Finntroll – Vredesvävd (Album Review)

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Just shy of a decade ago folk metal was enjoying explosive heyday, excitement abound as once-strange instruments such as the jaw harp and hurdy gurdy became treasured parts of metal’s collective vocabulary. Dedicated folk metal tours saw many of the genre’s titans sharing the stage alongside one another, and for a period of time such names dominated summer festivals in headlining spots across Europe. The stretch from 2012 to 2013 was particularly bountiful, with Korpiklaani releasing “Manala,” Ensiferum releasing “Unsung Heroes,Turisas releasing “Turisas2013,” and Finntroll releasing “Blodsvept.” Together these four albums carried the scene through collective years of touring, but 2013 was also the year which began a long silence for new folk metal. Both Finntroll and Turisas turned their attention to the stage as the time between new music and the present grew ever more distant. Now, seven years later, Finntroll return with an album that proves the extreme folk metal pioneers never lost their touch. “Vredesvävd” is loud, aggressive, and unapologetically black metal, its roots entwined so deeply with folk that all one can see is darkness. The blackened folk origins which gave Finntroll its footing in the late 90s re-emerges, more fierce and piercing than ever before.

Finntroll has long been credited with a profound inventiveness, one which is reserved only for the flagships of a genre. Having lent the world their unique creative vision since the 1999 debut album “Midnattens Widunder,” there has been little question that Finntroll has served as the cutting edge of the folk metal scene for nearly twenty years, reinventing themselves and the meaning of folk metal with each new album. From “Midnattens Widunder” on they stepped boldly and with unbridled ambition, growing boundlessly from roots in an album that was unafraid to temper outright aggression with the unique intensity of instrumentals and folk structures which rarely found their home in heavy music. Since those early days the band has seen changes in both membership and in sonic style, namely gaining their present personality with the replacement of original vocalist Katla with the fiery Mathias “Vreth” Lillmåns. Though Katla has retained a presence in the band as primary lyricist, the thematic musings which comprise “Vredesvävd” included, Vreth has seized the spotlight without hesitation in a maelstrom of untamed screams and growls. Founding member and songwriter Trollhorn has also seen a great evolution in terms of his compositional maturity, and “Vredesvävd” sees him blossom as an artist with an opening track that reaches cinematic heights Finntroll has never before achieved, weaving this unique dimension throughout the album without ever extending to the point of excess.

The sheer power of coordination and dexterity required to make “Vredesvävd” as comprehensive as it is cannot be understated: Finntroll is, after all, a septet. Rather than a constant competition of dueling interests and talents, there is nary a moment where egos flair throughout the album. Instead Finntroll achieves a harmonic balance no matter the given style or tempo, be it the strong folk-leaning “Forsen” or the enthusiastic lead single “Ormfolk.” Most notable of all is that this was all orchestrated in an album that tends to just below the forty minute mark – something of a rarity as modern metal albums continue to bloat well above an hour. But Trollhorn and the rest of Finntroll’s ranks more than prove that forty minutes is all they need to make an unforgettable impression, one best summarized by “Att Döda Med En Sten” but carried on through the enchanting aura of “Mask” and beyond. Each track is fully realized in its potential, paying care to both speed and composition for an experience which is as engaging as enthralling for new and old listeners alike. To top off Trollhorn’s impeccable songwriting skills and the chemistry which the seven members of Finntroll possess, the production on the album leaves a sound which is crisply layered and never claustrophobic despite its heaviness.

“Vredesvävd” Album Artwork

Vredesvävd” is the unexpected proving ground for a vocalist who had already demonstrated his chops from the death-steeped “Blodsvept” through the more jubilous and nuanced depths of “Nifelvind,” as Finntroll now calls for a return to the blackened atmospheres which gave birth to their earliest identity. This is a role which Vreth not only embraces, but conquers, as his voice is the definitive lead in setting the album’s blustering intensity as an unwavering centerpiece. Having spent much of 2019 sharpening his skills, namely with black metal project …and Oceans, Vreth shows himself at the top of his game in a vocal performance that is unmatched both within his own personal discography and that of folk metal as a whole. There is no better demonstration of this than the rapid-fire verses on “Gränars Väg” through the frantic storm of “Att Döda Med En Sten.” He manages to portray an emotion that falls short of blind rage, yet does not stray towards the light of exaltation. Instead “Vredesvävd” feels like an intrusion into the soul of some celestial being while simultaneously offering a mirror into the darkest chambers of one’s own heart. Raw emotion is laid as clear as scattered glass across keyboards which effortlessly capture the 90’s intonation which inspired this album’s atmosphere, and such intonation carries as a perfect match through each new track. The pure musical proposition of “Vredesvävd” is tempting on its own, but Vreth brings undeniable and irresistible charisma to the table with a glimmer of starlight in his eyes.

For all of its depth and its tendencies towards traditional black metal there is no question that Finntroll has depth far beyond simple arctic frost. The keys which give birth to the biting winds of “Vid Häxans Härd” are the very same which fill out the ecstatic thunder of “Stjärnors Mjöd,” just one example of the duality that provides “Vredesvävd” with its many layers. Not balanced only in instrumentation, this album strikes a clean equilibrium between speed and a more patient discovery, much akin to the conceptual journeys contained thematically. For all of the excitement in the explosiveness of “Gränars Väg,” there is the mournful passages of “Ylaren” that invoke something more meaningful than the simple reflex of speed-fueled adrenaline. Reservation in speed and temperament give each of the forty minutes on the album incredible value, truly capturing the essence of what it means to produce an opus without an ounce of filler.

The cheerful thrills of fan-favorite “Trollhammaren” seem distant now as the shadowed embrace of “Vredesvävd” descends like the howling winds of a Finnish storm. But just like the shadows of a forest waiting to be explored, this album promises mesmerizing comfort for those that give themselves wholly unto it and the intrigue that lies within. If there is anything that could tip folk metal into a new era, it is undoubtedly “Vredesvävd” for all of its cacophonous splendor.

Released By: Century Media Records
Release Date: September 18th, 2020
Genre: Blackened Folk Metal

Musicians:

  • Trollhorn / Keyboards, Orchestrations, Guitars, Banjo, Mouth Harp
  • Tundra / Bass
  • Skrymer / Guitars
  • Routa / Guitar
  • Vreth / Vocals
  • Virta / Keys
  • MörkÖ / Drums

“Vredesvavd” Track-listing:

  1. Väktaren
  2. Att Döda Med En Sten
  3. Ormfolk
  4. Grenars Väg
  5. Forsen
  6. Vid Häxans Härd
  7. Myren
  8. Stjärnors Mjöd
  9. Mask
  10. Ylaren

9.3 Excellent

From the murky shadows of the Finnish forests Finntroll has returned, brandishing arctic darkness as though metal were still cloaked in the resonant thrills of 90’s black metal. Heavier than ever before, and bringing with them an edge that is poised to redefine extreme folk metal, “Vredesvävd” is the album of ominous intrigue that 2020 desperately needs.

  • Songwriting 9.5
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 9
  • Production 9.5
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