Whenever any band of a certain status and reputation is seen to be even slightly relaxing the frequency of their studio output, it’s only a matter of time before fans begin to fear the worst and the internet abounds with paranoid rumours of an ‘indefinite hiatus’, ‘creative differences’ or (drumroll, please) the dreaded ‘comeback album’. The seemingly inevitable sticking point in a band’s career at which the illustrious weight of their own legacy becomes little more than an insufferable burden, a noose with which to strangle themselves as, dwarfed by the shadow of their own legend, they feebly attempt to claw back something resembling their former glory. A tired and exhausted cliché that never even stops to entertain the notion that maybe, just maybe, the very best is yet to come. Enter ‘Vredesvävd’, the ferociously energised work of folk-steeped, genre-smashing brilliance that is Finntroll’s latest and arguably greatest long-player yet.
“Sometimes with bands that have been away for a long time, when they make a… I don’t want to call it a comeback album, but when they do an album after a long period of time it often kind of sucks. So for us, it became incredibly important to make an album that we could genuinely be proud of,” explains Finntroll main man Mathias ‘Vreth’ Lillmåns on the folk metal giants’ recent, worryingly prolonged lapse in studio activity. Stretching out over an expansive seven years of relentless international touring and festival appearances that would occupy the overwhelming majority of this critical, anxiety-producing period, the creative act of composing fast became an increasingly alien and unfamiliar concept as composer Lillmåns and co. found themselves all but consumed by these gruelling live schedules. And despite having accumulated a sizeable chunk of material haphazardly penned over the past five years, Vreth noted a frustrating lack of direction and cohesiveness in the material produced during this relentlessly chaotic period. So by the autumn of 2019, following a slew of some 20-plus summer festival dates, the need for swift, potentially drastic action rapidly became evident.
“Already five years ago, we made the first songs but we weren't really happy with them, they didn’t feel right somehow,” the composer notes. “And we had these songs like, forever that never went anywhere and then last year, I asked Century Media for a deadline for a new 2020 release, and then when we got it it was eight months or so into the future. And for some reason, when we wrote the song ‘Att Döda Med En Sten’, we all of a sudden realised, oh this is how the album should sound. This is what we're looking for on this album. Then we those songs that we had from before, we just sort of threw them into the forge again and redid them. So, for example ‘Forsen’ is one of the songs that was finished already before, but then we rewrote everything and now it's a completely different song, but based on some of the riffs from the original one. I would guess something like 85 percent of the album is actually written after last autumn.”
With its exhilarating melding of searing, ink-black aggression and icily glimmering, Dimmu-esque keyboards, ‘Att Döda Med En Sten’ (meaning ‘To Kill With A Stone’ in English) played an indisputably pivotal role in unlocking a creative process that would gather rapid, groundbreaking momentum in the successive weeks and months that followed. Yet, for all its integral significance as the inspirational spark that first ignited seventh studio album ‘Vredesvävd’ into being, ‘Att Döda…’ is but one facet of an epic, hugely expansive body of work that abounds with a varied multitude of sonic energies and influences. Indeed, from the giddily euphoric throes of monster folk metal anthem ‘Ormfolk’ to “Vid Häxans Härd’s” craggily abrasive feats of pitch-black aggression, it’s no surprise that this compositionally intricate entity of a record came from a place of meticulous forward planning and premeditation.
“Yep, lots and lots of planning and rewriting and twisting and turning on the big, epic puzzle that is this album,” Vreth affirms. “The albums we have had in the past have been really quite spontaneous and we have done some songs that have been pretty much written right there and then in the studio. You know, like, we were already recording the album, but then we’d just come up with brand new songs right out of nowhere. But this one was really thoroughly planned because we could really feel the pressure building up after having had that seven-year album break and the stress and pressure to produce something good. As well as that, we’ve never written an album where you actually start off with the order of the songs. Usually, you make all the songs, you do everything, you record it, and then you see how the pieces fit once all of that is done. But this time, the song order was already with us in the back of our minds already, halfway through the process.”
And, as we proceed to the intriguing matter of the album’s overarching concept and the myriad, endlessly twisting narrative yarns that make up this darkly absorbing long-player, it’s clear Vreth adopted an equally meticulous approach when it came to realising the record’s painstakingly crafted lyrical dimension. Rich with ancient yet timelessly relevant sagas of personal trial and transformation effected through some of the most testing and traumatic of human experiences, ‘Vredesvävd’ is a record thoroughly steeped in feeling and fascinating, folkloric tradition. Indeed, with its ghoulishly beautiful animations depicting all manner of curious shamanic magic and legends that, according to writer Vreth, date back some 3,000 years or more, the elegantly crafted music video for new single ‘Forsen’ creates a mind-bending, visually arresting manifestation of these darkly turbulent cosmic energies.
“It’s really going into some interesting, very symbolic territories there,” the frontman notes of this beautifully crafted piece of animation. “And also with the lyrics, even though they are all moving and taking place in many different directions, they are still ultimately telling the same story, but in a different way. This album is actually all about different kinds of journeys, different kinds of trips. For example, ‘Forsen’ is a good example of a spiritual journey, whereas, ‘Att Döda Med En Sten’ is about a geographical one, and specifically about seeking vengeance. But yeah, everything is connected to some kind of travelling or journey of some sort, in both a spiritual and geographical sense.”
And speaking of precisely what path and musical direction this ever-ambitious circle of players might possibly take next, Vreth remains in refreshingly optimistic spirits about the year ahead, despite his obvious disappointment of losing out on a major European touring cycle. He comments, “The tour was actually supposed to happen now in September already, but of course it didn't, although we’ve actually been lucky enough to move it to March and April of next year - keeping fingers crossed that the second wave is going to be over by then because everyone is really suffering right now. I really hope that we can actually start doing something again and actually get something of our lives back when all of this is finally over.”
'Vredesvävd' is out now via Century Media