With HRH Vikings making its second appearance at the end of November, it was always going to be a challenge to repeat the success of the inaugural event in 2018. That success is likely to be repeated with a bill that is topped with the mighty Finntroll.
We managed to track down frontman Mathias ‘Vreth’ Lillmåns at home in Finland, 500 kilometres north of Helsinki. Taking time to talk through his life in Finntroll, it is clear he is a man of many talents and spreads his commitments across various side projects when not donning prosthetic ears with the Finnish folk metal outfit. Here’s what he had to say.
Where does ‘Vreth’ come from?
In Finntroll, we have a tradition of names and Vreth is an English variance of an original Swedish word. It was my choice and comes from the sound of my singing. It was my choice – me and the first singer of the band (Jan ‘Katla’ Jämsen) just came up with it. I knew him before I joined the band and we were trying to figure out something and we came up with this idea.
You’ve been in the band since 2006. How did that happen for you?
It was through the first singer. He was forced to quit the band because of problems with his throat and left in 2002. We went to the same school for a while and were schoolmates. When the band were looking for a singer again in 2006, they got in touch with the first singer to ask if he knew anybody and he recommended me because I sang in Swedish and had the right vocals. That was that.
Singing in Swedish. Is that unusual for a guy from Finland?
Not really. Finland has two official languages – Swedish and Finnish. I come from a minority of Swedish speakers and we are from the Swedish speaking part. We used to belong to Sweden and we are the remnants (laughs). The language hasn’t really evolved and is very different from the Swedish spoken in Sweden. One of the reasons we sing in Swedish is it fits with the music. The first singer grew up hearing stories in the language and he wanted to retell the stories in the music.
That traditional language in your material draws on folklore and legends?
It’s really based on those but also new legends and new stories. We sing about those in a Swedish-Finntrollish way (laughs).
Let’s avoid genres. Can you describe Finntroll’s sound?
I really hate putting things in boxes but we have been really open-minded with the whole thing. We’re a metal band with some black and death metal influences but we have other elements like a punk vibe for instance. We’re not afraid of mixing – even stuff that’s forbidden by the metal world like 80’s pop music! It’s metal basically but we’re not afraid of influences.
There are some unusual sounds in your music! We hear all sorts of noises in your music. What’s it like in the studio?
(Laughs) The studio sessions are usually really weird. We have the basic formulas for songs, the order they’ll be produced and we know the basic sounds we’re gonna use. We know if a song is gonna be darker or funkier but when we go in the studio, the songs start taking shape. It’s chaotic in the studio.
Blodsvept was your last studio album. What’s the plan?
We’re working right now. We’re in the writing process and we are sharing ideas in our suggestion box – shared drive we put things in. There are about 25 songs in there but they’re not ready. We’re feeling the pressure ‘cause it’s six years since we did the album.
Who decides what’s good and what’s not?
Tundra the bass player, and Trollhorn the keyboard player. They’re usually the guys that after everybody has their ideas, filter what we’ll do and compile the songs. It’ll be more a Tundra show this time ‘cause Trollhorn has a family. Tundra has more time and will more than likely be the producer of the next album.
How has the new writing evolved since the early days?
In the beginning, it was getting together and made songs with no rehearsal. When it turned into a band we rehearsed more. It varies depending on the album. Anything can happen – it’s always been like that.
Do you prefer the studio or live?
I like both but I’m a studio engineer and spend lots and lots of time in the studio. It’s sort of fifty-fifty but Finntroll is absolutely a live band. The guys like playing more than recording. For some, playing to sixty thousand people is no problem but the studio is terrifying.
You played a pub gig earlier this year?
It’s been pretty cool playing special shows, saving the bigger festivals for the new album when it comes out. The pub gig was really cool because it was private and a small place with only 250 people there. It was two shows and we played different setlists each night. Festivals are great – the sound of a big crowd is great but I like it when you can smell the audience!
Your following is massive. What kind of person lurks in your fanbase?
Sixty percent are probably history, sci-fi and fantasy nerds like us. Of course, there are people who like old school black metal – that kind of crowd. I’d say we have a higher percent of nerds than most bands (laughs).
What do you expect from HRH Vikings when you arrive later this year?
The first time we toured the UK, people wondered who we were and what our music was all about but we went back and people started to come out and see us. It’s got better and better and the last time we were across it was awesome. We can’t wait!
And the last word on the future?
The wait will soon be over!
Finntroll will appear at HRH Vikings 2019. See you down the front!