Review Summary: Metsatoll's fourth album finally sees the band firing on all five cylinders
A primal rage was growing inside me while I was re-writing this review for the 10th time already. Frustration was rapidly growing, due to me being unable to finish this piece of writing in style. What was even more dissatisfying was the fact that Äio
is a very good album, to which I decided to give a review that would match it, but had trouble pulling off. Äio
seemed to have taken all words right out of my mouth; it literally made me speechless. Whether it was because of that Estonian rambling and chanting that's prominent during most of Äio
, or the fact I was (still am) quite mesmerized by the music itself, Äio
had me in a firm grip, and it didn’t seem like it was ready to let go any time soon.
It has been over a week now, and I’m still under the spell of this album. Äio
is most probably the best folk metal album to be released in 2010.
Metsatoll has always been one of the very few folk metal bands I can actually relate to. May it be because I share the same native language with the guys, thus knowing the lyrics are very well written, or because Metsatoll pride themselves on creating serious-sounding music as opposed to the jokey and gimmicky style that seems to be "the thing" currently in the folk metal scene, I always get a good vibe when listening to them. Over the years the guys have evolved from an embryonic metal band into Estonia’s biggest metal juggernaut (truth be told, they’re the only metal juggernaut Estonia has). With constant evolution being their moto, Metsatoll have plowed forward for some time now, and so it was not of any surprise that their 2008 effort Iivakivi
finally saw the band making their first steps towards musical glory. A lot was still left to improve upon though. Äio
does not fill all the holes that were left after Iivakivi
, but it does well to show the band’s continuous evolvement, and firmly marks Metsatoll as one of the best bands in the folk metal scene today, along with Tyr and Ensiferum.
, like you may have probably guessed by now, is Metsatoll's finest work in every form. Although not perfect, Äio
has the best musical quality, best mixing and best flow out of Metsatoll’s whole discography. While being fourteen tracks long (which might sound much for a folk metal album), Äio
has no weak spots, or any boring spots for that matter either. It's like a river that flows effortlessly and lightly, without encountering any steep bends and raging waterfalls.
is very interesting and also Metsatoll's most varied album by far. The album is riddled by badass riffs and superb bass work what, opposed to habitual, sets the path on which the palm muted guitar riffs start to build upon. There’s more to be found then good guitarwork on here though. It's a bold statement, but Metsatoll are, at least to me, one of the top three bands of their genre in mixing folk into metal. The way it doesn't sound cheesy one bit, and how natural and ethereal the flutes, torupill (estonian bagpipes) and kantele sound in the overall composition, is a pleasure to listen to. Strings are also often used in order to help craft the natural and taintless atmosphere.
does have one minor, but nevertheless considerable setback though. Despite how good musically and compositionally the album may be, Metsatoll have one raw spot to them. The problem, namely, lies in the vocals of Markus 'Rabapagan' Teeäär. He only performs in one style - slightly yelled, preachy clean vocals. No growling, screaming, crooning, shrieking, barking etc. In fact, the only alternation comes when in some songs Teeäär favors a whisper-y technique to his casual clean vocals. I myself do not have any beef with the vocal department; I've been listening to Metsatoll for years and am perfectly acclimatized with Teeäär’s vox, but to new listeners they might be a turn-off.
The aforementioned problem is only a bump in the road though. Other than having little variation, Teeäär’s vocals aren’t bad, just need a little time getting used to. And when Metsatoll have got an album such as Äio
to boost, everyone who wrote this album off due to the vocals should definitely consider re-aquiring this.
, Metsatoll have finally realized the potential they frequently showed glimpses of on their previous recordings, especially on their 2008 album Iivaikivi
. Quite simply, folk metal doesn’t get much better than this. I have always appreciated how Metsatoll share Estonia’s folklore and history through a spectrum of music, and now that they've got as musically proficient album as Äio to boost as well, what’s not to love about them