Finntroll’s latest recording, Vredesvävd (read our review right here) was unleashed unto the public on September 18th via Century Media Records. Just prior to the album’s release, we got to speak to the band’s frontman, Mathias “Vreth” Lillmåns about the record, keeping busy during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to do a deep dive into his musical preferences…
So you guys have a new album out…
Mathias “Vreth” Lillmåns: “Yeah… Well, it’s not really out yet but yeah it’s a, well a little bit of it is out already.”
Yeah, well I got the promo and I’ve been giving it a few spins in advance. And yeah, I have to agree with one thing about the press release that accompanies it, and that is that it sort of slots in nicely between Nattföd and Nifelvind.
“Yes, somewhere there. You know, if you would take away the Ur Jordens Djup album, this one would fit pretty nicely in there because it’s still got the, you know, the sound of like old Finntroll vibe to it, but also has a little bit of the new stuff as well. So it’s sort of an in-between album in that kind of sense.”
Definitely, I felt it’s quite a bit of a grown up Finntroll album. It felt like a much more mature Finntroll album.
“(laughs) Well, yeah, that could also be you know, it’s been seven years, so there’s been lots of aging involved since that.”
And yourself, apart from Finntroll, I see you’ve also been busy… You’ve been helping out with And Oceans…, you’ve been doing Dispyt. So, yeah, you’re keeping yourself very busy as well.
“Yeah, definitely, I have. You know, within the last year I’ve recorded four full-length albums, you know, so definitely been keeping busy. So there was definitely no break from my side, you know… during these seven years of no new Finntroll music. So, yeah…”
And then you also co-produced this new Finntroll record.
“Yeah, I was acting as Trollhorn’s right hand on this album.”
So yeah, you’ve really been keeping busy.
Ok, so onto the more relatable questions that I have, probably for the readers over at V13. This album, it’s described as being “vigorous, unapologetic and ill-spirited.” Of those three, which ones do you think are the most… or which one do you think is the most valid?
“Well, especially if you read the lyrics, the ill-spirited is definitely there, because Vredesvävd sort of refers to that as well, to some kind of… all these songs being sort of story of or based on anger or done in some kind of state of wrath or something and ill-spirited is definitely, you know, would be my choice in this case.”
Ok, that also fits in with the whole Nifelvind thing as well, because I found that was the darkest Finntroll album for me in a long time.
“Yeah, that… that’s a good album. I really enjoyed that one. It’s one of the biggest Finntroll albums ever.”
Big is a good way to describe it. It’s got a very full sound, almost bombastic.
Great. Ok, with your time in Finntroll, what would you say has been the most memorable experience live?
“(laughs) There’s lots of these you know, these moments that… that I will remember, for example, the first summer when I did the festivals with Finntroll, for example, that we had some big shows and I was used to maybe playing for maximum 300 people. And all of a sudden you’re in like Summer Breeze or Wacken even and then there’s like 60,000 people. So at that first Wacken… that will probably forever be there with me. But for example, even though you’re from there, I’m talking to South African media right now. And I’m not just trying to please South African audiences, but also the Africa gigs. That was something that I never thought in my life that I would go to Africa to play Finno-Swedish folk metal there. That’s something I’m really going to remember, you know, Cape Town and Johannesburg were really cool, both of them. And, yeah, I will never forget those either.
Of course, there’s lots of these really fun tours. For example, America. A couple of… I think it’s like eight years ago playing a tour with Moonsorrow and Swallow the Sun… that whole tour is going to stay with me forever like I am never going to forget that, it was one of the most fun tours ever. So, yeah, there’s a couple of these moments that I really remember. But yeah, the Africa one is definitely going to be there because it was so different from what we are used to.”
I remember when we did see you guys, some of you were looking slightly sunburned.
“(laughs) For once… Yeah. I’m one of those guys that I don’t need to be many minutes outside and… Yeah, and I totally change my colour.”
Even coming from Africa. I’m the same. I get out in the sun, I turn pink. It’s just how it happens.
Ok, so. Coming back to the album, what would you say sets this new album apart from any previous Finntroll offering?
“Well, I wouldn’t say, you know, that on this album, you know, we’re always on every album, we’re looking for some kind of twist on the album. You know, for example, Nifelvind, we had those big orchestration parts that was really sort of the twist on that album. Blodsvept had this brass, small brass section we had with trumpets, saxophones, trombone, that we did… this album is a little bit different in that way because we… we didn’t sort of bring in a new element. You know, that the sort of twist on this album was actually sort of going back in time a bit. And also we brought back not only like old school things, but we also brought in lots and, you know, inspiration from end of ‘90s black metal as well as symphonic black metal, how it sounded here in the Northern parts of Europe in ‘98, ‘97, ‘99, something like that. So this is what I feel at least sets this album apart. And actually, the new twist is actually, you know, going back in time a little bit…”
OK, so if you are to then say, would this be a good album for somebody who’s never heard Finntroll before or would you suggest a different album as an introduction to the crazy, long eared, Finnish Trolls?
“(laughs) Well, this album is really good, you know, in that way, because it sort of represents the whole spectrum we have. For example, the Blodsvept album last time we did. It wasn’t that much of that old Finntroll feeling. It was more of a going, you know, like evolving from a long, long time into something a little bit… well into its own entity in that way. And this album is actually sort of… you know, as I said in the beginning, there’s lots of stuff for the old school fans, but there is also for the fans of all the albums that I’ve done with Finntroll so far. So this is sort of what I would say, this is the most, you know, balanced one we have. So definitely I would recommend to listen to this one. You know, it’s a cliché to say ‘listen to the new album,’ but yeah… in this case it is actually sort of true.”
Great to hear. Then while we’re thinking about introducing people to Finntroll, something that I find is unavoidable today is music videos. I love music videos. I’m a visual person and you guys always have crazy videos. Are you planning another one for this record?
“Yeah, definitely. We are, actually. I’m in the process right now. And here in between these interviews I do today, I’m actually talking to one of the persons that edits our new music videos. There’s actually, one coming up before the release of the album. And this one is going to be a little bit different. Well Finntroll has always been a little bit tongue in cheek and this one is definitely also one of those that we are sort of… laughing at ourselves a little bit. And it’s a cool one. It’s lots of nature… and, you know, it’s got all the elements that you need from a Finntroll video.”
(Side note: “Mask” is the very video under discussion.)
Well as long as it’s got that humour there, because that’s one of the things that has always drawn me to Finntroll, is that there is that humour.
“Yeah, definitely. You know, we have always not been too serious about ourselves, you know, even, you know, our commitment and we have the serious side. But there’s also a need to be this… this room for, you know, to have fun as well.”
O, do you think that’s one of the things that sets you apart from other bands? Although in the folk metal scene, I suppose there’s a lot of having fun and being tongue-in-cheek.
“Yeah, well, yeah definitely… But I think we are something in between there because there are in the folk metal scene nowadays so many bands, it’s actually sort of evolved from the fold in this new form of folk music kind of stuff. There’s bands that actually call themselves, like party metal or something like that. And that is, in my opinion, a little bit too much fun. You know, it’s sort of… How to say… the message and everything that’s involved in it, it’s nothing serious about it. It’s just for, you know, there’s no depth in it in that way. It’s just about, you know, about partying and you know, that we have so many of those kind of genres before. So let’s have the glam people sing about drinking (laughs).”
And that makes sense to me…
“And partying… But yeah, but yes, as I said, Finntroll is something in between because we have the really serious side. But we also have this a little bit lighter, tongue in cheek part that I believe in. As I’ve been involved in the black metal scene also for a long, long time. And there for some reason it seems a little bit too, too serious sometimes as well. And it’s you know, this seems like it’s not allowed to have fun at black metal gigs. If you started a moshpit or something, people are going to look at that like yeah… sort that guy out he is fooling… but with Finntroll we are somewhere in the middle of this. And know I still see Finntroll as entertainment, but I still also have a story to tell.”
Yeah, there’s no reason why entertainment can’t have a bit of depth, as you say.
Ok, the last little thing I’m going to do today and I don’t want to keep you for too long… is I want to play a little bit of a musical tastes game.
So what I’m going to do is I’m going to give you two musicians or two artists, and I want to know which one you would prefer.
Ok, we’re going to go back way back in time to start. And we’ll start with Mozart or Beethoven.
“Oh! I’m probably going to go with Beethoven on this one, Mozart is… He was a little bit too, too jolly for my taste. It’s a little bit too much of a… you know, this is kind of summer afternoon kind of classical music, you know, hanging in the park. Everything is good in his milieu. Beethoven has a little bit darker side to him. So I would have to choose Beethoven for this one.”
So Mozart was the party metal guy…
“(laughs) Yeah, exactly. He was the cheerful one, at least in my opinion.”
Ok, so let’s jump ahead a couple of hundred years, the Beatles or the Rolling Stones?
“Ah this is, this is a hard one. I’m sort of a Beatles guy more myself. I like their experimental side, you know, more. There’s something also, you know, there’s something there in the Rolling Stones as well, I like for example and still like, Mick Jagger and he is an awesome frontman, for example, so it’s a hard one. But if I would need to choose, you know, do I want the Beatles or Rolling Stones albums with me to a desert island? I will take Beatles any day.”
Ok, jump ahead a little bit further. Let’s go to Michael Jackson or Prince…
“Well, this is a hard one, because I really… Wouldn’t want to say this, because I have been a big Michael Jackson fan, but in the recent light of those documentaries I’ve seen it sort of… spoiled the whole Michael Jackson experience. My first album that I actually got ever was actually Michael Jackson’s Bad, back in the days. And that was my first CD. So I would love to say Michael Jackson, but all these… I’ve seen too many documentaries and it’s so disappointing so I have to go with Prince. I like Prince as well. You know, I like his funky side and I really love his, you know, the way he actually plays sort of everything on the albums. He was a multi-instrumentalist. He was really talented. And I really like his funky stuff. So, yeah… so I have to go with Prince on this one, sadly.”
Ok, then let’s start bringing it a bit more to the more relevant side of things.
Iron Maiden or Judas Priest.
“Oh, yeah, this is the eternal question, right? (laughs) I’m going to say Iron Maiden on this one, even though I’m not a big fan of either one here, because I’ve sort of skipped classic metal and went straight into the extreme. So… but yeah, Iron Maiden… they are sort of nostalgic to me and I’ve listened to a little bit of them, not that much… Judas Priest… I like the attitude of Judas Priest a lot and they have a little bit more cooler lyrics, but I never really listened to them that much. So I have to go with Iron Maiden on this one.”
Ok, then, jumping across the Atlantic there, let’s say Mötley Crüe or Guns ‘N Roses.
“Oh… Can I say neither? (laughs)”
Yeah, you’re welcome to say neither.
“I… I sort of never got the whole glam thing and well… Guns ‘N Roses, I can’t stand. That’s all. And also knowing what kind of guy the singer is sometimes, so um… that didn’t make it any better. So if I have to choose I will stand by the Crüe because they have a… ‘Shout at the Devil,’ that is a good song. So I would probably go with Mötley Crüe, but you know, it’s like by this much…”
One song wins it! There we go.
“(laughs) Yeah exactly!”
Ok, while are there just a couple of years ahead from that… Metallica or Slayer?
“I’m going to go with Slayer. This one was easy.”
There we go.
“It wasn’t like… I like Metallica with the old stuff, you know, and it’s also nostalgic to me everything up to and The Black Album is a really a big thing for me. But yeah… Metallica is going to lose to Slayer. You know, I really like Seasons in the Abyss and Reign in Blood, they are really cool albums. They’re going to be way higher up on my list anyway. So, yeah, Slayer definitely more for me.”
Ok, let’s get it back to your home country. Beherit or Behexen?
“Oh, yeah, it’s going to be Beherit for me. I even, you know, for some reason I really like the ambient stuff. It’s almost better than the black metal stuff that they did. I like the feeling of the ambient stuff. So yeah, Beherit easily.”
I often refer people to that Electric Doom Synthesis record.
Ok! And then the very hardest one of all of them. This is a tough question. Katy Perry or Lady Gaga?
“Which one was the first, sorry?”
“…or Lady Gaga. Alright. I’m going to go with Lady Gaga. This one was easy…”
“Now, I haven’t listened to that much Katy Perry but it felt like she wanted to be a little bit like Lady Gaga… more than she was her own self at some point. Lady Gaga she… Lady Gaga is also a good musician… Katy Perry could be as well. I’m not sure, but at least I have respect for Lady Gaga’s songwriting skills. So, yeah, Lady Gaga and she’s also a decent actor as well. So why not?”
Why not? Yeah. Ok, well, thank you for putting up with me and my silly game and thank you for answering my questions about the album.
“Yeah, no problem. I like it when it’s a little bit different than the normal questions.”
Ok, great. That’s all the time I’m going to take up from you today. I really appreciate it. And I look forward to catching you on tour next year.
“Yeah, definitely. It’s going to be so much fun to be out there again after this little break we have had here. So, yeah… And I hope to get back to South Africa at some point.”
Finntroll’s upcoming tour of Europe with Atavistia and Skálmöld kicks off in Köln on the 16th of March. Head over to trollhorde.com for dates and tickets.