Finntroll - Ur Jordens Djup - 2007 - Century Media
1. ryning Listen Listen 2. Sång 3. Korpens Saga 4. Nedgång 5. Ur Djupet 6. Slagbroder 7. En Mäktig Här 8. Ormhäxan 9. Maktens Spira 10. Under Tuå Runor 11. Kuällning
The departure of Tapio Wilska from Finntroll came as quite a surprise. His robust voice and figure had anchored the band’s pagan gambols for as long as I had been listening to them (although that did only translate to one album), and trying to visualize a replacement for him in this iconic Finnish crew simply felt unnatural. Even more surprising than the exit of Tapio was his replacement, a relative unknown called Vreth whose wiry frame was a significant departure from the jolly giant I’d been so familiar with.
And so, even before hearing their latest album, ‘Ur Jordens Djup’, I admit that I was already predisposed against it on some childish level. Fortunately though, after a couple listens to break the ice and a few more for good measure, I can say without reservation that I bear no ill will against Vreth, and that he is a quality replacement well suited to Finntroll’s ale-sodden abandon. His vocals are far throatier and substantial than his looks would suggest, and aside from one brief, incongruous instance of whisper-croaking on ‘Slagbroder’ (not unlike Dani Filth), he skillfully conjoins heavy metal aggression and droll humppa phrasing. Indeed, the rich, raucous emotion of his voice in ‘Nedgång’ or the playful turns of ‘En Mäktig Här’ are enough to do any Finntroll dance party proud.
In fact, if there is any issue to take the Finntroll of 2007, it is not with Vreth, but rather with rest of the band, all of whom have been around since the ‘Midnattens Widunder’ days of ’99. Over their career, Finntroll have become beloved by many and world renowned in the metal scene for their unabashed and unparalled integration of ethnic humppa, which made them one of the most distinguishable of all folk metal bands and the cheerful progenitors of what came to be known as ‘polka metal’. However, on ‘Ur Jordens Djup’, the frolicking accordions, burly chorus shouts, and campfire singalongs feel dramatically suppressed.
On ‘Ur Jordens Djup’, Finntroll seem to have played up their metal side both with their songwriting and production (the most balanced the band has ever had), and with a bevy of rapid fire riffs and a thick bass tone are almost in thrash metal territory at times. (One can’t help but wonder whether the recent tour with Sadus is responsible in part for the change.)
This, of course, has come as a disappointment to hordes of Finntroll fans the world over. Although these 11 songs are far from amateurish and are, all in all, really rather enjoyable, the once-omnipresent folk influences and melody-driven choruses are no longer as conspicuous as they were during Finntroll’s heyday. Even the few more traditional tracks that do remain don’t quite have that authentically capricious Finntroll feel; rather, they tend to have a heavier, more severe edge, and at other times it sounds as though more of Trollhorn’s melancholic Moonsorrow harmonies are creeping in. The entirety of the album is clearly folk-inspired and without a doubt compelling, but it simply seem out of place alongside such monikers as ‘Beast Dominator’ and Finntroll’s light-hearted history. On ‘Midnattens Widunder’ in particular, the band did include some more mournful moments, such as the sensational title track, but these have always been the exception to Finntroll’s standard.
And though it may be reined in, the band’s sense of playfulness is still not lost—one read of their tongue-in-cheek press material or a listen to the reported 13-minute closer (technically 13 minutes but in actually two brief folk tunes spaced apart eight minutes) will assure wary listeners of that. It just takes a little more effort on our part to bring out the jollies this time around. Finntroll is as entitled to artistic development as any other band, and ‘Ur Jordens Djup’ does make for a rather good pagan metal album at that—it just may not be that easy for their fans to come to grips with the change. Although it may go down as a misstep for the band, if we can approach this album a little more seriously and with a bit more patience than Finntroll’s others, ‘Ur Jordens Djup’ is still is very worthy of the band’s storied name.
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