“In my mouth I melt Iron,
weld it upon my tongue.
My teeth are the flat-faces of the anvil,
My jawbones – the planks of bellows” (Suure-Jaani, 1900)
“We are now singing the songs of those who back then sang the same songs that they had heard from their fathers.” We have vocalist/guitarist/etc. Lauri “Varulven” who has some things interesting to explain and tell. Enjoy!
First, tell us the history of Metsatöll, such as who founded it and when, current line up, release history, etc.
Metsatöll was founded in the beginning of 10212 (10212 years after the birth of land, 1999, an Estonian era, after the catastrophe Billingen, when our land was born. Its strange to count time after the birth of Jesus.) by Andrus Tins (bass), Factor (drums) and Markus (guitar, voc) and started as a national-romantic heavy metal back then with small influences of folk lyrics. Debut album „Terast mis hangund me hinge” was released soon after some first cellar-rehearsals. After that comes a long time of gigs, rehearsals, member changes, searching a new view-point of music, on that time was released promo-single „Hundi Loomine”, on 10215 (2002) with a video-clip, what is downloadable from our web-page and net single “Ussisõnad” on 10217 (2005). In the end of 10217 was released our second long album “Hiiekoda” with a line-up as:
Markus - Vocals, Guitar
Lauri - Vocals, Guitar, Flutes, Torupill (Estonian bagpipes), Kannel & other traditional instruments
KuriRaivo - Bass and vocals
Atso - Drums and vocals
Maybe its also mentionable, that a month ago we recorded with Metsatöll-members and some friends from folk-group Tsõdsõpujaleelo an album „Mahtra Sõda” for the living memory of men, fought in Mahtra war on 10071 (1858). That album contains old folk-songs and instrument-tunes of war and slave-times and also contains Metsatöll tune „Rauavanne”.
What are your musical influences? What are your personal favourites of today?
I think, me myself, have not much musical influences from now-days metalscene, I take my inspiration from nature: lakes, forests, fens, bogs, from the sounds of trees, animals and also from the sounds of town, I moved to town (Tallinn) some months ago and although the noise of cars, people and machines are a bit annoying, there’s interesting rhythms and music in the sounds of town. My personal favourites are changing all the times. Thought Mozart’s „Requiem”, I think is unbeatable. I listen traditional music much, old recordings from archieves, trying to learn something, remember and sing teach others. And of course there is many cult-groups and musicians in my every-week playlists, such as Malicorne, Steleye Span, Led Zeppelin, Bothy band, Alan Stivell, Billie Holiday etc etc. I like music, what has something to tell, what has a meaning, what has a point of remembering. And maybe some more modern favourites are Tom Waits, Tenhi, Madredeus, Portishead, from metal-stuff maybe Mägo de Oz, Aesma Daeva.
What inspires you outside of music? Your music is very unique in its sound, you use a lot of folk elements in a very determined and rhythmic way. Who's idea was it to create this style?
Ough, I have answered half of that question already! We all are very creative persons and we put a little-bit in every song each of us, mostly me and Markus are writing songs, but as we all are so much different in our styles and thoughts, the songs in final are quite different from starting idea, I think. But the idea to create something like this, borned, I think in some wild-parties in some very dark inns, when we played with Markus and Factor together just for fun (Metsatöll was then already born), I somehow melted in the crew and played with Töll some gigs, also, just for fun, nothing serious, but then we wrote some new songs and the style changed more and more folk-oriented and something totally new for us. I think then the whole thing begun.
Your lyrics deal a lot with topics of history and ancient religious beliefs. Does this reflect a personal religious belief?
Of course. When an artist creates something, it should reflect ones soul.
Christianity is very prominent in today's age...What would you say is the reason for its dominance in today's world?
I think the things are just as they are; there is nothing to do, only hold on to your personal beliefs and stand up for your traditions, If it is Your will, and Your nation will. But the reasons of domination of the Christianity are reasonable to look from our history and it has nothing to do with “true” or “false” belief, it’s fully political.
Tell us a bit about the current religions of Estonia. How would you say they differ from say... two hundred years ago? What are your feelings towards religion? Are you yourself religious? What do you think of Christianity?
Christianity? Every people have his right to believe what he considers to be right. Am I religious? Every human been is religious, some of us believes in Allah, some in Jehovah, some in money and business, mans nature is to be religious.
I believe, that every thing and living plant/tree/stone “living” and “not living” has its own soul, I believe in good will, in mother earth, ancestral traditions, love.
Usual Estonian is Lutheran; less popular is orthodox and catholic church thought Christianity is losing popularity in these days. There are also many people who say that they are Christians, but they know nothing about it in fact. But as I told, everyone has right to believe in whatever. What worries me, is Christian church’s privileges in many things above other religions and churches, mostly in support of government. Religions should be equal, government and state unreligious.
What do you foresee after death? Some believe that the winds of Armageddon are beginning to blow. In Norse beliefs, there is Ragnarok - the end of the present world and the birth of the new. What is your interpretation of Ragnarok? Do you believe it grows near? What is the Estonian interpretation of Ragnarok?
Haha. We are peace-loving people, we have no Ragnarok. We rest in Manala, follow our shadow-ploughs as shadows, make our shadow-bread and listen shadow-birds on shadow-trees, sometimes visit our living relatives and when no-one remembers us any more, maybe we reborn. There’s no use of war, not even among gods.
For those who do not know, what does the word "Metsatöll" mean, and why did you choose it as the name of your band?
In olden times it was believed among Estonians that the name of the wolf can not be uttered loudly, and that whenever you name a Wolf, it will instantly appear.
Therefore wolves were called varous different names: võsavillem, torunina, vanatöll, hallivatt, metsaisand, metsakutsu, etc. One of the names was Metsatöll, which roughly translates into "Forest creature" (Mets - forest; Töll - being, creature). On the other hand, in some idioms "töllakil" has meant "on all fours", this could also indicate an animal. Why we choose it? We like very much wolves and tales of him. He is more humane, than human-been. We sing very much of wolves too. And of course, Estonia is very well known of werewolves, there were so much werewolves in Estonia, that one of finnish werewolf-names „vironsusi” (means „Estonian wolf”) is named after Estonia – of course if You wanted to change into werewolf, You didn’t had to wait until full moon - something like in England or German legends, You just said some words like: „siuh säuh saba taha, niuh näuh nina pähä!” and you were a wolf, it was so simple, that everyone knew it!! There is very much folk-tales about wolves and werewolves in Estonia.
Tell us about some of the places you've toured and who you've toured with.
We have not toured outside Estonia, thought we have something in mind for the following year. In Estonia we have toured with Herald, who is really great old-school heavy metal, I’m a big admirer of them. Our biggest concert was, I think, in this summer in Rabarock, with 5000 visitors. Our greatest shows have been also in Estonia, in Hard Rock Camp, every summer. In this year (2. July) we build a big fire-sculpture.
Are you or any of the other band members involved in any musical side projects?
We are all in many projects and bands, Kuriraivo plays bass in Human Ground (what I really recommend, very technical and furious speed-death-trash) and in many projects, what I even don’t know, also I may say it about Atso, who mainly plays in Loits and Human Ground, but have so many other projects, that I think, he doesn’t know all the names of ‘em himself. I play and sing in various folk-groups and sometimes alone in some festivals, concerts. Markus dealing a little something with Paskar Kolgats – a very humorous and theatrical heavy-metal project.
Your new release, Hiiekoda. Tell us a bit about it...
The name: “Hiiekoda” comes from two words – “Hiis” and “koda”. “Koda” means home, grove. Hiis is old traditional sacred place of Estonians – shrine. It is the sacred place of tens and tens of generations where people go on more important festivals or other important occasions. We can talk to the powers of nature there, experience peace and gain power. Shrine is a limited area together with ancient trees, stones, bodies of water, plants, swing, fireplace, sauna of the shrine and log-store of the shrine. Before going to the shrine body and mind are purified; in the shrine it’s not allowed to have bad thoughts, to swear, to break twigs or to gather plants. It’s not allowed to be drunk or do any kind of cruel deeds. There are many folk stories about people who have broken these laws and were punished, sometimes even killed by the powers of the shrine.
The trees of the shrine, as all trees, are alive. People go to the trees to ask for an advice or to tell about their grief. There are stories about the shrine trees and sacred lakes that have left their places because they were not shown enough respect. In the winter of 10215 (2002) a lake dried up in northern Estonia after deepening. Many local inhabitants are sure that the lake left because it was disturbed. But “Hiiekoda” is a thing, that don’t exist, it is a symbol of our homeland, as a big and sacred place, with our own language, culture, traditions, what needs to hold on to and remember and give forward to our children.
The whole album is all about that - remembering and holding on.
Many different instruments and sounds are used in Hiiekoda, was it hard for you to incorporate these together? Did you achieve the feel and mood you intended?
I think, almost. When I make a tune, I already know, what instrument sound fits in it best and of course, traditional instruments are diatonic, so, it puts a certain borders around my creation, I know, what I’m doing and I cannot be wrong, if I know my instruments a little.. I think Estonian traditional instruments and their sound fits perfectly with metal.
We also tried in studio to make all folk instruments sound as natural as possible, we didn’t add reverbs and we didn’t made pointless corrections when some notes sounded not so clean, we wanted to sound instruments like instruments, not machines.
In what ways would you say the music of Metsatöll has changed since the beginning compared to now?
The changes in music are natural, almost all members have changed, we all write music, it should be different and it is. We play now traditional instruments too, we sing old Estonian runosongs (a manner of singing inherent to Finno-Ugric peoples, in which the lead singer first sings the first line of a verse and the choir then sings along the last syllable of the first line and then repeats the line first sung by the lead singer), Metsatölls music is more folksy, more metal and more Estonian. Compared to Metsatölls first year, we are completely new band with new style.
Is there a particular song you've written, old or new, that you are most proud of? If so, why? In contrast, what about a song you dislike the most, and why?
Maybe Hiiekoda, it turned out as I imagined and wanted it to be some years ago, when I wrote it together with lyrics. The song is simple, yet difficult, somehow dynamic and moving/changing in same time. Rauavanne is also very good, KuriRaivo did great work. And I like very much Saaremaa Vägimees too, mainly for untraditional metal-lyrics, what I wrote after folk-tales of one old giant hero from Saaremaa. Not every metal band sings about someone, who crossed the sea by foot with a barrel of ale in his pocket to go and get some cabbages from his brother. I think I leave all dislikes to my head, there are some, but as an artist, it is normal to make something over and to polish something always.
Tell us some of the positive and negative experiences you've had in the metal scene?
I really don’t remember any negative experiences with it. And we have positive experiences so much, that it would take forever to count them all. Most positive is that people are listening us and they sing our songs in parties, inns, everywhere.
Is Metsatöll a fairly well known band in Estonia? I heard that, Metsatöll won the Estonian Grammy, is this so? Please tell me the details.
There were year’s music awards in any genre in Estonia. We won a title of “Best metal artist of 2004”. That kind of genre award was given for the first time, so, it was a big honor for us. But it was not a big surprise, because we are only metal band in Estonia, what is so well known and we are quite often on the pages of local media.
Could you tell us one person of the past that you personally respect, and why?
Maybe Hilana Taarka, a great Seto (a part of Estonia with a very interesting and original culture and language-dialect) singer, who has sung into archives and from who is written down over 25000 song-verses. It’s good to mention, that she couldn’t write, I have seen in archives documents, where she has wrote “a signature” – one or three crosses. In olden times there were many good singers in Estonia, whose job was to sing – in weddings, funerals, parties etc. I hope someday that great occupation will reborn.
What do you do in your spare time? Hobbies? Interests?
I play and sing most of my time, and learn and teach old, traditional songs. And I have made music-instruments for some years, for myself, you cannot buy traditional instruments from music-shops, and when you make something with your own hands, it has completely different soul and sound of course, it is something I can’t tell in words!!
Most the people we interview, regardless of their location, seem to express negative views on the current world and dissatisfaction with its governments, etc. Many feel the end of times is near. How do you feel about this topic? What is your opinion about the European Union?
There are both positive and negative aspects to being a part of the European Union. Personally I fear for the loss of identity. And not just the identity of Estonians - there are many distinctive and unique small peoples in Europe, blending ever more into the mass culture. Luckily there are more and more groups forming to contrast this, hanging on to their cultures and trying to prevent the loss of traditions and to preserve and learn to know their own.
Small states should also be economically very clever in this new community, so as not to let the small businesses become extinct, which is a constant threat in the economy dominated by multinational corporations.
People should consume the nature-friendly products of their own countries, even if they are perhaps a bit more expensive than the cheap mass products. Local work-force should also be preferred to prevent people from blending together and to prevent immigration of people who have no local roots and are unfamiliar with the traditions, for whom the endemic landscape holds no meaning (although they can not be condemned for it, obviously).
If you could choose the way, which you will die, what would it be?
I know my way of dying, I cross silently the river of Toonela with a boat of oak to the land of shadows – Manala, no matter, what happens to my body.
Are you currently working on material for your next album? What will it be called and what can listeners expect?
We all are writing some music all time, I think when we put everything we have together and if we work with it some time; we had material for many good albums, but for now, we just give some good enjoyable gigs, peddle a little-bit with our own projects and deeds and maybe then, in long and dark winter-nights, think, what and when.. No-one knows, what next album brings, I have made some more folk-instruments and I study them a little-bit, so I hope to play them on next album, maybe that kind of revelation.. But surely people can expect some Finno-Ugric folk-metal, old tales and myths from the earthfolk of Estonia.
What are your goals for the future? How do you view the present Estonian Metal scene? Do you see it growing, or beginning to dim? What do you predict for the future of Estonian Black/Folk/Pagan Metal ten years from now?
To be honest, I don’t give a damn about Estonian metal-scene.
Are you satisfied with the Nailboard Records activity. Outside of Estonia and the Baltikum the band is very unknown, I think?
“Nailboard Records” started with releasing of “Hiiekoda” To be honest, we made up label and I designed NS logo some days before we printed „Hiiekoda”. So, our company is still in baby’s-boots, let it grow. I think we are in good hands and NS already have gathered some very good Estonian groups together and released their albums. I greatly hope everything goes up the stairway. And we are already very known and long-waited visitor in Finland, who is our north neighbour. In Finland was our CD some months on the top-seller albums list of the net-stores.
What do you think about, that lots of Estonian bands were branding with “Nazi Metal”, “NS Black Metal” etc.
Strange, I have not heard of them.
Lauri thank you for your time and thoughts. Any final thoughts or closing comments?
Thanks very much for your interest in Metsatöll and our doings, I wish You and all Your people all the best and have a great summer!!