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Finntroll - "Nifelvind" (CD)

Finntroll - "Nifelvind" CD cover image

"Nifelvind" track listing:

1. Blodmarsch (Intro) (2:12)
2. Solsagan (4:32)
3. Den Frusna Munnen (4:05)
4. Ett Norrskensdåd (3:35)
5. I Trädens Sång (3:45)
6. Tiden Utan Tid (4:58)
7. Galgasång (3:45)
8. Mot Skuggornas Värld (4:44)
9. Under Bergets Rot (3:28)
10. Fornfamnad (3:43)
11. Dråp (7:01)

Reviewed by on February 28, 2010

"Anyone who ever thought the band’s humppa vibe was too over the top or goofy needs to take another look, as 'Nifelvind' is a much darker and heavier expedition into folk metal than their previous work."

One of the very few bands that could ever actually deserve the label “polka metal,” Finland’s Finntroll is both a legend and a bit of a black sheep in the metal world. The band has carved out quite a little niche for itself by combining the upbeat form of traditional Finnish music known as humppa with folk atmosphere, heavy guitars, and black metal growls. Anyone who ever thought the band’s humppa vibe was too over the top or goofy needs to take another look, as “Nifelvind” is a much darker and heavier expedition into folk metal than their previous work.

Opener “Bloodsmarch” is a curiosity, as it almost doesn’t even sound like Finntroll. As would be expected from a band of this nature, the opening track is an instrumental intro, but it doesn’t have any of the folksy feel and most definitely does not bring a forest full of trolls to mind. The track is an epic production that could easily be used in a soundtrack for a massive battle sequence taking place in ancient Rome. By the end of the song, the listener can almost hear the troops marching in formation towards some barbarian horde in need of purging.

The guitars and harsh screams that herald the second track “Solsagan” again have no hint of the folk vibe. The track starts off more like a full-force black metal assault than anything else. It takes almost a full minute for any keyboards to show up with that signature Finntroll sound, but at that point they are there to stay for the majority of the album.

It doesn’t take long for Finntroll to show they are going far deeper into extreme metal than in previous efforts this time around. The polka aspects are there, but are significantly downplayed and generally work more as backing atmosphere. Fast blast beating and the harsh growls of vocalist Vreth on “I Tradens Sang” might make the audience forget for a few minutes that “Nifelvind” is supposed to be in the folk metal genre. The track “Tiden Utan Tid” also heads off in a new direction for the band, placing a big emphasis on the guitar work instead of the symphonic sounds in a more traditional way that briefly evokes thrash.

For all the departures there are still plenty of folk-heavy segments to keep long time fans interested in the music. The opening moments of “Fornfamnad” is humppa craziness at its finest, with the big fat keyboard sounds mixing into guitars to create an overall effect that wouldn’t be out of place in a Tim Burton style dark fantasy. “Galgasang” fills in the role of the requisite acoustic guitar entry with clean vocals, although it isn’t anywhere near an upbeat jig. Final track “Drap” has some of the best mixing of symphonic elements with brutal metal. The song’s frantic pace and slightly over the top vibe creates images of ne’er-do-wells and nefarious scoundrels trafficking in misdeeds and zany antics. It’s likely the song won’t work for everyone, as it could easily be dropped into a cartoon with a cheesy villain in a cape if Saturday morning animations ever used metal, but anyone who can dig the unusual mix of dark and light should make a point of hearing it.

The album’s combination of upbeat humppa and aggressive metal makes for an eclectic and rounded listen, although in some instances the blend sounds truly odd. “Nifelvind” shows that there is still a lot of territory to explore in the vast wilderness of folk metal, and that the genre doesn’t have to take sides between happy drinking songs, epic high concept music, and the newer tradition of downbeat and mournful tracks.

Highs: Lots of dark and aggressive segments with well placed symphonic atmosphere.

Lows: Sometimes the mix comes off a little goofy.

Bottom line: Finntroll continues delving into darker and heavier territory, with just enough crazy polka to keep it recognizable.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)