I am known for being one for appreciating the weird and wonderful when it comes to music, so it’s only natural I’d gravitate towards nutters TrollfesT, who are pioneers of the True Norwegian Balkan Metal genre. As well as the vast majority of their lyrics being in the fictional language of Trollspråk (a mixture of Norwegian and German), they also use a wide variety of instruments aside from the conventional guitar, bass and drums – with saxophone, accordion and bouzouki making up a prominent part of the band’s sound.
A Decade Of Drekkadance is a celebration of them reaching an impressive ten years as a band, and is a great mix of their music – consisting of rarities, acoustic songs, cover songs, their much sought-after debut EP and even a brand new track! Due to it being released on a strictly limited picture disc (with a free download of the release with every purchase), that is reason enough to pick it up, but if that isn’t enough to sway would-be purchasers, then the artwork is surely the icing on top of the cake. A collaboration from cartoonist Jonas Darnell and designer Terje Johnsen, it features a colourful myriad of past characters from the band’s prior releases and is a perfect way of depicting their career so far. This is surely going to be hung up and framed on my wall.
Side A of the album opens with brand new track På Beruselsens Vinger, which is the perfect way to kick things off. It truly captures the spirit of the band with its wild instrumentation and loud-as-balls vocals and riffs, starting off with a standard chugging introduction before launching into the trademark TrollfesT sound. Everything this band releases is simply top-notch: to put it simply, there aren’t many bands that are as consistently good as these.
The next section of the release is their cover songs. The first of the three is their rendition of the Tom Waits song God’s Away On Business. Whilst I like the original version, TrollfesT’s cover injects life and energy into what was a previously dark and gloomy sounding track. One thing I especially liked was the fact that the vocals – usually a high-pitched wail, for want of a better description! – remained deep and growly, keeping with the original’s style.
The following track, a cover of Britney Spears’ Toxic, could well be the most ridiculous cover I’ve ever heard, in the best possible way – it’s nothing short of a work of art. Lots of bands these days have a tendency to do an ironic cover of a pop song in a bid to gain attention, but as far as cover songs go, this is a very sincere one. Somehow, despite all the extremely prominent bouzouki and screaming vocals, it stays true to the original track, which really helps to appreciate it even further. Oh, and if that’s not enough, the accompanying music video for it is so brilliant that it can’t help but make you want to like this band even more.
The final cover song is their rendition of Drekkameratene’s song Drekkadag. As I am not familiar with Norwegian music, I am unsure about whether this band are a widely known band in their native country or whether they’re a niche band (owing to all my internet searches only coming up with pages in Norwegian!) but either way, TrollfesT’s cover is a fantastic rendition of it.
The final two tracks on the first side of the release are b-sides from their two most recent albums. The first of the two, Selvforherligende Vås, is a b-side for their 2011 release En Kvest For Den Hellige Gral. Despite it being one of the longest tracks of the album, it’s also one of the most fast-paced, not letting up from beginning to end. It also features one of my new favourite solos by them near the end. Fantastic stuff, but I’m not sure how this one wound up only being a b-side!
The second of the two, Drekkaekspedisjon, is a b-side to their most recent release, 2012’s Brumlebassen (which, coincidentally, happens to be my favourite album of theirs). Unlike the previous track, I can understand why this one wasn’t on the album, since it doesn’t seem to fit with the concept of Brumlebassen. Of course, this is only speaking from a musical point of view, due to me only being a native speaker of English and not being able to understand the lyrics! However despite this, it’s a work of brilliance, so I’m glad this track found its way onto a release in some way. The accordion in particular on this one is something to behold.
Side B of the album starts off with their long sought-after debut self-titled promotional EP, which I was especially excited to hear – I always love hearing bands’ earliest material to see how they progressed as a band. Self-titled track TrollfesT was rerecorded for their debut album and Skogsfest was rerecorded for the exclusive downloadable content of Brumlebassen, but the other four are brand new to me. The description on their website of this promotional CD simply says it all started with mead, beer and Finntroll, which makes sense because there’s a definite Finntroll feel to the six tracks which isn’t all that evident in subsequent releases.
The intro track TrollfesT has a simpler feel to it than its rerecorded counterpart and is chilled and relaxed, before the rest of the EP kicks in with a more rough-and-ready feel to it. Admittedly, the sound quality isn’t the best, but at the end of the day this was a purely promotional release and was entirely self-recorded, so for what it is, it’s great. It really is interesting to finally hear this early material and see what elements of their sound they decided to keep and which they decided to change.
It was most interesting to hear the original version of Skogsfest as that was a track they rerecorded recently, so a lot of time has passed between the two occasions it has been recorded. Listening to the tracks side-by-side really shows the contrasts and similarities between the two, as there’s a lot of extra percussion and the main riff is a lot more prominent.
The closing track of the EP, Heimferd, was an unexpected gem. After the noise and energy of the previous four songs, it takes a step back and takes a slower, relaxed approach. The track is a very striking one with some fantastic instrumentation. There’s also some harsh vocals in the middle, which oddly enough fit the acoustic track perfectly. A very satisfying end to something I’ve been wanting to hear for a long time now.
The next part of A Decade Of Drekkadance is an acoustic section. On paper, TrollfesT are certainly not a band whose music should translate well into acoustic form, yet it does. Being a saxophonist myself, I particularly like how the acoustic tracks really bring out and highlight the sax, and I love the way it growls in Brakebein especially.
Due to Karve being one of my favourite tracks by them, I was a little sceptical about whether I’d enjoy the acoustic version as much as the other two songs on there but it exceeded my expectations, somehow keeping up the fast pace of the original version which is an achievement in itself for an acoustic track! Hearing it acoustic really adds another dimension to the dynamics of it all.
The final track of the album is song Gitarharding Bromleskandinav, which is from the teaser trailer they did for Brumlebassen. This is an entirely acoustic song and, to cut a long story short, is utterly beautiful. Previously used to confuse the listener into thinking Brumlebassen is a slow, quiet album before it cuts out into a myriad of noise playing the same riff as the acoustic section, listening to it on its own really showcases the musical talent behind composing this song, showing just how versatile they can be.
A Decade Of Drekkadance is a perfect way of showcasing the bands already extensive ten-year career, so it’s only right that this gets a perfect score of 10. Now here’s to ten more!