Nattfödd - FINNTROLL

OK, confession time. Reading the words "Pagan Folk Metal" on a promo album or press release causes a very sharp intake of breath in these quarters. Some stony-faced lunatics getting atmospheric with a load of crusty olde-worlde instruments doesn't do much for the advancement of music, and let's not give too much copy space to the odd jumped-up fascist who worms his way into the genre.

FINNTROLL, though, are slightly different. Their art is delivered very much with their Northern tongues planted firmly in their cheeks, and as a result albums such as "Nattfödd" (their fourth) make for pretty quirky and unobtrusive listening. The underlying general rhythm on "Nattfödd" is a traditional Finnish "humppa" style. That's "polka" in English-speaking terms, folks, and you can immediately see what they mean as "Manniskopesten" jigs out of your speakers and does a merry dance without neglecting those all-important snarling guitars in the background. If it seems at this point that things couldn't get any more jaunty, then "Eliytres" raises the bar by smothering itself with so much folk orchestration as to cause any RHAPSODY members within earshot to cover up their ears and make disapproving faces. Perhaps it's sounding like a pile of nauseatingly jolly old crap at this point — but, trust us, there's enough character here to make it sound more than credible, if still laughter-inducing at times.

The main problem that listeners may have with "Nattfödd" is precisely that the band favour this "polka" style to the same extent that the human race favours its legs to walk. With the exception of the slow-burning "Grottans Barn" (a tribute to fellow Finns AMORPHIS that brings down the tempo in favour of some spacious doom and gloom), the only discernible deviation from the norm is "Marknadsvisan" — a straight-for-the-jugular blastbeat assault that could well be the first folk-grindcore cut in recorded history.

Perhaps it's difficult to imagine the band being able to stretch creatively to many more albums like this — although, of course, the roots of their sound has been around for thousands of years. In the here and the now, though, you should suitably gather up a flagon of mead and drink both it and this interesting album right down.

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