Ajattara is a sort of side-project of members from various Helsinki metal bands, and takes its name from an evil goddess of the forest in local folklore. Beyond that, all song titles and lyrics are in their native Finnish, so I haven't a clue what this is all about. Not that the language barrier presents a problem; in fact, I enjoy it when black metal bands use their native tongue to communicate their sinister pagan ideas, as it makes it all more authentic somehow. And it's all inaudible noise when growled in that raspy yell in any case.
It's a shame then that Ajattara's use of Finnish language is pretty much the only point of interest here, and that's only because I haven't heard their previous four albums. I'm surprised the band has had such a prolific decade, as based on the sound of this most recent album, they don't have anything much to add to an already oversaturated genre. Pasi Koskinen, styling himself as Ruoja, provides a mix of black metal growls and medium range clean vocals, and his impressive CV features such notable bands as Amorphis, during their lengthy flirtation with commercial success, and the depressing doom band Shape of Despair. He also provides guitar along with Kalmos (Vesa Wahlroos), but this is just one of the instruments played to extreme dissatisfaction throughout, never scaling the emotive or energetic heights that Ruoja's vocals often attain, and mostly ambling along in an over-repetitive groove. Shade Empire's Juha Harju plays all-but-inaudible bass and provides modest backing vocals under the alias Tohtori Kuolio, and Sinergy's former drummer Tommi Lillman plods through with some brainless double bass work and fittingly repetitive and similarly bland rhythms, adopting the pseudonym Malakias IV perhaps to draw attention to the band's revolving door of disillusioned musicians that has seen a different drummer (among other members) for nearly every release.
It's a disappointment that musicians from such prestigious and varied backgrounds within the lucrative Helsinki metal scene came up with something so worthless, their powers of melodic death, funeral doom, black and power metal combining to form a crap Captain Planet out of tedious, talentless, badly played trite. Even more disappointing is that the album doesn't even go the full way to being absolutely godawful, which would at least grant it some reluctant comedy value. No, it's far more boring than that, coming in towards the 'very rubbish' part of the spectrum, like those films that are so pointlessly awful, they don't even hold a prestigious position on the IMDB's Bottom 100 list of must-see garbage. It's the 'Hercules Against the Moon Men' of melodic black metal.
2. Turhuuden takila
5. Harhojen virta
8. Alttarilla aamutähden
Most songs on this disappointingly/mercifully short album (depending on your perspective. The second one is more correct though) sound similar to the point of total blurring, especially as the listener isn't invited to pay too much attention to the droning repetition of simplistic groove riffs overlaid with often jarring and misused keyboards and Ruoja's vocals, which are by no means excellent, but are the only aspect of the music that manage to impress to any degree. In most songs he opts for a reliable emotive growl in the vein of Norway's Count Grishnackh, but some choruses, such as those of the first and fourth songs, usher forth a more melodic and sing-song performance that's joined by his companions. His clean vocals aren't up to as much as his growl, judging by this album alone (I haven't heard anything from his era of Amorphis), but the final song certainly demonstrates his range if nothing else whatsoever within its four minutes of background noise and slowed, staccato riffs.
As with many Helsinki bands, chiefly the rather extreme Finntroll, there seems to be some yearning to connect with folk history, which would be in accordance with the band's alleged pagan themes, and elements of some songs border on the edge of a folk direction, most notably the keyboard melody of 'Naimalaulu' that seems intent on replicating a wind instrument. More successful are the two tracks that veer towards a Viking metal style, namely songs five and eight which adopt a slightly slower tempo and for once, manage to incorporate the keyboards properly to enhance the atmosphere. Unfortunately, the rest of the album is taken up by dull, lowest-common-denominator riff-centric metal that lacks the vital ingredient of riffs that are any good. There's something of an atmosphere created by the album, but the songs are all so repetitive, mechanical and relatively short that this mood isn't granted time to gestate in any form, try as they might to artificially enhance it with samples of tortured screams in several songs, replaced with the highly original idea of a woman having an orgasm in track seven (the same thing having been done to a far greater degree by Aborym).
Ultimately, 'Kalmanto' is a worthless album of melodic black metal that lacks energy, creativity and pretty much everything else that should be expected of such a release. It isn't hilariously bad - there are no ambitious ideas falling flat on their face - it's just very rubbish.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Turhuuden Takila
5 Harhojen Birta
8 Alttarilla Aamutähden