[Reviewed by: Damiano Lanzi]
“Kaarna” is a 2CD compilation of all the acoustic material recorded by October Falls (alias of Finnish black/doom/post metal musician Mikko Lehto) between 2002 and 2010. The album opens with three short pieces, “Usva”, “Viima” and “Polku”, while the other three tracks are long compositions consisting of several parts. Each one of the three longer tracks has already been released before as a record on its own (“Tuoni” in 2003, “Marras” in 2005 and “Sarastus” in 2007). The result is a monumental collection with more than 90 minutes of music.
All the pieces are similarly structured, with lines of classical guitar that create harmonies between themselves accompanied by other acoustic instruments such as piano, strings, flutes, sometimes snare drums, timpani or other percussions. The guitars have a primary role anyway; they’re played in a technical and skilled manner and the resulting sound is extremely clear and pleasant. There are often samples of natural sounds that help recreate the ambience of a Scandinavian forest. It’s clearly perceivable that nature and northern landscapes are a major source of inspiration for this music; even the titles deal with natural themes such as death, dawn, fog, paths, et cetera.
Even though “Kaarna” is an enjoyable listen, there are some aspects of it that don’t convince me. The compositions are a bit too ethereal, cold and static for their length and in the end they appear repetitive. For this reason I think it’s best to listen to the single suites separately instead of playing the record in its entirety. In my opinion, trying an attentive listen ultimately results to boredom, and the album risks being relegated to background music. Furthermore, seeing all these works from a chronological perspective, you notice that there isn’t a real evolution in the author’s way of composing acoustic music: all the tracks may seem as if written in the same period. These works sound to me like an exercise in style and I appreciate Letho’s ‘electric’ side much more. For example the recent “The Plague of a Coming Age” or “A Collapse of Faith” are surely deeper and more accomplished. There are acoustic sections in these albums too, but there they are parts of a wider context and make much more sense, while they’re not self sufficient enough to be listened to alone, as it happens in “Kaarna”.