Folk metal has been all the rage these last few years and North American audiences have really seemed to embrace it. Some acts are more folk oriented and some are more metal, but few combine the two forms as superbly as Finland's FINNTROLL. In fact, "Nifelvind" is an outstanding example of an album that seamlessly mixes ferocious black/death metal with folk and humppa styles. You just can't imagine the good time you'll have with it.
What is most amazing about "Nifelvind" is the manner in which FINNTROLL are able to keep most of the compositions incredibly heavy, producing some smartly written black/death metal, while crafting melodies with folk instrumentation that are so catchy you'll catch yourself humming the melody lines before you even realize that you're doing so. And my god, the thundering low end on this album will shake your home's foundation. In addition to a handful of songs of a purer folk variety, such as exquisite opener "Blodmarsch (intro)", the dark and dynamic "Tiden Utan Tid", and the serene "Galgasång", is a group of tracks that are as bruising as they are infectious. "Solsagan" with its up-tempo aggression and immensely satisfying folk cadence is an ace, as is the buzz saw riffing and intense propulsion of "I Trädens Sång" and the heavy, quick-stepping swing of "Under Bergets Rot". Both groups of songs alone would make "Nifelvind" a great album, but it is "Den Frusna Munnen" with its '80s pop melody (that I still can't place) and its behemoth groove that I've not been able to get out of my head for days; it is just plain fantastic! Additionally, the intricately percussive, humppa-driven "Fornfamnad" even reminds of something TOM WAITS might put on one of his eclectic albums, the aggressive black metal parts notwithstanding. One can only imagine the sly smiles on the faces of FINNTROLL's members as they were recording such a fun filled, stylistically amalgamated album.
The folk instrumentation, the groove, the melody, and the sheer musicality of "Nifelvind" make it a strong bet to end up on my 2010 list of top albums. It is no reinvention of the form; it is simply a gas, a blast, and it kicks a whole lot of ass. Color me giddy.