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Finntroll - Nattf�dd

Band picture, from the CD

A pleasant little soiree at Finntroll Manor, with chamber music and polite conversation.


Back in 2001, I reviewed Humppa-black-metallers Finntroll's second album, Jaktens Tid, giving it a big thumbs up. This year, the band released an acoustic album Visor om Slutet, and an electric album, Nattf�dd, both of which I snapped up when they came out. At the time, though, I wasn't too keen on either of them, but I've been listening to Nattf�dd while drawing lately, and it's actually almost as good as Jaktens Tid. That's quite an achievement if you realise that the band has had what amounted to a brain transplant between those two albums. First, vocalist Katla developed a viral tumor in his throat and had to stop singing or die. Visor om Slutet was recorded with Katla sharing the vocals with his hand-picked successor Wilska. Then, guitarist Teemu "Somnium" Raimoranta, while drunk, fell off a bridge and didn't get up. Katla and Somnium were the originators of Finntroll's combination of Black Metal, polka-like rhythms and ethnic Finnish instrumentation, so this was a bit like James and Lars dying in Metallica's 1986 bus accident, leaving Cliff and Kirk to soldier on as best they could.
Against the odds, Nattf�dd is a fine album, and every bit as good for drawing by as Jaktens Tid. The remaining original Trolls have stuck with the concept well, with keyboardist Trollhorn writing most of the music. What makes Finntroll so much more fun than other Black Metal bands I've heard (and thanks to my headbanging buddy Danny I get to hear a lot of them)?

Two things, really: Finntroll's use of folky instrumentation adds a lightness and a sense of humour to the music that sets it apart from other bands in the genre that just buzz and scream in your ears, and they have the good sense to back the "singing" (if you can call it that - both Katla and Wilska sound like a Lovecraftian Elder God awakening with a bad hangover) with keyboard and other instrumental parts so that the implied melody can be heard through the roar of the vocals. Like I wrote in my entry about The Ocean, modern Metal vocals don't carry even a rudimentary melody well, and this hurts the songwriting. With the backings, the vocal lines resolve to melodies you can sing along with, without taking away from the power.

The songwriting is actually more solid than on Jaktens Tid - it's just the element of surprise that is missing. My favorite tracks from this album are the battle chant-like "Fiskarens Fiende" with the same choruses to quaff ale to that made Jaktens Tid so much fun, the fast, rowdy "Trollhammeren" and the penultimate track, the slow, menacing "Grottans Barn", the only track that has a bit of joik-singing on it.
Some buyers have complained about the length: Nattf�dd clocks in at only 37 minutes. Three tracks from the same session were set aside for an EP, Trollhammeren, so there were some accusations that the Trolls were milking their fans. However, I actually like the fact that it's short - there's no filler on this one. Some of my favorite albums are 37 minutes or less, and adding tracks doesn't ususally improve them.

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