Moonsorrow is a Folk Metal band formed in Helsinki, Finland, in 1995, by cousins Ville and Henri Sorvali, and later expanded into a full band. Taking their name from the Celtic Frost song "Sorrows of the Moon", the band incorporates influences from disparate genres such as film scores (Danny Elfman is a cited influence), Progressive Rock (band members have named King Crimson as a particular favourite), and, of course, Black Metal. The band describe their sound as "epic heathen metal" and try to distance themselves from the term "Viking metal", not least of which because, being Finnish, they have no lyrics about Vikings. Their sound is nonetheless not entirely far removed from what one might expect to hear from the Viking metal genre, albeit probably even more epic.
The band is notable for its expansive instrumentation, incorporating far more diverse arrangements than one might expect from a typical metal band. The band's vocals are also quite impressive, often featuring full (and very well done) choirs alongside the traditional Metal Scream expected of Black Metal influenced Folk Metal. They have also demonstrated a pronounced tendency towards Epic Rocking, with three songs on recent releases exceeding twenty-five minutes in length (Hävitetty is comprised exclusively of Epic Rocking).
The band announced in 2012 that they had signed to Century Media and are working on a new album. They also announced in 2013 a fourteen-LP box set to be released via Blood Music, entitled Heritage 1995-2008: The Collected Works, that has been marketed as the largest metal retrospective ever produced (although it was later outdone by the label's Emperor box, which contained twenty-four LP's). It was released in October 2014.
Henri Sorvali wrote a massive essay detailing the band's influences for MetalSucks.net here.
Releases to date:
- 1996 - Thorns of Ice (demo; half of it, which the band claims was the better half, was lost due to accidental erasure during mastering, but the other half was finally released on the Heritage box after being a Missing Episode for sixteen years. It is unknown whether the band reworked the missing half into other material later)
- 1997 - Metsä (Forest; demo; remastered in 2001; remastered again with bass guitar, keyboards, and new vocals added in 2002)
- 1997 - Promo (demo; originally unreleased due to a production failure causing distortion of the sound, but was released fifteen years later on the Heritage box)
- 1999 - Tämä ikuinen talvi (This Eternal Winter; album-length demo; remastered, with different vocals, in 2001)
- 2001 - Suden uni (A Wolf's Dream)
- 2001 - Voimasta ja kunniasta (Of Strength and Honour)
- 2003 - Kivenkantaja (Stone Bearer)
- 2005 - Verisäkeet (Blood Verses)
- 2007 - Viides luku: Hävitetty (Fifth Chapter: Ravaged)
- 2008 - Tulimrysky (Firestorm; marketed as an EP, although at over sixty-five minutes, it is longer than most albums)
- 2011 - Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa (As Shadows We Walk in the Land of the Dead)
- 2014 - Heritage 1995-2008: The Collected Works (box set)
- 2016 - Jumalten aika (Age of Gods)
- Ville Sorvali
- Henri Sorvali (see also Finntroll)
- Mitja Harvilahti
- Markus Eurén
- Marko Tarvonen
Tropes exhibited in Moonsorrow's work or applicable to the band include:
- After the End: Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa is set after an unspecified apocalypse, although the common fan theory is that it follows the events of Viides luku: Hävitetty.
- Album Intro Track: The demo Metsä ("Jo pimeys saa") and the album Voimasta ja kunniasta ("Tyven") both have examples.
- Apocalypse How: Viides luku: Hävitetty seems to describe one, while Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa follows one, and things go From Bad to Worse.
- Apocalyptic Log: Again, Viides luku: Hävitetty and Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa.
- Bilingual Bonus: All the band's lyrics starting from Tämä ikuinen talvi onwards are in Finnish, minus re-recordings of old material and covers of other bands. A few of their earlier song titles are in Finnish as well, and the outro to the remake of "Hvergelmir" is in Swedish.
- Black Metal: Not really, but it's a clear influence on some of their material. Their early works could perhaps be considered symphonic black metal.
- Blatant Lies: Tulimyrsky is marketed as an EP, but it's still over an hour long. Most likely it's marketed this way because two of the songs are re-recordings and two of them are covers, though, but even then, the one new song on it is nearly half an hour long, which is a short album by most bands' standards.
- Book-Ends: Voimasta ja kunniasta opens and closes with the same melody, as does Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa (although it's in a different key).
- Concept Album: Both Viides luku: Hävitetty and Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa qualify, and the latter appears to be a sequel to the former.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The band's early material adheres more directly to traditional Black Metal tropes and a lot of the lyrics before Tämä ikuinen talvi are in English. The songs are also shorter on some of the early releases.
- Epic Instrumental Opener: Lots of them. The demo version of "Taistelu Pohjolasta" is perhaps the best example, as it opens with a moody intro reminiscent of Danny Elfman's works before proceeding into the requisite blasting metal. Sadly, this intro was excised from the Tulimrysky remake of the track.
- Epic Rocking: Always present from the band's first released material ("Hvergelmir / Elivagar (Pakanavedet)" from Metsä is nearly ten minutes long), but Serial Escalation has driven it Up to Eleven in the band's recent material, with Viides luku: Hävitetty featuring two songs and running nearly an hour, and the title track of Tulimyrsky being nearly half an hour. ...Kuolleiden maassa dials it back slightly, but if you disregard the interludes, the shortest song is still almost twelve minutes long. Similarly, Jumalten aika has three songs above fifteen minutes, one approaching thirteen, and the other above seven.
- Fading into the Next Song: Odds are their transitions on most of their later albums will use either this or Siamese Twin Songs.
- Finnish Mythology / The Kalevala: Much of their early material uses this as a lyrical source. Later on they began exploring other themes as well.
- Fading into the Next Song: Frequently. Verisäkeet, Viides luku: Hävitetty, Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa, and Jumalten aika have no gaps whatsoever, though necessarily not all of these transitions are preserved on the LP versions due to space restrictions. Other examples include:
- Tämä ikuinen talvi: the transition from "Talvi" to "Luopion veri" on the CD version (not replicated on the LP version)
- Suden uni: "Ukkosenjumalan poika" -> "Koylionjarven jaalla" (this borders on Siamese Twin Songs, but this transition isn't always replicated live), and later, "Pakanajuhla" -> "1065: Aika"
- Voimasta ja kunniasta: "Tyven" -> "Sankarihauta"
- Kivenkantaja: ''Raunioilla" -> "Unohduksen lapsi" -> "Jumalten kaupunki including Tuhatvuotinen perintö", and later, "Tuulen tytär including Soturin tie" -> "Matkan lopussa"
- Tuilmyrsky: "Taistelu Pohjolasta" -> "Hvergelmir" -> "Back to North"
- Fake-Out Fade-Out: They've done this quite a few times, sometimes for Fading into the Next Song purposes and sometimes to institute a reprise of earlier melodic material at the end of an album. In particular, "Back to North" and the studio version of "Sankaritarina" do the latter.
- Folk Metal: One of the leading luminaries of the genre.
- Green Aesop: The story of Viides luku: Hävitetty and Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa seems to have environmental devastation as a theme.
- Insistent Terminology:
- They very much dislike being classified as a Viking metal band, not least because Vikings were not Finnish and they have no lyrics about Vikings. They categorise their sound as "Epic Heathen Metal", although they seem to have no problem being classified as a Folk Metal band. That said, as mentioned above, despite the lack of lyrics about Vikings, they do have quite a bit in common stylistically with your typical Viking metal band.
- The categorisation of Tulimyrsky as an EP could also count. At over sixty-five minutes in length, it's longer than most albums! The band probably classified it this way because two of the five songs are covers and two of them are remakes of old material, but even so, the one new song is just under half an hour long, making it longer than several albums regarded as cornerstones of the metal genre (for example, Slayer's Reign in Blood).
- Long Runner Lineup: Hasn't changed since 2007, and even then, the only times the lineup's ever changed have been to add more members; no one who's ever joined the band has yet left.
- Loudness War: Unfortunately most of their material is affected pretty badly. Metsä, being a demo, is immune, and Tämä ikuinen talvi was released before this trend got particularly bothersome either, but most of the rest has audible clipping. The vinyl remasters, while not eliminating all the clipping, nonetheless sound a lot better.
- The new album, Jumalten aika, proves to be a glorious aversion, coming at DR9, which is incredibly dynamic by modern metal standards, and further contributes to the growing arsenal of evidence that Century Media care more about audio quality than most other metal labels.
- Miniscule Rocking: The 1:58 "Jo pimeys saa", the 1:17 "Outro", the 1:23 "Suden uni", the 1:52 "Tyven", the 1:08 "Tuhatvuotinen perintö" (which, in a subversion, is indexed in the same track as the 9:34 "Jumalten kaupunki", making the combined track nearly eleven minutes long), the 1:34 "Hävitetty", the 1:12 "Nälkä, väsymys ja epätoivo", and the 1:35 "Kuolleille". All of these are album intros, album outros, or interludes, with the arguable exceptions of "Tuhatvuotinen perintö" (which is still an intro to "Jumalten kaupunki") and "Suden uni" (which was the original outro of its eponymous album until reissues added a bonus track). Of course, by this band's standards, anything less than six minutes arguably counts as Miniscule Rocking.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: In general, a solid 8, although like Opeth and Enslaved, their music really goes all over the scale and any given song may have moments that qualify as 1 and moments that qualify as 8. Some of their heavier moments (such as the heaviest parts of "Tulimyrsky" and some of the material on their demos) could probably be considered a 9, and some of their ambient songs are probably a 1.
- Mood Whiplash: Happens several times, but the most extreme might be re-releases of Suden uni adding the raucous drinking song "Tulkaapa äijät!" after the sombre "Suden uni", which was originally the last song on the album.
- Norse Mythology: In addition to Finnish mythology, they also have some songs based on Nordic myths. Some of the lyrics from "Sankaritarina" are translated directly from the Hávamál.
- Progressive Rock: According to Word of God (See interview here), the band members made a conscious decision to begin incorporating influences from this genre starting with Kivenkantaja, which is presumably one of the main reasons for the Serial Escalation in song length with their next few releases. The band members also cite their love for bands like King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Genesis, and Rush in this interview. Truthfully, though, progressive rock was an influence on them from the very beginning; Tämä ikuinen talvi opens with a three-movement, twelve-plus-minute song, and most of their other songs from around this period aren't that much shorter.
- Rearrange the Song: An acoustic rendition of "Pakanajuhla" (alternately referred to as "Pekonijuhla", meaning "Bacon Feast" - the original song title means "Pagan Feast") closes off the Heritage box set. It was recorded during the Tulimyrsky sessions but for some reason left off the EP.
- Recurring Riff: In addition to the Voimasta ja kunniasta example above, the title track of Suden uni reprises the coda of "Pakanajuhla" (this was originally the end of the album, but re-releases have added the track "Tulkaapa äijät!", which is an extreme case of Mood Whiplash).
- Siamese Twin Songs: Several pairs of songs are indexed together as one track. This includes "Tuulen tytär including Soturin tie", "Jumalten kaupunki including Tuhatvuotinen perintö", "Hiidenpelto / Häpeän hiljaiset vedet", "Ruttolehto incl. Päivättömän päivän kansa", "Jäästä syntynyt / Varjojen virta", and "Hvergelmir / Elivagar (Pakanavedet)" (although some releases of Metsä split up the latter example). In the latter case, the re-recording of the song still includes "Elivagar" (and even adds a monologue in Swedish that wasn't present in the original version), but the album packaging doesn't mention "Elivagar". (Also note that some of these songs are essentially snippets. "Tuhatvuotinen perintö" is a brief intro that lasts about a minute, according to the secondary CD indices [not usually observable with modern technology, but ripping the album as a disc image with Exact Audio Copy or X Lossless Decoder will give you a .cue sheet that tells you where the secondary indices are]. "Jäästä syntynyt" lasts for just over five minutes, which seems long until you compare it to its counterpart, which lasts for over twenty-five.)
- Soprano and Gravel: The traditional Metal Scream of black metal combined with some of the most wonderful harmonies you'll ever hear in folk metal.
- Spiritual Successor: Germany's Finsterforst, particularly on ...zum Tode hin, sound roughly like you'd expect Moonsorrow to sound if they added a full-time accordion player. They've developed more in their own direction on later releases, though the Moonsorrow influence is still clearly there. (The band's recent EP #YØLØ is Something Completely Different, but Word of God says it was a one-off case of Genre Adultery and the band's future material will go back to their usual sound.)
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: "Kaiku", from Verisäkeet, is entirely acoustic. "Matkan lopussa", from Kivenkantaja, is a lush ballad with female vocals. "Tuulen tytär including Soturin tie", which precedes the aforementioned Kivenkantaja song, also contains no harsh vocals. "Kuun suru" (which translates as "Moon's Sorrow", incidentally) and "Suden uni" are ambient instrumental closers. "Tuulen koti, alltojen koti" is an instrumental with no vocals. These songs are probably good starting places for people who are afraid of Careful with That Axe.
- Titled After the Song: As mentioned above, they are named after the Celtic Frost song "Sorrows of the Moon".
- Uncommon Time: Frequently. "1065: Aika", "Raunioilla", "Karhunkynsi", and "Tuleen ajettu maa" contain good examples.
- Vocal Evolution: Ville's vocals on the early demos are very strange and way higher-pitched than they are on later recordings. They have been described as sounding like "an angry Donald Duck". This may be the reason the vocals for Tämä ikuinen talvi were re-recorded for the 2001 re-release.