Pantokraator's Tormidesööjad is, in many ways, an interesting and enjoyable album whilst, in others, it leaves a slight feeling of frustration. Overall, its brand of (world) folk to progressive rock fusion will be fascinating to many fans who are interested in how progressive rock has reached across the globe and infused other cultures.
Pantokraator are an Estonian band whose origins go back to the 1980s when that country was still a part of the USSR. Economic circumstances forced them to split-up shortly after Estonian independence and it wasn't until 2006 that they reformed. Since then they have written the material for Tormidesööjad and begun to play live shows and tour: they are hoping that their music will reach across international frontiers. There's no reason that it shouldn't because - despite the difficulty for other peoples of it being sung in their own Estonian language (not one which many people will understand) – its strong melodic, vocal and rhythmic qualities will be sufficient to win over many fans.
The "book-end" tracks of Tormidesööjad are both excellent: the opener "Metsavaht" carries a wonderful chorus that is both rhythmic and very catchy, exemplifying the strong band performance that keeps you listening all the way through some weaker moments right to the end of this album, to "Paus on hea". It's good album dynamics to start and finish on highs, and the band do just that: "Paus on hea" begins with the sounds of someone walking up some stairs, then you hear them approaching a room with music seeping through the door, they enter and wham! Party! Great music! The song ends with the door slamming shut...nice effects and a great song, very good!
The features that mark out the highlight points of Tormidesööjad - and they are more frequent than in just the couple of tracks I've mentioned – are the beautiful sung harmonies and the guitar and keyboard melodic phrasing. These gems pop up throughout the album so that, when you might be struggling with the language or a less interesting musical passage, these little musical pearls brighten your listening again. Lauri Saatpalu (lead vocals) and Erik Sakkov (synthesizers) are the "leaders" of the band, having made the decision to reform, and are joined by Triinu Taul (lead vocals – by the way, you may not have guessed from the name but Triinu is a lady - and a very pretty one at that! - and her female vocals complement Lauri's male vocal brilliantly, and add extra pleasure to the harmonies), as well as by Taavi Langi (guitars), Henno Kelp (bass) and Roland Puusepp (drums, percussion). A number of session musicians assist the band on this album, singing and playing instruments such as violin, viola and cello. A choir is also involved on a couple of tracks. As you can see, the sound is occasionally very rich indeed.
I have mentioned a downside: primarily this arises from not always choosing a pleasant keyboard sound – on "Linnamäng" for instance the keyboard sound makes the song sound like one of those awful British seaside resort (ie, in the rain!) dance tunes - and from some of the simpler-structure, folkier songs lacking in appeal to non-Estonian speakers, such as "Kodukäijad" (however, a translation is provided in the excellent CD booklet).
Of the remaining, book-ended, songs "Pilvedesse sõuan paadi", "Käsmu" and the title track "Tormidesööjad "are the pick; the last two featuring the choir and choral effects.
Overall, this is an interesting album. I would probably have given it 3-and-a-half stars but I think I have been affected by not understanding the language and so am correcting the score up to a 4. The harmonies, the guitar and keyboards, and, as a minimum, the five songs I have mentioned by name on the album all deserve that accolade.
If you are interested in how progressive rock music has reached across national frontiers and affected music of different cultures, then Tormidesööjad is a must for you.
1) Metsavaht (3:31)
2) Linnamäng (4:04)
3) Pilvedesse sõuan paadi (4:35)
4) Kodukäijad (4:48)
5) Päike mu päike (3:39)
6) Tule tule (4:15)
7) Käsmu (5:07)
8) Tormidesööjad (6:00)
9) Tuultekodu (4:52)
10) Paus on hea (3:35)