My first contact with Finnish HÄIVE took place just a few months ago, when they were part of a three-way split with their countrymen WYRD and KEHRÄ and it was a promising one. Main man Varjosielu hails from Imatra in the east of Finland, close to the Russian border on the shores of Lake Saimaa, and the relative remoteness of the town also reflects in the creations of HÄIVE, not just in the very moody cover artwork.
“Mieli Maassa” is an album that resembles nature in many ways. Before your mind’s eye you see warm rays of sunlight filtering through the dense foliage, illuminating a clearing in the forest, a babbling brook winding through, but when you reach the edge of the forest you are faced with the bleakness and hopelessness of a snow and ice desert, threatening to eat away your will to continue and this is not just a pathetic attempt to add to this review, but upon listening to the six songs contained here, you will notice how close to the truth my words lay.
Each song is one “raina”, which to my knowledge is something like a net or a web, and as I as usual have no idea what Mr. Varjosielu spits forth (the usual Black Metal croak, you know), I get the impression that it must tie in with the whole atmosphere of the songs, giving everything this earthy sound and feel. Besides the usual instruments we also get some mouth-harp, and the kantele, made famous by AMORPHIS’ song “My Kantele”, for those of you, who do not know, what it actually is, it’s a traditional Finnish plucking instrument with ten strings, similar to a zither.
And while Black Metal definitely is the foundation of HÄIVE’s songs, the mostly sluggish tempo and the inclusion of acoustic guitars and the already mentioned mouth harp and kantele make the songs sound different than the rest, but in a very organic and harmonic way, not just utilizing the mentioned instruments for the sake of being different, but they actually have their well-thought-through spot in each of the compositions (see the beginning of “III Raina: Metsäläinen”, for example). Mastermind Varjosielu doesn’t make it easy for me to point out specifics, as the six tracks of “Mieli Maassa” form a very homogenous unit, which will take you on the above-mentioned journey and I made the experience that they work best, if taken in as a whole without trying to tear out one or two particular tracks. But still I need to mention “IV Raina: Yömyrsky”, simply because it also offers some excellent deep clear vocals, an element that fits the Finns’ styles very well, too, as well as “VI Raina: Kurjat Kurjet”, over ten minutes long and just beautiful in its entirety.
Just like on the split with WYRD and KEHRÄ, the production is not the biggest asset of HÄIVE, being a little on the muddier side, but it never drags the songs down into the swamp sound, so it is excusable, especially as the atmosphere is so dense and natural. Overall “Mieli Maassa” is a very nice surprise that does not revolutionize the genre in any way, but is a wholly enjoyable album with depth, class and atmosphere and that is way more than many of HÄIVE’s genre colleagues can say for themselves!
(Online March 11, 2008)