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LORD OF THE LOST w/ FEAR OF DOMINATION @ On the Rocks, Helsinki, 25.02.2017

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Lord of the Lost with Fear of Domination, Helsinki 2017.
Photos by Miia Collander.
Gig report coming soon!

DARK HELSINKI – Who is Covenant?

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Dark Helsinki has a new event coming up this spring at Helsinki’s Gloria! On April 1st (no jokes), Covenant will come over from Sweden to play a show, with locals Ten After Dawn warming up the stage. To help get you in the mood, here’s a bit of background information on Covenant from Eskil Simonsson.

 

1. First off, tell us a bit about yourselves?
Hi, we are an electronic band from Sweden that just released our ninth album, The Blinding Dark.

2. For anyone who hasn’t heard your music before, can tell us a little bit about your sound?
Pop music with an edge! A bit dark and a bit light all mixed with electronic sounds and rhythms all around.

3. Have you ever played in Finland before? If so, what’s your best/worst memory there? If not, is there anything you’re interested in or excited about in playing there?
Yes many times! We love traveling and have performed in more than 40 countries over the years. Finland is a very special soulmate country with beautiful nature and architecture. Looking forward to having coffee at Torni and visiting Temppeliaukio.

4. What do you think is going to be the highlight of the upcoming show?
A concert is where our noise and passion meets and mixes with our audience. It’s almost a spiritual experience to the sound of blasting drums. Come and join!

5. Do you have any last words for potential viewers about the upcoming shows?
Check out our new album, The Blinding Dark. We will perform a lot of new songs as well as old classics.

 

Have a listen on Spotify here:

For details about the upcoming event, click HERE!
For tickets to the show, click HERE!
For details from the venue, click HERE! [currently not online]

SABATON w/ TWILIGHT FORCE & ACCEPT – Jäähalli (Ice Hall), Helsinki, 24.02.2017

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Clearly, the time has come for the bands to tour their 2016 albums in Finland. With Sonata Arctica’s Ninth Hour Tour just behind us, and Devin Townsend’s Transcendence Tour on the 28th, we can comfortably bridge the gap with The Last Tour (hopefully not literally) by Sabaton for their 2016 release, The Last Stand. The show hit Jäähalli with the legendary Accept and the unfamiliar Twilight Force on February 24th, 2017.

Full gallery HERE!
And feel free to listen along with the setlist on Spotify:

 

We arrived at Jäähalli at 19:30 and it was nicely packed. Unfortunately, as I showed up a bit late, I missed Twilight Force’s set, but our new journalist, Hiski, was at the venue in good time, and here’s what he had to say about them:

“The knights of twilight of Twilight Force had the honor of opening up the night. This show being their first one in Finland ever, I was quite pleasantly surprised of how many people decided to actually check them out despite the early show time. Dressed up as various generic fantasy heroes, the band entered the stage with the opener off their latest album, Heroes of Mighty Magic, “Battle of Arcane Might”, following this with “To the Stars”, “Riders of the Dawn”, and “Flight of the Sapphire Dragon”, all from the aforementioned album. They then closed the show with two songs from their debut, Tales of Ancient Prophecies: “Enchanted Dragon of Wisdom” and “The Power of the Ancient Force”, where the band unfortunately faced some technical difficulties, which luckily were resolved quickly.

As a big fan of the band and cheesy power metal in general, the band did not disappoint me with their set. Although their play-time of only about half an hour was without a doubt short, they managed to offer the audience a nice selection of songs from both of their albums. Interestingly enough though, Twilight Force found time for little intros for most of the songs. Maybe they could have fit one more song into their limited support set instead of those? Unlike other Swedish bands on Finnish soil, vocalist Christian “Chrileon” Eriksson decided to make use of the bilingualism of Finland and held his speeches both in Swedish and in English – resulting in a funny mash-up of both languages.

All-in-all, Twilight Force’s debut in Finland was a triumph. The band played tightly and Chrileon’s voice was as over-the-top and clean as ever. I just hope they are going to make a return with a full headliner set. And from what I heard in the halls of the venue, I won’t be the only one attending such a show, as the band apparently made a bunch of new friends with their sympathetic power metal – rightfully so!”

Twilight Force’s setlist:
1. Battle of Arcane Might
2. To the Stars
3. Riders of the Dawn
4. Flight of the Sapphire Dragon
5. Enchanted Dragon of Wisdom
6. The Power of the Ancient Force

 

I don’t know much (or anything really) about Accept, but I was still looking forward to their set because I saw them once before at South Park in 2015 and had a great time. They got off to a great start with some great lighting, fog, and classic heavy metal, starting with “Stampede” and “Stalingrad.” I think something that I appreciate about these guys is that their music’s range, on the low end, is actually low. They’ve got heavy bass and some chill, dark drums, and Mark Tornillo has some grit in his vocals, even if he can wail. I didn’t know the band during Udo Dirkschneider’s reign, so I can neither compare nor contrast the vocalists, but I have no problem whatsoever with Tornillo as a vocalist or a performer.

Of course, Wolf Hoffman’s guitarwork continues to show why he is so beloved. Even from way up in the stands, he was clear as day and sounded pretty great. Tornillo let out a bit gravelly welcome before they started my personal favorite, “London Leatherboys”! I was grateful for the incredible lighting, because I could see the stage beautifully, even from a distance. These guys put on a nice performance – their music doesn’t have the sort of energy that requires them to fly around, so their presence nicely matches the music. They are active and lively, but not too much so, sticking closer to the in-sync rocking out and a strong focus on soloing with style. The crowd was willing to shout out the lyrics when prompted in a few songs, like “Princess of the Dawn”, which also included a pretty nice chant-along.

There was what I might call a schlager intro before they sunk their teeth into “Fast as a Shark”, yet in spite of performing very nicely, the crowd was a bit on the still side, with only the odd fist in the air, here and there. When they started laying down the solos, that managed to get some hands up and clapping, but I was a bit surprised by the lack of enthusiasm during the songs. However, I should mention that I was told by my fellows down on the floor that, while perhaps there wasn’t a lot of jumping or fist-pumping, the crowd was definitely feeling the groove, bobbing their heads and whatnot.

Of course I recognized the iconic intro to “Metal Heart”, and at last there was some proper enthusiasm from the crowd. And of course they closed out the night, after “Teutonic Terror”, with good old “Balls to the Wall”, which was opened with a single horizontal spotlight on Hoffman as he played. As their set concluded, I also noted Uwe Lulis (guitar) making sure some of the front-rowers got some guitar picks, which was awfully nice of him. Overall, in spite of me still not knowing the band very well, I really enjoyed their set. Jäähalli was pretty packed, so you have to assume these guys have a lot of local fans, yet it was a shame that only the standard big-hype moments got a real reaction from the floor, like the chant-along in the final track. Still, they did give them a loud cheer in the end as the fog cannons blasted, so maybe they were just saving their energy for Sabaton?

Accept’s setlist:
1. Stampede
2. Stalingrad
3. Restless and Wild
4. London Leatherboys
5. Final Journey
6. Princess of the Dawn
7. Fast as a Shark
8. Metal Heart
9. Teutonic Terror
10. Balls to the Wall

 

And then, after the stage changeover was complete, it was time for the Swedish lords of war metal! Sabaton’s performance was introduced with two intros, as seems to be the norm with them. The first of these was “In the Army Now”, a song by Bolland and Bolland. I was glad to see that they’ve dropped “The Final Countdown”, as that song is more than a little overplayed. This was followed by “The March to War”, featuring some videos of tanks and molten metal on the back screen, and the show started with – you guessed it – “Ghost Division.” Why these guys never change their de facto starting track is beyond me, because their shows have become a little predictable over the years as a result. “Night Witches” and even the second track from this show, “Sparta”, all have the potential to be great starters, but due to their unyielding desire to never change the opening track, I feel as though opportunities have been missed. Bonus points for the wicked pyros though.

Now I have to say, Sabaton is kind of amazing right now. The last few times I saw them, they were still playing The Circus, and then suddenly they played at Espoo Metro Areena, and now Jäähalli? When did these guys hit stadium-level popularity without my notice? I think it’s great – these guys have so much energy that it’s no issue for them to fill a much bigger stage. Plus, the extra budget into making the stage performance better was put to excellent use with the screen (though I have to say, for the most of the show I was so compelled by the band that I didn’t even glance at the screen – a problem relating to watching a show from the side and not the crowd, I suppose).

It seems as though my hypothesis may have been correct, because there was no shortage of fists in the air as shots of fire blazed toward the ceiling as Joakim Brodén donned a Spartan helmet and cape (while lesser-clad men took the stage behind him in helms with spears and shields). They also had a partial lyric video up on the screen, though it was hardly necessary – the crowd knew the lyrics. One nice thing about being up in the nosebleeds was my great view of Hannes van Dahl on his epic tank platform. I could see him smashing away at his kit with twirling his sticks like it was nothing, and his hair was everywhere – it was really cool to get an eagle-eye view of him. I am really happy with him in this band.

Brodén greeted and thanked the crowd, mentioning a few changes, such as Tommy Johansson who replaced Thobbe Englund on guitars. The crowd absolutely roared for him, and he got the crowd all hyped up for “Swedish Pagans”, by playing its riff. They then had a discussion about what mulkku [motherfucker] means before the rest of the band joined for the song and the crowd was clapping pretty much from start to finish. Johansson, incidentally, proved to be an incredible addition to the band throughout the night, having no trouble with the material, nor keeping up with the band’s energy. “No surprise there, with him being the guitar god and mastermind of power metal band ReinXeed,” Hiski noted.

“The Last Stand”, even if it kind of sounds like a Christmas carol, though I hope it doesn’t stick to the set, as some of the other new songs work better live, like “Sparta” and, I hate to say it, “Shiroyama.” I might be outvoted on that though, because the crowd showed no loss of energy at that point. Yet, you can’t deny that the hype was higher for “Carolus Rex”, as Brodén came on stage in a wicked kingly cloak of the Swedish blue and yellow and the crowd did their clap-clap-fist(s). Brodén has always soaked up the crowd’s love and given it back tenfold, so imagine what it was like in a stadium as he gave another speech about what they could do that’s different since they’re here so often. He then asked if anyone remembers The Art of War (2008), and they started up “Union (Slopes of St. Benedict)” to the sound of screaming, while poppies gently fell on the screen. True to his word, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard that one live before, and indeed, Hiski agreed that it’s probably never been played in Finland before now.

The tape then played “The Diary of an Unknown Soldier” to the sound of loud gunfire from the guns on stage, before they got the crowd’s hands up and clapping to “The Lost Battalion.” Brodén went on to discuss their setlists, and discussed “White Death”, and again mentioned how it had inspired the Heroes (2014) album, as it was the first song they had written about one man, instead of big events and such. I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed that they had played this song instead of “Gott Mit Uns”, which is what they’ve usually been playing in this slot, but maybe they feel as though they can’t be in Finland without performing the historical Finnish songs?

There was more fire from the guns for “The Lion from the North”, and then the roadies brought out a keyboard and some acoustic guitars for “The Final Solution” – Brodén said that everything would be acoustic for now on, though he was only teasing. Johansson took over the keyboard and plays beautifully no less, incidentally. This song had incredible ambience with all the lighters/cell phones up and some lines of fire on the edge of the stage. Van Dahl took a little break before joining them in the chorus on the cajón. Actually, this was a highlight of the night for me – the song sounded great, hasn’t been played here in ages, and had a hint of a Blind Guardian vibe (and I adore Blind Guardian).

Again, while I like the Finnish-based songs as much as the next person, but I can’t believe they left out “Resist and Bite” in favor of “Soldier of 3 Armies.” I’m not the only one who feels this way either, as I heard some murmurs from the crowd as the stadium emptied later on – the Finns clearly appreciate it, as these songs always get huge cheers, but fans who have seen them repeatedly are starting to feel as though it’s time for a change, time to hear some different songs (like “Union”). They did follow it up with “Night Witches” though, which is a great live song, and had big explodey red blasts from the stage guns. Oh yes! And lots of fire. “Winged Hussars” then closed out the main set, with its oh-so Sabaton riffs, fist-pump-worthy beat, beams of light, and crisscrossing blasts of fire.

There didn’t even appear to be much of a stream of people leaving as the crowd begged for more. “Primo Victoria” kicked off the encore to more blasts from the stage guns, as well as fire. Brodén thanked the crowd again before announcing “Shiroyama”, which I won’t deny I was hyped for. And not just me, based on the magnitude of fists in the air. So stupid, yet so epic… that song is clearly my favorite guilty pleasure. It was a lot of fun live. All it was lacking was a faux samurai battle on stage. They then stuck an extra song into their set, the again unfortunate Finland-based “Talvisota”, while blowing some sort of fake snow on the crowd (that or someone opened a window on the roof). I was worried that they had replaced “To Hell and Back” with this song, but fortunately they had one more song in them and closed out the night with it.

 

Overall, the show wasn’t perfect, but it was still easily one of the best shows I’ve ever seen from Sabaton. Firstly, I really wish they’d drop the Finnish songs – they’re great tracks and I love that they’re showing some respect to the country when they come here, but they’ve left the local tracks out in other shows on this tour, so I had hoped that they would do the same in Finland. However, it was incredible to see them on a bigger stage, really getting to explore the space and show off what they’ve got! While we did lose out on the weird, intimate discussions between Brodén and random people in the crowd, it was cool to see that they were able to reach a much bigger crowd. As well, for once they didn’t end their show with “Metal Injection” and/or “Metal Crüe”! So while openers like “Ghost Division” and the Finnish songs were predictable, they didn’t give us a standard set, which ultimately made for a fantastic evening!

Sabaton’s setlist:
Intro: In the Army Now (Bolland & Bolland)
Intro: The March to War
1. Ghost Division
2. Sparta
3. Blood of Bannockburn
4. Swedish Pagans
5. The Last Stand
6. Carolus Rex
7. Union (Slopes of St. Benedict)
Diary of an Unknown Soldier (tape)
8. The Lost Battalion
9. White Death
Dominium Maris Baltici (tape)
10. The Lion from the North
11. The Final Solution (acoustic)
12. Soldier of 3 Armies
13. Night Witches
14. Winged Hussars

Encore:
15. Primo Victoria
16. Shiroyama
17. Talvisota
18. To Hell and Back

Text: Hiski H, Amy W | Photos: Kirsti Leinonen

SABATON w/ TWILIGHT FORCE & ACCEPT @ Jäähalli (Ice Hall), Helsinki, 24.02.2017

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Sabaton with Twilight Force and Accept, Jäähalli 2017.
Photos by Kirsti Leinonen.
Full gig report HERE!

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Harri Koskela (Lost in Grey), 2017

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Founded not long ago in 2013, it’s possible that you haven’t heard about Lost in Grey just yet. This ambitious project has been influenced by everything from symphonic and folk metal through to music scores and nature itself. With an album coming out on March 3rd, we thought we’d give you a brief overview on vocalist, keyboardist, and general mastermind Harri Koskela. Here is the playlist of his life!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
There must be quite many of which I’ve been listening when I was a child, but the first that comes to my mind is “Living in a Box” by ­ Living in a Box. Total 80’s super-hit with awesome keyboards. I think this has something to do with the fact that I’m really fond of 80’s music.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
Relying on pure intuition, it must be Michael Jackson’s ­ “Earth Song.” I remember how I was touched when I heard this for the first time ­ and I still am. It is an awesome piece of music and as sad it is, the lyrics are still current.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
A song that reminds of my times at junior high school is definitely Bomfunk MC’s ­”Uprocking Beats.” There was a huge dance/hip-hop thing going on then, and as a keyboardist I’ve always liked the sound of synths & etc… Some would say that it’s strange that couple of years after that I mainly listened to Cradle of Filth, but I’ve always been very open to all kinds of musical genres.

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
I think that a lot of people says this, but the songs in Metallica’s Master of Puppets must have had a big influence on how I found my way to metal music. However, I feel that the biggest and dearest band that led me to metal music is Iron Maiden. I still get the same kind of cold shivers that I got in the early days.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
I try to get to know new music as much as possible, and when doing that there are no genre boundaries. A couple of the most recent songs that I’ve been enjoying, even when stuck in my head, are Wardruna’s ­ “Raido”, Equilibrium’s ­ “Born to be Epic”, and Eivør’s ­ “Trøllabundin.” With Wardruna and Eivør, I really like the organic approach and the overall themes in the songs a lot, and I often catch myself humming the themes in my head. Now, when it comes to Equilibrium, I really like the whole recent album, but for me this particular song stands out in a good way, for its somewhat different approach compared to the overall mass of metal music produced nowadays.

6. Your guilty pleasure song
Coldplay – ­ “Princess of China” ft. Rihanna.

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Iron Maiden’s Best of the Beast, which had a huge influence on me and where I am now with my musical taste. I remember listening to the album at a cabin with my cousins, and straight after the cabin trip I went to a local record store and bought the album. The melodies took me far away instantly, and I especially loved the song “Virus.” That was also the first song from Iron Maiden that I played along with, both with keyboards and guitar, ­ obviously with the skills available at the time. 😉

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Anything from Hans Zimmer’s Inception soundtrack works perfectly. Actually this doesn’t make me want to curl up on the couch, but I could imagine this working perfectly in those situations.

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
There’s a ton of these songs too, but lately I’ve been enjoying Dio’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Children” a lot! Awesome song that has to be played at the maximum volume of eleven each time when listened to in a car!

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Pink Floyd – “High Hopes.”

 

Check out the music video for “Dark Skies” here:

Or have a look at their album interviews/trailers here:

DARK HELSINKI – Who is Ten After Dawn?

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Dark Helsinki has a new event coming up this spring at Helsinki’s Gloria! On April 1st (no jokes), local band Ten After Dawn will open the stage for Covenant (Sweden). To help get you in the mood, here’s a bit of background information on Ten After Dawn from Teemu Salo.

 

1. First off, tell us a bit about yourselves?
We are an electro/dark-pop band from Finland with a hint of organic elements added to the mix. We have released just few singles to this date but actually the day before this Gloria show, the 31st of March, is the release date of our new “Melody” single and video! Later on the 23th of April the EP should come out. Hopefully there will be a lot of new live dates too!

2. For anyone who hasn’t heard your music before, can tell us a little bit about your sound?
Our sound is a mix of electronic beats mixed to melodic vocals and melody lines with a hint of the organic world too. Dark and melodic synth pop with an edge of industrial rock harshness.

3. Have you ever played in Finland before? If so, what’s your best/worst memory there? If not, is there anything you’re interested in or excited about in playing there?
We have played in Finland many times before as we are local. I think our worst memory is related to one gig back then when we had our first live drummer, Lauri, and we were just in the very beginning. We were in the slightly wrong place, as people were expecting something different, because it was a pure EBM party and we were something different. We were more industrial rock back then. So anyway, the gig started and one friend of ours came to the stage to take photos in the beginning of the second song. It was otherwise good, but he managed to stumble in a way that he hit himself on our then-live keyboard player Tommi’s Macbook stand, so the laptop just kept on flying and finally landed in the middle of the dance floor… we just watched it flying like in a slow motion film! Surprisingly, the computer was okay, but it kinda nailed that gig. We continued ’til the end after that, but it was a very… difficult gig. No hard feelings buddy, anything can happen!

One of the best gigs we played here might be the one last October when we were opening for a German electro act, Solar Fake, at On the Rocks here in Helsinki. There were also many of their fans from abroad too, and it was nice to notice that they seemed to like us too.

4. What do you think is going to be the highlight of the upcoming show?
The highlight of the forthcoming gig? It can be the moment when you get off from the stage after a great show with your endorphins, or some particular moment during the set. Hopefully you will enjoy [the show] and have a good time!

5. Do you have any last words for potential viewers about the upcoming shows?
Hopefully you will come early to see our set too! If you’re a full electro-head or you might come from the world of more organic soundscapes, we might have something slightly different for you anyway! See you there and let’s have a party!

 

Check out the song “Red Carpet Fever” here:

For details about the upcoming event, click HERE!
For tickets to the show, click HERE!
For details from the venue, click HERE! [currently not online]

BATTLE BEAST – Noora Louhimo & Janne Björkroth, 2017

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Popular Finnish heavy metallers, Battle Beast, just released their fourth studio album, Bringer of Pain, on February 17th. With their new tour starting up, the Helsinki natives started up at the Virgin Oil Co, so we took the opportunity to grab Noora Louhimo (vocals) and Janne Björkroth (keyboards) to talk about the new album and the upcoming tours.

The Virgin Oil Co.’s gig gallery can be found HERE!

 

I hear there’s a North American tour coming up – is there anything you’re looking forward to?
Janne: Yeah with Sabaton.
Noora: We will be there about 5 weeks starting in April.

That’s quite exciting.
J: Yeah, First time.
N: Let’s do the European tour first, there is also thirty-six dates there.

So it’s really good to get out there with the new songs?
J: It is really nice to have the new songs now.
N: I feel like there is a new energy in the band; everyone is really excited about bringing out the new material.

Congratulations on the release of your latest album. What was it like to write music with your new line-up, and how collaborative was the writing process?
J: Making this album, there are six song writers, so everyone has to find their own role in this process.
N: I feel like it was really great, this whole process, because we learned so much about each other and how we want to work things out and what are the ways people like to do things. It was a learning experience also. Of course it is never easy to do an album, but I think we managed really well.
We really need to thank Janne, as he was the producer and he kept the package and schedules together; without him this wouldn’t have been as professional as it is.

What was it like working with Tomi Joutsen? What was it about him that made you want to include him?
J: He is a really nice guy; it was an easy day with him. I just asked, “Hey, can you sing this?” and he said, “Yeah, yeah, of course.” It was no problem at all and he was really easy going, a great singer, and great to have him.

Why did you want a guest vocalist in that song, specifically?
J: I wanted to do a duo song and I wasn’t sure who was going to sing it but when I called Tomi and he said, “Of course I can come.”
N: We didn’t have to persuade him.
J: When I wrote the song, I didn’t know that Tomi was going to be the singer, but I knew that Tomi’s low voice is really cool so I decided to do this low speaking part and asked him. He was in mind from the start when I wrote the song. I also thought about Till Lindeman . . .
N: But he didn’t have the time.
J: We can say he didn’t have the time.

It’s probably safe to say that the single “King for a Day” sounds like it was written about politicians in general. Was this a coincidence or was that something you were influenced by?
J: It was kind of a coincidence. Many people are saying, “is it a song about Trump?” but we had already written the song way before Trump was elected. It’s not a specific person, it can be whoever. Anywhere in the world are people who fit to the lyrics.
N: And anybody can have a bad boss at their workplace or something, so for me, the song represents a common evil or a bad person who just uses power in the wrong way.

Do you have any strong political feelings, as a band, that you wanted to express in this album?
J: We try to stay away from political themes but of course power and those types of themes are nice to write songs about.
N: It’s a cool way to deal with these different problems in life no matter what is the issue. “King for a Day” actually sounds cheery and [has] positive vibes that make you feel like you want to dance, but we also deal with something pretty serious. But I think it makes it easier for people and listeners to approach those types of issues, if you don’t do it so seriously.

What other influences did you have when writing this album?
N: I think we had different influences. As we had more than one songwriter, everyone has their own influences. Even if you are only just one person, you have many different influences over the years [as] you have grown.
J: We didn’t want to have an overall theme so we wrote about whatever came to mind.

Your music videos also seem to have very strong themes to them. Can you tell us a bit about the background for “Familiar Hell”? Do you design your videos yourselves, or do the directors do that?
J: We sent the song and the lyrics to the director, Markus, and most of the ideas came from him.
N: The whole thing about the song was this person is lost and stuck in a world where they are afraid to get out of there. In the music video, Markus wanted to express that happening. It was really cool that Markus wanted to do it which such an effort and that I could do some acting in all the music videos we have had. It has been something I have always dreamed about.

Lastly, apart from the touring, is there anything you’re looking forward to, both in the next year and the future in general?
J: We are really focusing on the touring right now. It is really hard to think further.
N: We just go with the flow.
J: During the tour we will already be thinking about new songs during any free time.

Are there any places that you are looking forward to playing over the next year?
N: I think the whole of North America, as this is all new for us. We have read all the comments asking to come there.
J: I hope after the summer we would be able to visit South America and even Japan and play shows there.
N: Also Australia, they are really waiting for us. That would be cool.

Text/photos: Tom Benjamin | Ed: Amy W

BATTLE BEAST @ Virgin Oil Co., Helsinki, 24.02.2017

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Battle Beast at Virgin Oil Co., 2017.
Photos by Tom Benjamin.
Interview with Noora & Janne HERE!

HEXVESSEL W/ KAIRON;IRSE & DEATH HAWKS @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 09.02.2017

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Hexvessel with Kairon;IRSE and Death Hawks at Tavastia, 2017.
Photos by Marco Manzi.

DIABLO w/ KYPCK – TAVASTIA, HELSINKI, 18.02.2017 (English)

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If Diablo was a person, it could finally enter a liquor store and buy booze without a fake ID – the nowadays Tampere-based band turns 20 years old this year. One could have attended a sort of double anniversary party at Tavastia last Friday, since the warm-up act, KYPCK – the most Russian band in all of Finland – also turns 10. Having maintained a solid radio silence for the first half of the decade, Diablo released their latest record, Silvër Horizon, in the fall of 2015, receiving praise from fans and media alike, but despite the good reviews, for some reason I managed to bring myself to listen through the album only a few times. I still decided to attend the show that came through Tavastia on February 18th, 2017, as at last summer’s festivals, the new tracks worked live just as well as the older (one could almost say) classics.

 

Because of Saturday disco – Tavastia’s every-Saturday teenager-hell concept – the doors opened as early as 19:00. As I arrived at the venue 15 minutes later, there was a nice bunch of people smoking cigarettes outside, and the ticket queue spanned almost to the front door. A pleasant surprise presented itself at the bar, as Diablo’s own Corium Black stout was priced at 6€, instantly heightening Tavastia’s price-to-quality ratio considerably. The actual band space was still pretty empty, but once KYPCK began their set with “Ya Svoboden”, the opening track of their latest album, Zero, the hall filled up pretty quickly.

After the second track, “Stalingrad”, vocalist Erkki Seppänen did a quick catch-up of the band’s recent doings, receiving a hefty applause on the fact that KYPCK is already 10 years old. The set continued with “Progulka po Neve” and “2017”, nodding towards the 100 years ‘older’ song of the debut album, Cherno. As I was listening to Inema na Stene’s title track, I couldn’t help but wonder about how consistently strong the band’s songs have always been. KYPCK has toured Russia on several occasions and after “Russofob”, Seppänen announced that the band will embark on a Russian tour later in the spring. They’ve always returned so far, hopefully this time will be no different! If I compared the set, ending with “Alleya Stalina”, to the previous KYPCK show I’ve seen – also in Tavastia – very few things have changed, but why fix something that’s not broken? The little-less-than-hour-long show went by before I even noticed.

I’ve always liked KYPCK; the band’s concept is simply brilliant. If Seppänen didn’t do his speeches in Finnish, one would totally mistake him as Russian, that’s how fluent his pronunciation is. Sami Lopakka’s and Sami Kukkohovi’s impact in Sentenced (RIP) cannot be undermined, but personally I’ve always preferred KYPCK’s leaden doom metal over Sentenced’s angsty rock. The band’s visual appearance is also thought-through; why does a bass guitar even have four strings, if J.T. Ylä-Rautio does well with only one? Lopakka’s custom-built AK-47 guitar and A.K. Karihtala’s Tsar Bomba drum kit are always impressive to see live, and the cherry on top was the Soviet era pictures and videos projected on the band’s backdrop.

KYPCK’s set:
1. Ya Svoboden
2. Stalingrad
3. Progulka po Neve
4. 2017
5. Inema na Stene
6. Chernaya Dyra
7. Russofob
8. Alleya Stalina

 

At 20:30, Tavastia’s stage lit up again as the dark blue lights were turned on, and Diablo’s grin-inducing intro tape began playing. Expressing the visual appearance of their latest album, the members Rainer Nygård [vocals, guitar], Aadolf Virtanen [bass], Marko Utriainen [guitar], and Heikki Malmberg [drums] climbed on stage wearing identical worker shirts and began their set with the album’s opening track, “The Call”, and from Nygård’s first “Hiiop!” scream onwards, the audience was fully committed to the show. Things continued on with “Isolation” and “The Serpent Holder”, and considering the band’s outfits, things started to incline towards playing the album from start to finish. This eventually happened, as all ten of Silvër Horizon’s tracks were played back-to-back, with only the album’s ambient interludes in between. A pretty bold move to pull off at an anniversary show, I thought, but the concept turned out to be excellent – since Silvër Horizon is a concept album, the story was conveyed to its full extent, and at some point I suddenly became aware of the amount of kick-ass choruses; the chorus in “The Serpent Holder” is insane! After the album’s closer, “Voyage to Eternity”, the band suddenly left the stage, and a midtro tape, spoken in Finnish and Russian, announced a 10-minute intermission. Quite something at a venue of this size!

The second half of the show started out with a bang, as Diablo played Mimic47’s closing track, ”D.O.A” – I doubt that the song has been played too many times since the album’s release tour. After the song, the show had finally progressed to one of its most essential elements: Nygård’s shamelessly Finnish speeches. It turned out that there was a bunch of first-timers in the audience, so it seemed only appropriate to play “The Preacher”, since that’s what Diablo’s known for, at least according to Nygård. You can probably guess that he had to shout “PERKELE!” at all in the beginning. The set seemed to be full of more peculiar choices, since the band threw in their legendary ABBA cover of ”Dancing Queen” before playing ”Read My Scars.” I took a trip to the bar during “Resign From Life”, but I almost left my Visa to the card machine as I had to hurry back to the audience afterwards – the guys decided to play ”Crystal Mountain” by the legendary Death, and boy, did they do a fantastic job!

The fans of the old Diablo were spoiled with “Icon of Flesh” from the Renaissance album, after which the set seemed to near its end. The band concluded their set on a high note with “Icaros” and “Into the Sea” – I haven’t heard the latter since the Icaros album’s release tour in 2008. A truly great song! The band asked people to pose for a group photo, after which a good deal of people with some shit-eating grins started to make their way towards the coatroom. In that moment, the second half of the show seemed awfully short, but afterwards I realized that it was only one song shorter than all of Silvër Horizon.

 

Although I can’t say that I’ve ever listened to Diablo at home or attended many of their shows, I cannot deny their significance in the Finnish metal scene, and I know people who place the band as high as first place in their domestic ranking. Diablo manages to entertain thoroughly every time, and as a drumming enthusiast I cannot help but emphasize Heikki Malmberg’s role behind the kit. The man is undoubtedly one of the best drummers in Finland, and he’s clearly grasped something very essential on constructing a drum set; one simply cannot have too many chinas – I think I counted ten. The sounds were brilliant, not to mention the lights. I decided to attend the show on a whim, but afterwards I’ve found myself already waiting for the next shows. Thank you, Diablo!

Diablo’s set:
1. The Call
2. Isolation
3. The Serpent Holder
4. Into the Void
5. Illuminati
6. Prince of the Machine
7. Silver Horizon
8. Savage
9. Corium Black
10. Voyage to Eternity)
Intermission
11. D.O.A
12. The Preacher
13. Dancing Queen (ABBA cover)
14. Read My Scars
15. Resign From Life
16. Crystal Mountain (Death cover)
17. Icon of Flesh
18. Icaros
19. Into the Sea

Photos: Janne Puronen | Ed: Amy W

DIABLO w/ KYPCK – TAVASTIA, HELSINKI, 18.2.2017 (suomeksi)

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Jos Diablo olisi ihminen, se voisi viimeinkin kävellä Alkoon ja ostaa jallua ilman vääriä papereita; Tampereella jo pidemmän aikaa vaikuttanut bändi täyttää nimittäin tänä vuonna 20 vuotta. Viime lauantaina Tavastialla päästiin viettämään tietynlaisia kaksoissynttäreitä, sillä lämmittelijänä toiminut KYPCK – tuo Suomen venäläisin bändi – tulee myös kuluvana vuonna 10 vuoden ikään. Kuluvan vuosikymmenen alkupuoliskon ajaksi täyteen radiohiljaisuuteen vaipunut Diablo julkaisi fanien pitkän odotuksen päätteeksi toissasyksynä kehutun Silvër Horizon –levyn, joka ainakin allekirjoittaneella jäi valitettavan vähälle kuuntelulle kovista arvioista ja tuttavien kehuista huolimatta. Päätin silti osallistua bändin juhlakeikalle, sillä viime kesän festareilla kuullut livevedot uuden levyn kappaleista toimivat vähintään yhtä hyvin kuin vanhemmat – voidaanko jo sanoa – klassikot.

 

Myöhemmin käynnistyneen, Tavastian jokalauantaisen teinihelvettikonsepti Lauantaidiskon vuoksi ovet avautuivat edellisillan Arkona-keikan tavoin jo seitsemältä illalla. Päästessäni paikalle noin varttia yli, baarin ulkopuolella parveili jo mukavasti siirtymäröökejään imailevia keikkakävijöitä, ja lippujonokin ulottui melkein ulko-ovelle saakka. Baaritiskillä odotti iloinen yllätys, kun Diablon omaa Corium Black –nimikko-stoutia sai lunastettua kohtuulliseen kuuden euron hintaan, mikä nosti Tavastian juomavalikoiman hinta-laatusuhdetta huomattavasti. Salin puoli oli vielä kohtuullisen tyhjillään, mutta KYPCKin aloittaessa settinsä uusimman Zero-levynsä ”Ya Svobodenilla” tasan varttia yli seitsemän tila täyttyi hyvinkin nopeasti.

Toisena soitetun ”Stalingradin” jälkeen laulaja Erkki Seppänen kertoili bändin kuulumisia ja kertoi bändin tulleen kymmenen vuoden ikään, saaden yleisöltä raikuvat aplodit. Setti jatkui uusilla kappaleilla ”Progulka po Neve” sekä ”2017”, viitaten debyyttilevy Chernon sata vuotta ”aikaisempaan” teokseen. Kolmoslevy Inema na Stenen nimiraitaa kuunnellessa havahtui väkisin siihen, kuinka tasavahvaa bändin materiaali on aina ollut. KYPCK on kiertänyt Venäjää useampaan otteeseen, ja toiseksi viimeisenä kuullun ”Russofobin” jälkeen Seppänen kertoi yhtyeen kääntävän Ladan nokan keväämmällä taas kohti itänaapuria. Aina sieltä on kuulemma takaisin päästy, toivottavasti tälläkin kertaa! Jos ”Alleya Stalinaan” päättynyttä settiä vertaa edelliseen näkemääni KYPCK-keikkaan, joka myöskin soitettiin Tavastialla, hyvin harva asia bändin livemenossa oli muuttunut, mutta miksi korjata jotain mikä ei ole rikki? Vajaan tunnin mittainen setti hujahtikin kuin siivillä.

Olen pitänyt KYPCKista sen uran alusta saakka – bändin konsepti on kaikessa yksinkertaisuudessaan loistava. Jos Seppänen ei puhuisi välispiikkejään suomeksi, hän menisi täydestä venäläisestä, niin sujuvaa miehen ääntämys on. Jäsenten S.S. Lopakka ja S. Kukkohovi panosta jo kuopatussa Sentencedissä kukaan tuskin tohtii kiistää, mutta henkilökohtaisesti KYPCKin lyijynraskas doom metal kolisee paljon kovempaa kuin Sentencedin angstirock koskaan, minkä lisäksi bändin visuaalinen ilmekin on loppuun asti mietitty: miksi bassokitarassa ylipäätään tarvitsee olla neljä kieltä, jos J.T. Ylä-Rautio pärjää yhdellä? Lopakan AK-47:n runkoon rakennettu kitara sekä Hiili Hiilesmaan viitisen vuotta sitten korvanneen rumpali A.K. Karihtalan Tsar Bomba –settikin ovat aina vaikuttavia näkyjä lavalla, ja kokonaisuuden kruunasivat tälläkin kertaa bändin taustalakanalle heijastetut neuvostoliittolaiset arkistokuvat ja –videot.

KYPCKin setti:
1. Ya Svoboden
2. Stalingrad
3. Progulka po Neve
4. 2017
5. Inema na Stene
6. Chernaya Dyra
7. Russofob
8. Alleya Stalina

 

Puoli yhdeksältä Tavastian lava heräsi eloon tummien valojen syttyessä, ja Diablon väkisinkin suupieliä kohottava intronauha pärähti soimaan. Uuden levyn teemaa mukaillen jäsenet Rainer Nygård [laulu, kitara], Aadolf Virtanen [basso], Marko Utriainen [kitara] ja Heikki Malmberg [rummut] nousivat lavalle identtisissä työmiespaidoissaan, setti käynnistyi Silvër Horizonin avausraita ”The Callilla” ja Nygårdin ensimmäisestä ”Hiiop!”-huudosta lähtien yleisö oli saman tien mukana. Seuraavana vuorossa olivat ”Isolation” ja ”The Serpent Holder”, ja ottaen huomioon bändin pukeutumisen, ilmassa alkoi jo kärytä uuden levyn soittaminen kokonaisuudessaan. Näinhän siinä lopulta kävikin, sillä Silvër Horizonin kaikki 10 kappaletta soitettiin putkeen pelkillä asiaankuuluvilla ambient-välikkeillä. Aika rohkea veto juhlakeikalle, mutta myös äärimmäisen toimiva – teemalevyn draaman kaari välittyi hienosti, ja tulipa sitä myös havahduttua äärimmäisen kovien kertosäkeiden määrään levyllä ihan eri tavalla kuin aiemmin; varsinkin ”The Serpent Holderin” kertsi on aivan TÖRKEÄN kova! Levyn päätösraita ”Voyage to Eternityn” päätteeksi bändi poistui yllättäen lavalta, ja sekä suomeksi että venäjäksi spiikattu taustanauha kertoi keikalla olevan 10 minuutin väliaika. Ison maailman meininkiä!

Toinen puoliaika käynnistyikin sitten aikamoisella yllätyksellä, nimittäin Mimic47:n päätösraita ”D.O.A”:lla, jota tuskin on levyn julkaisukiertueen jälkeen soitettu kertaakaan. Kappaleen päätteeksi päästiin Diablo-keikkojen todelliseen suolaan: Nygårdin hävyttömän perisuomalaisiin välispiikkeihin. Kävi ilmi, että yleisössä oli useita bändin keikalla ensimmäistä kertaa olleita, joten oli vain paikallaan jatkaa eteenpäin ”The Preacherilla”; siitähän Diablo miehen mukaan tunnetaan. Voitte varmaan arvata, tarvitsiko Nygårdin itse huutaa alkuun ”PERKELE!” Setin yllättävämmät valinnat jatkuivat, sillä bändi rykäisi legendaarisen ABBA-coverinsa, ”Dancing Queenin” ennen ”Read My Scarsia”. ”Resign from Lifen” yhteydessä koin sopivaksi pyörähtää tiskillä, mutta hyvä ettei Visa-kortti jäänyt maksulaitteeseen, kun tuli kiire juosta takaisin yleisöön: päättivät sitten vetää Deathin ”Crystal Mountain” -coverin, ja hyvin muuten vetivätkin!

Vanhan Diablon faneja hemmoteltiin vielä kakkoslevy Renaissancen ”Icon of Fleshillä”, jonka jälkeen alettiin selkeästi siirtyä loppusuoralle. Bändi päättikin settinsä todella hienosti ”Icarosilla” sekä ”Into the Sealla”, jonka olen kuullut vain kerran aikaisemmin Icaros-levyn rundilla vuonna 2008. Hieno biisi! Bändi pyysi kävijöitä jäämään vielä hetkeksi yhteiskuvaan, minkä jälkeen salista alkoi purkautua leveästi virnistävää keikkakansaa kohti narikkaa. Jälkimmäinen puolisko tuntui välittömästi keikan jälkeen yllättävän lyhyeltä, mutta jälkeenpäin ajateltuna se oli vain yhtä kappaletta lyhyempi kuin Silvër Horizon-osio.

 

Vaikken ole käytännössä ikinä kuunnellut Diabloa kotioloissa tai kiertänyt bändin keikkoja sen kummemmin, en voi kiistää sen merkitystä suomalaisessa metalliskenessä, ja tunnen ihmisiä, jotka nostavat bändin omassa Suomi-rankingissaan jopa kärkipaikalle. Diablo viihdyttää livenä joka kerta, enkä voi rumpufanina olla alleviivaamatta varsinkin Heikki Malmbergin taiteilua setin takana. Mies on Suomen ehdotonta eliittiä, minkä lisäksi rumpusetin kasaamisesta on ymmärretty jotain todella oleellista: chinoja ei todellakaan voi olla setissä liikaa, taisin nimittäin laskea niitä olleen kymmenen kappaletta. Sounditkin olivat todella hyvät, valoista puhumattakaan. Lähdin Tavastialle hyvin pitkälti hetken mielijohteesta, mutta tässähän huomaa jo odottavansa seuraavia keikkoja. Kiitos Diablo!

Diablon setti:
1. The Call
2. Isolation
3. The Serpent Holder
4. Into the Void
5. Illuminati
6. Prince of the Machine
7. Silver Horizon
8. Savage
9. Corium Black
10. Voyage to Eternity
Väliaika
11. D.O.A
12. The Preacher
13. Dancing Queen (ABBA cover)
14. Read My Scars
15. Resign from Life
16. Crystal Mountain (Death cover)
17. Icon of Flesh
18. Icaros
19. Into the Sea

Kuvat: Janne Puronen | Ed: Ville Karttunen

(2017) Zeal and Ardor: Devil is Fine

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Artist: Zeal and Ardor
Album: Devil is Fine
Release: 24.02.2017
Label: MVKA

 

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you come across something like this. Zeal and Ardor is a one-man project by Swiss-born Manuel Gagneux, which he describes as spiritual black metal blues. Now, combining blues and metal is hardly a new idea but Zeal and Ardor doesn’t stop at that. I came across the titular track “Devil is Fine” earlier this year whilst browsing upcoming releases and I was hooked after the first listen. It was an ingenious mix of African-American crooning and Luciferian black metal. It brings to mind the devil-infused early days of blues. It’s Gagneux’s imagining of America’s slaves rebelling in the same way as Nordic black metallers, i.e. by turning to the Lord of Light.

 

01. Devil is Fine
Sure enough, the first track, “Devil is Fine”, starts with a howling Southern voice screaming the gospel of the adversary of the soul. His warbling is accented by the rhythmic chime of men in chains in the midst of hard labor. In this song, the familiar guitars and blastbeats of black metal take a backseat to the power of wicked prayer. The idea becomes crystal clear, to these people Satan is the only salvation. He offers everything but demands very little. These people live in hell so the lake of fire is no deterrent. The sound is superbly distorted through reverb with just enough simple piano accompaniment to really drive the point home. This song alone is one of the most interesting things I’ve heard in a good while.

02. In Ashes
The guitars kick off “In Ashes” but still remain mostly as a background element. The African-American round singing turns possibly even more ominous with this one. The line “Burn the young boy, burn him good” should send a chill down any goodly little lamb’s spine. The whole song expresses doubt in a god and begins to revel in the realization of his absence. The minimal use of guitars and growling vocals serve to illustrate this. It goes slow when it wants to be creepy and fast when it wants to embrace the flames. It’s incredible how effective it is. This being the first new song I’ve heard on the record, I’d say we’re off to a grand start.

03. Sacrilegium I
At this point one would be forgiven for double-checking that they’re still listening to the same album. “Sacrilegium I” is a straight-up electronic house music song. In any other context I’d rule it as nothing more than a way to test my sub-woofer. I wouldn’t recommend it to fans of EDM, however, since it takes every opportunity to mess with the time signature and would prove very difficult to dance to. In its 2 minute runtime, it does manage to dish out one good Daft Punk-esque melody and a lot of what I believe today’s youth refer to as ‘sick beats.’ It’s not entirely removed from the album since it does have some recordings thrown in which fit the larger tone. A strange interlude, no doubt but it keeps the listener on their toes.

04. Come on Down
A beautifully over-reverbed vocal melody gets us back on track; it’s very gospel-inspired and catchy, the cornerstone of “Come on Down”. If you came for fast guitars and growls – this one is for you. The guitar melodies are recognizably black metal with a few dips into modern melodic death metal and some more dulcet breaks. Here Gagneux gets to show off his pipes a bit more as the vocals get more powerful while still remaining properly soulful. The growling vocals, however, remain as mere occasional roars. That being said, they are perfectly placed and gorgeously nuanced, even when the song would’ve already been great as is it still dares to end in a melancholy and subdued note. As I’m analyzing it, I realize that on paper it shouldn’t work, but somehow it still does. A true testament to Gagneux’s musicianship – it makes me want to listen to it again and again.

05. Children’s Summon
It seems “Children’s Summon” heard my prayers and not only brings even heavier and more ferocious guitars into the mix but also echoes elements of “Come on Down.” The guitars shred away in the background while an enthralling synth melody takes center stage. This is, at times, either somewhat downplayed or completely halted by Satanic chants (my Latin is a bit rusty, so forgive me if I classify anything with “hail” and “Satani” in it as Satanic.) “Children’s Summon” has a sense of urgency that no other song on the album has. It’s not just fast, it’s ridiculously fast. I can see why it takes breathers – I certainly would.

06. Sacrilegium II
“Sacrilegium II” sounds like the devil’s music box. No really, it’s a music box. But even this gentle lullaby has an underlying eeriness to it. Seeing as the last part of this song was a detour, it seems prudent for the continuation to also be a subversion of the formula. The logically illogical intermission has a very subtle and gradual build-up. Starting out with just the clear sound of thin strands of metal reverberating as they are plucked by tiny bumps on a rotating cylinder, it simulates the sensation of falling asleep by fading into a blurry, ethereal world. If anything on this album could be referred to as ‘lovely’, this would be it.

07. Blood in the River
Going back to what I only hesitantly describe as the status quo, “Blood in the River” sees the return of the chains and pickaxes, as well as the blastbeats. This is the point at which the sheer speed and precision of the kick-drum makes sure everyone can see that the drums are programmed. Though that may annoy some listeners, they are still at very least fitting for this record. The dark parish’s mantra of “a good god is a dead one” isn’t even the half of it for this one. I would recommend exercising caution in choosing the company in which one should listen to this. Positively evil and exhilarating – a high-speed barrage of defiant rage.

08. What is a Killer like You Gonna Do Here
Not enough songs begin with a clear bass-line. When they do, however, it usually works. “What is a Killer Like You Gonna Do Here” has a smooth, slow, and low groove. Gagneux brings his vocals way down to a gravely baritone in order to issue some spoken-word prose. This is further accented by beatnik-y finger-snaps which make me want to rumble with The Sharks, but we don’t want to advocate musical violence so we suggest the listener simply nod in agreement whilst preferably in a turtleneck and beret. Halfway through the song, the guitar joins in with with a defiantly 1950s sound. An exemplary blues guitar solo brings the song home before it fades out in anticipation for the finale.

09. Sacrilegium III
Bringing the album to a close is “Sacrilegium III.” It’s best seen as an outro or epilogue; it’s not a grandiose epic but simply a moody synth melody and not much else. It layers those synths expertly and always knows to what it wants to draw the listener’s attention. It invokes a feeling of dread and emptiness. It echoes as if in a chasm of despair and leaves us there wanting for more.

 

My hopes for this album were so lofty that I wasn’t sure it’d ever meet them. However, even on the first listen I knew this artist was far from a one-hit-wonder. It’s a bizarre record that doesn’t feel at home at either parties or lazy Sunday reading sessions. What it is though, is a fantastic, subversive, innovative, and memorable record. It’s not just a cheap mix of genres – each move seems deliberate and poignant. The Satanism never feels shallow or attention-seeking, but genuine and fresh. For its short runtime, this is an exceptionally well-put-together album with all the makings of a modern classic. I would be surprised if I heard a more interesting release all year.

Rating: 9.5/10

Tracklist
1. Devil is Fine
2. In Ashes
3. Sacrilegium I
4. Come On Down
5. Children’s Summon
6. Sacrilegium II
7. Blood In the River
8 .What is a Killer Like You Gonna Do Here?
9. Sacrilegium III

Ed: Amy W

(2017) The Mute Gods: Tardigrades Will Inherit the Earth

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Artist: The Mute Gods
Album: Tardigrades Will Inherit the Earth
Release date: 24.02.2017
Label: InsideOut

 

My favorite debut album last year was Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me by the new prog rock act The Mute Gods, as mentioned in our “2016 in Metal” blog post, and therefore I was delighted to find out that their sophomore effort would arrive in February 2017 already. I was surprised that Nick Beggs, Roger King, and Marco Minnemann had had enough time to make another album so soon amidst their duties in the backing bands of Steven Wilson, Steve Hackett, and Joe Satriani, but luckily recording is extremely convenient nowadays.

 

The familiar box-headed figure from the debut – which seems to be TMG’s own Eddie or Rattlehead – adorns the cover once more, but Tardigrades Will Inherit the Earth is a darker and heavier album than its predecessor, both lyrically and musically. You won’t hear a whole lot of personal reflections in vein of “Nightschool for Idiots” this time around, as the songs revolve around politics, nature, media, and religion, even more so than the debut. Exhibit A of this darker approach is “Animal Army”, whose rhythmic riffage must’ve taken a leaf out of Steven Wilson’s book, as it’s slightly reminiscent of “Home Invasion” from 2015’s Hand. Cannot. Erase., on which Beggs and Minnemann were the rhythm section. The ‘dark vs. light’ contrasts are fairly Wilson-esque too, and I can hear some Porcupine Tree in the catchiness of “Window onto the Sun” and the riffs of “The Dumbing of the Stupid,” although the latter gets more shreddy and jazzy than your typical PT song. The songs that stick out to me the most are the titletrack, with its ’80s Marillion-meets-alt rock’ vibe and “Early Warning,” which has got some cool bass playing and a wintry feel. The gentle “Stranger than Fiction” – written for Beggs’ wife – is a break from the societal themes and closes the album optimistically, feeling like a sequel to last album’s “Father, Daughter.” However, there’s one filler track, and that’s “The Singing Fish of Batticaloa,” which lulls a little too long during the quiet respite in the middle and doesn’t measure up to the other mellow songs.

The musicianship is great, even if it’s hard to tell who’s playing what on each song, since the guitars are handled by all three members, and both King and Beggs contribute keyboards. However, as the mastermind, bassist and vocalist Nick Beggs is naturally the most crucial piece of the jigsaw puzzle. Besides his typical pristine and high-pitched singing, he spits the lyrics of “We Can’t Carry On” in an accusatory tone, utilizes a dramatic, almost Muse-style voice on “The Dumbing of the Stupid”, while delivering the title-track in a crooning fashion. I can’t believe this guy has only been a backing vocalist for the majority of his career! Minnemann’s drumming throughout the album is remarkable – he can bash the skins like they owe him money, but can also play in a very relaxed manner. However, the King-penned cinematic intro, “Saltatio Mortis”, and the melodic Chapman Stick instrumental, “Lament”, prove that The Mute Gods are capable of minimalism as well. Beggs’ pop background also ensures that the album is full of great hooks and that the instrumentation side doesn’t take over completely. The Mute Gods have managed to build on the strengths of their debut, and Tardigrades… is a successful step forward with a powerful message.

Rating: 8½/10, 4 stars

Tracklist:
1. Saltatio Mortis
2. Animal Army
3. We Can’t Carry On
4. The Dumbing of the Stupid
5. Early Warning
6. Tardigrades Will Inherit the Earth
7. Window onto the Sun
8. Lament
9. The Singing Fish of Batticaloa
10. The Andromeda Stain
11. Stranger than Fiction

Ed: Amy W

DIABLO w/ KYPCK @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 18.02.2017

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Diablo with KYPCK in Helsinki, 2017.
Photos by Janne Puronen.
Gig report coming soon.
Keikka-arvio tulossa.

NETTA SKOG – On the Rocks, Helsinki, 18.02.2017

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Netta Skog is no new name to the music scene, particularly in Finland. This champion accordionist made a name for herself as the replacement for Lisko in Turisas, but has since moved on to replace Emmi Silvennoinen in Ensiferum. I’ve personally never known her to perform solo shows, at least since she became a popular metal musician, so when she lined up a solo performance at On the Rocks on February 18th, 2017, I figured I should go see what sort of show she’d put on by herself… except she wasn’t completely alone! A few short hours before the show, she announced that she’d have a special guest on stage with her. You may have heard of him – Children of Bodom’s own Alexi Laiho.

[Due to a misunderstanding of the digital accordion’s capabilities, this review has been updated as of 24.02.2017]

 

With the club doors opening at 22:00, I thought it would be wise to show up a bit beforehand – you never know what kind of a crowd this sort of show would bring in. The venue was clearly kicking people out of the basement before they were letting show-goers in, so the line in the upstairs of the bar got a little bit insane around 22:00. With Laiho and Skog still doing some final touches on the sound, I was surprised that fewer people were early to the venue to stalk them. I mean, they both have their fair share of raving fans.

There was a steady trickle of people inside nevertheless, and from all walks of life. There were clear heavy fans donning their band shirts, with a lot of Ensiferum visible, as well as people that I assumed knew her for her work as a competitor. And so I found myself a seat wondering what sort of music the former-Turisas/present-Ensiferum/2015 World Championship victor would play at a solo show.

 

They were late getting started, with the showtime listed as 22:30, but the bar music didn’t fade out until 22:45, and that’s even after the original start time of 22:00 was announced to be pushed back. The lights grew dark and the fog machines started up, while Two Steps from Hell’s “Victory” played – great song! Skog took the stage, unfortunately seated, thus making it hard to see her, and started things off with “Poison” by Alice Cooper. She didn’t sing, rather choosing to let the accordion do the work for her, and at this point I have to make some changes to what I had originally written: I had originally thought that Skog was playing to a backing track, but after the fact, she informed me that these ‘backing tracks’ were all, in fact, played by her on the accordion. I will maintain that the sound was slightly unbalanced – what I would consider to be the back-up music (the looped guitars and drums) was overpowering the main riffs to a certain extent – I’m not sure if that relates simply to the mechanics of the accordion, or if it was the venue’s sound. However, having learned this, I am nothing short of amazed at the level of detail and intricacy she has put into these arrangements! This also explains how what I thought was the backing track stopped instantly in some songs at the same time she stopped, so, lesson learned, and I am truly humbled and wildly impressed.

She greeted the crowd enthusiastically, expressing how excited she was about this show. She then discussed playing Nightwish and asked the crowd to sing along with the next medley, starting with “I Want My Tears Back.” That was really interesting, as the accordion did a great job of the violin parts, sounding rather similar, but also gave it a bit of a sea shanty effect. However, having promised a “potpourri” of Nightwish, she transitioned this into “Nemo.” This switched again into something from Endless Forms Most Beautiful, I think, before going back to “I Want My Tears Back” briefly before finishing up. The crowd began shouting requests and she teased them a while before saying “no way” and that she had her own set, offering some Scorpions instead.

I didn’t recognize the next track, but Skog mentioned Bullet for My Valentine – turns out it was “Betrayal”, which is not one of their songs that I’m intimately familiar with. It sounded really cool on the accordion, and wickedly heavy before “Rock You like a Hurricane”, which was a ton of fun, particularly when she rocked the solo and got all the drunks clapping and singing along. I say drunks, incidentally, because the sober Finns hadn’t come out of their shells yet. She then asked who had seen her before, with Turisas, Mokoma, Turmion Kätilöt, and Children of Bodom, and thanked everyone for the support. She also gave a shout-out in English to the foreigners in the crowd as well, which was lovely.

Skog then started up a rather “well known” song, none other than Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”… and sang, only backing herself up a touch with the accordion, apart from the solo; the girl has a lovely voice, in case you weren’t aware. It’s a shame some of the older rocker drunks wrote the show off at this point, grumpily muttering that they should go somewhere else and listen to Iron Maiden – ironic, but I’ll get to that later.

She then asked the crowd if everyone was from Helsinki, and one woman shouted that she was from Rovaniemi, which Skog replied was incredibly cool. The crowd clearly clued into her next song faster than I did, as they started screaming before I figured out that she was playing a Children of Bodom medley. Interesting song choices though, and I’ve never seen anyone do a keyboard slide on an accordion before, so that was new for me. She then introduced her beloved friend, Alexi Laiho.

Laiho took his seat next to Skog and proved that there is good reason for his popularity, as he really revved the crowd up, shredding away like it was nothing to a song I didn’t know, but turned out to be Bodom’s “Every Time I Die” and “In Your Face.” Skog herself couldn’t help but rock out as he was going at it. The next track, “Lake Bodom”, was a personal favorite, as the mixing accordion and electric guitar traded off and sounded really cool together, even going full-on humppa for a while.

Laiho left the stage, and someone requested “Poison”, to which she teased the perpetrator mercilessly. She then suggested that the next songs would be by Amorphis, possibly newer material. That was another highlight, as it’s no secret that Under the Red Cloud won me over to Amorphis fandom. She then threw the crowd a curveball by starting up “The Trooper” by Iron Maiden, allowing the crowd to sing some of the vocals, and not even trying to hide her grin at the “ohh-oh” parts. It was a short rendition, but clearly the crowd was thrilled about it. Shame those cranky drunks had given up so soon, no? That’s what music snobbery will get you, it seems.

She finally announced the last song of the set, discussing a competition that she won some years ago, with Yngwie Malmsteen’s “Far Beyond the Sun.” It’s not a song I’m familiar with, but it got the crowd chanting and their fists in the air. I have to say, the neoclassical, wanky guitar music worked really nicely on the accordion.

The crowd called her back to the stage after she said her thanks, and she called her friend Alexi back as well. She then graced us with a little riff from her favorite accordion song, “Säkkijärven polkka”, as Laiho plugged in an acoustic guitar. She announced that the last song of the night would be “Hurts” by Johnny Cash (actually Nine Inch Nails, but they had been inspired by the Johnny Cash version when deciding to perform it) and profusely thanked the crowd once again. This was the only other song that she sang along with, other than “Wicked Game.” It was a very nice rendition, and one of the more stand-out of the night as it didn’t have that extra arrangement on the accordion, but rather, stuck to the traditional riffs that you would expect to hear from such an instrument. It was maybe not the most upbeat note to end the night on, but that’s hardly a fault, as it was a fun show as a whole.

 

So, this was a very interesting night, and reminded me why it’s rarely a bad idea to just go out and watch something new from time to time – particularly when taking on a new instrument that I apparently know absolutely nothing about. The show was really fun and Skog is a great showman, interacting with the crowd and getting a little cheeky when necessary. It reminded me a bit of Ilja Jalkanen’s troubadour shows. Plus she clearly had fun, bouncing around on her stool and smiling the whole time. I will say though that visually, it was less fun to see a show of two people sitting down than it could have been if they had stood. It might have been a little more compelling if she had owned the stage the way she owned the songs and the crowd. However, this s due to the footpedal she uses, so it makes sense that the music will be better if she its, and of course, that is the main point, right? And I must credit her for picking songs that were sure to please her audience. If you’ve lived in Finland and spent any time in the music community, you’ll understand what I mean. All she missed was “Tallulah” by Sonata Arctica. Overall though, apart from some issues with sound balance, I had a good time and I’d certainly recommend checking her out if you’re a fan of accordions and/or covers and/or Netta Skog!

Setlist (incomplete):
Intro: Victory (Two Steps from Hell)
1. Poison (Alice Cooper)
2. Nightwish medley (I Want My Tears Back, Nemo, Elán)
3. Betrayal (Bullet for My Valentine)
4. Rock You Like a Hurricane (Scorpions)
5. Wicked Game (Chris Isaak)
6. Children of Bodom medley (Hate Me, Downfall)
7. Every Time I Die, In Your Face (Children of Bodom; ft. Alexi Laiho)
8. Lake Bodom (Children of Bodom; ft. Alexi Laiho)
9. Amorphis medley (Tree of Ages, You I Need, House of Sleep)
10. The Trooper (Iron Maiden)
11. Far Beyond the Sun (Yngwie Malmsteen)

Encore:
12. Säkkijärven polkka (snippet)
13. Hurt (Nine Inch Nails; ft. Alexi Laiho)

Photos: Feng Deng

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Tuomas Saukkonen (Wolfheart), 2017

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You may or may not know about Wolfheart yet, but there’s reasonable certainty that you’ve at least heard of the band’s creator, Tuomas Saukkonen. Known for countless musical projects over the years, such as Before the Dawn and Black Sun Aeon to name a few, he decided a while ago to stop all projects to focus on one new one, and that is where Wolfheart comes in. With their sophomore album coming out on March 3rd, we thought we’d share the playlist of Tuomas Saukkonen’s life with you!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
“Over the Hills and Far Away” – Gary More

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
“Over the Hills and Far Away” – Gary More. That song made a huge impact.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
“Enter Sandman” – Metallica

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
“Mother Nature” – Scum

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
“Wash it all Away” – Five Finger Death Punch (good drumming warm up)

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
“Equador” – Sash

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Dr. Feelgood – Mötley Crüe

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
“A Drowning” – How to Destroy Angels

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
“Walk” – Pantera

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
“A Song for my Funeral” – Black Sun Aeon

 

Be sure to check out the video for “Boneyard” over here:

Wolfheart will be on tour this March. You can check them out in Finland here:
04.03 Helsinki, Virgin Oil Co
10.03 Jyväskylä, Lutakko
11.03 Oulu, Hevimesta

(2016) Amaranthe: Maximalism

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Artist: Amaranthe
Album: Maximalism
Released: 21.10.2016
Label: Spinefarm Records

 

I’ve been trying to decide for a good while now whether I should review Maximalism by Amaranthe. As you may or may not have caught, I was largely disappointed in this album the first time I heard it, with the opinion that it was simultaneously trying to be something it’s not and clinging too much to what they have already done in excess. Eventually, however, I decided that after 4 months, it was time to give it another spin and see if I like it better after some time away.

 

The thing is, I think this album has one massive flaw, which is an overall lack of cohesiveness. The band can’t seem to decide if they want to be an electronic/dance band or a metal band. While some bands, like Blind Channel and Ember Falls, have developed the ability to blend genres with style and grace, when Amaranthe blends genres, it sounds messy and overdone.

The first two tracks, “Maximize” and the single, “Boomerang”, hang closer to their original electro-metal sound, yet the album quickly degenerates into something that sounds like a sad effort to blend 80s rock (think Queen or Skid Row -era music) with modern electronic music, and I’m sorry to say, it’s not pretty. Those first two tracks manage to recreate their original sound fairly decently, with “Boomerang” almost sounding too much like songs from their self-titled debut (a good album with only one song on it, essentially), but ends up suffering from overproduction and a severe lack of heavy elements – namely, a lead guitar and decent drumming (sorry, Morten Sørensen). Honestly, if these guys had Ember Falls’ drummer, the album might not have failed quite as badly. To be honest, if you want to be considered a heavy band, you need more than one occasionally-present heavy element; talking about Henrik Wilmhelmsson‘s growls here. He is literally the only heavy factor in many of these songs, and as one of three vocalists, he’s not exactly the focus of the music. Still, the first two tracks manage to be decent, if overdone. At least the lyrical concept in “Boomerang” is somewhat clever.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the next three tracks, “That Song”, “21”, and “On the Rocks.” The first of these has an intro directly ripped off from “We Will Rock You” by Queen, featuring lyrics much like they’ve been taken from Bon Jovi’s discography (think “Livin’ on a Prayer”). The song feels horribly unoriginal, and while very catchy, doesn’t offer anything interesting in spite of the good vocal performances across the board. Meanwhile, “21” sounds like an uninspired version of every other song they’ve ever written, and “On the Rocks” just feels… dull. The “nah-nah” parts again feel a bit too oldschool 80s for this band’s style, and the rest of the music is purely uninteresting. There is a much-needed guitar solo by Olof Mörck, but it doesn’t last long enough to save the song.

I’ve noticed that Amaranthe likewise has a pattern on every album. I suspect they follow a sort of formula when they both write and organize their songs, because on every one of their albums, one of the slowest songs (usually a ballad) has always been track 6. It is also often the best song on the album – “Amaranthe” on their 2011 debut was beautiful, “Burn with Me” from The Nexus (2013) was heartfelt and easy to relate to, and “True” from 2014’s Massive Addictive had a great deal of romantic passion. Now we have “Limitless”, which is not quite their usual ballad, but still one of the the slowest songs, and likewise the best track on the album. Why, you may ask? Because this song actually has a specific style and some structure to it, unlike the rest. It slows down just enough to be cohesive and has some actual feeling and emotion to it. This is the only song I find myself moving to when I’m not paying attention – easily my favorite.

Sadly, the album continues on with yet another super-generic Amaranthe song that sounds like every other Amaranthe song ever: “Fury”, which didn’t manage to catch my eye in any way before the album moves onto more of the same in “Faster” – a song that almost manages to be mildly interesting in its semi-Asian-influenced solo, though it is far too brief to even be notable by the end. Meanwhile, “Break Down and Cry” is a bit slower than the rest, tries to stand out, and even nearly succeeds, but still somehow manages to avoid any sort of memorability in the end.

I could keep going, but at this point, there hardly seems to be any point to it. I find very few Amaranthe songs stand out from the masses. If anyone out there can name a non-single, non-ballad favorite Amaranthe song, I’ll be genuinely impressed, because after a while, they all just blend into one another. Don’t get me wrong, the music is catchy and fun, and I don’t necessarily dislike listening to it per se, but there’s just not much that differentiates one song from another. It’s all over-produced, offers almost nothing to appease fans of the heavy aspects, and Elize Ryd on vocals often sounds nearly identical to Rhianna. Even the bass (by Johan Andreassen) doesn’t stand out in the mix, and that’s a huge part of electronic metal that’s nearly completely absent.

“Endlessly” is the only other slower song, closing out the album, and it’s nice enough. However, the lyrics are pretty generic and again, the song lacks any necessary depth and beauty to make it stand out as a ballad; I find this particularly sad, as ballads were the one thing I always thought Amaranthe was great at. Love songs are a dime a dozen or more, so you have to work hard to make them mean something these days, and Amaranthe used to do that, yet this song fails in that regard. Maybe if I was younger and had heard less music in the span of my life I’d like it, but I feel like I’ve heard these lyrics a thousand times before. There’s also something vaguely familiar about the riff that I can’t put my finger on. Maybe something by Queen again. I think it might have helped if this had been a proper duet with Jake E, as both male vocalists are mysteriously absent, yet one of them could have added something of depth to the mix. Alas, it fades into oblivion as one more romantic yet unimaginative song.

 

I’ve been trying to be a fan of Amaranthe for ages now, but once again I find myself listening to their newest album with a rather large degree of distaste. Their music is fun and upbeat and great for festival scenarios, but as always, their albums have maybe one to three genuinely good songs, followed by a massive amount of filler. I mean, even Ryd, who is an amazing singer, manages to sound painfully generic on this album. There isn’t a single song on that breaches the 4 minute length, making a 12-song album clock in at under 40 minutes, and still manages to feel overly long. It’s not a bad album if you want to listen in the background and not pay attention, yet there are practically no songs that stand out and there are a few early on that are just downright bad. Honestly, I don’t know why they don’t drop Wilhelmsson’s growls altogether and just turn themselves into an electro-pop band, as that feels like the genre that holds their true passion, considering there is nothing heavy about them musically.

Rating: 4/10, 2 stars.

Track list:
1. Maximize
2. Boomerang
3. That Song
4. 21
5. On the Rocks
6. Limitless
7. Fury
8. Faster
9. Break Down and Cry
10. Supersonic
11. Fireball
12. Endlessly

ARKONA w/ KIVIMETSÄN DRUIDI – Kuudes Linja, Helsinki, 17.02.2017 (English)

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The Tampere-based NEM Agency is doing fine cultural work in the domestic live music scene, since they finally got Arkona, the Russian folk metal act, to throw a gig in Finland. The band, founded in 2002 in Moscow, split up before the release of their first album, but the vocalist and primus motor, Maša Arihipova, gathered a group of studio musicians to record the band’s first two albums, and afterwards the session musicians joined the band as permanent members. Arkona has a reputation of being a great live act, and they’ve played pretty big stages with success in the past, so beforehand it was evident that the Finnish show was going to be intense, since it was to take place in the intimate Kuudes Linja on February 17th. Kouvola’s own Kivimetsän Druidi was there to warm up the stage, and since they’ve been active as long as Arkona, there was a certain Battle of the Nations –type of feel in the air.

Lue suomeksi TÄÄLLÄ!
Full gallery HERE!

 

In spite of being on a Friday, the showtimes were marked surprisingly early, with Kivimetsän Druidi starting at 19:30 and Arkona at 22:45. I arrived at Kuudes Linja at about 19:00, right at the time the doors were supposed to open, but it took a good 20 minutes to get the coatroom line moving. Fortunately the line melted away pretty fast, but as Kivimetsän Druidi started off their set a few minutes late, there were quite a few people who were still queuing outside, hoping to already be at the bar.

As with other Finnish folk metal acts with fantasy elements in their songs, KMD’s domestic fanbase hasn’t quite grown to the size they deserve, which is truly a shame; as always, the band played an excellent show to the somewhat small but steadily growing audience. Their latest release, last year’s The Lost Captains EP, was played in full and combined with nice picks from their previous efforts, and they even played the title track from their first EP, Kristallivuoren maa. The band was performing in a pleasant mood, getting the audience to shove their fists in the air and clap along, and the bassist, Simo Lehtonen, doing all the interim speeches, was as laid-back as ever. The mix was great for the most part, although Leeni-Maria Hovila’s classical vocals tended to get behind the rest of the band at times.

From their debut album, Shadowheart, the set ended with the feisty “Blacksmith” and “Jäässä varttunut”, the latter probably still being the band’s most well-known track. It’s not easy to make yourself known to the audience these days, especially when Kivimetsän Druidi doesn’t currently have a label to back them up and promote them, but I still wish that the band could yank their success to (at least) the next level, both in Finland and central Europe – their songs are clearly good enough for the task.

 

Near the end of the intermission, the atmosphere was almost tangible, as the music was changed to stripped-down traditional singing and the lights were dimmed to a minimum, with the venue being full of anxious people waiting for Arkona to take the stage. Finally the band of five climbed on stage and kicked things off with “Yav”, the colossal title track off their latest album. Every player was instantly moved into a passive role, as Arihipova took a hold of the situation with her unbelievable energy. She paced back and forth and let so many different sounds out of her vocal cords that I’m hard-pressed to think of another frontlady quite as spectacular. Of course the rest of the band performed with confidence and the band’s flutist, Vladimir Reshetnikov, was especially amazing to witness live, as in addition to his smaller fipple flute, he also played the bagpipe. The show wasn’t without minor technical difficulties, however, as Sergey Atrashkevich’s guitar amp blew something after a moment of popping sounds. The rest of the band barely noticed the situation and continued on, leaving Atrashkevich to fiddle with his gear without rush. After the amp was again up and running, he jumped in to the end of the song as nothing had happened.

The show had an amazing audience – fists were pumping in the air and the cheering was non-stop. Arihipova even got the audience to do a wall of death before ”Stenka na Stenku”; everyone who has attended a show at Kuudes Linja can probably imagine what I’m talking about if I say that it was a little pathetic. Also as a pretty rare but extremely nice move, Arkona didn’t leave the stage before their encore, but instead played their whole set in one piece, ending the show with Goi, Rode, Goi!’s “Yarilo.” Having thanked the audience wholeheartedly on almost every occasion she could, Arihipova once again told the audience how great they had been, and it was pretty clear that the show had been a great experience for both the band and the audience. The set wasn’t as long as a week ago in Moscow (30 songs!), but a tad short of an hour and a half was still more than enough. The light technician had utilized the stage’s setup to its fullest, and the sound was excellent throughout: the mixer spent the most of his time in the audience, adjusting the levels with his iPad – mobile apps are clearly making their way to live shows as well.

 

It’s always nice to attend shows at Kuudes Linja, as the whole package works regardless of music genre, and since the show ended pretty early, it was easy to continue with the evening in the city center. Earlier, as I was queuing to the ticket booth, I felt a great deal of pity towards this clearly under-aged girl, who had arrived at the venue with her dad and had purchased a ticket beforehand, begging the doorman to let her in, which obviously the guy couldn’t do. She was hugely disappointed, but I can say that if there’s anything to be deducted from tonight’s action, I think it’s a certainty that Arkona will return to Finland!

Photos: Miia Collander | Ed: Amy W

ARKONA w/ KIVIMETSÄN DRUIDI – Kuudes Linja, Helsinki, 17.02.2017 (suomeksi)

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Tamperelainen NEM Agency tekee tällä hetkellä hienoa kulttuurityötä kotimaisessa tapahtumaskenessä, sillä ohjelmatoimisto sai viimein venäläisen pitkän linjan folk metal –yhtye Arkonan Suomeen keikalle. Vuonna 2002 perustettu moskovalaisbändi hajosi pian perustamisensa jälkeen, mutta vokalisti ja primus motor Maša Arihipova herätti yhtyeen uudelleen henkiin studiomuusikoiden voimin, ja pian sessiojäsenet liittyivätkin bändiin vakituisesti. Kovan livebändin maineessa oleva Arkona on ehtinyt kiertää isojakin lavoja menestyksekkäästi, joten tiedossa oli intensiivinen keikka, olihan tapahtumapaikkana intiimi Kuudes Linja. Illan avaajaksi oli valikoitunut Arkonan kanssa samanikäinen, kouvolalainen Kivimetsän Druidi, joten ilmassa oli myös selkeää Suomi-Venäjä -ottelutunnelmaa.

Read in English HERE!
Galleria TÄÄLLÄ!

 

Vaikka kyseessä oli perjantaipäivä, illan aikataulu oli yllättävän aikainen ovien avautuessa jo seitsemältä, Kivimetsän Druidin aloittaessa puoli kahdeksalta ja Arkonan varttia vaille yhdeksän. Ehdin paikalle seitsemän pintaan, mutta ovet avautuivat lopulta vasta melkein kahtakymmentä yli. Narikkajono veti onneksi mukavaa vauhtia, mutta Kivimetsän Druidin aloittaessa hieman myöhässä pihalla oli varmasti vielä suuri joukko ihmisiä, jotka olisivat mielellään olleet jo baaritiskillä notkumassa.

Kuten kotimaisilla astetta enemmän fantasiaelementteihin nojaavilla folk metal –bändeillä yleensä, KMD:nkään suosio ei ole Suomessa koskaan noussut aivan sille tasolle jonka bändi ansaitsisi, mikä on todella harmi. Bändi soitti jälleen kerran takuuvarman keikan kohtuullisen harvalukuiselle, joskin jatkuvasti kasvavalle yleisölle. Monen vuoden levytystauon katkaissut, mainio The Lost Captains –EP soitettiin kokonaan, minkä lisäksi setissä oli hyviä valintoja uran varhaisemmilta vaiheilta, ja käytiinpä sitä ensimmäisellä Kristallivuoren maa –EP:lläkin asti. Bändi esiintyi hyväntuulisesti ja sai yleisön osallistumaan nyrkkien heiluttamiseen ja taputtamiseen mukavasti, ja välispiikit hoitanut basisti Simo Lehtonen oli jälleen leppoisa itsensä. Miksaus oli suurimmaksi osaksi hyvin kohdallaan, joskin Leeni-Maria Hovilan klassinen laulu jäi paikoitellen muun bändin jalkoihin.

Setti päättyi ärhäkästi debyyttilevy Shadowheartin ”Blacksmithiin” sekä musiikkivideobiisi ”Jäässä varttuneeseen”, joka lienee edelleen Kivimetsän Druidin tunnetuin kappale. Nykyaikana edukseen erottuminen on jatkuvasti vaikeampaa, varsinkin kun bändin takana ei ole tällä hetkellä levy-yhtiötä hoitamassa promootiota, mutta toivoisin bändille silti ainakin kertaluokkaa suurempaa sukseeta niin kotimaassa kuin Keski-Euroopassakin – ei tällä kappalemateriaalilla ainakaan hävitä voi.

 

Arkonaa edeltäneen roudaustauon lopussa tunnelma oli miltei käsinkosketeltava, kun perinteisempi väliaikamusiikki vaihdettiin riisuttuun perinnelauluun ja valot himmennettiin minimiin lähes täyden salin odottaessa kiivaasti bändiä lavalle. Lopulta viisihenkinen Arkona kipusi lavalle ja keikka käynnistyi uusimman Yav-levyn kolossaalisen pituisella nimikappaleella. Bändin soittajisto jäi välittömästi statistien rooliin, sillä laulaja Arihipova otti tilan haltuun uskomattomalla energiallaan. Hän sinkoili pitkin poikin lavaa ja päästi kurkustaan niin montaa erityylistä ääntä, ettei ihan heti tule mieleen toista yhtä vaikuttavaa keulahahmoa – mikkiständiäkin huidottiin ilmaan kuin stadionkeikalla konsanaan. Muukin bändi esiintyi vakuuttavasti, ja varsinkin huilisti Vladimir Reshetnikovin soittoa oli mahtavaa kuunnella livenä miehen soittaessa sekä pientä nokkahuilua että säkkipilliä. Teknisiltä ongelmilta ei täysin vältytty: läpi keikan alkupuolen PA:sta kuultiin paikoittaista napsumista, ja jossain vaiheessa kitaristi Sergey Atrashkevichin vahvistin mykistyi täysin. Muu bändi ei tästä ollut moksiskaan, ja menossa ollut kappale jatkui pelkällä bassolla. Atrashkevich räpläsi vahvarinsa kuntoon rauhassa ja hyppäsi kappaleen loppuun lennosta mukaan saatuaan tekniikan taas toimimaan.

Keikalla oli aivan loistava yleisö: nyrkit puivat ilmaa taukoamatta ja huutomyrsky oli jatkuvaa. Arihipova myös yllytti yleisön wall of deathiin ennen ”Stenka na Stenkua”; kutosen kokoisessa keikkapaikassa näkyä pystyi kuvailla vain sanalla sympaattinen. Arkona teki harvinaisen, mutta äärimmäisen toimivan ratkaisun jättämällä turhan lavalta poistumisen ja palaamisen pois. Bändi soitti koko settinsä yhteen menoon, lopettaen keikan Goi, Rode, Goi! -levyn ”Yariloon”. Arihipova kiitteli yleisöä lähes jokaisen kappaleen jälkeen vuolaasti, ja oli selvää, että keikka oli hieno kokemus sekä bändille että yleisölle. Viikon takaisen Moskovan keikan pituuteen (30 kappaletta!) ei tämän illan settilistassa sentään ylletty, mutta nämäkin vajaat puolitoista tuntia olivat täyttä asiaa. Valomies käytti lavan kevyttä valoarsenaalia mainiosti hyödykseen, minkä lisäksi soundit olivat kautta linjan loistavat. Miksaaja vietti suurimman osan ajasta yleisön seassa säätäen lavaääntä iPadistaan – mobiilisovellukset tekevät selkeästi tuloaan bänditekniikkaankin.

 

Kutosella on aina mukavaa käydä keikalla, sillä homma toimii musiikkigenrestä riippumatta, ja keikan aikainen alkamisajankohtakin mahdollisti illan jatkamisen mukavasti keskustassa. Keikalle vielä jonottaessani kävi sääliksi isänsä kanssa paikalle tullutta selkeästi alaikäistä tyttöä, jolla oli lippukin etukäteen hankittuna, mutta jota ovimies ei voinut ottaa sisään baariin. Pettymys oli selkeästi todella suuri, mutta lohdutukseksi voin sanoa: jos illan meiningistä mitään voi päätellä, Arkona palaa vielä satavarmasti Suomeen!

Kuvat: Miia Collander | Ed: Ville Karttunen

NETTA SKOG @ On the Rocks, Helsinki, 18.02.2017

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Netta Skog ft. Alexi Laiho, Helsinki 2017.
Photos by Feng Deng.

KREATOR w/ ABORTED, SOILWORK, & SEPULTURA @ Progresja, Warsaw, 15.02.2017

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Kreator with Aborted, Soilwork, and Sepultura in Progresja, 2017.
Photos by Maria Sawicka.

In the Studio: Frosttide, part 1

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In case you haven’t gotten the news, Frosttide underwent a line-up change toward the end of 2016. As such, it’s time to look to the future, and Frosttide is continuing their journey now, having already spent some time in the studio working on their next album as a trio. First off, we wanted to check what the situation is with the band, as they now lack a bassist.

“Juho [Patinen, guitar/vocals] will take care of the bass for this album. Frosttide is a unit where everybody’s contribution is needed. For the moment, we will remain as a three-piece band and future shows will be carried out with help from session musicians. Eventually we will take new members to the band but we will take our time to make sure these are the right musicians. The last live guitars were played by our friends Markus Hirvonen [Noumena & Avenie] and bass by Matti Auerkallio [Manzana, Soulfallen, Ultimatium, Avenie]. We are very thankful to them for helping us with the last two shows without any hesitation.”

While in the past, the distance between cities didn’t cause too much trouble during the songwriting and recording process, Felipe’s [Muñoz, keyboards] recent temporary move to Jyväskylä has simplified the process.

“Felipe moved to Jyväskylä last December [2016] until the end of March to work in the new album. At the moment, everything is very easy as we are recording everything on our own and we are living in the same city. The recording process is going great! There is good chemistry within the band and we are very happy how the new material is progressing.

When recording Blood Oath, the entire band was present when recording drums and vocals. Bass and guitars were recorded at Juho’s home studio in Jyväskylä, and Felipe recorded most of the keyboards/orchestration tracks at home in Tampere. Still, he had to visit Jyväskylä several times to record the final orchestrations with Juho. The schedule was very hectic so it was definitely energy-consuming. For this chapter, everything is easier when compared to the previous recordings.”

When it comes to the writing itself, we were curious as to how far along the band is at this point. As well, it’s clear that the band writes very collaboratively, but we were interested to hear if there’s any concept at this point.

“Before going into recording mode, the album concept is set and most of the songs are written. Still, we are very open to make changes on the go. We like to try new ideas as long it respects the vision of the song. For example, the drums came to be quite different from what on the demo tracks were like. And these new drum parts also led us to make some changes in the arrangements for the other instruments. It will be the same for the guitars and keyboards. It is very exciting to see how these songs evolve from the demos into their final form!”

That concludes our first discussion about the upcoming Frosttide album. Stay tuned for more!

ARKONA w/ KIVIMETSÄN DRUIDI @ Kuudes Linja, Helsinki, 17.02.2017

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Arkona’s first gig in Finland, with Kivimetsän Druidi, Helsinki 2017.
Photos by Miia Collander.
Gig report in English HERE!
Keikka-arvio suomeksi TÄÄLLÄ!

(2017) Lost in Grey – The Grey Realms

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Artist: Lost in Grey
Album: The Grey Realms
Release: 03.03.2017
Label: NoiseArt Records

 

Lost in Grey is a newcomer to the Finnish metal scene, even if frontman Harri Koskela [Thaurorod] is not. This symphonic metal project tells the story of Lillian, who is running away and gets lost in a place called the Grey Realms. There she meets the rulers, Patrick and Odessa, and though the place seems like paradise at first, she soon becomes disenchanted with it and is forced to deal with the things from which she was fleeing. This musical sextet was formed in 2013 and now has their debut album out in two short weeks. With a lot of positive words being spoken about this band, it seemed like it’d be worth my while to give the album a listen. My only regret is that I didn’t have the album’s lyrics in front of me, as it’s hard to review a concept album without the lyrics to help delve into the story.

 

My first impression as the album started was that it might appeal to fans of Epica. It has that same feeling Epica’s songs often offer, cranking things up to 11 immediately and then turning it down afterwards (if at all). The first track, “Waltz of Lillian”, hits hard and fast with a bombastic intro and some operatic backing vocals, before it calms down (I particularly enjoyed that progression) completely to vocalist Harri Koskela, singing nearly alone but for some ambient music and soft keys. You can imagine him on a stage alone under a single spotlight. One of the female vocalists joins in, and then the music picks up very nicely. I’m not 100% sure what I’m hearing after the female vocalist departs, but it sounds like clean and growling vocals simultaneously. Symphonics, vocalists of all types and styles, and dynamics up the wazoo – if you’re into this type of heavy drama in your music, I’m already pretty convinced, based on this one song, that this album will be right up your alley.

“Road to Styx” starts off with some guitars that sound rather like (neo)classical power metal (Symphony X, Rhapsody of Fire, etc), but amps up with the symphonics and double-kick (by Joonas Pykälä-aho) pretty much instantly. One of the female vocalists – either Emily Leone or Anne Lill – is largely in charge of the vocals in this track, though she is frequently backed up by the growls, and they work rather nicely together; the wordless notes that Leone (I’m assuming, because she’s the operatic singer, right?) frequently sings in the background are lovely. There’s a pretty 80s-style synth solo around three quarters of the way through that was rather surprising, but not too out of place. Following this, the song goes into full theatrical drama with what feels like a medieval stage choir getting a bit freaky at a masquerade.

The intro to “Dark Skies” sounds potentially Asian folk-influenced, and the first verses are quite balanced between the music and symphonics in energy. At this point, I realized that without my speaker system connected, I was enjoying this album less than I had in the past – this album does very well with a proper sound system, and feels a bit limp played on laptop speakers. I’ll chalk a bit of that up to Aapo Lindberg on bass. There seemed to be a Tolkien reference, intentional or not (Misty Mountains) hidden in there, though I’m not sure to what effect. Lyrically, this song seems to offer a degree of temptation from the male vocalist. I’m not sure whether or not I appreciate the female vocalist’s attempt at vocal grit towards the end, as she drops it eventually (or it switches to the other vocalist, whom I assume is Leone as it gets a bit operatic) and it sounds a bit better from there on out.

“Revelation” has an ambient, whispering, folky intro, and I really like it. The build-up is perhaps slightly too instant and powerful, but I can’t dislike it because the folk elements in it are really great. If you want really strong growls combined with some pretty excellent double-kick, “Revelation” is a definite winner. The female vocals that start up the verses are lovely as well, and this song has begun to feel like my favorite from the album, at least at this point. The next part is taken over by the growling male vocals, which are also sounding particularly good in this track. Props as well to Miika Haavisto on guitars for this track, for the echoing effects and somewhat Blind Guardian-esque medieval sound blending with the straight-up classic electric guitar bits. Just after 5 minutes in, there’s a wicked slow dynamic, with some lurking keys, slowly building into something that picks up oh so gently when the vocalist joins in. Yeah, we’ll call this my favorite from this album.

“Revelation” transitions seamlessly into “The Order”, which has a definite theatrical vibe to it, bringing back that sensation of watching a play, particularly in some of the female vocals from Leone (I think) that sound like comments, as though you’re listening to a conversation. It also has nice Gregorian-style chants toward the end that are really excellent. “New Horizon” shows some folk influence as well in its gentle intro, in a more Viking metal style than the prior Asian-sounding intro in “Dark Skies” at least. This is one of my favorite parts on the album as well, sounding very mystical and somehow mythological. This is a very choir-centric song, but manages to not get too over-the-top.

The title track is also the album’s epic, clocking in at over 12 minutes in length. It opens with a gentle vocal intro with light backing instrumentals, with the vocals fading out, and the sweet instrumental bit is nicely highlighted. The hint of violin in the progression is really well-done as well. In particular, this is one song where I would’ve liked to know the lyrics, as I feel like something really interesting and climactic is happening in the story, at least based on the overall feel of the song. The long fade-out matches the intro as well, creating a full-circle track that feels very complete, with added folk elements toward the end. Feeling-wise, this could be the last track, as it does feel quite final. However, there are still 6 minutes to go in the form of “Silence Falls”, which has a soft violin intro and again flows seamlessly from “The Grey Realms.” The starting vocals reminded me strongly of old-era Sharon den Adel from Within Temptation, and all of the vocalists come together quite nicely in this track. Actually, this track winds the album’s energy down beautifully and works even better as a closer than “The Grey Realms” would have, even if I can’t comment on the story.

 

After listening through this album once, my first thoughts were that it was a very ambitious project, but perhaps had a bit too much crammed into a mere eight songs. Some of the songs are pretty over-the-top, but I’d be a fool to think there aren’t people out there who will totally love that (such as the aforementioned Epica fans). However, after a few listens, more and more of the musical nuances began to stand out, and I’d say, in particular, those who like really strong symphonic music will likely appreciate this. I complained a bit that The Holographic Principle was turned up to 11 the entire time and became overwhelming – this album doesn’t suffer from that issue, as the dynamics are pretty nice throughout. I’m a big fan of Michiru Yamane (who writes Castlevania soundtracks, if the name is unfamiliar), and there were parts of this album that gave me that epic, classical Castlevania soundtrack vibe. Overall, the quality of the album is pretty excellent, so if this sort of high-powered symphonic music is to your taste, I’d certainly recommend giving this album a spin or four.

Rating: 9/10, 4.5 stars.

Tracklist:
1. Waltz of Lillian
2. Road to Styx
3. Dark Skies
4. Revelation
5. The Order
6. New Horizon
7. The Grey Realms
8. Silence Falls

(2017) Tim Bowness: Lost in the Ghost Light

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Artist: Tim Bowness
Album: Lost in the Ghost Light
Release date: 17.02.2017
Label: InsideOut

 

Tim Bowness is best known as the other half of the British art pop duo No-Man, which also includes Steven Wilson. For some reason, No-Man’s music has failed to resonate with me, although I like most of Wilson’s projects, but I did enjoy “No Celebrations,” the OSI song that Bowness sang on as a guest vocalist. Since Wilson has been busy with his other endeavors lately, Bowness has concentrated on his solo career; Lost in the Ghost Light is his fourth solo album overall, and his third in the past 3 years.

 

The concept of Lost in the Ghost Light deals with an elderly rock musician reflecting on his career and the changes in the music industry, as well as their impact on his private life. Bowness has gathered an impressive line-up for the album that includes bassist Colin Edwin [Porcupine Tree] and guitarist Bruce Soord [The Pineapple Thief], to name a few. Out of the additional guest musicians, the most famous has got to be the legendary Jethro Tull flutist, Ian Anderson.

The music has a lush 70s feel reminiscent of bands like Camel, which complements the album’s theme. The keyboards play a salient role, and old-school sounds such as the organ on the opener “World of Yesterday” and the Moog on “Moonshot Manchild” add a lot to the classic feel of the album. You’d be hard-pressed to find distorted guitar riffs here, but the 6-strings are in the spotlight during the rocking “Kill the Pain That’s Killing You” and “You’ll Be the Silence” has a brilliant guitar solo towards the end. String arrangements enrich “Nowhere Good to Go”, while the flute makes the closer “Distant Summers” memorable. However, it’s Bowness himself who is in the center – his delivery reminds me a bit of Peter Nicholls of IQ and is a little on the laconic side, but dulcet enough to justify the vocal-centric approach of the songs. “You Wanted to Be Seen” is my favorite track here, starting off beautifully as a piano ballad and culminating in a glorious crescendo where the guitars roar and the violins sound dramatic.

Lost in the Ghost Light manages not to sound like tired classic prog worship despite its retro leanings, and although the instrumentation is fairly subdued, even the 9-minute tracks remain compelling until the very end. The sedative nature of the music makes the songs blend into each other a little bit, but instead of making the listening experience boring, the result is a cohesive record that is pleasurable to listen to – the 43 minutes fly by more quickly than you notice. However, I can’t help thinking that at least one more rock-oriented or otherwise powerful song would’ve been a good addition, especially considering the ‘rock star’ theme. The combination of Bowness’s calm voice and intense music is so successful on “Kill the Pain That’s Killing You,” just like the OSI collaboration back in the day. On the other hand, the gentle and 70s-influenced approach suits the reflective mood of the concept, and Lost in the Ghost Light is a good chill-out album as is. In Musicalypse’s Playlist of My Life series, one of the slots is for “a song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage,” and I could place this whole record in that spot, which is not a bad thing!

Rating: 8/10, 4 stars

Tracklist:
1. Worlds of Yesterday
2. Moonshot Manchild
3. Kill the Pain That’s Killing You
4. Nowhere Good to Go
5. You’ll Be the Silence
6. Lost in the Ghost Light
7. You Wanted to Be Seen
8. Distant Summers

Ed: Amy W

DARK SARAH w/ ARION – Virgin Oil Co., Helsinki, 11.02.2017

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On a dark and slippery Saturday night, sometimes it’s best to stay home. However, occasionally, there comes an event that’s intriguing enough to pull you away from the warm cozy comfort of your house, and on the 11th of February, 2017, Dark Sarah’s release show for their latest album, The Puzzle, (which, interestingly enough, was released November 18th, 2016) was one such event. With Arion as the opener (along with another new name, Manzana), and considering I hadn’t even heard of Dark Sarah until a week or so ago, I figured it’d be worth my while to pop by and check it out.

Full gallery HERE!
Listen along with the setlist here:

 

I was too late to the venue to check out Manzana, but made it just in time to catch Arion’s set. They started things out with “Out of the Ashes” and unfortunately, the sound quality was immediately abysmal. The sound engineer did some work to fix it, but alas, as is common at Virgin Oil, the show never achieved a proper balance. This has plagued Arion every time I’ve seen them at this venue, which is to say, every time I’ve seen them save once, at On the Rocks of all places. Nevertheless, the band gave it their all, as is to be expected from these guys.

They followed “Ashes” with “I am the Storm”, which remains a very Symphony X -sounding song, at least to my ears. The intro synth was loud, but beyond that, they pretty much might as well have left Arttu Vauhkonen at home, because the keyboards were nearly completely absent from the mix. Again. However, Kaipainen was reasonably audible as he tackled the guitar solos with style. They keys were again present (and excellent) in the intro to “Seven”, and the band really nailed the ambient, echo-y sounds from “Last of Us”, my personal favorite; the song had such an explosive ending that I actually thought the gig was already over. This was followed by “Lost” and “At the Break of Dawn.” I really enjoy the latter, but the use of the backing track makes the song just straight-up weird live. It’s a duet sung by one person, essentially, which feels very uncomfortable. My bucket list truly includes a version of this song live that actually has Elize Ryd doing the vocal part. They closed out their set with “Unforgivable”, their latest single. Something about this song didn’t quite catch though, and their set sort of fizzled out a bit when it concluded. Perhaps that song isn’t the strongest closer, or maybe it just didn’t work on this particular night – especially compared to the previously-mentioned epic song closer! It’s possible that the sound quality is to blame for that though.

Much like the previous night’s show, the floor had been rather empty when the show started, but Arion’s great style, commanding presence, and purely good music managed to captivate the audience and lure them out onto the floor. I remain convinced that Lassi Vääränen was exactly the showman this band needed after Viljami Holopainen left – he owns the stage and has incredible presence. You might write his voice off as being a bit ‘generic power metal’, but I’ll go so far as to say that there’s something a bit special or unique in his sound that makes him stand out from the crowd. Overall, this band truly deserves a bigger and more responsive crowd, as well as better sound quality – how can they be expected to make new fans if half of their gigs sound like shit by no fault of their own? I may take a break from their gigs if they end up at Virgin Oil again, but trust me when I say that the second they play at a better venue, I’ll be there!

Arion’s setlist:
1. Out of the Ashes
2. I am the Storm
3. Seven
4. Last of Us
5. Lost
6. At the Break of Dawn
7. Unforgivable

 

Dark Sarah was set to take the stage at 00:00, though I’m not sure why Virgin Oil insists on this setup. Much like Ember Falls and Sonic Syndicate the day before, the stage changeover took longer than 20 minutes, and it was already 00:07 before the band was ready to take the stage.

I was quite pleased to see that the crowd looked very enthusiastic for this band – the venue had filled up decently, and there were a few women dressed up in some rather gorgeous Gothic dresses for the occasion. The crowd was shockingly varied too, as there were a few people there who were easily 50+ years old – not an age range I’d expect in this sort of show. The band came onstage as “Breath” played as an intro, and vocalist Heidi Parviainen joined them to a great cheer from the crowd.

It’s worth mentioning that I’ve seen Parviainen on stage once before, in Gloria back in 2009 when she used to sing for Amberian Dawn. I thought she was a phenomenal vocalist, but rather wasted on that band, as the music just didn’t do anything for me, in spite of a great deal of talent amongst the collective band members. As such, it was really wonderful to get to see her on stage some 8 years later! She manages to be a very sweet and commanding stage presence, with a touch of cool, and is very endearing. Oh yeah, and she’s got one hell of a voice! She nailed every note with expert precision, and looked great while doing it.

The lights turned solid green and Parviainen sported a rather knowing smile as they started “Little Men.” I found myself quite surprised by the song, as it dabbled in the dance genre more than I had expected in this sort of band, and had a bit of a funky beat. As well, the show as a whole boasted some rather impressive guitarwork.

If there was one problem with the show – and I use the word ‘problem’ rather lightly here – it’s that, of all the shows supporting this release, this was the release party, and also one of the few that didn’t feature JP Leppaluoto (ex-Charon) as a guest vocalist. This is not to say that his replacement, Ilari Hämäläinen, didn’t do a good job – quite the opposite, he was fantastic! – it’s just that Leppaluoto was on the album, is in the video, etc. You’d think he’d have been at the album release party. I’ll have to assume there were some scheduling issues, but it was a bit of a disappointment that he wasn’t present. I haven’t seen him perform in ages. Again though, I will reiterate that if they had to fill his shoes, their choice was a good one. “Dance with the Dragon” is the only song I know – it’s the reason I know this band exists, as its music video showed up in my recommended videos on YouTube. I wasn’t initially convinced of it, as it is a very theatrical song, but it grew on me as I listened and in a live context, I found it quite entertaining. The drama is used to good effect.

“Light in You” followed immediately after, again with Hämäläinen on the male vocals, and I learned later that this song was originally sung by Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica), which is pretty cool. It was one of those moments where I made a note to go home and listen to the original, because the live version was really fun, and definitely a personal highlight.

Now, if I’m being completely honest, this sort of music is pretty hard to follow if you’re not familiar with it. Everything was extremely well done, from the vocals to the music to the performance, even if the sound wasn’t what it should have been. However, I really enjoyed the execution and it was certainly intriguing. I was pretty skeptical about this band when I read about them – “Dark Sarah” is hardly subtle or poetic, and the same goes for some of the other language used in telling the story, such as “The Evil Tree” and so on. This could have been a catastrophically overdone and cheesy Goth show, so I was very pleasantly surprised at how classy and professional the whole thing was, as well as how warm and lovely Parviainen was on stage. So indeed, I’ll be giving both Behind the Black Veil (2015) and The Puzzle a spin in the very near future.

Dark Sarah’s setlist:
Intro – Breath
1. Island in the Mist
2. Little Men
3. Hunting the Dreamer
4. Evil Roots
5. Dance with the Dragon (ft. Ilari Hämäläinen)
6. Light in You (ft. Ilari Hämäläinen)
7. Memories Fall
8. Ash Grove
9. Silver Tree
10. Aquarium

Photos: Kirsti Leinonen

DARK SARAH w/ MANZANA & ARION @ Virgin Oil Co., 11.02.2017

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Dark Sarah with Manzana & Arion, Helsinki 2017.
Photos by Kirsti Leinonen.

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Mikko “OneOfHaze” McMenamin (Ember Falls), 2017

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It’s only a few short days before Ember Falls‘ debut is finally released! The band has had a long road since their inception as Mekanism, with a change in vocalist and the addition of bassist Olli “Oswald” Heino so that Mikko “OneOfHaze” McMenamin could switch to keyboards. Now, with all of the old Mekanism songs working their way out of their live setlists, the band is ready to start again with their new moniker, and their debut as such, Welcome to Ember Falls. In high anticipation for its Friday release, here is the playlist of Mikko McMenamin’s life!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
Probably one of the lullabies that my mum used to sing to us. My dad is a huge Celtic fan (a Scottish football team) so I’m pretty sure I was also indoctrinated into singing Celtic fan anthems as soon as I was able to make noise.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
It has to be Hot Butter’s “Popcorn.” I must’ve listened to it over a thousand times, sometimes testing how loud our speakers can go. The funky electronic sounds and memorable synth lines impressed me already as a young boy.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
“In the End” by Linkin Park. As a teenager, their sound and delivery hit me hard. I think their craftsmanship as songwriters and musicians has always been top notch.

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
It started out with Rammstein, Linkin Park, Evanescence, and Disturbed, and has evolved from there. In recent years I’ve enjoyed Five Finger Death Punch, Slipknot, Amaranthe, Nightwish, Asking Alexandria, Killswitch Engage, Bring Me the Horizon, Turmion Kätilöt, and Arion. As you can probably tell, my taste of heavier music leans on the industrial/melodic side of rock and metal. I feel Ember Falls fits well into that continuum.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
I’ve been listening to a lot of trance lately and the ones looping in my head right now are “Mega” by Super8 & Tab, and “Unbreakable” by Aly & Fila. I’m having a dry season of rock and metal songs to listen to. I’m open to suggestions!

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Really almost anything from the 90’s/early 00’s mainstream. I want it that way! Although I don’t really care about what others think of my music taste, so I guess no guilt to be found here.

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
I think it was Bomfunk MC’s In Stereo. I could’ve done worse.

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
“May it Be” by Enya.

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
“Redneck” by Lamb of God. I’ve blown my voice a few times “singing” along to it when driving.

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Rage Against the Machine – “Bombtrack.” Burn, burn, yes ya gonna burn!

 

You can read our review of their debut album over HERE!

Check out the music video to “Shut Down with Me” here:

Or the lyric video to “COE”:

Or the lyric video to “The Cost of Doing Business”:

Be sure to check out some of their upcoming album release shows:
02.03.2017 Henry’s Pub, Kuopio
03.03.2017 Mark’s Rock Club, Joensuu
04.03.2017 Bar 15, Seinäjoki
09.03.2017 Elmun Baari, Helsinki
11.03.2017 Jack the Rooster (official album release party), Tampere
24.03.2017 Brummi, Rauma

KREATOR w/ ABORTED, SOILWORK, & SEPULTURA @ The Circus, Helsinki 10.02.2017

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Kreator with Aborted, Soilwork, and Sepultura at The Circus, 2017.
Photos by Janne Puronen.
Gig report in English HERE!
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KREATOR w/ ABORTED, SOILWORK, & SEPULTURA – The Circus, Helsinki, 10.02.2017 (English)

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The joint show of the two somewhat-cornerstones of thrash metal, Kreator and Sepultura, came to The Circus in Helsinki on February 10th, 2017; the event was originally meant to take place in Jäähalli’s Black Box, but soon after the ticket sale began, the event was relocated. Considering that the event originally allowed minors, the practical arrangements were a bit of a question mark beforehand – the venue has quite a few narrow corridors, and one could anticipate, if not completely, at least an almost sold-out event.

If Kreator and Sepultura can both be regarded as heavyweight considering the years they’ve been active, the warm-up acts were no newcomers either – both Soilwork and Aborted have long and successful careers. I absolutely wanted to catch all our bands, since I’ve been a fan of Soilwork for at least 10 years, and Aborted managed to wholeheartedly convince me with their Nosturi show last year.

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Lue suomeksi TÄÄLLÄ!

 

As I arrived to the doors of Circus about 10 minutes before the opening of the doors, quite a few fellow show-goers had clearly had the same plan, as the queue was tens of meters long already. The doors were opened almost 10 minutes late for some reason, but fortunately the coatroom personnel worked delightfully quickly to get people in, and I found myself in the bar before I even noticed.

Considering the presence of minors, the situation was handled sensibly – one managed to walk into a separately fenced-off area right in front of the stage through The Circus’ second room, as the main show room and the second floor balcony was reserved for beer chuggers. In addition to Kreator’s props and gear, the stage was already loaded with two drum kits. At about 19:05, Aborted started off with “Divine Impediment” off their latest Retrogore album, took a hold of the situation pretty fast, and didn’t let the intensity drop for a second during their 30 minute set. For the longest time, the mix was great from the start, and the band’s light technician was clearly at his best – the band even had two of Kreator’s four smoke cannons at their disposal.

Aborted’s vocalist, Svencho de Caluwé, can easily claim a spot in the top ten of the most tongue-in-cheek frontmen of the metal scene – when puffing up the audience, why use the worn-out “I can’t fucking hear you” when you can elaborate with “you sound like the equivalent of a dead hooker”? I cannot understand why Aborted hasn’t managed to break into death metal’s first class – the band’s visual concept doesn’t deviate at all from bands like Carcass for example, and there’s a plethora of bands that have to fill a whole album with the amount of content Aborted uses in only a few songs. Fortunately, the band seems to have a bunch of followers in Finland, since there were a lot of Aborted shirts to be seen in the audience. A strong start for the evening!

One could say that Soilwork had returned to their home field, since the band has stated numerous times that Helsinki is one of their favorite spots to play in the whole world, and their last show in The Circus was even released as a live DVD. I’ve managed to catch Soilwork live only once since their latest record, The Ride Majestic (2015), so I had high hopes for their show. The set was indeed kicked off with the album’s title track, but unfortunately this was one of those times when anyone would have noticed the sound technician’s pivotal position in terms of a successful live experience, as the band sounded pretty much horrible for the whole 45 minutes. Björn Strid clearly had to yell his lungs out to rise above the ripping guitar wall, the bass drums were really distorted when they played “Nerve” – which apparently didn’t go unnoticed by the sound tech, but he overreacted by dropping the levels so much that you could only hear the cymbals and snare on “Rise Above the Sentiment.” In a clear counterattack to the other three bands, Soilwork had chosen a bunch of songs from the heavier side of their catalogue, which in turn amplified the bumming effect of the bad mix.

Soilwork’s lineup had changed quite a bit since the last time I’ve seen them, since Taylor Nordberg played bass in place of Markus Wibom and Ronny Gutierrez was substituting for David Andersson on second guitar. Apparently Dirk Verbeuren has retreated from the band completely, as the young Bastian Thursgaard was sitting behind the drum kit, playing Verbeuren’s complex beats with such laidback-ness that one could have imagined him being on a Sunday stroll through the park. Strid was as pleasant as ever, chitchatting with the audience and once again titling themselves as the svedupelles [Swedish clowns, per se] they are. The set was concluded with the de facto “Stabbing the Drama,” which, after 12 years, remains a kick-ass song, but because of the short length and the daunting mix, the show had a bit of a lukewarm feel to it as a whole. Please do a headlining show in Finland, and do it fast!

Having combined thrash metal with traditional Brazilian rhythms for over 30 years, Sepultura was in charge of the folk vibes for the evening. For a good while, I’ve felt that people haven’t given the band a chance after the last founding member, drummer Igor Cavalera, left the band 10 years ago – when asked, the average fan thinks that present-time Sepultura “sucks balls.” Come on already, Andreas Kisser and Paulo Jr. have been a part of Sepultura for over 30 years, and the singer Derrick Green for a good 20 years as well – wouldn’t it be time to leave the past behind? I can’t say that I’ve ever been that big of a fan, but that’s probably why it was so easy to enjoy Sepultura’s show – the hour-long set was a hefty mix of new tunes and old classics, with the brand new fourteenth album, Machine Messiah, being featured with a total of five songs.

Sepultura started off with “I Am the Enemy” and “Phantom Self”, after which the band took a step to the past with “Choke” off Against and “Desperate Cry” from Arise, an album generally regarded as a thrash metal classic. The audience’s reaction towards the new songs was politely accepting, while the older bangers caused a lot more stir. After “Alethea” and “Sworn Oath” off the new album, the remainder of the show was devoted to the classics: “Inner Self”, “Refuse/Resist”, “Arise”, “Ratamahatta”, and of course, “Roots Bloody Roots.” I remember reading a review of Machine Messiah, slamming the record as tiresome, and I most certainly cannot follow suit; the show felt really consistent, and the band had a great vibe throughout. Derrick Green is a formidable frontman, lacking no charisma with his already-greying beard, but without a doubt, the title of the evening’s most prominent performer goes to the drummer Eloy Casagrande, who bashed his kit with such force that it’s a miracle that nothing broke down.

During the intermission before Kreator, the change of venue finally showed its ugly face as the age check fence between the bar and the corridor towards the bathrooms got hugely crowded, and finally the bouncers had to move the fences aside for a while. Another peculiar situation happened in the bar on the left side of the stage, as the attendees had apparently bought the beer tanks empty. I’m not saying that this shouldn’t happen at all, but there’s certainly been a lot of sold-out shows at The Circus, and it took an unusually long time to get the beer tap flowing again. Not that it finally even paid out to buy a pint – when Kreator begun their first song, a huge circle pit erupted instantly, and a good deal of people were soaked in assorted beverages rather soon after.

Let me be honest up front: I can’t think of a metal genre as personally unappealing as thrash metal, especially German thrash metal, so there’s not much to say about Kreator’s setlist or the state of their present day live shows when compared to their earlier shows in Finland. Still, Kreator threw a really good show in front of a huge number of almost fanatic people, letting the experience of over 30 years show in their playing. The setlist featured songs from ten different Kreator records, the main focus being in Gods of Violence, released only a few weeks ago. Mille Petrozza, the frontman and founding member, didn’t let Derrick Green overshadow him, and I gotta say I like his screeching high voice, which could easily be ranked as one of the best in the genre. Petrozza also pumped the audience up to various shenanigans, including a wall of death during the intro for “Coma of Souls.”

Technically-speaking, the show was great. The sound was clear, and a good deal of money had been invested in the band’s light show, as there were two large video elements with mounted spotlights on both sides of the drum riser. The light tech had maximum effort going on as the red-and-white lights supported Kreator’s music nicely. In addition to Petrozza, Ventor Reil on drums, Speesy Giesler on bass, and Finland’s own Sami Yli-Sirniö on lead guitar also gave their best, but one really couldn’t expect less with a band with this much mileage. The audience was wild from the start, but I hate to say that for me, there was that special something missing, as with thrash metal shows there usually is, but I have to emphasize that this was not Kreator’s fault in any way. I decided to bail out as “Civilization Collapse” ended Kreator’s main set to avoid the crowded coatroom – I can always attend the next show if I want to hear “Flag of Hate” and “Pleasure to Kill.”

 

In conclusion, the evening was a great mix of Aborted’s and Soilwork’s modern metal sound and Sepultura’s and Kreator’s more traditional leveling, and even if the tickets were priced at almost 50€, the value was definitely there. Too bad that the venue change from Jäähalli to The Circus certainly wasn’t in everyone’s favor, and there were a bunch of snarky comments on the Facebook event regarding the arrangements and especially the price of beer, and I have to say they weren’t completely wrong: 7€ for a watery small pint of Lapin Kulta is a bit steep.

Photos: Janne Puronen | Ed: Amy Wiser

KREATOR w/ ABORTED, SOILWORK, & SEPULTURA – The Circus, Helsinki, 10.02.2017 (suomeksi)

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Kahden thrash metalin todellisen kulmakivibändin, saksalaisen Kreatorin sekä brasilialaisen Sepulturan, yhteiskeikan piti alun perin tapahtua Helsingin jäähallissa pyörivän Black Box –konseptin puitteissa, mutta järjestäjätahot, Tuska ja Live Nation, päättivät siirtää tapahtuman keskustaan The Circukseen. Ottaen huomioon, että tapahtuma oli ikärajaton, eikä ikärajapolitiikan muuttaminen paikan vaihdoksen yhteydessä olisi ollut kovinkaan tahdikasta, järjestelyiden toimivuus sokkeloisessa Circuksessa arvelutti jo etukäteen – paikka tulisi varmasti olemaan, jos nyt ei täyteen ammuttu, niin ainakin hyvin lähelle.

Jos Kreator ja Sepultura ovat virkaiältään metallimaailman raskasta sarjaa – onhan molemmilla mittarissa yli 30 vuotta – niin eivät illan lämmittelijätkään olleet mitään untuvikkoja, sillä Ruotsin oikeasti paras melodeath-yhtye Soilwork sekä belgialainen death metal –jyrä Aborted ovat molemmat tehneet pitkän ja menestyksekkään uran. Halusin ehdottomasti nähdä kaikki neljä bändiä, sillä ensimmäisenä esiintyvä Aborted vakuutti viimevuotisella Nosturin-keikallaan, ja Soilworkin fani olen ollut jo varmaan kymmenen vuotta.

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Read in English HERE!

 

Kun pääsin Circuksen oville noin kymmentä minuuttia ennen niiden avautumista, muutamalla muullakin kävijällä oli selkeästi sama suunnitelma jonon kaartaessa pitkälle Narinkkatorin puolelle. Ovien avautuminen venähti lähes kymmenellä minuutilla alkuperäisestä puoli seitsemästä, mutta onneksi jono suli nopeasti ja janoinen keikka-arvostelija oli baaritiskin varressa ennen kuin huomasikaan.

Alaikäisten keikkaviihtyminen oli otettu mielestäni järkevästi huomioon – Circuksen kakkoshuoneen läpi kävellessä pääsi lavan oikeaan laitaan erikseen aidatulle alueelle, kun taas yläkerta ja varsinainen sali oli varattu mukinkallistelijoille. Aborted aloitti settinsä aavistuksen myöhässä uuden Retrogore-levyn ”Divine Impedimentillä” ja otti tilanteen nopeasti haltuun sata lasissa kaahaavalla death metalillaan, eikä tempo laskenut seuraavan puolituntisen aikana pykälääkään. Pitkästä aikaa metallikeikan lavaääni oli alusta lähtien todella hyvä, minkä lisäksi yhtyeen valomies pisti parastaan, ja olipa Kreatorilta saatu lupa käyttää lavan keskelle sijoitettuja savutykkejäkin.

Yhtyeen laulaja Svencho de Caluwé menee heittämällä supliikeimpien keulakuvien topkymppiin – miksi käyttää ensimmäisen yleisönhuudatusyrityksen jälkeen iänikuinen ”I can’t fucking hear you”, kun asian voi ilmaista myös ”you sound like the equivalent of a dead hooker”? Aborted ei ole yli kaksikymmenvuotisella urallaan pystynyt kurottamaan death metalin kärkikastiin, enkä todellakaan käsitä miksi – bändin visuaalinen ilme ei pohjimmiltaan eroa vaikkapa Carcassin kuvastosta kuin ehkä sarjakuvamaisuudellaan, ja maailmassa on useita suositumpia tyylilajin edustajia, joiden musiikissa ei tapahdu puoliksikaan näin paljoa. Yleisössä näkyi kuitenkin mukavasti Aborted-paitoja, joten paikalle oltiin selkeästi tultu pelkästään tätä varten. Vahva aloitus!

Soilworkin voidaan sanoa palanneen kotikentälleen, sillä yhtye on monesti sanonut Helsingin olevan heidän suosikkipaikkojaan koko maailmassa, ja nauhoitettiinpa vuonna 2014 Circuksessa soitettu loistava keikka live-DVD:ksikin. Bändin viimeisimmän The Ride Majestic -levyn (2015) tiimoilta oli tullut nähtyä vain yksi festarikeikka, joten odotukset illan vetoa kohtaan olivat korkealla. Levyn nimiraita käynnistikin Soilworkin kolmivarttisen setin, mutta tämä oli valitettavasti yksi niistä kerroista, kun satunnaisempikin keikkakävijä voi todeta kuinka tärkeä osa keikkakokemusta asiansa osaava miksaaja on – lavaääni oli suurimman osan keikasta luokattoman huono, eikä laulaja Björn Stridin ääni kuulunut bändin yli kuin vaivoin kitaroiden peittäessä kaiken alleen. Toisena vuorossa olleen ”Nerven” basarikomppi meni täysin puuroksi, mihin jostain syystä vastattiin vetämällä basareiden volyymit niin alas, ettei ”Rise Above the Sentimentin” kompista taas kuulunut muuta kuin pellit ja virveli. Soilwork oli selkeästi kasannut illan teemaan sopivan setin, sillä hitureita ei kuultu, mikä osaltaan vielä korosti huonoa miksausta.

Yhtyeen livemiehistössä oli tapahtunut muutoksia edelliskertaan nähden, sillä basisti Markus Wibomia oli tuuraamassa Taylor Nordberg ja kakkoskitaristi David Anderssonia taasen Ronny Gutierrez. Rumpupatterinkin takana istui bändistä poisjääneen rumpalivelho Dirk Verbeurenin tilalla nuori Bastian Thursgaard, joka soitti edeltäjänsä osuudet todella rennolla, mutta varmalla otteella – aamukahvin juominen tuottanee useimmille ihmisille enemmän vaikeuksia. Strid oli läpi keikan oma leppoisa itsensä viljellen miltei tavaramerkiksi muodostunutta svedupelle-vitsiään. Setti päättyi itseoikeutetusti ”Stabbing the Dramaan”, joka on edelleen hävyttömän kova kappale, mutta kokonaisuutena keikka jäi vähän kädenlämpöiseksi ensinnäkin lyhyytensä, mutta myös heikon miksauksen vuoksi. Tulkaa omalle keikalle, tehkää se pian!

Illan kansanmusiikkiannista vastasi Sepultura. Tuntuu siltä, ettei yleisö ole osannut antaa tälle thrashia ja brasilialaisia rytmejä jo yli 30 vuotta yhdistelleelle bändille enää mahdollisuutta sen jälkeen, kun yhtyeen viimeinen alkuperäisjäsen, rumpali Igor Cavalera, poistui miehistöstä 10 vuotta sitten – suurimmalta osalta bändin faneja kysyttäessä saa aina kuulla, että nyky-Sepultura on ”ihan paska”. Come on, Andreas Kisser ja Paulo Jr. ovat vaikuttaneet bändissä yli 30 vuotta, ja vokalisti Derrick Greenkin jo 20 vuotta – olisiko jo aika antaa menneiden olla menneitä? En tosin voi tunnustautua bändin faniksi mistään kohtaa, mutta ehkä juuri sen takia Circuksen keikasta oli niin helppo nauttia, ja olihan Sepulturan tunnin mittainen setti kova sekoitus klassista sekä uutta tuotantoa. Bändin vastikään julkaistu, neljästoista albumi Machine Messiah, oli nostettu framille settilistan sisältäessä peräti viisi uutta rallia.

Setti käynnistyi ”I Am the Enemyllä” sekä ”Phantom Selfillä”, jonka jälkeen hypättiin Againstille (”Choke”) sekä thrash metal –klassikoihin lukeutuvalle Ariselle, jolta soitettiin ”Desperate Cry”. Yleisön reaktio uusiin biiseihin oli kohteliaan hyväksyvä, kun taas vanhemmat rallit aiheuttivat selkeästi enemmän liikettä. Uudelta levyltä soitettiin vielä ”Alethea” ja ”Sworn Oath”, joiden jälkeen loppusetti mentiinkin klassikkosikermällä ”Inner Self”, ”Refuse/Resist”, ”Arise”, ”Ratamahatta” sekä totta kai loppuun ”Roots Bloody Roots” yleisön pomppiessa raivokkaasti mukana. Uudet kappaleet sujahtivat vanhojen sekaan vaivattomasti, enkä voi allekirjoittaa männäpäivänä lukemani uuden levyn arvostelussa käytettyä termiä ”väsynyt läpsyttely” – Sepultura elää ja voi hyvin! Derrick Green on mikrofonin varressa vaikuttavan näköinen ilmestys, eikä mieheltä harmaantuvine partoineen puutu karismaa, mutta koko illan kovimman esiintyjän tittelin vei väkisinkin rumpali Eloy Casagrande. Ihme, että rumpusetistä ei hajonnut mitään keikan aikana – niin suurella voimalla mies paukutti menemään.

Illan pääesiintyjää Kreatoria odotellessa oli valitettavaa todeta täyteen ammutun Circuksen ahtaus tilanteessa, jossa baarialue oli täytynyt aidata alaikäisiltä – vessoille johtavan käytävän ja salin risteykseen muodostui valtava pullonkaula, ja lopulta järjestyksenvalvojat totesivatkin tilanteen toivottomaksi ja siirsivät aidat hetkeksi syrjään. Myös viimeinen baaritiskikäynti salin vasemmalla puolella aihautti janoisille keikkakävijöille harmaita hiuksia, kun hanakalja pääsi loppumaan kesken. En tiedä oliko tilanne sama kaikilla tiskeillä, mutta onhan Circuksessa nyt ennenkin loppuunmyytyjä keikkoja järjestetty ja luulisi tilanteeseen osattavan varautua. Ostetut juomat eivät tosin lopultakaan ehtineet kurkusta alas asti, sillä kun Kreatorin ensimmäinen kappale kajahti ilmoille, yleisössä käynnistyi saman tien sen kokoinen pitti että useammankin väärässä paikassa seisoneen katsojan lasit läikkyivät lattialle.

Myönnetään heti kärkeen, että harva metallimusiikin alalaji puhuttelee yhtä vähän kuin rässi, varsinkaan saksalainen, joten en osaa sanoa mitään kovin syväluotaavaa Kreatorin settilistasta tai tämänhetkisestä livekunnosta verrattuna aiempiin Suomen-keikkoihin. Vuodesta 1982 pystyssä ollut yhtye kuitenkin soitti äkäisen keikan fanaattiselle yleisölle vuosien tuomalla varmuudella, ja setissä taisi olla biisejä kaikkiaan kymmeneltä levyltä pääpainon ollessa vain pari viikkoa sitten julkaistulla Gods of Violencella, jolta soitettiin viisi rallia. Kreatorin keulakuva ja perustajajäsen, kitaristi-laulaja Mille Petrozza, oli karismaattinen esiintyjä, ja miehen korkea huutolaulu ehdottomasti genrensä parhaimmistoa. Petrozza myös yllytti yleisöä jos jonkinlaisiin suorituksiin, kuten ennen ”Coma of Soulsia” miehen erottaessa yleisön kahtia wall of deathia varten.

Teknisesti puitteet olivat kunnossa: lavaääni oli kautta linjan hyvä ja selkeä, ja valoihin oli todellakin panostettu, sillä rumpuraiserin kummallekin puolelle oli kasattu kaksi videoseinäelementtiä, joiden päällä oli vielä spottivalot. Valoshow loisti punavalkoisena oranssein tehostevärein todella hienon näköisenä. Petrozzan lisäksi koko muukin bändi – rumpali Ventor Reil, basisti Speesy Giesler sekä soolokitaristi ja Lauttasaaren oma poika Sami Yli-Sirniö – soitti kuin vain rautaiset ammattilaiset osaavat. Yleisöön keikka upposi kuin häkä, mutta itselleni homma jäi vähän puolitiehen: kun ei tartu, niin ei tartu, eikä se todellakaan ollut Kreatorin vika. Koinkin järkeväksi välttää keikan loppumisen jälkeisen narikkatungoksen ja livahtaa varsinaisen setin päättäneen ”Civilization Collapsen” jälkeen kohti kotia: kyllä sen ”Flag of Haten” ja ”Pleasure to Killin” kuulee sitten seuraavallakin keikalla.

 

Kokonaisuutena ilta oli mainio yhdistelmä Abortedin ja Soilworkin modernia soundia ja Sepulturan sekä Kreatorin perinteisempää räimettä, ja vaikka lipun hinta kohosi lähemmäs viiteenkymppiin, rahalle sai silti vastinetta. Harmillinen paikanvaihdos jäähallista Circukseen ei todennäköisesti ollut kaikkien mieleen, ja jo tapahtuman aikana Facebookista sai käydä lukemassa kitkeriä kommentteja järjestelyistä ja varsinkin kaljan hinnasta – onhan 7 euroa vetisestä 0,4-litraisesta Lapin Kullasta vähän kyseenalainen hinta maksaa.

Kuvat: Janne Puronen
Ed: Ville Karttunen

SONIC SYNDICATE w/ EMBER FALLS – Virgin Oil Co., Helsinki, 10.02.2017

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What’s not to like about killing two birds with one stone? Sonic Syndicate has recently been touring their latest album, Confessions, in Finland, accompanied by Ember Falls, finishing at the Virgin Oil Co., on February 10th, 2017. If I’m being totally honest, I came to this show for Ember Falls. Their debut is out on the 17th, but I’ve already listened to it copiously, so I’ve been crazy excited to see them again now that I know all the songs backwards and forwards. However, I’ve heard tales of Sonic Syndicate as well – the general buzz is that they used to be great, but their latest album wasn’t up to snuff, going in a different, poppier direction. Needless to say, if there was an opportunity to see both, I figured I should go ahead and take it.

Full gallery HERE!

 

Ahh, Virgin Oil. Your gigs start so late that I always feel like I’m a thousand years old. They’ve been getting a lot of great bands lately, even though they aren’t the biggest venue in town. On heading upstairs, I immediately noticed Sonic Syndicate’s rather high-budget-looking merch booth, which had a monitor playing the band’s music videos, interviews, and some live shots. That was new. I showed up just in time to catch the end of Planet Case’s set – I wasn’t convinced of their stage charisma, but can’t say more than that after only hearing one song.

 

Ember Falls’ crowd has been steadily increasing lately, so I was enthusiastic to see how things had progressed on this night. Would there be a worthy crowd? The venue was far from empty, though most of the patrons were seated at the tables, as opposed to on the floor. However, there were a handful of enthusiastic regulars, and as the stage changed over, there was a steady trickle of people onto the floor. The stage was a little crowded with Sonic Syndicate’s stuff in the background, which was unfortunate – these guys need a little more space to roam. It also looked like they didn’t really have enough room for their banners.

They kicked their set off with “The Enemy You Need” – an interesting choice, and not one I’d have picked for an opener, as it felt a bit like starting the gig in the middle, but it was amazing to hear it in proper context at last. I’d have personally gone with “The Cost of Doing Business” as a starter though, because it’s both a single and a familiar song, as well as a really hard-hitter. They’re forgiven though, because they followed it up with “Falling Rain”, my personal favorite from the album.

Next up was “Open Your Eyes”, and while I had hope that Niko Moilanen would be there, I knew that was wishful thinking since he lives in Oulu. He was semi-present in the backing vocals though, and it was fun to see how Thomas Grove (vocals) took over his parts – sometimes singing them, sometimes starting and fading out, and sometimes just letting the backing track take over. Grove is no rapper but he did very well making this song his own, and I commend them for not relying solely on a backing track for Moilanen’s parts, considering he does most of the vocals on the album track. Sound-wise, the vocals were almost totally absent at the beginning of the song, but fortunately that was quickly remedied.

The second single, “COE” came next, and it felt like a true dance party, with a slightly different boogie than on the album, complete with the disco lights. This was followed by “One More Time”, which was way heavier live than on the album, and I mean that in the best way. Ace’s drumming was fantastic, and loud! With the dance-style feel of this song, the heavy-as-fuck drums made it feel really good. I think it was also sped up a little. The dubstep-y solo part was also really fun in this heavier setting. However, it started making me a little sad about the album’s mix again, because this style suited it so much better.

“Rising Tide” followed, and in spite of my back problems, I couldn’t stop myself from dancing at this point. It was just such great energy, and Jay V was nailing his solos while Calu was simultaneously nailing the growls. Much like on the album though, the bass was a little quiet in the mix, making it a bit tough to heard Oswald. The electronic intro to “Of Letting Go” worked very well live, and again the drums were a part of what made this song fun – equal parts heavy and disco. Plus the mellower chorus allows for a bit of a break, before the dance party returns in the verses; a guitar solo and epic growl reminded everyone that this was still a metal gig. Oswald hopped down to rock out in the crowd for a bit, which was fun – I wonder how long they’ll be able to safely keep that up.

One of Haze played an ambient industrial intro with Ace to open up “The Cost of Doing Business”, and this again just made me wish that they had opened the show with this song (and its intro), because it’s got everything – headbanging and screaming and dancing and moshing, the last of which was sadly absent in the crowd. It’s a shame the sound on the growls kind of came and went from the mix throughout.

I was rather surprised, yet thrilled, to hear their thrash-jazz piece, “The Lamb Lays Down in Sacrifice” as well – if they had skipped anything off their debut, I’d have thought it’d be this one; in reality, the passed over the ballad. Calu dropped his guitar to focus on the growls, and was fortunately perfectly audible now. And goddamn again… those drums. I love the use of double-kick in this track. As soon as the first notes played, I was on the edge of my seat to hear how the jazz interlude would play out. The answer is awesomely – Grove was snapping his fingers like a dude in a jazz club, and then immediately mosh-smashed into Calu when he started growling.

There were hardly any Welcome to Ember Falls songs left, which meant only one thing: “Shut Down with Me”! This song is probably worming its way onto my favorite-songs-ever list. It got a little chaotic sound-wise in the chorus, with the synth overpowering the vocals, but it still managed to get me all sorts of hyped up! These guys make it impossible not to headbang, even if you have neck injuries. Goddamn, it was fun!

Ember Falls setlist:
1. The Enemy You Need
2. Falling Rain
3. Open Your Eyes
4. COE
5. Rising Tide
6. Of Letting Go
7. The Cost of Doing Business
8. The Lamb Lies Down in Sacrifice
9. Shut Down with Me

 

If I’m to give an opinion on Sonic Syndicate based on listening through their discography a bit on Spotify, I’ll say that I don’t have an issue with Confessions (2016)per se, as it’s a catchy album – a few of the songs all kind of have the same melody, and it’s poppy, but it works – though I do agree that their older material is much better than the new stuff comparatively. The stage change-over ran a little late, with Sonic Syndicate coming on stage at 00:12 to an intro before setting into “Confessions”, the title track of their latest album. The mix was terrible at first, with the drums overpowering everything else, but evened out a bit by the end of the song, even if some of the drums were still too harsh at times, mainly in the verses.

I was immediately quite impressed with the band’s energy. In spite of the small venue and rather medium-plus -sized crowd, they really put their all into it. Even if the newer material is pretty poppy, it’s fun to listen to. Nathan Biggs (vocals) said hello and kiitos [thank you] after the first track, saying he’d rather be nowhere else than the capital of Fin before introducing “Beauty and the Freak” and asking the crowd to get and keep their hands up.

As a short person, I also appreciated how elevated Biggs kept himself throughout the show, standing on a box frequently, so he could always be seen. Also, I was not really prepared for his jumps. Man, he gets high! He’s a very charismatic frontman and really puts his all into the performance. He chats a lot too, particularly expressing his love for Finland and Helsinki, particularly because people here love their live music, calling it a home away from home. Biggs had the crowd shout “roll” after he shouted “rock n'”, a few times, and spent the time to hype up the crowd to get a better and louder response. This continued throughout the show, with him taking the time to hype up the girls and guys in turn during “Burn this City.” He really couldn’t get over it throughout the show, constantly gushing over how great Helsinki is.

I shouldn’t focus solely on Biggs though, as the whole band’s performance was worthy of praise. The playing was really solid, and they have great chemistry on stage. Drummer Peter Wallenäs was precision tight throughout, for one. Also, they can interact smoothly without any flaw in their playing in spite of the small stage, and have tons of energy. They weren’t afraid to get weird either – a few people in the crowd somehow had some massive balloons with them, one of which made its way on stage with Robin Sjunnesson during “Revolutions.”

The set was fairly diverse, with some poppier tunes (presumably the newer material) and some good rowdy tunes as well. The newer stuff is certainly lighter but I think it actually made for a nicely diverse show, musically. “It’s a Shame” was dedicated to those who have let the love of their life slip away, and Biggs had the techs turn the lights down for “Falling”; they also got the disco ball involved to good effect – there were a lot of people dancing and jumping along to this one. Meanwhile “Revolution” elicited middle fingers in the air and loud shouts of “fuck you”… and I think was dedicated to Jussi69? Take that as you will, but Biggs did list The 69 Eyes as one of the great bands from Finland at one point. “Crystalize” was a little more mellow, which doesn’t say much because it was still pretty high energy, and Biggs got the crowd to make hearts with their forefingers and thumbs for him. “Russian Roulette” followed a little band promotion, where Biggs said he doesn’t care much if people buy the album, but if you want to listen to the music and share it, you’ll make his dream come true.

Next up he explained that another thing they like about Helsinki is that everything they try, they get away with. This led to what he claimed was their first attempt at going acoustic in a show, and then played “Closure” with only Biggs and Sjunnesson on stage. I’ve heard the song once or twice, and it worked nicely as an acoustic track, being slower and closer to a ballad. “Halfway Down the Road” was also done at least semi-acoustically, with Wallenäs and bassist Michel Bärsén joining back in. The bass was pretty heavy, but I enjoyed it – it was a pretty fun version of the song. Biggs was acting pretty goofy – pelvic thrusting a bit, for example – clearly enjoying the new interpretation of the song. It’s tough not to smile when looking at him.

After, “getting in touch with our feminine sides” as Biggs put it, we had to get back into the metal, with “Jack of Diamonds”, which elicited a pretty hefty scream from the crowd. The next song got everyone jumping and the floor shaking. The last song was announced – “Start a War” – along with an afterparty at The Riff, and he apologized for the late start, which may or may not have cut a song or two out of their intended set, for all I know.

 

Overall, I was actually quite surprised at what a great time I had at this show. Ember Falls has, from time to time, suffered from a lack of energy, but this performance was fantastic and all of the new material was phenomenal – and the Mekanism songs are now completely absent from their sets. I’m okay with that, because I don’t know them. And Sonic Syndicate – a totally unfamiliar band for me – turned out to be fantastic performers. Their music was fun and lively, and really well-done. I had a great time during both sets, unable to let my back problems hold me back from dancing and headbanging. It was definitely worth seeing, and I’m only sorry that there weren’t more people there to enjoy it!

Sonic Syndicate’s (official) setlist [some songs may have been dropped due to the late start]:
1. Confessions
2. Life is Not a Map
3. Beauty and the Freak
4. I Like it Rough
5. Denied
6. Burn this City
7. It’s a Shame
8. Falling
9. Revolution, Baby!
10. Crystallize
11. Russian Roulette
12. Closure (acoustic)
13. Halfway Down the Road (acoustic)
14. Jack of Diamonds
15. Turn it Up
16. Start a War

Photos: Miia Collander

BACKYARD BABIES w/ SHIRAZ LANE @ The Circus, Helsinki, 09.02.2017

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Backyard Babies with Shiraz Lane, Helsinki 2017.
Photos by Kirsti Leinonen.

SONIC SYNDICATE w/ PLANET CASE & EMBER FALLS @ Virgin Oil Co., Helsinki, 10.02.2017

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Sonic Syndicate with Planet Case and Ember Falls, Virgin Oil Co., 2017.
Photos by Miia Collander.
Gig report HERE!

EVERFROST: EP launch party – Arabian Nuorisotalo, Helsinki, 08.02.2017

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We at Musicalypse have always believed in new talent and one never knows where it’s found until it is. On a cold February evening, I had been tasked to go see a practically unknown symphonic power metal band from Lapland as they made their debut in Helsinki at a youth center. Everfrost isn’t a completely new group, however; after their very well-thought-out and professional debut album from 2015, Blue Eyed Emotion, they were finally ready to take the show on the road. This was actually a release party for their new EP, titled Appetite for Candlelight, and apparently the venue was the only one who would take them on short notice.

Full gallery HERE!
Interview with Mikael Salo & Benjamin Connelly HERE!

 

I had only heard of the band a few days prior and a surface-level analysis of the first album lead me to expect a very precise and fine-tuned execution of the material. The first record showed impeccable taste with its clear but complex symphonic sound and multiple vocalists and styles. The anime and fantasy -inspired power metal epics seemed fresh and innovative. I found myself looking forward to the show even though I found the choice of venue dubious to say the least; however, seeing as it was their first outing in Helsinki, I gave it a pass.

 

The place wasn’t at all what I expected. It was very clean and well put-together. It seemed like a pretty decent place for live shows, with all the amenities you’d expect. That is, of course, with the notable absence of alcohol, as well as the peculiar showtime, which began at a baffling 18:00. The crowd was a mix of teenagers waiting to see their friends’ bands, which were set to play after Everfrost, as well as some 20-somethings who, like myself, were clearly only there for Everfrost. As an adult, I felt out of place but still cautiously hopeful.

As Everfrost began to play, they took a minute or two before their singer took his place with them. This is always a good way to build up a show and a great time for the band to show off with no distractions. I immediately noticed that the sound was just a tad quieter than I’m used, to but still loud enough to achieve that power metal sound you’d want. The guitars and keyboards especially shined with their musicianship and got me absolutely jacked. Singer Mikael Salo finally ascended the stage, took the mic, and started to sing the opening track to the first album, “The Lonesome Prince.” It was a catchy anthem with an unmistakable lead melody.

Instantly, Salo sold me on the whole show with his confident swagger. Even when he wasn’t quite focusing on his delivery, he was clearly having such a good time performing with the band that it was impossible to call him on it. He had the mark of a true showman, as did the rest of the band. Keyboardist Benjamin Connelly had his keys turned vertically so that we could see what he was doing and he took every opportunity to thrash his body about; it was a real joy to behold. Even the drummer, Joonas “James” Salminen, was banging his head and raising his arms like mad throughout the entire show. Obviously this was a well-oiled machine, ready for greatness.

Since it was 18:00 on a Wednesday, the crowd spent the majority of the show sitting down at the tables laid out across the hall. During that first song, a few of the kids got riled up enough to try a four-or-five person moshpit, of which they tired quite quickly. Beyond that, the crowd did duly raise their arms and cheer whenever called upon, but always from the comfort of their chairs.

Seeing as they were practically unknown to most of us, they had prepared two cover songs, the first of which came after three songs. Salo introduced it as, “a song from a Swedish band”; it was “Square Hammer” by Ghost, which would later be followed by Rainbow’s “Tarot Woman”, which can also be heard on the new EP. They were both well-received and well-performed but as expected, the teenagers seemed somewhat bewildered by the 70s hard rock classic.

The sound was very brisk and clear throughout the show. There were a few instances of feedback between the mic and the monitors, but that’s to be expected. The lights were mostly orange and blue – cheap but effective. They also only had the one singer for the event, as it was indeed a 40 minute set, culminating in the epic “Three Tier Terror.”

 

For an up-and-coming band at a venue such as this, it was an exceptional show. They were much more proficient at their craft than most of the more established power metal bands I’ve seen live lately. No matter what, rock n’ roll flourished; as they performed on stage they were always exactly on point and precise. The sheer musicianship alone was a delight and the memorable bits were but the icing on the cake. I don’t say this often, but this is band was truly a discovery. Epic, technical, and down-right magical. I personally will be keeping a close eye on them from now on.

Setlist:
1. The Lonesome Prince
2. The Glades and the Cradle
3. Hemlock
4. Square Hammer (Ghost cover)
5. Silver Nights, Golden Dreams
6. Tarot Woman (Rainbow cover)
7. Three Tier Terror

Photos: Miia Collander | Ed: Amy W

EVERFROST – Mikael Salo & Benjamin Connelly, Helsinki 2017

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Everfrost are a fresh-faced group of symphonic power metallers, straight out of Lapland. Their melodic and epic compositions are laced with elements of fantasy and anime -inspired storytelling. Following their 2015 debut album, Blue Eyed Emotion, they grew eager to invade the stages, hearts, and minds of people all across Finland and more. We caught up with singer Mikael Salo and keyboardist Benjamin Connelly on their first-ever Helsinki show, celebrating the release of their new EP, Appetite for Candlelight.

 

I understand that this is your first gig in Helsinki and second gig altogether?
Mikael Salo: Yeah, the first one was the Wacken Battle in Jyväskylä.

Mikael, weren’t you also in Northern Seer?
MS: Haha, we actually had some members from Northern Seer in the audience tonight. The band is still together and playing but at the moment my active group would be Everfrost. As for Northern Seer, we’ll have to see once 2017 gets going.

The band’s name is quite curious. Everfrost as in, not permafrost. Where does that come from exactly?
Benjamin Connelly: Well, it’s actually the name of the place, the city in which the characters in our stories live. We also wanted to call the band that.

MS: It’s a lot like Rhapsody, how they have their own world. We wanted our records to have one too.

So what genre do you consider yourselves to be?
BC: We like the term ‘winter metal.’ Someone from the livestream of our last show called us ‘winter war anime metal.’ We really liked that, haha. Maybe simply melodic metal with elements of anime.

MS: Aside from these cute names, I guess a more official genre would be symphonic power metal.

Which leads me to the next question: what are your biggest musical influences?
MS: There’s a clear presence of Sonata Arctica, Nightwish, and even Turmion Kätilöt.

BC: …A little, yeah. And also things like Finntroll and Korpiklaani. It depends on the song, really.

So about this fantasy realm. Could you summarize it for us? What is it all about?
BC: The idea is that the story has a continuous arc that flows into the next album. We don’t know yet if we will always have the same characters but most likely it’s going to still take place in the same world. It’s always going to be about the lives of these people in Everfrost.

MS: And even the new EP has one song that has to do with the story. It reveals new information.

BC: Yeah, we wanted to give more exposition so that the next album would be easier to follow. Especially for newcomers. The first one was admittedly a tad cryptic and we’d like to be more straightforward in our storytelling.

Can you tell us a bit about the line-up changes from the first record?
MS: Yes, in fact, on the first one they had professional opera singer, Hew Wagner, on lead vocals. But since he has obligations in Australia, we needed a singer who could play live here, which is where I came in.

BC: Yeah, we altogether wanted to bring in many singers. We had this idea like how they do over at Avantasia; to have multiple singers playing different parts. It helps to establish the characters and further illustrates the story. As it is now though, Mikael is our main lead vocalist currently and will continue to be.

MS: That’s the first I’ve heard of it, haha. We also had a featuring artist on the first one, Swan Davies, doing the female vocals. We’ve been thinking of having three singers on stage in the future.

About these future plans, do you intend on playing more gigs here in the South?
BC: We have at least some festivals coming up here, including Korso Rock. I’m also writing and composing the next record.

MS: Tonight is, of course, all about the new EP we just released.

BC: Of course, the new album is still only in the works. We’re hoping to start recording maybe at the end of the year or maybe early next year. It probably won’t come out until, if I had to guess, summer 2018. We’ll of course be touring before that as well.

Great, we’ll be looking forward to it!

Photo: Miia Collander | Ed: Amy W

EVERFROST: EP Launch Party @ Arabian Nuorisotalo, Helsinki, 08.02.2017

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Everfrost’s self-titled EP launch, Helsinki 2017, with Vagabond Hearts and Björkby Morgon playing a bit later on.
Photos by Miia Collander.
Gig report coming soon.

ROYAL REPUBLIC w/ BLIND CHANNEL – Nosturi, Helsinki, 04.02.2017

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2017 is well on it’s way, but for my part, the 4th of February marked the beginning of concert season. Kicking it off with Royal Republic’s Weekend Man Tour felt only suitable since I wanted to hear some uplifting tunes to survive the winter months. The band was accompanied by Finland’s Blind Channel for their three gigs in Finland. As snow was covering Helsinki once more, I arrived at Nosturi in order to spoil myself with a bit of Swedish garage rock.

Full gallery HERE!

 

Before the Swedes took the stage, it was only suitable that the younger guys from Blind Channel first showed what they had up their sleeves. Some of us at Musicalypse have grown quite fond of Blind Channel during the past 12 months. However, it was my first time seeing this band live, but I had high hopes due to the aforementioned hype among my colleagues.

The “#violentpoprevolution” text written on Blind Channel’s smaller backdrops caught my eye almost immediately as I took my place in front of the stage. I shook off the image of Lady Gaga with an axe (because what else could violent pop be?) and took a glance at the audience.

Over the past few years, it has bothered me that the younger generation has seemed to have disappeared from gigs, or at least from the ones I’m attending. Therefore, I was more than glad to notice that the majority of the audience that had came to see Blind Channel were (or at least looked) 20 or under.

Blind Channel released their debut album, Revolutions, last October. For my part, I did not give the album the attention it would’ve deserved. Thus I had only vague memories of their songs as the band began their 45 minute set. The guys started with “My Revolution”, which proved to be an excellent choice for an opener. This was followed by “Hold on to Hopeless” and “Bullet (With Your Name on It)”, and I was already convinced that the hype was deserved.

In a way, Blind Channel takes me back to the days when I was 13-14 years old and listened to bands like Linkin Park, Papa Roach, and the sort. The similar energy and sounds can be heard in the band’s material, but more in the sense of pure influence, as opposed to copying what others have already done. The arrangements in the songs just work. There’s “Pitfall” that’s straight from the radio’s playlist – and suddenly they give you “Deja FU” with rapping. I rarely get confused during concerts but that was one such moment.

If there’s something negative about the gig, it was the mixing which seemed to be a bit off from time to time. The bassline was so loud that you couldn’t always here the lyrics or guitars. Also, the excessive use of strobe lights literally caught my eye. Otherwise, Blind Channel delivered an excellent show which foreshadows an even better future for the guys, as long as they keep on working hard – and I’m sure they will. I also have to give an honorable mention to those 5 eager female fans on the front row who were pretty much screaming their lungs out as Blind Channel came to the stage. Fans like you are always needed.

 

While Blind Channel ended their set with ”Darker than Black”, the venue was already nicely packed with the crowd waiting for the main act of the evening. The band had their breakthrough in Finland when they released ”Everybody Wants to be an Astronaut” in 2012, which was later released on the band’s second album, Save the Nation. It took me 5 years to finally see the band since they seem to have avoided Finland – except of course when I was spending 6 months in Stockholm, when they finally toured here. I managed to see them finally in Jurassic Rock in 2016, but did not quite get the feeling I wanted (the pouring rain might have had something to do with it). So needless to say, I had great expectations for the evening.

Royal Republic started their set with “When I See You Dance with Another” and “Walk!”, both of which are from their newest album, Weekend Man (2016). Now it’s time for a confession – I was not that into the latest album. I gave it a chance, a second and even a third, and did like some of the songs, like “Baby” and “Here I Come (There You Go)”, but nevertheless, the entity still left me a bit cold. Getting a proper chance to hear newer material live, I have to take back my words. The new songs worked great live, and I was only bothered by the fact that I didn’t know the lyrics. So next time I’ll see Royal Republic, I’ll know them all. That’s a promise.

Luckily I got to hear the older favorites of mine, like “Strangers Friends Lovers Strangers” and “Addictive” (which was played acoustically). Naturally, the band played also “Everybody Wants to Be an Astronaut”, which awoke the audience into a mighty-sounding singalong.

What I like about Royal Republic, is their energy and the overall feeling they manage to deliver via their albums. And that magic is even stronger live. From the very first song, the band took hold of their audience, entertained us, and gave us a nice range of their hits from all three of their albums (or four to be precise, if you count the acoustic Royal Republic and the Nosebreakers).

Talking about entertainment, it’s not often you hear the band talk about gay fanfiction that some fan has written about them. Nor hear what a Finnish (male) orgasm sounds like. Needless to say, when the band’s vocalist, Adam Grahn, said he is a professional entertainer, there’s nothing left to argue about. Besides, what would a gig be without some special occasions? The band’s bass player, Jonas Almén, happened to be having his birthday on the 4th, so the crowd sang ”Happy Birthday” to him in both English and Finnish. And in addition to the birthday celebrations, one lucky member of the audience was invited onto the stage to join the band in “Tommy-Gun”. You can check her guitar playing skills from Instagram.

Even though the same sound problem that bothered me during Blind Channel also prevailed during Royal Republic’s set, it was a minor fault in an otherwise perfect evening. The band ended the evening with a “Battery/Ace of Spades/Sweet Home Alabama” -medley and pumped out the last bit of energy the audience had left with “Full Steam Spacemachine”. After ending their gig, the band promised to come back soon to Finland. Or that’s at least what I wanted to hear, so hopefully I don’t have to wait another 5 years before seeing Royal Republic again.

Blind Channel’s setlist:
1. My Revolution
2. Hold on to Hopeless
3. Bullet (With Your Name on It)
4. Pitfall
5. Unforgiving
6. Deja FU
7. Enemy for Me
8. Don’t (Ed Sheeran cover)
9. Darker Than Black

Royal Republic’s setlist:
1. When I see You Dance with Another
2. Walk!
3. Make Love Not War (If You Have to Make War – Make Sure to Make Time to Make Love in Between)
4. Strangers Friends Lovers Strangers
5. Underwear
6. Weekend-Man
7. Everybody Wants to Be an Astronaut
8. Any Given Sunday
9. Peope Say That I’m Over the Top
10. Addictive (acoustic)
11. Kung Fu Lovin’
12. Baby
13. Tommy-Gun

Encore:
14. Here I Come (There You Go)
15. Follow the Sun
16. Getting Along
17. Battery/Ace of Spades/Sweet Home Alabama
18. Full Steam Spacemachine

Photos: Janne Puronen | Ed: Amy W

ROYAL REPUBLIC w/ BLIND CHANNEL @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 04.02.2017

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Royal Republic with Blind Channel at Nosturi, 2017.
Photos by Janne Puronen.
Gig report HERE!

 

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Jukka Karinen (Status Minor, Thunderstone), 2017

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If you’re looking into incredible keyboardists from Finland, you may have missed a diamond in the rough. In 2007, Thunderstone faced a problem – there was a tour coming up and Kari Tornack had left his post as the band’s keyboardist. As well, Jens Johansson [Stratovarius] was meant to fill in, but had to cancel. With few options left, the band turned to a fellow who had been in Sonic Pump Studios working on some material for his own band, Status Minor, and that person was Jukka Karinen. He was the first of three pieces that brought this band to their perfect present line-up, and this week we have the playlist of his life for you!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
“Nuku nuku, nurmilintu”

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
A Rölli song. I don’t know/remember the title.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Helloween’s “Kids of the Century”

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
Helloween got me hooked when I was 11.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
Rölli – “Omituisten otusten kerho.” The circle is closing.

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
No guilt, just pleasure.

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
It may have been Megadeth’s Cryptic Writings.

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Me and this song have not met yet.

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Leverage’s “Fifteen Years”

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Chopin’s “Nocturne in C# minor” could be good pick.

 

If you haven’t seen any of Thunderstone’s comeback gigs from 2016-2017, consider having a look at some of our reports/galleries:
April 2016 – report / gallery
South Park 2016 – report / gallery
November 2016 w/ Stratovarius – report / gallery
January 2017 w/ Sonata Arctica – report / gallery

(2017) Haken: Aquarius & Visions (reissues)

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Artist: Haken
Album: Aquarius; Visions (reissues)
Release date: 03.02.2017
Label: InsideOut

 

British new-generation prog metallers Haken are celebrating their 10th anniversary as a band this year, and their first two albums, Aquarius (2010) and Visions (2011), are being re-released on February 3rd (today). Having only heard last year’s Affinity from these guys before, I decided to check out how their journey started.

 

As I said in our “2016 in metal” blog post, I used to think of Haken as a bit of a Dream Theater clone. I wasn’t totally off-base, as that influence is very clearly audible on Aquarius, especially in Ray Hearne’s drumming and Diego Tejeida’s keyboard playing. The album is a little all over the place stylistically – the opener, “The Point of No Return”, is a rather heavy track, though there are gentle moments as well, whereas “Streams” has a lighter feel for the most part, with its 70s prog influences and playful backing vocals. The top point of the record is in the middle – the massive and dramatic “Aquarium” has got strong melodies, and the upbeat “Eternal Rain” is full of great musicianship. However, as most debuts, Aquarius isn’t without its missteps; Ross Jennings’ unique clean voice is pleasant and doesn’t sound like typical metal singing, but his occasional growling doesn’t feel like it totally belongs to the music. In “Celestial Elixir” there’s a brass section that gives a circus music feel at a few points, which isn’t really my cup of tea – luckily the soaring chorus is enough to make this epic worth listening to. “Drowning in the Flood” also goes a little overboard with the flashy instrumentation towards the end. My overall impression is that the band were trying to cram in as many influences as possible on the record – perhaps out of youthful enthusiasm – and while it makes the music diverse, it ends up sounding slightly chaotic in the process. Despite this and the obvious Dream Theater influence, Aquarius is fairly good for a first effort, and you can tell Haken were already a tight unit after the first 4 years of their career.

Although both albums are good pieces of modern prog metal, I find Visions more consistent and focused. The songs are more concise and well-thought-out, the album’s flow is better, and the music has a clearer common thread running throughout. “Insomnia” is my favorite song – that opening riff is just so cool – but “Nocturnal Conspiracy” is a good contender as well, as it never falters during its 13-minute length, and Ross Jennings’ vocal performance is very strong. “Shapeshifter” showcases Haken’s heavier side well, while “Deathless” is a beautiful mellow piece before the big finale, just like “Sun” on Aquarius. However, Visions isn’t a perfect album, as “Portals” veers a little too far into the terrain of musical gymnastics for my taste, although I guess coming off the heels of the restrained “The Mind’s Eye” it is a good counterpoint. The 22-minute title-track is good for the most part, but around the 16-minute mark there’s a section with annoyingly repetitive vocals that goes on and on to the point of getting infuriating. The production is also not as good as on Aquarius, but in almost every other way Visions is a step up from the debut, which is impressive, considering that a mere year had passed between the albums.

 

While the two albums are good for a starting band, and Haken’s great sense of melody was there to balance out the technicality right from the start, the songwriting is not as original as it is on Affinity. However, I see this as a purely positive thing, because it means that Haken have grown and matured a lot, and if that continues, we might be in store for something amazing in the near future. Besides, I haven’t heard The Mountain (2013) yet, so I have one more full-length album to listen to while waiting for the next chapter. The reissues come with bonus discs that include instrumental versions of every song. If I were a diehard fan, I’d prefer to hear material from the archives, such as demo versions or unreleased songs, but I don’t know whether Haken had any of those, so hopefully the remastering and instrumental discs will be enough of a drawcard for those who own the original CDs.

Rating: 7/10 (Aquarius), 8/10 (Visions)

Aquarius tracklist:
1. The Point of No Return
2. Streams
3. Aquarium
4. Eternal Rain
5. Drowning in the Flood
6. Sun
7. Celestial Elixir

Visions tracklist:
1. Premonition
2. Nocturnal Conspiracy
3. Insomnia
4. The Mind’s Eye
5. Portals
6. Shapeshifter
7. Deathless
8. Visions

Ed: Amy W

(2017) Ember Falls: Welcome to Ember Falls

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Artist: Ember Falls
Album: Welcome to Ember Falls
Release: 17.02.2017
Label: Spinefarm/Universal Music

 

It’s no secret that I’ve been a huge fan of Ember Falls ever since I learned of their existence in 2016, nor that my first opportunity to chat with them and hear them play live at South Park did nothing to diminish my enthusiasm towards them and their hopefully bright career. Ember Falls was one of our most-followed live bands of 2016 and for myself and Lene, we both agreed that they should take Most Potential in our 2016 review. Their long-awaited debut album is finally about to be released in a mere 2 weeks, and my anticipation to find out if the album will live up to its first single (“Shut Down with Me”) is about as high as it gets.

So, with no further ado, let’s get into it!

01. The Cost of Doing Business
“Slowly see the tragedy / Us clueless monkeys lost at sea…”
The album starts off in a beautifully aggressive way with “The Cost of Doing Business”, which you should have already heard by now. A long note followed by a loud growl of “well fuck!” by Kalle “Calu” Laakso is the first thing to be heard and what follows is a high-energy hit song with incredible vocals and a worthy message that hints at a distaste for big businesses taking advantage of the earth and leading it to ruin. I’m always a sucker for a positive environmental message, so my initial thought was, “Hell yeah, this album is going to be great!” Tuomas “Thomas Grove” Välimaa‘s voice is the perfect blend of gritty and melodic, and the growls/guitars provided by Calu and guitars by his brother, Jussi “Jay V” Laakso, add enough heavy to make this song an instant favorite for me. It has a wicked beat that makes me want to pump the hell out of my fist, even in my living room. It’s got everything I like in a song. Off to a great start!

02. Falling Rain
“I am bleeding my dreams away / Like a fire in falling rain…”
Score two for this album already. The electro bits and drums in the beginning are as catchy as can be, and the vocal melody is solid and just gritty enough. It’s followed by a second verse that is growled by Calu in its entirety. This is one of the songs that gets most easily stuck in my head; “I am bleeding my dreams away” is one of my favorite lines on the album (Blade Runner, anyone?), in a very singalong-able chorus. This song is the perfect blend of heavy and catchy, with enough metal riffing and soloing from Jay V to satisfy my need of wicked guitars. Though it’s hard for me to pick, this could be my favorite track on the album (excluding “SDwM”).

03. Of Letting Go
“I know that time is a cold and cruel playwright…”
An electronic intro, with “let go with me tonight” naturally introduces “Of Letting Go.” Have I mentioned how much I like the blend of what reminds me of 90s dance music (has the dance genre changed all that much in the last 20 years?) with heavy music? There are some poppy breaks and the chorus is pretty chill in this one. The piano lines from Mikko “OneOfHaze” McMenamin in particular stand out in this track, and they didn’t skimp on the solos either – it starts so relaxed and then just soars while Calu screams in the background, builds it up masterfully (nice pacing, says the phantom), and then ends on a high point! Jussi “Ace” Saurio is worthy of mention as well at this point, as the drums are incredibly tight and don’t fall victim to lazy rhythms or poppy sounds at any point.

04. The Enemy You Need
“Never let your flame burn / Never let your bad blood flow…”
A strong electronic bit introduces this track, with some deep vocals to follow. Grove gets to show off his diversity in the stylings of the bridge in this one as well, with some quick parts that I had trouble describing (the phantom called it “late 90s/early 2000s poppy”), but are definitely fun in a way that makes you fondly remember the songs that many metalheads hate admitting they liked before they discovered metal. Even if that part is pretty poppy, the chorus turns back towards metal with some heavy drumming, and then the song goes into some proper shreddage by Jay V. This song has the effect of sounding like so many tiny bits of other things that I can’t trace any of them back to their origin, mainly in the melodic lines and vocals, and even a bit in the song’s progression. Either way, we’ve got yet another really fun song!

05. Freedom
“I’ll take you far where the sirens sing…”
Right at the time you need a little rest from the higher-energy songs, the album graces us with its one and only ballad. I was originally of the opinion that this was yet another romantic song, until I read the lyrics and promptly had my mind blown, as it seems that this is more of a love song written to the earth – lines like “I won’t let the heat consume” and “there is nothing without you” make so much more sense in this context!

The song itself was familiar from their live shows, and the “whoa-oh-oh” part has already proved to be perfect for putting phones and lighters in the air to wave back and forth. What really pleases me about this song (other than its phenomenal lyrics) is the dynamics – prior to the solo, the song remains quite peaceful (the marching army-esque drums are cool!), and then the solo brings a new level of life to the song, and while it’s a rather short solo, the whole song is lifted up by it, and interestingly, it never really ends – rather, the vocals are added on top of the guitars, which linger until the very end. Grove’s vocals absolutely soar, and the backing female vocals harmonize to make it quite beautiful on the whole. At this point, the phantom mentioned as well that the bass is mysteriously quiet in the mix – Olli “Oswald” Heino is doing his work as he should – for example, the bass lines right in the beginning of this track are fantastic – but it is awfully quiet, which is a true shame. Minus points to the mixer (Jacob Hansen) for skimping on the bass in the mix.

06. COE
“The hour is late for a bloodless way out…”
Will we ever find out what “COE” stands for? This was the second single, and the first to feature a lyric video prior to “The Cost of Doing Business.” I confess that this song took a few spins when it was first released before I was totally convinced. I’ve been a big fan of this song live and was sure it would be the next single, but somehow the album version didn’t grasp me right off the bat. I believe that this was simply because “Shut Down with Me” set the bar so high for this band that nothing could touch it immediately. However, at this point, nothing has proved to be worse than “SDwM” either, so take that as you will. I really liked Aqua back in the 90s and for whatever reason – it’s not like this sounds anything like Aqua – but this song gives me the same sort of happy goofy smile that Aqua gives me. Maybe there’s some more late 90s/early 2000s pop influence in here as well? Either way, strong beat, catchy music, great lyrics… the standard still holds!

07. Rising Tide
“Cold, we’re naked and torn / We are spinning in the eye of the storm…”
Most songs on this album have an electronic intro – normally I might get bored of that but the sound is unique and interesting enough each time that I really enjoy it, with no exception here. The song has a blend of good energy and a kind of chill beat, and the intro vocals are immediately reminiscent of HIM, likely due to the depth of Grove’s vocals more than anything (though I think this is far better than anything HIM has done in ages, if not ever). I dig the chorus in this one, which has a nice level of passion, and this is another song that shows off Grove’s skill, as it stretches from deep all the way to some pretty high notes in the chorus. The progression of the music and vocals builds up nicely in the second verse, making the second round of the chorus even more explosive. There’s yet another nice solo, and the song ends sharply on a nice high note.

08. Open Your Eyes (ft. Niko Moilanen)
“My greatest enemy turned out to be my own ego…”
“Open Your Eyes” proved to be quite a pleasant surprise. Thanks to Instagram, I knew that Niko Moilanen of Blind Channel must have a guest appearance on the album, but I confess that I had forgotten all about it. So when I heard a familiar voice rapping on this track, I was immediately delighted to hear the product of a collaboration of which I had no immediate recollection. Moilanen takes care of the majority in the vocals in the verses, and the song has an immediate Meteora-era Linkin Park vibe (which I am okay with) as a result. Grove still sings in the (very catchy and powerful) chorus, so he hasn’t taken a full back seat. I’d love to see this live with Moilanen as a guest – they’ve already done “SDwM” with Blind Channel’s Joel Hokka at South Park 2016, so dare I to dream? There’s another interesting message lyrically here, great dynamics, and again, it’s so very, very catchy!

09. One More Time
“I lie to underline / What you are doing to me…”
The guitar-heavy intro in this one is slightly deceiving, as this is one of the least heavy songs on the album. If you’re less into the metal side of the band and more into the electronic side, this may be an immediate favorite. The verses have a bit of a disco/dance beat, with a faster dance beat in the chorus. The electronic bits in this one are particularly strong and it has hardly any growling. The main heavy element present is Grove’s gritty vocals, which are near-constant throughout and save the song from becoming overly poppy. There is a wicked industrial-style solo/breakdown that made me think ‘heavy dubstep’ (though I confess that I don’t honestly know what the definition of ‘dubstep’ is… this is just the sort of sound I associate with it). It does start to signal that the album is winding down though…

10. Shut Down with Me
“We are the resistance / A wrench thrown in the system / We are the sound of spirit / To kill the machine, kill the machine, shut it down!”
Ah, the song that made me fall in love with this band, and in an interesting late slot on the album no less! I don’t know if I’ve ever truly expressed my love of this song at length before. For starters, I discovered this song properly in first-quarter 2016 and have been listening to it pretty constantly the rest of the year and I am still not sick of it, and that says a lot. I am notorious for loving a song and listening to it so much that I never want to hear it again. It also has pretty much everything a song needs – a solid rhythm, catchy tune, great lyrics, skillful solo, wicked and thought-provoking music video… you can’t ask for anything else. The only thing is, if you compare the album version to the video version, the mix is clearly better in the video. It’s a bit heavier and there’s clearly more depth to it. I’m going to put the fault again into the mixer on this one. I’ll hope that the next album is perhaps mixed by whoever did the video (was that Juho Peltari, the director/editor?).

11. The Lamb Lies Down in Sacrifice
“So let me rise beyond the paralyzed / A world of lies / I’ll burn your made-up paradise…”
The album’s closer is one of the most diverse songs musically, with a sort of 90s video game sounding electro-heavy part in the beginning (for my fellow geeks, it brings to mind the Final Fantasy IX soundtrack, fourth disc), which immediately switches to a screamy thrash part with Calu on vocals. Then it changes again when Grove’s vocals start and it gets… jazzy? The chorus is catchy as hell though, with one of my favorite lines on the album: “Take a bullet like a gentleman / Your god just might be on your side”; I love the mental image that instills! As well, the blasting double-kick drums in the chorus get me pretty hyped up. The solo again goes in the thrashy direction, with the electronic shot before the solo in perfect position, and the guitars trade off nicely. More bands should mix poppy sounds with thrash… I might might start liking both genres more! There’s a full-on jazzy breakdown just afterwards that’s works shockingly well – I would love to see a steampunk music video to this song! This could be considered the “Deja FU” of this album, as it’s a surprising blend of genres that you wouldn’t think would work, but it totally does! The song, and album as a result, ends very abruptly, but on a definite high note.

 

So did the long-anticipated album live up to its hype? Well first of all, the musicianship on the album is incredible. If you like your heavy metal with guitar solos, you’ll not be disappointed here. Calu and Jay V do wonders for the genre with their well-written and nicely paced rhythms (and Jay V’s solos) – it’s not just guitar wankery either; it’s quite stylishly done. As well, Grove’s vocals are delightful. His deep notes are graceful and he adds grit into the sound exactly where it is needed throughout. The rhythm section is what keeps the album from falling too far into the pop zones as well, though I think Oswald’s bass was sadly underwhelming in the mix throughout. And as I’ve already said, with music like this, the drums can make or break the overall sound, and to Ace’s credit, the drums are fantastic and never sink into that repetitive ‘basic beat’ pop drumming that plagues so much music. The album may run the risk, with some people, of being too catchy and getting old fast, especially if you play it a lot, but I’ve been listening to it at least once daily on average for the last month and I haven’t gotten sick of it yet, so hopefully others can say the same.

I’m not a big technical buff and might not have noticed it personally, but the phantom pointed out the biggest flaw in the album, which is – as you may have guessed – the mix. All of the songs are great, but it feels as though the mix is completely centered around the vocals. When Grove is singing, the song is “on,” and when it’s just the music, everything sort of takes a step back. Also the bass is just too quiet throughout. Contrast this to the mix in the “SDwM” music video, which focuses slightly more on the heavy and gives the song the depth it requires. On the plus side, this does mean that the live translation of the songs tends to lean toward the heavy side with the electronic parts in the background, thus meaning that these songs have the potential to sound even better on stage. I won’t dock any points for mix, since I might not have noticed it personally (thanks, phantom, gees), but if I was a more objective writer, it could’ve cost them at least half a point. The thing is, just because the mix is suboptimal doesn’t make it a bad album by any means… just the contrast between the two versions of “SDwM” highlights how much better the album could have sounded if the mix had been better.

Still, 2017’s off to a good start if the first album I’ve heard gets a full score! If you are in Tampere, or have the ability to be there tomorrow (February 1st, 2017), I heartily recommend that you go to the advanced listening party of this album and hear it for yourself! Details can be found HERE!

Final score: 10/10, 5 stars.

Tracklist:
1. The Cost of Doing Business
2. Falling Rain
3. Of Letting Go
4. The Enemy You Need
5. Freedom
6. COE
7. Rising Tide
8. Open Your Eyes (ft. Niko Moilanen)
9. One More Time
10. Shut Down with Me
11. The Lamb Lies Down in Sacrifice

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Noora Louhimo (Battle Beast), 2017

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Battle Beast shouldn’t be a new name at this point, even though they are a relatively young band. Having won the Wacken Metal Battle in 2010, the band picked up a pretty solid following with their 80s-inspired shred and vocals. Though the band hasn’t quite reached ‘household name’ status yet, their material has steadily improved since their inception and they’ve been present at plenty of summer festivals in the past few years. Bringer of Pain is soon upon us, released on February 17th, so here is the playlist of vocalist Noora Louhimo’s life!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
My mother used to sing this lullaby, “Tuutuu Tupakkirulla” as I was very little girl.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
My father gave me the first musical influences and “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen came up in my mind when thinking about the question.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
“Nessaja” by Scooter was playing in the background a lot when we were at a summer beach hanging with friends.

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
I heard “The Trooper” by Iron Maiden sung by my big brother, and that’s when I fell in love with heavy metal. Bruce Dickinson is my biggest influence as a performer even in these days.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
“Kohta sataa” by Pete Parkkonen is a Finnish pop song which I heard on this Finnish TV-show a couple days ago and now it’s repeating in my head, all the time – but not the whole song, just the phrase “kohta sataa”, haha.

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
I don’t really feel guilty pleasure when listening to music. I just enjoy anything good. But If I have to name one it’s gonna be “Sexy Motherfucker” by Prince.

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
I got “Razorblade Romance” by HIM as a present. Back in the day, Ville Valo used to be my daydream.

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
“What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong takes me to some place that is somewhere beyond the existing world. A place where dreams are made and love is all around.

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
“Hunting High and Low” by Stratovarius gets me going every time!

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
I would like everyone to sing together a cappella “Sleeping in the Fire” by W.A.S.P. This song is very important to me lyric-wise and is one of the best ballads I know.

 

Check out Battle Beast’s music video for “King for a Day” over here:

Or try out their newest single, “Familiar Hell” over here:

Or have a look at their tour trailer here:

SONATA ARCTICA w/ THUNDERSTONE – The Circus, Helsinki, 27.01.2017

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So, January – and 2017 by association – have finally arrived. To tell the truth, I usually tend to hibernate a little longer than this, often avoiding live shows until February or even March unless it’s something unusual. Furthermore, I’ve been passing on Sonata’s gigs for a while – you’ll notice I personally haven’t covered them since they opened for Nightwish at Ratina a while back, and even then their live shows were not up to their usual standard in my opinion. However, considering I thought that The Ninth Hour was a pretty decent step back in the right direction, I thought it was time to dust off my Sonata Arctica fandom and check out one of their shows again (besides, I’ve heard that they’ve been playing “Shamandalie” on this tour, which I couldn’t risk missing). The Ninth Hour World Tour passed through The Circus on January 27th with none other than one of the other most successful Finnish metal bands of 2016 as their warm-up act: Thunderstone!

Full gallery HERE!
Or listen along with the setlist here:

 

The gig was more or less right on time, as Thunderstone took the stage to kick things off with the new standard opener, “Veterans of the Apocalypse.” It’s nice to see the change that their comeback has wrought – the venue was already fairly full of people willing to show up early to catch both bands (a step up from several other shows from 2016 for sure), though the energy from the crowd didn’t match the energy from the band right off the bat.

“Tool of the Devil” has moved up to the second track slot, still introduced with the “TotD” intro. This remains one of my favorite old Thunderstone songs to hear live – man, that bass in the beginning! It was thunderous! Titus Hjelm is my hero. This is one of those songs where the band looks as cool as they sound while playing (which is… very). They greeted the crowd after two songs, checking to see that everything is okay (“Kaikki käy?”) before continuing with “The Path”, which continued to show off their good energy – these guys said they’d only keep going as long as music is fun for them, and it seems as though tour life has been treating them well, because they clearly enjoyed being on stage together, goofing around and playing really well. It’s also great to hear that Pasi Rantanen seems to be going strong on vocals.

“The Path” was followed by what felt like a kikkeli-metalli [cock-rock/metal] anthem of some sort, which I believe was “Break the Emotion.” It had all you need from classic 90s power metal, with massive, dramatic soloing from Jukka Karinen on keyboards (as well as Nino Laurenne on guitars), and easy yet stylish drumming from Atte Palokangas. There was a nice drum solo to close out, and then Hjelm took the mic to greet the crowd, wished a happy birthday to Tapio (their sound guy, if I’m not mistaken), and then asked the crowd to put their cell phone lights on and hold them up for a ballad, before starting “Weak.” The keyboard intro was quite impressive, and on the whole, Karinen and Rantanen’s skills were both nicely showcased in this song. And when the rest of the instruments joined in, it hit like a brick wall – powerful as hell!

The lights turned solid red-green-blue for “Forevermore”, and I couldn’t yet again, fail to notice Palokangas’ twirling and tossing his drumsticks with ease. This was followed by “Through the Pain” – one of my favorite new live tracks – which again had some phenomenal bass. The backing vocals were a bit on the loud side, drowning out Rantanen to an extent, but it’s fortunate that they didn’t sound bad. After this, Rantanen asked if the crowd wanted them to continue (while Laurenne jokingly pouted, “En jaksa” [I won’t continue]), and they promised a few more, starting with “10,000 Ways.” Then, before finishing up, Rantanen had to engage the crowd in some ‘repeat-after-me’ singing, rather successfully I’d say, before they finished up with “Until We Touch the Burning Sun.” There was a pretty epic crowd singalong to the chorus, and they left the stage to an inexplicably weird outro song.

Overall, they played a very nice set. The selection of songs from the new album is still optimal, keeping “The Path” and “Through the Pain” over “Fire and Ice” (a good move), though from the old material, I’d have liked it if they had kept “Dirt Metal” from the eponymous 2009 album, and maybe something like “Welcome to the Real” or “Forth into the Black” as opposed to “Break the Emotion” or even “Weak.” I’m glad to see that they’re still going strong though, which means we’ll hopefully have more great albums and tours from them in the future!

Thunderstone’s setlist:
1. Veterans of the Apocalypse
2. Tool of the Devil
3. The Path
4. Break the Emotion
5. Weak
6. Forevermore
7. Through the Pain
8. 10,000 Ways
9. Until We Touch the Burning Sun

 

After a quick stage change, it was time for Sonata! I had high hopes that this would be a good gig, considering the aforementioned reasons. The venue was packed nearly to capacity by the time the curtains opened and the unfamiliar intro track started to play, which is evidently referred to as the “We Are What We Are” intro.

The show started with the two starters from their latest release, The Ninth Hour: “Closer to an Animal” and “Life.” I enjoyed them both as live songs well enough – “CtaA” is equally as good as “The Wolves Die Young” (which was played directly after these two), and “Life” indeed works nicely with the la-la parts for singing along… though it is hard to get over those ridiculous lyrics. The mix was a little drum-heavy in the beginning, but this was quickly fixed and they managed to have fairly balanced sound throughout the set, with the exception of the vocals again being a bit muddled. I’m not sure if that related to where I was standing or the mix as a whole, but it was hard to hear Kakko from time-to-time.

It was interesting to see how divided the crowd was – it seemed to be largely divided between old Sonata fans and newer fans. I feel like the older songs, like “FullMoon” and “Tallulah”, got a louder response when compared to the newer songs. The latter involved Kakko sitting on the edge of the stage with dramatic colored lights on him, looking sensitive, as the crowd lost their shit, screamed, and slow-danced. As for the new songs, I was a little disappointed in the selection – “Fairytale” isn’t in my top 5 tracks from the album and should easily have been replaced with “Till Death’s Done us Apart”, which was the biggest loss from the set. “Among the Shooting Stars” had a rather weak intro sound-wise, as it was a bit hard to hear, and this song feels slightly wasted, as it would work really nicely as a duet with a strong female vocalist – someone who could match Kakko’s still-impressive power. “We Are What We Are” was great to hear live though, which included a spoken intro about the environment. As well, I would have loved to hear the new “White Pearl, Black Oceans”, but I did figure that was a stretch.

Nevertheless, “In Black and White” was great to hear, keeping a slot for Unia (2007). I think perhaps my biggest complaint about the set though, is that they didn’t have the same system as on their European tours, where they had the crowd choose between “Misery”, “Shamandalie”, and one other that I can’t recall (might have been “Tallulah”). I have been dying to hear “Shamandalie” live for ages now, so I had really been hoping that this would allow for the opportunity, and I was thus disappointed. If it was “Tallulah” though, perhaps they just assumed the Finns would pick it by default, which wouldn’t be hard to imagine – that song is freakishly over-popular here. I have no real attachment to the other older tracks they played, “Abandoned, Pleased, Brainwashed, Exploited” and “Power of One”, so I might’ve liked to have something from Days of Greys (2009) instead, but I know I’d easily get outvoted if this was put to the fans.

I have to say, the crowd was also a bit sluggish on the whole, as – with the exception of a few groups here and there – the crowd was fairly responsive, though not particularly animated. The oldschool fans lost their shit to the classics, of course, and there was a bit of slow-dancing and whatnot, but I wasn’t picking up on a particularly good crowd vibe the whole night. Conversely, the band’s energy has been better than I’ve seen it in a good long while.

Elias Viljanen had a guitar solo before “Power of One”, which then led to the band vacating the stage. They made the crowd cheer for a good long time before coming back to play, unfortunately, “I Have a Right” (going on 5 years of waiting for that song to go away forever), before playing the classic I truly want to hear at every Sonata show – “Don’t Say a Word” – which was delightful as always. The standard “Vodka” outro followed, and thus the night was concluded.

It’s a bit hard to summarize my feelings about this show. As a friend put it, the tour gigs cater to the new fans, and if you aren’t big on the new material, you only get glimpses of fun amidst the material you don’t much care for. So for the oldschool fans, it might be prudent to wait until the special gigs, (like the Ecliptica shows, for example) so that you’ll hear more of the classic music you love. The newer fans will get what they want out of the new shows, for sure, but they might not have the same passion as the old crowds had. This was a fun show, and worth going to, but I might pass the torch again for a while and wait until they have an anniversary show of some sort before I come again myself.

Sonata Arctica’s setlist:
We Are What We Are intro
1. Closer to an Animal
2. Life
3. Wolves Die Young
4. In Black and White
5. Tallulah
6. Fairytale
7. FullMoon
8. Among the Shooting Stars
9. Abandoned, Pleased, Brainwashed, Exploited
10. We Are What We Are
11. The Power of One

Encore:
12. I Have a Right
13. Don’t Say a Word
Vodka outro

Photos: Charlotta Rajala

SONATA ARCTICA w/ THUNDERSTONE @ The Circus, Helsinki, 27.01.2017

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Musicalypse.net - website has the rights to publish this photo on musicalypse.net and on their Facebook page. The photographer who has the copyright for this photo is permitted to publish the photo on her portfolio and Facebook page. The band appearing in the photo is allowed to share the photo in case they mention the owner of the copyright. Sharing and publishing the photo in any other contexts is forbidden. Sonata Arctica 2017.1.27 at Circus, Helsinki, Finland.

Sonata Arctica with openers Thunderstone at The Circus, 2017.
Photos by Charlotta Rajala.
Gig report HERE!

BRYMIR w/ EXLIBRIS @ On the Rocks, Helsinki, 27.01.2017

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Brymir with Exlibris @ On the Rocks, Helsinki 2017.
Photos by Janne Puronen.

EREB ALTOR & SKYFORGER w/ GUESTS @ Yo-talo, Tampere, 20.01.2017

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Ereb Altor & Skyforger, with Draugnim and Asagraum in Yo-talo, Tampere, 2017.
Photos by Marco Manzi.

HELSINKI BLACK MASS II @ Ääniwalli, Helsinki, 21.01.2017

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Helsinki Black Mass II, featuring Clamosum, Asagraum, Satan’s Fall, and Ajattara. Ääniwalli 2017.
Photos by Marco Manzi.

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Eemi Lamberg (Smokin’ Aces), 2017

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Photo by Pekka Keränen

The Smokin’ Aces have been around since 2012, and are joining the current wave of 70s-influenced hard rock that’s been blossoming in the area. The band has two music videos under their belt, as well as a good number of gigs, and their first EP, 24/7 was released in 2014. These guys have done a great job capturing the spirit of music from the Guns N’ Roses era, and so this week we have the playlist of bassist Eemi Lamberg’s life for you!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child.
Probably the song from Disney’s Mickey Mouse cartoon “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”… creepy, weird-ass song/video which got me traumatized…

2.The First song you can recall ever really and truly loving
I must thank my father for showing me lots of music videos when I was a kid. The first song that really stuck in my head and blew me away was the legendary “Ghostbusters” By Ray Parker Jr.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
“Highway Star” by Deep Purple

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
Cliche or not, “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi. That is the main reason why I started listening to rock music. After that Iron Maiden, Mötley Crue, Aerosmith, and Guns N’ Roses inspired me to start playing.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
“Amelia” by Skott has been looping in my head today. My taste in music is very wide and I am always trying to discover new, great tunes. I don’t see anything wrong with focusing on one music genre, but that’s not my thing.

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
I don’t have any guilty pleasure bands. I never feel embarrassed about listening to the music I enjoy. For example, My Chemical Romance was one of my favorite bands back in the days and I’ve always admitted it. You shouldn’t judge people based on their taste in music. Just listen to what you enjoy and F anyone who has an issue with that. Unless you listen Kanye West, then you are a worthless human being.

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own.
Mötley Crue’s “Dr. Feelgood” – still lovin’ it !

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
“Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
When I’m driving alone, and I hit the highway, I turn up the volume and blast Pantera’s “Domination.” But when I’m on the road with Smokin’ Aces, the first song I want to hear is Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” – that is the ultimate road trip song!

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” and “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” by Willie Nelson… no need to explain, right?

 

Check out the music video for “You Take My Breath Away” here:

Or check out the video for “The Ruckus” here:

APULANTA – Jäähalli, Helsinki, 20.01.2017 (English)

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Hailing from Heinola, Apulanta have solidified their position in the canon of Finnish rock with numerous hits for a quarter of a century already. Although products and projects like the Biolanta fertilizer and the Apulandia museum have certainly made a punk rocker or two scratch their heads, and opinions on the band’s music and its evolution may be divided, I’m sure everyone can applaud the fact that Apulanta have become a household name on their own terms without the support of major labels. Two years ago, the three-piece played twice at the sold out Barona Arena in Espoo, and now it was Jäähalli’s turn to host an Apulanta show in Helsinki. The spectacle titled Tuplapyssyt was held on January 20th and 21st, 2017, and Musicalypse was present on the first night.

Lue suomeksi TÄÄLLÄ!
Full gallery HERE!

 

I’ve never been a fan of Apulanta – let alone music with punk leanings – but Toni Wirtanen has the ability to write tunes that get stuck in your head, and most of the band’s singles have indeed become familiar to me over the years through radio airplay. “Jumala” and “Koneeseen kadonnut” – to name but a few – were hits when I was a child, and they bring memories to my mind from that time. Since I was in for a long concert, I decided to do my homework and check out songs from Apulanta’s compilations that I hadn’t heard before. Although I came to the conclusion that the hits were the highlights, some decent songs stood out among the less popular tunes.

 

For a Friday night in January, Jäähalli was rather full – I don’t know whether the show was sold out like Saturday, but I doubt many more listeners would’ve fit in. Although Apulanta is traditionally seen as music for teenagers, there were lots of middle-aged people present – perhaps they were older fans who’d followed the band since the 90s or jumped aboard after seeing Toni Wirtanen on TV in Vain Elämää? The massive stage set was like an underwater world with its jellyfish and seaweed props. After a thunderous intro, the string section on stage started playing the familiar melody of “Käännä se pois”, after which the band joined in. Besides the string ensemble, extra help was present in form of guitarist Pauli Hauta-aho and keyboardist Antti Pitkäjärvi, so this was definitely no ordinary trio gig. Unfortunately, the strings were overpowered by the band during the louder sections, but when they were audible they were a brilliant addition.

In the first part of the show, Apulanta performed some rarely-played songs – Sipe Santapukki [drums] claimed that “Kadut” had never been played live, while according to Wirtanen’s memory it’d been over 10 years since the last performance of the song. Either way, the song was received well, and Hauta-aho played a fine solo on it. “Vauriot” was a positive surprise, as I find it one of Apulanta’s most interesting songs, thanks to its shuffle beat and keyboards. Wirtanen’s range wasn’t quite enough for the last chorus after the modulation, but it didn’t kill the mood either. However, it wasn’t until “Teit meistä kauniin” – the title-track of the Apulanta film directed by ex-bassist Tuukka Temonen – that the crowd really came alive, and the energy level in the hall went up visibly. After that, the string ensemble was replaced by dancers and a harp player – yes, you read that correctly! – for “Kaupungissa”, until a curtain was closed in front of the stage and the harp player got the spotlight all to herself. I’d never expected to hear a harp solo live – let alone at an Apulanta concert – so the experience was interesting, because the unintroduced lady got some special sounds out of her instrument with the help of effect pedals.

Next up was a female choir dressed in black cloaks, and Toni Wirtanen himself stepped forward to perform “Armo” with the choir as a stripped-down yet effective a cappella version. Who claimed punk rockers couldn’t get artsy? Upon the choir’s exit, the curtain opened, and the classic “Mitä kuuluu” opened the second part of the show accompanied by bombs. The stage set had been changed completely during the break, and Santapukki, along with his drum set, was up on the top of a mountain of sorts – later on he said that for once the upper seats in the venue weren’t a worse place to watch the show from. At this point in the set, the focus was on more upbeat songs, out of which “Viivakoodit” in particular raised the spirits and encouraged people to sing along. Soon it was time for another solo number when Ville Mäkinen grabbed an upright bass and played it mercilessly, throwing in a snippet of “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes. He held on to the instrument for the following two punk crushers, “Paha, paha asia” and “Terä”, the former of which also included a fun little solo battle between Wirtanen and Hauta-aho.

The line-up was expanded with one man when Santapukki was joined by a percussionist in the heights. The nu metalish “Ruhtinaat” marked a return to the early 2000s, and “Ravistettava ennen käyttöä” made the crowd shout. During the B-side “Amerika” – which Wirtanen jokingly introduced as “a song that shouldn’t exist” – there were twerking dancers on stage. Maybe this was supposed to balance out the choir and harp player? Santapukki and the percussionist were responsible for the third and last solo spot of the night. Drum solos have a bad reputation in the world of rock, but this one was interesting thanks to the “call and response” style alternation.

As the Finnish press has already pointed out elsewhere, the legendary javelin thrower Seppo Räty glided over the audience in his chariot, greeting them. The role of Zeus fit Räty like a glove, since he seems to have the reputation of a god of sorts anyway. While “Hiekka” was played, there were performers dressed in some kind of union suits on stage, and they waved flags with the “A” from Apulanta’s logo during “Mä nauran tälle.” Additionally, “Jumala” received some extra backing vocals from the “Armo” choir in its middle eight. The last part of the main set culminated in a series of hits, during which the audience sang along loudly. However, you could tell the intensity had started to take a bit of a toll when Wirtanen started skipping more and more high notes towards the end.  The climax was “Pahempi toistaan”, which made the crowd jump up and down, and Pitkäjärvi got down from his keyboard stand to join the guitarists, playing a keytar. Now I have to admit that both this tune and “Vasten mun kasvojani” include some of the most bad-ass riffage ever heard in Finnish rock music!

The set had been pretty high-energy after the first part, but the encore started calmly with Apulanta’s most famous song in the past few years, “Valot pimeyksien reunoilla,” during which smartphone screens glowed in the audience and couples danced. This cheesy ballad filled with fortune cookie philosophy was made to be played at an ice hall, but its placement in the encore was very unflattering, since “Ilona?” in all its youthful innocence, was a much more impactful slow song. Finally the night was topped off with “Anna mulle piiskaa,” and the 2-hour 40-minute show had come to an end.

 

Doing absolutely anything truly seems to be Apulanta’s philosophy. The band had enough guts and humor to get corny and break all the traditions of Finnish rock with nearly Spinal Tap-level extravaganza that would’ve made Tuomas Holopainen blush. However, a certain kind of theatricality in rock has always attracted yours truly, so Apulanta’s show with all the lasers, spotlights, and pyros was magnificent – you don’t get to see this in Finland every day. Afterwards, while looking at the setlist, I noticed that only five of the songs had been released in the past 5 years. In my opinion these post-Kuutio (2008) songs fell short, and the audience seemed to prefer the 10-to-20-year-old hits as well. On the other hand, this shows that Apulanta are like the Finnish Metallica – their position in the frontline of rock is so permanent that they can play big shows even without new material. Banter such as “this song used to be #1 too” made it obvious that Apulanta are aware and proud of their achievements, but when Toni Wirtanen knelt and bowed before the audience at the end, you could sense a genuine gratitude to the fans as well. On a final note, in the current musical climate it’s relieving to notice that big shows aren’t pop and hip-hop acts’ privilege in Finland, and that good old rock bands are still in demand.

Setlist:
1. Käännä se pois
2. 001
3. 006
4. Kadut
5. Vauriot
6. Pala siitä
7. Tuhka ja veri
8. Teit meistä kauniin
9. Kaupungissa
harp solo
10. Armo
11. Mitä kuuluu12. Silti onnellinen
13. Viivakoodit
14. Aggressio
bass solo
15. Paha, paha asia
16. Terä
17. Ruhtinaat
18. Ravistettava ennen käyttöä
19. Amerika
drum solo
20. Hiekka
21. Mä nauran tälle
22. Sun kohdalla
23. Mitä vaan
24. Koneeseen kadonnut
25. Vasten mun kasvojani
26. Viisaus ei asu meissä
27. Jumala
28. Pahempi toistaan

Encore:
29. Valot pimeyksien reunoilla
30. Mato
31. Ilona?
32. Anna mulle piiskaa

Photos: Kirsti Leinonen | Ed: Amy W

APULANTA – Jäähalli, Helsinki, 20.01.2017 (suomeksi)

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Heinolan ylpeys Apulanta on vakiinnuttanut paikkansa suomirockin kaanonissa lukuisilla hiteillään jo neljännesvuosisadan ajan. Vaikka Biolanta-lannoitteen ja Apulandia-museon kaltaiset oheistuotteet ja -hankkeet ovat takuulla saaneet yhden jos toisenkin punkkarin raaputtamaan päätään viime vuosina, ja bändin musiikista ja sen kehityskaaresta voi olla montaa mieltä, tuskin kukaan voi olla nostamatta hattua sille, että Apulanta on noussut kansansuosioon omilla ehdoillaan, ilman monikansallisten levy-yhtiöiden tukea. Kaksi vuotta sitten kolmikko soitti kahdesti loppuunmyydyllä Barona-areenalla Espoossa, ja nyt oli Helsingin Jäähallin vuoro isännöidä Apulanta-show’ta. Tuplapyssyt-niminen spektaakkeli järjestettiin 20. ja 21. tammikuuta 2017, ja Musicalypse oli paikalla ensimmäisenä iltana.

Read in English HERE!
Kuvagalleria TÄÄLLÄ!

 

En ole koskaan ollut Apulannan – tai ylipäätään punkiin kallellaan olevan musiikin – fani, mutta Toni Wirtasella on kyky säveltää tajuntaan iskostuvia kappaleita, ja suurin osa bändin sinkkubiiseistä onkin tullut tutuksi radiosoiton kautta vuosien saatossa. Muun muassa “Jumala” ja “Koneeseen kadonnut” olivat hittejä olessani lapsi ja tuovat muistoja mieleen siltä ajalta. Koska luvassa oli pitkä setti, päätin suosiolla tehdä läksyni ja tutustua Apulannan kokoelmalevyillä oleviin kappaleisiin, joita en ollut vielä kuullut. Vaikka tulin siihen tulokseen, että juuri ne hitit ovat olleet terävimpiä keihäänkärkiä, myös vähemmälle huomiolle jääneiden albumiraitojen joukosta erottui ihan päteviä kappaleita, varsinkin vuosituhannen taitteesta.

 

Tammikuisena perjanta-iltana Jäähalli oli tupaten täynnä – en tiedä, oliko se lauantain tavoin täysin loppuunmyyty, mutta tuskin kovin moni olisi vielä mahtunut mukaan menoon. Vaikka Apulanta on perinteisesti mielletty teinimusiikiksi, paikalla oli runsaasti keski-ikäisiä – kenties he olivat varttuneempia faneja, jotka olivat seuranneet bändiä jo 90-luvulta asti tai sitten Vain elämää -sarjan kautta mukaan hypänneitä? Valtava lavarakennelma oli kuin merenalainen maailma meduusa- ja levälavasteineen. Ukkosintron jälkeen lavalla ollut jousisektio alkoi soittaa “Käännä se pois” -biisin tuttua melodiaa, ja tämän jälkeen itse bändi yhtyi soittoon. Jousisoittajien lisäksi lavalla olivat lisäapuna kakkoskitaristi Pauli Hauta-aho ja kosketinsoittaja Antti Pitkäjärvi, joten mistään tavallisesta triokeikasta ei ollut kyse. Harmikseni jouset jäivät bändin jalkoihin äänekkäämmissä kohdissa, mutta erottuessaan ne toimivat oivana mausteena.

Apulanta soitti alkupuolella joitain keikoilla harvemmin kuultuja biisejä – Sipe Santapukki väitti, ettei “Katuja” olisi koskaan vedetty livenä, kun taas Wirtanen muisteli edellisestä kerrasta vierähtäneen yli vuosikymmenen. Olipa tilanne kumpi hyvänsä, kappale sai hyvän vastaanoton, ja Hauta-aho soitti siinä hienon soolon. “Vauriot” oli positiivinen yllätys, sillä se on omaan makuuni yksi Apulannan mielenkiintoisimmista biiseistä ränttätänttäkomppinsa ja koskettimiensa ansiosta. Wirtasen ääniala ei ihan riittänyt euroviisumoduulation jälkeiseen kertosäkeeseen, mutta tämä ei onneksi latistanut tunnelmaa. Kuitenkin vasta ex-basisti Tuukka Temosen ohjaaman Apulanta-elokuvan nimiraita “Teit meistä kauniin” sai yleisön syttymään kunnolla, ja energiataso hallissa kohosi selvästi. Tämän jälkeen jousisoittajien tilalle tuli tanssijoita ja harpunsoittaja – kyllä, luit oikein! – “Kaupungissa”-vedon ajaksi, kunnes lavan eteen vedettiin verho ja harpunsoittaja pääsi yksin parrasvaloihin. En ollut koskaan odottanut kuulevani harppusooloa livenä, varsinkaan Apulannan keikalla, joten kokemus oli mielenkiintoinen, sillä esittelemättä jääneen neitokaisen soittimesta lähti erinäisten efektipedaalien läpi suodatettuna erikoisiakin ääniä.

Seuraavaksi vuorossa oli mustiin kaapuihin sonnustautunut naiskuoro, jonka riveistä esiin asteli itse Toni Wirtanen samanlaisessa asussa, ja “Armo” esitettiin riisuttuna mutta toimivana a cappella -versiona. Kuka väitti, etteivät punkkarit voi heittäytyä taiteellisiksi? Kuoron poistuttua verho siirtyi syrjään, ja klassikkobiisi “Mitä kuuluu” avasi konsertin toisen osuuden pommien paukkeen säestämänä. Lava oli laitettu tauon aikana uuteen uskoon, ja Santapukki rumpuineen oli nyt ylhäällä kuin jonkinlaisen vuoren huipulla – myöhemmin hän totesikin, että kerrankin piippuhyllyt eivät olleet huonoimpia paikkoja keikalla. Tässä kohtaa settiä pääpaino oli menevämmillä kappaleilla, joista varsinkin “Viivakoodit” nostatti tunnelmaa ja yllytti yleisöä yhteislauluun. Pian oli toisen soolonumeron aika, kun Ville Mäkinen tarttui kontrabassoon ja revitteli sillä muun muassa pätkän The White Stripesin “Seven Nation Armya”. Hän soitti sitä myös seuraavien kahden punk-rypistyksen, “Paha, paha asia” ja “Terä”, aikana – edellämainitussa kuultiin myös hauska soolotaistelu Wirtasen ja Hauta-ahon välillä.

Kokoonpano laajeni yhdellä miehellä, kun Santapukki sai perkussionistin seurakseen korkeuksiin. 2000-luvun alun tunnelmiin palattiin pomppumetalliveto “Ruhtinaiden” merkeissä, ja yleisöä huudatettiin “Ravistettava ennen käyttöä” -hitillä. B-puoli “Amerikan” – jonka Wirtanen vitsaili olevan “kappale, jota ei pitäisi olla” – aikana lavalla nähtiin twerkkaavia tanssijattaria. Liekö tämä jonkinlaista vastapainoa harpulle ja kuorolle? Illan kolmannesta ja viimeisestä soolospotista vastasivat Santapukki ja perkussionisti. Rumpusooloilla on huono maine rock-maailmassa, mutta tämä pysyi mielenkiintoisena “kutsu ja vastaus” -tyyppisen vuorottelunsa vuoksi.

Kuten lehdistö on jo muualla kerennyt kohahtaa, keihäslegenda Seppo Räty liiti sotavaunuillaan ihmisten yli, tervehtien heitä. Zeus-jumalan rooli sopi Rädylle saumattomasti, mies kun lienee jonkinlaisen jumalan maineessa muutenkin. “Hiekan” soidessa lavalla nähtiin jonkinlaisiin kokovartalopukuihin sonnustautuneita esiintyjiä, jotka heiluttivat “Mä nauran tälle” -biisin aikana lippuja, joissa oli Apulannan logon A-kirjain. Lisäksi “Jumala” sai lauluvahvistusta “Armon” kuorosta väliosassaan. Varsinaisen setin loppuosa huipentui melkoiseen hittiputkeen, jonka aikana laulu raikui hallissa. Toisaalta intensiivinen tahti heijastui siinä, että Wirtanen alkoi laulaessaan vältellä korkeimpia nuotteja yhä enemmän. Keikan kliimaksina toimi “Pahempi toistaan”, joka sai porukan pomppimaan, ja Pitkäjärvi intoutui laskeutumaan koskettimiensa takaa kielisoittajien joukkoon keytar kaulassaan. Pakko myöntää nyt, että kyseinen biisi – kuten myös “Vasten mun kasvojani” – sisältää yhden suomalaisen rockin historian kovimmista riffeistä!

Setti oli ollut suurimmaksi osaksi melkoista tykitystä alkupuolen jälkeen, mutta encore alkoi rauhallisesti Apulannan viime vuosien tunnetuimmalla kappaleella “Valot pimeyksien reunoilla”, jonka aikana yleisössä hohtivat älypuhelinten näytöt ja pariskunnat tanssivat. Tämä onnenkeksifilosofiaa tihkuva siirappinen balladi oli kuin luotu Jäähallissa soitettavaksi, mutta toisaalta sen sijoitus encoreen ei ollut kovin mairitteleva, sillä välissä kuullun “Madon” jälkeen soitettu “Ilona?” oli kaikessa nuoruuden viattomuudessaan huomattavasti vaikuttavampi slovari. Lopuksi faneille annettiin vielä tietysti piiskaa, ja 2 tunnin ja 40 minuutin mittainen show oli tullut päätökseensä.

 

“Mä teen ihan mitä vaan” tuntuu todellakin olevan Apulannan filosofia. Bändillä riitti kanttia ja huumorintajua heittäytyä korniksi ja rikkoa räikeästi kaikkia suomirockin perinteitä liki spinaltapmaisilla ohjelmanumeroilla, jotka saisivat Tuomas Holopaisenkin punastumaan. Tietynlainen teatraalisuus rockmusiikissa on kuitenkin aina vedonnut allekirjoittaneeseen, joten Apulannan show lasereineen, spottivaloineen ja pyroineen oli upeaa katseltavaa – ei tällaista näe Suomessa joka päivä. Jälkeenpäin settilistaa läpi käydessä kiinnitin huomiota siihen, ettei mukana ollut viimeisten viiden vuoden ajalta kuin viisi kappaletta. Omaan makuuni nämä Kuution (2008) singlelohkaisuja tuoreemmat biisit jäivät hieman mitäänsanomattomiksi, eikä yleisökään tuntunut lämpenevän uudelle materiaalille aivan yhtä hyvin kuin 10-20 vuotta sitten julkaistuille hiteille. Toisaalta tämä osoittaa Apulannan olevan kuin uusi Eppu Normaali tai Suomen Metallica: sen asema rockin etulinjassa on niin pysyvä, että se voi soittaa jättiyleisöille vuodesta toiseen jopa ilman uutta materiaalia. “Tämäkin oli aikoinaan listaykkösenä” -tyyliset spiikit kielivät siitä, että Apulanta on tietoinen ja ylpeä saavutuksistaan, mutta kun Toni Wirtanen kumarsi yleisölle polvillaan keikan päätteeksi, ilmassa oli myös vilpitöntä kiitollisuutta faneja kohtaan. Loppukaneettina todettakoon, että tämänhetkisessä musiikillisessa ilmapiirissä on huojentavaa huomata, etteivät isot konsertit ole Cheekin ja kumppanien yksinoikeus, vaan vanhoille kunnon rock-bändeillekin riittää yhä kysyntää.

Settilista:
1. Käännä se pois
2. 001
3. 006
4. Kadut
5. Vauriot
6. Pala siitä
7. Tuhka ja veri
8. Teit meistä kauniin
9. Kaupungissa
harppusoolo
10. Armo
11. Mitä kuuluu12. Silti onnellinen
13. Viivakoodit
14. Aggressio
bassosoolo
15. Paha, paha asia
16. Terä
17. Ruhtinaat
18. Ravistettava ennen käyttöä
19. Amerika
rumpusoolo
20. Hiekka
21. Mä nauran tälle
22. Sun kohdalla
23. Mitä vaan
24. Koneeseen kadonnut
25. Vasten mun kasvojani
26. Viisaus ei asu meissä
27. Jumala
28. Pahempi toistaan

Encore:
29. Valot pimeyksien reunoilla
30. Mato
31. Ilona?
32. Anna mulle piiskaa

Kuvat: Kirsti Lehtinen

APULANTA @ Jäähalli, Helsinki, 20.01.2016

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Apulanta at Jäähalli, 2017.
Photos by Kirsti Leinonen.
Gig report in English HERE!
Keikka-arvio TÄÄLLÄ suomeksi!

DESTRUCTION w/ GONOREAS & NERVOSA @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 18.01.2017

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Destruction with Nervosa and Gonoreas, Tavastia 2017.
Photos by Marco Manzi.