Ladies, gentlemen and demented creatures of the night, step right up and bear witness to the demented, demonic travelling circus that is Troldhaugen.
While a full moon hid behind the clouds of a dark and stormy night, the Wollongong boys worked tirelessly to bring their debut spectacle to the show, but along the way something insane happened. Something along the lines of folk meets death with a heavy orchestral score and a heck of a lot of swing elements. Listeners, this is Ramshackle.
With a heavy mist on the field, Troldhaugen strode out of the forest towards another town, bringing what would soon be known as an atypical folk metal album. During their adventure someone had convinced Dimmu Borgir and Devin Townsend to teach them the ways of heavy metal, a message they took to heart. But none could deny their training in classical and jazz, resulting in epic death laden orchestral scores, seamlessly mixed with upbeat folk.
The tent was pitched, the musicians had arrived and were warming up for the show, and copies of Ramshackle were being spread throughout the town. Listeners responded well to the excellent vocal work, a mix of death growls and clean almost spoken word vocals, presented in the same upbeat demonic tempo as the music. The themes felt like they should be cheesy, but fit so perfectly with the music that somehow it all made sense and flowed perfectly. There was an undeniable sense of fun exuded from each member, but one that was neither forced nor synthetic.
Night fell. The town was shrouded in darkness. While each member took to the stage a chill resonated throughout the audience during the ambient, nature like introduction. As the bands front man took to the stage, top hat slightly askew, eyes white as porcelain and pupils as red as blood, he unleashed a frighteningly enticing grin, tearing into Ramshackle with full force. The music, strange but approachable, horrifying yet natural. Within seconds people were on their feet, a wall of sound ensconcing their every sense. The horrific reimagining of their childhood fairytales were too intoxicating to ignore.
But while the orchestral score proved to be intriguing in both its complexity and execution, the supporting metal music was rather subdued. Rumours of the abilities of Troldhaugen had spread far and wide, however the metal elements were rather simplistic, appearing to be a symphonic album supported by metal, rather than the other way around. Although a basic structure was there, each riff, beat and symphonic composition were altered just enough to keep each song fresh. There were fleeting moments of repetitiveness, particularly towards the end of the show where the oompah vibe and related sound effects became far too overused, but overall Ramshackle retained a relatively large amount of variety.
That is, if one were to ignore the middle of the show, which took a decidedly instrumental turn for the worst. While the audience wasn’t displeased, the flow was most certainly broken, with all dancing immediately ceasing. The pace however, was maintained, with each song increasing in power until the final track, ending the show in an almighty bang, although one that by this stage felt very familiar. Had Troldhaugen run out of ideas by this point? That appeared to be the case.
As the band faded away into the night, leaving the stage, it came to pass that all that held Ramshackle back from perfection were the hints of repetitiveness and what was not included but rightly should have been. With very few technical guitar solos to speak of and little variety in drums and bass, the townspeople could not help but dream of what Ramshackle could have been if more attention had been paid to the metal compositions.
The same, however, could not be said about the production which was seen as a benchmark in the genre, one which future bands could learn from. Each member’s instrument blended perfectly with the next, as was the case with the orchestral elements which never overrode the supporting metal music. Twas rumoured that only a lord of production could maintain such masterful control over the sound, but deity or no, the work was revered.
As Troldhaugen strode back into the dark, uninviting forest, a calm fell across the town while an ambient tune lilted in the distance. That which had been witness that night was not perfect, but was so close that each minor drawback was largely ignored. This was not plain old folk metal. This was spectacular performance music, which generated images of creatures of the night coming together to create a show that was horrific, fun, encapsulating and musically professional. Henceforth, demonic folk circus was regarded as a genre.
1. Beneath the Festering Marsh
2. The Circus of Misery
3. Beast Wagon
4. Slaughterhouse Swing
5. Corpsefed Cauldron
6. Maple Leaf Rag
7. The Accursed Passing of the Monstrous Fiend
11. A Soul for the Taking