|Artwork by Maxime Taccardi|
Lead guitar is a critical component of metal. It can just as easily ruin a song with an ill-placed or poorly played solo as elevate a good song to a great one with a hard-charging hook or melody. On their debut album Hautaruhtinas, Sielunvihollinen show themselves to be masters of the latter. These Finns play Dissection-style black metal with a hearty dose of early Bathory. That in itself seems an intriguing combination, but it’s the work of Sielunvihollinen's lead guitarist that truly raises their craft a notch above the underground hoi polloi.
I don't know who their ace-in-the-hole lead guitarist is - there are no details about band members on Metal Archives or the band's Facebook page - but his contribution to these songs cannot be understated. His leads are simple, hook-oriented, and clean, driving the melody and atmosphere of each song with confidence. From ragers like "Tämä tahto taivu ei koskaan", with that impossibly catchy melody that wouldn’t sound out of place on a goth punk record, to slow, dungeon-dwelling blackness like "Kammiooni hämärään" with those echoing, haunting 4 note progressions that kick in about halfway through the song and drive the sorrowful atmosphere home, this guitarist has an uncanny knack for knowing exactly what to play and when to play it.
Not to be outdone, Sielunvihollinen's vocalist is as charismatic as they come. I don't speak Finnish, but according to Metal Archives, the lyrical themes are "anti-Christian, anti-Islam, and Satanism." And given the fact that Sielunvihollinen is Finnish for "adversary", I think we can piece together the general gist of the vitriolic bile this guy is spitting. And while other black metal vocalists who deliver similar screeds of hate have a tendency to take themselves way too seriously, our man in Sielunvihollinen seems to be having fun with it. He plays to the pleasure centers beautifully, especially on album closer "Sodanjulistus", where he just lets it all hang out and goes straight for that bombastic hook.
For the most part, Hautaruhtinas has been tragically overlooked since its June 2015 release. With any justice the word will spread about this talented young upstart before those end of year lists are finalized. After all, it’s not often that one finds a diamond in such a heavily mined genre.
[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]