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HEAVY Interviews Finntroll’s Mathias Lillmåns

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Troll metal is about as niche as it gets. So to say Finntroll is the leading the way in their genre would be a reasonable statement. That’s not to say they just win by default. Should the style proliferate more artists, the Finnish Folk metallers would certainly still be a golden contender, with robust song writing being favoured over mere gimmickry. Vocalist Mathias “Vreth” Lillmåns indulges HEAVY on the inner workings of Finntroll as the band and their fans eagerly anticipate the release of their latest album.

The crux of engaging in such a peculiar style of music, within a style of music that is already venturing into the left of centre, is that you’re always walking a knife-edge of originality. Naturally, repetition becomes far more glaring and yet if you go too far off your beaten path you’ll quickly cease to be yourself. As the band is on the verge of releasing their latest LP Blodsvept, the fact that this is their sixth album and they’re still going strong makes a statement about how accomplished they’ve been at holding their audience.

“We always have had that Finntroll feel in everything we do. We could make a pop album and it would still sound like Finntroll” says Lillmåns. He goes on to explain how they kept it fresh for round six “We had so many problems getting the sound we wanted. We were going back and forth with the first songs we did to find the sound we wanted. It was around the third or fourth song we did when we said ‘Oh yes this is how the new album should sound’ and then we adapted the songs we did before to that concept. We were wondering if we should we take it more melodic or dark, or if we should we strip it down or do it even more like Nifelvind. We wanted to have the melodies as prominent as on Nattfödd but we wanted the dark feel we had on the last album [Nifelvind]. We were juggling back and forth with different styles and we came up with this stripped down, back to the roots type of approach.”

Give it a chance and you’ll see there’s more to the band than just an angle. The latest album, ‘Blodsvept’, kicks off with a more traditional vibe and before you know it, you’re half way through the album and you’re in the midst of a heavy metal, gypsy carnival.

“That’s how we thought about the album, we split it in half. We looked at it like part 1 and part 2. The first part is more dark and serious. The last part is more upbeat and out there. We looked at the CD like a vinyl, an A and B side, but it’s still one album.”

The craft of the music always comes first before anything else in the Finntroll camp. A striking visual element can certainly be a leg up when trying to be seen in the ever expanding morass of bands on the world stage. However, if you’re not backing it up with the tunes, you’ll be lucky to sell enough albums to make it to your second album, let alone a sixth, the way Finntroll have. Lillmåns elaborates on the dynamic within the band that has produced their impressive back catalogue.

“It’s a controlled democracy,” laughs Lillmåns “Everybody is gathering riffs and sending them to Trollhorn [Henri Sorvali, keyboards]. He listens to everything and tries to put the songs together, then we all go to his place and listen. It’s a lot of discussion about the songs, back and forth about what to do. It’s like Trollhorn and Tundra [Sami Uusitalo, bass], they’re doing the creating process and everyone is giving feedback and input. It’s not like a dictatorship. You can get the feel in interviews and studio diaries that it’s Trollhorn running the show, but it’s not like that, we don’t want to call it that. In the end he says the final yes or no. If someone has strong opinions about something then of course we listen, everyone has the right.”

As sole runners for the (hypothetical) Troll Metal band of the year award, gathering influences would be a somewhat grueling exercise. Not surprisingly, the biggest sources of inspiration for Finntroll vary from film score composers, to films themselves and just about anything they can get their hands on.

“We’ve been looking into Psychobilly lately. Danny Elfman and his work have been a huge influence on the band. Everything from the Dead Kennedys to something like Hellacopters. On this album, for some reason, we have some disco and also of course 70s horror movies have been a big thing. Influences for Finntroll have always been whatever; you can listen to the radio, hear some country music and hear something you can use for Finntroll. It’s good to have no limitations in that way.”

Take all these elements and you have a unique product with some serious staying power. The band makes no mistake about where they come from. While being music; they don’t get too caught up in the seriousness of being a metal band and put the emphasis on having a good time.

“That’s our main idea in Finland, we are entertainers. The thing is not taking yourself too seriously. It’s supposed to be entertainment; I think that’s what the whole music business was based on from the beginning.”

The proof was in the pudding when the band saw their reach extend to Australian shores as ‘hordes’ of fans turned out for their first Australian tour in 2011, some of them even donning similar garb to the band or just outright troll costumes. Finntroll has since been chomping at the bit to make a return, as are many fans.

“Oh I loved Australia. It’s like America but more relaxed. If you combine Holland with America then you have Australia. Everybody loved the tour, the atmosphere was super and we were surprised about the amount of people we had at the concerts. We don’t have any plans right now but we are going to try and get back as soon as we can.”

FINNTROLL – Blodsvept by Century Media Records

Blodsvept will be released by Century Media Records worldwide on the following dates:
SPAIN / ITALY: Tuesday, March 26, 2013.
SWEDEN / HUNGARY: Wednesday, March 27, 2013.
AUSTRALIA / NEW ZEALAND: Friday, March 29, 2013.
USA / CANADA: Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Live photos John Raptis/Visceral Industry

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