By Carl Begai
FINNTROLL have seemingly been on a mission to tear folk metal as a genre a new one since 2007.
The Finnish septet rose to popularity amongst pagan/folk metal fans over the course of three albums - Midnattens Widunder ('99), Jaktens Tid ('01), Nattfödd ('04) - but chose to adopt a much darker and heavier black metal-influenced sound when they returned in '07 with the Ur Jordens Jup album and new singer Mathias "Vreth" Lillmåns. Call it a reaction to the folk metal bands that were cropping up at every turn trying to cash in on a trend. It was a move that didn't hurt Finntroll nearly as much as some fans and media people expected, which led to the even heavier and uglier Nifelvind record three years later. The 'Trolls showed no signs or intentions of pulling back the violence for the future, which makes their new album Blodsvept a bigger surprise than any black/death/doom metal flavoured platter they could have come up with.
"People have said this is the most diverse Finntroll album so far, and I think so too," says Lillmåns. "We made some good choices when we did the pre-production for this album."
When it came down to the actual recordings, however, there were moments when Blodsvept was on its way to blowing apart at the seams. The band documented their studio adventures via an online blog (found here
), and there was a fair bit of kicking and screaming going on during the recording sessions thanks to some nightmarish technical glitches.
"It was a total horror show this time," Lillmåns confirms. "They say we have this Finntroll studio curse because usually somebody has a close relative that dies when we're recording, but this time nobody died. There must be some sort of equilibrium, though, because we had eight tracks of guitars that died in the middle of the whole thing."
Ultimately, the fans sitting in the bleachers don't care too much about the "how" or "why" of the new album. It's the final result that matters. To that end, Finntroll fans that prefer the dark and destruction of the last couple records will be distressed to learn that Blodsvept is a dynamic, playful and fun folk metal album.
"Yeah, it is a lot of fun isn't it?" Lillmåns agrees. "The last album we did, Nifelvind, there's so much detail, there's so much going on at all times that the stream of information is almost too much to handle. The evolution of the Finntroll albums has been 'More, more, more, and even more...' and we were thinking that there's no way we can top Nifelvind in that respect. There was no way we even wanted to try to do that. So, we had the pre-production for two new songs done and we were working on 'Blodsvept', and that's when we said 'Fuck yes, this is the direction we're going in.' We went back to those first two songs and cut away all the Nifelvind stuff in them because of it."
Fourth song in, 'Mordminnen', is probably the most extreme with regards to the fun factor...
"It's some kind of weird, like MARILYN MANSON goes jazz or something," laughs Lillmåns. "The songs started coming really fast once we got down to writing. It was the same as it's been with all the Finntroll albums; we had to find the thread that we wanted to keep through the album. On the first two songs we did everyone was 'Naaaaaaaah! This is so mediocre...' but when we did 'Blodsvept ' it opened up a totally new scenery for us. Everybody got inspired to do stuff for the new Finntroll album. We found our spark again."
"I don't think we ever discussed the music for an album as much as we did for this one. It wasn't violent discussion or anything like that (laughs), but we've never talked so much about our goals, like whether the album was going to be too melodic. And then we went to the other extreme; is this going to be too dark? Are people going to be expecting more than what we're giving them? We spent about half a year changing the concept of the sound before we ended up where we needed to be."
"The working title for one of the songs was 'Rivfader' because the riff actually sounded like something from the Rivfader demo tape (from '98). The new album sort of goes back to Finntroll's roots but it's also keeping true to what we've been doing since 2006. And if you check out the melodies on this album, they go back to Nattfödd a bit. On the last two albums we were concentrating on the details so much that I think we lost the main melodies in the songs. In terms of how the guitars and keyboards are mixed, the album is quite similar to Nattfödd."
With the folk metal influences back up front, it sounds like keyboardist Henri "Trollhorn" Sorvali - also a founding member of pagan metallers MOONSORROW - had a much bigger role in shaping the music this time out. According to Lillmåns, Sorvali has always been hands-on with the songwriting regardless of how much folk turned up on the albums.
"Trollhorn has always been the main force behind the songs. He wrote at least 70% of the new album, and Tundra (bassist Sami Uusitalo) did the remaining 30%. But I guess you can call Finntroll a controlled democracy (laughs) because we all have input when we're making the songs, but Henri has the final yes or no."
Finntroll continue to have lyrical input from outside the band for Blodsvept. Former vocalist and co-founder Jan "Katla" Jämsen, who was forced to quit following Jaktens Tid due to a tumor on his vocal chords, remains the band's wordsmith, a post he's held (again) since 2006.
"It's still Katla writing the lyrics, but it's still the same process with him and me working together," says Lillmåns. "We go back and forth with the details, we talk about the concept, we give each other ideas, and he writes the stuff. Once we have the lyrics me and Trollhorn try to fit them into the songs, rewriting some parts when we have to."
The lyrics are in Swedish on Blodsvept, which is a Finntroll tradition and trademark. It's not a case of Katla spoon-feeding Lillmåns the text, of course, but Lillmåns admits he does have to work himself into the Finntroll storytelling frame of mind in order to be convincing in his performance.
"I really need to do that, yes, because when I write my lyrics it's in a totally different way. I have other bands that I write lyrics for, so it's usually more personal. Finntroll really is about storytelling, I agree. But when you read between the lines it's not like Lord Of The Rings or anything like that. All these lyrics, they have some kind of references to the real world. They're especially critical on the new album. There is a concept on the album, but I think it gets a little bit lost in translation. It's fun to play some of these word games, though, and putting in stupid Swedish words just because I can (laughs)."
"That's kind of our thing; we have total artistic freedom, so we like to give people the finger whenever we can (laughs)."