Premiere: Vainaja – “Kahleiden Kantaja”
Vainaja is a mysterious Finnish three-piece composing decomposing death metal slowed by the drawn-out stride of their death/doom countrymen. How mysterious? The players have assumed pseudonyms: The Preacherman, The Cantor, and The Gravedigger. Huh. Pretty mysterious. So much so, it was worth asking the group to elucidate.
The band members intertwine with the story told on the album Kadotetut, which is based on murky events in the Finnish history. As we say in our biography, not much is known from the actual incident. In short, a remote village was once tormented by a cult formed by local parish workers. The horrific deeds of the cult are known traditionally, but the only actual evidence is an indistinct sermon text that gives a base to the lyrics of the album Kadotetut. Vainaja’s members are related to the story via the characters that are believed to have been a part of this religious cult. The concept of Vainaja is an entity that stretches beyond lyrics and images.
Yeah, as mentioned above, there’s your concept. If you’d like to know more, Vainaja will be setting up a website to delve deeper into the tale. Needless to say, it’s refreshingly ambitious, especially for a death/doom LP debut.
Asking about their nom de dooms allowed me the opportunity to query these crawlers on the Finnish fascination with the slow and low. From Convulse to Shape of Despair, Finnish tunes dressed in deathly bellows seem to revel in measured moments. Is this simply a cultural predilection? Hand-me-down ‘how-to’s? What’s the catalyst?
The past centuries up North have been filled with agony caused mainly by religions. Traditionally, strict church rule and fear of both good and evil powers have made the Finns woeful and introverted. These native feelings are often said to be expressed in our mournful and lethargic culture. Modern day Finns have become profane, traditions are lost, but the heritage flows through their veins. Vainaja is a brutal appearance and face for the agony we bear in our reserved tradition. We bring it back to people. Song “Kahleiden Kantaja” (meaning “chain bearer” in English), for example, tells a story of this grave path we’re going towards… In one way or another, our spirit is murky.
Now, it’s not a requirement of mine for death metallers to put thought into their themes. I’m a strong proponent of the belief metal is successful purely as entertainment and doesn’t need to transcend fun to be thrilling. Yet, Vainaja have put real consideration into Kadotetut. They’ve taken great care to plot these points, write these lyrics, play these songs. In turn, they make you, the harried listener, feel safe regarding your possible time investment. It’s akin to discovering your surgeon has decades of experience. Their time has been properly deposited. There’s comfort in knowing your time won’t be wasted. That means something. It promises a pay off.
And pay off it does. This studious approach vaults Vainaja to another level. “Kahleiden Kantaja” tolls for those finding pleasure in agony. You can tell these riffs — the chugs on down to the counter-melody legato — have been agonized over. The straightforwardness of the first listen belies the still-water depth; a testament to Vainaja’s attention to craft. Sure, “Kahleiden Kantaja” is verse/chorus if we’re counting the gloriously groove-laden bridges as the hook. That said, listen again: Each new section is a variation, culminating in a Edge of Sanity-esque release. In fact, Kadotetut is exactly that. It’s a creative release from “lethargic culture.”
Huh. What we learn? Well, sometimes, the best chance to free yourself from the shackles isn’t by way of dumb brute strength, but patience and consideration. Sweet riffs help, too.