Finntroll has been on a tour through Finland since early 2014, starting in Jyväskylä on the 6th and ping-ponging around the country, finishing the short Finnish stint at Tavastia in Helsinki on the 15th before moving onward to a group of shows in Sweden. It’s been a while since they’ve played a small venue in Helsinki, with the last time being back in September 2010, and they were ready to make sure Tavastia hadn’t forgotten them in the interim.
Let’s start with the truth here, unabridged and uncensored: I am running out of things to say about Finntroll’s shows. They say that there are only two constants in this world, and those are death and taxes. I would tend to disagree. There are three things that are certain in this world, and the one that wasn’t mentioned is Finntroll gigs. I have seen Finntroll in Canada and Finland, in small clubs and bars, in medium venues and festivals. I have seen them back in their oldschool troll phase and in their new-age steampunk goblin-ear phase they’re in now. And through all of these (approximately nine) shows, I have not once seen a single bad gig from them. When a band is so consistently good, it starts getting hard to continue to praise them. But, here goes…
I’ve been known to applaud bands who change up their setlists. I grow tired of seeing bands that have a pretty set tracklist and only alter it when they have new material (Amorphis and Korpiklaani have been guilty of this). Finntroll is not one of those bands. In fact, they’re pretty high on the list of groups who will likely surprise you with their choice of music. Naturally, when they put out a new album they will focus a bit more on it, but just when you start to think that you won’t see a show without “Korpens Saga,” the song vanishes, only to be replaced with something funky, like “En Mäktig Här.” And even though they played “Trollhammaren” as their final encore track at this show, I just want to throw some respect to them for refusing to play that song for a while. Most bands have their big hit that they’re known for – “Smoke on the Water,” “Run to the Hills,” “Thunderstruck,” “Battle Metal”… you know, that first track that made people love them that’s obligatory in a live performance. Yet, I’ve never seen a band just outright refuse to play that track for a while because they got sick of it. I hate to see bands grow tired of doing what they love and that is why I’m happy that these guys were willing to drop that track for a while. Still, I do love it and it was nice to hear it nevertheless.
They have a new look that came with the Blodsvept album in 2013, where they’ve dropped the shirtless painted troll thing, and become some sort of… steampunk goblins? Well, I will assume that they are still trolls since, you know, their name is still Finntroll and all. But they now wear shirts on stage and though they still have the black paint on their faces, they are now sporting troll ears. Vreth and Skrymer have the nicer shorter ears, while Tundra, Routa, and Virta have long ears that flop around when they headbang. Actually, I believe one of Tundra’s ears flew off during the show because it disappeared after a while.
When it comes to respectability on stage when compared to all those shows in the past, this one had to easily rank in the top three for skill and playing. Vreth was sounding as sharp as always, and everyone’s instruments were sounding note-for-note perfect. Not to mention the stage performance was a metric ton of fun. There was a lot of headbanging (which is especially fun to watch with Virta’s cloud-like fluffy hair – there is so much of it that it looks like it moves in slow-motion at times), bouncing around on stage, and high levels of all-around enthusiasm from everyone. I almost didn’t recognize Routa up there. It looks like he’s lost some weight or something and even fans that have known and loved the band longer than I have had to do a double-take to make sure that was him up there. Tip of the hat, sir.
Another thing I’d like to mention is how Beast Dominator appears when he’s drumming. This man looks like drumming is the most natural thing in the world, second only to breathing. While there are a ton of drummers out there who play like they were born with a drum-kit, they still have this wild, unyielding look to them, making rabid constipated animal faces, you know… not this guy. He plays like he could fall asleep at any moment and keep going without missing a beat. He has this casual way of just tearing through his songs and yet he hardly moves at all. And in spite of that, he plays like a machine with endless flawless double-kick. After a 90-minute set, it looks like he hasn’t even broken a sweat. It’s mind-boggling how good this guy is.
What else was awesome? Well, the first three quarters of the show left me wondering if Trollhorn was going to show up or not. I know that he tends not to tour much and never goes outside of Finland, but he’s always been in the Helsinki shows at least. So, I was quite delighted to see him show up with a banjo for the last few songs and absolutely shred. What else is great about live Finntroll, you ask? The lack of backing tracks and presence of full-on live music… even the banjos.
The set, as I was saying, had a good range of songs but seemed to stick to their funkier tunes, which are my favorite, so it was the optimal show for fans like myself. The set included a veritable greatest hits, including “Blodsvept,” “Solsagan,” “Jaktens Tid,” “Under Bergets Rot,” “Mordminnen,” “Ett Folk Förbannat,” and more, with “Svampfest” for an outro after “Trollhammaren” finished the encore.
I really wish that I had a lot more words or a whole other language at my disposal. These guys are one of the most phenomenal live bands around. Never has there been a show where someone’s playing is terrible, or their performance was boring, or the vocals sounded weak. These guys are as solid as the earth beneath our feet live. No matter where you are, no matter what the cost, if you like their music you should make an effort to hit up their shows. I rarely miss them and I’ve yet to be disappointed.
Photos: Lene L.