Norway’s Trollfest have me scratching my head as they declare themselves ‘True Norwegian Balkan Metal’. Firstly, I wasn’t aware the Balkans were in Norway (although geography isn’t my strong suit), and secondly, if indeed it is so then who are the ‘false’ Balkan Metal bands they are standing against? Are there really metal bands in London and New York picking up accordions and balalaika’s and pretending to be of Bulgarian descent? Frankly it’s bizarre. It’s no surprise then that this album is equally confused.
Trollfest are by no means the first band to mix rock with more folksy or ethnic instruments, from the bluegrass silliness of Hayseed Dixie to the angry Brazilian tribalism of Sepultura there is a rich history if you’re prepared to look.
It’s actually Sepultura’s ‘Roots’ album that is the closest comparison, with one enormous difference. Trollfest are doing it purely for fun. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a sloppy drunken knees up, okay it isn’t JUST a sloppy drunken knees up! It’s very well played, both on the traditional and the more familiar metal instruments.
There are moments on “Brumlebassen” where this hybrid works brilliantly. On the title track and ‘Finsken Norsken og presten’ Trollfest make a giddy, joyous racket that has me grinning till my ears hurt. Unfortunately, they are the exceptions and much of it is either unmemorable, too silly or just to downright odd to work. Main offender is ‘Sellout’ which lyrically seems to begin as some sort of parable about greed involving trolls and becomes a death/power metal/gypsy-punk/hiphop mash up. In a parallel universe it’s currently winning Eurovision. In this slightly saner universe it’s just plain wrong.
At times, Trollfest ditch the metal entirely as on ‘Mystisk Maskert’, a folky sing-song which could be a kids tv theme tune. It could be a welcome relief from all the thrashing, but sadly it’s just too ordinary to raise the album above novelty status.
If you want to sample something similar, but done to a much higher standard I recommend Seattle-based gypsy rock band Kultur Shock.