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Where would we be today without Finntroll? How would the metal world have fared if a drunken Somnium (R.I.P.) hadn’t had the gnawing need to mix black metal’s bestiality with folk/polka rhythms and melodies? If you ask me, it wouldn’t’ve fared well at all…and we should be on our knees thanking his unholy spirit for evoking one of the best sub-genres any well-meaning, open-minded, I’m-So-Metal-I-Rust-In-the-Rain dickhead could jig himself into an early grave to. Well, OK, sure, SOME folk metal groups existed before “Jaktens Tid” threw us for a loop, but they took themselves a bit too seriously and weren’t quite as much the fun-loving novelty acts many of their ilk are today, and it’s to that end that we enjoy every passing second of it.
The Troll-boys have been at the forefront of this folky invasion for many years, so one should ask…would their latest still prove an indelible source of metallic enjoyment?
Upon placing myself knees-deep into “Nifelvind”, I found a surprisingly darker, heavier, and, more serious present Finntroll mixed in with the fun-loving past we all know and love. It’s a bit surprising, but not completely, as their blackened roots made them in a bit of a league of their own amidst the folk metal explosion, and as a result, one is able to simultaneously head-bang and dance it up pretty much riff by riff. Once more, this listener is taken deep into the icy, shadowy Finnish woods to bear witness to a bunch of inhuman beasts dancing and howling at the moon around the campfire; that sort of escapism that makes it necessary to leave the ugly real world faded away (and with good reason…). Proving that there’s still plenty of pith and vinegar in the troll corpse, Vreth and company let loose with a venomous, thrashy rage combined with the Disney movie orchestral lines of albums past that add a few extra pounds to your form due to its ability to satisfy and then some, always astounding and ensuring a prominent shelf life for this and other (I hope) equally prominent listeners. It’s always refreshing, rewarding, and other positive assorted “re-” words to venture into albums that deviate so much from what is meant to be the musical norm, at least on my end, as their existences warrant an enjoyability factor far too few newer bands possess in this or any other year, where the explosive and heavy guitar riffs/leads, dramatic orchestrations, bouncy melodies, bruising percussion usage, and the dual approach of animalistic growls and troll gang chants burst forth with the energetic madness you’d come to expect, tossing casual song arrangements to the wind like so many used loin cloths. Problem is, this time around, all those ideas flitter by faster than they should, and before you know it the song you’ve been bobbing along to is over sooner than expected. It’s a mild deterrence, though, and nothing to hold against the group, as fine auditory examples such as “Solsagan”, “Ett Norrskensdads”, and “Tiden Utan Tid” attest as brightly as they can.
At the end of the day, Finntroll’s latest beastly dominates and tickles this listener a nice shade of pink. You’d be doing yourself a disservice were you to not give this a listen, and another, and another. Trust me on this.
For all the success Finntroll have enjoyed over the last few years, interviews given over the course have hinted at a sort of resentment at the kind of exposure they have received. On one hand you could see their point – debuting in 1999 and really coming into their own 2 years later with ‘Jaktens tid’, Finntroll definitely preceded (some would say ignited) the subsequent explosion of modern folk metal bands, and deserve better than being seen as some sort of comedy act. But then again, a band promoting themselves with music videos that show them dressed in loincloths and partying in a cave may have a bit of a cheek expecting to be taken seriously.
2007’s ‘Ur jordens djup’ seemed like something of a reaction to this – gone was much of the eccentricity the band had built their name on, the riffs less direct and punchy and Trollhorn’s keyboards more focused on creating sweeping background soundscapes than on the myriad quirky melodies that used to be front and centre, and the end result suffered for it. Feeling halfway between a Moonsorrow and a Finntroll CD, it captured the best of neither band, lacking the massive epic scale of the former and the vibrant liveliness of the latter.
‘Nifelvind’ goes some way to mending this error, retaining the increased symphonic aspects of its predecessor while also being re-injected with the manic energy of the band’s earlier releases. The overly dark and downbeat aspects of ‘Ur jordens djup’ remain integral aspect of the sound, as they always were, but are not as played up this time around and are better balanced against a rich tapestry of colourful keyboard melodies.
An increase in genuine folk instruments is also added to the mix to create an even more organic feel, the most notable being the violin (provided by Olli Vänskä of Turisas, no less) on “Ett norrskensdåd” which adds a certain moody wistfulness to the song. At the same time, when ‘Nifelvind’ gets heavy, it pulls no punches, and the thundering drums and guitar of “I trädens sång” sound positively violent.
The decision to add a 2nd keyboard player to the line-up in Alexei Virta (mostly for the purpose of live shows, probably, but having his hard work rewarded with full member status anyway) is an indicator that this is the most densely-layered Finntroll CD to date, with all kinds of unusual background sounds forming a jumbled yet rich palette. There is said to be an over-arching theme of some sort of evil carnival that binds the songs together, and while I can’t penetrate the Swedish lyrics to find out if there is an actual story being told, the music makes enough references to menacing twists on fairground melodies that it goes on to create vivid imagery in the mind of the listener. Indeed, the intro track, “Blodmarsch” is so damned cinematic that you can practically see the caravans being hauled through the forest as subtly grand orchestration and the growls of throat-singing (or a decent approximation thereof) drift over booming percussion.
Vreth acquits himself better as vocalist on his 2nd appearance with the band, and seems to have grown into the role over the last few years, with more variety in his scowling tones this time around. While I still don’t think he matches original singer (and continuing lyricist) Katla for pure viciousness, he shrieks are a better fit for the band than the guttural grunts of his immediate predecessor Tapio Wilska. ‘Nifelvind’ also features the most extended passages of clean vocals on a Finntroll CD to date (relax, its only for 2 songs) and Vreth impresses greatly with a sombre baritone performance. The first of these songs, “Tiden utan tid” is a pounding slow march, opened with an extended clean passage that show off the increased ethnic influences that have been incorporated, while the other “Galgasång” is a truly excellent acoustic ballad-type song accented by twanging banjo playing and another turn from Vänskä, and stands out among the heavier songs on the CD as maybe the best of the lot.
In terms of quality, ‘Nifelvind’ probably stacks up against ‘Nattfödd’, perhaps lacking a couple its stand-out moments of brilliance, but at the same time feels far more cohesive and without the couple of throwaways that interrupted the momentum on their breakthrough CD. The magic of ‘Jaktens tid’ still remains just out of reach though, and regardless of this being arguably their best work since, it seems more and more evident that the missing x-factor is late guitarist Somnium, the chemistry created by mixing up his and Trollhorn’s compositions something that will never be recreated.
To end on a more positive note though, ‘Nifelvind’ is representative of a band back on track, emerging after a cathartic act of defiance with a CD that contains some of their strongest work. With the comparative gloom of ‘Ur jordens djup’ out of their systems, they are back to doing what they do best with another fine outing into the freakish wilds of the Finnish forests, and those that thought they had lost their way in 2007 can breathe a deep sigh of relief.
(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/)
There's a lot to be said about Finntroll, but words themselves cannot fully describe the awesomeness that is Finntroll, and however outrageous the avenue that this particular album has taken, whether for better or for worse, there is no denying that they are, hands-down, one of the most superb metal acts of our time.
The album "Nifelvind", brings on some pretty unique responses for the individual. For me, the opening track is classic reminiscence of "Jakten's Tid", with some nice Nordic chanting as an addition, which very effectively prepares you for a brutal and frightening journey through the psyche of Trollhorn, and the latest product of his genius, "Nifelvind".
There are times when the album takes a totally bizarre turn, quite out of the way of the usual path of madness that Finntroll usually travel, for example, track number 4, "Ett Norrskensdåd", which has an almost Jewish/Middle-Eastern way about it. It takes you completely by surprise, delivering a metal waltz if you will. This is still unmistakeably Finntroll that is playing, but it is a turn that will either surprise you in a pleasant way, or will piss you off. Don't get me wrong, I'm the last person to want to be stupid enough to perhaps mistaken classic Finnish folk tunes or traditional styles of the Finns for something Jewish or Middle-Eastern, but I'm merely pointing out an obvious trait that you will recognise immediately (as something Trollfest tried and failed), and that's any kind of Middle-Eastern styles played by Europeans
However, the album totally redeems itself with the following compositions, including track number 10, "Fornfamnad", which opens with a CLASSIC Finntroll moment, which reminds you somewhat of "En Mäktig Här" from their previous effort, "Ur Jordens Djup", of which I recall, upon hearing it for the first time, throwing my head back laughing, screaming "THIS is the Finntroll I love!!!" Moments like this appear again in an intermission in the final track, "Dråp", which is actually hilarious, but nevertheless, awesome.
"Nifelvind" is not quite as Black Metal as it's predecessor, "Ur Jordens Djup", but comes remarkably close. These guys (Trollhorn in particular) have clearly taken it upon themselves to start slowly turning away from their former style, slowing down the tempo, reducing the mayhem and madness and trying to create structure to a more solid and diverse series of compositions rather than throwing out track after track of Humppa Metal played at 2000 bpm. It will annoy the traditionalists, but if you're like me and you enjoy hearing something new being concocted in a certain genre, executed with style and professionalism, then you're going to blow your stack over "Nifelvind".
I believe, adding to the already brilliant black metal traits that this album harbours, that this album will be one of the most sought-after metal offerings of 2010, particularly for the typical fan of Folk/Black Metal.
Finntroll - Nifelvind - 88/100
This is a review I never thought I'd be writing, as a longtime Finntroll listener since the days of their Rivfader demo and Midnattens Widunder album, but write it I must, for it seems sadly that my folk/frolic heroes may have finally jumped the shark. Now, before the canned goods start flying in my direction, for ever liking Finntroll in the first place (hating on this band is apparently the new black), let me explain that I always enjoy humorous metal when it's played straight and offers a proof of concept. Finntroll has always been one such band for me, though I feel their videos have consistently been awful, and I dread to think of any younglings thinking them any sort of representation of folk metal or extreme metal at large.
But through it all, the band still offered me a lot of laughs, since I enjoy the contrast of a black metal band going humppa and taking the genre tropes of trolls, Swedish lyrics and pagan party metal delivered with such morbid curiosity and high production values. And when you think of it, if any of the band's myriad impersonators have ever written an album worth a damn when compared to this band's catalog. I consider at least three of this band's previous albums to be classics, and yes, I even loved this album's divisive predecessor Ur Jordens Djup, which featured some excellent riffing. And that is really my beef with Nifelvind, the band's 5th full-length... through all of the atmosphere, all the orchestration, the change of costume, the rather serious tone to the album and lyrics, and the high watermark of the recording quality...there are simply not that many riffs here I have found myself reflecting upon. Yes, it's the first time I've had a Finntroll album enter one ear and exit the other.
But that didn't happen right away. My first few times listening through Nifelvind I was very taken with the immense sound. In particular the epic qualities of the orchestration used through the intro "Blodmarsch" and touched upon through many of the other tracks. "Solsagan" enters with some standard atmospheric, melodic black metal melodies and flights of the band's polka grinding, but as solidly as its delivery and the orchestral swells during the breakdown are, there is not a single riff in the song that I cared for until the melodic war metal rhythm very deep within the track (around 3:00). The percussion that opens "Den Frusna Munnen" is thrilling, and I've always wanted the band to write more music in the vein of their 'non-metal' album Visor Om Sluett, but as the metal riffs arrive, it all feels watered down and dull. Like all of its neighbors here, the song would be entirely void of interest if not for the additional instruments.
And unfortunately, this is the rule and not the exception for the majority of the album's 45 minute play length. Songs like "Ett Norrskensdåd", "Under Bergets Rot", "Mot Skuggornas Värld" and the polka-cued "Fornfamnad" passed straight through me like a morning coffee, and I found myself relying on the brooding country folk of "Galgasång" with its deep backing vocal or the spastic evil boreal surf humppa of the bonus track "Under Dvärgens Fot" (a far more entertaining take on "Under Bergets Rot") to keep me occupied. I was not even thrilled by the more epic, sweeping compositions like "Tiden Utan Tid" and "Dråp", though the former's Grieg/Wagnerian incursions were welcome.
It's rather a downer, because almost all of the technical aspects of this album are done extremely well. The band has never sounded more massive, thanks to all the multi-tracking glory and enhanced emphasis on the various vocal bombardments. The shift from natural, folksy environs to raging symphonic metal occurs smoothly, and the tones do not neglect or dishonor any of the band's past efforts. I had no problem with Vreth's vocals on the prior album, and I found them adequate here. It's simply the album's lack of 'sticking' metal material here that has dragged down the experience, and after a half dozen listens, I'm just about finished trying. It's like eating at a very expensive bistro. Your expectations run high, and the appetizer is good enough to get the gastric juices flowing, but if the main course doesn't deliver taste with all of the trappings, there is no certainly reason to go out of your way for it again.
Highlights: Blodmarsch, Galgasång, Tiden Utan Tid, Under Dvärgens Fot
Finntroll are back! Once more they crawled from their holes in the earth, left their little huts in the woods or came from wherever trolls hang out nowadays. After the decent Ur Jordens Djup, which was recorded by a six-member band (plus one lyricist, ex-vocalist Katla) they added another bandmember to the line-up. Nifelvind was recorded by seven band members, which is a lot for the average metalband. Even Korpiklaani with their two folk instrumentalists only have six members. But the more members, the more creative talent, the better the result right?
Yes, the result is very good. Nifelvind is a diverse yet coherent album, in the same style as Ur Jordens Djup but slightly better. One of the most important thing these two albums have in common are Vreth. A change of vocalist is a change in sound, it always is, and so it is with Finntroll. The overall sound of the album, and of the production, are the same. That means the heydays of Finntroll (Jaktens Tid) are unfortunately sealed in the past forever, but the trolls succeed however in creating an album filled with folky sounds, folky instruments and some fine heavy metal. It may be that I hear it better now that I’ve gained more knowledge on the genres, but I dare to say I hear more black metal on this album than on previous records. I Trädens Sang, for example. Leave the keyboards out of the instrumental middle part and you’d have black metal. But of course, those are just a few riffs crammed between the folk melodies.
On this album a few new elements were added. The one I love the most is the orchestral contribution here and there. Mot Skuggornas Värld: bass, guitars, drums are joined by an orchestra. The part they play sounds much like something Nightwish might have done. The overall sound of the song is as it has been recorded in a giant subterranean cave. Fornfamnad explodes halfway the song into a giant Dimmu Borgir-like orchestra. These parts make the entire album sound “bigger” than any previous Finntroll album. It’s a very interesting new direction.
Finntroll make rather heavy music, at times even dark (Fornfamnad’s orchestral part for example), but by adding those folk instruments and melodies they enlighten it a lot. The music remains heavy, but it is coated with a touch of happiness. Drap for example. Vreth screams, the guitars begin repeating a riff and the keyboards make the sound I’d use as a movie theme for a Leprechaun. And it doesn’t sound like a mockery. Those keyboardsounds need to be there to complete the music and the atmosphere.
I explained a non-metal friend of mine what Finntroll sounded like. He answered: “Oh, Hobbits meet Rammstein?”. And I must say I couldn’t say it much better. If Hobbits ever were to make metal, it would very much sound like this. The happiness of folk, the heaviness of metal and the touches of trollness. It is and it remains a winning combination. Nifelvind is for every metalhead who likes party metal and/or folk metal. The album may however require a few spins before your really “get” it, but it’s worth it.
Favourite song: Solsagan.
Finntroll is one of the more known Folk metal bands these days. Being on par with Korpiklaani and Ensiferum, I believe that they do have the potential to reach world wide recognition in the folk metal world, and possibly become one of the most known metal bands, not only because they’re fun to listen to and have a pint with your friends, but also because they’re fairly talented and fresh sounding compared to most of the other Deathcore and Metalcore bands these days.
I actually just got Nifelvind, and I will say that I had low expectations, because the first single wasn’t really that great in my opinion. It incorporated a new sound that I didn’t really like. It sounded really thrashy and had a breakdown in it, so I wasn’t expecting much, but I will say that I did like the album a lot. The album didn’t really feel like Finntroll, however, as it is thrashy as all hell, minus maybe one or two folk songs on the album. It focused more on the metal aspect of the music then the story or the folk aspects. Nifelvind was a good listen, though and it did get me pumped and want to go out and fight, which is what I like in my metal.
When the album starts, it opens with Solsagan, the single that I didn’t really enjoy, but it does get better, and has a great beat throughout. Nifelvind is a really catchy album, but for me, the downfall is that most of the time, it feels like a filler album, that they made because they’re running out of ideas (Metallica, anyone?). A lot of the songs do drag and the album seems repetitive sometimes, especially near the end.
When it comes down to the actual music, the album excels, especially in the vocal and fiddle parts. The album basically features the same drums as always, polka style (which is obvious, because the band themselves are a polka folk band), but the guitars are really fresh sounding, which gave the album its own sound. It was fun to hear a lot of the really thrashy stuff, but honestly, I prefer the young Finntroll. I’ll take Nattfodd and Jaktens Tid over this album any day.
Finntroll have had three singers, and Vreth is probably the best, which he shows it in this album very well. His growl fits over the music perfectly, especially in Under Bergets Rot, probably the best song on the album. Much of the album seems to focus on his singing over the symphonic style of play that they have in a lot of the songs. It’s really not a bad thing, honestly, I actually like the style that they incorporated, but it’s still weird to hear them be thrashy, so I guess my opinions are biased if anything. Don’t count this album out, because it’s probably going to be one of their signaling a turning point in the music. I just wouldn’t start with it.
Highlights: Den Fursna Munnen, I Tradens Sang, Under Bergets Rot, Fornfammad
I personally mightily enjoyed the beer-splattered frollicking of Finntroll's previous output, and their ongoing journey into the bizarre, like some drunken Arcturus of humppa-based folk metal, cheers me muchly. If Jaktens Tid was a triumphant charge through the forest, and Nattfodd a romp on a wind-swept shore, then Ur Jordens Djup went back to the forest at night to dwell in its dark caves and among the twisted tree branches. With Nifelvind Finntroll are still inhabiting those darker places, but they've stumbled upon some magic mushrooms.
The Trollish Finns still revel in their customary lunacy, but with an added penchant for curious sounds and looser structuring. Nifelvind retains the core sound that they cemented on Jaktens Tid, rollicking folk metal derived from humppa rhythms with enthusiastic usage of synthesizers to supply everything from the typical happy pan-flutey stuff, to dark and ambient foresty-ness, to funky jazz club breakdowns. The guitars are thickly distorted and rarely dominant, a step back from the grittier sound of Ur Jordens Djup. The drums do little other than keep pace, and the bassist is only occasionally allowed to give his thumbs a proper workout in some of the intros. The vocals of Vreth are an even better Tapio Wilska impression than on the previous album, but more to my liking by merit of their thuggish, throaty edge. So much fun.
Nifelvind is as crunchily metallic and sinister as Ur Jordens Djup, but with most of the wild and celebratory everyman folk of Nattfodd intact. Into this familiar tangy gumbo Finntroll toss an extra measure of cavorting, carousing, eyes-gleaming-with-madness-in-the-firelight satirical carnivalization. Fools become wise and kings become beggars! 'Solsagan' rather ingeniously morphs its opening menacing tremolo picked riff into a bouncy keyboard motif, before the familiar galloping riffs alongside the gang-shouted chorus. 'Fornfamnad's beginning is actually the most humppa this band has sounded in years - before turning into an almost purely black metal sound with jarring guitars and blastbeats. 'Mot Skuggornas Varld' has a break towards the end with whirring tremolo guitars that sound menacing, wistful and rousing all at the same time. There seems to be quite some use of a xylophone. It's a goddamn busy album.
As usual it is the shorter songs where the band Trolls hardest - the five minute 'Tiden Utan Tid' sort of floats past without making itself noticed, particularly in comparison to 'Galgasang', a lovely fireside strum which puts the drab Visor Om Slutet project to shame. The first four songs after the intro are all great examples of Finntroll Trolling what they Troll best, foot-stamping tavern music undercut by mean and every now and again ferociously blackened metal - all inside of about four minutes. Mind you, 'Drap', at seven minutes, seems to give the Trolls enough time to properly develop all the crazy shit they have been half-playing with in the last half of the album.
One of these experiments in the name of wierdness and we'll-do-whatever-we-feel-like-ism sounds odd to mine ears for all the wrong reasons, namely the use of synthesized orchestra flourishes on tracks like 'Mot Skuggornas Varld.' It gives the song a punchy, raucous feel, but seems to muddle the organic, foresty sound Finntroll suit much better. The atmosphere of the album is less clear than that of previous efforts, but the band seem to have abandoned coherence for maximum experimentalism and fun.
Even less bound by convention and even less self-checked than ever before, Nifelvind is a welcome continuation of the Trollish madness that captured my fancy five years or so ago, avoiding repetition through lurching shifts in sound and tons of feverish Finnish energy.
The world of folk metal has changed in a dramatic way since Finntroll gave it a major kick in the arse in the early half of what is now the last decade with 2001's "Jaktens Tid" and 2004's "Nattfödd", and as we now enter the tensies (has anyone reached a consensus on this yet?) we see the band on album no. 5 looking to define a new sound for both themselves and the genre at large. Most well-known for the bouncy good-time humppa of songs like "Trollhammaren" the beast that is Finntroll nowadays have taken on an interesting symphonic film-like, carnivalesque feel across much of "Nifelvind", a sound that could perhaps be said to be as close a match as possible to the style of the new official band shot currently doing the rounds.
Picking the bones out of this multi-layered and phantasmagoric opus is certainly going to require one to give it some repeated and careful listening, and I have done my best to award "Nifelvind" such attention in the last few weeks but even now I feel like my brain is struggling to comprehend the humppa-meets-carnival bizarre lunacy of "Under Bergets Rot" and "Fornfamnad", serving as two noteworthy examples of many. Short of you listening for yourself, the best simile I can imagine for describing some of the madcap moments here is this: you know the kind of music that theme parks play when you're queuing ages for some extravagant and other-worldly ride, well mix that with a dash of humppa and a smattering of pure Scandinavian folk metal and you're close to the sound on offer on here. Unusual, huh?
Every song is built around it's own dynamic and while the overall album retains a consistent feel no song could be said to sound exactly like any other. Opener "Blodmarsch" builds the foundations of a symphonic fantasy world before leading into "Solsagan", one of the albums fastest songs and that most guaranteed to be played live with it's chorus of "hei hei yah hei hei hei yah!" (or something to that effect). "Den Frusna Munnen" opens like it might be an excerpt from 'The Jungle Book' (or Exodus' "Low Rider" cover if you fancy a more metal comparator), however it's latter stages do reveal the band aiming to keep at least a toe in folk metal territory with a collection of chord-based riffs exploited by the likes of Turisas in recent times. This toehold however is barely increased throughout the rest of the album where it seems Finntroll's tactic to retaliate against the influx of folk metal bands in recent years has been to depart from the arena altogether. "I Trädens Sång" is a symphonic black metal tune while "Galgasång", replete with acoustic guitar and banjo hoists the flag of songs to be sung round the rural campfire, mates and beers in attendance.
It is interesting that Finntroll are releasing this album in the opening two months of the decade for they are one of the defining bands who ushered in the lasts' obsession of all things folk metal, and with this purposeful change in direction we could well be seeing a sign of things to come. "Nifelvind" emerges from the carnivalesque smoke to finish off as a successful and valiant attempt at pushing the genre into new territories and mark my words, if we see more bands following Finntoll's lead and pursuing a similar style in the coming decade away from the standard folk metal template, you'll know where it all began.
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net