Metsatöll, or ‘Wolf’ in their native Estonian, are award-winning folk metal heroes in their homeland, doubtless a sturdy footing upon which to unleash their sixth recording, the confidently titled Karjajuht, meaning ‘Pack Leader’.
Estonian folk metallers march into a stone wall
Kulmking is a good first strike, a surprise attack that uses traditional Estonian instrumentation in a non-traditional way, as atonal strings add a unique edge to a well-trodden genre. It gives the track an off-kilter slant that works in its favour.
The galloping thrash of Lööme Mesti, a song of brotherhood, keeps the pace going, replacing the standard guitar solo with bagpipes.
It’s a satisfying combination, and one that represents a template Metsatöll adhere to from here on in, melding unremarkable metal riffs with the unique melodies of well-placed folk instrumentation. There are moments of genuine excitement in tracks like Surmamuur and Öö, but for the most part Karjajuht fights well within the borders of its own subgenre.