September 30, 2011 1 Comment
‘Jethro Tull on steroids’ – Troldhaugen awaken the trolls
For a band that only began in 2008 and played their first gig early last year, local folk-metal experimenters Troldhaugen have come a long way. Here is a band that despite only having released their debut self-titled EP in October last year, have already made international sales and even distributed a limited edition cassette tape overseas. This is no small achievement, but, as Radar discovers talking to Meldengar, guitarist/programmer/likely multi-instrumentalist for the band, nothing about Troldhaugen is less than pretty freaking epic.
Overcoming a potentially fatal computer crash which wiped all progress on their initial album, Troldhaugen have developed a distinctive name for themselves over the past few years, their sound and style evolving into something best described as eclectic. Meldengar tells us, “Our original style was very European folk music influenced, even down to the lyrics and folk tales. While we still hold this music very dear, we were battling with the idea ‘Can a band from Australia authentically write and perform this music?’. Our new music has developed into our own style and takes the folk music that influences us and combines it with strong progressive roots.”
Listening to Troldhaugen’s material, it is easy to hear that all members of the band are extremely talented – and adventurous – musicians, making use of standard metal instrumentation in addition to more obscure, ancient instruments such as the Jew’s Harp, that are rarely heard on modern commercial recordings. Meldengar cites this diversity as a starting point for interesting and collaborative inventions within the band.
“Being that everyone’s instrument is so varied and each member has a high level of technical proficiency, we all bring ideas for our own instrument or something to challenge another player” he says. Diverse and experimental tastes also help. “The whole band draws from different influences, we are all very influenced by progressive and experimental music and that is making its way into our music. Being that we are all influenced by both the Finntroll’s and the Zappa’s, it’s only natural for us that the best transition from a mandolin or jew’s harp breakdown to a symphonic black metal section is through a choral or spoken word section!”
Zowie! So what does the band sound like presently? According to Meldengar, words like “troll-ridden,” “fetid,” “grimy” and “twisted jazz progressions” might give you some idea. “Our new pieces are definitely more technical,” he explains; “fun, attention grabbing, catchy and [evoke] images of trolls and swamps.”
Geez, with so many trolls abounding and all those grimy jazz progressions twisting around, one might be propelled to ask, how do audiences respond to Troldhaugen’s music? “Very positively,” Meldengar says, “especially considering the extreme lack of commercial appeal our music has. Every show we play we have people coming up to us and saying they didn’t even know this sort of thing existed. We are so secluded in our style that we tend to fit on most bills, and I think the audience likes that we are more ‘Fuck yea! Rock and Troll!’ rather than the ‘Metal is serious business’ attitude that a lot of other bands have.”
Indeed. It does seem that this kind of attitude is difficult to come by in mainstream metal culture, and perhaps it is this very attitude that has helped Troldhaugen’s debut release become such a success along with the thousands of hits the band has received on various social media platforms.
At the core of it all, however, we are necessarily drawn back to an exciting exploration of musical genres, styles and techniques that is what makes the foundation of this band so strong. As Meldengar explains, Troldhaugen are pushing generic boundaries, winding together many different elements normally restricted to particular generic expressions of music; “A technicality found in jazz fusion or technical death metal, an energy normally associated with hardcore punk or thrash metal, a genuine groove you can get up and move to and a vibe that is invitingly brutal and grim.” Such a combination is surely hard to come by, and the way Troldhaugen pulls it off, with a wicked sense of humour to match, is really what makes them something to look out for.
Troldhaugen are currently working on material for a new album and an accompanying tour.