Album: Sorni Nai
Label: Blood Music
For those that don’t know, Kauan is a long-running Russian band, whose music has normally tended towards the beautiful, leaning on ambient, folk, post-rock, and heart-wrenching Finnish vocals. However, every once in a while Kauan will flex a little bit doom and black metal muscle, cutting through their usual melancholy beauty with something that is crushing. But let’s be honest here: Kauan makes pretty music, and you must enjoy pretty music to get into Kauan, not matter how many times they toss in some heavy vocals.
Sorni Nai is their sixth album, and it is a continuation of the concept they were playing with on Pirut, although Sorni Nai is much heavier and melancholic than the gorgeous Pirut. The concept around the album, which you will not be able to understand at all unless you are familiar with Finnish, deals with a well-known Russian incident, Djatlov Pass Incident, where a bunch of hikers climbed a mountain and mysteriously ended up dead a few days later. As I said, unless you know Finnish, this will matter little, but it is nice having some context for the way this album flows from beginning to end.
Sorni Nai is a single song, 52 minutes in length, and progresses from some really beautiful ambient and folk music to much harsher doom metal, paired with some of Kauan’s always powerful heavy vocals. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves; it’s one song, so we can talk about it from beginning to end.
As I said, the beginning of the song is very beautiful. Kauan knows exactly how to play this kind of music. Some light synths floating in the background, acoustic guitar, piano, even some strings, and all of it backed by their vocalist, Anton Belov, who in my opinion has one of the most beautiful voices ever. His Russian accent is strong, but he is singing in Finnish, with all the lilts and trills of one of the most beautiful languages there is. It’s haunting and poignant, and it has always been part of Kauan’s signature sound. They also include female vocals at times, but these are light touches of sound rather than lyrically focused.
There is this great moment at just under one fourth into Sorni Nai, where things take a turn for the dark as heavy riffs paired with some pretty evil sounding vocals take over the whole tune. It gives you a taste of what is to come, but disappears rather quickly, as the song returns to the gorgeous clean vocals, with simple drums and piano carrying the music after such a large drop. Now the song is beginning to change up things a little faster, rather than meditating on a single sound. The slow, methodical pace of it even increases here and there, and we get a little bit of a beat coming through. Kauan even manages to insert some synth driven sections that can only be described as spacey. It’s really interesting how they are willing to use such an electronic sound when most of the instrumentals are grounded in the acoustic, with violin, cello, piano, and acoustic guitar being very heavily used throughout all of their music. But somehow, even with the huge difference in the acoustic and electronic sound, they manage to make their synth sections sound as light and pure as their piano and violin sections. It’s quite a feat.
As the song makes its way through its latter half, Sorni Nai slowly but surely winds down into doom metal, the violins, piano, and light synths all disappearing, replaced by down-tuned guitar and snarled vocals. I have to say, I really do enjoy Kauan’s heavy sections. I think their vocals are great, and they know how to get a really good guitar tone to make it sound appropriately heavy. However, and this is purely a personal feeling, I really wish that somewhere in this end section they would’ve returned to some of their earlier, more beautiful sounds. Since the album essentially closes the final 15 minutes on doom metal, it makes for a very slow, depressing ending. I really think that one last sparkle of the light present on the earlier half of the album could have elevated the doom metal even higher, reminding the listener of the previous beauty, really driving home the crushing sound. Perhaps it is a bit too difficult to insert such beautiful music into the middle of doomy guitars. Perhaps I’m just missing Anton’s clean vocals.
Overall, I think Sorni Nai is a brilliant album, one of Kauan’s best. I will have to listen to it along with Kauan’s other albums in more depth to figure out where it resides compared to Kuu… and Pirut, but it is definitely up there. If you are interested in getting into something a bit different but still definitely on the metal side of the fence, check out Sorni Nai by Kauan!
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