‘Brumlebassen’ is, remarkably, the fifth album of troll inspired metal mayhem from the gloriously mental Trollfest and it is, like its predecessors, an unholy slice of inspired lunacy that veers between the pastoral beauty of the acoustic introduction to the hectic insanity of full-on guitar abusing, troll bashing mayhem. Truly, if giant, furry-footed fiends did roam the forests, this would be the soundtrack to their debauchery.
Opening, then, with the briefest of acoustic glimmers, the album promptly dissolves into the raucous, massed-vocal dance of the title track with the guitars and drums neatly offset by the traditional vocal melodies and instrumentation that have made the band such a beguiling head-trip in the past. Nominally the story of Brumlebassen, the bee keeper that inhabits the Troll universe and provides the honey for the Troll’s favourite mead, the album is a huge, ambitious, brilliantly crafted body of work that overflows with humour, power and a love of mead. Bose Tivoli opens with the sound of an old fairground organ (presumably as the titular character takes his charges to market) before exploding into life, for a multi-coloured blast through ‘Ratamahatta’ territory if only that song had been played at twice its original speed and by Trolls. ‘Illsint’ brilliantly makes no sense at all. Like a drug-fuelled charge through a Norwegian folk festival, on a sleigh, with a black metal band, it’s painful, tuneful and quite stunning and if you haven’t already fallen in love with Trollfest’s music by this point then there truly is no hope for you. ‘Hevlette’ is a brief musical interlude that recalls nothing so much as walking through your local market to discover the town drunk has gotten hold of an accordion and is holding forth with a power entirely at odds with his advanced state of inebriation only for ‘Finsken, Norsken and Presten’ to shatter the vibe entirely, kicking off with an unexpected black metal fury that would stun and disorientate if it weren’t for the accordion melody running through the thing.
So far, so good – the album hits its halfway point with ‘Mystisk Maskert’, another folky segue that rapidly disappears into the super-sonic dust cloud of ‘Apis Mellifera’, a churning, searing track of hyper-velocity guitar riffs and tortured vocals. ‘Trinken troll’ is no less extreme – the volley of hard-edged guitars that open the track let you know the band mean business even as the whole thing shifts tempo and style to become a strangely compelling piece that recalls nothing so much as Faith No More’s ‘RV’ recast in the style of a folk song. ‘Verboten Kjaerleik’ is a beautifully played acoustic ballad that showcases the band’s exquisite musicianship and then the blazing guitars of the impossibly awesome ‘Brak’ are cutting into you like a knife, the vocals a tortured, twisted morass of harsh sibilants, the melody a faded relic of some far-off age polished bright and shining forth once more. ‘Sellout’ is far from actually being what the tongue in cheek title might suggest although it does throw in vocals from Mariangela from Tristania (and she sounds mighty fine too) making the track rather more accessible than some of the heavier material here although the riff that marks the bridge of the song is still satisfyingly heavy enough to shake the earth to its very core. The final track ‘Rundt Balet’ sees the heroic trolls sitting around a camp fire and indulging their love of mead whilst the humble accordion player is suddenly possessed by the spirit of punk for an impromptu and brutal finale that leaves you with a smile on your face, a song in your heart and an urgent need for Mead, not to mention an urgent desire to set the album spinning again. It’s a strange world.
Trollfest are fun. This is metal with a huge smile writ large across its face but played with a passion and dexterity that belies the comical nature of the project. For sure these are musician who want to have fun, but they’ve put in the work too and ‘Brumlebassen’ speaks of countless hours practising and developing material for an album that mixes styles and moods with apparent ease. What Trollfest understand is that you have fun, be silly, mess around, but without the music to back it up no one’s going to want to listen and this band most certainly have the material. There is not a single dud moment on this album – rather you are faced with twelve tracks that range from the comical ‘Hevlette’ to the berserker fury of ‘Brak’ and each one works in perfect harmony with the album, telling a gloriously demented story and providing you with the perfect soundtrack for a night sat by the bonfire drinking ale. This is a warm-hearted, brilliantly conceived and perfectly executed record that will instantly put a smile on the face of any mead-loving metaller.