Palava maa – a poem of Finnish melacholy

Kaunis Kuolematon just released a very touching ballad “Palava maa”. They released a song completely different than any other song I have heard of them. Really, totally different?

I met the band, the whole band, in summer during Nummirock festival in Finland. They announced that there would be a release later this year very different from what they usually do. And so I find myself in need to put their style into words. Genre. I am frowning. Because whenever I try to describe the music of Kaunis Kuolematon I „hear“ Olli (Suvanto), their vocalist, say: „He said, we’re doom!“ – his voice low and a bit darker than usual. And he didn’t really agree with being put in this box by this fan, who approached him after their Nummirock opening gig. Ok, the fan also suggested including Jazz and Country into their music before explaining they were doing doom metal. So apparently we’re not speaking of doom here. What else then? Melo death? The endless, kind of ‘omni-fitting’ genre? Perhaps. But these genres, their not my piece of cake.

Kaunis Kuolematon combine dark and mostly rather slow but moving and diverse tunes with bright clean vocals and very harsh growls and screams. There is melancholy and a gloomy weight dripping from every note of their songs. When recently I drove on a lonely road leading monotonously straight ahead for many kilometres through Lapland, the fog hung heavy on the tree tops of the omnipresent woods of the Taiga and the leaves yellow and orange of birches and ash tree shone like light and live – that felt like the Kaunis Kuolematon song my random list on the car’s sound system provided that very moment.

And then, they come up with „Palava maa“ this even heart-warming ballad of acoustic guitar, violin, cello and Mikko‚s (Heikkilä) bright voice. To me, this song is simply beautiful. But then what would others think? I don’t care. A band, however, might think differently.  

Mikko Heikkilä (from promotional photo)

Not Kaunis Kuolematon, though. They do what feels good to do in this very moment. Still I asked Mikko how the idea of this song came to be. „We were thinking our next move after releasing album ‚Vapaus‘ in the end of March this year. Yeah, once and again, we were in the point of decisions about the band’s future. Which is kinda challenging ‚cause all is in our own hands. Idealistic situation in one way, but in the second hand working without any supports of label, booking management etc. So it cost lost of money and your own time and interests. So we had songs enough even start to record third album but this was easiest way to put new stuff out. There was three years between our two first albums, so we didn’t want that to happen again.“ Once more I am reminded to our meeting at the lakeside. I hear Mikko say that it is not always about money. It isn’t. It is about music and to express yourself, the process of creation and being on stage performing, being in interaction with the audience. In the end, however, there is a bill to pay often enough and many bands can’t afford, receive no support from labels and don’t make enough cash flow from merch and music sales to even cover the expenses for their next release. I admire the ones who go on. Mikko says himself, they were at the point of decision and not for the first time. This question arises time and again for all bands, it seems. At least for the vast mass of bands not making their living from their music, however magnificent their musical output may be. Independence is beyond value and yet an expensive luxury feature – not only in music. But Kaunis Kuolematon have chosen independence and released this ballad.

So how did the song come to be then? Let’s return to that. Ville (Mussalo) got this acoustic song to show me and after recording a demo version there was something that really hooked on us. Melodies in guitars and singing, using only clean vocals with Finnish lyrics that just came up like itself. It felt like a poem of Finnish melancholy, very artistic view in general. And in a middle of this time when you can hear and see many bands sounding very similar together, so we thought that now we would have something different kind stuff to show our fans.“

A poem of melancholy, he says. A poem, it is to me. The intro reminds me – although very slow – to a classical flamenco or more precisely the type of melancholy that inhabits the classical flamenco. Some of the guitar riffs have the majestic elegance of Ravel’s ‚Bolero‘. Elegance bears a kind of pureness, simplicity and beauty with just well considered highlights. That’s the instrumental design in my impression. And Mikko’s voice is so bright and still full and reaches deeply into my core. The poem tells a story to me.

„Using only clean vocals, acoustic guitar with kinda soft video, of course there were doubts in every way“, Mikko says. „But what the hell; it’s only once we live here, so we need to do what we want without thinking too much of others‘ opinions. Bright light among the endless darkness, nothing more. We are not changing our style, we just wanted to give something different to you all. Was it success, you decide.“

Can you hear the passion in his voice? This song means something to Mikko. And he is expecting to receive a lack in appreciation in return of what they put into the song. Perhaps this is not even really related to the experience with the song but more general.

I imagine being back on that lonely road in Lapland listening to ”Palava maa”. In that case the sun would melt the fog and let the leaves shine so bright it hurts in your eyes if you look too long. A tune like bittersweet chocolate reaching out for your soul. Reduced to the very basics but still very much Kaunis Kuolematon. Perhaps “Palava maa” has not the darkness and gloomy heaviness their other songs get mostly but by far not exclusively from Olli’s harsh vocals. If I might understand the lyrics, I might feel all this again.

Something is missing as I read again. And another Nummirock memory strikes me: ‚Not always heavy but always evil!‘ pointed Eugene from Jinjer out, speaking of metal if that wasn’t too obvious in more progressive or softer songs. Evil?! I sense cynicism. That is evil! Perhaps I am wrong. And I am not able to tell you from where this impression comes. But then, everything of this song sounds so sweet and lovely – it wasn’t Kaunis Kuolematon, Ville and Mikko if there wasn’t some darkness and momentum at all.

More than just a metal band. – That’s what you are. And more than just a metal song is what you just released. “Palava maa”– a wonderful ballad!

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Palava maa – a poem of Finnish melacholy

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- "It has always been this way!" - I heard this phrase too often and it became the best reason for me to make it (whatever it is) my own way.

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