I sometimes have wondered whether or not Finntroll is proof that we live in someone’s hypothetical universe. This smarmy imagineer in a banal universe somewhere may have constructed an elaborate The Producers-like scheme to produce a flop that makes him money. “How about,” he says to himself, “a group of Finns, speaking in a minor dialect of Swedish, dressed up as characters from the LARP version of Changeling: The Dreaming, who make folk-influenced heavy metal, complete with a screaming madman instead of a singer! Who on earth would buy that?” Were this hypothetical businessman able to see into our not-so-hypothetical universe he would most certainly be surprised to see that this motley menagerie of Österbottningar that fits his description are releasing their 6th full-length record in just a few days time — and it’s their second on one of metal’s premier labels.
Finntroll‘s path, since adding new vocalist Vreth in 2006, has been one of remarkable consistency. In 2007, three years off the band’s breakthrough record Nattfödd, Finntroll released Ur jordens djup, a dark, but serious statement of intent. This was followed up three years later by Nifelvind, a record “oozes excellence,” as one smitten reviewer put it. Now in 2013 Blodsvept has landed, and while it is its own very special sort of troll, it shares some consistencies with the band’s previous releases – short songs, bubbling energy, copious amounts of keyboard and an almost [Luca Turilli‘s] Rhapsody [of Fire] consistency in terms of song writing. A workman-like dependability that guarantees similar results every time one purchases a batch of Finntroll compositions.
There is no shame in consistency, and Finntroll does a great job of drawing together the disparate bands of their sound – the black metal, the orchestral influences and the big band jazz stuff that inches them closer to Diablo Swing Orchestra with every record – and making them work together. While “Midvinterdraken,” “Fanskapsfylld” and “Blodsvept” all scream Jaktens tid and Nattfödd, songs like “Skogsdotter,” and “Mordminnen” both push the band further away from that old school Thyrfing and Moonsorrow sound and into a more whimsical place. This sense of whimsy and playfulness is what made Nifelvind such a shining moment, but Blodsvept feels a bit more ‘traditional’ and a bit less experimental. As a whole the record is more uniform in its feel and execution.
It can be safely said, though, that my desire for a more rambunctious adventure into the blending of Finnish
oompah humppa and heavy metal infused swing beats, hardly disqualifies the fact that Blodsvept is chalk full of solid songs and imaginative melodies. Tracks like “När jättar marschera,” or the pirate metal track “Rösets kung” still serenade listeners with addictive hooks, laced with troll choirs, banjos and assorted weirdnesses that make this me giggle like an Angry Metal School Girl. The latter track “Rösets kung,” for example, features what sounds like someone humming in a bath while a choir of goblins and a stand-up bass accompany him. This evocative imagery fits perfectly for Finntroll; but that’s just the icing on the cake of slick hooks, speed, intensity and crunch that keeps listeners coming back.
It’s true that Blodsvept isn’t as exciting as Nifelvind before it, which felt more varied and experimental than the band’s current offering. But other than the record feeling a little laggy on the back end because of pacing considerations, I have no real substantive critiques. Finntroll continue to prove that consistency is a virtue, even among Swedish-speaking Finnish trolls from a distant futures past.