Metsatöll is a band from Estonia who released their first demo in 1999. Four albums plus assorted splits, EPs, and singles have followed that first effort, and the fifth album — Ulg — is due for release via Spinefarm Records on November 1. Until today, I had never heard their music. I’m not even positive I had heard their name. Just to display my ignorance even further, I wasn’t even sure where Estonia was, other than having a vague recollection of a Central European location (which turns out to be wrong)..
And then today I saw the album cover for Ulg, which is above, in conjunction with a notice that the album is streaming in full on yet another Finnish web site, Imperiumi (that Lantlôs album we discussed earlier today is streaming on Finland-based Inferno). There’s something about that cover that really hooked me, even though it’s not as “metal” as most cover art for the albums we feature around here. So, I decided this would be a fitting test subject for our continuing investigation of the hypothesis that cool album art correlates with cool music.
So, I cranked up that full album stream and started listening. Now, I warn you that because of interference from my fucking day job, I haven’t yet finished listening, which of course hasn’t stopped me from posting about this anyway. (more after the jump . . .)
The opening track “Agu” is a relatively brief folk instrumental played on what sounds like some kind of traditional stringed instruments, including a harp. The first true metal song comes next — “Sõjasüda”. It’s a kind of folk metal (which is loosely this band’s genre label), but in this song the “folk” part comes largely from the vocal style — relatively clean singing in Estonian, often by a chorus of male vocals, with much of it verging on chant. But the music is a black/pagan style of minor-key hammering and martial drumming that’s quite nice.
The third song, “Küü”, mixes flute, bagpipes, and chug-heavy bass-riffing in the verse. More virile folk vocals, voicing a catchy melody. I have a weakness for bagpipes and chug-heavy riffing, so I thought this song was cool. (and wait ’til you see the video for this one)
I listened to one more track before stopping — “Muhu õud”. In this one, bass vocals take the lead (with the rest of the dudes providing backing vocal support). This song may be the folkiest sounding of the three I heard; there’s more of a traditional swing to the rhythms and music and it includes several flute solos.
I’m not a big fan of folk metal, and consequently I’m not very knowledgeable about how this music stacks up within the genre. I know some of you are much more informed listeners and better critics, so let us know what you think in the comments. Here’s the full album stream:
A few more tidbits of information. First, this explanation from the Imperiumi site about the band’s name:
“Metsatöll is one of Estonia’s biggest bands as has gained a foothold outside their home turf too. Their name more or less means “wolf”. It was believed among Estonians that the name of the wolf cannot be said out loud, and that whenever you say “wolf”, it will appear. For that reason, wolves were called by a slew of other names, such as võsavillem, hallivatt, metsaisand and so forth. One of the names was metsatöll, which translates into “forest creature” (mets – forest; töll – being, creature).”
Second, Ulg can be ordered from RecordShopX at this location. I’m not sure when it will become available in North America.
Third, I found an official video released not long ago for that track from the album called “Küü”. I had fun watching this video, (a) because the band performs the song underwater; (b) because of the fetching mermaid who’s moshing to the music; and (c) because of the fire troupe doing their thing on the surface.
Fourth, here are links to Metsatöll locations on the web:
And finally, since it was the album cover that launched this post, here’s an even bigger version of it. The art is a 1999 painting by Estonian artist Jüri Arrak (not created for the album, obviously); check out more of his work here.