AdversaryFinland's black metal scene is less talked-about than the classic Norwegian or Greek scenes. It's less talked-about than the current US or French scenes. But it's certainly not unimportant, with Impaled Nazarene being perhaps the best-known name. Yet, my exposure to it has been extremely limited, coming mostly in the form of very unusual entities like the psychedelic Oranssi Pazuzu or the cheesy black/gothic/symphonic In Silentio Noctis.
So, consider Förgjord's Sielunvihollinen my introduction to Finnish black metal proper. The band has been around, apparently, since 1995, but this is only their second full-length release.
The most obvious feature of this record is the lo-fi production. But there is a key difference between lo-fi and just plain bad. This is the former, as you can clearly hear the instruments, they sound good, and they often manage to feel heavy despite using an aesthetic that's usually all treble. Given that, and their rather typical vocal and tone approach, you might be tempted to simply lump this in with the "same old, same old" black metal many are content to peddle. But that would be a mistake.
Tracks like "Ei Kuoleman Arvoinen" and the title cut have some truly rockin' riffs, so there is a black 'n' roll side to this band. Those are the clear standouts on the record, but they aren't all it has to offer. "Musta Lintu" starts out as a punk song played in black metal style, leading to thoughts of crust before it goes into a black/doom section and finally heading back into pure black metal. "Sudeksi Syntynyt" is mostly slower, and adopts a military cadence through much of its runtime. Deep, gurgling vocals (the title track) and organ/piano ("Viimeinen Myrsky") also serve to add some variety to the record.
So it is quite dynamic and adventurous underneath that veneer of old-school stubbornness. It's not a complete success, however, given the weak instrumental "Tulilahti 1959" and various other places where they use voice samples to negative effect. Maybe if you can understand Finnish, they might be OK, but on a purely musical level they detract.
The Verdict: 3.5 out of 5
Sielunvihollinen is a rock-out, raw black metal record that has a lot more to it than is first apparent.