Metsatoll – ‘Aio’ CD Review

The whole folk metal thing has become damned overcrowded of late, but in truth the genre has rarely enticed me (Eluvetie’s excellent ‘Slania’ aside) so it is with some great pleasure that I can relate the news that Metsatoll have created an epic masterpiece which successfully utilises folk influences, but allies them to a brutal metal production in a way not seen since Sepultura welded ethnic influences to their brand of metal on ‘Roots’.

Opening with the grandiose ‘mother’s voice is calling’ the band set the scene with a beautifully understated piece before the aptly titled ‘as the sky bursts asunder’ launches itself upon the unsuspecting listener. Sounding far less cluttered than many of their folk-metal contemporaries, Metsatoll have grasped that for the genre to work the guitars need to be razor sharp rather than buried in the mix, and here the guitars and pounding drums take centre stage while still leaving ample room for the traditional instruements to swirl around the mix and add flavour to the compositions. Meanwhile the vocals are ripped straight out of medieval times and sung in the band’s native tongue which enhances, rather than detracts from, the listening experience and lends the whole thing an authentic feel. ‘Feast of fire’ enters on the sort of riff designed to get you leaping about the room, spilling your ale and it sits comfortably somewhere between traditional music and Nightwish’s ‘Master passion greed’, which is no bad thing. ‘Only bravery’ starts off with powerful drums and a nice clean bass riff before the rest of the band kicks in. It is a nice change of pace which keeps the thing from becoming too one dimensional. The title track is up next, and it is a suitably brutal track with more than a hint of death metal about it. ‘Rage tainted’ is a slower, chugging affair complete with half-whispered vocals and an air of drama that build to a nice chunky chorus that actually recalls Rammstein at their most metal.

‘Until I arrive at home, I’m on a distant road’, despite the tongue-mangling title, is a proper old-school folk ballad that sounds like it should be sung in a dirty ale house with a flagon of ale in hand and a whole pig on the table. It’s a great point to draw breath and it fits in perfectly.  ‘Of power and might’ is full of bombast, all bare-chested vocals and chants, coupled with hefty guitars. ‘My home’ unveils a love of Iron Maiden with a galloping melody and memorable vocal harmony.  ‘Come now my kindred’ mixes pagan chant and metal for a mesmerising track, ‘old buffoon’ is a wonderful track with a riff that see-saws over traditional instruments in a whirling attack on the senses and closing track ‘might’ sees the album out with a bang.

As I suggested at the outset of this review, in the past I have not been too impressed by folk metal, often finding the melding of influences interesting and worthy, yet lacking. Here that is not the case. This is a rich, powerful, creative album from a group of musicians who have stumbled on to the winning formula. Here metal is not compromised by folk, nor are the folk influences a mere sideline –rather they have been perfectly melded together. This is a fantastic album and highly, highly recommended.

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