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Finntroll's second album, 2004's Nattfodd, offers yet another confounding manifestation of their weird splicing of black/death metal brutality with Finnish folk music -- more specifically, the quite uppity, polka-like form known as "humppa." Yes, it's all quite daft, to be honest, and we haven't even touched upon the no doubt drunken sextet's fantasy-based lyrics -- sung entirely in Swedish, naturally. Further enhanced by mood-setting sound effects (ocean sounds, horses galloping, birds chirping, seagull's squawking, etc.), mind-boggling tunes like "Fiskarens Fiende" and "Marksnadsvisan" are usually spared utter comedic dismissal only by the carefully assembled layers of sound underneath, which collate pummeling, dark-edged guitar riffs, spine-chilling death shrieks, and fully orchestrated walls of synths, strings, and chorales. Yet, having said that, it's rather telling that Finntroll's strongest moments (see the stunning title track and album-closing tandem "Grottans Barn" and "Routas Vaggvisa," in particular) seem to occur when dramatic minor chords crush those happy-go-lucky melodies and polka rhythms underfoot. Therein lies Finntroll's dilemma: how to sell a project so obviously rooted in a good giggle as a serious enterprise -- especially within a genre as oh-so-serious as heavy metal? Clearly, it comes down to a matter of opinion and a split decision. If the rudimentary folk-metal experiments of Amorphis were already more than you could stand, then stay the hell away from Nattfodd; but if you're starved for a little bit of humor and variety with your heavy metal, Finntroll's well-executed curiosity offers a welcome diversion.

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