Metsatöll // Äio
Rating: 3.5/5.0 —Entertaining even though we haven’t a clue what’s going on, good sign!
Label: Spinefarm
Websites: metsatoll.ee | myspace.com/metsatoll
Release Dates: EU: 03.03.2010 | US: ?

That Metsatöll even exists is actually a great surprise. We had no idea! Seriously, not even a little bit of an idea. Turns out, they’ve been around for quite a while and given the very cool nature of the band’s 2010 release Äio, this Angry Metal Guy is definitely suggesting that you run out and buy every single one of their albums. Though, it’s hard to know whether or not Äio is a true masterpiece, because lyrically we’re in the dark. Still, it’s hard to argue with anyone who can make a recorder sound metal.

Metsatöll is an Estonian folk metal band that’s been putting out records for nearly a decade now. Apparently the word from which they derive their name is an archaic word for wolf and they work at keeping their language and thoughts nice and archaic for all of us who feel robbed for never having been ridden with lice or killed our food with a bow and arrow after several weeks of starving and the birth of our 14th child (but only 3rd one to live). Keeping in thematic consonance with this, the band blends flutes and bagpipes into their heavy metal, making a catchy blend of metal and folk that is catchy like the plague and sticky like plague honey.

The biggest issue with this record, honestly, is that for a non-native speaker it can get pretty frustrating. While the music is often quite simple and the band seems to be writing from the point of view that there will be lyrical focus, we non-Estonians (and Finns I guess—and anyone else who speaks Finno-Ugrek languages) have absolutely no clue what’s going on. What ends up happening is that an album that is an hour long and probably a lyrical masterpiece, turns into something that one might want to shut off after half that time because it’s tough to figure  out what’s going on. Unless you’re a big fan of folk music, are trying to learn Estonian via archaic language (thus making it harder on yourself), it’s entirely probable that you will just find this record frustrating.

But patience, my friends, is a virtue and for those willing to wade through something a little obtuse an exciting musical adventure awaits them. While the band does not adhere to any of the extreme influences that litter most modern folk metal and the tracks really never get much beyond a mid-paced chug, there is a lot of excellent heavy material, as well as beautiful folky moments. The track “Kune pole kodus, olen kaugel teel” is a fantastic folk song with a heavy bass vocalist that is reminiscent of Finntroll‘s forays into folk music (and the title is a blast to say). The title track is heavy, pounding and novel with great flute melodies and a good folk metal groove to it. And when Metsatöll breaks into the kind of vocal harmonies that litter the album, but are particularly visible on the opening sequence of “Nüüd tulge, mu kaimud”, it’s hard not to sit up and take notice at something that really just has a fascinating and novel sound. We were particularly taken with the track “Verjiää”, which is well worth the pay off of sitting through a few slow tracks for these great folk melodies and the beautiful composition.

If you’re a fan of music that’s not in your native language and you’re totally OK listening to it for the music, Metsatöll is the band for you. But like other bands of the genre, such as Fejd or Tarabas, it really does feel like something gets lost in translation. There is a sense that a non-native listener would have trouble following the band where they want to go. We hope that the non-Finnish/Estonian booklet comes with translations at least, so that listeners know what the hell they’re listening to. But even if you don’t: this record is worth a listen, because the music is novel, entrancing and well-crafted.

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