Finntroll

support Hatesphere
author EW date 04/10/14 venue The Dome, London, UK

Commencing an exceptionally busy autumn of gigs for yours truly was the welcome return of Finntroll to British shores, a band for whom I’ve found a new lease of life in recent times after a developing sense of over-acquaintance earlier in the decade. Now touring in celebration of 10 years of their folk metal classic "Nattfödd" their lengthy set consisted of that album in it’s entirety plus a selection of other tracks culled from their 6-album discography at the Dome, a(nother) venue in north London which has recently been taking over a lot of the metal shows which used to find a home at the Camden Underworld. I could not make it in time for Profane Omen but arrived in time to catch the majority of one of Denmark’s supposed finest…

All photos courtesy of Teodora Dani.

Hatesphere

I had some preconceptions about Hatesphere based partly on my two previous live showings of theirs, oddly just two months apart in early 2005, as well as a general impression of the state of middle-of-the-road Danish metal. Y’know the kind, that melange of death, thrash and groove that settles in all three yet none, is devoid of mind-blowing riffs or interesting tempos and is seemingly destined for a lifetime of playing the bridesmaid. Herein lies the rub: Hatesphere were good live, especially frontman Esben Hansen who was one of the more engaging and light-hearted I’ve caught in some months, while all the songs were acceptable in a way — during some in fact I found myself foot-tapping and head-nodding - but there is no potential of this material ever driving them into the realms of greatness or intrigue. Like so many others it is thought that simple uncommitted top-string tugging, hoarse growls and menial tempos are worthy of adulation when I’m afraid this easy to replicate formula is not enough. An admittedly brief scan of the band’s lyrics and song titles online speaks of generic platitudes that mask a lack of something to say, a malaise which extended into the musical outpourings of the likes of "Sickness Within", "Hate” and "Floating”, even if in guitarists Peter Hansen and Jakob Nyholm you would never have guessed this from their enthusiasm. But you know what, I’ve never recorded an album nor played live so Hatesphere have one up on me there but I’ve got to stick up for the truly noteworthy bands out there, of which one was soon to follow.

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Finntroll

What with their comedy troll ears complimenting the quirky, bouncy music and upbeat attitude of Finntroll it can easily be forgotten now just how influential these Swede-singing Finns are, but how unique sounding they are. As one of the most pre-eminent of the Scandinavian bands to take the torch of folk metal from the late 90s they have seen off numerous of their contemporaries and remain as indefatigable today as ever, playing by no rules and earning the right to be touring in support of an album still loved 10 years on. The scene is set through the sounds of forest life (or troll life, more likely) spilling from the speakers immediately following the departure of Hatesphere, providing a feeling of residing in Finnish swamplands (or a Rainforest Cafe) which continues until the moment "Vindfärd / Människopesten" kicks into life. Of their six members vocalist Vreth is by far the most natural showman of the lot (despite not even being in the band for "Nattfödd”) as he prowls the stage robustly delivering the band’s lines - as expected of any metal vocalist - yet he remains pleasingly aloof throughout, frequently goading the 300 or so in attendance to make more noise for a Saturday night crowd and requesting on-stage delivery of beer from the band’s roadie.

Trollhorn’s keyboard humppa introduction to "Eliytres" sparks the first of a ceaseless round of pitting which continues throughout the mid-paced “Fiskarens Fiende" before, of course, exploding into life for the incomparable "Trollhammaren”. A more catchy folk metal song has not yet been written. For someone like I whom until recently viewed the band’s 2010 effort "Nifelvind" as their defining release it is startling how many ‘hits’ pour out of "Nattfödd”: "Ursvamp" is 2 minutes of everything the likes of Alestorm have failed to achieve, "Grottans Barn" emerges from folk territory with the great thump of guitarists Routa and Skrymer while "Det iskalla trollblodet" erupts into optimistic life after it’s slightly boring introduction. Opening the second half of the set with the staccato rhythm of the title track from 2013’s "Blodsvept" was a good introduction to the darker material which have been the Vreth-lead years before "Mordminnen" flowed into my personal favourite "Solsagan”. Not unlike the previously reviewed Århus show on here, the 15th anniversary of "Midnattens Widunder" was a good enough reason for a rendition of "Svartberg" before further tracks from "Blodsvept" and "Jaktens Tid" kept the party rolling along nicely. Thanks to a fantastic sound and an energetic pit raging away right in front of me it was hard not to get caught up in the humppa celebrations as Finntroll delivered the goods both in a professional (all 5 musicians) and charismatic manner (Vreth) and although it’d be nice to see a bit more movement from those musicians capable of doing so this was otherwise a successful start to a busy month of gigging ahead for us London-based metalheads.

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