Latest release: Blodsvept (Century Media/EMI)
Barbecues in WA, hanging out with our cool people and the summery weather are just some of things that Finntroll’s Mathias “Vreth” Lillmåns is looking forward to on the band’s current Australian tour, which kicks off tomorrow in Perth.
“I remember it was really good weather!” the singer says of their last visit. “Everybody was telling us it was supposed to be winter, or something, but it was as warm as it is in summer in Finland, so it was ok for us! The people were really cool. One of the things we are looking forward to is to see the people again.”
Finntroll was last Down Under in 2011 and Vreth is quick to admit they didn’t know quite what to expect. “We came there blindly and didn’t know if there was going to be any people at all,” he says. This time, they’re prepared for a rousing reception, with an extra date and a whole bunch of new music from last year’s Blodsvept album.
“There’s one more city added that we didn’t play. We didn’t play Adelaide last time. We have a new album out this time, so we have some new songs this time that you didn’t get to hear. We’ve also upped the live show now,” he promises. “There’s more theatrical stuff involved – make-up and stage gear and stuff like that.”
Finntroll was at the vanguard of the late 90s Finnish folk metal explosion that also featured Moonsorrow (with whom they have shared members), Ensiferum and Turisas. While each combined folk music with various forms of extreme metal, Finntroll took arguably the most inspirational path by combining black metal with a traditional Finnish form of polka called humppa. It was an innovation that came about at precisely the right time and has led to a slow mushrooming of folk metal in the years since Midnattens widunter appeared in 1999.
“When we and a few other bands started doing it, it was something new and fresh,” Vreth says. “People hadn’t seen it. I remember just before Finntroll, there was a lot of nu-metal and all that hype, and everyone was just fed up with it and wanted something fresh. It was a really different sound to anything that had been explored before.”
Five albums have since followed Midnattens, with Vreth having been with the band since 2007’s Ur jordens djup. Until recently, the band’s lyrical content has focused on folktales from the Kalevala and their own semi-mythical “troll shaman” cycle. For the latest effort, however, Finntroll decided to tackle a more philosophical subject that examines mankind’s relationship with Nature. Despite the more serious topic, the band has approached it in their usual ironic manner: “with a little bit of humour and with a little twinkle in the eye,” Vreth says with a chuckle. Blodsvept also introduced a slight redirection of their musical style.
“We also have a thing with the music this time, a brass orchestra that is actually real brass with a twisted jazz bite to it,” Vreth explains.
If the course of musical history has taught us anything, it’s that change can go one of two ways for an artist: it’s usually either a godsend or a death knell. So far, it seems to have been working out in a positive way for Finntroll.
“In Europe it was really, really surprising,” Vreth says. “We knew the album wouldn’t be too different, but maybe a little bit for the folk metal enthusiasts because we’ve been toning down the folk metal a little bit to concetrate on other stuff. So we thought it wouldn’t be folky enough for our audience, but it caught on really great. One of the first times we were in Europe playing with the new album, people already knew the songs. So it was a really cool, good reaction.”
The shift has also netted Finntroll some stronger attention in other places they have until now found harder to crack. While a follow-up album is still little more than a few scraps of lyrics and a riff or two, there’s every chance that their next album will follow along similar lines.
“Folk metal-doom is sort of older in Europe anyway,” says Vreth. “Maybe 2010, 2011 – 2012 was the highpoint for folk metal in Europe. So I think people are wanting something a little bit fresh. And you are especially seeing it because all these countries that have always liked a little bit more brutal stuff also like this album more. For example, it really caught on in England and France, who had never really been great markets before. So it worked.”
Finntroll tour Australia from tomorrow:
18/6: The Zoo, Brisbane QLD
19/6: The Gov, Adelaide SA
20/6: Evelyn Hotel, Melbourne VIC
21/6: Manning Bar, Sydney NSW
22/6: Amplifier Bar, Perth WA