ALBUM REVIEW: Bjørkø – Heartrot

Tomi Koivusaari is known for being one of the founding members of the masterful metal act, Amorphis. He has been a champion in one of Finland’s most acclaimed bands for over thirty years and he is now getting ready to release an album from his debut solo project: Bjørkø.Heartrot (Svart Records) proclaims the distinct genius and colorful capabilities of this guitar expert. Koivusaari’s scheme to go solo started years ago and it is exciting to see his vision come to fruition. This is a collaborative work with many gifted guests contributing their prowess and power. Each number highlights the guitarist’s musical influences and the variety takes some unexpected turns.

Jeff Walker from Carcass graces the first number “The Heartroot Rots” and it makes it one of the punchiest pieces on the record.

Another heavy number, “World as Fire and Hallucination” featuring Stian Thoresen (Shagrath) from Dimmu Borgir shows off Koivusaari’s more sinister side. The riffs are fierce and keen, which pairs perfectly with these guests’ otherworldly vocals making the ominous numbers quite severe.

The star-studded band members handle the aggressiveness with expertise. Opeth’s Waltteri Vayrynen has clout and cunning on the drums gives all the songs a bold addition.

There are many moods conveyed and the shifts jostle the emotions. The vibrant variances  keep the listener on their toes. “Vaka Loka” has Addi Tryggvason (Sólstafir) earnestly wailing in Icelandic and “Whitebone Wing” features Marco Heitala (ex-Nightwish)’s heartwarming singing in Finnish. 

Each song has a decadent hook and most carry a catchy chorus that will have you humming along. Heitala’s high register belting in a minor key meshes with the crunch of the guitar in a way that shows off Koivusaari’s melancholic side. Numbers like this and “The Trickster” reveal melodic diversity within death metal.

Songs like “Magenta” carry a more thoughtful, folksy component that is tinged with a hint of sadness. A highlight on the album is “Hooks in the Sky” featuring Amorphis’ frontman Tomi Joutsen. The whirlwind of well-designed and dynamic movements carry a lot of weighty intrigue. There are eerie elements throughout the album which crescendos on this piece.

The intricate drum work, synth usage, and cultivated guitars shows off the real artistry of Koivusaari. The whole record exhibits the effectiveness of collaboration and the variety flaunts how intensely accomplished these musicians are.

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7 / 10