Finally a worthy soundtrack for the Great Northern War – Darkwoods My Betrothed put out their first new album since the nineties, and it sounds amazing

Author Konsta Hietaniemi - 8.11.2021

Upon first reaching my consciousness somewhat recently, Darkwoods My Betrothed immediately aroused my curiosity: black metal seasoned with Tuomas Holopainen? As an avid fan of both, how could I not be intrigued?

The band itself is no newcomer though. In fact, Darkwoods My Betrothed was founded all the way back in 1994 and their three first albums were also released before the turn of the millenium. However, there was a hiatus of two decades between those three and their newest offering, called “Angel of Carnage Unleashed”.

The name turns out to be quite fitting, since this eight song epic sounds exactly like that: Violent and dramatic, the music never holds back. There are of course a lot of elements other than raw black metal, such as symphonic, multi layered parts and viking metal-esque epicness. Still this versatile record has been put together very skillfully by the core trio of the band, Pasi Kankkunen (vocals and guitar), Jouni Mikkonen (guitar) and Teemu Kautonen (bass and backing vocals). In addition, Tuomas Holopainen (who has provided session keyboards on every previous album of the band) has been promoted into a full time member and has also contributed to the writing process. In terms of lyrics, the band draws from the Great Northern War of the early 1700’s. 

The whole package is kept in time by none other than Kai Hahto of Wintersun and Nightwish, who recorded his parts as a session musician. Anyone who’s heard his drumming in the former knows he has no trouble dishing out furious blast beats without breaking a sweat. And while he obviously does a lot of other things here, his playing is never flashy, but always serving the song.

The listener is drawn in on the first seconds: Church organ plays a hymn that sounds somewhat familiar, while a priest announces that God is our fortress. Luckily the service gets interrupted by blast beats, tremolo picked riffs and an inhuman shrieks before long. Starting this way was definitely a good move, and while the opener “Name the Dead” later gains more layers and different elements, the song switches through them smoothly.

The second song, which was also released as the first single, “In Evil, Sickness and in Grief” has more symphonic elements and especially the middle part is sure to appeal to Nighwish fans. This is also one of the songs featuring female backing vocals. Provided by Johanna Kurkela, they add a nice touch to the atmosphere. While the more metal elements are also quite prominent in “In Evil…”, the song serves as a pretty good overall picture of what the band is all about.

The next song then goes in a totally different direction. “Murktide and Midnight Sun” features entirely clean vocals, a catchy chorus and some viking metal riffage. While the style differs greatly from the first two songs, it doesn’t feel out of place on the album. The same applies to “In Thrall To Ironskull’s Heart” later on. The song has been cooked with the same ingredients, although with added epicness and a clean beginning. It could also be described as the ballad of the album.

After the aforementioned song, another notable change in atmosphere takes place in the form of “Massacre”, as violent unpredictability lays waste on any sense of safety the previous song might have lulled the listener into. The last proper song, “Black Fog and Poison Wind” starts off with the same rage and finally brings the album to a (almost) close with some dramatic orchestal arrangements.

The soundscapes strike a good balance between primitive and polished, which also helps tie together all the different musical directions. The black metal elements, including Kankkunen’s delightfully raw vocals, make sure the sound doesn’t get too easily digestible, while the grandiose orchestrations make this something more than raw black metal. Each song also has plenty of musical hooks that make you wanna get back to the album again and again.

The touch of maestro Holopainen is the most apparent in the massive orchestral breaks that sound, well, very Holopainen-like. While some parts are not much unlike Nightwish, they don’t feel out of place on the album, for the most part. Once or twice, tops, it feels like there might be too many layers in the context of the rest of the song, but it’s nothing serious. It was also wonderful to notice that the keyboards and orchestrations aren’t just limited to a couple dedicated parts, but they’re more or less subtly used in each song, always in a way that supports the song. Holopainen has clearly put a lot of effort into these arrangements.

There aren’t a lot of things that aren’t well done on this album, but there are a few things I have to point out. The lyrics, while mostly well written and interesting, are sometimes a bit amateurish. For example the rhymes feel a bit forced sometimes and in a couple places two lines end with the same word instead of rhyming. In the end, this doesn’t bother much. What does though, are the clean vocals. Apart from the choir sections, they sound pretty weak. The finnish accent doesn’t exactly help, although neither does my own Finnishness in this respect, I reckon. Luckily the clean vocals aren’t used a lot, but “Murktide…” and “In Thrall…” would be more enjoyable with a better singer.

As for the short outro track, it really doesn’t fit as an outro here. It’s dramatic, escalating and it sounds like it’s building up to something. In other words, it really sounds more like an intro. It also doesn’t fit in thematically. The great war is about to end, with the angel of carnage reaping its last harvest in “Black Fog…”, so it doesn’t seem like the time to hype anything up. This track would have been great as the intro of the album, or of some individual song.

I’ve no doubt that the inclusion of Holopainen and Hahto is a massive help in marketing too. Looking at the comment section of the first single release on Youtube, I noticed that a lot of people were liking the music, but hating the vocals. My guess is that a lot of Nightwish fans were drawn to the band by names familiar in the mainstream metal world. And ain’t this wonderful?

An album like “Angel of Carnage Unleashed” is an impressive way to make a comeback, and the band absolutely deserves all of the attention its well known lineup most likely attracts. One can only hope that the second coming of Darkwoods My Betrothed has only begun.


1. Name the Dead
2. In Evil, Sickness and in Grief
3. Murktide and Midnight Sun
4. You Bitter Source of Sorrow
5. Where We Dwell
6. In Thrall to Ironskull’s Heart
7. Massacre
8. Black Fog and Poison Wind
9. Outro

Two singles have been released so far, along with lyric videos. Check out ” In Evil, Sickness and in Grief” and “Murktide and Midnight Sun” below. “Angel of Carnage Unleashed” will be released on 12 November through Napalm Records.