Metsatöll’s latest album, the snappily titled ‘Ulg’ (apparently it means “Howl”), was released at the tail end of 2011. Although their name might not be as recognisable as some of their contemporaries within the genre, it seems that they’re doing fairly well for themselves in their native Estonia as well as in the Nordic regions, leading them to sign to Spinefarm back in 2009.
Despite the opening sounding like something from a Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! album (not necessarily a bad thing, just what you’re expecting when you sit down to listen to metal), ‘Ulg’ is simply quintessential Viking metal. As one of the more marmite-y sub-genres you probably know if you’re going to hate it before you even press play, but for those of you partial to a bit of pillaging then it’s worth a go.
The underlying music is pure metal with chugging guitar riffs and double bass throughout but what makes the album is the use of vocal layering and harmonies. It has everything you expect from a Viking metal offering with a bit of flute thrown in for good measure. Also, you might not hear Estonian every day but it does lend itself well to the genre with its harsh edges and rolling consonants. There’s enough going on throughout ‘Ulg’ to differentiate it from other Viking metal albums. If you want to know what I mean, listen to the snappily titled ‘Kivine maa’; it’s jarring enough to grab your attention but melodic enough to keep you listening. There’s even some nice acoustic stuff thrown in there for good measure in the form of ‘Isata’.
The main problem with the album is that at a smidge under 45 minutes, it is a bit short. I suppose that’s to be expected from a band that seems to release something new every year and we should tell ourselves that it’s quality not quantity.
Review by Siân Williams
5th Dec 2011
4) Muhu Dread
5) Land Full of Stones
8) Sacrificial Shores
10) The Howl
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...quintessential Viking metal."