Ur Jordens Djup
posted on 4/2007 By:
I have a feeling most readers of this site are familiar with the sound and style of Finntroll, whose meteoric ascent to fame since the 2001 release of their breakthrough album Jaktens Tid has earned the band status as one of the most well-recognized names in the metal underground. Finntroll’s innovative and surprisingly effective mixture of black/folk metal rhythms and vocals, bouncy polka melodies and a generally fun atmosphere was somewhat of a well-needed wake-up call when it surfaced amidst the hordes of oh-so-serious black and death metal bands also coming from Scandinavia.
And while some fans of those genres still regard Finntroll as nothing more than an elaborate joke, most who have really listened to the group’s back catalogue know that the band’s talent and skill are for real and that these guys are serious about their craft, even if the craft itself isn’t always that serious. That being said, I thought that the group’s 2004 album Nattfödd was their best effort so far, but part of me also wondered if the band had perhaps gone as far as they could go in their current direction, as their first three albums sounded similar in many respects. And sure enough, Finntroll have come up with a great new album that changes up their sound in a satisfying way while still managing to sound like, well, Finntroll.
What separates Ur Jordens Djup (From The Depths Of Earth) from its predecessors is the darker and more serious tone of the album as a whole. There has always been a serious side to Finntroll’s music that was vital to keeping their albums fresh all the way through, but on Ur Jordens Djup the darker elements are more prominent and emphasized, with the bouncy fun segments serving more as the changes of pace. The polka elements have been almost completely phased out in exchange for more pagan and folk sounding melodies, and the keyboards are generally pushed farther back in the mix to allow for more distinct and technical guitar riffing. I’ve probably already alarmed fans who worship the wacky aspects of the band, and I won’t be surprised at all if this album becomes the least popular work in their discography simply because the mood and feeling here are different from what people have come to expect. Even on the “party” songs, like the highly enjoyable “Korpens Saga“ and “En Mäktig Här”, things are distinctly more dramatic and less playful, more akin to the slightly-tongue-in-cheek storytelling vibe of Ensiferum than a bunch of trolls playing loud music and pillaging the local bar.
But I don’t want you guys to think that these guys have suddenly become Moonsorrow or something; rest assured, Finntroll still know how to write one hell of a catchy, upbeat tune, and even the more serious songs are still filled with that tangible ‘Troll vibe that sticks in your head and keeps you going through a shitty day at work or school. In fact, “En Mäktig Här” is not only the most light-hearted track on the album but also the best. From the amusing opening vocal exchange to the wonderful barrage of timpani drumming and bouncy keyboard craziness that ensues, this is already one of my favorite Finntroll songs and probably my favorite song of the year so far. I will say that “Ur Djupet” seems to lack the drive of the rest of the songs and doesn’t really stick as well, and I also find the thirteen minute running time of ambient closer “Kvällning” an excessive and annoying way to close the album, especially considering over half of it is silence. But the rest of the songs are consistent in their high quality, with only occasional lapses in interesting material.
One of the things that pleased me most about this disc is how much more all of the members seem to be contributing to the music at hand. Even as a big fan of the band, I’ll be the first to admit that the guitar work on Finntroll’s last two discs was, with exceptions, average at best. It didn’t really matter because it was all about waiting for that next great keyboard riff; the guitars and bass were more for moving the song along while the keys took the spotlight. Nevertheless I always felt that this aspect of the band has been lacking since their debut, but the instrumentation on this album feels a lot more cohesive and balanced. Tracks like “Sång” are full of heavy and well-written riffing that actually stands out on its own without the keys, and “Maktens Spira” even features a brief but effective guitar solo that comes as quite a pleasant surprise. I also enjoyed hearing some of the catchy folk melodies finally played on the guitar again, harkening back to the band’s debut Middnattens Widunder.
New vocalist Vreth (the band’s third in as many albums) turns in a solid if standard performance all around, and I also have to give him credit for some superb clean singing on “Slagbröder”. If he actually sticks around, this is something I would love to see experimented with more on future works, because this guy has a surprisingly good voice that goes perfectly with this kind of music and actually reminded me a little of ICS Vortex. And in case you were wondering, Trollhorn is still far and away the best keyboardist in metal; whether he’s leading the band with yet another brilliant hook or buffering the guitars with subtle atmospherics in the background, this rotund Finn is simply a genius.
All in all, another successful and highly enjoyable album under Finntroll's deerskin belts. While this is definitely not the best place to start for those new to the band and will probably be lost on those who listen to their music purely as a gimmick to be played for friends while giggling and pointing at the speakers, the progression and quality heard in Ur Jordens Djup will come as a delight to the real fans who respect and enjoy Finntroll as a legitimate band. One of the better albums so far this year.
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