It’s not everyday you get to review folk-metal from Estonia. But lucky me, I’ve got the right connections and Metsatoll’s Hiiekoda found its way into my mailbox. And what a piece of work it is. Folk metal is always a touch-and-go genre for me. I guess it really depends on whether or not I can jive with its source material. Sometimes it sounds a bit silly as I haven’t been steeped in the culture and make no mistake that Hiiekoda sometimes breaches that barrier - especially as it’s sung entirely in estonian.
But this is an album with much crossover appeal. The songwriting is solid and the musicianship on display is impressive. There is a decided epic and old-world sound to their music and it works well. Of particular note is the song ‘Saaremaa vägimees’ as it opens with a boisterous chorus harkening back to the days of yore as travelers and warriors sat around a fire recanting tales and stories. Throughout the song - and indeed many of the tracks of the album - Metsatöll make use of many native instruments (such as the torupill - played masterfully by Lauri), crafting a sound unique to themselves.
Of course, it’s still metal and the driving guitars and fancy rhythm work is present. It’s aggressive and powerful while remaining majestic. Markus’s voice can take some getting used to; it’s throaty and baritone yet distinct. Maybe it’s all those estonian words he has to pronounce. Also, the production sounds boxed in. This kind of music needs room to breathe and it seems that it could really use a more grandiose sound. It practically demands it. Regardless, this is an impressive effort. Any fan of folk-metal would do well to try and track down a copy of Hiiekoda. It’s well worth the effort.