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KOTITEOLLISUUS @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 2017.04.15

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Kotiteollisuus at Tavastia, 2017.
Photos by Tom Benjamin.

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

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

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

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

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Billie-Jade, 2017

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

(2017) Ayreon: The Source

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

 

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

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

As for me personally, my favorite Ayreon albums are The Human Equation and 01001101, with the earlier material not quite grasping me as whole albums, and The Theory of Everything somehow not living up to the usual standard, regardless of how incredible the performances were. This left me in a place of hopeful optimism as I cracked open the album and put it on to listen. My only regret is having it so close to the release date so I can’t be more familiar with it than I am, because you and I both know that this is going to be intricate and deep, musically, vocally, and conceptually. That is the Arjen Lucassen guarantee!

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

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

 

CHRONICLE I: The ‘Frame

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

CHRONICLE II: The Aligning of the Ten

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

CHRONICLE III: The Transmigration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

CHRONICLE IV: The Rebirth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 10/10, 5 stars

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

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

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

PERTURBATOR & CARPENTER BRUT w/ GUESTS – NOSTURI, HELSINKI, 14.04.2017 (English)

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

MAJ KARMA @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 13.04.2017

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Or check out their music on Spotify!

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

POETS OF THE FALL @ Tavastia, Helsinki 14.04.2017

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

(2017) The Surge: The End Goes On

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Rating: 9/10, 4.5 stars

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

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Leo Stillman, 2017

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Photo by Andre Pozusis

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

APULANTA @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 08.04.2017

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Apulanta at Tavastia, 2017.
Photos by Charlotta Rajala.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Photos: Kirsti Leinonen

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full gallery to come later.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Encore:
15. The Nail
16. Towards Dead End

Photos: Marco Manzi

ORANGE GOBLIN w/ MONOLORD @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 01.04.2017

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Encore:
13. Pöpi
14. Humppamaa

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Encore 2:
16. Kuudet raamit

Photos: Janne Puronen

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

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

LIIMA w/ LAPSIHYMY @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 30.03.2017

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

Rating: Thumbs up

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Or check out their other music on Spotify:

TURMION KÄTILÖT w/ MØRKET @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 25.03.2017

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

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

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

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

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

Full gallery from the Helsinki show HERE!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Encore:
22. Vodka
23. Beer Beer

Photos: Miia Collander

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

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

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

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

Lue suomeksi TÄÄLLÄ!
Full gallery TÄÄLLÄ!

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Read in English HERE!
Kuvagalleria TÄÄLLÄ!

 

Vuosien saatossa on tullut totuttua siihen, että Virginin klubipuoli avaa ovensa kymmeneltä illalla, joten ilta tulikin aloitettua emämunauksella: tähtäsin paikalle puoli yhdeksitoista vain todetakseni, että illan lämmittelijä Oceanwaken keikka oli jo lopuillaan, sillä ovet olivatkin avautuneet jo yhdeksältä. En tiedä, oliko samanlainen lipsahdus sattunut kaikille muillekin, mutta paikalle päästyäni piti ihan hieraista silmiä – lavan edusta oli täysin tyhjä bändin tyylitellessä doom/post-metaliaan ainoastaan baaripöydissä istuville ihmisille. Vain viikkoa aikaisemmin kolmoslevynsä Earthenin julkaissut luvialaisbändi oli ennakkoon itselleni täysin tuntematon, mutta se vähä, mitä ehdin bändin esimerkiksi ISISin tai Calliston suuntaan kallellaan olevasta synkistelystä kuulemaan, miellytti korvaa sangen voimakkaasti. Lava oli koristeltu näyttävillä rollup-lakanoilla ja valaistuksessakin spottivalot oli jätetty oikeaoppisesti pois päältä. Seuraavalle Helsingin-keikalle pitänee osallistua!

Roudaustauon aikana ihmisiä virtasi paikalle hiljalleen, muttei vieläkään voitu puhua varsinaisesta yleisöryntäyksestä – missä kaikki olivat? Kun OG:n intronauha pärähti soimaan yhdentoista pintaan, lavan edusta oli vain puolillaan. Aikaisempien Grey Heavens -levyn tiimoilta soitettujen keikkojen tapaan setti käynnistyi ”The Pitillä”, joka sai yleisön saman tien mukaan. Tavallaan olisin toivonut, että ensimmäiseksi kappaleeksi olisi valittu jotain muuta, sillä Virginin äänimiehellä meni kriittiset viisi minuuttia liikaa aikaa saada lavaääni kohdalleen – rumpukomppi oli valitettavan puuroinen sekä laulaja Jukka Pelkosen mikrofoni aivan liian hiljaisella. Toisena soitetun ”Skylinen” aikana tilanne oli jo paljon parempi, ja soundit olivatkin loppukeikan ajan vallan hyvät.

Pelkosesta puheen ollen, olen varmaan sanonut tämän aikaisemminkin, mutta sympaattisempaa keulakuvaa ei maamme metalliskenestä löydy. Mies on aina lavalla yhtä hymyä ja suorastaan vaatii mukaan hiusten pyörittämiseen – ujot suomalaiset keikkakävijät olivat hämillään Pelkosen osoitellessa lavalta yksittäisiä katsojia mukaan yleisön sekaan. Keikan settilista olikin moshaajille suotuisa, sillä Omnium Gatherumin hitureiksi laskettavatkaan kappaleet eivät varsinaisesti ole tempoltaan hitaita, eikä Peltonen antanut intensiteetin tipahtaa vaan piti välispiikkinsä lyhyinä.

Illan settilistaa oli freesattu viime kesän keikkoihin verrattuna. Omnium Gatherum on nauttinut laajempaa tunnettuutta vuoden 2008 The Redshift -levystä lähtien, eikä setissä ollut tälläkään kertaa mukana tätä vanhempaa materiaalia, mutta painopistettä oli tasoitettu Grey Heavensin, Beyondin (2013) sekä New World Shadowsin (2011) kesken, sillä jokaiselta levyltä oli mukana neljä kappaletta The Redshiftin joutuessa tyytymään kahteen, ”Nailiin” sekä ”Chameleon Skiniin”. Päälle kymmenen vuotta OG:n tekemisiä seuranneena tulee jokaisella keikalla haikailtua vaikkapa ”Dysnomian”, ”The Fall Went Right Through Heren” tai ”The Perfumed Gardenin” perään, mutta ei sovi valittaa: bändi on ollut jo jonkin aikaa siinä pisteessä, että vaikka setti arvottaisiin, jokainen kappale olisi silti kiistatta hitti, ja hetkisen aikaa setistä puuttuneet ”Soul Journeys” sekä keikan päättänyt ”Deep Cold” lämmittivät kuitenkin mieltä. Ja se ”New Dynamic” – kuinka hyvä voi rock-kappale olla!

Soitannollisesti OG ei esittelyjä kaipaa, sillä bändin jokainen pelimanni on lajissaan Suomen kärkeä: Markus Vanhala on ollut jo vuosien ajan maamme tyylitajuisimpia kitaristeja, ja yhteistyö Joonas Koton kanssa sujui totutun vaivattomasti. Basisti Erkki Silvennoinen hoiti tonttinsa vähäeleisesti kuten aina, mutta joudun taas kerran – ja täysin puolueellisesti – luovuttamaan illan virtuoosi –palkinnon rumpali Tuomo Latvalalle. Viime vuonna Torture Killeristä lainaksi saadun, mutta sittemmin vakinaistetun Latvalan soitto on jokaisella keikalla erikuuloista miehen koristellessa vanhempia kappaleita täysin lonkalta, minkä lisäksi tuntuu olevan täysin yhdentekevää, kummalla kädellä kompit liidataan.

 

Kaiken kaikkiaan Omnium Gatherum heitti taas kerran onnistuneen keikan, ja ainoa asia, joka oikeastaan jäi harmittamaan, oli yleisön kohtuullisen vähäinen määrä, sillä 14 euron lipun hinta tuskin on voinut olla keikkanautinnon esteenä. Ehkä kaikki olivat läpällä Tavastialla katsomassa Sum41:a?

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

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

Ed: Ville Karttunen

OMNIUM GATHERUM w/ OCEANWAKE @ Virgin Oil Co., Helsinki, 17.03.2017

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Omnium Gatherum with Oceanwake at Virgin Oil Co., 2017.
Photos by Tom Benjamin.
Gig report in English HERE!
Keikka-arvio suomeksi TÄÄLLÄ!

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Vuur special edition, pt. 2; 2017

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Last week’s playlist introduced half of Vuur, the new musical project by renowned vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen. Apart from Anneke herself, Vuur is comprised of musicians and vocalists known from projects like Ayreon, Stream of Passion, and Re-Vamp: Marcela Bovio (vocals), Ed Warby (drums), Jord Otto (guitars), Ferry Duijsens (guitars), and Johan van Stratum (bass). You’ve already heard from Anneke, Marcela, and Jord, so this week it’s time to introduce the rest: Ed, Ferry, and Johan. Here is the playlist of their lives!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
Ed Warby: My parents loved the Everly Brothers so the first one that comes to mind is either “Walk Right Back” or “Cathy’s Clown.”

Ferry Duijsens: Guess I was too young to remember, but a few days ago my nephew was listening to a song from our childhood. It was the theme of some Belgian children’s show called Tik Tak.

Johan van Stratum: Since I was not raised in a very musical family, I think the first song I ever heard must have been a Brian Adams song. There goes the neighborhood.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
Ed: By now I realise it’s not exactly the greatest song he ever wrote, but 9-year-old me fell deeply in love with Paul McCartney’s “Mull of Kintyre” and I played the single so often I wore it out completely, staring at the cover image and dreaming about this magical mull, although I had no idea what or where it was.

Ferry: Madonna – “Live to Tell.” One of the songs that I listen to when I’m sad and that recalls a melancholic feeling from the past. I still see myself watching this movie on the couch at the age of 8, seeing Sean Penn diving into some kind of lake in pursuit of true love. That song is so beautiful and I listen to it on 7″ vinyl.

Johan: Though it’s not a very honest love song, I choose “Blind” from Korn. When I first heard the album, the sound, the emotion while being a teenager, I, like many others, had the feeling Jonathan Davis was sitting right in front of me screaming his heart out to me. I will always wake up as soon as I hear the intro on the cymbals.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Ed: “Grease Lightning” from the Grease soundtrack, I was never part of the popular crowd but when it came to Grease, everyone was on board, playbacking while doing all the moves and stuff.

Ferry: Smashing Pumpkins – “Today”

Johan: Bon Jovi – “Wanted Dead or Alive.” He will pop up in the guilty pleasures later as well. First song I ever performed live, on vocals for crying out loud; I do remember I was crying out loud.

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
Ed: That would be the mighty KISS. I discovered them in 1978 when the solo albums came out with much fanfare, although those turned out to be less than great, but once I bought Double Platinum my life was changed forever. I decided then and there I was going to be a drummer and luckily my parents went along with my folly, haha! From KISS I went to heavier bands like Judas Priest, Motörhead, and Iron Maiden and a lifelong love was born.

Ferry: One of my neighbors was listening to bands like Iron Maiden, King Diamond, Testament, Slayer, Death, Metallica. I just copied the tapes and started listening.

Johan: One song only, “Davidian” by Machine Head. I mean… jeez… that was a new level. Or… Pantera… hmm.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
Ed: I’m the perfect victim for so called earworms; the latest one I had on the heavy mental rotation is “Do I Ever” by Dutch band Kensington. Big choruses always do me in and this one is huge.

Ferry: Warpaint – “New Song”

Johan: Devin Townsend – “Stars.” It’s been a long time since an album and in particular one song truly got stuck in my head in a good way. I play this album almost twice a day while biking. Such power and this actually goes for the whole album.

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Ed: I don’t consider any kind of music a guilty pleasure, but I suppose some would scoff at my love for The Carpenters. The slight hint of sadness in Karen’s voice absolutely slays me and the harmonies in a song like “Close to You” are so beautiful they make me weak in the knees. Oh, and I love country, esp. the ‘hard’ 50’s/60’s stuff such as George Jones and Merle Haggard. Love it as much as metal, sometimes even more.

Ferry: I have a single of the Spice Girls: “2 Become 1.” Does this count?

Johan: Bon Jovi, no question there. Not ashamed to admit that. Loving Bon Jovi, every song, every album, so let’s take the most cheesy song for this one: “Bed of Roses.” Sigh…

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Ed: Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds. I had seen the cover with the huge tripod blasting fire and was totally intrigued by it, one day I was home feeling ill and to cheer me up I asked my best friend to go to the record store to buy the album for me, to make sure he got the right one I drew the cover on a piece of paper. It’s still my favorite album ever and I was fortunate enough to see the live show a couple years ago which effortlessly took me back to my childhood.

Ferry: Faith No More – The Real Thing

Johan: Machine Head – Burn My Eyes. I started visiting a small CD store (when those still existed) in a little town where I went to school. Joost van den Broek and me (we go waaaaay back, haha!) started our first band and on Fridays after school we’d go to this store. The owner had a good taste, he suggested it to me.

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Ed: “Forever Autumn” from the aforementioned War of the Worlds album, beautifully sung by The Moody Blues’ Justin Hayward. Although I’m afraid the beverage will turn salty from my tears running into it.

Ferry: The Jimi Hendrix Experience – “Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)”

Johan: Muse – “Time is Running Out.” Love Muse, especially their older work (I’m still feeling young though!). They bring this epicness extravaganza all over the place all the time.

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Ed: During an unforgettable trip across the Canadian Rockies I found that the best on-the-road music is Creedence Clearwater Revival, so I’ll go with “Green River” for its all-out ‘let’s hit the road’ feel. It was also the first song on the mixtape I’d made (we’re talking early 90’s here).

Ferry: Deftones – “Be Quiet and Drive”

Johan: Audioslave – “Cochise.” Remember that videoclip? Holy schnitzel: power, groove, and energy, combined with one of the best voices in rock.

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Ed: There’s only one option – “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas, a gorgeously sad rumination on mortality. Unlike other chestnuts this one doesn’t seem to lose its power despite hearing it thousands of times.

Ferry: Chris Cornell – “Seasons”

Johan: I’m afraid of death, so I’ve honestly never thought about that. I prefer some mariachi in the summer enjoying a BBQ with friends.

 

If you missed it last week, check out the introductory video for Vuur here:

Or have a look at their studio diary here:

BELPHEGOR – Helmuth Lehner, 2017

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If we talk about the extreme metal scene, one just cannot omit Belphegor. Despite an almost 25-year-long career, they have kept their music consistent, fresh, and always crushingly ferocious, which is more than admirable these days, when some bands stick to well-tested formulae that keeps them profitable. It’s like finding a genuine pearl in the whole dumpster of average – surprising and satisfying. That is, at least for yours truly.

Thus, with a new Belphegor album slowly showing up on the horizon, we’ve invited the leader of the band, Helmuth Lehner, for an interview about the new LP, among other things. So sit back, blast some death metal on your headphones (I highly recommend “Blood Magick Necromance”), and enjoy!

First things first – thanks for finding a moment to answer couple of questions. How’s life going these days?
We’ve just returned from an intense and overwhelming Latin America raid which consisted of 12 Rituals – 9 countries and lots of metal and musick excess. We brought hellfire, sulfur, and demonic soundcollage to the hordes there! We had maniacal crowds and interesting sightseeing, such as the impressive sun pyramid areal in Mexico.

We’ve restarted work on the new LP. At the end of March I track lead guitars, so I have been practicing every day 3-5 hours to get my right and left hand coordination at its best. Other than that, we have been preparing for the first headliner festival of the 2017 season, the Winter Days of Metal festival on the 21th of March.

What can you reveal to the public about new LP at this point? When and where was is recorded?
The new LP will be released in mid-September. This time we’ll track in several studios in Europe, and the result will get mixed/mastered in the USA. We soon will name the producer and other such information surrounding the album. Drums and bass were tracked with our longtime friend Andy of Stage One Studios, Germany, and Guitars and Vocals will be done in Austria at Mischmaschine Studios. The digipak version comes with one unreleased instrumental track and 3-4 live compositions. We will be revealing the first insight into the studio recording with a drum trailer and LP title coming Thursday.

We can say it is the most brutally heavy offering we have consecrated thus far. The drums are precise, intense, and blasting, and very technical with loads of breaks/fills and tempo changes. The bass is like a panzer tank rumbling through the terrain. The four rhythm guitars are done and uttermost aggressive and obscure. You don’t hear guitars like that anywhere with such a low tuning. I’m really proud of all we tracked so far and created for the new audial hellspawn. Vocals will be way more varied this time, and lyrics occultic and blasphemous. Everything pushes the limits of anything we have done before.

I’ve read in another interview that while creating Conjuring the Dead, what was driving you through the process was anger after all of the crap that happened to you health-wise, the result of which was a more death-oriented, heavier album. Do you think that there were similar feelings that are driving you know while doing new album? Like, how would you describe the general vibe of it?
The feelings that come from the abyss, this channeling of something and harnessing it into musick always comes from a place beyond human control: like letting demons out to dance. In that sense, yes, it’s driven by the same anger toward being a human being which is mortal and someday destined to fall, that is to die. When creating arrangements, we rise above that and get these impulses, these soundscapes that come from beyond where constraints like time and death no longer matter. I already been dead for 6 hours and took a lot visions back with me, so I know what I am talking about and of course it influenced my whole life. Dead is everywhere. Anyways, the new album is fucking dark and these low-tuned guitars crush everything in existence. Cant wait to release this special LP.

Would you say that you’re going to continue with the heavier, death-oriented route for the next creation? I’ve seen you mention this on Facebook briefly, but please elaborate a bit.
Yes – though I don’t set out to say make a “death metal” album. We always played the metal of death for sure, with blasting black metal influences… but I write riffs, we are a riff band, and compose soundscapes according to what comes to me.

You open yourself, get taken by the chaos. Thing is, the new drummer plays a very technical style so we could improve as band and as musicians and try new things and keep it all fresh. We never have had so many breaks and fills, small details added to our songs which add to the dynamics.

Bloodhammer [drums] has contributed a lot to this LP with his extreme playing. Yes. Also the lower-tuned guitars are a new challenge and an interesting experiment… it was a great decision and it opened a new guitar world in my playing, it is another state of extremities sound-wise. I despise restriction or stagnation. We always try to challenge ourselves, you know. We do this by changing up the recording/writing process/studios/producer etc… so everything remains or becomes even more of a punch in the face, some element of surprise even for us.

We all know what your lyrics are about, but what kind of things actually inspire you. Feelings, emotions, or something else?
I don’t agree. Some do not know, care, or even try to understand what it is all about. We have been using a lot of original poems for decades from old books, etc. These consist of spells/poems/chants and so on, mostly in the original language in order to not deface the intended meaning… that’s why our lyrical content comes in English, Latin, and the German language as well. Latin, the church speech… it’s utter blasphemy to mock them in their own language. German verses also sound very harsh in pronunciation and give the overall feeling of a brutal approach and atmosphere. It’s also a kind of unique trademark that we use three languages.

I’ve always used the philosophy about Sathan/Lucifer – the Light-bearer in our lyrical content, as a proud, exalted, majestic figure who resisted against all influences.  One to make his own decisions, walk his own path as a rebel, a mocker of the masses. I describe myself as an atheist with tendencies towards nihilism. I mean, there is a lot of obscurity and possession in BELPHEGOR, still is, always was. You know, I’m inspired by everything I see and experience. We meet a lot of different people on the road: people who are a little insane, it is always interesting see how they live, act, etc.

I adore all types of books on the occult, strange things, necromantic, cannibalism, serial killers… also horror topics in books and films. Everything that is dark, anti-, and non-conformist grabs my attention. I had many chances during my life to learn and know that real life is way stranger than any fiction.

Are there going to be some guest appearances on the upcoming record? Last time you spoiled us with Attila Csihar and Glen Benton. Can we count on similar treatment?
It was always a dream of mine to get my favorite singers from two extreme sub-genres as guests on a BELPHEGOR album. Both Attila Csihar and Glen Benton did a great job. It was really an honor to have them putting their magick into the track, entitled “LEGIONS OF DESTRUCTION.” Exciting experiment, besides,  DEICIDE and MAYHEM still are spearheads for the extreme death/black genre.

I really ask myself what will happen with this genre in let’s say 10 years when a lot of these important bands come to vanish… I don’t see any other bands step in to fill the void they will leave in their wake. I miss the extremity nowadays, back than there was more resistance. It was about rebellion, anti, chaos… with a fukk you all attitude. Nowadays everything is so lame and nice and everyone is to behave, without saying something wrong or even the least bit rude or offensive. Anyways, no – we don’t do the same thing twice…

Just out of curiosity, who would you like to invite for future album, living or six feet under? Can be anyone. Go wild.
Maybe Niccolo Paganini [1782-1840] with a violin arrangement… could be the ideal selection. On the new LP we have a blasting track, entitled “THE DEVIL’S SON”, which was one of Paganini’s nicknames, for his demonic technique of precision and amazing violin virtuosity.
It deals with the life story of Niccolo Paganini, written from his point of view. His virtuoso inhuman playing, unusual long limbs and nimble fingers and joints led people to the idea that he must have been possessed and had a pact with the devil. Very interesting indeed… the song is blasting with ultra fast shredding guitars and a classical influenced arrangement. I don’t want to reveal more here. 

Speaking of inviting people to play, how’s Bloodhammer doing in the band, now as a permanent member of the crew?
Yes, he’s a permanent member and a 100% metal head… approved, that’s important to me. He also inked the BELPHEGOR logo in huge letters on his stomach, to show his support, which means a lot to the band’s legacy. He’s one of the best drummers we’ve ever played. It’s great to have him in our ranks and as I said, we could push our sound to the next level with this technical, precise drumming style.

You’re always the ones that go big during live performances in order to create right atmosphere. What elements add up to a proper live Belphegor ritual?
Yes. We do everything authentically: the blood is real, the bones, the feeling is real, the intensity is real. It’s a Ritual more so than a typical metal concert. As soon as I hear the intro, smell the incense, my mind switches to another zone or reality and I descend into another realm. I adore leaving spiritually my body for plus 1 hour during a BELPHEGOR stage presence, letting the demons take over and get into total possession with the musick, it’s a pleasure, I almost cum if the ceremony is great and the audience get crazy and wild, and glorifying Lucifer with us, it is magick… still one of the best, most interesting things to me.

And since you play concerts quite a lot, I wonder if you prefer big festival stages or smaller venues?
Each show has its own feeling. We like to play anywhere the crowd truly gets 100% into it, gives a lot of energy back to us, and we fire our tracks with uttermost brutality and take it to the limit for the hordes. That’s the essence of BELPHEGOR, to bring our sound on the next level, develop, get more intense, and combine it with an authentic – raw Ritual show. Each ceremony is challenging, doesn’t matter if we play for 200 or 20,000 people.

Is there anything that really gets under your skin while touring/traveling?
It sucks when you drink the water in Latin America after a terrible hangover and wake up nearly dead, get typhus, and followed by a life-threatening operation, 6 weeks hospital – 8 weeks rehab, and forced to make a break +6 months; that’s what happened to me 2011.

But that’s behind me, it’s my sense of humor maybe… anyways, traveling often can be a pain in the ass yeah… waiting – loads of flights etc… but in the end it is all about the Ritual and the people that attend the concert, to give them something special, and take them on a trip into hell and sometimes back, to leave the planet earth and spiritually depart to another dimension.

Would you like to think your music makes some sort of impact on people’s lives? For example, judging from contributions to your Facebook page, like photos of tattoos they’re making, it does. What kind of feeling that is, for a musician?
Just proud of their loyalty and trust in our legacy, all I can say. I mean an ink lasts forever, so it’s really an honor for me to see people get a BELPHEGOR tattoo on their body, but it is way more than that; we’ve been around +2 decades so we have sometimes 2 generations of supporters attending our Rituals. Some came with their kids… its crazy! And it is great and often impressive when you, for example, see a couple like in Canada waiting outside the tour bus for a photo and telling you they have been together for 10 years and bonded as they listened to the “LUCIFER INCESTUS” track. Anyways, I’m not so into the word “fans”; that word is kind of degrading, in my view. They’re the reason we get to continue doing what we live for and shred on maximum capacity. Thank you to all the people that support us, stay loyal on our site, get our merchandise/LPs, listen our soundcollages, and attend the Rituals.

Have some of your supporters ever done any crazy/memorable after the show?
Not only after the show. I have stories, man, a lot unbelievable stuff. I was a heavy drinker etc for +20 years, excessive living a suicidal lifestyle on the road, so I have something to tell, exactly a lot happened… I just don’t wanna mention anything here. Maybe I will write a biography in a few years, time will tell… there is so much to do you know, also a DVD is on the map, we are always keeping ourselves busy.

Belphegor will reach 25 years of age next year if I’m doing the math correctly. Do you plan to celebrate it somehow?
We plan to keep playing and touring the world as always, experiencing places we already been before and march into new territories. Other than that to release our first three full lengths on a specially priced CD and all as a present for our supporters via Season of Mist records, what marks 25 years of excess and blasphemy. Unreal to me.

It’s not easy to get those three albums anymore, so that’s the reason and we don’t wanna rip off our supporters and release each as a single CD, so they get the first 3 full lengths with original artworx for a special price. Integrity!

What do you think kept you going with the band throughout all these years? I mean, you’ve had to face plenty of crap, be it disease or half-witted Russian acolytes. Not to count 8 billion hangovers, but that, I assume, is an occupational hazard. Some people would just say “screw this shit, I’m out.” You seem to only grow stronger. How come?
It is easy, we adore it. I don’t see us as victims, to the opposite, the world saw how dangerous these people are and how hypocritical they act. If they get power, every non-conforming book, all that is art/freedom of speech will burn again. Under all circumstances we have to avoid people like that getting in power.

I mean BELPHEGOR is not just a band, its a legacy, a way of life, like a pact you know. And we can’t let these deranged minds get us down. You know I absolutely dig what I’m doing here traveling the world, bringing the devil’s musick and creating arrangements. Some people dig it, some hate it, some are offended… I’m here for our supporters, no time to care about people that talk shit, spread lies, and know everything better.

It’s nothing new you know, LP covers get banned… we’ve also been banned from playing certain places, there has always been controversy, and that ain’t gonna change, on the contrary. We are enemies to the cross and don’t pray, kneel, nor crawl before any god. Moralizers that wanna tell you what you have to do, I can decide for myself. I don’t need hypocrites deciding my life, they are nothing but a waste of oxygen. It’s important when it comes to art, rebellion, resistance. We don’t let anything nor anyone stop us.

To wrap things up – as musician, music is essential part of your life, obviously. But what would you name as things that are most important for you, as person?
Good question. I am still on fire and ready for new challenges. I don’t care that much what other artists do or the opinions of others, you know. I live in my own world with my own rules. Anything outside doesn’t really matter much. Nowadays, I’m a very private and quiet person since I had to stop my alcohol etc excesses; especially on tours I try not to drink too much, which often is a challenge in itself. I don’t need attention and such things. But, if you see me on the street you know this guy listens to metal, I don’t dress differently or look like a bank worker what the fukk ever when I’m not on the road. I love this musick and I’m proud and I show it off. Metal, rock, however you wanna call it, still has a major impact in my life. I’m interested in a lot things… but yeah BELPHEGOR and musick in general is my number one passion.

Thanks for your time.
Thank you for the space, Maria. We also would really be psyched to return to Poland sometime, and cast our Diabolical Metal of Death over the maniakks there again. East Europe is always a garant guarantee for intense live Rituals. Keep your eyes open, this Thursday we will announce title of the new LP and start with an insight into the studio production, to give people a first glimpse about the new album. Hail Magick! Hail Death!

Feature photo: Maria Sawicka
Interview photos: kindly provided by Helmuth Lehner

TRIPTYKON w/ MORD’A’STIGMATA, BLAZE OF PERDITION, & SECRETS OF THE MOON @ A2, Wrocław, 17.03.2017

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Triptykon at A2 in Wrocław, Poland. Supports: Mord’A’Stigmata, Blaze of Perdition, Secrets of the Moon
Photos by Maria Sawicka.

(2017) Beauty and the Beast: Original Soundtrack

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Artist: Alan Menkin, Howard Ashman, Tim Rice
Album: Beauty and the Beast: Original Soundtrack
Released: 10.03.2017
Label: Walt Disney

 

Well, this is something I’m sure most of you didn’t expect to find here! This is Musicalypse, not Filmpocalypse (spinoff site, maybe?) after all. However, music is music and since Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite movies of all time, I’ve been apprehensive about this soundtrack and eager to dig into it. Movie-wise, the remake of The Jungle Book nailed it, and I enjoyed the new Cinderella for the most part (which was blessedly song-free), so I have had high hopes for the remake of this classic. On the flipside though, I’ve been reserved simply in the fact that I have hugely high standards for this movie, and there’s no way anyone could ever be a better Mrs. Potts than Angela Lansbury, who played her in the 1991 cartoon, and therefore I was sure that the modern version of some classic songs would suffer.

To keep things simple, I’ll be sticking with the songs from the movie itself, and be skipping over the pop versions, demos, and score that all come with the deluxe edition (long story short, the score is essentially perfect; 10/10). It’s also worth noting that I waited to write this until after I saw the movie so that I could understand the songs in the context of what was happening visually. If you are extremely spoiler sensitive, maybe skip this, as I’ll not just be discussing the music itself, but how it has changed from the original, which I feel is the most important part of this soundtrack.

And, since this is a new sort of review for us, I’ll take a moment to introduce the main vocal cast properly:

Vocal Cast:
1. Belle – Emma Watson
2. Beast – Dan Stevens
3. Gaston – Luke Evans
4. Maurice – Kevin Kline
5.  LeFou – Josh Gad
6. Lumiere – Ewan McGregor
7. Maestro Cadenza – Stanley Tucci
8. Cogsworth – Ian McKellan
9. Mrs. Potts – Emma Thompson
10. Madame de Garderobe – Audra McDonald

Let’s get into it then, shall we?

1. Overture
This doesn’t really count as a song from the film itself, as I can’t actually recall if it was present before the movie began. Nevertheless, I felt it prudent to include it as it is a very lovely summary of the best parts of the score from the movie and acts as a wonderful introduction to what is coming. Alan Menken is very clearly a professional who knows how to elaborate on and adjust his original songs without doing them harm.

2. Main Title: Prologue pt. 1
The iconic introductory music is beautifully preserved immediately. Not a song so much, per se, but the narration, now done by Hattie Morahan (who plays the Enchantress) tells the story in a bit more depth regarding how Prince Adam was really a terrible person – spoiled and selfish, not just saying it but explaining why. This intro does a more complete job of setting the stage for Adam’s downfall as such. I only wish they had addressed him by his name this time around. Alas.

3. Aria
One of the new songs, it works to introduce the new and revamped characters of Maestro Cadenza and Madame de Garderobe respectively, who add a new level of musical depth to the story. The song also portrays the circumstances under which the prince and his staff lived. In particular, I truly love the addition of Cadenza as the harpsichord, which feels so appropriate in the setting. I’ve always related this era to the harpsichord, though I couldn’t say why, or if that’s even accurate.

4. Main Title: Prologue pt. 2
And so the scene is set, with this vocal introduction, which concludes the story of Prince Adam rejecting the Beggar Woman/Enchantress and becoming the Beast. The score in this is wonderfully epic and devastating, and you can feels the climax of this introduction in your bones as the curse sets in. As well, this time they bothered to explain how the village had no idea that there was a castle not far away, which I appreciate. One minor complaint in here is that “who could ever learn to love a beast?” is distinctly a question. I liked in the original that it was a statement, as the rhetorical nature made more sense contextually – the fact that it was not a question underscored that everyone, including the beast, knew that it was unlikely, which likewise adds a certain allure to the viewer/listener. As such, this new version feels rather dumbed down in that sense.

5. Belle
At last the true classics begin. Menken retains much of the original score, with all its light strings and quaint charm. However, the first notes Belle sings immediately accost your ears with an astounding amount of autotune. I immediately wondered if Emma Watson simply couldn’t sing very well, as I know from some interviews that this was her first singing role. It’s pretty abrasive, but I am able to put it aside because they do such a lovely job of the rest of it. Firstly, instead of speaking with the baker, Belle speaks to a man she refers to as Monsieur John, who has forgotten something but can’t recall what – a nice little sneak peek into what is to come. He then says that her book, “sounds boring.” Belle then visits the little library and has a new conversation with the librarian that is neither better nor worse than the original, and suggests that he is one of the few people in town that understands her love of reading and her as a result. Most of the changes in this song relate to what the village is saying about Belle, and it’s nice to see that they made the gap between Belle and the villagers far more obvious –  the village doesn’t only not get her, but they also don’t like her for being different and clearly look down on her. It is also hinted that this distaste is somewhat mutual.

We also get some new insight into Gaston and LeFou – that Gaston was in the war and is looking for something more now that life is more simple. The Bimbettes are exaggerated in their annoying qualities, singing loudly and out of tune, but they are made out to be more horrible than in the 1991 version, taking on the “but behind that fair facade / I’m afraid she’s rather odd” line. There is clearer spoken interaction between the townsfolk in their day-to-day lives, and concludes with the classic, “she really is a funny girl / that Belle!” before finishing up.

6. How Does a Moment Last Forever (Music Box)
This is the second new song, and perhaps the least necessary addition, but it works nicely as an introduction to the reimagining of Maurice, who is no longer the crazy/eccentric inventor, but an artist and maker of music boxes who clearly has a troubled history relating to the death of his wife. It’s a short song, but I suppose it serves its purpose in telling about his character. The music box style is lovely and sweet, suiting the lyrics nicely.

7. Belle (reprise)
I truly expected the autotune in this song to be far worse than it ends up being. It’s still there, but in the big crescendo it doesn’t end up being nearly as horrible as I had feared it might. Watson adds her own passion to this, with her “argh” of frustration at Gaston’s suggestion of marriage, and the music from the hillside is grand and works wonderfully to express her desires and dreams.

8. Gaston
The autotune is wonderfully absent for the most part (at least to my ear) in this song, which is one of my personal favorites. It’s clear that Josh Gad and Luke Evans have been in musical theater before, because their voices are strong and confident and they both make vibrato seem as easy as breathing, and Gad in particular is able to play around and be silly without the risk of sounding overdone. They make a few changes to the lyrics, but I love all of them, referring to playing darts, breaking hearts, and the questionable nobility of Gaston’s hunting techniques. Evans nails a great higher note in the “I’m roughly the size of a barge” part, and the following instrumental interlude suits the tavern setting beautifully. Lefou gets a little nasal in the end and Gaston pokes a bit of fun at the song itself, but perhaps the best part of all is when LeFou tries to spell “Gaston” but realizes he can’t spell – it’s clearly poking fun at the original, but elaborates to great success.

9. Be Our Guest
Ewan McGregor was not who I would’ve expected to play Lumiere, and I can’t deny that his French accent is a little bit ridiculous. However, I love, again, the addition of the harpsichord in the music. Lyrically this song has some of the fewest changes from the original, which I would say is for the best, as the original is a true classic and this needed nothing new. The changes are all largely in the music and singing style, as well as timing and embellishments. The only lyrical change is the elimination of the “10 years” distinction – this is good because a common complaint about the 1991 film was that it suggests that Prince Adam was 11 years old and answering the door in the stead of his servants, and thus this version, while less specific, makes this bit of the story less illogical.

I have two minor issues with this song, however. The first is just that, perhaps as a result of changing so few lyrics, McGregor has changed the timing of the vocals a bit too much. It isn’t necessary and it doesn’t quite flow as well as the original, and it feels a bit like it was sung that way just for the sake of changing something and wasn’t remotely necessary. This happens in a few other songs, such as “Something There”, but I find it most notable in this one, and I think they could’ve left more alone with the vocals.

The second issue relates to more than this song as well, such as “Belle.” I’m not 100% sure I’m correct, but Emma Thompson is speaking in a Cockney accent, or something not far from it. The problem with this, as well as the variety of accents used by the village people, Lumiere’s French accent, Cogsworth’s ‘higher class’ accent, and so on, is that this story takes place in France. I appreciate the original for using a neutral accent, because then you can excuse the lack of French accents based on the fact that it’s a children’s tale and doesn’t need to be fully realistic (and children don’t want to watch a movie in French and read subtitles, if they’re able to read at all). The multitude of accents here would be quite realistic if the story took place in England, but it doesn’t. It’s France. Therefore, I find that the variety of accents makes the tale feel a bit less logical, as it highlights and emphasizes that these are clearly a bunch of English people in France, who are speaking partly in French but mainly in English. I do still consider it a minor thing, but it is a bit bothersome.

10. Days in the Sun
This is one of the most well-needed new songs, which shows a bit of what Adam was like as a child (apparently autotuned), but also how the castle staff are feeling. For example, the longing for the harpsichord and wardrobe to be together – it is suggested that they haven’t seen each other in years, as she is upstairs and rather narcoleptic, and he is downstairs, and neither a wardrobe nor harpsichord are able to traverse a staircase. It is also seen with Lumiere and Plumette, his feather duster girlfriend, longing to feel each other’s warmth once more.

As Belle’s lyrics point out, the song shows how much sorrow and hope exist together in the castle, and it’s truly quite beautiful. Now, since the rest of the staff aren’t autotuned much or at all, Belle’s parts again are a bit abrasive in their electronic sound, but I appreciate her lyrics, where she learns from the others and finds new wisdom but also uncertainty about her feelings. Things are no longer black and white for her. It’s a bit of development for her that was entirely absent in the original and I would say makes her character more believable. She and the Beast have made peace since she ran away, and though she isn’t sure about him just yet, she feels a connection with the staff, as they feel responsible for saying and doing nothing as Adam became a terrible person and that they brought the curse on themselves, creating their own prison. She too is a prisoner, and thus wants to help them (though they don’t explain how to break the curse, of course). So with Belle befriending the staff and understanding them, it allows her more reason to try to befriend the Beast. A nice addition, I’d say, even if the autotune is too apparent. The music also fits in nicely with the rest of the score and original style, so overall it’s a success.

11. Something There
The autotune is immediately less bad in this than some of the others. The light and airy spirit of the score is preserved and updated beautifully. Again, that timing thing from “Be Our Guest” ends up being distracting, largely in Watson’s parts. Dan Stevens‘ performance as the Beast is both odd and impressive – he is clearly singing in an uncomfortable voice (the Beast speaks far more deeply than Stevens, after all), and like Watson, he was new to singing and so does a great job all things considered. The cast of household staff perform very nicely as well, with Mrs. Potts‘ accent not even standing out too much. Chip gets a bit of a new line as well, and it’s nice that they give him a bit more cheekiness in the modern version.

12. How Does a Moment Last Forever (Montmartre)
Here Belle’s family gets some more backstory, something that may not have been strictly needed, but works nicely to explain her father’s protectiveness as well as some of her traits, including her sorrow regarding her mysterious past. This is not exactly a reprise, but works nicely as a tie-in to Maurice’s song earlier on and makes up for the lack of Gaston’s reprise. The music is sweet and sad, fitting the scene perfectly.

13. Beauty and the Beast
I’m so sorry Emma Thompson. You did a lovely job, you were barely autotuned, and your accent wasn’t even that overwhelming. You’re just not Angela Lansbury. I knew it couldn’t be done – no one could do it better than the original. Thompson, perhaps because of the choice of accent, lacks the warmth and charm that Lansbury had, sadly. The music, however, is incredibly lovely – the dynamics give me incredible goosebumps and the little bits of harpsichord again are a complete delight. I had at first wondered why this wasn’t sung by Madame de Garderobe, the superior singer, but I’ll chalk that up again to the suggestion that the wardrobe is physically incapable of going up and down all those stairs, as well as preservation of the original. Of all the songs, lyrically this has the fewest changes from the original, and I believe that was wise – again, there are classics you really shouldn’t mess with and this is undoubtedly one of them. Musically I give this a full score; vocally, maybe a 7/10.

14. Evermore
Easily my favorite of the new songs, this was by far the most necessary addition, I would say. I love the music in the beginning, which takes an iconic line but alters it into a more melancholic tune, and the dynamics are truly perfect, tugging at your heart in all the right places. Beast never gets his own song in the original, and while you know he loves Belle because he lets her go, you don’t know anything about the effect that love has had on him nor why it was important, and that is where this song comes in. This song takes everything you need from the iconic score and molds it into a modern classic, expressing how the Beast will live forever (as the curse declares) tormented by what he gained from Belle’s companionship and what he learned from her, suggesting he will survive his eternity alone by pretending that she’ll come back to him someday and they will be together. It manages to be sad and hopeful at the same time, and you can feel the pain without it becoming burdensome, leaving you with a sweet, lovely feeling – this lesson he has learned will be hard to live with, but he is glad to have learned it, even if it means an eternity alone in sorrow. This is a truly beautiful song that gets me pretty choked up every time I listen to it. Stevens’ singing is a touch tentative at the beginning, but it suits the song, and the confidence builds as the song’s dynamics rise. As an entirely new song that succeeds on so many levels, this is definitely my personal highlight of the soundtrack.

15. The Mob Song
The original song has Gaston fear-mongering in the village, yet in this adaptation, the original lines are sung by the townsfolk, and I really enjoy this, as it shows the town’s own simple-mindedness and fear of things they don’t understand. Gaston, in fact, goes so far as to say that these villagers are easily manipulated when they are afraid and will do whatever he says. As well, LeFou’s character is more likeable (which I think is an advantage as he was declared gay in this version – it would be questionable to have a gay character as a villain the first* time around), as he begins to see Gaston for who he is, and simultaneously suggests that the villagers are fools in this wonderful line: “There’s a beast running wild, there’s no question / But I fear there are monsters released.” They’ve also kept my two favorite lines: “Screw your courage to the sticking place” – a line from Macbeth, as well as this incredibly self-aware bit: “We don’t like what we don’t understand / In fact it scares us.” I can also give them bonus points for including the women of town in the mob, rather than leaving them at home this time. Musically, I feel as though this takes the original score and makes it more bombastic and epic. Pretty cool!

* Excluding Oaken from Frozen, as he was never officially declared gay, in spite of the evidence.

16. Beauty and the Beast (finale)
And now we get to hear the lovely operatic vocals of Audra McDonald in this song, as I would have hoped in the final scene. Mrs. Potts joins in as well, noticeably autotuned and with some new lines, but the song nevertheless concludes everything in a beautiful manner, very reminiscent of the original with the choir in the finale, and the soundtrack thus ends on a great note.

 

So, overall? On the plus side, I think they did wonders for making the story more sensible lyrically in many of the songs, and the musical adaptations were wonderful across the board. There wasn’t a single new song that didn’t add something, even if it was quite minimal, so the time was never wasted, and the score matched the original and blended wonderfully with the new songs as well. Really, the major downfall was the autotune. The odd part is that it’s used on more than just Watson, so I can’t be sure if it was because she struggled with the vocals or if it was partly a stylistic choice. If the latter, it was a terrible decision. If it was on Watson’s behalf, I don’t know why they didn’t use a different vocalist. Disney has done this frequently and it’s not uncommon in live-action movies too. Regardless though, I do consider this movie and its soundtrack to be a rousing success on the whole, particularly considering I nitpicked it to death, and I highly recommend it to fans of the original.

Rating: 9/10, 4.5 stars.

Tracklist:
1. Overture
2. Main Title: Prologue pt. 1
3. Aria
4. Main Title: Prologue pt. 2
5. Belle
6. How Does a Moment Last Forever (Music Box)
7. Belle (reprise)
8. Gaston
9. Be Our Guest
10. Days in the Sun
11. Something There
12. How Does a Moment Last Forever (Montmartre)
13. Beauty and the Beast
14. Evermore
15. The Mob Song
16. Beauty and the Beast (finale)

(2017) Brother Firetribe: Sunbound (English)

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Artist: Brother Firetribe
Album: Sunbound
Release: 24.03.2017
Label: Spinefarm/Universal

 

The 80s have returned! Brother Firetribe has paid homage to the music world’s greatest decade with False Metal (2006), Heart Full of Fire (2008), and Diamond in the Firepit (2014). After the release of Diamond…, singer Pekka Heino promised that the fans didn’t have to wait for another 6 years to hear the follow-up, and the band totally delivered: this spring, the Kerava-based AOR extravaganza sweeps us back once again to the time of shoulder pads and Wayfarer sunglasses with their latest effort, Sunbound.

 

To the people not acquainted with Brother Firetribe’s material, the name of the game is adult-oriented rock with such catchy melodies and feel-good vibes that if listening to it doesn’t create a wide grin on your face, you’re probably dead inside. Sunbound doesn’t waste time – the titular intro track’s reverbed drums and piano track sound like the equivalent of spraying Cheese Whiz straight into your mouth. The actual first song, “Help is on the Way”, starts off with Emppu Vuorinen’s hefty guitar riff and a drum fill, with the keyboards joining in, carrying the song through the verse to a flawless Firetribe chorus. The vocal harmonies between Pekka Heino and the bassist Jason Flinck sound amazing after 3 years! For some reason, the chorus was reminiscent of “Wolf and the Moon”, a song from Heino’s other band, Leverage. Wonder if it was intentional? “Indelible Heroes” is another guaranteed killer track, in which the band pays their respects to rock musicians already passed. The song’s chording is incredibly simple, but Brother Firetribe doesn’t have to over-complicate things to make their songs work. Both “Help is on the Way” and “Indelible Heroes” will surely be staples in their live sets on this spring’s tour.

Sunbound’s first single and the soundtrack for HOK-Elanto’s marketing campaign, “Taste of a Champion”, might just be Brother Firetribe’s best song to date. The band shamelessly rips off the best parts of all the movie montage themes from the 80’s, but not once does the song sound like plagiarism. The song’s verses, while excellent on their own, only function as catalyst for the chorus that wipes the floor with half of the worn-out 80’s hit singles – this would have topped all the charts 30 years ago!

Even though Tomppa Nikulainen’s soothing keyboards carry “Last Forever” nicely onward, as a bit of a calmer piece, its fate is to be slightly shadowed by the glory of “Taste of a Champion.” Sunbound’s own “Heard it on My Radio” – titled “Give Me Tonight”, and is played practically wholly in major chords – speeds things up for a moment before the record slows down to its most tranquil part. “Shock” is a pretty atypical Brother Firetribe ballad, probably featuring Heino’s lowest-pitched vocal melodies in the band’s repertoire, but the minimalistic song wins over its listener with its pressing and ominous chorus. This kind of integrity isn’t achievable by everyone.

The record returns to its more rockish pace with “Strangled”, greatly reminiscing Diamond in the Firepit’s “Trail of Tears.” Moreover, “Heart of the Matter” moves towards a more easy listening –type of track, as the guitar trades places with a playful keyboard melody. If the keyboards were more dominant, one could almost compare them to Pointer Sisters’ “Slow Hand.” The song ends pretty abruptly though – I would have loved to listen this for one more passage.

Brother Firetribe arranged a poll a while back on their Facebook page, asking their fans which song they should record as a cover for Sunbound. I voted for John Parr’s “St. Elmo’s Fire”, and eventually I got half of it correct – the cover choice was Parr’s “Restless Heart”, originally made for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Running Man. For the first time that I was listening through the album, I let it play on the background as I was doing something else, and it wasn’t until the end of the song when I actually realized what was playing. If that doesn’t give a hint on Brother Firetribe’s ability to make other people’s songs their own, I don’t know what will. An excellent output, and with these merits you definitely should do “St. Elmo’s Fire” for the next album!

Freshly released as Sunbound’s third single, “Big City Dream” offers that faster rock stuff for the last time, but the album’s closing track, “Phantasmagoria”, is such a piece of work that all those rock bands that lived their golden years in the 80’s are likely to be home, crying over their sequined shirts because they cannot create anything like this song anymore. The song begins with a tender rhythm and gradually increasing orchestrations, interrupted by a brief acoustic guitar, before exploding into a chorus the size of an apartment building. The orchestrations keep growing larger as the song moves towards its bridge and the final chorus, after which it’s all out. Five minutes is not enough for this kind of sublimity! If the kids these days still understand a thing about music, “Phantasmagoria” will be the last ballad for the evening everywhere this year.

 

All-in-all, Sunbound is an extremely fine record and a manifestation of the fact that Brother Firetribe’s magic hasn’t gone anywhere. It even might be their best album yet – at least close – and even if it’s only March, I can easily predict Sunbound being featured on the ‘albums of the year’ –lists of quite a few rock fans. While the songs are rock-solid, the production values don’t lose one bit, as Sunbound plays with a good deal of beefiness to it without sounding too polished. With a package like this, the band should easily be able to make it big outside of Finland as well, so hopefully the guys will embark on a world-conquering tour after the summer, before Nightwish once again engulfs Emppu Vuorinen.

I would love to bump the score even more, but fading out “Phantasmagoria” was such a criminal act that Sunbound will have to settle with ‘only’ a 9.

Score: 9/10 or 4.5/5 stars

Tracklist:
1. Sunbound
2. Help is on the Way
3. Indelible Heroes
4. Taste of a Champion
5. Last Forever
6. Give Me Tonight
7. Shock
8. Strangled
9. Heart of the Matter
10. Restless Heart
11. Big City Dream
12. Phantasmagoria

Ed: Amy W

(2017) Brother Firetribe: Sunbound (suomeksi)

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Artisti: Brother Firetribe
Albumi: Sunbound
Julkaistu: 24.03.2017
Levy-yhtiö: Spinefarm/Universal

 

80-luku on palannut! Brother Firetribe on tehnyt kunniaa musiikkihistorian hienoimmalle vuosikymmenelle levyillään False Metal (2006), Heart Full of Fire (2008) sekä Diamond in the Firepit (2014). Kolmannen levyn julkaisun jälkeen laulaja Pekka Heino lupasi, ettei seuraavaa levyä tarvitsisi odottaa kuutta vuotta, eikä bändi pettänyt lupaustaan, sillä kolme vuotta Diamondin… jälkeen Keravan AOR-suuruus vie meidät jälleen olkatoppausten ja Wayfarereiden aikaan neljännellä levyllään Sunbound.

 

Teille, jotka ette tunne Brother Firetriben materiaalia, homman nimi on sen verran tarttuva hyvän mielen aikuis-rock, että jos sen kuuntelu ei vedä naamaa leveään hymyyn, kannattaa varmaan käydä lääkärissä tarkistamassa ettei ole kuollut sisältä. Sunbound ottaa todellakin löysät pois heti kättelyssä, sillä jo albumin introna toimivan nimikappaleen kaiutettujen rumpujen ja pianokuvion juustoisuuskerroin on lähellä sataa. Ensimmäinen varsinainen raita, ”Help Is On the Way”, alkaa Emppu Vuorisen tanakalla kitarariffillä sekä rumpufillillä, johon syntikka liittyy mukaan, kulkien säkeistön kautta tyylipuhtaaseen Firetribe-kertosäkeeseen. Kylläpä Pekka Heinon ja basisti Jason Flinckin lauluharmoniat kuulostavat pitkästä aikaa hyviltä! Kertsistä tulee myös jostain syystä kovasti mieleen Heinon toisen bändin Leveragen kappale ”Wolf and the Moon” – lieköhän tarkoituksellista? Seuraavana vuorossa oleva ”Indelible Heroes” on myös takuuvarmaa Firetribeä ja kunnioittaa maailmastamme jo poistuneita rockin merkkihenkilöitä. Kappalerakenne on äärimmäisen yksinkertainen, mutta eipä bändin ole ikinä tarvinnut lähteä kikkailemaan saadakseen kappaleensa toimimaan. Levyn aloituskaksikko lienee pomminvarmaa livetavaraa kevään kiertueella.

Sunboundin ensimmäinen single sekä HOK-Elannon mainoskampanjassa esiintynyt “Taste of a Champion” saattaa hyvinkin olla Brother Firetriben paras kappale ikinä. Kappale lainaa häpeilemättömästi 80-luvun elokuvamontaaseista parhaat palat, mutta missään vaiheessa meno ei lipsu plagioinnin puolelle, vaan bändi kuulostaa ainoastaan itseltään. Säkeistöt, vaikka vahvoja ovatkin, ovat mukana vain nostamassa lentoon kertosäkeen, joka on niin hävyttömän hyvä, että puolet rockradioiden puhkikuluneista tukkahevibiiseistä joutavat saman tien eläkkeelle. Tällä oltaisiin oltu listakärjessä 30 vuotta sitten!

Vaikka Tomppa Nikulaisen syntikka kuljettaa ”Last Foreveria” hienosti eteenpäin, sen kohtalo on astetta rauhallisempana palana jäädä aavistuksen ”Taste of a Championin” varjoon. Sunboundin oma ”Heard It on My Radio”, käytännössä täysin duurissa etenevä tsemppirock-ralli ”Give Me Tonight” nostaa tempoa hetkiseksi, kunnes levy vaipuu keskivaiheilla rauhallisimpaan vaiheeseensa. ”Shock” on hyvin epätyypillinen Firetribe-balladi, jossa Heinon laulumelodiat ovat hyvinkin mahdollisesti koko bändin tuotannon matalimmat, mutta minimalistinen kappale voittaa kuulijan puolelleen kertosäkeensä miltei painostavalla tunnelmalla. Tällaiseen kokonaisuuteen pystyvät vain harvat.

Seuraavaksi päästään taas astetta menevämpiin tunnelmiin, kun edellislevyn “Trail of Tearsin” sukulainen, “Strangled”, ottaa kitarariffillään rock-vaihteen tiukasti silmään. ”Heart of the Matter” taas lipuu lähemmäs easy listening –osastoa, jossa kitara vaihtuu hauskaan syntikkamelodiaan. Jos syna olisi miksattu enemmän pintaan, vertailukohtana voisi melkein käyttää Pointer Sistersin ”Slow Handin” introkuviota. Kappale loppuu kuin seinään – tätä olisi mielellään kuunnellut vielä vaikka yhden osion verran lisää.

Brother Firetribe järjesti taannoin äänestyksen Facebook-sivullaan siitä, mikä kasariklassikko bändin pitäisi coveroida Sunboundille. Annoin itse ääneni John Parrin ”St. Elmo’s Firelle”, ja osuinkin lopulta puoliksi oikeaan – levyn cover-valintana soi nimittäin Parrin Arnold Schwarzeneggerin The Running Maniin kynäilemä ”Restless Heart”. Jos jokin kertoo Brother Firetriben taidoista tehdä kappaleista omankuuloisiaan, niin se, että ensimmäistä kertaa Sunboundia läpi kuunnellessani annoin levyn soida taustalla kappalejärjestykseen sen enempää huomiota kiinnittämättä, ja havahduin vasta kappaleen loppupuolella siihen, mikä kappale oikeasti oli meneillään. Täysin tyylipuhdas veto, ja näillä meriiteillä se ”St. Elmo’s Firekin” tulisi ehdottomasti vetää narulle!

Vastikään levyn kolmantena singlevalintana julkaistu ”Big City Dream” tarjoilee vielä kerran rivakampaa rock-osastoa, mutta levyn päättävä ”Phantasmagoria” onkin sitten sen kaliiberin teos, että kaikki 80-luvulla kulta-aikojaan eläneet, vielä kasassa olevat rockbändit todennäköisesti itkevät kotona paljettipuseroihinsa toivoessaan, että vielä jonain päivänä saisivat aikaiseksi jotain tällaista. Liikkeelle lähdetään hennolla rumpurytmillä ja hiljalleen voimistuvalla orkestraatiolla, jonka katkaisee akustinen kitara, räjähtäen kerrostalon kokoiseen kertosäkeeseen. Orkestraatioita lisätään koko ajan loppua kohti, ihokarvat nousevat pystyyn. Hieno C-osa, josta vielä kerran kertosäkeeseen sekä lopun paisutteluun. Viisi minuuttia on rikollisen lyhyt aika tällaiselle hienoudelle! Jos nykyteinit ymmärtävät mitään musiikista, ”Phantasmagoria” soi tänä vuonna kaikkialla illan viimeisenä hitaana.

 

Kaiken kaikkiaan Sunbound on äärimmäisen hieno levy ja osoitus siitä, ettei Brother Firetriben maagisuus ole vuosien varrella kadonnut minnekään. Se saattaa olla jopa bändin uran paras levy, tai ainakin hyvin lähelle, ja vaikka nyt on vasta maaliskuu, Sunbound tulee jo tässä vaiheessa varmasti olemaan vahva kandidaatti rock-diggareiden vuoden levyt –listoilla. Väkivahvan kappalemateriaalin lisäksi myös tuotantopuoli on kunnossa, sillä Sunbound soi tanakasti, muttei kuitenkaan kliinisesti. Tällaisella paketilla pitäisi ehdottomasti päästä myös Suomen ulkopuolelle, joten nyt kesän kotimaan-keikkojen jälkeen välittömästi maailmaa valloittamaan, ennen kuin Emppu Vuorisella on taas Nightwishin kanssa liian kiire.

Tekisi mieleni antaa vielä enemmän pisteitä, mutta ”Phantasmagorian” ulos feidaaminen on mielestäni niin rikollinen temppu, että Sunbound joutuu tyytymään ”vain” yhdeksikköön.

Arvosana: 9/10, 4,5/5 tähteä

Kappalelista:
1. Sunbound
2. Help Is on the Way
3. Indelible Heroes
4. Taste of a Champion
5. Last Forever
6. Give Me Tonight
7. Shock
8. Strangled
9. Heart of the Matter
10. Restless Heart
11. Big City Dream
12. Phantasmagoria

Ed: Ville Karttunen

KULTPRODUKT: Who is Unzucht?

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Kultprodukt Concert Agency has been working to get some more German music into Finland lately. With a recent show by Lord of the Lost at On the Rocks, now it’s time for Helsinki to experience Unzucht. The band will play at On the Rocks on April 7th, 2017, and here’s a bit of information, if you’re still on the fence about whether or not to go!

 

1. First off, tell us a bit about yourselves?
Der Schulz: We are four friends from Germany who founded a dark rock band 7 years ago. In our first year we’ve played live already because of our 4-track demo CD – festivals like Masters of Rock (CZ), the M’era Luna, and Rockharz (D). We’ve toured through Germany and Europe with Bands like Puddle of Mudd, Eisbrecher, Subway to Sally, Saltatio Mortis, and Oomph! and now we’ve released our forth album, Neuntöter, which made it up to number 16 in the German album charts. And we love beer and Jack Daniels of course 😉

2. For anyone who hasn’t heard your music before, can tell us a little bit about your sound?
Der Schulz: The Unzucht sounds like the Unzucht. We’ve got our very unique style of music, which mixes up dark rock, industrial, and metal, but also wavy and big melody lines with deep German lyrics. Somewhere in between HIM, Rammstein, and Meshuggah.

3. Have you ever played in Finland before? If so, what’s your best/worst memory there? If not, is there anything you’re interested in or excited about in playing there?
Der Schulz: It’s the first time ever that we’re gonna play in Finland and we’re pretty excited about it. We’re really looking forward to meet up the Finnish people, to see how they like our music, and to party with them. And I’ve heard so many good things about Helsinki – I would love to see a bit of it.

4. What do you think is going to be the highlight of the upcoming show?
Der Schulz: To hear the Finnish crowd sing along with us in German and me dying by trying to pronounce Finnish 😉

5. Do you have any last words for potential viewers about the upcoming shows?
Der Schulz: Don’t miss our show, we are a fucking earthquake and one fine day you can say, “I was already there, when the Unzucht played their first show ever in Finland and had some beers with them.”

 

For details about the upcoming event, click HERE!
For tickets to the show, click HERE!
For details from the venue, click HERE!

Check out the music video for “Unendlich” here:

For more videos, head over to their YouTube channel!

EMBER FALLS – Thomas, Ace, & Jake E, Tampere, 2017

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It should come as a surprise to no one that we at Musicalypse are rather interested in the up-and-coming career of newcomers Ember Falls. With the release of their debut, Welcome to Ember Falls, in mid-February, they did a short tour with Sonic Syndicate in Finland before embarking on their own headlining tour in their home country. Since it has been 9 months since our first interview with them at South Park 2016, we thought that this was the optimal time to grab a couple of the guys and ask some questions about the album. To our luck, it just so happened that Jake E (ex-Amaranthe, CyHra) was willing to join in on the conversation!

The gig report from the Tampere show is coming soon!
The full gallery is also coming soon!
More photos from this interview HERE!

 

Just to get us started here – the album is out at last. How do you feel about the final product and how has it been received?
Thomas: [sings] Everything is awesome.

Ace: Yeah, I think it turned out really great and the reception has been really good. Obviously there have been two or three reviews that weren’t super enthusiastic, but most of them have been really positive, so that’s great.

Jake: That’s the funny thing with reviews. I remember when I released my first album. You were all into, like, “No, someone wrote a bad review!” but you guys will learn along the way that not everyone can have the same opinion.

A: Yeah, I don’t care, as long as all of them aren’t two stars out of five.

J: Exactly. That’s the most important thing, absolutely.

T: I think it’s the best thing if you have these 9-10/10 reviews and then you have a few of these 1-2.

J: You need them as well.

Humbling reviews?
A: Yeah.

For Jake, how did you get involved in the album?
J: Funny thing. I got a question from Spinefarm/Universal, the record company, saying that, “Do you want to co-write a couple of songs with this band that we just recently signed called Ember Falls?” I was like, “Maybe? Send me some songs.” I got the songs and I loved them from the first moment that I pushed play. I’m like, “This is really good material,” and I think I got the files and I was sitting in my studio. I recorded some bullshit vocal lines and then I threw them back again, and the band – I think, at least – liked them.

A: Yeah, yeah.

J: So we started to co-write a little bit on the music and then I got the question again, “By the way, would you like to produce the album,” and I said… I didn’t even think about it. I just said, “Yes, absolutely,” because I loved it. That’s the way it all started for me.

You kind of answered my next question already, but what was your first impression of the music when you heard it?
J: Amazing! Amazing. It was a new approach on Finnish metal. That’s a cool thing with Ember Falls, that you so directly hear that the music is from Finland, which could only be heard in like Sonata Arctica and Children of Bodom before. You have this imprint, this is the stamp that we are from Finland, and I really love that, but with a modern touch with other influences.

One of my favorite things about the album is the lyrics, because they give it a lot of depth. You’ve got certain themes that are pretty obvious, like in “The Cost of Doing Business”, but what about some of the rest of the songs? Do you have any themes that are being covered, in general?
T: Religion is one thing, right?

A: The last song, “The Lamb Lies Down in Sacrifice”, is I think… a little bit before I started writing that song, there was a terrorist attack somewhere in Europe and I was really frustrated that these kinds of things were happening, so that was a direct… I think that was one of the more obvious things that you referred to.

T: I think there are other songs also that cross a bit into religion. Not much, but…

A: Yeah, I mean most of the stuff is just things that I think about. Some of them are about myself, some are about relationships, and some are about societal things.

You mentioned in our last interview that you are creating a world with your music, this dystopian world. How do these songs fit into the Ember Falls universe, if at all?
T: I think some songs fit more than others. For example, “Freedom”; from the start it has this story going on and it’s pretty straightforward that it’s in some sort of dystopian future, where it’s happening. I don’t suppose we have too much of that stuff on the record.

A: Yeah, that’s actually one thing that I want to do more of on the second album is have more of a through-line through the lyrics to make it fit into our whole concept.

“Falling Rain” is clearly nodding to Blade Runner – is it about Blade Runner or is it just taking some ideas from it?
A: It was just influenced about the whole concept in Blade Runner about humanity and being and other lofty words. It’s not directly about Blade Runner itself, but it’s borrowing from the thematics.

Do we get to know what “COE” stands for yet?
A: No. [laughter]

I thought that might be a stretch, but I had to try. You’ve got Niko Moilanen (Nc Enroe) from Blind Channel as a guest vocalist/rapper on “Open Your Eyes” – how did you arrange that?
T: We have played many gigs with Blind Channel and we had that song in a demo stage. It wasn’t fitting into anything. We couldn’t get any good vocal melodies and we didn’t feel that it was moving anywhere good. Then we asked Niko if he could think of something for it and he threw some demos he did and we were like, “Yeah, let’s do it.” Then we went to our rehearsal place and recorded everything.

A: Actually, the whole rap thing started from an idea Mikko (One of Haze) had. Like Tuomas said, we were really struggling with the vocal melodies because nothing seemed to work, so he tried a kind of goofy rapping over it and I was immediately like, okay! Because Mikko isn’t a professional rapper, so we had to hire Niko instead [laughter].

J: But I think that now we should send Mikko to rap class.

A: With all the royalties we get from the album.

I had asked you at South Park if there was anyone that you’d be interested in collaborating with and you had said there was someone that you were going to work with that you were very excited about, but you couldn’t say who just yet. Was that Niko or Jake, or someone else?
A: I think it was… [nods toward Jake].

T: Jake, yeah. That was what we were talking about.

J: Oh! You’re such nice guys.

A: Jake’s input for the album was absolutely invaluable. A lot of the songs wouldn’t even have been good [laughter] so it was good to have him on board.

J: Now I’m blushing.

Were you singing backing vocals on all of the songs, or just some of them?
J: I don’t actually remember. We went in there, me and Jacob Hansen – the guy that mixed the album – and Mikko and Tuomas on a couple of songs, but I never did any lead things or anything like that, so we more or less only did choirs and so on. I don’t think it was on all songs, but it was on three or four songs.

T: We had a few songs that we didn’t do much of anything in Denmark. Three or two songs we didn’t actually touch quite as much, but I think you do choirs on most of the songs.

A: I think you ran out of time so you didn’t do all of the songs.

T: Yeah, Mikko had to do the high ones, because my voice was so fucked in the last days. Mikko did some pretty high vocals. Actually, we have been getting that a lot from, for example, “Rising Tide” – who is the female vocalist on this one? Oh, it’s Mikko there singing.

A: Yeah, in the video we have the girl there.

So that wasn’t actually her singing?
A: No. Actually, one of the representatives from our label was like, “Why hasn’t this female vocalist been credited?” Mikko’s angelic voice in action.

Who was the female vocalist on “Freedom” then?
T: Eveliina Määttä.

Is she the same girl from the “Rising Tide” video?
T: No, that was actress Irina Vartia.

A couple of quick non-Ember-Falls-related questions for Jake here. What are you doing these days now that you’ve parted ways with Amaranthe?
J: On Monday [the 13th] I’m going to release the news about my new band. I have started a new band called CyHra [pronounced sigh-rah]. It’s me, Jesper Strömblad [ex-In Flames], Peter Iwers [ex-In Flames], and Alex Landenburg [Rhapsody, ex-Annihilator]. We formed a band together almost a year ago and we start recording our debut album on Monday, so it’s really, really exciting. On the side of that, I’m also doing a lot of acting. I did two movies last year. One is going to be released this year and one released in 2018. But this CyHra thing is my main project now and there’s a lot of people that thought… because I’ve left Amaranthe, they thought that I was going to leave the music business completely, but that’s not the thing. I’m going to continue to make music. Hopefully I’m going to produce more as well, because this thing with Ember Falls made me realize that this was something that I really like to work with, producing other artists, but it’s going to be very interesting to see the reaction on the CyHra band.

T: I did the logo for the band.

J: Yeah, I was going to say that! Tuomas did the logo for the whole thing. It’s funny how I came into Ember Falls and got to know Tuomas and Tuomas is a graphic designer. He helped me out, I helped them out. That’s what metal is all about. There is never any competition. We help each other out and scratch each other’s backs. It’s really nice.

Was there any specific reason that you left during the making and touring of Maximalism?
J: Truth be told, I left the band in March 2016. That’s when I decided to leave the band, but we had a lot of gigs, a lot of tours lined up, so we decided that I’m leaving the band in September or whatever, and the album was going to be recorded and from the beginning I just said that I’d skip the recording, but the band actually asked me to do the album, which I did. Then I did my last show in Japan. But, as the album was going to be released and everything like that, we didn’t want to ruin the whole release, so we were postponing it, saying that I was doing something else and then we waited until the time was right. Then when the “Boomerang” video was supposed to be recorded, the band said that, “Now we have to move forward,” so I wasn’t in the video, and then of course we had to come out with the news together with the video.

You mentioned in some other interviews that you weren’t really stoked on the direction the band was going in. Did you like album in the end or not really?
J: I wrote two songs for the album, which is the least that I’ve been writing.

A: Which ones did you write?

J: I wrote a song called “Break Down and Cry” and a song called “Faster.” Of course I had my input on a lot of the other songs as well, but not as a main songwriter. But the direction was… no. I just felt that because I left the band before the album was even released, so you could understand that there were more things behind my decision than just the music of course, but when it came to the music, I also felt that this is not the thing that I can stand for. I felt that I put my soul and my heart and my life into this band and I started the band, but I had two options. One option was to kick the band out, or leave myself. I didn’t want to be an asshole, so I kicked myself out.

You took the noble road of self-sacrifice.
J: I actually feel that it was the noble road. I could have done the different thing, but I would have looked like the bad guy and I don’t want to be the bad guy. I wish them all the luck and I have no bad feelings or whatever. This is my decision and not theirs.

Thanks for sharing that. Back to everyone then, what was it like to go to a whole other country (Denmark) to work on the album?
T: Stressful. I was shitting my pants the whole month before, because I know myself and I know that I perform quite poorly under pressure, so I knew that I had this timeline that we needed to have these songs ready, and I was like, “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.” But the first day I arrived and things started rolling, it felt great.

J: That’s so funny, how people are different, because I was speaking to my friend Alex the other day and he complimented me, “I’m getting more and more great stuff from you this week,” – now I’m talking about the new band; we’re going to start recording on Monday. But before I came here, I was sitting up until 03:00 and then we were leaving at 06:00 working on the last song for the album. That song turned out to be the best song that I’ve ever written. What I wanted to say is that, I work best under complete pressure, so he wrote this complementary thing to me, “Yeah, this is fucking awesome, you’re great,” and I said to him that I should totally work in a police bomb squad or something [laughter] because under pressure, I feel calm. And you’re [Tuomas] the opposite. That’s so interesting, how people are different, but we’re working with the same thing. Then comes the other thing into consideration, is that when I met Tuomas the first time – when we met in Denmark – and I felt like, oh this is a great guy to work with, because he’s calm! This is going to be awesome.

T: Inside.

J: No, outside! Inside you’re a complete mess, but you never showed it. So now when you’re telling me this, it’s so cool to hear.

You guys have played quite a few shows since June. Do you have any particularly memorable moments you’re willing to share from those shows?
A: A guy fainted in Oulu [laughter].

T: He was moshing too hard and probably had too much to drink.

A: He was front and center in the front row.

T: Our third song finished and he was passed out. “Are you okay, man?” Then he raised himself up and rallied to the door [laughter].

J: He was probably just the father of two and really tired.

T: It was fun, because we didn’t know anybody in Oulu. We didn’t know if anyone was coming to the show and we were kind of stressed that, is anybody going to want to show up. Then this exact same guy was shouting when the support band was playing, “Ember Falls! Ember Falls!”

A: I think what’s been the most memorable [thing] recently has been that we haven’t done a lot of headlining shows. We’ve done a lot of support shows for other bands and now we’ve had a couple of shows in a row where there weren’t any other bands with us, so it was really satisfying to see that there were quite a few people there just to see us.

T: And today, for example. Sold out show today. I think this is going to be the best thing yet for us, live-wise.

After this headlining tour in Finland, do you have any plans to go outside Finland or support any other bands?
T: Hopefully. We have one foreign gig sold.

A: In the Netherlands.

T: Yeah, Into the Grave Festival, where will be Arch Enemy. More metal bands than we are, but I think it’s going to be good. Hopefully we are going to get some more touring outside of Finland.

A: As you probably know, we’re supporting Amaranthe next month [in Finland]. Too bad we don’t have this guy there. Maybe he can join us…

J: Yeah, I’ll join you guys! [laughter] I’ll be in New York then recording the vocals.

That ties nicely into my next question – I imagine that Amaranthe and Ember Falls will have a great fan crossover. Do you have any hopes or expectations from that tour?
J: I have to fill in here. I actually started working on getting these guys on the Finnish tour when we were in the studio and it turned out to work for four of the shows, the biggest shows, which is really, really good for the band. I think that the Amaranthe fanbase is going to love Ember Falls. I think it’s going to fit like a hand in a glove. I expect that Ember Falls, after the Amaranthe tour, is going to receive a huge fanbase from the Amaranthe fans, because I think the fanbase is equal.

Do you guys have any local festivals lined up for the summer yet?
A: One in Kotka. Dark River Festival.

T: Not anything else. We have a couple of maybes, but it’s very hard in Finland nowadays.

J: It’s also hard as a brand new band. It only takes a couple of albums to break into the market. There are so many bands. I’ll just say that I think this band has a great future ahead of them.

Lastly then, is there anything left that we should expect from you guys in the nearish future that we haven’t already covered. The album is out, so what’s next?
J: Tuomas is going to marry a mini-pig [laughter].

T: We have gotten our first new song demo from our guitarist a few days ago.

A: Jay V made a new song demo and it’s absolutely fantastic. I think it’s probably going to be… I wish it was out already.

T: New songs and more live shows and bigger live shows. I think we need to and we are going to figure out some new spices to our live show. That would be something we need.

J: And my mission for next year is to try to convince them to use me again [laughter].

T: Maybe we can go touring with your new band.

J: My new band is going to open up for you guys.

Well, thanks to all of you for this, best of luck tonight and with future shows, and good luck to Jake with the new band!

Photos: Lene L.

EMBER FALLS ft. JAKE E: WtEF release show – Jack the Rooster, Tampere, 11.03.2017

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It may not surprise you, but we’ve been to see Ember Falls. Again. But we had to! With the recent release of Welcome to Ember Falls, and with the promise of special guest Jake E (ex-Amaranthe, CyHra), the allure of the album release party at Jack the Rooster in Tampere on March 11th was simply too strong for us. Along with the show, we also caught Thomas, Ace, and Jake for an interview, which you can read HERE!

Full gallery HERE!
Behind the scenes interview photos HERE!
Listen to the songs in their play order on Spotify:

This was my first time watching a gig at Jack the Rooster, which was exciting in a sense, because I’ve heard rather mixed things about it as a venue – either that it’s wonderful, or that it has issues with sound quality. What was special about it in a sense though, was that they frequently make burgers for certain bands, and during the week of this event, they were offering The Burger You Need – an Ember Falls -themed burger. I’m not sure what about it exactly related it to Ember Falls, but it was a great burger.

With a crazy number of pre-sale reservations, it was soon evident that this would be a sold-out show. As we had our burgers, it was becoming somewhat evident that there was an issue with the soundcheck. We never found out exactly what was wrong, but it did affect the show. It was a hectic night for the band, and as such, the showtime was pushed back to 00:30, which is perhaps the latest start time I’ve ever seen a show. It was cool to see the venue slowly and surely pack to capacity, and I was pretty shocked to see a few people present who looked well past their 60s – how cool is that?

Finally, at the aforementioned time, it was time to get things going. A really cool electronic intro track played and they kicked things off with “The Cost of Doing Business” – maybe they’ve been reading my reviews, because the play order for this show was far superior to the set at Virgin Oil last month, putting songs into optimal positions for the right flow of energy. Already by the first song, the crowd was clapping along and enthusiastic. It lasted beyond the first song as well, as when they went into “The Enemy You Need”, the whole crowd was still dancing and clapping.

Next up was “Open Your Eyes” – Nc Enroe (Niko Moilanen, Blind Channel) was initially supposed to be a secret guest for the song, but alas, Blind Channel business interfered with the schedule and he had to cancel his appearance. Fingers crossed that he’ll do it at the Amaranthe show next month, since both Blind Channel and Ember Falls will be opening. It seems that Thomas Grove has been practicing the song, because it felt far less like ‘I can’t rap but I’m doing my best, let’s all laugh together’ than it had at Virgin Oil – he actually did a pretty good job of it this time, and I again applaud him for taking the job unto himself, rather than relying on a backing track. I maintain my stance, that I’d rather see a vocalist try and fail to make another singer’s part their own, than use a backing track. However, as I said, I’d hardly consider this a failure either.

Grove greeted the crowd properly at this point, thanking them for having sold out the venue, and then the “Welcome to Ember Falls” track played before they started “Of Letting Go.” At this point, the issues with the sound booth seemed to be a bit problematic. However, the band far made up for the imbalances with their exceptional enthusiasm, with Grove and Calu (guitars, growls) taking full advantage of the small amount of space they had available, even getting up to the ceiling. I’m really looking forward to seeing these guys on a much bigger stage, and I think Amaranthe’s show will be that opportunity!

Another thing I appreciated about this show was that it was less about performing perfectly and more about having fun with their fans. They’ve done more precise shows while opening for other bands, focusing on showcasing themselves and reeling in new fans. This was clearly a show for the existing fans, centered around fun and energy and good times, rather than precision playing (which I also suspect is tricky on such a tiny stage with so many people). “COE” had Calu in particular really getting into it, as high up and as energetic as can be.

After “COE”, it was time to introduce their very special guest, Jake E (ex-Amaranthe). He was introduced in English, seeing as he is Swedish, and he took the stage like a proud parent and proceeded to get the crowd revved up with his knowledge of various Finnish words, which were, of course, nearly exclusively curse words. “I’m honored to be here tonight! Give a warm fucking applause to Ember Falls!” Jake shouted as they started “Rising Tide.” He joined in to harmonize in the vocals of the chorus, and I was quite disappointed that this is when the sound issues were most noticeable, as he was nearly impossible to hear. They then played “One More Time”, and I was pleased to hear more emphasis on Calu’s growling, particularly in the “we have crossed the borderline” verse, as that is perhaps the poppiest song on the album and it really shines with the extra heaviness in a live setting.

Jake then shouted out, “Kiitos saatana perkele voi vittu!” and then said another stream of Finnish curse words and said that the band had told him that it means “I love you guys.” “Hi, I’m Jake E. I don’t know if you know me butI used to be in a band called Amaranthe from Sweden, but I’m not anymore. I had the great honor to produce these guys’ album, Welcome to Ember Falls. They’re such a fucking amazing band and they will eat all your love, so give them some more!” he continued. He then said that he’d be announcing something on Monday, and would sing two more songs. Grove said the next one was for the ladies, and they went into “Freedom.” They had skipped it at Virgin Oil last month, so I was glad to see that it made a comeback in this show, because it’s a perfect track to slow things down and have a quick breather – perfect placement in this show as well! They then ended Jake’s guest performance with “Falling Rain”, and from what I could barely hear, the harmonization was really cool. I’m glad that track was moved closer to the end of the set, because it remains a personal favorite and I like to have it built up a bit more. Grove then asked the crowd to, “Give your most handsome applause to Jake E,” who then shouted, “Kippis suomi Finland perkele, thank you guys!” before heading down from the stage. The band thanked him again before playing “The Lamb Lies Down in Sacrifice.” Again, love that thrash jazz, but it needs a bigger stage so they can have more fun with the jazz interludes. The sound had also improved a bit by this point, though there was a bit of feedback now and then. The song ended with a wonderful drum-heavy outro.

Then, with all of the album’s songs played, there was only one song left. The band (minus Oswald on bass and Jay V on guitar) donned sunglasses for “Shut Down with Me.” This song remains a classic party anthem and got an earth-shaking response from the crowd. Even the feedback noises didn’t tear down the wall of energy this song created. It was great fun and as a few people began to trickle out and make more room, it was clear that everyone had had an incredible time.

 

And so, Ember Falls has officially celebrated their album release. This is officially my seventh show seeing them (that seems insane) in the last year and I’m still listening through to the entirety of their album on a near-daily basis, so that really goes to show how enthusiastic I am about these guys. I really hope that the upcoming tour with Amaranthe helps to break them into some new fanbases! These guys are definitely a force to be reckoned with and I will probably continue to go to their shows at every opportunity. I suggest you do the same!

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

Photos: Lene L.

EMBER FALLS ft. JAKE E @ Jack the Rooster, Tampere, 11.03.2017

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Ember Falls album release show featuring Jake E (CyHra) at Jack the Rooster, 2017.
Photos by Lene L.
Gig report HERE!

MOONSORROW w/ DRAUGNIM – Virgin Oil Co., Helsinki, 11.03.2017

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Has it been a year already? Yes, it must have been since the last time we’ve seen Moonsorrow was at Virgin Oil Co. for the release party of their 2016 album, Jumalten Aika. On March 11th, 2017, they returned to the same venue for what seemed like a victory lap since the album had garnered a superb reputation and had been immensely successful all-round. Opening for them was another Finnish folk metal group, Draugnim. The Espoo-based openers came sporting a very similar sound and aesthetic. This was poised to be a great night for fans of that turn-of-the-millennium style of extreme folk metal.

[Ed: the full gallery will be released a bit later, at which point we’ll add a few more photos in here]

 

I myself have been seeing Moonsorrow on a fairly consistent basis ever since Viides luku – Hävitetty (2007). My favorite beyond a doubt has always been Kivenkantaja (2003), for its airy, mellow folk grooves, unique narrative style, and bombastic crescendos. Not unlike the rest of our staff, I did enjoy the new album quite a lot but I missed the show last year; therefore I was looking forward to seeing some of the new songs performed live, perhaps with a few of my old favorites sprinkled in for flavor.

 

The show started quite precisely on time at 21:50 with Draugnim’s long-winded intro track. I’d had the pleasure of seeing them once before some 6 or 7 years ago. They looked pretty much the same as back then, dressed in tattered cloaks and corpse paint stained by fake blood (citation needed on whether it truly was fake blood). The singer had gauntlets on just as he did back then. In fact, at the merch stand they were only selling the first album, Northwind’s Ire, and the corresponding T-shirt just as they did back then. It was as if they’d stepped out of a time-capsule.

For the intro, they all stood with their backs turned until the song began in earnest. Right away I noticed some issues with the mixing. First of all, the vocals were very quiet, and secondly, the guitars were damn-near nonexistent and I suspect what little guitars I heard were the complimentary tracks from their backing track. The whole sound didn’t feel authentic or very exciting at all. It did allow me to enjoy the bass though. When the guitars are away the bass will play… They fixed the vocals for the second song but the larger issues still persisted. There was even a bit during the fifth-or-so song wherein the live sound cut off and we were left with naught but the drums and the backing track for a minute. Luckily for them, the crowd was on their side and dutifully clapped their hands and cried “hey!” They did finish the song as professionals should, but it did leave a bitter taste in my mouth.

I would suggest that the best thing one could do on stage after a massive technical failure occurs would be to thank the fans for their help and appreciation and chalk the whole thing up as a bit of a laugh. These things happen after all. Draugnim’s frontman, Chimedra, however, had a different approach. He stood as silently as he did between all the other songs, only spouting the occasional platitude of “kiitos” [thank you] or simply naming the next song. This made it feel as though they are not a live-oriented band – I would say that the incident could have been handled more gracefully. However, their entire performance that night felt awkward and unprepared. I don’t think I’ll be going out of my way to catch them again. Maybe after another 7 years.

 

By the time Moonsorrow took the stage, the place was absolutely packed. True icons of Finnish metal, their following here was still as fiercely loyal and excitable as ever. Like the first band, they also had an intro track, which was recognizably “Tyven”, followed by “Sankarihauta” and “Kylän Päässä” – a strong start taking three classics from Voimasta ja Kunniasta (2001). This was a great way to establish that this wasn’t just a celebration of the new album, but a show dedicated to the continuing life and legacy of a truly special group. Following these was my personal favorite, “Raunioilla.” Unlike “Kylän Päässä”, this one didn’t open up any moshpits, but was clearly beloved and still welcome as a staple of any Moonsorrow set.

Unlike the first band, they had a great live mix that showcased all the best elements of each instrument. The keyboards perhaps got a bit drowned out by everything else but such is the nature of keyboards in metal. As usual, they had Ville Sorvali on bass and growling vocals with the two guitarists doing backing vocals. During “Kylän Päässä”, guitarist Janne Perttilä took the center mic to do the clean section. His vocals were so ridiculously oversaturated by effects that it was almost impossible to make out his performance or even the lyrics. This was no star-making turn for him.

After the classics were out of the way, Sorvali announced that since it had been a year since Jumalten Aika came out, they expected us to either know the songs by now or to have forgotten them. And on that note, the crowd cheered in absolute support for the eponymous “Jumalten Aika.” It was even better live than on the record. It was fast-paced and heavily black metal-influenced but with a clear sound that never got sludgy. Following this was “Ruttolehto incl. Päivättömän ppäivän kansa”, which just like its predecessor was met with huge applause and enthusiasm. Since the material didn’t really lend itself to singing along, it felt good to at least be able to scream ‘roar Ruttolehto’ a few times.

At this point, it became implicit that they were going to play the entire new album live. Moonsorrow are known for doing long live shows, so this wasn’t any more of an undertaking than any other headlining show from them. Jumalten Aika having been almost universally praised by critics and fans alike, the fans seemed agreeable to the situation. The fans took every opportunity to show their love for the band and the new record. They chanted for every section that allowed for it and even during those 15-20 minute songs, they still managed to pump their fists.

Finishing off the set was an encore of “Tuulen koti, aaltojen koti” and “Aurinko ja kuu” – two of the slowest songs in their discography. To be fair, at that point the songs were a well-deserved cool-down for both the band and the audience. This had been a spectacular evening for Moonsorrow. Even the lackluster opener had completely disappeared from my consciousness as they called it a wrap.

 

The theme of the evening had clearly been Moonsorrow, with Draugnim coming across as second-rate. Seldom is seen two bands together so similar in style with such disparate executions. Moonsorrow was at the top of their game all night, whereas the first band I wouldn’t have even remembered if I hadn’t taken notes. For a band that took most of their sound from Moonsorrow, Draugnim failed to live up to their great aspirations. In their defense, the band has very little they can do about the live mix once on stage, so this critique is not entirely on them but rather on the overall presentation. On top of that, when compared to an established group such as Moonsorrow, almost anything can easily come across as underwhelming. My impression of Draugnim didn’t improve based on this evening but Moonsorrow only further cemented itself in the pantheon of great Finnish bands. It was a must-see concert for fans and I’m sure the next one will be as well.

Setlist:
1. Tyven
2. Sankarihauta
3. Kylän päässä
4. Raunioilla
5. Jumalten aika
6. Ruttolehto incl. Päivättömän päivän kansa
7. Suden tunti
8. Mimisbrunn
9. Ihmisen aika (Kumarrus pimeyteen)

Encore:
10. Tuulen koti, aaltojen koti
11. Aurinko ja Kuu

Photos: Marco Manzi | Ed: Amy W

MOONSORROW w/ DRAUGNIM @ Virgin Oil Co, Helsinki, 11.03.2017

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Moonsorrow with Draugnim at VirginOil Co, 2017.
Photos by Marco Manzi.
Gig report in English HERE!
Keikka-arvio suomeksi TÄÄLLÄ!

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Vuur special edition, pt. 1; 2017

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Legendary vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen is known for many projects, from Arjen Lucassen‘s Ayreon, to most Devin Townsend Project albums, and more! However, we should never forget that she has her own projects as well, such as the recently-revealed Vuur! This six-piece band is causing waves of anticipation in the metal crowd, featuring not only Anneke herself, but also Marcela Bovio (vocals), Ed Warby (drums), Jord Otto (guitars), Ferry Duijsens (guitars), and Johan van Stratum (bass). To celebrate the band’s long-awaited reveal, we’re doing a 2-week special edition of Playlist of My Life, featuring the entire band, divided into 2 weeks! This week’s playlists are from Anneke, Marcela, and Jord. Stay tuned next week for the rest!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
Anneke van Giersbergen: The Rolling Stones’ Goats Head Soup album. My dad is a Stones fan and this is his favourite album.

Marcela Bovio: Not really a song, probably “Air on the G String” from Bach.

Jord Otto: Queen – “Innuendo.” I totally remember how I used to wake up before my parents, went to the stereo, put this CD in and turn it to eleven. Still is crazy good!

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
Anneke: Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt. I used to dance around the living room while listening to “In the Hall of the Mountain King.”

Marcela: Something classical again! Pachelbel’s “Canon.”

Jord: Tool – “Forty-Six & 2”

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Anneke: Prince and the Revolution – “Purple Rain.” This song made me want to be a musician myself.

Marcela: “Alma Mater” from the Portuguese metal band Moonspell.

Jord: Children of Bodom – “Bed of Razors”

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
Anneke: Slayer – “Angel of Death.” My friends were into metal: Anthrax, Metallica, and Slayer. In the second half of the 80s, Dutch radio had a radio program that played metal music for 1 hour every week: Vara’s Vuurwerk and they played this song a lot. For most of my friends that was the most important hour of the week.

Marcela: Celestial Season – “Above Azure Oceans”

Jord: Children of Bodom. They actually got me to pick up the acoustic guitar that my dad had laying around. First time I played guitar and I tried to do what Alexi Laiho does. Must have sounded beautiful.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
Anneke: Amorphis – “Death of a King”

Marcela: Motörhead – “The Hammer”

Jord: Karnivool – “New Day”

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Anneke: Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald – “On My Own.” Cheesy, but two superb singers.

Marcela: Something from the 80s – Bon Jovi or Wham!, I guess. But I don’t really feel guilty about it.

Jord: I have a soft spot for Tori Amos, Lana del Rey, and Sia. Whenever my head goes exploding after so many hours of making and listening to metal, I just need some air. I guess this is kind of a guilty pleasure thing as it’s not very metal.

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Anneke: Donna Summer – All Systems Go. I used to pass this little record shop on my way to school in Schijndel, the Netherlands. I was into soul music as well and when I saw this album in the window, I needed to have it. I bought it after school one day and it was very exciting to have my own music.

Marcela: Héroes del Silencio – El espíritu del vino

Jord: Muse – Origin of Symmetry

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Anneke: Damien Rice – “Cold Water”

Marcela: Bill Frissel – “Strange Meeting”

Jord: Haunted Shores – “Vectors”

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Anneke: Mastodon – “Black Tongue”

Marcela: Pantera – “Fucking Hostile!!!!”

Jord: Decapitated – “Homo sum”

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Anneke: Prince and the Revolution – “Power Fantastic”

Marcela: Whatever the guests feel like listening to. I wouldn’t be able to care any less, since I’m already dead.

Jord: Two Unlimited – “Jump For Joy.” I don’t care really, as I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be the one listening to it anyway. But hey lets make it awkward!

 

Check out the introductory video for Vuur here:

Or have a look at their studio diary here:

(2017) Interviews

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Our collection of interview photos from 2017.

DISCO ENSEMBLE @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 10.03.2017

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Disco Ensemble at Tavastia, Helsinki 10.03.2017.
Photos By Janne Puronen.

KING COMPANY @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 08.03.2017

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King Company at Tavastia, 2017.
Photos by Feng Deng.

 

AVENGED SEVENFOLD (A7x) w/ CHEVELLE & DISTURBED – Hartwall Areena, Helsinki, 07.03.2017

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It’s been a proper while since Avenged Sevenfold last visited our Nordic home base, with their last local show in 2013 on the Hail to the King Tour. Disturbed’s last show here was even further in the past, back in 2010’s Taste of Chaos Tour. As for the third band of the night, I’m not even sure that Chevelle has ever played in Helsinki before. As a result, A7x’s The Stage Tour on March 7th, 2017, promised to be an interesting night, particularly considering I’ve never seen any of these bands before.

Listen along with the set here:

 

Chevelle is a band that honestly doesn’t do much to interest me. I don’t dislike their sound per se, but their music tends to fall a bit on the slow side and as a result, I consider it more background music than something I’d want to listen to actively. I’m only familiar with the band in passing, as an old friend used to like performing “Vitamin R (Leading us Along)” at karaoke. I showed up to the venue midway through their set as well, unfortunately missing most of their songs, and as a result, I honestly don’t have a great deal to say. An arena stage was pretty large for a band of three, especially considering their stage presence was quite minimalistic, without a great deal of movement. They performed their songs with clean precision though, and I can imagine fans of their music would have been satisfied to have seen them and would have perhaps liked a longer set in a more intimate environment .

Chevelle’s setlist:
1. Another Know-It-All
2. The Clincher
3. An Island
4. Joyride (Omen)
5. Door to Door Cannibals
6. Face to the Floor

 

Disturbed was set to take the stage at 19:45. These guys have really grown on me over the years, as I was one of those teenage snobs who couldn’t admit to liking American numetal until I grew up a bit, but I’ve learned to appreciate David Draiman’s unique vocals in my 20s and their upbeat, catchy sound in my later years. I’ve heard rumor, however, that Disturbed doesn’t actually put on a very good show, which I found hard to imagine considering how good their music can be.

Their show started more or less right on time, with a couple of spotlights on Dan Donegan (guitar) who soloed while the others came on stage, followed shortly by some proper rockstar flames. Meanwhile, the venue had filled up so quickly that I felt like I had blinked and missed it. Five minutes before their set it was still half full, and 2 minutes into the first song and it was packed!

Immediately I had a suspicion regarding why these guys are not considered great performance artists. As they played “Immortalized”, the crowd got their hands up and clapping, but considering the good energy their music has, their stage presence is somewhat subdued. John Moyer (bass) has a certain flare in the way he plays and isn’t afraid to jump, but the band doesn’t quite keep up with their own energy, wandering the stage casually, and in any headbang-worthy moments, the band was bobbing their heads, maybe even doing so with some fervor, but certainly not headbanging or rocking out like most heavy bands might. I appreciate Donegan’s moments of connection with people in the crowd too.

Some lurking fog introduced “The Vengeful One”, and the song was accompanied by copious firebursts that put a grin on my face. How cool was it to see diagonal (and occasionally vertical) lines of flame shooting from two alternating spots on each side Mike Wengren’s drum kit!

“My brothers and sisters, my blood… SPEAK TO ME!” Drainman shouted, and asked the crowd to put their hands up, and the crowd readily obeyed as they set into “Prayer”, which is maybe not one of the songs I was most longing to hear. Meanwhile, it was a shame that the low end of the vocals on “Liberate” were nearly impossible to hear. This went into “Stupify”, and it was fun to hear such classics live after all these years too, even if I’ve gotten a bit sick of it over the years; this song was a bit… squawky live.

An eerie intro played and Draiman instructed the crowd to hold up their cells for their cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence”, a song I had been really excited for. Seriously, Draiman’s voice in this song. Wow. This is one of those covers that the new artist has truly taken and made even better! As well, the band went full acoustic and brought some guests on stage – I couldn’t see them all but there was at least one violinist and cellist, and Wengren’s percussion (kettle drums, I think?) were pure chilling bliss. By the end I was covered head-to-toe in goosebumps. Huge props for not using backing tracks and performing it all live and acoustically!

“How the hell are you? That’s a joke you probably didn’t get,” Draiman said, addressing the crowd directly at last after a whopping nine songs. Also, I got the joke – it’s a play on Helsinki. “Can we talk? The members of Disturbed humbly request a moment of audience participation. In the next song, when I say the words, “the light”, hold up your cell phones. But only to those words.” He didn’t sound too convinced that the audience would participate, but the band went for it anyway, and of course he was referring to “The Light.” When the song hit “the light”, Drainman shouted, “beautiful” in an approving manner, and I’ll go ahead and agree – this is a newer song for me, and it was way more epic live with all those lights in the air. Then then roared straight into “Stricken”, another old classic.

Some soft sirens introduced what could only be “Indestructible”, another Disturbed must-have. This was accompanied by moving arcs of fire on either side of the drum kit, which both looked cool and was pretty unique. “This is the last time I’ll ask you tonight, but I’ll need to see it once more – let me see those hands!” Draiman shouted as the rather appropriate “Ten Thousand Fists” started. This was another rousing success crowd-wise, though again the deeper vocals were nearly unhearable. Of course, the last song had to come, and Draiman asked that the people in the stands get to their feet and that a huge circle pit form on the floor. It did – the 2 meter gap between the crowd and the sound booth vanished and I was instantly squashed by the people backing up to make room. The pit itself was brilliant – perhaps the best I’ve seen since Children of Bodom at Tuska last year. I longed to dive in, but alas my back prevented me, and I was crushed mentally (as opposed to physically, like I had wanted).

I have to say that I enjoyed the set quite a lot – the lights were top-tier, the band’s performance of the music was great, there was creative use of fire that I’ve never seen before (such as the appropriate long-burning flame pillars in “Inside the Fire”), and even if the energy wasn’t turned to a full 10, they played very well. The set was a bit hit-or-miss – the song “Hell” has been the wild card on this tour, with alternatives including “Another Way to Die”, “The Animal”, and “Remember”, and frankly, I’d have killed to hear “Another Way to Die”, which is one of my favorites. As well, I got the sense that Donegan and Moyer might want to run around a little more, but might be holding back a little to ensure a good performance. Overall though, I really thought it was a great show. Maybe not a 10/10 because the set had some flaws in it and the energy doesn’t match what some other bands are capable of, but I did get to hear all of the classics, with the only missing song being “Another Way to Die”, and I was really in a great mood by the time they left the stage.

Disturbed’s setlist:
Intro: The Eye of the Storm
1. Immortalized
2. The Game
3. The Vengeful One
4. Prayer
6. Liberate
7. Hell
8. Stupify
9. The Sound of Silence
10. Inside the Fire
11. The Light
12. Stricken
13. Indestructible
14. Ten Thousand Fists
15. Down with the Sickness

 

I can’t honestly say that I’m a huge fan of A7x. M. Shadows’ voice is hit or miss with me and can annoy me if I’m in the wrong mood. While The Stage (2016) was decent and I applaud their choice of subject for their first attempt at a concept album, I was truly unimpressed, to the point of active irritation, with the song “Exist”, as they had the bad timing of following in the conceptual footsteps of Nightwish’s “Greatest Show on Earth” (the near-24-minute epic finale from Endless Forms Most Beautiful, 2015) and comparatively speaking, “Exist” doesn’t begin to touch on the depth and span and beauty of Nightwish’s song, so it feels like a cheap knock-off. Perhaps if their song had come first I may have liked it, but as it stands… quite the opposite.

It was nice that Disturbed was able to get a decent set in, with A7x meant to start at 21:00. However, when Disturbed left the stage at 20:51, I assumed we were going to be in for a long delay; imagine my surprise then when A7x started a paltry 8 or so minutes late! During that time, an eye appeared with the The Stage version of the universe skullbat appeared in a skull or a mask that moved back and forth, watching the crowd from the two screens on the sides of the stage. Just before the show started, I realized that there was now a large cube above center stage, with a few slender screens on each side between it and the larger side screens – these had appeared without my notice somehow. As the intro played, The Stage‘s universe imagery appeared, swirling with bolts of lightning.

As the band took the stage to “The Stage” (pun not intended), the music video (a marionette show of covering a bit of the world’s history) began playing on the screens. The crowd’s anticipation was electric, with lighters and cell phones already going up within the first few minutes of the show. I honestly can’t say that I liked the video, even if it was cool that they played it – with the screens above the band and not behind them, they distracted too much from the performance and while I tried to focus on the band (which was more interesting), the screens kept drawing my eyes away, and it began to annoy me. Synyster Gates did play a cool plucky guitar outro (or possibly interlude) after the song concluded.

Things picked up a bit in “Afterlife” as the band was portrayed on the screens with the universe images replacing videos. These guys really brought the energy levels up after Chevelle and Disturbed too, making good use of the risers on the sides, as well as the catwalk. As well, I noted that I enjoyed Shadows’ voice a lot more in a live context, and the screams were fantastic. “It feels fucking good to be in Finland tonight!” Shadows shouted to the crowd. “Are you guys doing okay? This is supposed to be the greatest city in the world for heavy metal, right? We tried to play “Nightmare” here once and everybody left the building. Then they made us stop. They said, ‘Maybe someday you’ll be a decent band, but tonight you should go home,'” he joked. “This song is for our friends in Finland, to the kings of heavy metal!” Of course, this meant that it was time to play “Hail to the King” and Shadows asked the crowd to scream so loud that Gates wouldn’t be able to hear himself and we’d fuck up his performance.

There was no breather before the heavy intro to “Paradigm” began, with images of the evolution of man moving across the slimmer screens – a creative use of them that I appreciated. Gates had another guitar interlude after this under a blue spotlight, before they played the slower “Buried Alive”, which featured a quaking crowd singalong and a ton of cell phones in the air.

UFO-type lights began to appear from the bottom of the screen cube over the drum kit as some red planets appeared. The cube began to move toward the crowd to the end of the catwalk, and Shadows came out to the end to lean on the mic (in a very Mikko Kotamäki [Swallow the Sun] manner) as he sang “Angels” under a yellow spotlight. Of course, they really had to kick things into overdrive for “Nightmare” – I don’t think anyone left the arena this time, considering how loudly the crowd screamed, “It’s your fucking nightmare!” At this point in the night, I began to appreciate how often these guys have solos in their music – say what you will about them, but they do at least have that aspect of heavy metal covered. I also appreciate that their guitars always sound distinctly like A7x and no one else.

“Nightmare” was followed by a drum solo by the band’s latest addition, Brooks Wackerman, giving him a moment to show his stuff as the new guy in town. This was followed by “God Damn”, which was a bit odd in that it ended, there was silence, and then this was followed by a short drum fill. I’m not entirely sure why the drum fill was necessary, as the moment was rather weird.

“I love Finland,” Shadows continued. “Everyone here is so nice.” Someone from the crowd shouted something, which initiated a short conversation that most people could only hear one side of: “You’re not? You look nice. Are you nice? Oh, okay. Fuck you guys.” There was some laughter from the crowd, before he announced that there were many more songs to come, and the next was called “Almost Easy.” Shadows had a huge grin on his face as he got the crowd to sing parts of the chorus for him, while Zacky Vengeance (guitar) and Johnny Christ (bass) had a ‘conversation’ with each other as they played.

“Warmness on the Soul” was played next, and it was nice to have an instrumental break in the set – live shows should do this more often. There were a few people ‘slow dancing’ in the crowd, so I think I wasn’t the only one who appreciated this nice little interlude. After the lights dimmed, the cube had moved forward again and something came out of the darkness – a big astronaut with lights in the helmet. This accompanied the last two songs of the main set, “Planets”, which I honestly thought was kind of lame, and “Acid Rain”, which I had mixed feelings about. On one hand, it’s very dramatic and feels very final, which is appropriate. On the other hand, it’s quite ballad-esque, which makes it rather a slow way to end things, and I always prefer to have a high energy song at the end of both the encore and main set.

The astronaut receded back into the darkness and the band waited a good long couple of minutes while the arena cheered for them, before announcing their return to the stage with the opening riffs from “Bat Country.” “Do you want some more?” Shadows screamed. “I need you to prove to me that you have the energy to take some more!” Naturally, the crowd obliged. This was an overall nice performance of a classic, but I wasn’t sure if he was wimping out on some of the earlier high notes, or if the sound was just a bit quiet and I couldn’t hear them.

“I’ve just noticed that this is the best looking crowd we’ve ever played for. I’ve never said that before and it feels kind of strange,” Shadows said, laughing a bit at himself. “We’re going to play a love song. It’s about love. And murder. And necrophilia. Raise your hand if you know what necrophilia is! Okay, now scream for me if you like necrophilia!” I was a bit surprised by how many people took that bait. Of course, this was all introducing “A Little Piece of Heaven”, which I might’ve enjoyed when I was a teenager for its shock value, but at this point I’ll just say that I’ve outgrown that aspect of Avenged Sevenfold’s music (I kind of think they have too, but they have to keep playing it because it’s a hit). Of course, again the music video played on the screen. The night then ended with another massive pit for “Unholy Confessions”, and the band said goodnight.

 

So, overall, it was a pretty good show. The set was sort of divided awkwardly between new and old. In a way that might be good – both groups got a near equal number of songs, but the phantom at least claimed that there weren’t enough old songs for the old fans to be satisfied, nor enough new songs for the new fans, and perhaps they should’ve picked one group to focus on. However, since this is an album tour, I suspect that group would’ve clearly been the newer progressive fans. As well, none of the best new songs were played; at least in my opinion, “Creating God” should have been in the set. The performance was excellent though, with solid playing/vocals and great energy. I know a lot of people aren’t big on this band, but if you are, you’ll probably want to check them out at least once. I can say that I’ve seen them. Who knows, I might even consider going again someday.

Avenged Sevenfold’s setlist:
1. The Stage
2. Afterlife
3. Hail to the King
4. Paradigm
5. Buried Alive
6. Angels
7. Nightmare
8. God Damn
9. Almost Easy
10. Warmness on the Soul
11. Planets
12. Acid Rain

Encore:
13. Bat Country
14. A Little Piece of Heaven
15. Unholy Confessions

WOLFHEART w/ MAGENTA HARVEST & THE HYPOTHESIS @ Virgin Oil Co., Helsinki, 04.03.2017

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Wolfheart’s sophomore album’s release show at Virgin Oil Co., with Magenta Harvest and The Hypothesis, 2017.
Photos by Tom Benjamin.

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Miikka Virtapuro (Valkeat), 2017

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Photo by Petri Anttila

If you’re looking for a little something different in your folk music, you might turn your eyes toward Valkeat, a young Finnish band who has built a unique sound around the traditional Finnish kantele. With diverse and interesting lyrics, and wonderful music combined with lighter vocals, these young Finns have the potential to turn a new page in the folk scene. This week we have vocalist Miikka Virtapuro’s playlist for you!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
I really have to dig deep here… the first memories I have of a band are Frööbelin Palikat, a Finnish children’s music band. I had their VHS tape and was rocking my ass off back then in front of a TV; “Sutsisatsi” was the first song that came to mind.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
First one I really got obsessed with was “Walking in the Air” by Nightwish. That one really made me feel something music had never made me feel before.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Ensiferum – “Old Man.” With that song I discovered folk metal and there was no turning back. Seems like things have really gone full circle, now that we are rocking the electric kantele. Wow, I actually have never thought about this before…

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
Nightwish, Stratovarius, and Sonata Arctica got me into metal music. After that, Ensiferum, Wintersun, and Moonsorrow got me into folk metal.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
Alcest – “Souvenirs D’Un Autre Monde.” God, that’s one insanely beautiful song!

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
I don’t have any; if I like it I listen to it. As a teenager I was a guy only listening to metal and film soundtracks, but nowadays I also enjoy lots of different genres, like synthwave or pop punk, for example.
We shouldn’t limit ourselves to just one genre of music, especially as musicians. We become really one-dimensional and copycat-like if we don’t draw from other genres.

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Ensiferum’s 10th Anniversary Live DVD! I still remember going to buy it at Finnish shopping center Sello in Leppävaara!

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
“Fjara” by Sólstafir.

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Kvelertak – “Kvelertak.” One does not simply listen to that song with a low volume.

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Moonsorrow – “Matkan lopussa” or “Hammerheart” by Bathory, I’d think. A friend of mine passed away recently, and those were the songs that helped me cope with all the emotions.

 

Check out the video for “Aallot” here:

FEMMAGAALA @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 03.03.2017

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Femma-gaala 2017, featuring Mara Balls, Töölön Ketterä, and Teksti-TV 666, at Nosturi, Helsinki.
Photos by Tom Benjamin.