Kivimetsan Druidi - Shadowheart 3/5
1. Northwind - prelude
3. Jaassa Varttunut
4. Halls of shadowheart
5. Pedon loitsu
7. The tyrant
8. Tiarnach - verinummi
10. Korpin laulu
11. Mustan valtikan aika
The project of the guitar and keyboard playing brothers Joni and Antti Koskinen, Kivimetsan Druidi are another addition to the ranks of both Finland's folk and symphonic metal crowds, and after some line-up fluctuation have landed a deal with Century Media for the release of their debut, 'Shadowheart'. Using the "beauty and the beast" vocal trade-off style not heard as often as one might imagine in folk metal, they have crafted a familiar yet somewhat distinctive CD that impresses and frustrates in almost equal measure.
While they certainly are guilty of cherry picking bits and pieces from the sound of other Finnish bands, the one thing Kivimetsan Druidi could not be accused of is being predictable. Jumping from one predominant style to another not only between songs but also during them, it makes for a wildly diverse CD for the genre, but also one that suffers from a lack of genuine direction.
Being predominantly a mix of symphonic and folk metal, there is some surprisingly heavy music to be found on 'Shadowheart'. The drumming, particularly the bass pedals, is unusually loud in the mix for this style of music. At times this works very well, adding some real beef to the sound, and during the black metal-influenced riffs that crop up here and there it even calls to mind 'Frost'-era Enslaved. There are other times though when the percussion is just too loud and robotic sounding to mesh well with the operatic vocals and keyboard arrangements. At times like this the vocals of Leeni-Maria Hovila seem just too sweet to have anything to do with what is going on around them, and letting Joni get on with shrieking his vocal chords out would seem like the more logical thing to have done.
There are plenty of positive points about 'Shadowheart' that must be noted though, as despite its flaws it is certainly an above average CD. Antti Koskinen is due great credit for his tasteful display, for while his keyboard parts are an almost ever-present and complex set of arrangements, they never threaten to engulf the rest of the instruments. The track "Pedon loitsu" is a real success in this regard, with a powerful melody that is lessened only by the fact that it closely resembles a section in an existing Turisas song (the name of which has completely escaped me). The guitarists also show their ability to contribute more than heavy riffs, with the uplifting melodies in "Jaassa varttunut" making it one of the band's best songs to date.
"Verivala" sees the symphonic arrangements switch from the more ethereal early-Nightwish style to a more Turisas-influenced orchestral assault. This is also one of the songs where Hovila's vocals gel better with the heavier aspect of the music and as result it is one of the most satisfying songs of the bunch.
Through all the positives to be found on 'Shadowheart' though, I just can't shake the nagging feeling that the whole thing would sound better if they did away with a full-time female vocalist and turned over most of the singing duties to Joni. With as many cluttered styles already taking up space on the CD (even some Finntroll humppa finds its way into the closing track), the jarring sections of soft vocals over coarse guitar playing and pounding drums are just too much. A less even divide, with the gentler female vocals only popping up from time to time and in appropriate places - like on the earlier CDs by Elvenking - would increase the fluidity of the songs no end.
There is a lot of good to be found on their debut, but Kivimetsan Druidi are guilty of being a little over ambitious and trying to do too much too soon. There are enough ideas on this debut for 2 CDs, and had more of them been fleshed out fully and given room to breathe on their own then it would be a much better experience all in. The band have certainly shown they have ability to write powerful music, but need to spend a bit more time honing their ability to channel it into cohesive songs.
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