has a more psychedelic vibe. It’s built around a kind of slowed-down classic stoner metal riff which has been given a melancholic traditional doom treatment. The band resist the urge to let rip and start smashing the cymbals, preferring a more measured and patient approach. And there’s an almighty pay-off at the end with an epic finale.

It’s not surprising that Saarnastuoli are capable of this level of control; they first started out in the early 1990s when the Finnish doom metal scene was rather quieter. Having recorded a demo cassette, the band members went their separate ways, only to rediscover theirpassion in 2011, following an inspirational live performance by Saint Vitus in their homeland. They decided it was time to make a return to the path of doom. It was a very good decision.

What was not such a good decision, however, was the choice of clothing in the old photos the band has used on their Soundcloud pages! Those are some enormously unpleasant shorts which should never have seen the light of day. Fashion sense? No. Doom sense? Yes.

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