Release year: 2020
Label: Wolfspell Records
Last time we bumped into Finnish-Dutch Iku-Turso, named after a sea monster in Finnish national epic Kalevala, was with their Storm Over Isengard mini-album. That album saw them go into full 90’s Norway mode and show their appreciation for acts such as Storm and Isengard – as the name suggests.
Pakana is the group’s second full-length album. Truth be told, comparing its style to that of the aforementioned mini-album, the differences are by no means huge. The influence of said Norwegian acts is still a primary element here. But there is definitely less pastiche and more something of their own on Pakana.
Apparently, Pakana is a concept album of the life and times of a pagan man in ancient Finland. Without lyric sheet in hand, this is in no way reflected on the album; the rather unintelligible, croaking vocals can’t be deciphered to tell the story. So we’ll let the music do the talking.
In a nutshell, this is very, very 90’s influenced pagan black metal. Storm, Isengard and other such Norwegian acts are an obvious influence. Maybe throw in some early Falkenbach – I’m thinking mainly of the Icelandic acts’ debut album – in for good measure, and you’re probably quite close to what the album sounds like. Mid-paced, atmospheric, melodic but still with a raw edge; a classic, dry guitar tone and an abundance of classic, shredding riffage supported by atmopsheric synths, choirs, the occasional bit of acoustic guitar and even flute here and there; basically, very classic 90’s atmospheric pagan black metal sound. Slap a Theodor Kittelsen artwork on the cover, and you really could be fooled to think this is an authentic recording from that era.
I hope the guys in Iku-Turso, if they ever read this, consider that a compliment. Because it’s meant as one. To me, Pakana sounds like an album that doesn’t even try to conceal the heavy debt it owes to those classic acts of old. Instead, it wears them boldly on the sleeve and isn’t ashamed to let them shine through. As such, what Pakana comes across as is a very studied approach to classic Scandinavian black metal, one for which the classic albums of yore have been meticulously analyzed, and into whose essence the finest elements from these albums has been condensed.
And that’s no mean feat. Iku-Turso manage to evoke a strong (and positive) feeling of vague nostalgia, but the album still manages to rise above mere copycattery. Whilst sounding thoroughly familiar, it also sounds different enough to remain fresh. It’s a fine balance, and Iku-Turso manage to keep it.
True, this probably isn’t an album you’ll be regularly spinning in 20 years’ time – unlike some of those Norwegian classics – and it probably isn’t an album that will be remembered as a milestone in pagan metal or black metal. It might lift a bit too much from the classic sound for that. But that doesn’t stop Pakana from being a fine album.