By Andrew Bansal
Finnish viking metal band Finntroll have completed work on their upcoming sixth studio album ‘Blodsvept’, set to release on March 25th in Europe and April 2nd in North America via Century Media Records. Of late, they’ve been a band that likes to take their time between albums, and as a result we always get a diverse set of tunes on each release. ‘Blodsvept’ should be no different in this regard, and fans can expect the band to explore their musicianship further from what they’ve done on the past five albums, while still keeping intact the elements that garnered them this fan base. A couple of weeks ago, I caught up with guitarist Mikael “Routa” Karlbom to talk about the making of this album, among other things. Read the conversation below, check out the ‘Blodsvept’ title song via the YouTube clip embedded within, and visit the band online using the links at the bottom.
Basically, what’s been going on with the band these days? I believe you’re completely done with the new album and all set for releasing it in late March?
Yeah! We’re finally done with the album. There were a lot of troubles while doing it, specially in the studio. But now we’re done, doing promo and hopefully soon we’re going to end up on the road.
The press release before the news about the album said that you started recording the album in July of last year. So it taken a long time for you to complete it.
No no, we started to compose songs in July, but we were in the studio only for three weeks.
What were the troubles that you went through that you just talked about?
Well, for example at the studio when we were pretty much done recording all the guitars already, we had to back up for the studio and we ended up accidentally deleting all the guitars. We had only one-and-a-half days time to re-record all the guitars. After that, we had some troubles with things going out of tune even though we were tuning instruments all the time, but the tuning problems were there constantly. And then at the mixing, there was trouble to get the sound actually together. The band itself sounded really good by itself, but when we had the lead keyboards on it, it started to go all over the place. So that’s pretty much it in a nutshell!
That’s interesting. But you overcame the problems and everything worked out in the end, right?
Yeah, definitely, and after that long, long stressful time, we are super happy with how the album sounds like at the moment.
That’s good to hear. I guess that’s one of the challenges of the digital age. You might lose data in one second and then you have to do it again!
Yeah! Now a days studio work is such that it is kind of easy because the editing is easier, but then again, but as you said, anything can happen with the technical stuff and we can lose it all instantly.
But the good thing is, you lost only the guitar recordings and not the actual compositions. If you had lost everything you had written on guitar, that would have been tragic.
We were left only with the drum tracks, but yeah, luckily our own memories weren’t deleted as far as the songs were concerned (laughs).
So, from what I’ve been reading, there are more folk and non-metal influences in the music this time. Is that right, or was that just a misleading statement?
Well, what we tried to do with this new album was, we wanted to do a more straightforward album, kind of like having more punk rock-ish approach for the music. There is still a lot of folk elements on it but we’re not trying to be a folk metal band. We think that putting bands in certain genre is not a good thing. It might drive many fans away just because you belong to let’s say folk metal, for example.
That’s true! So, compared to the previous five albums, where does this fit in? What’s the closest comparison you can make between any of those albums and this one?
I’d say it’s like a continuation from ‘Nifelvind’ but more rock-ish and more punk-ish in a way that we didn’t try to build any extensive drama on this album, or paint huge landscapes with music or anything like that. But when it comes to the songs, the feeling is pretty much the same as in ‘Nifelvind’.
You said that you’re pretty much getting ready to start touring. Have you started rehearsing these songs together for the live setting?
Yeah. And for a long time, this is pretty much the first album where we can actually play every single song live without too much trouble. In the past, we have had songs with such a long keyboard part or weird sampling that playing them live would be, not difficult but it would require some extra technique on stage or something. But now we have a whole album that we can play whenever we want, actually.
That’s great! About that, for this one you said every single song can be played live, but usually do you try to play everything and then select songs for a tour, or do you already have an idea about which songs will work live while writing or recording them?
It’s kind of both. While recording, you kind of see what are all the parts of the song and then you realize, ‘Oh shit, this is going to be difficult live!’ And also vice versa, you realize that the song is going to be excellent live, something that works so really well that it instantly feels good.
You already have a few European dates confirmed, including HellFest which is one of the biggest festivals in Europe these days. What’s your experience been like from the past HellFest editions? I’m sure Finntroll must have played there in the past, right?
We’ve been there once before, and it’s a good festival. The French audience is great, and the festival is well organized. We are looking forward to get to play there again, definitely!
I’ve never been to a European festival, but when I see the lineups and the order of play, one thing I’ve always wondered is, with so many bands are playing at the same time does it become challenging for you to compete with those other bands?
No, not really. We really don’t care what other bands are doing. We just try to put as good a show as we can by ourselves. We’re not competing with anybody else, and we don’t say things like, ‘Oh shit, they’re a folk metal band as well and we need to outperform them.’ It would get really difficult that way.
Right, and I guess no matter who’s playing at the same time, your fans will come to see you anyway.
But at these festivals, there are obviously some big bands playing as headliners. So after your set, do you just become like regular people and check out the bands? For example, this year I think KISS is headlining at HellFest.
We always hang out, whether it’s a club show or festival show or whatever. If we have time, we always go mingle with the audience. We don’t think of ourselves that much as ‘rockstars’ that we should stay backstage and hide out. We just go with the audience and party over there and check out the other bands as well.
One thing I’ve always wanted to ask you is, you guys wear kilts on stage but that tradition was already there before you joined the band. Do you know how it started? Was it always there in the band from the first ever show or did it pick up later on?
Well, there’s kind of this thing with Finntroll that if we get some crazy idea about something, then we just do it. There wasn’t any deeper meaning behind it or anything. We just felt that this is something nobody else in the scene does, so we can do it easily and it would be a nice thing to try out. And then, now we see that many others are doing that as well, and now we are trying to come up with different ideas on how to be ourselves. Nowadays we don’t want to perform in kilts anymore because there are so many bands doing it.
But obviously it’s very different from what guys usually wear on stage while performing. How does it actually feel? Is it more comfortable to move around in those things?
Yeah! Actually for a while it was. It didn’t sweat as much, and you know, all the things were hanging freely. So it was actually quite a nice and airy experience (laughs).