ALBUM REVIEW : METSATÖLL — Katk Kutsariks
Metsatöll; one of my great loves. The first time I heard them, everything about them was new to my ears; from the language (Estonian) to most of the folk instruments they use, to the lyrical content which centers a lot around Estonian culture and folklore, and the astonishing baritone voice of Lauri Õunapuu.
Metsatöll is a singular beast.
After releasing the short Pummelung EP in 2015, they surprised us with a full-length in 2018. Called Katk Kutsariks (Plague Coachman in English) the new album goes deep in their thrash roots and reminds one of some of their old, old material, while keeping their folk influence at the top, spinning it into a record that is both vicious and melancholic.
The intro track “Toona” sets an eerie vibe for what is to come, although that slow melody gets thrown out the window once the second song (“Katk Kutsariks”) starts with its pure thrash goodness. As with all Metsatöll, expect memorable kannel melodies and torupill solos throughout, but again, this album will take you deep into the woods of cold dark thrash metal . There are few jaunty jams on this album, but the song “Kurjajuur” is there for you if you want to get your folk on.
Metsatöll graced us with a dark experience of a song, “Ballaad Punaestest Paeltest” where Lauri and his incredible werewolf voice and joined by female vocals, which is something they have never done before.
Breaking more rules, they included a violin on the song “Koduhiite Kaitsel”, and it is in my opinion a perfect fit; the song actually centers on the violin melody, which is accompanied by some very operatic vocals — most likely sung by one of their fellow countrymen in the Estonian National Men's Choir, which they are known to play with on occasions, though I have no confirmation of that.
The band also finally graced us with two new Metsaviha tracks, number 4 and 5. "Metsaviha 2" has always been my favourite, but with the same type of old incantation and tribal drums but with ferocious vocals instead of the traditional chanting of "Metsaviha 2", #4 is definitely fierce competition, and one of my favourite songs on this album.
Metsatöll uses a lot of archaic Estonian imagery and the language itself is quite unique even if you are familiar with other uralic languages, so most of their lyrics don't really translate well into English and are somewhat mysterious and hard to understand as a foreigner. Nevertheless, the band has always been so kind as to provide us with English translations of all of their lyrics on their official website, to help us make sense of their music. They have added the lyrics for Katk Kutsariks by now, so you can have a better understanding of the stories it tells. You can even try to learn your favourite songs before Metsatöll inevitably goes on tour again!
The beauty of good music is that it transcends language and speaks directly into your heart. Metsatöll was the first exposure I ever had to the Estonian language, culture, history, and music, and I have always had strong feelings about them. I believe that even if they don't end up being to your liking, a band that can make you discover a new language, instrument, or heritage is always worth a listen. This record will certainly please the ones who are already fans of the band, but if you are not familiar with Metsatöll I urge you to pick up Katk Kutsariks and learn a little more, as I feel this album might be their most appealing to the uninitiated so far.You might find yourself under the charm of the werewolves much quicker than you'd think.
METSATÖLL — Katk Kutsariks
Release date: February 23, 2019
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