Out of the stormy Scandinavian tundras comes the debut full-length from Kaunis Kuolematon, the latest addition to Finnish extreme metal institution Violent Journey Records. From initial listens, Kylmä Kaunis Maailma (that’s ‘Cold Beautiful World’ for you, Anglos) can simply be read as an exemplary melodic death metal record, but dig deeper and you’ll find a wider array of influences from the band’s repertoire, as well as a collection of songs that so shamelessly and joyously languishes in its own crushing self-torment.
Kaunis describe their record as ‘a blackened view to living’ which ‘embraces death as a long-lost friend’, so it’s quite ironic that Kylmä really has a lot to bring it to life. For instance, the production of the record soars above the standard of the genre, with lots of careful reverberation but with instrumentals that never lose their sonic weight, creating an incredibly cavernous and spacious atmosphere for the band to unleash their torrent of melodramatic catharsis.
The band makes no attempt to hold back on the overtly depressing, self-loathing tone of the record, instead indulgently bathing in its own misery, yet never crossing past boundaries of ridiculousness. Many of the instrumentals take cues from melodeath’s distant cousin DSBM, as guitars dance across minor keys during the record’s more graceful melodic sections, providing emotionally-cathartic release from the intense, suspenseful heavy portions. The dynamics between the band’s two vocalists also help build this tension throughout the album. The growls of main vocalist Olli Saakeli Suvanto mutate halfway between a throaty grunt and an animalistic snarl, and really breathe life into the album when combined with the cleans of guitarist/songwriter Mikko Heikkilä; this creates a fantastic vocal duality that conveys the mood of a torturous inner struggle between desperation and self-hatred. The end result is a grisly concotion of Warning and Halmstad-era Shining, with a touch of early Opeth mixed into things, along with all the extremes of your typical melodeath album.
As with many debuts, Kaunis’ influences particularly shine through. On your first few listens, Kylmä feels like a rich synthesis of all the winning elements from the best melodeath albums of the past decade, but its longevity quickly wears down as you start to realise that it adds very little to the genre. Still, as a debut LP it’s highly promising; for a band that’s only been together for two years, Kaunis sportsan incredible tighly, highly rehearsed sound from a collective of experienced, skilled musicians. It’s disappointing seeing the band hold back their true potential, since they clearly have the capacity to really pull off some amazing songwriting.
Kylmä Kaunis Maailma feels like a a display of what the band can achieve, a tentative step into new territory and a necessary part of the band’s evolution. Now we can’t wait to hear what comes next.