Kicking off 2022, it’s a pleasure to be starting our reviews with something genuinely – to my ear – original. Ritva Nero hail from the lovely country of Finland, formed in 2017 and play “party folk metal”. Imagine a downsized instrumental-only Russkaja with more traditional instruments and… well. You get the idea.
As mentioned, there are no vocals on the album but that doesn’t make the music any less catchy. By looking at the names, you can tell that they’re designed to induce movement – “Moshpit Mazurka”, “Trepatska Thrasher”, “Rutvan Polkka” – and they very much achieve this. It’s an unusual sound at once, but after getting your head round it there’s definitely a similarity to some other party bands such as Alestorm’s addictive piratical overtones.
The instruments, in honesty, required a google in some instances! We have electric bass and drums, with which I’d assume we are all familiar. Alongside them are Finnish bagpipes and nyckelharpa, while a soprano saxophone essentially takes the front, fitting in where the lead guitar and/or vocals would normally sit. On first listen, it’s a little reedy (and that’s not a pun on the saxophone being a wind instrument), but when the rhythm section kicks in you can definitely see why we’re reviewing it. This is rock music… just of a type you’ve likely not encountered before!
The song titles sit well with their content. “Trapatska Thrasher”, for instance, is a whirling dervish. “Dragon Quadrille” opens with a drum salvo that many will find familiar (cough Painkiller cough) before leaping into a tune that sounds like it comes from Charles III’s era, if his court was filled with Lemmy’s antecedents. If your toe isn’t tapping by the time this one gets going, you’re as dead as France’s domination of Africa and North America after the Seven Years’ War. And people say that metal fans are uneducated…
It’s not all belting rockers, though, with the likes of “Master of Maanitus” being more gentle, and “Slayer of the Schottische” putting forward more of an experimental / jazz style.
A lovely touch is the considerable detail on the CD sleeve. Where other albums would have the lyrics, the band have instead included a history of the instruments, and dance / musical style on which each track is based. They tend to be from a Swedish / Finnish viewpoint (when they were first mentioned in history texts for that region and so forth), and it makes for very interesting reading.
Definitely something very different, and definitely something very enjoyable. You’re meant to start New Year by setting yourself new challenges and taking it as a fresh start. What better way than by opening your ears to something original?
Header image by Tiia Ohman
Immortal Tradition will be released on January 14th and can be ordered now