Monday, October 18

Finntroll - Nifelvind



Finntroll, at this point in their musical career, are a more-or-less household name to any self-respecting metalhead and it is, without question, that such a stature is well-deserved. The Finns, along with the likes of Thyrfing, Einherjer and Menhir, for example, were one of the first bands to utilize rather traditional sounding Norse music and themes amidst the extreme metal backdrop and, unlike the aforementioned artists, Finntroll's endeavors were perhaps the most catchy and fun of them all, partly due to the nature of humppa music (which is the predominant influence on the Finns' craft), as well as the tales of which the songs told. Indeed, Finntroll began as a band with an incredibly immediate (though odd) sound, and it is this very sound that harnessed much of the attention they've received thusfar. In 2007 the band released Ur Jordens Djup, an album showcasing a much more serious, darker and brooding side of Finntroll's art that was only hinted at on previous albums (such as, for example, the title-cut on Nattfödd) and it was, to perhaps 50% of the fan-base, received with a large sense of disappointment; aye, as soon as the Finns ventured much further and deeper into their folkloric roots did the fan-base begin to divide. Warping back to present-day, and being a good three years in the making, Nifelvind is Finntroll's fifth full-length effort (not including the Visor Om Slutet or Trollhammaren EPs) and it is, undoubtedly, yet another progression in the band's sound, one of which will see fans even further divided than before, I predict.

Beginning with Blodmarsh (Bloodmarch, in English), one is immediately taken by the orchestral grandeur and percussive brilliance of this opening piece, which somewhat quickly leads into the first metallic track of the album, Solsagan (The Saga Of The Sun). I was, admittedly, almost a bit surprised at the initial harshness of Solsagan, being littered with blast-beats, über-aggressive vocals from Vreth (in which his performance is, for the record, even better on this album than on Ur Jordens Djup) and, overall, an atmosphere that is quite grim, despite the catchy chorus; indeed, Finntroll are at it again! Den Frusna Munnen (The Frozen Mouth) follows, keeping things coming along rather nicely by showcasing extensive percussion and keyboard arrangements that are, undoubtedly, amongst the band's finest.

Okay, before going any further, and seeing as I've already mentioned this aspect twice, must I highlight the percussion on this album, which is wholly, thoroughly and undeniably brilliant. Being metal listeners, we're all used to somewhat powerful percussion arrangements already, simply because of the aggressive drum-playing that is prevalent throughout all of the genre's sub-genres and, once in a while, we may even hear an orchestra hit here or there to further emphasize already powerful moments but, truly, never have we heard the sort of percussive bravado that is present throughout all of Nifelvind's duration. Take the tracks Mot Skuggornas Värld (Towards The World Of Shadows) and Fornfamnad (Embraced By The Ancient), for example; both utilize very intimate, camp-fire styled percussion (including what sounds like bongos, wood-blocks and other somewhat natural sounding instruments that I am, admittedly, unfamiliar with) whilst also demonstrating massive orchestral arrangements, thus creating an atmosphere that is as huge as it is intimate - seriously, it's ingenious.

I am not about to give you a song-by-song review, for both of our sakes, however, I cannot help but to highlight a few more tracks that are, obviously, worth mentioning. Under Bergets Rot (Under The Root Of The Mountain), much like En Mäktig Här from the previous album, sees the band returning to a bit more light-heartedness amidst what is otherwise a fairly dark album and, by the Gods, what a success! - equipped with wacky-melodies galore and danceable rhythms, Under Bergets Rot finds the band sounding as quirky and odd as ever, whilst never losing sense of their undeniable identity. Galgasång (The Gallows Song) is a nice acoustic piece that would certainly not sound out-of-place on the band's acoustic EP, Visor Om Slutet; being quite an intimate and warm track overall, it expresses the sensitivity Finntroll are able to convey amidst their quiet moments. Lastly, the albums closer - Dråp (Manslaughter) - is quite a beast all on its own, taking the album to some of its grandest heights by, again, the brilliant utilization of percussion and orchestrations galore, in addition to a melodic sensibility that can only come from a band well into their respective career; yes, Dråp is an impeccable closer for an impeccable album.

All-in-all, Nifelvind stands as Finntroll's most outstanding musical achievement thusfar, which becomes crystal-clear when taking into account the extensive instrumentation and arrangements utilized throughout the album. Furthermore, by blending the aforementioned with a sweeping sense of compositional competency, the Finns never lose sight of what makes a good song (rather than the long-winded, Dream Theater-esque drivel some bands get carried-away with) a, yes, good song. Nifelvind is easily one of 2010's best albums and, even if you're on the fence about newer Finntroll, you're truly doing yourself a disservice by not giving this masterful record at least a couple of spins; just as roots grow around the stones beneath them - slowly but surely - so shall Nifelvind grow upon you, trust me. ;)

9.75 // 10

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Originally written for Belgium's Fueled Magazine.

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