“Freedom is dead, so long live the beloved shackles.”

-Stam1na, ‘Valhe’

Let me start out by noting that Spotify’s Discover Weekly function is the best fuckin thing on the planet.

Okay, now that we have that cleared up. Hello! I haven’t posted on this blog in a really long time, and before that there were huge gaps in between my postings. Will and I started this blog our sophomore year and we (or at least I) had a very specific vision of what I wanted it to become — a fun, lowkey, and enjoyable outlet to help me keep active with writing and to address, attack, and expand upon topics I find interesting.

The main problem wasn’t with these parameters — I wrote about all sorts of things I was interested in. Existential philosophy, the nature of friendship, evolution, the creative process, and coffee have all shown up on here in various stages of authorial maturity, but a key part of blogging is regularity and scheduling. It’s not that I don’t enjoy writing, it’s just that once writing becomes codified into a set scheduled chore, the routine drives the enjoyment gained completely into the ground.

Basically me all the time, but with less cigarettes, more coffee, and a beard.

And thus the M part of MAWWAB ceased to regularly contribute, except in special circumstances or in rare fits of inspiration. I am currently in one of these rare fits, but I have a potential new solution which will help me to write much more frequently. And that is, I’m just going to write about music (for the most part) from here on out.

I love music. Like absolutely love it. If you know me in the slightest, this isn’t anything new. But I ALSO love it when other people love music, and so I spend a fair amount of time trying to get my friends into the stuff I listen to and vice versa. There’s just so much music out there, and our only options for finding it are through personal research and the advice of our peers.

So this will be my musical evangelistic endeavor, in web format!

Maybe every once in a while, if this renaissance should continue, I’ll write about something else, like moving to L.A. in a few weeks (!) and trying not to starve. But let’s keep our standards really low, because I’m terribly unreliable about things like this.

The album cover for Elokuutio. Vahle is the only song I’ve listened to, and if I could manage to stop replaying it and listen to the rest of the album maybe this post would be a lot longer.

Now that we have all the boring ‘I used to write a blog’ stuff out of the way, let’s talk about the real reason I came back to this — a fantastic song called Valhe by relatively popular (in very niche circles) Finnish prog metal band Stam1na. I’ve listened to it like eight times in a row now, which is uncommon behavior for me, and I tweeted about it and sent it to several of my friends immediately. And then I realized I wanted to write more about it, which is how I ended up back on MAWWAB to begin my ministry of music.

Give it a listen.

I don’t have an entirely solid grasp of what the song is about. This is largely because the lyrics are all in Finnish, and the translation online is sketchy at best. It includes lines such as, “the absolute eternity of cloudservicecastle” which I’m fairly certain came directly from Google Translate. From what I CAN gather, Valhe means “falshood” and the song deals with themes of addiction, imprisonment, and lies. There’s also a bunch of Egyptian imagery present (with references to pyramids and Kheops, the hellenized name of a 4th dynasty pharaoh). If we piece all of this together, it could be a song about someone failing to deal with a problem and then retreating inside their own head to isolate themselves in the lie (vahle!) rather than come to terms with the ambiguous enemy Truth.

Pretty dope stuff.

Yes, I realize these are Mesoamerican pyramids and not Egyptian ones. But the color palette feels right and it’s what I imagine after listening to the mood and lyrics of the song.

But the music is what hooked me as I was innocently listening to my Discover Weekly, since I didn’t even know what the lyrics were about the first five times I listened or so. This song is absolutely gorgeous. Strong introductory guitar, but nothing too attention-grabbing. The moment I was hooked is around the 45 second mark when the guitar starts arpeggio-ing up the scale and then finding the notes it likes and exploring them further. This cuts out to the synthy first verse with calm, melodic, Finnish lyrics.

And then the bridge hits like a ton of bricks with amped up guitars, louder drums, and a solid sense of epic atmosphere which rolls right into the chorus. There’s a palpable sadness or mourning evident, even before reading the lyrics. But with the introduction of harsh vocals (a little meh here, but they improve later on) the sadness turns to rage.

The instrumental bit in the center of the song is a relaxing counterpoint before returning to the verse structure, which is now familiar. But instead of moving directly back to the bridge, the song cuts to some very pleasant piano with spoken vocals. It’s serene for a moment before the full force of Finnish fury comes back with much deeper (and therefore better) harsh vocals that bring us back to the soaring chorus. The song ends with atonal screaming over the chorus music to good effect, before dropping to the downward spiraling piano to close the song.

While the initial melody was strong enough to grab my interest during a very ambient listening session, I found that I enjoyed it much more after a few listens. It’s a fantastic song, and there’s something mesmerizing about the way the Finnish language spits out the emotion of the song, even without having a solid translation of the actual lyrics. So if the first listen didn’t do it for you, maybe wait an hour or two and give it another try. And maybe another one after that.

And maybe like, just one more.



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