Finland's Raate wrote a really great debut album in 2007 called Sielu, Linna which, like so many outstanding newer acts of the last decade, was unfortunately swept under the rug in the wake of the far less interesting, trendy names that seem to dominate awareness in the more atmospheric or post-black realm. Not that Raate are some gang of dreamy shoegazers, but certainly the way they phrase their music is through the medium of simple, distorted textures against more elegant, melodic keyboard landscapes. Menetkysen Tie seeks to further and broaden the band's aural reach, and to that extent it more than succeeds with a primitive yet refined palette of catchy if predictable, cold riffing and folksy, harmonized clean vocals.
This is a sobering, somnolent album, and yet strangely uplifting thanks to the band's knack for minimail, efficient orchestration. The guitar passages are inspired by the more melodic, mid to late pagan/black metal efforts as they cavort through lush, sullen backdrops. The drums are kept very basic, organic and far from intrusive, letting the weight of the riffs and the more airy tones of the synthesizers rest upon their architecture as if it were a cradle. The guitars might remind one of a mashup between Borknagar, Summoning and the more melodic Burzum, and the voices are somewhat similar to those cleans used by Varg on his latest effort, Fallen. Not all of the songs here are created equally. Some paint broader, more predictable vistas in which the chords never take any unsuspected turn ("Sameaa Vettä"), while others like the doomed, dreary "Tulen Laulu" or the dirty, speed/black metal infusions of "Taival" are more memorable.
In all, Menetyksen Tie is incredibly well balanced, both in its pacing and production. The album has a wealth of clarity despite the lo-fi integration of the instruments, and the more ambient passages that permeate the four part instrumental "Ajan Temppeli" on the latter half provide a tasteful and eloquent counterpoint to the metallic components. I wouldn't say I was drawn into this record so much as its predecessor, and yet it's 45 minutes that are a pleasure to listen through repeatedly, evoking the sadness and mystery of empty places that were once beautiful, whether those be external structures cobbled from the tired hands of the builder, or the internal snuffed-out candle core of the architect himself. Alluring, if not amazing.
Verdict: Win [7.75/10]