Viima – Vaistyy Mielen Yo

Viima – Väistyy Mielen Yö

My first encounter with Finnish band Viima was back in the first decade of the new century when they contributed tracks to the Musea concept albums Kalevala, Inferno and Tuonen Tytär II. Pleasant enough, but nothing about them left a mark on me. Fast forward to earlier this year when, out of the blue, I received a message from guitarist Mikko Uusi-Oukari asking if I would be interested in reviewing the new album. Nothing that I had already heard prepared me for Väistyy mielen yö. One of the best things about music is how it can still surprise you time after time, even if you think you’ve heard it all before.

Viima first formed in Turku, Finland in 1998 as Lost Spectacles, specializing in Jethro Tull covers. From the start, they also worked at developing their own material, and by 2000 they had contributed their first recorded work to Tuonen Tytär, a cover of Matti Jarvinen’s Tuulee Niin. Making the decision to switch to Finnish lyrics, the band went through line-up changes worthy of Yes. The first album, released under the band name Viima, finally saw the light of day in 2006, with the second following three years later. Another series of line-up changes and we finally have the band’s third album. And it is worth the wait.

Kicking off with a beautiful flute melody, Tyttö trapetsilla (Girl On Trapeze) sets the stage, hinting at something special to follow. Filled with verve and energy, the song goes through several time signatures. The mighty mellotron plays a crucial role in the album’s sonic landscape. What really impressed me, though, was that these guys know when to pull out all the stops and – crucially – when to pull back. The electric guitar and organ are more impressive for the fact that they are used to add colour and dynamism. No one in the band overplays their hand. In keeping with the song’s title, the song has all the twists, turns and awe-inducing delight of an intricate circus act.

Wasting no time, we move on to the album’s epic, the nearly nineteen-minute Äiti Maan Lapset (The Children Of Mother Earth). From the first measures, you know you are in for a fabulous journey. The decision to sing in their native language only adds to the delights on offer. The song begins with Risto Pahlama’s organ laying down some heavy chords while drummer Mikko Vaarala manages to find every off beat he can locate in the first minute without ever sounding discordant. Soon the song yields to a gentle, pastoral electric piano and vocal section. The band leave plenty of space for each instrument to shine. However, there is no doubt that this is Vaarala’s show, both as composer and instrumentalist (he also contributes vocals and keys on this track). His approach is a mesmerizing combination of restraint and showmanship. The Moog soloing over the mellotron is a retro approach that works well to this day. The vocals are beautifully harmonized, but in a subtle manner that leaves no doubt as to where the main melody lies. The use of multiple voices is as effective as the plethora of sounds the band pull from their respective instruments. The segues from one section of the song to the next are smooth, each time feeling logical as the epic moves from one disparate part to the next. Twelve minutes in, the drums move to the fore with a relentless pounding that makes the guitar and mellotron accompaniment seem staid by comparison. Viima is a band who have clearly studied the giants of prog yet not fallen prey to slavish devotion. This could be my favourite epic of the year so far.

Pitkät Jäähyväiset (Long Goodbyes) is a wistful piece of melancholy that eventually gives way to a killer guitar riff over which some exquisitely haunting synth sounds play out. Hannu Hiltula’s flute weaves in and out, re-introducing the vocal melody at the end to bring the song full circle. Remaining firmly in the folky/symphonic mould, Perhonen (Butterfly) uses a gentle mellotron and electric piano duet to capture the beauty and delicacy of the titular insect. It isn’t till nearly three minutes in that the song finally breaks open, as a butterfly from its cocoon, to reveal its beating, rock-oriented heart. The prominent bass line courtesy of Aapo Honkanen is enjoyable in its simplicity, but sturdy enough that the guitar solo never claims its power. The jazzy touches on the drums toward the end of the song are just one more highlight in a tune full of them.

The album wraps up with Vuoren Rauha (The Peace of the Mountain). The sounds of a desolate wind melt into a haunting acoustic piano piece and a subdued vocal. There is a slow build as vocal harmonies and the omnipresent mellotron add airy layers as the flute asserts itself one final time. The melody has the strength of a power lifter, but it’s the arrangement – in particular the use of multiple keyboards – that steals the show. The extended coda reveals and rewards at every turn, fading back to the sound of the wind. Superb!

Väistyy mielen yö is an album I found myself being drawn to time and time again. The songs are beautiful, majestic and solid and the sound impeccable. There are chops to spare, but it’s never about drawing attention to oneself. The craft and attention to detail are impressive, but at the end of the day it is all about the music. You can bet I’ll be revisiting those earlier songs to see what I missed the first time around.

01. Tyttö Trapetsilla (4:42)
02. Äiti Maan Lapset (18:50)
03. Pitkät Jäähyväiset (6:38)
04. Perhonen (6:45)
05. Vuoren Rauha (7:37)

Total Time – 44:32

Aapo Honkanen – Bass
Risto Pahlama – Lead Vocals, Keyboards (2 & 3)
Mikko Uusi-Oukari – Guitars, Mellotron (3, 5)
Mikko Vaarala – Drums, Vocals, Additional Keyboards (2), Wood Chimes (5)
Hannu Hiltula – Flute (1 & 3) Keyboards (4 & 5), Backing Vocals (1,4 & 5), Voice (5)
~ With:
Kimmo Lahteenmaki – Keyboards (1), Wind Sounds (5)

Record Label: Viima Records
Country of Origin: Finland
Date of Release: 1st January 2024

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