Hiidenhauta are a five-piece black metal band and hail from Finland. Ah, Finnish black metal, I know what to expect – or so you might think. You see, they label themselves folk-influenced black metal. Ah, more in the line of Finntroll or Korpiklaani then – wrong once again. There is no Humppa or Hurdy Gurdy to be found here. When I first played Hiidenhauta’s third full length Riivin, opening track Riidenlieko started up with a punk style riff and Tuomas Keskimäki, vocalist, screaming and barking in a very aggressive style that would feel at home in certain punk or hardcore outfits as well. Then there’s the tremolo picked, black metal stiff riffing, and then female vocalist Emma Keskimäki joins in with a quite sweet voice delivering clean, melancholic singing over a more somber riff. A quite interesting mix.
This mix continues throughout the rest of the record. There are hard riffs sometimes with a punk attitude, often more typical black metal. The tone of the music shifts between gloomy, melancholic and angry, which fits to the theme of the record, which is centered on the Finnish version of the devil – not to be confused with the devil found in the tales from Christianity, no relation there. The Finnish Devil is actually a quite versatile fellow. According to Tuomas, he/it can be a moral guardian, vindictive, cruel, helpful, playful, humane, visible, invisible, and everything in between. That fits well to Riivin then, as the record is quite dynamic and changes pace throughout its runtime of 41 minutes over 9 songs a few times.
The folk elements are actually a bit subdued as well – Hiidenhauta is folk-influenced rather than full-on folk-metal. There are synths and keys used throughout the record, but they are used sparingly, and placed deliberately. Rather than soaking the whole record in digital orchesters for cheap epicness, theres a few background synths for additional moodyness, or well placed piano melodies e.g. on Loväkkö, that really elevates the slow passage. I don’t know if this was a decision in the studio, as neither of the vocalists or the other bandmembers has credits for keys/synths (we have Henri Hakala on bass, Otto Hyvärinen on guitar and Eetu Ritakorpi on drums). Either way, it works.
Tuomas sticks with aggressive barking and screaming, which suits him extremely well. Emma delivers mostly beautiful clean vocals. Were this band from Japan, I would call her style kawaii. Although there are few exceptions, e.g. on Petäjä, where she delivers some background shouting as well, or spoken word passages. Throughout the whole record, the two vocalists work together really nicely, their distinct styles complement each other exceedingly well. The instrumentalists are mostly efficient without being show-offs. Not to say they are bad – on the contrary! Eetu mixes up his grooves and blastbeats with nice fills, Otto throws in some very tasteful details, like the short but sweet acoustic interlude in Yövilkka, the very same song that has a heartfelt bass solo by Henri.
All in all, Riivin is a very good folk-infused black metal record. It is theatric without being cheesy, properly moody and gloomy, but still heavy when it sets out to be so. The highlight is definitely the extremely well done mix of the two vocal styles, but everyone’s performance is more than solid. The songwriting is varied and dynamic. Recommended to check out for any black metal fan – it is a nice deviation from the usual formulas.