Okay folks, here's a curveball for ya. I'm going to be reviewing an album released in 2005 by a band you've likely never heard of, one that I hadn't heard of until a week ago, named Kiuas. Spirit of Ukko was Kiuas' debut album, and they have released 3 more in the years following, including one in 2010. Hopefully I'll be getting to those later.
Kiuas is a heavy metal band from Finland, drawing on Power Metal, Folk Metal, and some Progressive and Extreme Metal influences to craft their sound. The vocals are what stood out for me - the singer doesn't try to do too much with his voice, staying largely within a medium range. There's little growling, and no high-pitched power metal wails or black metal screeches. The clean singing is refreshing coming from a band with Kiuas' sound, which generally is associated with death metal growls a la Kalmah or folk metal screams like that of Ensiferum or Wintersun.
The guitars are tight and technically impressive. There are definite power metal themes here, sustained chords on choruses, high pitched riffs here and there, high-pitched soloing. However, Kiuas makes sure to keep the sound varied, and some tracks are honestly reminiscent of Dream Theater with a less obnoxious vocalist and less guitar wankery during solo sections. "Thorns of a Black Rose" has some cool blues riffs and solos on it, which keep things varied even further. The closing track even has some Spanish guitar solo sections on it, which provide an amazing contrast to the heavily distorted and amplified main riff.
The drums are pretty standard power/progressive metal fare; lots of double bass, very few blast beats, restrained when necessary, and smashing loud the other 90% of the time. Not much else to say here, they don't stand out particularly, and there's not a uniqueness of style, like that of the Rev or Slayer's Dave Lombardo.
The bass on this album is...pretty much inaudible.
Spirit of Ukko is composed of 8 tracks, most of which are vastly different from the others, as befits a band with such diverse influences. I've already hinted at some of the different styles of rock and metal guitar that can be found here, but I'll leave it to you to actually go through and pick apart each song if you're interested. I bought the album on Amazon, (where it was only 8 bucks) after my friend Nat told me about them. They're not even on any of the torrent sites, so don't even bother looking. Or do, but this blog does not actively endorse that choice.
Overall, I'd say that this album was well worth my money, though part of the enjoyment I got out of it was the pure fun of discovering a new band. Kiuas (don't ask me how to pronounce it) may not be a metal powerhouse at this point, but they are a sick band that has, in this reviewer's opinion, a legitimate shot at becoming one. Thanks again Finland, for continuing to produce awesome metal bands and hockey goalies.
Overall Rating: 7.4/10
Here's the title track for your amusement. The intro is sick.