Release Date: 16th March 2018
Label: Inverse Records
Once again the good people of The Folk Metal Grove have come through with another suggestion for a new release. 1695 comes from Hiidenhauta, and it is a concept album based on the Great Famine of 1695-1697, which killed up to a third of the Finnish population (then under Swedish rule). They lost their lives through starvation and disease. Once again I need to be the ignorant Brit who doesn’t speak another language, but I do love hearing songs in other languages, and the instrumentals become even more important in conveying the meaning and purpose of the songs.
The first track, Hallen Valta, sets the mood. A deep breath out, followed by a single distored guitar. We then hear a pure black metal style of instrumental, with fast drums, heavy bass and harsh male vocals. Very low in the mix there is a hint of a folk melody, and there is an interlude with some flute before the harshness of the black metal kicks in again. There are some clean female vocals which is a nice contrast to the harshness of the black metal elements.
Äärellä is a little more up tempo in its composition, and the riff is really quite catchy. You can really hear the struggle of the Finnish people in the instrumental. There are more female vocals in this track. There is a really nice ambient interlude before the drums come in again towards the end.
The third track, Kuolimaan tytär, starts with a funeral dirge-like guitar solo, which then leads into the familiar black metal style, but it seems like there is more anger and rage in this track.
Musta leipä is an entirely different track. There is a man, struggling to breathe, struggling to live. His breath, his reassurance to an unnamed individual, his anger and despair, are all accompanied by a piano, with calming elements, slowly taken over by more and more disjointed melodies and notes. There is an almost demonic element to the voice towards the end, and the combination of voice and piano make me feel very uneasy, which I believe is the intention.
Jumalan vihan ruoska starts with a single chime of a church bell, and more are heard throughout the track. This track has exactly the kind of black metal style I like, with the male vocals are filled with more anger. Talvikäräjät begins with background chattering, and a male voice speaking. This is soon drowned out by the black metal once again, and the piano is once again there low in the mix. The female vocals for the first time sound distressed, another sign of the struggle of the people Hiidenhauta are writing about.
Nälkökevät has a solo piano to start, but this is soon interrupted by a blast of black metal. I’m not quite sure of the time signature here, the guitar does not seem to be in 4/4, it sets you on edge and makes the listener uneasy, which again I think is the intention of the piece. The penultimate track, Maan poveen, is slower than the previous tracks, and feels like a bit of a breather. There is still anger in the male vocals, and a clash of piano and the more traditional metal instrumentals towards the end. The final moments of the track feel like almost giving up, struggling to get through the last seconds of the song. The final track Nimettömät is an instrumental, with just piano. It’s a beautiful and mournful way to end the album.
I’m not usually one for black metal, but this album has a great mix of the more traditional style of black metal and more melodic elements, and the piano and flute add a wonderful extra dimension. This album really makes you feel the struggle and hardships of the Finnish people. When you don’t speak the language the lyrics are written in, the power of the music and expression in the voice becomes even more important, and this album really captures the concept of the entire album.
Buy 1695 by Hiidenhauta: https://hiidenhauta.bandcamp.com/album/1695
Hiidenhauta on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Hiidenhauta/