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.

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.

(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.

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.

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) 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.

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.

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.

(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

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
www.facebook.com/brutalassault.cz

(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)

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

(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

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:

(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

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.

LAUGHING SAM’S DOLPHIN w/ KAMEL & FLESHDANCE – Torvi, Lahti, 20.01.2018

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A group of smaller bands from the former municipality of Nastola did something of a comeback two-stop mini-tour in Finland in the beginning of 2018. They stopped first in Helsinki’s Semifinal and went on to Lahti, where it was held in the small (apparently legendary) club of Torvi. Being music lovers of all bands, big or small, it only felt fitting for us to catch the latter show on January 20th and report on it.

 

The (self-proclaimed) specialist that I am in up-and-coming artists and/or relative unknowns, this trio certainly piqued my interest; research into them revealed long histories, lengthy hiatuses, and only the bare necessities with which to work. Punk/stoner/grunge being the promised styles of music in the promotional flyer, my expectations were set. At least this time I had a good excuse for not being familiar with the bands. Admittedly, I also managed to arrive about halfway through the first band’s set, so my evening’s experience was not 100%. Finding my spot near the stage and with a clear view of the performers, the evening was well underway when I managed to settle in.

 

Fleshdance was supposedly the punk part of the hype, yet styling themselves as ‘nasty hardcore,’ but seeing as there’s some overlap between these two genres, we’ll move along. Established way back in 1991 and later disbanded during the same decade, only to reform in 2006 and playing their last (known to me) gig in 2009, this troupe has had their share of lengthy pauses. The venue – legendary as it might be – didn’t translate well into FD’s overall sound. Every now and again there was a recognizable snippet of a riff, or a familiar vocal part of a song, but generally it was extremely hard to make out any discernible or memorable sections. With fair certainty they did play “Jäätölömies” from their Macht Frei album (the only one available on Spotify), which had a nice groove to it and, as of the more memorable songs of their limited discography, was rather enjoyable. Due to the scant amount of space on stage, the live show of theirs was pretty much as energetic as it allowed them to be and thus was kind of wasted on a punk/hardcore band.

 

Kamel – describing themselves as, ‘Desert rock from Nastola’ – was the second troupe to climb on the stage. The ensemble’s performance had a somewhat macho air about it – which worked in their favor – and their songs were a lot more thoughtful and introspective, which was a welcome change of pace from the former. The drums struck pleasingly hard and loud throughout the small venue and there was a sense of danger in the air; something akin to being in a spaghetti western mixed with a Nordic sense of despair was the feeling I got from listening to these guys. The bass reverberating throughout most of their gig and enveloping the space, it seemed to have a positive effect on the concert-goers, as there was much more movement in the club and on stage as well, the musicians seemingly enjoying the controlled chaos. The lead singer, Toni Koskipuro, seemed to have an outstanding amount of control over his voice and the feeling, the color, it gives to the music and was thoroughly enjoyable for that. The band left the stage to a massive wall of bass that left a deep impression from their performance. Listening to Kamel after the fact, they easily transcend the meager milieu of Torvi and thus I hope that they grow a bit bigger than they are right now.

 

Laughing Sam’s Dolphin was the grunge-section, which did deliver on their promise. Being a venerable band formed in the, ‘late 80s, early 90s,’ to quote their Facebook page, their latest (and only, as far as I know) publication was on a C-cassette, but their songs are on Youtube (link at the end of the article). To make a somewhat reductive analogy, they sounded like a trashier Alice in Chains, which as a shorthand works to describe their overall feel. Their performance was energetic, constrained by the confines of the cramped quarters, clearly cheerful of their comeback. Despite some technical difficulties, their enthusiasm for the reunion shows was clearly evident.

 

On the whole, this small-timer evening was a fun jaunt, all things considered. Personally, I find the courage to reform a band after almost a decade (or two decades for LSD) to be extremely noteworthy and admirable. The bands brought their own soundscapes out on this evening. If they have a chance to fine-tune their live-sets and put out some more material, I can see any of them becoming more popular. Kamel, to my ear, was the most polished out of the three and I’d really, really like to hear some more desert rock. I’d rock out to it while driving the desert bus.

 

Fleshdance Spotify-link: https://open.spotify.com/artist/0Yt7ApODmkmeaF7uieWzpj?si=6lNS-z3eSeWWwEVt5wMWHA
Kamel: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLBG87DRAaHxFx02L1KLArFwQr5mHqZkxm
LSD’s (and their singer’s Youtube): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFdR-Pwme_45mIDoZoHBk7Q

INFECTED MUSHROOM @ The Circus, Helsinki, 19.01.2018

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Infected Mushroom at The Circus, Helsinki, 2018.
Photos by Janne Puronen.

LACUNA COIL – 02 Forum, London, 19.01.2017

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One of the best-known Italian metal bands around, Lacuna Coil, recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. To celebrate the event, they put on a special one-night show at 02 Forum in Kentish Town, London. It’s been a while since we’ve been to an event in London, so this seemed like the ideal time to check out another show there.

Listen to the set on Spotify here:

The last time I saw Lacuna Coil live, was in Finland. They played at Nosturi back in February 2010. As stated in our review, Marco Zelatti, the bassist, was unable to play that show. As well as the band played, and they really played their arses off, his absence was notable. That was 7 years ago and as much as I have always loved this band, as sometimes happens, I had drifted away from keeping tabs on them. So tonight was bound to be full of songs that I wasn’t familiar with.

And so it was that I found myself on the balcony at the Forum in Kentish Town looking down at a white curtain with the Lacuna Coil logo projected on it, and I was full of anticipation. Looking out at the people, I could see flags from all over the world, some of whom had started off “ONE-NINE-TEEN!” chants. At 20:21, the house lights went out and the audience erupted.

The intro track was a synthesized circus melody that slowly gave way to what sounded like a ghostly child singing. A horror soundtrack that almost reminded me of White Zombie but with shades of Blade Runner. A stilt walker appeared on stage dressed like a satanic goat, and shortly after the show began in earnest.

The first track, “A Current Obsession”, began not as an explosion of a band tearing on to the stage ready to rip our heads off. It crept along as something more sinister and setting the mood for what was to come. The stage was a somewhat bare affair, but carefully planned with a wide drum riser and steps either side. The backdrop to this was half a circus t

 

ent, with the words “THE 119 SHOW” picked out in lights. Set the stage, and let the performances do the talking.

Prior to “Blood, Tears, Dust”, we saw some dancers coming onstage in spangly leotards and massive curly white wigs. Being from a newer album, Delirium (2016), this was one of the tracks that I wasn’t familiar with. But it was a winner for me as soon as I heard it. Andrea Ferro (vocals) does a different type of screaming that I haven’t heard from him before – less of a low growl and more of a hardcore type of sound.

The next song brought me my first goosebump

 

s of the evening: “Swamped” is one of my favorites from the time when I was a much more avid follower of the band and they absolutely ripped it. Having enjoyed all of the songs so far (but really only knowing “My Wings”), this is where the concert really took off for me personally. I started to feel elevated by the music and not just the balcony!

After this song, we got the first full welcome from the Cristina Scabbia (vocals), commenting on all the flags she could see in the audience. People really had come from far and wide: Russia, Brazil, Italy. Zelatti wandered over to her while she was talking and whispered in her ear. There was also an Australian flag in the crowd! It would be nice to believe that they had traveled all that way to see the show, so I won’t question that too much!

 

After “Veins of Glass”, we got another thank you from Scabbia and some more props were wheeled onto the stage. This was another song that was new to me, but I warmed to it immediately and the performance given by the circus performers really added to it. There were four large picture frames with white cloths on them and people waving their arms through gaps as if they were paintings coming to life, like tormented souls trying to escape the canvas. At the end they closed in around the two singers.

What came as a complete surprise to me, was when they played “Hyperfast” – I got those goosebumps again. I might be wrong, but I have the feeling this is one of those songs that they’ve not played before. I was very happy to hear that.

 

Another great performance piece was “Heaven’s a Lie.” Before the song began, a white silk sheet (and what looked like a rope) were unrolled from the rafters. As the song began, a couple of dancers appeared and started climbing up them to perform a depiction of heaven and hell. One of the winged figures was dressed in white and the other in red. Then I noticed that the rope was in fact a tail!

The main set was rounded out by “Senzafine”, “Closer”, “Comalies”, and “Our Truth”  – all explosive crowd favorites.

The next part of the show was very special: the curtain dropped again and we were witness to more carnival dancing while they set it up. When the curtain came up again, there was another curtain in front of the circus tent and a grand piano was wheeled on stage. I couldn’t quite see who was playing it, but it may have been Ferro. When Scabbia returned to the stage, she was attached to a hoist and lifted up almost to the lighting truss, with a train that filled the entire stage. There she sung two songs, “Falling” and “Wide Awake”, beautifully rearranged as piano pieces, accompanied by dancers and a black winged fallen angel to one side. In my opinion, Scabbia stole the show during this segment. The whole crowd seemed to be transfixed.

The show was eventually rounded out by the obligatory (and highly energizing) cover of “Enjoy the Silence” and the opening track to Broken Crown Halo (2014), “Nothing Stands in Our Way.” It was certainly a high point to end the show on. The light show and performances of the circus troupe really added to the atmosphere of the event. Even though I wasn’t in the optimum spot for perfect audio, the sound was mostly great, but I have to admit that up on the balcony I found it difficult to catch the lyrics to the songs I wasn’t so familiar with.

 

With twenty-five songs over the course of the evening, I feel thoroughly inspired to catch up on the albums I have missed over the last 7 years. And so, with the smell of gunpowder in our noses and the hilarious (if surprising) strains of Madonna’s Abba remix ringing in our ears, we made our way out of the auditorium and to the Forum’s upstairs bar for a final drink.

The night didn’t end there, though. I was lucky enough to be able to hang round at the end for the after party. After some time, the band came into the bar and began talking and hanging out with people. Here they offered people cake and Andrea Ferro poured champagne for the attended friends and fans. Unusually for me, feeling a little starstruck I decided not to approach the band members directly as I didn’t want to appear like a crazy fanboy. But as I collected my celebratory glass of bubbly from Mr. Ferro, he offered his hand to shake and I said, in my best Italian, “Grazzi mille!” His face lit up as he quietly responded with “Prego!” and a very genuine and appreciative smile. I have to say that was the perfect way to end a wonderful evening.

Setlist:
1. Intro/ A Current Obsession
2. 1:19
3. My Wings
4. End of Time
5. Blood, Tears, Dust
6. Swamped
7. The Army Inside
8. Veins of Glass
9. One Cold Day
10. The House of Shame
11. When a Dead Man Walks
12. Tight Rope
13. Soul into Hades
14. Hyperfast
15. I Like It
16. Heaven’s a Lie
17. Senzafine
18. Closer
19. Comalies
20. Our Truth
21. Falling (piano)
22. Wide Awake (piano)

Encore
23. I Forgive (But I Won’t Forget Your Name)
24. Enjoy the Silence [Depeche Mode cover]
25. Nothing Stands in our Way

Text: Marc Taylor | Photos: Chiaki Nozu

(2018) The Mutual Admiration Society

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Artist: Sterling Ball, John Ferraro, Jim Cox
Album: The Mutual Admiration Society
Released: 19.01.2018
Label: Mascot Label Group

 

Mascot Label Group is a wonderful record label in the sense that they keep us listening to new things. One of the most recent additions to their roster is a supergroup of sorts called the Mutual Admiration Society, put together by Sterling Ball, John Ferraro, and Jim Cox, in a collaboration that is partly covers and partly original material.

I grew up on country and classic rock, so there’s a definite weakness for guitar rock inside me. When I saw that John Petrucci (Dream Theater) and Steve Vai would be on this album, I had to give it a listen. What’s more, John Petrucci was doing a Disney medley? Well that just sounded like a great deal of fun.

Listen along on Spotify:

 

The album starts out incredibly funky with “Payday Song”, which sounds like familiar funky 90s guitar style rock. It’s a creative song, executed with style and flare, and ultimately starts the album off very well. The groovy classic guitar sound continues with “In the Crowd”, featuring Steve Morse, whom most of you probably know from Deep Purple. This laid-back track has the ambiance of classic rock like the Rolling Stones and is rather stylishly executed.

“Checkin’ Up on My Baby”, originally by Sonny Boy Williamson and lasting a mere 1:55 in length in its original incarnation, has been classed up spectacularly in this album’s bluesy rendition, and now lasts a worthy 3:46. Steve Lukather, of Toto fame, appears in the version of “Baby Please Don’t Go” by the Delta Blues. I will say that many of the songs covered on this album were good old tracks, but in pretty much every case, this one in particular, the improvements in production quality really help bring the songs into the modern world, and the guitarists have made them their own, resulting in pretty vast improvements (at least by my standards). “Baby Please Don’t Go” moves from a gritty old blues song into a delightful, upbeat, organ and guitar piece that’ll definitely get your feet tapping.

While the album does center largely around guitars, “Treat Her Right” gives a great deal of attention to the organs as well, which allows for a nice change-up in feel. I’m not familiar with most of these artists by name, but one instantly recognizable song was the cover of “Sugar Shack” done by Steve Vai. Even knowing as little of Vai as I do, his sound comes out clearly and concisely, and it really sounds like he’s having fun with what he’s doing.

The album turns sharply into a less rock, more country sound with “Memphis” aka “Memphis, Tennessee”, and continues with “Cryin’ Time” (Ray Charles), which interestingly wasn’t exactly a country song in its original incarnation, but with Albert Lee‘s influence, manages to work really nicely and sound very authentically like a 90s country song (and that steel guitar and piano don’t hurt the vibe either).

Another big funky hit on the album, which nicely combines the poppy sounds of the original with the country guitars that dominate a great deal of this album, is the cover of Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back”, complete with a… banjo (I think?) breakdown about three quarters of the way through. Lots of fun, this one!

The “Disney Medley” was really cool, and a bit of a shock to me at the same time. On one hand, John Petrucci is fantastic, no surprise there. However, the songs in the medley are all ancient, with nothing (at least nothing I recognized) earlier than Cinderella (which, for reference, is from the 50s): “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes”, “Zip-a-Dee Doo-Dah”, and “It’s a Small World.” So, on one hand, I applaud the choice of unusual or uncommon songs, but on the other hand… really? Those ones? Nothing from the Disney Renaissance, for example? The best Disney songs? So, in that sense, I was a little bit disappointed.

Perhaps my very favorite song on the album is Albert Lee on “Hey Good Lookin'”, which was done originally by Hank Williams (Sr). To be fair, my dad used to play guitar and sing that song in our living room growing up, so I have an innate fondness for it. However, honestly, once I found the original song, well… those 2-minute country songs from the 50s were pretty slow and low-quality in production, and this upbeat version, while lacking the vocals, is exactly what this classic needed – better guitar work, a bit faster speed, clean and clear production, and a lot more style.

“Strip Mall Gourmet” is one of the funkiest songs on the album, far more jazzy than country in style, with Jay Graydon (who has won Grammies for rhythm & blues music) playing this time around. It has those elevator music drums and a gentle, relaxing vibe all around, that is, until it picks up and gets nice and showy around halfway through. There’s a definite 70s/80s hippy music influence in there as well. A warm welcome back to the organ too!

And lastly, the album concludes with “Heartbroke”, which picks the energy up a little, returning one last time to the country regions of guitar sound. It’s a pretty mellow track, and perhaps one of the least interesting ones on the whole. It’s a bit of a weak ending to the album as such, but that’s the worst complaint about it.

 

Overall, this is definitely a really fun, funky album that anyone who just likes to listen to good guitar (and organ) playing will surely have no trouble enjoying. Extra pleasure will certainly come if you like country music in any way.

Rating: 9/10, 4.5 stars

Tracklist:
1. Payday Song
2. In the Crowd (ft. Steve Morse)
3. Checkin’ Up on My Baby
4. Baby Please Don’t Go (ft. Steve Lukather)
5. Treat Her Right
6. Sugar Shack (ft. Steve Vai)
7. Memphis
8. Cryin’ Time (ft. Albert Lee)
9. I Want You Back
10. Disney Medley (ft. John Petrucci)
11. Hey Good Lookin’ (ft. Albert Lee)
12. Strip Mall Gourmet (ft. Jay Graydon)
13. Heartbroke

Connoisseur’s Corner

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January is a slow time of year for live shows. Without any gigs for us to think on, the mind tends to drift elsewhere. Most recently I was sitting in my house, casually sipping an alcoholic beverage and listening to music, when I began to find parallels between those two very things. There is a lot of nuance to difference genres of music/metal, much in the same way as there are a lot of nuances in different alcoholic beverages. So, I decided to match up some different boozes with metal genres.

 

Beer – Death Metal
It’s not for everyone, and even if you do like it, it might’ve taken you a while to build up a taste for it, but once you develop that taste, there’s no turning back. It’ll be an easy go-to genre for you to return to any time you want to drink or listen to something. Some of it’s as basic and watered down as it comes, but there’s always something new to try.

Examples: Children of Bodom; Karhu

Coolers – Pop Metal
In the same way coolers introduce people to alcohol, pop metal helps pave the way toward metal in general, if you’re transitioning from listening to pop, rock, or other genres. They rarely offers anything revolutionary, and is often not even considered all that technically good. Hell, it’s way to sweet for most people to really enjoy. But it serves a purpose and opens doors.

Examples: HIM; Smirnoff Ice

Wine – Progressive Metal
The most complex bouquet of styles and flavors come together to make something incredible, but if you are lazy, sloppy, or cheap, made for the masses and without any true passion, you’re just a disgusting mess.

Examples: Leprous, Haken; Jacob’s Creek, Torres

Tequila – Power Metal
Best consumed in great quantities in your youth, you may not notice the nuances of the really good stuff until you’re older and take the time to take it in slower and experience all it has to offer. It’s also one of the most likely to mess you up really bad, either drinking or headbanging.

Examples: Stratovarius, Sonata Arctica; Jose Cuervo, 1800

Whisky – Black/Extreme Metal
To many, it’s just horrible shrieking/burning, but those who develop the taste and appreciation for it have a deeper understanding of the subtleties of what they’re experiencing.

Examples: Batushka; Highland Park

Rum – Viking/Pagan/Folk Metal
It’s been around a long time and there’s a lot of great variety within the genre, and while there are always newcomers and those who push the limits and try new things, it’s not always a great success, and as a whole, few have done anything truly earthshattering with the genre since its inception. Still, it’s always warm and welcoming when you go back to old favorites.

Examples: Whispered, Turisas; The Kraken, Captain Morgan

Vodka – Rock
A classic, easy to get into, and something pretty much everyone can enjoy at some point or another, even if it’s not your favorite. It’s also really easy to mix with other things.

Examples: Alice Cooper; Russian Standard … pop-rock, rock-metal; vodka/juice, vodka/soda

Gin – Female-Fronted Metal
When it’s good, it’s incredible. It’s always evolving and new things are coming out every few years that are surprisingly fresh, they are daring to push the limits and add new elements, the classics are still fantastic, but when you’re shit, you’re just fucking awful.

Examples: Within Temptation, Arch Enemy; Hendricks, Napue

Cocktails – Blended Genres (esim: extreme melodic alternative Viking pop metal)
When it’s done right, you make sweet, delicious magic, but when done wrong or overdone, it’s just a heinous mess that’s too sweet, too strong, or just plan boring.

Examples: Ember Falls; Long Island Iced Tea

 

So, what do you think? Are there any terrible mismatches? Do you have any more pairings I’ve missed out on? If so, leave a comment! Otherwise, we hope you’re enjoying the start of 2018!

Disclaimer: only examples of good or decent stuff up there – I’ve left the crap bands and drinks up to your imagination.

SVARTFEST II – Klubi, Tampere 06.01.2018

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Some of you may be familiar with Svart Records, a Finnish record label that was founded in 2009. SvartFest, then, is the mini-tour of Svart Records (svart meaning ‘black’ in Swedish), which was organized for the second time ever in January 2018 with three domestic groups taking part: Jess and the Ancient Ones, Spiritus Mortis, and Seremonia. The first stop of their tour was in Gong, Turku, and the second we managed to catch was held in Klubi, Tampere on the 6th.

 

Psychedelic/ambient rock being a bit of an underserved niche, it was pretty hard to resist the call of this particular mini-festival. Being hugely into anything ambient, I think the best quality music or an artist can exhibit is the ability to make people feel. Need something for that cyberpunk night? Tune in to Hol Baumann or H.U.V.A Network and feel the shadows run through you. Want to feel like utter crap on a gloomy evening? Pop in Guilt Machine’s On This Perfect Day or Archive’s Axiom. Craving punching out a bear? While not an ambient band at all, Manowar should provide the testosterone needed. Also please don’t actually do this; you will be mauled to death… but I digress. The point being, ambience and mood can make or break a band, especially in live situations; as such, it is one of the most important things I pay attention to when in a live situation.

 

Setting the initial mood was left to Seremonia, a psych-rock band which has a pretty good aesthetic sense involving psychedelic imagery and dark lyrical themes, such as nature’s wrath, luciferianism, and other such things. The appeal of such cult-like scenery was mostly lost on stage, sadly. The sound was pretty mushy most of the time and the songs – being from the psych-side of the moon – were hard to follow as a casual listener. However, the drummer, Erno Taipale, never showed any of that, easily following along and showing his mastery of the songs and the style of their music. The maracas wielded by the lead singer, Noora Federley, also seemed very superficial, not making a significant impact on anything except keeping tempo and being a prop, sound-wise unsurprisingly unimpactful. The show on stage was very anemic with minimal movement, but with effective use of stillness and occasional moments of good lighting. It was like watching the cousin of hippie rock who drinks irresponsibly and worships the Devil; and that’s exactly how it should be. Seremonia seems like an unpolished club band, which would benefit greatly from an intimate space (kind of like Klubi), lighting, better mixing, and smoke. If they ever polish that, I think they could become a great live band.

 

Spiritus Mortis, the artist formerly known as Rigor Mortis, was comparatively a much more straightforward affair. Hailed as supposedly the first doom metal band from Finland, established all the way back in 1987, their tunes were simultaneously hypnotizing and coma-inducing, probably better categorized as stoner metal in this modern day and age. Labeling aside, the music very heavily evoked Black Sabbath in my mind, so everything sounded very familiar and thus could I get into the groove of things much more easily. Smoke deployment on stage was done much better for them, which fit perfectly for this quintet; the air was thick and slowly drifting along to the slow tempo, the voice of their new lead singer, Kimmo Perämäki, clearly pierced through the music and made its mark on the listener. Much simpler to understand – and thus appreciate – Spiritus Mortis was a solid atmospheric performance by these venerable doombringers.

 

Jess and the Ancient Ones was now set to close out the evening with a somewhat similar stylistic choice as Seremonia, focusing on the psychedelic part of rock’n’roll. As the band started playing, there was an extremely alluring scent, yet with no discernible source. Instantly noticeable was the much more rehearsed and energetic performance by the artists, with frontwoman Jess in particular being very enjoyable to watch as she swayed along to the music and beat the tambourine on her hips to the beat. Surprisingly enough, the tambourine seemed to have an actual, audible effect on the music, not simply being a prop in her hands. Along with supreme microphone technique and a stunning voice, Jess truly deserves her namesake in the troupe. Yussuf, their drummer, also seemed to have a ton of fun, looking extremely satisfied at being behind his kit and playing in front of a crowd. Sounding somewhat like a 60s/70s California rock’n’roll band, it vividly brought to mind Hollywood movies and Americana in general, yet there was something lurking beneath the shallow understanding of the casual listener. The emphasis was very much on the performance and the atmosphere, rather than interaction with the audience; they held their only speech of the evening until after the last song before the encore.

 

Focusing on a pretty niche audience, Seremonia and Jess and the Ancient Ones do a very good job at catering to them, the latter being more polished and high-profile than the former, yet I feel there’s a ton of untapped potential in Seremonia. Spiritus Mortis also recently had a roster change in their new singer (aforementioned Kimmo Perämäki), so I’m hoping for at least a burst of activity on their part. If there’s a SvartFest III with these same bands, I would definitely try to catch them again, with the hopes that my nitpicks would’ve been addressed, thus validating my existence giving their audience more bang for their buck. Ambience is a powerful tool for making a performance stand out, if used well… now crank it up to eleven!

HIM w/ JIMSONWEED – Rytmikorjaamo, Seinäjoki, 29.12.2017 (suomeksi)

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Vuoden 2017 tavoin love metalin lähettiläiden, HIMin, ura tuli tiensä päähän hiljattain. Vitsikkäästi nimetyn Bang & Whimper -jäähyväiskiertueen viimeinen osuus luonnollisesti soitettiin koto-Suomessa, ja se koostui viidestä keikasta vuoden lopussa. Kolmanneksi viimeinen keikka oli Seinäjoen Rytmikorjaamolla 29. joulukuuta, ja Musicalypse oli paikalla seuraamassa Ville Valon ja kumppanien viimeistä vierailua lakeuksille.

Kuuntele settilistat tästä (huom! ei sisällä Jimsonweedin Invisible Planin kappaleita tai HIMin “Rebel Yell” -coveria, joita ei löydy Spotifysta):

En ole koskaan ollut varsinainen HIM-fani, joten ilmoitus bändin hajoamisesta yllätti minut, vaikka se olikin järkeenkäypä – sydänsuruista ja toistensa käsivarsille kuolevista rakastavaisista ei voi tehdä määräänsä enempää särökitaralla varustettuja kappaleita muuttumatta parodiaksi itsestään, ja bändin kultakausi oli muutenkin päättynyt jo vuosikymmentä aiemmin. Vaikka kaimani herra Valon laulumaneerit ja tekstit ovat monesti makuuni melko korneja, hänellä löytyy korvaa loistaville koukuille, mikä on johtanut lukemattomien hittien julkaisuun, eikä bändin vaikutusta yhtenä Suomen suurimmista musiikkivientitoivoista voida liioitella. Saadessani mahdollisuuden nähdä HIM ensimmäistä ja viimeistä kertaa päätin tarttua siihen.

 

Illan avasi stoner-kvartetti Jimsonweed, jonka historiaan ja materiaaliin olin tutustunut jo ennen kuin se julkistettiin lämmittelijäksi, joten tiesin mitä odottaa musiikillisesti. Keulahahmo Suho Superstar kuulemma teki vaikutuksen nuoreen Ville Valoon (joka soitti jopa bassoa yhtyeen riveissä hetken aikaa) Helsingin 90-luvun rokkipiireissä, ja HIM lämmitteli Jimsonweedia yhdellä ensimmäisistä keikoistaan, joten arvelen entisten oppipoikien halunneen nostaa hattua heitä inspiroineelle ryhmälle viimeisen kerran.

Jimsonweedin setti keskittyi luonnollisesti vuonna 2016 julkaistuun – ja 14 vuotta aiemmin nauhoitettuun – Ghosts of Kopliin, mutta mukana oli myös poimintoja Invisible Plan -debyytiltä (1996). Kohokohta oli “Any of These Days”, jonka lopussa basistilta kuultiin jopa hieman tappingia. Suho Superstarilla vaikutti olevan joitain ongelmia mikrofoninsa kanssa, josta lähti välillä rapinaa tai kiertoääntä, ja ajoittain häntä oli vaikea kuulla, varsinkin korkeissa falsettikohdissa. Yleisön kotikaupunkien tiedustelua lukuun ottamatta hän pitkälti keskittyi enemmän jorailemaan kuin ottamaan kontaktia yleisöön, mutta muu bändi paikkasi tätä jonkin verran. Varsinkin kitaristi Sami Yli-Sirniö, jonka soitosta olen nauttinut Barren Earthin levyillä, ilmeili alinomaa, ja kovaa takonut rumpali yritti saada yleisöä taputtamaan mukana, vaikkei tämä ollut helppo tehtävä, sillä ihmiset odottivat selvästi illan pääateriaa ja kuuntelivat Jimsonweedia vain kohteliaisuudesta. Vierailevana muusikkona kosketinsoittimissa bändillä oli tuttu kasvo, Amorphiksen Santeri Kallio. Hän soitti noin joka toisessa kappaleessa, istuen pienen kioskinsa takana ja laajentaen bändin soundipalettia perusrockin ulkopuolelle. Jimsonweed soitti sulavan louhivaa rockiaan kaiken kaikkiaan hyvin, mutta rakkausmetallinnälkäisen yleisön edessä soittaminen ei ollut sille soveliain mahdollinen paikka, joten toivon bongaavani bändin joskus omalla keikallaan.

 

Settilista:
1. Starting to Grow
2. Dust and Blood
3. Any of These Days
4. Before the Beginning
5. Dark Sun
6. Built to Blow
7. Bride
8. Behind the Eyes of Blue
9. Soulful of Power

 

Jimsonweedin setin jälkeen HIMin valmistelut alkoivat ja iso metallinen Heartagram paljastettiin, mikä muistutti minua KISSin keikkojen isosta logosta. Tarkkaillessani ihmisiä ympärilläni yllätyin paikalle ilmaantuneiden miesten lukumäärästä, koska koulussa ollessani HIM oli stereotyyppisesti tyttöjen bändi, joten olin alitajuntaisesti odottanut 80-90 prosentin yleisöstä olevan naisia. Miehiä oli kuitenkin kohtalaisesti, enkä usko kaikkien olleen vain tyttöystäviensä tai vaimojensa seuralaisina. On ihan terveellistä, että ennakkoluulot joutuvat murskatuiksi silloin tällöin! Oletukseni siitä, että ulkomailta asti olisi tullut kovan luokan faneja, osoittautui kuitenkin oikeaksi, sillä jonottaessa saattoi kuulla jutustelua englanniksi ja bongata kansainvälistä porukkaa. Harvat suomalaisbändit voivat edes uneksia näin omistautuneesta kuulijakunnasta, ja oli selvää, että monet tulevat kaipaamaan tätä bändiä.

HIM nousi lavalle The Everlyn Brothersin “Bye Bye Loven” tahdittamana. Pipopäinen keulahahmo Ville Valo tervehti Seinäjoen väkeä ja “Buried Alive by Love” kajahti soimaan. Parin edellisen keikan arvioiden mukaan Valo oli ollut hieman flunssainen, mutta kun hän päätti kappaleen vertahyytävällä huudolla, arvelin hänen selviytyvän illasta kunnialla, oli flunssaa tai ei. Settilista oli käytännössä hittikimara, sillä 21:stä biisistä 17 kuultiin kokoelmalta XX – Two Decades of Love Metal (2012). Tämä oli viisas valinta, koska arvelen ainakin osan yleisöstä olleen joko kaltaisiani satunnaisia kuulijoita, jotka eivät olleet aiemmin nähneet HIMpuloita elävänä tai vanhoja faneja, jotka olivat jääneet pois kelkasta jossain vaiheessa ja olivat nyt verestämässä muistojaan viimeisen kerran. Jokainen täyspitkä albumi oli kutenkin edustettuna setissä, ja tarjoilipa HIM myös harvinaisena herkkuna “Stigmata Diabolin” debyytti-ep:ltä 666 Ways to Love: Prologue (1996). “Wings of a Butterflyn” ja “Join Men” kaltaiset isoimmat hitit saivat odotetusti aikaan riemukkaimmat kiljaisut ja äänekkäimmät yhteislaulut, mutta henkilökohtainen suosikkini oli reipas “Heartkiller”-veto. Kenties se, että hieman tuoreempana biisinä sitä ei oltu vielä soitettu tuhatta kertaa teki siitä bändillekin mielenkiintoisemman? Ainut hämmentävä valinta setissä oli cover Billy Idolin “Rebel Yellistä” – miksi uhrata aikaa lainabiisille (pakollisen “Wicked Gamen” lisäksi), kun levyjä löytyy omasta takaa kahdeksan kappaletta? “Right Here in My Arms” on muutenkin melko billyidolmainen kappale ja oli jo soitettu hieman aikaisemmin.

Ville Valo harjoitti melkoista lauluakrobatiaa äärilaidasta toiseen – “Gone with the Sinin” aikana hän kävi hetkellisesti oktaavia alempana, aivan kuin alkuperäinen versio ei olisi ollut jo riittävän matala, mutta jo seuraavassa biisissä, “Soul on Firessa”, hän huusi kuin viimeistä päivää. Jos miehen äänenkäyttö oli pätevää, samaa ei voinut sanoa hänen mikkitekniikastaan, sillä hän piti sitä monesti joko liian lähellä tai kaukana suustaan, mikä johti epätasaiseen lauluvolyymiin. Basisti Mikko “Mige” Paananen oli lavalla bändin energisin jäsen, mutta Mikko “Linde” Lindströmin kitaransoitto kiinnitti soittajista huomioni parhaiten. Keihäsmies soitti hienon pidennetyn soolon “Wicked Gamessa” Valon ollessa pois lavalta, ja hänen otelautatyöskentelynsä oli vaikuttava myös “Your Sweet 666:ssa” ja “The Kiss of Dawnissa”. Yksi silmiin- ja korviinpistävä seikka oli taustalaulujen puute – olin nähnyt videoita, joissa muut HIMin jäsenet laulavat stemmoja, mutta tällä kertaa Valo lauloi täysin yksinään. Kyllästyivätkö muut laulamiseen vai eikö kiertuebudjettiin mahtunut enempää mikrofoneja?

Soundit olivat kelvolliset suurimmalta osin; ainoastaan “Tears on Tape” kärsi pahasta laimeudesta Lindströmin kitaran alhaisen äänenvoimakkuuden vuoksi. Peukkua ansaitsee erityisesti Paanasen bassosoundi, joka oli jyrisevä, mutta erottuva ja yksi parhaista keikoilla kuulemistani. Lavalla soundipolitiikka ei ollut kai ihan yhtä ruusuinen, sillä ikuisena perfektionistina Valo jakoi äänimiehelle ohjeita niin sanallisesti kuin käsillä viittilöiden. Valo ei kuitenkaan ollut känkkäränkkätuulella, vaan siirrettyään joitain laatikoita sivuun lavalla hän tuntui pääsevän oikeaan mielentilaan. Hän vitsaili loppuunmyydyn Rytmikorjaamon “ihanan huonosta” ilmanvaihdosta, ja ennen “The Funeral of Heartsia” hän kiitti faneja vuosien varrella antamastaan tuesta. Illan päättäneen doom-iskelmä “When Love and Death Embracen” loppupuolella hän asteli takavasemmalle, jättäen bändikaverinsa soittamaan biisin loppuun keskenään.

 

HIMin ammattitaitoinen esitys ja vahva kappalevalikoima takasivat sen, että bändin jäähyväiskeikka faneille Seinäjoella oli vertauskuvallisesti lähempänä paukahdusta kuin kitinää. Samalla kuitenkin pystyi aistimaan, että viisikon kirkkain intohimon liekki oli jo hiipunut, ja suurimmalta osin keikka vaikutti olevan kuin yksi viimeisistä työpäivistä ennen eläkkeelle pääsyä: bändi oli rennolla tuulella ja tietoinen lähestyvästä vapaudesta, muttei antanut enää ihan sataprosenttista panostaan. Voi olla, että bändi säästeli voimiaan viimeistä kotikenttäkeikkaa varten Helsingin Tavastialla, mutta HIM onnistui joka tapauksessa ylittämään odotukseni, joita Jäähallin-keikan kriittiset arviot olivat laskeneet. Lepää rauhassa, His Infernal Majesty – kenties tiemme risteävät vielä jonain päivänä jollakin paluukiertueeseen lukeutuvalla festarilla?

Settilista:
Intro (The Everly Brothers – Bye Bye Love)
1. Buried Alive by Love
2. Heartache Every Moment
3. Your Sweet 666
4. The Kiss of Dawn
5. The Sacrament
6. Tears on Tape
7. Wings of a Butterfly
8. Gone with the Sin
9. Soul on Fire
10. Wicked Game (Chris Isaak -cover)
11. Killing Loneliness
12. Poison Girl
13. Bleed Well
14. Heartkiller
15. Join Me
16. Stigmata Diaboli
17. In Joy and Sorrow
18. Right Here in My Arms
19. The Funeral of Hearts

Encore:
20. Rebel Yell (Billy Idol -cover)
21. When Love and Death Embrace

 

Kuvat: Lene L.

HIM w/ JIMSONWEED – Rytmikorjaamo, Seinäjoki, 29.12.2017 (English)

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As 2017 drew to a close, so did the career of HIM, the ambassadors of love metal. The final leg of the jokingly titled farewell tour, Bang & Whimper, naturally took place in their native Finland, consisting of five dates at the very end of 2017. The third last show was played at Rytmikorjaamo, Seinäjoki, on the 29th of December, and Musicalypse went to see how Ville Valo and co.’s last visit to Southern Ostrobothnia would go.

Listen to the setlists here (note: missing the songs from Jimsonweed’s Invisible Plan, which isn’t on Spotify, and HIM’s “Rebel Yell” cover):

I’ve never been an actual HIM fan, so their breakup announcement took me by surprise, but it also made sense – you can only write so many songs about heartbreak and lovers dying in each other’s arms with distorted guitars until you turn into a parody of yourself, and the band’s biggest heyday had been over a decade ago anyway. Although I often find my namesake Mr. Valo’s vocal mannerisms and lyrics rather corny, he’s got a knack for great hooks that has led to the release of a myriad of hits, and the group’s impact as one of the biggest musical exports from Finland can’t be overstated. When the opportunity to see HIM for the first and last time arose, I decided to take it.

 

The night was opened by the stoner quartet Jimsonweed. I’d been reading up on the band’s history and checking out their material even before they were announced as the support act, so I knew what to expect musically. Reportedly, frontman Suho Superstar left an impact on a young Ville Valo (who even briefly played bass in the band) in the Helsinki rock scene in the 90s, and one of HIM’s earliest gigs was played as a support act to Jimsonweed. I guess the former apprentices wanted to give one last tip of the hat to the group that inspired them.

Having released their sophomore effort, Ghosts of Kopli, in 2016 – 14 years after it was recorded – Jimsonweed naturally focused on this release, but there were also songs from the Invisible Plan (1996) debut in the set. The highlight was “Any of These Days”, at the end of which the bassist even did some tapping. Suho Superstar seemed to have some problems with his mic, as there were crackles and feedback noises coming out of it occasionally, and at times it was hard to hear him, particularly the higher falsetto notes. Apart from asking which cities people had come from, he was more focused on his dancelike moves than communicating with the audience, but the rest of the band made up for it. Guitarist Sami Yli-Sirniö – whose playing I’ve enjoyed on Barren Earth’s albums – in particular was making lots of goofy faces while delivering his licks, and the hard-hitting drummer tried to get the crowd to clap along at one point, although this wasn’t an easy job, given that people were clearly waiting for the main course and merely listening to Jimsonweed out of politeness. As a guest musician, the band had a familiar face: Santeri Kallio of Amorphis on keyboards. He would play on every other song or so, sitting behind his tiny setup and expanding the band’s sound beyond bare-bones rock. All-in-all, Jimsonweed played their brand of crunchy yet loose rock well enough, but performing in front of a love metal -hungry crowd wasn’t the ideal setting for them, so I hope I’ll catch these guys at a show of their own someday.

Setlist:
1. Starting to Grow
2. Dust and Blood
3. Any of These Days
4. Before the Beginning
5. Dark Sun
6. Built to Blow
7. Bride
8. Behind the Eyes of Blue
9. Soulful of Power

 

After Jimsonweed’s set, the preparations for HIM began and a huge metallic Heartagram was unveiled, which reminded me of the big logo at KISS’s concerts. While observing the people around me, I was surprised at the number of male audience members, because when I was in school, HIM was stereotypically a band for girls, so I’d subconsciously expected 80-90% to be women. However, there were plenty of guys, and I doubt all of them were just accompanying their girlfriends or wives. It’s healthy to get your preconceptions crushed every now and then! My prediction that foreign diehard fans would be attending the gig was correct though, as you could hear people speaking English and spot people of different nationalities while queueing inside. Few Finnish bands could even dream of such a dedicated (or big) fanbase, and you could tell that this group will be missed by many.

HIM hit the stage with “Bye Bye Love” by The Everlyn Brothers playing in the background. The beanie-headed frontman Ville Valo greeted the crowd, and then “Buried Alive by Love” kicked off the set. According to reviews of the previous couple of shows, Valo had been under the weather, but when he ended the song with a blood-curdling scream, my first thought was: “Cold or no cold, I think he can handle this!” The setlist was essentially a hit cavalcade, as 17 out of the 21 songs could be found on the compilation XX – Two Decades of Love Metal (2012). This was a wise choice, as I suspect that at least a portion of the crowd were either casual listeners like myself who had never seen HIM in the flesh or old-school fans who had lost track of the band along the way and had come to see them one last time for nostalgia’s sake. Anyway, every full-length album was represented in the set, and HIM also threw a bone to the diehards with “Stigmata Diaboli” from the debut EP, 666 Ways to Love: Prologue (1996). As expected, the biggest hits like “Wings of a Butterfly” and “Join Me” received the loudest squeals and roused the loudest sing-alongs, but my personal favorite was the zealous rendition of “Heartkiller.” Maybe the fact that as a newer tune it hadn’t been played a thousand times before like the earliest stuff made it more exciting to the band? The only confusing pick in the set was a cover of Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell” – why sacrifice a slot to someone else’s song (besides the obligatory “Wicked Game”) on your final tour when you’ve got eight albums of your own? Besides, “Right Here in My Arms” is a pretty Billy Idol-sounding song anyway and had been played a little earlier.

Ville Valo pulled off a lot of vocal acrobatics from one extreme to another – during “Gone with the Sin” he briefly went an octave lower, as if the original crooning wasn’t low enough, yet in the very next song, “Soul on Fire”, he was screaming like a banshee. If the man’s use of his vocal range was accomplished, the same couldn’t be said for his mic technique, as he would sometimes hold it either really close or really far from his mouth, which resulted in an inconsistent vocal volume. Bassist Mikko “Mige” Paananen was the most energetic band member on stage, but it was Mikko “Linde” Lindström’s guitar playing that got most of my attention out of the instrumentalists – the axeman played a cool extended solo on “Wicked Game” while Valo left the stage, and his fretboard work was impressive on “Your Sweet 666” and “The Kiss of Dawn” as well. One glaring detail was the lack of backing vocals – I’d seen live videos of HIM where some members were contributing harmonies, but this time Valo was on his own vocally. Did the others get sick of singing or didn’t the tour budget allow multiple microphones?

The sound mix was fairly good for the most part, the only offender being “Tears on Tape”, which sounded rather limp due to the low volume of Lindström’s guitar. A special thumbs up goes to Paananen’s bass tone, which was rumbling yet defined, and one of the best I’ve heard in a concert. On stage, things must’ve been different, as ever-the-perfectionist Valo gave the sound guy cues to turn things up or down, either verbally or through gestures. Valo wasn’t cranky though, and after moving some boxes aside on stage about a third of the way into the set, he seemed to get into the right mindset. He cracked jokes about the lack of air conditioning in the sold out venue, and before “The Funeral of Hearts” he thanked the fans for their support over the years. Towards the end of the closing doom schlager, “When Love and Death Embrace”, he exited the stage, leaving his bandmates to finish the song by themselves.

 

HIM’s professional, rock-solid performance and strong selection of songs guaranteed that the band’s farewell to fans in Seinäjoki was more of a bang than a whimper. However, at the same time, you could sense in a way that the fivepiece’s brightest spark of passion had faded already, and for the most part the show came across as one of the last days at work before retirement – the band was relaxed, well aware of the incoming freedom, but not giving it 100% anymore. While they may have been saving their biggest efforts for the final hometown gig at Helsinki’s Tavastia, HIM nevertheless exceeded my expectations, which had been lowered by the critical reviews of the Ice Hall show. Rest in peace, His Infernal Majesty – who knows, maybe our paths will cross on a reunion tour at a festival someday?

Setlist:
Intro (Bye Bye Love by The Everly Brothers)
1. Buried Alive by Love
2. Heartache Every Moment
3. Your Sweet 666
4. The Kiss of Dawn
5. The Sacrament
6. Tears on Tape
7. Wings of a Butterfly
8. Gone with the Sin
9. Soul on Fire
10. Wicked Game (Chris Isaak cover)
11. Killing Loneliness
12. Poison Girl
13. Bleed Well
14. Heartkiller
15. Join Me
16. Stigmata Diaboli
17. In Joy and Sorrow
18. Right Here in My Arms
19. The Funeral of Hearts

Encore:
20. Rebel Yell (Billy Idol cover)
21. When Love and Death Embrace

 

Photos: Lene L.

2017 in Metal

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Another year, and another big pile o’ great and not-so-great music passes us by yet again! 2017 was a rather diverse year musically, with a lot of big hits and a few strange misses. Let’s get right to it then, shall we?

 

BEST ALBUM
AW: I have to tie this year, but I’m almost uncertain as to whether I should. It’s almost unfair to include Ayreon in the running for these awards because no one can really compete on their scale. How does one vocalist compare to Floor Jansen, Hansi Kursch, Marco Hietala, Anneke van Giersbergen, Jonas Renkse, and so many more combined? How do the standard ten (give or take) songs compare to a four act opus with an incredible, heart-wrenching story? Even on a purely musical level, Ayreon’s band are top-notch. So as such, The Source is the obvious choice. However, there is a band who released an album that I enjoyed so thoroughly that I wanted them to win in spite of how amazing Ayreon is. It wasn’t better, objectively speaking, but it’s an album I can listen to in any mood and enjoy it, and it’s also an album I’ve listened to about a billion times without getting sick of it, and both of these are things that The Source cannot do. As such, I’m almost inclined to give Ember Falls’ debut, Welcome to Ember Falls, the award alone. However, objectivity requires me to tie them, for they both win on entirely different merits.

WK: Much to my disappointment, no instant 10/10 classics were released this year, but the closest one ended up being Amber Galactic by The Night Flight Orchestra. Compared to my favorite albums from previous years (by Fates Warning and Steven Wilson), this is like the polar opposite, being fairly straightforward and no-nonsense classic hard rock, but it’s done so well and with such infectious passion that you can’t help but feel good listening to it. Another great thing about the record is that for once the right track was delegated to bonus track status: “Just Another Night” is a pretty repetitive tune and doesn’t measure up to the songs on the main album, which is all killer, no filler.

LL: The first of a few mentions to come, this one goes to Crimfall’s return album, Amain. It’s been a fairly nice year album-wise, and Ember Falls managed to hold this title for a good while in my books, and Hallatar and CyHra came in as worthy contenders towards the end of the year. But Crimfall more than just managed to meet my expectations with their long-waited follow-up for Writ of Sword – it also raised the bar for their next efforts (and others, too). Even for someone familiar with Crimfall’s music, Amain offered wonderful surprises and, once again, took the listener on a journey to a whole another place and time. Oftentimes one of the core issues with any sort of cinematic, heavily orchestrated metal album is that it sounds too pompous, pretentious, or just plain ridiculous; however, while Crimfall’s sound is big, it isn’t stuffy or too polished; quite the contrary. Amain has the needed roughness to make it sound real. These are stories you can believe, regardless of whether you want to or not.

 

BEST SONG
AW: I hemmed and hawed over this for a great deal of time, but ultimately decided that I had to give it to “The Day that the World Breaks Down” by Ayreon. The 13-minute song is an incredible opener to both an album and a story, with twists and turns that I can’t deny loving. Lucassen has a knack for taking vocalists that I either love (like Hansi Kursch), I don’t know (like Michael Eriksen), or that I didn’t much care for in their own band (like Russell Allen), and making me love them passionately (see Russell Allen’s part around 8:50 in the song for reference). This song does that and so much more. Be prepared to hear more about it below, certainly. Quick note though – if I stop being objective and you want to know my personal favorite song of the year, it’s “Falling Rain” by Ember Falls.

WK: This is a tough one, but I have to go with “The Exorcist” by Daniel Cavanagh, which left the best first impression and mesmerized me right from the start. Anathema’s The Optimist unfortunately didn’t have big emotional songs like “Ariel”, “Internal Landscapes”, or “Dreaming Light” that I’m used to hearing from them, but luckily Cavanagh more than made up for it on his own. Some of his greatest songs, such as “Inner Silence” and “One Last Goodbye”, have been written about his late mother, and “The Exorcist” – another addition to this series – is not far behind them, as the emotion is palpable. It also made me appreciate Cavanagh’s singing talents more, as I’d always thought of him more as a guitarist and songwriter than a vocalist.

LL: I continue with Crimfall – it certainly isn’t hard to name my favorite song this year. ”Until Falls the Rain” has almost all things imaginable I could want from a song, and it has them with style. It sums and wraps up Amain with a huge-ass boom, after which it’s pretty understandable to want to take another spin. This gem of a song has easily made its way towards the top of my all-time favorite songs listing, and I don’t mind that one bit.

 

BEST FOLK ALBUM
AW: Man, the contenders came out this year! Crimfall released their first album in over half a decade, Eluveitie released the long-awaited followup to Evocation I: The Arcane Dominion, Ensiferum changed things up a bit with Two Paths, and Wintersun bridged the gap between Time albums with The Forest Seasons. Several of those disappointed me though, with one standing out easily as a great album with little to complain about, and that is Evocation II: Pantheon. This gorgeous bit of acoustic Celtic mythology is excellent to listen to actively or in the background, and the cover artwork is truly gorgeous.

WK: Folk metal still doesn’t tickle my fancy – pass.

LL: A thought that has crossed my mind a few times before is that the terms high-key and low-key folk should be established; it’s not fair to compare something like Ensiferum to Wolfheart and vice versa, even if their music stem from same kind of sources. While Two Paths was quite alright, I will still grant the title of best folk album to Tyhjyys: it channels quite effortlessly the things I look for in a folk album, and you won’t find too many weak moments in there. Tuomas Saukkonen and his gang didn’t re-invent the wheel, but they did quite a fine album.

 

BEST FEMALE-FRONTED ALBUM
AW: I rarely have something unusual to offer to this category. My standard picks are usually well-known bands like Nightwish. However, this year I picked up on a group that’s been raising steam lately: Kobra and the Lotus. It doesn’t hurt that they’re from my home country, but while their first few albums didn’t manage to capture my attention, they started to get recommended to me repeatedly towards the end of the year. I finally put on their latest album, Prevail I, for a listen and found myself thoroughly enjoying it. Kobra Paige has got a wonderful voice and the music was refreshingly heavy considering the female vocalist. Considering how much Jamo enjoyed their live show, I’ll have to put them on my list of bands to look out for in the future.

WK: Like last year, there’s not a whole lot of competition in this category in my books, so the title goes hands down to Hurricanes and Halos by Avatarium. The Swedes built up on the strength of The Girl with the Raven Mask (2015) and managed to hit a sweet spot between hard rock and doom metal on this release. I thought Jennie-Ann Smith was a great singer before already, but amazingly enough, she keeps raising the bar even higher on each album. However, I have to give a shout-out to the self-titled debut by The Dark Element – the collaboration between Anette Olzon and Jani Liimatainen – as it’s loaded with catchy tunes. I heard it fairly recently for the first time, so obviously I’m less familiar with it than the Avatarium album – if I’d got my hands on it a little earlier, it might be my #1 here.

LL: I could have named Crimfall’s Amain for this one, too, but I felt like shedding light on not one but two Finnish-singing female-fronted bands that have delighted me this year. Too often the more punk and rugged female-fronted bands are left in bit of a shade by their more melodic (and sometimes more orchestrated) contemporaries, but Huora’s Hukutaan paskaan and Ikinä’s Samoista soluista have been a fresh breeze of beer-smelling air with their uncompromising styles. While Ikinä blends together metal, rock, and the legacy of groups like PMMP and Tiktak, Huora trusts in the more traditional punk aesthetic, and both have a knack for lyrics that hit the spot within the 20-something age range, whether the topic is personal struggles, societal issues, or just good old partying. We don’t need more goody two-shoes bands.

 

MOST EPIC SONG
AW: Well, it’s hard to pick here, but I think pretty much anything off The Source would yet again fit the bill. Pretty much every song on that album is epic in its own magical and majestic way. I won’t specify. If you listened to the album, you understand. Honorable mention to “Clear the Way” by Iced Earth though – they haven’t nailed an epic like that in years, if not decades.

WK: This has got to be “Graves” by Caligula’s Horse – as an album, In Contact is a bit of a mixed bag, but when it’s great, it is freaking great, and this song is a good example of that. What can I say? There are dynamic shifts, diverse vocals, great soloing, and cool extra instrumentation in the form of a saxophone solo, all over the course of a journey of 15½ minutes.

LL: A no-brainer from me again, this title was made to fit “Until Falls the Rain.” As I said earlier, Crimfall has a certain sovereignty in creating cinematic landscapes with their music, and on “Until Falls the Rain” Jakke Viitala and his troupe have taken this to its peak. From the hasty voices speaking in the beginning to rousing choruses and finally fading off to rain, it’s quite a ride in a little less than 8 minutes. I’ve been in awe of Helena Haaparanta’s vocal skills for years, and her singing in the chorus especially still gives me chills on almost every listen.

 

BEST SLOW SONG/BALLAD
AW: I actually struggled to think of a slow song or ballad this year that really moved me. I think I’ll have to go with my personal favorite track from CyHra’s debut album, “Inside a Lullaby.” The piano melodies are gorgeous and Jake E.’s vocals are passionate and very diverse. It’s a lovely song with great dynamics that frequently gives me chills. If “Light Me Up” by Kobra and the Lotus is slow enough to be considered a ballad, I’ll consider this a tie too. That song has a lot of strength and beauty to it.

WK: While Steven Wilson’s To the Bone is a poppier affair than his previous solo efforts, he hasn’t stopped writing songs that hit you right in the feels. “Refuge” – as the title implies – is written from a Syrian refugee’s perspective, and both the music and the lyrics are charged with emotion, painting a picture of an ascetic life in the Calais camp. The steady buildup works to its advantage, and it’s such a powerful moment when Wilson sings “It’s not a crime” and Mark Feltham’s harmonica solo enters the scene like a desperate cry for help. Let’s face it, this meme isn’t totally baseless…

LL: There weren’t many slow songs to choose from on the albums that stuck with me throughout the year. The slow songs were rare and few, and all of them felt, well, a little meh. But then came CyHra with ”Closure” – a good old traditional metal ballad that has just the right amount of almost country-like cheese, but cheese you could actually relate to  what’s more to hope for? It reminds me wonderfully of some of the cheesy stuff I encountered (and shamelessly listened on repeat if needed) in my early teens, so in part it might win just for the sake of half-ironic teenage nostalgia. But really, it’s a great song.

 

MOST CHILLING SONG
AW: It’s hard to pick between songs on The Source, and you knew it was going to come from that album, let’s not lie. There are a few that could fit the bill of chilling songs: “Sea of Machines”, “Condemned to Live”, “Deathcry of a Race”, and “The Source Will Flow” are all solid contenders, but there is one that stands out beyond them all: “March of the Machines.” As I said in the review, that song is nightmarish, and in the full context of the album, it’s straight-up terrifying. I usually try to pick this one based on more of an emotional stirring, but in this case, I couldn’t not pick this haunting piece of art.

WK: As Mariusz Duda told me, “Crumbling Teeth and the Owl Eyes” by Lunatic Soul is about nightmares, which makes it a very appropriate song here. I like how it shifts between melancholy and a creepier vibe, and the out-of-tune keyboards in the middle add a unique flavor. You can also interpret the lyrics either as an innocent wish to be without worries like a child or as something much more disturbing.

LL: If I’m completely honest, ”Until Falls the Rain” marks easily the highest percentage of times it gave me chills when listening, but this would really get boring if I continued babbling about how much I like it, right? So I wanted to bring up another song that managed to give me goosebumbs, ”My Mistake” by Hallatar. The contrast between Tomi Joutsen’s and Heike Langhans’ voices, and between the soothing verses and harsh choruses, especially paired with the ethereally beautiful video made to the song, make a whole different kind of chilling than Crimfall does.

 

BEST FUN-TIME SONG
AW: Without a doubt, there’s usually one song every year that hypes me up like no other. This year, I’m actually talking about Ember Falls’ very own “Falling Rain”, which never fails to improve my mood or get me dancing at their shows, regardless of my inclination to rock out. It’s by far my favorite song of the year, as I mentioned, and deserves this spot for the joy it brings me.

WK: I could pick almost any song by The Night Flight Orchestra, but I guess “Domino” takes the cake. As I mentioned in my review, the “Africa” (Toto) vibe just shines through, and that’s what makes it so much fun to listen to, along with the epic chorus and the appropriate keyboard sounds.

LL: Simply judging by what has ended up as synonyms for an upcoming party during the year, I present you “Bileet” by Ikinä and “Kotibileet” by Huora. Easy lyrics that talk about partying is a foolproof concept, especially if you can just shout them along, but Huora takes this one by the length of a gerbil – if you understand Finnish, take a spin and have a laugh.

 

BEST COVER SONG
AW: I don’t think I heard any covers this year, so I’ll pass on this one.

WK: I was having a hard time with this category until I came across Doom Side of the Moon, the metal reimagination of The Dark Side of the Moon (1973) by Pink Floyd. I could name the whole thing, given that it essentially is one big piece of music, but out of the individual tracks I think the dynamic between the contemplative verses and the commanding tone of the chorus in “Us and Them” was handled most successfully. The original is one of my personal Floyd favorites to boot anyway.

LL: For once, there was a real surplus of great covers throughout the year, from humppa-fied version of Nightwish’s “Elan”, “Elanto”, by Eläkeläiset, to Crimfall covering some Rambo soundtrack, and Delain’s guitarist Timo Somers paying tribute to Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington with his “One More Light” cover. My pick, however, came in as a surprise contender and took the race in the last quarter, when I happened to catch Apulanta’s Toni Wirtanen blowing up Sanni’s “Soita mua” into a full-fledged nu-metal song on prime-time TV. It doesn’t get much better than that, does it now?

 

BEST SOLO/RIFF
AW: Usually a tough one for me, this year it was easy, as well as unusual in that I’m picking a bass-line. Yes, you guessed it, “The Day that the World Breaks Down” returns once again, for the bass-laden riff that starts around 8:20 and lasts nearly a minute as Russell Allen joins in, then continues on a bit later. Incidentally, that whole part is one of my favorite parts of any song possibly ever, and sometimes I put it on just to listen to those couple minutes.

WK: This one belongs to Cyhra’s “Karma”, no doubt about it! When I first heard those classic In Flames-style guitar harmonies, my first thought was “Hell yeah, Jesper Strömblad is back!” Euge Valovirta’s melodic solo in the same song is splendid as well. The rest of the album didn’t totally live up to my expectations, as the riffing is not as impressive on the other songs, but now that Valovirta is an official member, I hope the next album will have a more even balance between guitars and pop elements.

LL: This is always a difficult category for me, as I tend to pay more attention to vocal melodies and whole songs, so I admit my defeat and leave this one blank.

 

BEST INSTRUMENTAL
AW: The only instrumental I can think of this year was “Ghost Dance (Awaken the Ancestors)” by Iced Earth, and while I think it has some of Iced Earth’s best riffing in ages, the weird native chanting kind of throws it off for me. If you want to count it by default, by all means, otherwise I’ll pass on this category.

WK: Drift by Tuesday the Sky is a fully instrumental album, so it’s easy to pick something off of it. “It Comes in Waves” remains my favorite track on the record: Kevin Moore’s Rhodes playing, Jim Matheos’ tasty guitar leads, and the relaxed vibe is a combination that makes the tune irresistable.

LL: Wolfheart’s “Shores of Lake Simpele” might not be the most creative effort as far as instrumentals go, but you have to admit it’s a good one. It’s a damn good intro, too; three and some minutes doesn’t feel too long, if you pace it with some shouts (those don’t count as singing, shush) that are even more in place at shows.

 

BIGGEST POSITIVE SURPRISE
AW: I haven’t been all that stoked on Iced Earth in recent years. Damn, if I think about it, the last album of their that I straight-up loved was Horror Show back in 2001 – no wonder I was so thrilled with Incorruptible! I was never really into the Ripper Owens -era music and Matt Barlow’s comeback didn’t do much for me, likely relating more to the material than his performance. When Stu Block arrived, I had high hopes for Dystopia but past the first two songs, I can’t name anything off the album, and I really didn’t think much of Plagues of Babylon. With that in mind, there’s no doubt that Incorruptible was, even though it took a while to open itself up to me, a hugely positive surprise on the whole! Also, bonus points to Battle Beast for putting out an album I didn’t hate!

WK: While Daniel Cavanagh’s solo album Monochrome came out of nowhere, I knew I’d probably at least like it – just like Anathema’s latest albums – and I did. However, last year Haken’s Affinity was my choice in this category as an album by a band that finally clicked with me, and this time I’ll pick The Assassination of Julius Caesar by Ulver for the same reason. I’d tried getting into Ulver before, but their music mostly went over my head until they released the aforementioned album, which has more hooks and an 80s synth pop vibe that I enjoy. No offense to Martin Gore and co., but I’d dare say that this is the best Depeche Mode album of the year!

LL: Frankly, I expected nothing from Ensiferum’s Two Paths and wasn’t even sure I was going to listen to it in the first place, after One Man Army was so far below the bar. By the time it came out I had heard so much praise I was simply too curious to pass it, and didn’t regret the decision. It doesn’t surpass their best efforts, but definitely deserves to be taken into rotation, and gives some hope for Ensiferum raising their album game back to its former level.

 

BEST NEW DISCOVERY
AW: I’ll have to return to Kobra and the Lotus for this one. While they’re not exactly new to the scene, having put out their first album earlier this decade, they’re only just starting to become known in these parts and I hope to see them gather more fame. Their latest album, Prevail I, was truly fantastic without a single miss on its track list, and it seems to get better the more I listen to it.

WK: While The Night Flight Orchestra have already put out three albums, it seems to me that Amber Galactic is the first to garner a lot of attention (thanks to Nuclear Blast) and I’m not the only one who discovered them this year. I also ended up buying their previous two records, which aren’t too shabby either!

LL: One Desire is a band I was extremely skeptical about at first, and remained so after hearing their autotune-laced debut album, but somehow lured their way into my brain’s earworm folder thanks to their show at Sauna Classic. The song material isn’t bad – it doesn’t offer anything radically new to its genre of 80s flavored hard rock, but it certainly gets stuck in your head, and I’m looking forward to seeing them again at various festivals next summer.

 

BIGGEST WHATEVER (MOST FORGETTABLE ALBUM)
AW: Hmm, there were a lot of mediocre albums this year, but truly forgettable? Oddly enough, I might have to give this to The Forest Seasons by Wintersun. While I can’t say that I didn’t like the album, in the end there was just honestly not much to bring me back to it. I like “Loneliness (Winter)”, but apart from that, I don’t really have much to say for or against it. I mostly just forget it exists, in spite of all the hype.

WK: As a reviewer who’s willing to take a chance and check out releases by previously unfamiliar bands, you’re bound to come across some mediocre stuff. In my case, the most apt example of an album that went in one ear and out the other is Motherblood by Grave Pleasures. Nothing on the record is downright bad, but almost all the songs follow such a similar formula that everything becomes a gray, indistinguishable mass, and there are no big highlights to sweep you back in.

LL: For some reason this has been a year with quite a few albums I had thought I would listen a lot before they got out, but ended up not really listening them at all – examples include Brother Firetribe’s Sunbound, Ayreon’s The Source, and Humppa of Finland by Eläkeläiset, among others. This year, my nomination doesn’t go to an album that would necessarily be the most boring, per se, but one I literally forgot existed for most of year: Dance Panique by Turmion Kätilöt.

 

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT
AW: This was a tough call for me, because there were a handful of albums that almost lived up to their mark, but didn’t quite. First of all, I had a certain set of expectations for The Forest Seasons by Wintersun, which in hindsight were probably a bit unrealistic. On the flipside, Ensiferum’s Two Paths managed to be a pretty great accomplishment musically, but was completely ruined by the bad clean vocals. Of those, I’d have to pick Ensiferum. While Wintersun’s album just wasn’t what I expected, Two Paths could have been really good if they hadn’t chosen to use the backing vocalists in the lead in half the songs, ultimately ruining them with their lack of cadence and tune. Especially contrasted to the alternative versions, it’s clear that it could’ve been a great album but isn’t.

WK: Well, this is easy! Paradise Lost have had a surprisingly consistent career despite having gone through numerous stylistic facelifts for almost 30 years, but Medusa is one of the low points of the band’s 15-album discography. It feels like the Yorkshire lads are more concerned with sounding heavy and raw than writing memorable songs nowadays, but I hope they’ll get over this midlife crisis and re-emerge with a stronger record in a few years.

LL: As this category usually has reflected the height of my expectations towards certain bands, I thought it to be fair to exclude those, especially because those albums still grow on me with time. My final pick for this obviously didn’t, and Brother Firetribe’s Sunbound has the questionable honor to man this category after already appearing in another not-so-positive category above.

 

SADDEST FAREWELL
AW: It seems as though last year we opened this up to deaths (not just members leaving bands), in which case I’ll have to mention Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington of Soundgarden and Linkin Park respectively. Their deaths seemed to go hand-in-hand in a way, and told a tragic tale of depression and the music industry, leaving many heartbroken for being unable to give back the strength that their music had given to their fans. But in agreement with Wille and Lene, if we’re being traditional here, the Amorphis split with Niclas Etelävuori was a bit sad to hear about, and though I’ve never been big on the HIM train, they are certainly an icon and it’s a bit sad to say farewell.

WK: Out of deaths, the most shocking one to me was Chris Cornell. I’d only been a sort of casual Soundgarden fan beforehand, but I thought he had one of the best voices in rock, and suicide is one of the most tragic ways to go anyway. Since then I’ve then delved more closely into the Soundgarden discography, as well as the excellent Temple of the Dog album that Cornell made with the Pearl Jam guys in the early 90s – what a talent and loss! As for splits and departures, it was sad to hear Niclas Etelävuori quit Amorphis over management disagreements – it’s no fun when non-musical factors come into play and affect the lineup. On the positive side, he (apparently) remained friends with the band, and Amo found a good ‘new’ member in original bassist Olli-Pekka “Oppu” Laine.

LL: I second (or third?) Amy’s and Wille’s words on Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell, and move on to the splits and break-ups. Truth be told, I’ve had more ‘end of childhood/youth’ moments than probably would fit the criteria, but somehow those moments still tend to show up every now and then. To me, Vesa Ranta retiring from playing drums this fall was definitely one of them; you know those few musicians you’re just used to being there and doing music, so you don’t really expect them to retire? Followed by a sudden, ”Oh, oh right,” when they do. Nevertheless, as Ranta’s work has inspired me as a photographer ever since I started myself, I’m happy to see what he’ll come up with in that field.

There’s also another worthy mention that falls under the category of ‘end of youth.’ By the time this post comes out, HIM will have almost wrapped up their over 2-decade-long career, and I’ll have seen the last we’ll all see of them at Rytmikorjaamo with Wille. It’s always an unsettling feeling when a band you’ve grown up with calls it quits, and even when it is the right decision made at – probably – the right moment… you’ll still miss them. Whether it’s remembering how they were when you first got into them, or just the memories attached to the music, it’s worth reminiscing, I’d say.

 

BEST REPLACEMENT
AW: Recommend me something? I had a hard enough time thinking of splits, so I can’t really come up with replacements either.

WK: As I mentioned above, Olli-Pekka Laine rejoined Amorphis, so the original lineup (rounded out by Tomi Joutsen and Santeri Kallio) is back together. I haven’t seen the new incarnation live yet, but that’ll probably change next year!

LL: Nothing new to add here, just humming in agreement with Wille’s words above.

 

BEST COVER ART
AW: A tie this year! Wintersun’s The Forest Seasons may have been a bit of a let-down thematically, but perhaps it was all the more so because it didn’t live up to its gorgeous cover art. The beautiful colors, the tranquil scene, the flares of light peeking through the trees, the images in the wood on the border… it’s a gorgeous piece of work with which I’d gladly adorn my wall given the right opportunity. It’s merely a shame that the themes on the album didn’t match the quality of its art.

As well, Eluveitie’s Evocation II: Pantheon is one of the only albums I even know about that has packed so much meaning into one design. You can read about the meaning in the interview Maria did with Chrigel Glanzmann here, but suffice to say that every line on that cover serves some purpose and you can tell that a great deal of thought and effort was put into it. And through all of that, the cover also manages to be really gorgeous. I expect to see this in a lot of tattoos in the future. I even considered one myself.

Runners up for me include CyHra’s Letters to Myself, VUUR’s Cities, and Ensiferum’s Two Paths. There was a lot of nice art this year.

WK: I have to say I like the art for Lost in the Ghost Light by Tim Bowness. It’s a good representation of the record’s concept, and I enjoy how evocative and detailed it is, thanks to all the fictional rock band memorabilia. Even before you’ve heard a single note of the music, it makes you curious about the contents, and that’s a sign of a successful album cover.

LL: Heck, this was a surprisingly tough pick this year. I felt quite drawn to (pun intended) traditional or traditional looking mediums with album covers this year, like Crimfall’s Amain, No Stars Upon the Bridge by Hallatar, and Ajattara’s Lupaus to name a couple. All of them pay justice to the album itself, so this would be more or less a toss-up if I tried to choose between them. So no winner from me in this category this year, but three honorary mentions.

 

WORST COVER ART
AW: It breaks my heart to say this, but I might have to give this one to Ember Fall’s debut. As much as I really adore that album and want to give them all the awards, this is not one that I had hoped to give. The color was a bold choice and it matches the visual themes from the music video for “COE” nicely, as well as some of their merch. However, I’m not sure I really ‘get’ the album art, if I’m being honest. I know the band has a sort of dystopian theme, and likely they were touching on that, but it isn’t all that visually pleasing to me. (Granted, if I listened to Avatarium, I’d give their latest this award. Hideous cover, yikes.)

WK: If the Tim Bowness album had the most fitting cover possible, then The Dark Element’s debut unfortunately is the opposite: not only is it visually unappealing, but it also looks more suited for a B-horror film poster than a pop metal album. Whoever made the artwork clearly hadn’t listened to the record, given how far-removed from the music it is aesthetically. A dishonorable mention goes out to Steven Wilson’s To the Bone – it doesn’t look horrible, but I find both the concept and the execution cheesy. Sorry Steve, but you’re not photogenic enough to show up on album covers, especially with no shirt on!

LL: Compared to two previous Turmion Kätilöt albums, Dance Panique’s cover art is a setback in both style and quality. I loved the kitschy disco aesthetic they had going on with Diskovibrator and Technodiktator, so the weirdly dark Photoshop work just didn’t do it for me. Another strong contender for this category was The Dark Element’s debut of same name; like, what is that even?

 

BEST LIVE SHOW
AW: There were always going to be two contenders for this slot this year: Ayreon Universe in Tilburg and the Devin Townsend Project in Plovdiv. I had expected it to be a close call between these two, but in the end, even DTP couldn’t touch on the sheer insanity and magnitude of the Ayreon show. As well, while Ocean Machine was phenomenal to hear in an ancient Roman theater, the orchestra might as well have not been there for how well it could be heard. Ayreon Universe, however, boasted a veritable cornucopia of the best vocalists around, performing some of the best songs I know. Any time Arjen Lucassen rallies his guest vocalists to perform, it’s pure gold. Really, again, how do you top that?

WK: Even without counting, I’m fairly sure I didn’t attend as many shows as last year, so picking the best one is therefore easier as well: Riverside’s gig in Tampere had a great, warm vibe, and I was positively surprised by Lion Shepherd as the support band. Seeing the Polish progsters with smiles on their faces after the darkest phase in their career gave you hope that all obstacles in life can be overcome, and the interesting rearrangements gave some songs a second life (pun intended). Thinking of Michał Łapaj’s constant grinning still makes me chuckle to myself! Honorable mentions go to CMX’s once-in-a-lifetime Talvikuningas show, Apulanta’s entertaining spectacle, and Dream Theater’s nostalgic Images and Words celebration.

LL: This is an absolute no-brainer, I would’ve picked Insomnium’s festival ending show at Nummirock’s main stage right off the bat just seconds after they had finished it, even with the rest of the festival season still ahead of me. I’ve repeated this for half a year now – if there’s ever a right moment for pouring rain and bone-chilling cold at any gig, it was during “The Gale” in Nummijärvi. And this statement will stand into the unforeseeable future. Apart from the atmospheric elements provided by nature and midsummer, there likely would have not been a better way to call it a night than with Insomnium; through the 10 and some years I’ve listened to them, this was easily one, if not the very best of the shows I’ve seen them playing. The mammoth piece of art that is Winter’s Gate has translated to live shows almost surprisingly well, and at least I had no complaints about the rest of the set either. But what really made the night was the way the songs were performed. I’ve never seen a bad show from Insomnium, but this time Niilo Sevänen in particular seemed to have found an extra gear somewhere and cranked it all the way up, leaving me and my company at awe. If it wasn’t clear before, these guys are certainly shaping up for big stages.

 

BEST LIVE ALBUM/DVD
AW: I didn’t come across any of these this year, so this is a pass.

WK: I went to see Black Sabbath’s The End of the End in a cinema in September and later bought the DVD to watch the whole thing without any interview clips interrupting the show. It’s a good documentary of the final(?) concert by the band that wrote the rulebook of metal: Ozzy Osbourne is in good shape (I know overdubbing is a thing, but he didn’t sound much worse when I saw them on the same tour, so I doubt a vast amount of doctoring was needed), Tony Iommi’s riffs sound as thunderous as they should, and it brought back nice memories of last year’s Monsters of Rock performance in Helsinki. Some of the fast cuts are annoying (I thought this early 00s fad had died a deserved death already), and I’m still not fond of the way Tommy Clufetos whacks his drums as if he’s cutting wood, but my overall impression is positive, and the Angelic Sessions recordings are a welcome bonus. To be honest, I liked David Gilmour’s Live at Pompeii a bit more when I saw it on the cinema screen, but since this is supposed to be a metal list and I haven’t watched the actual DVD anyway, I’ll let Sabbath have this.

LL: Unlike previous years of writing these, I managed to see not one but two new live DVDs this year, I’m actually impressed with myself! But as two is quite a small sample, I won’t make a final pick between them, especially because I liked them for different reasons. When considering live albums, Delain’s Live at Paradiso was easily one of the best I’ve ever heard, but as a DVD it sadly didn’t meet the expectations after seeing the show it was filmed at. On the other hand, Dimmu Borgir’s latest, Forces of the Northern Night, which featured an actual symphony orchestra and choir, was a good example of technical prowess, but even though I enjoyed it, I don’t feel emotionally inclined to watch it from time and time again.

 

BEST MUSIC VIDEO
AW: I don’t often watch enough music videos in a year to find something very inspiring to put here. However, this year had one video that was strange and beautiful and so, so, so appropriate to the lyrics that I knew about 30 seconds in that it would get this award. “Six Days” was not a song that I particularly liked when I reviewed Cellar Darling’s album, due to the way Anna Murphy sings in it. However, after hearing the lyrics and seeing this video, I finally understand the beauty of this song, and it’s making me think that I need to re-listen to the whole album with the lyrics so that I might better appreciate it. At very least it worked extremely well for this song, and that’s a powerful thing.

WK: Steven Wilson has usually been my go-to artist for music videos, but unfortunately just like the album cover, the videos from To the Bone all feature him, and the results are ‘meh’ at best. No video struck me as particularly amazing this year, but I’m going with “Tardigrades Will Inherit the Earth” by The Mute Gods, because it has the most interesting concept, and the guy signing the lyrics is a funny little extra:

LL: Usually this category follows the pattern of, ‘first I watch only a handful of vids during the whole year and then something by Vesa Ranta wins’; however, this year proved to be an exception to the rule. Of course, there was something by Vesa Ranta in my top three in the form of Hallatar’s “My Mistake”, as usual, accompanied by Ajattara’s “Ave Satana” and Crimfall’s “Until Falls the Rain.” All of these three are drastically different from each other in style and mood, so in a way it could have been a tough pick, but in the end not so much, judging by how I grinned from ear to ear when I first saw my winning choice. It’s engaging, epic without looking ridiculous, and manages to keep it together from beginning to end, which often are problems in the videos of this genre. So, “Until Falls the Rain” takes the first place one more time in an impressive manner.

 

MOST POTENTIAL
AW: There was one new band that I discovered this year that has a little something that could take them a long way: Lost in Grey. Their debut wasn’t earth-shattering, but their song-writing was really top-notch and the quality of the music and (most of) the vocals are really fantastic. I think these guys have something really good going on and I’m looking forward to hearing more material from them in the future, and perhaps catching a live show when I get the chance.

WK: It feels funny to name a group of middle-aged musicians the one with most potential, but I feel that Sons of Apollo didn’t totally manage to capitalize on their talents on their debut yet. I hope next time they’ll spend more time on songwriting and let Jeff Scott Soto and Bumblefoot loose… and Derek Sherinian will stop talking crap about Dream Theater on social media, haha.

LL: As a surprise to myself, when I thought of potential bands for this category, the one that rose above all others wasn’t a domestic newcomer comprised of eager youngsters, but a new project of seasoned musicians from ‘across the smaller pond,’ as we like to say about Sweden in here. I wasn’t much more than a little curious about CyHra when I first heard of the project, but I was wowed by their debut album from the first spin; you know those bands that feel like you’ve found a missing piece to complete the big picture of bands you listen? Here you have one.

 

 

CONCLUSION
AW: So another year has passed us by. I can’t say this year really astounded me a whole lot on the whole, but there were a few gems in there that more than made up for the lacks in other departments. While the albums were not too diverse on the scale from kinda dull to pretty good, the live shows this year turned out to be more memorable. Ayreon returned to absolutely crush my mind, I got to experience the Devin Townsend Project in an ancient Roman theater, CyHra’s debut gig made their good debut album even better, Ember falls still manages to impress me after seeing them about a thousand times, and the festivals didn’t let me down either. Nevertheless, I’ve got my ears open and hopes high for 2018!

WK: Unfortunately 2017 was kind of underwhelming for me musically, especially when compared to the previous 2 years. Few releases truly wowed me – not many newcomers entered the game with strong debuts, and some of my old favorites either sorely disappointed me (Paradise Lost), left me with mixed feelings (Anathema), or put out a fairly solid but slightly flawed album (Steven Wilson). Interestingly enough, the liveliest and most enjoyable albums came from solo- and side-projects, namely The Night Flight Orchestra, Lunatic Soul, and Daniel Cavanagh – clearly the freedom to branch out beyond your established main band is something many professional musicians cherish. Anyway, as you can see, many of my picks in this post can’t really be considered (pure) metal, as a combined result of my changing tastes and the lack of interesting new music in the genre this year, but I hope 2018 will be a more fruitful time for bands everywhere.

LL: All things considered, it wasn’t a bad year at all, music-wise. It wasn’t phenomenal, and there weren’t as many albums that would’ve really peaked from the steady flow of good and alright, but I wouldn’t call this a bad year. I feel that this was probably the reason why I felt like I had only listened to approximately three albums during the whole year, even though it was packed with all sorts of nice things. Good or even excellent debuts from S-tool, Ember Falls, One Desire, Hallatar, and CyHra, strong returns by Ajattara and Crimfall, and for example Bloodred Hourglass, Shade Empire, and Edge of Haze continued with strong efforts. Some albums I thought I’d listen to a ton got lost in the way, and I intend to pick them up while waiting for what 2018 has in store – new Arion, new Psychework, new Kamelot, most likely new Mokoma as well, so it’s looking quite good already. On live show front, 2017 was even better, and besides Insomnium being absolute amazeballs in Nummirock, I had a ton of fun all over the country. I feel it won’t get worse from that next year, anyway, so onward to new adventures!

HIM @ Rytmikorjaamo, Seinäjoki, 29.12.2017

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HIM on their final tour at Rytmikorjaamo, 2017.
Photos by Lene L.
Gig report coming tomorrow!
Suomenkielinen keikkaraportti tulossa huomenna!