In 2008, Tomi Koivusaari (Amorphis, Abhorrence) began collecting riffs to give himself a solo album for his 40th birthday. It should ultimately take until the 50s, but the guitarist puts it as Bjørkø Countable things. He is supported by a competent (studio) band including members of Opeth, Spacevolk and Stratovarius, and he was also able to attract an armada of guests. Half of the texts were written by Abhorrence companion Jussi “Juice” Ahlroth, the rest by the ‘contributed’ voices. Under the title „Heartrot“ it sets an astonishing range of extreme metal sounds on a no less astonishingly coherent album.
At the beginning, Koivusaari meets an old companion: He once contributed the guitars for the strange Flüffers solo album by Jeff Walker (Carcass), who is now returning the favor and really hitting the shit in the quasi-title track “The Heartroot Rots”. Together they dedicate themselves to deadly extremes in epic length. Walker seems as hoarse and grumpy as ever, but the thoroughly proggy middle section still surprises and makes room for chilled pathos. Something similar is achieved with “Hooks In The Sky”, for which Amorphis colleague Tomi Joutsen was won. The slightly pagan touch is good, a folky break and dramaturgically valuable, plaintive vocals provide the necessary spice.
Jessi Frey (Velcra) may not be the best-known name, but she delivers a terrific performance between floating, fairy-like vocals and brash anger in the death-doom song “The Trickster”. Former Nightwish bassist Marco Hietala (Tarot), together with Petronella Nettermalm (Paatos), gives the comparatively classic “Whitebone Wind” melodic wings, while Shagrath from Dimmu Borgir dismantles the feverish, deep black “World As Fire And Hallucination” with gusto. However, what Aðalbjörn Tryggvason (Sólstafir, Isafjørd) does with “Vaka Loka” goes beyond the scope in the best sense of the word – Pagan-like sounds, catchy suspense and emotional turmoil drive five strong minutes.
Although not every track takes off like that, Koivusaari’s solo debut is more than worth listening to. Of course, you first have to find your way into “Heartrot”, which is hardly surprising given the plurality of voices, emotions and genres, but you can’t really escape Bjørkø’s musical magic. Largely located in the Death Doom and Viking or Pagan microcosm of extremes, the result is a dense, lively, highly varied gem full of unusual beauty and repulsive pain, which reveals new magical subtleties with each run. “Heartrot” is thrilling and definitely deserves a second part.
Available from: December 1st, 2023
Available via: Svart Records (Membrane)
Category: Magazin, Reviews