Iterum Nata – From the Infinite Light


Scream Blast Repeat’s favourite Finnish musician, Jesse Heikkinen, is a busy man. Not content with releasing two of the finest records last year – see Beyond North Star by Henget and Word of Sin by The Abbey – the black metal experimentalist now approaches the first part of 2024 with album number five for his esoteric folk project, Iterum Nata. Formerly a client of Svart Records, this musical venture now has a home at Nordvis Records, and it represents the perfect platform for Heikkinen to undertake, in his words, a “bold foray across the boundaries between folk music, black and doom metal, neo-folk, and progressive rock.”

“I shall become the darkness / I have to do what’s right,” declares the Finnish multi-instrumentalist in ‘Overture Limitless Light’. As if on cue, his guitar imitates a harpsichord and produces a gleaming carnival-esque freakshow for the crowd. Ghost would be more interesting if they sounded like this in their playful moments. You half expect Mike Patton’s voice to pop up like a pantomime villain manipulating your sympathy. Power chords fatten out the drum accents as a lead into the vocal harmonies and whistling keyboards. Ambiguous this is not. You can hear Ennio Morricone in this tantalising mood of wide-eyed curiosity.

Of course, Heikkinen is at his most comfortable with a guitar in his hands. ‘This Gleaming Eternity’ sees him strum along with a silhouette of astral keyboard choirs as he projects his voice at the higher end of a baritone range. Listen how the bass guitar weaves a symmetrical web around the acoustic chords as the melodies cascade like stardust. You could call this musical astronomy; such is the thirst for knowledge. Here, dual harmonies illuminate in excess reverb like The Beatles spliced together with Pink Floyd. Yet you can also detect a strain of black metal mischief in the background as tremolo patterns remain camouflaged.

“I’m not dreaming, yet I’m not here at all / This manifested nightmare, I’m forced to kneel before,” croons Heikkinen in ‘A Manifested Nightmare’. His use of electric guitars as background ambience is clever. You can hear the Scott Walker influence in the vocal lines and the dramatic enunciation of the words. Hark how glittering melodic formations emanate from the guitar like shooting stars as a sprinkling piano moistens your eyes. Yet this is not the finest cut. That honour goes to ‘Ambrosia’, where aching-heart keyboard notes linger like unfathomable sorrows as Heikkinen digs deep into his register in the manner of a wise Dave Gahan on Depeche Mode’s latest album. A field recording of wind and rain seeps through the melodies to create a sense of place. It’s understandable if your mind transports you to the last funeral that you attended as you tried to compute the importance of what happened on that day. Seldom do you come across a black metal musician who can create something as solemn and as teary-eyed as this effort.

It takes a burdened soul to write music like this. Or you could give it the honour of a comparison to Leonard Cohen. Listen how the pensive voice signposts the direction in a classic storytelling narrative in ‘The Drifter’. Observe how ‘A Darkness Within’ floats along in the same light-headed bliss. Johnny Cash would be proud of this lullaby for the lonesome ranger. It’s a risk calling a song ‘Something Truly Almighty’, yet the introspective keyboard notes resonate like a mourner in solemn remembrance for his loved ones in this effort. “Can you remember a time before you were weak and torn? / Before the world as we know it, before it was poor,” laments Heikkinen in a crisp puff-chested voice. A sentimental flute hovers in the background like unformed human tears. Drums kick in at the three-minute mark as a second channel of electric guitar opens up like the sensation of crashing waves against the shores. You can spend most of your time with your eyes closed, in deep thought, listening to it unfold.

‘The Crown of All’ is a wonderful way to close this record. What can be better at this point of the listening journey than a melodic black metal song to end the LP on a sombre but triumphant note? You won’t find many folk artists ripping through their fretboard in a composition of this nature like a metal version of Dave Gilmour, but Jesse Heikkinen is not just any artist. From the Infinite Light is the pardon you need from a hectic life that will put you in an early grave.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 15/03/2024

Record Label: Nordvis Records

Standout tracks: This Gleaming Eternity, Ambrosia, Something Truly Almighty

Suggested Further Listening: Scott Walker – Tilt (1995), Brendan Perry – Eye of the Hunter (1999), Helga – Wrapped in Mist (2023)