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Metsatöll Talks New Folk Album "Karjajuht"

The Estonian band Metsatöll has another folk metal offensive on the horizon, as new full-length "Karjajuht" is about to drop via Spinefarm Records on May 27th.

Metsatöll's Lauri Õunapuu ("Varulven") was gracious enough to answer all of Metalunderground.com's burning questions about the battles, beer making, and ten-armed monsters that make up "Karjajuht." Read our full interview with Lauri below and discover the logistics of combining traditional folk instruments with electric guitars on stage, the mythology behind the "Külmking" music video, the distinctive look of each album cover, and much more!

xFiruath: There are some interesting traditional folk instruments in your music - how do you translate that from a studio setting to a live setting and have them stand out with the guitars, drums, and harsh vocals dominating?

Lauri: Making them heard on the live stage is a really hard task. Luckily we have a very good sound guy Keijo Koppel, who is together with Metsatöll almost full time. We have tried really many technical solutions to make them sound. We have only ear monitors on the stage and no guitar amps - to make the stage as quiet as possible of acoustical instruments. And we do seek the frequencies, which work with fat distorted loud sound. Some frequencies do work psychoacoustically as there were more of that narrow acoustical wave, but when one could listen only one instrument at a time, the sound would be not so enjoyable. And of course live and studio is absolutely two different things. It’s not so hard in studio, but, of course, even there different microphones sound different and we have to choose.

xFiruath: What have you been doing lately as far as live appearances and do you have any upcoming tours lined up?

Lauri: We have doing a dozen of new record presentation gigs. We had one big open air for the veterans of Estonia, it was freezing outside, but thousands of people in the middle of the Estonian capital Tallinn besides the freedom monument made our hearts warm. I think we try to come to North America somewhere in autumn for a month or so. And when those plans are nailed in, be sure that you don't miss it!

xFiruath: The new album “Karjajuht” comes out later this month – when were these tracks written and what sort of events in your lives shaped the music this time around?

Lauri: Those tracks on “Karjajuht” have been arranged and put together last summer. The ideas and parts of songs, some lyrics are done earlier, written earlier. As always, life itself inspires us. Everything, that happens in our lives, the bands we are touring with, the books we are reading, the town or forest we are living in.

xFiruath: Back in March you released a music video for “Külmking.” Where did you shoot that and what's taking place in the video's story?

Lauri: Yes, we had the idea of making video about “Külmking” even a bit before the track was finished. Külmking is an Estonian mythological creature, who has ten legs and ten arms, which eats children in the forest and can attack anyone without warning, who cannot be killed in any way. If you attack her, the bullet turns back to you.

We did film it on our light engineer Raiko's country house. All filming took two days to build the stage, put everything in order, and between long warming pauses (it was really cold) try to film something fast. The main line in the video is a view through the eyes of our video makers mind and camera, who actually personify a Külmking. All we did, I'd speak and tell stories about that ghoul-like creature and we told, that we want a video about that.

xFiruath: What are the overall lyrical themes and stories to be found on this new album?

Lauri: Lyrical themes are wide as life. Overall the poetry in Karjajuht is less epical than usually, more lyrical. So, they are not so hard to bite through to a person, which is not common in Estonian history, beliefs, and mythology. There are drinking songs, woven with Estonian folklore and beer-making secrets, songs about friendship, leadership and responsibility. About battles and staying yourself even in the most terrible moments. Songs about honoring even your enemy who stays against you in a battle. Songs about our homeland Estonia.

xFiruath: There's a very distinctive style on all the Metsatoll album covers. Who handles your artwork and what connection does it have to the album's themes?

Lauri: The paintings we have on most Metsatöll albums are made by Jüri Arrak, who is one of the most original artist in Estonia. His paintings always have a wide philosophical context. In the album are very many lyrics about holding together and friendship, trust and remembering. So, in this cover is one being (originally from Jüri Arraks animation "Suur Tõll"), that can represent all of that - it has two sex, sees everything, is everywhere.

xFiruath: Where did the recording take place and were there any guest appearances?

Lauri: We have made late albums usually in our drummers summerhouse in a little village. This time we did also start demoing in that village, but soon enough we did move to the capital of Tallinn and recorded everything there, in our home studio. Why? One of the reasons was surely that everyone had really little time this year. Maybe this is why the “Karjajuht” songs are way too faster than previous albums?

Our main guests on Karjajuht are Jonne from Korpiklaani - he sung together with Markus in a song "Lööme mesti". Jonne is a really good fellow, everything, he touches, starts suddenly to dance and joik and celebrate, I think, there's much of Jonne's feel in that song. And in "Surmamüür" we had this crazy idea of having a female jazz vocal solo. We did introduce this idea to our good fellow Kadri Voorand (a daughter of good Estonian female torupill-player) and she did happily agree. And of course, we had a help from our friend from Finntroll - Samuel Ruotsalainen, he did help to produce “Karjajuht.” It's sometimes hard to listen your own songs and decide what to leave and what to add. Then it’s good if you have a friend with a good musical taste and a bold mind for criticism. Like Samu.

xFiruath: Will there be a special edition of the album or are there any extra songs floating around that didn't make the final track listing?

Lauri: As always, we have a special limited digipack. There were a couple of songs, that didn't make it to the “Karjajuht,” actually really good songs, but as always, You cannot make 80+ minutes long albums, there is some humanly limits. And a pity, as long as I know, those songs are not "floating" yet and if they do, Metsatöll will be the floater.

xFiruath: What's happening with the music scene in your area of Estonia? Is metal a thriving phenomena there or more underground?

Lauri: Metal is something that does erase its limits here. Metal has always been really popular here, there are really many good metal musicians and bands. But somehow they are fading away and drifting to the other corners of music. In Estonia no one knows, what is nowadays mainstream or underground anymore. The "undergrounds" are mainstream and they do "mainstream" in the cellars. One thing is sure, the metal doesn't go anywhere.

xFiruath: Is there anything else you'd like to say?

Lauri: For all people out there who are coming to our gigs: don’t hesitate to come and talk after the show with us some words. Getting out of routine and meeting local people is the best and memorable thing on tours! Come and let’s have a glass of beer or three!

xFiruath's avatar

Ty Arthur splits his time between writing dark fiction, spreading the word about underground metal bands, and bringing you the latest gaming news. His sci-fi, grimdark fantasy, and horror novels can be found at Amazon.

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