There is something in this world in need of a revival, revival in the classic sense, the religious sense. The word revival was used frequently many years ago to signify a return to religion, found typically in Christianity of the post-Catholic variety. As the world began to question the merits of the Christian faith in the 1960s, what developed was a slow loss of meaning as reality was further revealed in all its stark horror. Christianity became something to mock, it became the easy meme, the quick joke that required the smallest amount of creativity. So great has been this fall it has yet to recover. Christianity became the icon of simplistic black metal, which continues utilize archaic symbolism that lacks the meaning it once had. Such a process for the Christian religion happened in the 19th century as well, and for a short time, before the turn of the century, there were writers and artists who understood the power in this, the potential to use its symbols in a new way to represent mankind’s decay. I’ve often thought it would be good to revive this kind of idea, but I haven’t seen it, until now. It was a chance occurrence I even noticed it, but the disheveled, crow-picked anti-preacher on the cover of this, Verenvalaja, led me to realize the revival could be coming.
Vainaja’s approach, though, should be understood as subtle in terms of what I found in it. There is only a suggestion of Christianity, not the usual 666 nonsense, as though you’re experiencing a heresy or a dead form still using the symbols, but forgetting their original meaning. Imagine a cross used not to represent Christ but worshiped for its wood and shape, and that would explain the aesthetic. Coming from Finland, this trio first made their appearance in 2011 with Kahleiden Kantaja, a devastating 2-song EP that set a new standard in Finnish metal. The band’s approach is highly esoteric, which I’ll explain further below, and so dense with symbolism and encrypted messages it’s beyond the scope of this review and the abilities of most metal fans. It’s something like an occulto-Christian revival conceived of as musical conversion effective beyond the idea. I, upon listening, bowed my head in supplication, putting my forehead upon the cold Earth as I accepted the new path.
Verenvalaja is amazing in its density. Vainaja combines primarily death and doom, but it’s superficial to rely on tags. The concept follows the lost writings of a cult leader named Wilhem Maenaa in the form of six tracks as different chapters of a larger work, tracking the cult’s movement into Finland, its attempt to gain new followers, and the holy war that follows. Wilhem Maenaa is the “Blood Caster,” which is a direct translation of the album’s title, and this album is explained as a musical representation of an apparent prologue to a work that was lost, standing as the only representation of the cult’s activities. What’s great is I’m entirely uncertain if the band is being serious or if this is all an ingenious attempt to create false reality. Something like Portal except you’re really uncertain if its real. I performed some cursory research and came up with nothing, but the band entirely masterful in their presentation so the listener is left wholly convinced anyway. The images of religious decay are so carefully hidden that Vainaja have truly created something new, and the music itself is amazing for its sound alone. The riffs are crushing, their essence is the kind of power any doom band would desire, and the variety of the vocals adds a mystical quality, but when you combine that with the meaning it’s another thing entirely. There’s not a single weak moment; this album has more to say that I could manage in mere words, it’s something that transcends a simple critic’s opinions and must be experienced in itself. Finnish metal, I feel, has become too gimmick-oriented over the past twenty years. What was needed was an antithesis, something not only serious, but completely devouring, and Vainaja is it. This is honestly the best thing to come out of Finland musically in possibly a century.