Review: Whispered – Metsutan – Songs of the Void

In which Spear continues his spiraling descent into weebdom.

For the uninitiated, Whispered are a Finnish band who play a fusion of Swedish melodeath and Japanese folk music. I know some of you are now spamming the dedicated NOPE macro key you’ve set up for everything that I write about, but I’m not letting you off the hook that easily. Their first album, Thousand Swords, was decent but not great. Most of its songs were on the long side and didn’t have many moments that truly stood out. The Japanese elements were generally implemented well, however. Thousand Swords feels more like a proof-of-concept in this way; it showed that the idea works, even if it wasn’t necessarily fully fleshed out at the time. The band seemed to realize this too, as their follow-up album, Shogunate Macabre, was a drastic improvement in every way. Everything from the riffs and the solos to the drums and the orchestrations were incredibly catchy and creative, the vocals no longer sounded sloppy, and the metal parts of the music now carried as much Japanese flavor as the folk parts. It was bar-none my favorite album of 2014, so it goes without saying that I’ve held some pretty high expectations for the band’s continuing endeavors.

So how does album number three, Metsutan – Songs of the Void, stack up against its predecessors? Does it surpass the high bar set by Shogunate Macabre, or does it fall short? It’s hard to say that it’s definitively “better” (different personal tastes and all that), but I believe that this is their strongest work to date. Whispered experiment a lot with their songwriting on Metsutan, a welcome change from the formulaic (albeit extremely catchy) song structure of their sophomore effort. The music is far less predictable and more complex as well; it’s the album’s greatest strength, leading to some exciting and unexpected twists on their established sound.

Opening instrumental “Chi no Odori” sets the stage for an intense and dramatic trip through feudal Japan, segueing directly into the upbeat “Strike!” This should give you a pretty good idea of what to expect on this album; intense riffing interwoven with choirs and shamisen (among other traditional instruments), triumphant leads with a strong Eastern bent, and an unstoppable rhythm section, with just a sprinkling of funky time signatures to keep you on your toes. Whispered sounds tighter than they’ve ever been on Metsutan, fearlessly barreling forward at breakneck speed without missing a step. “Exile of the Floating World” and “Kensei” build on the themes established on “Strike,” while “Sakura Omen” gives it a slightly darker twist. None of them feel overly similar or blend together, a trap that oh so many “gimmick” bands fall into.

I had the hardest time formulating an opinion on the next two songs, “Our Voice Shall Be Heard” and “Tsukiakari.” Normally, I’d gloss over them and focus on the rest of the music, but they’re extremely important, together forming the keystone of the album. To be clear, they are both very good songs and fit very well next to each other in the album; they are also the biggest departure from Whispered’s normal sound, resembling nothing they’ve written before in terms of pacing and atmosphere. Both of them are lilting mid-tempo ballads (for lack of a better word) with eerie interludes in the middle and provide some of the most powerful moments on the album outside of the closing track. My trepidation concerning these songs stems from the fact that I feel like they lost some of their identity on these two. The band has always drawn comparisons to Ensiferum, which I have always written off as folk metal fans being some combination of drunk and stupid; this is the first time I actually thought it was an apt comparison (“Cry For the Earth Bounds” in particular). Ultimately, these songs won me over just by being really damn good in spite of sacrificing some of their samurai motif.

Whispered Horizontal Promo 2016 (Credit Onni Kinnunen)

Fortunately, the album closes out very strong. A second instrumental gives way to a short-but-sweet melodeath rager with a ridiculously catchy chorus, followed by the huge closing track “Bloodred Shores of Enoshima.” I won’t overload you with details, but I will say that it serves as a testament to how far the band has come since their early days. It’s very well refined despite its length, a far cry from the unsure meandering of the longer songs on Thousand Swords. It is undoubtedly the album’s- and the band’s- finest moment.

In case my flagrant gushing hasn’t already made it clear, I love this album. Everything comes together so well; the performances are spot-on, the band and the orchestrations interplay instead of existing as separate entities, and the mix gives everyone equal spotlight. Their image is pulled off flawlessly, proving to be much more than a simple gimmick that tries to cover up mediocre music. Whispered are masters of their craft; Metsutan isn’t going to appeal to everyone, but you’d be very hard pressed to find a better melodeath album in recent years. For that, I give it:

4.5/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell

NEW_TOILETSCALE_4-5_of_5

Metsutan – Songs of the Void is out now on Redhouse, and you can stream it in full right here. Find Whispered on Facebook and show them this review; maybe then, senpai will finally notice me.

  • Abradolf Lincler
  • Super Nintendo Chalmers

    Motherfucking NOPE button is getting mashed.

    • Hans Müller

      Repurposed Dankness:

  • High on Vallenfyre

    Definitely adding this to my spotify for this weekend’s camping trip.

    • xengineofdeathx

      Now I’m hungry. Time to make a pit of cheese ballz.

      • Margaretjsanchez2

        <.
        ✸✸✸✸✸:✸✸✸✸✸:✸✸✸✸✸:✸✸✸✸✸:✸✸✸✸✸:✸✸✸✸✸:✸✸✸✸✸:✸✸✸✸✸:✸✸✸✸✸:✸✸✸✸✸:::::::!bk564er:….,…

  • Spear
  • *aggressively farts*
    *wafts toward coworkers*

    • CyberneticOrganism

      Congrats

      • *beams at senpai w/ pride*
        **tearing eyes intensifies**

      • xengineofdeathx

        Is gettin ya pull when you find a couple shards still left in the baggie in the Walmart parking lot? If so I might as well be a towtruck, I’m gettin all kindsa pull.

        • CyberneticOrganism

          That’s a pull right there brother #getchaoneorseveralpulls

    • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

      *desk fans rule

  • Eliza

    This could have been awful if done wrong, but the execution makes this pretty good. The passion behind this band’s songs makes them endearing.

  • Hubert

    Ey, I heard a few tracks from these guys and I digged them. Going to check this album out.

  • Dubbbz

    This was an excellent review. I don’t tend to like folk and melodeath all that much anymore, but I will check this out because of your review.

    • Eliza

      There is fun to be had with this band one way or another.

    • Spear

      It’s very unlikely that it’ll change your stance on either, but at least the folky parts are different from the usual fare.

    • It’s melodic enough to appeal to power metal fans, so I’m always interested in hearing whatever they do

  • I don’t know if I can follow you down this path, Spear.

  • Cultural appropriationlicious

    • HE SAID IT, NOT ME

    • Uhhh I think they’ll be alright. Members:
      Jouni Valjakka
      Mikko Mattila
      Jussi Kallava
      Kai Palo

      • Those are all Finnish names, m8.

        • Abradolf Lincler

          what i wouldnt give for one of them to be Tapir

          • Grandpa’s Magic Fleshlight

            We’re going to have to send Beargod deep into Tapir territory to reveal the weeby truth about Tapir.

      • Nvm they’re all from the imaginary land.

    • xengineofdeathx

      Would love to know if an actual Japanese band is doing stuff like this.

      • Abradolf Lincler

        I would be very surprised if there wasn’t

        • xengineofdeathx

          Birushana is the only band I can think of, although I guess they come from a more post metal/hardcore sounding place. Still cool though.

      • There’s probably a few. My knowledge of the Japanese metal scene (and Asia in general) falls somewhere between diddly and squat, though.

      • Grandpa’s Magic Fleshlight
  • xengineofdeathx

    Gonna have to check this out. I love the idea of Japanese folk stuff with metal. Also, I feel like Stevie Floyd was really good at implementing those scales and melodies into her riffs on the Dark Castle album Surrender To All Life Beyond Form.

    • Eliza

      I checked that out and it’s very good.

      • xengineofdeathx

        It’s a great record, really concise songs that still manage to feel expansive.

        • Eliza

          That’s a fitting description. Funnily enough, I was expecting it sound like the band featured in the article, but I was pleasantly surprised. I love the kind of sound Dark Castle have.

          • xengineofdeathx

            Totally! I like the touches of psycadelic stuff a lot too. Even the lyrics and artwork feel that way. Really interesting vibes.

    • Stevie Floyd is awesome. Great artwork too.

      https://steviefloyd.bandcamp.com/

      • xengineofdeathx

        I know. I still like her a lot even though she ripped off one of my friends.

        • Well, dang. That’s a bummer.

          • xengineofdeathx

            Meh no one’s perfect I guess.

          • xengineofdeathx

            I’ll say this, she did eventually send a shirt I ordered after two months, and wrote a little thank you note on a scrap of Fred Meyer bag, so that was a sweet touch.

          • My Leviathan stuff came lickittysplit.

          • xengineofdeathx

            Maybe Wrest is stepping up his human being game.

          • Well, Stevie handles his merch now, so…probably not?

          • xengineofdeathx

            Oh yeah maybe not. And also, I think Taurus was on tour when I ordered that shirt, so I can’t be that mad. By the time I got it I almost forgot about it, and I was really surprised when I got a package. It’s held up for quite a while too, so cool.

  • masterfully written, S-pear!
    i went into this expecting to be ambivalent towards the album, and i ended up really digging what i heard. it’s reviews like this which coerce me to leave my comfort zone; and in the end i’m super glad that i did! (looks like Amazon is my source for the digital album this time around)
    trying new things >>>>>>>>>>>>>

    • Joaquin Stick

      As always (guys, we’re not the same person, I promise) I am with you. Did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did. None of the aspects that could turn me off were over the top. Just interestingly seasoned melo-goodness.

      • Dubbbz

        Well yah, Jimmy is Gorak.

        • Abradolf Lincler

          and Gorak is GL

          • Hans Müller

            The plot thickens.

      • hahaha, i’m going to jam that new Haken later today in celebration of our superposition property

  • Great review! I wasn’t a huge fan of their last album, but I wont’ deny it was MAD catchy and the boys can play

  • Sir Tapir The Based

    NOPE

    • TAPIR m/m/

    • Eliza

      I would so love to see what your reaction was if you listened to this.

      • Sir Tapir The Based

        Read the comment you just responded to. It describes my reaction quite well.

        • You should cleanse your palate with a different record. BY DOING A RECORD SWAP WITH ME.

          • Eliza

            Yes, this has to happen. I’d be so epic.

          • Sir Tapir The Based

            I don’t think that’s a good idea.

          • Dubbbz

            Send him one of those three hour Swans albums you’re always touching yourself to.

          • Sir Tapir The Based

            None of them are three hours long you dum dum.

          • brokensnow

            prolly meant “unnecessarily long”.

          • Sir Tapir The Based

            Nah man 2 hours for a Swans album is perfect

          • I think it’s a great idea. We’ll learn something about each other lil Tapir. You gotta!

          • Abradolf Lincler

            tapir is based. i know everything about tapir ill ever need to know

          • >>>>>>>>
            Joe>>>>>>>>
            Tapir>>>>>>>

          • Sir Tapir The Based

            Trust me Linkypoo, u don wanna see Tapir do it.

          • you keep saying this, but we don’t have any real evidence to believe it.

          • Sir Tapir The Based

            The proof is in the pudding. You can taste te pudding, you can smell the pudding, you can out your nipples in the pudding it’s all there.

          • Grandpa’s Magic Fleshlight

            Oh my! Have Tapir bathed and brought to my tent!

          • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

            We do! We do!

          • Eliza

            Come on, what could be the worst that you’d have to listen to?

          • Grandpa’s Magic Fleshlight

            Sure it is. Just send him some Dragon Guardian, and you’ll automatically win him over.

          • Sir Tapir The Based

            I dunno what that is and I don’t wanna know

    • Grandpa’s Magic Fleshlight
  • This is tickling my underbits quite nicely. Just some nice melodeath with a Japanese theme and some Japanese folk mixed in fairly sparingly.

  • brokensnow

    High marks for seriousness, I guess.

  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Spear.

    I liked Shogunate Macabre and this album seems more cohesive in the songwriting, which is something that I know will enjoy.

    It’s on my pending list of my #LinkNotebook now!

  • Xinen

    I’ve enjoyed what’ve I listened to so far, but I don’t want to rush things. I did really love the solo(s?) in Kensei though. I guess I was expecting or wanting another immediate hook-laden affair but like you said its more complicated than that. They happen to be among the few melodic death bands that I can stand these days as well. Good review btw, and I join you in the glorious path to weebdom.

  • Hans Müller

    I’m a bit of a sucker for the shamisen, but while this isn’t bad, I’ll probably stick with Tengger Cavalry.
    And Sendai Kamotsu.
    Also, still busy with Enslaved, so trying to avoid new tunes anyway. Enjoying those guys a lot.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4pwJ6hXJig

    • Waynecro

      Don’t forget Wagakki Band!
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5zj3dwNxJw

      • Grandpa’s Magic Fleshlight

        Excellent pick!

        • Waynecro

          Wagakki Band jams hard, man. Great stuff!

      • Berit Dogg

        Definitely copying those moves for posing with a recorder.

  • Waynecro

    Nice review, man. I dig this band and rock out to their albums from time to time.

  • it took me [for what seemed like] forever to find an older band……
    FFO: Persefone!!!

  • Grandpa’s Magic Fleshlight

    Them and Frosttide are gonna have to do while we wait up for Wintersun to set up their jacuzzi/massage parlor/exotic lotion bar and put out a new album. Whispered is more or less a Wintersun cover band with the weeb factor tweeked to overkill.

    • xengineofdeathx

      Fleshlights magically make you feel like a loser.

      • Grandpa’s Magic Fleshlight

        Not if it’s grandpa’s! Once he “unlocks” it’s powers (you can take a guess how he does that), it unlocks earth-smashing powers and the ability to summon a horny zombie army of Groucho Marxes.

        • Xinen

          Ha I imagined that it’s shaped like Sora’s Keyblade from kingdom hearts.

          • Grandpa’s Magic Fleshlight

            Oddly enough, I’ve never played that. Looks like something up my alley though.

        • xengineofdeathx

          I thinking I have an idea. I’m guessing he doesn’t powder it afterword, and probably doesn’t know where the lid is. Those powers sound pretty rad though.

    • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

      Uhh… no. Whispered had released by the time Wintersun released Time. And Metsutan is definitely taking them into another ballpark (personally they were never that reminiscent of WS, but I can see why some would think so).

      • Incontinent Gorilla Rodeo

        Ah, gotcha.

        • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

          I could edit my previous comment but you wouldn’t likely see it: With a grain of salt, I’ve been hooraying for Whispered p much since day 1, and dislike Jari Mäenpää strongly.

          • Incontinent Gorilla Rodeo

            Lol, I don’t think anyone likes Jari Mäenpää nowadays! Especially after him wanting everyone to pay for his lazy ass with the bogus promise of a new album. I love love looooooooooove his music, but he’s the heavy metal equivalent of Bernie Madoff.