Finntroll : a unique band

Finntroll is a band with a particularly strong identity, which makes them a leader rather than a follower in the folk metal genre. For the Finns, the most obvious expression of this difference is to sing in Swedish, in order to preserve a Swedish culture that tends to disappear in Finland.

The members of Finntroll are not particularly fond of folk, especially given the current scene, and describe themselves as fans of punk, extreme metal and traditional music above all else. This taste for punk is especially obvious in their new album, Blodsvept, whose more aggressive, rawer sound goes against “slicker” American productions.

For Finntroll, releasing two similar-sounding albums would be shameful, even insulting. Precisely for that reason, the band keep rethinking things over and over, to the point that, before they started writing this new record, they feared they wouldn’t be able to renew themselves. Did those who never doubted ever go far?

In the end, the clouds cleared for the band after they were done writing the album, says vocalist Mathias ‘Vreth’ Lillmans, relieved.

Radio Metal: Firstly, let’s talk about your cover of Metallica’s “The God That Failed” that you did in 2011: it was released on the special tour edition of Nifelvind and also on a tribute to the Black Album. This cover is quite interesting because it’s very different from the original version. Do you think a good cover is a cover that is totally different?

Mathias ‘Vreth’ Lillmans (vocals) : Yes, of course. I think it’s useless if your cover is exactly the same than the original. When you do a cover, it should reflect the band that does it. Metallica is so far from Finntroll’s sound that we had to do our version of their song, by adding or removing some parts here and there for example. We got some really good feedback of our cover: everybody is talking about it. It was released on Metal Hammer’s « Black Album’ 20th-Anniversary Tribute » : some of the songs on it really stand out, but in general they sound the same as the original, with a different singer.

Is Metallica an influence of yours? What does the Black Album represent for you?

You know, everyone in the band has, at some point in their lives, listened to Metallica! (laughs) They are such a big band. To me, the “Black Album” doesn’t represent much for instance, because I really liked all their stuff before this album. There are some good songs on the “Black Album”, but I think that at that time, Metallica wasn’t my thing anymore. I like Master Of Puppets, …And Justice For All or Kill’Em All: they are really cool albums. The “Black Album” doesn’t mean much to me, even if I’ve listened to it many times and it brings back some teenage memories of that time.

You don’t like then what Metallica did on Load, ReLoad, St Anger or the Lou Reed record ?

No. I haven’t even heard the Lou Reed album. I listened to Death Magnetic once: it was like taking all the good riffs of the old albums, changing them a bit and doing the same songs. It’s not my stuff, that’s all.

« I don’t really like the folk metal scene and don’t really listen to this music : I’m more into classic Norwegian bands »

You declared about your new album, Blodsvept, that « the production is less polished and weird ». Are you sick of overproduced albums?

Yes. I don’t think it suits Finntroll to have a sort of “over produced American sound”. Actually, the record should have sound a little more dirtier, but as the keyboards were really clean and polished, we couldn’t mix them with the other instruments’ raw sound. So we had to find a balance between everything and we came up with this result: it’s a cool, natural sound. The album tone isn’t dark and it’s less produced than, for example, Nifelvind.

It seems that a lot of bands don’t make over produced records anymore: do you think that maybe people have gone too far in producing those type of albums?

Yes. A lot of those albums sound too “plastic”. It is something that we, as a band, don’t strive for. We’re more into that ”old school” type of thing.

This record is also a more aggressive one. Why this choice?

We started with the songs’ pre-production: we worked on two or three of them and weren’t satisfied with them. We worked on another one that was “Blodsvept” and everyone said: “Yes ! That’s the direction we’re going to take on this album !”. So we worked on the first songs we did when starting the pre-production process and re-arranged them on the basis of “Blodsvept”. You know, it’s a good balance between good and evil. This record has the darkest, heaviest stuff we’ve ever done but also some of the most melodic. For example, the second track, “Ett Folk Förbannat”, is a really happy track, almost like an Irish punk song. It’s more like The Pogues than a metal song ! (laughs)

Do you have any punk influences ?

Yes, some. The lyrics are quite “punkish” in a way. Sometimes, the new album has even some “rock” feeling too.

« At the beginning of the pre-production, we thought we were doing “Nifelvind part 2”. We doubted a lot to coming up with something fresh. But then, when we did “Blodsvept”, everything cleared up »

It really looks like it’s important for you, on every song, to present both the melodic and the aggressive side of Finntroll.

Yes, that’s right. When we removed many keyboards parts and stuff like that, we decided to keep the melodies simple. I think that it was a good direction to take.

Do you think that this musical contrast between melody and aggression is Finntroll’s strength?

Yes, I think that too. It has been the same with all of our records too, except Jaktens Tid: this one was more melodic. More or less, it’s always been like that. On Ur Jordens Djup and Nifelvind, the melodies were quite hidden between acoustic instruments, percussion and keyboards.

You wrote on a blog that while writing the album, you asked yourself how to “keep your sound fresh, yet familiar, after 6 albums and 15 years ». Have you had any doubts of doing this ?

Yes. At the beginning of the pre-production, we thought we were doing “Nifelvind part 2”. We doubted a lot to coming up with something fresh. But then, when we did “Blodsvept”, everything cleared up and we knew what the record would be like. We wanted to have a real brass section and some musicians came into the studio. In the end, all this contributes to keeping our sound fresh. No metal band today has a swing orchestra on their album, you know.

At the early stage of the pre-production, when you first heard the songs and were not satisfied with them, were you afraid of not being able to continue your career ?

We thought we were not creative enough and that people could think that the new record would be the same as all other Finntroll’s albums. That was the worst criticism we could get. Century Media is promoting the album, and the reactions are very good. We know that, after all, we made a really good album.

« The Swedish culture is dying in Finland, you know. It’s blended in the Finnish one. It’s important for me to keep the Swedish culture alive. Finntroll is probably the only band which promotes this culture this way: it’s a big deal. »

What do you think of the folk metal scene?

People associate us with it, because we do have some folk influences, but a few years ago, we did a tour with Belphegor, Nile and Six Feet Under: we fit perfectly on the bill and did some really cool shows. We can blend perfectly into the death metal scene, into the black metal scene a little bit, although we couldn’t play with really serious black metal bands. I don’t really like the folk metal scene and don’t really listen to this music: I’m more into classic Norwegian bands like Isengard, for instance.

Finntroll has been writing songs only in Swedish since the beginning of it’s career. Why this choice?

The Swedish culture is dying in Finland, you know. It’s blended in the Finnish one. It’s important for me to keep the Swedish culture alive. Finntroll is probably the only band which promotes this culture this way: it’s a big deal. I also think that the sound of the Swedish language is important to Finntroll’s one. If we changed for English for instance, it would appear like we are selling out ourselves someway. Finnish would be too harsh: it wouldn’t fit into our melodies.

Wouldn’t it be nonetheless interesting for you to write in English so that all your fans around the world could understand what you’re singing ?

Of course, yes, but that’s not really the point, because with the Internet, nowadays, if you’re really interested in having “Blodsvept” translated, for instance, you can do it with Google.

Have you ever considered once to write in Finnish ?

No, not really. However, we have some songs, on the Visor Um Slutet EP, that have Finnish titles.

Aren’t your Finnish fans a bit disappointed that, as a Finnish band, you write your songs in another language?

Some Finnish speaking people don’t like the Swedish speaking people in their country. Long ago, the Finnish people had to learn Swedish in schools, and that created a lot of anger. You know, we’re not a big band in Finland, but rather a small one.

Do you think that writing songs in Swedish and not in English is what made you popular outside your country?

Well, in a way, it’s made the band special. Finntroll was created in 1997, and at that time, it was considered as normal, for black metal bands like Dimmu Borgir or Satyricon, to sing in Norwegian. Since, people are more opened and can accept better to hear songs in another language.

Do you have any shows scheduled? We already know that you’ll play the Hellfest in France.

We’re going to announce our European tour very soon: it’ll be shorter than the ones we’ve done, but the concerts will be bigger. We’ll play a lot of songs from the new album. We’ll play in big capitals, and festivals of course like the Hellfest or Rockhard. By the way, we would like to thank the French fans: they are one of the best audiences in Europe.

Interview conducted on February, 8th, 2013, by phone
Transcription par Jean Martinez – Traduction(s) Net

Finntroll’s website: www.finntroll.net

Blodsvept, available via Century Media Records

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