October Falls - Kaarna - (10/10)
Published on May 20, 2014
October Falls is a Finish group that was formed by M. Lehto in 2001. After several years dabbling with dark folk and ambient soundscapes, October Falls turned the corner by releasing The Streams of the End in 2007, and instead focused on a style of dark metal compatible to that of Opeth and early Katatonia with a folk edge to it. Although Lehto and company have never completely dropped the folk leaning of their music, their 2013 album, The Plague of a Coming Age, is truly a far cry away from the minimalist workings of their early material. Hell, there are even blastbeats on that album. In 2014, the band decided that, rather than reissuing several different albums, they would compile all of their acoustic material onto one compilation, mainly because of the relative scarcity of these works.
Kaarna is the end result: a two disc collection containing all of the band’s acoustic dark folk works that were recorded between 2002 and 2010. This includes all of Tuoni (2003), Marras (2005) and Sarastus (2007) as well as three additional tracks; one from the 2008 split with Varghkoghargasmal and two that were released on compilations in 2010. If you’re familiar with the band’s early works, then you should know that Tuoni, Marras and Sarastus were originally split into multiple tracks, which Lehto has admitted was a mistake. These pieces are all presented as singular entities, as each piece is a single track rather than being broken into segments. While the track list may only show six songs, there is actually over ninety-two minutes of music presented on this compilation. The first disc showcases the three shorter pieces and the band’s only acoustic full length, Marras. “Usva” and “Viima” were originally released on compilations while “Polku” was featured on the previously mentioned split release. The second disc compiles the band’s two acoustic EP’s, Sarastus and Tuoni.
While none of the pieces are identical, they all fall into the realm of acoustic folk, well I should say dark acoustic folk with ambient touches. The music is serene and meditative; perfect for a walk in nature. If you don’t have woods or some type of nature nearby, listen to these tracks through headphones, as the subtle nuances such as mild breezes, distant brooks and chirping birds that are placed throughout will wash over you.. Honestly though, even without the samples, the simplistic acoustic guitar patterns and calming songwriting is enough to put you into a meditative state.
The music presented throughout Kaarna brings to mind any number of dark folk and neofolk acts that have sprouted up over the years; Tenhi, :Of the Wand and the Moon:, Nest and Empyrium to name a few. Truly, it’s hard to describe the music here other than saying its acoustic folk with a very natural, nature-minded feel to it. I’d be remiss if I failed to namedrop Ulver’s Kveldssanger at this point. Subtle piano lines and soft, martial drumming accompany portions of Marras while breathy keyboard notes back Tuoni. These small embellishments make all the difference though, as it shows that Lehto was really focused on perfecting the music here. I can remember being completely entranced by October Falls in the early 2000’s, when Tuoni and Marras were first released. Not only does this compilation make for a great nostalgic journey, but it’s just as serene and majestic as I remember it back then. The smooth acoustic passages, quiet melodies and ethereal backing keys throughout are just stellar.
Typically I espouse compilations, as they are normally just repackaged shots at old glories or money grabbing schemes, but I feel that there was actually a need to reinstate these albums into today’s scene. Fans of dark folk, neofolk and ambient, nature themed music should find themselves lost within the subtle structures on Kaarna. Indeed, the meditative, trance inducing nature of the music is breathtaking in both its stark simplicity and serene beauty.