Valonkantajat - Vastavirtaan - (8.5/10)
Published on November 30, 2017
Vastavirtaan, the third album from Finnish rockers Valonkantajat is my most anticipated release for several years, such was the utter brilliance of their previous album, 2014’s Pimentola (review here: http://www.metal-observer.com/3.o/review/valonkantajat-pimentola/). This is Hard Rock that occasionally strays into metal territory and the lyrics are sung entirely in Finnish. It’s true that anyone who doesn’t speak that language won’t understand a word, but it’s all about the tunes and like many of their countrymen, Valonkantajat know how to write good ones.
Opening track “Loppusuora” sets out pretty well what Valonkantajat are all about – catchy, with great melodies that are sometimes moving even despite the inability to understand a word that vocalist Jaake Nikkilä is singing. “Katso Maailmaa, Se Palaa” is more of the same, but steps it up a gear. It’s a more memorable tune with a big, uplifting chorus and some great lead guitar, which is regrettably short. This is a pity, as one of the things that was so remarkable about Pimentola was the remarkable guitar solos in marvellous tracks such as “Onnenriistäjä” and “Vallan Kahleet”, which is something mostly lacking in Vastavirtaan.
However, the title track does give us a really nice guitar solo as well as a stunning bridge section that is overwhelmingly infectious. The chorus is reasonably good – the band seem unable to write a poor one – but it’s the bridge that stands out as the finest moment on Vastavirtaan. That bridge and the lead guitar alone is enough to make “Vastavirtaan” one of the top rock tracks of the year.
Valonkantajat don’t always get it exactly right. “Kylmyys” starts with gentle guitars reminiscent of the start of Metal Church anthem “In Harm’s Way”, but that resemblance quickly disappears. Mellow vocals are joined by a lovely, soft female voice. It’s all pleasant enough, but creates a sense of building towards something, which never materialises. It’s not bad, it just feels somehow unfinished.
There’s still room for more greatness though and “Ruosteinen Kuu” (“rusty moon”, according to Google Translate) is another huge standout. It starts with seemingly the same riff as the previous track and has all of the elements that this band are so adept at delivering – a great chorus, bags of melody, and excellent lead guitars. There’s plenty of variety in the songwriting here as well as shown by the heavier “Pelon Valtakunta”, with its Metallica-ish riffing and the laid back “Sumujen Harso”, with a slightly poppy chorus.
Personally, I’ve been looking forward to this album since the spectacular Pimentola rocked my world in 2014. Vastavirtaan may not quite reach such giddy heights, but Valonkantajat have proved that was no fluke and they clearly know how to write a great tune or … several. The songs this band produces are much, much stronger than many bands out there at the moment, but the fact they sing in their native tongue means that many fans of the genre may overlook them. For those who are able to get past the language barrier, as so many non-English speakers have to with a wide range of music, they will be well rewarded by checking out Vastavirtaan and Pimentola.