REVIEW OF MIKKO JOENSUU NEW ALBUM AMEN 1
MIKKO JOENSUU – AMEN 1
Not too long ago American President Barack Obama commented on the rich heavy metal scene in Finland. He was trying to make a point about something else entirely, but the fact remains that metal has a rich history in Finland. What is less well known is the indie rock, folk and Americana scene.
One man trying to undo this oversight is Mikko Joensuu. Born in 1986, he formed indie rock trio Joensuu 1685 in the mid 2000’s with his brother and another musician, releasing a self titled debut album in 2008. When they split Joensuu found himself at a crossroads; retreating to rural Finland, he came up with the concept of his Amen Trilogy:
“In the summer of 2012 I built a studio in a small cabin by a lake in northern Finland. I spent a month staring towards the lake, writing and recording. During that time I realised what I had was actually three different albums, all stemming from the same state of mind, expressing various sides to the same story”, he explains.
Hence we arrive at Amen 1, due for release on June 10th via Svart Records (2 will be released later in 2016, with 3 coming in Spring 2017). It is, according to Joensuu, the “most fragile” part of the trilogy, which is “an effort to find balance between great sadness and beauty”. Utilising only the piano, pedal steel guitar, strings and Joensuu’s voice, it is certainly a simple venture, and one that is as religious as both the album and song titles would suggest.
Opening track ‘Closer to God’ confirms that in spades, with deeply personal lyrics relating to Joensuu’s redemption and connection to God. It also showcases the folky, Americana style that directs the album’s sound, particularly the sweet pedal steel guitar melodies. Lush, uplifting and beautiful, it’s an outstanding opening number.
Given their subject matter, the fact that some of the songs have a hymnal quality is hardly surprising, especially the lovely ‘Enjoy It While It Lasts’, the sweet, piano-led ‘Sometimes You Have to Go Far’ and the plaintive ‘Valley of Gold’. There are also touches of proto country rock (‘Enjoy It…’, the simple yet effective ‘Take Me Home, Oh Lord’ and lead single ‘Warning Sign’), as well as Americana (‘I’d Give You All’, ‘Thief and a Liar’).
Every track has a few threads tying them together: religion, an elegant simplicity and a sense of understated yet powerful conviction. Almost every one would be at home in a church, sung either by the congregation or choir (close your eyes and picture ‘Take Me Home, Oh Lord’ being sung by multiple voices: goosebump inducing). The result is an album that’s gorgeously rich, emotionally buoyant and – as all artists strive for – timeless.
If this is what the Finnish folk/Americana scene is producing, it seems all but inevitable that it, too, will conquer the genre worldwide. Must be something in the water there…
Review by Melanie Black
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