Written By: Nameless N00b_131
We’ve all heard heavy metal criticized for taking itself too seriously or, even more common, being so angry! I enjoy music that tackles tough topics like war, death, history and literature as much as the next angry metal guy, but sometimes it’s important to shake things up and take the piss. Behold Trollfest, a Balkan-folk inspired metal band known for their made-up troll language (a combination of German and Norwegian) who are about to drop their eighth full-length album, Norwegian Fairytales, on NoiseArt Records. They’re a metal band at heart, but if these nutcases are ever accused of taking anything too seriously or being too angry, I’ll eat my lederhosen.
If I were to describe Trollfest to the non-metal listener, I would ask them to imagine all the goblins and dwarves from Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit smoked a mountain of crack and formed a polka band together. In other words, cram Finntroll, Korpiklaani and Alestorm into a paint shaker and let it rip for forty minutes. Instead of crushing riffs or precision shredding you’ll enjoy waltz numbers, folklore, yodeling and drinking songs superimposed over a backdrop of heavy guitars and blast beats, all arranged in spontaneous and unpredictable song structures. Silly, yes, but it’s creative and well-written, which is why is works.
Norwegian Fairytales de-emphasizes riffing and leans heavily on the Balkan instruments, while still achieving a sound that resonates with a metal audience. “Deildegasten” may be the best example of the Trollfest aesthetic: juxtaposing sweet, whimsical melodies with chaotic blast beats and frantic screaming. The heavier segments of “Fanden Flyr” or “De Tre Bukkene Berusa” would accommodate moshing as well as any thrash banger, while a tune like “Trine Reinlender” might sound like it has more business on an accordion folk record than a metal CD. But in the context of the album it serves as a short reprieve between the busier tracks, which is important for pacing on an album that has so much going on musically.
This is album has variety and pacing working for it. “Espen bin Askeladden” and “Smafolkets store bragder” both open with male choirs that invoke the smooth, silky richness of Heidevolk, which contrasts nicely against the troll-screeching that guides most of the madness. “Draugen” is particularly excellent, featuring a memorable accordion theme with a piano breakdown at the halfway point, after which clean vocals appear briefly to duel with the squawking. Given the chance to see this live, I could imagine myself having a similar experience I had at an Arkona show, watching as the crowd frantically switched back and forth between moshing and dancing. Fun and whimsy are present throughout almost the whole record, which makes it hard to get bored up until the end.
Fairytales has a lot going for it but falls a few accordion squeezes short of perfection. Trollmannen’s raspy vocals won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Fans of Norwegian metal will be right at home with his howling, but I found it to be most distracting component of the aesthetic. And sad to say the fervent energy present on most of the record fizzles out during the final two tracks. Final song, “Nøkken og Fossegrimen spiller opp til midnattstimen”, carries on for eight long minutes at a mid-tempo pace but doesn’t build up to anything or pay off in a real way. Nuke these numbers and you’d be left with a far stronger album.
If you’re the kind of headbanger who requires the utmost brutality and angst from their metal, Norwegian Fairytales may not be for you. For the rest of us, it’s a damn good time. Trollfest maintains a consistent aesthetic across the record while still being fun and unpredictable. Not every track is solid gold, but the sheer variety of instruments and vocal styles makes it a fun listen. As metalheads we pride ourselves on our ability to scowl at the edge of the pit, arms crossed, inviting onlookers to wonder how many small animals we crushed beneath our motorcycle tires that night. But let us embrace the Trollfest way, cast off our gruff exteriors for a moment and let the world know we’re not immune to fun, for there are far worse ways to kick off a new year of metal than a spell of Balkan-flavored fun.