Tyhjyys. The direct translation is “emptiness”, but that doesn’t really describe the meaning of the word in Finnish. The word has a much more grim and dark meaning than the English translation.
With a statement like that from frontman and founder, Tuomas Saukkonen, I approached this album rather gingerly. I’ve never considered Wolfheart to be dark, rather I’ve considered them to have somewhat uplifting melodies amidst the cold harshness of some of the backing instruments. Tyhjyys however… Well. Let’s dig into it and find out.
Right off the bat, the album feels much more solemn with the downtuned acoustic guitars creating an almost hollow and dense atmosphere. Around halfway through “Shores Of The Lake Simpele” the other instruments come in and that trademark Saukkonen melody erupts from my speakers to bring about the eternal coldness of Finland. Ending on a suspended chord, the track expertly leads us into the “Boneyard”. All seems normal with this track until the 0:39 mark when Tuomas unleashes one of the most furious ‘roars’ I’ve ever heard on his records. The quartet then unleash hell with both melody and also unbridled force to concoct an elixir of pure melodeath excellence. Taking a leaf out of “Aeon Of Cold”, the track slows back to acoustic guitars for a time before the electrics are unleashed from their cages to bring about the final storm before the track closes.
“World On Fire” decides to start with a more mid-paced opening alongside synth orchestra before a similar speed to the previous track is unveiled. The beautiful piano melodies which adorned the last album are then brought in to provide a gentle interlude from the vocals before the chorus enters with the backing shouts of Lauri providing the icing on the cake. The orchestral elements in this track are much more prominent than they have been in the past, however they don’t take away from the music but instead add to the overall atmosphere. The second single, “Flood” then plays and Tuomas’ words about variation ring true. Opening with just the drums and an acoustic guitar, this sets a completely different atmosphere and provides a nice, albeit brief, change of pace from the winter-inducing metal. A rather impressive drum-fill then signals the arrival of the “Flood” as the other instruments come in to create this harsh yet almost refined slab of aural beauty.
Now, “The Rift”. Fans of Skyrim might note this as being the home of the Thieves’ Guild but there’s none of that riffraff here. Kicking up the pace again, the track has an almost similar feel to “Abyss” from the previous album with it’s intricately carved melodies and contrasts between both super-speed riffs and also melodic interludes. As on “World On Fire”, the orchestral parts are allowed to really shine through in places which injects even more character into an already lively song. “Call Of The Winter” combines elements of both “I” from Winterborn and “Storm Centre” from Shadow World to create an altogether more barren soundscape. It really does feel as though winter is coming in this track and no, I’m not referring to that show.
“Dead White” starts off all nice and melodic but after the first minute my face got melted off by one of the most visceral riffs I’ve ever heard. Thankfully, the melodies that Tuomas is famous for creating then reappear albeit only for a short time before the face melting ensues again. This time however, the orchestral parts make an appearance to soften the blow but it’s still a very aggressive track. The title track of the album “Tyhjyys” comes on and I’m instantly reminded of “Veri” and “Breathe” from the previous albums. Like “Veri”, the song is sung entirely in Finnish and like “Breathe” it is much more stark than the rest of the album. Instead of choosing to end on a high like most albums do these days, Tuomas instead decides to leave us with a void of emptiness. The ‘Tyhjyys’ embodied.
I’ve been a massive fan of Tuomas’ work for a great number of years now and it seems as though he just keeps getting better each and every time he releases something. The same can be said of Wolfheart. They are like a fine wine… they only get better and never get worse as time goes on.
Album of the year? Too soon to call. We’ll wait and see though…
Standout Tracks: All of them
Tyhjyys is released on the 3rd March via Spinefarm Records.