By Bill Adams
When someone suggests the possibility of “Otherkin,” what images come to mind? Theoretically, Otherkin are the human halfbreed descendants of angels, demons, dragons, elves, fairies, kitsune, werewolves and vampires (if I’ve missed any, I apologize – I don’t play RPGs) and, really, those images seem cute and dainty; the Keebler Elf and Puff The Magic Dragon are wonderful things to imagine exist.
The European image of those mythical creatures is very different; it’s not so cute, but the images are still fun to play with. Have you ever wondered what it would sound like if someone put a guitar in their hands? If the reality of musical Otherkin exists in Finntroll, they’re certainly not cast from the North American mould; they’re neither cute nor cuddly and they refuse to be underrated or ignored anymore.
Combining world music sounds (steel drums, tubular bells, an orchestra, occasionally and a barge-load of goth-sounding synths) with giant and meticulously executed black/death/math metal guitars, Finntroll (literally, the translation is ‘Finn Troll,’ taken from an old Finnish folk legend) come off sounding like the most cinematic and archaic metal band of all time as songs like “Solsagan,” “Ett Norrkensdad” and “I Trädens Säng”bludgeon out a sound that is equal parts European folk, metal and industrial and all aggressive as hell. Guitarists Samuli Ponsimaa and Mikael Karlbom lay down a sprawling and surprisingly ornate backdrop that builds in intensity for each track before singer (the term is subjective in this case) Mathias Lillmåns scorches both the earth and eardrums with a series of the most ungodly howls ever committed to tape; it’s a harrowing sound to hear.
Where the proceedings get a little more difficult to qualify is when Finntroll begins to incorporate a bit of that European folk influence into the proceedings. The problem is that, when they do appear, the instruments used are very traditional and played very well – when doesn’t exactly derail the band’s drive so much as add a confusing element for listeners. Think about it – if you’re getting into a metal mindset and really starting to feel it, how are you going to react when some fine trad instruments begin to creep in around the edges of the songs? How would you react? That gaffe is what will either turn listeners off of Finntroll completely or simply go ignored by them; it’s just too much of a different stream and is distracting.
Is it a unique listening experience though? Certainly – I can say I’ve never heard anything like it. In Nifelvind, listeners get an aggressive sound that incorporates the very old and (comparatively) very new; it’s not always the easiest alliance, but certainly a unique one guaranteed to grab listeners’ attention, if only to figure out what the hell it is.
Review courtesy of groundcontrolmag.com