Monday, April 1, 2013

Finntroll - Blodsvept [EP]

It’s not easy to make a list of Finnish metal bands without mentioning the folk metal masters Finntroll. Yes, they aren’t as big as some of Finland’s other metal bands like Apocalyptica, Nightwish, HIM, Wintersun, Children of Bodom, Ensiferum, Turisas, Korpiklaani, Sonata Arctica, Amorphis, and Stratovarius, but the chances of Finntroll not coming up on a “best metal bands from Finland” list are next to nothing. And Finntroll aren’t new at all, they’ve got almost 20 years, five full-lengths, and now three EPs under their belts. Blodsvept is the first new material that we’ve heard out of Finntroll since the release of their highly-acclaimed Nifelvind in 2010. The Blodsvept EP features two tracks of fresh, new material, two live recordings of songs from their Nattfodd album from when they played at the legendary Wacken Open Air metal festival, a cover of a techno/new wave song, and a previously unreleased demo of a song that only the hardcore Finntroll fans know, Rivfader. Although I would prefer for the EP to be completely made up of new material (and then maybe a live bonus track or something), this is enough to hold me over until their next release.

I’m not sure what was up with the logo from the cover of Nifelvind, but I’m glad to see them go back to their fucking awesome logo on this EP. I usually don’t take the sound of material on EPs and assume that their next full-length is going to sound just like it. In fact, most of the time, EPs seem to sound different from the rest of a band’s material. These mini records tend to act as little splurts of random and unusual creativity from a band and are released as EPs because of that. I like to listen to EPs that bands release, especially if they’re released later in a band’s career, because they sometimes show a different side of that band’s sound that hasn’t gotten very much exposure. This seems to kind of be the case with Finntroll’s Blodsvept EP. The thing that puzzled me the most as to why I couldn’t understand anything Finntroll wrote (song names, lyrics, album titles) is because although the band is Finnish, their original vocalist was part of the Swedish-speaking population of Finland. I guess he felt that the sound of the Swedish language was more fitting to their odd music than Finnish. And apparently although the band has gone through several vocalist changes, the Swedish lyrics have remained a tradition within the band. So if you’re like me and can’t understand Swedish, Blodsvept is Swedish for “Blood Swept”. The title song, which is the opening track on this EP is the song that I am going to talk about first.

Blodsvept starts with the awakening of…I don’t even want to know. The only words that pop into my head when I hear the intro to that song are “it’s alive!!” So after this…thing that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the song (it probably does, though, just assume I’m wrong about that) comes out of the dark, what comes next may come as a surprise to some Finntrollheads. Instead of the blasting and energy-filled montage of fiddles and distorted guitars that just about every Finntroll album starts off with, Blodsvept comes in with a fairly mellow tone. Not to say that it’s SOFT, but it definitely sounds considerably less energetic when compared with all the other Finntroll releases. The production quality is cleaner than most of the other really rough Finntroll albums, but it still sounds great. To be honest, there really isn’t anything at all about the sound quality of the two new tracks that I can complain about; everything’s balanced, the distortion is clean, the vocals are audible, it all checks out! I guess you could say that the symphonic instruments on the song Blodsvept make it sound almost cheesy. Being more used to their fun, but extremely chaotic and aggressive sound, this lack of aggressiveness made it harder to get into. But now that I’ve listened to it over and over again, I understand the music a lot more and even see what kind of sound these guys were aiming for. For those of you expecting fast, moshable song, Blodsvept isn’t that. I love the song, and I love the mood that it sets, but I think there’s a little bit TOO much energy that has been taken out. The drum patterns are tight, but end up becoming boring and repetitive. This is the same with the guitars. After a while, it kind of seems like Finntroll wrote this song with more of a minimalistic perspective, which makes it more understandable than the complexity that they’re known for writing.

Because a lot of websites don’t seem to like it when I type in foreign letters, I’ll just say that the second track is Swedish for “When Giants are Marching” or something along those lines. And it makes sense because the song has a thick and heavy beat that sounds like…well…a marching song! I like this song a lot more than Blodsvept simply because it has more to it. There’s more texture, it’s more complex, there are a lot more interesting and catchy riffs, and it just sounds fucking epic! Again, it appears that Finntroll wrote this song in a minimalist state of mind. The fact that this song has more energy is the main reason why it’s more enjoyable. But it’s also because it doesn’t grow stale and repetitive after the first two minutes. The strings, whistles, and horns (uncommon in folk metal, but common for Finntroll) give everything an exhilarating feel. I would like for there to be more of a contrast in speed during the chorus, but it’s good nonetheless. My favorite parts of this song are the parts right after the melodic lead line in the chorus, right where everything breaks down and releases all the energy in the same manner a breakdown releases the tension in deathcore and metalcore.

I’m not the biggest fan of live recordings, but the two live tracks are good. The song that surprised me was the cover. If you were alive and aware of popular culture during the 1980s and early 1990s, you most likely remember the new wave/pop duet known as The Pet Shop Boys. Yes, that’s right, the fucking Pet Shop Boys. Finntroll apparently decided to cover one of their most famous songs, Can You Forgive Her? In the same way that Children of Bodom covered Britney Spears, the folk metal behemoths cover The Pet Shop Boys, Finntroll style. And by “Finntroll style” I mean the whole shebang; the heavy guitars, the fun folk metal sound, the strings, the bagpipes, everything! As much as I am NOT a fan of The Pet Shop Boys, this is a damn good cover, probably one of the best metal covers of a pop song I’ve ever heard.

Finntroll’s Blodsvept EP is definitely worth a listen for any fan of Finntroll, folk metal, or Finnish music. The difference in sound isn’t something that I’ll be expecting from their new album (watch their new album sound like this just because I said that), but it’s a fucking treat to the ears. I probably won’t be listening to this a whole lot due to the lack of energy, lack of new material, and the fact that one of the songs is monotonous and repetitive after a while. I would give the Blodsvept EP a score of 14/20.