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VADER & DECAPITATED w/ THY DISEASE, NOX VORAGO, THRASHRED – Nosturi, Helsinki, 16.05.2017 (English)

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The Finnish rock clubs have seen a lot of sweaty hair and dandruff since the last time the Polish death metal legends, Vader, played indoors in our country. We’ve experienced a couple of festival gigs over the years at Steelfest and Jalometalli, but Vader’s last club show took place 9 years ago. Quite the combination was announced earlier this year, as Vader and their countrymen, Decapitated, were told to visit Finland and play a total of three shows as a part of their Crushing the North 2017 tour.

Photos coming soon!

 

Decapitated has never done a show in Finland, so this was a must-see event – The Negation (2004) and Organic Hallucinosis (2006) were some of my teenage years’ favorites, and the strong comeback record, Carnival is Forever (2011), released after the tragedy that struck the band a few years before, has also garnered a lot of playtime. Based on the comments on the event’s Facebook page, the shows in Seinäjoki and Tampere had been killer performances, so I headed to Nosturi with anticipation on the sunny Tuesday night. Was Pekka Pouta going to be in the moshpit again? We had to find out!

 

The ticket price of 30€ had a nice bang for the buck ratio to it, as in addition to Vader and Decapitated, the line-up consisted of the Polish death metal squad Thy Disease, Swedish Nox Vorago, and Thrashred from Russia. Because of the weekday date, the showtimes were packed tight, leaving Thrashred to kick things off already at 19:00. The Russians got to do their set in front of only a handful of curious attendees, but for a band that was formed only a few years ago and has so far released only one demo tape, their thrashy 25 minutes were fairly decent. If I had to find a comparison, I’d say that their stuff reminded me of our own Profane Omen, just less death-y and more thrashy. For some reason, Thrashred’s stage sound was downright horrible, with the solo guitar burying everything else; it almost sounded like nobody had turned any knobs from their default position during the soundcheck. All-in-all, if one didn’t pay attention to the sounds, Thrashred offered a nice start, and once they get to release more material, I can imagine a bit more attention heading their way.

 

The intermission after Thrashred was quite short, enabling Nox Vorago to take the stage not 15 minutes later. Dressed in black robes and copper-colored masks almost reminiscent of the Scream movies, the Swedes had to play their four-song symphonic death metal set with similarly abysmal sound as their predecessors. During the set, I noticed that half of Nosturi’s mix table had been covered with no one to touch any knobs – was this some kind of ridiculous demand from Vader? No one can pay attention to a show that just sounds like distorted guitar noise! The mix even created a few voids during the first few songs, as the band’s backing track wasn’t quite loud enough.

The sounds aside, Nox Vorago, being completely unfamiliar to me beforehand, managed to convince. Their songs contained a good deal of variance, as full-fledged blast-beat passages were used only to spice things up between more symphonic parts. I also liked vocalist Uduun’s coarse shouting voice, as it was refreshingly different than what you might be accustomed to within their genre. The players were pretty uncommunicative behind their masks, but the lights brought the desired action to the show. The crowd in front of the stage grew significantly larger during Nox Vorago’s set, and the audience seemed to like them – if bands like SepticFlesh or Whorion are your cup of tea, Nox Vorago is definitely worth checking out.

 

Before Decapitated, it was time for the evening’s third Polish act, Thy Disease, to take the stage. The band has admirably managed to keep themselves under the radar – they’re 18 years in the running and I don’t recall even hearing of them before now. Having started off as a death metal act, but shifting towards a more industrial sound later on, Thy Disease’s set was an entertaining 30 minutes of modern metal, but as the mixing booth was still untouched, one couldn’t enjoy this one any more than the two previous shows. The backing tracks were on point, though – the synthesizer loops programmed by Yanuary, the guitarist and only founding member left in the band, whirred and clanked like crazy behind the band instruments. If you’ve heard earlier work from the Russian Grenouer, Thy Disease might interest you. Vocalist Syrus was a sympathetic character in his Gothic pants, scraggly beard, and grown-after-the-latest-promo-shoots hairdo, but also a charismatic performer – even his microphone cable matched the red accent color of his pants. I would’ve allowed a bit more time for these guys, as their set ended almost surprisingly soon; I got to watch a couple of songs with complete attention, after which I ran into a couple of my friends, and suddenly the show was over.

 

The front of the stage had filled during Thy Disease’s show, and once the curtains were pulled aside after the 20-minute intermission, the whole of Nosturi cheered as Decapitated got on stage. The audience were given no quarter as the band kicked things off with “The Blasphemous Psalm to the Dummy God Creation” and the title track from their latest album, Blood Mantra. I was on the upper balcony as the show started, but had to relocate as the intensity downstairs was something I didn’t want to miss. Before their latest single, “Never”, vocalist Rafał Piotrowski commended the audience on the warm welcome and that it’s great to finally get to play in Finland. One hears stuff like this all the time during metal shows, but it’s always great to hear them from one of your favorite bands!

Things continued on with the almost best possible way, as after “Never”, Decapitated jumped to Organic Hallucinosis and played “Day 69” and “Post(?) Organic”, the former being one of my all-time favorites. The time travel went on all the way to Nihility (2002) with “Spheres of Madness.” The remainder of the set continued with more recent tracks, and the second-to-last song, “Homo Sum” from Carnival is Forever, was a clear high point in the show. The last song was Blood Mantra’s “Nest”, after which the feeling was confused – was it over already? Where are all the rest of their killer songs?

Decapitated is just killing it these days, and it’s astounding to see the guitarist and only original member, Vogg, enjoy performing – the horrible tour bus accident 10 years ago killed his brother (and the band’s drummer) Vitek and put the vocalist Covan in a coma. Fortunately, after 2 years of mourning, Vogg decided to continue with the band, and it wasn’t in vain, as the band was on fire this night and the moshpits raged on in the audience. An excellent show from a band that has gone through a lot! I hope that the new Anticult record, set to be released in July, will mark Decapitated’s return to Finland, as there are still a lot of songs to hear.

 

After Decapitated, I was starting to feel a bit worn out, but the show had to go on; Vader is a true death metal legend, boasting a career of twelve full-lengths and a pile of EPs and compilations on top of that. My personal favorites span the previous decade with the amazing Impressions in Blood (2006) up front, but don’t get me wrong – despite the length of their discography, Vader cannot in any way be blamed for inconsistency. A moment before 22:30, Piotr “Peter” Wiwczarek and co. took the stage and started on full throttle with “Wings” off Litany (2000). It’d been 8 years since the last Vader show I’d seen, but Wiwczarek hadn’t aged a bit.

I don’t know Vader’s material well enough to regurgitate the whole setlist, but as a whole, the set was constructed traditionally with tracks from their latest album and from the old classic records. Their latest output, The Empire, from last year, was featured with a bunch of tracks; Tibi Et Igni with a couple ones; and the rest of the choices were from The Ultimate Incantation, De Profundis, and Black to the Blind. For example, the already mentioned Impressions in Blood was completely left out, but as Vader dropped one incredible song after another, I didn’t have time to be bummed. Classic songs like “Sothis” and “Carnal” still defend their place in the set, and The Empire’s more mid-tempo assaults brought welcomed breather moments between faster tracks.

The band itself was solid as ever – Wiwczarek played his almost Kerry King-esque shredding solos effortlessly as usual, Marek “Spider” Pająk and Tomasz “Hal” Halicki, both having joined Vader in the beginning of the decade, handled the rest of the stringed instrument section nicely, and the British drummer, James Stewart, didn’t pale one bit when compared to his predecessors like Doc or Daray. Regarding stage presence though, Vader’s frontman has always been and will always remain Wiwczarek – the man has admirably dedicated himself to Vader for over 30 years now.

After “Black to the Blind”, the final song in the set, I was so tired that I had to leave my last beer behind half-full, but what a show it was! The Polish have always seemed to know how to nail these things; the only complaints I have are related to the unfair performance conditions of the warm-up acts. A big thank you goes out to the organizers, and judging from the number of people leaving the venue with smiles on their faces, I’d suspect that dragging the mid-Europeans back to play metal in the far north had also been profitable.

VADER & DECAPITATED w/ THY DISEASE, NOX VORAGO, THRASHRED – Nosturi, Helsinki, 16.05.2017 (suomeksi)

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Paljon on hilsettä lentänyt kotimaan rockklubeilla sen jälkeen kun puolalainen death metal -legenda Vader on viimeksi käynyt Suomessa sisätilakeikalla. Bändi on viime vuosina soittanut pari festarikeikkaa Steelfestissä sekä Jalometallissa, mutta edellisistä klubikeikoista on vierähtänyt aikaa jo yhdeksän vuotta. Alkuvuodesta julkistettiinkin aikamoinen kombinaatio, kun Vaderin sekä maanmiestensä Decapitatedin kerrottiin saapuvan Suomeen peräti kolmelle keikalle osana Crushing the North 2017 -kiertuettaan.

Kuvia tulossa pian!

 

Decapitated ei ole esiintynyt Suomessa koskaan, joten paikalle oli pakko päästä – The Negation (2004) ja Organic Hallucinosis (2006) olivat omia teiniaikojen suosikkeja, ja bändiä kohdanneen tragedian jälkeinen paluulevy Carnival Is Forever (2011) on myös pyörinyt soittimessa paljon. Edeltäviltä Seinäjoen sekä Tampereen keikoilta oli jo kuulunut uutisia tautisen kovasta meiningistä, joten matka kävi tiistai-iltana Nosturiin odotusten kera. Olisiko Pekka Pouta taas pitissä? Se piti päästä näkemään!

 

30 euron lipun hinnalle oli tarjottu mukavasti vastinetta, sillä Vaderin ja Decapitatedin lisäksi paikalle oltiin saatu puolalainen death-jyrä Thy Disease, ruotsalainen Nox Vorago sekä venäläinen Thrashred. Tapahtuman aikataulut oli arki-illasta johtuen sorvattu äärimmäisen tiukoiksi, joten Thrashredin vuoro koitti jo tasan seitsemältä. Paikalle oli ehtinyt kohtuullisen harvalukuinen joukko uteliaita kävijöitä ihmettelemään venäläisten thrashinsekaista poljentoa, ja ihan mainion 25-minuuttisen kaverit soittivatkin. Vain muutama vuosi sitten perustetun ja yhden demon julkaisseen bändin musiikin lähin kotimainen vertailukohta voisi olla vaikkapa Profane Omen, joskin hieman kevyempänä versiona. Lavaääni oli aivan järkyttävä, sillä kitara peitti kaiken alleen, ja kuulosti muutenkin siltä kuin äänimies ei olisi kääntänyt potikoita oletusasennoista mihinkään suuntaan. Ihan mainio aloitus kuitenkin: lisää treeniä ja biisejä niin kyllä tästä varmasti jotain aikaiseksi saadaan.

 

Thrashredin jälkeinen roudaustauko oli hyvin lyhyt, sillä Nox Vorago nousi jo varttia myöhemmin lavalle. Mustiin kaapuihin ja miltei Scream-leffojen pääkallomaskia muistuttaviin kuparisiin naamioihin sonnustautunut bändi joutui takomaan neljän biisin settinsä yhtä surkeilla lavasoundeilla kuin Thrashred. Puolet Nosturin miksauspöydästä oli peitetty lakanalla, eikä kukaan koskenut potikoihin keikan aikana – oliko tämä jokin typerä Vaderilta tullut vaatimus? Ei kukaan jaksa seurata keikkaa, josta ei saa mitään muuta selvää kuin särökitaran! Soundeista johtuen ensimmäisen kappaleen aikana sattui pari täysin tyhjää kohtaa, sillä taustanauhalta tulleet orkestraatiotkaan eivät päässeet esiin.

Jos unohdetaan luokattomat soundit, allekirjoittaneelle ennestään täysin tuntematon Nox Vorago otti työvoiton: kappalemateriaalissa oli mukavasti koukkua ja vaihtelua, sillä täysiverisiä paahtokohtia käytettiin säästeliäästi tunnelmoivampien osien välissä. Myös vokalisti Uduunin kärisevä lauluääni oli mukavan erilainen kuin genren bändeillä yleensä. Muu soittajisto hoiti tonttinsa naamioiden takana vähäeleisesti, mutta valot toivat keikkaan paljon eloa. Porukkaa oli saapunut keikan aikana mukavasti lisää, ja yleisö tuntui pitävän esityksestä – jos vaikkapa Septicflesh tai Whorion maistuvat, kannattaa Nox Vorago ehdottomasti ainakin katsastaa.

 

Ennen Decapitatedia oli vuorossa vielä illan kolmas puolalaisorkesteri Thy Disease. Tutkan alla on onnistuttu pysymään todella tehokkaasti, sillä vaikka uraa on takana jo 18 vuotta, en muista bändiä aikaisemmin kuulleeni. Death metal –bändinä aloittaneen, mutta industrialimpaan suuntaan vaihtaneen Thy Diseasen puolituntinen setti oli viihdyttävää modernia pomppuheviä, mutta mikseripöytä pysyi edelleen puoliksi peitettynä ja sen myötä tästäkään ei pystynyt täysin rinnoin nauttimaan. Taustanauhat kuitenkin oli saatu viimein kuuluville: bändin ainoan alkuperäisjäsen Yanuaryn ohjelmoimat synataustat säksättivät vimmatusti bändisoiton lomassa, ja materiaali toi muutenkin mieleen venäläisen Grenouerin alkupuolen tuotannon. Vokalisti Syrus oli renksuhousuissaan, risuparrassaan ja viimeisimpien promokuvien jälkeen kasvattamassaan tukkapehkossa sympaattinen ilmestys, mutta myös vakuuttava esiintyjä – mikkikaapelikin oli linjan mukaisesti punainen. Olisin kyllä suonut Thy Diseaselle hieman pidemmän soittoajan, sillä vain puolen tunnin mittainen setti hujahti miltei vahingossa ohi; ehdin kai katsoa pari biisiä mielenkiinnolla, minkä jälkeen törmäsin paikalle saapuneisiin tuttuihin, ja yhtäkkiä keikka olikin ohi.

 

Lavan edusta oli Thy Diseasen aikana täyttynyt kuin varkain, ja kun 20 minuutin roudaustaukon päätteeksi verhot vedettiin lavan edestä syrjään, koko Nosturi hurrasi Decapitatedin noustessa lavalle. Yleisöltä otettiinkin heti luulot pois, sillä setti lähti käyntiin tuoreimman Blood Mantra -levyn (2014) ”The Blasphemous Psalm to the Dummy God Creationilla” sekä nimiraidalla. Olin keikan alkaessa ylätasanteella, mutta meininki alakerrassa oli saman tien niin katossa että oli pakko vaihtaa paikkaa. Ennen kolmantena tarjoiltua uusinta sinkkua, ”Neveriä”, vokalisti Rafał Piotrowski kiitteli yleisöä lämpimästä vastaanotosta ja kertoi, että on hienoa päästä viimeinkin Suomeen keikalle. Samanlaisia lauseita kuulee hevikeikoilla hyvin usein, mutta on aina hienoa kuulla ne oman suosikkibändinsä suusta!

Homma jatkui miltei parhaalla mahdollisella tavalla, sillä ”Neverin” jälkeen hypättiin Organic Hallucinosisille ”Day 69:n” sekä ”Post(?) Organicin” ajaksi – varsinkin ensimmäinen näistä on henkilökohtaisia all-time –suosikkeja. Aikamatkassa päästiin lopulta kakkoslevy Nihilitylle (2002) asti, ja ”Spheres of Madness” upposi sekin yleisöön kuin veitsi voihin. Setin loppuosa paahdettiin taas uudempien biisien voimin, ja toiseksi viimeisenä soitettu Carnival Is Foreverin ”Homo Sum” oli ehdottomasti keikan kohokohta. Viimeisenä soitettiin Blood Mantran ”Nest”, jonka jälkeen olo oli hölmistynyt – joko se loppui? Missä kaikki loput takuuvarmat keikkahitit?

Decapitated on näinä päivinä hurjassa iskussa, ja on huikaisevaa nähdä kitaristin ja ainoan alkuperäisjäsenen Voggin nauttivan esiintymisestä – 10 vuotta sitten sattunut keikkabussionnettomuus jätti miehen täysin tyhjän päälle, sillä veli ja bändin rumpali Vitek kuoli myöhemmin vammoihinsa sairaalassa, ja vokalisti Covan vajosi koomaan. Parin vuoden surutyön jälkeen Vogg kuitenkin päätti onneksi jatkaa, sillä tänäkin iltana bändi oli liekeissä ja pitit käynnistyivät yleisössä pyytämättä. Erittäin hieno keikka kovia kokeneelta bändiltä! Toivottavasti heinäkuussa julkaistavan Anticult-levyn myötä tie tuo taas Suomeen, sillä kuulematta jäi vielä monta suosikkia.

 

Decapitatedin jälkeen voimat olivat aika lailla lopussa, mutta pakko oli vielä jaksaa. Vader on todellinen death metal –legenda, jonka uralle on mahtunut kaksitoista täyspitkää sekä mittava pino pienjulkaisuja ja kokoelmia. Oma Vader-tykkäily on keskittynyt 2000-luvun tuotoksiin loistava Impressions In Blood (2006) etunenässä, mutta tuotannon laajuudesta huolimatta Vaderia ei voi mitenkään syyttää materiaalin laadun heittelemisestä. Vähän ennen puolta yhtätoista Piotr ”Peter” Wiwczarek ja kumppanit nousivat lavalle, ja keikka lähtikin saman tien täysillä liikkeelle Litanyn (2000) avausraidalla ”Wings”. Edellisestä nähdystä Vaderin keikasta on aikaa varmaan kahdeksan vuotta, mutta Wiwczarek ei ollut näyttänyt vanhentuneen tippaakaan.

Vaderin materiaali ei ole niin läpikotaisin tuttua, että pystyisin läpikäymään koko settiä, mutta kokonaisuus oli rakennettu perinteiseen tyyliin uuden levyn sekä vanhimpien klassikoiden ympärille: viime vuonna julkaistulta The Empireltä soitettiin useampi ralli, edellislevy Tibi Et Igniltä pari biisiä, ja loput valinnat olivatin The Ultimate Incantationilta, De Profundisilta sekä Black to the Blindilta. Esimerkiksi jo mainittu Impressions in Blood jäi lopulta setissä täysin paitsioon, mutta Vader tipautteli täsmäiskua täsmäiskun perään sitä tahtia, ettei asiaa ehtinyt jäädä murehtimaan. Klassikkobiisit ”Sothis” ja ”Carnal” puolustavat edelleen paikkaansa setissä, ja The Empiren ehkä aiempaa keskitempoisemmat lanaukset toivat mukaan tervetullutta vaihtelua. Tällä kertaa pitäydyttiin pelkästään omassa materiaalissa – vanhaa keikkasuosikkia eli Slayerin ”Raining Blood” –coveria ei Nosturissa sentään kuultu.

Bändi oli luonnollisesti täyttä rautaa: Wiwczarekin lähes kerrykingmäiset sahaussoolot lähtivät totutun vaivattomasti, 2010-luvun taitteesta mukana olleet Marek “Spider” Pająk sekä Tomasz “Hal” Halicki hoitivat lopun kielisoitinosaston hienosti, ja samoihin aikoihin Vaderiin liittynyt brittirumpali James Stewart ei todellakaan kalpene edeltäjiensä, kuten Docin tai Darayn, rinnalla. Habituksen puolesta Vaderin johtohahmo on kuitenkin ollut ja tulee aina olemaan Wiwczarek – mies on omistautunut kunnioitettavasti Vaderille jo yli 30 vuoden ajan.

Keikan päättäneen ”Black to the Blindin” jälkeen olo oli sen verran väsynyt, että viimeinen kalja jäi kesken, mutta olipahan taas! Puolassa vain jotenkin osataan nämä hommat – ainoat valittamisen aiheet liittyivätkin lämmittelijöille annettuihin epäreiluihin esiintymisolosuhteisiin. Iltamasta kuuluu iso kiitos järjestäjäorganisaatioille, ja tyytyväisenä poistuneen yleisön määrästä päätellen keskieurooppalaisten rahtaaminen Pohjolan perukoille lienee ollut kannattavaa.

(2004) Ayreon: The Human Equation

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Artist: Ayreon
Album: The Human Equation
Released: 24.05.2004
Label: InsideOut Music

 

When you think of a rock/metal opera, or a concept album, you know that no one does it better than Arjen Lucassen’s Ayreon (unless you want to argue a case for Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia). With Ayreon’s first-ever live shows coming up this year following the recent live success of the stage version of this album (The Theater Equation) and its live DVDand the successful release of his latest epic, The Source, it makes sense to fly back a long 13 years in time to look at The Human Equation and what makes it so good.

Listen along on Spotify, if you so desire:

 

So what is The Human Equation all about? While connected to the overall concept of the Forever that has covered around four or five of Ayreon’s albums, this album at first comes off as unrelated to the story as a whole. It follows the main character, Me (James Labrie; Dream Theater), following a mysterious car accident, who is in a coma accompanied by embodiments of his emotions, while his Best Friend (Arjen Lucassen) and Wife (Marcela Bovio; Stream of Passion, Vuur) try to wake him up from the outside. Every song features a day of Me’s coma, totaling 20 days, as everyone tries to solve the mystery of the car accident, and what events in the past led up to that moment. I’m writing this on the assumption that you either want to know the story, or you already know it, so… spoilers abound, though it should be fine if you listen along with the music – I won’t jump ahead.

 

Day 1: Vigil
The album starts off with “Day 1: Vigil”, which is more of an introduction to the concept than a song in and of itself. It introduces us to Best Friend and Wife, who explain to the listener that Me is in a coma. You can hear the beeping of life support, and the music is undeniably Ayreon. There is skepticism and what could be denial or perhaps a hint of defensiveness from those on the outside. The sound of a car starting is heard, followed by an increase in the heart rate monitor, the squeal of tires, and an implied crash.

Day 2: Isolation
“Day 2: Isolation” is where the album truly starts, as Me ‘awakens’ to find himself trapped in his own mind. I’ve always imagined him to be in a sort of dream-like state, trapped in different parts of his memories or in a sort of limbo with the personified emotions, depending on the song. He first encounters Fear (Mikael Åkerfeldt, Opeth), and then the music kicks off with a wicked combination of organ/guitar that is one of the most iconic riffs from this album that still gets me hyped every time I hear it, knowing what is to come. Reason (Eric Clayton; Saviour Machine) appears and offers his services as a guide. Passion (Irene Jansen) and and Pride (Magnus Ekwall; The Quill) respectively) are also present in this track, amping up the epic levels. The point of this song is to set a bit of the scene for Me and explain that he is trapped inside a strange place with his embodied emotions. Me is also described as cold and in control by his emotions at this point. However, Love (Heather Findlay; Mostly Autumn) also appears, offering her assistance as well, claiming to be the strongest of them all, and promising that Me is not alone. A choir joins in on the chorus later with Jansen and Ekwall, creating an absolutely phenomenal dynamic.

Day 3: Pain
“Day 3: Pain” is where we get a good feel for what Me is feeling. The song is eerie and vaguely ominous, as Agony (Devon Graves; Deadsoul Tribe) explains what he is and tells Me that he was never as strong as he pretended to be. Graves was one of many names I had never heard before this album, and he is absolutely haunting in this song, and the music does nothing but make it even more so. Me talks with Agony, and in the chorus, a wild mingling of voices takes over, including Devin Townsend (DTP, Ocean Machine, Casualties of Cool, Strapping Young Lad) screaming as Rage in the background. The song lightens up near the end, with some flute and violin riffing (is that what you’d call that?) as Love reappears to encourage Me through his confrontation with his own inner pain. This song works perfectly as an introduction to the other half of Me – “Day 2” suggests that he is cold and cruel, while “Day 3” suggests that this was all an act and that inside there is something suffering, but does not yet explain why.

Day 4: Mystery
“Day 4: Mystery” returns to the outside world, where Best Friend and Wife continue to discuss what ‘happened’ before the accident. There was no reason for a car crash. It becomes evident that something had happened, and they wonder if Me had seen it, and speculate over whether or not he will survive. Both of them sing the same lines to one another, but neither of them sounds particularly convinced. They have done something, and they are not admitting to one another (and likely themselves) that they are at least a part of the reason why Me is in a coma. They are also being overly optimistic, saying that they don’t think he’ll die, despite there being nothing to suggest that he will survive. In particular, the echoing and trading of vocals that comes and goes in the end is very vivid and creates some incredible imagery. At least for me, I see them both speaking to each other and thinking these thoughts over in their heads. The song ends with Passion, Pride, Love, and Agony singing Wife and Best Friend’s lines opposite Me. Again, Me does not seem very convinced of what he’s saying.

Day 5: Voices
“Day 5: Voices” is an unusual song, and is also one of my favorites from the album, both musically and vocally. It starts with a long introduction, with flutes and violin, and is just generally beautiful. Pride then comes in, asking about these voices he is hearing. The first many times I listened to it, I thought that Me was wondering about the emotions – who and what they are – but it didn’t make sense because the emotions had already been introduced for the most part. Then it was pointed out to me that Me might not know who Best Friend and Wife are in his coma, and the emotions are suggesting that he listen and learn from them. Nearly all of the emotions have an opinion, with Love encouraging Me to open up, while Fear tells him he was afraid to live and now fears death as well. Reason is sure that the voices will help him out of his mind, while Fear continues to suggest that Me is just hiding from the truth. Pride then suggests that Me fight for survival, confront his fears, and go forward, and while Me is hesitant, he agrees.

Day 6: Childhood
In “Day 6: Childhood”, we learn about Me’s youth from Agony and Fear, who inform the listener that Me’s father had abandoned the family as a child. Not only that, but he abused Me horribly and lied to his mother about it, though it doesn’t seem as though it was very subtle or believable. This song starts to paint a conflicting view of the mother, but I’ll get to that later. Ultimately, it sounds as though Me had/has no self-esteem largely as a result of the abuse and mockery he suffered as a child at the hands of his father. There is some suggestion that Me thinks or has thought that he should have been sad when his father left, but isn’t. The line, “How could you learn to care, when nobody cares for you,” is particularly harsh.

Day 7: Hope
“Day 7: Hope” is one of the bounciest songs, with Best Friend and Me reminiscing about their youth, suggesting that they have been best friends for the better part of their lives. This upbeat track does a great job of showing how much Best Friend cares and wants his friend back, regardless of what has happened, but there is still a degree of superficiality to it. Me wants to go with him and come back, but there is something heavy and painful holding him back. Eventually, Me breaks down and cries that, “There’s no way out, my whole world is black”, while the music gets heavy. Something is preventing him from calling out to them.

Day 8: School
The song flows seamlessly into “Day 8: School”, which turns sad, as Fear comes to open up some more of Me’s past, and the listener learns that Me was constantly bullied and laughed at, with no father to defend him and no friends to take his side. Rage is again present in this one, screaming in the background. There’s an incredible instrumental breakdown in this song, with fantastic drums/percussion by Ed Warby (Gorefest, Hail of Bullets), before a bit of a showdown between Reason and Pride. We learn where Me’s arrogance and ruthlessness came from, and it sounds like he started fighting back, as Pride reminds him that he promised to get back at those who wronged him, and Me admits that he got back at them, but couldn’t quit once he had started. The song fades out, and then comes back into the choir of voices/growls before it ends.

Day 9: Playground
“Day 9: Playground” is perhaps the oddest track on the album, as it is an adaptation of Edvard Grieg‘s “Morning Mood” from Peer Gynt and is the only instrumental track on the album. It’s an interesting song choice, and the sounds of children playing in the background create a certain feel to it, but the electric guitars make it truly soar. It’s beautiful, even if I’m not 100% sure about where the song fits into the scheme of the whole story.

Day 10: Memories
“Day 10: Memories” is the technical halfway point of the story, though not the album itself. Again, Best Friend and Wife worry that he isn’t waking up, as there is no medical reason for him to still be in a coma. They decide to recite some of their favorite memories of Me, such as when Me and Best friend bought flashy new bikes and crashed, or when Me proposed to Wife, but was so nervous that she thought he had lost his keys when he dropped to his knees. Towards the end, Love and Reason encourage Me to let Wife’s warmth in, and open up to the memories of her.

Day 11: Love
This leads beautifully into another one of my favorite tracks, “Day 11: Love”, which tells the story of how Me and Wife met at a party. I get chills every single time I hear this song, which has a gorgeous intro, and then Me begins to talk about when he first laid eyes on Wife at the party. Meanwhile, she sees him across the room, waiting for him to ask her to dance, constantly disappointed every time he passes her by. The chorus is absolutely chilling and massively powerful, as me is both encouraged, and warned – “remember your father / well you’re just like him … remember your mother / so lonely and sad / this will be her fate if you treat her as bad.” It’s love at first sight, but his issues with self-esteem hold him back, as expressed by emotions like Pride and Fear. Even though he thinks that no one else could ever love him, his attraction to her overpowers his fear, and they dance all night long. This ends disc 1 on an absolutely incredible note.

Day 12: Trauma
“Day 12: Trauma” starts off disc 2, following a short ambient intro song that reflects on the first disc’s themes, and then some dark and heavy bass suggests that this will not be a happy song. Reason tries to get Me to find his way out of his head, while Fear refuses to let him go. Åkerfeldt’s growling in this song is gut-wrenchingly perfect, as the song tells the story of Me’s mother, who declined steadily after his father left them. It is suggested that she didn’t lead a very good life, ended up needing Me for support, and eventually died. Me feels a great deal of guilt about how things went with her.

This is the point where I get a confused image of the mother. The first track that mentions her, “Day 6: Childhood”, suggests that she accepted the Father’s lies about Me falling down the stairs, and the two songs combined suggest that she truly loved the Father (“your mother died the day your Father left”). Yet, Me clearly feels guilty about her death, as Fear suggests that Me didn’t treat her well in the end either: “You hear her voice from beyond the grave / ‘Where were you son when I needed you? / Is this the thanks for all the warmth I gave / Did you forget what I’d been through?'” Perhaps this truly shows how guilty Me feels about his family, as I suspect that if the mother loved Father, she couldn’t have been that good of a mother, but because Father mistreated her as well, he feels that he should have shown her a better life while he had the chance. Did she truly show her child that much warmth if she loved the man who abused him? Regardless, this is the song that explains why Me began to bury his emotions and how he cut himself off from forming proper connections to others.

Day 13: Sign
The story then moves on to “Day 13: Sign”, which is one of the gentlest songs on the album, with soft guitar and flute opening with a sweet but tragic-sounding song. Love sings first, pointing out that Me had not shown the love he was capable of and encourages him to rediscover his feelings. Fantastically expressive guitars then come in, followed by a lovely violin, as Wife reaches out to Me, desperately trying to call him back to her. Seriously, how great is Marcela Bovio? Me, backed by flute and harpsichord, wonders how he could have treated Wife so badly and how she could have put up with him, and wonders if it’s too late to fix things. Meanwhile, Wife and Best Friend see a tear fall from Me’s eye, and then that he clenches his hand into a fist, and wonder if it is their fault and if they should be grateful he is still feeling something. Wife at this point seems a tad more hopeful, while Best Friend expresses more guilt.

Day 14: Pride
We’re back into some straight-up metal with this song, and I have to declare this to be easily one of the coolest songs on the album, though at this point they are all so great that it’s pretty silly to say that. Labrie and Ekwall show off their true colors in this song, as Me declares what’s in his heart, while Pride contradicts him and tells him how he’s actually behaved, debating love, compassion, and dreams. There’s a heavy guitar breakdown, with the flutes joining in, and this song is the tipping point where things start to build musically towards the climax. The guitar wails as news reels talking about the stock market, among other things, play in the background. In the end, Pride and Reason join forces, encouraging Me not to give in and to fight.

Day 15: Betrayal
One of the last transitions into darkness comes here, as we at last learn the backstory of Me and Best Friend’s tension. The music is eerie, as Fear and Agony express that the two of them worked for the same firm and were both candidates for a promotion. It is revealed that Best Friend once tampered with the books when he messed up a deal and Me left evidence and got him fired, getting the promotion himself; his reasoning for this being his fear that Best Friend was a better man, and more deserving. Reason and Passion encourage him to come clean. A violin and synth solo breaks the song in two, with Reason re-entering in an even more boisterous and thunderous manner, with Passion joining yet again. The song ends with Me admitting to himself that he needs to tell the truth.

Day 16: Loser
This is perhaps the most unusual song on the album musically, as it heavily features an Australian didgeridoo. This is another personal highlight, as well as one of the few songs I can listen to out of the context of the full story. Tonally, this song obviously needs to be different, because this is the song about the Father, performed by the late Mike Baker (Shadow Gallery). This cocky, bouncy song expresses exactly how much of a piece of shit the Father is, as he visits his son in the hospital and calls him a loser for simply being in a coma and mocks his mother for being dead. He goes on to express that he’s got children all over the place, half of them in jail, and couldn’t care less. Can I just take a moment to express how friggin’ cool it is that they got Ken Hensley of Uriah Heep to do the Hammond solo in this track? Because I am a huge fan of Ken Hensley’s work via the Hammond. This is perhaps Devin Townsend’s shining moment on the album as well, as the only other vocalist in this song, who blasts any residual negative Father-related taint out of Me’s mind, screaming, “NEVER! NEVER! NEVER! NEVER! / You’re killing it from afar / Go tell it in a bar / You’re killing it from afar, my father!” as the song concludes. Townsend doesn’t contribute to collaborations often without writing his own lyrics, and I think he nailed it on this occasion.

Day 17: Accident?
The beginning of this song somehow reminds me of a person, trapped by troubled thoughts, alone in a car, driving, and I imagine that was the exact intent of this music, so very well done! The drums and bass come in as Reason explains that Me saw something, as Wife echoes in the background that she smiled at another man, that Best Friend and her had shared a moment together. I get seriously worked up every time I hear this song, when Agony comes in for the short chorus as the music picks up. Reason comes back to haunt him with truth, that he drove himself into the tree as he despaired after seeing the two of them together. Wife again expresses that they needed warmth and meant no harm. But goddamn, every time the organ and Devon Graves come in, I get chills all over my body and tears in my eyes. Passion knows Me has gone too far and without Wife (and likely, to a degree, Best Friend), truly, he has nothing. He lost everyone who meant something to him. “Love left you / Without me you’re all alone,” Agony sings, and if that isn’t heartbreaking, I don’t know what is. And yet, doubt still keeps Me from waking up. But why?

Day 18: Realization
Soft flutes open up this song as we draw nearer and nearer to the end. Me now knows why he is where he is. The organ kicks the energy into overdrive, with the flutes coming in to keep the tone light, and the guitars tagging them out, creating a perfect symbiosis of instruments. Goddamn this song is brilliant. The long intro is so varied that you can just feel the mental struggle that’s going on, with every instrument getting a turn. Extra props to Robert Baba‘s violins, because I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned it yet. Me’s emotions come into full conflict, as some of them tell him he should make them pay, while others encourage forgiveness. Me ignores the negative as he fights, accepting his problems and his blame for how he treated them both, and asks for their help as he shouts, “LET! ME! OUT!” as the song fades out.

Day 19: Disclosure
Take your last breath here, if you can. Best Friend comes back to confess what exactly happened between him and Wife. He was out of a job and alone, with no one to turn to, while Wife assures Me that she always loved him, but she was lonely as he neglected her. They shared their distress, as friends. It’s unclear whether anything sexual or physical happened, or rather, did he just witness a moment of human tenderness and get overwhelmed by jealousy and pain. Best Friend admits now that he thinks Me saw them together, and they both assure him that they were and are not in love, and beg for his forgiveness. Man, the violins in this song again are heart-wrenching, and both Lucassen and Bovio bring tears to my eyes every time, with all the power and emotion they pack into their parts. And then the build-up in the end, as Love and Passion join forces to reassure him that Wife loves him and he shouldn’t keep her waiting, and Me declares that he’ll come back to life and be the husband she deserves.

Day 20: Confrontation
Oh man, this song. This song is perfection. The slow build to the climax as it starts tip-toes as Me draws Best Friend in close to confess his sins… “I have to tell you of my betrayal” is just… I have no words, as the music kicks off following that dark line, and Best Friend declares that they are even and that Me needs to come back to them. Love and Wife roar in telling him to cross the bridge, followed by the true Ayreon music coming in. Agony welcomes him to reality, reminding him that there will always be pain, but he will be able to face it. Passion encourages him to prove he can be a better man. Drums and organs stomp forward as Reason tells him to wake up and rejoice, congratulating him on making the right choice. Pride encourages him to show that the old Me is gone and to start a new life. The music turns dark once more as Fear returns, asking if Me thinks he can handle it, but Me assures Fear that he deserves this chance. “Look at me… I’m alive.” Goddamnit, my skin lights on fire every time the song bursts into this epic climax. The cast comes together as a glorious choir to back Me up (10 points to Bovio’s gorgeous wail). The emotions roar to Me’s victory as he awakens and the song climaxes in such a way that I see fireworks in my head every time.

And suddenly, it’s over… “The human equation program aborted. Have a nice day.” And so we are introduced once more to the Forever. “Emotions. I remember…” But for that, we’ll need to listen to 0101101 and The Source. And maybe the Universal Migrator albums. But what a way to end the album, and neatly tie things in to the rest of the Ayreon universe!

 

It’s hard to summarize this album with mere words. The music is incredible, it has perhaps the best use of organs ever done by man, the harmonizing is unbelievable, it’s complex without being overwhelming, it’s emotionally powerful and dynamic, and the story is told perfectly in 20 songs without being too much or too little. There isn’t a single bad or out-of-place song on the album. Perhaps the best thing about this album, however, is not that it’s a great story well told, but rather, it teaches the listener about self-awareness, empathy, and understanding, as well as personal growth. I can listen to this album over and over without getting sick of it, and I love it more every single time I hear it.

I would go so far as to say that, at least to me, on the scale of quality and story, this is the best album ever written. At least, I can’t think of anything better-executed than this story.

Rating: 11/10, one billion stars

Tracklist:
Disc 1
1. Day One: Vigil
2. Day Two: Isolation
3. Day Three: Pain
4. Day Four: Mystery
5. Day Five: Voices
6. Day Six: Childhood
7. Day Seven: Hope
8. Day Eight: School
9. Day Nine: Playground
10. Day Ten: Memories
11. Day Eleven: Love

Disc 2
12. Day Twelve: Trauma
13. Day Thirteen: Sign
14. Day Fourteen: Pride
15. Day Fifteen: Betrayal
16. Day Sixteen: Loser
17. Day Seventeen: Accident?
18. Day Eighteen: Realization
19. Day Nineteen: Disclosure
20. Day Twenty: Confrontation

HANS ZIMMER – Hartwall Arena, Helsinki, 16.05.2017

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If you asked me a year ago for a list of bands I don’t ever expect to get the opportunity to see, it might include A Perfect Circle, Alter Bridge, and pretty much any great composer, like Nobuo Uematsu or Hans Zimmer. Except Hans Zimmer has been touring lately, even taking the time to play a set at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki on May 16th, 2017, and so we had to be there to see what sort of show that one of the best composers in the world might put on.

Listen along with the set on Spotify:

If you’ve read my review of Score: Orchestral Game Music from some time ago, or even of Sunrise Avenue‘s show in 2015, you’d know that I am a sucker for anything orchestrated, and as it happens, Hans Zimmer has written some of my all-time favorite movie scores, a few of which were promised in this set. This show was, as such, a do-or-die situation for me.

 

The biggest arena in town (and possibly in the country) had sold out for the event and we showed up with plenty of time to find our seats before the lights dimmed. What was amazing was that, unlike nearly every show I’ve ever seen in any arena, there were no empty seats. People bought their tickets to this show and they showed up. The stage revealed nothing but a collection of instruments and a large curtain, and when the lights dimmed, the maestro himself appeared on stage to uproarious applause. They started the set with a medley of “Driving”, “Discombobulate”, and “Zoosters Breakout” from Driving Miss Daisy, Sherlock Holmes, and Madagascar respectively. The progression was perfect, as Zimmer started alone at the piano under a spotlight. He was then joined by his band in the front row, all still in front of the curtain. And then, of course, when they hit “Zoosters Breakout”, the curtain rose to reveal the orchestra behind them. It was epic and perfect. The choice of songs too – I wouldn’t have expected the scores from those three movies to go so well together, but they did! I could feel my heart racing by the time they finished.

It’s worth mentioning too, that I hadn’t known there would be a separate band from the orchestra. I had been under the impression that, much like Score, this would just be an orchestra with Zimmer introducing and conducting at the front, as opposed to a performance with a band. Zimmer himself was more chatty than I would have expected as well, introducing band members between nearly every song, particularly if one of them was going to be showcased, or had been in the previous song. He told bits of backstory about the songs, such as arguing with the producers about using a choir for “Roll Tide”, or a humorous anecdote about his wife’s reaction to him agreeing to do Gladiator and how it required a female soul, after which Lisa Gerard came on board (though not without feeling guilty that this was her second Russell Crowe movie in recent history). He explained that The Lion King‘s score was about Lebo Morake, the original vocalist who happened to be with them for the show, and gave us backstory on the incredible cellist from China who had been playing strings since the age of 3, among others.

Musically, I couldn’t have asked for more in the first half of the show. “Roll Tide” was haunting and the choir made my hair stand on end; it also showed off perhaps the coolest drummer with the coolest beard ever. I wasn’t familiar with “160 BPM”, but it was wondrous to hear. The medley/collection from Gladiator, combined with the images on the backing scene, made me feel as if I really was in an ancient Colosseum in Rome watching battles to the death, and the addition of vocals (not just the replacement for Lisa Gerard, but the violinist who joined in to harmonize as well) was gorgeous. The blend of classical and modern in The Da Vinci Code was really cool. The Lion King was nothing short of perfection from start to finish and made me realize how badly I need to re-listen to the score of that movie, as I had forgotten how great it is (score, incidentally, should not be confused with soundtrack, which are the Elton John songs). Lebo M. sounded exactly like he did in the original soundtrack, as if over 20 years hadn’t passed. And the Pirates of the Caribbean collection was… well, it left me speechless and buzzing. Those are some of my favorite scores ever and to hear songs like “Up is Down” and “He’s a Pirate” live was pretty much life-changing. It’s a rare occasion that I feel such a physical thrill watching live music these days.

And then we had an intermission. At this point, I will admit that the first half of the show was better than the second half – it had more bombastic and emotional music, for one, and also the most familiar to me, in Driving Miss DaisySherlock, Gladiator, The Lion King, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

The second half started after the break with some light xylophone notes to lure people back to their seats, and they began with “You’re So Cool” from True Romance. After this, he introduced Gary Kettel, and told the story of how they met 30 years ago during Zimmer’s first orchestra. He wasn’t sure how well he had done, but Kettel turned to him, gave him a thumbs up, and said, “Way-hay!” It’s kind of their thing now, and as it was Kettel’s birthday, he had the crowd shout, “Way-hay!” to him a few times in celebration.

The show then continued with “Thunderbird” from Thelma and Louise, with the glorious fluffy-haired hippy-looking fellow taking most of the spotlight with his sexy-sax -like guitars. Zimmer then introduced “some superhero stuff” before the unnecessarily long-named “What are You Going to Do When You are Not Saving the World?” from Man of Steel. The superhero stuff, however, was broken up by “Journey to the Line” from Thin Red Line – an interesting and anxiety-inducing piece with a red backing screen that turned into what almost seemed like slow-motion dubstep at some point. The superheroes then returned with music from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and The Dark Knight trilogy. Zimmer told a wonderful story about the sad loss of Heath Ledger and the tragedy following the shooting during the The Dark Knight Rises premiere, and in the end, the moral was that the world is not a better place since then, but everyone on stage from all over the world had come together making music in their hearts and they were playing from their hearts. They then set into “Aurora” from the likewise-named film. Music from Interstellar then closed out the show before he returned to thank the audience, the choir, the orchestra, the band, and again, the audience, for everything, before the encore of music from Inception, and then everyone took their bows as people cheered and gave a standing ovation – a very well-deserved ovation, if I do say so!

 

On the whole, I do think that I enjoyed Score more than this (exclusively for the reason that I knew almost all of the music, whereas here I knew only about half), yet this combination of band/orchestra made for an absolutely fantastic performance and the 3 hours simply blew by. Some of the band were clearly rock stars in an alternate universe, with how cool and easily they played (I’m looking at you, cellist and bearded drummer). I had chills, my heart raced, and I generally felt parts of my body (like my eyeballs) straining toward the stage to be closer to everything that was happening. I would have loved to hear some music from The Holiday, as I adore its score, though frankly I understand its omission – it’s not the best movie, story-wise. Truly though, this was by far one of, if not the best shows I’ve seen this year so far, and someone will have to work pretty damn hard to top it!

Setlist:
1. Driving / Discombobulate / Zoosters Breakout
(from Driving Miss Daisy, Sherlock Holmes and Madagascar)
2. Crimson Tide
– Roll Tide
3. Angels & Demons
– 160 BPM
4. Gladiator
– The Wheat
– The Battle
– Elysium
– Now We Are Free
5. The Da Vinci Code
– Chevaliers de Sangreal
6. The Lion King
– Circle of Life (prelude) (with Lebo M)
– This Land (with Lebo M)
– King of Pride Rock / Circle of Life (with Lebo M)
7. Pirates of the Caribbean
– Jack Sparrow
– One Day
– Up is Down
– He’s a Pirate

Intermission

8. True Romance
– You’re So Cool
9. Thelma & Louise
– Thunderbird
10. Man of Steel
– What Are You Going to Do When You Are Not Saving the World?
11. Batman vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice
– Is She With You? (Wonder Woman Theme)
12. The Thin Red Line
– Journey to the Line
13. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
– The Electro Suite
14. The Dark Knight Trilogy
– Why So Serious?
– Like a Dog Chasing Cars / Why Do We Fall? / Introduce a Little Anarchy
– Gotham’s Reckoning / The Fire Rises
15. Aurora
– Aurora
16. Interstellar
– Day One
– Where We’re Going
– No Time for Caution
– Stay
17. Inception
– Dream is Collapsing
– Mombasa
– Time

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Sami Moilanen (Drug of Choice), 2017

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If you ask Drug of Choice what style of music they play, they’d answer that it combines rock, metal, rap, and punk elements. Founded in 2015 by bassist/vocalist Sami Moilanen and guitarist Olavi Wuorimaa, these guys have played their share of shows, as well as a festival in Russia. Today we have the playlist of aforementioned bassist/vocalist Sami Moilanen’s life for you!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
Fröbelin Palikat rocks

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
The Offspring – “Pretty Fly For a White Guy”

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Eminem’s Encore album

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
Metallica!

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
Kreator – “Satan is Real” (Kuusamo is a song that is also playing in my head way too often.. yeah fuck Danny)

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Hahahaha Toto’s “Africa”

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
AC/DC – “Stiff Upper Lip”

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Don’t know about that but hearing Mombasa makes me want to shoot myself in the face

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Lamb of God – “Forgotten the Lost Angels”

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Sixx AM – “Life is Beautiful”

Give these guys a spin on Spotify here:

BLIND GUARDIAN – Marcus Siepen, 2017

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Marcus Siepen w/ Blind Guardian, Nosturi, Helsinki, 02.06.2017 Photo by Marco Manzi

Having just finished their massive 2-year-long world tour, German progressive power metal outfit Blind Guardian announced a live album, titled Live from Beyond the Spheres. The 3CD/4LP set bookends the world tour with an assortment of songs recorded at different shows from around the world. Rhythm guitarist Marcus Siepen lent us his time via Skype to talk about it.

 

Guten Morgen! Is this Marcus Siepen, rhythm guitarist for Blind Guardian?
Guten Morgen! Yes, right on all three!

I understand you just finished a North American tour last autumn and are now gearing up to tour Europe?
Actually, we finished the whole world tour by the end of last year. We started it at the release of our new album [Beyond the Red Mirror] in April 2015. It went on until December; we played a few shows. We’re about to do some festival shows all over Europe. It’s not really part of the tour we just finished. It’s just some dates, almost a vacation for us, [laughs]!

Great!
Yeah it’s just something like eleven shows at festivals and such – very easy going for us this summer. I mean, we’ve been on the road for almost 2 years now and at some point we have to stay home and work on new songs because otherwise there won’t be a new Blind Guardian album [laughs]. So we just finished the touring cycle and our main focus now is on writing and recording new material so at some point we can put out a new album. And then we’ll go out on the road again…

Right! The North American tour was a little different, though. It was a conceptual thing themed around Imaginations from the Other Side (my personal favorite). Will any of these elements be on this European tour?
Yes, I have to say we played two American legs. The first was in fall 2015 and we did 6-8 months with Grave Digger. Then we went back again with Grave Digger in 2016 – a year later we came back to the US. So coming back with the same support band, hitting some of the same cities, we had to come up with something different. Since it was kind of the anniversary of Imaginations and it fit into the theme of Beyond the Red Mirror, we had this idea of doing Imaginations completely and putting new stuff on top of that as well, of course. It was fun to do that, I have to say! And the reaction! I suddenly got messages from everywhere that, “Oh you need to come here and do the same thing!” and I said, “Okay, we’ll see,” [laughter]!

After that we did a few shows at the end of the year in Europe – brought that over to Europe. We’ll still do that at some of the new shows. Not all of them. The funny thing is, I felt a bit skeptical at the beginning. I prefer not to do these sorts of things because when I go to see one of my favorite bands, I don’t want to know in advance what’s going to happen. Announcing that you’ll do a whole album of course takes a bit away from that element of surprise. But I have to say, playing those songs live was a lot of fun, because the album has such an incredible flow to it. If you play just from agency, the songs work perfectly together in a live setting. It was really fun. I’m looking forward to doing it again for those shows. It’s been about 6 months since we’ve played live and I’m starting to get hungry for that again.

On the official site, you guys have dropped some hints about some kind of orchestral album planned to be released in 2018. Can you please elaborate on what that is, exactly?
Yes I can! That’s actually something we’ve been working on for the last, say 20 years, maybe longer; it’s an eternal sort of project for us. It’s like typical Blind Guardian music but played by an orchestra, so you won’t hear any guitars, any drums. It’ll be an orchestra playing our music. It’s just Hansi [Kürsch] singing over it. It’ll sound very different, of course but it will still be Blind Guardian, because it IS still Blind Guardian’s music!

We’ve been trying to finish it in the last few years and the only thing that’s still missing is some vocal recordings from Hansi. The original idea was that we would use some of the breaks that we had during the tour for him to record those final vocals. The problem is that touring is very demanding for his voice, so he was not in shape to do album recordings in between shows because he needed those breaks to heal his voice for the next shows. So now instead of working on the next album, he’s using this time to work on those vocals for that orchestral thing so we can finish it, mix it, master it, and then put it out. Which will hopefully come out sometime next year.

And these are new songs? Or are they new versions of old songs?
No, no, it’s all new music! No re-arrangements, it’s all new music played by an orchestra but composed by Blind Guardian.

So it’s not one of those kitschy sort of re-workings?
No, no, I’m pretty sure anyone who likes Blind Guardian will most likely be blown away by it. It sounds amazing! It’s very different than you might expect. It’s hard to describe in what way – you’ll just have to wait and hear for yourself.

Wow, you’ve piqued my interest!
Good, then it’s worth it [laughs]!

Now, Live Beyond the Spheres seems to be more or less the same set you played here in Helsinki, back in 2015.
Yes, it’s based around the Beyond the Red Mirror tour and the set is made to represent what we did on that tour. It has a bit of everything. We played pretty long sets on that tour. I think the average set length was like 2 hours 20 minutes. We had a lot of material to work with. We were insane enough to record pretty much every show from that tour. In the end we focused on that first European leg because, we felt, that was technically the best preserved from the recordings. We’re talking about some forty shows of 2½ hours to go through, so… it was a lot!

As I said, it’s composed of different shows. There are some quite long songs on the new album and we couldn’t of course play all of those in a single night. But it gives you a good overview of what the tour was like.

So these are shows from all over? You recorded the Helsinki show, so are any songs from Helsinki?
To be honest, I couldn’t tell you from the top of my head. I know a few shows that made it, but I just don’t remember. At some point I just started to ignore where the show was from. When you come back from a tour, there are some shows that stick to your mind because, like Helsinki, I liked it. My wife was there, we had a good time, and that’s what makes it great. But then somebody else would say, “Oh, but London was great!” or, “Warsaw, was great!” You just have to ignore where the show was and just listen to the recording. At some point I lost the overview; I can’t remember what cities are on there. I think Helsinki might be… You’ll have to see for yourself when it comes out. Listen closely to try if you can hear yourself singing [laughs]!

Alright, what about the artwork? On the last few you’ve had some fantastic artwork by Felipe Machado Franco. Is he back for this new live compilation?
No it’s a different one. This one is by Andrea Christen. She’s done quite a lot of merchandise artwork for us over the years. We wanted to give her a chance to do an album. It has a bit more of an old-school approach when compared to the history of Blind Guardian covers. I’m not saying anything bad at all about the covers done by Felipe, because I love them! We just wanted to try something different for this one. I like it a lot. We don’t know yet about the future – we’ll have to see.

With Felipe you had the whole booklet covered in gorgeous pieces. How about this one?
Well, with live albums you wanna have the booklet filled with more things like pictures from the shows. It’ll look very nice but it’s not comparable to, say, the last few. When I listen to a live album, I want to see pictures from the tour, of the band performing, or just doing whatever on the bus and such.

What about the name, Beyond the Spheres? Is that a reference to something? What are the ‘spheres’?
You know, everybody can make their own interpretations. To me the spheres are the different cities, the different places that we played, and how we’re kind of now beyond that. Now we can look back and listen… It’s always a challenge to come up with these names for live albums. I remember Live from 2003. It was a nightmare! We had like 10 billion names and we didn’t like any of them. So in the end, Andre, Hansi, and me, we just sent a letter to the central thing, “Why not just call it ‘Live‘ and be done with it?” [laughs]

I always found that funny! You had live albums like Imaginations Through the Looking Glass and then one was just Live.
Yeah, ’cause that’s what it is, it’s Blind Guardian live! Why not frame it like that, you know? Sometimes you gotta change things up.

Indeed. So the last album was Beyond the Red Mirror, which is a sequel to Imaginations from the Other Side. My question is: is that story over? You think there’s more to tell there?
I have to say, Hansi did say he didn’t completely finish that story. There was never a plan, really, to continue the story from Imaginations. While we were working on The Red Mirror, we did go back and think we had an unfinished story from Imaginations… I have no idea, might be that there is more. All I know is that this next album will not be continuing from that. Maybe we’ll get back to it at some point. Maybe in another 20 years.

I’m guessing you already have some ideas, some outlines for the next album?
We are, we have some two songs done. Right now we’re finishing up the live thing and the orchestral album, so we really don’t know yet what the rest will sound like. Those two songs haven’t been recorded yet, so it could still all change. The only thing I can tell you is it’ll sound like Blind Guardian, because it’s gonna be Blind Guardian. We also won’t repeat ourselves; it will not sound like another Beyond the Red Mirror. We always wanna do something new. Whatever it’s going to be, I can’t tell you, not yet.

As rhythm guitarist what is your role in the studio? How do you guys work?
Well, I play rhythm guitar, [laughter]! My job really is to lay down this big-sounding foundation for the band, this big wall of sound, so Andre can do his melodic guitars and Hansi can do his vocals. Then the sum of all that is Blind Guardian.

Right, but is it more like that you just play Andre and Hansi’s compositions? Or does the songwriter come up with more of an outline on top of which everyone can do their thing?
It’s different. Sometimes it’s a complete song that is done and other times you can influence that. Yes, they are the main songwriters, but they don’t always do everything. Everybody can have their own influence and if it doesn’t work then we just move on to the next song.

I’d imagine you’re a pretty well-oiled machine by now. If I’m not mistaken, with the exception of the rotating bass player, your line-up hasn’t actually changed at all.
Actually there was one change! Thomen [Stauch], the original drum player, left in 2004, I think. But that was the only line-up change.

Have you ever thought of officially instating a bass player? Or would that mess with your flow?
It would mess with quite a lot of things. We never really thought about this because Blind Guardian has, to us, always been a band with four members. You know, at the point when Hansi stopped playing the bass, which was at the end of the Imaginations tour. He always kept the option that he’d still pick up the bass – I don’t think he ever will, but he likes to keep it open. So we brought in guest bass players for the studio and the tours. There was never talk of making them official and permanent members because to us we were the core of the band and that just worked best for us. They’ve always come in and done a fantastic job. They’ve never expressed that they wanted to join, they always have other things, other projects going on, but they’re always there when we need them.

Makes sense. Going back to those early days: Battalions of Fear, Follow the Blind, and such. How would you say your music and the process of making it has evolved over the years?
Well, we obviously became better musicians, I hope [laughter]! The songwriting has gotten better, I think. I’m using the word ‘better’ but I really mean ‘more skilled.’ I’m not necessarily saying the playing and the songwriting in those days was bad. It’s what we wanted to do back then and it was perfectly fine – I don’t want to take anything away from that. But as I said, when we got ‘better’ we also tried different things that obviously ended up working, so we did that. We of course started out as a pure melodic speed metal band – that was the origin of the band – but then we tried different things, like acoustic things, orchestral things, more progressive stuff, and we liked it. But it’s not like we’ve abandoned that completely. Some of the newer stuff… like “Twilight of the Gods” is probably the fastest thing we’ve ever done. We just like to add new things. We don’t like repetition. It wouldn’t make sense for us to do an album that’s like Battalions of Fear again, because we already did that and we loved it.

Right. Those earlier albums aren’t on Spotify, by the way. Any idea as to why?
There’s copyright, licensing things. Record companies don’t always allow them for streaming. The good thing is though, they’re still available in record stores. So for those who don’t own them, there’s still a chance to buy one [laughs]!

Your music is very fantasy-based and mostly very uplifting and fun. There’s a lot of talk of magic, and such. Would you say that’s the band’s overall message? To bring a little magic into this world?
I don’t think I’d go so far to call it our ‘overall message,’ but to me music has always been magic! From the first time I picked up a guitar, when I was like 11 years old. From those records I picked up, those old Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath albums. Whenever I bought a new album I was just… gone. I’d be gone for weeks! I’d put a record on, an old LP, and just dive deep into the music, you know? That was pure magic for me.

Music should always stay magical. Unfortunately, to the kids today, I feel like it’s not the same thing it was for my generation. Nobody’s buying albums anymore, not like vinyls, those big album artworks, you know? Nowadays, if you’re lucky you’ll have a CD with the little booklet. Then there are people who are always streaming or illegally downloading and they don’t give a fuck about artwork. They just listen to an album, like three times, and then they move on to the next thing. I was reading this thing where people were talking about listening to music on Spotify and services like that. And somebody was saying that even his favorite albums, he’d never listen to them more than ten times. That really shocked me! My favorite albums I’d listen to over and over. I don’t think I’d be making the kind of music I am if it wasn’t for that. Somebody saying they’ve only heard their favorite album ten times… I’m sorry, but that’s pathetic. Either you don’t like that album or you don’t like music.

Yeah, when a new interesting thing comes out I’d listen to it ten times a week!
…A day! [laughter]

Alright, that’s probably all the time we have. We’ll hopefully see you guys in Helsinki again sometime?
Absolutely, because it’s a fun place to play!

That’s good to hear. Live Beyond the Spheres comes out on 3CD and 4LP on July 7th. I’ll be sure to listen to it more than ten times. But for now, Auf Wiedersehen!
Yes, Auf Wiedersehen!

METSATÖLL w/ VETTEN ÄPÄRÄT @ On the Rocks, Helsinki, 13.05.2017

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Metsatöll with Vetten Äpärät at On the Rocks, 2017.
Photos by Miia Collander.

(2017) The Night Flight Orchestra: Amber Galactic

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Artist: The Night Flight Orchestra
Album: Amber Galactic
Release: 19.05.2017
Label: Nuclear Blast

 

Although The Night Flight Orchestra features well-known members of Swedish bands like Soilwork and Arch Enemy, it’s a far cry from a melodeath supergroup: instead, the members are channeling their love for classic rock and AOR. I have to admit I’m not familiar with TNFO’s previous work (except some of the members’ famous main bands of course), but Amber Galactic is their third album, so clearly the project has some degree of longevity already and isn’t just a one-off gimmick. As someone who likes a bunch of bands with an old-school spirit and found the preview tracks interesting, I decided to try out the record.

 

It feels like most retro bands focus either on the 70s or the 80s, but never both decades. However, The Night Flight Orchestra marries rock music from both decades seamlessly and in a fresh fashion. For example, “Sad State of Affairs” kicks off with a riff that would be at home on an early KISS album, while “Domino” is like a modern-day take on Toto’s “Africa” – bongos and all. “Space Whisperer” is a heavier track, and the closer, “Saturn in Velvet”, touches on prog territory with its more ambitious structure, just like the opener “Midnight Flyer” with its fast solos. The ballads are also well done; my favorite track at the moment, “Jennie”, has a majestic sound and a chorus to die for. “Josephine” makes me think of Journey’s hits and culminates in brilliant interplay between guitar and synths, and “Something Mysterious” is a tune Whitesnake would surely be proud of.

Björn “Speed” Strid has a powerful rock voice and wide vocal range, belting out high notes with enviable ease like Graham Bonnet of Rainbow back in the day, but also knowing how to be gentle, as proven by the falsettos of “Jennie.” Bassist Sharlee D’Angelo and drummer Jonas Källsbäck lay down sweet grooves, and the axe tandem of David Andersson and Sebastian Forslund provides the record with memorable riffing on the likes of “Star of Rio” and the video track, “Gemini.” However, keyboardist Richard Larsson is the hero of the band in my eyes, as his playing elevates the songs and adds a lot of color into the music, whether it’s the honky-tonk piano of “Sad State of Affairs” or the glorious synths of “Midnight Flyer.” For better or worse, keyboards are usually the instrument that makes it clear which decade a song is from, and in that sense Larsson has definitely nailed the sound choices, as they are always appropriate for the vibe of each tune. Some of the spacey sounds also tie into the record’s theme – Strid has described it as, “a relationship drama set in space,” and there are female spoken word parts (at least) in French on a few tracks also adding to the thematic feel. Although I haven’t been able to read the lyrics and hence don’t know what they’re exactly about, on a musical level this conceptual approach makes the record feel like a captivating journey and more than just the sum of its parts.

 

By the end of my first listen, I was thinking “why in the hell have I not listened to these guys before?” Had this album been released in the early-to-mid 80s, I’m sure it would’ve been a smash hit, as the songs are infectious like a virus, and the playing has enough energy to fuel a spacecraft. The Night Flight Orchestra quenches my thirst for super-melodic rock with slight hints of heaviness and prog that, out of modern bands, only Nightingale has managed to satisfy until now – Sweden is clearly the promised land of AOR! Amber Galactic is slightly tongue-in-cheek and the cheese factor is high, but unlike Steel Panther, it doesn’t come across as a parody or joke – you can tell the members of The Night Flight Orchestra have poured their hearts into the music and their passion for classic rock shines through genuinely. I don’t want to hand out 10’s too often and want to save them for what I expect to become timeless masterpieces, but this record succeeds damn well at what it’s set out to do and is one of the most fun releases I’ve come across lately, so a 9 is definitely deserved.

Rating: 9/10, 4½ stars

Tracklist:
1. Midnight Flyer
2. Star of Rio
3. Gemini
4. Sad State of Affairs
5. Jennie
6. Domino
7. Josephine
8. Space Whisperer
9. Something Mysterious
10. Saturn in Velvet

BLAZE BAYLEY – Blaze Bayley & Chris Appleton, Helsinki 2017

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Following the release of their latest album, Endure and Survive – the second installment to a three part concept album – legendary former Iron Maiden singer Blaze Bayley and crew stopped by On the Rocks in Helsinki. We had the pleasure of sitting down with Blaze and his lead guitarist, Chris Appleton, before the show.

 

So Blaze, who are you playing with tonight?
Blaze Bayley: This tour and the last two tours, I’ve had the Absolva band as my backing band; they also played the two albums, Infinite Entanglement and Endure and Survive. And before that we did the anniversary tour of Silicon Messiah and a Soundtrack of My Life best-of tour. As we’ve worked together [Chris Appleton]’s really got a shorthand to the way we do things; we’ve got a lot of similar values and the guys have a huge amount of talent and work-will in mind. It’s worked really well.

So what I’m trying to do now is build and say, “I don’t want to just do bits and pieces of Iron Maiden with different bands and just do my own thing.” It’s taken a while to get to that level. It seems to be working. My fans give me great comments and that’s the most important thing. Some even say it’s the best I’ve ever sounded.

I’ve seen every one of your Helsinki shows in the last 10 or so years and I swear, with only two exceptions, you’ve always come in May. Is it a scheduling thing or do you just love Finnish May?
BB: Well, the whole of Scandinavia, for me the best time is spring or summer. I don’t like touring anywhere in winter – it’s very unhealthy and can be quite dangerous with the weather. So I try to come here in spring, ever since I first toured here with Maiden. The tours that we do, we also try to book around Easter so that we don’t play religious countries at Easter-time.

Chris does most of the booking; we’re totally independent. We don’t have a big label or management, so what we really try to do is if the venue has decent sound and they let us do signings after and the fans like it, then we’ll go back – doesn’t matter if it’s a big or tiny venue. But if they don’t respect the sound, don’t respect the fans, doesn’t matter how prestigious the venue is, we never go back.

Speaking of the fans, I’ve never seen a more fan-oriented rock star. You always stay after the show to give out autographs and talk to the fans, I’ve even seen you selling your own merch. Don’t you ever have a bad enough day that you just want to call it a night?
BB: Well first, I’m not a rock star. I’m a singer – that’s something else. I’m a musician and I love to sing. I’m completely independent; there’s no big record company behind me. I work with a very small group of people in terms of management. The next thing is, I’m a working class person – it’s work. I’m very lucky to have a job that I love. I’m supported completely by my fans. And what we do is we make sure there’s a free signing after every show we do. I’ve even had to threaten to cancel a gig because the venue didn’t let us do a signing. And you know the problem is that support bands take up loads of time. So sometimes I’ve had to finish early so I could sign. The only times that I’ve had to cancel a signing is if I’m sick or if I’ve had to catch a plane.

I’ve also seen you popping up on other albums, doing collaborations with up-and-coming bands like Sinnergod, John Steel, Chris Declerq, Mindghost, and Savage Wizdom, to name a few! Would you say it’s about branching out and trying new things or…?
BB: You know, it’s really, really simple. I’m a professional singer; I work for myself and people hire me to do a job. So there are many bands that are fans who like the sound of my voice. And if I like the sound of it, I’ll do a session for them and get paid. I don’t normally contribute anything to that. So that’s how it works. Now, I don’t have much time to do that. I can only do the odd one here and there.

The last one I’ve heard you on was Geoff Tate’s new album with Operation Mindcrime, Resurrection. You were on “Taking on the World” alongside Tim “Ripper” Owens. How did that come about?
BB: Geoff got in touch that he had an idea to get the three voices together, called it Trinity. We did a little video for it and a short tour at the end of last year. It was a lot of fun.

Now, your new album is Endure and Survive, which is the second part to a trilogy of albums called Infinite Entanglement. I understand it’s something of a sci-fi concept album?
BB: Well, lyrically and musically, we tried to create something that would make sense even if you didn’t know the story. I had this idea and started to work on it with Chris. And it started to get too big. Then I said to Chris, “I think this is three albums, and if it’s three albums, it has to be one album each year.” I think musically we were very interested in telling the story. What do you think, Chris?

Chris Appleton: Yeah, the whole concept and everything that we were putting together, at that time we were only meant to be making one album, one CD. And we ended up having 18 songs after one writing session. We had 18 songs, all really good quality. In the time we had allocated there was no way we could record all 18 songs into this. And as Blaze’s story started to develop, for Infinite Entanglement he got in touch and said, “The reason we couldn’t do this in one album was because it’s a trilogy. It’s much bigger than we first expected.” For me, when we did that first album is when it all really fell into place. With the songs we didn’t use, we could then tell a storyline. We still have songs from the first session that are ready for the third installment. So it’s really just a big thing, it’s a big task. But the reaction has been quite strong, you know, from the last tour and this tour. We’re very happy with it.

Thematically, you’ve done sci-fi before, but this one seems more like a 70s-style sci-fi – darker and more character-driven. And there seems to be a darker theme to Endure and Survive than the first one, kind of like The Empire Strikes Back. Was that intentional?
BB: When we started, we knew that it was the end of a journey of a thousand years. The first album was kind of full of expectation – it set up the story of these two characters and their entanglement, and someone who doesn’t know if they’re human and then makes his decisions based on that. And the second one just naturally seemed to get darker. I worked very closely with Chris on how we could tell this story in terms of the music. He had a lot to say in terms of, “Is this okay, ’cause it’s gonna be so much darker.” He had a lot to do with how it came together musically.

CA: Yeah, that entire album was a lot darker. It goes a bit deeper. The first one sort of set up the trilogy but in Endure and Survive, it gets a bit more into the main character, William Black, and his past, his background. From what Blaze was telling me about what he’d done, these horrific things, I thought to myself, “How do I get all these horrific sounds out of my guitar – to transfer all of this darkness into music?” That was something that we worked on a lot. Not just musical arrangements and chords and solos, but how we get these sort of evil sounds, whether it be in pinched harmonics or big bends on the guitar. Stuff that’s not standard stuff in heavy metal, stuff that hasn’t really been done before. I think we captured that darkness but we still got that quality that you can take one song off the CD and it’s still a heavy metal song but it still fits into the story.

Great! And so I understand you’ll be releasing a third album next year? And then possibly a book?
BB: When I first spoke to Chris, I said, “We’re not gonna wait until it feels right. We’re gonna have three albums, 3 years – first of March, first of March, first of March. The book will come after the last one because the lyrics are all based on the book that I’m writing, this science fiction story. So any bits of information they may have missed, I hope, will be answered in that book. We’re working now on the third album on any days off, any time off that we get. The music, we now know the journeys that we want to take. It’s finding those blanks to fit the story in. The next tour starts in February of next year. The album will come out on the first of March. We’ll do the same tour. Everywhere we’ve been, most every show people have said, “We’d love you to come back with part three.” We have, I think, thirty to forty shows already booked that we’re gonna come back with part three. And then at the end of it, we’re gonna do a DVD – a live album and DVD. It’s gonna be our live set, which will be mostly songs from the trilogy. And then there will be the book.

All that sounds like a massive undertaking.
BB: Yeah we never set out to write one thing. All the time since we knew it was three, we’d start talking, “Where does this song fit?” And a very huge, great thing, this massive thing that we’re very proud of, was just obviously on the last album. So we’ve done it like that, basically. Chris has challenged me many times on the story. I’ve had to explain myself, why I want the character to do this. If I haven’t been able to explain it, I’ve really had to go back and sort out the story. And the exact same thing, I’ve challenged Chris with say, “This musical section, I don’t think we’re telling the story.” On Endure and Survive, Chris is the co-producer, so we kind of split into two. Your side was more studio oriented, right?

CA: Yeah, I kind of took over a lot more on the production side, along with Blaze. I was still pretty involved in the first album, but from the start of the whole process, I was much more involved with Endure and Survive – the production, getting all the pieces together, all the pre-production – before we went to the recording studio. All the guide-tracks and everything. Making sure we had a full album of demos, good quality demos, so we knew how we wanted everything to sound, voice actors, and everything. And that’s all before we went in and recorded the real album, so we could listen to it in full, which takes a lot of time in itself. Because it is a story, you need to be sure that it flows. You need to know that every song is in the correct order, musically. So yeah, we’ve got good responses.

Well thank you very much for your time, and best of luck. Hopefully we’ll see you on the next tour back in Finland.

Photos: Marco Manzi

(2017) Iced Earth: Incorruptible

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Artist: Iced Earth
Album: Incorruptible
Release: 16.06.2017
Label: Century Media

 

It’s been 3 years, which means it’s time for another Iced Earth album. There’s been some debate over the progression of the band in recent years following the departure of Matt Barlow on lead vocals. Not everyone was against Tim “Ripper” Owens (ex-Judas Priest) as his replacement, but I can’t say I was on board with him. Then, for a brief time, Barlow returned, but after his second departure, the band went with a much more appropriate replacement in Stu Block (Into Eternity). Block managed to fill Barlow’s shoes far better than Owens had, with a similar range and sound, but he also boasts a bit more vocal diversity. However, the albums since he joined the band have left something to be desired. 2011’s Dystopia started strong but fizzled out a few songs in, while Plagues of Babylon from 2014 wasn’t really much to impress. The third time’s the charm though, so I had hoped that Incorruptible would be that charm.

 

Well, first of all, I have to say that I’m pleased with their album art. I’ve always really loved Iced Earth’s cover art, with the exception of Plagues of Babylon, which maybe intentionally looked… plague-y, but it wasn’t visually pleasing and looked, in my eyes, to be a half-rate black metal album cover. So to see Set Abominae looking cool and professionally done again was a nice bonus.

The opening track, “Great Heathen Army”, starts on a deep, mildly foreboding note, that brings to mind some sort of impending Lord of the Rings -type battle, but brings in the traditional Iced Earth chants (think back to “Damian”). With a Viking-themed song, this feels pretty appropriate. Then there are… growls? They sound almost clanging, so if they are growls, they’re mixed with something else. And then Block comes in with his Halford-esque scream and the John Schaffer rhythm gallop begins! It starts to feel like real, honest-to-whatever Iced Earth, and the solo by Jake Dreyer works quite nicely if I do say so. We get some further Halfordian singing, and I like the rising guitar lines that close out the song. Not sure about the growly part in the beginning, but it feels like a pretty decent start to the album on the whole.

“Black Flag” continues with some haunting bits reminiscent of Horror Show (2001), before the guitars saunter in to pick things up. The track immediately makes me think it could’ve been from Burnt Offerings (1995) until it goes full Iron Maiden gallop about a minute and a half in. I’m also glad to see they’re not squandering Block’s Halfordian high singing at this point, much as they did on the last album. One line stood out to me instantly: “barrels of rum, black powder, and the clash of the blades” – I can’t decide if it’s just trope-y enough to be fun or if it’s a little too on-the-nose regarding pirate tropes, but Block is really emphasizing the ‘R’s in there. It certainly jumps out, as the music takes a backseat to that line each time it shows up. Nevertheless, I’ll go out on a limb and say that a pirate song that doesn’t sound specifically like a ‘pirate song’ (looking at you, Alestorm), but is simple a metal song about pirates, is pretty refreshing.

As the gentle backing music and guitar opens “Raven Wing”, the second single, I was immediately excited at the prospect of another Iced Earth ballad, and waited somewhat impatiently to see if the song would kick off or remain gentle. Block remains calm through the first verse, his deeper range sounding majestic. The guitars kick up a bit going into the chorus though, and the dream of a track-3 ballad fades, though the song remains perhaps a ballad+ (maybe ++) in speed, and appears to have at least somewhat heartfelt lyrics. It might be a bit early in the album’s flow for a gentler track at this point, but we’ll let it slide because the chill solo is really nice.

“The Veil” is another gentle and passionate starter, acting as a potentially high-oomph ballad+ with all the gusto Block offers in the chorus. I’d say at this point the flow of the album is a bit odd – a slower song followed by an even slower song at tracks 3 and 4 is a bit too soon or too much, and the album could’ve started with a bit more energy – maybe one more faster track before these. Credit for the spoken-word parts in here though, which is another Iced Earth tradition that I’d be sad to see missing from an album. Also, the flow thing is a minor complaint in the grand scheme of things.

The album kicks up again with “Seven Headed Whore” – what an odd/great song title. I wish I had the lyrics. I like the harmonizing of Block’s regular vocals with his high vocals throughout the track, as well as the solo, which I find very reminiscent of 1995-1998 -era Blind Guardian. Unexpected, but cool, especially considering the good relationship between these two bands. Ultimately, I think this was a good first single – it shows a lot of the band’s strengths currently, and while I wouldn’t necessarily call it an ear-worm, it does have some good power to it.

“The Relic (pt. 1)” then sounds a bit like a story song, with some very cool guitar parts yet again – I’m finding myself very on board with Dreyer’s performance on lead guitars. Of note, interestingly enough, there is not a part 2 to this song – or at least not immediately evident. A new story could be starting, perhaps? In vibe, this feels a bit like “Damian” but shorter – I love “Damian” but it’s awfully long sometimes, so this is working for me pretty well.

“Ghost Dance (Awaken the Ancestors)” is catchy right off the bat and the first song to truly pique my interest from the get-go, with its clear Iron Maiden influence, yet still sounding oh-so-Iced Earth. The long soloing intro works very well, and truly, this band’s rhythm section – not just Schaffer, but Luke Appleton (bass) and Brent Smedley (drums) – are really shining through. After a vocal-less chorus, I realized that this is, in fact, an instrumental track – not common in Iced Earth to my recollection, but definitely a song I’d like to hear live if Block needs a break midway through a show. There is a vocal part a little over halfway through though, and I can’t say if I like it or not – I’m not even sure if they’re words or sounds being sung, but they’re a little strange. Since the song’s title seems to sound somewhat Native American (for example), and there are some similar-styled flutes here and there, I’ll have to assume that chanting is meant to sound like a Native ritual or something of the sort. ‘Vocally’ it’s a bit odd, but musically, this song is an instant favorite.

“Brothers” brings the vocals back, and the song progresses in a fairly simple, but I’m happy to say effective manner, with a pretty cheery, brotherly (appropriate, no?) chorus. This could be the theme song for any two people taking on pretty much anything together, talking about trust and strong bonds. This could be a pretty basic example of the effectiveness of ‘less is more’ in music. I didn’t realize that this song is actually about Block and Schaffer, which makes it pretty special in that context. The song pretty much hits the peak limits of brotherly love just barely without crossing into the romantic zone; it’s cheesy, but I’m not gonna lie, I kind of love it.

A nice little solo/riff starts off the second-last track, “Defiance”, and on the whole this just feels like a straight-up good Iced Earth track. Nice energy, decent lyrics from what I can tell, a pretty good solo, and such wonderful rhythms. Few bands can really center themselves around the rhythms and pull it off the way that Iced Earth can. Block is nicely dynamic and it feels good to listen to this song. Actually, this might be the first song that got stuck in my head and feels like it’ll be really good to sing along to. Next tour to come here, I hope to hear this!

The album closes out with “Clear the Way (December 13th, 1862)”, and I had to look up what that would be about. The answer is, the Battle of Fredericksburg, and the Irish Brigade in particular. Clocking in at 9½ minutes, this is by far the longest track on the album, and works really well, so very well, as an Iced Earth epic. “Forward clear the way!” chants in the background as Block leads the charge with his vocals. The guitar breaks feel really organic and the song progresses really nicely – you’d hardly know the story was a tragic one because it’s so powerful. There is a straight-up Iron Maiden solo at about 4:45ish, and I can’t deny that I appreciate how much you can feel this band’s love for Iron Maiden, without ever really feeling like a rip-off. That influence is ever-present, but never feels cheap or unoriginal. The song then slows down with some bagpipes, shouting, and war drums (forgive my lack of drummer lingo, but are they the snares?), and then the song kicks back into overdrive. This song definitely closes out the album on a really high note, leaving the listener wanting more – exactly as the last song should!

 

At first I was wondering if what Iced Earth lacks these days is the emotional pull of songs like “Ghost of Freedom”, “The Dark Saga”, “A Question of Heaven”, “Watching Over Me”, and so on, but that really doesn’t seem to be the case. Iced Earth has always been at their best telling stories (making me again very sad that the press copies don’t come with lyrics because otherwise I’d have made this review much more interesting), and they certainly rock the stories on this album; there are lots of great lines and passionate parts on Incorruptible. But while this album on the whole is very good, it still lacks a few stand-out tracks. There aren’t any immediate ear-worms on this album (something Iced Earth has been missing since “Dystopia” and “Anthem”). That said, the album is actually very satisfying – I can listen to it both actively and passively, and in fact, while listening passively, more songs started to reach out and grab me, and I wouldn’t say there are any total duds either. I think it has some of the old things you loved about Iced Earth from the 90s, while it still embraces the newer members and has evolved in a positive manner. The album’s got a bit of a slow burn, but I do recommend giving it a few goes before making up your mind. I think, ultimately, you’ll find yourselves quite satisfied with it. So yes indeed, third time’s the charm!

Rating: 8.5-9/10, 4 stars

Tracklist:
1. Great Heathen Army
2. Black Flag
3. Raven Wing
4. The Veil
5. Seven Headed Whore
6. The Relic (part 1)
7. Ghost Dance (Awaken the Ancestors)
8. Brothers
9. Defiance
10. Clear the Way (December 13th, 1862)

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Hannes Horma (Silver Bullet, ex-Turisas), 2017

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We all know Hannes Horma from his time as bass player for Turisas, but where has he been since his departure in 2011? Apparently, he’s been playing in a new band, Silver Bullet. As it’s been ages since we’ve heard about what he’s been up to, we thought we’d share the playlist of his life with you!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
“Sininen Uni” by Tapio Rautavaara. I guess this was a really popular lullaby for us 80’s kids.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
“Chinatown” by the Hurriganes. I listened to a lot of my dad’s LPs as a kid and I always wanted to hear “Chinatown.” It’s still a cool song.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Emerald Sword” by Rhapsody. When I was a teenager, my father went to Germany to visit his brother. One evening he called me and asked if I want something for souvenir. I was reading Soundi magazine and there was an ad about Rhapsody’s Symphony of Enchanted Lands album. That album blew my mind and started my era of power metal.

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
The metal album that made me a metalhead was Metallica’s Ride the Lightning. I also had a book of tablature for the whole album and I practiced the songs a lot.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
I don’t really get songs stuck in my head, only my own songs that I’ve been mixing for hours… 🙂

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
“True Survivor” by David Hasselhoff. When partying, I have to hear it!

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Smash by The Offspring. Still one of the best punk albums ever.

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Hmm… I would much rather watch a movie or something when relaxing on the couch.

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
“Bring Me the Night” by Overkill. Fast and loud heavy metal. Does it get better than this?

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
“Theme from Jurassic Park” by John Williams. It has a special meaning for me and it also is one of the greatest movie themes ever written.

You can listen to Silver Bullet’s debut album, Screamworks, on Spotify here, and keep an eye open for our review of their show with Blaze Bayley that’s coming out this week!

BROTHER FIRETRIBE w/ THE NIGHTS – Tavastia, Helsinki, 05.05.2017 (English)

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The ambassadors of so-called tennis heavy metal, Brother Firetribe, have reached the honorable age of 15 as a group. While the band just released their acclaimed fourth album, Sunbound, since their inception the band has been forced to operate within the schedule of their guitarist, Emppu Vuorinen – he has been busy conquering the world with his other better-known band, Nightwish, for at least as long. Currently, Nightwish is having a year off, so Brother Firetribe decided to make use of the time by touring Finland with a total of eleven shows. The tour was justifiably concluded in Helsinki’s Tavastia on May 5th, so it was evident that the place was going to be packed with people and grin-inducing rock tunes.

 

As the show’s opening act, Brother Firetribe had selected The Nights, a band (so far) completely unknown to the larger audience. The mere 2-year-old joint project of successful musicians Sami Hyde and Ilkka Wirtanen (Hyde has sung in the band of TNT-vocalist, Tony Mills; Wirtanen is the court producer of Reckless Love) has released one track off their self-titled debut album, set to be released in the end of summer. I doubt that the band has played more than a few gigs so far, but as the clock struck 21:00, a lot people had already showed up, with some of them clearly being fans of the band, knowing most of the songs. From the opening song “Welcome to the Show” onward, it was pretty obvious that these guys were seasoned professionals, as Hyde’s and Wirtanen’s performances were laid-back, and bassist Harri Kokkonen and drummer Jan-Erik Iivari supposedly weren’t greenhorns either.

Regarding The Nights’ material, one cannot say that the guys have tried to reinvent the wheel, but it’s amazing how composing insanely catchy songs using only those four basic chords in a different order is still possible. The songs contained a great amount of variance, as there were both cheesy ballads and almost heavy metal-ish riffs between the more ‘usual’ energetic AOR tracks. If the Swedish Work of Art is to your liking, but a heavier output is not a problem, I’d suggest you dig into this band right now. As a whole, the show was excellent – The Nights had the element of surprise on their side, and they sure used it. My money’s on wider success!

 

After The Nights, an unusually long intermission ensued, as Brother Firetribe’s showtime was marked at 22:30. Tavastia started to fill up at a constant rate, and once the familiar tennis match intro track started playing, the venue appeared full. The show started off as expected with Sunbound’s titular intro and “Help is on the Way”, and the party was on. The band played “Indelible Heroes” before Pekka Heino greeted the audience for the first time and bemoaned the band’s old age. Afterwards, it was natural to play “One Single Breath”, since it’s reputedly Brother Firetribe’s first composed song.

I hate to say this out loud, but Brother Firetribe’s show was a bit two-fold. The band had additional spotlights on stage, making the show visually very appealing, and every player handled their parts as well as one would have learned to expect over these years. Surprisingly, the weakest link of the evening was Heino himself: the man’s focus seemed a bit off at times, and in addition he seemed to forget his lines (or he just didn’t sing them) on more occasions than would have been possible to just write off as rock show antics. Was it fatigue? Had he caught a cold? Hard to say, as during his interim speeches, Heino was himself and also clearly moved by the audience’s constant cheering.

Sunbound dominated the setlist, as a total of eight out of fifteen songs were from the new album. Considering the tour has been advertised as a 15-year anniversary tour, the choice was, in a way, surprising, but then again, Sunbound might be Firetribe’s greatest output on the whole. Diamond in the Firepit, released 3 years ago, was featured with only the video single ”For Better or For Worse”, and the only song, besides ”One Single Breath”, from the debut album False Metal was ”I’m On Fire.” The main set was concluded with ”Heart Full of Fire”, before Heino invited Jonna Geagea on stage to do a duet with him – I doubt we’ll see Anette Olzon performing the song anymore, for obvious reasons. My personal highlight on the set was the first encore, ”Phantasmagoria” – had Brother Firetribe been around in the 80’s, the band would have been enjoying worldwide success upon the song’s release. As always, the final song for the evening was ”I Am Rock”, still managing to entertain after all these years. The band bowed to the audience, receiving a thunderous applause. An excellent show!

 

The merch table seemed to attract a lot of people afterwards, as the selection featured a few older T-shirt designs in addition to the Sunbound-themed stuff. The coatroom service worked swiftly, as always in Tavastia, but I’ll have to point out the bar prices had once again gone up – it’s understandable to capitalize on the venue’s reputation, but 6,80€ for a small pint is starting to get ridiculous. Regardless, despite the small hiccups here and there, Brother Firetribe was once again solid as steel (or rock), and hardly anyone left Tavastia disappointed. I’ll see you guys at Tuska!

Setlist:
1. Sunbound
2. Help Is on the Way
3. One Single Breath
4. Heart of the Matter
5. For Better or For Worse
6. Shock
7. Runaways
8. Last Forever
9. Taste of a Champion
10. I’m On Fire
11. Big City Dream
12. Give Me Tonight
13. Heart Full of Fire (feat. Jonna Geagea)

Encore:
14. Phantasmagoria
15. I Am Rock

Photos: Feng Deng

BROTHER FIRETRIBE w/ THE NIGHTS – Tavastia, Helsinki, 05.05.2017 (suomeksi)

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Tennishevin sanansaattaja Brother Firetribe on ehtinyt jo kunnioitettavaan viidentoista vuoden ikään. Vastikään mainion Sunbound-neloslevynsä julkaissut bändi on toimintansa alkuajoista lähtien joutunut operoimaan kitaristinsa Emppu Vuorisen aikataulujen puitteissa, sillä miehen vielä astetta tunnetummalla yhtyeellä Nightwishillä on ollut kiire valloittaa maailmaa vähintään yhtä monta vuotta. Tällä hetkellä Nightwish viettää välivuotta, joten Brother Firetribe päätti käyttää ajan hyödykseen kiertämällä Suomea peräti yhdentoista keikan verran. Kiertue päätettiin itseoikeutetusti Helsingin Tavastialle 5. toukokuuta, joten tiedossa oli jo ennakkoon tiivistä tunnelmaa ja hymyn korviin nostavaa hyvän mielen musiikkia.

 

Keikan lämmittelyaktiksi oli valikoitunut suuremmalle yleisölle (vielä toistaiseksi) täysin tuntematon The Nights. TNT-vokalisti Tony Millsin bändissä laulaneen Sami Hyden sekä Reckless Loven hovituottaja Ilkka Wirtasen toissavuonna perustettu yhteisprojekti on toistaiseksi julkaissut ainoastaan yhden kappaleen tulevalta debyyttialbumiltaan, eikä keikkojakaan ole vielä kovin paljoa ollut, mutta kello yhdeksäksi paikalle oli ennättänyt yllättävänkin suuri joukko ihmisiä, joista osa tuntui olevan hyvinkin perillä The Nightsin kappaleista. Keikan aloittaneesta “Welcome to the Show’sta” lähtien peli oli melko selvä – nyt olivat tekijämiehet lavalla. Hyden ja Wirtasen kokemus näkyi esiintymisessä selvästi, eivätkä basisti Harri Kokkonen ja rumpali Jan-Erik Iivarikaan selkeästi ole keltanokkia näissä hommissa.

Biisimateriaalin puolesta The Nightsin ei todellakaan voida sanoa lähteneen keksimään pyörää uudestaan, mutta on ihmeellistä, miten ne tietyt neljä perussointua vähän eri järjestykseen laittamalla voi edelleen saada aikaiseksi hävyttömän tarttuvia rock-biisejä 27 vuotta 80-luvun päättymisen jälkeen. Vaihtelua kappaleista löytyi mukavasti, sillä keikan aikana kuultiin menevien AOR-rallien ohessa niin juustoisia balladeja kuin miltei heavy metalin puolelle lipsahtavia riffijyriäkin. Mikäli esimerkiksi ruotsalainen Work of Art maistuu, muttet kavahda rouheampaa ilmaisua, suosittelisin The Nightsiin tutustumista välittömästi. Kokonaisuudessaan keikka oli äärimmäisen hyvä – bändillä oli yllätysmomentin tuoma hyöty puolellaan, ja sitä todellakin käytettiin. Veikkaan että tästä kuullaan vielä!

 

The Nightsin jälkeen seurasi yllättävänkin pitkä roudaustauko, sillä Brother Firetriben soittoajaksi oli merkitty “vasta” puoli yksitoista. Tavastia alkoikin täyttyä tasaiseen tahtiin, ja Firetriben tutun tennismatsi-intron lähtiessä pyörimään tupa alkoikin olla täysi. Keikka lähti odotetusti käyntiin Sunboundin nimikkointrolla sekä “Help Is On the Waylla”, ja meininki tuntui olevan saman tien katossa. Perään vedettiin vielä “Indelible Heroes”, jonka jälkeen Pekka Heino tervehti yleisöä ensimmäisen kerran päivittelemällä bändin ikää. Seuraavaksi olikin luontevaa soittaa “One Single Breath”, onhan kyseessä bändin ensimmäinen sävelletty kappale.

Harmittaa sanoa tätä ääneen, mutta show’n puolesta meininki oli hieman kaksijakoista. Bändillä oli lavalla ylimääräisiä valospotteja ja visuaalisesti keikka oli todella hieno, minkä lisäksi koko bändi soitti juuri niin hyvin kuin Brother Firetribelta on ollut lupa vuosien saatossa odottaa. Yllättäen illan heikoin lenkki oli Heino, joka tuntui välillä tulkitsevan vain vähän sinne päin, minkä lisäksi mies unohteli (tai jätti laulamatta) biisien sanoja enemmän kuin rock-meiningin piikkiin voisi laittaa. Turnausväsymystä, flunssaa vai mitä? Paha mennä sanomaan – välispiikeissä mies oli kuitenkin oma leppoisa itsensä ja selkeästi vaikuttunut yleisön suosionosoituksista.

Sunbound hallitsi settilistaa, sillä viidestätoista kappaleesta lopulta jopa kahdeksan oli uudelta levyltä. Ottaen huomioon, että kiertuetta markkinoitiin 15-vuotisjuhlakiertueena, ratkaisu oli tavallaan yllättävä, mutta toisaalta Sunbound on hyvinkin mahdollisesti Brother Firetriben uran hienoin kokonaisuus. Kolme vuotta sitten julkaistulta Diamond in the Firepitiltä soitettiin ainoastaan videosinkku “For Better or for Worse” ja debyytti False Metaliltakin “One Single Breathin” lisäksi vain “I’m On Fire”. Varsinainen setti päätettiin “Heart Full Of Fireen”, johon Heino kutsui lavalle Jonna Geagean – Anette Olzonia tuskin fiittaamassa enää sattuneista syistä nähdään. Henkilökohtaisesti koin, että keikan huippukohta saavutettiin encoreksi säästetyn “Phantasmagorian” kohdalla – jos Brother Firetribe olisi vaikuttanut 80-luvulla, olisi kappaleella jyrätty koko rockmaailman tietoisuuteen ja maailmanmaineeseen. Keikka päättyi tuttuun tapaan “I Am Rockiin”, joka kyllä jaksaa edelleen viihdyttää. Bändi kumarsi yleisölle, joka vastasi valtaisin aplodein. Kova keikka!

 

Paitatiskillä tuntui keikan jälkeen käyvän kova kuhina, ja oli hienoa, että myynnissä oli myös vanhempia paitoja. Narikkajono purkautui Tavastialle tuttuun tapaan hyvin nopeasti, mutta paikka ansaitsee pitkän miinuksen jälleen kerran korotetuista baarihinnoista – ymmärrän, että nimellä voi rahastaa, mutta 6,80 pienestä tuopista alkaa olla jo riistoa. Joka tapauksessa pienistä kauneusvirheistä huolimatta Brother Firetribe oli Tavastialla täyttä rautaa (tai kiveä), enkä usko että kukaan poistui paikalta pettyneenä. Tuskassa tavataan!

Brother Firetriben setti:
1. Sunbound
2. Help Is on the Way
3. One Single Breath
4. Heart of the Matter
5. For Better or for Worse
6. Shock
7. Runaways
8. Last Forever
9. Taste of a Champion
10. I’m on Fire
11. Big City Dream
12. Give Me Tonight
13. Heart Full of Fire (feat. Jonna Geagea)

Encore:
14. Phantasmagoria
15. I Am Rock

Kuvat: Feng Deng

BROTHER FIRETRIBE @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 05.05.2017

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Brother Firetribe at Tavastia, 2017.
Photos by Feng Deng.

MANILLA ROAD w/ SATAN’S FALL & TOLEDO STEEL @ Kuudes Linja, Helsinki, 05.05.2017

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Manilla Road at Kuudes Linja with Satan’s Fall and Toledo Steel, Helsinki 2017.
Photos by Marco Manzi.

ANSSI KELA w/ PIMEYS @ Jäähalli (Ice Hall), Helsinki, 06.05.2017

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Anssi Kela at Jäähalli with Pimeys, Helsinki 2017.
Photos by Kirsti Leinonen.

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Blind Hen special edition, 2017

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This week’s playlist(s) come from another relative newcomer: Blind Hen. This collective from Helsinki, Hyvinkää, and Riihimäki take influences from bands like Kingston Wall, Alice in Chains, Amorphis, and Anathema, among others. They have already released three singles that have been out for a while, with a fourth just recently released. This week we have the playlist of Antti Valkama (bass) and Tero Kalliomäki’s (guitar) lives for you!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
Antti: Elvis Presley – “Tutti Frutti.” This song really hit me. I remember like it was yesterday. It was hot summer day maybe ’88 or so. I was sitting in my father’s Toyota and this was in the cassette player. I felt the groove and the voice of Elvis. I was blown away.
Tero: “Nightflight to Venus” by Boney M. I remember that vinyl in my stepfather’s collection and I listened to that album because of that mysterious and cool cover. I still love that song and I even saw Boney M. live in Finland couple of years ago.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
Antti: Guns ‘N’ Roses – “Paradise City.” Catching verse, Axl’s voice, black and white music video, the ‘danger feeling of the band.’
Tero: “Touch Me” by Samantha Fox.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Antti: Fu Manchu – “Evil Eye.” The first stoner song I heard. Simple, catchy.
Tero: “When the Sun Burns Red” by Kreator.

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
Antti: Sepultura – “Beneath Remains” and Metallica – “Master of Puppets.”
Tero: “Fragile Dreams” by Anathema. Anathema got me into world of doom, atmospheric, and progressive music.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
Antti: Massive Attack – “Angel”
Tero: “Kingston” by Blind Hen. I was just in the studio mixing that song and it still plays in my head… ”You must kill it, you must kill it”

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Antti: Rush – “Limelight”
Tero: There isn’t that kind of songs; if you like something, you just like it even if it’s weird for you.

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Antti: Metallica – Masters of Puppets
Tero: Metallica – Ride the Lightning

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Antti: Richard Ashcroft “A Song for the Lovers”
Tero: “One Last Goodbye” by Anathema

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Antti: Kyuss – “Green Machine”
Tero: Deicide – “Scars of the Crucifix.” One of my favorite death metal songs, ever.

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Antti: Mad Season – “Wake Up.” (Okay, I will not wake up, but it’s the most beautiful song)
Tero: Saattue – “Varjojen Saattue.” It’s one of songs that I’ve composed, written lyrics for, and I’m very proud of it. And it’s been made with good friends of mine.

 

Have a listen to some of Blind Hen’s singles here:

DARK TRANQUILLITY w/ NAILED TO OBSCURITY & WOLFHEART – Nosturi, Helsinki, 01.05.2017 (English)

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Dark Tranquillity, the Swedish pioneers of the so-called Gothenburg sound, are no newcomers to visiting Finland. The band, having released their acclaimed Atoma album last year, made a pit-stop on their release tour in the midst of the hottest Finnish party season, as they visited Tampere’s YO-talo on May Day’s eve and in Helsinki’s Nosturi the day after. For support bands, Dark Tranquillity had Wolfheart, Tuomas Saukkonen’s latest band, as well as Nailed to Obscurity from Germany, playing a more doomy style of melodic death metal. This presented a wonderful opportunity to end my party streak on a high note, as I was celebrating my last May Day as a student and Dark Tranquillity has been one of the most important bands for me at least over the past 10 years.

 

Since the show took place on a Monday night, the early showtimes presented a problem – I scoured the show’s Facebook event, but didn’t manage to find them anywhere, so I had to try to guess when to arrive. I had the feeling that I would probably be a bit late, and upon arriving at Nosturi around 19:45, Nailed to Obscurity was almost done with their set. I opened up Facebook one more time and finally found the showtimes, stating that the band had started 20 minutes earlier. Definitely my fault, but I’d like to stress that the showtimes should always be visible in the event description, instead of just posting them into the discussion.

Nailed to Obscurity wasn’t familiar to me in any way, but the few songs that I got to check out seemed pretty decent. Their slow songs had great guitar leads and the drummer played sharply; I could easily recommend the band to anyone fancying Swallow the Sun, for example. At the end of their set, the vocalist, Raimund Ennenga, thanked the scarce-ish audience for showing up early and retreated backstage, letting the rest of the band finish the last song. The members left the stage one-by-one, leaving the guitarist and the drummer to play the last bars. I was bummed to miss most of it, but what can you do?

Next up was our own Wolfheart. Led by Tuomas Saukkonen, the band took the stage and delivered a feisty 45-minutes of metal. A few years ago, Saukkonen used to have four different bands going on simultaneously, before suddenly announcing that he was going to disband them all, instead founding Wolfheart. Since then, the band has already released three full-length albums. I’ve always considered the outputs of Saukkonen’s various bands to be pretty similar, and unfortunately tonight’s show didn’t give me any reason to think otherwise, as Wolfheart’s material also consisted of fast melodeath songs, combining Saukkonen’s shredding guitar riffs, harsh vocals, double bass patterns, and blastbeats. To find something different when compared to Saukkonen’s previous bands, Wolfheart’s lead guitar riffs are maybe a bit more reminiscent to, let’s say, Amorphis, and the stand-in guitarist for Mika Lammassaari played them with ease; and he supposedly only had had three days to practice.

To describe it with only one word, I’d have to say that the setlist was a bit numbing; six of the seven songs played were fast and aggressive – only “Abyss” broke the pattern, being by far the most interesting song in the set. The stage sound might have been a factor, since one couldn’t get anything out of Joonas Kauppinen’s totally mushed-up double bass beats. Still, what I found the most annoying thing was Saukkonen’s total lack of interaction with the audience, as he didn’t say a word between songs, leaving the bassist, Lauri Silvonen, to do the speeches. Speaking of the audience, most people raised their hands politely when asked, but for the most part, the action in front of the stage was pretty static. Wolfheart had 50 minutes of play time, but I don’t think they used all of it. To conclude, and concur with our photographer Janne: that’s gonna be a no from both of us, but maybe we can try this again in Nummirock!

Setlist:
1. The Hunt
2. Strength and Valour
3. Aeon of Cold
4. Boneyard
5. Abyss
6. Zero Gravity
7. Routa, pt. 2

Time for the main event! Dark Tranquillity is one of those bands you simply cannot see live too many times, as they have eleven studio albums to pick songs from. DT has also kept the bar high in terms of material quality, wherein their countrymen, In Flames, dipped big time with their 2008 output, A Sense of Purpose, and haven’t recovered since. A moment before the show started, the curtains were pulled aside, revealing a stage-wide video screen, projecting the typical futuristic interlude visuals. Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” served as the intro track, after which the band took the stage and began – maybe a bit surprisingly – with Atoma’s “Force of Hand.” Performed without front spotlights, the photographers probably weren’t very fond of the choice, but the audience gave their all from the start.

After “Your Lesser Faith” followed, Mikael Stanne expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the audience and asked if everyone already has the new record. The band continued with the title track, “Atoma”, after which they took a turn towards more classical material with “The Treason Wall.” As a whole, the setlist contained a delightful mix of newer and older songs – “Monochromatic Stains” and “The Wonders at Your Feet” to name a few. Atoma was featured with a total of six songs, including my personal favorite, “Clearing Skies.” Visually the show was entertaining, as DT’s background visuals must have swallowed a good deal of their tour budget, based on their quality. The light technician did a great job, ‘playing’ most of the lights himself, without pre-programming.

The band seemed to enjoy themselves on stage: Stanne was his usual hyperactive self, bouncing around continuously, and the new bassist, Anders Iwers, smiled behind his formidable facial hair throughout the show. The guitarists, Christopher Amott and Johan Reinholdz, were both stand-ins for the tour, but it didn’t show from their playing – both are seasoned professionals after all. Because of the way the stage was set up, both Anders Jivarp and Martin Brändström were literally left behind, and especially Jivarp’s drum set was positioned to the far left corner – it would have been nice to watch his playing from a better angle.

The main set was wrapped up with Projector’s classic, “ThereIn”, resulting in a loud sing-along in its chorus. The band briefly retreated backstage before the encores. “State of Trust” was a bit peculiar of a choice, since one could easily have selected a Dark Tranquillity classic instead, but “Through Smudged Lenses” was a killer – after all, Character is by far the band’s best record! The show was concluded with the band’s greatest hit, “Misery’s Crown”, still claiming a spot on the list of DT’s finest songs. The audience cheered long after the end of the beautiful outro, and Stanne didn’t have to ask for anyone to raise their hands for a group photo. An excellent show from an even more excellent band once again, I have to say!

Setlist:
1. Force of Hand
2. The Lesser Faith
3. Atoma
4. The Treason Wall
5. The Science of Noise
6. Forward Momentum
7. Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive)
8. The Silence in Between
9. The Pitiless
10. What Only You Know
11. Monochromatic Stains
12. The Wonders at Your Feet
13. White Noise/Black Silence
14. Encircled
15. Clearing Skies
16. Final Resistance
17. ThereIn

Encore:
18. State of Trust
19. Through Smudged Lenses
20. Misery’s Crown

Photos: Janne Puronen

DARK TRANQUILLITY w/ NAILED TO OBSCURITY & WOLFHEART – Nosturi, Helsinki, 01.05.2017 (suomeksi)

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Ruotsalaisen Göteborg-soundin pioneeri Dark Tranquillity on Suomen-vieraana tuttu tapaus. Mainion Atoma-levyn viime marraskuussa julkaissut bändi rantautui julkaisukiertueellaan Suomeen kesken kevään kiireisimmän juhlakauden, sillä ohjelmaan kuuluivat keikat Tampereen Yo-talolla vappuaattona sekä Helsingin Nosturissa vappupäivänä. Mukaan oltiin saatu Tuomas Saukkosen tuorein bändi Wolfheart sekä saksalainen, doomahtavampaa melodeathia soittava Nailed to Obscurity. Allekirjoittaneen oli mukava päättää viimeinen opiskelijavappunsa suosikkimusiikkinsa seurassa, onhan Dark Tranquillity kuulunut itselle rakkaimpiin orkestereihin jo yli kymmenen vuoden ajan.

 

Koska tapahtumailta osui maanantaille, osoittautuivat soittoajat sen mukaisiksi – vaikka kuinka ennen keikkaa yritin, en onnistunut bongaamaan keikan Facebook-tapahtumasta soittoaikatauluja, joten jouduin saapumaan paikalle hiukan sokkona. Takaraivossa oli tunne, että olen todennäköisesti myöhässä, joten ehdittyäni Nosturille noin varttia vaille kahdeksan jouduin toteamaan Nailed to Obscurityn keikan olevan jo viimeisillään. Puhelimen vielä kerran taskusta kaivettuani avasin Facebookin, ja soittoajat pomppasivat tapahtumasta silmille saman tien – bändi oli aloittanut puolen tunnin settinsä jo puoli kahdeksalta. Noh, eihän tässä, joskin peräänkuuluttaisin jälleen kerran: päivitetään ne tärkeät infot aina myös tapahtuman kuvaukseen eikä pelkästään postata niitä keskustelun sekaan, kiitos!

Vaikkei Nailed to Obscurity ollut itselleni millään tasolla tuttu ennestään, se vähä, mitä ehdin keikasta seuraamaan, vaikutti varsin mainiolta. Bändin synkistelyssä yhdistyivät hienot kitaraliidit ja napakka rumputyöskentely, ja voisinkin varauksetta suositella bändiä esimerkiksi kotimaisen Swallow the Sunin ystäville. Keikan lopuksi vokalisti Raimund Ennenga kiitteli paikalle tulleita ja vetäytyi lavan taakse antaen muulle bändille tilaa fiilistellä viimeisen kappaleen päätökseensä. Bändi poistui lavalta vähitellen, ja viimeiset tahdit soitettiin vain toisen kitaristin ja rumpalin voimin. Harmittaa, että missasin suurimman osan, mutta oma vikahan tämä oli täysin.

Toisena vuorossa oli kotimaista tarjontaa, kun Tuomas Saukkosen luotsaama Wolfheart nousi lavalle soittamaan ärhäkän kolmivarttisen metallia. Vielä muutama vuosi sitten Saukkosella taisi olla käynnissä neljä eri bändiprojektia samanaikaisesti, kunnes hän yhtäkkiä ilmoittikin hajottavansa ne kaikki ja perustavansa tilalle Wolfheartin, jonka alla musiikin tekeminen on sittemmin jatkunut jo kolmen levyn edestä. Henkilökohtaisesti olen aina pitänyt Saukkosen aikaisempien bändien ulosantia melko yhdestä puusta veistettynä, eikä tämäkään keikka valitettavasti antanut aihetta muuttaa mielipidettä: homman nimi on edelleen nopeatempoinen melodeath, jossa yhdistyvät Saukkosen sahaavat kitarariffit ja örinä sekä tuplabasarijuoksutukset ja blastbeatit.

Wolfheartin liidiriffit tosin ovat astetta enemmän kallellaan vaikkapa Amorphiksen suuntaan, ja Mika Lammassaarta tuuraamassa ollut kitaristi soittikin osansa kuin vanha tekijä. Päällimmäinen fiilis keikasta oli kuitenkin aavistuksen puuduttava, sillä seitsemän biisin setistä kuusi oli nopeatempoisia juoksutuksia; ainoastaan viidentenä soitettu keskitempoisempi ”Abyss” rikkoi kaavaa, ja olikin tässä suhteessa ehdottomasti setin mielekkäin kappale. Asiaan tosin saattoi vaikuttaa myös puuroinen lavasoundi, sillä Joonas Kauppisen tuplabasarikompeista ei saanut käytännössä mitään selvää. Eniten kuitenkin ärsytti Saukkosen täysi kontaktin puute yleisön kanssa: mies ei sanonut kappaleiden välillä sanaakaan vaan antoi basisti Lauri Silvosen hoitaa välispiikit. Yleisö lähti kohteliaasti mukaan Silvosen aktivointiyrityksiin, mutta noin muuten meno lavan edustallakin oli yllättävän laimeaa. Bändille oli varattu 50 minuuttia soittoaikaa, mutta siitä taidettiin jättää jopa osa käyttämättä. Yhteisarvio valokuvaajamme Jannen kanssa: ei valitettavasti tällä kertaa jatkoon, mutta täytyy yrittää ottaa revanssi Nummirockissa!

Wolfheartin setti:
1. The Hunt
2. Strength and Valour
3. Aeon of Cold
4. Boneyard
5. Abyss
6. Zero Gravity
7. Routa, pt. 2

Sitten itse pihviin. Dark Tranquillity kuuluu bändeihin, joita ei voi nähdä liian montaa kertaa livenä, sillä yhdentoista studioalbumin diskografiasta löytyy aina ammennettavaksi erilainen setti. Bändin tuotanto on myös pysynyt erittäin tasalaatuisena läpi uran, siinä missä aseveljiensä In Flamesin kiinnostavuus romahti vuoden 2008 A Sense of Purposella eikä ole sieltä takaisin Come Clarityn tasolle noussut. Hieman ennen keikan alkua lavan verhot vedettiin syrjään, ja takaa paljastui koko takaseinän kokoinen tuttu videokangas, johon heijastettiin DT:lle tyypillistä futuristista väliaikakuvastoa. Introkappaleena soitettiin Black Sabbathin ”Iron Man”, jonka päätteeksi bändi astui lavalle ja aloitti setin jopa hieman yllättävästi Atoman ”Force of Handilla”. Ilman etuspottivaloja soitettu kappale tuskin oli photopitissä urakoivien valokuvaajien mieleen, mutta yleisö oli saman tien mukana.

Toisena soitetun ”The Lesser Faithin” jälkeen laulaja Mikael Stanne kiitteli vuolaasti yleisöä ja kysyi, onhan kaikilla uusi levy kotona, sillä seuraavana vuorossa olikin nimibiisi ”Atoma”, jonka jälkeen päästiin klassisempiin tunnelmiin ”The Treason Wallin” myötä. Settilista sisälsikin sopivassa suhteessa uusia ja ”Monochromatic Stainsin” tai ”The Wonders at Your Feetin” kaltaisia vanhempia ralleja vuorotellen. Atomalta taisi olla mukana jopa kuusi kappaletta, mukaanlukien henkilökohtainen suosikkini levyltä, ”Clearing Skies”. Visuaalisesti keikka oli viihdyttävää katsottavaa, sillä DT:n taustavideot ovat näyttävyytensä perusteella vieneet hyvän osan kiertuebudjetista. Valomieskin pisti pöydän ääressä parastaan, ja taisi ”soittaa” suuren osan valoista käsin.

Bändi näytti viihtyvän lavalla: Stanne oli oma hyperaktiivinen itsensä ja säntäili edestakaisin ja kelkkaan viime vuonna hypännyt basisti Anders Iwers hymyili kunnioitettavan naamakarvoituksensa takaa jatkuvasti. Jos kitaristit Christopher Amott sekä Johan Reinholdz olivatkin molemmat tuuraajina, ei se ainakaan menosta näkynyt, ja ovathan molemmat pitkän linjan ammattilaisia. Lavarakenteista johtuen Anders Jivarp sekä Martin Brändström jäivät kirjaimellisesti taka-alalle, ja varsinkin Jivarpin rumpusetti oli kasattu aivan lavan vasempaan takakulmaan – miehen rumpalointia olisi mielellään seurannut vähän lähempääkin.

Varsinainen setti päättyi Projectorin ”ThereIn”-klassikkoon, joka sai kertosäkeellään jälleen kerran aikaan hienon yhteislaulun. Bändi poistui hetkeksi lavan taakse, mutta palasi soittamaan vielä muutaman kappaleen. ”State of Trust” oli ehkä hiukan yllättävä veto, sillä tilalle olisi varmasti löytynyt jotain klassisempaakin, mutta ”Through Smudged Lenses” oli nappivalinta – onhan Character heittämällä Dark Tranquillityn kovin levy! Viimeisenä kuultiin tutusti bändin suurimmaksi hitiksi laskettava ”Misery’s Crown”, joka on edelleen myös bändin hienoimpia sävellyksiä. Yleisö hurrasi vielä pitkään kappaleen päättymisen jälkeen, eikä Stannen tarvinnut erikseen pyytää yleisöä nostamaan käsiään lopuksi otettua yhteiskuvaa varten. Hieno keikka vieläkin hienommalta bändiltä jälleen kerran, ei voi mitään!

Dark Tranquillityn setti:
1. Force of Hand
2. The Lesser Faith
3. Atoma
4. The Treason Wall
5. The Science of Noise
6. Forward Momentum
7. Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive)
8. The Silence in Between
9. The Pitiless
10. What Only You Know
11. Monochromatic Stains
12. The Wonders at Your Feet
13. White Noise/Black Silence
14. Encircled
15. Clearing Skies
16. Final Resistance
17. ThereIn

Encore:
18. State of Trust
19. Through Smudged Lenses
20. Misery’s Crown

Kuvat: Janne Puronen

DARK TRANQUILLITY w/ NAILED TO OBSCURITY & WOLFHEART @ Nosturi, Helsinki 01.05.2017

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Dark Tranquillity with Wolfheart and Nailed to Obscurity at Nosturi, 2017.
Photos by Janne Puronen.

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Tuukka Hanhiniemi (Limelight Showdown), 2017

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Photo by Joel Hiljanen

This week’s playlist comes from another local band, the Helsinki-based Limelight Showdown. Having released two EPs already – 2013’s Circles and 2015’s Mode: Crisis – these guys are currently in the studio recording six new songs to be released this spring/summer. This week we’ve got drummer Tuukka Hanhiniemi’s playlist for you!

 

1. The first song you can remember hearing as a child.
If we don’t count children’s music, I’d say it’s gotta be “Sinä lähdit pois” by Ultra Bra.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving.
“Pretty Fly for a White Guy” by The Offspring, no doubt about it!

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school.
At that time I was in my first ‘proper’ band. We played punk/garage -influenced music and I was blasting MC5 a lot, so I’d have to say “Kick Out the Jams” by MC5.

4. A song or band that got you into metal.
I wouldn’t say this band got me directly into metal, but the album that got me into the whole playing in a rock band thing was Appetite for Destruction By Guns ‘N’ Roses. I know this sounds like such a cliché to say, but when I found that album in my dad’s record collection, put it in the stereo, and “Welcome to the Jungle” started blasting, I was absolutely blown away by it. I remember thinking, “What the fuck is this?!” and I still haven’t gotten bored of that album.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head.
“Skin” by Rag’n’Bone Man. What a tune.

6. Your guity pleasure song/band.
I don’t really consider anything I listen to to be a guilty pleasure, ’cause frankly I don’t really care about what anyone thinks of the music I listen to. But I guess some people might be surprised by the amount of modern pop music I like listening to (stuff like Taylor Swift, Ellie Goulding, The Chainsmokers, and a Finnish ‘party rap’ group called JVG to name a few). I’ll go with “Sorry” by Justin Bieber.

7. The first album you bought with your own money/were really excited to own.
Americana by The Offspring. I got it as gift from my grandma, so I didn’t really buy it, but anyway!

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage.
“Spotlight” by Machine Gun Kelly. Always gets me emotional, haha!

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road.
There are so many! But one that springs to mind with a very particular memory is “Pakko päästä pois” by Tehosekoitin.

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral.
I hadn’t really thought of this one before, so it was kinda hard to pick one. I didn’t want it to be too in your face with the whole death and moving on thing, so I ended up with a beautiful instrumental song called “Kamaloka” by Gogo Penquin.

 

Check out their music video for their cover of Gwen Stefani’s “What You Waiting For?” here:

Or check out the video for “Anti Hero” here:

AYREON – Arjen Anthony Lucassen, 2017

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Well, if you haven’t already heard, Arjen Lucassen has done it again with his latest release, The Source! In honor of the new album, we thought we’d get a few questions in with the mastermind himself, and here are his answers!

 

To start, I just learned about your new album a week ago, essentially because I hadn’t been aware that you had changed labels. You had been with InsideOut Music before, so what prompted this move over to Mascot?
My Ayreon license contract with InsideOut was over. I had no intention of going to another company because I was perfectly happy with InsideOut, but Mascot offered me a great deal and everything about this label felt really good. I felt it was time for a new start.

You’ve mentioned in a couple of interviews that you’re thrilled about the freedom you’ve been getting with your music under the new label. Were there any restrictions under your former label?
Oh no, not at all!

You’ve said that you had no idea this concept/universe would grow so vast when you started it – when you wrote Into the Electric Castle, did you already intend it to be part of the same story as The Final Experiment, or did that connection come later on?
I never planned any of it! Reference just started cropping up; it’s almost like the Ayreon Universe slowly uncovered itself to me 🙂

At the time of writing, I haven’t listened to the album yet, but the story in The Source relates to AIs trying to destroy mankind on Alpha…
Oh no, the computer mainframe is simply trying to save the planet as instructed by the President. Unfortunately that meant shutting down the life-support systems…

Glad to clarify! Yet, presumably based on “The Star of Sirrah”, this would be when our human ancestors moved to the water planet that the Forever lived on in 01011001. If The Source is about AIs destroying the world and 01011001 is about the Forever having grown too reliant on technology and losing their emotions, I’m curious how the Forever were able to trust technology to that point after it destroyed their original planet?
Good question. They didn’t trust it at all, in fact they escaped from it and aimed to start a natural life without technology on the virgin water planet, Y. You’ll have to listen to the ending of the album for the answer to your question!

Is there any connection between the Astronomer played by Hansi Kürsch and the Biologist played by Floor Jansen in The Source and the Forever they play in 01011001? Could they be the same people or is the choice of vocalists coincidental?
Yes, they are the same people.

To my knowledge, you haven’t reused vocalists on albums very much in the past, but the cast of The Source is, in some ways, a best-of of Ayreon guests. How come you have so many recurring voices this time around?
The rule of ‘only-new-singers’ just applied to The Human Equation and The Theory of Everything. However, this time I wanted no rules and no limitations… I wanted the best singers in the world and I got them!

Do you consider all of Ayreon’s albums to take place within the same universe? The two in question are of course Actual Fantasy and The Theory of Everything – are they separate one-off albums or is there any connection between them and the rest of the universe, however minuscule?
All Ayreon albums take place in the same universe, which is our universe (I believe in a mulitverse). However, Actual Fantasy and Theory of Everything are story-wise not connected to the other albums. At least… not yet!

Has anyone ever had any conspiracy theories about this concept? By that I mean that, for example, as you played the Hippie in Into the Electric Castle and Mr. L on 01011001, has anyone ever accused you of being that hippie and that these albums are your way of warning the world?
Oh yes, there are even special websites for that! I enjoy it so much 🙂 Yeah, some are as nerdy as I am, love it! And the cool thing is, they have far better explanations than I could come up with myself 🙂

You’ve mentioned at least once that you’re a big fan of Alice Cooper; you and Tobias Sammet covered his song, “Elected”, and in that song there is a little joke about Alice Cooper mentioned there as well – have you ever tried to recruit him for an album, and if so, what prevented it from happening?
Yes, at some point I was very close. But then his personal assistant Brain Nelson, who I was in contact with, unfortunately died…

If you were to choose which song you would be remembered for (if it exists), which would it be and why?
I would choose the track, “Lost in the New Real”, from my solo album. That track is totally me, both musically and lyrically.

If you were to immortalize an existing story in music (in the same vein as Tuomas Holopainen with The Life and Times of Scrooge), what story would you choose and why? Or, would it feel too strange to put music to someone else’s story?
Right, I mainly want to come up with my own stories, especially for Ayreon! But at gunpoint I would say some good horror story like The Omen.

Lastly, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Fermi’s Paradox, but if not, it’s based on the following concept: there are billions of stars in the galaxy that are similar to our sun, which means that these stars could theoretically have Earth-like planets orbiting them and thus are capable of evolving intelligent life; since the universe is countless years old, these planets may be in various stages of evolution, which means many of them could be millions of years ahead of us and thus capable of interstellar travel; if that’s the case – where is everyone? (For readers, please find more info here). My question is, do you have any thoughts or ideas about where everyone might be?
At first we would have to determine what life is, and how it starts. I personally believe our universe is only a tiny part of an infinite multiverse. I think the chances of life in just one universe are astronomically small, even in a vast universe like ours. And especially existing in the same time-period. But in the infinite multiverse there is no such thing as coincidence and fate. There is no beginning and no end. In eternity everything will happen and will have happened ad infinitum. But definitely not at the same time. So this may sound strange coming from me, but I don’t think we’ll even detect or encounter alien life. So hey… I’ll just have to fantasize about it on my albums!

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Billie-Jade, 2017

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If you know Hatchet Dawn or Diamond Noir, you already know Billie-Jade. If not, this Australian vocalist has already toured in support of Marilyn Manson and the Misfits! Now it’s time for her to work on her self-titled solo project. Her first single, “Horror Haus”, was released in February 2017, and today we have the playlist of her life for you!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
My dad loved Rammstein, so when I was young he used to play “Du Hast” on repeat.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
“Mobscene” by Marilyn Manson. I saw it on TV and I still remember the moment I saw it. It was mesmerizing! I played with Manson a few years ago and was lucky enough to meet my idol on the road, which was an experience I will never forget.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
“Living Dead Girl” by Rob Zombie. I used to watch a lot of horror movies, play guitar, and listen to Rob Zombie on repeat!

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
Slipknot was a huge influence early on. But my mum was a big influence on me too. Growing up she’d start work when we went to bed singing at different venues and I’d see her sing sometimes and she literally sounds like Janis Joplin reincarnated. That strength in her voice was something that still to this day shocks people and she taught me to never limit my vocal ability.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
Motionless in White – “Eternally Yours.” It’s such a great track.

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Attila! That band is the best! I saw them last year live and they seriously blew me away!

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
A Perfect Circle – Thirteenth Step. I even made my mum come to their show with me because I was too young to go alone.

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
My Own Private Alaska – “Die for me.” It’s just a great combination of beauty and pain, all highlighted with haunting piano. Gives me chills!

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
“Embrace the Evil” by Upon this Dawning… just a sick tune!

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
I mean you don’t really plan for these kinds of things haha but I’d have to say whatever song at the time I had released.

 

You can have a look at the video for “Horror Haus” over here:

STEVE N’ SEAGULLS @ Virgin Oil Co., Helsinki, 21.04.2017

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Steve N’ Seagulls at Virgin Oil Co., 2017.
Photos by Feng Deng.

(2017) Ayreon: The Source

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Artist: Ayreon
Album: The Source
Release: 28.04.2017
Label: Mascot Label Group

 

In a glorious moment of complete ignorance, I only very recently found out that Arjen Lucassen has both switched record labels and is releasing a new album this month. I blame the former for me not knowing about the latter. Regardless, I was thrilled when I found out that this album was a continuation (or rather, a prequel) of the story of the Forever, which can be found in The Final Experiment (1995), Into the Electric Castle (1998), Universal Migrator, part 1: The Dream Sequencer (2000), Universal Migrator, part 2: Flight of the Migrator (2000), The Human Equation (2004), and 01011001 (2008). In fact, all of Ayreon’s albums save for two have been directly associated with this concept.

So what do you need to know about this album, right away? First of all, we’re going to hear a few familiar voices on this album, such as James Labrie as the Historian (Dream Theater; Me in The Human Equation), Hansi Kürsch as the Astronomer (Blind Guardian; Forever in 01011001), and Mike Mills  as TH-1 (Toehider; The Father in The Theory of Everything (2013) and Father/Rage in The Theater Equation). As well, the story is broken down into four chronicles and follows our human ancestors (the Alphans) as their world is thrown into chaos by giving control over to AIs that have surpassed humanity in intelligence, leading them to become the Forever from 01011001.

As for me personally, my favorite Ayreon albums are The Human Equation and 01011001, with the earlier material not quite grasping me as whole albums, and The Theory of Everything somehow not living up to the usual standard, regardless of how incredible the performances were. This left me in a place of hopeful optimism as I cracked open the album and put it on to listen. My only regret is having it so close to the release date so I can’t be more familiar with it than I am, because you and I both know that this is going to be intricate and deep, musically, vocally, and conceptually. That is the Arjen Lucassen guarantee!

This is an Ayreon review, so brace yourself for a long read, but with storyline spoilers marked at the end of each song so you can avoid them if need be.

Also, we have an interview with Arjen Lucassen coming soon, so stay tuned!

 

CHRONICLE I: The ‘Frame

01. The Day that the World Breaks Down
The first song released was none other than the first track, a 13-minute-long epic that features every major guest vocalist on the album, called “The Day that the World Breaks Down.” Frankly, if you’ve seen the video that was released with it, you’ll have a strong grasp on the concept and you’ll have met the (nearly) full cast. Watch this once and learn all you need to know from Mr. Lucassen himself:

Well, we’re off to a truly phenomenal start, which seems like a given when your first vocalist is James Labrie! I’ll say straight away that this song is a masterpiece on par with “Age of Shadows”; I can’t say that it’s better or worse because they are so stylistically different, but they’re both fantastic starter tracks and this lives up to its thematic predecessor, certainly. I love the new heavier metal sound they’re rocking, which blends so perfectly into the traditional Ayreon flute and strings. There’s some very Dream Theater-y prog in the beginning, and I also love the funky breakdown a little over halfway through, which accompanies the more hopeful parts of the story. The solo manages to be fairly light and airy, before the industrial/heavy parts continue, preceding Floor Jansen‘s (Nightwish) Biologist coming onto the scene. The song closes out with the sounds of screams and sirens.

Story spoilers: I’ve had a hard time placing when exactly this song is taking place, but I assume that Labrie’s Historian is explaining that the President (Russell Allen; Symphony X) has turned control over to the AIs and there is an ominous silence as technology begins shutting things down.
The Opposition Leader (Tommy Karevik; Seventh Wonder, Kamelot) expresses an ‘I told you so’ as he claims to have thought giving control to the AIs was a mistake. The Prophet (Nils K. Rue; Pagan’s Mind, Eidolon) says the solution will be in the stars, while the Captain (Tobias Sammet; Edguy) claims to have known this was coming and has a solution. Mankind enlists the help of a sole remaining sympathetic robot, TH-1, to help them find a way to save themselves after the AIs start shutting things down. The line of binary sung by TH-1 reads, “Trust TH-1” and could be construed as ominous or sincere, and really, knowing how things turn out by the time of 01011001, perhaps both are true.

02. Sea of Machines
The album continues with “Sea of Machines”, which has a rather mellow, lovely string introduction with continued hints of screaming and chaos and sirens in the background. The simple music helps to emphasize the budding panic that is slowly growing in the vocals and builds up nicely as the Prophet speaks in the chorus, offering a glimmer of hope, which the music nicely reflects. The Counselor‘s (Simon Simons; Epica) echoing vocals are haunting before she starts her part, while the music nicely balances the fear of destruction with hope for a solution as the chaos grows. This is a really emotional track – very cool!

Story spoilers: The Chemist and Diplomat (Michael Eriksen; Circus Maximus) explain how the AIs have been cutting mankind off from their technology, starting with phones, TV, and so on. The Prophet sees into the future, and predicts the move to another planet. The ‘Frame begins disconnecting mankind’s support systems and the leaders begin to wonder how to survive. The Captain offers to save humanity by taking some of mankind’s best onto the Starblade and leaving planet Alpha. The President, wracked with guilt over what he has done, promises to find a solution. The ‘Frame shuts down the power worldwide, and the Prophet alludes to other albums that take place in the distant future: 01011001 and Into the Electric Castle.

03. Everybody Dies
This song begins with a very industrial intro before it explodes into something that I can only call ‘Queen-like’ as Mills sings. I find this song actually pretty creepy on the whole, considering the music is really energetic, but dark and heavy, while simultaneously being really upbeat and perky… it works really well to create a gnawing feeling of anticipation and fear. Mike Mills’ vocal layering is again incredible in this track, and the trade-offs between the characters’ vocals are absolutely phenomenal. I assume the final growl must be done by the Chemist (Tommy Rogers; Between the Buried and Me), and I like it – there are some growls throughout and they’re easy to miss, so keep an ear open! This is one of my personal favorites.

Story spoilers: It seems now that TH-1 is panicking, as something in its unique programming seems to realize that destroying mankind does not save mankind, and now everyone will die. TH-1 encourages everyone to run, escape, but also realizes, ultimately, the planet will die along with everyone on it. The characters explain that they are running out of supplies and the core of the world is melting down (ultimately leading to a quantum supernova) – it doesn’t seem to be happening all too quickly though, as there are still a few songs before the plan is laid out. The Captain reiterates his offer to take their group of industry leaders off-world in the Starblade, and TH-1 agrees that this plan might work, even though the circumstances are hardly ideal.
If you want to see what I see when I listen to this song, well, imagine C3P0 from Star Wars reciting some version of the ‘Fuck!’ scene from Boondock Saints, and you’ll get a good solid idea of how I think TH-1 is reacting.

 

CHRONICLE II: The Aligning of the Ten

04. The Star of Sirrah
Before the leaders can leave Alpha, they need to find a destination, of course. There’s something so effective in the way James Labrie sings so gently and forebodingly, matching the image of a Historian who introduces each chronicle so well. The song kicks off after about a minute in true heavy Ayreon manner, with a great solo within the song by Paul Gilbert. The synth backing it up is so cool too. This is yet another song with good hopeful energy, but remains dark, as the characters discuss what must be done.

Story spoilers: The Aligning of the Ten refers a gathering of top leaders of their specialties to travel with the Captain to start a new world: the Historian, the Opposition Leader, the Chemist, the Counselor, the Prophet, the Astronomer, the President, the Diplomat, the Biologist, and the Preacher.
This track is about the above-mentioned leaders (chosen “for their skills and expertise”) accepting that there is no way to undo what the AIs have begun, and instead look toward the stars to find a planet to escape to, where they discover a place that could sustain life – a watery planet in the Alpha Pegasi solar system, orbiting the Star of Sirrah. Already they are coming to terms with the fact that they will be the only ones to go, while the rest must remain to die. The Chemist warns them that to survive on an ocean world, they cannot remain as they are, introducing Liquid Eternity (‘The Source’) at last, which they will use to evolve. The Captain sets the course of navigation and prepares for the journey.

05. All that Was
This song turns more personal, and we can now hear strong Celtic influences. It’s almost odd how upbeat and positive this song seems. Simons and Jansen star in this track, and if that isn’t a fantastic blend of voices, I don’t know what is. Jansen’s parts are so powerful on the album every time, that I wish there was a bit more of her on the whole. With a few exceptions, she mostly sings single-verse parts or comes in repeating feelings others have already expressed first, so this is a nice showcase of what she and Simons can do together. “I won’t be there when you die” is perhaps one of the harshest lines on the album.

Story spoilers: The Counselor and Biologist say their heartbreaking goodbyes to their loved ones as they must come to terms with the fact that not everyone is able to join them on the Starblade and they will leave their families behind to die. The Historian and Diplomat go on to talk about starting over and moving on. They say their farewells and leave their families behind.

06. Run! Apocalypse! Run!
Ah, this song starts sounding just like running and panic. The speed and intensity of the music perfectly backs up the mental image of chaos and apocalypse. The guitar, bass, and synth all blend to make the perfect panic anthem. The long solo suits the song, allowing the listener’s mind to to do the work, showing the madness that ensues the knowledge of a world’s destruction.

Story spoilers: And so the end begins on planet Alpha. As the world begins its descent into madness, the chosen few follow the Opposition Leader to the Starblade where the Captain awaits. The heroes make their way down the valley and up the hill to where Starblade awaits, as TH-1 helps the Captain prepare the systems. The Preacher declares that the devil has won on Alpha.

07. Condemned to Live
The music gets quite ominous in this song, as the characters reflect on what they were forced to do, with deep strings (likely the cello) building ambience. I find this part to be vaguely reminiscent of some of Iron Maiden’s epics, such as “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, in the way the music builds tension and a feeling of hopelessness. The song does rise up though, particularly during the solos, and at this point I just have to mention that Ed Warby on drums is a marvel.

Story spoilers: I imagine this song taking place right before or during the Starblade taking off, and a massive wave of darkness overtakes the characters as they experience their survivor’s guilt. The Historian and Chemist, as well as Counselor, become aware of the reality of what has happened, that they are forced to leave their people behind to fight and panic before the planet eventually explodes. They wonder why they get to live while billions die, while those left behind die alone with their hopes and dreams. The Diplomat encourages them to look to the future, to look at what must be done, and the Chemist reminds them of the Liquid Eternity.
There is a bit of ‘science’ here, as they explain that Liquid Eternity will alter and transform their genes. The Opposition Leader and Biologist try to let go of the past so they can focus on the future and escape their hellish guilt.

 

CHRONICLE III: The Transmigration

08. Aquatic Race
Here, what I believe is the Ship’s Crew starting things off vocally, though frankly, I had thought this was Mike Mills again, considering the proper high-pitched, layered, Queen-like vocals. It’s a bit confusing. A deep and dark, not-quite-industrial marching, chugging melody then takes off. I really love the staccato stops that preclude the Chemist’s part. As well, I think one of the coolest vocal pairings on this album has to be between the Biologist and Astronomer, because Floor Jansen and Hansi Kürsch are chilling when their vocal powers are combined.

Story spoilers: And so they take off from their ruined planet Alpha. It seems as though these chosen leaders will spend an eternity (the time it takes to reach the water planet, I would assume) in the Liquid Eternity, becoming infinite – planning their future, deciding to avoid all technology and machinery this time around to avoid making the same mistakes, and creating a world without death. The Chemist explains that the Liquid Eternity will allow them to become telepathic and will prolong their lifespans, allowing enlightenment and an existence beyond life and death, letting go of cares and fears.
This initially confused me a bit, because I had been under the assumption that the Forever on Planet Y had developed in a way that the aquatic race had developed tech and then it cured all illness, and that is how they became immortal and overly reliant on technology by the time 01011001 takes place. However, this seems to suggest that the Liquid Eternity is what made them immortal and already stripped their emotions down, though it appears that the result was the same nevertheless.

09. The Dream Dissolves
A wind-down transitions the songs nicely, with yet another darker intro, paired with some lovely flutes. A lot of the progression in this song is not unlike that in The Human Equation, thanks to the flute-violin combination, which I think will be a nice treat for fans of that album. There are some truly passionate and emotional solos in here, filled with longing and desperation. Marvelous!

Story spoilers: The escapees appear to be in suspended animation now, in the Liquid Eternity, evolving and dreaming of their future and what life will be like when they eventually reach their destination, as their dreams relate to being under the water. Their souls evolve as they see these dreams of their utopia, but the dreams dissolve; foreshadowing, perhaps, or the dissolving dream could be them slowly awakening.

10. Deathcry of a Race
This song starts out with the strong flutes yet again, and I particularly enjoy the hint of Arabic musical stylings in the beginning of this track, which rise and fall as the song progresses – it’s hard to pick favorite riffs, but this song has a few that are simply great. As well, we get a bit of Simons’ operatic vocals properly for the first time here – glad to see they were neither over- nor under-used on this album.

Story spoilers: The characters are awakening and can see their new planet approaching in the distance. The Opposition Leader reiterates how wonderful it will be, to live forever without technology, and this time they will do it right. The Preacher (Zaher Zorgati; Myrath) sings in a few different Arabic languages, perhaps of hope? The first line reads something along the line of, “He said there should be no light and there was light.” The second line, unfortunately, I haven’t yet been able to decipher. If someone can name the language and the meaning, I’ll update this!
As they awaken, they realize that in their long sleep-travel, their planet has been destroyed and everyone and everything the knew is now gone.

11. Into the Ocean
I strongly appreciate the very Deep Purple-esque organ parts in this song, which has yet to fail to bring a big stupid smile to my face. This is perhaps the most hopeful and positive song on the album and it’s so goofy and power metal-y, that I can’t not grin like an idiot and dance around when I hear it. The music certainly backs up the overarching feeling of hope and life.

Story spoilers: They approach their watery planet with great, great enthusiasm. This question seems to answer my question as to whether the new race can breed, to which the answer appears to be yes – they’ll start a new telepathic race and share with them their dreams and goals. This planet is untouched by both man and machine, so they begin anew and build a future without death.
I’m not sure my lyrics are accurate when they claim the Preacher sings the last part – I’m quite sure it is the Prophet, as it foresees a future rise of technology; a dark future.

 

CHRONICLE IV: The Rebirth

12. Bay of Dreams
The music turns slightly ominous yet again, gently flowing like waves. The song remains fairly constant throughout, with 80s-like synth for TH-1’s parts. The beat changes for the Diplomat’s parts, but remains fairly dark throughout.

Story spoilers: The Alphans arrive on their new planet and name their landing site the Bay of Dreams, where they start to rebuild. The guilt over abandoning planet Alpha still remains in the Chemist, while the Historian realizes that the star of Sirrah is too hot to face, and so they must stay submerged to survive. TH-1 wonders how he will fit into their new world, and what will happen when they don’t need him anymore. As they settle in and sink into their eternity of life, the Preacher (again, I think this might be the Prophet, mislabeled) foresees what is later to become planet Earth and its subsequent failure as well.

13. Planet Y is Alive!
This fast-paced power metal track brings life to the new aquatic planet. There’s something interesting in Hansi Kürsch’s parts in the chorus, as the music feels reminiscent of some Blind Guardian styles here and there. I also think there’s a part in here during the solos that must reflect some parts from 01011001, because they sound so familiar, yet not quite the same. The song builds to an epic conclusion with Floor Jansen taking over Kürsch’s part, again proving that those two sound shockingly cool when paralleled.

Story spoilers: The Opposition Leader still clashes with the President, distrusting his ability to make important decisions. They plan to build a new society based on their mental collective, always connected and working toward a common goal. The Opposition Leader seeks to start a new race of aquatic beings free of machines and science. The Captain sees the sun through the waves and remembers the planet they left behind. TH-1 backs up these sentiments.

14. The Source will Flow
How are there so many ominous songs on this album without it getting bogged down? I’m amazed. The music sounds so aquatic, yet the bits of industrial ambience mixed in feel so dark and foreboding. James Labrie is haunting paired with the strings, while Simons is similarly eerie as hints of industrial sounds reemerge.

Story spoilers: As the Alphans continue to merge with their new planet and The Source (Liquid Eternity), they begin to forget their past on Alpha as they focus on the future. They do this willingly, as it allows them to let go of their pain and grief. This song hints that the Forever will go on to forget what happened on planet Alpha as they spend an eternity as a new race, yet they will retain some part of their past selves that longed to expand and simplify, and will eventually redevelop technology in the future.

15. The Journey to Forever
A clever title, this one – it refers to how they will live forever, but it also alludes to how they become the Forever of 01011001. This is the second time the Ship’s Crew appear on vocals, and my problem remains that they sound really similar to TH-1, thus making it a little hard to differentiate between them. The strong Celtic influence is present again in this lively power metal anthem – if you want a positive song, power metal is surely the way to go!

Story spoilers: The Alphans have become a collective mind, living forever. They’re slowly forgetting what they once were as time goes on, and accept their future with joy and enthusiasm as they forget what happened on Alpha. An eternity of life on Planet Y separates them from their history. They’ve evolved into something new and are losing what it was that brought them to this new world. They become the Forever.

16. The Human Compulsion
The penultimate song brings the industrial fear back into the music, as if it’s inescapable somehow. The music in this song is wonderfully powerful, pairing with each of the main character’s fears and hopes as the song builds to its finale.

Story spoilers: The Forever wonder what Liquid Eternity will do to them in the long run, with each of them expressing some fear about what is to come – can they repress their desire to expand and explore, can they remember their mistakes so as not to repeat them, can they evolve without predators, will they survive, will their race succeed?

17. March of the Machines
The album closes on a horribly dark note, as it comes nearly full-circle in this dark and industrial horror story that is the final track. It’s a chilling way to end the album, leaving you cold down to your bones. This song feels like it comes straight out of my nightmares.

Story spoilers: With the Forever turning complacent, TH-1 predicts that they will come to rely on him again, and he too will evolve… to become the next Mainframe.

 

And so we have reached the conclusion of what has turned out to be an incredibly nuanced and thorough album. The music, the vocal parts, and the story all work very cohesively to create a masterpiece of a concept album.

If I am to compare this to other Ayreon works, I don’t think there has been such a fluid album since The Human Equation. The story in The Source is equivalent and even parallels that on 01011001, but rather than having a few long songs with many solos and repetitions, there are more songs that drive the story more thoroughly (yet not too quickly). The first half of the album centers around leaving Alpha, while the second half looks toward the future – even though the progression of time is vastly different in the second half, it progresses naturally, without rush or lag. As such, I’ll go so far as to deem it an improvement over 01011001, which is hard to imagine, but there you have it.

Without any background, the story can appear convoluted, and you certainly will need to listen to it a few times before you catch all of the little bits and pieces, and figure out the individual personalities and desires of the vocalists. The vocal lines in this album are particularly well-crafted, finding tons of rhymes to blend together masterfully, in songs like “Everybody Dies” and “Run! Apocalypse! Run!” Truly, there are some of the best vocalists/composers out there on this album. The music is essentially flawless, sounding very distinctly ‘Ayreon’, but still much evolved from the past albums.

What I think is truly the greatest part about this album though, is the overall existential theme, surrounding mankind’s nature – their desire to expand and ultimately ruin themselves every time. Mankind destroys their planet (Alpha), and moves on, to try again. They fail (Planet Y) and send their DNA on again to create Earth. This fails again, and the last remaining human goes on to become the Universal Migrator yet again. Likely, the pattern will continue in the future as well. It’s a dark theme, but it feels awfully close to home these days, no?

At this point, I’m feeling my usual hesitation at assigning a full score, yet I cannot come up with a particularly good reason to deny this album even a half point, so…

Rating: 10/10, 5 stars

Tracklist:
Chronicle I: The ‘Frame
1. The Day that the World Breaks Down
2. Sea of Machines
3. Everybody Dies
Chronicle II: The Aligning of the Ten
4. The Star of Sirrah
5. All that Was
6. Run! Apocalypse! Run!
7. Condemned to Live
Chronicle III: The Transmigration
8. Aquatic Race
9. The Dream Dissolves
10. Deathcry of a Race
11. Into the Ocean
Chronicle IV: The Rebirth
12. Bay of Dreams
13. Planet Y is Alive!
14. The Source will Flow
15. Journey to Forever
16. The Human Compulsion
17. March of the Machines

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Benjamin Connelly (Everfrost), 2017

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If a winter-metal anime adventure from Finland sounds awesome, we kind of agree. If it sounds ridiculous… well, we don’t disagree. However, if you’ve listened to Everfrost, you’ll know that regardless of how silly that line sounds, these guys know their business, and their special brand of anime-influenced power metal is both technical and fun to listen to. This week we snagged mastermind Benjamin Connelly and got the playlist of his life!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
It would have to be “Dancing Queen” or “Mamma Mia” by ABBA! My dad played a lot of disco stuff then.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
I started really getting interested in music when I heard “Detroit Rock City” by KISS.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
I was listening to a lot of Bodom, Turmion Kätilöt, and Nightwish in those times, but the song that brings the most nostalgia from then is “We Are Golden” by MIKA.

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
It was probably “Dark Chest of Wonders” by Nightwish and a mix of all the anime openings I was watching!

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
Definitely “Uhriveri” by Turmion Kätilöt; their new Dance Panique album is catchy as hell!

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Weirdly I find myself in the nightcore craze on YouTube sometimes. The idea of just speeding up songs and calling them nightcore is kinda silly, but some of it is kinda fun to listen to. I’m also big into Love Live School Idol Project, but I’m proud of that!

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
It was Destroyer by KISS. I was like 10 and their music and imagery amazed me!

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
“Lady of the Wind” by Whispered or “Death and the Healing” by Wintersun would go well with some hot glögi and rum!

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
There are many good ones but “Hangover” by Alestorm always goes well in the car or at parties.

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
I guess if I die young then “Happy Ending” by MIKA and if I die old then “The Last Amazing Grays” by Sonata Arctica. Could be fun to play something really brutal though!

 

Check out our gallery, report, and interview from their show at Arabia, and keep an eye open for these guys this summer!

Or check out their music on Spotify!

Or watch a music video here, for “Silver Nights, Golden Dreams”:

KOTITEOLLISUUS @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 2017.04.15

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Kotiteollisuus at Tavastia, 2017.
Photos by Tom Benjamin.

PERTURBATOR & CARPENTER BRUT w/ GUESTS – Nosturi, Helsinki, 14.04.2017 (English)

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Mixing movie and video game scores with ominous electronic sounds, synthwave seems to have been a hot topic for some time now – conceived in the mid 2000s, but not receiving wider recognition until with the brilliant crime flick Drive‘s soundtrack, synthwave has formed a kind of bond between the ones listening to metal and electronic music. The most prominent figures of the genre’s heavier side, Perturbator and Carpenter Brut from France, have both visited Finland before, performing to sold-out crowds in Vallila’s Ääniwalli, so Black Mass Finland apparently decided to hit it big by bringing these two synthwave giants back for a joint show. If one didn’t have anything planned for the Easter holidays, hitting the ticket stores would have been a good idea – there were still some leftover tickets available for both Good Friday’s Nosturi and Saturday’s Pakkahuone dates only a few days before.

 

Due to the size of the lineup, the Nosturi event started off already at 18:30. I had had a pretty long night the Thursday prior, resulting in completely missing the first band, the drone/black metal hybrid, Sink. I only made it right after the second-upper, King Satan. Considering the early hour, the semi-fresh industrial group, led by King Aleister Satan from Saturnian Mist, had a decent-sized crowd viewing their show in Nosturi’s lobby – the entrance had been moved to the bar’s terrace. The feeling I got from King Satan was extremely confused, as I couldn’t get a hang of the thing they were trying to accomplish. The backing tracks felt like they were stolen from Turmion Kätilöt’s leftover pile, and at times the sound in the lobby was so messed up that it was pretty hard to tell the live guitar or keyboards apart from the backing track. The band will release their debut album next month, and the excerpted song, ”Sex Magick”, delivered a steep contrast to the rest of their set – the keyboardist, Kate Boss, bounced around and sang with a high-pitched voice, almost reminiscent of a female anime character. Judging by their output on the internet, King Satan seems to have their tongues firmly against their cheeks, so it’s possible that I just didn’t ‘get’ this at all – I guess I’ll have to try again in Nummirock, but based on tonight I’ll have to give them thumbs down.

And, as Monty Python puts it, now for something completely different, as the Tampere-based psych rock group, Laserdrift, took the stage. It’s always nice to attend a show you don’t have a clue about beforehand, since you might be pleasantly surprised, and Laserdrift definitely delivered. Their first song, starting off a bit slow, expanded brilliantly towards its end, and the band didn’t hold the tempo or the volume back for the remainder of the show. The guys had dressed up in matching, obscenely 70s-looking patterned shirts, and for some reason I got a strong Eric Clapton vibe from their singer, Sami. Laserdrift didn’t get to play too many songs in the 30-minute set they had, so I definitely have to try it again in the future. A great show, even with the sound feeding back at times!

Let’s stick in Tampere: before Carpenter Brut, the one-man psychedelic black metal act of one Jose Rossi – Abyssion – was playing downstairs. After Laserdrift’s show, Abyssion’s raw black metal didn’t manage to convince me – the riffs, while being decent, were a bit simple for my taste, and I didn’t get a hang of Rossi’s bellowing singing style. Of course, I wasn’t familiar with their material beforehand, which probably would’ve helped. Some fans of the band seemed to be present, so I decided to leave the situation to the experts and head upstairs to find a good spot to witness Carpenter Brut.

I have to admit that, since I missed the Ääniwalli show a while back, I would’ve assumed that this would be a more traditional electronic music show, but no… as I got upstairs, the stage was set up with a drum set, a keyboard station, and a guitar. The band took the stage at 21:30, and the next hour went by in a flash. The big picture was clearly thought through – hilarious B-movie excerpts with Carpenter Brut logos spliced in were projected on the back screen, the lights were top notch, and the sound was excellent throughout. The drummer’s set included electronic drum pads with ‘real’ cymbals, not being as audible at times as they should’ve been, but I don’t think that anyone noticed. Comprised mostly of Brut’s first three EP’s, the setlist was played almost continuously from start to finish, and the audience was on fire for the whole time. For a moment it seemed that the band wasn’t coming back after the final song, but eventually they returned to play their ‘biggest’ hit, the Michael Sembello cover, “Maniac”, even including a lyric video – as if everyone didn’t know the lyrics! All-in-all, even with the seriously high expectations, Carpenter Brut was a surprisingly awesome live act. A special bonus goes out to the, “This preview has been rated TV for Titties and Violence” disclaimer in the backing videos!

It was time to return downstairs for a moment, as the last band in the lobby stage was the Helsinki-based rock-strangeness, K-X-P. The band’s material leans toward the repetition of simple themes and a large range of dynamics. Apparently the band’s drummer changes a lot depending on the situation, but the vocalist/keyboardist was pretty distinctive. The man empathized greatly in his playing, using his microphone sparingly. A sudden wave of fatigue, having struck in the end of Carpenter Brut, prevented me from enjoying the show in full, but K-X-P was still excellent – I’ll have to do a re-run the next time they have a show in town.

As I made it back upstairs, the fatigue had grown to such levels that for the first time in a long while, I had to order something non-alcoholic. I managed to glance at the stage for a moment, which contained a nice number of props – the light spots that were beside the stage during Carpenter Brut were set up in the back, and the center area contained a metallic stall for the DJ table and a few keyboards. At midnight, the light tech lit the stage up to its full extent, as Perturbator’s intro tape began playing. James Kent got on stage, kicked off the set with “Neo Tokyo”, and the fatigue disappeared almost instantly! The additional lighting delivered a huge amount of power to the show as the light tech was working full time, and the packed venue cheered for Perturbator at least as much as they had for Carpenter Brut. Kent played some of his parts live with the keyboards, but naturally this wasn’t as visually appealing as Carpenter Brut’s whole-band live. The setlist contained tracks mostly from the two latest Perturbator albums, but a few older tracks, ”Technoir” and ”Sexualizer”, were squeezed in, along with the latest single, “Tactical Precision Disarray”, from last December. The main set ended with “She Moves Like a Knife”, after which Kent returned to start “Welcome Back”, the intro track of Dangerous Days, expectedly followed by the titular “Perturbator’s Theme.” The show finished almost anticlimactically, as Kent only bowed to the audience and walked off stage, and the lights were turned on instantly afterwards. It was time to go home.

 

If the evening had progressed nicely so far, at its end I almost felt bad for Nosturi’s crew – I’ve never seen so many empty and trampled beer cans across the upstairs floor, easily reflected on the drunk faces of people going downstairs; people don’t litter like this at sold-out metal shows. The coatroom location change caused a pretty bad jam in the staircase, and making one’s way down took an almost frustratingly long time. Apparently the situation wasn’t that much better earlier on, as people were only making their way in, which is a shame, since the downstairs stage functions a lot better in the lobby than in the bar. As a whole, the evening was still a success, and people expressed their thanks for the large variety of bands on the Facebook event page quickly afterwards. Synthwave works even better live, so if you missed this event, make sure to attend next time!

PERTURBATOR & CARPENTER BRUT w/ VIERAAT – Nosturi, Helsinki, 14.04.2017 (suomeksi)

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Elokuva- ja videopelimusiikkia synkkään elektroniseen soundiin yhdistelevä synthwave tuntuu olleen jo hetkisen aikaa kaikkien huulilla. 2000-luvun puolivälissä syntyneestä, mutta vasta vuoden 2011 loistavan rikosleffa Driven soundtrackin myötä suurempaan tunnettuuteen nousseesta genrestä on kehkeytynyt jonkinlainen liima konemusiikkia ja metallia kuuntelevien väestönosien välille. Genren raskaamman laidan tunnetuimpiin nimiin kuuluvat ranskalaiset Perturbator sekä Carpenter Brut ovat molemmat käyneet Suomessa aikaisemminkin, ja Vallilan Ääniwallissa järjestetyt iltamat on myyty järjestään loppuun. Aiemmin lähinnä black metal -keikkoja järjestänyt Black Mass Finland päättikin iskeä pääsiäisen aikoihin markkinarakoon tuomalla nämä kaksi synthwave-suuruutta yhteiskeikoille peräti kahteen kaupunkiin: pitkänäperjantaina reivattiin Helsingin Nosturissa ja päivää myöhemmin Tampereen Pakkahuoneella. Mukaan molemmille keikoille oli saatu kirjava edustus kone- ja bändimusiikkia, joten mikäli pidennetylle viikonloppuvapaalle ei ollut muuta menoa, kannatti ehdottomasti suunnata lippukaupoille – molemmille keikoille nimittäin sai lippuja tapahtumapäivälle asti.

 

Esiintyjäkaartin koosta johtuen iltama alkoi Nosturissa jo puoli seitsemältä, joten allekirjoittaneen pitkäksi venähtäneestä edellisillasta johtuen ensimmäisenä vuorossa ollut drone/black metal –hybridi Sink tuli valitettavasti missattua täysin. Pääsin paikalle toisena vuorossa olleen King Satanin aloituksen jälkeen. Saturnian Mistissäkin vaikuttavan King Aleister Satanin luotsaama tuoreehko industrial-ryhmä oli kerännyt ihan mukavankokoisen yleisön ihmettelemään menoaan Nosturin aulaan – sisäänkäynti tapahtumaan sujui katutason baarin terassin puolelta. Päällimmäinen fiilis King Satanista oli äärimmäisen hämmentynyt – en missään vaiheessa saanut kiinni siitä, mitä tässä koetettiin saavuttaa. Nauhalta tulleet industrial-biitit tuntuivat Turmiön Kätilöiden jämälaatikosta pöllityiltä, minkä lisäksi koko soundi puuroutui aulassa sen verran pahasti, että paikoitellen oli vaikeaa erottaa livenä soitettua kitaraa ja synaa taustanauhasta. Toukokuussa julkaistavalta debyyttilevyltä soitettu ”Sex Magick” sisälsi myös harvinaisen jyrkkää kontrastia muuhun keikkaan verrattuna – synisti Kate Boss oli pomppiessaan ja kimeästi laulaessaan kuin animesarjasta repäisty hahmo. Bändi tuntuu etenevän vahvasti kieli poskessa netistä kaivettujen tietojen perusteella, joten ehkä vain en ”tajunnut” tätä. Pitänee yrittää Nummirockissa uudestaan, mutta ainakin tämäniltaisen perusteella King Satan kallistuu henkilökohtaisesti ainakin vielä toistaiseksi ei jatkoon –puolelle.

King Satanin jälkeen vuorossa oli montypythonmaisesti todeten jotain aivan muuta, kun tamperelainen happorock-ryhmä Laserdrift nousi lavalle. On mukava käydä keikoilla, joista ei ole etukäteen mitään käsitystä, sillä Laserdrift onnistui yllättämään äärimmäisen positiivisesti. Hieman hitaasti liikkeelle lähtenyt ensimmäinen kappale paisui loppua kohden hienosti, eikä tempoa tai volyymia juuri pudotettu loppua kohden. Bändi oli pukeutunut yhdenmukaisesti hävyttömän 70-lukulaisiin kuvioituihin kauluspaitoihin, ja laulaja-kitaristi Samista puolipitkine hiuksineen tuli jostain syystä mieleen Eric Clapton. Puolessa tunnissa ei ehditty kuulla montakaan kappaletta, joten pakkohan tätä on mennä katsomaan seuraavallakin kerralla. Kova keikka, vaikka lavaääni paikoitellen lähtikin kiertämään!

Pysytellään Tampereella: ennen Carpenter Brutia vuorossa oli vielä Jose Rossin yhden miehen psykedeelinen black metal –akti Abyssion. Laserdriftin todella mainion keikan jälkeen Rossin sekä livebasistin ja –rumpalin konstailematon black metal ei jotenkin onnistunut vakuuttamaan, bändin biisimateriaalista kun ei ollut etukäteen käsitystä. Sinänsä toimivat riffit olivat melko yksinkertaisia, enkä oikein saanut kiinni Rossin huutavasta laulutyylistä – varmasti olisi auttanut, jos tuotantoon olisi tutustunut etukäteen. Bändistä pitäviä oli kuitenkin selkeästi paikalla, joten päätin muutaman biisin jälkeen jättää homman asiantuntijoille ja lähteä etsimään yläkerrasta fiksun paikan todistaa Carpenter Brut.

Täytyy myöntää, että taannoisen Ääniwalli-keikan missanneena olisin olettanut tästä tulevan perinteisempi konemusiikkikeikka, mutta mitä vielä: lavalle olikin aseteltu rumpusetti, synapatteri ja kitara. Bändin noustessa lavalle puoli kymmeneltä päästiin itse asiaan, ja seuraava reilu tunti hujahtikin äkkiä. Kokonaisuus oli viimeistä piirtoa myöten mietitty: taustalle heijastettiin hulvattomia B-luokan elokuvista poimittuja kohtauksia, joihin oli editoitu Carpenter Brutin logoja sinne tänne, valot olivat huippuluokkaa ja miksaus pääosin erittäin hyvä. Rumpalin setti oli koottu sähkörummuista sekä ”aidoista” pelleistä, jotka paikoitellen hukkuivat joukkoon, mutta menoa se ei haitannut. Pääosin Brutin kolmesta ensimmäisestä EP:stä koostuneen setin kappaleet soitettiin lähes peräkkäin, mutta yleisö pomppi ja pui nyrkkejään koko ajan. Hetkisen jo näytti siltä, ettei bändi palaisi setin päättymisen jälkeen lavalle, mutta saatiinhan sieltä vielä se ns. suurin hittikin, eli Michael Sembello –cover ”Maniac”, johon oli vieläpä tehty lyriikkavideo – aivan kuin kaikki eivät olisi sanoja ulkoa osanneet muutenkin. Kaiken kaikkiaan Carpenter Brut oli kovista odotuksistakin huolimatta yllättävän kova livenä. Erityisbonus ”This preview has been rated TV for Titties and Violence” –disclaimerista taustavideossa!

Oli aika palata vielä hetkeksi alakertaan, sillä yhdeltätoista baarin lavan otti haltuun helsinkiläinen rock-outoiluryhmä K-X-P. Bändin materiaali perustuu yksinkertaisten teemojen toistoon sekä dynamiikan voimakkaaseen vaihteluun. Rumpalin pallilla on ilmeisesti vähän tilanteesta riippuen eri soittaja, jonka henkilöllisyys jäi ruskeaan kaapuun sonnustautumisen vuoksi arvoitukseksi, mutta vokalisti/synisti Timo Kaukolammesta ei juuri voinut erehtyä. Mies eläytyi voimakkaasti soittoonsa ja huusi sanoja mikrofoniinsa vain paikoitellen. Carpenter Brutin loppuvaiheessa iskenyt äkkinäinen väsymys vei keikasta sen kovimman tehon, mutta kyllähän K-X-P silti kova oli – täytyy ottaa uusiksi heti kun vain mahdollisuus tarjoutuu.

Kun pääsin takaisin yläkertaan, oli väsymys kasvanut sen verran kovaksi että tiskiltä oli pakko mennä tilaamaan jotain alkoholitonta. Ehdin hetkisen ajan ihastella lavaa, jonne oli roudattu suuri määrä rekvisiittaa – jo Carpenter Brutin keikan aikana lavan reunoilla seisseet valopylväät oli nyt aseteltu lavan taustalle, minkä lisäksi lavan keskelle oli rakennettu jonkinlainen karsina DJ-pöydälle ja parille syntikalle. Puoliltaöin valomies sytytti lavan täyteen loistoonsa Perturbatorin intronauhan lähtiessä käyntiin. James Kent nousi lavalle, käynnisti settinsä ”Neo Tokyolla”, ja väsymys hävisi kummasti saman tien! Lisävalot toivat keikkaan todella paljon lisäpotkua valomiehen laittaessa parastaan, ja täysi Nosturi osoitti suosiotaan Perturbatorille läpi keikan vähintään samalla voimalla kuin Carpenter Brutillekin. Kent soitti joitain osia kappaleista syntikoillaan, joskaan tämä ei visuaalisesti tietenkään tarjonnut yhtä paljon kuin Carpenter Brutin bändi-live. Setissä pysyteltiin hyvin pitkälle kahdella uusimmalla levyllä, mutta mukana oli myös pari vanhempaa kappaletta, ”Technoir” sekä ”Sexualizer”, kuin myös viime joulukuussa julkaistu uusin sinkku ”Tactical Precision Disarray”. Varsinainen setti päättyi ”She Moves Like a Knifeen”, jonka jälkeen Kent palasi odotetusti vielä lavalle, käynnisti Dangerous Days -levyn intron ”Welcome Back”, jonka jälkeen tärähti vielä tuttu ”Perturbator’s Theme”. Keikka päättyi miltei antiklimaattisesti, kun Kent ainoastaan kumarsi yleisölle ja käveli pois lavalta, minkä jälkeen valot sytytettiin käytännössä saman tien. Oli aika lähteä kotiin.

 

Jos ilta oli sujunut mainiosti toistaiseksi, niin lopuksi miltei harmitti Nosturin henkilökunnan puolesta – en ole koskaan nähnyt vastaavaa määrää tyhjiä ja tallottuja tölkkejä pitkin lattioita, ja kyllä sen huomasi alakertaan pyrkivien ihmisten kisakunnostakin. Ei loppuunmyydyillä metallikeikoilla tällä tavalla roskata. Narikan siirtäminen Nosturin aulasta pihalle aiheutti myös todella pahan ruuhkan portaikkoon, ja yläkerrasta joutui jonottamaan pääsyään aulaan miltei turhauttavan pitkään. Narikka oli ilmeisesti vetänyt kohtuullisen hitaasti myös sisäänpäin aiemmin illalla. Harmi sinänsä, sillä alakerran lavan asemointi aulaan toimii pienempien bändien näyttämönä todella hyvin pienestä kaikumisesta huolimatta. Kokonaisuutena ilta oli kuitenkin varsin onnistunut, ja suurta vaihtelua esiintyjäkunnassa oltiin kiitelty Facebookissa nopeasti jälkeenpäin. Synthwave toimii kovaa nimenomaan livenä, joten jos tämä keikka jäi väliin, muista tulla paikalle seuraavalla kerralla!

POETS OF THE FALL @ Tavastia, Helsinki 14.04.2017

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Poets of the Fall at Tavastia, 2017.
Photos by Janne Puronen.

(2017) The Surge: The End Goes On

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Artist: The Surge
Album: The End Goes On
Released: 04.2017
Label: self-published

 

About once a year I come across a demo or a new band that actually piques my interest. It doesn’t happen a lot because I’m pretty set in my ways musically, so anything new has to hit all the right notes to worm its way into my heart, and The Surge has certainly made an effort to do just that. You can listen along on SoundCloud by clicking this link!

What can I say? 99% of the time, when I throw a random demo on, I think, “Ehh, it’s like Band X and/or Band Y, but not as good.” However, on this occasion, the thought process went like, “Huh, this feels a bit like Insomnium’s vocals, and a bit of their rhythm, meets the good quality guitarwork of the lost In Flames of yore.” If you know me, you know I’ve become saddened by In Flames of late, so anything that brings back that nostalgia of the Clayman (1999) and Come Clarity (2006) eras is bound to please me.

So what do you need to know about these guys? This project was started by Johan Enbom (vocals, rhythm guitar) and Ludwig Thurfjell (drums), who have collaborated on musical projects of various incarnations since their teenage years. By 2014, they had Emil Rudegran (guitar) and Tobias Jonsson (bass) on board as well, and their first song, “For as the Gods”, was released in 2014. Now they felt it was time to bridge the gap and release a promotional album.

 

The album starts out with “Author of Damnation”, and already at 00:45 you can hear the guitar technique that reminds me so strongly of oldschool In Flames. As well, the vocals have a certain Niilo Sevänen flavor to them, which I appreciate, though I think these growls are more diverse, or maybe dynamic is the word I’m looking for. There’s good energy throughout, and I like the riff – it stands out and blends in exactly when it needs to. There’s a nice little solo towards then end as well, and the song fades out on another guitar line.

The second track, “Shallow Waters”, kicks off by demonstrating their positive, high energy. The beat gets a bit thrashy without getting unappealing to someone who dislikes thrash (think “Take this Life” by In Flames when comparing that near-thrash-but-not-quite vibe). This just feels so Gothenburg, so Swedish, and in my books, that’s a really good thing. Another chill solo is present in this track, and is interestingly (and quite uncommonly, I’d say) the slowest part of the song. Strong vocals and guitarwork again follow. “Icons” continues the quality, with an entirely different beat to its predecessor, slowed down, with a bit of a marching beat interspersed here and there. As well, this is the first track to throw some gritty-yet-clean vocals into the mix, surprisingly also done by Johan Enbom, and this track has a more metalcore vibe than Gothenburg, if we’re splitting hairs.

“Among the Ruins” is a personal highlight, though it’s no secret that I really love Robert Stjärnström’s (Machinae Supremacy) voice, and the way they’ve worked his parts into the music and blended it with the other vocals… well, it really works for me. I wouldn’t have guessed that Stjärnström’s vocal style would work this well in a melodic death metal context, so color me positively surprised! As well, I like the music in this one a lot, with some of my favorite guitar lines, great drumming, and strong rhythm. This is a cool example of what creative minds just having a beer and chatting can accomplish.

The band’s ‘sound’ has been solidified by “The Enigma”, as you can get a feel for the type of beats they like to work with and the way the vocals are working. This song is very particularly reminiscent of Insomnium, though I can’t place if there’s one specific song that it reminds me of (I’ve never been good at remembering their song names). I like the layering of the vocals a lot in the chorus here, as well as how the speed builds up in the chorus.

The solid music continues in “Creator/Destroyer”, and I enjoy the heavy drums that accompany the solo. It makes me wonder if I can think of another drum-heavy guitar solo, and if not, this is kind of cool. “Dreams Asleep” starts off slow with almost Iron Maiden-esque guitar lines, but kicks off back into the Gothenburg style. The chorus again sounds a bit In Flames-like, perhaps from the A Sense of Purpose (2008) -era or a bit earlier. Some deeper vocals follow the chorus, and my appreciation for Enbom’s singing only grows. The song ends on a fade-out with the vocals still going.

Finally, the album closes out with the title track, and I immediately like the finality of the song’s feeling. Daniel Holmgren does guest vocals on this track as well, which stick out a bit and it’s perhaps the only thing on this album I’m not convinced of, as the melodic death metal and metalcore clash just slightly here. However, I still enjoy the track on the whole (it’s Holmgren’s personal vocal style that isn’t my favorite, not the song itself), and ultimately, I think the album ends on a high note.

 

On the whole, I don’t think this album in any way reinvents the wheel; however, the nostalgia value of a bunch of sounds that I strongly enjoy, very cleverly blended together in unique ways, is more than enough to please. As a promotional album to show what could be possible in the future, I certainly like what’s going on here and would be happy to see more in the future. Also, if In Flames decide that they want to start writing good music again, I know who I’ll recommend them to get in touch with.

Rating: 9/10, 4.5 stars

Tracklist:
1. Author of Damnation
2. Shallow Waters
3. Icons
4. Among the Ruins (ft. Robert Stjärnström)
5. The Enigma
6. Creator/Destroyer
7. Dreams Asleep
8. The End Goes On

PSYCHEWORK w/ KAMARA @ On the Rocks, Helsinki, 14.04.2017

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Psychework with Kamara at On the Rocks, 2017.
Photos by Tom Benjamin.

MAJ KARMA @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 13.04.2017

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Maj Karma at Tavastia, 2017.
Photos by Feng Deng.

BLACK METAL RACCOONS w/ THE HOLY @ Kuudes Linja, Helsinki, 07.04.2017

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Black Metal Raccoons with The Holy at Kuudes Linja, 2017.
Photos by Marco Manzi.

HAVOK w/ EXMORTUS, GOROD, & WARBRINGER @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 11.04.2017

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Havok recently played at Tavastia in Helsinki, accompanied by Exmortus, Gorod, and Warbringer.
Photos by Marco Manzi.

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Leo Stillman, 2017

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Photo by Andre Pozusis

Today’s name is Leo Stillman. If you haven’t heard of Leo, here’s some background: he started playing music at age 3-4, and when guitar didn’t originally work out for him, he picked up drums at around age 10. However, that desire never quite ebbed and as of now, he’s been practicing guitar for 8 years and singing for 7. He’s played in several bands, but as of 2017, he has his first solo album coming out. Here is the playlist of his life:

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
This is hard… Maybe Michael Jackson – “Beat It” or Rauli Badding – “Paratiisi.”

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
Michael Jackson – “Beat It”

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Fall Out Boy – “Thanks for the Memories”

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
HIM

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
The Weeknd – “Starboy”

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Hmm… I don’t know. I really love all music.

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Neil Young – Harvest

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Biffy Clyro – “Little Soldiers”

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
The Killers – “When You Were Young”

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
J. Karjalainen – “Hän.” It would remind all my friends and family how much I really love them.

 

Check out the video for “Mun piti olla sun” here:

APULANTA @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 08.04.2017

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Apulanta at Tavastia, 2017.
Photos by Charlotta Rajala.

AMARANTHE w/ BLIND CHANNEL & EMBER FALLS: Maximalism Tour – The Circus, Helsinki, 08.04.2017

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With Maximalism out now, Amaranthe is celebrating the release of their fourth studio album. I still remember buying their demo back in 2010 after their merch guys pushed it on me when they were opening for Leaves’ Eyes and Kamelot at Nosturi (when Elize Ryd was the latter’s touring guest vocalist), and getting really hyped on them (even if that hype never took off properly once their first few albums were released). And here we are, a few years later, with these guys headlining an even bigger venue! Though I really didn’t like Maximalism, I’ve never seen Amaranthe live outside of festivals, and with two of my new favorites, Blind Channel and Ember Falls opening the show, I really couldn’t pass this one up.

Full gallery HERE!
Or listen to the setlist on Spotify:

 

With doors at 19:00, I showed up at 19:15 – probably the earliest I’ve been to a show in years. Ember Falls was on stage at 19:30 already, so I was surprised and thrilled to see that there were already plenty of people in the venue. A cool electronic/industrial intro started them off and I was pleased to see that at least One of Haze (synth) and Ace (drums) had come on stage to play the song, as opposed to a lone backing track – not a common occurrence these days.

These guys have suffered from poor sound on a few occasions, so when I saw sound tech Mika Tyni in the booth, I knew it’d be a good night – even if he wasn’t on sound, he might be doing lights, so it was a win-win either way. They opened with “The Cost of Doing Business” and went straight into “Falling Rain”, at which point I had to stop taking notes and immerse myself in the moment, because the latter is still one of my favorite songs.

“The Lamb Lies Down in Sacrifice” was a surprise choice for track three, with Calu (guitar/growls) ditching his instrument to focus on his screaming. That jazz interlude is always a delight – I can imagine that song being a live hit that fades from the sets for a decade after a few more albums, only to become a comeback fan-pleaser in later years. You know what I mean – that song that you haven’t heard live in years and are really excited about.

The “Welcome to Ember Falls” intro played next, introducing “COE.” I’d like to take this moment to express how gorgeous the lights were for this show – with a bit more front lighting, they might have even topped South Park last year (close, but no cigar).

The band was definitely turned on too, visually, and Ace was really doing an amazing job of the drums. I’m not sure if they’ve played at The Circus before or not, but the floor in front of the stage was definitely filling fast for their set, drawing more and more people away from the bar. I was also glad to see the band has been getting more comfortable with both their material and playing live, taking more and more opportunities to stray from the album and improvise on stage. For example, Calu was growling a few of Thomas Grove’s (vocals) parts, and Grove growled or screamed a bit here and there, or changed the octave on at least one occasion. And I mentioned during the Tampere show that Jack the Rooster’s stage is far too small for them, so it was amazing to see what they could do with some room; I’d even go so far as to say that they could use a bit more – maybe the full stage without having Amaranthe’s equipment would’ve been great for them.

“Rising Tide” followed, before Grove quickly introduced “One More Time” – I got the feeling that they were keeping the speeches nonexistent so that they could pack as many songs into their limited time slot as possible. This was a wise move, considering how many potential Amaranthe fans they could pick up. I also think that last song was sped up a fair bit, though it didn’t suffer for it.

And then it was the moment I’ve been waiting for, for about 2-3 months, when they introduced Niko Moilanen of Blind Channel for “Open Your Eyes.” I was delighted that Grove wasn’t staying silent during Moilanen’s parts, harmonizing a bit here and there. Moilanen, incidentally, is a boy band’s dream vocalist. Just sayin’. The kid sings like an angel. I was disappointed in the crowd’s inability to clap along when prompted, but Moilanen did get a scream from a them once or twice.

They then closed out the night with “the one song that started all this jazz” – “Shut Down with Me.” It was a great performance of a great song, with Calu even jumping down into the pit mid-song for a while. Right near the end, the synth got a little too loud, but I have to confess that I kind of liked it. It’s hard to make synth feel heavy, but that did it; if it had gone on longer than the few seconds it had, it would’ve been bad, but as it stands, I didn’t mind. Props to the extended outro as well – nailed it!

So my favorite antidepressant got the night off to a fantastic start, as per usual. There’s not much more to say that I haven’t said already. Go see this band. They’re wonderful!

Setlist:
1. The Cost of Doing Business
2. Falling Rain
3. The Lamb Lies Down in Sacrifice
Track: Welcome to Ember Falls
4. COE
5. Rising Tide
6. One More Time
7. Open Your Eyes (ft. Niko Moilanen)
8. Shut Down with Me

 

The Facebook event declared that Blind Channel’s set would start a mere 15 minutes after Ember Falls ended theirs. At first I expected the 20:15 start time to be too ambitious, but the speed with which these guys took care of business changed my mind quickly. Knowing each other so well must help these two bands with their flow, as Blind Channel was already ready to rock by 20:12. Their set started at 20:15 exactly, to a track intro I didn’t recognize, and again, I was pleased at how many people were on the floor right away.

“Helsinki! … You won’t break me!” Moilanen shouted as they bounced on stage and started with “Enemy for Me” in true Backstreet Boys fashion: dressed all in white. It’s been just over 6 months since I’ve last seen these boys from Oulu on stage and I very quickly realized that I’ve missed them.

Much like with Ember Falls, it was a joy to see these guys on a bigger stage, and they took every opportunity to make full use of it. Also, to my amusement, the band played my album-favorite track second, just as Ember Falls had done, so I dropped my phone to pay full attention to “My Revolution.”

I also have to give props for how the band has a uniform look (all-white), while they individually have their own style: Joonas Porko (guitar) had the hoodie/jean jacket combo; Moilanen had his trademark hat of late combined with a collared shirt with the sleeves rolled up; Joel Hokka (vocals/guitar) was in an unbuttoned cardigan over a t-shirt; Olli Matela (bass) had a short-sleeved collared shirt buttoned to the top; and Tommi Lalli (drums) sported a simple t-shirt in true drummer fashion. Uniform, yet individual. A weird thing to notice, but I liked it.

“Bullet (with Your Name on It)” followed, a high energy favorite. Asking for “oikea käsi ylös” [right hand up], they got the crowd waving their hands back and forth for “Hold on to Hopeless.” I’m glad that one is still on the set, incidentally. That song also had one of the most beautiful moments of harmonization of the night, as well as particularly gorgeous lighting.

Good old “Deja FU” followed, which was one of the best party songs of the night, again making me largely disappointed in the crowd for not taking more advantage of the moment than they did. There was a lot of movement in the crowd, yet… I don’t know about you, but that song makes me want to really let loose. Cool that Matela got a little love as well, by including a short bass solo in that track. At least the crowd got their hands up and clapping this time!

The stage went dark briefly, as some dancers came out to open up for “Can’t Hold Us”, a cover of the hit by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Moilanen came on stage to absolutely destroy the rapping parts while donning a balaclava (and holding a hand cam). Hopefully we’ll see that footage sometime in the nearish future. Perhaps in a music video? I’ve been a little on the fence about this cover, but I definitely really enjoyed it a lot live. Once that was wrapped up, they then had the crowd get down on the ground and jump up (and down) for “Unforgiving.”

Hokka brought out a Blind Channel flag – a new addition to the stage show – for the new addition to the live set: “Alone Against All.” While the phantom is waiting to hear this track in the context of an album, I’ve enjoyed it more or less from the first listen; however, like the phantom predicted, in the context of a live show it was even better. The crowd didn’t quite know the lyrics yet, as this new single only came out last Friday, but I think it has good live potential, particularly with the powerful, “we are born to a world that’s falling apart,” lyric.

Some drums and chanting then introduced what could only be “Darker than Black.” The sleepy crowd couldn’t resist the dynamic build-up they pulled off here – I offer a hearty round of applause. And to my pure delight, Thomas Grove appeared on stage in a white blazer to sing along, wonderfully reminiscent of South Park’s singer swap between these two bands last year. Even better, the three singers, bassist, and guitarist had their own little mosh pit on stage, and didn’t fuck up a single thing. What a way to go out!

I’m starting to appreciate this band’s diversity. After a mere 6 months, these guys had two new songs and the live show felt totally fresh. While the crowd was more alive than during Ember Falls, I can’t deny that I was still disappointed in the reception. Both of these bands deserve a lot more love than I saw.

Setlist:
1. Enemy for Me
2. My Revolution
3. Bullet (With Your Name on It)
4. Hold on to Hopeless
5. Deja FU
6. Can’t Hold Us (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis cover)
7. Unforgiving
8. Along Against All
9. Darker than Black (ft. Thomas Grove)

 

By the time Blind Channel was done, the floor was nearly full, to the point where the venue had opened the back bar and the upper level – I wonder if there were a lot of last minute ticket sales at the door. Amaranthe’s new, poppier sound seems to have attracted a less heavy crowd, as there were clearly some non-heavy fans at The Circus, dressed for a club and ready to dance. For me, however, I can’t say that I expected the headliner to top the openers.

Amaranthe was promised to start at 21:30, though it seemed as though everything was already prepped and ready to go at 21:15. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s when the intro music started, though the band didn’t take the stage until the designated time. I’d call that overkill, to be honest – no one needs a 15 minute intro.

A single beep at 21:29, followed by a recorded voice, announced that the overlong intro had ended at last. The intro beeping was abrasively loud, but that was quickly remedied. The official intro voice was a bit interesting, making Amaranthe’s history into a bit of a story, of which the fans were a main character. I thought that was a pretty cool idea, and fairly well executed.

They started with “Maximize”, and the growls sounded great, but it was immediately evident that Elize Ryd’s (vocals) microphone was way too loud compared to the rest. She also overdid her vocal parts a bit, but I’ll chalk that up to excitement, as she toned it down after the first chorus for the rest of the song. They followed this with the “Boomerang” single, which is catchy but soulless, even live.

I saw Amaranthe once at Myötätuulirock in 2012 and had thought that three vocalists, plus a backing female vocalist, was just way too much. Now, with Jake E (CyHra, ex-Amaranthe) no longer on clean vocals, I was curious as to how I’d like it with only two vocalists on stage… only, they seem to have replaced Jake E temporarily with Nils Molin (Dynazty) live, which I hadn’t been prepared for. So there were still three (but not four!) vocalists still on stage for this show.

Henrik Wilhelmsson (growling vocals) got the crowd’s hands up for “Hunger”, and I immediately felt nostalgic for their original albums… those drums, the solos, that bass! They can still pull it off, so it makes me sad that their music lacks that aspect now. The vocals were a total mess at the end though, with Ryd experimenting a bit too much with high notes while cranked up too loud and thus the three of them together just sounded clamorous.

Wilhelmsson was by far the band’s shining star for me (sorry, Ryd), doing everything in his power – both vocally and visually – to keep the new music from being nothing more than Swedish pop. I definitely didn’t hate Molin either, who did very nicely in songs like “Invincible.” In fact, he has such a nice voice that I might have to try Dynazty out sometime. I’ll also give them points for pulling off three vocalists much better than they had back in 2012. I might’ve liked to see more movement from the guitars and bass than simply switching spots every now and then though.

“1,000,000 Lightyears” was another highlight, with Molin and Wilhelmsson again doing much to impress. Ryd, I’m sorry to say, wasn’t impressing me vocally – though she is great to watch visually – and even now I’m not sure if the problem was with her specifically, or if it was just the mix – whenever there were long high notes, it kind of just sounded like she was shouting; all the melody vanished from her voice. This was odd, because on other occasions she sounded wonderful, and interestingly, it was almost exclusively in the new material when she didn’t stand out badly in the mix.

Molin greeted the crowd, as it was his first time plying with Finland, and announced “Trinity”, while Ryd got the crowd cheering and waving their hands. My theory that Amaranthe has a system for how many of each type of song and where they belong on an album was possibly proven true (pun intended) in their live shows as well, as the sixth track was none other than a ballad, “True”, as on the album. Molin did a fantastic job, which made it even more disappointing that Ryd’s sound was perhaps the worst of the night in this song, and their harmonization failed as a result. As this is one of my favorite Amaranthe songs, this was a pretty big letdown.

Thankfully, Wilhelmsson and a lot of heavy dance followed with “Fury”, where Ryd sounded much better, though I have to say that I just genuinely don’t like this song very much. My theory about Ryd only sounding good during the new material may have been proved when she took the stage for “Endlessly” – the second ballad of the night and a song that features her alone on vocals – and did a lovely job of it. That song is fairly generic though, so it didn’t really save anything at that point. Likewise, the performance of “On the Rocks” was really great, but I just don’t like that song. It does have one noteworthy solo that was very well executed, so props to Olof Mörck. Also props to Morten Sørensen for the drum solo – looks like there’s a bit of heavy metal in there somewhere buried beneath the surface.

“Automatic” was a step back into heavier days, and some big inflatable balls were thrown into the crowd to bounce around, which was fun; that’s usually more of a festival move. “The Nexus” was also cool to hear and wasn’t too disastrous vocally. One heavily-tattooed guy even got up onto someone’s shoulders halfway through, though that didn’t last long.

Ryd greeted the crowd in really adorable Finnish before asking how many people were at their last club show 2 years ago, and then thanked everyone for coming, old and new fans alike. She said that in the end, 1,352 people had shown up for this show. They then started up “Amaranthine.” I braced for disaster but the song started off at a reasonable 90% quality, and for once I wasn’t sorry when the crowd took over the chorus, knowing what might have happened otherwise. In fact, I really enjoy this one on the whole. As a song that I love as much as “True”, if not more, I was glad that it was well executed, even in the harmonies. Ryd’s sound wasn’t perfect, but neither was it as bad as it had been before. I was kind of amused by Wilhelmsson on stage doing his trademark angry metal horns to this song… you know, considering it’s a beautiful slow ballad.

They then closed out the night with “Call Out My Name”, which was a high-energy disco party, with equal parts heavy and disco drums. However, they did come back for four more songs: “Digital World”, “That Song”, “Dynamite”, and of course, “Drop Dead Cynical.” Bassist Johan Andreassen greeted the crowd with comical anger, and said he had some announcements, muttered something I didn’t catch, cracked open a beer, and said, “We fucking love you. Except for Morten. He doesn’t love anyone.” He went on to talk about shitting in bags for a while, and I’m not really sure what the point of that rant was beyond shock value. It’s cool though – no one minds extensive vulgarity and random speeches at a metal show, right? It went on too long though, let’s not lie. Also, you guys play pop-metal with the metal being only theoretical at times, so I’m not convinced your heart is, “pitch fucking black”… I liked him more later on when he was revving up the crowd and talking about the afterparty at The Riff.

“Digital World” went well, but I really dislike “That Song”, so I’ll just say nothing. “Dynamite” and “Drop Dead Cynical” tickle me in the right places though, so ultimately, the encore was pretty solid. They then received their gold records for “Drop Dead Cynical” in Finland. After expressing their gratitude, that was it for the night!

 

If I had some complaints about the sound at this show, at least the crowd didn’t seem to notice. On the whole, I was quite happy with the band and the male vocalists in particular, I’ll still say that it was a fun gig and worth attending. But this did nothing to change my 2-star rating of their new album, nor did it make me an official fan at this point. It was a bit of a lose-lose situation for me here though, as the new songs sounded the best, but I don’t enjoy them the way I enjoy the older material. Having the new and old songs juxtaposed against each other live really goes to show how much their sound has changed. Nevertheless, if you don’t have a problem with the way their music has changed these days, I would certainly recommend trying them out in a club sometime.

Setlist:
1. Maximize
2. Boomerang
3. Hunger
4. Invincible
5. 1,000,000 Lightyears
6. Trinity
7. True
8. Fury
9. Endlessly
10. On the Rocks
Drum solo
11. Automatic
12. The Nexus
13. Amaranthine
14. Call Out My Name

Encore:
15. Digital World
16. That Song
17. Dynamite
18. Drop Dead Cynical

Photos: Kirsti Leinonen

AMARANTHE w/ EMBER FALLS & BLIND CHANNEL: Maximalism Tour @ The Circus, Helsinki, 08.04.2017

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Amaranthe with Ember Falls & Blind Channel at The Circus, 2017.
Photos by Kirsti Leinonen.
Gig report HERE!

UNZUCHT w/ DELTA ENIGMA @ On the Rocks, Helsinki, 07.04.2017

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Unzucht and Delta Enigma at On the Rocks, 2017.
Photos by Kirsti Leinonen.

CHILDREN OF BODOM w/ ONI & FOREVER STILL: 20 Years Down & Dirty Tour – The Circus, Helsinki, 06.04.2017

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Children of Bodom’s 20 Years Down & Dirty Tour with Oni and Forever Still, Helsinki 2017.
Photos by Marco Manzi.

CHILDREN OF BODOM w/ ONI & FOREVER STILL: 20 Years Down & Dirty Tour – The Circus, Helsinki, 06.04.2017

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So, I think we can all agree that time flies – 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of Children of Bodom’s debut album, Something Wild. To celebrate the occasion, the band did what was only natural: organized a tour where they would concentrate on their first four albums. The 20 Years Down & Dirty Tour consisted of 24 gigs in 13 countries all around Europe. Supported by Canadian ONI and Danish Forever Still, Children of Bodom rightfully played the last gig of the tour in Helsinki, Finland, on April 9th, 2017. And what a night it was!

Full gallery to come later.

 

I came to the venue a couple of hours before the doors opened, because I was determined to ensure a place in the front row, and there were around twenty people already waiting eagerly in front of the doors. This is no rare sight, since Children of Bodom is one of those bands that tend to get people (at least in Finland) to queue for several hours in order to get a place up front. My personal record is around 8-10 hours, back in the days when I was under 20 and didn’t have normal human needs like staying warm, eating properly, or going to the toilet. By the time the doors opened, a bit after 19:00, the line was at least 50 meters long.

The Circus was soon crowded, despite there being two supporting bands before Children of Bodom. Some people headed straight to the counter, but I believe the majority took their place in front of the stage, where they would stay for the whole evening.

The first to take the stage was Canadian ONI, a progressive metal band formed in 2014. Since I’m not really a fan of progressive metal nor am I that familiar with Canadian metal scene, this was the first time I had heard of them. But, I figured that since they were opening for Children of Bodom, they would probably be quite good.

And I was right. The audience didn’t seem to realize at first what had just hit them, once ONI started their set. It took one or two songs before the crowd shook off their bafflement and started to follow vocalist Jake Oni’s lead and raised their fists in the air.

In addition to the band’s great energy on stage, they surprised me with their skill, as well as their choice of instruments. First of all, instead of having keyboards, they had a xylosynth, which is a xylophone gone electric, played by John DeAngelis. I would rank it even cooler than the circular keyboard in Eurovision 2014. Another interesting detail about the band’s instruments was that guitarists Brandon White and Martin Andres, as well as bassist Chase Bryant, preferred their instruments… well… headless. Guitars and basses missing the head stock is probably nothing new, but it was the first time I had witnessed such a sight.

ONI gave the Finnish audience an intense 30-minute set, and probably played themselves into several hearts that night. Assuming this was ONI’s first time in Finland, I hope it won’t be the last. So, welcome back!

 

After ONI’s prog-fest, it was time for a bit of a mood change with Forever Still. This Danish rock band was signed by Nuclear Blast in August 2016 and released their debut album, Tied Down, the following October. The gig in Helsinki marked the band’s first time in Finland.

As a golden mic stand – decorated with leaves, rope, and a pair of palms – was brought to the stage, I had my own prejudices of what was coming up next. I expected something slowish and gloomy, or at least something totally different compared to ONI and Children of Bodom.

Once Forever Still started their set, I was glad to note that the band was full of energy and movement. The vocalist, Maja Shining, has a great vocal range and my amateur ear would say she has had plenty of vocal training as well. It was a real pleasure to see her really put her soul into the songs. She sang clean vocals most of the time, so when the first shriek came, I was baffled that it was indeed one person making all those noises.

If the band had good stage presence during the songs, they unfortunately lacked it in between. Maja Shining did do some speeches but there were times when the audience would just wait, while the band members took a sip of water or adjusted their instruments between the songs. I would have wished for some more interaction from the other band members as well, since now it was all on Maja’s shoulders.

The silent moments between the songs was probably one of the reasons why the atmosphere seemed to take a bit of a slump, and thus I felt that ONI and Forever Still should have switched places. I think Forever Still has a lot of potential, but they are still a bit rough around the edges when it comes to their live performance and songs. A bit more variety in their songs and some more interaction with the audience would make a huge difference.

 

Good things come to those who wait. And I have waited long enough. Finally Children of Bodom took over the stage. And they went straight to the point.

Starting the gig with Something Wild’s opening track “Deadnight Warrior” and “In the Shadows” from the same album, the band gave the audience exactly what they came there for. “Black Widow”, “Lake Bodom”, “Red Light in My Eyes, part 2”…this review could be just me listing the songs on the setlist, because for some that would be enough to tell how great the gig was. However, I feel obliged to write a little more than that.

The last gig of the tour was in no less than a sold-out venue. The atmosphere was heated and trance-like – whatever song the band started playing, the crowd would answer with screaming, moshing, and putting their fists and horns up in the air. I couldn’t see the moshpit since I was fully focused on what was happening on the stage, but I could feel the movement behind me.

There were no slumps, no silent moments, not even a thought of checking how much the time remained. With such a hit parade, one could only listen and enjoy – and mosh and sing or scream along. Frontman Alexi Laiho cut the speeches short this time; that night, it was all about music.

The only thing this gig was missing was the legendary singalong moment in “Hate Crew Deathroll.” As the band was playing the song and slowed down for the part where the audience would join in, some kind of mix-up happened. Alexi did point out after the song how ridiculous it was for them to, well, fuck it up, since the singalong part is something they’ve done several times before. Thus I was left without one of my favorite Bodom gig moments, but it’s all forgiven and forgotten. After all, everything else went great.

Like all good things, also this evening had to come to an end. After playing “Children of Decadence”, the band left back stage to have a small break before they were shouted back for an encore. The band ended the night with “The Nail” and “Towards Dead End”, which was a fitting choice for the last song.

 

After the gig one could sense the exhausted but happy -feeling of the audience. I was also left a bit numb. The 20 Years Down & Dirty Tour was most probably a once in a lifetime occasion – and the realization that something like that will never happen again just felt plain depressing.

Well, luckily there will be plenty of Bodom shows to attend in the future, even if they never play another theme night… unless the band decides to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hatebreeder in 2019. In that case, I’m more than ready.

Setlist:
1. Deadnight Warrior
2. In the Shadows
3. Needled 24/7
4. Black Widow
5. Lake Bodom
6. Warheart
7. Angels Don’t Kill
8. Red Light in My Eyes pt. 2
9. Hate Me!
10. Downfall
11. Every Time I Die
12. Hate Crew Deathroll
13. Bed of Razors
14. Children of Decadence

Encore:
15. The Nail
16. Towards Dead End

Photos: Marco Manzi

COVENANT w/ TEN AFTER DAWN @ Gloria, Helsinki, 01.04.2017

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Covenant & Ten After Dawn at Gloria.
Photos by Kirsti Leinonen.

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Rolf Pilve (Stratovarius, Status Minor), 2017

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In the realms of drumming excellence, there are a few names that come to mind more or less immediately, and one of these should be Rolf Pilve, the newest addition to Stratovarius’ line-up as of 2012. He has been or remains in several other projects as well, such as Status Minor, Dreamtale, Amoth, and so on. Since this guy has been around the block more than a few times, we thought we should share the playlist of his life with you!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
Can’t really remember any particular song, but I’m quite sure it must have been either some Iron Maiden or Black Sabbath as my dad used to listen to them a lot when I was a child.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
Iron Maiden – “Moonchild.” Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was probably the first album I really got into, and I still love it!

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Emperor – “Ye Entrancemperium.” Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk was a game changer album for me in many ways and I still listen to it a lot.

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath definitely.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
“I am the Enemy” by Sepultura.

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
I don’t really feel any guilt as I enjoy listening to all kinds of music.

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Dio – Holy Diver.

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
“My Romance” – live at the Village Vanguard by the Bill Evans Trio.

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
“Go to Hell” by Vader.

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
The “Imperial March” ?

ORANGE GOBLIN w/ MONOLORD @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 01.04.2017

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Orange Goblin with Monolord at Nosturi, 2017.
Photos by Marco Manzi.

STAM1NA w/ IKINÄ & ELÄKELÄISET – The Circus, Helsinki, 31.03.2017

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The last time I was at The Circus for a gig was in October 2015, when Sweden’s sweetheart, Måns Zelmerlöw, came to Finland. This time around, the music genre and demographic of the audience would be something totally different; the evenings’ three bands, IKINÄ, Eläkeläiset, and headliner Stam1na, would make sure of that.

After finishing the Cube Libre 2016 Tour last December, Stam1na figured that they might as well do another tour in the spring. Friday, the 31st of March, marked the first gig of Stam1na’s Kanslerit 2017 Tour, which would bring the band to fourteen venues across Finland, Germany, and Poland.

 

Before letting Lemi’s gift to the world loose, Sakara’s newest addition to the roster, IKINÄ, hit the stage. I got acquainted with IKINÄ last September when the band was opening for Mokoma at Tavastia. At that time I was mostly noting their stage appearance, since I wasn’t familiar with the songs. This time around I already knew what was coming and I was ready to enjoy it to the fullest.

Watching IKINÄ perform is like being in a karaoke bar at around 03:00 on a Saturday night, except for the fact that you’re not drunk (or at least I wasn’t), and the singers on stage are hitting the right notes. They have this crazy, no-inhibitions kind of energy, like when you’re just screaming into the mic with your friends, having the time of your life. And if IKINÄ would be performing at a karaoke bar at 03:00, I would be there.

IKINÄ has a good variety of songs, ranging from slightly romantic and more serious, like “Et pelkää”, to just talking about a dreamy guy you’d like to get busy with, such as “Magic Mike.” They’re a nice mix of teenage angst and fear of growing up and finding your place in the world. And… just plain flipping the finger to the rest of the world.

The venue already had a respectful number of people present as IKINÄ played their set. Part of the audience was clearly familiar with the band beforehand, with some of them even singing along with the songs, as the band noted in one of their speeches.

Overall, IKINÄ was even better than I had remembered. There might still be some rough edges when it comes to their live performance, but I personally think all the elements are there… including the pink baseball bat modified into a mic stand. IKINÄ might not be the easiest band to chew, but if they tickle you the right way, you’ll probably end up getting their album and checking them out live again. At least I did.

IKINÄ’s setlist:
1. #elämää
2. Pelkkää pintaa
3. Terapiaa
4. Puhu minulle
5. Kryptoniitti
6. Kylmääkin kylmempää
7. Et pelkää
8. Jalat kantaa
9. Magic Mike

 

In Finland we have this band called Eläkeläiset [Eng: the pensioners], who turn famous pop and rock songs into humppa [Finnish polka music] with their own often inappropriate or humorous lyrics. The band has been around since 1994 and there seems to be no end to it – their next album, Humppa of Finland, will be released on April 21st of this year. The audience at The Circus got to experience the first taste of the new songs… or humppa covers, whatever you want to call them. I’ve seen Eläkeläiset a few times before in festivals like Nummirock and Jurassicrock. Since festival gigs tend to differ quite a bit from venue gigs, I was curious about what the atmosphere would be like in a dark concert hall.

The Circus was getting packed just before Eläkeläiset started. Taking the audience’s enthusiasm as a good sign, I prepared myself mentally for the next 45 minutes or so of trying to recognize what the original song behind each humppa-version might be.

Eläkeläiset started their set with an intro, “Humppa hei” [“Hocus Pocus” by Focus], followed by “Tervetuloa mehtään” [“Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses] and “Perjantaina humpassa” [“Friday I’m in Love” by The Cure]. Apart being a humppa band, they differ from usual bands by doing a speech between every song. At first I found it hilarious, but towards the end it started to bother me, mostly because they didn’t always make that much sense. Or maybe I was too sober for it.

So sadly, I have to say that the band didn’t manage to get me caught up in the feeling that I’ve had on previous occasions with them. The audience looked thrilled, the humppajuna [polka train] kept on going almost from the start of the gig to the end, but personally, I just didn’t feel like humppa that night.

I have to admit, however, that I was happy to hear songs like “Elanto” [“Élain” by Nightwish], “Humppaleka” [“Viva Las Vegas” by Elvis Presley], and one that was probably called “Humppaprinsessa” [“Shine” by Kwan]. Still, it might have been the venue or my personal mood, but this time around, something was missing. Well, Eläkeläiset is going to perform again at Nummirock this summer, so I’m gonna get a new chance to get my humppa mood going soon enough.

Eläkeläiset’s setlist:
1. Humppa hei (intro)
2. Tervetuloa mehtään
3. Perjantaina humpassa
4. Humppaleka
5. Robottihumppa
6. Humppaprinsessa
7. Elanto
8. Karannut humppa
9. Humpatkaa
10. Pätä pätä
11. Humppaa tai kuole
12. Jääkärihumppa

Encore:
13. Pöpi
14. Humppamaa

 

After teenage angst and humppa, it was time for Stam1na to take the stage. The venue was already packed by the time Eläkeläiset had started, and there was, if possible, even less space once the headliner started their set with “Pala palalta”, “Elonjäänyt”, and “Maalla, merellä, ilmassa.”

The Circus as a venue proved to be an excellent choice for Stam1na. Even though the place was almost packed, everyone fit inside nicely. The stage is wide and you can see the band well enough from the sides as well. Maybe I’m getting old, but getting crushed by the moshpit is not on my list of favorite things in the world. This time I could be relatively close to the stage without getting pushed around since there was enough space for a mosphit.

Doing a tour that is not just meant to support the newest album usually means that the setlist holds something special. This was the case with Stam1na at least. Even though Elokuutio did get the most coverage, the band also gave the audience some treats by playing “Yhdeksän tien päät”, which was originally recorded for Raja and published in the Vanhaa paskaa compilation, and “Verisateenkaari”, a bonus track from Elokuutio, which was apparently played live for the first time at The Circus (though feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). Even though the set was missing some of my favorites, like “Lääke” and “Murtumispiste”, we still got to hear “Tuomittu, syyllinen”, “Vapaa maa”, and “Muistipalapelit”, all of which I consider to be old classics.

Stam1na has got to the point where they have such a vast range of excellent songs to pick from, many of which are hits that the fans want to hear over and over again. In such a case, it must be difficult to compile a setlist that would satisfy everyone. But it’s also refreshing as a fan to see a gig that isn’t always following the same pattern as before. So, the absence of “Lääke” is forgiven and forgotten.

As the songs kept going and the band reminded people to vote in the ongoing municipal elections, I caught myself wondering what would be up next for this group. Even though they are singing in Finnish, Stam1na has played abroad more than once and they have some foreign shows coming up during this current tour. Elokuutio is their seventh album, and it looks like it’s not going the be their last.

Putting the future aside, the present looks pretty good. When a gig has two encores, it really says something about both the band and the audience. Stam1na finished of with “Dynamo” and “Kaksi reittiä, yksi suunta” – and came back once more to play “Kuudet raamit”, the first single from Elokuutio and my personal favorite from the album. The band truly drained the last remnants of the audience’s energy with their Friday night show. It might not have been the most legendary show I’ve seen from Stam1na, but all-in-all, it was an energetic, enjoyable, and intense gig.

Stam1na’s setlist:
1. Pala palalta
2. Eloonjäänyt
3. Maalla, merellä, ilmassa
4. Heikko ehkä
5. Tuomittu, syyllinen
6. Pienet vihreät miehet
7. Vapaa maa
8. Muistipalapelit
9. Yhdeksän tien päät
10. Elokuutio
11. Likainen parketti
12. Ei encorea

Encore:
13. Verisateenkaari
14. Dynamo
15. Kaksi reittiä, yksi suunta

Encore 2:
16. Kuudet raamit

Photos: Janne Puronen

STAM1NA & ELÄKELÄISET w/ IKINÄ @ The Circus, Helsinki 31.03.2017

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Stam1na and Eläkeläiset with Ikinä at The Circus, 2017.
Photos by Janne Puronen

TIISU @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 21.04.2017

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Tiisu at Tavastia, Helsinki.
Photos by Kirsti Leinonen.

LOST SOCIETY w/ BLOCK BUSTER @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 31.03.2017

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Lost Society at Tavastia with Block Buster, 2017.
Photos by Kirsti Leinonen.

LIIMA w/ LAPSIHYMY @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 30.03.2017

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LIIMA with Lapsihymy at Tavastia, 2017.
Photos by Tom Benjamin.

(2017) Ten After Dawn: Best of Both Words EP

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Artist: Ten After Dawn
Album: Best of Both Words EP
Released: 21.04.2017
Label: Macaroni Penguin Music

 

Ten After Dawn is an electronic/industrial dark-pop band from Helsinki that recently came onto my radar, formed by Teemu Salo and Toni Viholainen. These genres are usually not up my alley, but I was in the mood to try something a bit different, so I figured this was a good place to start, especially considering their upcoming show with Covenant on April 1st, 2017.

Before I get into the music, I want to give plenty of points for the album title and the album art, as well as the single art, which you can see just below. The cover art is simple, yet effective, and the single art should fill any young Goth with delight (wait, do Goths feel delight?).

My first impression upon listening to the EP is that I was a tad surprised at how laid-back the music is. It certainly has energy, but I wouldn’t call the songs speedy by any means. The industrial influences are quite evident throughout, while the first track and first single to be released tomorrow (March 31st, 2017), entitled “Melody”, reminded me greatly of 80s new wave music (think Tears for Fears) in the way the vocals in the chorus sound in particular – something that I’m not overly fond of but works quite well in this construction. “Melody” is an interesting track in that it’s a bit different from the rest – it has a bit higher energy and more synth than the rest, and while it has a distinctly industrial sound, it also sounds a bit more poppy and less Goth-oriented. There is definite dance potential in this song for live scenarios.

“Gone” has a gentle intro with a slow build-up of synth, and reminds me of music I listened to in a Goth once club long ago, bringing up a bit of fond nostalgia. The song is quite simple but feels fairly effective with its nice ambience. This is followed by “Scarlett”, which has a slightly mechanical intro, building up nicely into a funky synth beat, a bit speedier than its predecessor. Lastly, we have “Tell Me”, which has a pretty cool sound throughout and is again a fair bit livelier than “Gone” and has some of the most interesting vocal lines since “Melody”, making the album feel quite good, flow-wise.

 

On the whole I would say that this EP feels quite successful. It’s hard to say really, as I personally find this genre of music on the whole to be a bit dull or repetitive, but Ten After Dawn has managed to create some nice melodies and I can’t complain about the vocal sound or beat as well. As such, I’m fairly certain that anyone who is interested in this dark pop genre might find it worth their while to give it a listen.

Rating: Thumbs up

Track list:
1. Melody
2. Gone
3. Scarlett
4. Tell Me

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Mikko Pajukallio (Space Weasels), 2017

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If you hear the name ‘Space Weasels‘, what style of music do you imagine? The band themselves have a bit of trouble deciding between indie rock and indie pop, so indie might be the simplest description. Founded only recently in 2016, this foursome has already spent some time in the studio and released a few songs. This week, vocalist/guitarist Mikko Pajukallio shares the playlist of his life with you.

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
Oh my Evolution, this is a hard question. It must be some sort of children’s song from 90’s cartoons, or a lullaby. But if I need to name one song, I would say “Mamma Mia” by ABBA. My big sister used to have this CD called Hits for Kids vol. 1 and as far as I can remember, “Mamma Mia” was one of the first songs on that album. We listened to it a lot.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
I’m kind of proud of this one. At the age of 7 I heard “Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)” on the radio and I fell in love with the song. It’s funny how it took me more than 2 years to find out the artist. I guess it was my classmate who finally told me that the band was The Offspring.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
There are so many songs I loved as a kid and each and every one gives me a different kind of memory. If I have to pick only one I’m going to go with some Eminem. I used to be a metalhead and at the ages of 10–16 I only listened to 80’s metal bands (teenagers with their very limited taste in music, I know right?). So it was a little shock when I opened a Christmas present from my mum and it was Curtain Call: The Hits by Eminem. That wasn’t the first thing on my list but I started liking the album and truly fell in love with the song “Stan.” That was one of the first songs that I listened to for the lyrics, and not for the melody (even though there is nothing wrong with the melody either!). I guess I still remember all the lyrics to that song – gosh what a flashback.

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
My current indie rock band, Space Weasels, is a mix of happy summer vibes and melancholy mystics, but my former band was hard rock. One band that inspired me to want to do something not as heavy as we did in my first band is The Kooks. It’s one of my favorite bands of all time and the main reason why I wanted to turn off my distortion pedal. In my opinion, they haven’t done a single bad song and naming my favorite is as hard as choosing which of your parents you love the most, haha. But let’s go with the song “Is it Me.” The Kooks is a band I need to listen to every day.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
For a couple of days I’ve been humming the song “Like Dogs” by Pegasus Bridge. It gets stucked in your head easily, and not because of an annoying melody – it’s just a beautiful song. And the chorus has the simplest lyrics ever.

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
I love the TV show Glee and I get made fun of quite a lot for that. In my opinion the show really has everything. How can anyone dislike the combination of comedy and musicals, right? There are a lot of Glee cast covers on Spotify and they’re great. Compared to the originals, they have way more harmonies and that’s one thing I love the most about them. One of the most known Glee covers is probably the song “Defying Gravity.” It’s a duet by a male and a female vocalist and their voices fit perfectly together.

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
The first album I ever bought was Abbey Road by the Beatles. I went to Stockholm with my family and dad gave me some money, which I was super happy about. Sadly, the album was quite expensive and I didn’t have much money left to buy souvenirs or candies. A real life tragedy in the life of little me, but totally worth it.

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Not many songs will make me want to curl up under a blanket with a cup of tea. But if I’m already feeling comfy I’d rather listen to some soft instrumental music that isn’t too massive. A very cool song for relaxing is “Interloper” by Carbon Based Lifeforms. It gives you the space to think.

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Well, I’m not much of a driver so when I hit the wheels I don’t usually listen to music really loud. But if I’m not the one responsible for the ride then I’d love to listen to “Back of the Car” by RAC. It’s such an awesome summer tune with easy singalong lyrics. The song gets more epic towards the end and it just makes you want to roll down the windows of your car and feel the good vibes.

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Haha, I really hope my friends and family don’t have to worry about that for a long time, but just that everyone knows, I would choose “Sometimes Life isn’t Easy” by Mew. Mew is also one of my favorite bands and it really brings a tear in my eye imagining my close ones singing “Hold my arms back when they beat me, leave me in the ditch where they kick me, sever my limbs and deceive me. Sometimes life isn’t easy. Here we go, here we go.” The lyrics aren’t the best for a funeral but there’s a bit of irony, which I’m sure my family would understand. I would want to make them laugh even when I’d be dead. Funny ’til the end and beyond, I guess.

 

Check out the music video for “Flat Tyre Limousine” here:

Or check out their other music on Spotify:

TURMION KÄTILÖT w/ MØRKET @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 25.03.2017

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Turmion Kätilöt with Mørket at Tavastia, 2017.
Photos by Janne Puronen.

MONSTER DOUBLE: THE 69 EYES w/ RECKLESS LOVE @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 25.03.2017

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The Monster Double – The 69 Eyes and Reckless love – at Nosturi, 2017.
Photos by Kirsti Leinonen.

KORPIKLAANI w/ CRIMFALL & METSATÖLL: Vittu Soikoon Tour – YO-talo, Tampere, 17.03.2017

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It’s been a while since we’ve seen Korpiklaani in a club setting, and as you might know, we’re not ones to skip a good folk party. This time, the Lahti troupe has teamed up for their Finnish Vittu Soikoon Tour with Estonian Metsatöll and the Helsinki-based epic metallers of Crimfall for a few selected shows. So, we set out for two of the gigs, with Lene L. bringing you the report from Tampere, and Miia Collander with photos from Helsinki.

Full gallery from the Helsinki show HERE!

 

My heaviest folk phase took place somewhere around 5-7 years ago, and I’ve mostly been into the more subtly folky bands, so I have rather different relationships with all of these acts. Crimfall I’ve been following closely ever since the first time I saw them in 2010, whereas Korpiklaani is reminiscent of my early teenage years, and a band I realized I had only seen at festivals, so I deemed it justified to fix such a statistic. In any case, they have always been essentially a party band for me, something I put on when I listen something very folky in general. Metsatöll is the least familiar out of the three: I have seen them once or twice quite some time ago and never really listened, and I was curious to see if I had missed out big time.

So, against this background, it was definitely in my best interests to see Crimfall, but alas, a hold-up at the doors kept me out for the entirety of their set. Not a good start for any gig experience, but since it had been years since seeing the other two as well, I pushed my annoyance aside right on time when Metsatöll started their set. There were plenty of Metsatöll shirts in the audience, so it was clear even before they hit the stage that the crowd was probably fairly excited about these Estonians. For good reason too – their merry brand of folk metal managed to move the audience from calm chatter to cheering and clapping in a matter of seconds. There weren’t many quiet moments after that; only during “Se on se maa” did things die down a little bit – even as “a song that needs no introduction”, and though I would assume its message about one’s home country would resonate among Finns, it might not be their most popular live track. Luckily, the slight lull was short-lived and the atmosphere perked up again with the next song.

There is something funny in the Estonian language to Finnish ears, how it sounds familiar but not exactly, and gives it a somewhat archaic and slightly fairytale-ish air, which goes with folk metal quite neatly. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons Finnish folk fans seem to be so fond of these guys? Not to forget how much fun – both on purpose and not – the band and their audience had whenever singer/guitarist Markus Teeäär or multi-instrumentalist Lauri Õunapuu did their speeches in Finnish, cracking jokes about how all Estonian love songs talk about brewing beer, urging the crowd to dance, and so on. And hey, you totally got us with that bagpipe and kantele.

For a support act, Metsatöll was given a generous time slot, which was nice, since the audience and the band seemed to enjoy themselves immensely. The Estonians delivered a solid set of almost an hour, leaving the stage with “Lööme mesti” and referring to Finns as their beloved northern neighbors.

Running a quarter an hour later than announced, Korpiklaani took over around 23:15 with a violin intro that got people clapping along. Speaking of violin, as some probably already had noticed from social media, Turisas violin virtuoso Olli Vänskä climbed on stage with the band, kicking it off with “Viinamäen mies.” It was soon clear that the tiny YO-talo stage edged on slightly too small for a band of six, but that didn’t slow them down one bit – quite the contrary, as Vänskä, accordionist Sami Perttula, and singer Jonne Järvelä danced around it for a good half of the set. As the audience caught in on the fun, it didn’t take long before I was asking myself, why the hell I hadn’t seen Korpiklaani in a club before?

The set was loaded with one track after another, and Järvelä spared his speeches for the start of it, his first noting that it was nice to see the place so packed just before the fifth song of the night, “Erämaan ärjyt.” That, of course, is not saying he wasn’t communicating with the audience; his huge grins and little antics on stage were amusing to watch even from afar, with other band members following suit. What with the setlist, it was a fine mix between danceable and slower, heavier songs, emphasis naturally on the danceable side, and the latest album, Noita (2015). It doesn’t happen too often, but I couldn’t find myself bored at any time – the question of whether it was thanks to not having many expectations towards the setlist or if it was simply that good doesn’t really matter in the end if you’ve been thoroughly entertained, right? The club setting and lengthy set also gave the crowd an opportunity to enjoy the slower songs, which don’t always make the cut for festival setlists, and revealed to me a slightly different side of a band that I had before considered only to be a light, jolly, good times drinking song troupe. That they indeed are, but also so, so much more.

Speaking which, I’d like to take some time to express my astonishment at Jonne Järvelä’s range of singing styles and intense stage presence, which for some unknown reason had remained unnoticed before. The dreadlocked frontman is truly like a shaman on stage, belting out trochaic meter rhymes like incantations; for a moment, you’re transferred to a whole another place and time, watching the red-light clad figure muttering archaic words in his gravelly voice. Recorded tracks just lack some of that magic, and I need to watch more closely the next time I catch Korpiklaani at a festival to see if it’s just a matter of outlet.

For “The Predator’s Saliva”, another guest was welcomed on stage, as Joey Severance (who also appeared on the recorded version of the song) of Tampere-based Tornado joined the band to perform his lines. Severance’s visit, donning skull-shaped face paint, was a special addition to start the tour, as was, at least in my opinion, seeing Olli Vänskä playing with them. His presence hit me with an exhilarating rush of nostalgia towards folk metal shows and his unmistakable sound – mixed delightfully clearly, for which I send my thanks to the sound techs – was just the little extra that turned a regular gig into a memorable one. Numerous solos were especially Vänskä’s time to shine, along with Perttula, and never fail to make me wish I still played violin myself. Regarding this, “Kultanainen” deserves a mention of its own; I rarely write a note about loving anything in full caps, but I did have one on the violin and accordion in that song.

A very special kudos needs to be given to the audience too: they took some time to really warm up, but once the dance pit started somewhere along “Vaarinpolkka” at the latest, there was no stopping. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits from start to finish, and visibly loosened up towards the end of the set – dancing, chanting “iske!” during “Rauta”, and jumping and sweating.

After summoning spring with “Kylästä keväinen kehto” and “Crows Bring the Spring”, followed by “Wooden Pints”, the band took a little breather, returning shortly after for an encore. Our guess was that it would consist of crowd favourites “Vodka”, “Beer Beer”, and “Juodaan viina.” Indeed, the two first out of these were heard, with the small venue bursting into excited noise when Järvelä asked “are we having some today?” before “Vodka.”

 

In the end, we got ourselves a hefty hour and 45 minutes of Korpiklaani, for which there are no complaints whatsoever – by the looks of it, at least the audience could’ve gone for hours still. Personally, I think I’m feeling a strong pull towards folk shows again, and I’m definitely going to check out these fellows at more club gigs in the future. While I’m still anxious to get an opportunity to catch Crimfall (and recommend that you do the same), it’s impossible to not be happy about going out to enjoy some good old folk songs on a Friday night.

Setlist:
1. Viinamäen mies
2. Pilli on pajusta tehty
3. Tuonelan tuvilla
4. Lempo
5. Erämaan ärjyt
6. Ruumiinmultaa
7. The Predator’s Saliva (feat. Joey Severance)
8. Sumussa hämärän aamun
9. Vaarinpolkka
10. Metsämies
11. Kipumylly
12. Rauta
13. Lonkkaluut
14. Tervaskanto
15. Kultanainen
16. Minä näin vedessä neidon
17. Ämmänhauta
18. Sahti
19. Kylästä keväinen kehto
20. Crows Bring the Spring
21. Wooden Pints

Encore:
22. Vodka
23. Beer Beer

Photos: Miia Collander

KORPIKLAANI w/ CRIMFALL & METSATÖLL: Vittu Soikoon Tour @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 18.03.2017

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Korpiklaani at Nosturi, 2017, with Crimfall and Metsatöll.
Photos by Miia Collander.
Gig report from Tampere HERE!

OMNIUM GATHERUM w/ OCEANWAKE – Virgin Oil Co., Helsinki, 17.3.2016 (English)

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Let’s begin with by laying the facts on the table: the Kotka-based TOTO-core-unit, Omnium Gatherum, is by far the finest melodic death metal band in this country. The band, led by Markus Vanhala, nowadays also of Insomnium fame, still doesn’t quite enjoy the type of success they would easily be entitled to, even though their material has a huge deal of substance to offer, also to people not usually acquainted with metal, and they’ve already released seven full-length albums since their inception, spanning over two decades. OG threw a one-off show at Virgin Oil Co. on March 17th, 2017, in an almost traditional fashion, since this was probably the third show performed in the same venue during early spring time.

Lue suomeksi TÄÄLLÄ!
Full gallery TÄÄLLÄ!

 

Over the years that I’ve attended shows at Virgin Oil and I’ve become accustomed to the fact that the club upstairs opens at 22:00, which led to a huge bummer straight off the bat – as I arrived at the venue at about 22:30, Oceanwake, the evening’s opening act, was already nearing the end of their warm-up slot – apparently the doors had already opened at 21:00. I don’t know if I wasn’t the only one to get mixed up, since I had to brush my eyes as I arrived – the front of the stage was completely empty, and Oceanwake had to play their doom/post-metal songs to people sitting at the tables on the other side of the space. The Luvia-based band, having released their third album, Earthen, only a week before, wasn’t familiar to me beforehand, but the short while that I got to listen to their material, reminiscent of acts like ISIS or Callisto, felt hugely appealing. The stage was decorated with eye-catching roll-ups and the light technician had orthodoxly left the front spotlights off. I think I’ll have to correct my mistake and attend the next show in town!

During the intermission, the venue started to fill with people, but one couldn’t speak of a rush – where was everybody? As OG’s intro tape began playing at 23:00, the front of the stage was still only halfway full. As with previous shows after the release of their latest record, Grey Heavens, the band kicked things off with “The Pit”, instantly picking the audience up. In a way, I would’ve hoped for something different for the first song, since I knew that the stage sound would be pretty awful for the first 5 minutes – the drums were mushy and Jukka Pelkonen’s microphone was way too quiet. As “Skyline” was played second, the situation was already fixed, and the sound was decent for the remainder of the set.

Speaking of Pelkonen, I’ve probably said this before, but one cannot find a more sympathetic frontman in the Finnish metal scene. The man is always smiling, downright demanding people to mosh along their songs – the shy Finns often get confused as Pelkonen points them out individually, asking them to participate more. As usual, the setlist favored the moshers, since even the songs that could be considered ballads aren’t exactly slow, and Pelkonen didn’t waste time with his speeches, retaining the intensity.

And speaking of the setlist, it had experienced a facelift since last summer. Omnium Gatherum has enjoyed their wider conspicuousness from The Redshift (2008) onward, and the set didn’t feature material older than this, but since last year, the focus had shifted from Grey Heavens and towards Beyond (2013) and New World Shadows (2011), with each record being featured with four songs, leaving The Redshift with two: “Nail” and “Chameleon Skin.” Having followed the band’s doings for over a decade, I’ll always yearn for more obscure choices like “Dysnomia”, “The Fall Went Right Through Here”, or “The Perfumed Garden”, but I shouldn’t complain, since both “Soul Journeys” and the final song, “Deep Cold”, haven’t been included in a while. OG has, for a good while already, been past the point in which the set could be randomly picked and still contain only hits and nothing else. And “New Dynamic”… how good can a rock’n’roll song even be!

In terms of musicianship, the band doesn’t need any introduction – everyone is, in their trade, top-of-the-line in Finland: Markus Vanhala has been one of our most creative guitarists, and as usual, his cooperation with Joonas Koto (guitar) worked flawlessly. The bassist, Erkki Silvennoinen, played his parts modestly as always, but once again, completely biased as I am, I’ll have to hand out the Virtuoso of the Evening award to the drummer, Tuomo Latvala. Originally loaned from Torture Killer last year, but having been made a full-time member afterwards, Latvala’s beats are always different, as he invents new fills for older songs on the fly, and by the looks of it, both his hands seem to be equally dominant, as he leads with his left hand half the time.

 

All-in-all, Omnium Gatherum threw a successful show, and the only thing that bugged me, was the low head count of the audience – the 14€ ticket price could’ve been the cause. Maybe everyone was at Tavastia, ironically watching the Sum41 show?

Setlist:
1. The Pit
2. Skyline
3. Nail
4. The Unknowing
5. Nova Flame
6. The Sonic Sign
7. Frontiers
8. Soul Journeys
9. Chameleon Skin
10. New World Shadows
11. Storm Front

Encore:
12. Luoto
13. New Dynamic
14. Deep Cold

OMNIUM GATHERUM w/ OCEANWAKE – Virgin Oil Co., Helsinki, 17.3.2016 (suomeksi)

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Aloitetaan kirjoitus latomalla faktat tiskin: Karhulan totocore-partio Omnium Gatherum on heittämällä kotimaamme kovin melodisen death metalin yhtye. Nykyisin myös Insomniumissa kitaroivan Markus Vanhalan luotsaama OG ei mielestäni edelleenkään nauti ansaitsemaansa suosiota, vaikka bändin musiikista löytyy tarttumapintaa muutakin kuin metallia kuunteleville ja levyjäkin on ehditty tehtailla kahdenkymmenen vuoden aikana seitsemän kappaletta. Yhtye saapui alkukeväiselle pistokeikalle Virgin Oiliin 17. maaliskuuta 2017 jo miltei perinteenomaisesti, sillä tämä on muistaakseni jo kolmas samoihin aikoihin vuodesta Virginissä soitettu OG-keikka.

Read in English HERE!
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