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Being one of the most well known folk metal-bands in the world, I naturally became aware of Finntroll very early on my quest for folk metal. They were the fourth folk metal-band I came across after Ensiferum, Korpiklaani and Turisas and hold a position in a group I’ve started to call “The Great Finnish Five of Folk Metal” which consists of the four aforementioned bands as well as the mighty Moonsorrow. Even though Finntroll are probably the weakest band in that particular group, they still belong to the elite of folk metal. With their latest output, “Ur Jordens Djup”, they have raised their status among the Five. Ur Jordens Djup is quite different from the Trolls’ other albums and while it isn’t a kind of sinister release that would please dedicated black metal-fans, it’s still significantly darker, as a whole, than any of their previous efforts.
It is a common phenomenon among the metalheads to tag Finntroll’s music with words like “happy”, “gay” and “cheesy”. Whether you call Finntroll happy in a positive or in a negative way, it doesn’t pertain to Ur Jordens Djup very well at all. Their previous album, “Nattfödd”, is indeed an over-the-top and joyful work almost in its entirety and “Midnattens Widunder” has a fair share of that mood also. “Jaktens Tid” was a remarkably different album considering its atmosphere yet only Ur Jordens Djup is truly a dismal work. It has a strong black metal-influence that cannot be said of Finntroll’s other albums. On the black metal-foundations are laid important blocks made of the essence of folk metal. The Finnish humppa-sound is distinct and offers its means to make the drumming and the guitar/bass-riffs creative. Keyboards are always present, helping greatly in the task of constructing an epic edge to the melodic yet aggressive harmony that is the heart of Ur Jordens Djup. The use of folk instruments isn’t so strikingly conspicuous here than on Nattfödd but still they remain as the main tool with which Finntroll have built the fantastic atmosphere of old times and great stories. The lyrics are about trolls as usual but have a strong connection to ancient Finnish myths and other such tales.
Although the music on Ur Jordens Djup follows the same style throughout the album quite faithfully, it doesn’t feel dull but a few moments all together. “Gryning” opens the album honoring the Finntroll-traditions: trolls moving in the dark woods, feasting on man-flesh and preparing for a charge against the humankind. The music grows a bit by bit through the intro before proceeding into an excellent track called “Sång”. “Korpens Saga” is an easily memorable song that features extremely fitting, strong folk-elements. Korpens Saga mixes a great deal of epic images of vast wilds and heart-lifting over-the-top parts to create a track that is among the best on Ur Jordens Djup. “Nedgång” is a wickedly epic masterpiece where crushing black metal is embraced by majestic keyboard-melodies. Vreth’s enormous vocal-abilities are maybe best shown in Nedgång, his haunted screams and powerful growls. “Ur Djupet” is as good as “Nedgång” but the true highlights of the album (besides Korpens Saga) are “En Mäktig Här” and “Maktens Spira”. En Mäktig Här very clearly represents Finntroll’s humppa-side and these guys’ skills to make unforgettable song-structures. The song includes the most epic and chill-giving melody of the whole Finntroll-career. “Maktens Spira” is on par with En Mäktig Här: fast, and aggressive song consisting of amazing guitar-work and majestic keyboard-leads not mentioning the full assault of tireless drumming and strongly supporting bass.
The weak points of the album are the last two songs, “Under Två Runor” and “Kvällning/Trollvisan”. Under Två Runor is kind of a filler and doesn’t offer anything new to the album, fading quite easily away from the memory after the CD has stopped spinning. Kvällning/Trollvisan consists of two parts: Kvällning, which is an instrumental piece that falls into the same category as Under Två Runor and Trollvisan that appears at the end of the track, after a long and irrelevant silence. Trollvisan’s problem is the fact that it is an unoriginal stub of drunken singing and feasting. Maybe it wouldn’t be a big problem otherwise but hey guys, you already did a song exactly like this on Jaktens Tid! “Tomhet och Tystnad Härska” from JT is a song that features the same structure albeit in a shorter and more enjoyable form. Something new in the drunken department, if you may!
On Ur Jordens Djup, the Trolls’ clash against men has acquired its deepest form to date. The tongue-in-cheek-attitude has been largely reduced and though it’s debatable that is it the right direction eventually, it certainly works as well. I’d really like to see more albums like Ur Jordens Djup from Finntroll in the future. Finally, special thanks goes to Vreth, one of the most potent extreme-vocalists out there, and to good ol’ Trollhorn for his eargasmic keyboard-melodies. Raise you blood-filled pints, my nasty troll-fellas!
Everything I love about Finntroll is in this album. Although this album is a lot more black-metal-ish than their previous efforts, there is still that beloved humppa element that can never escape your mind without a huge grin, a heart-filled laugh, and an ode made in honour of the greatest kind of music in existence. When you listen to this, the instinctive act of raising your 1-litre, wooden beer mug high above your head will become the only option to stay alive.
In essence, and in a very attractive proverbial nutshell, this album is fucking fun. It bares the highest possible calibre of folk music mixed solely with humppa - which I guess is the reason that it makes you just want to get drunk and rape concubines. But it doesn't shadow the instrumental mastery of this gem in the least. No, in the same way that Trollfest are, Finntroll are - not surprisingly - the elite force of this spectrum in the Metal sphere in regards to their playing abilities.
The drums in this album are superb, with a mixture of very professionally-executed metal styles (courtesy of the great Dominator), such as blasting double-bass, consistent and impressive fills, right up to the favouring aspect of his styles, the humppa-based beats. Primarily, the humppa style percussion (I don't really know what else to call it), will have you bobbing up and down in a stupid and (hopefully) drunken manner. Dominator does a great job pressing the melodies and rhythms forwards, keeping the basics in the lead, but still expressing a lot of technical intricacy. Fucking made of win.
The keyboards and synths in this album are just great. Trollhorn maintains the "amateur"-programmed wind and wooden instrument sound - not sounding try-hard - yet still retaining an AWESOME level of epic ambience and atmosphere. A lot of the elemental basis of Folk tunes and general fun-sounding composition is provided solely by the keyboardist. His shining moment in this album is on the track "En Mäktig Här", which opens up with a Trollhorn-only intro (to be accompanied by Vreth doing some fun vocals), and is truly an instrumental orgy to behold. Trollhorn is the man behind all the novelty instruments in this album, as well as composing most of the music, and fuck was he ever the man for the job. Kudos, man.
With the frightening, and possibly possessed, Vreth on vocals, there is just something that makes life worth living. Being the primary wielder of the elemental Black Metal-esque face of this album, he executes the vocals in this effort fucking superbly. He is backed up a lot in the vocal mix by the rest of the band, but the darker side of this album is provided wholly and entirely by Vreth. His melancholic voice side was expressed greatly in the dark, doomy track, "Under Tuå Runor", and is obviously, evidently, not chained down by the spirit of mono-vocalism. A great voice, that is in no way alienated by the style of music he sings for. The perfect candidate, no doubt, and is one of the many reasons I love late-Finntroll.
On guitars are the great Skrymer and Routa. Their presence on this album is a gift to the pot; they are the landing ground in this album, and many albums before. Although they aren't sought for blistering solos, these guys are without a doubt the backbone. Most of the hummpa aspects of this album are perpetrated by the guitarists, and they are also the the thick-base membrane that really makes this ensemble deserving holders of their metal name. They also act almost, if you will, as second-platform keyboardists (so to speak), as they are the main providers of the general ambient and harsh atmosphere for the already-perfect musical drinking spree. They are true masters behind the greatest things about this album.
And finally, on bass is the comical character, Tundra. He, I guess, is the bringer of "balls" to the table. His virtuosic presence on this album is, as guessed, non-existent on this album, but he certainly is appropriately positioned in the compositions, and is placed on the perfect level of presence in the music. It is unfortunate that Tundra is more of a character in the band than an out-shining instrumentalist, but without this kind of guy there to stir the pot, write some of the music with Trollhorn, the band would almost be lifeless. Tundra is, as mentioned, another key co-composer for Finntroll's music, and holds his name high above the rest for this glorious duty. By defaut, he acts as a third set of guitars, except, of course, of the bass variety *laughs*. A truly respected member, indeed. Fucking kudos.
Although I don't like to dissect an album track-by-track, and later judge its integrity by that manner, I would like to suggest three key tracks to this amazing record:
"En Mäktig Här" - One of the most enjoyable and fun tracks on the whole album. It's opened up, as mentioned before, by Trollhorn doing a whole lot of synth pieces, mainly a bandeon, marimba and keyboard, backed by a fucking cool accoustic guitar rhythm, and accompanied by the mouth harp (later to be joined by Vreth). It then transforms immediately into a black/humppa metal piece. However, interspersed with the heavy sections, in the centre, is a very cool medieval folk intermission, to progressively morph into a second act of humppa-folk and then back to the heavy stuff. This track in general is fun as fuck, and is the song you really want to be drinking merrily to.
"Under Tuå Runor" - A very dark, doomy track that really has most of the projected black metal elements funnelled into it. It's quite melancholic, and is the perfect closer for the outro epic, "Kvälling". It's a break from the humourous, yet brutal, leg of the journey, and is sure to suit that black, doomier side of the listener, and caters mostly to the dying of the night.
And finally, "Kvälling" - An almost sad piece, that represents the main closure of the endeavour. It is an instrumental piece, harbouring mainly the accordion, keyboard and acoustic guitar. Now, there is about 5 full minutes of silence after the ambiance outro, and then there is a cool little hidden track, which is a back-studio recording of the band (possibly drunk) playing some strange Swedish or Finnish piece. But it's worth the wait (unless you're a button-hungry fast-fowarder). A great closing for an even greater album.
This album is an instant classic, yet is in a league of its own. No comparison can be made, but a distinct fact is at hand: You MUST get this album. It is a must-have for all Folk Metal heads, and is definitely worth a`try by the Black Metallers of the word. This album caters to everyone within the Folk/Viking/Black/Epic/Celtic spectrum.
Unbelievably and inconceivably awesome.
There's one main problem with writing an objective album review: that of whether or not to actually compare the album with anything. Some see fit to compare the album with other groups' albums and measure it up against what they think is "fair". Others simply measure it up against the same artist's prior releases and judge based on that. Still others end up comparing it to their idea of "the perfect album", which actually ends up to be an extension of the first method. While my execution is not always perfect, my idea of the perfectly objective review is to describe and judge the characteristics of the album, seek out evidence of musical direction, talent, creativity, message, continuity and how well the artist or group exemplifies a particular genre.
This Finntroll release, for the record, should not fall short in the mind of anyone who is intimately familiar with their prior work. Anyone who has studied music as I have should know that this album, "Ur Jordens Djup" lacks nothing present or prominent on their other releases. It simply boggles the mind how some reviewers here can be so idiotic as to completely miss this fact when brazenly declaring things such as "this is their weakest album to date". Yeah, I'm talking to you, Radagast! In any event,examine the breakdown of the elements as I present them and you can see for yourself that this album stands on its own as a great release.
The first thing to note is the impact of the personnel changes, especially within the lead vocals. New vocalist Mathias "Vreth" Lillmåns performs his first full-length recording here with a fair amount of confidence and understanding of Finntroll's overall style and theme. His voice is more of a mid-range death style, as opposed, say to a more shriekish, higher-register death style of Valfar in Windir. This comparison is only to give you an idea of the differences in vocal sound rather than to say "who's better, who's worse". Mathias' delivery is competent and steady throughout, with occasional sojourns into clean shouts or speaking passages. The first vocal track, "Sång", starts out as a rather rough mix, but a very steady balance is reached between the grizzly low vocals of Mathias which come nicely into sync with the higher clean "backup" vocals. In "Nedgång", there's a low vocal chorus which sings out the melody in unison with its symphonic counterpart in the second half of the song. It sounds okay, except it doesn't quite capture the same power as it does from the guitar-bass-keyboard concoction of the same melody. In the other songs, Mathias' delivery varies to cover a versatile range of vocal messages. For instance, in "En Mäktig Här", which translates to "A Mighty Horde", one would think that a title such as this would convey a sense of power and fear. While Mathias' vocals would do that for anyone not familiar with metal, to the average metal audience, his opening delivery with effects would conjure an almost comical image to it. All in all, Mathias shows himself to be a very suitable replacement to the much-missed Jan "Katla" Jämsen. I'd expect Mathias to stick around for the remainder of Finntroll's recording career, barring any unexpected mishaps.
Another point of concern would be the change in the guitar lineup since Teemu "Somnium" Raimoranta's unfortunate passing in 2003. Filling those shoes is Mikael "Routa" Karlbom. It doesn't take more than one listen to this album to see that Mikael has a firm grasp on what Finntroll is all about and how he can fit in. Mikael shows his ability to contribute to Finntroll's aural landscapes, a talent that is observed in both the "silly" songs, such as "Sång" and "En Mäktig Här" (using a very liberal definition of "silly) as well as the deeply serious "Korpens Saga", "Nedgång" and "Kvällning", which Mikael carries almost entirely by himself. A talented guitarist, Mikael's sound blends well without giving the feeling that anything is missed, despite what the few, under-educated, say.
Speaking of aural landscapes, Finntroll has always been known to interweave exquisite orchestral themes with their songs, and use these themes to stand as their own tracks. Commonly their albums both begin and end with such a landscape as the backbone to the overall theme. It's usually hit-or-miss as to whether the theme really conveys something to do with the album title or the pieces contained thereon. For Ur Jordens Djup, we have "Gryning", which means "Dawn" and "Kvällning", which means "Dusk". Two titles which definitely have something to do with one another, and in some way, contribute to a possible purpose to the album itself. Due in no small part to keyboardist Henri "Trollhorn" Sorvali, known best for his partnership with cousin Ville Sorvali in the pagan metal mastergroup Moonsorrow, the orchestral element presents itself largely in the first track, "Gryning". I'm not sure I'd say that it conjures up images of the "dawn", except that of battle and the assembling of armies, which is a theme I'd expect more for a Viking metal album. Still, the aural landscape painted here is brilliantly swarthy and munificent. Other tracks which liberally display "Trollhorn's" largesse include "Nedgång", "Ur Djupet" and to a lesser extent "Korpens Saga" and "Under Två Runor".
The group on the whole demonstrate a stunning array of theme changes from song to song, heavily incorporating a lot of folk melodies within. The accordion sounds, while immensely folkish, slightly downplayed the humppa influence, yet still brings that which is familiar to mind. One song that packs a powerful punch is "Korpens Saga", because of its unusual contstruction, in that it has a powerful introduction in the 5/4 time signature. Bass drums and toms a-pounding, the song settles into a more regular common time for the verses, which are accented with a nice guitar riff which sounds intriguingly humppa-like. The song then transitions to a 6/8 time for the bridge. All in all, this must be kept as one of the best songs on the album.
Different from previous albums, Finntroll has used the not-so-secret-anymore secret song method in a magnificently trollish way. An acapella folk song appears at the tail end of the mostly-silent "Kvällning", guaranteed to make you laugh or at least put a smile on your face.
In regard to the production and mixing on this album, there can be no complaints. No instrument is ever overpowered out of due turn, with the exception of the vocals in "Nedgång". Not even the entire song is affected; mostly it shows up in the unison voice chorus that appears close to the end of the tune. Upon closer examination, it's a toss-up between a problem in the mixing and a problem in the writing. Even for these trolls, the voice part dips a bit too low to be prominent in a metal mix, where it becomes drowned out by the guitars' distortion. The only solution I can come up with would have been to attempt to sing this chorus one octave higher, which for these voice types, I believe could have worked. When all is said and done, though, it does not detract too much from the competence of the album overall.
In summation, I'd say that this is indeed a quite strong Finntroll release, and definitely not their "weakest release yet." I'm confidently giving this recording a 92 out of 100.
Back after another 3-year gap, Finntroll have finally released 'Ur jordens djup', their 4th proper full-length CD and the first with new vocalist Vreth, who replaced Tapio Wilska in early 2006. While on the surface everything you would expect from Finntroll appears to be all present and correct – simplistic, punchy guitars, guttural vocals delivered in Swedish, and keyboard-played folk melodies – it becomes apparent from the outset that something is different than before, and unfortunately there appears to be something lacking.
Even though the symphonic folk elements are still present, for the first 5 full songs on 'Ur jordens djup' they are given a far less prominent role than before. The following track, "En mäktig här" is started with acoustics and odd percussion before going into one of Finntroll's more expected 'party' songs, and is the first on the CD that is seriously fun to listen to. From then on for the last 3 songs things feel far more familiar, and unsurprisingly, sound a hell of a lot better and more interesting than the more serious first half of the CD.
It would seem Finntroll have attempted to at least slightly shake off their tag as the clowns of the folk metal genre with this release, but unfortunately the songs that have toned down the more theatrical aspects of their sound are the weakest and serve to highlight what most listeners would have known all along - the biggest draw for the band was always their somewhat lunatic edge. The uncomplicated and only moderately-impressive guitar playing and vocals combined well with the crazy humppa melodies and cinematic sounds created by keyboard player Trollhorn, and with these elements far less prevalent than before, the metal side to their sound simply doesn't pick up the slack.
Credit has to be given for the uncharacteristic melodic lead guitar playing on the final track before the outro, "Under två runor", and more of this sort of thing would have greatly improved the CD as a whole – simply stripping back a large aspect of your sound without adding anything knew to the mix is never going to be enough to create quality songs, and effort has to be made to add something fresh to the mix.
It may be that Finntroll felt the need to try something a little more sober with 'Ur jordens djup', but the fact is that it stands as their weakest release to date, and if they don't want to fully return to what they are best known for (and can still obviously do, based on the quality of the few songs that conform to that style) with the follow-up CD, a lot more work has to go into rebuilding their sound than they have shown here.
(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com)
Finntroll. We all know them. Some love them, some hate them, but we can all agree that they're widely known for the brazen undertaking of a style of metal often appropriately described as "polka metal". Which leaves the band sounding upbeat, hyperactive and even comical.
Now, with the revolving door line-up they've had in recent years, I wasn't sure what to expect from this album. Finntroll is a band that has almost a cult following, of avid fans tucked away in all corners of the world since their explosion in popularity with Jaktens Tid - what those people expect, I don't know. I'm not one of them, though I do like the band. I have all the Finntroll albums, and I really have to be in the right mood to appreciate them, but their last one was actually my favorite. However, that doesn't mean I had high hopes for this album. Either way, this album is a bit more dramatic than previous releases, and people are either going to love it or hate it. Of course, some will pay no mind, and just love it because it's Finntroll.
From the onset of the album, with the dark cinematic (literally, sounding like something you'd hear in a movie) opener Gyning, it's apparent that the mood is more serious. It's still got the Finntroll sound, but with some of the polka stuff phased out. It leans more toward folk and black metal in verse riffs and such. The accordion effects still toot here and there, with brass during more cinematic moments, and a harp effect during more dramatic moments. It's clear that the emphasis is more on harmony than melody. The guitar parts are all just power chords cranking out ho-hum riffs in roughly the Viking vein, but with no leads, solos or melodies that pop out, relying entirely on the keyboards for those things. With that, the guitar grows pretty monotonous, with it's weak to mediocre riffs.
The first time (and one of the only times) you'll get a sense of the old loony behavior is the seventh track, which starts out sounding almost tropical with steel drums. And after three or four listens, I'm still not sure what to make of that. Though the song is certainly one of the best on the album.
For everything else I didn't hit: the album has good, well rounded production values, the new vocalist sounds just like past vocalists (passable throaty screams), the drums are often mid-paced death metal drumming with polka beats, and generally the music doesn't grab me. Perhaps the worst I've heard from this band, missing on some of the pizazz that made them special.
Overall, this album is really hit and miss, with En maktig har, Maktens Spira and Ur Djupet being really good, where the rest are just mediocre. I understand this bands following, so I'm sure those people will get it, and accept it, for anyone else, don't look for it to convert you into a fan, and don't look here for a first taste of the band.