Initially formed as Talvikuu, Havukruunu were formed somewhere in the middle of this century’s first decade. However, the earlier years were quite tranquil when it came to releasing material. The first demos by this coniferous crown (which is the English translation for ‘havukruunu’) were released in 2013/2014, the first full-length (Havulinnaan) in 2015. Two more albums did follow, i.e. Kelle Surut Soi (2017) and Uinuos Syömein Sota (2020); all of them released via the impressive label Naturmacht Productions.
Via the very same label, this band, which is eternally haunting the woodland mists and shores aflame, releases an EP that collects five older and previously unreleased songs, rearranged exclusively for this release (so it’s not just some ‘average’ compilation). The material was re-created during several full-moon nights earlier last year (2021), eventually gathered as Kuu Erkylän Yllä, which means something like ‘moon over Erkylä’, which is the city where the main members do come from (not that far away North of Helsinki).
This five-tracker clocks thirty-five minutes, so it might turn into a discussion whether you can consider this an EP or a full-length. I do not care, for it is all about splendid stuff once more by a talented act from Finnish soil. The better part was written / composed, as well as mixed and mastered, by front-man Stefan (also the main vocalist, keyboard-player and guitarist from the band). The guy also took care of the magnificent lay-out and design. He got assisted by drummer Kostajainen, guitar-player Henkka and bassist Sinisalo. Kuu Erkylän Yllä gets released on compact-disc (jewel-case) and tape (the latter, evidently, rather limited in pressing), and in 2022 it will be pressed on vinyl too (apparently, all former full-lengths will be re-released as well in LP-format!).
Those trusted with this band will experience what we do know from the past, strengthened by up-to-date techniques. I mean, this material continues the glorious efforts of old, continuing this project’s tribute to the likes of Bathory, Falkenbach or Moonsorrow, amongst some others. And it does come with a sound that strengthens the effort. The production has a rough edge somehow – maybe even harsher than before (and hey, you won’t hear me complain about that!) – (luckily, it doesn’t come with a clinically polished registration), yet the final mix, at the same time, is oh so decent. It means that also the background instrumentation is clearly audible; a surplus for sure, because drums, bass and rhythm guitars are at least as important as the lead voices and guitars.
Kuu Erkylän Yllä gathers five heroic, powerful and straight-forward pieces, breathing semi-legendary undauntedness and persuasion. The tracks are very melodious in essence, with well-crafted guitar melodies as spine, and varied vocals to spread the pagan messages. When talking about the variation in vocals, I mean that there is a nice variegation. The better part is roughly-blackened, of course, with a deep-throated power and vengeful determination. Of course you can expect some hymnic and anthemic chants / choirs as well, and a couple of grunting passages and spoken words too.
The better part is dynamic and fast, even hostile, yet still controllable, injected with massive decelerations, epic intermezzi, fierce solos and atmospheric-ambient passages. Especially the transition in between the tracks featured, has been worked out very organically yet stunning too. It’s a pleasure somehow, for it makes this whole album sound like one great, grand march to the battlefield. Another surplus is the mixture of fierce and resolute energy and power at the one hand, and spherical, consciously introspective modesty at the other hand.
A last word about the interplay. Even-though Havukruunu might be considered an outfit by Stefan especially, all members involved add their important personal mark (read: craftsmanship) onto the final result. The lead guitars and solos, all vocals, the rhythm and bass lines, the keyboards / synths, the drums / percussions; everything is as important, as it is as grandiose in execution. I did mention the more-than-satisfying sound-mix before, but the performance too is impeccably strongly executed. The whole string-section works as a shield-wall-protected horde, with drum patterns that perfectly define the specific attitude at the right moment (blasting when needed, rather modest within calmer pieces, and everything in between), with harmonious choir chants at perfect-timed points of time, with accelerations and, then again, slowed-down excerpts when needed, and so on.
FFO: Bathory (Viking-era), Falkenbach, Kampfar, Ereb Altor, Moonsorrow, Finsterforst, Vintersemestre, Immortal etc.