Originally a solo project envisioned by guitarist and keyboardist Laasko after his demo was positively received, the lineup was rounded out by members of Barren Earth, Chaos Weaver, Backstabbing Bastard and Elenium.
The most obvious musical influence claimed by Kuolemanlaakso is Triptykon. Kotamäki clearly models his vocal performance on Tom G. Warrior, especially his deep, baritone clean singing, which comes across as both rich and cavernous. The guitar tone has a similar tone to that found on Eparistera Daimones, a dense and ropey texture to the chords that recalls keloid and scar tissue.
This isn't terribly surprising, as V. Saturna of Triptykon both recorded the album and makes an appearance on no fewer than five of the tracks. The influence is so strong that it would not be remiss to say that Uljas Uusi Maailma is a record made in the style of a Triptykon record.
Therefore, in describing the record, it is often most productive to talk about what differentiates it from Tom G. Warrior and company. Often, it is the moments of tenderness that sets it apart, such as the gentle piano outro on “Kuun Lapset” that leads into an acoustic beginning to “Nostos & Algos” before the towering riffs and stomping drums come in, These are tiny moments, little glimmers of gentleness, but they illuminate the record and bring relief to the otherwise unforgiving landscape.
With atmospheres that shimmer like a head haze, punishing yet ethereal; mountainous riffs; and tender moments that break through the heaviness only to evaporate again like mirages, Uljas Uusi Maailma has a lot going for it. It is a strong debut that can't help but stand in the shadow of giants for the strength of its most obvious influences.
It will be interesting to see if future releases will continue to be content dwelling in the shadow of their inspirations, or if Kuolemanlaakso will venture out far enough into the punishing sun to cast their own shadow.
(released November 27, 2012 on Svart Records)