#TBT: FINNTROLL'S Nifelvind Brings the Darkest Fun to Folklore
Welcome back to Throwback Thursday! This is the place where we get to indulge in nostalgia and wax poetic about excellent metal of years past. For TBT number 35 we say farewell to snow and ice and embrace the lushness of rebirth with some good-for-the-soul folk metal. According to Finntroll founding member Katla, "All cultures have similarities in their myths and folklore. Tales of bitter dead walking again, sagas of good and evil and songs of divine ascension… This album is a celebration of those myths, some new some ageless. Some true, some complete nonsense. That is the nature of folklore. Under every root and stone lays a story heard but untold." And these stories are explored in…
Release Date: February 2010
Record Label: Century Media
Don't mistake Finntroll as a band feeding off of novelty. The Helsinki-based group, formed in 1997, have dedicated themselves to extraordinary story telling in a way that has now permanently expanded the anecdotal and authentic halls of folk-based metal. A cursory listen of Finntroll's discography will feel like you've tripped and fallen down a dark rabbit hole; atmospheric colors, sonic textures, and familiar riffs become eerily strange and seem to explore their superlative, cartoonish forms. Yet, the remarkable thing to me as a person who only speaks fluent English, is that even though Finntroll sing primarily in Swedish I enjoy each song as if I could understand what they were saying. The strength of their story telling lies in the unparalleled energy and creativity of their music, and Nifelvind is one of their best efforts as a group.
Nifelvind is Finntroll's fifth studio album. The lyrical and thematic content of the record is driven by myths and legends found all over the world, though the work itself is not a linear single-story concept. In an interview from Century Media, guitarist Skrymer and vocalist Vreth recall writing the album in a gloriously enviable and distinctly Swedish way, by "getting drunk and going to the sauna". Recorded and mixed in a short 6 weeks, Nifelvind incorporates droves of acoustic instruments such as banjos and mandolins (and I detect some tuba-esque brass maybe?) that accompany this more riff-heavy album. What I am impressed by is Nifelvind's ability to stay fun and ridiculous while still remaining really pretty dark. Distinct black metal moments of atonal riffs and blast beat drumming bring an unexpected edge to the tavern-at-ten-pm vibe Finntroll often leads with. A prime example of this is single "Solsagan" from Nifelvind (with official music video!):
The beginning of the song does not prepare you for the bombastic, charging, 'final boss' feeling you get from the :55 second mark on. It's undeniably intense. The nonsensical vowels are chanted in huge layers that result in an unhinged-feeling chorus. This, combined with interludes that sound like a school bus full of evil, brilliant circus musicians stopped by to play on the track is what gives Finntroll their niche sound. It is unlike any other. The mix of frivolity with more genre-specific staples is what drives the point-of-view of each track. It's effective, its fun, and it really makes me want to drink a beer and dance like an idiot. In fact, someone took the time to edit together this video of Emilio Estevez doing just that – dancing to Finntroll.
Finntroll is a band that just does things a little differently. Even the promotional photos for Nifelvind involved each band member conceptualizing a nightmare/Alice in Wonderland/steam-punk creature. It's a refreshing departure from the 'brooding boys in barren, icy woods' motif found so often in metal band photos. That aesthetic just doesn't fit Finntroll, or their sound, well. These crafted creatures actually wind up staying with the band as alt-personas you can see here in their video for "Häxbrygd" from their most recent album Blodsvept:
For Nifelvind, guitarist Skrymer drew the album art. Deluxe editions of the album contained an extra track, cloth poster and – of course – a beer coaster. The cover is creepy and conceptual, but keeps in line with their over arching theme of fantasy and lore. That escapist frame work is revisited again and again on Nifelvind. Finntroll have a way of sounding like the bards of the underworld, as if the creatures from all the age-old stories learned how to play music and tell the tales from their twisted points of view. A perfect demonstration of this come from another single off of the album "Under Bergets Rot":
Again, we hear how Nifelvind keeps tracks deliciously heavy while fully embracing a jaunty, bounding jubilation found more often in your grandfather's polka collection than you would in the metalverse. Demented is a good way to explain their gripping, sideways take on metal marriage of folk and ludicrousness. "Under Bergets Rot" is a track that just ummpahs and blaarts its way into your heart and bones.
Nifelvind blends the best of Finntroll with smart production, and darker turns make the album enjoyable to listen to thanks to breaks in intensity.If you are feeling a draw to the the stories that connect us to our past and imagination, perhaps motivated by Spring and the very merry month of May, Nifelvind is the perfect album to awaken your inner troll from the death-like grip of winter slumber.