During a religious education lesson at secondary school my class was asked to define 'Amen'. I confidently replied that it meant 'The End', erroneously believing that the word equated to FIN or FINE at the end of arty foreign language movies. If nothing else this demonstrates that I was a born heathen and that I never truly had any faith to lose.
Finnish artist Mikko Joensuu came to Atheism by a more tortured route. He was raised in a strict Pentecostal Christian home and this upbringing was sufficient to cause depression and, eventually, to turn him against God completely.
In an attempt to make sense of this personal struggle, Joensuu began writing a set of songs (in English) for each of the three solo albums in 2009 while still in his band Joensuu 1685, who released just one album.
Amen 3 is the culmination of a long musical journey, the final part of a trilogy which began with obvious links to Americana but ends with extended meditative pieces that have more in common with ambient music than traditional folk.
There are just six tracks but the playing time is an expansive 76 minutes; like short stories that somehow morphed into epic novels. Each album is described as "an unfiltered manifestation of Mikko’s search to free himself from his past and move on".
On 'Amen 1' he referred to himself as "a sinner to the bone" on the track Thief And A Liar, while the trilogy as a whole can be perceived as an attempt to rid himself of the guilt and shame associated with the loss of faith.
The 20 minute closing track on Amen 2 (I Gave You All) was an indication of the musical direction the narrative was heading.
The synthesized tunes of 'Amen 3' probably began life as humble introspective ballads but they break with any notion of conventional song structures through the introduction of long Kosmiche drones and loops. All tracks last well over 10 minutes apart from the relatively brief five minute single Dream About A Miracle.
The album begins with the "drive into the darkness" of Birth and ends with a 14 minute hymn to non-belief in front of the Pearly Gates in which Joensuu expresses skepticism about the creationist notion that God magically conjured "a woman out of bone and a man out of dirt".
In between we have the entirely instrumental Perfect Patterns, 14 minutes of pure Krautrock, and the heartfelt The Worst In Me in which the singer hints at the spiritual struggle to liberate himself from doubt and self loathing.
Svart Records are to be congratulated for putting out a unique work with no obvious commercial potential yet which has the power to connect with listeners on a deeper spiritual level, God or no God.
So be it.
Mikko Joensuu's website