"Pelon Neljäs Valtakunta"

By El Chief

Kohti Tuhoa's sophomore album, "Pelon Neljäs Valtakunta" (Google says it means "fourth kingdom of fear"), has made me fall in love with punk all over again. In America, the movement too often has been hijacked by ridiculous posers like Hatebreed and King 810. But "discovering" Kohti Tuhoa is a lot like how I felt watching director Christopher Nolan's "Batman Begins" after director Joel Schumacher ripped the Caped Crusader's wings following two ridiculous movies. It's great to be able to believe again.

Like what Nolan did for fans of superhero movies, Finland's Kohti Tuhoa is here to make things okay again for people who grew up worshipping bands like Anti-Flag and the Misfits. It's hard to believe a region notorious for annually topping the world's list of happy residents could produce something like this. But here it is: a record dripping in genuine contempt for everything ailing them.

After a quick burst of snare drum, singer Helena Hiltunen grabs center stage with a voice so penetrating it could be misidentified as an air warning siren. If you've seen the incredible movie "Logan," then think of the scene where Laura reveals to Logan that she can indeed talk. That furious delivery is similar to how Hiltunen approaches her vocals. There's nothing held back. It's a whirlwind of chants, exasperation and primal screams. At the end of a stellar 12 songs, her voice gets swallowed up in effects, like her rage is so potent that it must be bottled up and not allowed to exist unencumbered in the world.

Hiltunen is so commanding that one can easily lose track of just how good the rest of Kohti Tuhoa is. But the listener gets reminded every time Hiltunen pulls her lips away from the microphone. The musicians backing her know how to rip. It was once said that the Sex Pistols were like Chuck Berry on steroids, and I kept thinking about that quote in the brief moments where guitarist Ville Valavuo was allowed to shine. "Pelon Neljäs Valtakunta" is loaded with riffs. Quick, blistering hits. There are several times I heard Valavuo pay tribute to the Ramones before melting the riff into a wall of guitar wails that was the signature sound of Slayer's late guitarist Jeff Hanneman.

At only 21 minutes in length, "Pelon Neljäs Valtakunta," is the perfect way to destress on the drive home from work or school. The lyrics are completely in Finnish, which could put off some non-bilingual listeners who want to know what's behind all the rage. But, this disconnect is also a blessing. Instead of being forced to think about the message behind Hiltunen's howls, the listener is free to tailor her rage into whatever's appropriate from them