I remember when someone told me Trollfest was a caricature of Finntroll.
Trollfest is, for many, perhaps the only band out there of True Norwegian Balkan Metal, and for me personally one of the best representations (if not The Best), of Norwegian party/folk metal currently. And it is not just about being a freak and drinking beer to the utmost, because honestly, I can do that too. Like any Norwegian band, there is a remarkable dedication of its members to the quality and concept of their work. So their new album, Kaptein Kaos, returns with new spirit, new vibes and new experiments, equally bizarre and catchy, more catchy actually, a little more melodic than their last full album Brumlebassen, but exquisitely exotic, with incredibly diverse orchestration, arrangements and voices.
Trollfest arises in Norway a little over 10 years ago. Line up consists on Manskow on accordion and bouzouki, Trollmannen on vocals, Lodd Bolt on bass, Dr.Leif Kjønnsfleis and Mr. Seidel on guitars, Drekka Dag saxophone, and the amazing TrollBANK on drums. The band has six previous albums to Kaptein Kaos, the last one released last year called A Decade of Drekkadence, was a compilation album and is considered a cult album among their fans. Following a little this concept of recap, Kaptein Kaos contains several musical stages of the band, and yet it shows new proposals beautifully designed, for surprise and delight of their loyal army of followers.
Trollfest always delivers chaos, in fact, you can’t listen to a song of them without feeling the musical mess taking its ton over you. And within that chaos they manage to create interesting arrangements and some greatly catchy imagery. Now, to be honest, I was somewhat sceptical at first. Trollfest has been making this blend of bizarre hectic folk, mixed with ska and an overload of blast beats and extreme metal elements, and it has never seem to be a right formula to last so much time for me. It’s definitely something I’ve never seen in any other band, but I think I can safely say that they have succeeded, again. Maybe here and there I found some songs that still can’t be labelled as brilliant, Kaptein Kaos is good enough to be loved, or at least to be listened pleasantly without pauses and several times.
Let’s start with the concept. For those of you who are not familiar with the band, Trollfest is known because all their music is based on the concept of trolls, grotesque and shameless creatures that on every album are represented by a particular character. This time the story is about Kaptein Kaos, an amusing character that “is an inventor who creates a time machine and goes on an expedition across time to see some sights, taste some stuff and have some fun in ways that are exclusively available to people with time machines.” Sounds fun right? Trollfest has captured the effect of the time machine in their music cleverly. They change, just like that, of atmospheres and locations in space-time with each song. The first track, Trolltramp, is a mischievous and atmospheric introduction, surprisingly rich, very childish, and with a certain oriental vibe that is just a little preview of what’s coming, or rather, a slight summary. If you ask me and ruling this only by my humble personal taste, this is the perfect intro to Trollfest, because the ears of the rookies will explode into little pieces with the unexpected change things take from here, and that is always fun, so I’m really enjoying that thought.
Then, those who have heard Trollfest before, know that the intro is just too damn quiet, and wisely will turn down the volume a little bit and wait for a complete turn, which in this case, as always, is a wild chaos… Actually, it’s Kaptein Kaos! Oh I just met the guy and I’m already loving him! The drummer instantly shows off all his intensity, and I can assure you that he will do it through the whole album, as the beloved Trollmannen attacks with that unique voice, almost a patented brand, blend of hectic pig squeals and grunts. The song is energetic and so damn catchy! If I could only understand a word of what he says…But no, as always, they are using their own language, called Trollsprack, which is a mixture of Norwegian, German and peppered with Trollish. Third track is Vulkan, which could perfectly have been a Brumlebassen track because of its folk instrumentation and drums. Ave Maria offers actually pretty interesting riffs, and is more melodic than expected overall, also some clean vocals surprise us in the chorus. So far, so good. I’m enjoying this álbum. Filzlaus Verkundiger is a sort of interlude that opens with some great, really smooth orchestration, a church piano and ends up with two verses of Gregorian chants. Die Grosse Echsen was not bad, but didn’t impress me much, even having one of the catchiest riffs of the album, it just didn’t work for me. It is very faithful to Trollfest’s roots though, the guitar solo and the saxophone are especially good here, but maybe the other stuff just got a bit repetitive. As always, there’s never an absolute and it’s all just a matter of tastes, I can’t say the song is bad, but rather a good traditional Trollfest song.
The next song is called Seduction Suite No.21, when I read that I really couldn’t imagine what it was like, but now I must say, that when Trollfest gets a bit more serious, they can deliver some awesomeness. It is certainly the most melancholic track I’ve ever heard from them, The whole song dances around a tasty and expressive acoustic guitar, a soft but compelling drumming, a wonderful accordion work and oh well, great orchestration in general, and a choir in the back delivering some epicness. I never thought I would say a Trollfest’s song is beautiful, but hell, it is.
And here, my absolute favourite, Solskinnsmedisin, besides having an unpronounceable name for this poor Hispanic girl, has also a mind blowing exotic vibe that makes it an unbelievingly rich piece, maybe the richest in this puzzle. Well, a cabana party, that’s where the Kaptein Kaos is now, and maybe because of my obvious knowledge of Hispanic sounds, this sounds to me like a blend of Cuban salsa and Hawaiian music powered by intense metal elements. It is, however, intriguing and interesting, seriously tasty and so wrong… but oh hell, it feels so right to be wrong sometimes… Best part for me is when guitars stop the chaos for a bit on the chorus and there you have, a perfect salsa song made by true Norwegian bearded guys.
Troll Gegen Mann turns to a more traditional Trollfest’s sound, with the only novelty of the clean vocals. Not impressive, but not bad at all. Sagn Om Stein is outstanding, because it is a completely new sound. Great instrumentation by the whole band as always, especially the strings which are truly the soul of this song, a sort of spoken speech and clean vocals all the way, not as bombastic as the rest of the album, but rather melodic and way easier to digest. Despite the fact that I don’t get a word of the lyrics and I can only reproduce the sound in my mind like a rakataka sound. Renkespill is one of the most danceable tunes on the album. Compelling rhythm and Trollmannen nailing it again with his voice and particular form of interpretation. Kinesisk Alkymi is a very dynamic track, bringing a delicious oriental vibe that sent a few shivers down my spine right from the intro. Again the chorus is flooded by clean vocals, which has ended up being a clever addition to their original sound. A definitively more melodic yet enjoyable track. Doeden Banker Paa ends this amazing journey with power, and I must say metal is strong with this one. A dosed classical arrangement merges with the bizarre and frenetic energy of the vocals, and the song ends abruptly enough to leave me craving for more.
Though I personally think Trollfest is an acquired taste, I think everybody should take a bite of their awesomeness, if not for self-pleasure, at least for musical culture. A highly recommended release for those open minded metal fans, who are brave enough to try new stuff and enjoy fusion and risk. I’m sorry, I can’t really compare them with any other band… Kaptein Kaos is maybe Trollfest’s best release to date. Energetic and heavy metal with badass vocals, jar-dropping instrumentation and insanely diverse influences and musical paths.