Poropetra - Sinihirwi 3.5/5
6. Ahtim parta
Still a fairly obscure band, Poropetra occupy an unusual place on the musical landscape that could be looked on as either a happy hunting ground or a complete no man's land. No doubt imagined by some as folk metal due to the identity of a few of their members, the truth of the matter is that their music is almost completely absent of any metal characteristics, and anyone approaching this CD expecting bouncy Finntroll-style rhythms will be left disappointed. At the same time, their association with various Finnish rock and metal bands likely rules them out of more traditional music circles and at least a portion of their target audience seems to be metal fans looking for something a little different.
Formed and led by Juha Jyrkäs (formerly known as Virva Holtiton when helping out Korpiklaani in a variety of roles), Poropetra play ethnic Finno-Ugric music that uses a great variety of instruments and vocal styles, and draws influences from many types of world music to form something that the band describe as "ethnic rock". Jyrkäs himself provides a great deal of the ingredients, playing the kantele and providing both yoik vocals and throat-singing. In the vocal department he is joined by the band's 2nd kantele player (now departed) and a couple of young ladies whose sweet voices compliment the rougher male tones very well.
To Poropetra's credit, the great clamour of voices and instruments, rather than turning the music into a confused mush, instead develops into something flowing and organic. Rather than a single stringed or wind instrument trilling away constantly in the foreground as often happens with folk metal bands, the varied techniques Poropetra use flow together and take turns in rising to the forefront before spiralling away again to make room for something else. Having little experience in this field of music, it is hard to find comparisons, though to the ears of a folk metal listener, it may well come across like a CD of interludes, though with greater complexity and less emphasis on jerky, upbeat themes. In this sense, Finntroll's experimental 'Visor um slutet' is about the only CD by a metal band I can think of that 'Sinihirwi' shares any common ground with.
The song "Turjanmaa" is the only one I can find another band to make a valid comparison with, the neo-yoik outfit Adjágas. As is the case with the music of the Norwegian duo (ignore their hipster cred, they are actually quite lovely to listen to), the minimalist instrumentation serves only as a dreamy foundation that the vocals soars above, although in truth the song actually contains no yoik so the comparison isn't entirely accurate.
The 2nd track "Luonnotar" is another example of the band at their most soothing, with the gentle chime of the kantele and the airy vocals creating a soft and wistful atmosphere. On the other hand, the title track, "Sinihirwi", features a bit of extra rhythmic growl from electric guitar played by multi-instrumentalist Hittavainen (who it seems can play anything with strings attached or a hole at the top).
For all the transcendent and otherworldly charms of the music, it must be said that it is the sort of thing that will require a certain mood to be fully enjoyed, and with this review being intended for the eyes of metal fans, I feel obliged again to point out that this is first and foremost folk music and not folk metal. With the recent addition of a full-time guitarist and bass player to the band's line-up, and Jyrkäs continuing to experiment with distorted kantele effects, it may be the case that 'Sinihirwi' is left as something of a one-off as the band pursue a heavier and more conventional direction. Whatever its place in the grand scheme of things though, the CD will remain a captivating and unique experience and one that ought to sought out by those looking for something a little outside the norm.
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