PSYCHEWORK w/ THAUROROD – Virgin Oil Co., 18.05.2018

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Finnish Psychework released their second album, Karelian Hills, at the end of April, and started a tour consisting of six shows around their homeland. Musicalypse decided to check out the show at Virgin Oil Co. in Helsinki on May 18th, 2018, to see how the new music stands out in a live scenario.

Gallery coming soon!
Listen along with Psychework’s set on Spotify:

The evening was opened by Thaurorod, a Finnish symphonic power metal band founded in 2002. Despite their long career, this was my first encounter with them. Which doesn’t come as a big surprise as my music genre interests lay in other direction.

The crowd was still quite scarce as Thaurorod began their 45-minute set, but in this case, quality won over quantity. Both the band and the crowd were enjoying themselves. Warmth and positivity comes to mind when thinking about the overall atmosphere during Thaurorod’s performance. Maybe that’s the magic of power metal.

What comes to the band’s music, I was able to get a feeble grip of it. I enjoyed the music, and especially the vocalist Andi Kraviljaca’s voice and performance. It was also nice to hear some backstories for the songs especially when I wasn’t familiar with them. I have no doubt Thaurorod has built a solid fan base over the years, but for me, this evening was once again a reminder that power metal just doesn’t really fit me. But if you are into that genre, I suggest giving Thaurorod a go.

 

After Thaurorod’s set more and more audience started to gather around in Virgin Oil. During Thaurorod the sound quality had been okay-ish, but I was still doubtful whether it would be better with Psychework. Lately I have been forced to give Virgin Oil more credit as a venue, since last time I was there seeing Fear of Domination and Pain, I could actually hear the vocals properly. This time the upstairs were closed so I couldn’t take my favorite spot on the stair landing. Before the gig began, I found another place near the stage and wished for good mixing.

After a 30-minute wait, Psychework started their set. As their intro, the band had chosen “Evakon laulu”, which was quite fitting, since Karelian Hills deals with WWII, from Leningrad’s siege to the Finnish strike forces. For those who are unfamiliar with “Evakon laulu”, it is a song about Finnish evacuees and their experiences about leaving their homes and building a new life far from home. As the last verse began and I was wiping away some tears, the band slowly emerged to the stage. Last to appear was Antony Parviainen, and the show begun with “Phantoms White” from the new album. After that followed “Bullet with My Name” and “Sky Keeps Raining.”

The focus was understandably on the new album. The new material worked well live, especially “Siege” which gives justice to Parviainen’s vocal range. What inspires me the most in Psychework is the way Parviainen really tells the story as he sings. Your attention is focused on the vocals and the atmosphere, the movements and expressions on stage. That, my folks, is the difference between just singing and actually performing a song.

When it comes to my fears of bad sound, they were soon brushed off. Both sounds and lights were great, and Virgin Oil’s stage with those weird statues and glittery drapes gave Psychework a suitably theatrical setting for epic moments in their music.

As the finishing songs, the band played “Karelian Hills” and “Hand on Heart”, both epic pieces. Overall, I think the songs on the set were well-chosen. Only “Fire Still Burns” and “There Beyond” were left out from the newest album, which didn’t bother me since I tend to enjoy the faster songs. The fact that the band is on their second album was reflected in the playing time – the crowd got to enjoy the music only for an hour or so. However, I am certain Psychework is here to stay, so in the future we will get to enjoy longer sets.

Virgin Oil could have hosted even a bigger crowd, but the place didn’t feel empty. In a way it almost felt fitting that the venue wasn’t quite full. I consider Psychework to be still a bit of a hidden gem, and on Friday night only the enlightened got to enjoy the show.

Setlist:
Intro: Evakon laulu
1. Phantoms White
2. Bullet with My Name
3. Sky Keeps Raining
4. Tide
5. Siege
6. Fury and the Beast
7. Ghost Patrol

Encore:
8. Karelian Hills
9. Hand on Heart

Photos: Lene L.

TallennaTallenna

(2018) At the Gates: To Drink from the Night Itself

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Artist: At the Gates
Album: To Drink from the Night Itself
Release: 18.05.2018

Label: Century Media Records

 

At the Gates is known far and wide as one of the original Gothenburg metal bands. After closing shop in 1996, they had a comeback tour and reformed in 2011, with their first album in 19 years released in 2014, At War with Reality. Today marks the release of their second album following the reunion, To Drink from the Night Itself, so we made sure to give it a listen.

Check out the album on Spotify here:

I first became aware of At The Gates in about 2003, having missed their first flurry of albums between 1992 and 1995. I was in Tower Records, as it was then, at Piccadilly Circus and they had a sort of ‘Cafe 80s’ thing going on with old-school computer games built into tables and listening posts. One particular listening post had the ‘wrong’ CD in it. I’d honestly never heard anything like it before and had to pester a member of the staff to check the CD in the player until I found out what it really was! The CD in question turned out to be 1995’s Slaughter of the Soul. Unfortunately, at that time, they had already been dormant for 8 years and that would seem to have been that. But 11 years later the band came back with another strong release; 2014’s comeback record, At War With Reality, was a stunning return for a band that had been away for almost 20 years… how time flies!

Founding member and guitarist Anders Björler (twin brother of bassist Jonas Björler) has left the band to be a solo artist. Having found a new guitarist, in the form of Jonas Stålhammar, At the Gates has now released the followup to that comeback record.

Jonas Björler has now taken over the writing for the majority of the album, while Tomas Lindberg has again written the lyrics. Despite the change in main composer, the album has retained that definitive At The Gates sound.

Right away, the intro builds you up, starting with some almost cowboy-film sounding acoustic guitar picking that becomes very cinematic with the addition of some choral sounds and strings. This is one of those times where I really wish bands would play their intro tracks themselves instead of on tape, because this is an absolutely fantastic piece that fully deserves to be performed in person. Its name “Der Widerstand”, German for “The Resistance”, is a direct reference to the inspiration for the album’s lyrics. Lindberg has based his writing on a book called Die Ästhetik des Widerstands, (The Æsthetics of Resistance) by Peter Weiss, which according to Wikipedia was his magnum opus. The track does a fine job of building up suspense, until finally dropping you off the edge and plowing straight into the title track (which was also the first release from the album).

On first listen, the song conjured up visions of more Slaughter of the Soul -style music. Not a bad thing at all, for my money, because the track certainly isn’t a mere repetition; this is a beast that stands its ground and throws in all sorts of wild cards to keep the listener on their toes. Watch out for that unexpected drum fill where a chorus would otherwise be.

The second track, “A Stare Bound in Stone”, also has a similar vibe. The riffing is sure to create some serious movement in the crowd and I can just see the circle pit spinning. The clean interlude comes in for a breath of fresh air in the middle before diving back into the whirlpool of energy, driven on by Adrian Erlandsson’s [The Haunted, ex-Paradise Lost, ex-Cradle of Filth, etc.] relentless pummeling of the drums.

One track that particularly stands out from the rest, musically, is “Daggers of Black Haze.” Beginning with a haunting piano and flute combo, it then launches in with old-school death metal tremolo picking on the guitars.

The clean intros on tracks like “Seas of Starvation” and “The Mirror Black” really create a wonderful sense of dynamic that can be missing in albums that are otherwise so relentless in their onslaught. Speaking of “The Mirror Black”, as the final track on the album it seems perfectly placed as a climax to the album. If this was a movie, you’d get the sense of the protagonist having gone through whatever it was and having survived, he looks on at the aftermath.

 

Overall this album is a truly great listen. It’s actually quite difficult to pick stand-out tracks that rise above the rest, because they are all so good. While interviewing Lindberg, he used the word ‘challenging’ several times and suggested that this is actually a perfect word to describe the work. He was referring to the concepts invoked by the lyrics, and perhaps to the new way of writing for the band. But ‘challenging’ is by no means a negative thing, because I would really struggle to pick any holes in any of this album at all. It’s a truly great piece of lyric writing and composition. The production values are outstanding. The overall sound of the piece really draws you in. In some ways, I would class this album as more of an experience than a collection of songs (albeit very cohesive songs that fit together extremely well). The whole thing flows in a way that drew me in and it was all too easy to forget that I needed to write some words on it! A great album that will remain on rotation for me for a very long time indeed.

Rating: 10/10, 5 stars

Tracklist:
1. Der Widerstand
2. To Drink from the Night Itself
3. A Stare Bound in Stone
4. Palace of Lepers
5. Daggers of Black Haze
6. The Chasm
7. In Nameless Sleep
8. The Colours of the Beast
9. A Labyrinth of Tombs
10. Seas of Starvation
11. In Death They Shall Burn
12. The Mirror Black

Text: Marc Taylor

FEAR OF DOMINATION: Metanoia Release Gig w/ HIGH SCHOOL DROPOUTS – Nosturi, Helsinki, 11.05.2018

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In spite of being around for over a decade, Fear of Domination has been on the rise and on our radar a lot in the last 2 years or so. With the addition of Sara Strömmer to the lineup and a lot of great material appearing in their discography of late, Metanoia was an anticipated release for us. Though we varied in opinions on it, scoring it between 7-9/10, it seemed as though the release show would be an event to see, as they were intending to play the album in its entirety, along with some classic material.

Listen along with the setlist on Spotify:

I arrived at Nosturi rather earlier than expected, in the midst of High School Dropouts’ set. What I immediately gathered was that this was a cover band of 90s punk hits from bands like the Offspring, Blink 182, Sum 41, etc. Though the crowd was mostly in the bar, those up front were giving the band all their energy and attention. The singer, Rowan Rafferty, even jumped down into the crowd to encourage a circle pit. Later on he had the crowd repeat, “la la, meow meow, woof woof,” then comically failed to mimic an elephant, before getting the crowd to sing the beginning notes of “Self Esteem” by the Offspring. The half set or so I caught was surprisingly fum and very nostalgic to my early teenage years. The music was great and Rafferty’s voice really suited the songs, thus making the overall feel surprisingly enjoyable. Also worth mentioning, the bearded guitarists had a sort of bro cuddle moment that was endearingly cute. They ended the set with Green Day’s “Basket Case”, and I’d say the crowd seemed well warmed for Fear of Domination.

 

Just after 23:00, the headliners took the stage. They had a nicely dramatic entrance, with Sara Strömmer and Saku Solin appearing last, silhouetted in red light, holding hands in the air. They started the set with no less than the entirety of the Metanoia album, and from the first notes these guys were turned on. The floor seemed to fill instantly when they started “Dance with the Devil”, which is a great, fun live track.

Solin welcomed everyone to their party before they played “Obsession.” I really have to say that the addition of Strömmer really made this band for me. It shows best in songs like “Obsession”, where the notes of her clean vocals make all the difference between a good song and a great song. In “Face of Pain”, her voice straight-up gave me chills.

It was three songs in when I paid close enough attention to the stage to realize that this band has two drummers (or rather, as their Facebook page states, a drummer and a percussionist/stage monkey) and how in the hell did I not know that!? In spite of having seven people on stage, it didn’t feel cramped and they all seemed smoothly aware of the space, traversing one another with ease. “Sick and Beautiful” was, as expected, one of the highlights of the night, and I am hoping that stays on their setlists, as it’s one of my favorite songs of the year so far. “Shame” was almost eerie, really shaking up the energy and allowing for a breather. There was no hesitation when they went into “Lie”, a song that has grown on me greatly, particularly that awesome, “don’t search for me / I don’t want to be found line.”

Regarding their stage attire, I have no idea if these guys have always had the red in their face paint, but it was a nice detail, to have a glow-in the dark paint that matched Jan-Erik Kari’s guitar, the straps on near everyone’s instruments, and what appeared to be glow sticks woven in Strömmer’s hair. Percussionist/stage monkey Miikki Kunttu popped out to urge on the crowd before “We Dominate”, a born party hit if I’ve ever heard one. Certainly it got everyone in Nosturi moving. “The Last Call” was purely epic, though there was an odd moment during the slower part where I’m not sure exactly what happened, but Strömmer had to pause a second to get things back in sync. “Mindshifter” included Solin at maybe his best sound (unobjectively), and man there is just something about the way their voices work together that is pure magic.

They closed out the album part of the set with the strange and delightful “Ruin”, with Solin sitting center stage for his deep vocal parts. Unfortunately, some really bad bass reverb kind of ruined (pun not intended) what should have been a much better moment. Solin popped down into the photo pit to stand on the barrier with the crowd, while Kunttu came up front with a snare drum for a while. This track sneakily transitioned into “Primordial”, which kicked the energy back up into overdrive.

Kunttu took a flying leap into the crowd in “Adrenaline” (or the following song), as the band went backwards through their discography. Solin thanked the crowd again before “El Toro”; this song featured some unusual mic-cupping by the vocalists, alongside the obvious gorgeous harmonization that has really brought this song to a new level from the studio version. “Who’s had a good evening tonight?” Solin asked after the stage went dark but for a black light that lit up everyone’s paint. “II” that followed was a treat, as it was the only song of the night sung in Finnish. The continued with “Legion” before going into the final track pre-encore, “Paperdoll.” I didn’t know this song beforehand, but it was a cool track with a ton of energy that got every fist in the air. Solin thanked everyone again as the party came to a thunderous end. The crowd then cheered for more for a minute or so before Kunttu returned to get them to shout louder. We then heard a conversation between Solin and Strömmer backstage, which seemed to be (jokingly) about whether they should continue because Strömmer wanted to take a piss.

The final songs of the night were “Pandemonium” and, of course, “Fear of Domination” from their first release. At one point, Kunttu did another stage dive, which had a somewhat unfortunate end – the crowd caught him, safe and sound, but then seemed instantly bored of holding him, and he just sort of vanished into the crowd, like quicksand. The band then, once the final notes had fade, took their obligatory photo with the crowd before saying good night. The skirt-like part of Solin’s outfit ripped free, so he threw it into the crowd, wishing whoever caught it “Hyvää joulua” [Merry Christmas], and they ended the night with, “Hyvää joulua, Nosturi!” as the photo was taken.

 

I had hemmed and hawed about whether I wanted to go to a show on this particular evening, and I am not sorry that I chose to go out and experience Fear of Domination in a club for the first time. This group is not only extremely talented, but they have a great, energetic, friendly, affectionate feeling on stage and you just can’t help but party to their lively music. I’m only sorry at this point that I’ve only really gotten into them after seeing them at Tuska 2017, so it seems I have a bit of catching up to do with this band!

Setlist:
1. Dance with the Devil
2. Obsession
3. Face of Pain
4. Sick and Beautiful
5. Shame
6. Lie
7. We Dominate
8. The Last Call
9. Mindshifter
10. Ruin
11. Primordial
12. Adrenaline
13. El Toro
14. II
15. Legion
16. Paperdoll

Encore:
17. Pandemonium
18. Fear of Domination

(1997) Bruce Dickinson: Accident of Birth

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Artist: Bruce Dickinson
Album: Accident of Birth
Release: 14.05.1997
Label: CMC International

 

How many instances can you think of where an artist left their established, secure place in the world and set off to prove that they could do it on their own just as well? I can only think of a handful, personally, and one of those artists is none other than Iron Maiden’s own Bruce Dickinson. While Dickinson had already released the solo album, Tattooed Millionaire (1990), during his time with Iron Maiden, he left the band to find his own sound in 1993 to pursue his own path. This resulted in a few self-searching albums before the release of the critically-acclaimed Accident of Birth in 1997, and what I believe was the beginning of his ‘real’ solo career before his return to Iron Maiden in 1999.

Listen along on Spotify, if you like:

So what can I say about Accident of Birth before I delve into it? The album has a few variations of the cover art, done by Iron Maiden’s former album artist, Derek Riggs, and the puppet came to be known as Edison, who was censored in North American markets – they thought him exploding out of a person’s stomach was too much to be handled for whatever reason.

I, for one, have loved this album for about as long as I’ve had even the remotest interest in metal. It’s one of the few albums I can name where my favorite track has changed as frequently as the weather. “Taking the Queen” remains one of my all-time favorite slower metal songs well over 15 years since my discovery of it, but my top songs have included, at various points in my life, “Darkside of Aquarius”, “Man of Sorrows”, “Accident of Birth”, and “Omega.”

 

The album opens with “Freak”, which is a great high-energy kickoff to the whole experience, and you can immediately see why Roy Z and Adrian Smith (guitars) were key ingredients to Dickinson’s solo work at this point. The riffing and solos are already astounding right off the bat, both stylish and heavy. Moving on to “Toltec 7 Arrival”, which is a short, mystical interlude with strange vocal sounds that seems to act as an intro to “Starchildren”, which has a deliciously heavy guitar intro that transforms into some gorgeous chugging riffs as Dickinson shows us that even when he’s not wailing at the top of his lungs, he’s still bloody fantastic.

“Taking the Queen” is, as I mentioned, a song that tickles everything I love about music, from its mystical and fantastical lyrics about love and death, to the gorgeous riff that holds throughout the track, to Dickinson’s evocative and emotional performance. The dynamics in this song are top-notch as well, progressing from gentle and ballad-esque to the passionate chorus that kicks up the power exactly the right amount. The song also has some gems hidden in it, including a bit of violin and cello, done by Silvia Tsai and Rebecca Yeh respectively.

The song transitions seamlessly into “Darkside of Aquarius”, that has two equally intriguing guitar parts that dance around each other before those chugging heavy riffs start, and Dickinson begins to sing about the four horsemen of the apocalypse and the Wheel of Dharma (a Buddhist symbol). The album then takes a turn when Dickinson reaches “From the starlit sky…”, whereafter the song takes a heavier turn and closes out with some casual soloing and Dickinson singing about moving the aforementioned Wheel of Dharma.

“The Road to Hell” is more of a feel-good heavy metal song, high energy, fun, and while perhaps less esoteric than the rest of the album, it’s in a good place to break up some of the heavier, thought-provoking songs and gives you a breather where you can just rock out a bit.

Heading into ballad territory is one of many of Dickinson’s Aleister Crowley -inspired songs, “Man of Sorrows.” The piano, as performed by Richard Baker, is lovely and the vocals show a tender side of Dickinson that fans may not have heard quite as often in Maiden. This track also has one of the nicest slow guitar solos – metal musicians shouldn’t be afraid to slow their solos down now and then, and this is a great example of that.

The heaviest track on the album is “Accident of Birth”, which is evident from the second it starts with the dark rhythmic intro. The lyrics have been rumored to have been about Dickinson himself, but regardless of the subject, Dickinson remains on point, belting out the heavy poetry. Following this is “The Magician”, another Crowley-themed song, which starts before the prior track had even ended. This is another great high-energy track, with some of the most fun lyrics to sing along with in the chorus.

I read somewhere that Dickinson had described “Welcome to the Pit”, simply, as a song about sex. That made a lot of sense afterwards, as the song has a heavy, seductive feel to it. “Omega” dances between ballad speed and some passionate Dickinson roars – a moderate pace, with beautiful lyrics and a seemingly apocalyptic vibe.

“Arc of Space” is the true ballad of the album, with slow, beautiful guitars that even managed to seduce my classic rocker father who is not into metal at all, and made him a fan of Smith and Roy Z. Dickinson shows the tender side of his voice, and you can’t deny his power, even in a gentle song like this. The strings (which are only present on three songs on the album) are perhaps most evident in this song and really add an extra level to its overall feeling. As well, I feel like there’s a hint of flamenco in some of the guitars, which on paper might seem out of place, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work really nicely.

I won’t bother to deal with the demo tracks from the extended edition of this song, but I will mention “Ghost of Cain” as well, a bonus song that may or may not be on your copy of the album, depending on when and where you got it. I’ve always really liked this song and wondered why it didn’t make the final cut on the original. It has everything the rest of the album has – fascinating lyrics, skillful guitar, Dickinson’s full-on sublime vocals. It fits perfectly with the rest of the album, so if you’re looking for this album, I’d recommend US/Japanese version that includes this track (or the 2-disc special edition, if that’s your thing).

 

This is, simply put, a fantastic album. For me growing up as a fantasy-obsessed kid, this was exactly the kind of music I had been looking for all my life. On the non-personal side of things, it’s undeniable that the quality of musicianship on this album is incredible and the songs are thought-provoking and gorgeously executed. I simply have no faults I can find in the album. It’s undeniable that this was the solo album where Dickinson truly found himself and his sound. If you’re a fan of Iron Maiden but you’ve missed out on this album, you should really correct that as soon as possible.

Rating: 10/10, 5 stars

Tracklist:
1. Freak
2. Toltec 7 Arrival
3. Starchildren
4. Taking the Queen
5. Darkside of Aquarius
6. Road to Hell
7. Man of Sorrows
8. Accident of Birth
9. The Magician
10. Welcome to the Pit
11. Omega
12. Arc of Space

(2018) Frosttide: Decedents EP

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Artist: Frosttide
Album: Decedents EP
Release: 18.05.2018
Label: self-published

 

Frosttide has been ready and willing to be on the metal scene’s radar again for a while, hard at work in the studio preparing a new EP. Their last release was the single, “From Dusk to Ascend”, which was released in late summer 2017 and was very well-received. As such, Decedents has a reputation to uphold now, and we were very curious to hear how it would sound.

You can see the EP trailer here:

The EP opens with “Ocean’s Peace”, a pretty and slightly long intro piece at 2:03, which flows nicely into the (ironically?) dynamic “Tranquility.” The vocals instantly prove to be vastly improved over the band’s older material. There are nice solos by Felipe Muñoz on keyboards and Juho Patinen on guitar in the track to add some spice between vocal segments, and everything feels like it’s off to a very nice start.

“Carved into Ice” debuted yesterday (May 11th) with its lyric video. It’s almost disappointing that this album is released in the beginning of summer, as this track is so beautifully cold throughout. It feels like a great song to blast on a stormy winter night next to the fire – wonderful ambiance. There are also some potentially Viking themes in this, as it references masts and sails, and that ‘Viking choir’ is used quite nicely as well.

“Final Hour” starts off gently with some wintry, tinkling pianos and mysterious music that builds up nicely. If thrilling drums (courtesy of Joonas Nislin) and epic choirs are your thing, “Final Hour” is a song to watch out for. There’s a nice gentle break in the middle to allow for some breathing room before picking back up to the fierce music and Patinen’s wonderful growls. The final of the five tracks is “Revenant”, a title that works very well with the album thematically speaking. It brings to mind longish epics, the likes of Ensiferum or Wintersun, with the blend of pure heavy metal and crisp, cool orchestration. It’s also not quite epic in length at a clean 6:00, but it has a lot of little elements and twists to it that make it feel like a really big song, and it ends the album on as high a note as it started.

 

Overall, this EP proves to be a good step forward for Frosttide, with its imaginative music and excellent playing. The vocals are a sure improvement over the past, and the music in general feels more solidly put-together. The music can be considered epic in a sense (not a power metal sense, to be clear), with great use of choirs that isn’t over-used or overwhelming, which is always a risk. There is power and oomph, but it’s not turned up overly high, allowing for good pacing throughout the five tracks.  While the EP is extremely mature in both sound and performance, the mixing quality lacks slightly, but this just shows that all the band needs to truly shine at this point is a label to throw a little money at them. Let’s hope that the release achieves its goal and brings in some interest. As someone who’s struggled to get into Frosttide before now, I’m definitely on high alert for the next album from these guys.

Rating: 9/10

Tracklist:
1. Ocean’s Peace
2. Tranquility
3. Carved into Ice
4. Final Hour
5. Revenant

METALLICA w/ KVELERTAK – Hartwall Areena, 09.05.2018

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Arguably the biggest metal band in the world, Metallica, brought their WorldWired Tour to Hartwall Arena in Helsinki for two sold-out nights, on May 9th and 11th, 2018. To call these shows highly anticipated would be an understatement, as they were the last dates on a massive world tour, tickets to which came on sale over a year ago and sold out within seconds. The supporting act was, surprisingly enough, Kvelertak, who combine elements of classic heavy metal with punk and black metal sensibilities. We were definitely in for an interesting night.

Metallica is one of those bands that pretty much everybody grows up with to at least some extent. I’m mostly familiar with their output from the 80s and had seen them only once before, back in 2006 in Tallinn, where they played Master of Puppets in its entirety. They have a bit of a reputation for not being the most disciplined live act, so I was a bit hesitant to see them again. However, having enjoyed their latest album, Hardwired…To Self Destruct, I felt that I should give them another shot.

Listen along to the setlist from May 9th on Spotify here:

The arena had a peculiar set up for this night. Instead of the traditional stage on one side of the hall, they had installed an enormous square stage right in the middle of the floor. This was of course in keeping with Metallica’s signature performance style. Above the stage they also had little cubes hanging from the ceiling which would later turn out to be screens.

Kvelertak started promptly at 19:30. The vast majority of the audience had not taken their seats yet, so they played to a half-empty arena. Despite being very popular in Finland, they were a bit more on the fringe. As a punk black heavy metal band from Norway, they of course sang entirely in Norwegian. I’ve been a fan of them since their 2010 debut, Ulvetid, so I was excited to see them again. It was bizarre to have such an extreme band on such a large stage. I’d say their sound would have been better suited for a club gig. Though they didn’t have the kind of name recognition a venue this size demands, they brought their absolute A-game. They used every inch of the stage and displayed a kind of genuine rockstar demeanor. Kvelertak’s sound was melodic and clear enough that it didn’t get muddied at all in the big venue; the guitars and the bass came out crisp and distinct. At the risk of nitpicking, I’d say the drums sounded a bit flat and near the end the vocals got a little lost in the mix. Overall, it was a great show from them with hits from all three albums, even if the majority of the audience may not have gotten into it.

 

Just as Metallica was set to begin, the arena began to fill properly. As the square stage was set in the middle of the hall, the crowd had flocked to one side aggressively, with the other side half empty. It seemed to be due to the fact that the venue usually lets the standing crowd in through two doors which are both on the same side. Therefore the crowd was automatically bottle-necked to one side. The intro tape was AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll)” as usual for them. The crowd took their places and the lights dimmed. Ennico Morricone’s “The Ecstasy of Gold” began to play as the little screens showed clips from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The crowd broke out in thunderous applause once the opening riff to “Hardwired” began to sound on playback. The band joined in two bars before the first verse. The sound was twice as loud as it was for Kvelertak, which was fair considering the hall was twice as filled. “Hardwired” was the energetic opener to the new album and it worked perfectly as a fast and heavy start to the show. The next song was “Atlas, Rise!” which was the second track from the aforementioned new album. Though I wasn’t expecting them to play the whole album they did have me a bit worried at this point. The song was melodic and interesting enough and it kept up the energy well enough. The crowd screamed out the “Atlas, Rise” part of the chorus diligently.

Following the second song, singer and rhythm guitarist James Hetfield grabbed the mic and said “Metallica is with you,” and that, “[they’ll] play some new songs and maybe an old one,” which led into “Seek and Destroy.” The screens at the top turned out to be able to move up and down, showing old footage of the band, sometimes a whole image on one screen and other times dispersed into a mosaic of screens – an interesting effect. After two verses, Hetfield did his signature, “Thank you, good night!” fake-out. This didn’t seem quite as effective on the third song as it usually did near the end of the set. In fact, the song itself lacked its usual punch when played so early in the set. “Harvester of Sorrow” from …And Justice For All followed. I had expected a few songs from that album, as it was its 30th anniversary. The screens were merely showing neon blue and green on their edges for this one. Before the last verse they stopped playing, leading the crowd to cheer wildly. They then abruptly finished the song. It was a cute gimmick.

The screens then showed a sort of 80s pixel animation which ever so slowly turned into the Metallica logo. They then began to play the classic, progressive, and mostly slow song, “Fade to Black”, from one of their absolute best albums, Ride the Lightning. Lead guitarist Kirk Hammett couldn’t help but overuse the wah wah pedal as usual, which dampened the feeling somewhat, but not enough to destroy the whole song. Hetfield then made sure the audience was with them by making the upper balconies cheer. “Now That We’re Dead”, one of the dullest songs from the newest album, came next. Just as I thought the track was boring, all four of them started drumming on these strange cubes that had risen from the stage as the song started. It was a surreal moment but a welcome change of pace.

Following that was yet another song from the new album, “Confusion.” Hetfield dedicated it, “to those who served,” which presumably meant military service. Once again the song was one of the weaker choices from the album. Honestly, I spent most of it waiting to find out what the next song would be. At this point, bass player Robert Trujillo took the mic and had the crowd chant with him. Hetfield pulled out his Gibson Explorer and they began to play “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” They played it a bit fast and Hetfield sang it a bit like he was in a hurry to get it over with. Though a fantastic and classic track, it felt a bit rushed and obligatory.

The lights went down and Hetfield began to play “Halo on Fire” by himself for a bit until the band joined in. I had not expected this one, since it’s the longest on the album at 8 minutes 15 seconds. That being said, I’m on record as calling it the strongest song on the new album. In fact, I was secretly hoping it was on the set – the last section with the solo was one of the best grooves Metallica has ever done. At this point I already felt like the gig was well worth the price of admission. After that, Hetfield proclaimed, “I love that song. I hope you do too.” He then introduced us to Trujillo and Hammett and left the stage with drummer Lars Ulrich. The remaining two then began to play local Hanoi Rocks legend Michael Monroe’s “Dead, Jail, or Rock ‘N’ Roll.” Michael Monroe himself joined them on stage for it and sang it together with Trujillo. As legend has it, they’ve been playing local songs in each country they’ve visited on this tour. Hanoi Rocks, being a classic Finnish band, made sense for them, especially since Michael Monroe is famously friends with them (and everyone else). This rendition, however, was extremely poorly thought-out and a sloppy.

Monroe exited as the rest of the band then came back on stage to play another cover, “Die, Die My Darling”, originally by The Misfits, which had massive pyrotechnics coming from the stage floor. I swear I felt it nearly singe my eyebrows, even from the seats. Hetfield then introduced the next song as yet another from the new album, namely “Moth into Flame.” He said it was about fame and getting addicted to it. The screens showed Las Vegas style images of temptations in neon lights, such as casinos and such. They also had floating lights akin to fireflies above the stage. It appeared from my vantage point that this was achieved with tiny drones carrying LED lights. It was a breathtaking visual. What didn’t they pack into that stage, I wondered.

At this point Hetfield took a moment to sincerely thank the audience for supporting them for over 30 years. “Everyone is welcome to the Metallica family. Even [dramatic pause] old people,” he said while coyly pointing at his fellow bandmates. He then admitted to being “a bit old” himself while feeling he’s still a boy on the inside. He went on to talk a bit about how he saw a lot of middle-aged people in the audience and also a lot of young people. He then very cheekily called them “the next generation of the Metallica family” and pointed out a couple of young people in the audience, a couple of brothers aged 17 and 19. He then asked where their parents are and it turned out they were right there in the front of the crowd with them. Hetfield was obviously delighted to hear this and stated, “You have very cool parents,” to which the audience applauded loudly. Talking to the crowd is a pretty tired rockstar move, but this time it lead to a genuine moment that surely left a smile on everyone’s faces.

Hetfield introduced the next song saying, “Do you want heavy? Metallica gives you heavy, baby!” The song in question was “Sad but True”, which is arguably a very heavy song. It’s at that sweet spot between 80s thrash metal and modern Metallica, where fans young and old can enjoy it for what it is. It was a heavy and powerful track to add to the mix. The untitled album, often referred to as The Black Album, holds many classics to choose from. As personally I detest the ballad “Nothing Else Matters”, I was hoping that “Sad but True” was the only track from that album. The house lights went down and the familiar intro to “One” rolled. It remains one of their surefire hits and it was no surprise to hear it on the anniversary of …And Justice for All. The little screens came down showing old pictures of veterans and images from World War I (as far as I could tell). Hetfield’s delivery alternated between passionate and completely uninterested. The bridge with the abrupt tremolo resembling machine gun fire worked as well as ever. Aside from Hetfield sounding bored at times it a tight performance of a great song.

The hits kept on coming with “Master of Puppets.” They had the crowd participate in not just the chorus, but the verses as well. Fortunately, the audience was also well-versed in the material and sang loudly and confidently, even singing for most of the melody on the solo. The band was less tight on this one, however. Hetfield signed off with, “You make us feel good.” The house lights went down again and the crowd was left waiting for the encore. Another intro tape began to play in the darkness; it was the beginning of “Spit out the Bone” from the new album. It was one of the more energetic and thrashy tracks from the album, so it made sense to add it to the set. They came on stage to pyrotechnics and all the screens brandishing Finnish flags with Metallica’s logo on them. It was a cheap move bringing out the flags but since they payed for the screens they may as well show the people what they want.

After that Hammett was handed a new guitar and he played a little solo that lead into “Nothing Else Matters.” His playing was noticeably off key – perhaps the guitar was out of tune? The song evidently remains very popular with the fans who raised their phones with the flash on to simulate lighters. It gave the arena a classy candlelit ambiance. As mentioned, I can’t stand the song and it seemed as if the band shared my sentiment, as they appeared to sleepwalk through it. At the end, the screens zoomed in on Hetfield’s guitar pick. It had a Finnish flag on it. I felt a bit irked with all this obvious pandering but thankfully they saved the moment with the energetic hit, “Enter Sandman.” The crowd all stood up and began to party. It was a gorgeous celebration and a perfect song to end with.

 

Overall the night was an absolute success. Kvelertak, though an odd choice, played a great set and rose to the challenge of taking on a huge indoor arena. Metallica was surprisingly on-point for most of the night, with just a few notable exceptions. The set was well-put-together with mostly classic songs from the first five albums and some new ones from Hardwired mixed in, though I felt as though they may have played a few too many new songs. On top of that, they seemed to have been on autopilot for some of the classics, like “For Whom the Bell tolls”, “Master of Puppets”, and especially “Nothing Else Matters.” That being said, I left the venue feeling exhilarated. It was a great rock show on a scale with which not many bands can compete. I definitely recommend seeing Metallica live at least once.

Setlist:
Intro: The Ecstasy of Gold (by Ennio Morricone)
1. Hardwired
2. Atlas, Rise!
3. Seek and Destroy
4. Harvester of Sorrow
5. Fade to Black
6. Now That We’re Dead
7. Confusion
8. For Whom the Bell Tolls
9. Halo on Fire
10. Dead, Jail, Or Rock ‘N’Roll (Michael Monroe cover)
11. Die, Die My Darling (Misfits cover)
12. The Memory Remains
13. Moth into Flame
14. Sad but True
15. One
16. Master of Puppets

Encore
17. Spit out the Bone
18. Nothing Else Matters
19. Enter Sandman

Gallery Portfolio: Janne Puronen

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Janne Puronen is perhaps Musicalypse’ most active photographer as of 2018. While he started shooting around 2014, his first gallery for us was part of Edge:Nordic in 2016, and his photos have improved consistently with every gallery, and his passion for photography clearly shows in his work. This is a collection of what we believe are some of his best photos, exclusively from his history at Musicalypse.

If you would like to see his full portfolio, including photos not taken for Musicalypse, please follow this link: Full Portfolio

AT THE GATES – Tomas Lindberg, 2018

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When thinking of Gothenburg metal, one of the first names that comes to mind is At the Gates. Their sixth studio album will be released on May 18th, 2018 via Century Media Records, and so we took a few moments to speak with vocalist Tomas Lindberg about their upcoming release.

 

Thank you for taking the time to talk to me this evening, Tomas. How’s life treating you?
All good, all good. Just preparing for the album release – a lot of work but it’s also great to get some initial reactions from people who’ve actually heard it. That’s nice.

At the Gates’ last album, At War with Reality, felt like quite a different album in many ways, but still sounded like the same band. How do you view the album now with 4 years under your belts?
I think we still are on the same page as when we were done with it. Our idea was to not put any outside pressure on us when we wrote At War With Reality. But we kind of felt, almost immediately after that, that it was a little bit too safe and too clean. That was one of the things that Anders said, straight after we were done with it, that he wanted to make the next album, you know, more progressive, more daring, more dark.

At War With Reality was kind of the comeback record that people expected. So we wanted always to turn heads. Maybe At War With Reality sounded like that because that’s the album we had in us at the time, with the outside pressure involved as well. But now we feel like we are free to create totally what we want.

How has it been to begin again after the departure of Anders Björler?
Well, Anders departure… I have to say, he’s one of my closest friends and we have a great respect for him as a musician. Anyone who’s into extreme music would have. But for us, him leaving was almost like the creative spark that we needed. We needed the kick in the arse to tell us, you have to focus now, you have to work hard to get where you want to go.

That was what set us up on this journey, him leaving the band, because before that we didn’t have anything. But that was what we needed.

The band must have found itself at something of a crossroads with regard to writing as, especially on At War… and Slaughter of the Soul, he was very prominently featured in the writing credits.
Well obviously there’s no writing credit [for Anders] any more on this one!

But if you look at it closely, if it’s not 50/50 it’s at least 60/40 in the writing credits. So Jonas always wrote a huge load of material as well and Anders always said that he thought that Jonas wrote the best stuff. He just needed help to get his great ideas into actual songs, to arrange them. And working so close with Anders, arranging the songs on At War with Reality, I felt very intrigued by doing it with his brother instead and we really had a great time doing it. It was a very creative, inspired atmosphere. It was a pleasure writing with Jonas.

So on to the new album, To Drink from the Night Itself – what an epic title! Where did it come from?
It was a line that I probably dreamt or something, as with all those epic titles that come to my head, like “The Red in the Sky is Ours” or “With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness.” Sometimes a line just comes to you. And it came to me when I had started writing the record and started using my inspiration from different novels and stuff. I actually caught on that this could be metaphorical for the whole idea of the record and it was such a strong title. For me it’s a representation of what art means to us and how important art is to us and probably to our fans as well.

Do you work purely with the lyrics and vocals or do you come up with musical ideas yourself, such as riffs or anything?
I don’t write the guitar or anything but I’m very involved in the song writing, on the arrangement part. I could probably hum a melody to Jonas, or I’ll do a line that goes up instead of down: “We need more melancholy here”; stuff like that. We write together but he comes up with actual parts, of course, but we put it together as a unit.

I read that Jonas Stålhammar joined too late to be involved in the writing process for the new album.
Yeah, when Anders left, me and Jonas were so inspired, ’cause we had been waiting to start writing, really, until we knew what Anders was gonna do. So we wanted to just start the process of the record as soon as possible, and in the mean time look for a replacement, ’cause we knew that basically we wouldn’t need a guitar player until it came to the live situation.

But then the idea to ask Jonas Stålhammar to join was… I think we had that idea in the middle of the summer, when we already had five or six songs and when we actually got around to… audition is the wrong word probably, but like, play with him, we probably already had eight or nine songs ready. So it was natural for him to just go along with this album and of course he contributed with ideas and stuff like that, as with anyone else in the band. But me and Jonas wrote all the music. Of course, Stålhammar wrote his lead parts. He’s full time in the band, as much of a member as anyone else. He will of course be involved in the songwriting for the next record.

Has his arrival influenced the performance of the new material so far?
Well he is the new guitar player in the band, so that goes without saying. Me and Jonas Björler had a very clear vision of the album’s sound, even before that. We were just happy to find a guy that fit in this new direction too. His playing is much more death metal than thrashy.

On the subject of the sound, I actually first heard At the Gates completely by accident, about 15 years ago. Tower Records had put “the wrong CD” in their listening post. It was Slaughter of the Soul and I completely fell in love with the album. When I first heard “To Drink from the Night Itself”, I felt that the sound had gone back to that sound. So I have to say I’m really looking forward to hearing the rest of the album. Was that something that you guys have thought about?
No, we didn’t want to regress, we want to progress. But for us it was very important to prove that we knew what At the Gates is about for a lot of people. And that was being a death metal band, first and foremost. So it was important for us that the production was not too clean, so that it had a little more death and darkness in it. So it’s a conscious step that this album is much more raw than it’s predecessor.

Would you say this track is pretty representative of the rest of the album, sound-wise?
Sometimes the band chooses a song for the first single that represents the whole album and sometimes the band chooses a song that is more in your face and more direct than the rest of the record, and I think that’s what we did this time. Mostly because there is no such song that incorporates all the elements of the record in one song, because it’s such a wide palette, it’s got so many twists and turns, so much progressive stuff in it, that it will be hard to boil it down to one song. So, “To Drink from the Night Itself” is the most direct and straightforward song on the record. For our real fans, that’s a lot more in the past.

You recorded at Parlour Studio, in Northampton. Was this the first time there?
Yeah, The Haunted have recorded there before. I’ve recorded with Russ [Russell] before on the Lock Up record. Yeah, we know Russ very well and we knew he was the guy that we wanted to work with for this one. He was actually the runner-up for the last album! He just couldn’t do it in the timeframe for At War with Reality.

To go to his studio was more efficient because we want to work with the guy because of what he can bring out of you, but you also want him to be comfortable and be in an environment that he knows very well. So it was a perfect decision because we could really tell (14:10) ourselves in there and focus on the creative aspects of the record.

Aside from having a new guitarist, and you did say that some of the writing had been done without him beforehand, how did the writing process on this album differ from the writing process on other albums?
If you would compare the two comeback records, as I said, both Anders and Jonas wrote music for At War With Reality, and then me and Anders arranged the songs. On this one, me and Jonas arranged the songs as we were writing them instead, directly. A song could be very different from the initial idea when it came out the other end. There was much more adventure this time around. We had less nerves. They are very different to each other. Anders is much more self-conscious whereas Jonas is more of a doer. So for me it was actually easier to get my ideas across on this one with Jonas than it was with Anders. Not saying anything bad about Anders, just everything took a little bit longer with Anders because he had to think about it a thousand times before he could decide on what to do.

But with me and Jonas, we just tried a lot of different things and everything went. We could try anything and, “Oh that didn’t work, let’s try something else.” There was no nervousness at all. It was a very inspired writing session.

You mentioned a little bit about the inspiration for the title track. Did you, or the band in general, have any other sources of inspiration for the other songs on the album?
Well the whole album is based, lyrically, around a novel actually. One novel this time, not a thousand books, but one novel! It’s based around the German writer Peter Weiss, and his novel The Aesthetics of Resistance. As usual, when I read books, I read books that work on a lot of different levels. This one is,

Also on the second level, it’s a monument to the resistance movement during the 40s, 50s, and 60s. On a third level it’s a very big discussion about art and how art could be used as either oppression or resistance of such oppression and that we basically need to reinterpret our European cultural history and legacy to be able to free us from the shackles of oppression. So it’s a very big book!

I based the songs differently; here and there there are references to different chapters in the book and on some songs it’s mainly just the emotional aspect of the book that comes across. So it’s a very wide range of inspiration that comes from this novel.

That sounds really interesting! I’ll have to check that out!
It’s a life changing book.

Do you have a favorite track from the album?
It’s very hard to say that because, as I said before, it’s a very diverse record. There’s a lot of stuff happening all the time. And there’s not really one song that could cover the whole record because they’re so different to each other.

There’s some stuff that I’m particularly proud of. That we pulled off the kind of songwriting that we haven’t attempted since the early 90s and that we really enjoy doing. A song like “Daggers of Black Haze” is such an epic, monumental, driving, slow piece that we haven’t done for ages and that was a challenge. But we like challenges and when you succeed with a challenge, it’s more fulfilling.

Challenge is good!
Since Slaughter of the Soul, we always find ourselves in a position of challenge and then we come out the other side.

The video for the new song has already nearly 8000 likes on YouTube and a stream of praise in the comments. I’d say this bodes well for the album.
Yeah, I’m not so much into looking at social media stuff like that for approval. I mean, I like to talk to people like you, to actually hear your opinions like this. If you go online, there are always opinions everywhere. But if it’s good, thanks for telling me now, I didn’t know. Yeah, that sounds like our album will be well received.

That’s the thing with At the Gates fans – they have come to appreciate so much more than the comeback. At the Gates fans really are different, in a way, from other metal fans because they really want to understand the band. We are also challenging the fans all the time with new ideas and new terms. They follow us through that and, “Oh this is strange, let’s try to understand it,” and then they like it. They live through the challenge of liking a band that’s so weird, like At the Gates, and we are very grateful for those fans and I think that’s why we can survive as a band even though we are not what you would call a mainstream band and write ‘hit songs.’ We’re a little bit more tricky… such a great fan base.

Yeah, as you say, you challenge the fans and that’s probably what keeps us looking forward to everything you guys put out.
Haha! Yes, I always say At the Gates are just a little bit smarter than the average metal guy!

I wouldn’t argue with that! Looking at your website, you seem to have quite an extensive tour underway, with a lot of festival dates. How do you find doing festival dates, compared with doing your own shows?
They are of course both filled with excitement for us. Either going on a festival stage, playing in front of a lot of people are into the band and a lot of people that might just want to check it out. That’s a challenge in itself. Again, the word for the day is challenge, I think! It’s also intriguing to try and get the atmosphere and roll with that. Because you never really know what’s going to happen with that when you go on a festival stage.

But when you play in front of your own fans, in a club, you know that everybody there has paid for tickets to see your band. They will understand the band. That’s another rewarding experience, the interaction is so much easier, because they know the songs. They know what they’re getting and the reaction is very heartful and very moving, in a way.

As we’re talking about touring, do you have any fun touring stories you’d like to share?
Well, we’re not a ‘dangerous’ band in any sense. We’re very normal and down-to-earth. We take care of each other and put the performance first, always. That doesn’t mean to say that we don’t like to have a beer now and then, or have fun. But I don’t think we are the band that you should ask about, “Oh when did you throw that TV out of the window?” or something like that because that stuff rarely happens! When we have fun, it’s more about when we play in a town where a lot of friends will come out, let’s hang with them and have a few beers after the show and share some old memories, jokes, stuff like that. Of course, if you know us, we have a sense of humor and we like to fool around, but nothing over- the-top with At The Gates. We focus on the music.

Tack så mycket, Tomas! All the best with the new album. And best of luck with the tour.
Tack själv! Thank you very much and I’ll see you in Finland.

 

Text: Marc David Taylor

SCOTT BRADLEE’S POSTMODERN JUKEBOX – Tampere-talo, Tampere, 18.04.2018

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Of all of the big-name touring YouTube sensations, Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox might be one of the most beloved by fans the world round. They’ve played in Helsinki at least twice before, so it was time for us to check them out. We made a trip to Tampere on April 18th, 2018, for their second Finnish show on the European tour.

I’m personally a bit all over the place with PMJ. On one hand, their style is so authentic and genuine, which is fantastic, but I’m not familiar with or don’t like a lot of the songs they cover (being someone who doesn’t listen to the radio). Sometimes that means their covers are way better than the originals, while sometimes it means that no matter what the production is like, I just don’t like the song. So I’ve been curious about seeing them live for a while, but I consider their ticket prices to be way too high. It was high time to see if it was worth it.

You can listen along with the setlist on Spotify here:

One of the first things I found confusing about this band was that they seemed to somehow have two tours going on at the same time. Then I realized that, as a band with so many rotating members, it’s not impossible for them to have simultaneous tours. I was disappointed, however, to see that they don’t have any sort of touring line-up listed anywhere, or at least anywhere that can be easily found. It seems a strange lack of advertising to me.

 

Unfortunately, the showtimes on Facebook were listed as 17:00-23:00, so I wasn’t sure exactly when I should be showing up to Tampere-talo. Their website said 19:00, so I aimed for that but ran a little late as there was a queue of people for a different show at Tampere-talo in one of the smaller halls on the same night. As such, I arrived about halfway through Dani Armstrong in a pretty, old-fashioned, gold and black dress, belting out “This Love” (Maroon 5). Assuming that was the first song they performed, it was a great start and Armstrong’s voice was powerful and suited the style perfectly.

The band was set up in the classic old-fashioned style in front of a simple curtain, with the piano, guitar, and bass to the left of the drums, and the brass section behind pedestals on the right. They were all dressed in the classy older style, with the drummer, for example, in suspenders over a white button-down shirt and a hat.

Armstrong, who appeared to be hosting the night, greeted the crowd and introduced Rogelio Douglas Jr., sporting a nice gold-patterned jacket that looked straight out of a jazz club. His first song of the night was Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, which was wonderful and featured a tap dancer, Anissa Lee, who was a constant highlight throughout the night.

The sound quality was a bit strange, as I started the show off without earplugs; it was an auditorium/theater show, so I assumed the acoustics would be good. However, the vocals were cranked up to rock show levels, while the band was at jazz levels, so there was a severe imbalance. This was really grating for a while, and was improved once I put earplugs in. It’s not a fault, per se, but I don’t think a band like this should require you to use earplugs – these old-timey styles should be heard at a clear level and should not be amped up to 11.

The next vocalist was introduced by Armstrong as someone who captured America’s hearts when she appeared on their TVs: Ivonne Acero. The European tour was her PMJ debut, and her first song of the night was a slower version of “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift. I’ve never heard the original, but this was a very classy and mature production.

There was one face that night that I did recognize from YouTube, and that was Casey Abrams, who came on stage to some piano music and the crowd began clapping immediately. His first song was “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns ‘n’ Roses. The bluesy style was amazing and really got the audience engaged. As a cover of a song I really like, however, I was unsure of my feelings, as it was essentially unrecognizable if you couldn’t hear the lyrics. Abrams even matched the Lee’s tap moves for a short while when she returned to the stage, and a clarinet solo followed. The “where do we go” part of the song worked beautifully in the style as well.

Armstrong then announced the final vocalist, who has a “sultry, low, smooth tone”: Hanna Gill. She was in a silky/satiny red and white striped dress and bowler hat, and her voice was everything Armstrong said. She dedicated the song to the ladies in the crowd, and sang “Are You Gonna be My Girl” by Jet, accompanied by what I believe was some Charleston dancing.

The band was then introduced, each with their own little solo, starting with Desmong Ng on trombone and Andrew Cox on saxophone/clarinet, Dave Tedeschi on drums, Mike Chisnall on guitar and banjo, Logan Evan Thomas on piano, and last but not least, “manbun” (her words, not mine) Adam Kubota on bass (who is also the musical director for the band). Armstrong then turned the music into “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked”, and shouted, “Get up here, Desmond,” to come and take the mic for a solo.

Gill returned again, minus her hat, to sing Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” at a very slow, almost beatnik tempo. Abrams snuck onto the side of the stage and began harmonizing, which was great (apart from the loudness). They were able to trade off lines with ease, and even had a dance together. It’s not a PMJ song that I personally like, but they did a great job of it.

Lee returned and got the audience clapping to an impressive music-free solo. She was then joined by all three ladies for a song that I was almost certain was “Friend Like Me” from Aladdin, until they started singing and I realized it was “Straight Up” by Paula Abdul. Then there was a slow and highly unusual take on “Radioactive” (Imagine Dragons) with Rogelio Douglas Jr., this time in a bow-tie and suit vest, looking again very classy.

Gill returned again for “Habits”, and did her utmost to make use of the whole stage, which was admittedly a little bit big, even for a band of this size. Acero returned after that for “Ex’s and Oh’s” by Elle King – that was an interesting track as well, since Elle King’s style is also a bit old-fashioned in many ways. It worked beautifully in the PMJ style.

Gill, Acero, and Douglas Jr. returned to do a do-wop version of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl”, with Gill center stage while the others were doing backing vocals. A drum roll then introduced Armstrong for “Bad Romance”, and a slow piano intro brought Abrams back for a very dramatic take on Radiohead’s “Creep.” This song translates gorgeously into the vintage style without losing too much of the original, and while this wasn’t one of my personal favorites of the night, a good percentage of the crowd gave Abrams a standing ovation.

Kubota was then invited to take the mic. “Tampere, what’s up?” he said, and I was very impressed that he pronounced Tampere correctly – props for doing your research! He went on to say that this was the part of the night where the audience must imagine that he is the best man at their wedding, a little drunk, talking about how much he loves them. He explained that PMJ started in Scott Bradlee’s basement in Queens, where Bradlee had the idea to make old-fashioned arrangements of pop songs. He hoped that if they brought enough world class entertainers together, there would be enough people out there who would want to see it. He then gave a heartfelt thank-you to the crowd, saying that if it was not for the fans, they would not be out of the basement and on stage in Finland. “Thank you so much! See you next time! Kiitos!” he finished.

Armstrong returned then, saying that if the fans keep supporting them, they will keep returning. She also said she’d been checking the audience out all night, and would they like to take PMJ home tonight? The band played a little bit of “Let’s Get it On” with her as she made a joke about taking the band home via merch. Then all the vocalists (minus Abrams) came out to sing another Taylor Swift song, “Shake it Off.” This a song that I usually loathe, but this arrangement is really fun. The Kubota and Chisnall came up to the front from their platform, Lee returned, and Armstrong boogied around the stage.

Everyone in the band was reintroduced once more, each with some solos that sounded familiar – I caught tunes from “Yakety Sax” (a song I never thought I’d hear live, so that was fun), what I think was “The Immigrant Song.” I’m sure I knew the songs that Kubota and Chisnall played, but I couldn’t put my finger on them. Thomas got a good laugh from the crowd by doing the Nokia ringtone for his solo – again, bonus points for doing something special for the locals. Lee was then given the spotlight for some more incredible tap dancing, and then Abrams joined everyone on stage at last. They finished “Shake it Off” and were given a full standing ovation and a lot of cheers for an encore.

Douglas Jr., Gill, Kubota, and Armstrong started the encore with Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t stop”, led by the bass and done in a do-wop style. It’s a nice version of a song I don’t particularly like in its original incarnation, and the three vocalists did a great job of singing together.

The full band then returned for the actual last song, and Abrams came on stage first singing the beginning of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog”, but this eventually transitioned into “What is Love” by Haddaway. This changed the musical style into something more upbeat that got the crowd on their feet, clapping, and dancing. Abrams sprinted up the aisle with a tambourine as the song reached the climax, while the rest of the vocalists came out on stage and Lee did cartwheels across the back of the stage. They began to say/sing, “A little bit softer now,” as the band all slowly fell to the floor. Snoring sounds followed, with Abrams and Kubota to be the last heard before they switched to, “A little bit louder now,” and popped up to jump around. It was a weird, chaotic, and fun way to end the show.

 

Overall, it’s really nice to know that this type of music can still pull a crowd – or three crowds in Finland. It’s also a plus and a minus to the band that the performers are on constant rotation. On one hand, it means that you might get a totally new show every time. On the flipside though, if there was someone you really wanted to see (like Scott Bradlee himself), or a song you wanted to hear (in my case on this night, “All About the Bass” and “Love Yourself” were the two I wanted), you might be SOL. Still, the former might outweigh the latter if you’re hoping to see the band more than once.

When I do address the issue of their ticket prices though, I’m not quite satisfied. These guys put on a great show, and the quality of the experience overall was incredible. I also understand that they have twelve entertainers on stage to be paid, plus crew, etc, which is more than the average band. However, they are a cover band, so 50€+ for a ticket still feels extremely steep, especially for a show that’s not at a particularly big venue. I think 40€ is the cap I’d be willing to pay for such a band, but I won’t claim to know their expenses and requirements for touring.

Ultimately, I’m really glad that I went to see this show. I think fans of PMJ wouldn’t be disappointed; the performers were certainly worthy of the audience. Even as someone who’s not exactly a fan of the band, it was worth seeing and I’d likely be willing to go again in the future, just to get a unique experience in my live-watching now and then.

Setlist:
1. This Love (Maroon 5)
2. Thriller (Michael Jackson)
3. Blank Space (Taylor Swift)
4. Sweet Child O’ Mine (Guns ‘n’ Roses)
5. Are You Gonna Be My Girl (Jet)
6. Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked (Cage the Elephant)
7. Crazy (Gnarls Barkley)
8. Straight Up (Paula Abdul)
9. Radioactive (Imagine Dragons)
10. Habits (Tove Lo)
11. Ex’s and Oh’s (Elle King)
12. I Kissed a Girl (Katy Perry)
13. Bad Romance (Lady Gaga)
14. Creep (Radiohead)
15. Shake it Off (Taylor Swift)

Encore:
16. We Can’t Stop (Miley Cyrus)
17. What is Love (Haddaway)

Brutal Assault 2018: Bands to Spice it Up -Laibach, Green Carnation, and Pain of Salvation

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Brutal Assault: 08-11 August 2018; Fortress Josefov, Jaroměř
www.brutalassault.cz

This update of the festival lineup is made not just of the meat-and-potatoes bands you would generally expect from an established metal festival, as we were focused on bringing in more exotic flavours that are not usually consumed by large crowds of metalheads… However we know that BA fans are special and hence deserve some special spice! Enjoy!

Cult originators of retro avantgarde, LAIBACH, are making one of their ultra-rare festival appearances at this year’s BA! The retro avantgarde of LAIBACH is an artform ranging from graphics, paintings, videos, and installations to concerts and performances, creatively questioning artistic ‘quotation’, appropriation, recontextualisation, copyright and copy-left. Although they started out as both an art and music collective, LAIBACH became internationally renowned first and foremost on the music scene, particularly for their unique cover versions and interpretations of hits by Queen, the Rolling Stones, and Beatles.

GREEN CARNATION both precede and are a natural successor of the experimental/avantgarde trailblazers In the Woods… Since they debuted, peering from beneath the permafrost of the Norwegian winter, each successive GREEN CARNATION album has been a welcome sight in the dreary sameyness of the general metal scene, and their set at BA 2018 will be musical sight not to miss.

The ultimate melodicity of the renowned Swedish progressive rockers PAIN OF SALVATION may be even too sweet to swallow for the general BA crowd. However, the raw emotions cloaked in dark, progressive polyrhythms and challenging syncopations, brilliantly darkened keys, and percussive muscle will serve as a diversification of blasting metal elements at this year’s BA.

Fans of alternative approaches towards both life and music can look forward to KrishnaCore mantras of a positive drug-free attitude to life spawned in the 90s by Ray Cappo’s project SHELTER. US-based troublemakers WISDOM IN CHAINS will kick some ass with their killer street rock mixed up with some heavy old-school hardcore and Oi!, while Manchester hardcore youngbloods BROKEN TEETH will have their big BA debut after stirring up the European underground intensively for the past two years.

Another fascinating hot spice for the lineup will be the experimental hardcore-based and synth-driven technical mix of styles of ROLO TOMASSI, who express themselves with loud, energetic vibrancy and intelligence that is not cloaked in any gimmickry, macho posturing or stupid imagery. From the opposite side of the hardcore spectrum we have EVERGREEN TERRACE, who trail their own path with their powerful combination of melodic hardcore and punk rock strains.

Swiss pioneers MESSIAH quickly acquired a sworn fanbase in the 80s underground, but the band has dissolved due to the individualism of the respective band members. However, the timeless thrashing madness has never been forgotten by the loyal fanbase, and after 14 years of silence since the brief reanimation in 2003, MESSIAH are now back and will take BA by storm!

Iceland has spawned many of the finest acts in contemporary black metal, and this small indigenous but prolific scene is sending the ambassadors from MISÞYRMING, yet the Icelandic domination over the avantgarde dark music scene of Europe might be disputed by ULSECT. ULSECT were born out of a collaboration between Dodecahedron and Textures members, and their music shifts from dense death metal dissonance to a lucent avantgarde atmosphere.

NERVOCHAOS were established in São Paulo in 1996 and have been spawning aggressive and chaotic music shredding the barriers of death metal and hardcore ever since while touring the world, and this year they will debut at our festival! Even more exotic in their origin and dedication to sheer musical brutality are progenitors of the Indonesian BDM scene, JASAD, who will torture European sickos for the first time ever!

Last but not least, get ready for a true party experience with STEVE ‘N’ SEAGULLS, an undoubtedly one-of-a-kind band from Finland playing bluegrass versions of famous metal classics. Have you ever danced at BA listening to aggro country versions of Iron Maiden?

Current lineup for 2018 (as of 20.03.2018):
Act of Defiance, Akercocke, Aluk Todolo, Angelmaker, Arkhon Infaustus, Armored Saint, At the Gates, Azarath, Behemoth, Belphegor, Bleed from Within, Blood Incantation, Bölzer, Broken Hope, Broken Teeth, Brujeria, Cannibal Corpse, Carnifex, Carpathian Forest, Celeste, Converge, Counterparts, Cruacjan, Dead Congregation, Diablo Swing Orchestra, Dodecahedron, Dragged into Sunlight, Dying Fetus, E-Force, Evergreen Terrace, Exhorder, Full of Hell, Gojira, Grave Pleasures, Graveyard, Green Carnation, H2O, Hate, Helmet, Hirax, Horskh, Ihsahn, Ingested, Integrity, Kurokuma, Laibach, Lvmen, Malokarpatan, Marduk, Messiah, Ministry, Misery Index, MisÞyrming, Mortiis, Municipal Waste, Myrkur, Nasty, Neocaesar, Nervochaos, Nocturnus AD, Northlane, Novembers Doom, Obscure Sphinx, Origin, Pain, Pain Of Salvation, Pallbearer, Paradise Lost, Perturbator, Pestilence, Pillorian, Plini, Protector, Rollo Tomassi, Sadistic Intent, Saint Vitus, Shelter, Steve ‘n’ Seagulls, Suicidal Tendencies, Terror, Testament, The Black Dahlia Murder, Tormentor, Ulcest, Unleashed, Unsane, Wardruna, Whoredom Rife, Wiegedood, Wisdom In Chains, Wrathprayer

You can get the tickets from www.shop.brutalassault.cz/en for 84€ (price valid only until the 30th of April)

August 8-11, 2018
Fortress Josefov – Jaroměř
551 02 Jaroměř
Czech Republic
www.facebook.com/brutalassault.

EVERFROST – Benji Connelly & Mikael Salo; Helsinki 2018

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Musicalypse has been waiting for another performance by Everfrost for months now, and we finally got our wish at Valurauta 2018, a university student event at The Circus in Helsinki. These up-and-coming symphonic power metallers, if you don’t know them, are from Finland and haven’t been out and about too often just yet, but we’re expecting that to change.

After having randomly bumped into Benjamin “Benji” Connelly [keyboards] at Sonata Arctica’s show in February, we agreed that the next time they were around, we would have to meet up to talk about their music and background, and Valurauta provided just such an opportunity.

It took us a while to find each other following their set, but we were finally able to get together backstage where the band was relaxing and enjoying some refreshments. While our interview was, in essence, with Benji Connelly [keyboards] and Mikael Salo [vocals], the rest of the band was lurking around or sitting nearby, and offered their two cents every now and then. The exception here was Markus Laito [guitar], who had been sick, powered through their set, and headed off immediately after the show.

 

“Personality is important, but also unity.”

Everfrost are a pretty new band on the scene, which meant that there was a lot of subject matter to be covered, from their live performances to their new outfits, and of course, the music and stories from the village of Everfrost itself. The band were eager to discuss their tales and writing style, as well as the ups and downs of creating music. 

Photo courtesy of Laureline Tilkin of Tuonela Magazine

First of all, welcome back to Helsinki.
Benji: Yay, thank you!

Was this the second show in Helsinki, or have you played any other shows since the last time we saw you?
Mikael: Second show ever in Helsinki.

Benji: Yeah, the first one was in Arabia.

Mikael: Yeah, and the 23rd we have our next and last show for a while. We haven’t planned any other shows.

Were those new uniforms that we saw on stage tonight?
Mikael: Yeah, we picked them up today at 08:00 in the morning. We were really fresh before the show.

Benji: That was an idea I had – I wanted a ‘look’ where we all had a color scheme and something to unify each band member. I think it’s good everybody has their own things they wear underneath and whatever, but having a jacket that fits Everfrost, because of the winter theme and everything… it was something to do to make the band look a bit more unified, like I said.

Mikael: One of Benji’s biggest influences when he started music – well, [he’s] told me many times – was KISS, and KISS had wanted to create this new thing, having a unified outfit and everything. So it’s funny, because it’s a very different kind of music. We have this symphonic power metal with progressive and industrial influences, but we wanted to have that unified look like KISS has.

Benji: It’s also like each person has a unified look, but everyone has their own way of doing it.

Mikael: Personality is important, but also unity.

You have the last of your shows coming up soon, and then will it be straight into the studio to finish up the songs and work on the album?
Mikael: We have two songs we haven’t finished composing yet. After those two songs are finished, drum tracking is going to start. Then it’s all about the studio. Recording, mixing, mastering. That takes a good half a year, I think. Finishing the two songs we have left is the main thing.

Benji: And that’s going to happen pretty quick. In summer also I’ll have a bit of a break for myself, because I’ve been very busy. But then we’ll hit the studio and get everything done. There’s a possibility we’ll have some summer shows, but there won’t be many. Some festivals. The focus is just getting this album done. Already with the artwork, it’s already happening. That started early. The manuscript is finished, the character designs are all set, and I’m working together now with the mangaka on panel design and all that stuff. We’ll get there. Part of doing something that you love doing is trying to go into areas that haven’t been covered before.

Mikael: We have a pretty clear, unified vision of what the album should be and now it’s just getting the quality up to what is in our minds.

Benji: It’s great having these guys now, because the first album I did more or less alone, but now having feedback is so valuable. That’s so important when you do stuff. If you want to do something yourself and write songs, that’s fine, but you still need feedback from people, because you don’t see your own faults.

Your second full-length question is due out within a year or so, if I’m correct?
Mikael: I think it’s less than a year.

Benji: We’re hoping for January 2019.

Matias: Weren’t we supposed to start recording it like last autumn?

Benji: No. That’s complete bullshit [laughter].

Mikael: Hey, Matias – FAKE NEWS!

Benji: That was back in Arabia, when we were interviewed by Vincent. He was saying, when are you expecting the next album out? I think we said… summer 2017?

Mikael: Things happen. We had masters for the new songs and we were not happy with them. We worked with those masters for like half a year to find the right thing for the next album. Now we’re like, okay [snaps fingers] the mastering thing is done, but we had a half year delay to get what we have in our minds. That kind of stuff happens and you just can’t… as an artist, because of your integrity for your work, you can’t let B-quality stuff out. It needs to be the best possible that you can do with your resources.

Benji: The biggest thing we learned with everything, going back to what we said, was that we had a problem where we would just take something like, “This is now ready,” because we put time and effort into it, so we’re just going to release this. The biggest thing we learned is to not just take everything as finished. Now we’re at the point where we’re making sure everything we put out and everything we do is done and we’re completely satisfied. That included the jackets and stuff too. Everything.

Mikael: We kind of feel this “inner pressure” from our own motivation to become the same level as our heroes, like Sonata Arctica and Nightwish and whatever. Bands we love. We want to push ourselves and that means we can’t stay on the same level. We have to go harder in production, in song-writing, in everything. So that’s tough. It’s not easy. Delays and stuff like that happen. But! At the moment, the estimated time for release of the album is around January of next year.

Benji: I have two more songs to write and then we’ll start recording.

Matias: Tumor songs? [laughter]

Is there anything that you can tell us about the upcoming album? Will there be any story or concept? What are you willing to ‘spoil’ at this point?
Mikael: Hmm, what should we spoil? “Cold Night Remedy” is going to be there. That’s one surprise.

Benji: It’s the middle song on the album. There are elements from the first album for sure. There are some songs where I was writing in the same way that I constructed songs on the first album. [I’m] now trying to really focus on getting stronger and clearer melodies. More catchy elements in the music and things are much neater as a song.

Mikael: More hook-y, and also more… we were listening to like Star One and Ayreon and stuff, and I was talking like, “I love that the story takes me on a journey!” Even if it’s The Human Equation or Space Metal or whatever. I was showing a lot of the stuff to [Benji]. You weren’t that familiar with the band. We were talking about the story and everything, and it’s got to be connected to Blue Eyed Emotion somehow. It’s the same universe, the same story.

Benji: The same characters. It’s kind of a sequel to that. We actually have a new Japanese mangaka working with us, alongside the mangaka from our first album, Michiru Bokido. They do much more with just traditional manga pages. So what’s going to be done is the story is going to be much shorter and the whole thing is going to take place mainly in one location. Basically, the inside of the booklet and the way the songs go, it’s going to be very easy to follow the story from beginning to end. It’s going to be like reading a manga inside the book.

Mikael: No other metal band has done this before, so we also want to have this thing that’s new.

Benji: We’ll announce the artist in June or July. But about songwriting, the biggest idea is to push things creatively. The last song on the album is going to be over 10 minutes long. It’s going to be the first epic I write. It’s a lot of pressure, but I think the biggest change is that once Mikke joined the band, he introduced me to a lot of different ways of song-writing and storytelling. The whole thing about what we do is that… there isn’t a lot to go from when you’re telling such a specific story, but having new inspiration now and seeing a different way of [doing things], and getting a lot of feedback from the first album… I admit that the story is really cryptic. Now we can actually really focus on getting that nailed.

Could you tell me about the world of Everfrost (as opposed to the band), and the story from the first album, and any relevant material from the EPs, etc.?
Benji: The [setting] is basically a hidden town in the middle of the forest. You could say it’s on earth or it’s a totally different dimension or universe. The town is hidden and the people who live in the town are isolated and have been told they can’t leave because a nuclear disaster happened around the town.

Mikael: It could be a fantastical story or it could be a dystopian story from the future.

Benji: Depends on how you see it. The actual reason is that there is an object outside of town that’s cursed. That’s what the “Three Tier Terror” is about.

Mikael: It’s part of the legend and lore of the city.

Benji: There’s a tower – it’s kind of a symbol we’re using now – a tower with three levels. It came to me in a dream – I visited this tower and it was very beautiful. I went back and told someone that I was in this tower, and as soon as I told that, the person just said, “Oh no, you didn’t go there.” And then I said the name of it, and then they committed suicide. So it’s all about this idea that there’s this cursed tower behind the town. Originally there was another town, an earlier version of Everfrost, that got totally destroyed and wiped out by mass suicide. So they keep all the people in the town to stop them from finding this thing. In Blue Eyed Emotion, one of the characters, or a character related to one of the characters, finds it and all of the songs tell about the lives of these characters falling apart and trying to live through it and trying to rectify the situation.

Mikael: It was a very personal album. There were a lot of metaphors and it’s really deep.

Benji: I was in a really dark place personally when I wrote that album, so a lot of it became cryptic because I didn’t want to tell everybody what I was going through, but everything came out emotionally that way. It was unfortunately cryptic in that way. So now it’s about telling people exactly what’s happening with this.

Mikael: Now we want to have a bit more of an entertaining storyline.

Benji: These characters – there’s going to be two of them – that continue on with Winterider, and they meet some new charcters. Two of the characters from the first album are actually dead, so they’re not going to appear in it, but they’re obviously going to be mentioned.

Mikael: We’re going to make sure the booklet will be magical. It’s hard to tell everything.

Benji: It’s a big thing. But that’s basically a brief overview of it.

Artwork by qhostkid (https://www.facebook.com/qhostkidart/)

Can I ask about the white-haired girl on the album art?
Benji: Yeah, her name is Casey-Rose, and she’s the sister of the brother that found the tower originally.

Is she still alive?
Benji: Yes, she will be one of the people that continues on. One of the younger characters is also alive. I can say that the person on the cover of the first album is dead, as we’re talking.

Is that the lonesome prince?
Benji: Yeah, it’s him as a younger person. “Lonesome Prince” talks about him losing a friend. He couldn’t get over it, so he slept in a graveyard with his sleeping bag, next to the person’s grave.

Mikael: Just like you!

Benji: I actually have slept in a graveyard myself. I was at a friend’s place one time. It was the end of fall, so it was quite cold. Some shit went wrong with the party and I got locked out and couldn’t contact anyone, so I couldn’t get in to my stuff. I was stumbling around drunk, because I’d just been drinking – absinthe included, all kinds of shit – so just wandered into the graveyard and passed out. I woke up at 04:00 and I’m surprised I didn’t die, because it was that cold.

Mikael: And then you wrote a song about it.

Benji: That was actually after. I almost wrote my future. Luckily, I got in contact with a friend and I got to go to her place. Once I got to her place, I realized that I was covered in mud and scratches and bruises because I had fallen over walls to get in there. It was one of the worst hangovers I’ve ever had in my life.

You guys did a live cover of Ke$ha’s song, “Die Young” – tell me a little bit about that?
Benji: How did it go? How did it sound?

I thought it was great. I loved it.
Jope: I have never heard the original version.

Benji: That song is actually going to be on the upcoming album. We are making an official studio version of it. The idea was because, there’s always metal bands at some point who cover a pop song.

Like Children of Bodom and Britney Spears.
Benji: Alestorm’s “Hangover.”

Mikael: Blind Guardian’s “Mr. Sandman.”

Benji: It’s made in the same kind of way. It’s a song that has really good potential and can really work well in metal. Not to slander anybody or say that anyone’s doing a bad job or whatever – opinions are opinions – but I’ve never found a good metal cover of “Die Young” by Ke$ha. The song itself, the position on the album is going to be quite interesting. It’s going to be quite bittersweet, because it’s near the end.

Will it fit in with your story then?
Mikael: It actually fit lyrically perfectly into the one spot on the album that was kind of missing, lyrically. We were like, “Holy shit, this song fits perfectly!” We’ve got to change the lyrics a bit, so it’s going to fit even more. But that was like, [snaps fingers] that song actually works with the story so well. And it’s a good song. It has good hook lines and melodies, and we made some riffs around it. It was fun to do.

Benji: Good foreshadowing. It’s fun and a good singalong song.

Mikael: It got a good response.

Benji: Everyone remembers it. It isn’t something that’s just come out and everyone’s sick of it, but it probably brings back memories from 2012 or whenever it was released.

You also covered “Megalovania” from Undertale on your EP. I just played it for the first time in October and the soundtrack is amazing. I assume then most of you have played it and enjoyed the music as much as I did?
Jope: I cried when I played the Genocide run, because I first played the True Pacifist run. Papyrus is one of my favorite characters in gaming ever. Then there’s the time when [spoiler] you have to press “fight” [/spoiler], I was crying before I pressed the button. And then he says, “I still believe in you.” I went to the fridge and got some Valhalla and went outside to sit, like, “This fucking sucks.” The music in that game is fucking awesome.

Benji: “Megalovania”, when I heard it… I liked the game more because of the soundtrack. It’s so good, and “Megalovania”, I thought was the perfect cover song. From what I heard… there is probably more stuff now because more people have done it, but I never really found a cover that keeps the integrity of the original, the drama that’s going on, the sounds. I wanted to keep the sounds as close as I could to the original, just make it bigger and make it more metal and heavy, things like that. So that was the idea for that. It was originally just a cover I did on YouTube, but then we put it on the EP because it was fun.

You’ve got a manga coming out with your second album already, so if you guys were to dream really big, as big as it gets, what would be the ultimate thing you could achieve with Everfrost?
Benji: Getting the story and our music made into an anime.

Mikael: And having a soundtrack of the music we play. Film score.

Benji: So obvious to say. Having an anime.

Mikael: I want to have an anime character of me! [laughter]

Jope: I talked with Benjamin, that we wouldn’t make our characters into main characters.

Mikael: We’ll be some side-character bums.

Jope: I told Benjamin that I want to be a villain.

 

“You get the escapism that you want from art like this.”

At this point, people began coming and going from the backstage area, stopping by to chat or adding their thoughts to the discussion. No one wanted the dull job of standing outside and keeping people from interrupting, so interruptions became a part of the game. The band was very casual and comfortable as we talked, and the discussion became almost more of a sharing of favorites, as opposed to Q&A. 

Are there any books, movies, shows, games, concept albums, or any sort of media that has been a huge influence on you guys both individually and with Everfrost?
Benji: On our website, it has our favorite albums and things like that, but I think we can name some key ones. A top album for me, that has always been up there is Century Child by Nightwish. I think I could also say Days of Greys by Sonata Arctica.

Their most under-appreciated album, perhaps.
Mikael: Yeah!

Benji: I love their earlier stuff, for sure, but that’s one of the later ones that I got really into.

Mikael: I love that album.

Benji: And the first Wintersun album just blew my mind.

Mikael: Ayreon. The first album I ever heard was 01011001, and I love that album because Hansi Kürsch [Blind Guardian] is one of my favorite singers, and Jorn Lande is there, and they have Anneke van Giersbergen and Floor Jansen… all the greats. But maybe my favorite would be Into the Electric Castle. It’s just fun. You get the escapism that you want from art like this. You dive in and then you enjoy the journey with the characters and the story. I love that. It’s the same with The Human Equation.

Benji: One album that I think sparked a lot of theatrical storytelling – also a thing that gives a lot of color to the music I write – is pop star Mika’s The Boy Who Knew Too Much. There’s just something about it that always brings back memories from my teenage years, and those were the years when I started coming up with all these characters and stories and the universe. So it’s been with me forever. The nostalgia value is there. I love the album, but the theatrical side of it… it doesn’t give a shit about what anyone thinks. That guy will do anything and not care.

Mikael: I like that. It’s a bit like Queen. They didn’t give a fuck about being one style, they just made songs that they liked. Because they felt the songs, the chances are the listener feels it as well, because the feeling in the song is genuine. It’s the same with The Beatles. They didn’t give a fuck about styles. They cared if the music had emotion and feeling. I think Arjen [Lucassen, Ayreon] does that too, because there are so many different colors and spices.

Noticing your [Mikael] hoodie, did you go to Tilburg to see Ayreon Universe?
Mikael: Did you go?

I did.
Mikael: I… fuck. He’s my favorite composer ever. I was there on the 15th – which date did you go?

I was there on the 17th, the last day. How did you enjoy the show?
Mikael: The last day, okay. It was the best show of my life. I really loved it. Everyone should check out Ayre… not Arion! Well, Arion is also awesome, but Ayreon is the other one. What is your favorite Ayreon album?

The Human Equation.
Mikael: It’s really fucking good.

So good. I think that might be the best concept album I know.
Mikael: It’s really great. There’s good stuff on The Source too.

The Source is my solid number two on that list, for sure.
Mikael: I love how it’s got captains and presidents and they’re going to space and I love the cheesy stuff.

Benji: “Everybody Dies.” That’s the perfect cheesiness and…

Mikael: I can’t believe that they were able to recreate that live. That song. It’s such a hard song.

That song is also Mike Mills in his element
Mikael: Flawless. Even though it’s super hard shit.

What are some of your favorite animes or mangas?
Jope: Helsing was one of the first animes that I’ve ever watched and it has been one of my favorite animes ever since. However, recently I watched an anime called Re:Zero and I was fucking mind-blown. Sorry, Helsing, you’re moving into the second slot. I actually started watching anime more when I joined the band. I did watch some famous animes like FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. I started watching a lot of stuff with Benjamin too.

Mikael: I got Benjamin into an anime called Queensblade.

Benji: I cry every time I watch that anime. Mikke, your favorite anime?

Mikael: My favorite anime of all time… actually, it’s funny, but nowadays I don’t really like Naruto that much. In 2005, when I was a kid and used to western cartoons, I saw Naruto and I fucking loved it. It’s such an important part of myself. Now I don’t really watch it, but I have fond memories. That’s maybe the most important one. Of course Dragonball Z. Everyone watched it in Finland. It even came on TV.

Benji: One thing we should mention is Yamishibai.

Mikael: The first season was amazing! Everything else was shit.

Benji: Oh, and Super Danganronpa. That’s one of my favorites. It’s just so hard to say a favorite. A lot of the animes I watched growing up were nostalgic. Dangonronpa is excellent. Steins;Gate is excellent. Even just some slice-of-life animes. There’s one called Tanaka-kun is Always Listless. It’s about this guy who always falls asleep everywhere and he has a friend at school who carries him around. This guy will not spend energy on anything, and it’s just such a chill show to watch. All kinds of anime are good for different reasons, so it’s hard to say what a favorite one is.

Jope: Talking about video games, at the moment I’m playing a game called Persona 5. It has a lot of anime visuals and stuff. It’s really cool. I can’t wait to play it to the end.

How many of you guys have been to Japan?
Mikael: I’m the only one. I’ve been five times and I’m going there in 2 weeks. I have a Japanese girlfriend. I taught Finnish and English there as a part-time job, because I didn’t have enough booze from Kela when I was an exchange student. [laughter] I love the fact that I can go any time in Japan and have a party. Whereas in Finland it’s very regulated. I love the freedom [in Japan]. Everfrost is all about freedom.

Do you have any fan stories from meeting other musicians?
Jope: I ran into [Tuomas Holopainen] at the traffic lights. I was like, “Hey, Tuomas!” and he was like, “Hey.” [nods; laughter] I’ve also been to see Kai Hahto. He taught me drums. Last year we had a weekend session. He taught me how to fix my playing style and everything else, which was really cool. Then after the first day, we just went back to his house, drank beer, and watched The Walking Dead.

Benji: I haven’t met many people that I’m a fan of. One is the Finnish band Whispered. We got Heli Mäensivu [who made Everfrost’s outfits] through Jouni Valjakka, who is the guitarist/singer of Whispered. It’s funny, I just sent a Facebook message and asked, because I was curious about some music video stuff that he did with them, and we got talking and he seemed really cool about the Everfrost idea and everything, so I kind of met him through that. Then we found out about Heli through him.

One thing recently though, I’ve been really grateful for and has been really cool and eye-opening, is that Mikael and I are playing in a band – it hasn’t been officially announced yet, but we’re doing a lot of preproduction and working on writing the album – the name is chosen, Metal De Facto, and it’s going to be released hopefully this year. It’s a project that’s been started by Sami Hinkka [Ensiferum] and Esa Orjatsalo, who played with Dreamtale in the early years. He’s the guitar tech for Ensiferum [these days] and they wanted to start a power metal band, so Mikke and I… they found Mikael through YouTube and they were looking for a keyboardist, so they found me through Mikke. So we’re working on this stuff now. Getting to meet them and hang out and write music with them has been really eye-opening. I never expected it to happen, but I’ve been really grateful for it.

You also know Nino Laurenne [Thunderstone]. He was with you when we met the first time at the Sonata Arctica show. 
Benji: Yeah, I’ve met Nino. That’s really cool. He mixed one of my favorite albums, which is the very first Wintersun album.

Mikael: In one week.

Benji: The production he did on that is… I mean, it was well-recorded obviously, but still. Meeting him and talking, he’s a very interesting person. Sonic Pump Studios as well. So many bands are doing their things there. It’s cool to talk to him.

 

Well, that’s the last of my questions. Thanks for taking the time to do this!
Benji: Thank you, anytime!

Mikael: Sorry for giving 3-hour responses to these questions.

Benji: And thank you for coming!

The band’s first live release, A Cold Night Out, will be available on May 18th, 2018. 

Photos: Twister MacKinnon | Photo Editing: Amy W.

(2018) Fear of Domination: Metanoia

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Artist: Fear of Domination
Album: Metanoia
Release: 04.05.2018
Label: Ranka Kustannus

 

Fear of Domination is releasing their fifth studio album, Metanoia, which – according to Dictionary.com – means a transformative change of heart, mostly in the sense of a spiritual awakening. The album title might mean something different to you, depending on how you feel about the addition of Sara Strömmer as a permanent member of the band. Regardless of that, FoD has kept most of their core identity intact, being more of a mixture of higher-tempo disco and heavy German industrial, even if some Finnish melancholy is dripping through the cracks every now and again.

 

The first track starts off straightforward enough with a guitar intro, gradually adding the instruments into play. When the vocals start, there is some awkwardness lyrically, feeling somehow forced and out of place, but after the song starts properly that phenomenon disappears with a competent switch into a completely different singing style. All-in-all “Dance with the Devil” seems almost like filler, definitely not A-material from the start.

From the very start, “Obsession” is much livelier and more compositionally sound, making much better use of the instruments and vocals at their disposal. The dual-vocal format suits the singers well and probably adds a lot of theatricality to the stage. “Face of Pain” is probably familiar to a lot of us, from listening to Nordic melodeath (or that feeling when you see your self in the mirror after drinking heavily). The song is competently put together and has a lot of different elements that the artists can use, but lacks an X-factor to really elevate it. Saku Solin even sings, “Some things are better left alone,” so who are we to dismiss an artist’s opinion on the track itself, hon hon hon.

“Sick and Beautiful” on the other hand is the first song of the album that managed to crawl into my ear at inopportune moments and elicit involuntary physical reactions. “Behold!” cries Sara, and my arms raise into the air – like a priest at a baptism – and I promptly feel extremely stupid after the fact. It is in my mind – crowd-pleaser that it is – the best song of the album thus far, getting into the groove of the disco industry and chasing that elusive X. The somewhat garbage title aside, it’s an ear-worm capable of causing impromptu priest-LARPing.

“Shame” juxtaposes that with a much more somber mood. It seems weird that the two songs are even on the same album, but putting them next to each other is such a massive mood shift it almost feels like an accident. Nevertheless, it is nice to hear Mr. Solin sing in clean vocals for a change, displaying his range somewhat as well.

“Lie” is somewhat back to formula feeling a bit of a mixture between “Shame” and the three opening songs, being a bit more introspective than the latter three, but livelier than the former. Sadly, besides the lyrical snippet, “Don’t search for me / I don’t want to be found,” nothing quite resonates. “We Dominate” is back to the synth-side of the moon, but not quite as catchy as “S&B.” Energetic enough to stand out from the others, but not all that much else to it. “The Last Call” feels like filler, next.

“Mindshifter” has the ingredients to be the best of both the introspective world and keyboard world, but the components don’t become greater than the sum of their parts. It has a memorable – if not catchy – chorus that stands out from the other parts of the song, but doesn’t seem to have any ambition greater than that.

If I thought that “Shame” was the juxtapose of the album, I was put in my place by “Ruin.” Interestingly enough, this is the song of the album for me, having a documented love of doom, gloom, and – uh – loom-ing presences, which “Ruin” displays in abundance. Both the vocalists have an extremely good presence on this track and display their range quite well. There was a moment while listening to it that I thought there was a truck backing up in the street, but realized it was actually a hospital heart monitor in the background of the song. That was a subtle touch that I managed to catch on probably the tenth play-through of the album and added a great story element. My only nitpick would be to please use something else than “demon” or “demonic” to describe personal problems. Ghosts, specters, haunting echoes, revenants, or wights are all good to use and more descriptive, unless you’re literally being dragged to Hell, but I digress. Fact is, “Ruin” is the best song of the album for me, but it probably won’t be for a FoD fan. Vocal work is peerless and the atmosphere is rock-solid, thus elevating this song head-and-shoulders above the rest.

 

All-in-all, Metanoia is a good album. It has it’s flabby moments with a couple of songs that feel like they’re filling space more than anything else, but it has a couple of memorable songs good enough to either make me really depressed or praise the sun. Anything I didn’t mention during the review is technically sound and skillfully executed, thus calling for no comment. Ironically enough, I feel as though Ms. Strömmer’s vocal range is too good for them, almost making a mockery of the songs that don’t utilize her abilities to the fullest.

The overall feeling that’s left after listening to the album on repeat for around two weeks is that there are two directions that FoD wants to take simultaneously: the melodic story-filled doom-gloom axis of Finnish melancholy, but at the same time not wanting to shed their core identity as a lighthearted crowd-pleaser band that are the staple of festival summers… and those two don’t mesh very well. I’d actually be very interested in a much more introspective/story-based doom project, since “Ruin” kinda proves that they could do it. Just hit me up whenever you need another synonym for ‘ghost.’

Rating: 7/10

Amy: In a weird way, my response to this album was very nearly exactly the same as Kalle’s. However, I would still score it higher. To my taste, it’s a very good album and even the songs that don’t quite hit the pinnacle of their potential often have some golden nugget buried within. “The Last Call”, for example, is a decent song surrounding an absolutely astounding vocal part by Strömmer. I enjoyed the halfway-point-break that is “Shame”, even if the change in mood is extremely abrupt. “Mindshifter” is pretty fun on the whole, and I think it has a bit more going for it than Kalle. And as Kalle said, the biggest shocker is definitely “Ruin”, and I like it a lot as both a wild card song and a great closer to the album. I’ve only listened a couple of times, but I feel a constant urge to come back to this band and listen again. I’d gladly award this album a 9/10.

Tracklist:
1. Dance with the Devil
2. Obsession
3. Face of Pain
4. Sick and Beautiful
5. Shame
6. Lie
7. We Dominate
8. The Last Call
9. Mindshifter
10. Ruin

POETS OF THE FALL @ The Circus, Helsinki 21.04.2018

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Poets of the Fall on their 15-year anniversary tour at The Circus, Helsinki, 2018.
Photos by Janne Puronen.

(2018) Interviews

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Our collection of interview photos from 2017.
Photographers may vary.

BLIND CHANNEL – Joel Hokka & Niko “Nc Enroe” Moilanen, Helsinki, 2018

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Blind Channel is back in action with their sophomore album, Blood Brothers, available as of April 20th, 2018. The follow-up to a band’s debut is a big deal, so we sat down with Joel Hokka (vocals, guitar) and Nike “Nc Enroe” Moilanen (vocals) to discuss their experiences since our first interview with them at South Park Festival back in 2016.

 

So, Blood Brothers is coming out on the 20th. To get the obvious out of the way, how do you feel?
Niko: Stressed.

Joel: Stressed. More than stressed.

Niko: Happy. We like the album, and we’re proud, and it’s nice to finally have it out. We’ve had it in our hands since Christmas, so it’s stressful times. Our tour starts next week and there’s a lot of promotional stuff going on.

Joel: We need to sell tickets and sell the album and everything like that. This is the first album where we’ll have a label in Europe, so we’re doing hardcore promotion there and we need to sell albums there as well.

Niko: It’s more work.

Joel: It’s a hell of a lot of work and pressure, but we chose this! [laughter]

Niko: I think we’re going to pull through.

I hear you guys are starting to get a good following in Germany now.
Niko: More or less, yeah. We’re definitely bigger than with the last album. Now we have a label in Europe, in Germany actually, so things are moving forward there. We like Germany. It’s warm and beer is cheap. It’s a place for us to go, definitely, and we want to go on tour there, but we can’t talk about that now.

I feel like Germany is a good country for you guys, because their pop and metal music scenes are both so big. 
Joel: We have one festival there. It’s a fucking big one.

Niko: Rockharz Festival, Leipzig. And like you said, [Germany] has a big pop scene and metal scene, and music is a bigger thing in Germany than it is, for example, in Finland. It’s a big business.

The first time we spoke to you guys was at South Park 2016, before Revolutions came out. Now you’re at the release of your second album. What’s different in the band mechanics now, and what have you learned in the past 2 years. 
Joel: Back in the day we were a real ‘boy band.’ Now we’re trying to be a boy band [laughs]. We’re not as young anymore. Let’s not be so pessimistic.

Niko: I think we’re still pretty young and we’ve got more initiative in our band. We have more and more labels and management and people we work with, but at the same time, there’s more initiative in us. Every day we wake up, we want to come up with things like, “What can I do for this band today?” It doesn’t need to be the label or management – what can I do. So I think right now we’re working harder than ever. Definitely – I can already say that for the third album – we’re always going to be working hard. We’ve grown that way.

Has anything happened in the last few years that you found really unexpected or unusual?
Joel: This upcoming summer, all the festivals. It was a surprise, because there are a hell of a lot of festivals. Like six or seven major festivals. That was a surprise, because I didn’t expect that to happen. Last summer was horrible. We didn’t have any festivals. Now we have festivals, so it’s a good one.

Niko: Also, we’re doing pop songs now. [laughter] That was something we didn’t expect, but our music went there and we liked it, so we thought, “Why not?”

Joel: And then we lost all our fans… [laughter]

That relates to my next question – what has the reaction to the new material been like so far, and how does it compare to the old material?
Niko: It’s been really good, I think, overall. It’s been really good, but we have surprised many of our fans, that the songs are so poppy. It’s been a surprise, but if they’re stressed out about us turning into some pop sensation band, that the album as a whole is pretty heavy stuff. The singles just happen to be those pop songs, because we like them.

Joel: There is one reason. There is the big radio station, YleX, and they like to play our songs, so when [the songs] are pop, [YleX] plays them. So we have money. [laughter]

Selling out already? [laughter]
Niko: Of course that’s not what we think when we make the songs.

Of course, it makes sense. The radio hits are for people who listen to the radio, and radio tends to always be tending to the pop crowds mostly. 
Niko: Yeah, maybe it’s not what we think when we’re writing the songs, but that’s definitely what we think when we’re picking the next single. You want your single to be heard as much as possible.

So you write the songs that you want to hear, but you pick the songs that suit the media.
Niko: Yeah!

Moving on then… Blood Brothers deals with a lot of subjects like loyalty, friendship, and betrayal. Did you guys intend for there to be a running theme on the album, or was that just the place that you were in when you were writing?
Niko: We had many demos. We had many names for the album and we were wondering what the album was. I think it was when we decided to do “Sharks Love Blood”… we picked it up as a single. And then there was the song “Like a Brother” and we checked out the themes and there were a lot of themes about friendship. That’s when I came up with Blood Brothers. It’s also nice because there is a boy band -vibe, but in a violent pop style. We probably had half of the songs from the album ready and I asked, “How about if we call this album Blood Brothers?” and everyone was like, “Let’s do that!” The other name that would have been fitting was Wolfpack, but that was a better name for the song than the album.

One of the more unusual genre mixes you guys did on this album was in “Like a Brother”, which uses stylistic autotune, followed by heavy music straight afterwards. So tell me a bit about that song.
Joel: It’s violent pop. That’s the violent pop thing. [laughter]

Niko: The first demo of that song had me rapping the verses. Just rap. We listened to it and it sounded like we hadn’t gone anywhere. It was like something from our Foreshadow EP or something from very early Revolutions. We had to do something new and experimental, and we thought, what could be more ‘gangsta’ – because there is a gangsta vibe in the song – than rapping? Then we thought, Post Malone is kinda good? And he uses autotune all the time, even though he’s a good singer. So we told our producer, “Turn the autotune on!” and it was just awesome! I can’t wait to do that live. It’s going to be amazing.

Is it safe to assume that “Scream” is about Chester Bennington [Linkin Park]?
Niko: Of course. It’s not a secret. Linkin Park and Chester were a huge deal for our band, and we made a cover of Linkin Park’s “Numb.” That was our tribute to the band that had inspired us.

Joel: And that was not enough.

Niko: We still felt like we had a lot to say, and then we had to do that song.

It has a very powerful and conclusive feel to it – I was actually surprised that there was another song on the album after it.
Niko: We thought about that but it was so depressing. [laughter] You have a bad vibe. The final song on the album, “IDFU”, is a statement. We got this big European label, the biggest indie label in Europe, and now we’re starting to have a lot of big agents and big bosses and all that, so it’s a statement that, when it comes to music, Blind Channel will do whatever the fuck we want. That’s what’s important about “IDFU.” We had so much fun with that song.

Are there any other interesting stories behind the songs, other than the ones we’ve just discussed?
Joel: “Giants.” That’s a great one. That’s my favorite. “Hurricane” and “Giants”, because when I wrote “Hurricane”, I wrote it like this is some pop artist’s song, not our song. Then we got drunk and had a house party, and I was like, “Oh, I’m so drunk, I made a song. You wanna hear it?” and they said, “Sure, let’s hear it!” I put it to play and they were like, “Oh, this is so great.” Then we had another pop song on the album.

Niko: It’s kind of a crossover. And “Giants” was the final song we wrote for the album.

Joel: Actually you wrote it on your own.

Niko: Pretty much. It’s gonna be a live banger. You’re gonna have to check it out. Well, you’ve heard the chorus, like [sings the tune]. That stuff. It’s a fun one.

It’s definitely one that I’m dying to hear live. 
Niko: It’s super theatrical as well. It starts so easily. It’s going to be a performance.

Considering you guys blend genres so much and you do it so well, were there any songs that were particularly hard to piece together, or did the whole thing come together naturally?
Joel: I think “Hurricane” was the first place where I had the guitars and it felt like, this is so poppy, what are we going to do? Also, “Out of Town” was like Bruno Mars…

Niko: “Hurricane” I don’t think was a problem, because it’s still heavier than “Out of Town”, for example. “Out of Town” was also pretty easy. Each song comes together in their individual way. “Trigger” was hard. We wrote… there were four or five different versions at some point. The only thing that we were sure we wanted to keep was the guitar riff. It was something Joonas [Porko, guitar] had done ages ago, like 5 years ago when we started. He was like, “Boys, I’ve got this riff!” and we were like, “Shut up, we’re doing music.” [laughter] He always wanted to show us the riff, and then now after 5 years of him playing it to us, we were like, “Hey, that’s a good riff, man!” Then we wanted to build from it. The boys did the first version, I made a version, then we did many versions together, and then it combined. It was a hard one to get together.

It’s a great album starter to get the energy up and it’s heavy, not too poppy.
Niko: It’s also continuing from… we had the riff, and then we knew the song was going to be called “Trigger”, because it continues from the Revolutions album – “Bullet (With Your Name on It)” – and now we’re going in with “Trigger.” I already know what we’ll have for the third album.

I had just assumed that was a coincidence.
Niko: It’s not. I love ongoing themes in things. It almost makes you feel like we planned it all. [laughter]

You guys did the cover of “Can’t Hold Us” between albums, but it’s not on the album? Are there any other covers you’re working on? 
Joel: Why it didn’t come on the album… I’m not sure.

Niko: Covers are good if we want to do a Japanese release or a deluxe edition. We can add the covers or acoustic versions or stuff like that. We like doing covers. We like doing them our own way. It’s just fun and the time between two albums is so long, so it’s nice to give the fans something. “We’re coming up with original music, but in the meantime, hold on to this!”

Regarding singles and albums, do you think it’s possible that the music industry might evolve to a place where albums cease to exist, as albums were formed because you had physical space to fill and that is no longer the case. Do you think it could change, so that bands just release a song or two every month or two, as they write them? Or do you think albums are here to stay?
Joel: I think it’s going to be EPs in the future. I think there are not going to be as many albums as today. There’s going to be EPs with four to five songs. That’s the future.

Niko: Huge bands who have a great impact on the whole industry… like One Republic for example, a huge band, Ryan Tedder, very influential in the whole business, and he’s already decided that One Republic won’t do albums or EPs. It’s just singles. In Finland, I think JVG also said that they would only do singles. They made an album secretly, but that was also a statement to say that they can do whatever they want. There’s always a reaction and then counter-reaction. I think maybe what’s going to happen next – and I’m not sure, this is just what I think – but albums are going to be very rare for some time, but then someone will make an album and everyone will say albums are cool again.

What are your plans from here on out? You’re doing your Finnish shows soon, and then what’s coming after that?
Niko: We have the Finnish tour, and then we have the festivals. Then we’d really like to go on tour abroad and we’re constantly planning. When you want to do a good tour outside Finland, it takes a lot of time to plan. And we don’t want to do a good tour, we want to do a great tour outside Finland. So it takes a lot of time to plan.

Joel: And money.

Niko: A lot of time, a lot of money, and everything else. I think that’s what we want to do and that’s what we’re going to do. We’re not sure when, but as soon as possible hopefully.

Joel: Then we need to write new songs.

Niko: We’re always writing new songs, so that’s going on already.

My last question relates to that, a bit. What’s the next biggest goal you guys want to achieve?
Niko: The tour in Europe. Something like that. That would be the natural next step for us.

Joel: Some big tour outside Finland.

And which festivals will we be able to see you at this summer?
Joel: Rockharz Festival (Leipzig), Provinssi, QStock, Tuska Open Air, RockFest. There will be a couple more, but that’s pretty much the whole thing.

Well, thanks for taking the time to catch up with us!
Niko: See you again before the third album!

Photos: Jana Blomqvist

(2018) Psychework: Karelian Hills

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Artist: Psychework
Album: Karelian Hills
Release: 20.04.2018
Label: Ranka Kustannus

 

Psychework are perhaps best known as the comeback band of ex-Machine Men singer and guitarist, Antony Parviainen and J-V Hintikka. Their first album, The Dragon’s Year, was released in 2015 and was heavily influenced by Parviainen’s struggle with leukemia. The new album, the more locally-named Karelian Hills, is out on April 20th, 2018, and promises a new take on Psychework’s style.

I have a mixed history with Psychework. As someone who didn’t know Machine Men, Psychework wasn’t as immediately interesting to me as it was for the old fans. However, Parviainen is one of the few people in the world who I would be okay with singing a Bruce Dickinson song, and therefore, these guys deserve my respect. I think The Dragon’s Year perhaps didn’t get to me very well as I never read the lyrics and wasn’t able to see the story or connect with the album. As such, I hoped that this more historically-themed album might be a bit easier to ‘get.’

Check out the band and their newest singles here:

The album opens with some full-on high-energy orchestral string sounds that are quickly joined by the heavy necessities (guitar, bass, drums). It moves on to a slower groove with dotted piano notes here and there, and then Parviainen comes in. He starts out in a haunting lower register as the song moves into a short chorus. The lyrics already reflect the historical themes, and a child’s voice comes in talking about some dark subjects. Parviainen’s power in the word “mother” is gorgeous. Around the halfway point, the song takes a power metal turn before getting darker and… apprehensive, perhaps? It’s got a really nice dramatic arc and it’s a surprisingly strong opener considering it’s a bit short to be a proper epic, but long for a regular opener.

“Phantoms White” is an intriguing piece – lyrically it could potentially be talking about the Finnish snipers, all dressed in white in the winter. Again, the song has excellent dramatics – it gets chaotic and the drums sound like gunfire, and then an evil drunken carnival takes over? A seriously creepy choir comes in and… well, these songs certainly must be telling stories, to go to these strange places and return to normal like nothing happened. Lyrics are clearly in order for after the album comes out.

An eerie piano line opens up “Sky Keeps Raining”, which then turns into an almost Phantom of the Opera-y power piece. I think it’s safe to say that these guys have listened to their share of Nightwish as well. Meanwhile, “Fury and the Beast” has some rather pirate-y segments, followed by thunderous power metal drumming – it’s a fast-roaring song that I can only assume is about war/battles.

The title track, “Karelian Hills”, starts off slowly, feeling very much like a ballroom waltz or a ballet. And then suddenly… BLAM! Speedy metal music all up in your face. It slows down a bit halfway through to even out the pace before rising high and mellowing out yet again. Another slow piano intro opens “Fire Still Burns.” This feels like ballad territory and as far as ballads go, it’s very nice but not as epic or memorable as the other songs. It’s a really pretty piece – the piano and strings are great – but the overall feeling is perhaps a bit too cheesy (dancing near Manowar territory).

“Ghost Patrol” feels like an album climax, high-rising and dynamic. There’s a solo in there and maybe more than the others, this song actually feels like a straight-up rock track, and not so much full-on epic, which is good at this point. I wonder if this song is also about the 7th Panzer Division that Sabaton referred to in “Ghost Division”, or if this was something else.

The longest song is also the last, with “There Beyond” finishing things off. Clocking in at 10:11, it goes through a lot of phases, opening with haunting organs and angelic choral notes. It kicks off then into some solid power metal, soaring and very clearly telling a story both lyrically and musically. The first solo is pretty nice, not even halfway through the song, and then mellows out for a while. There are tons of dynamics and the song explores a lot of territory before the slow fade out.

 

The feeling I get from this music is very much akin to how I feel about Epica. When every song or nearly every song is turned up to 11, I have no time to rest, so to speak. So for people who like albums full of big, bombastic, dramatic songs, this will likely have a lot of appeal. Their music is extremely mature and is clearly influenced heavily by old symphonies – these guys know how to write music, that’s clear. It has a good vibe throughout that feels intensely of their theme, and the stranger the songs get, the more interesting their subject material feels. I feel as though if you were to be a fan of symphonies and heavy metal, this album would be perfect to your taste.

Rating: 8.5-9/10, 4.5 stars [I need more time to decide between the 8.5 and 9]

Tracklist:
1. Siege
2. Phantoms White
3. Sky Keeps Raining
4. Fury and the Beast
5. Karelian Hills
6. Fire Still Burns
7. Ghost Patrol
8. There Beyond

NE OBLIVISCARIS w/ VIRVUM & ALLEGAEON – Nosturi, Helsinki, 12.04.2018 (English)

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The Australian progressive sensation, Ne Obliviscaris, hopefully doesn’t need any introduction at this point in time. Their latest effort, Urn, released last fall, has gathered outstanding reviews from media and fans alike. Conquering the world is not financially easy if one is based in Australia, but the band has leveraged the subscription-based crowdfunding service, Patreon, to help in the task – one can support their touring for as little as dollar a month. The money has been put to good use, as Ne Obliviscaris embarked on a lengthy European tour this spring with the Colorado-based Allegaeon and Virvum from Switzerland. The Finnish leg of the tour took place in Nosturi in almost familiar fashion, as Ne Obliviscaris has received an almost ecstatic response.

Check out the gallery of Ne Obliviscaris and Allegaeon HERE.
Lue suomeksi TÄÄLLÄ.

The setlist for Ne Obliviscaris can be heard on Spotify here:

As the show happened on a Thursday, the showtimes were quite pleasant, with Virvum taking the stage at 19:30. The recent warm-up shows in Nosturi have seemed a bit quiet but as the Zurich-based five-piece began, the crowd seemed to be sized as if one was witnessing something way more well-known. Virvum’s modern death metal owes a great deal to their American brothers-in-arms, Fallujah, as their lengthy-ish and winding songs went between fast blast-beats and more mellow parts. Especially the tempo shift near the end of “Tentacles of the Sun” reminded me instantly of Fallujah’s “Sapphire.” The show didn’t go off without a hitch though, as there seemed to be something going on with their other guitarist’s gear during their first song; otherwise Virvum’s annoyingly short set went quite nicely. The audience was on point from the start, and band vocalist Bryan Berger thanked the first-rowers more than once. Despite a Swiss friend of mine recommending the band, I hadn’t checked them out before, but do yourself a favor and give their debut album, Illuminance, a spin – it works quite nicely!

 

Second up was Allegaeon from the US. While they’ve been active roughly as long as Virvum, they’ve been more productive recording-wise – after 2010 they’ve outed an album every 2 years. Compared to the other to bands of the evening, Allegaeon differed greatly in style, as their melodeath-ish stuff could easily be compared to bands like In Flames, while being more… well, American. The show was entertaining, though – the extroverted mentality of the New Continent downright emanated from vocalist Riley McShane, and everyone else strongly took contact with audience as well. Allegaeon’s songs had a lot going on on top of the mid-tempo steamroll action, and the weird Spanish-style rhythm section in the beginning of their second song was especially memorable. Unfortunately, I cannot delve into their set any further, as the band’s material wasn’t at all familiar, but I would’ve love to hear the band’s latest single… in the beginning of 2018, Allegaeon released a cover of “Animate” by Rush (the greatest band in the universe). Their set was pretty short, so I totally understand the situation. Maybe next time! Not unlike Virvum, Allegaeon was also visiting Finland the first time, and McShane spent almost all of his free time between songs thanking the audience. The house was practically full by the end of the show, so things were set perfectly for the main event!

 

I’ve been a fan of Ne Obliviscaris since their first album, Portal of I, and I think that the band puts out the most relevant stuff in today’s progressive metal. Clearly I wasn’t alone, as the band took the stage backed with massive cheering from the audience. I’ve seen all their previous Finnish shows, but from the first moments of the show-starter “Libera pt. I”, I couldn’t help but watch in awe of how surgically precise the band’s live act is these days. They utilizes two distinct vocalists to such great effect, as the contrast between Tim Charles and Xenoyr is huge – the former is every mother-in-law’s favorite son-in-law in his thick, bushy hair, while the latter looks and sounds like someone has dug him up from the nearby cemetery an hour before going on stage. Charles’ violin parts were perfect as well, and at times, he even sang at the same time.

The band’s set was inclined towards Urn’s material as, save the second part of “Libera”, the record was played in full. It was especially nice to hear the album’s most soothing track (if soothing is a term one can use in this context), “Eyrie”, as the band invited the violinist Natalija May to duet with Charles. The situation was special to the band as well, as May was set to return back to Australia the very next day. What I thought was the most surprising though, was placing “As Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscope” from Portal of I second, as the band has always played it last until now. I guess the situation is the same with Rush’s “Limelight”, as it works as nicely as the first, last, or whatever-th song. The band’s sophomore album, Citadel, was featured with “Triptych Lux”, the second part of “Painters of the Tempest”, as well as both parts of “Devour Me, Colossus”, which served as the encore. Ne Obliviscaris had their share of technical difficulties during the “Blackholes” part, as Xenoyr’s microphone died out, following with Benjamin Bater breaking a string from his guitar only moments later. I still doubt that the audience noticed a thing, because everyone was so into the last moments of the show.

 

Ne Obliviscaris and Helsinki seem to have a special relationship. Having played to such intense crowds two times before, Tim Charles posted on Facebook that the band was eagerly waiting to return to Nosturi already a few days before it happened, and the third time most certainly wasn’t cut short. The band was on fire – they’ve clearly integrated their new bassist, Martino Garattoni, incredibly well, as he had a couple of juicy solo spots during the show. Drummer Dan Presland was as insanely precise as ever, and he deserves a special mention for playing his bass drums with traditional single strikes instead of doubles or swivels. The audience seemed to know every song by heart, and for example joined the choir section of the first part of “Libera” spontaneously, surprising everyone on stage. Naturally, Ne Obliviscaris promised to return to Finland as soon as possible, and as always, we’ll be waiting. Once the band’s reputation widens a bit further, I’m afraid that Nosturi might not be big enough for them – an act like this will surely take them wherever they want to go.

Setlist:
1. Libera, pt. 1 – Saturnine Spheres
2. And Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscope
3. Intra Venus
4. Painters of the Tempest, pt. 2 – Triptych Lux
5. Eyrie
6. Urn, pt. 1 – And Within the Void We Are Breathless
7. Urn, pt. 2 – As Embers Dance in Our Eyes

Encore:
8. Devour Me, Colossus, pt. 1 – Blackholes
9. Devour Me, Colossus, pt. 2 – Contortions

Photos: Miia Collander

NE OBLIVISCARIS w/ VIRVUM & ALLEGAEON – Nosturi, Helsinki, 12.04.2018 (suomeksi)

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Australian progeihme Ne Obliviscaris ei toivottavasti enää tässä vaiheessa kaipaa liiemmin esittelyjä. Viime syksyllä julkaistu kolmoslevy Urn on kerännyt ylistäviä arvioita eri medioissa sekä fanien keskuudessa. Australiasta ei ole rahallisesti helppoa ponnistaa maailmalle, mutta bändi on valjastanut kuukausiveloitteisesti toimivan Patreon-joukkorahoituspalvelun käyttöönsä – jo dollarilla kuussa pääsee mukaan auttamaan kiertuekassan kasvattamisessa. Kertyneet rahat on selvästi laitettu hyötykäyttöön, sillä Ne Obliviscaris lähti tänä keväänä mittavalle Euroopan-kiertueelle yhdessä jenkkiläisen Allegaeonin sekä Sveitsistä ponnistavan Virvumin kanssa. Suomen-keikka soitettiin jo (voidaanko sanoa) tuttuun tapaan Helsingin Nosturissa, missä bändi on saanut jo kahdesti miltei hurmioituneen vastaanoton.

Kuvagalleria TÄÄLLÄ.
Read in English HERE.

Kuuntele Ne Obliviscarisin settilista Spotifysta tästä:

Koska tapahtuma ajoittui arkipäivälle, illan soittoajat oli pidetty ajan hengessä maltillisina, sillä Virvum nousi lavalle puoli kahdeksalta. Nosturissa on tuntunut viime aikoina olevan harmillisen hiljaista lämppärikeikoilla, mutta zürichiläisbändin aloittaessa paikalla oli porukkaa kuin jollain vähän isommankin nimen keikalla. Virvumin moderni death metal on paljosta velkaa amerikkalaiselle Fallujahille, sillä pitkähköissä ja maalailevissa kappaleissa vuorottelevat nopeammat blastbeatit ja rauhallisemmat tunnelmointikohdat, ja varsinkin “Tentacles of the Sunin” loppupuolen tempovaihdoksesta tuli elävästi mieleen nimenomaan Fallujahin “Sapphire”. Teknisiltä ongelmilta ei vältytty täysin, sillä toisen kitaran kanssa tuntui olevan jotain sanomista ensimmäisen kappaleen aikana, mutta muuten Virvumin jopa harmillisen lyhyt avausslotti soljui mukavasti eteenpäin. Yleisö oli alusta asti terävästi mukana, ja vokalisti Bryan Berger kiittelikin eturivin nyrkinheiluttelijoita useampaan otteeseen. Erään sveitsiläisen kaverin suositteluista huolimatta bändi on jäänyt aikaisemmin tyystin tarkistamatta, mutta älkää te tehkö samaa virhettä, vaan laittakaa debyyttilevy Illuminance soimaan – toimii nimittäin vähintäänkin kohtuullisesti.

 

Toisena oli vuorossa amerikkalainen Allegaeon. Virvumin kanssa suunnilleen samanpituisesta urastaan huolimatta bändi on ollut levytysrinnalla selkeästi tuotteliaampi: vuoden 2010 jälkeen levyjä on puskenut tasaisesti kahden vuoden välein. Tyylillisesti Allegaeon poikkesi illan kahdesta muusta bändistä merkittävästi, sillä bändin melodeathin sekaista räimettä voisi luontevimmin verrata vaikkapa In Flamesiin, ollen kuitenkin… no, amerikkalaisempaa. Keikka oli viihdyttävä: jenkkiläinen ulospäinsuuntautuneisuus huokui vokalisti Riley McShanen esiintymisestä miehen säntäillessä pitkin ja poikin lavaa, ja bändin soittajistokin otti voimakkaasti kontaktia yleisöön. Biiseissä tapahtui keskitempojuntan lisäksi paljon muutakin, ja erityisesti mieleen jäi kakkosbiisin alun jonkinlainen espanjalaisrytmiosio – tarkemmin en osaa settilistaa ruotia, sillä en ollut tutkinut Allegaeonin levyjä ennakkoon. Silti olisin osannut esittää toiveen, joka ei setin lyhyestä kestosta johtuen ymmärrettävistä syistä toteutunut: bändi julkaisi aivan alkuvuodesta coverin maailmankaikkeuden parhaan musiikkiyhtyeen, Rushin, “Animate”-kappaleesta, ja olisihan se ollut erittäin kova kuulla livenä. Virvumin tapaan myös Allegaeon oli ensimmäistä kertaa Suomessa, ja McShane käyttikin perijenkkiläiseen tapaan kaiken ylimääräisen ajan yleisön kiittelemiseen. Tupa oli valunut kuin varkain lähes täyteen Allegaeonin aikana – tästä oli hyvä jatkaa pääesiintyjään!

 

Olen ollut Ne Obliviscarisin fani bändin ensimmäisestä Portal of I -levystä (2012) lähtien, ja mielestäni bändi tekee ehdottomasti tämän hetken relevanteinta progressiivisempaa metallia. En selkeästi tuntunut olevan yksin mielipiteeni kanssa, sillä bändi kapusi lavalle sellaisen huutomeren saattelemana, ettei paremmasta väliä. Kaikki aiemmat kotimaan NeO-keikat nähneenä osasin jo odottaa millintarkkaa suoritusta, mutta aivan keikan avanneen “Libera pt. I”:n ensitahdeista lähtien oli pakko ihmetellä sitä, miten kovassa tikissä Ne Obliviscaris tätä nykyä on. Kahden vokalistin käyttö on vain perusteltua, sillä Tim Charlesin sekä Xenoyrin persoonat luovat hurjan kontrastin lavalla: ensimmäinen on tuuheassa hiuspehkossaan jokaisen anopin suosikkivävyn oloinen, kun jälkimmäinen taas näyttää siltä kuin mies olisi käyty kaivamassa ylös Hietaniemen hautuumaalta tunti ennen keikkaa. Charlesin viuluosuudetkin osuivat totutusti nappiin, välillä jopa samanaikaisesti lauluosuuksien kanssa.

Settilista painottui odotetusti Urnin materiaaliin, sillä levy soitettiin lopulta “Libera pt. II”:ta lukuunottamatta kokonaisuudessaan. Oli varsinkin hienoa kuulla levyn – jos tässä yhteydessä termiä voi käyttää – rauhallisin kappale “Eyrie”, jonka ajaksi lavalle saapui duetoimaan Charlesin kanssa levylläkin soittanut Natalija May. Tilanne taisi olla bändillekin erityinen, sillä Mayn piti kuulemma palata Australiaan heti seuraavana päivänä. Tietyllä tavalla yllättävin veto oli sijoittaa aiemmin keikan päättäjänä toiminut Portal of I:n “And Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscope” heti toiseksi, mutta voihan toisaalta Rushkin vetää “Limelightin” ensimmäisenä, viimeisenä tai missä muussa välissä tahansa. Kakkoslevy Citadelilta (2014) soitettiin “Painters of the Tempest” -teoksen toinen osa “Triptych Lux” sekä encorena “Devour Me, Colossusin” molemmat osiot. “Blackholes”-osion aikana myös Ne Obliviscaris sai osansa tekniikkaongelmista, sillä Xenoyrin mikrofoni mykistyi puolivälin tienoilla, ja heti tämän jälkeen soolokitaristi Benjamin Baretilta katkesi kieli. Yleisö oli kuitenkin niin täysillä mukana, etten usko tilanteen haitanneen juuri ketään.

 

Helsingillä ja Ne Obliviscarisilla tuntuu olevan täysin erityinen suhde. Tim Charles ehti jo paria päivää ennen keikkaa postata Facebookiin odottavansa nimenomaan Helsingin-vetoa innolla, sillä Nosturissa on ollut aivan älytön meno kahdella viime kerralla, eikä kolmaskaan kerta todellakaan jäänyt vajaaksi. Bändi oli tulessa: vasta alkuvuodesta vakinaistettu basisti Martino Garattoni on selkeästi ajettu bändiin sisään, ja pääsipä mies soittamaan bassosoolon heti ensimmäisen kappaleen alkuun. Rumpali Dan Preslandin rumputuli oli tappavan tasaista, ja erityismaininta tulee miehen tyylistä polkea basarikomppinsa perinteisillä sinkkuiskuilla. Yleisö tunsi kaikki kappaleet ulkoa ja esimerkiksi yhtyi omatoimisesti mukaan “Liberan” kuoro-osioon, mikä tuntui yllättävän kaikki lavalla. Bändi luonnollisesti lupasi palata mahdollisimman pian takaisin, ja kuten aina, jäämme odottamaan innolla. Kunhan maine vielä ehtii hetkisen kiiriä, veikkaan että Nosturi uhkaa jäädä Ne Obliviscarisille pieneksi – tällaisella esityksellä mennään vielä pitkälle.

Settilista:
1. Libera, pt. 1 – Saturnine Spheres
2. And Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscope
3. Intra Venus
4. Painters of the Tempest, pt. 2 – Triptych Lux
5. Eyrie
6. Urn, pt. 1 – And Within the Void We Are Breathless
7. Urn, pt. 2 – As Embers Dance in Our Eyes

Encore:
8. Devour Me, Colossus, pt. 1 – Blackholes
9. Devour Me, Colossus, pt. 2 – Contortions

Kuvat: Miia Collander

NE OBLIVISCARIS w/ ALLEGAEON @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 12.04.2018

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Ne Obliviscaris with Allegaeon at Nosturi, 2018.
Read the gig report in English HERE.
Lue keikasta suomeksi TÄÄLLÄ.
Photos by Miia Collander.

(2018) Blind Channel: Blood Brothers

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Artist: Blind Channel
Album: Blood Brothers
Release: 20.04.2018
Label: Ranka Kustannus

 

Blind Channel is a young band from Oulu who swiftly and surely knocked us off our feet with their unique blend of musical styles, as well as their energetic performances. Their debut album, Revolutions, was given a full score by myself upon its release in October 2016, and its follow-up has been impatiently anticipated by many of us.

I’m a big fan of Blind Channel myself. Personally, I think they have a way of blending genres that few new bands have managed to top yet. If you had asked me 3 years ago if you could get away with combining hip-hop, electronica/pop, and metal, I’d have said that it’d be nigh on impossible to do. Yet Blind Channel does this with apparent ease, resulting in one of the most unique sounds that the modern pop/metal genres offer. Naturally, I had high hopes for their sophomore album, yet… I was a bit apprehensive, as I wasn’t completely on board with all of the singles that were released over the past year or so.

 

In case you were worried, as I was, that the band might be heading in a poppier direction after hearing the new singles between albums, ”Trigger” will make you feel better immediately. The intro has a bit of a dark western vibe and then it kicks off immediately. I still adore their sound, like a heavier and better Linkin Park, but with all the hooks that make pop music stick in your mind. As well, there’s even a decent little solo in there and the main riff is pretty catchy. It’s a great first track and things are already off to a good start.

I wasn’t really into “Sharks Love Blood” when it was first released, and I mean that in the sense that it’s still more listenable than most modern pop music, but it pandered a bit too much to basic pop music tropes for my taste. Also, frankly, the whole “I love you hard like sharks love blood” metaphor doesn’t quite work for me (sharks love meat if they love anything; they’re drawn or attracted to blood). Also, “I love you hard” isn’t very good English and comes across as a child-like phrase to a native ear, which I’m sure they didn’t intend. However, in the context of the album, it’s not in too bad a place musically. It’s been growing on me a bit since I’ve been listening to the album as a whole, and it’s one hell of an earworm. I also can’t deny that it’s catchy as hell, but I think it’s a better song for people maybe half my age.

Of all the newly released singles, “Wolfpack” was the first to really catch me properly and immediately, the way the songs on Revolutions did. It has a lot more spirit than some of the other singles, and I do like the lyrics and message: “The lone wolf dies but the pack survives…” It’s a nice song about loyalty and friendship (though it does get a little hardcore with that “if you lay a finger on my friend / I’ll make your death look like an accident” stuff – dang, guys). It’s got really nice electronic elements and that beautiful energy that I love in Blind Channel.

You get your first big taste of Niko “Nc Enroe” Moilanen rapping is in “Elephant in the Room” – or is it his younger brother, Joona “Spaz Caroon” Moilanen, who is guesting on this track? This song reminds me solidly of the style and energy of songs like “Bombtrack” by Rage Against the Machine, with added rapping and modern elements. One of the biggest surprises musically is the most recent single, “Out of Town”, which I’m looking for words to describe. It’s got bits of disco and really creative pop sounds. It’s sound reminds me of night in a city, in a sort of mystical way. It’s very hard to describe, but it’s a playful track and one of the most unique songs on the album.

“My Heart is a Hurricane” opens with some faint music that feels rather country music -influenced. Never fear though, this song is more reminiscent of a heavier 30 Seconds to Mars than it is to anything else, and Nc Enroe gets to show off his stuff in here as well. The use of what I’ll refer to as ‘youth choirs’ in the background of some of these songs (“Sharks Love Blood” is another) has been pretty tasteful as well. They never go into the full-on ‘we understand you, young people,’ like “Youth of the Nation” by PoD, which I’ll say is a good thing.

A slow rise to a great, chill rhythm builds up in “Giants”, and I also appreciate that the beat in the chorus is like a slow march, which feels a bit like a giant’s footfall – thematically appropriate. The changes in both speed and dynamic are excellently executed and I’ve already got this on my list of songs I’m hoping make it to their live set.

“Like a Brother” is heavy on the modern rap and hip-hop influence at the beginning, as it has a certain familiar rhythm, and also Nc Enroe is making heavy use of autotune in the verses. Sadly,  I can’t say I’m a fan of that particular style, and it makes his singing sound slurred and drunken; however, if intentional autotune use doesn’t bother you, this song is otherwise pretty cool. And the heavy parts definitely make up for it on the whole. As well, lyrically it seems to tell another story about friendship and betrayal, tying in nicely with what appears to be a bit of a recurring theme (at least relating to the album name).

I did like “Alone Against All” when it was released, though it didn’t immediately ensnare me, and it has grown on me with time. It’s one of the few new songs that I’ve seen them perform already, which definitely helped my opinion of it. The addition of the logo flag on stage was a nice touch. This song was clearly written to be a live song, as the “ohh-ohh” parts are perfect for live singalongs. I can imagine what that could be like in a stadium someday, if all goes well for these guys.

“Scream” is a pretty laid-back, emotional-sounding piece, which also has a bit of a 30StM vibe, and is a clear nod to the late Chester Bennington. It’s another nice change-up in sound, perhaps closest to “Out of Town.” It almost feels like a chill R&B or hip-hop album closer; however, it is followed by one more song, “IDFU.” Frankly, I’d have preferred if this song had been left off the album entirely, but at a mere 35 minute run time, the album is already very short. I appreciate that they tried to end the album with a faster, more upbeat track (always leave your audience wanting more, I always say), but this song feels like filler, and lyrically – while I appreciate the anti-bullying message, the song is perhaps the most generic-sounding on the album and really doesn’t add anything to the mix that wasn’t done better on another track. It does have a good groove and Nc Enroe and Joel Hokka work nicely together; however, “IDFU” is meant to stand for “I do not fear you” and as such, I feel like it should be “IDNFU” because otherwise it feels like it’s standing for “I do fear you,” which is clearly not what it’s trying to say.

 

So did this album live up to its predecessor? At this critical moment in a band’s evolution and progress, I am pleased to report that, yes, these guys did very well for themselves. Even the songs that I wasn’t sold on when they were released on their own have found their place on this album, and the whole things works really well, with a few minor hitches here and there. While the album as a whole isn’t quite as remarkable as their debut, it does feel like a pretty mature step forward and I would think that those who liked their first album won’t be let down by its follow-up.

Rating: 9/10, 4.5

Tracklist:
1. Trigger
2. Sharks Love Blood
3. Wolfpack
4. Elephant in the Room
5. Out of Town
6. My Heart is a Hurricane
7. Giants
8. Like a Brother
9. Alone Against All
10. Scream
11. I.D.F.U.

MUSTASCH – Stam Johansson, 2018

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With their most recent studio album out as of April 6th, 2018, Swedish heavy metal giants Mustasch and on the prowl once more. After the release of two music video singles already, the new album had been shaping up to be an interesting inclusion in the band’s discography, so we sent some questions over to Stam Johansson (bass) to learn a bit more about the new material.

 

You guys are about to release your 9th studio album, and if you were formed in 1998, that means that this is also your 20th anniversary as a band – how does it all feel?
Yes, in late December. Except for a little fatigue after the touring, it feels great. We could easily go on for 20 more years.

How has the industry changed for you guys after all these years?
The digital deliverance of the music has taken over since we began, and at that time Napster was just in the beginning of the new format. And of course, social media has taken over the traditional websites. Not all for the best, I’d say. People doesn’t look for vital info through websites like they used to, but instead they rely on info from social media.

Tell us a bit about Silent Killer – the press release says you were getting back to your roots a bit. How will this album compare to the previous releases?
I don’t know about that, but on this album, David has written like 80% of the music and rest by Ralf and Niclas Engelin [In Flames]. That is the main difference.

What has the response to “Lawbreaker” and “Fire” been like so far?
Live: Excellent! Spotify: I wouldn’t know.

How did you decide to work with Hank von Helvete?
I think it was Sony Music’s idea, and we thought it was a great idea. So he came to Stockholm to record the vocals, and then we went to Oslo to record the video. He has also performed the song live with us in Oslo and Karlstad on this tour.

I liked the simplicity of the music video for “Lawbreaker” a lot – where was it filmed? Who came up with the concept for the style of the video, with Ralf (and later the others) simply facing the camera and walking toward it?
It was filmed in Stockholm in a pedestrian tunnel. It was Ted Lindén from Bullsize who came up with the idea – same brilliant guy who made “Fire”, “Winners”, and also “Liberta” [released April 6th].

In the music video for “Fire”, Hank almost feels at times like a shoulder devil, encouraging Ralf to do his thing. Did you have the same idea, or did Hank represent something else when the video was being made?
No, that was once again Ted Lindén.

Both of the singles seem to be encouraging people to, for better or worse, be true to themselves and be who they are. Is that a coincidence, or is that a theme on this album in any way?
That is very much the theme, at least on a number of the tracks. Otherwise, Ralf’s general way of writing lyrics is the positive ones are about him and the negative about us band members.

Are there any songs in particular on Silent Killer that are personally very important to you at this point in time? Any songs very dear to your heart for any reason?
Personally I like “Winners” because it is a pretty different Mustasch song. I also like “Fire” a lot since it changed so much from the demo compared to the studio.

After 20 years in the business, what’s next for you guys? Are there any dreams or goals you’re still chasing?
Next? Touring, new music, touring, and so forth. We are already living our dream, so we now we just have to live it better and better.

Great, well best of luck with the release, and thanks for your time!
No worries, mate! Cheers!

MACHINAE SUPREMACY – Gong, Turku, 30.03.2018

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Swedish/Finnish SID-metal kings, Machinae Supremacy, had done a small Finnish tour in 2017, but didn’t hit every city they wanted to. As such, 2018 meant another Winland Tour for these guys, bringing them to a few cities they had missed on the last tour and culminating in the Saarihelvetti Easter Bash in Tampere on April 1st, 2018. Since Helsinki was not on the menu this time around, we opted to head over to Turku to check out the show at Gong.

Jyväskylä’s show at Lutakko on the 31st had an extra song in the set, so this Spotify setlist is to that gig:

As someone who doesn’t skip MaSu gigs, the lack of a Helsinki show provided an interesting opportunity to me, as it meant that I got to pick a different city to visit. We opted this time around for Turku, as I’d never been there before in my long 9 years in Finland.

We arrived approximately 10 minutes before showtime, giving me time to check out the venue. Gong is a nice little place, a bit like a smaller Tavastia, with a small riser with tables on the right side and a bar in the back. There’s a big gate separating the stage from the hall that leads to the toilets, and I considered myself lucky that I could get right up front to see the band with nothing but the gate between myself and the stage, as the place was pretty full. However, the locals clearly knew something I didn’t, as when the intro tape playing “I Wasn’t Made for the World I Left Behind” ended and the band came out to start things off with “Versus”, the sound quality was so awful that I had to abandon my spot immediately so I could hear more than just the drums.

The band was immediately looking happy to be there and was greeted with big cheers and a ton of singing along. They followed “Versus” with “All of My Angels”, and then treated the oldschool fans to “Winterstorm”, one of the classic SID-heavy tracks. They only played one track off the latest release, 2016’s Into the Night World, which was the eponymous title song. I wondered a bit at why they chose that one, which has some nasty high notes, as opposed to what I believe to be the generally more popular “Twe27ySeven”, but perhaps it’s because Ingeborg Ekeland is not present to sing her parts. Rob Stjärnström [vocals], however, avoided the high note risk by playing around with the vocal lines, allowing for a unique live sound.

The band themselves were looking pleased to be back on stage. These guys have easy chemistry – Nicky Karvonen [drums] and Andreas Gerdin [bass] keep the beat steady with ease and flair, and Tomi Luoma and Jonas Rörling [guitar] just shred away, all smiles and energy. And of course, Stjärnström has his own presence that’s always been unique and fun to my eyes, making these guys a constant pleasure just to watch perform.

“Force Feedback”, as always, got a big response from the crowd, who threw their fists up and/or clapped along; it was also the moment the sound quality balanced out completely, and remained good for the rest of the night. “Less talk, more rock”, Stjärnström said after this. He kept the speeches to a minimum throughout the night, and they moved to 2014’s Phantom Shadow with “The Villain of this Story.”

“I have a confession to make,” Stjärnström said when the track ended. “We are huge Britney Spears fans.” This could only mean one thing, and I was really excited, because their version of “Gimme More” is one of my all-time favorite heavy pop covers. I wasn’t alone, as the entire venue seemed to be jumping and bouncing with their fists up to this track. This was followed by another personal favorite, “Renegades”, which transitioned directly into “Nova Prospekt” without any break in between. I love that “Renegades” has managed to stay on the setlist, as there are so many great live tracks on Phantom Shadow, but “Renegades” in particular works well as a halfway point song, to give a bit of respite to the crowd. It has such a great marching beat, but you’re not necessarily going to jump up and down to it, so it’s in the perfect place on the set.

“Laser Speed Force” followed “Nova Prospekt”, and it is definitely one of their best high-energy rock-out live songs that people are more than willing to go crazy to. It’s also one of the few songs where Rörling gets a chance to sing. “Edge and Pearl” began to wind things down; that’s one of their most unique and incredible songs, and isn’t a live staple, so it was great to get to hear it again after a bit of a break. They closed out the main set with “Rise of a Digital Nation” and left the stage.

The encore opened with “Rocket Dragon” and then the classic “Republic of Gamers”, dedicated, as always, to anyone who likes video games. They closed out the set after thanking everyone for the night with their de facto closer, “Through the Looking Glass”, and then promised to come talk to the crowd after the show.

MaSu is a band that people clearly travel for. It’s become pretty normal for me to see people that are always at the Helsinki shows also in other cities (usually if I go twice, I stick with Tampere, but I wanted to try something new this time). That said, we actually made a snap decision to go to the Jyväskylä show as well on the 31st, and even though the venue was nicer and the band was still on point, I was very disappointed in the crowd there, who seemed considerably less willing to move than Turku had. Sure, they responded when the band asked it of them, but any constant dancing or headbanging was limited to a handful of people scattered around the venue. The band did, however, play an extra song in the encore, “Hubnester Rising”, that they had played in Oulu but not in Turku, so it was a nice bonus to get the extra song. I see where the band wars on this – as an album closer, “Hubnester Rising” is an amazing song. The dramatic arc is outstanding and the story is devastating. However, as a gig closer, it ends things on a bit of a gloomy note. It was nice then that they still included “Through the Looking Glass” afterwards, as they had not played it in Oulu.

 

I hope MaSu keeps up the trend of coming to Finland every year. These guys never disappoint live, and they’re one of the most connected bands to their fans that I know of, always coming out to take photos and give autographs afterwards. I also appreciated that they changed up the usual live set a bit on this occasion, leaving out some traditional favorites like “Indiscriminate Murder is Counterproductive” and including some weird but great choices like “Gimme More.” So, it seems nothing has changed (in a good way) – MaSu remains one of my favorite live bands. I eagerly await the next tour.

Setlist:
Intro: I Wasn’t Made for the World I Left Behind
1. Versus
2. All of My Angels
3. Winterstorm
4. Into the Night World
5. Force Feedback
6. The Villain of this Story
7. Gimme More (Britney Spears cover)
8. Renegades
9. Nova Prospekt
10. Laser Speed Force
11. Edge and Pearl
12. Rise of a Digital Nation

Encore:
13. Rocket Dragon
14. Republic of Gamers
15. Hubnester Rising [Lutakko bonus track, 31.03.2018]
16. Through the Looking Glass

CMX – Rytmikorjaamo, Seinäjoki, 30.03.2018 (English)

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Hailing from Tornio, CMX have reached the 16th album in their career already. After the release of Alkuteos in February, the band set out on the Kolmen vuosikymmenen lauluja (Songs from Three Decades) Tour. At the first two shows, they also performed synth versions of their songs under the name elektroCMX, just like last year at the Helsinki Festival. Musicalypse ended up reporting from a regular gig at Rytmikorjaamo, Seinäjoki, on March 30th, but the date would turn out to be significant in its own way.

Listen to CMX’s official playlist of the songs played on the tour on Spotify here (Note: does not include “Götterdämmerung”, which is missing from Spotify):

Alkuteos is a refreshing release in CMX’s discography, although it hasn’t remained in my player for too long as of yet. The band didn’t break away from rock as I suggested in my Helsinki Festival report, but the influence of the electronic set can be heard in the music. Sure, they’ve had keyboards on their albums before, but on the new one there’s even a hint of 80s in them, which isn’t something that has been heard a lot from CMX before. The album is proggy yet easy to digest, and therefore I was curious to hear the material live.

The gig began with an electronic intro, after which the opening track “Elementa” from the new album naturally got the show properly started. The band was in good form right from the start, but the audience seemed rather stiff – was this caused by the new and unfamiliar song, the lack of a support band, or the over-2-hour-long wait from the opening of the doors? Anyway, the mood changed in the blink of an eye when “Linnunhammas” kicked in, as the crowd woke up from its slumber and you could see movement among the people. The performance also showed how well the material from the poorly produced Rautakantele (1995) translates live – it’s a crying shame that the album hasn’t been given the remix treatment that Aurinko (1992) and Aura (1994) received.

A.W. Yrjänä greeted the crowd, marveling at how many people there were, and noted that it was CMX’s 33th birthday, as the band was formed in 1985 on Good Friday. The anniversary date was therefore ideal for the theme of the tour, as the band had promised beforehand that songs from each full-length album would be played. This didn’t exactly happen though, as Iäti (2010) was neglected completely, but despite this, CMX’s set was a good cross-section of their whole catalog. The wonderful “Taivaan lapset” was an excellent choice to play in Ostrobothnia due to its lyrics, which mention expanses, whereas “Meidän syntimme” represented “Easter music” in Yrjänä’s words and indeed brought a magically pious atmosphere of its own into the venue. Hits like “Kultanaamio” and “Ainomieli” encouraged people to sing along, but there was also room for not-so-obvious tunes such as “Isohaara” and “Fysiikka ei kestä”, so this was by no means an unsurprising series of hits.

The serenity of “Siivekäs” and “Puuvertaus” received counterparts in the onslaught of “Punainen komentaja” and “Pedot”, and even fans of hardcore were served a treat in the form of “Götterdämmerung.” From the perspective of someone not too familiar with early CMX, surprising highlights included the slow version of “Katariinanpyörä” and “Kätketty kukka”, in whose solo Janne Halmkrona incorporated a snippet of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, which came out in the same year back in the day. As an interesting fact about the latter tune, Yrjänä mentioned that it was most likely premiered in Seinäjoki at Provinssirock in 1991. Finally, the rumble of “Discoinferno” brought the show to a worthy end, and one could exit Rytmikorjaamo feeling content.

The band was in good shape and handled the progginess of “Konx om pax” and “Seitsentahokas” in the middle of the set with grace, but there was still a certain feeling of danger and spontaneity in the air, as Yrjänä’s slightly fumbling singing on “Laavaa” showed. Halmkrona, on the other hand, messed up on last year’s radio hit “Katso ihmistä”, after which he appealed to the audience, “Can we collectively agree that that song sucks so that I won’t have to learn it?” The light show worked finely, especially during the synth-driven single “Puolikas hyvää”, and the lights on “Discoinferno” were indeed like straight out of a hellish disco. I have to criticize the sound of the show though – the rumble of the bass drum was unnecessarily loud and turned the ending of “Pedot” and “Götterdämmerung” into a hot mess. Yrjänä’s iconic bass riff on “Kultanaamio” could barely be heard, and the vocals were likewise buried by the instruments at times. On top of it all, the air conditioning at Rytmikorjaamo, which even Ville Valo poked fun at a while ago, was again virtually nonexistent, and stepping into the crowd was like entering a badly heated sauna – what a way to get people to buy more drinks…

 

I had assumed the biggest CMX craze would be limited to the big university cities, but the atmosphere at the band’s 33th anniversary evening in Seinäjoki was superb and showed me that even in Ostrobothnia there are passionate listeners, even though the vibe was not as ecstatic as last year at the special Talvikuningas (2007) show. Despite the band’s long age, you can’t sense any sign of weariness or contrived toil in CMX’s performances, probably thanks to the band’s relaxed touring schedule and the changing tour themes and sets. The band’s playing was tight, but not workmanlike, and even though the same setlist had been played at other shows, the performance didn’t feel scripted or stiff. I would’ve gladly heard more new material than just three picks (which worked nicely live), but on the other hand, this gives a good reason to see the band in the future as well – perhaps “Verenpuna” and “Alkemisti” will be premiered on the third rarity tour?

Setlist:
1. Elementa
2. Linnunhammas
3. Isohaara
4. Laavaa
5. Meidän syntimme
6. Taivaan lapset
7. Siivekäs
8. Punainen komentaja
9. Konx om pax
10. Katariinanpyörä
11. Seitsentahokas
12. Katso ihmistä
13. Fysiikka ei kestä
14. Pedot
15. Puuvertaus
16. Kultanaamio
17. Puolikas hyvää
18. Kätketty kukka
19. Ainomieli

Encore:
20. Götterdämmerung
21. Discoinferno

CMX – Rytmikorjaamo, Seinäjoki, 30.03.2018 (suomeksi)

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Torniolaislähtöinen CMX on edennyt urallaan jo 16. albumiinsa. Helmikuun alussa ilmestyneen Alkuteoksen myötä bändi lähti Kolmen vuosikymmenen lauluja -otsikon alla kulkevalle kiertueelle, jonka kahdella ensimmäisellä keikalla se esitti myös elektroCMX-nimellä syntikkaversioita kappaleistaan kuten viime vuonna Helsingin Juhlaviikoilla. Musicalypse päätyi raportoimaan karvalakkimallisesta esityksestä Seinäjoen Rytmikorjaamolla 30. maaliskuuta, mutta päivämäärä osoittautui myöhemmin omalla tavallaan merkittäväksi.

Kuuntele CMX:n virallinen soittolista kiertueen kappaleista Spotifysta tästä (Huom! Ei sisällä “Götterdämmerungia”, jota ei löydy Spotifysta):

Alkuteos on aiempaa isompaa roolia ottaneine syntikoineen piristävä tapaus CMX:n tuotannossa, vaikkei albumi ole pyörinyt soittimessani järin pitkään vielä. Bändi ei tehnyt totaalista irtiottoa rockista kuten raportissani Juhlaviikoilta ehdotin, mutta elektronisen setin vaikutus kuuluu kuitenkin musiikissa. Toki bändin levyillä on aiemminkin kuultu kosketinsoittimia, mutta uutukaisella niistä välittyy jopa hieman 80-lukulaisia sävyjä, joita ei aiemmin ole CMX:n musiikissa vahvasti kuulunut. Levy on kokonaisuutena progeileva, mutta silti kivuttomasti aukeava, ja niinpä odotin mielenkiinnolla materiaalin kuulemista livenä.

Keikka alkoi elektronisella introlla, jonka jälkeen päästiin luonnollisesti tuoreen levyn “Elementa”-avausbiisin pariin. Bändi oli alusta lähtien hyvässä iskussa, mutta yleisö vaikutti melko jähmeältä – liekö syynä ollut uusi ja outo kappale, lämmittelybändin puute vai yli kaksi tuntia ovien avautumisesta kestänyt odotus? Tunnelma muuttui kuitenkin silmänräpäyksessä “Linnunhampaan” pärähtäessä soimaan, sillä väki heräsi horroksesta ja yleisössä alkoi näkyä liikettä. Esitys osoitti myös, kuinka hyvin kehnosoundisen Rautakanteleen (1995) materiaali pääsee oikeuksiinsa livenä – onkin huutava vääryys, ettei kyseistä levyä ole miksattu uusiksi Auringon (1992) ja Auran (1994) tapaan.

A.W. Yrjänä tervehti yleisöä hämmästellen, miten paikalla oli “väkeä kuin pipoa” sekä huomautti kyseessä olevan CMX:n 33-vuotispäivä, sillä bändi perustettiin vuonna 1985 pitkänäperjantaina. Juhlallinen päivämäärä oli siis oivallinen kiertueen teeman kannalta, sillä etukäteen oli luvattu, että biisejä kuultaisiin jokaiselta pitkäsoitolta. Näin ei kuitenkaan ihan tapahtunut, sillä Iäti (2010) oli kokonaan paitsiossa, mutta tästä huolimatta CMX:n setti oli hyvä läpileikkaus sen koko tuotannosta. Upeasti soinut “Taivaan lapset” oli oiva valinta soitettavaksi Pohjanmaalla tekstinsä vuoksi (“lakeudella lieto tuuli”), kun taas “Meidän syntimme” edusti Yrjänän mukaan “pääsiäismusaa” ja toikin mukanaan omanlaistaan maagisen harrasta tunnelmaa.”Kultanaamion” ja “Ainomielen” kaltaiset hitit innostivat yhteislauluun, mutta mukaan mahtui myös ei-niin-ilmeisiä ralleja kuten “Isohaara” ja “Fysiikka ei kestä”, joten mistään yllätyksettömästä hittikimarasta ei ollut kyse.

“Siivekkään” ja “Puuvertauksen” seesteisyydelle toi vastapainoa “Punaisen komentajan” ja “Petojen” vyörytys, ja tarjottiinpa hardcore-harrastajillekin herkkua “Götterdämmerungin” muodossa. CMX:n varhaistuotantoon vihkiytymättömän näkökulmasta yllättäviä kohokohtia olivat “Katariinanpyörän” hidas versio ja “Kätketty kukka”, jonka sooloon Janne Halmkrona ujutti pätkän aikanaan samana vuonna julkaistua Nirvanan “Smells Like Teen Spiritiä”. Jälkimmäisestä Yrjänä mainitsi mielenkiintoisena faktana sen, että kappaleen ensiesitys tapahtui todennäköisesti Seinäjoella kesän 1991 Provinssirockissa. “Discoinfernon” jytinä toi lopulta keikan arvoiseensa päätökseen, ja Rytmikorjaamolta sai poistua hyvin mielin.

Bändi oli hyvässä tikissä ja hoiti suvereenisti myös setin puolivälissä kuultujen “Konx om paxin” ja “Seitsentahokkaan” progeilut, mutta ilmassa oli silti tietynlainen vaaran ja spontaaniuden tunne, kuten Yrjänän hieman haparoiva tulkinta “Laavaa”-biisissä osoitti. Halmkrona puolestaan mokaili viimevuotisessa radiohitissä “Katso ihmistä”, jonka jälkeen hän vetosikin yleisöön: “Voidaanko kollektiivisesti sopia, että tuo biisi on paska, ettei mun tarvitse opetella soittamaan sitä?” Valoshow toimi hienosti, varsinkin syntikkavoittoisen “Puolikas hyvää” -singlen aikana, ja “Discoinfernon” valot olivatkin kuin suoraan helvetillisestä diskosta. Moitteita täytyy kuitenkin antaa keikan soundeista: bassorummun jytinä oli tolkuttoman kovalla ja teki “Petojen” lopusta ja “Götterdämmerungista” melkoista puuroa. Tämän lisäksi Yrjänän ikonisesta bassoriffistä “Kultanaamiossa” ei saanut selvää, ja laulu niin ikään hautautui välillä instrumenttien alle. Kaiken kukkuraksi Rytmikorjaamon ilmanvaihto, josta Ville Valokin kuittaili taannoin, oli jälleen olematon, ja yleisön sekaan siirtyessäni tuntui kuin olisin astunut huonosti lämmitettyyn saunaan – onpahan tämäkin keino saada ihmiset ostamaan lisää juotavaa…

 

Olin olettanut kiihkeimmän CMX-huuman rajoittuvan isoihin yliopistokaupunkeihin, mutta bändin 33-vuotisjuhlaillan tunnelma Seinäjoella oli mainio ja osoitti minulle, että myös lakeuksilta löytyy bändin intohimoisia kuulijoita, vaikkei viimevuotisen Talvikuningas-erikoisvedon kaltaiseen hurmokseen ihan päästykään. CMX:n esiintymisistä ei bändin pitkästä iästä huolimatta ole aistittavissa leipääntymisen tai väkinäisen puurtamisen merkkejä, luultavasti bändin hillityn keikkatahdin sekä vaihtelevien kiertueteemojen ja -settien ansiosta. Bändin soitto oli tiukkaa, muttei insinöörimäistä, ja vaikka kiertueen settilista oli sama muillakin keikoilla, esitys ei tuntunut käsikirjoitetulta tai jäykältä. Uutta materiaalia olisin mielelläni kuullut enemmänkin kuin kolmen (hyvin livenä toimineen) poiminnan verran, mutta toisaalta tässä piilee hyvä syy käydä katsomassa bändiä jatkossakin – kenties “Verenpuna” ja “Alkemisti” saavat ensisoittonsa kolmannella harvinaisuuskiertueella?

Settilista:
1. Elementa
2. Linnunhammas
3. Isohaara
4. Laavaa
5. Meidän syntimme
6. Taivaan lapset
7. Siivekäs
8. Punainen komentaja
9. Konx om pax
10. Katariinanpyörä
11. Seitsentahokas
12. Katso ihmistä
13. Fysiikka ei kestä
14. Pedot
15. Puuvertaus
16. Kultanaamio
17. Puolikas hyvää
18. Kätketty kukka
19. Ainomieli

Encore:
20. Götterdämmerung
21. Discoinferno

TURBOWOLF w/ PUPPY & STAY NOWHERE @ Pralnia, Wrocław, 30.03.2018

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Turbowolf with Puppy and Stay Nowhere at Pralnia, 2018.
Photos by Maria Sawicka.

SATYRICON w/ SUICIDAL ANGELS – Tavastia, Helsinki, 29.03.2018

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Satyricon with Suicidal Angels at Tavastia, Helsinki, 2018.
Photos by Marco Manzi.

CARPENTER BRUT w/ YOUTH CODE – The Circus, Helsinki, 28.03.2018

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Carpenter Brut with Youth Code at The Circus, Helsinki, 2018.
Photos by Marco Manzi.

(2018) Alghazanth: Eight Coffin Nails

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Artist: Alghazanth
Album: Eight Coffin Nails
Release: 31.03.2018
Label: Woodcut Records

 

After a 22-year journey, Alghazanth are releasing their funeral album, Eight Coffin Nails. Being (well, claiming to be) a black metal aficionado, it just seemed right for me to tackle their swan song of a record. Unfamiliar with their previous works, I couldn’t tell anyone how their last nail in the coffin holds up to the former seven, so I’m diving into this casket completely blind; all that matters is a quality sepulcher after all, to rest your weary bones for the rest of eternity.

The first track of the album, “Self-exiled”, starts off without any bells and whistles, but rather with a quick drum intro and a scream into a quieter ‘traditional’ intro sequence. After the introductions have been made, it’s headfirst into melodic black metal. “Self-exiled” comes alive during the last 2 minutes, when it ventures into more emotionally charged territory and makes good use of the ambiance given by the keyboards and guitars, elevating that part of the song above the others.

Sadly this trend does not continue for a whole lot of the album. To my ear, a lot of it is generic melodic black metal through and through, occasionally livened up by a good section of keyboards or a pleasant riff. The singing – while competent and par-the-course for the genre – is hopelessly uninspired, but does the job as well as can be expected, which kind of ties into my problems with the ‘standard’ black metal format nowadays.

The fifth and eighth songs, “At Their Table” and “Pohjoinen” respectively, are the odd ducks of the record. “ATT” for trying to differentiate itself from the other songs by being compositionally different, and “Pohjoinen” for being an instrumental track that gives a brief and welcome respite from the relentless assault of the seven songs beforehand.

“To Flames the Flesh” (last song of the album) is probably the best song of them all, where you can actually hear a graduated sound from generic black metal angst into focused black metal angst, which managed to evoke the feeling of listening to a work of art. The latter half of the song skillfully puts together wistful keyboards and melancholic guitars to bring forth a sad passage, indeed a requiem for the band itself, as the last 2 minutes kick the gloom into overdrive. It works and is effective, it’s just a damn shame that it isn’t present anywhere else in the rest of the album.

 

The overall feeling after listening to Eight Coffin Nails repeatedly is a whole lot of nothing. Trying to write about it is like being absorbed into a black hole – time seems to stretch into infinity as the world around you goes by, constantly getting pulled into thinking about other, better albums you could be listening to right now. Being well-aware and even expectant of works that slowly open up to reveal soundscapes and musical secrets don’t seem to apply to this funeral album, sadly. Listening to it for hours on repeat – as well as spacing out the play-throughs – don’t seem to improve anything. It’s not even that it’s a bad album; it is just painfully average. Occasional pieces of brilliance are overshadowed by the run-of-the-mill sections to get to those pieces. Alghazanth apparently go to their rest not with a bang nor a whimper, but rather with a weary sigh and an air of inevitability. Still, 22 years is nothing to scoff at, and going out on your own terms is admirable, so rest easy, friends.

Rating: 5/10

Tracklist:
1. Self-exiled
2. Facing the North
3. Aureate Water
4. The Upright Road
5. At Their Table
6. The Foe of Many Masks
7. Twice Eleven
8. Pohjoinen
9. To Flames the Flesh

TESTAMENT w/ ANNIHILATOR, VADER – Pakkahuone, Tampere, 21.03.2018

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Testament, Annihilator, and Vader at Pakkahuone, Tampere, 2018.
Photos by Marco Manzi.

THERION w/ GUESTS – Nosturi, Helsinki, 23.03.2018

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Therion with Enemy of Reality, Null Positiv, & Imperial Age at Nosturi, Helsinki, 2018.
Photos by Marco Manzi.

Brutal Assault 2018: Line-Up Update

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Brutal Assault: 08-11 August 2018; Fortress Josefov, Jaroměř
www.brutalassault.cz

Brutal Assault music festival is coming back to Josefov once again for its 23rd edition. The complete lineup should traditionally include more than a hundred bands of various extreme genres. And although the band list is still updating, its already a hellishly solid set that you wont want to miss.

This year, Brutal Assault goes deeper into the underground with another load of bands for the 2018 edition. Death metal fans can rejoice as we confirm CANNIBAL CORPSE bringing their king-sized portion of guts, blood, and death classics to BA once again. Also, we will welcome British progressive death/black metal act AKERCOCKE a.k.a. a reunited band releasing an excellent comeback album of jaw-dropping magnitude.

Regarding the classics, HELMET with their trademarked groovy guitar riffs and unrestrained drums filled with the easily recognizable voice of Page Hamilton will unleash their post-hardcore whirlwind within the fortress for the first time.

Talking about darker stuff, Amalie Bruun’s MYRKUR will perform with her atmospheric raw, dissonant blackened riffing combined with vocal efforts leaning closer to the earthy, doomish folk similar to Chelsea Wolfe. Canadian PALLBEARER, probably the biggest Rush fans in the world, will carry their unique doom metal coffin to BA. And speaking of dark melancholic music, renowned Neurosis-like post-hardcore cult LVMEN will perform their latest album, Mitgefangen Mitgehangen.

Hardcore fans could appreciate H2O, an unrestrained hardcore/punk act that blends Cro-Mags and Agnostic Front with the punk drive of Token Entry. Speaking of comebacks, after 6 years we will welcome the metalcore whirlwind from the highlands called BLEED FROM WITHIN. True thrashers will get E-FORCE, a Canadian/French act with former Voivod members.

Last but not least, the final addition to the lineup? If you are into cold electro beats, then you will dig HORSKH, a French duo beating up audiences with brutal electro-industrial sounds.

 

Current lineup for 2018 (as of  20.03.2018):
Act of Defiance, Akercocke, Aluk Todolo, Angelmaker, Arkhon Infaustus, Armored Saint, At the Gates, Azarath, Behemoth, Belphegor, Bleed from Within, Blood Incantation, Bölzer, Broken Hope, Brujeria, Cannibal Corpse, Carnifex, Carpathian Forest, Celeste, Converge, Counterparts, Cruacjan, Dead Congregation, Diablo Swing Orchestra, Dodecahedron, Dragged into Sunlight, Dying Fetus, E-Force, Exhorder, Full of Hell, Gojira, Grave Pleasures, Graveyard, H2O, Hate, Helmet, Hirax, Horskh, Ihsahn, Ingested, Integrity, Kurokuma, Lvmen, Malokarpatan, Marduk, Ministry, Misery Index, Mortiis, Municipal Waste, Myrkur, Nasty, Neocaesar, Nocturnus AD, Northlane, Novembers Doom, Obscure Sphinx, Origin, Pain, Pallbearer, Paradise Lost, Perturbator, Pestilence, Pillorian, Plini, Protector, Sadistic Intent, Saint Vitus, Suicidal Tendencies, Terror, Testament, The Black Dahlia Murder, Tormentor, Unleashed, Unsane, Wardruna, Whoredom Rife, Wiegedood, Wrathprayer

You can get the tickets on www.shop.brutalassault.cz/en for 84€

August 08-11.2018
Fortress Josefov – Jaroměř
551 02 Jaroměř
Czech Republic
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(2018) Auri: Auri

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Artist: Auri
Album: Auri
Release: 23.03.2018
Label: Nuclear Blast Records

 

Among big Nightwish fans, there have been a few whispers about what’s been going on in the last year, while the band have been on break. Emppu Vuorinen (guitar) did a new album and some shows with Brother Firetribe, while Floor Jansen and Marco Hietala were seen with Ayreon Universe. But what about the ringleader himself, Tuomas Holopainen? Well, everyone knew he wouldn’t be silent over this break, and now we know what he was up to: Auri.

So who and what is/are Auri? Holopainen has been joined again by his wife and vocalist, Johanna Kurkela, and new(ish) Nightwish bandmate, Troy Donockley. The press releases refer to it as “three people, united through their shared need to hear a kind of music which can’t be described by words alone”, and I won’t call that far from the truth. Auri is very difficult to explain with words.

You can read our interview with Holopainen, Kurkela, and Donockley at the link HERE!

I feel as though there will be two reactions to this album. People will like it and think its pretty, or people will ‘get’ it. What does this mean? Well, I think Holopainen, Donockley, and Kurkela all share a longing or a feeling. Any person who has found immersion in stories, music or games may know this feeling. Any person who has listened to modern pop and found it soulless and boring may know this feeling. Any person who just likes to kick back and listen to an instrumental album may know this feeling. If any of those things describe you, you might want to give this album a go and might find it to be something special. To everyone else, this album will be rather nice. I think I get this album. I constantly long for music that I can let my imagination soak and expand in. This is that music.

So the album as a whole then. First of all, Johanna Kurkela’s voice is truly something wonderful. She has a mature beauty mixed with a childlike innocence that I find endlessly enchanting. That’s exactly the sort of sound you’d want in this sort of music – something that can make you feel the beauty of wisdom that comes with age, or can take you back to the feeling of purity and bliss you may have experienced as a child. To those extremes and anywhere in between, and Kurkela’s voice will take you where you want to go, you need only ask (or press play).

Meanwhile, Holopainen and Donockley hold nothing back musically. You’re bound to compare the sound to Nightwish, but for me these styles are really not comparable, and let’s be honest, if they were, these songs would be on the next Nightwish album and not here. This is closer in sound to Music Inspired by The Life and Times of Scrooge, though Scrooge has a clear story arc to its music. Auri, conversely, doesn’t have that connecting theme like Scrooge, but rather each song has its own feeling. You can listen to the words to gain more guidance into the place it takes you, or you can allow the vocals to serve as an instrument, just added to the mix. Call it celestial music or rabbit hole music, or call it progressive folk music. Call it what you like, labels don’t matter here. But it certainly shows a lot of folk influence, with Celtic parts (like in “Them Thar Chantarelles”) or other native folk sounds (like in “Skeleton Tree” or “See”).

The piano is gorgeous (look no further than “I Hope Your World is Kind” for some gentle keyboard solos) – say what you will about Holopainen, but his use of that instrument has always been fantastic. The same can be said for Donockley. It should come as no surprise to anyone that any instrument he touches produces wonderful sounds. Also, the vocal combination of Kurkela and Donockley in songs like “Desert Flower” adds a lovely change to things. The album never gets dull, but if it does, I suggest you give it a good listen and try to find the keyboard solo performed by a horse. Because that’s a thing on this album too: horse solo. And let’s not forget others – there’s some really gorgeous violin and drumming on the album (both can be heard in “Aphrodite Rising”, for example) done by Frank Van Essen.

If I want to talk about a couple songs more specifically, I’ll highlight two, the first of which is “Night 13”, which you have already heard (and if not, the video is up above). I feel like this song says a lot about Holopainen. You can clearly hear that it was written by the same guy who writes most of Nightwish’s material, but at the same time, it has steered in a different direction (a similar direction to Scrooge) and I feel like it shows a lot of his spirit as a musician as it links all three of these projects, sound-wise. That is to say, you can hear many aspects of Holopainen’s sound in this song, and that’s kind of cool.

And then there’s “Them Thar Chantarelles (ft. Liquor in the Well).” I was unsure of this song at first, but the more I listened to it, the more I felt like there was a more concrete story in there than perhaps some of the other tracks. The story can be found in the above-mentioned interview, but I will say that this song has a blissful drunken purity and lunacy at the same time, mixed with the happy fiddle tune at the end, and tends to make me want to put on candles, turn out the lights, and dance. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – this song is a high without the drugs if you want it to be.

Beyond that, it really just is a pretty, lovely album. It’s the kind of album you could listen to with your parents who don’t approve of heavy music. Your grandmother might enjoy it. But you’ll still enjoy it too (I hope), not just for the performances the album offers, but for the feelings and experiences it might give you. I’d call the songs “experiences” instead, but hell, I’m not that pretentious.

Rating: 10/10, 5 stars

Tracklist:
1. The Space Between
2. I Hope Your World is Kind
3. Skeleton Tree
4. Desert Flower
5. Night 13
6. See
7. The Name of the Wind
8. Aphrodite Rising
9. Savant
10. Underthing Solstice
11. Them Thar Chantarelles (ft. Liquor in the Well)

(2018) Ayreon: Ayreon Universe

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Artist: Ayreon
Album: Ayreon Universe (Best of Ayreon Live)
Release: 30.03.2018
Label: Mascot Label Group

 

Ayreon is known for many things: epic concept albums, great vocalists from all walks of the world, and of course, Arjen Lucassen‘s fear of playing live. However, following the success of The Theater Equation back in 2015, it was clear that Ayreon needed to return to the stage yet again, this time with a best-of set at 013 Poppodium in Tilburg, NL.

After attending the third day of the show, and declaring it the best live show I’ve ever attended, it was only natural that I was particularly impatient for this release to be announced. The rumors behind the poor live DVD quality of The Theater Equation, at least that I had heard on the streets of Tilburg, were that the Luxor Theater had been rather uninterested in allowing the band/label to film the show as they, laughably, didn’t think the show would be a big deal. I was sure that this time around (if that was true), no venue would deny them as many cameras as they wanted. So strap on your seatbelts, this is going to be a bit of a read.

You can listen to the studio tracks from our Spotify playlist here:

 

The first thing that I want to say is that I am not a big live DVD watcher. I maybe watch two per year at most and only with friends on a party night. So keep that in mind when I tell you that I have already watched this DVD a solid ten to fifteen times, on my own.

This live show presents a proper best-of, and right off the bat, I will say that my opinion is that the show is not flawless, but it is nigh on perfect nevertheless, if that makes sense. There are a few songs I’m less enthusiastic about than others, but that’s okay (and totally subjective). There are a few vocal pairings as well that I’m not 100% on board with too. However, the overall feeling, quality, and impression that this show leaves after watching it is unparalleled, on another level from any other live show I’ve ever seen, and that’s what makes this show essentially perfect to me.

I have literally nothing to complain about for the first third of this DVD, up until and including “Comatose.” The lights, the mix, the performance, they all bring me back to that show, and on a big enough screen in the dark with surround sound (if possible, that is what I would consider the optimal way to view this show). During “Dreamtime”, Edward Reekers‘ [Kayak] final note is chill-inducing. In “Abbey of Synn”, the completely unknown-to-me Robert Soeterboek [Star One] absolutely crushes it on all fronts. The timing and performance of all the musicians is astoundingly good.

“River of Time” was the first track I was familiar with at the show, and Hansi Kürsch [Blind Guardian] and Marco Hietala [Nightwish] are fantastic together. In fact, this might very well be Hietala’s best song from the show, which is interesting because it’s one of the only songs that wasn’t his originally – Bob Catley was the original.

Marcela Bovio [ex-Stream of Passion] and Mike Mills (who also opens the show in a TH-1 costume) are truly gorgeous together in “Blackboard” and “The Theory of Everything”, and I would go so far as to say that Bovio’s performance in this song is superior to the original, done by Cristina Scabbia [Lacuna Coil]. If I was to take a guess as to why that is, based on the interview we did with Scabbia last year, it sounds as though she showed up and did her part, as written already, whereas Lucassen has spoken of many vocalists thoroughly putting themselves into the character. Perhaps Bovio did this, and Scabbia did not? And before I move on from this track, Joost van der Broek’s keyboard solo at the beginning of that track also gives me chills all over my body every single time.

I have nothing to add to “Merlin’s Will” that I didn’t already say about Floor Jansen [Nightwish] in the live report. She utterly destroys the original song, which is a great song, and she is just so fucking cool. She owns the song like she was born with it and it’s been begging to get out all her life. Case in point, “I’ll have you know that I can / charm you with a wave of my hand / you bow to my command.” A wave of her hand and the crowd is wrapped around her little finger.

And if you want the ultimate, supreme combination of haunting voices, look no further than Jonas Renkse [Katatonia] and Anneke van Giersbergen [Vuur] in “Waking Dreams” – a song that I have come to love a lot more than I did before thanks to this show. I think if those two ever did an album together, just the two of them on vocals, I could die happy.

Another complete unknown to me was John Jaycee Cuijpers [Praying Mantis], who takes a song sung by Russel Allen and Damian Wilson – two of Ayreon’s best vocalists in my opinion – and just belts it out like it was his own. Props here also to the choir, Bovio, Jansen’s sister, Irene Jansen, and Lisette van den Berg, who help take this already great song and make it amazing with their absolutely incredible harmonization.

“Valley of the Queens” is a song that has the power to blow out your brain. If you loved this on the album, you will love it here, I’m sure. Jansen, van Giersbergen, and Bovio all harmonizing together is… tear-inducing. Jeroen Goossens on flute needs a mention too – he can be anything a song needs him to be. Fun, gentle, anything. He’s just great.

“Ride the Comet” brings back Renkse and introduces Maggy Luyten [Nightmare] as an unusual but incredible pairing. Luyten was yet another unknown to me and my first impression was… holy shit, who is this amazing rocker lady? She’s unbelievable. And every time Renkse utters the word “extremophile” I am filled with joy.

One of the songs with the most replacements is “Star of Sirrah”, with Mills in the place of both James Labrie (the Historian) and Tommy Rogers (the Chemist), and Luyten replacing Russell Allen as the President. The Captain’s (Tobias Sammet) parts are merged into the Astronomer’s, so Kürsch performs both. Luyten doesn’t perhaps improve on Allen’s parts, but she does a great job of them nevertheless. I don’t have an issue with Mills in this song, but the phantom expressed some annoyance that Mills cuts the “adapt” note in half, leaving a few seconds in the song where nothing happens, then runs off to chuckle with Johan van Stratum, which results in the choir having to cover for him for half a moment when his next line starts. I probably wouldn’t have noticed if the phantom hadn’t been hovering over my shoulder commenting on it. We had quite a long debate about whether it was an issue, but reached no agreement in the end, so we’ll have to leave it to you to decide. And before anyone goes crucifying anyone for hating on Mike Mills, we did agree that the first half of his lines are absolutely perfect – he manages to mimic the echoing quality of Tommy Rogers’ voice, and I have never been sure if Rogers used any effects to get that sound on the album – if he did, huge props to Mills for that.

Rob Snijders makes a cameo on drums, starting with “Comatose”, and if you don’t know him by name, you might know him as van Giersbergen’s husband. This is a longstanding favorite song of mine, and something special about it is that every version I’ve heard has been amazing in its own way. Jørn Lande is again the original singer, replaced by Renkse in this video, but Lucassen himself also performed it with van Giersbergen on the acoustic tour (which you can find on YouTube if you’re so inclined). I’ve never heard a song that has each alternative singer do so well with it. It’s hard to imagine anyone shining as brightly as Lande, but Renkse’s eerie, echo-like vocals make this song a pure chill-inducing delight. And of course, he’s with van Giersbergen again, which is always wonderful.

At “Day Sixteen: Loser”, we hit the song I’m not okay with. Here’s my issue with this song, which will echo my thoughts on The Theater Equation: I don’t think Mills’ version of the character works for me. In my head, the Father in The Human Equation is a dark character – abusive, drunk, mean. I don’t see him as a jester, which is how Mills portrays him. I see why it works for some – he’s mocking and sarcastic, and it’s one way of showing an abusive person, but it doesn’t match my personal image of the character. Mills has changed the personality into something that could have worked, but he’s overacting. As well, I don’t think Mills has any business singing Rage’s parts – it’s ridiculous to me that he is singing essentially to his own character, when it should’ve been left to the choir and Luyten. So for me, this is the one song that I actually really don’t like from the show, but I know I’m nit-picking because I’m so invested in the lyrics and story, not just the performance. However, I know that’s a pretty unpopular opinion, so again, I’ll leave this to you guys. And it’s not like I’m saying Mills isn’t amazing, but I just think this wasn’t the place for his theatrics. Though it was very sweet that he shouts, “We miss you Mike Baker!” at the end [the original vocalist, sadly now deceased].

Damian Wilson [Headspace] makes his first of many appearances in “The Druids Turn to Stone”, starting strong and seeming to just get better with every song. This version is somehow far more touching and moving, perhaps more dynamic, than on the album. He starts so gently and then just explodes with passion, then just as smoothly returns to the gentleness. It’s gorgeous. Wilson was another unknown to me before this show, and was perhaps my favorite of them all (though really, how do you pick?) once it was over.

Cuijpers takes over for Jay van Feggelen as the Barbarian, as well as Wilson’s Knight (for the most of) “The Two Gates”, a song that already hypes me to high hell on the album and does so doubly live. This song, as the halfway point, brings an interlude with Irene Jansen, who introduces the choir and band during the echo-y part of the song – a great place to include such a thing. Jansen is very charismatic, cute, and charming, so I can see why she was picked for this role. Wilson, however, does return for his part once Jansen leaves to take over his own role in the C-part, with Cuijpers finishing the last chorus. I want to give props to the pyros in this song as well – I think they’re some of the most effective in the entire show during the motorcycle sounds toward the end.

Tommy Karevik [Kamelot] makes a late entrance as a substitute for Bruce Dickinson in “Into the Black Hole”, and as I’ve said many times, it’s pretty fucking hard to replace Dickinson, but Karevik does an incredible job of this song. I tip my hat to him. The choir again too… damn.

“Actual Fantasy” brings back Reekers and acts as an opening to “Computer Eyes”, where he is joined by Soeterboek. Ferry Duijsens swaps out his electric guitar for an acoustic briefly, allowing for a nice blend of sound with Marcel Coenens. The vocalists layer in a seamlessly magical manner. I keep thinking that this is one of my least favorite tracks, but in the end it’s actually the original that I find a bit dull, and the live version is great.

Moving on to “Magnetism”, the first thing I want to say is that Ben Mathot on violin is incredible. The Theory of Everything may not have quite clicked for me, but musically the album is astounding. Karevik comes out to sing with van Giersbergen, who is replacing Sara Squadrani as the Girl. When van Giersbergen’s voice almost seems to crack during, “we were always meant to be,” you really feel the character – funnily, I’d say she actually outshines both Karevik and Hietala in this song. I’ve struggled to figure out why I’ve never been 100% on board with Hietala’s parts in this song, and perhaps it’s because Karevik and Hietala’s characters are rivals, but Karevik backs Hietala up in the “don’t you believe it” parts. Either Karevik should not be singing or they should both be going full force, almost competing to be the loudest. As it stands, perhaps their harmonization (if it is harmonization – seems like they’re both singing the melody) is a bit weak. It feels like neither of them is quite being used to their full potential.

Things get epic when the industrial intro starts up “Age of Shadows”, with Hietala again in Lande’s parts, and I find that perhaps he wasn’t the guy to replace Lande in this particular song. It feels like the song wasn’t written for his voice, and he’s not quite sure if he wants to take the notes up or down or stay level, and it ends up feeling like it goes nowhere, wavering unsteadily in the middle. However, he and Kürsch are amazing together in the first two choruses, where he feels more like he’s in his element, but at the end he gets awkward again. Jansen comes out once more to show off how awesome she is, and then Hietala’s final line is perfect. However, again it just feels like Hietala wasn’t quite optimal for this song.

Peter Vink makes his very stylish bass cameo (a neon pink bass cameo at that) for “Intergalactic Space Crusaders” – if you read the review, you know that I was in the photo pit doing my utmost not to lose my shit and dance and headbang like crazy to this song. Now that I can watch this at home, I am free to let loose, and I do, pretty much every time. Wilson and Luyten are so fun to watch together, as they are acting their parts as much as singing. Luyten replaces Russell Allen, and is (in my opinion) quite a bit better than the original (and that says something) – her final scream is purely awesome. However, this song has been sped up quite a lot and it does take a while for me to get into the new, faster speed, though once I do, it’s great. Still though, this is easily one of my very favorite songs on this whole DVD.

“Collision” brings Hietala and Karevik back to the stage for another slightly awkward song. It’s essentially the same issue as with “Magnetism” – they should be rivals and equals, but because Hietala has a powerful and unique voice, it consistently overpowers Karevik’s beautiful but less unusual voice. They should be harmonizing, but they’re singing pretty much the same part in the same style. As well, if we’re talking about the story, really, Karevik should be totally equal or maybe even slightly stronger. Ultimately, I do think that if you want Karevik to be the main character in your story, you don’t pair him with Hietala, because Hietala’s voice tends to simply push Karevik’s into a backing vocalist’s place, and perhaps it should’ve been someone else in that role. I also think these two songs were a bit too close to one another in the set and should’ve been separated by more than two songs.

Okay, time to give Mike Mills the love he deserves at last. “Everybody Dies” puts him back in his TH-1 outfit yet again. As the phantom puts it, Mills has a sort of live joker-like character, and it’s very likely that the song was written around who and what Mills is with Ayreon: fast, playful, dramatic, and oh so high-pitched. It suits Mills and his style to a T. Karevik and Kürsch reprise their album roles, and they perform the vocal trade-offs perfectly. The choir (I think it’s van den Berg that I’m hearing) nearly completely overpowers Kürsch in the, “in the end when all is silent,” part (originally Allen’s), but at least she sounds great doing it. Luyten comes in to do the Michael Eriksen’s (the Diplomat) gritty hardcore parts, taking it to yet another level. She also sings a couple of TH-1’s lines prior to that, which I assume was due to her voice just fitting in there so well. The only thing that I’m iffy about in this song is that Karevik plays both the Opposition Leader and the Captain (replacing Tobias Sammet), and if I’m being totally honest, I think that should’ve been done by Hietala, as he and Sammet share a high and unique voice. Karevik does a very nice job, but he doesn’t stand out the way Sammet did, and I think Hietala would’ve done it perfectly (and also would’ve corrected my nit-picky character issue).

Mills stays in his outfit to do the Forever’s spoken parts at the beginning of “The Castle Hall.” At last, Lucassen appears on stage! He joins in on guitar, and I’m really wondering why he’s so nervous about playing, because he’s really great at it. Soeterboek takes over for van Feggelen as the Barbarian this time around; I find myself wishing van Feggelen sang it when I listen to the original, but every time I put on the DVD I take it back – Soeterboek is fucking incredible, really taking the role and making it his own with little embellishments. His deep, low voice is pure magic, and when either he or Wilson harmonize with the choir, those goosebumps come back to overtake my entire body. This song is a full 100/10 score, better than the original (and the original is already one of my favorite songs ever), amazing in every possible way. Even the guitar is so much more lively than on the album. If I have any complaint, it’s that it’s too short.

Lucassen then gives his long speech, which was, I was delighted to find, actually quite different from the one he gave the next day when I was present. He then makes a great joke about the following song, “Amazing Flight”, which I won’t spoil for you. Naturally Lucassen stays to do the Hippy’s part, and he’s very cute and sings very nicely. This is again one of my favorites, and the biggest problem I had with it was that they cut out the C-part, which is the best part of the song, or at least the most powerful, and the song ends after the first big solo part. Jay van Feggelen makes his first and last appearance in this song, and he is amazing. I keep thinking I’d want to hear him sing “The Castle Hall” because he’s so great in this song, but the behind the scenes tells a bit about why he didn’t perform more than this one track.

The show begins to wind down with “Day Eleven: Love”, with Reekers interestingly as the replacement for James Labrie. Another odd note is that Bovio replaces Irene Jansen as well, changing the perspective of the lyrics. I have been wondering why, since Jansen was there, and they were both in the choir. Don’t get me wrong, Bovio is amazing as always, but if Jansen was present and never got a place in the vocal spotlight, I would’ve liked her to do her own part. Nevertheless, Bovio did a great job. As well, Ed Warby (drums) sings Fear’s part, which was interesting. He’s got a very nice voice and sings it beautifully, but part of me wishes van Giersbergen had reprised her role as Fear for that, because the haunting voice just suits that part so well (Renkse would’ve also done a great job of it). However, in the context of a best-of, this really isn’t an issue. It’s a great rendition.

The show closes out with “The Eye of Ra”, another Star One song, which may at first seem like an odd choice to end the show (especially considering it’s not an Ayreon song, technically), but they add vocalists so smoothly that it works; starting with Wilson, followed by Cuijpers, the Jansen sisters finally singing together properly and wonderfully in the, “oooh the eye of Ra parts”, and then everyone just comes on stage to sing together for the choir parts. Let’s bring those chills back one more time, eh? It’s a weird choice on the surface, but it’s actually kind of perfect due to the choir part at the end, where all the vocalist have the opportunity to come out and sing together. After they all take their bows, the show ends with a voice saying, “Remember Forever” and fades out.

 

The DVD also includes the practice gig with a few vocalists you’ve likely not heard before if you’re not Dutch, as well as all of the interviews with the cast, which was very interesting and completely worth watching, and explains some of the casting choices and other show quirks.

 

In summary… if you like Ayreon even a little, you’re not going to want to miss this DVD. It has its flaws, but not everyone will agree with me on the things that bothered me. And really, in spite of these things, I just love the whole thing. I want to give it a full score in spite of that, but my inner logic tells me that I shouldn’t. I’ll put it this way, that the show is 95% perfect, with a few things here and there, but ultimately, it’s still the best live DVD I’ve ever seen.

Rating: 9½/10, 5 stars

Tracklist:
1. Prologue
2. Dreamtime
3. Abbey of Synn
4. River of Time
5. Blackboard
6. The Theory of Everything
7. Merlin’s Will
8. Waking Dreams
9. Dawn of a Million Souls
10. Valley of the Queens
11. Ride the Comet
12. Star of Sirrah
13. Comatose
14. Day 16: Loser
15. And the Druids Turn to Stone
16. The Two Gates
17. Into the Black Hole
18. Actual Fantasy
19. Computer Eyes
20. Magnetism
21. Age of Shadows
22. Intergalactic Space Crusaders
23. Collision
24. Everybody Dies
25. The Castle Hall
26. Amazing Flight
27. Day 11: Love
28. The Eye of Ra

VALURAUTA – The Circus, Helsinki, 14.03.2018

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Valurauta 2018 is a student-organized event hosted by the Helsingin Tekniikan Opiskelijat (HKO Oy). The event took place on March 14th at The Circus in Helsinki, and featured three Finnish bands: Everfrost, a symphonic power metal band that are relatively new to the scene; Astralion, a melodic power metal band founded in 2011; and Edge of Haze, an indie metal band from Espoo.

You can listen to Everfrost’s setlist on Spotify here:

Right as I entered the venue, I noticed a lot of people in blue overalls, as engineering students are wont to do. This was first and foremost their party after all, though tickets were available to all. There was also a smattering of middle-aged people, perhaps there in order to see one of the bands. The event was hosted by a DJ – he spent the night in his booth playing Radio Rock playlists from a few years ago. He did successfully manage to prompt the crowd to move closer to the front row before the first act was announced. Also worth noting, was that the bar had special prices for the occasion – beer was only €4.50, which was a welcome change of pace.

 

Everfrost took the stage first at 21:30 and proudly started with “The Lonesome Prince” from their 2015 debut. Unfortunately, the sound was ridiculously lousy with low-end. I could make out the vocals and some of the sharper synth sounds but otherwise it was a total wash. It was too bad though, since the song itself was such an energetic and catchy opener. They were dressed in matching black shirts with blue collars, reminding me a bit of anime-style school uniforms that were tailored shortly prior to this event. The second song, “Appetite for Candlelight”, had the same sound problems as they went straight into it. By the third song, they had had enough time to fix it enough that it didn’t ruin the experience.

Before the new single, “Cold Night Remedy”, singer Mikael Salo wanted to give props to their lead guitarist, Markus Laito, as he had come from hospital that morning but came to rock with them anyway. That sounded cool regardless of the issue, and he did a great job of performing all things considered. After that came an intro, for which the band briefly left the stage. The song to follow was “Hemlock” and its follow-up, “Silver Nights, Golden Dreams”, which were some of the heaviest tracks from their set.

At this point, Salo said they’d decided to play a metal version of Ke$ha’s “Die Young.” They even did the cheesy move where they taught the audience to shout the two title lines from the chorus. It didn’t ring any bells for me but the crowd seemed to know it. Whatever it was, Salo’s hard rock swagger carried it. [ed: I was at the show as well; it took me a moment to realize that I remembered the song – I’m not a fan of Ke$ha but “Die Young” was the only song of hers that I had liked for a time, and I agree with the band – this song needed a good metal cover, and these guys delivered!]

They then introduced Sami Korpikoski [Blackment] to come in and sing the growls in “Clockwork Wilderness.” His mic was a bit quiet for the first few lines but once it came out clearer, he was a really strong. The female vocals in the chorus came from a backing track, however; there was a bit of sloppiness between the two live singers and the unforgiving machine. The performance nevertheless earned them an encore. They closed the show with “Three Tier Terror” and it was interesting to see how they fared on a big stage like this. They didn’t disappoint. They used every inch of it and chewed up half the scenery. I hope to see them continue to blossom.

 

Astralion’s intro (around 23:00ish) was a triumphant heavy metal promenade in the vein of Ides of March. As they came on stage, the lighting became a strobe mess. I’m not usually very critical of lighting choices but this one was so eclectic it hurt my eyes. They also had trouble with that excessive low-end. Otherwise it was clear that the band represented an old school, optimistic heavy metal sound.

The lead singer, Ian E. Highhill, had a distinctly Ian Gillan-esque delivery with just a smidge of Rob Halford and Michael Kiske. The bass player, Dr. K. Lundell, complimented his vocals in a lower register throughout the show. The lead singer loved to get a reaction from the audience, which he got by doing little Simon says-ish singalongs. They were cliché as hell, but they remained effective. No one had more fun than the two guitarists, Hank J. Newman and Manuel Martinez. They took every opportunity to come together and unleash some sweet harmonized shredding.

The third song, “Black Adder”, was introduced as a song about past love, which made me want to shift through the lyrics in search for references to the old British comedy of the same name. Following that was a song called “Be Careful What You Wish For.” It, as well as the next song, was a power metal anthem with quite a few great sections, as well as a good chorus. Following that was a song called “The Outlaw”, which was filled with blast-beats and some of the heaviest parts of the whole night. I got the impression that they’d designed the vocals to be about as high as the singer was capable of going. It was obviously difficult to live up to the recording, but he did a good job nonetheless.

The next song was “At the Edge of the World”, which the singer shepherded with a chant of “ole ole ole ole, Astralion, Astralion.” It was more cute and fun than anything, though did perhaps come across as a bit arrogant. The song itself had an 80s arena rock feel. The played-back synths brought Sammy Hagar to mind. This was then followed by “The Ghosts of Sahara”, which was a more modern heavy metal song with a desert feel. Following that was a song clearly designed to be a crowd favorite: “We All Made Metal.” It seemed to be another song that would be nearly impossible to sing live convincingly, but the man did an exceedingly professional job.

 

Next on stage would have been Edge of Haze, but sadly it was well past midnight on a Wednesday night and I had to turn in for the night. Students are generally more free to stay out that late, but unfortunately I do not count myself among them. For a night with three bands, the doors should have opened earlier than 21:00. The bands I did see, however, were very impressive. Everfrost I’d seen once before in a far smaller venue, but they really rose to the occasion. Astralion was obviously a more seasoned group. They showed intense prowess and I’ll be keeping an eye on them as well from here on out. Hopefully I’ll get another chance to catch Edge of Haze at a later date. These are definitely three bands to keep an eye on.

Everfrost’s setlist:
1. The Lonesome Prince
2. Appetite for Candlelight
3. The Glades and the Cradle
4. Cold Night Remedy
5. Hemlock
6. Silver Nights, Golden Dreams
7. Die Young (Ke$ha cover)
8. Clockwork Wilderness

Encore:
9. Three Tier Terror

(1999/2018) Paradise Lost: Host (remaster) (English)

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Artist: Paradise Lost
Album: Host (remaster)
Release: 16.03.2018
Label: Nuclear Blast

 

Every band has that one album – you know, the one that caused a stir upon its release, but ends up becoming a minor cult classic as years go by. In the case of Paradise Lost, the pioneering Yorkshire Gothic metallers, it’s 1999’s Host, which abandoned metal altogether, taking the synth-tinged sound of One Second (1997) even further. Adding to metalheads’ dismay at the time was the fact that the band had signed to the major label, EMI, and all the members had cut their hair, so Host was seen as a downright betrayal. Unfortunately for Paradise Lost, the album alienated a lot of fans without bringing in much of a new audience, so the overall reception was quite condemning. However, after 19 years, Paradise Lost’s current label, Nuclear Blast, has given Host a second chance by issuing a remastered version so that everyone can (re)discover the record and decide for themselves whether it was a misstep or simply misunderstood.

Lue suomeksi TÄÄLTÄ!
Listen on Spotify here:

Around 6 years ago, having dug through most of Paradise Lost’s catalog, I decided to take a chance and check out the oft-maligned Host as well. Due to the reputation of the album, I didn’t go in with high expectations, despite having enjoyed One Second and Symbol of Life (2002), which were also part of the band’s poppy era. However, upon listening I found that the album was actually filled to the brim with gems and the atmosphere of the music was in its own way even gloomier than on the other records – when you strip the headbang-able elements away, the darkness becomes even more piercing. “Nothing Sacred” is no doom metal, but may just be the band’s most resigned song ever lyrically, and the title-track with its dramatic strings and lyrics about vocalist Nick Holmes’ father’s death is one of the band’s most emotionally captivating songs. Even on the more upbeat tunes like “In All Honesty” and “Deep”, the music has been paired up with anti-religious and accusatory lyrics respectively, which gives them a slightly sardonic feel. The only song I don’t find particularly interesting on its own outside the album is “Wreck”, but even that one is too good to be called a filler.

Electronic music is a challenging genre in terms of production – as technology and sound design develop, many keyboard patches and electronic drum (machine) sounds get dated after a while. However, the cutting edge production of Host still holds up in 2018 and does not take your mind immediately back into the late 90s, and since the band followed their own muse instead of hopping on a bandwagon, the music itself remains likewise relevant. There are guitars, but instead of metal distortion they’ve been run through various other effects. “Permanent Solution”, “Behind the Grey”, and “Made the Same” are all good examples of punchy songs that could be easily reworked in a heavier fashion. On the other hand, “Harbour” and the ballad “It’s Too Late” represent a bare and fragile side of Paradise Lost they haven’t explored much since then, and the string arrangements and female backing vocals add to the feeling of soft melancholy.

I’m a little cynical towards remasters in general, because far too often the dynamics of the original recording are sacrificed on the altar of loudness. Luckily that isn’t the case this time, as Jaime Gomez Arellano (the producer of the latest couple of PL albums) has for the most part turned up the bass frequencies a bit and given the music a fuller and warmer sound with more oomph. This is a remaster done right! I can’t see this version changing anyone’s opinion on the album though – a heavier-sounding remix with more emphasis on guitars might’ve done that, but I love the album in its original form already, so I have no complaints. However, for collectors’ and diehard fans’ sake, it would’ve been nice if the remix and live tracks and the leftover instrumental “Languish”, which originally appeared as B-sides on the “So Much is Lost” and “Permanent Solution” singles, would’ve been included on a bonus disc.

 

Although the detractors like to call this era of the band ‘Depeche Lost’, the album is actually rather unique and I haven’t found anything that sounds quite like it. Instead of going back to their classic metal sound (as they eventually did), the fivesome kept their heads and made an album completely on their own terms, which is why this can’t be called a sell-out. To use a Rush analogy, to me Host is Paradise Lost’s Power Windows (1985) – both are ambitious and well-produced albums with the perfect balance between hooky songcraft and experimentation with synths, and I rank both highly among the bands’ respective discographies. Host is still my second favorite PL album behind the legendary Draconian Times (1995), and it was one of the albums that served as a gateway to electronic music for me, so I have a special relationship with it. I’m not even the biggest fanatic out there though, as rhythm guitarist Aaron Aedy once revealed in an interview that a fan had offered them a hefty amount of bucks for performing the record in full, but the band didn’t want to do it for the money, so they declined. Lead guitarist and composer Greg Mackintosh has also brought up the idea of a crowdfunded side project release that would continue along the lines of Host; whether that ever comes to fruition remains to be seen, but hopefully this reissue will at least spark the band to revive a few of these songs on stage at some point.

Rating: 10/10, 5 stars

Tracklist:
1. So Much Is Lost
2. Nothing Sacred
3. In All Honesty
4. Harbour
5. Ordinary Days
6. It’s Too Late
7. Permanent Solution
8. Behind the Grey
9. Wreck
10. Made the Same
11. Deep
12. Year of Summer
13. Host

(1999/2018) Paradise Lost: Host (remaster) (suomeksi)

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Artisti: Paradise Lost
Albumi: Host (remaster)
Julkaisupäivä: 16.03.2018
Levy-yhtiö: Nuclear Blast

 

Jokaiselta bändiltä löytyy tuotannostaan se albumi; tiedättehän, se joka herättää kuohuntaa julkaisunsa aikoihin, mutta muuttuu pienimuotoiseksi kulttiklassikoksi vuosien saatossa. Paradise Lostin, Yorkshiren goottimetallipioneerien, tapauksessa se on vuoden 1999 Host, joka hylkäsi metallin kokonaan ja vei One Secondin (1997) syntikoilla höystetyn soundin vielä pidemmälle. Hevareiden tyrmistyneisyyttä lisäsi se, että bändi oli solminut levytyssopimuksen monikansallisen EMIn kanssa ja kaikki jäsenet olivat leikanneet tukkansa, joten Host nähtiin suoranaisena petoksena. Paradise Lostin kannalta harmillisesti albumi vieraannutti monet fanit tuomatta kuitenkaan merkittävästi uutta yleisöä tilalle, joten yleinen vastaanotto oli melko tuomitseva. 19 vuoden jälkeen Paradise Lostin nykyinen levy-yhtiö Nuclear Blast on kuitenkin antanut Hostille toisen mahdollisuuden julkaisemalla remasteroidun version, jotta jokainen voi löytää levyn (uudelleen) ja päättää, oliko kyseessä harha-askel vai väärinymmärretty teos.

Read in English HERE!
Kuuntele levy Spotifysta tästä:

Kuutisen vuotta sitten, kahlailtuani jo useimpien Paradise Lostin levyjen läpi, päätin ottaa riskin ja tutustua myös paljon paheksuttuun Hostiin. Albumin maineen vuoksi odotukseni eivät olleet korkeat, vaikka olin nauttinut One Secondista ja Symbol of Lifesta (2002), jotka niin ikään kuuluvat bändin popahtavaan aikakauteen. Kuunnellessani kuitenkin huomasin, että albumi oli oikeasti täynnä helmiä, ja sen tunnelma oli omalla tavallaan jopa synkempi kuin muilla levyillä – kun musiikin moshattavuus riisutaan pois, pimeydestä tulee vielä läpitunkevampaa. “Nothing Sacred” ei ole doom metalia, mutta se saattaa hyvinkin olla tekstiltään bändin alistunein kappale, ja nimikkoraita dramaattisine jousineen ja Nick Holmesin isän menehtymisestä kertovine teksteineen on yksi bändin puhuttelevimmista. Jopa menevämmissä kappaleissa kuten “In All Honesty” ja “Deep” musiikin parina toimivat sanoitukset ovat uskontokriittisiä tai muuten syyttäviä sävyltään, mikä saa ne tuntumaan jopa hieman ivallisilta. Ainoa biisi, jota en pidä omillaan mielenkiintoisena, on “Wreck”, mutta sekin on liian hyvä ollakseen varsinainen täyteraita.

Elektroninen musiikki on haastava genre tuotannon suhteen: kun teknologia ja äänisuunnittelu kehittyvät, monet kosketin- ja rumpu(kone)soundit alkavat kuulostaa aikansa eläneiltä vähän ajan päästä. Hostin huipputuotanto kuitenkin kuulostaa edelleen hyvältä vuonna 2018 eikä vie ajatuksia välittömästi 90-luvun loppuun, ja koska bändi seurasi omaa inspiraatiotaan trendien sijaan, myös itse musiikki on yhä relevanttia. Kitaroita on mukana, mutta hevisärön sijaan ne on vedetty monien muiden efektien läpi. “Permanent Solution”, “Behind the Grey” ja “Made the Same” ovat hyviä esimerkkejä iskevistä biiseistä, jotka voisi helposti toteuttaa raskaammallakin tavalla. “Harbour” ja “It’s Too Late” -balladi puolestaan edustavat Paradise Lostin paljasta ja hentoa puolta, jota se ei ole juurikaan tutkiskellut sittemmin, ja jousisovitukset ja naistaustalaulut vahvistavat kevyen melankolista tunnelmaa.

Suhtaudun hieman kyynisesti remasteroituja levjä kohtaan yleisesti, sillä aivan liian usein alkuperäisen äänitteen dynamiikka on uhrattu äänekkyyden alttarilla. Onneksi tällä kertaa ei ole käynyt näin, vaan Jaime Gomez Arellano, joka on toiminut parin viimeisimmän PL-albumin tuottajana, on lähinnä nostanut bassotaajuuksia hieman ja antanut musiikille täyteläisemmän ja lämpimämmän soundin, jossa on enemmän potkua. Näin remasterointi pitäisi tehdä! En kuitenkaan usko tämän version muuttavan kenenkään mielipidettä levystä – raskaamman kuuloinen ja kitarapainotteisempi uudelleenmiksaus olisi voinut tehdä näin, mutta rakastan albumia jo sen alkuperäisessä muodossa, joten valitettavaa ei löydy. Olisi kuitenkin ollut keräilijöiden ja suurimpien fanien kannalta mukavaa, mikäli “So Much Is Lost”- ja “Permanent Solution” -sinkkujen B-puolina olleet remix- ja liveraidat sekä levyltä pois jätetty instrumentaalibiisi “Languish” olisi otettu mukaan vaikka bonuslevylle.

 

Vaikka pahat kielet kutsuvatkin tätä aikakautta ‘Depeche Lostiksi’, albumi on itse asiassa melko omalaatuinen, enkä ole löytänyt mitään, joka kuulostaisi läheskään samanlaiselta. Klassiseen metallisoundiin palaamisen (minkä yhtye teki myöhemmin) sijaan viisikko piti päänsä ja teki levyn täysin omilla ehdoillaan, minkä vuoksi tätä ei voi pitää kaupallisena siirtona. Näin Rush-analogiaa käyttäen minulle Host on Paradise Lostin Power Windows (1985): molemmat ovat kunnianhimoisia ja upeasti tuotettuja albumeja, joilla koukukkaan laulunteon ja syntikkakokeilujen välillä on täydellinen tasapaino, ja rankkaan molemmat korkealle bändiensä katalogeissa. Host on edelleen toinen PL-suosikkilevyni heti legendaarisen Draconian Timesin (1995) jälkeen, ja se oli yksi albumeista, jotka toimivat minulle portinavaajina elektronisen musiikin pariin, joten minulla on erityinen suhde siihen. En ole kuitenkaan kaikkein suurin fanaatikko, sillä komppikitaristi Aaron Aedy kerran paljasti haastattelussa, että eräs fani oli tarjonnut bändille sievoista summaa siitä, että se soittaisi levyn kokonaisuudessaan, mutta bändi ei halunnut tehdä sitä rahan vuoksi, joten vastaus oli kieltävä. Soolokitaristi ja säveltäjä Greg Mackintosh on myös nostanut esiin idean joukkorahoituskampanjasta Hostin linjoilla jatkavaa sivuprojektijulkaisua varten – saa nähdä, tuleeko tästä mitään, mutta toivottavasti tämä uudelleenjulkaisu ainakin innostaa bändiä herättämään pari kappaletta henkiin livetilanteessa jossain vaiheessa.

Arvosana: 10/10, 5 tähteä

Kappalelista:
1. So Much Is Lost
2. Nothing Sacred
3. In All Honesty
4. Harbour
5. Ordinary Days
6. It’s Too Late
7. Permanent Solution
8. Behind the Grey
9. Wreck
10. Made the Same
11. Deep
12. Year of Summer
13. Host

AURI – Tuomas, Johanna, Troy; Helsinki 2017

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As we all know, Nightwish has been on break for the last year, with each of their members focusing on solo projects, such as Ayreon Universe (Marco Hietala & Floor Jansen), Brother Firetribe (Emppu Vuorinen), and in the case of band mastermind Tuomas Holopainen, a new project called Auri. We had a few moments with the band on February 2nd, 2018, to chat about the music and how it came to be.

 

So before we get going properly, how did this project come to be, in short?
Johanna: I think it’s been in the back of our heads ever since we knew about each other. We found out that there is this person making music and there is that person making music, and the way it touched us eclectically, each other’s input and what we have done musically, it was like finding a little piece of home. And the fact that, when we got better acquainted, we found out that we were born on the same day. [laughter] It’s just effortless being together. It’s such a rare thing to find kindred spirits like this, in addition to all other outlooks as well, because of the fact that we’re all musicians and are able to do music together in these special circumstances, I think is what we are interested in.

Troy: Luckily, in the beginning, there was such mutual… not respect, respect is the wrong word. Both me and Tuomas were serious fans of Johanna’s voice, so it was inevitable. We had to work with that sublime voice that Johanna has. But that was only a part of the story. The crooks of Auri is the way that we approach life itself, life on earth, that’s the crooks of what drives us, to express ourselves in the way that Auri is. The word isn’t “style” either, but the spirit of Auri comes from our mutual view, our mutual vision, and our mutual love of life.

That’s fantastic! Is everything on the album done just by you three, or were there any other guests on single songs, or anything like that?
Troy: Yeah, there are. It’s mainly just us there. The vast, I’d say 80% of it, is just us three, but we did get some guests. We’ve got a guy called Frank Van Essen from Holland, who’s an old friend of mine, who is an incredible player, and an oddity. He’s a freak, because he plays the most sublime, expressive, eloquent violin, and yet he’s a superb animal of a drummer. [laughs] He plays a drum kit like a rock beast, albeit a really prog rock beast. That’s really rare. I’ve never come across anybody who does that, so he was a perfect asset for Auri. So we had him on almost every song.

Tuomas: He was on every song, yeah.

Troy: He was on every song. Then we had a bass player on one song, we had a fiddle player friend of mine from Edinborough on the dance tune at the very end of the album [“Liquor in the Well”], and of course we had Joomba, who is a legendary equestrian master of the keyboards [laughter]. He played a solo. It was difficult for Tuomas to give up that keyboard solo to Joomba.

Tuomas: I had to do it. He was so brilliant. Even his conversational skills are like nothing else.

Troy: Thelonious Monk is a beginner compared to Joomba [laughter]. So that was it! We just took the flavors we needed from the outside world and invited them into Auri for a short time, and we were insulated beautifully from this.

[Ed: to be clear, just so everyone knows, Joomba is indeed a horse]

Is it safe to assume that this project is at least in part named after the character from Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle?
Troy: No, it’s not safe! [laughter] It’s very, very dangerous to presume such a thing, madame!

Touché! [laughter]
Tuomas: Have you read the books?

I have. In fact, I did my thesis on them, so I’m a big fan. I had been hoping he would come to Worldcon in Finland last year.
Tuomas: I went to Worldcon, actually. I met Robin Hobb there.

Oh, she’s fantastic.
Troy: She’s brilliant, but no, never met Patrick. But he knows about this project, actually, and I’ve been emailing him about it. But yeah, this is one of the most common questions that we are being asked: where does the name Auri come from? That’s one of the three, Auri, the character in the Rothfuss books. But it’s also Johanna’s second name, and the third one being…

Troy: Aura, which is from the Latin and middle-English for “emanation” or a “golden atmosphere generated from something inanimate or animate.” For me, I haven’t read the Patrick Rothfuss books. [laughs] Yeah, shock and horror! So I wasn’t at all influenced by that, but… the word “aura” has an aura! So when Auri came to me, I presumed it was from that source. But all three definitions really suit our music, so the listener can choose whichever one they want. If they’re Rothfuss fans, they can go, “Oh yeah, that sounds like…” and if they’re not, they can go for the others. But you shouldn’t really need to take a label. Auri, the word perfectly sums up what our attitude really is.

Ever since the “Edema Ruh” song came out on the last Nightwish album, I’ve been curious to know more about your [Tuomas/Johanna] feelings about the Kingkiller Chronicle. How did you discover them and how did they strike a key?
Tuomas: Originally it was Marco [Hietala; Nightwish/Tarot] who said that, “There’s this book called The Name of the Wind, you have to check it out. It’s really good.” So I did and was instantly hooked. I think it’s my all-time favorite piece of fiction ever written. The way he plays with words, his abilities as a storyteller, describing characters, everything, it’s just pure perfection in my opinion. We both are huge fans.

Johanna: It’s like poetry.

Tuomas: It is like poetry, the way he writes. And also the fact that music plays such a big part in his fantasy world. It’s something that we can really relate to. Waiting for the third part… like the whole world.

Like the whole world, undoubtedly. I do understand though – my dream was always to be a fantasy writer and I thought I could do it until I read Patrick Rothfuss and discovered I would never be able to write so eloquently. He’s really an unbelievable writer.
Troy: Plus he has a fantastic beard. [laughter]

Tuomas: He does!

That’s also a very important thing.
Troy: It’s the most important thing.

It’s at least the one thing I’ll never achieve as a writer, sadly. But anyways, what are some of your favorite aspects, or even moments, from the novels?
Johanna: For me, also what sparked the name Auri, is the archetype of her. A bit like Alice in Wonderland – somebody who’s a bit off the world, in it, but a bit on some different level, like Auri is in the Underthing, and she’s kind of living in her own world, glimpsing at the world and wondering about it and wondering why people are the way they are, and she’s never explained, why she is the way she is. I kind of felt a close connection there, in the sense that we feel the same way about life and the way we live. We’re a bit “off”, oftentimes we feel like we’re on this other plane of thinking, just like with making music, this… transcendental place where there are no mundane, trivial things that tie us down the way we are.

Tuomas: If you mean favorite moments from the stories… I think when Kvothe and Auri meet for the first time on the rooftops.

And have you read The Slow Regard of Silent Things? I know Rothfuss was quite nervous about the book, as it was so different from most stories. I personally loved it – how did you enjoy it?
Tuomas: I thought it was brilliant, absolutely brilliant.

Troy: My favorite bit in the books is where the Kingkiller finds the Chronicle. [laughter]

Let’s turn back away from the books and toward the music then. I know you’ve been heavily influenced by Pat Rothfuss, Don Rosa, Alice in Wonderland, Tim Burton… are there any other books or movies or games or anything really that have stuck in the back of your mind for future projects, or even from this one? That you’re willing to discuss at this point, anyways?
Tuomas: There are. Some of the recent series, for example, which have made a huge impact on all of us, would be Black Mirror, for example. I think that’s my all-time favorite TV series.

Troy: And me.

Tuomas: That’s one. Stranger Things would be another one.

Johanna: Also, the inspiration for the logo comes from the video game, Skyrim. But there are a plethora of things, really, that we love that is emanating from the music, obviously. There must be many things that are subconscious that we couldn’t even put our fingers on.

Troy: There’s no explicit desire to touch on anything. It was always an essence, a spirit of something to capture.

In that sense, I read that you don’t want to give too many specifics on what the songs are about, to allow the listeners to discover their own stories and feelings, but were there any overarching themes or concepts or feelings that you were hoping to express with the album?
Troy: From day 1, the overarching theme was artistic freedom, really. Not just a glib statement of artistic freedom, but to actually go deep into it. Be really unafraid, be fearless in what we do. Not even consider possible criticism from anyone, and plus to know how pointless criticism is in art, how important it is not to be enslaved by other people’s opinions in art. It was the critical cornerstone of art that a lot of people forget, and in forgetting it, they lose the spark and the muse.

So that was the overarching theme. Within the Auri album, you have… but again with that, I don’t want to spoil it, but each particular piece does have a reason and a purpose and a theme, but we really went for this idea of letting people come to their own stories, make their own stories around it. When people ask me, I can give people a simple overview of songs, but I like to keep it really minimal.

The album would theoretically have a concept, but you’re leaving it to the listeners’ imaginations?
Tuomas: There’s no concept actually, no.

Troy: And it isn’t linear, there’s no thematic thread through the whole thing. The only thread is this spirit, that we’re determine to try to conjure into the world. And the incantations we use to conjure it are musical.

Presumably, of course, all of the songs mean something to you and this changes, but at this moment in time, this week or day or hour, is there any particular song for each of you that stands out as your favorite, or is it too hard to pick?
Troy: It is too hard.

Tuomas: Way too hard.

Troy: As we touched on before, we can listen to the music now objectively. We can remove ourselves, we can remove our memory of the making of the album and we can listen to it from a fresh perspective, and that’s an unusual thing as well. So when I hear myself in the music, I can’t hear myself in the music [laughs] in a good old paradox. The same with Tuomas and Johanna. I don’t hear them either, but I hear a complete unit. It’s topsy-turvy and it’s all over the place. It’s really like trying to describe the inexplicable and the indescribable with Auri. That’s why it’s so unique and important to me, personally, to pursue it to its absolute graceful end, whatever that might be.

I like the way you think – must be why I liked the album so much when I listened. Now then, I won’t ask about the songs too much, except the last song, which stands out from the rest of the album a little bit. Can you tell me a little bit about that song?
Troy: Definitely! [laughter]

I feel like I walked in on a bit of an inside joke here.
Troy: [laughter] It’s not, but it was a kind of coda, wasn’t it?

Tuomas: It was a coda. Imagine, in this world of music, where all the songs are about love, sex, and death, and losing your baby. [laughter]

Troy: Baby, baby, baby, you left me this morning, I’m really fed up. [laughter]

Tuomas: So imagine, in this musical world, you’re able and allowed to create a song about a girl who is wandering in the woods picking chanterelles, then she finds a well, which is filled with liquor, then she gets really drunk and starts dancing about with the whole universe. Trees, soil, that’s what the song is about.

Troy: That is what it’s about, and we’re not joking either.

Tuomas: No, we’re not joking. Or it can be about anything. But that’s what it’s basically about.

Troy: But Tuomas is bang-on there. It is the case. I’d say 97% of songs are about sex and self-pity. So to have that girl in the woods picking mushrooms, and then it explodes into a universal cosmic dance and the whole world is singing with her, the leaves on the trees, it’s wonderful and it’s fiery and it’s just perfect for me. And it’s got the most extraordinary vocal expressions in music I’ve ever heard. It blew me and Tuomas’ minds. We did pass out. We fainted. [laughter]

Tuomas: Yeah, we did. Because it’s all her. We gave her no guidance.

Troy: No, nothing!

Tuomas: Just sing whatever you want throughout the end-

Troy: And we weren’t there! This is another part of the Auri mystery of beauty. The recording process was done independent of each other. We’re completely dependent on each other. Auri is full of these mysteries. So Johanna recorded all of her vocals on her own. We had no input, nothing. We had none. So then we would hear the results and it was astounding. In that particular track, in that piece, she does sound like she’s at one with everything and she does sound a bit squiffy and drunk [laughter] and she does sound like she’s just 10 minutes ago been born out of the earth. She does sound like she’s flying. She sounds all of those things, and we were there, along for the ride. We were building this massive bed and she was jumping on it like a trampoline [laughter], surrounded by autumnal leaves. It was perfect! It still gives me the shivers when I think about it. In fact, I’m going to go listen to it now… [laughter] [gets up to leave, laughs, and sits down again]

It’s the kind of song you don’t need drugs to get high off.
Troy: Nicely put! That’s exactly it, yeah. However, drugs might be interesting with that song.

Tuomas: Mushrooms especially. [laughter]

Well that’s more or less it for my questions. To end things, what else is on the horizon for all of you guys in the future now that this is going to be released in a month or so?
Troy: The good ship Nightwish is about to set sail.

Tuomas: It’s all about Nightwish for the next 2-3 years I think, with the upcoming Decades Tour, an album followed by that, a tour followed by that album. [Johanna] has her own things coming up. So we’re going to be pretty busy for the next couple of years. But after that, more Auri.

Troy: Absolutely more Auri.

Tuomas: Auri goes live. Cathedrals and Castles Tour in Europe. That’s gonna happen at some point.

Troy: That too. That’ll be 2022. Already we’ve got that tour booked. [laughter] The tickets go online tomorrow and you can buy the T-shirt and everything tomorrow.

Tuomas: Special hats.

Troy: We might even do an acoustic tour of saunas. [laughter] That would be interesting.

Johanna: Oooooooh!

Hey, don’t knock it… it might be a rather liberating/transcendent experience, to get a bunch of people naked and listen to acoustic music in the heat.
Troy: … We do that all the time! [laughter]

Well thank you so much for your time, and best of luck with the album’s release!
All: Thank you.

 

Auri will be released on March 23rd, 2018, through Nuclear Blast Records. You can listen to the first single, “Night 13”, on YouTube here:

CRADLE OF FILTH – Nosturi, Helsinki, 07.03.2018

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The UK’s purveyors of extreme Gothic metal, Cradle of Filth, came to Nosturi, Helsinki to promote their new album, Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay. Even though they began the tour with Moonspell in tow, they unfortunately had to stand alone in Helsinki as Moonspell dropped out of a select number of shows. Rumor has it that it may have had something to do with the fact that both bands are big enough to fill a Nosturi-sized venue by themselves. Regardless, the Ipswich-based dark romantics of CoF have always had a following here and should be a spectacle all on their own. For the squeamish, I must warn that some of the song titles mentioned in this report have expletives in them.

Though CoF were at the height of their career (at least so far) in my formative years, I never quite got into them. They usually get lumped in with black metal but it’s probably not where they’re most comfortable. Black metallers are generally very particular about the company they keep, even though they are highly influenced by black metal and its Gothic themes. For brevity’s sake I’ll be referring to their style as Gothic metal. Nevertheless, at least the stuff I remember hearing from them had lots of blast-beats and evil screams. I decided to don my corpse paint in a vain effort to get into the mood for some blasphemous fun.

You can check out the setlist on Spotify here:

Since there were no supporting acts, the band was slated to begin at 21:00, with the new album cover as the backdrop. The drums were elevated to the left side of the stage behind some Plexiglas, no doubt to keep the drums from interfering with the other mics on stage and vice versa. After two scans of the crowd at this point, I could not find a single other person who bothered to put on corpse paint. Though they aren’t exactly KISS, I was still a bit taken aback. A visually-oriented Goth metal group and not a single other person with a painted face? Perhaps if it had been a weekend instead of a Wednesday and if there had been at least one other act performing, there might have been a bit more enthusiasm.

A grandiose intro tape with “ave Satani, corpus Satani” in the lyrics sung by a choir started the show. It then bled into the first riff; it was “Gilded Cunt” from Nymphetamine. Honestly, the first riff reminded me of Venom and the vocals more or less matched at first. As the pace picked up a bit, vocalist Dani Filth broke out his signature glass-shattering screeches. The second song began with an organ inspired haunting synth solo; it was a lot faster, blast-beats and all. At times it could have even been mistaken for black metal. There was a brief section or two for female vocals too – the first one was an aria with no lyrics. She did a little bit of spoken word and some more melodic parts as well. Love it or hate it, we were quite definitely at a CoF show.

Between the second and third song, Dani Filth told us it was their 40th show in a row. He claimed that roughly one-in-two people in the crowd were in a band and that despite this they couldn’t find anyone to support their act. This was obviously in jest but made me wonder if I should’ve tried to contact them. The third song was dedicated to the people in the first row: “Blackest Magick in Practice” from the album The Hammer of Witches. It was met with thunderous applause and was epic in nature, even though some of the vocal melodies chosen came across as strangely folk music -inspired.

“Heartbreak and Seance” from the new album followed. Dani Filth quite colorfully explained, “It was inevitable that we play something from our latest musical excretion.” It was obviously built to be a single with its catchy chorus and more or less simple structure. In their defense, every band does this to a degree and at least the structure wasn’t completely obvious.

Dani Filth said at this point that it was the 20th anniversary of the album Cruelty and the Beast. They promised it would be re-released and remixed soon with some of the little annoyances – namely the drum sound – fixed. They then played “Bathory Aria” from said album, a rather long song of 11 minutes.

Their attire and make-up more closely resembled their classic look than the most recent charcoal black promo pictures. As for the sound, upon closer inspection, their instruments were most likely directly hooked up to the PA instead of having amps on stage. This enabled a clearer sound… for the first floor. The second floor could barely hear any guitar or bass, and even after that, the sound was mostly artificial and didn’t seem like it was coming from the same room. There had been a nagging feeling that I couldn’t place, but this had been the primary factor in making the entire evening seem disingenuous. It felt as if it may as well have been entirely playback.

After a few more songs, Dani Filth ended “You Will Know the Lion by His Claw” with a mic drop and the band left the stage. Of course, they came back out for a few more songs including fan favorite “Nymphetamine Fix.” Eventually they finished with “From the Cradle to Enslave”, which they predictably dedicated to the audience whilst proclaiming their love for this country.

 

I have to say that this whole night didn’t exactly work for me. Even though I’m not a fan, I was at least expecting some decent headbanging action. Instead, it seemed a cold and calculated endeavor, devoid of any real essence. Some of the people I talked to at the gig shared my feelings on the sterile sound, while a few touted it as the best they’d seen of CoF live. Both sides of the spectrum agreed, however, that they would have benefited from a supporting band. Perhaps next time they’ll bring a more complete roster, but it would have to be something truly spectacular to motivate me to come see them again.

Setlist:
Intro: Ave Satani
1. Gilded Cunt
2. Beneath the Howling Stars
3. Blackest Magick in Practice
4. Heartbreak and Seance
5. Bathory Aria
6. Dusk and Her Embrace
7. The Death of Love
8. You Will know the Lion by His Claws

Encore:
9. The Promise of Fever
10. Nymphetamine Fix
11. Her Ghost in the Fog
12. Born in a Burial Gown
13. From the Cradle to Enslave
Outro: Blooding the Hounds of Hell

RHAPSODY w/ SCARLET AURA & BEAST IN BLACK @ Proxima, Warsaw, 06.03.2018

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Rhapsody with Beast in Black and Scarlet Aura at Proxima in Warsaw, March 2018.
Photos by Maria Sawicka.

AMORPHIS – Tomi Koivusaari & Olli-Pekka Laine, Helsinki 2018 (English)

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Amorphis presented their upcoming album, Queen of Time, to journalists at Sonic Pump Studios in Helsinki on February 24th, 2018. After the first round of listening, the band gave interviews, and we sat down with rhythm guitarist Tomi Koivusaari and the recently rejoined bassist Olli-Pekka “Oppu” Laine for a chat about the making of the new album, Oppu’s return, and the guys’ other musical endeavors.

CORRECTION: Oppu Laine was referring to the permanent lineup of Barren Earth in his comment, not the original.

 

The album is done and was just presented to outside ears for the first time. As the legendary sports question goes, how do you feel right now?
Tomi: Well well… how would I put it? I’ve been inside this for so long that it feels like I know it inside-out. But it is always exciting when you realize that someone else will hear it and have an opinion on it as well. It is exciting!

Oppu: Same here – in a way, after the session you want to get some distance from the material, so now it’s good to listen to this record with fresh ears and get a new perspective on it. It’s good for yourself too, when you have a good reason for listening.

You worked with Jens Bogren for the second time. How did the process differ from Under the Red Cloud (2015)?
Tomi: Not much, except this time we knew what we were going to do and knew Jens’s habits. The first time, some things came as a surprise – not in a negative way, but as a surprise nonetheless – that certain pace and precision. Now you knew exactly what you were going into, which on the other hand made it a bit more relaxed… or maybe even. But the structure was the same as previously: you’d go and work on things from dawn ’til dusk. I don’t know, maybe it was easier for Jens as well, knowing what we’re like as players, although the bassist had changed. It was a pretty easy process.

Oppu: It’s a bit hard for me to say, for obvious reasons, but I was happy to notice that although it was a hectic session in a way… we had a week to record drums and you had to work all the time. Snoopy [Jan Rechberger, drums] had to play there all the time, and the others could of course go where they wanted when they had the chance. Then when it was time to play my own parts, I spent three days there in Örebro working on them. It truly was from dawn to dusk; in the best case you’d start at 7:30 in the morning and end sometime around 21:00. My fingers were practically bleeding, and I would play with the help of painkillers. I had little time, which got used pretty effectively.

That’s hard work!
Oppu: Yes, but it was good that you could get everything done in such a short period.

According to the press release, Jens had a strong vision for this album. Did this lead to any disagreements or did you trust his vision?
Tomi: There weren’t really disagreements – I feel like maybe last time Jens had more ideas for changes in the songs. It may be that we took them into account beforehand in a way… maybe. Something like “Jens will suggest that this should be faster anyway” and so on. There were some parts that did change, and certain arrangement ideas were done over. Then we knew that he had some visions for choirs and this kind of stuff, but we didn’t really have anything to say about those, because we didn’t know what they would sound like until we heard them. I did accept them though.

Oppu: Yeah, the songs were roughly in that form even before the sessions. Jens did put in a lot of work, but you shouldn’t think he did this all alone. [laughs] The songs and the arrangements were made by the band, and then we fixed them together with Jens. All these string arrangements and orchestrations are just spicing things up there. The songs can be executed even without them in a live situation.

It doesn’t go into Nightwish territory.
Oppu: No, it doesn’t.

Tomi: Mainly the sounds we normally might’ve played – and in the rehearsals did play – on keyboards were replaced with real ones.

Oppu: Yeah, that’s right. We’ve always had Human Voices [a keyboard patch -ed.] and strings in use since the 90s, but now they’re just actualized in a different way.

While introducing the album, Jens also mentioned that not all the pieces were in place yet by the time you hit the studio. What kind of shape were the songs in at that point?
Tomi: They were in the shape they usually are in. We came straight from the tour, so we had an intensive… I think we had a break of a week or two, and then we had a couple of weeks to check through the songs. We’d all heard them – we’d been exchanging demos, so little by little you’d managed to instill them in your head. I think it was maybe a couple of weeks before Jens came in – I’m not entirely sure.

Oppu: We had the last gig of the tour on a Saturday, and on the following Monday we started rehearsing.

Tomi: Right, it was like that – we didn’t have a break after all.

Oppu: At least I was surprised at how elaborate and mature the demos were already. Those songs were pretty much ready when we started rehearsing them. We also made some changes before giving them to Jens. Nowadays it’s possible to demo songs pretty elaborately at home, so they were in a pretty good shape.

Tomi: Yeah, they didn’t go through any major changes in the end. Of course the entity is always built from small details, so we did check those out, but they were basically such that had we rehearsed them for half a year, we would’ve had everything totally refined. Then Jens might’ve put the pieces in a new order, but now we kind of kept it as a sketch of sorts intentionally, so that in the studio we had time to refine it into the final form.

Oppu, you’re a sort of expat who rejoined the band after years of absence. What does it feel like to have the original foursome back together again?
Oppu: It does feel really good, there’s no denying it. It’s been fun and natural – right from the first show it felt like there was no forcing going on, although we played quite a lot of material that I hadn’t originally been involved in. But the band is the same and the guys are the same, so it’s natural that the material fits my playing pretty smoothly. It’s felt good and luckily I get to carry on. Hopefully for a long time!

How much have you followed Amorphis over the years after your initial departure and have the newer songs become familiar to you?
Oppu: I have followed them, and of course these songs that we’ve been playing at festivals and elsewhere have become familiar from the radio or somewhere. But I don’t really listen to any kind of metal or new music that much. I don’t really follow any bands, I just listen to jazz at home. [laughs] I haven’t listened to the records, but now I have discovered that it is pretty strong material, especially starting with Eclipse (2006). We’ve been playing stuff from then on, and I have liked it.

Have you got any new favorites after playing them live?
Oppu: Tough question, but I thought it was cool when at the very first shows we played Eclipse from start to finish. I think it’s a pretty strong entity, and it gave a good reason to delve into one full album. There are quite a few good songs, but then every record has its best moments. I don’t want to pick any individual songs, but there’s good material, and it’s been a pleasure to play it.

Speaking of Eclipse, in the official Amorphis biography it was mentioned that you guys recorded demos of some of the songs that ended up on the album with Pasi Koskinen on vocals before he left the band. Can you remember which ones they were?
Tomi: What was there? There was probably at least this… [laughs] I can’t remember the titles! What was the third song called again?

“Leaves Scar.”
Tomi: That’s the one! But they had different lyrics and totally different vocal ideas. It must’ve been that and… I don’t know, the brains filter out all the unessential information! [laughs] I can’t remember – we had tried out some songs, but we hadn’t gotten far into that process. Actually I don’t know if we even demoed them with Pasi – we may have mainly demoed those songs as songs that we would’ve started to look into next with Pasi, but then he left. We had songs ready, but I can’t remember if Pasi did any vocals.

We didn’t get to see the credits yet, so how much did you contribute to the writing of the new album?
Oppu: I did bring in material, but it was still in such a sketchy state that there was really no point in working on it that much.

So none made it in yet?
Oppu: Well, there’s one as a bonus track, but it’s like that for a reason. It may not have fit into that entity. I think this is a strong package now – we made the right song choices. But everyone does have the chance to bring in material. The album tracks were written by Esa [Holopainen, guitar] and Sande [Santeri Kallio, keyboards].

Tomi: Yeah, I didn’t get anything done this time either. Due to the situation in my personal life, it didn’t take off – no ideas came. Maybe again on the next record then… but it’s good that we’ve almost got too many songs, so it doesn’t matter even if you can’t always contribute.

And you’ve got a dozen records behind you as well.
Tomi: Well yeah, that too.

Since there are so many string and choir parts on the album, has the idea of an orchestral show been brought up yet?
Tomi: Sande can play some of those, so we can still perform a gig without anything, with the band only. But we have to think about it once we start looking at the songs. It would be pretty sweet to get some of the things in if they were played back as samples.

Oppu: It’s going to be a lot of work to make live arrangements when the gigs start. It remains to be seen what can be done. There are certainly some songs that we won’t be able to play live.

Tomi: Right… I believe they may all be playable, but then we can use… we never use backing tracks of the instruments we play ourselves, like having drums on there or something. It’s mainly for the special stuff. If there are female vocals, it’d be pretty crude if they got totally left out if you want to play that song.

I think it was track #4 (“The Golden Elk”) that included a solo played on an exotic string instrument. What is it called?
Tomi: Right, it was this udu… [laughs]

Oppu: Like this nylon string-like or -sounding thing. Some Croatian… or was it Greek?

Tomi: Oh well, it is some sort of string instrument.

Oppu: Somewhere from around Balkan anyway. Jens knew a musician who made an arrangement… or basically played a solo.

How is it going with Barren Earth? You have a new album (A Complex of Cages) coming out, but I assume you won’t have a lot of time for gigs, with the Amorphis album cycle starting soon.
Oppu: Well yeah, that is true. We’ll see when it’s a bit quieter on this front. Now we’re going to play two shows in Finland, and that’s it for now. As a lineup, it’s been difficult from the start – we’ve used substitutes, but now we have the sort of mentality in the band that we’d like to play with the album lineup, if we do play, which naturally makes things even more difficult. [laughs] But maybe it’s a supportable idea in itself. Then when the right moment arrives, I’m sure we’ll become active on the gig front.

What about Abhorrence? I’ve heard you guys have something new in the works as well.
Tomi: Yeah, we’re supposed to record an EP. We got over the threshold and [wrote] the first new songs in 27 years. You kind of had to get yourself in the mental state you were in as a 15-year-old. [laughs] But when we made it, it was surprisingly easy, or if not easy, then at least fun. At the moment we have two fully complete songs, and a lyrical concept actually exists for the next album already, but that’s going to be a bigger step. We decided that it’s good to start with this kind of EP.

As a little warmup.
Tomi: Yeah, and we can continue later if we’ve got time. The idea is that it’s supposed to be fun. Of course you don’t want to release anything lukewarm so that you can stand behind it. At least to us it’s a hell of a lot of fun to do some chainsawing after a long break.

Is it like a return to teenage years?
Tomi: [laughs] Maybe there’s more of a class reunion feeling, as you’re messing around with your childhood friends. The others don’t do this for a living, so I guess getting to play once in a while means a lot to them as well. Maybe nowadays old geezers’ jamming consists of death metal and blastbeats, while in the past it used to be some kind of blues jamming. You go chainsawing at the rehearsal room. [laughs] But we’ll see, yeah – we’ve got one gig coming up and we’ll play gigs sometime in the future if we feel like it. There are no bigger plans.

The last time, we interviewed Esa before the Juhlaviikot show. How did the Huvila gig go for you?
Tomi: It left a good feeling – it was very successful. It was an exciting place, because of course it’s a hometown event where you’d seen all kinds of spectacles before. But the atmosphere there was really good and I feel like we nailed it. Hopefully some day we’ll get to do something like that again. It was exactly the fact that it was something special that made it fun, having the show in two parts including acoustic stuff, guests, and other kinds of things we normally wouldn’t do.

It was certainly special from a viewer’s perspective as well! Now, Niclas [Etelävuori, bass] left the band a year ago and he’s got a new band called Flat Earth. Has he played any of their stuff to you guys yet?
Tomi: I guess he has played to some of us – I think our drummer Snoopy recorded their first demo. I haven’t bumped into him, but I don’t think we would’ve been ringing each other anyway. But I don’t see any problem – it would be nice to see him at some point and hear this band too.

Okay, our slot is coming to a close, so thanks for your time!
Tomi: Thanks!

Oppu: Thank you!

Photos: Miia Collander

AMORPHIS – Tomi Koivusaari & Olli-Pekka Laine, Helsinki 2018 (suomeksi)

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Amorphis esitteli tulevan Queen of Time -albuminsa toimittajille Sonic Pump -studioilla Helsingissä 24. helmikuuta 2018. Ensimmäisen kuuntelukierroksen jälkeen bändi jakoi haastatteluja, ja Musicalypse pääsi jututtamaan komppikitaristi Tomi Koivusaarta ja hiljattain bändin riveihin palannutta basisti Olli-Pekka “Oppu” Lainetta tuoreen levyn teosta, Opun paluusta sekä miesten muiden bändien kuulumisista.

KORJAUS: Oppu Laine viittasi kommentissaan Barren Earthin vakituiseen kokoonpanoon, ei alkuperäiseen.

 

Levy on valmis ja juuri esitelty ensi kertaa ulkopuolisille korvapareille. Legendaarinen urheilukysymys: miltä nyt tuntuu?
Tomi: Tuota tuota… Mitenhän sitä sanoisi? Itse on ollut niin sisällä tuossa pitkään, että tuntuu että on se läpikotaisin itselleen tuttu. Mutta kyllä se aina jännää on siinä vaiheessa, kun tajuaa että joku muukin kuulee ja jollain muullakin on siitä jokin mielipide. Onhan se jännä!

Oppu: Sama juttu – tavallaan session jälkeen itse haluaa vähän ottaa etäisyyttä materiaaliin, niin nyt on hyvä uusin korvin kuunnella tätä levyä ja saada uutta perspektiiviä siihen. Tekee ihan hyvää itsellekin, että on hyvä syy kuunnella.

Työskentelitte Jens Bogrenin kanssa toista kertaa. Miten prosessi erosi Under the Red Cloudista (2015)?
Tomi: No ei oikeastaan muuten, paitsi että nyt tiedettiin, mitä oltiin lähdössä tekemään ja tiedettiin Jensin tavat. Ekalla kerralla jotkut asiat tuli yllätyksenä – ei mitenkään negatiivisena, mutta yllätyksenä kuitenkin – se tietty tahti ja tarkkuus. Nyt tiesi täysin, mihin lähdettiin, että toisaalta oli sen takia vähän rennompaa… ehkäpä, jopa. Mutta samanlainen kaava oli kuin aikaisemmassa työskentelytahdissa: siellä sitten mennään ja siellä hierotaan aamusta yöhön. En mä tiedä, ehkä Jensillekin oli sitten helpompaa toisaalta, että se tiesi, millaisia me ollaan soittajina, vaikka olikin basisti vaihtunut. Oli aika semmoinen iisi prosessi.

Oppu: Meikän on vähän vaikea sanoa sattuneista syistä, mutta ilolla vaan totesin, että vaikka se oli hektinen sessio sinänsä… Meillä oli viikko kun äänitettiin rumpuja ja siellä tehtiin töitä koko aika. Snoopy [Jan Rechberger, rummut] joutui olemaan koko ajan siellä soittamassa ja muut sai sitten toki lähteä sieltä minne halusi, kun tilaisuus koitti. Sitten kun tuli omat osuudet niin olin kolme päivää siellä Örebrossa tekemässä. Se oli kyllä sitten ihan aamusta iltaan; parhaassa tapauksessa puoli kahdeksalta aamulla aloitettiin ja sitten joskus yhdeksältä lopetettiin. Siellä oli ihan sormet suurin piirtein verillä, särkylääkkeen voimalla tuli soiteltua. Vielä kun oli lyhyt aika käytössä, niin se tuli aika tehokkaasti käytettyä.

Kunnon työntekoa.
Oppu: Kyllä. Mutta sinänsä hyvä, että pystyi noin lyhyellä aikavälillä tekemään kaiken valmiiksi.

Albumin lehdistötiedotteessa sanottiin, että Jensillä oli vahva visio levyn suhteen. Tuliko studiossa erimielisyyksiä vai luotitteko hänen näkemykseensä?
Tomi: Ei oikeastaan erimielisyyksiä – musta tuntuu, että aikaisemmalla kerralla Jensillä oli ehkä enemmän muutosideoita biiseihin. Voi olla, että meilläkin on vaikuttanut se, että me otettiin ne tavallaan etukäteen huomioon… ehkä. Jotkut että “Jens joka tapauksessa ehdottaa, että tämän pitäisi olla nopeampi” ja niin edespäin. Oli siellä joitain osia, jotka vaihtui, ja tiettyjä sovitusideoita pistettiin uusiksi. Sitten me tiedettiin, että sillä on jotain visioita just kuoroista ja tällaisista systeemeistä, mutta niihin meillä nyt ei ollut sillä tavalla mitään sanottavaa, koska eihän me tiedetty niitä visioita ennen kuin me kuultiin. Pystyin ne kyllä allekirjoittamaan.

Oppu: Kyllähän ne biisit aika pitkälle oli tuossa muodossa jo ennen sessioita. Jens teki kyllä ison työn siinä, mutta eihän sitä pidä kuitenkaan luulla, että se olisi yksin tätä tehnyt. [naurua] Kyllä ne biisit ja sovitukset on bändin tekemiä, ja sitten yhdessä Jensin kanssa korjailtiin niitä. Kaikki nämä jousisovitukset ja orkestraatiot on vaan mausteena siellä. Biisit pystytään toteuttamaan ilman niitäkin livetilanteessa.

Ei mene ihan miksikään Nightwish-meiningiksi.
Oppu: Ei se kyllä mene.

Tomi: Lähinnä sellaiset, mitkä normaalisti oltaisiin ehkä toteutettu – ja ollaan treenivaiheessa toteutettukin – kiippareilla nyt vaan tavallaan korvattiin sitten oikeilla.

Oppu: Joo, näin on. Meillähän on aina ollut Human Voicet ja jouset käytössä 90-luvulta lähtien, mutta nyt ne vaan toteutetaan toisella tavalla.

Jens mainitsi myös esipuheessaan, että kaikki palikat eivät olleet vielä paikoillaan, kun menitte studioon. Kuinka hyvällä mallilla biisit olivat?
Tomi: Oli ne sellaisella mallilla kuin ne yleensäkin on. Me tultiin suoraan rundilta, että meillä oli sellainen intensiivinen… olisiko meillä ollut joku viikko taukoa ja sitten meillä oli pari viikkoa, että meidän piti tsekata biisit. Oltiin me kaikki kuultu ne – me oltiin vaihdeltu demoja, niin pikkuhiljaa oli saanut niitä iskostettua kaaliin. Mun mielestä se oli ehkä pari viikkoa ennen kuin Jens tuli – en nyt ole ihan varma.

Oppu: Meillä oli lauantaina kiertueen viimeinen keikka, niin maanantaina aloitettiin treenaamaan.

Tomi: Niin, näin se oli – ei meillä ollutkaan taukoa.

Oppu: Mä olin ainakin itse yllättynyt, miten pitkälle vietyjä ja kypsiä ne demot oli jo. Ne biisit oli kyllä aika valmiita siinä vaiheessa jo, kun niitä alettiin treenaamaan. Ja kyllähän mekin tehtiin niihin jotain muutoksia ennen kuin Jensille laitettiin. Nykyään on mahdollista demottaa kotona aika pitkälle noita ralleja, niin kyllä ne aika hyvällä mallilla oli.

Tomi: Joo, ei niihin mitään major muutoksia sitten loppupeleissä tullut. Ainahan pikkujutuista rakentuu sitten se kokonaisuus, että kyllä siellä niitä tsekattiin, mutta ne oli lähinnä semmoisia, että jos me oltaisiin treenattu niitä puoli vuotta, niin me oltaisiin hiottu kaikki jo viimeisen päälle. Sitten Jens olisi pistänyt ehkä palikat uuteen järjestykseen, mutta nyt me tavallaan jätettiin se semmoiseksi raakileeksi tarkoituksellakin, että me ehdittiin kyllä hieroa siinä studiovaiheessa sitten siihen lopulliseen muotoon.

Oppu, liityit bändiin uudelleen eräänlaisena paluumuuttajana. Miltä tuntuu, kun alkuperäinen nelikko on taas kasassa vuosien tauon jälkeen?
Oppu: Kyllä se tuntuu tosi hyvältä, ei käy kiistäminen. On ollut hauskaa ja luonnollista – heti ekasta keikasta lähtien oikeastaan tuntui siltä, ettei ollut mitään väkisinväännön makua siinä, vaikka soitettiin aika paljon materiaalia, mikä ei ole mun alkuperäistä matskua. Mutta bändi on sama ja tyypit on samoja, niin kyllä se on luonnollista, että se materiaalikin aika sulavasti menee oman soiton kanssa yksiin. Hyvältä on tuntunut ja onneksi pääsee jatkamaan. Toivottavasti pitkään!

Kuinka ahkerasti olet seurannut Amorphista tässä vuosien varrella ja ovatko uudemmat biisit tulleet tutuiksi?
Oppu: Kyllä mä olen seurannut, ja tietenkin nämä biisit, mitä me ollaan festareilla soitettu ja muualla on tulleet tutuiksi jostain radiosta. Mutta en mä itsekään oikeastaan mitään metallimusaa tai uutta musaa kuuntele hirveästi. Mä en oikeastaan seuraa mitään bändejä, kuuntelen vaan jazzia kotona. [naurua] En mä nyt ole sillä lailla diggaillut levyjä, mutta nyt sitten tässä tämän myötä olen todennut, että se on kyllä vahvaa materiaalia, varsinkin Eclipsestä (2006) lähtien. Siitä eteenpäin me ollaan niitä oikeastaan soitettu ja olen kyllä tykännyt.

Onko keikkojen myötä noussut esiin joitain suosikkeja?
Oppu: Vaikea kysymys, mutta se oli mun mielestä kivaa, kun ihan ekoilla keikoilla soitettiin Eclipse alusta loppuun. Mun mielestä siinä on aika vahva kokonaisuus, ja siinä oli hyvää syy syventyä yhteen levykokonaisuuteen. Kyllä siellä on aika paljon hyviä biisejä, mutta sitten on kuitenkin joka levyllä ne parhaat hetkensä. En halua nostaa mitään yksittäisiä biisejä, mutta siellä on kuitenkin hyvää matskua, ja niitä on ollut ilo soittaa.

Eclipsestä saakin aasinsillan seuraavaan kysymykseen: virallisessa Amorphis-kirjassa mainittiin, että olitte demottaneet joitain kyseisen levyn biisejä jo Pasi Koskisen laulamina. Muistuuko mieleen, mistä kappaleista oli kyse?
Tomi: Mitähän siellä nyt olisi ollut? Oli siellä varmaan ainakin tämä… [naurua] En muista nimiä! Siis mikäs tämä kolmas biisi nyt oli?

“Leaves Scar”.
Tomi: Just! Mutta siis niissähän oli eri sanat ja ihan eri lauluideat. Olisiko se ollut ja… En tiedä, aivot tyhjentää nykyään kaiken sellaisen epäoleellisen tiedon. [naurua] En muista – kyllä jotain biisejä oltiin kokeiltu, muttei varsinaisesti oltu kovin pitkälle päästy siinä prosessissa. Itse asiassa en tiedä, demotettiinko edes Pasin kanssa – olisiko ollut lähinnä, että demotettiin niitä biisejä biiseinä, että mitä oltaisiin alettu katsomaan seuraavaksi Pasin kanssa, mutta sitten Pasi lähti. Niitä biisejä oli valmiina, mutten muista tekikö Pasi lauluja.

Emme päässeet näkemään kredittejä, joten kuinka paljon itse osallistuitte uuden levyn sävellysprosessiin?
Oppu: Itse toin kyllä materiaalia, mutta ne oli niin raakileita vielä, ettei ollut tavallaan syytä lähteä niitä työstämään kauheasti.

Eivät kerenneet mukaan vielä?
Oppu: No kyllä siellä on bonusbiisinä yksi, mutta se on ihan syystäkin. Se ei ehkä tuohon kokonaisuuteen sopinut. Mun mielestä tämä on nyt vahva paketti – ihan oikeat biisivalinnat tuli tehtyä. Mutta kaikilla on mahdollisuus tuoda materiaalia kyllä. Nämä levybiisit on Esan [Holopainen, kitara] ja Sanden [Santeri Kallio, kosketinsoittimet] käsialaa.

Tomi: Joo, mäkään en saanut mitään aikaiseksi tällä kertaa. Henkilökohtaisen elämäntilanteen takia ei lähtenyt, ei tullut idiksiä. Ehkä ensi levylle sitten taas… Mutta se on hyvä, siis niitä biisejähän riittää meillä liiaksikin asti, ettei haittaa vaikkei aina pääse talkoisiin mukaan.

Ja levyjähän on takanakin jo tusinan verran.
Tomi: No joo, sekin vielä.

Onko kerennyt herätä ideaa jonkinlaisesta orkesterikeikasta, kun levyllä on mukana jousi- ja kuoro-osuuksia?
Tomi: Osanhan niistä pystyy Sande soittamaan, että kyllä me pystytään edelleen soittamaan keikka ilman mitään, pelkällä bändillä. Mutta pitää miettiä, kun aletaan katsoa noita biisejä. Kyllä osa jutuista olisi ihan makee saada mukaan, jos ne ajaa sampleina sieltä.

Oppu: Se on iso työ nyt tehdä keikkasovituksia, kun keikat alkaa. Se jää nähtäväksi, mitä pystytään tekemään. Kyllä siellä on varmaan sellaisiakin biisejä, mitä ei pysty livenä soittamaan.

Tomi: Niin… Uskon, että niitä kaikkia ehkä pystyy, mutta sittenhän voi käyttää… Eihän me koskaan käytetä mitään taustajuttuja niistä soittimista, mitä me itse soitetaan, että sieltä tulisi kannut tai jotain. Se on lähinnä semmoisia spessuhommia… Jos siellä on naislaulua, niin on se vähän karua, jos se jää kokonaan pois jos sen biisin haluaa soittaa.

Muistaakseni neljännellä raidalla (“The Golden Elk”) oli tällainen eksoottisella kielisoittimella soitettu soolo? Mikä instrumentti mahtaa olla kyseessä?
Tomi: Niin, se oli tämä udu… [naurua]

Oppu: Siis tämä joku nylonkielisen tapainen tai -kuuloinen. Joku kroatialainen… vai oliko se kreikkalainen?

Tomi: No mutta joku kielisoitin se on.

Oppu: Jostain Balkanin suunnista kuitenkin. Jens tunsi jonkun muusikon, joka teki sovituksen… tai soitti soolon lähinnä.

Mitä Barren Earthille kuuluu? Uutta levyä on tulossa, mutta ilmeisesti keikoille ei ole pahemmin aikaa Amorphiksen syklin alkaessa pian.
Oppu: No joo, se on totta kyllä. Katsotaan sitten, kun on vähän hiljaisempaa tällä rintamalla. Nyt me soitetaan kaksi keikkaa Suomessa ja se on tällä erää siinä. Se on kokoonpanona ollut vaikea alusta lähtien – tuuraajia on käytetty, mutta nyt meillä on sellainen mieliala bändissä, että me haluttaisiin tehdä ihan levykokoonpanolla, jos tehdään, mikä tekee asiasta luonnollisesti vielä vaikeampaa. [naurua] Mutta ehkä se on kannatettava ajatus sinänsä. Sitten kun sopiva hetki koittaa, niin kyllä me varmaan aktivoidutaan keikkarintamalla.

Entä Abhorrence? Kuulemma teilläkin on uutta materiaalia tekeillä.
Tomi: Joo, meidän pitäisi äänittää EP. Päästiin sen kynnyksen yli, että [tehtiin] ensimmäiset uudet biisit 27 vuoteen. Piti tavallaan saada itsensä siihen mentaaliseen tilaan, mitä on ollut 15-vuotiaana. [naurua] Mutta sitten kun se onnistui, niin se oli yllättävän helppoa, tai jos ei helppoa, niin hauskaa ainakin. Meillä on nyt kaksi täysin valmista biisiä, ja sanoituksellinen konsepti on olemassa jo oikeastaan seuraavaan levyynkin, mutta se on sitten isompi askel. Päätettiin, että tällainen EP on hyvä aloittaa.

Pientä alkulämmittelyä.
Tomi: Niin, ja jatkaa sitten joskus, jos on aikaa. Sen idea on, että se on hauskaa. Tietenkään ei halua mitään huttua julkaista, että pystyy seisomaan sen takana. On se meistä ainakin hemmetin hauskaa sahata pitkästä aikaa.

Onko tämä eräänlainen paluu teini-ikään?
Tomi: [naurua] Ehkä enemmän tämmöinen luokkakokousfiilis, kuitenkin lapsuuden kavereiden kanssa puuhaillaan. Muut ei ammatikseen tee tätä, niin ehkä heillekin antaa aika paljon, että pääsee välillä vähän soittelemaan. Nykyaikana ehkä semmoinen vanhojen ukkojen jami on death metalia ja blastbeatia, kun joskus se oli jotain bluesjamittelua. Mennään sahaamaan kämpälle. [naurua] Mutta saa nähdä joo, on meillä yksi keikka tulossa ja tehdään joskus tulevaisuudessa keikkoja, jos siltä tuntuu. Ei ole mitään sen enempää suunnitelmia.

Viimeksi haastattelimme Esaa sivuillemme ennen keikkaanne Helsingin Juhlaviikoilla. Millaiset tunnelmat tuosta Huvila-teltan vedosta jäi?
Tomi: Hyvät fiiliksethän siitä jäi, sehän oli oikein onnistunut. Jännä paikka, kun tietenkin kotikaupungin tapahtuma, missä on käynyt katsomassa aikaisemmin kaiken maailman spektaakkeleita. Mutta oli siellä oikein hyvä tunnelma ja musta meni ihan nappiin. Toivottavasti joskus vielä pääsisi tekemään tuommoisen. Just se oli siinä hauska, että se oli tämmöistä spesiaalia, kun siinä oli kahdessa osassa akustista, vierailijoita ja muuta tämmöistä, mitä ei normaalisti tee.

Kieltämättä katsojankin näkökulmasta veto oli aika mieleenpainuva! Niclas [Etelävuori, basso] erosi bändistä vuosi sitten, ja nyt hänellä on Flat Earth -niminen bändi. Onko hän esitellyt teille uusia biisejään?
Tomi: On kai joillekin – rumpalimme Snoopy äänitti mun mielestä niiden ekan demon. Mä en oo törmännyt, mutta eipä tuossa nyt varmaan muutenkaan olisi tullut soiteltua. Mutta en näe mitään ongelmaa – olisi ihan mukava nähdä häntäkin jossain välissä ja kuulla myös tätä bändiä.

Slottimme alkaa näköjään olla lopuillaan, joten kiitos ajastanne!
Tomi: Juu, kiitoksia kiitoksia!

Oppu: Kiitos!

Kuvat: Miia Collander

AMORPHIS: Queen of Time listening session @ Sonic Pump Studios, Helsinki, 24.02.2018

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Amorphis have been featured on our site on numerous occasions before, but February 24th, 2018, was a very special day to write about, as Musicalypse had been invited to the listening session of the Finnish metal veterans’ 13th studio album, Queen of Time. The preceding record, Under the Red Cloud (2015), had been well-received by all of us, so naturally we were excited to hear where the band would go musically on its successor.

Lue suomeksi TÄÄLTÄ!
Interview with Tomi Koivusaari and Olli-Pekka Laine coming soon!

 

We arrived at the Sonic Pump Studios a dozen or so minutes before the scheduled 15:00 beginning. Having admired the gold discs and framed photos on the walls and caffeinating ourselves sufficiently, we sat down in the room where the album playback was to take place. The event began with lead guitarist Esa Holopainen and producer Jens Bogren giving a little introductory speech. Bogren teased Holopainen for not looking excited enough – “I am excited, but I’m Finnish!” the guitarist said in his own defense. Bogren also proclaimed that we would see a lot of names in the credits once the album comes out, as they had worked with musicians from Turkey, an Israeli choir, as well as “a drunk Pakistani flutist.” Finally, the long-awaited moment arrived and the ‘play’ button was pressed.

A track-by-track breakdown based on my notes follows below:

1. The Bee
A synth intro accompanied by ethereal female vocals leads us into the world of Queen of Time. The delayed guitar riff reminds me a bit of “The Way”, but the backing instrumentation is much more intense here. The growled oriental verses are typical heavy Amorphis, but there’s also some very gentle singing from Tomi Joutsen in the song. Nice start!

2. Message in the Amber
The Police wrote “Message in a Bottle”, but Amorphis relies on amber instead. The folky riff and the calm verses where Joutsen sings in two octaves lead me to believe that this song might even become a single like previous track #2s, such as “House of Sleep” and “Silver Bride”, but suddenly the growled chorus kicks in and I’m proved utterly wrong. The song takes unexpected turns, but that’s a positive thing.

3. Daughter of Hate
Prog time! Over the course of just one song, Amorphis offers us a 7/8 riff, a chorus with fierce black metal vocals, a saxophone solo, and a warm, jammy middle section where lyricist Pekka Kainulainen recites a poem in Finnish, among other things – to say there’s a lot going on here would be an understatement. A very likely favorite for myself, and perhaps for many other fans as well.

4. The Golden Elk
Tinkling synths and wordless female vocals open the tune, which also boasts a catchy riff and a big chorus. In the middle there are strings building up the drama, as well as a solo played on an exotic string instrument. As an extra curiosity, the album title is namedropped a few times in the lyrics. I have a feeling this is going to be another popular song among listeners.

5. Wrong Direction
The riff at the beginning recalls “Reformation” from 2011’s The Beginning of Times, and there are some big percussions accentuating the sound. “I should’ve understood / I should’ve seen it coming,” Joutsen sings in the infectious chorus, and in the fascinating middle section his voice has been run through a Vocoder or a similar robotic effect. There’s only a bit of growling at the end, and the massive outro reminds me of “Nemo” by Nightwish. Mark my words: this will be a single!

6. Heart of the Giant
A fragile guitar melody gives off a feeling of lonely melancholy, before giving way to a riff with a pace that makes me think of “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper; that is, until the drums come in and I realize I’ve been hearing the rhythm wrong in my head. What makes this song stand out is the chorus, where Joutsen growls in a very rhythmic, punishing manner, and at the end he’s backed by a choir to drive the point home even more emphatically. I could see this becoming a setlist staple!

7. We Accursed
There’s a bit of an “Escape” vibe on this one, and to be honest, it comes across as a bit of a filler, at least in comparison with the previous songs. I feel like more clean singing would fit this kind of tune better, as it’s not that dark or intense. That said, there’s an intricate folk riff that recurs multiple times in the latter half, and Santeri Kallio’s impressive keyboard solo is something to look out for as well.

8. Grain of Sand
The song starts off with sitar and a guitar melody that reminds me of Finnish rautalanka music, but that doesn’t last long, as the rest of the track includes some of the most pummeling riffs on the whole album. The interesting chorus includes a trade-off between clean and growled vocals, which makes me wonder if there’s a Joutsen/Koivusaari duet to be expected in case it gets played live.

9. Amongst Stars
Speaking of duets, this is one, between Joutsen and Anneke van Giersbergen herself. When a singer as prolific as her makes lots of guest appearances, the danger of inflation is always present, but luckily the results speak for themselves, as this may just be the highlight of the entire album. Musically, this feels a bit brighter than most of the other songs, and the final climax is particularly splendid.

10. Pyres on the Coast
Tomi Joutsen’s growls in the first verse are some of the grittiest and harshest he’s ever let out – possibly something he learned from the Hallatar sessions? There’s a lot of variety in this song, which is probably why it didn’t totally manage to click with me yet, but the big ending riff, emphasized by an orchestra and church organ, is an apt conclusion for the album in all its grandness.

After a little break, we got to hear the bonus tracks as well:

11. As Mountains Crumble
Compared to the main album, this track has a more relaxed and sparse 70s vibe: waltz beat, harmonized guitars, clean strumming, Hammond organ… an enjoyable song, but it’s easy to see why it ended up on the cutting room floor.

12. Brother and Sister
The delay guitars give the verses an “Alone”/”Sky Is Mine” feel, the chorus is catchy, and Holopainen’s guitar solo is brilliant. A good tune, just like the previous one, but being rather straightforward and more in line with earlier Joutsen-era albums, I totally get why it didn’t fit in either.

 

My first impression was very positive, and I actually got a bit of a The Beginning of Times vibe, though not as much from the music itself (although I did namedrop a few tracks from that record above) as the approach of the album. TBoT aimed for cinematic and epic sounds with songs like “Crack in a Stone”, and it also featured symphonic keyboards, female vocals, and various extra instruments, but on Queen of Time, the epic elements have been pushed boldly to the foreground and the result is more focused, which makes the album feels like a significant step forward in the band’s evolution. The instantly recognizable Amorphis recipe is still in use, but it’s been spiced up quite a bit.

It’s impossible to tell how Queen of Time stacks up against the rest of the Amorphis discography based on just one listen, as it’s by far the most challenging and least accessible album of the Joutsen era. If there’s one Amorphis record that requires time to sink in properly, it’s this one – as Bogren warned us beforehand, there’s a lot to digest. There are both clean and growling vocals, and lots of layers in every song, as well as few simplistic tunes or immediate hits to be found; however, further listens will surely be rewarding and unveil a lot of previously missed details. In any case, it’s evident that the boost that Bogren gave the band on Under the Red Cloud wasn’t just a flash in the pan, as their collaboration continues to be fruitful!

Photos: Miia Collander

AMORPHIS: Queen of Time -ennakkokuuntelu @ Sonic Pump Studios, Helsinki, 24.02.2018

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Amorphis on esiintynyt sivuillamme useaan otteeseen aiemmin, mutta 24. helmikuuta 2018 kirjoitettavaa löytyi erityistilaisuuden merkeissä, sillä Musicalypse oli kutsuttu mukaan suomimetallin veteraanien 13:nnen studioalbumin, Queen of Timen, ennakkokuunteluun. Edeltävä levy, Under the Red Cloud (2015), sai meiltä lämpimän vastaanoton, joten olimme luonnollisesti innokkaita kuulemaan, minne bändi suuntaisi musiikillisesti sen seuraajalla.

Read in English HERE!
Haastattelu Tomi Koivusaaren ja Olli-Pekka Laineen kanssa tulossa pian!

 

Saavuimme Sonic Pump -studioille kymmenisen minuuttia ennen kello kolmea, jolloin tilaisuuden oli määrä alkaa. Ihailtuamme seinillä roikkuneita kultalevyjä ja kehystettyjä kuvia ja tankattuamme kofeiinipitoisilla juomilla istahdimme huoneeseen, jossa levy soitettaisiin. Tapahtuma alkoi soolokitaristi Esa Holopaisen ja tuottaja Jens Bogrenin pienimuotoisella alustuksella. Bogren kiusoitteli Holopaista siitä, ettei tämä näyttänyt riittävän innokkaalta – “I am excited, but I’m Finnish,” kitaristi puolusteli itseään. Bogren ilmoitti myös, että albumin ilmestyessä sen tekijätiedoista löytyisi runsaasti nimiä, sillä he olivat työskennelleet turkkilaisten muusikoiden, israelilaisen kuoron ja “humalaisen pakistanilaisen huilistin” kanssa. Lopulta koitti kauan odotettu hetki, jolloin play-nappia painettiin.

Alla on muistiinpanoihini pohjautuva analyysi albumin jokaisesta raidasta:

1. The Bee
Eteerisellä naislaululla höystetty syntikkaintro johdattelee meidät ajan kuningattaren maailmaan. Delay-kitarariffi muistuttaa hieman “The Wayta”, mutta tässä instrumentit soivat taustalla paljon ponnekkaampina. Muristut itämaiset säkeistöt ovat tyypillistä raskaampaa Amorphista, mutta Tomi Joutsenelta kuullaan myös hempeämpää laulantaa. Hieno aloitus!

2. Message in the Amber
The Police kirjoitti pullopostia, mutta Amorphis luottaa meripihkaan. Folkahtava riffi ja rauhalliset säkeistöt, joissa Tomi Joutsen laulaa kahdessa eri oktaavissa, saavat minut odottamaan biisistä sinkkua “House of Sleepin” ja “Silver Briden” kaltaisten kakkosraitojen tapaan, mutta yhtäkkiä ilmoille kajahtaa öristy kertosäe, ja luuloni osoittautuvat täysin vääriksi. Biisissä kuullaan odottamattomia käännöksiä, mutta tämä on ainoastaan positiivinen asia.

3. Daughter of Hate
Progeaika! Yhden biisin aikana Amorphis onnistuu tarjoilemaan 7/8-riffin, raa’alla black metal -kärinällä varustetun kertosäkeen, saksofonisoolon ja lämpimästi jammailevan väliosan, jossa sanoittaja Pekka Kainulainen lausuu runoa suomeksi, ynnä muuta – olisi vähättelyä sanoa, että biisissä tapahtuu paljon. Tämä tulee varmasti olemaan yksi suosikeista itselleni – ja miksei muillekin.

4. The Golden Elk
Helisevät syntikat ja sanaton naislaulu avaavat kappaleen, joka omaa myös tarttuvan riffin ja ison kertosäkeen. Puolivälissä jouset kasvattelevat draamaa ja kuullaan eksoottisella kielisoittimella soitettu soolo. Ekstrakuriositeettina mainittakoon, että levyn otsikko esiintyy muutamaan otteeseen sanoituksissa. Uskoisin, että tästäkin kappaleesta muodostuu suosittu kuulijoiden keskuudessa.

5. Wrong Direction
Alun riffi muistuttaa “Reformationia” The Beginning of Timesilta (2011), ja mukana on isoja perkussioita korostamassa soundia. “I should’ve understood / I should’ve seen it coming,” Joutsen laulaa tarttuvassa kertosäkeessä, ja kiehtovassa väliosassa hänen äänensä on ajettu vocoderin tai vastaavan robottimaisen efektin läpi. Ainoastaan lopussa on hieman murahtelua, ja iso outro tuo mieleen Nightwishin “Nemon”. Takuuvarma sinkkubiisi!

6. Heart of the Giant
Hauras kitaramelodia hehkuu yksinäistä melankoliaa ennen kuin se tekee tilaa riffille, joka muistuttaa poljennoltaan Alice Cooperin “School’s Outia”, kunnes rummut tulevat mukaan ja tajuan kuulleeni rytmin väärin päässäni. Biisin saa erottumaan joukosta sen kertosäe, jossa Joutsen murahtelee rytmikkäästi ja rankaisevasti. Lopussa hän saa vielä taustatukea kuorolta viedäkseen sanoman perille entistä painokkaammin. Tästä saattaa helposti tulla keikkojen vakiobiisi!

7. We Accursed
Kappaleessa on pientä “Escape”-vibaa, ja rehellisesti sanottuna siinä on hieman täyteraidan makua, ainakin edellisiin biiseihin verrattuna. Omaan makuuni tällaisessa rallissa voisi olla enemmänkin puhdasta laulua, sillä se ei ole kovinkaan synkkä tai painostava. Biisistä löytyy kuitenkin kulmikas folk-riffi, joka toistuu useaan otteeseen loppupuolella, ja Santeri Kallion vaikuttavaa kosketinsooloa kannattaa myös pitää silmällä.

8. Grain of Sand
Biisi alkaa sitarilla ja rautalankamaisella kitaramelodialla, mutta tätä ei jatku pitkään, sillä luvassa on myös koko levyn hakkaavinta riffittelyä. Mielenkiintoisessa kertosäkeessä puhdas laulu ja örinä vuorottelevat, mikä saa minut pohtimaan, onko odotettavissa Joutsenen ja Koivusaaren duetointia, mikäli biisi päätyy livesoittoon.

9. Amongst Stars
Duetoista puheen ollen, tässä sellainen nyt olisi, solisteinaan Joutsen sekä itse Anneke van Giersbergen. Inflaation vaara on aina ilmassa, kun näin tuottelias laulaja tekee paljon vierailuja, mutta onneksi tulokset puhuvat puolestaan, sillä kyseessä saattaa olla jopa koko albumin kirkkain helmi. Musiikillisesti kappale on hieman useimpia biisejä valoisampi, ja lopun kliimaksi on erityisen suurenmoinen.

10. Pyres on the Coast
Tomi Joutsenen örinät ensimmäisessä säkeistössä lukeutuvat hänen räkäisiimpinsä ja raaimpiinsa – kenties hän hyödyntää Hallattaren sessioissa oppimiaan kikkoja? Biisissä on paljon vaihtelua, mikä lienee syynä sille, ettei kappale täysin auennut minulle vielä. Lopun riffi, jota vahvistavat orkesteri ja kirkkourut, on kuitenkin asiallinen päätös levylle kaikessa komeudessaan.

Pienen tauon jälkeen saimme kuulla vielä bonusraidat:

11. As Mountains Crumble
Itse pääalbumiin verrattuna tällä raidalla on hieman rennompi ja hillitympi 70-luvun tunnelma: löytyy niin valssikomppia, kitarastemmoja ja puhdasta rämpytystä kuin Hammond-urkuja… Biisi on sinänsä miellyttävä, mutta on helppo nähdä, miksi se päätyi leikkaushuoneen lattialle.

12. Brother and Sister
Delay-kitarat tuovat säkeistöihin “Alonen” ja “Sky Is Minen” henkeä, kertosäe on tarttuva ja Holopaisen kitarasoolo upea. Hyvä biisi, mutta aivan kuten edellisen kohdalla, on ihan ymmärrettävää miksei tämä mahtunut mukaan, sillä se on tyyliltään melko suoraviivainen ja enemmän aiempien Joutsenen kanssa tehtyjen levyjen linjoilla.

 

Ensivaikutelmani oli hyvin positiivinen, ja kuulin albumissa itse asiassa jotain samaa kuin The Beginning of Timesissa; tosin en niinkään itse musiikissa (vaikka mainitsinkin yllä pari kappaletta kyseiseltä tuotokselta) vaan levyn lähestymistavassa. TBoT kurkotteli elokuvallisen ja eeppisen ilmaisun puoleen “Crack in a Stonen” kaltaisilla biiseillä, ja mukana oli niin ikään sinfonisia koskettimia, naislaulua ja erinäisiä ylimääräisiä soittimia, mutta Queen of Timella eeppiset elementit on nostettu rohkeasti etualalle ja lopputulos on keskittyneempi, minkä ansiosta albumi tuntuu merkittävältä askeleelta eteenpäin bändin kehityskaaressa. Välittömästi tunnistettava Amorphis-resepti on yhä käytössä, mutta sitä on maustettu reilulla kädellä.

On mahdotonta sanoa, kuinka Queen of Time pärjää vertailussa Amorphiksen muulle tuotannolle vain yhden kuuntelun perusteella, sillä käsillä on Joutsenen aikaisista levyistä haastavin ja vähiten helposti pureskeltava. Jos jokin Amorphiksen levyistä tarvitsee aikaa avautuakseen kunnolla, niin se on tämä – kuten Bogren varoitti etukäteen, levyssä on paljon sisäistettävää. Jokaisesta biisistä löytyy niin puhdasta kuin öristyä laulua ja moninaisia kerroksia, eikä kovin monia simppeleitä ralleja tai välittömiä hittejä ole löydettävissä, mutta myöhemmät kuuntelut tulevat varmasti olemaan palkitsevia ja paljastamaan huomioimatta jääneitä yksityiskohtia. Joka tapauksessa on kuitenkin selvää, ettei Bogrenin bändille Under the Red Cloudilla antama piristysruiske jäänyt yhden levyn ihmeeksi, vaan yhteistyö jatkuu hedelmällisenä.

Kuvat: Miia Collander

(2018) Gleb Kolyadin: Gleb Kolyadin (English)

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Artist: Gleb Kolyadin
Album: Gleb Kolyadin
Released: 23.02.2018
Label: Kscope

 

Gleb Kolyadin is known as the pianist and other half of the Russian duo, iamthemorning, which also includes vocalist Marjana Semkina. After three albums together, Kolyadin has finally made his self-titled solo debut, which includes contributions by many familiar names from the progressive rock scene. His initial Indiegogo campaign for the album didn’t reach its goal, but Kscope came to the rescue and released the record.

I’m familiar with iamthemorning’s latest album, Lighthouse (2016), and I find its mix of classical piano, complex rhythms, and Semkina’s gorgeous vocals intriguing. Therefore, I decided to check out Kolyadin’s solo effort to see what he could do without his songstress pair.

Listen on Spotify here:

 

Kolyadin’s album is naturally an instrumental outing for the most part. He’s got Gavin Harrison of Porcupine Tree (who played on the aforementioned Lighthouse) on drums and Nick Beggs from Steven Wilson’s band on bass, which sets a great backbone for his virtuoso piano playing. Most likely due to the mainly instrumental nature of the music, there’s more of a jazz fusion vibe here than in iamthemorning’s music. It’s possibly strongest on the playful opening track, “Insight”, and the groovy “The Room”, both of which feature Theo Travis (another Steven Wilson collaborator) on saxophone. Dream Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess also makes an appearance, and his instantly recognizable lead tone and Beggs’s low bass add a modern touch into “Storyteller.”

As for the singers, the album features Mick Moss of Antimatter and Steve Hogarth of Marillion. The Moss-sung “Astral Architecture” is one of the album’s highlights, and it’s cool to hear Moss singing in a different environment, since he tends to write guitar-driven music in his main band and his voice complements Kolyadin’s piano well. Hogarth’s contribution to “Confluence” is limited to a spoken word passage, but “The Best of Days” is a good closer, and his unique vocal lines work nicely on top of the music. The inclusion of different vocalists also makes you notice how differently they approach things: Moss’s subdued voice meshes with the music, and he doesn’t try to draw a lot of attention to himself, whereas Hogarth’s forceful singing is more of a focal point, and he takes his space effectively.

There are some recurring themes within the album, as “Kaleidoscope” (a shoutout to the record label?) offers a faster and jazzier variation of the beautiful main melody of “White Dawn”, and “Eidolon” and “Into the Void” (nope, not a Black Sabbath cover) form a similar pair, with the former serving as a quieter introduction to the latter. However, not all the tracklist choices are successful: “Constellation / The Bell” smells like a filler track with its opera vocals, while “Echo / Sigh / Strand” and “Penrose Stairs” have quite similar crescendo endings and are back-to-back in the track order to boot, which makes the album a bit of a blur at that point.

 

Gleb Kolyadin is an undeniably talented pianist and composer, but I personally prefer the tracks with guests and the short and mellow tunes to the more intense numbers where there are a lot of fast piano runs. Although I believe the Russian virtuoso is at his best while working with Semkina in his main project, songs like “Insight” are an obligatory addition to my playlist of jazzy material to enjoy while chilling out.

Rating: 7½/10, 3½ stars

Tracklist:
1. Insight
2. Astral Architecture
3. White Dawn
4. Kaleidoscope
5. Eidolon
6. Into the Void
7. The Room
8. Confluence
9. Constellation the Bell
10. Echo Sigh Strand
11. Penrose Stairs
12. Storyteller
13. The Best of Days

(2018) Gleb Kolyadin: Gleb Kolyadin (suomeksi)

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Artisti: Gleb Kolyadin
Albumi: Gleb Kolyadin
Julkaisupäivä: 23.02.2018
Levy-yhtiö: Kscope

 

Gleb Kolyadin tunnetaan pianistina ja toisena puoliskona venäläisessä iamthemorning-duossa, johon kuuluu myös laulaja Marjana Semkina. Kolmen yhteisen albumin jälkeen Kolyadin on vihdoin tehnyt omaa nimeään kantavan soolodebyytin, jolla vierailee lukuisia tuttuja nimiä progressiivisen rockin piireistä. Hänen alkuperäinen albumia varten luotu Indiegogo-kampanjansa ei saavuttanut maaliaan, mutta Kscope pelasti päivän ja julkaisi levyn.

Olen kuullut iamthemorningin viimeisimmän albumin, Lighthousen (2016), jonka sekoitus klassista pianoa, monimutkaisia rytmejä ja Semkinan upeaa laulua on hyvin mielenkiintoinen. Näin ollen päätin tarkastaa Kolyadinin soolotuotoksen nähdäkseni, mihin mies pystyy ilman laulajatarpariaan.

Kuuntele levy Spotifysta tästä:

 

Kolyadinin albumi on luonnollisesti suurelta osin instrumentaaliteos. Rummuissa on Porcupine Treen Gavin Harrison (joka soitti myös edellä mainitulla Lighthousella) ja bassossa Steven Wilsonin yhtyeestä tuttu Nick Beggs, ja tämä kaksikko luo hienon pohjan itse päätähden virtuoosimaiselle pianonsoitolle. Todennäköisesti juuri vahvan instrumentaalisuuden vuoksi musiikissa on enemmän fuusiojazz-vivahteita kuin iamthemorningin tuotannossa. Ne kuuluvat kenties vahvimmin leikittelevällä avausraidalla “Insight” ja groovaavassa “The Roomissa”, joista molemmissa soittaa niin ikään Steven Wilsonin kanssa työskennellyt saksofonisti Theo Travis. Dream Theaterin kosketinsoittaja Jordan Rudess esiintyy levyllä myös, ja hänen välittömästi tunnistettava liidisoundinsa ja Beggsin matala bassottelu lisäävät modernin säväyksen “Storytelleriin”.

Laulajina albumilla on mukana Antimatterin Mick Moss ja Marillionin Steve Hogarth. Mossin laulama “Astral Architecture” on yksi albumin kohokohdista, ja on jännää kuulla miehen ääntä hieman erilaisessa ympäristössä, sillä hänen pääbändinsä musiikki tapaa olla melko kitaravetoista, ja hänen äänensä täydentää Kolyadinin pianoa hyvin. Hogarthin osuus “Confluencessa” rajoittuu puheosuuteen, mutta “The Best of Days” on hyvä päätöskappale, ja hänen uniikit laulumelodiansa toimivat mukavasti musiikin päällä. Erilaisten laulajien hyödyntäminen myös saa huomaamaan, miten heidän lähestymistapansa eroavat toisistaan: Mossin hillitty tulkinta sulautuu musiikkiin, eikä hän yritä kiinnittää huomiota itseensä, kun taas Hogarthin voimallinen laulu on enemmän keskipisteessä, ja hän käyttää tilansa tehokkaasti.

Albumin sisällä kuullaan toistuvia teemoja, sillä “Kaleidoscope” (hatunnosto levy-yhtiölle?) tarjoaa nopeamman ja jazzahtavamman version “White Dawnin” kauniista päämelodiasta. “Eidolon” ja “Into the Void” (kyseessä ei ole Black Sabbath -cover) muodostavat samankaltaisen parin, jossa edellä mainittu toimii hiljaisempana johdantona jälkimmäiseen. Kaikki valinnat kappalelistassa eivät kuitenkaan toimi: “Constellation / The Bell” haiskahtaa täyderaidalta oopperalauluineen, kun taas “Echo / Sigh / Strand” ja “Penrose Stairs” omaavat samankaltaiset crescendo-lopetukset ja ovat vieläpä kappalejärjestyksessä peräkkäin, mikä saa albumin hieman puuroutumaan tässä vaiheessa.

 

Gleb Kolyadin on kiistatta lahjakas pianisti ja säveltäjä, mutta henkilökohtaisesti pidän enemmän vierailijoilla varustetuista raidoista ja lyhyistä ja rauhallisista kappaleista kuin intensiivisemmistä sävellyksistä, joissa on paljon nopeita pianojuoksutuksia. Vaikka uskon Venäjän virtuoosin olevan parhaimmillaan työskennellessään Semkinan kanssa pääprojektissaan, “Insightin” kaltaiset kappaleet ovat pakollinen lisäys jazzahtavaa materiaalia sisältävälle chillailusoittolistalleni.

Arvosana: 7½/10, 3½ tähteä

Kappalelista:
1. Insight
2. Astral Architecture
3. White Dawn
4. Kaleidoscope
5. Eidolon
6. Into the Void
7. The Room
8. Confluence
9. Constellation the Bell
10. Echo Sigh Strand
11. Penrose Stairs
12. Storyteller
13. The Best of Days

(2018) Shiraz Lane: Carnival Days

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Artist: Shiraz Lane
Album: Carnival Days
Release: 23.02.2018
Label: Frontiers Music

 

The young bucks from Shiraz Lane have been hard at work, and after a mere 2 years, have already released their sophomore album, Carnival Days. Alas, Musicalypse was meant to have this album at the end of 2017 so we’d have lots of time to digest it, but some technical difficulties delayed its delivery to us, so we sadly only received it just now… after its release.

I’ve got a soft spot for these guys. Their first album had a ton of potential in it, and they’re really fun to watch live. As well, after doing an interview or two with them, I learned that they’re really nice guys with a lot of drive and passion. Needless to say, I’ve been looking forward to this album for a while.

Listen along on Spotify here:

 

The album starts off rather funkily with what I can only refer to as a ‘nice little ditty’, the eponymous “Carnival Days”, which shows off the groovy side of the band. It’s a fun song, has great energy to start off the album, and a great chorus that can easily be sung along to – a natural live track. Keeping the energy up but heading a bit more into the hard rock area, is “The Crown”, and I can instantly see Hannes Kett (vocals) rocking out on stage to this in my mind.

Full-force ahead, we go to “Harder to Breathe”, which was the first single released from the album last year. It’s very much that, a great, fun radio hit song, without being too cheesy to be taken seriously. Showing off their versatility, they take their youthful energy in yet another direction with “Tidal Wave”, with dynamics all over the place.

“Gotta Be Real” slows the album down a bit at least, giving the listener a well-needed break, but doesn’t slow down fully into ballad territory. Gotta love those big choruses and Kett’s very gentle, sweet voice, along with the chill bits of soloing. I also have to say that I like the line, “Aim for the horizon” – a nice change from “aim for the stars” or other cliché lines that are overused. It evokes the feeling of moving forward, sunniness, and positivity, without feeling overused. Creative bonus points here.

It then seems really appropriate that “People Like Us” feels very much like a Shiraz Lane song. I mean, Shiraz Lane covers a lot of the hard rock spectrum, but if I was to pick a song from this album that really just sounds like them, it’d be this one. It’s got a bit of GN’R funk, with the uplifting anthem sound that they’re so good at. What I like about these guys is that they’re great at writing radio hits, but my personal favorite songs are always the deeper, less obvious tracks (for example, “House of Cards” was easily my favorite on their first album).

They slow things down again with “Shangri-La”, an appropriately titled song for these hippy-ish guys who have such a hopeful outlook. It’s such a pleasant, enjoyable song, with everything working towards the good vibe that it creates. “War of Mine” is one of those songs that has a solid groove – good energy, but not a flail-around-dancing song like the earlier ones. On the first few listens it didn’t quite click, but after a while it picked up and began to fill its spot – it has a bit of a slow burn compared to most of the rest of the album. “Shot of Life”, on the other hand, has a nice and somewhat subtle eastern influence (I’m thinking Indian?) in the opening sound and kicks the energy level back up to the party level. It almost feels like they could’ve ended the album here, it’s such a high-powered song and it leaves a nice taste in the mouth, so to speak.

However, there are two more songs to go: the true ballad from the album, “Hope”, and the longest track, “Reincarnation.” “Hope” is one of those songs that’s really nice to listen to, with its gentle guitar work and calm, soothing vocals, and I suspect it’d just get better with lyrical input. The dynamic build-up at the end is subtle but quite nice. “Reincarnation”, rather than going for the high-energy ‘big bang’ outro, opts for a more anthem-like style once more. Again, they seem to be working with a very positive outlook on everything, and ultimately, it’s a nice, hopeful song to close out with.

 

Overall, the album definitely feels like a mature step forward for these young guys, and is definitely going to be a good album for the upcoming summer. Let’s hope these guys will be at some festivals so we can all make the most of this new material.

Rating: 9/10, 4.5 stars

Tracklist:
1. Carnival Days
2. The Crown
3. Harder to Breathe
4. Tidal Wave
5. Gotta Be Real
6. People Like Us
7. Shangri-La
8. War of Mine
9. Shot of Life
10. Hope
11. Reincarnation

MYRKUR w/ PÄIVI HIRVONEN @ Konepajan Bruno, Helsinki, 10.02.2018

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Myrkur with Päivi Hirvonen at Konepajan Bruno in Helsinki, February 2018.
Photos by Marco Manzi.
Read the gig report HERE.

MYRKUR w/ PÄIVI HIRVONEN – Konepajan Bruno, Helsinki, 10.02.2018

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A few years ago, Myrkur caused quite a stir in the black metal community. A project conceived of by a 20-something Danish runway model, Amalie Brunn, her ambient, folk-infused style seemingly caught on as her two albums, M and Mareridt, have both been well-received by large audiences. They came to the seldomly used venue, Konepajan Bruno, in Helsinki as part of the Folkesange Tour, which unlike her latest releases, were focused on folk music from Scandinavia, performed entirely live and acoustically.

Check out the full gallery HERE!

 

By conventional wisdom, one would imagine it to be a stretch for many metalheads to be interested in a full-on acoustic folk evening. However, a crowd consisting of mostly black metal fans did show up and, as implied by the aforementioned queue, were indeed anxious. Likewise, I was eager for just about anything Bruun would bring, especially having missed my chance to see Myrkur live at Tuska Open Air in 2016.

The ambiance in the room had been very subdued as Päivi Hirvonen came out to warm up the stage; it was just her with a violin. Her sound was very Finnish folk but the delivery was somewhat metal inspired. There was a lot of very deliberate dissonance in her chord choices. Indeed, the sound was very quiet but it wasn’t unclear, so perhaps I’m just too used to wearing earplugs to concerts.

Her first song, “Viinanpiru”, appeared to be of the evils of alcohol. It started out so slow and whispered that I almost didn’t realize the show had started. It quickly escalated as the playing and vocals both grew more intense. When she went for those high notes, she really brought it.

She then introduced herself in very broken English, in the vein of all those famous race car drivers such as Kimi Räikkönen. She played her second song on a traditional Finnish instrument, the jouhikko, a string instrument one plays with a bow. She said it’s quite difficult to keep in tune but that she would try anyway. The song was called “Enkö Mä Saisi Laulella?” [Am I Not Allowed to Sing?]. It was a much more dulcet, somber piece. Much like the first song, it also had a more intense section near the end.

She took up the violin again for the third song, which seemed more like an intermission than anything else. She went ahead and fiddled a little ditty, which gradually phased into another more powerful moment. At this point, the pattern of these songs had begun to emerge. It was called “Ruskatanssi”, which she herself translated as “The Dance of the Autumn Leaves.” This was then followed by her last song, “Ragnarök”, which is Norse mythology’s Armageddon. She prefaced it as being about what is left when everything is gone. It was once again performed with the jouhikko. Like many of the other songs, it had few to no lyrics per se, but relied on mood and melody.

Päivi Hirvonen was definitely interesting to see. She wasn’t the kind of artist I’d usually go out of my way for, so I’m glad I got to see it. The audience was noticeably enthused as they cheered more and more frantically after each song, and Hirvonen’s mighty high notes took everyone’s breath away.

 

As Myrkur came on stage, the crowd erupted into thunderous applause. She and her crew all took their places with the lady herself on the piano at the back of the stage. The guitarist sat on the right and with two backup singers to the left.

Myrkur said that they came to play some of their own songs as well as some traditional folk songs. The second one was a Swedish tune (I didn’t catch the name). She also said, “There will be a lot of tuning of instruments, as they are alive and do what they want,” (which is true, by the way). This was followed by a Norwegian folk song. They really got to showcase their three-part harmonies here. Their sound was very ethereal and authentic as the instruments were acoustic and live.

Päivi Hirvonen was then welcomed back to the stage. They said they’d never played together before so it was an experiment. Hirvonen played her jouhikko as Bruun took center stage with a shaman drum. She remained in this place for a few songs.

As they tuned up for the next traditional song, the guitarist said his tuning was, “Good enough for folk” – they all chuckled. It was a very short song, after which Bruun took up her nyckelharpa, which is another traditional string instrument with a bow; they played an original song, “Himlen Blev Sort.” The nyckelharpa’s haunting, almost grating sound gave the performance more of an edge even though the song itself was sort of a ballad.

The vocals ranged from cute and somber to glass shattering screeches depending on the song. All three singers were consistently flawless throughout the set. The powerful vocals seemed to impress the audience as much as they did myself, as they always garnered a lot of cheers.

After a while, as they prepared to do a Scottish ballad, the mic gave a huge feedback which Bruun responded to with a sly, “Guess the mic is on.” It fit the laid-back attitude of the evening like a glove. A folksy night should have a folksy feel. No one expected it to be absolutely immaculate anyway.

The venue itself was very cold, as it was an old industrial building, often used to host events. On the other hand, the chilly air was more than appropriate for these Nordic songs of woe and loss. The final song was about the death of a little girl. They painted a picture of barren landscapes of snowy tundra. One almost wished to see one’s breath hang in the air.

As cold as it was in the hall, it was nothing compared to how cold the ending was. They finished the sad child-death track only to get up, bow, and then exit the stage. The applause was huge but it felt very abrupt and sudden.

 

Going into this show, I didn’t really know what to expect. I have a good relationship with black metal but Scandinavian folk music isn’t something I’d normally rush out to see. Though I would’ve very much liked to see more of Myrkur’s own material, I could appreciate the artistry of this unique experience. Even the opening act, which had been completely unknown to me, was a rousing success. This was something different and it surely opened up some horizons for many of us in the audience. Myrkur will surely come back to do more black metal in the future and I’ll be looking forward to it. In the meantime, this had been a great appetizer.

Photos: Marco Manzi

MISS MAY I w/ CURRENTS, VOID OF VISION, & FIT FOR A KING @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 10.02.2018

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Miss May I with Currents, Void Of Vision and Fit For A King at Tavastia, Helsinki, 2018.
Photos by Janne Puronen.

BEAST IN BLACK w/ OCEANHOARSE @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 10.02.2018

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Beast in Black with Oceanhoarse at Nosturi, 2018.
Photos by Miia Collander.

PAIN w/ FEAR OF DOMINATION @ Virgin Oil Co., Helsinki, 03.02.2018

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Pain with Fear of Domination at Virgin Oil Co., Helsinki 2018.
Photos by Marco Manzi.
Gig report HERE!

PAIN w/ FEAR OF DOMINATION – Virgin Oil, Helsinki, 03.02.2018

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Swedish Pain returned to Finland for a mini tour of four gigs with Finnish Fear of Domination as the opening act. Musicalypse attended the final show of this tour at the Virgin Oil Co. in Helsinki on February 3rd, 2018, to experience an evening filled with industrial metal.

You can see the full gallery HERE!
Or listen along to the set on Spotify:

When I heard Pain would be back in Finland, my first thoughts were, “Really, so soon?” The last time Pain toured in Finland was in November 2016, right after releasing the band’s 8th album, Coming Home. Even though Pain could be considered one of the more frequent visitors when it comes to touring in Finland, I was still surprised – but in a positive way.

In my personal experience, tours between albums – in other words, when there has been some time since the release of the latest album, are usually the most interesting. The artist doesn’t have to promote the new material which means there will be more room for old goodies and maybe some other surprises. Thus, I was eager to attend the gig with high hopes for a diverse setlist.

 

Before I would find out if my expectations would be met, I was stuck outside in a long line, enjoying the Finnish winter. I always tend to forget that since the ticket sales and cloakroom are right next to each other right by the entrance, the line outside Virgin Oil is usually quite long. So, if you are planning to attend an event in Virgin Oil, remember to put on enough clothing and be there on time.

Once I got in, there was still one thing standing (or rather performing) between me and Pain: Fear of Domination. Fear of Domination seems to be on the rise (unless I am now jinxing it by saying this aloud). The venues are getting bigger, and following this tour, the band is heading to the Baltics with Amaranthe. Their growing popularity could be seen in Virgin Oil as well, which was packed already when the band started their set. The crowd was obviously there for both of the bands instead of just the headliner.

After starting a fulltime job and feeling about 100 years older, I’ve had a bad habit of sticking to my old favorites instead of looking for new music. My savior has been concerts with opening acts that have allowed me to get out of my comfort zone and out into the scary, real world – bands that I haven’t heard from.

Well, the case isn’t quite as I described when it comes to Fear of Domination, since I had at least heard their name, and even had time to listen to a couple of their songs during a coffee break at work. Some of you might think I am a bad reporter for not doing my background research, but I actually enjoy witnessing an artist with fresh ears and eyes – hearing the songs for the first time as they are performed live gives me a more honest picture of their skill.

Enough excuses though, and back to the gig itself. Fear of Domination was great. Energetic. Surprising. Fun. Refreshing breeze of air. And why’s that? First of all, the two vocalists, Saku Solin and Sara Strömmer, have an excellent chemistry on stage. Actually, I would want to dedicate a few words particularly to Strömmer and her voice. It was such a joy to hear her sing. She has a wide vocal range and can master different styles (growling, clean, and I think everything in between). I obviously am no expert, but listening to someone who hits the right notes, masters different styles, etc., is probably one of the most pleasant things in the world.

To avoid this review being just an open love letter to Sara Strömmer, I feel obliged to say a few words about the whole band. The group was obviously having fun on stage and making the most of the smallish space they had on stage. Also, the crowd were excited and I saw some singing along. So, safe to say I wasn’t the only one enjoying the performance. Only one thing had me puzzled during the gig: what’s the deal with the two drummers?

I have a history of complaining about the sound in Virgin Oil (don’t we all?), but this time I had to take my words back. This was the first time when the upstairs were open as well. As Fear of Domination began their set, I was standing on the floor in front of the stage and cursing the sounds in my head. In order to see better, I climbed to the stair landing – and a whole new world opened before my eyes. Or more like ears.

The sounds were instantly better once I got up, and I could finally make better sense of the melodies and lyrics, something that I hadn’t experienced before in Virgin Oil. So, looks like I should ditch my usual place in the future as well and give the venue some slack.

Setlist:
01. Primordial
02. The Last Call
03. Adrenaline
04. El Toro
05. II
06. Paperdoll
07. Deus Ex Machina
08. The Bad Touch (Bloodhound Gang cover)

 

Still euphoric after Fear of Domination I remained in my new favorite spot waiting for Pain to start. It was great to be able to glance over the crowd and get a better feeling for the atmosphere. A cheerful murmur filled the air and as the starting time drew near, the crowd started calling the band to the stage.

Accompanied by the Requiem for a Dream intro, Peter Tägtgren and the rest of the band arrived on time (yay!), and started the gig with “Dancing with the Dead” and “Monkey Business.” The third on the setlist was “Black Knight Satellite” from Coming Home, and I have to confess I was surprised at how well that particular song worked out live, since the album as a whole didn’t quite tick the right boxes for me.

I could keep on listing the songs heard during the gig, but those of you who are interested in that kind of things can scroll down to see them. I was content with the setlist; it had songs from all the albums apart from Pain, and had a great mix of faster and slower songs. In short, it had the diversity I had hoped for.

During the second half of the gig Tägtgren said something noteworthy: he stated that he hadn’t had this much fun for a long time. This really caught my ear since I had been a tad worried that Tägtgren was growing tired of music, since there were 5 years between Coming Home and You Only Live Twice (for me over 3 years between albums is a long time if the artist can otherwise be considered active). And even though I had enjoyed the last show at Nosturi, I remember thinking afterwards that Tägtgren maybe wasn’t giving it his all.

This time around, I can believe that he meant every word – the venue was packed and the crowd truly seemed to enjoy every second of the gig. It was great to see that those who were sitting on the tables on the second floor at the beginning of the gig were standing up as the gig ended. It was just like a big party: people with wide smiles, singing along, some moshing, some jumping. Everyone in the venue just seemed to have a really good time.

And what would Pain’s gig be without their guitarist Greger Andersson climbing somewhere? This time it was in front of us standing on the stair landing, during the last song of the encore, “Shut Your Mouth.” I am not sure what was he standing on, but it looked steady enough for him to keep playing and giving high fives to the audience as the song ended. And maybe luckily for the crowd standing in front of the stage, this time he didn’t decide to jump down as he did back in Nosturi.

After the gig I had plenty of time to digest the experience as I was standing in line for the cloak room for the next 15 minutes or so. I had been pleasantly surprised by Fear of Domination, and combining that with the amazing show Pain had delivered, the only possible conclusion was that the night has been a success in every way. Except for the queueing.

 

Next time Peter Tägtgren is in Finland will probably be with his other band, Hypocrisy, as they are working on a new album. So this might have been a farewell to Finnish Painheads for now. Lets just hope the next Pain album won’t take 5 years to make.

Setlist:
01. Dancing with the Dead
02. Monkey Business
03. Black Knight Satellite
04. Suicide Machine
05. The Great Pretender
06. Dirty Woman
07. Just Hate Me
08. Zombie Slam
09. Same Old Song
10. Call Me
11. End of the Line
12. Nailed to the Ground
13. Coming Home
14. On and On

Encore:
15. You Only Live Twice
16. Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles cover)
17. Shut Your Mouth

Photos: Marco Manzi

SWALLOW THE SUN w/ RED MOON ARCHITECT & SLEEP OF MONSTERS – Korjaamo, Helsinki, 26.01.2018

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Continuing on after their Hope 10th anniversary tour, Swallow the Sun stopped by for a gig in Helsinki with their compatriots Red Moon Architect and Sleep of Monsters. Since it’s not that long from their last similar gig with exactly the same artists, there is a report up from our reporter Lene from the Hope tour here. Regardless of that, a fresh pair of eyes and ears are always welcome, so we caught their performance in Korjaamo, Helsinki, on January 26th, 2018.

I love Swallow the Sun, there’s zero doubt about that. Something about the album name, The Morning Never Came, is absolutely perfect to my ears, yet Emerald Forest and the Blackbird and New Moon are in eternal competition for their best album. There is catharsis in the absolute crushing despair of the lyrics and the dark stories, combined with the top notch clean/growl axis of their vocalist, Mikko Kotamäki, without leaving out the instrumental/compositional skill and talent. Speaking to me on an almost primordial level, StS is one of those bands to listen to, when you absolutely need to feel like utter crap before being able to feel good again. Thus crapsack expectations set, it was time to find a comfy place in Korjaamo.

Photos and gallery to be added soon.

 

Kicking us off was Red Moon Architect, which in an anticipated fashion, plays dark and slow. Right off the bat, Korjaamo worked superbly for this orchestra, with the growling vocals of Ville Rutanen sounding very clean – if that makes any sense – and the mixing superb, probably owing to the earlier time on tour and opportunities to dial in on the settings. Nothing was too loud, yet everything was clearly audible, so hats off to the sound guy behind the desk. A minor complaint has to be raised, however, towards the mixing of Anni Viljanen – the clean vocalist for RMA – since her voice overpowered a lot of the music. Perhaps a stylistic choice, but since their albums have her mixed into – rather than over – the songs, it seemed somewhat out of place, but as mentioned, it was a minimal issue. Her voice was brought to justice in the end of the song “Betrayed” from their Fall album, which was haunting to the edge of being mesmerizing, combining masterfully traits from lighting, ambiance, and mixing, creating a ghostly AV-scape worthy of Poe. It might be somewhat unorthodox to praise a doom metal band for a good stage performance, but the minimal movement on stage – if one doesn’t count all the headbanging – befits the group, and their drummer, Saku Moilanen – seemingly lost in his own world while playing and feeling the music – did bring a smile to my face. Red Moon Architect was solid melodic doom metal, definitely worth getting into for their polished vision of their music.

 

Sleep of Monsters, the second challenger of the evening, was much more of a motley crew; provided I have my basic adding-up right, I counted nine performers on stage, which is quite the crowd, but luckily the Korjaamo stage had plenty of room to fit everyone comfortably. Struggling to adequately compare their style to anything else, SoM sounds unique. On record, something akin to occult/Goth rock with catchy choruses and fine vocal work, yet in live situations, they took on a smidgen of post-rock due to the sheer number of instruments and singers on stage, painting a vivid color in the venue. “Golden Bough” from II – Poison Garden was absolutely fantastic live, making an extremely good use of the two singers’ voices, the richness thus making for a beautiful duet. Much more talkative with the crowd than their predecessor, lead singer Ike Vil was at home on stage and interacting with the audience, cracking jokes and giving thanks to his bandmates. Hard-pressed to think of anything more to say about them, I will say this: they’re damn good at what they do, and what they do is catchy, dark, and extravagant.

 

Swallow the Sun now well and properly warmed up, it was time for the five members to take their places on stage. Expecting nothing less than perfection on their mixing part, it was very much just that. As said before, Korjaamo’s space (along with a competent sound guy) made for great sound, with not a single instrument underrepresented in the case of StS, and the vocals crisp and the performance well-rehearsed. The drumming by Juuso Raatikainen was like clockwork, with the snare snappy and bass drum punchy. The only criticism I found in the performance is the lackluster usage of lights, which illuminated the whole stage. Being unconvinced of the effectiveness of a fully-lit doom metal band on stage is something of an understatement, when it would work so much better if dimly lit. Being a secondary issue at best, along with it being an extremely subjective opinion, there’s really not anything else to complain about. Swallow the Sun is a long-running band with tons of experience, both on-stage and off. Their audio has been worked up into perfection along the years, along with the overall feel of their performance, mincing no words between songs, simply thanking the audience for participating in their show. Boasting songs like “Empires of Loneliness” from Songs from the North III, “New Moon” and “These Woods Breathe Evil” from New Moon, and “Deadly Nightshade” from The Morning Never Came in their setlist for the evening, there really was no need to thank us, we’d be better off thanking you.

 

Personally, I feel like it takes a special kind of person to compose and perform doom metal. The depths where the music, stories, and lyrics take you probably can’t be just put onto paper without any accompanying feeling. The extreme hopelessness given thought, then form, and finally performed on records and to audiences to ease that. I’d just like to buy everyone of these people a beer or twenty and sit in silence for a while since, y’know, alcohol is technically a solution, right?

SONATA ARCTICA w/ DARK SARAH @ The Circus, Helsinki, 24.01.2018

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Sonata Arctica’s Ninth Hour World Tour in Finland, 2018, with Dark Sarah as opener.
Photos by Miia Collander.
Gig report from Tampere in English here tomorrow.
Lue raportti Tampereelta suomeksi huomenna täällä.

SONATA ARCTICA w/ DARK SARAH – Pakkahuone, Tampere, 21.01.2018 (English)

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Sonata Arctica’s tour in support of The Ninth Hour (2016) ended last fall and the next album isn’t on the horizon yet, but the Kemi guys decided to pull out something special for the Finnish fans and perform the 5-song stalker series known as the Caleb Saga on The Winter Chapter Tour. Musicalypse caught the melodic metallers, along with the support band Dark Sarah, on the chilly evening of January 21st, 2018, at Pakkahuone in Tampere (photos from The Circus in Helsinki on Jan 24th).

Check out the full gallery from Helsinki HERE!
Lue suomeksi TÄÄLLÄ!
Listen to the setlists here (note: missing Dark Sarah’s latest single, “Trespasser”):

I haven’t managed to catch Sonata Arctica live since the final show of the Pariah’s Child tour 2½ years ago – either they haven’t come by close enough or I’ve been somewhere else. Luckily our schedules finally met, because missing out on a full performance of the Caleb Saga would’ve been a real bummer, particularly after not getting to see the band play “The Power of One” on last year’s tour.

 

The night was opened by Dark Sarah, a symphonic metal act fronted by ex-Amberian Dawn singer Heidi Parviainen that had already gathered a sizeable audience at the venue. To be honest, I didn’t really have big expectations for the band, because since I got into other styles of metal and rock after the Nightwish phase I had in my teens, I’ve mostly steered clear of music with classical vocals and big orchestrations. The 45-minute set started off pretty well though, as Parviainen’s vocals stayed at reasonable heights and her enunciation was clear right from the start. “Hunting the Dreamer” caught me off-guard with its partially Finnish lyrics, and Erkka Korhonen (Raskasta Joulua/Northern Kings) delivered a cool guitar solo.

However, it wasn’t until Parviainen introduced ex-Charon vocalist JP Leppäluoto on male vocals that things truly got rolling, both musically and in terms of audience excitement. Leppäluoto had the crowd in the palm of his hand, thanks to his charismatic and commanding presence, and it almost felt like people had arrived early just to see him. His rich baritone meshed nicely with Parviainen’s soprano voice, and they had a good chemistry on stage. Dark Sarah demonstrated a varied mix of sounds, from the traditional shred riffing of “Evil Roots” to the theatrics of “Dance with the Dragon”, and there were even some slightly doomy moments. It was cool that the guitars weren’t merely chugging along in the background (*cough* modern Nightwish *cough*), and the music was played with a heavier touch than most bands in the genre – there was even a quick blastbeat on “Ash Grove”. The only thing that slightly bugged me was that they had no keyboardist on stage, relying heavily on piped-in orchestrations instead, although to be fair, even bands with keyboardists tend to do that. While Dark Sarah isn’t the kind of stuff I’d listen to at home, they put on a great show and are undoubtedly above average in their category of music.

Setlist:
1. Breath
2. Island in the Mist
3. Hunting the Dreamer
4. Trespasser
5. Evil Roots
6. Dance with the Dragon
7. Ash Grove
8. Silver Tree
9. Aquarium

 

After half an hour of waiting, Sonata Arctica finally made their presence known, starting with “Shitload of Money”, which was accompanied by bursts of fog; a new element in the band’s live show for me. “Shitload” isn’t known as a favorite among SA fans (yours truly included), so it was far from a conventional opener, and to make things weirder, it was played as an abridged version where about a minute of the song was cut out. Maybe even the members thought the song was overly long and repetitive? There was also a moment of unintentional comedy when Tony Kakko messed up a few lines in the beginning while the taped backing vocals were naturally spot on, which provided an amusing collision.

Unlike “Shitload of Money”, “Paid in Full” and “Black Sheep” are tried-and-true staples that went over well as expected. The latter even included a cool 3-way unison between Elias Viljanen, Henrik Klingenberg, and Pasi Kauppinen on guitar, keyboards, and bass, respectively. I noticed that Kakko was skipping some high notes and singing the most challenging parts an octave lower, but not having any recent Sonata gig experiences to compare the performance with, I attributed this to Father Time finally starting to catch up with him. However, we got an explanation soon afterwards: while introducing “FullMoon”, Kakko stated that his voice was “in shambles” and asked the crowd to sing the intro for him. People obliged, and there was another participatory moment when the band stopped playing before each ‘runaway’ in the chorus, letting the crowd take over.

Finally it was time for the Caleb saga, which Kakko said they’d play in a “chronological order”, but apparently this referred to the order the songs were recorded in and not the storyline. Either way, “The End of This Chapter” had been on my personal bucketlist of Sonata songs I’d love to experience live for years, so hearing it at last was a special moment. The live versions on Songs of Silence (2002) and For the Sake of Revenge (2006) have never totally satisfied my appetite, because the beautiful piano outro was left out on both, but this time it was played, and Viljanen even got an extra guitar solo to boot. I surely hope it won’t take the band another 12 years to dust off this gem again!

“Don’t Say a Word” had been the closing song at all the Sonata shows I’d seen up until now, so it was refreshing to hear it in the middle without the Vodka ending for once. It also brought more balance into the set, because the rest of the songs in the saga aren’t as energetic or straightforward. “Caleb” got a deserved comeback, and so did “Juliet”, but the latter in particular was somewhat hindered by Kakko’s illness, since it includes so many screams that he had to tone down to preserve his voice. “Till Death’s Done Us Apart” finished this portion of the show nicely, as it’s still my favorite from The Ninth Hour. At the very end, Kakko whispered “to be continued in the next issue”, possibly hinting at another sequel on the next album. We shall see if this turns out to be true…

After five songs played back-to-back with no interrupting speeches in between, Kakko started talking about “White Pearl, Black Oceans” and how the band wrote a sequel for it on the latest album. When he asked, “How about we play those two songs too?”, he got a resounding yes from the audience. I’ve seen Sonata play the first “WPBO” a couple of times live already, but as one of the band’s best compositions, the story of the lighthouse keeper never gets old. While the sequel is good enough and provided a nice closure, hearing it right after the original was mildly unflattering – it’s just hard to live up to such an immortal classic.

After the audience had been treated to this couple of epics, the band members left the stage, with the exception of Kakko, who sat down and stayed to chat with the crowd, leaving out the traditional encore break. He said it was time to get back to normal order, and Sonata sure did, as “Tallulah” was up next. I think I actually heard someone in the crowd moan “no!” when the familiar piano intro started – though the reaction was amusing, it is a bit of a shame that so many quality ballads often get neglected in favor of “Tallulah”, because it’s the most famous one. However, after a big chunk of complex material, conceding to the mainstream fans was acceptable. This was followed by “The Wolves Die Young” and Kakko’s now-traditional speech thanking the fans for keeping live music alive. Since “Don’t Say a Word” had already been played, “Life” had the honor of closing the show with the Vodka outro tacked on to the end. Ending with a new(ish) tune wasn’t a great idea though, as I saw multiple people walking out when it was announced, and it took the crowd a while to get on board with the “la-la-la” singalong. I appreciate the band’s effort at shaking things up, but maybe “The Cage” would’ve been a more apt choice for the occasion.

 

Although Tony Kakko’s voice had succumbed to the freezing Finnish weather and wasn’t up to par as usual, it didn’t stop him from giving an energized performance, and the rest of the band was in good spirits as well, probably helped by the appreciative audience. The show was close to sold out, so clearly the guys had been missed in Tampere. The snare drum sound was quite tinny at first (triggering a déjà vu from the last time I saw the guys at Pakkahuone) and Viljanen’s guitar briefly went mute once, but it was good to hear the band members actually singing backing vocals for once instead of being drowned out completely by the backing tracks. Although I didn’t agree with every song pick, Sonata Arctica’s show had a good general structure: warming up with a bunch of singles and hits, offering a big dose of epic material, and rounding things off with a few more crowd-pleasers. The absence of the annoyingly repetitive “I Have a Right” was a breath of fresh air, and it was a pleasure to get a set with such a strong focus on storytelling-oriented, progressive songs, because so many of those are among the band’s best works. Although the Sonata sound has morphed in various ways over time, having some lyrical continuity on the albums is a nice thing, because it makes theme shows like these possible. If the band ever decides to play the “Wildfire” trilogy in full or perform all the wolf songs in one show, count me in!

Setlist:
Intro (Can-Can [“The Gallop” – Jacques Offenbach])
1. Shitload of Money
2. Paid in Full
3. Black Sheep
4. FullMoon
5. The End of This Chapter
6. Don’t Say a Word
7. Caleb
8. Juliet
9. Till Death’s Done Us Apart
10. White Pearl, Black Oceans
11. White Pearl, Black Oceans pt. II: By the Grace of the Ocean
12. Tallulah
13. The Wolves Die Young
14. Life (with Vodka outro)

Photos: Miia Collander

SONATA ARCTICA w/ DARK SARAH – Pakkahuone, Tampere, 21.01.2018 (suomeksi)

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Sonata Arctican The Ninth Houria (2016) promonnut kiertue päättyi viime syksynä, eikä uutta albumia ole vielä horisontissa, mutta Kemin pojat päättivät tarjota suomalaisille faneilleen jotain ainutlaatuista ja soittaa Caleb-saagana tunnetun viiden kappaleen stalkkerisarjan kokonaisuudessaan The Winter Chapter Tourilla. Musicalypse tarkasti melometallistien ja lämppäribändi Dark Sarahin soittokunnon tammikuun 21. päivän koleana iltana Tampereen Pakkahuoneella.

 

Katso koko galleria TÄÄLTÄ!
Read in English HERE!
Kuuntele settilistat tästä (huom! ei sisällä Dark Sarahin “Trespasseria”):

En ole onnistunut bongaamaan Sonata Arcticaa livenä sitten 2½ vuotta sitten soitetun Pariah’s Child -kiertueen päätöskeikan – joko bändi ei ole keikkaillut riittävän lähellä tai olen itse ollut jossain muualla. Onneksi aikataulumme sopivat vihdoin yhteen, sillä Caleb-saagan esityksen missaaminen olisi ollut kurjaa, varsinkin kun en päässyt kuulemaan “The Power of Onea” livenä viime vuoden kiertueella.

 

Illan avasi entisen Amberian Dawn -solisti Heidi Parviaisen luotsaama sinfoninen metalliyhtye Amberian Dawn. Rehellisesti sanottuna en odottanut bändiltä mitään suuria, sillä teinivuosieni Nightwish-vaiheen jälkeen polkuni johti muiden genrejen pariin, enkä ole sittemmin juurikaan innostunut klassista laulua ja isoja orkesterisovituksia sisältävästä musiikista. 45-minuuttinen setti alkoi kuitenkin melko hyvin, sillä Parviaisen laulu pysyi järjellisissä korkeuksissa ja sanoista sai kohtuullisesti selvää. “Hunting the Dreamerin” suomeksi lauletut osuudet tulivat puun takaa, ja Raskasta Joulua/Northern Kings -mies Erkka Korhonen luritteli kitarallaan menemään mukavasti.

Niin bändi kuin yleisö pääsivät kuitenkin kunnolla vauhtiin vasta Parviaisen esitellessä ex-Charon-laulaja JP Leppäluodon. Mies kietoi yleisön pikkusormensa ympärille karismallaan ja käskevällä olemuksellaan, ja tuntui melkein siltä kuin ihmiset olisivat saapuneet paikalle ajoissa vain nähdäkseen hänet. Hänen täyteläinen baritoninsa soi hienosti yhteen Parviaisen sopraanoäänen kanssa, ja kaksikon välillä oli mainio kemia. Dark Sarah esitteli monenlaisia tyylejä, jotka vaihtelivat “Evil Rootsin” perinteisestä tiluriffittelystä “Dance with the Dragonin” teatraalisuuteen, ja olipa ajoittain mukana viitteitä doomahtavaan suuntaan. Oli miellyttävää, etteivät kitarat vain jynkyttäneet taustalla (*köh* moderni Nightwish *köh*), ja musiikki soi kovakätisemmällä otteella kuin useimpien saman genren bändien – kuultiinpahan “Ash Grovessa” jopa lyhyt blastbeat-osuus. Ainoa hieman häiritsevä seikka oli se, ettei lavalla ollut kosketinsoittajaa, vaan bändi luotti täysin taustanauhalta tulleeseen orkesteriin, vaikka reiluuden nimissä täytyy huomauttaa, että monet kiipparistilla varustetutkin bändit joutuvat turvautumaan nauhojen apuun. Vaikka Dark Sarahin musiikki ei ole sellaista, jota kuuntelisin kotioloissa, ryhmä osoittautui päteväksi lavabändiksi ja on epäilemättä keskivertoa parempi omassa musiikillisessa lokerossaan.

 

Settilista:
1. Breath
2. Island in the Mist
3. Hunting the Dreamer
4. Trespasser
5. Evil Roots
6. Dance with the Dragon
7. Ash Grove
8. Silver Tree
9. Aquarium

 

Puolen tunnin odotuksen jälkeen Sonata Arctica astui vihdoin lavalle ja käynnisti “Shitload of Moneyn” savupurkausten saattelemana, mikä oli uusi elementti bändin show’ssa itselleni. “Shitloadia” ei varsinaisesti tunneta SA-fanien (itseni mukaanlukien) suosikkina, joten kyseessä ei ollut se tavallisin avausbiisi. Vielä oudomman vedosta teki se, että kappale soitettiin lyhennettynä versiona, josta oli leikattu vajaa minuutti pois. Kenties itse bändiläisetkin pitivät rallia turhan pitkänä ja yksitoikkoisena? Heti alussa oli myös tarjolla tahatonta komiikkaa, kun Tony Kakko sekoili sanojen kanssa nauhalta tulleiden taustalaulujen ollessa luonnollisesti kohdillaan, minkä seurauksena oli hupaisa yhteentörmäys.

Toisin kuin “Shitload of Money”, “Paid in Full” ja “Black Sheep” ovat takuuvarmoja vakioviisuja, jotka menivät odotetusti hyvin yleisölle läpi. Jälkimmäisessä kuultiin jopa kolmen soittimen unisono Elias Viljasen kitaran, Henrik Klingenbergin koskettimien ja Pasi Kauppisen basson välillä. Huomasin Kakon välttelevän joitain korkeita nuotteja ja laulavan haastavimmat osuudet oktaavia alempaa, mutta koska edellisestä Sonata-keikastani oli jo vierähtänyt pari vuotta eikä minulla täten ollut tuoreempaa vertailukohdetta esitykselle, pistin asian ikääntymisen piikkiin. Selitys kuultiin kuitenkin hyvin pian: “FullMoonia” alustaessaan Kakko kertoi äänensä olevan “muroilla” ja pyysi yleisöä laulamaan intron puolestaan. Väki teki työtä käskettyä, ja myöhemmin luvassa oli toinen osallistava hetki, kun bändi lopetti soittamisen ennen jokaista “run away” -kohtaa kertosäkeessä ja antoi yleisön hoitaa homman.

Vihdoin ja viimein päästiin käsiksi Caleb-saagaan, jonka Kakko ilmoitti bändin soittavan “kronologisessa järjestyksessä”, mutta ilmeisesti tällä viitattiin kappaleiden julkaisujärjestykseen itse tarinan sijaan. “The End of This Chapter” oli ollut jo vuosia henkilökohtaisella toivomuslistallani Sonata-biiseistä, jotka haluaisin kokea livenä, joten sen kuuleminen oli erityinen hetki. Songs of Silencen (2002) ja For the Sake of Revengen (2006) liveversiot eivät ole koskaan täysin tyydyttäneet minua, sillä studioversion nättiä pianolopetusta ei kuulla kummassakaan, mutta tällä kertaa se soitettiin ja Viljanen sai vieläpä ylimääräisen kitarasoolon. Ei voi kuin toivoa, ettei tällaisen timantin seuraavaa esitystä tarvitse odottaa kahtatoista vuotta!

“Don’t Say a Word” oli tähän asti toiminut päätöksenä jokaiselle näkemälleni Sonata-keikalle, joten oli virkistävää kuulla se kerrankin puolivälissä ilman Vodka-lopetusta. Se myös tasapainotti settiä, sillä saagan muut osat eivät ole yhtä energisiä tai suoraviivaisia. “Caleb” sai ansaitun paluun, kuten myös “Juliet”, mutta varsinkin jälkimmäistä hieman varjosti Kakon sairaus, sillä hän joutui jarruttelemaan biisin lukuisissa huutokohdissa säilyttääkseen äänensä. “Till Death’s Done Us Apart” paketoi tämän osuuden keikasta mallikkaasti, sillä kyseessä on yhä suosikkini The Ninth Hourilta. “Jatkuu ensi numerossa,” Kakko kuiskasi lopuksi, viitaten mahdollisesti seuraavalta levyltä löytyvään jatko-osaan. Se, toteutuuko tämä, jäänee nähtäväksi…

Viiden peräkkäin ilman välispiikkejä soitetun kappaleen jälkeen Kakko alkoi puhua “White Pearl, Black Oceansista” ja sen tuoreimmalta levyltä löytyvästä jatko-osasta. “Mitä jos soitettaisiin vielä nekin putkeen?” mies kysyi ja sai ylivoimaisesti myöntävän vastauksen. Olen kuullut “WPBO:n” jo pari kertaa livenä, mutta yhtenä bändin parhaista sävellyksistä tämä majakanvartijan tarina ei koskaan vanhene. Vaikka jatko-osakin on ihan hyvä ja tarjosi mukavan päätöksen, sen kuuleminen heti alkuperäisen perään ei ollut hirveän imartelevaa, sillä kuolemattoman klassikon asettamaa rimaa on vaikea ylittää.

Kun yleisölle oli tarjoiltu pari eeposta, bändin jäsenet lähtivät lavalta lukuun ottamatta Kakkoa, joka istahti alas ja jäi rupattelemaan, jättäen perinteisen encorea edeltävän tauon pois. Hänen mukaansa oli aika palata normaaliin päiväjärjestykseen, ja näin tehtiinkin, sillä seuraavana oli vuorossa “Tallulah”. Olin kuulevinani jonkun voihkaisevan pettyneenä “eih” tutun pianointron alkaessa – vaikka reaktio olikin huvittava, on sääli että “Tallulah” päätyy niin usein settiin monien laatuballadien kustannuksella tunnettuudensa takia. Toisaalta monen monimutkaisen teoksen jälkeen myönnytykset valtavirran faneille olivat ihan hyväksyttäviä. Tämän jälkeen kuultiin “The Wolves Die Young” ja Kakon perinteiseksi muodostunut kiitospuhe faneille elävän musiikin hengissä pitämisestä. Koska “Don’t Say a Word” oli kuultu jo, “Life” sai kunnian päättää keikan pakollisella Vodka-hassuttelulla höystettynä. Uude(hko)lla viisulla lopettaminen ei tosin ollut mahtava idea, sillä monet alkoivat poistumaan biisin käynnistyessä, ja yleisöllä kesti vähän aikaa lämmetä “la la laa”-yhteislaululle. Yritys hyvä kymmenen bändin osalta, mutta ehkä “The Cage” olisi ollut tilanteeseen sopivampi valinta.

 

Vaikka Tony Kakon ääni olikin antanut periksi Suomen hyytävälle säälle eikä ollut ihan parhaassa terässä, tämä ei estänyt häntä pistämästä energiaansa peliin. Myös muu bändi oli hyvällä tuulella, todennäköisesti arvostavan yleisön ansiosta. Keikka oli lähes loppuunmyyty, joten poikia oli selvästi kaivattu Nääsvillessä. Virvelisoundi oli alkukeikasta ihmeellistä kuminaa (kuin déjà vuna edellisestä Sonata-keikastani Pakkahuoneella) ja Viljasen kitarasta katosi ääni hetkellisesti, mutta oli hyvä kerrankin kuulla bändin jäsenten oikeasti laulavan stemmoja taustanauhojen alle hautautumisen sijaan. Vaikka ihan kaikki biisivalinnat eivät menneet mielestäni nappiin, Sonata Arctican keikalla oli hyvä draaman kaari: ensin lämmittelyä muutaman sinkkubiisin ja hitin merkeissä, iso annos eeppistä materiaalia setin runkona ja lopuksi päälle vielä pari yleisöä miellyttävää biisiä. Ankean junnaavan “I Have a Rightin” puuttuminen kokonaan oli helpotus, ja oli hienoa kuulla vahvasti tarinankerrontaan ja progeiluun taipuvaisiin biiseihin keskittynyt setti, sillä monet niistä kuuluvat bändin upeimpiin teoksiin. Vaikka Sonata-soundi on muovaantunut monin tavoin vuosien mittaan, pieni lyyrinen jatkumo albumien välillä on kiva juttu, sillä se mahdollistaa tällaiset teemakeikat. Jos bändi päättää joskus soittaa koko “Wildfire”-trilogian tai kaikki susibiisit yhdessä setissä, aion olla paikalla!

Settilista:
Intro (Can Can)
1. Shitload of Money
2. Paid in Full
3. Black Sheep
4. FullMoon
5. The End of This Chapter
6. Don’t Say a Word
7. Caleb
8. Juliet
9. Till Death’s Done Us Apart
10. White Pearl, Black Oceans
11. White Pearl, Black Oceans pt. II: By the Grace of the Ocean
12. Tallulah
13. The Wolves Die Young
14. Life (+ Vodka-outro)

Kuvat (Helsinki): Miia Collander

METAL CRANE FESTIVAL – Nosturi, Helsinki, 19-20.01.2018 (English)

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The Tampere-based Nem Agency is on a righteous path. Their artist roster is full of prominent names from Finland as well as abroad, and for example, their Metallihelvetti festival in Viikinsaari, Tampere, has already cemented their place in the Finnish festival summer season. Nem’s latest creation, Metal Crane Festival, held for the first time this year, caters to the needs of a mid-sized club festival, but as a specialty, the event took place in Helsinki and Jyväskylä simultaneously: the bands that took the stage in Helsinki on Friday performed in Jyväskylä on Saturday, and vice versa.

Helsinki’s Friday lineup consisted of Kalmah and Catamenia, both being long-distance runners from Oulu; Brymir, a folk/death metal act originally from Sipoo; and a more recent melodic death styled contender, Among the Prey from Jyväskylä. On Saturday, Nosturi hosted Harakiri for the Sky, a rising black metal act from Austria, the Tampere-based ‘samurai metal’ group Whispered, Bloodred Hourglass from Mikkeli, and The Hypothesis, originally from Kouvola. Originally, the Helsinki event was to be held in Nosturi’s downstairs bar, but since pre-sale tickets were sold out several weeks before the festival, the festival was understandably moved to the upstairs main stage.

Lue suomeksi TÄÄLLÄ!
Full gallery HERE.

 

Day 1
I arrived at Nosturi with little time to spare, as Among the Prey was set to kick things off only 15 minutes later. Fortunately there was no queue at the door, but consequentially, as the band began their set at 20:20, only twenty or maybe thirty people were present upstairs. The band, all of them being experienced players, didn’t seem to mind and went through with their 30-minute set with a good amount of intensity. They weren’t at all familiar to me beforehand, and I probably wouldn’t listen to their stuff at home, but the band’s metalcore-ish melodic death metal set the mood nicely for things to come. I still believe that Among the Prey did themselves a bit of a disservice by playing a cover, Lamb of God’s “Ruin”, as their last track, as it seemed to be their only familiar tune with the audience. However, bonus points go to the drummer, Atte “Anzelmosm” Palokangas’ ever-so-bushy and curly hair!

Brymir clearly intrigued the audience – at 21:10 the space between the stage and mixing booth was practically full. The band has played their symphonic folk/melo-death hybrid for over 10 years, but as the brothers Joona and Janne Björkroth have primarily garnered their fame in Battle Beast, Brymir has had to function as their second band. Janne wasn’t present on Friday at all, so their orchestrations were played from a backing track in full, and a friend of mine told me that seeing Joona on guitar has become increasingly rare. Despite the difficulties with members, the show was a blast – the last time I’ve seen Brymir live was over a year ago when they were warming up Ne Obliviscaris, but the progress has been huge in such a small time. Their bassist, Jarkko Niemi, was hilarious with his range of facial expressions, vocalist Viktor Gullichsen his usual cheerful self, and drummer Patrik Fält as inhumanly precise with his playing as always. As a nice surprise, Fält had picked “Unconquerable” from the debut album to be included in the set – I haven’t heard it in a while. A new song played mid-set, “Ride On, Spirit!”, sounded like a natural continuance to Slayer of Gods. Even if the orchestrations seemed to be too loud at times, the sounds were excellent throughout and the band seemed to be familiar with Nosturi’s lighting tech – it was a good-sounding and looking show! All-in-all, Brymir has everything they need to go far with the concept. I just wish that the brothers Björkroth would stop playing that power metal thing…

Third up was Catamenia from Oulu. Despite the fact that they’ve recorded nine full-length albums and three compilations for Massacre Records over the course of 20+ years, I was pretty sure that I hadn’t, at least knowingly, heard a single track from them before this show. The set was kicked off with a couple of slower tunes, and the band’s melodic black metal – which was mixed almost disturbingly sharp in treble – didn’t quite catch me at first. The set got considerably better as it went on and the band changed languages to Finnish for older songs in the end. Throughout the show, the second guitarist, Sauli Jauhiainen, looked like he’d rather be anywhere else and played his parts with a blank stare towards his fretboard. Vocalist Juha-Matti Perttunen made little to no contact with the audience, and the keyboard player, Jussi Sauvola, had to take care of asking the audience to participate. Perttunen sang his low growling parts convincingly, but his more black metal-ish high screams sounded like he’d only used his throat – I hope his vocal cords had juice left on the following night as well. I hate to say this, but in my books, Catamenia had to settle for last place – there were too many things out of place. I might have been in the minority though, as most of the audience seemed to enjoy the show and a bunch of the band’s long-time fans were clearly present.

Kalmah had the honor of wrapping up the Friday evening. Not too many bands from the halcyon days of Finnish melodeath are left, as Norther called it quits several years ago and Children of Bodom’s discography has been obsolete for a decade, but fortunately Kalmah still goes on – there’s even a new record coming up! Their long career shows on stage in the form of an almost obscene confidence – I wonder if Kalmah has ever delivered a bad show. From the opening track, Seventh Swampsony’s “Pikemaster”, to the usual closer, “Hades”, the band played their songs with ease, and at times, faster than the album versions. Kalmah’s back catalog has produced many live staples like “For the Revolution”, “The Black Waltz”, or “Heroes to Us”, but they’ve usually done some digging as well, and as a fan of their The Black Waltz album, I was immensely satisfied to hear “Defeat” and “Bitter Metallic Side” live for the first time in what seemed like an eternity – they probably haven’t been played since the album’s release tour in 2006. Even “Dance of the Water” was played from their debut, Swamplord – nice! Could you scour through They Will Return and Swampsong next, please? In addition to their musical prowess, an integral part of a Kalmah show are the vocalist Pekka Kokko’s abysmally bad and, at the same time, ingenious jokes, and he didn’t let us down this time either. If there’s something negative to be said, their sounds ranged from moderately good to downright horrible at times, but since I know their songs by heart, it didn’t bother me. A very successful Friday indeed!

 

Day 2
I had managed to misread Saturday’s timetables and arriving at Nosturi went to the last minute – as I got in to the coatroom, The Hypothesis had already started with their set upstairs. As with last night, frustratingly few people had already found their way to Nosturi for the first band, but I have to say that if the scarce audience was still a bit stiff from last night, so was the band. Compared to the last The Hypothesis show I’ve seen, the vocalist Arttu Seppälä seemed a bit absent and got mixed up with his speeches a couple of times. He also went backstage every time a song had an instrumental section and didn’t seem to really connect with the audience. His growls were on point, though. One might call The Hypothesis’ mid-tempo melo-death as bit dull, but I strongly disagree – the band’s material is full of catchy hooks here and there, and their guitar patterns are pretty complicated, but guitarist duo Asko Sartanen and Juuso Turkki played them with ease. The brand new single, “Illusion Now”, introduced a more dynamic The Hypothesis sound, and its guitar parts had a nice Omnium Gatherum -type of feel to them. The band’s drummer, Rolf Pilve, who has played in about a thousand different bands, including Stratovarius, couldn’t participate on this night, but his stand-in, Antti Rantavuo from Crimson Sun, filled his spot admirably. In the end, even with the slight stiffness, The Hypothesis played a good show and hopefully attracted a bunch of new listeners.

Like Brymir, the Mikkeli-based Bloodred Hourglass has worked towards success for over a decade already. Their debut album, Lifebound, didn’t appeal to me at all, but something mystical has happened afterwards, since their sophomore Where the Oceans Burn and the recent Heal both proved to be top-notch modern metal records. The front of the stage was absolutely packed as BRHG took the stage, and while I’m not a fan of the band per se, I don’t think that anyone present can deny the sheer quality of the show. The band was on fire throughout the set and the audience shouted and clapped without singer Jarkko Koukonen having to ask for it. Speaking of Koukonen – he’s an exceptionally good vocalist with a strong voice, and his experience in performing clearly shows in his stage presence. BRHG also performed with a stand-in member, as guitarist Lauri Silvonen couldn’t attend the band’s four-gig run as warm-up for Harakiri for the Sky. However, help was found near – his brother Eero filled in. The band apparently had had time for only one rehearsal, but one couldn’t have noticed. The setlist was naturally inclined towards Heal’s material, but tracks like “Times We Had” or “The Last of Us” are well worth playing. Representatives of BRHG’s record label had flown from Germany to see the show, and I might imagine them being in awe, as it was one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. Their development from the first shows I’ve seen in Mikkeli’s Jurassic Rock has been immense. If you have the chance, go and see the band!

If BRHG was great, Whispered managed to be just a tad greater. I’ve said this many times, but it wouldn’t hurt to repeat myself: Whispered has been ready to conquer the world for a long time – now it’s only a matter of their label’s commitment to the cause. The band’s set, familiarly beginning with “Strike!” from their latest album, Metsutan – Songs from the Void, flattened the audience with even more force than usual. Jussi Kallava stepped down from the drummer’s seat before the band’s latest European tour, but his replacement, Ukri Suvilehto, is a world-class player. He blasted through the songs with considerably higher tempos compared to the band’s records, and especially the closing track “Bloodred Shores of Enoshima” was borderline technical death metal. It’s also great that Whispered hasn’t forgotten their debut album, Thousand Swords, because while the quality difference compared to the second album, Shogunate Macabre, is rather steep, the album’s title track fit the set nicely. Still, it’s a shame that Shogunate Macabre’s “Jikininki” has been dropped from their usual set. Overall, Whispered’s show was lethal enough to make me think that Wintersun must’ve been in real trouble with these guys during their tour together.

As the festival’s final act, the only foreign band, Harakiri for the Sky, took the stage. I first found out about them after their second album, Aokigahara, making me an instant fan. I actually took a head start in seeing them live this week, in Tampere on Thursday, so the band’s Nosturi show didn’t offer any surprises, but compared to the Tampere show, the atmosphere was ten times better – the Tampere audience was pretty quiet and the show’s lighting was one of the dullest ever. If there’s something that I disagree on with the band, it is the need to open their set with “Calling the Rain” from their third album, III: Trauma, as the song is slightly too slow and long to be played first. From “Funeral Dreams” onward, the set was expectantly crushing. The band’s total lack of contact with the audience and especially vocalist J.J.’s indifferent performing style created some funky contrast with the previous bands, and when I had to take a bathroom break mid-song, this one gentleman approached me and asked if I’d seen the band before, and why J.J. was “so messed up.” I didn’t want to be rude and ask him if this was his first black metal show. The band came on stage, played nearly an hour and a half of their best material and left – perfect! After last summer’s Finnish shows, the band’s drummer had apparently changed, which was only a good thing, as the previous drummer dropped tempo well over 20 beats per minute on every blastbeat section – on this night the songs were kept together flawlessly. “Jhator”, the Aokigahara masterpiece, concluded Harakiri’s main set before a short backstage break and “My Bones to the Sea” was the evening’s final song. As a whole, I enjoyed the show to its fullest, but a good deal of the audience seemed to disagree, as almost half of the people present had made their way downstairs or home before the end. If black metal categorically divides people, Harakiri for the Sky seems to serve an excellent example of this.

Metal Crane Festival 2018 was a really successful event already on its first run-through. The lineup was such a relevant combination of older and newer bands, and the 25€ 2-day tickets were practically a steal. By moving the festival to Nosturi’s upstairs would’ve allowed for removal of the age limit, but since lately the amount of minors attending shows has been really small, I believe not separating the bar area was the right way to go. What’s really ingenious was the idea of switching lineups between Helsinki and Jyväskylä, as Finland is a country of long distances, and it’s not nearly as big of a deal to travel from Oulu to Jyväskylä to see a show as it would to Helsinki. The only negative remark goes once again to Nosturi’s bar pricing – the prices were once again raised, and 7,50€ for a can of Lapin Kulta is beginning to be ridiculously expensive. As of the writing of this report, the festival had already announced its return next year, so one can enjoy quality music next January as well. We’ll see you then!

Photos: Miia Collander

METAL CRANE FESTIVAL 2018 – Nosturi, Helsinki, 19-20.01.2018 (suomeksi)

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Tamperelainen ohjelmatoimisto Nem Agency on hyvällä asialla. Artistirosteri pullistelee metallin tämänhetkisiä kärkinimiä kotimaasta sekä ulkomailta, minkä lisäksi esimerkiksi Viikinsaaressa elokuussa järjestettävän Saarihelvetti-festivaalin voidaan sanoa jo vakiinnuttaneen paikkansa suomalaisessa festarikesässä vain muutaman vuoden jälkeen. Myöskin Nemin masinoima, tänä vuonna ensimmäistä kertaa järjestetty Metal Crane Festival vastaa yleisön tarpeeseen keskikokoisesta klubifestivaalista, mutta erikoisuutena festari tapahtui samanaikaisesti Helsingissä ja Jyväskylässä niin, että Helsingissä perjantai-iltana esiintyneet bändit nousivat lauantaina lavalle Jyväskylässä ja päinvastoin.

Helsingissä perjantain ohjelmaan kuuluivat pohjoisen pitkän linjan tekijät Kalmah ja Catamenia, Sipoon folk/death-jyrä Brymir sekä jyväskyläläinen tuoreempi melodeath-tapaus Among the Prey. Lauantaina Nosturin lavan puolestaan valloittivat kovassa nousussa oleva itävaltalainen black metal –akti Harakiri for the Sky osana neljän keikan Suomen-kiertuettaan, Tampereen samuraimetalliretkue Whispered, Mikkelistä ponnistava Bloodred Hourglass sekä alun perin kouvolalainen The Hypothesis. Alun perin Metal Crane Festivalin piti Helsingin päässä tapahtua vain Nosturin alakerrassa, mutta ennakkoliput myytiin loppuun useampi viikko ennen h-hetkeä, joten tapahtuma päätettiin täysin aiheellisesti siirtää yläkertaan.

Read in English HERE!
Galleria TÄÄLLÄ.

 

PERJANTAI
Nosturille siirtyminen meni hieman viime tippaan, sillä päästyäni paikalle Among the Preyn soittoaikaan oli matkaa vain vartin verran. Ovella ei kuitenkaan onneksi ollut laisinkaan jonoa, mutta tämän seurauksena yläkerrassa oli bändin noustessa lavalle kello 20:20 vain pari-kolmekymmentä ihmistä paikalla. Tekijämiehistä koostuva bändi ei kuitenkaan antanut asian häiritä vaan paukutti puolituntisen settinsä hyvällä intensiteetillä. Allekirjoittaneelle Among the Prey oli ennakkoon täysin tuntematon, enkä välttämättä kuuntelisi bändin tuotantoa kotioloissa, mutta livenä bändin metalcorensekainen melodeath toimi mainiona aloituksena illalle. Bändi tosin teki itselleen pienimuotoisen karhunpalveluksen soittamalla viimeiseksi Lamb of Godin ”Ruinin”, joka oli keikan mittaan mukavasti kasvaneelle yleisöllekin selkeästi ainoa etukäteen tuttu biisi. Erityispisteet rumpali Atte ”Anzelmosm” Palokankaan aina yhtä tuuheille hiuksille!

Brymir selkeästi kiinnosti helsinkiläisyleisöä – yhdeksältä illalla lavan ja mikseripöydän väli oli pakattu lähes täyteen porukkaa. Bändi on veivannut folkahtavaa sinfonista melodeathiaan jo yli kymmenen vuotta, mutta on joutunut jäämään jäsenistönsä kirjoissa hieman kakkosbändin asemaan, sillä veljespari Joona ja Janne Björkroth ovat viime aikoina hankkineet mainetta pääasiallisesti Battle Beastin riveissä. Jannea ei paikalla nähty perjantaina laisinkaan orkestraatioiden tullessa kokonaisuudessaan taustanauhalta, ja kaverini tiesi kertoa, että Joonan näkeminen kitarassakin on nykypäivänä harvinaisuus. Miehistöongelmista huolimatta keikka oli täysosuma – näin Brymirin viimeksi Ne Obliviscarisin lämppärinä reilu vuosi sitten, ja tuntui että niistäkin ajoista oli menty hurjasti eteenpäin. Bändin basisti Jarkko Niemi oli ilmeikäs showmies, vokalisti Viktor Gullichsen totutun hyväntuulinen itsensä ja rumpali Patrik Fält yhtä epäinhimillisen tarkka soitossaan kuin aina. Mukavana yllätyksenä mies oli valikoinut settiin debyyttilevy Breathe Fire into the Sunin (2011) avausraita ”Unconquerablen”, jota ei ole livenä hetkiseen kuultu. Puolivälissä soitettu uusi kappale ”Ride On, Spirit!” kuulosti varsin mainiolta jatkolta Slayer of Gods -levylle (2016). Soundit olivat läpi keikan priimaa, minkä lisäksi bändi oli selkeästi Nosturin valomiehelle ennalta tuttu: hyvältä näytti ja kuulosti, mitä nyt orkestraatiot olivat ajoittain hiukan turhan pinnassa. Kaiken kaikkiaan Brymirillä olisi kaikki mahdollisuudet mennä pitkälle konseptillaan. Lopettaisivatpa ne Björkrothit vaan sen power metalin soittamisen…

Kolmantena vuorossa oli oululainen Catamenia. Harvinaista kyllä, en ollut ainakaan tietoisesti onnistunut kuulemaan tämän yli 20 vuotta saksalaiselle Massacre Recordsille levyttäneen, yhdeksän pitkäsoittoa ja kolme kokoelmaa julkaisseen bändin ensimmäistäkään kappaletta aiemmin. Liikkeelle lähdettiin parilla hitaammalla kappaleella, eikä bändin turhan repiväksi miksattu melodinen black metal tempaissut saman tien mukaansa. Setti kuitenkin parani selkeästi keikan edetessä, ja loppupuolella soitettiinkin vanhempia suomenkielisiä biisejä. Kakkoskitaristi Sauli Jauhiainen näytti läpi keikan siltä, että olisi mieluummin ollut missä tahansa muualla, sillä mies soitti osuutensa täysin ilmeettömästi ja otelautaansa tuijotellen. Vokalisti Juha-Matti Perttunen otti kontaktia yleisöön vähänlaisesti, ja synisti Jussi Sauvola hoiti suurimman osan yleisön huudattamisesta. Perttusen matalat murinavokaalit lähtivät vakuuttavasti, mutta blackmetallisemmat rääkynät kuulostivat aivan siltä kuin ne olisi tehty täysin kurkulla – toivottavasti äänihuulissa riitti tehoa vielä lauantain Jyväskylän-keikallakin. Catamenialle lankesikin valitettavasti illan jumbon palkinto, sillä kokonaisuus jäi vaisuksi. Yleisö kuitenkin selkeästi piti näkemästään ja paikalla oli selkeästi paljon bändin pitkäaikaisia faneja, joten olin tässä todennäköisesti vähemmistössä – olisi varmaan pitänyt pyöritellä levyjä ennakkoon.

Perjantai-illan sai kunniakkaasti päättää Catamenian tavoin Oulussa majapaikkaansa pitävä Kalmah. Suomalaisen melodeathin kulta-ajoista ei ole enää kovin montaa bändiä jäljellä Northerin lopetettua ja Children of Bodomin oltua täysin jonninjoutavaa huttua jo useamman levyn ajan, mutta Kalmah jaksaa onneksi porskuttaa – kohta on kuulemma tulossa taas uutta levyäkin! Pitkä ura näkyy lavalla miltei hävyttömänä itsevarmuutena: onkohan bändi urallaan soittanut ainuttakaan huonoa keikkaa? Biisit lähtivät setin avanneesta, tuoreimman Seventh Swamphonyn (2013) ”Pikemasterista” aina debyyttilevyn hittibiisi ”Hadekseen” asti totutun vaivattomasti ja paikoitellen levyversioita nopeammin. Vuosien varrella keikkavakioiksi muodostuneiden ”For the Revolutionin”, ”The Black Waltzin” tai ”Heroes to Usin” lisäksi bändi on aina nostanut harvemmin kuultua materiaalia mukaan settiin, ja tällä kerralla nimenomaan The Black Waltzin (2006) suurena fanina lämmitti mieltä kuulla sen avauskaksikko ”Defeat” sekä ”Bitter Metallic Side” livenä ensimmäistä kertaa sitten levyn julkaisukiertueen. Debyytiltäkin soitettiin ”Dance of the Water” – kova! Seuraavaksi sitten vaan kaivelemaan They Will Returnia (2002) ja Swampsongia (2003), joohan? Musiikillisen annin lisäksi Kalmah-keikkoihin kuuluvat olennaisena osana vokalisti Pekka Kokon umpisurkean nerokkaat välispiikkivitsit, joissa oltiin tälläkin kertaa asian ytimessä (piña coladaa – piha kolataan). Catamenian Perttunen plagioi tietämättään Kokkoa hetkeä aiemmin kommentoidessaan Etelä-Suomen hiihtokelejä, sillä Kokko heitti käytännössä samaa herjaa vuosi sitten Kalmahin lämpätessä Thyrfingiä. Jos jotain negatiivista keikasta pitää löytää, Kalmahin soundit olivat paikoitellen aikamoista puuroa. Onneksi biisit osasi kuitenkin ulkoa. Kaiken kaikkiaan erittäin onnistunut perjantai!

 

LAUANTAI
Lauantaina meinasi tulla oikeasti kiire paikalle, sillä olin onnistunut lukemaan päivän aikatauluja väärin, ja paikalle ehdittiin päivän ensimmäisenä esiintyneen The Hypothesisin jo veivatessa ensimmäistä kappalettaan. Eilispäivän tapaan paikalle oli ehtinyt harmillisen vähän kuulijoita, mutta täytyy sanoa että jos yleisö oli edellisillasta vielä hieman kohmeessa, niin oli bändikin. Edelliseen nähtyyn Hypothesis-keikkaan verrattuna vokalisti Antti Seppälä vaikutti hieman poissaolevalta ja heitteli samoja välispiikkejä useampaan otteeseen. Mies myös hävisi lavalta kaikissa pidemmissä instrumentaalikohdissa eikä muutenkaan juuri ottanut kontaktia yleisöön. Murinavokaalit kuitenkin lähtivät vakuuttavasti. Joku voisi väittää The Hypothesisin keskitempoista melodeathia tylsäksi, mutta olen eri mieltä: biiseihin on ujutettu mukavasti pieniä koukkuja ja koukeroisia kitarakuvioita, jotka kepittäjäkaksikko Asko Sartanen – Juuso Turkki toisti vakuuttavasti myös livenä. Vastikään julkaistu ”Illusion Now” –sinkku esitteli aiempaa dynaamisemman bändin, joka toi kitaraosuuksillaan paikoitellen mieleen Omnium Gatherumin. Bändin vakituinen rumpali, noin tuhannessa bändissä soittava Rolf Pilve ei ollut päässyt keikalle, mahdollisesti eräänkin Stratovariuksen aiheuttamien kiireiden vuoksi, mutta Crimson Sun -kannuttaja Antti Rantavuo paikkasi miestä ammattitaitoisesti. Lievästä jäisyydestä huolimatta The Hypothesis kuitenkin selvisi keikasta kunnialla ja jäi toivottavasti keikan aikana kasvaneen yleisön mieliin.

Mikkeliläinen Bloodred Hourglass on edellisillan Brymirin tapaan tehnyt töitä jo päälle vuosikymmenen ajan. Debyyttilevy Lifebound (2012) ei kolahtanut oikein mistään kohtaa, mutta soitto- ja sävellystaidoille tapahtui jotain mystistä tämän jälkeen, sillä kakkoslevy Where the Oceans Burn (2015) sekä tuore Heal (2017) ovat todella kovatasoisia moderneja metallilevyjä. Yleisötila oli pakkautunut ääriään myöten täyteen bändin astuessa lavalle, ja vaikken varsinaisesti bändin fani olekaan, keikan kovatasoisuutta on tuskin kenenkään paikalla olleen mahdollista kiistää. Bändi oli alusta loppuun tulessa, ja yleisö huusi ja taputti minkä ehti ilman että vokalisti Jarkko Koukosen tarvitsi sitä pyytää. Koukonen on sanalla sanoen älyttömän kova ja vahvaääninen vokalisti, minkä lisäksi pitkä esiintymiskokemus näkyy lavapresenssissä. Myös BRHG esiintyi tuuraajamiehistöllä, sillä kitaristi Lauri Silvonen ei ollut päässyt mukaan kiertueelle lämppäämään Harakiri for the Skyta, mutta apu löytyi läheltä: hänen veljensä Eero tuurasi miestä kitaran varressa. Treenejä oltiin kuulemma ehditty pitää vain yhdet, mutta näyttihän tuo sujuvan! Settilista pohjasi luonnollisesti Healin materiaaliin, ja kyllähän vaikkapa ”Times We Hadia” tai ”The Last of Usia” kelpaa esitelläkin. Paikalla oli levy-yhtiön edustajia Saksasta, ja voisin kuvitella vakuuttuneisuuden määrän olevan tapissa, sillä keikka oli yksi parhaita pitkään aikaan näkemiäni. BRHG on kehittynyt huimasti ensimmäisistä nähdyistä Jurassic Rock –keikoista kotikaupungissaan. Kannattaa mennä katsomaan!

Jos BRHG oli kova, Whispered onnistui olemaan vielä piirun verran kovempi. Olen sanonut tämän monesti, mutta sanotaan se taas kerran: Whispered on ollut jo pitkään täysin valmis valloittamaan maailman, nyt se on vain taustajoukkojen omistautuneisuudesta kiinni. Uusimman Metsutan – Songs from the Void -levyn biisillä ”Strike!” tuttuun tapaan alkanut setti lanasi yleisön matalaksi tavallistakin tehokkaammin, sillä hiljattain bändistä pois jääneen rumpali Jussi Kallavan bändin viimeisimmällä Euroopan-rundilla korvannut Ukri Suvilehto on maailmanluokan tekijä. Tempot olivat läpi setin levyversioita nopeammat, ja varsinkin setin päättänyt ”Bloodred Shores of Enoshima” jyräsi eteenpäin kuin mikäkin tekninen death metal –biisi. On hienoa, että bändi kehtaa edelleen soittaa ensimmäisen Thousand Swords -levynsä (2010) materiaalia, sillä sävellysten tasoero kakkoslevy Shogunate Macabreen (2014) on melko hurja. Levyn nimibiisi kuitenkin solahti uudempien rallien sekaan mukavasti. Shogunate Macabren ”Jikininkin” tiputtaminen keikkasetistä pois tosin harmittaa. Kaiken kaikkiaan keikka oli sen verran murhaava paketti, että Wintersun on varmasti ollut täysin helisemässä näiden jätkien kanssa viime kiertueella. Vielä kun saman saisi taottua vaikkapa Etelä-Amerikan hevikansan kollektiiviseen kalloon.

Lauantain päätösaktina Nosturin otti haltuun festivaalin ainoa ulkomaanvieras, itävaltalainen Harakiri for the Sky. Bändi osui tutkaan kakkoslevynsä Aokigaharan (2014) aikoihin, ja levy teki kerrasta fanin. Kävin väijymässä miesten livekuntoa jo pari päivää aikaisemmin Tampereella, joten keikka ei tarjonnut suuria yllätyksiä, joskin meininkin oli kertaluokkaa parempi Nosturissa – Tampereen yleisö oli laiskanpuoleista ja valot kuin nuorisotalon bändi-illassa. Ainoa asia, josta olen bändin kanssa eri mieltä, on tarve aloittaa setti kolmoslevy III: Trauman (2016) aloituskappaleella ”Calling the Rain”, sillä biisi on vähän turhan hidas ja pitkä soitettavaksi heti kärkeen. Toisena soitetusta ”Funeral Dreamsista” eteenpäin jälki olikin sitten tasaisen tappavaa. Harakirien totaalinen yleisökontaktin puute ja varsinkin vokalisti J.J:n välinpitämätön esiintymistyyli loi hauskaa kontrastia aiempiin bändeihin nähden, ja kesken keikan vessassa käydessäni eräs herrasmies tuli kyselemään, olinko nähnyt bändin aiemmin ja miksi vokalisti on ”niin sekaisin”. En kehdannut todeta, että mies ei ole tainnut käydä kovin paljoa black metal –keikoilla. Bändi tuli lavalle, soitti lähemmäs puolitoista tuntia parasta tarjontaansa ja poistui – täydellistä! Edelliskesän keikkojen jälkeen bändin rumpali oli ilmeisesti vaihtunut, mikä on yksinomaan hyvä asia, sillä edellinen soittaja tiputti kappaleiden tempoa vähintään parillakymmenellä iskulla aina kun piti soittaa blastbeat-kohta – tänä iltana pakka pysyi täydellisesti kasassa. Setti päätettiin Aokigaharan ”Jhator”-mestariteoksella, jonka jälkeen hetken hengähtämisen jälkeen bändi palasi vielä lavalle soittamaan ”My Bones to the Sean”. Kokonaisuutena nautin täysin siemauksin, mutta osa yleisöstä tuntui olevan eri mieltä, sillä väkimäärästä oli sulanut keikan aikana alakertaan tai kokonaan pois paikalta lähemmäs puolet. Jos black metal jakaa kategorisesti mielipiteitä, Harakiri for the Sky on ilmeisesti tästä malliesimerkki.

Metal Crane Festival vuosimallia 2018 oli heti ensimmäisellä kerralla todella onnistunut tapahtuma. Bändikattaus oli sangen relevantti yhdistelmä vanhempia ja tuoreempia orkestereita, ja 25 euron hintaiset kahden päivän liput olivat käytännössä puoli-ilmaisia. Tapahtuman siirtäminen Nosturin yläkertaan olisi periaatteessa sallinut ikärajan poistamisen, mutta mielestäni päätös pitää K18-leima ovessa oli oikea, sillä viime aikoina Nosturin keikoilla aidattu kalja-alue on kattanut lähes koko yleisötilan, mikä kertoo alaikäisten vähäisestä määrästä. Tapa vaihtaa bändikattausta kahden kaupungin välillä päittäin on yksinkertaisesti nerokas, sillä Suomi on pitkien välimatkojen maa, eikä vaikkapa Oulusta ole yhtään niin kirpaisevaa lähteä Jyväskylään kuin Helsinkiin keikalle. Ainut miinus menee tälläkin kertaa Nosturin baarin tarjonnalle, sillä hintoja oli taas korotettu, ja 7,50 euroa puolen litran Lappari-tölkistä alkaa olla jo oikeasti kipurajoilla. Tätä kirjoittaessa festivaalin jatkosta oli jo tiedotettu, joten laatumusiikista pääsee nauttimaan myös ensi tammikuussa. Nähdään silloin!

Kuvat: Miia Collander

METAL CRANE FESTIVAL @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 19-20.01.2018

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Metal Crane Festival at Nosturi, Helsinki 2018.
Photos by Miia Collander.
Gig report coming tomorrow.
Keikka-arvio tulossa huomenna.