Finntroll’s output strikes a particular chord with me, not least because their 2010 album, Nifelvind, sounded like they’d recorded the background muzak of my psyche and then stuck it onto an album.
Seriously, that’s what my brain sounds like on a day-to-day basis, which may or may not disturb you.
But there are no tracks from this record, or the band’s somewhat less astounding (but still very good) 2013 offering, Blodsvept, on the band’s new live album: Natten Med De Levande Finntroll. This was instead recorded in 2008 in front of a very keen Dutch audience.
How keen? The tangible roar of collective triumph when the opening chords of ‘Trollhammeren’ kick in is a thing of beauty, and the band’s 19-song performance must have been a remarkable experience given that it sounds so good here. Indeed, songs like ‘Nattfodd’, ‘Fiskarens Fiende’ and ‘Rivfader’ benefit from this, having the extra jolt of live energy and madness the band only really managed to translate to the recording studio with Nifelvind onwards.
The album is perhaps best seen as an intro to the band’s early to mid era – all polkas, accordia, kazoos, strange insect noises and trolls (lots of trolls) – it’s great fun and probably the only chance you’ll now have to hear all these songs performed live, now that the band has moved onto bigger things.
Another pleasing musical experience this month has been Norwegian black metallers Faen i Helvete and their new album, Den Saakaldte. Comfortably straddling the old school sound and the genre’s more technical and thrashier inflections in recent years, the album remains a consistently dark and enjoyable experience throughout its seven track-length.
True, it’s not THE black metal release of the year, but it’s certainly one of the best ones and capable of packing a punch. It’s also good fun. Remember when black metal was fun? Yes you do….
Finally, there is Stoneburner, whose album, Life Drawing, is – to paraphrase the Osmonds – a little bit prog, a little bit doom (and a fuckton of sludge). The record is a mixed bag, with tracks occasionally dragging the listener along with a massive hook or a nifty foray into prog, but then meandering and getting lost in itself, which is a problem when many of their tracks drag on past seven minutes. For example, the final track, ‘The Phoenix’, staggers in at a terrifyingly demanding 17 minutes.
Long tracks and doom are not necessarily a bad combination – it never did Sleep any harm – but music should never be a chore and sometimes, but not always, that’s what this album is.
Alexander Hay is a writer and polemicist based online and in print.