Týr, Skálmöld and Finntroll
The Garage, London
6th October 2013
I first started listening to Finntroll when I was 15. My mum took me to a Heidenfest show for my 16th birthday, and I guess you can say that was my slow descent into the underworld of folk metal.
The line-up tonight is one I’ve been excited about for a long time, and one that personally I think fits very nicely together: Skálmöld from Iceland with their melodic, relentless chug you can bounce around to singing in ancient Icelandic poetic metre; Týr showcasing their new venture Valkyrja, an album-worth of fast, genre defying metal; and the legendary Finntroll, revered in folk metal circles from Mexico to Australia. Their new album Blodsvept was released in March this year, and it follows on from the dark-carnival Danny Elfman-cum-black metal Nifelvind. Blodsvept is no less eclectic: surprise kazoos and banjos mix in with brutal guitars and lead troll Vreth’s rich vocals. Always ready for a party when these guys are involved, I prepared myself for mayhem.
From seeing them again on this tour, Skálmöld, who open for us, receives a warm welcome from the audience. Despite only having 30 minutes, the band makes a distinct and explosive impression. Featuring mostly songs from their new album Börn Loka (Children of Loki), Skálmöld open with the grinding and dark Fenrisúlfur, before keyboard anthem Gleipnir thunders out to a rapturous reception. The much more synthetically folky song, Kvaðning, and the only song from 2011 debut album “Baldur”, ends their stay on stage- and the crowd are left gasping and chanting for more. [4/5]
“Are you ready for Týr?” Skálmöld lead singer Björgvin screams. ‘Ready’ is a brilliant understatement; Týr is arguably my favourite band of the evening, and since seeing them in York, I’ve waited for them to tour again anxiously. The lights dim after a few moments, and their set begins slowly, the red haze overhead throbbing until the clash of the mighty crowd-pleaser Hold the Heathen Hammer High leads to the band striding on stage. The setlist has changed very little over the tour; however, Heathen Hammer and scream-along Valkyrja single Blood of Heroes have remained constant, one after the other whipping up the crowd. I may have nudged lead singer Heri Joensen into performing my favourite track off the new album live, and being the gentleman he is, he doesn’t disappoint- and even manages to make Lady of the Slain better than it is on the album, galloping along with neck-breaking speed, and providing my favourite track that evening- even with the prog-metal magic of Sinklars Vísa. An acquired taste for some, Týr have been consistently good every time I’ve seen them, and with this performance at The Garage they cement themselves as a must-see. [5/5]
After a half-hour wait at the bar, pressed arse-to-chest with strangers like sardines in a net, I break free and run to the front as the Blodsvept starts, the crowd surging forward as the all-too familiar forms of Finntroll- steampunk-clad and pointy-eared- take the stage and bear down over us in glee. After a punchy start, dressed to impress and lapping up the energy, they begin Nifelvind opener Solsagan, evil to the core. The combination of songs from all of Finntroll’s manifestations smash the misconception that Finntroll is just a ‘fun’ gimmick band. They switch alternatively between crunching black metal dug up from the darkest depths of the earth and jumpy dance favourites like En Mäktig Här, famous for steel-pan snyths, and the jig-inducing Under Bergets Rot. Finntroll leave no room to catch a break, and a few songs in the room is stifling, with smiles plastered on drenched faces. Catching sight of flashes of bare chest, Vreth refers to those in the middle fondly as ‘those naked guys’, before calling for an even bigger moshpit. At their last UK gig, Finntroll made sure some oldies were on the list- and they seemed surprised at how much their back catalogue was appreciated. Knowing that we like them, Svartberg makes a comeback with much arm waving and swaying, and Jaktens Tid itself with its added joking is forever a firm favourite, starting snakes of conga lines around the venue.
Lest I die an early death from heat exhaustion, I leave before what I’m sure is Trollhammaren evidently shutting the place down. I consider myself now a Finntroll veteran, but this is a gig I will fondly remember as being one of their best. The crowd was ecstatic for all bands, and funnily enough for an easily-annoyed bastard, the pit was a fun, sweaty, elating experience. [4/5]
If you’re looking for a good time when this assortment of mythological creatures and long-departed warriors trample through the UK, you’d better go and see them. And if you’re staunchly ‘too cool’ for dress-ups, heroics or swords and sorcery, you’re missing out on an awesome time.