April 22, 2010

Album Review: "Nifelvind" by Finntroll

Finntroll predates many of the bands occupying the current explosion of folk metal, which in a sense makes them innovators. But for their status, they don't get a lot of respect or recognition when compared to other bands in the genre. Moonsorrow, Eluveitie, Turisas, and even Ensiferum have all generated a greater buzz than Finntroll in recent years, and a number of other young folk metal bands are either just as popular or only slightly less popular than the seven-piece Finnish band. Part of the reason why Finntroll has not garnered as much critical acclaim is because of the inherently non-serious nature of their music. Any band that shows up in a music video partying in a cave while wearing loincloths can't be said to take their music completely seriously, nor should they expect fans to. However, on Nifelvind, the band seems to be attempting to force a serious tone into their music, with mixed results.

The attempt at seriousness is, admittedly, not as bad as it was on Nifelvind's predecessor, 2007's Ur Jordens Djup. While the dark and mysterious soundscapes of that album do remain on Nifelvind, the increase in folk instruments and overall increase in upbeat tempos help to restore some of the atmosphere of the band's older albums. Vreth adds more clean singing to the sound, with two songs featuring his enjoyable baritone voice. The inclusion of second keyboardist Virta also adds dense, rich harmonies to multiple songs, making this album one of Finntroll's most complex to date from the standpoint of composition. Utilizing more folk instruments also aids this album greatly, with the guest violin performance by Olli Vänskä of Turisas standing out on the song "Ett Norrskensdåd".

The problem with Nifelvind is the same problem that has plagued every Finntroll release since Jaktens Tid. Simply put, Finntroll are walking on the wrong side of the line between consistency and stagnation. Every one of the bands mentioned before have helped the folk metal genre expand and grow in recent years, while Finntroll have essentially remained mired in their own reputation. Trying to equal or surpass the excellence of Jaktens Tid has proven to be an insurmountable task for the band, and the quality of their music has declined because of it. Finntroll are by no means a bad band, though. They are still among the top performers in the folk metal genre overall. But for all their attempts at changing their sound, they are way behind their contemporaries in terms of innovation.

Nifelvind is a step in the right direction, but it doesn't put the band entirely back on track. Finntroll's lack of evolution continues to keep them confined in many ways, and it will continue to limit them in the long run if they can't break out of it. Regardless, though, folk metal fans will probably find a good amount to like on this album. Symphonic metal and black metal fans might also want to give Nifelvind a try. Thankfully, though, seriousness is not a requirement this time around.

Score: 5.5 out of 10

Track Listing

1. Blodmarsch
2. Solsagan
3. Den Frusna Munnen
4. Ett Norrskensdåd
5. I Trädens Sång
6. Tiden Utan Tid
7. Galgasång
8. Mot Skuggornas Värld
9. Under Bergets Rot
10. Fornfamnad
11. Dråp
12. Under Dvärgens Fot

Album Personnel

Mathias "Vreth" Lillmåns - Vocals
Mikael "Routa" Karlbom - Guitar
Samuli "Skrymer" Ponsimaa - Guitar
Sami "Tundra" Uusitalo - Bass guitar
Henri "Trollhorn" Sorvali - Keyboards, guitar
Aleksi "Virta" Virta - Keyboards
Samu "Beast Dominator" Ruotsalainen - Drums

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