Finntroll - Nifelvind
Century Media
Black/Folk Metal
11 songs (45:36)
Release year: 2010
Finntroll, Century Media
Reviewed by Tyler

“Fun” is not a word frequently associated with black metal. By and large, black metal is a grim, morose genre of metal, and while there is some truly awesome black metal, it can be a very abrasive sound that typically doesn’t bring its listeners a sense of joy or whimsy. However, on their sixth full length album, Nifelvind, Finntroll manage to do the unthinkable; they have made an album with clear, ever-present black metal influences that is both unrelentingly heavy and unabashedly joyous. And yes, even fun.

For those of you who are as of yet unaware of this band, Finntroll is one of the originators of the “folk metal” scene which started rearing its ugly head about 10 or so years ago in their homeland of Finland. While many of the bands that have spawned since can be goofy at best and ridiculous at worst, Finntroll have separated themselves from the pack by remaining steadfast in their devotion to their folklore and cultural heritage. They combine strong black/death metal influences with humppa music, a quirky type of Finnish dance music. The result is a sound that is entirely unique, entertaining, and at times, fucked-up.

Nifelvind begins with intro Blodmarsch (Blood March), complete with pounding tribal drums, animal noises, horns, drunken chanting, and a number of other peculiar instrumentation and sound effects. It has a very medieval, epic feeling to it, almost like something Dimmu Borgir would make if they took themselves a little less seriously. Blodmarsch segues nicely into Solsagan (Tale of the Sun), and the aforementioned fun begins in earnest. Tremolo picking, primal roars, and blast beats fill the speakers with surprisingly crystal clear production, and the black metal influences sans the humppa music make their presence known quickly. An absolutely brutal riff complete with a vicious guitar squeal accompany the entering vocals, and by the time the second bit of lyrics start, the crazed humppa-style keyboard has begun wreaking havoc. Before long it becomes apparent that this album won’t be a normal stroll through the forest. A few great riffs later, the drunken chanting from the intro is back, albeit much more energetic and rowdy. This makes for one hell of a sing- along chorus, and it repeats a few times throughout the song, giving it plenty of potential to be an anthem for drunk and disorderly metal heads. This song is an absolute blast to listen to, and it definitely sets a raucous tone for the album.

The next standout song, Den Frusna Munnen (The Frozen Mouth) begins with some odd percussion instruments that create an almost jungle type vibe. The jumpy guitar hook that follows is absolutely infectious, and it appears a number of times throughout the song. You will definitely be humming said hook before too long, its downright irresistible.

One of the great characteristics of Den Frusna Munnen, and for that matter the entire album, is that it rarely follows a standard verse-chorus-verse format; instead, each song has a number of immensely memorable melodies and unconventional riffs that often don’t follow clear patterns. Even when the songs have definable verses or choruses, there are often clever variations from verse to verse, bridge to bridge, ect. The picking pattern in one pre-chorus is often different than the previous one, or the humppa instrumentation in this verse is different than that, which allows the songs sound fresh and exciting through their durations without sounding disjointed.

The album continues strongly with Ett Norrskensdåd (A Deed of the Northern Lights), another amusing, folksy song with catchy riffs. However, the folk elements start to take a back seat with songs like I Trädens Sång (In the Song of the Trees) and Tiden Utan Tid (Time Without Time). While the weird humppa music is still present, these two songs are much darker and heavier, featuring the albums black metal influences much more prevalently. The former is a dark, brutal, Emperor- esque song. In fact, one of the riffs sounds almost identical to a riff on Emperor’s Beyond the Great Vast Forest off of their album In the Nightside Eclipse. The latter is the albums slowest, heaviest, most brooding track, with a creepy opening featuring chanting and organs, and a number of surprisingly foreboding riffs. While these songs show Finntroll’s ability to compose traditionally heavy riffs to match those of bands like Dimmu Borgir and Immortal, the presence of the mad humppa grooves creates a contrast that can’t be found in the music with any other band.

Luckily, the gorgeous Galgasång (Gallows Song) provides a pleasant, well needed respite from the heaviness of the last few tracks. It is an entirely acoustic folk song, featuring a lush palette of instruments like an acoustic guitar, banjo, fiddle, accordion, and an acoustic bass. While I respect that Finntroll honors their heritage by writing their lyrics in Swedish (the original lead singer and current lyricist is part of a Swedish-speaking minority in Finland), it is at times an unfortunate choice for their fans that do not understand the language. Songs like Galgasång would be wonderful to sing with your mates around a campfire, but unless you want to translate the lyrics or learn Swedish, it will be tedious endeavor.

Fortunately for us English speaking folks, Nifelvind has a number of shout-along moments that don’t require you to know what is being sung to participate. Album standout Under Bergets Rot (Under the Root of the Mountain) has such moments during its chorus, and is an energetic, almost celebratory song. It boasts an instantly memorable palm-muted guitar riff, some exotic percussion, and an absolutely triumphant chorus led by a massive keyboard melody and gang vocals mixed with growling from lead singer Vreth.

While black metal is infamous for often having blatantly low budget, unlistenable production, Nifelvind fortunately avoids such a folly. The production is excellent throughout, allowing the ridiculous array of instruments used in the album to be heard clearly. This ensures that all of the unique madness of Finntroll’s music can be enjoyed without distraction. Drummer Beast Dominator’s drums are appropriately deep and tribal sounding, and both the vocals of Vreth and the guitars of Skrymer and Routa are at a reasonable volume, providing for a smooth production by any standard.

Put plainly, you will not hear another album quite like Nifelvind for awhile, likely not until Finntroll’s next album. It is a bizarre, startling piece of music, and it is an album that takes a few listens to grasp and fully enjoy. I have a few minor complaints about the album, namely that it could have been longer and that I would have liked there to be more of those gang choruses and interesting melodies. The melodies that were present were exceptional, but there were a few songs that didn’t “wow” me quite like the others. However, even the songs that had those minor blemishes are solid tracks, and should not deter anyone from picking up this whacky album soon. I strongly recommend it to anyone looking for a unique, heavy album or a good time. Grab it up soon and start having fun.

Killing Songs :
Solsagan, Den Frusna Munnen, Ett Norrskensdåd, Galgasång, Under Bergets Rot
Tyler quoted 87 / 100
Vrechek quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Finntroll that we have reviewed:
Finntroll - Blodsvept reviewed by Metalette and quoted 88 / 100
Finntroll - Ur Jordens Djup reviewed by Alex and quoted 83 / 100
Finntroll - Nattfödd reviewed by Jay and quoted 93 / 100
Finntroll - Visor Om Slutet reviewed by Jack and quoted 60 / 100
Finntroll - Jaktens Tid reviewed by Marc and quoted 89 / 100
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