Leading melodies aren’t exactly a stranger to a large part of Finnish Black Metal bands. Often inspired by the pioneering works of Satanic Warmaster, Horna and Sargeist, that sense of melodicism is one of the redeeming features of the scene, and have led to many bands emulating the style with varied degrees of success. One of the bands that have taken that template and have tried to give it their own twist is Sielunvihollinen, the band once formed as a solo project by the multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Ruttokieli. In a scene where melody isn’t a stranger, the band has taken that to new dimensions, making them stand out even more. This has been part of the band’s formula since their very first album ‘Syvyydestä’ and while the rawness has subsided a bit on consequent releases, the eye for harmony has only increased. With ‘Helvetinkone’ we have arrived at the fifth full-length in band’s discography.
When I first heard the title track of their ‘Veren Äänet’ EP I thought that the band had maybe taken it too far with the overt melody draped so much over the song. Yet I still find myself playing the catchy lead in my head, remembering how it contrasted the much harsher and uptempo riffs with which it alternated. The previous full-length ‘Teloituskäsky’ featured the same rich melodic progressions, but something in the sound made them feel somewhat isolated. On ‘Helvetinkone’ I never have the impression that a riff is almost too melodious or too isolated, even though in songs such as ‘Alkemisti ja tuhoaja’ and ‘Veitsenterällä’ they are very much on the forefront. In particular in the latter song, or the more mipaced ‘Kun kaikki vihdoin kuihtuu pois’ there is clear breathing room for the obvious Heavy Metal roots. Indeed it feels as if on the newest album, the balance between the leads, solos, harmonious double guitars and the typically sharper and more upbeat choruses is better than ever before. Not that so much has changed in the guitar work compared to previous albums, it just rather feels more integrated and more fluid. Perhaps it has to do with a tad more melody in the snappier chord progressions, or with a somewhat more adventurous role of the bass, or the more rhythmic vocals. In the end it doesn’t matter much: when it comes to integrating a more melodic version of Finnish Black Metal, Sielunvihollinen comes up with their best record to date.
Whether there is such as thing as too much melody is a matter for the individual listener. I personally don’t mind it at all, and prefer a bit more attention to a good lead or solo over just copying what has been done before. So if you also don’t mind a tad stronger Heavy Metal basis, catchy melodies and twin guitar harmonies alternated with hints of the rawer edges of Black Metal, Sielunvihollinen is certainly a band you should know about.