Originally written by Gregory Bradley.
A young goblin boy’s bar mitzvah. A polka party for a troll pirate captain. The soundtrack for two orc children ceremonially bowling human heads into a poisonous bog. All of these are ways to describe this latest album from Finntroll; each fails to truly capture the magic that is this quirky, folkish metal band. Finntroll is one of the most interesting and innovative bands to arise from the metal underground in the past couple of years. Combining a plethora of instrument sounds (mostly done on what I can only assume is a keyboard) and a fascinating array of folk tunes with a solid black metal base, Nattfodd is pure entertainment from start to “Finnish”.
The best way to describe Finntroll is “evil polka”. Technically it’s not polka, it’s “humppa”, a Finnish variety of polka, but to the average listener it’s polka. So how in god’s name does polka combine with metal, especially black metal? This is the question that Finntroll dares to answer! Believe me, somehow it works. It comes off very much like an abridged & upbeat version of Moonsorrow, probably because Henri Sorvali of Moonsorrow is masterfully caressing the ivories. Most of the keyboards are an ethereal heavenly sound, a twinkly or airy wood instrument synth, or some variety of the accordion. You wouldn’t believe how well these things all combine to form each meticulously crafted gem.
If you popped this album in your CD player, you would think it was another black metal band. The first track, “Vindafard-Manniskopesten” tricks you at first by slowly bringing in the trollish elements. Little by little, there are more and more keyboards until you get blown away by the main tune of the song, an incredibly catchy folk tune that immediately sparks your interest. The remainder of the album is pure fantasy greatness, each one having two or more extremely catchy keyboard riffs.
The keyboard tunes are what carry this album. The guitars, for the most part, serve as the rhythm section and drive the tune constantly forward. The keyboards carry the handful of main tunes while the guitars serve to provide segways into new rhythms and melodies. When the keys take a break, a guitar solo is in order. The guitar elements are generally very simplistic, but they aren’t the main focus of most of the songs. There exists a fantastic array of song structures here. No two are alike in any way, yet they all come together and form a coherent whole. Adding to this variety is the vast number of synthesized sounds. As far as I can hear, there’s plenty of accordion/concertina, the harp, a string section, and even a little kazoo and mouth harp (the springy sounding thing you would hear in the bayou). There even some that I can’t describe. All are expertly placed, utilized, and executed.
I am completely awestruck with this latest offering from Finntroll. They are one of the oddest bands I’ve ever come across, yet not weird for the sake of being weird. I’ve searched my brain’s archives for a better word to describe this band, but all that comes up is “trollish”. After 10+ listens, I still find little bits and pieces to focus on that keep me interested. You’ll be brought in by its charming simplicity, yet riveted by its melodic and emotional complexity. It’s fun to sing along to, Irish drinking song style. It’s fun to try and identify all of the instruments involved. I dare you to have more fun listening to any album all year. Nattfodd is probably the first bona fide top 10 contender of 2004, a must own.