October Music Series: Metsatöll – Velekeseq Noorõkõsõq

Metsatöll are a folk and heavy metal band out of Tallinn, Estonia. There probably aren’t too many bands you can say that about. The band first formed in 1999, and Velekeseq Noorõkõsõq appears on their 2004 debut full-length, Hiiekoda. You won’t hear any metal in this track though. What you get from the beginning just repeats on for three minutes. I chose this song because, however imaginative they may have been in creating it, it certainly feels like a completely authentic drinking song straight out of the Viking age. Metsatöll sing in ancient Estonian, or so I’m told. Their name is an ancient Estonian word for wolf.

It’s really amazing and quite relieving to me that Estonian tradition has sufficiently survived to make a song like this possible. Despite their absorption into the Soviet Union, the Baltic states seem to have clung to their traditions in what feels like impressively unadulterated form. I know the black/pagan metal band Skyforger have done a tremendous job of preserving quite authentic Latvian folk, and though I know significantly less about Metsatöll, songs like Velekeseq Noorõkõsõq lead me to believe they’re doing the same for Estonia.

To give you an idea of the possible antiquity of the song, or at least, the style that you are hearing, here is the intro to the Wikipedia entry on Estonian music: “The earliest mentioning of Estonian singing and dancing dates back to Saxo Grammaticus’ Gesta Danorum (c. 1179). Saxo speaks of Estonian warriors who sang at night while waiting for an epic battle. The Estonian folk music tradition is broadly divided into 2 periods. The older folksongs are also referred to as runic songs, songs in the poetic metre regivärss the tradition shared by all Baltic-Finnic peoples.”

Did Saxo Grammaticus or his sources experience in the 12th century something quite similar to the 2004 recording you are hearing here? I think it’s a real possibility.

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