Connoisseur’s Corner

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

 

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

Examples: Children of Bodom; Karhu

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

Examples: HIM; Smirnoff Ice

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

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

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

Examples: Stratovarius, Sonata Arctica; Jose Cuervo, 1800

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

Examples: Batushka; Highland Park

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

Examples: Whispered, Turisas; The Kraken, Captain Morgan

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

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

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

Examples: Within Temptation, Arch Enemy; Hendricks, Napue

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

Examples: Ember Falls; Long Island Iced Tea

 

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

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

SVARTFEST II – Klubi, Tampere 06.01.2018

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Photos: Lene L.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Kuvat: Lene L.

HIM @ Rytmikorjaamo, Seinäjoki, 29.12.2017

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

TallennaTallenna

HARDCOREHARTAUS – Lucky Monkeys, Lappeenranta, 22.12.2017

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New experiences can be fun, which is why breaking out of your comfort zone every now and again is a necessary evil. Thus, Musicalypse checked out the Hardcorehartaus event featuring Primal Spirit, Watch Your Back, and Scold LPR at Lucky Monkey’s, Lappeenranta, on December 22th.

Primal Spirit is a Russian hardcore band. This was the extent of my knowledge of them when I decided to go see them. Not at all familiar with the genre or the performers, enlargement of comfort zones was inevitable and most welcome. Settling in with a pair of friends in the downstairs of Lucky Monkeys, we waited for the bands to start playing for approximately 1½ hours, since there was no showtime available anywhere.

 

The first of the evening was Scold LPR, a local quartet founded in 2014 (according to their Bandcamp page) that sells their wares at the reasonable price of 666€, was as good as the space allowed them to be. Listening to the music after the fact, it’s pretty clear that they did the right choice by playing at eleven, rather than balancing out their act. The drumwork was awesome to watch and there was an audible feeling of genius every now and again. The drummer almost put on a solo performance, since a lot of the music and singing got drowned in noise. Regardless of that, the cellar was steadily getting more crowded, and a small mass of people was starting to gather.

 

Watch Your Back was the next home-brew in the line-up (founded in 2007) that really amped up the hardcore. Their live performance was much more energetic and rehearsed, their bassist jump-stomping with perfect timing to punctuate segments of their songs. Their idea of a moderate tempo was probably around 280 beats per minute, and it was glorious. There were zero questions about what kind of music these guys played, and they played it well. 110% pure hardcore and 0% messing around, this small-time band from Espoo showed what hardcore is about, and that was playing loud, having fun, and kicking some all the asses.

 

The meat of the evening, Primal Spirit from St. Petersburg, Russia, had its stage set and all warmed up. There were maybe 40-50 people in the downstairs portion of the bar, which was about as many as could fit comfortably, so the atmosphere was pretty dense. The very first thing I noticed was the extremely good sound of the bass drum, which was way clearer and snappier than before. The second thing was that the overall sound of the band was extremely good, transcending the mushed mixing and acoustic limitations of the bar, so their soundcheck had clearly been on point. Some half-assed criticism needs to be given to the vocals, since those weren’t audible some of the time (probably due to the mixing), but that is easily forgivable. Halfway through their set, I noticed my head subconsciously bobbing up and down, since the music was aggressively catchy and the performance mesmerizing. One wouldn’t think you could make a convincing mosh pit out of half a dozen individuals, but Primal Spirit somehow managed to pull it off with the extremely limited space and the small number of participants. No encouragement was asked for, nor was it necessary, as their music spoke louder than words could have. These guys deserve a bigger stage, a larger audience, and a chance to record an album with their brand of hardcore. If this band graces us with another gig, I’ll definitely be there to check them out again. They just played well, they played loud, and they had a lot of energy on stage.

 

Being numb to the ‘shock’ of aggressive and loud music, it is sometimes hard to get into the groove of some gigs. Repetitive, rough riffs and deafening drums sound like an ideal way to wake someone up from torpor, but to a long-time listener of metal such as myself, it seems boring if done ad nauseam. The three groups present at this gathering were all individually good enough to jolt me awake, but Primal Spirit most out of all of them. My companions on this venture (not into metal, or -core at all) also said that everything exceeded their expectations and they managed to actually enjoy themselves. That is worth high praise, and I’ll definitely check these guys out once they return.

2017 in Metal

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

METALORGY XMAS – Nosturi, Helsinki, 16.12.2017

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MetalOrgy was first organized back in 2008, when the vocalist from Fear of Domination (now also second vocalist of Turmion Kätilöt) Saku Solin, along with his bandmates, wanted the chance to play on a big stage. He took a risk which paid off hugely and gave birth to a yearly occurrence in the Finnish metal scene – namely this one – with this year’s participants being Turmion Kätilöt, Fear of Domination, Ruoska, and King Satan.

 

Industrial metal has been popular for some years now, but personally I’ve never gotten that into it. I remember the huge boom of Rammstein’s popularity during the 2000’s and with that popularity came the imitators. Some of those bands have probably played for as long as Rammstein, but the boon to industrial metal’s popularity that they brought cannot be understated.

 

The first of the evening was a relative unknown for me, King Satan. Some buzz has been about them for some months, yet this buzz being on the internet, it was always either the best thing or the worst thing that ever existed. The conclusion for this buzz was an echoing ‘ehhhhh’, since it was decent, but nothing special. Industrial metal with strong beats and catchy synths, alongside a rough vocalist and an extremely energetic performance by their keyboardist/vocalist Katherine “Kate” Boss, who was easily the most active part of their performance. The amount of space on stage was extremely small, due to the number of drum kits on stage (there were four, if I counted right), so drummer Sir Changa McKenna was forced to play sideways. Playing sideways was pretty fun to watch, since it made it easier to follow his footwork and cymbal craft. The buzz about King Satan was kind of a letdown, but they played solid industrial and they only have their debut album out, so I expect to see them again in the upcoming years.

 

Next up was Ruoska, an old classic act from Juva, Eastern Finland, which until now had been on hiatus for almost a decade. Being the blast from the past as they were, a lot of nostalgia was present for their time on stage and the band’s word of the day was ‘machismo’. Donning sleeveless leather vests, the band was 110% ready to man out on stage. The frontman/vocalist Patrik Mennander didn’t seem to have the greatest condition on stage, but since this was a gig after a long hiatus, it is very understandable. Rocking out with old classics like “Veriura” (from their 2005 album Radium) and “Alasin” from Amortem (2006), Ruoska showcased to all the youngsters what it was like to pioneer during the 00s. The machismo in their show manifested by showing who’s boss to their water bottles. Emptying the contents on his head, spraying it on the audience, and finally throwing the water bottle into the mass, there was a certain confusion I felt regarding what water bottles had done to him in the past. I counted seven bottles that were ritually spilled of their contents and discarded afterwards, like some extremely low-key black metal shock show. Ruoska was definitely full of nostalgia, but the overbearing testosterone wasn’t to my liking.

 

Following that were the MetalOrgy founders, Fear of Domination, who recently (and not so recently) have undergone some additions to their line-up. First was Sara Strömmer for second vocalist, and during the evening they made official their addition of a secondary percussionist, Miikki Kunttu.

At this point, being veterans of the scene, FoD has a pretty good idea on how to occupy the stage, even with such an unwieldy number of members one stage. Donning their usual UV face paint, this shock metal troupe delivered a faster-paced experience than their predecessors. Strömmer at least seemed to be having a blast on stage and Solin’s microphone seemed to be having issues at some points during their slot (maybe he was saving up his voice for the Kätilöt show after this one), but he remained active and mobile despite all that. Wearing kilts, the vocalist duo dominated the stage and seemed to enjoy doing that. Also being one of the few bands that utilize a keytarist, FoD is instantly promoted two tiers higher than their music would let them. Their occasional effective use of ambience also does wonders for the depth of their sound. Personally I’m unconvinced about the addition of a second drummer – stage-diving expert though he is said to be – but it remains to be seen what the band can do with such a line-up. Our paths will inevitably cross again, so I’ll be keeping a close eye on them in any case.

 

The one to close out the evening was Turmion Kätilöt, a long-running industrial giant and fan-favorite among domestic fans of the genre. They too had their share of line-up changes (recent and comparatively ancient), firstly where their guitarist had emergency surgery and was replaced by Joonas Pulkkinen from Black Light Discipline, adapting the stage name of JonAss for the occasion. Secondly, Spellgoth leaving the band earlier this year, replaced by the aforementioned Saku Solin (stage-named Shag-U), but that is all old news at this point in time. Impressions about the band being still the same as ever, it is a relief to hear that Shag-U’s voice and presence on stage at least don’t make the band any worse. There isn’t a whole lot to say about TK’s live performance, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Being the crowd-pleasers that they are, they’ve adopted a very laid-back attitude towards their speeches in their intervals, often joking around with double entendres… some subtle, others not so much. Having a ton of hit songs as well, Kätilöt didn’t waste much of their set with filler songs.

 

In conclusion, MetalOrgy is a fine few-stop tour for kindling love for the industrial scene. If not for the bands, then at least the fandom. I had quite a few pleasant conversations with people attending the festival and having fun with friends is always a worthy investment of time. Personally I feel that, at this point, the boom of industrial metal has come and gone a long time ago, so the only thing to be done is that the music has to reinvent itself or get together as a more tightly-knit community. From what I’m seeing, the community option has been taken and I enjoy seeing that. Next up is the formation of a township whose chief exports are metal and industry.

Photos: Janne Puronen

METALORGY XMAS @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 16.12.2017

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MetalOrgy Xmas at Nosturi, Helsinki, 2017.
Photos by Janne Puronen.

Staff Picks 2017

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Another year has passed and we’ve been around, listening to new albums and checking out the live bands. But hibernation time is approaching once more, as the holidays are here and the shows cease to a temporary halt.

For the second year now, we want to leave you with a playlist of our staff favorite songs from the new albums – one song per album per staff member (so if you hear a few songs from the same album, you know it’ll be worth listening to).

Don’t forget to keep an eye open for our final blog of the year on December 31st – our 2017 Awards. You can read the past reports here: 201620152014

After that, we’ll see you next year when gig season starts up once more!

Happy holidays and have a great new year!

-Musicalypse

ELUVEITIE w/ Silent Circus – Nosturi, Helsinki 15.12.2017

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Eluveitie released their latest album, Evocation II: Pantheon, in mid-to-late 2017 and have been on tour ever since. They graced Finland with two stops – the first one being in Jyväskylä – and we checked out the latter gig at Nosturi, Helsinki, on the 15th of December.

Check out the full gallery HERE!

 

Eluveitie has been a favorite with a lot of festivals and festival-goers – including those in Finland – but I’ve never had the inclination to catch a full gig before this one, since in the past my knowledge and interest towards folk metal has never been very high, but since the discovery of bands such as Nine Treasures and Tengger Cavalry, it has been fully piqued.

 

Due to some scheduling conflicts, I arrived a bit late after the warm-up act had already started, but still managed to catch around two thirds of the set. Silent Circus was an interesting choice for opener, since at a glance it holds none of what makes Eluveitie popular. It sounds very trendy with an extremely contemporary sound and production. Technically the band was perfect: their mixing was superb with nothing too loud or too low, mid-song rises of bass used to punctuate particular segments, and the microphone technique used by their lead vocalist, Peter Haller, was absolutely fantastic, yet there was nothing particularly exciting or interesting going on. By emphasizing technical perfection over ambience and – for lack of a better word – soul, it felt like they lost something on stage. Listening to their albums after their set seems to confirm that particular gut feeling. Somehow everything was only skin-deep, from the way the smoke was deployed to how they tried to organize a wall of death, which was comically undersized due to a lack of enthusiasm in the audience. Silent Circus all-in-all feels like one of those bands that some corporate suit wants to make money out of; putting together a group of individuals based on their CVs and hoping for an acceptable return of investment; this particular gut feeling, however, I’d like to be wrong about.

 

Eluveitie, on the other hand, managed to pull in one hell of a crowd that was visibly/audibly more into this particular nonet. It would seem hard to fit nine people on stage with a billion different instruments, but with rehearsed ease everyone fit into their spot on stage. Starting off with “Your Gaulish War” from Spirit (2006), this juggernaut of folk metal was underway. Instantly noticeable was the much rougher sound, probably because balancing nine performers and a whole lot of instruments is nigh-on impossible. Comparatively more unpolished than their predecessor, but transcending mere technicalities, Eluveitie’s music was more of a delight to listen to. Ambience being the word of the day, Eluveitie could surely use some. The lack of smoke and atmosphere during “Artio” (from Evocation II) was profoundly mystifying, and the atrociously tone-deaf light show didn’t help matters much. These secondary annoyances aside, there really wasn’t much to complain about the show. The music was uniquely their own and the performers entertaining, all of those weird traditional instruments playing their tunes and the venue easily on-board with little to no encouragement from the band itself.

 

In conclusion, I’m having a hell of a time trying to think of things to say about Eluveitie. It’s definitely not my type of music, but I cannot deny that their live sets are damn good. The secondary and tertiary issue nitpicks aside, they are extremely solid live performers with an interesting historical niche theme. My final and pettiest nitpick of the evening is the point where frontman Chrigel Glanzmann called “Epona” (again from Evocation II) a pagan gospel. Gospel – according to Dictionary.com – is the teachings of Jesus and the apostles, thus being fundamentally incompatible with paganism. You’ll have to figure out another, more kickass word for pagan sermons, Mr. Glanzmann.

Setlist:
1. Your Gaulish War
2. King
3. Nil
4. Omnos
5. Neverland
6. Lvgvs
7. Catvrix
8. Artio
9. Epona
10. Thousandfold
11. The Call of the Mountains
12. A Rose for Epona
13. Kingdom Come Undone
14. Tegernakô
15. Alesia
(Drum Solo)
16. Havoc
17. Helvetios

Encore:
18. Inis Mona

Photos: Janne Puronen

ELUVEITIE w/ SILENT CIRCUS @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 15.12.2017

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Eluveitie with Silent Circus at Nosturi, Helsinki, 2017.
Photos by Janne Puronen.
Gig report HERE!

RASKASTA JOULUA @ Hartwall Areena, Helsinki, 09.12.2017

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The annual Raskasta Joulua [Heavy Christmas] show at Hartwall Areena, Helsinki, 2017.
Photos by Jana Blomqvist.

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Janne Ollikainen (Invisible Enemy, Random Fly, Acore), 2017

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You may not be familiar with Janne Ollikainen, but he plays drums in as many as 3 different bands: progressive power/thrash metal posse Invisible Enemy (who released their debut album, Diversity, in August), heavy rock group Random Fly, and the female-fronted act aCore. Without further ado, let’s give the man the opportunity to talk about his picks for Playlist of My Life:

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
Really hard to remember any particular song. It must have been some lullaby song that my mother’s been singing… or then something from Agents or Rauli Badding Somerjoki which my father used to listen a lot.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
Propably the original Pokémon theme song! Oh, the nostalgia…

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Children of Bodom – “Bodom Beach Terror”. I started playing drums in high school and I remember listening to this song and wondering if I could ever learn to play it.

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
Rammstein – “Feuer Frei”. I was a 12-year old kid when my friend borrowed me their album Mutter and told about that song, so I immediately checked it out first. That totally hit me! And it still does…

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
Beast in Black – “Blind and Frozen”.

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Not really sure, what’s count as a ”guilty pleasure song,” because I listen to so many different kinds of music.

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Nightwish – Once was the first album that I got really excited about. I remember standing in a record store and trying to choose between NW’s Once and and Guns N’ Roses’ Greatest Hits.

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Sugizo – “Synchronicity”.

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
While driving I listen to tons of music from side to side. When the volume starts to turn up it’s most likely because of something straightforward, melodic, maybe with some 80’s vibes in it. Just to mention one: Brother Firetribe – “Heart Full of Fire”.

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Kamelot – “House on a Hill”, X Japan – “Art of Life”, Nightwish – “Dead Boy’s Poem”.

 

Watch the music video for “Worthless Heart” by Invisible Enemy here:

Or listen to the Diversity album on Spotify:

Random Fly’s Scum EP can be heard here:

Photo: Invisible Enemy promotional photos 2017

SWALLOW THE SUN: Hope 10th Anniversary Tour w/ RED MOON ARCHITECT & SLEEP OF MONSTERS – Lutakko, Jyväskylä, 24.11.2017

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The Finnish giants of death/doom, Swallow the Sun, took their 2007 gem Hope on the road in the bleak November to celebrate the album’s first full decade with Finnish audiences. As they were skipping Tampere and Helsinki, and touring a handful of smaller towns along with Turku and Oulu, Lene L. made the trip to the band’s hometown of Jyväskylä with high expectations and suitable excitement.

So, first things first, Hope is – more or less – my all-time favourite Swallow the Sun album. New Moon tried to rival it for a while, and I have a soft spot for the first two albums, but Hope is a piece of work I connected with in an instant. I didn’t even have a clear reason for picking it as a favorite during this decade I’ve spent with it, so as much of a gig report, this is also a chance to reflect on why I’m still so fond of Hope. And as StS are usually at their best in a club environment, this time also with a hometown advantage on their side, I wouldn’t expect anything less than a memorable show.

 

Speaking of chances, a Friday evening in Jyväskylä offered one for checking out bands I was familiar with by name alone. In Red Moon Architect’s case I had a vague idea of what to expect, though, and at 20:30 (sharp) the band climbed on stage and proved my idea just about right. Playing an atmospheric brand of death/doom, they seem to take it easy with the genre’s characteristics, and while they didn’t offer anything radically new, I made a mental note to look them up, for a few reasons. Where Ville Rutanen’s growls fit the style like a glove, Anni Viljanen’s clean vocals left me curious from time to time – her voice is quite an interesting one for the genre, judging by one show alone, almost not fitting because of something I can’t really put my finger on. It might have something to do with the thoughts I had during the song she handled the vocal duties alone; she can sound powerful, almost commanding at times, but it’s almost like she’s trying to cover that up with a more delicate air. The latter would, admittedly, fit along nicely with the genre’s standards, but personally I’d prefer the former. All-in-all, especially with the nicely haunting ending of “Betrayed” and the last song, “Rising Tide”, as a whole, I liked what Red Moon Architect had going on and likely will sneak a look at them again on some later occasion.

 

Next up we were in for a surprise, as Sleep of Monsters wasn’t exactly what we had expected based on the two other bands: instead of another dose of doom aesthetics, we got a set of good ol’ rock ’n’ roll laced with a hefty handful of Goth. I was immediately caught by the lead singer’s voice, which sounded oddly familiar – it reminded me of someone, and I just couldn’t figure out who exactly. Eventually, I was so bothered by the familiarity that I had to google the band, and lo and behold, the singer is none other than Ike Vil of Babylon Whores! Now that this was solved, I could really focus on the music – they were a refreshing choice in between the death/doom acts and worked as a nice pick-me-up. They were entertaining and fun, but not too cheery to ruin the mood, staying true to their self-defined genre labels of Victorian post-punk and adult occult rock. Definitely another band to look up later – I thoroughly enjoyed their Goth extravaganza. Fans of Ghost might also find this one appealing; at least I found some similar kind of vibes in Sleep of Monsters’ repertoire, but then again I’m no expert in things regarding Ghost.

 

The anticipated stirring started right around the moment the curtains were drawn in front of the stage for the set change, and when 15ish minutes later, the DJ’s choice of the moment faded out into Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ “Push the Sky Away” (a fine pick for an intro, I might add), the stage front was delightfully packed. I won’t lie, it was quite a kid-on-a-Christmas-morning kind of moment, and by the time “Hope” reached its first chorus, at latest, it was clear this was going to be a good night.

Now, I’ve rarely been to these anniversary – or any other kind of – shows where a certain album is played in total, and I’m not certain if I even should do that more often, since now each time has been special in more ways than one. Much like Insomnium’s Winter’s Gate, Hope is without a doubt one of those albums that deserves to be played in its entirety at least once – or a few times – during the band’s career. It’s a whole, seamless entity as much as the sum of its parts, without being a clear-cut concept album or needing to be one, and it wouldn’t really be a stretch to say that it’s one of the cornerstones in its niche in Finland. At the very least, it’s an important milestone on the band’s road.

But what really makes Hope such a significant piece in Swallow the Sun’s discography? I made a short round asking my friends who were at the anniversary show for their opinions on the matter, and it seems to be an album that particularly struck a chord on an emotional level and raised the bar on quality. I can easily agree on these points – it’s extremely expressive, and at least in my opinion, the album where Swallow the Sun found their sound. The elements on The Morning Never Came (2003) and Ghosts of Loss (2005) were combined with a sort of otherworldly poise and an exact, dynamic delivery. It’s a richly nuanced and mature work from a band that knows what it’s doing, to the point, and has only bettered its run after it.

The serene yet dynamic nature has translated itself seamlessly into live shows, as Swallow the Sun is still both fierce and poised on stage, doing what they do without additional accessories. It’s always impressive to see how such a minimalistic performance is still as expressive as the ones by more extroverted contemporaries – there always seems to be a lot of room for articulating their presence on stage (even one as small as Lutakko’s). Mikko Kotamäki rarely moves around, but the way he utters some lines will stick in your head to haunt you the next week – like how “I wait for your arrival” in “Too Cold for Tears” rolls out, or the harrowing pre-chorus in “Hope” while his bandmates raise a storm around him. Take a look at mastermind Juha Raivio, for example: his playing is quite literally punishing the guitar, and where he can accentuate a gesture, he will. And while the band’s performance normally won’t falter due to conditions, they do deserve an audience that’s up for more than just standing around and nodding along, and once again Lutakko showed its best sides in this. Both as an observer and a regular member of the audience, I’ve noticed that at StS shows the atmosphere is ruled by the crowd surprisingly much: the band will do their part, but if the audience doesn’t, it’s like missing the other participant in a discussion.

In any case, there’s no real need for extravaganza – you have your basic blue, red, and white lights with the occasional strobe and smoke, and not much talking aside from a simple thank you or song announcement now and then (even if this time there wasn’t much need for that before the encore). And it didn’t feel rushed, either, even though there weren’t many breaks between songs. But then again, Hope does clock at 57 minutes just on its own, so if you like your encores a little longer, it probably suits you just fine.

A lengthy encore is exactly what we got, kicking it off with “Rooms and Shadows” and adding fuel to the fire with “These Woods Breathe Evil.” After “Falling World” and still one more song from New Moon – the title track – me and my company jokingly wondered if they’d play the whole New Moon as well, just for the kicks, which we quite honestly wouldn’t have minded. And by the look of it, neither would the rest of the audience, so perhaps in a couple of years? (Hint, hint.) This time, however, we called it a night with “Deadly Nightshade” and “The Morning Never Came”, and I’m not the one to say no to old stuff and rarities.

 

As a whole, the evening was definitely worth the trip: two new bands to look up, and as predicted, a near-impeccable rendition of my all-time favorite Swallow the Sun album, with a generous and even – actually not joking here – lively encore as a cherry on top. The sound was great, and the band in their prime – on a related note, it’s nice to see Raivio back on stage with them. The last time I saw StS in a club environment the crowd left some room for improvement, but I have to cut some slack for the Tampere audience – Songs from the North was quite a massive thing to explore in a couple of short months, while the already familiar Hope offers quite a bunch of ‘bangers,’ as kids these days call them. But context aside, even if the Jyväskylä show might not fall into the category of ‘absolutely perfect,’ if I could change only one thing, I would’ve hoped for a sold-out show. That’s pretty much it.

Setlist:
1. Hope
2. These Hours of Despair
3. The Justice of Suffering
4. Don’t Fall Asleep (Horror Pt. 2)
5. Too Cold For Tears
6. The Empty Skies
7. No Light, No Hope
8. Doomed to Walk the Earth

Encore:
9. Rooms and Shadows
10. These Woods Breathe Evil
11. Falling World
12. New Moon
13. Deadly Nightshade
14. The Morning Never Came

SÓLSTAFIR w/ HELÉN & GRAVE PLEASURES @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 13.11.2017

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Sólstafir with Helén and Grave Pleasures at Tavastia, Helsinki, 2017.
Photos by Marco Manzi.
Gig report available HERE!

15 Songs About Finland, from Finland

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Finland is celebrating its first 100 years of independence on the 6th of December, 2017, and as most of our staff is either from or living in Finland right now, we decided to put together a list of songs that, to us, tell something about Finland. Whether they’re specifically about the country or just something that reminds us of some aspect of the people, nature, or whatever it may be, here’s a glimpse into what our Finland looks like in 15 songs.

 

Turisas – Täällä Pohjantähden alla

Starting with a pick from our editor-in-chief, here we have Turisas’ rendition of “Täällä Pohjantähden alla”, a song written by Petri Laaksonen with lyrics by Turkka Mali, which the battle metal troupe has covered now and then on stage. Here’s Amy’s view on the song: ”I’ve never been particularly interested in the Finnish anthem, and to me, that song is how I see Finland (my Finnish anthem, if you will), and this rendition is very powerful and shows a lot of local love from the band.”

 

Amorphis – My Kantele

Amorphis is, without a doubt, one of those pioneering Finnish metal bands that have paved the way for later generations and influenced the birth of the entire subgenre of folk metal. Since the 90s, Amorphis have brought the Finnish national epic, Kalevala, out to the world with their lyrics, but the ones in the song we picked are not from Kalevala, but its ”sister”, Kanteletar, which is a collection of Finnish folk poetry. ”My Kantele” specifically tells about the birth of the kantele (Finland’s national instrument), ”out of hard days” and ”endless woes.” Our wordsmith, Wille, had a story to share regarding the song: “A year ago I had a couple of exchange students over for an international dinner. After we’d finished eating, I played them a few Finnish songs on my acoustic guitar, and “My Kantele” was one of them. To me this song just embodies Finnishness so well, even though the lyrics are in English.”

 

Kiuas – The Spirit of Ukko

Our photographer Lene explains her pick: ”For most of my life, I’ve been fascinated (and somewhat amused) by stories of how stubborn Finns defied the new religion brought to them by Swedes from the west and went on with their old habits and gods after the crusaders had left – after washing away their baptism in a nearby lake. Somehow the old religion and its worship has survived until this day, in one form or another, and Kiuas brought their own modern and spirited flavor to the celebration of the old pantheon.”

 

The next three songs show the Finnish relationship with northern nature in three different ways – from the tranquil and beautiful to the grim and harsh. Finland is the first country in the world to have an official flag day for nature, and it’s been an endless source of inspiration to artists all across the board ever since the golden age of Finnish painters in late 19th century until today.

Swallow the Sun – Songs from the North

As our journalist Kalle put it, ”I can’t think of a band that reminds me of Finland better than StS.” There would be no shortage on what to showcase from them, but this acoustic piece from the album of the same name made the cut with its soothing verses and soaring, Finnish-sung choruses.

Eternal Tears of Sorrow – River Flows Frozen

Our photographer Janne picked “River Flows Frozen”, saying, ”I’ve always liked the song ever since I listened to it years ago when wandering in the woods during the winter.” That, more or less, sums up something essential about the Finnish relationship with nature.

Wintersun – Land of Snow and Sorrow

Editor-in-chief Amy talks about her other choice for the list: ”It seems very fueled by local thoughts and feelings, and while grim on the surface, reflects a lot of the beauty as well. Isn’t that a perfect way to describe Finland too?”

 

Sentenced – No One There, Excuse Me While I Kill Myself/Suicider

Finland is known for its traditionally long winters, which is a natural result of the country being located up in the north. One mental defense mechanism against the dark and cold is humor, which in Finland tends to be quite dry and sometimes dark. Sentenced tended to write about suicide and depression, and in some songs the grim and morbid humor was taken to its extreme – the most famous examples are “The Suicider” and “Excuse Me While I Kill Myself”, which the band played as a medley at their final show, which was captured on the live release Buried Alive (2006). “No One There”, on the other hand, represents the more serious and melancholy side of Sentenced, and the emotional music video featuring an old couple is worth watching for the feels.

 

Suamenlejjona – Keppana viimeinen

Moving from one typical kind of Finnish humor to another, Kalle picked a song by Suamenlejjona that reminds him of when he was growing up, and incidentally, reminds some of the rest of our staff of Nummirock. Kalle explains further: ”The whole band has this vibe of authenticity surrounding it, even though it is just a joke.” Combining the stereotypes of Finns’ love for hockey, beer, and metal, Suamenlejjona is loved both for and without irony.

 

Popeda – Kersantti Karoliina

Finland has been a progressive nation when it comes to gender equality: it was among the first to give women the right to vote and be candidates in parliamentary elections, and in 2000 Tarja Halonen became one of the first female presidents in the world. In the 1990s women were permitted to serve in the Finnish military, and Popeda wrote about the subject in the song “Kersantti Karoliina” (Sergeant Karoliina). While the tune is rather tongue-in-cheek, it reminds us of a turning point in Finnish society. Our photographer Miia reminisced on the topic as follows: “I used to say I’d serve in the army if women were allowed in there. After 2 years it was possible, but I didn’t go!”

 

Stam1na – Vapaa maa

Continuing with the contemporary themes, Miia also picked Stam1na’s “Vapaa maa” (Free Country). Stam1na has made their brand of modern, quirky, Finnish-sung metal into a phenomenon that reaches all kinds of audiences within Finland and has steadily made its way outside Finland as well. “Vapaa maa” is a good example of vocalist-guitarist Antti Hyyrynen’s skill of cooking up insightful, machine gun-paced lyrics with varying societal messages.

 

CMX – Discoinferno

The term “luova hulluus” (creative madness) is well-known in Finland and refers to thinking outside the box, sometimes quite radically so. This is certainly familiar to Finns, as demonstrated by the fact that the wife-carrying and mobile phone throwing world championships are held in our country. In the field of music a good example of this crazy creativity is the not-so-easily categorized band CMX with their eclectic range of influences. Their song “Discoinferno” combines industrial sounds, a guitar riff that consists of all the 12 notes in the chromatic scale played up and down, and a lyric written in the Kalevala meter, which is a form of trochaic tetrameter used in Finnish folk poetry and the eponymous national epic. Just listen if you don’t believe!

 

Sonata Arctica – Black Sheep

Finland has a rich tradition of literature, although not many writers besides Mika Waltari are famous abroad. Their influence, however, occasionally raises its head even in heavier music, an example of this being “Black Sheep” by Sonata Arctica, which is inspired by the novel The Howling Miller (1981) by Arto Paasilinna.

 

Timo Rautiainen & Trio Niskalaukaus – Lumessakahlaajat, Psychework – Bullet With My Name

Even though the independence had been gained over 20 years earlier, it was at stake for some time when most of Europe was in the middle of World War II and Finland fought the Winter War and the Continuation War against Soviet Union. While the common narrative on Finnish independence is quite heavily influenced by stories of war heroes and miraculous victories, some bands have told stories that step a little away from that glorified history – stories of refugees and close calls.

 

Mokoma – Sydänjuuret

Almost a cliché in a list like this, Mokoma’s “Sydänjuuret” from the 2010 album of the same name is essentially a song from and about Finland, sung in Finnish. It’s made its way into the hearts of fans with ease, and at Independence Day shows in particular the sing-alongs are quite something.

 

The Finlandia hymn

There is probably not a more proper way to wrap this list up than Jean Sibelius’ Finlandia hymn. Originally composed as part of a patriotic symphonic poem in a covert protest against increasing censorship from the Russian Empire and later worked into a stand-alone piece, it is one of the most important national songs in Finland. It’s also been covered by numerous Finnish bands, from Stone to Nightwish, and most recently by Frosttide. This rendition by the YL Male Voice Choir is one of the most loved versions, and with it, we wish the independent Finland many happy returns and peaceful centuries to come.

 

Text: Lene L. and Wille Karttunen

STEELCHAOS @ Nosturi, Helsinki 10-11.11.2017

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SteelChaos festival at Nosturi, Helsinki, 2017.
Photos by Marco Manzi.
Check out the gig report HERE!

(2017) DOOM SIDE OF THE MOON: Doom Side of the Moon (English)

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Artist: Doom Side of the Moon
Album: Doom Side of the Moon
Released: 08.12.2017
Label: Music Theories Recordings

 

One of the most iconic works in the canon of popular music, The Dark Side of the Moon (1973) by Pink Floyd has been covered in its entirety by other musicians in numerous styles, including reggae, a cappella, and bluegrass. The Sword guitarist Kyle Shutt is the latest musician to give a nod to the classic, in the form of a release called Doom Side of the Moon, which will see the light of day in Europe on the 8th of December. As the title implies, doom/stoner metal is the name of the game, and Shutt has assembled a lineup featuring his Sword bandmates Bryan Richie (bass) and Santiago Vela III (drums), as well as vocalist Alex Marrero, keyboardist Joe Cornetti, and saxophonist Jason Frey for the project. According to Shutt, the idea behind the album came to him while he was stoned and wanted to hear a metal version of “Time.” Could this be just another horrible brainfart conceived under the influence or a stroke of genius?

 

Reviewing a cover of an album you have a deep affinity for can be hard, as it’s easy to get protective and dislike every little change, but despite being a big fan of Pink Floyd’s classic 70s opuses, I went in with an open mind. Luckily the variety of Doom Side of the Moon is a positive surprise, as Shutt and co. don’t simply play the songs in a slower tempo and with more distortion. For example, “Breathe” is an acoustic piece here, and the transition from it into the noisy “On the Run” is remarkable. The saxophone and the retro vocal effects serve as a nice link to the original album, and the cowbell on the hard rocking rendition of “Money” is a nice touch.

Floyd’s music is popular among stoners, just like stoner rock and metal (duh!), so the genre change on the album isn’t a giant leap in that sense. On top of that, Roger Waters’ musings on war, greed, insanity, and the inevitability of death translate quite nicely into metal. This can be heard best in the industrialized “Brain Damage”, on which the demented, half-spoken vocal delivery reeks of Marilyn Manson and the theme of madness has been captured successfully. My favorite version is “Us and Them”, the verse arpeggios of which have been changed quite creatively, and the dynamics of the song have been amplified.

The album isn’t without its flaws, though: “Any Color You Like” [sic] is rather aimless, the abrupt ending of “The Great Gig in the Sky” pulls the rug out from under you and makes the version come across as unfinished, and the hockey organ in the middle of “Money” is pretty corny. Besides, the use of interview samples and sound effects was one of the things that made The Dark Side a revolutionary record in its day, but sadly none of them have been recreated on Doom Side, which makes some sections sound a little too bare-bones and vacant. These aren’t major dealbreakers though, and the flow of the music is almost as good as on the original, without too many unnecessary breaks.

 

Doom Side of the Moon is a well-done tribute to one of the greatest albums of all time: imaginative and different enough to justify its existence while managing to maintain the spirit of the original in a fascinating way. To be honest, I can’t see myself specifically reaching for it instead of the Floyd album, but I applaud Kyle Shutt for his effort and recommend the record to anyone who’s into this style of metal, even if they haven’t heard (gasp!) The Dark Side of the Moon before.

Rating: 8/10, 4 stars

Tracklist:
1. Speak to Me
2. Breathe (In the Air)
3. On the Run
4. Time
5. The Great Gig in the Sky
6. Money
7. Us and Them
8. Any Color You Like
9. Brain Damage
10. Eclipse

(2017) DOOM SIDE OF THE MOON: Doom Side of the Moon (suomeksi)

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Artisti: Doom Side of the Moon
Albumi: Doom Side of the Moon
Julkaisupäivä: 08.12.2017
Levy-yhtiö: Music Theories Recordings

 

Pink Floydin The Dark Side of the Moon (1973) on yhtenä populaarimusiikin kaanonin ikonisimmista teoksista ollut monenlaisessa cover-käsittelyssä – esimerkkityyleinä mainittakoon reggae, a cappella ja bluegrass. The Swordin kitaristi Kyle Shutt on viimeisin muusikko, joka on antanut hyväksyvän nyökkäyksensä albumille, julkaisemalla Doom Side of the Moonin, joka näkee päivänvalon Euroopassa 8. joulukuuta. Kuten otsikko antaa ymmärtää, doom/stoner metal on homman nimi, ja Shutt on koonnut projektia varten kokoonpanon, johon kuuluvat hänen Sword-bänditoveriensa Bryan Richien (basso) ja Santiago Vela III:n (rummut) lisäksi laulaja Alex Marrero, kosketinsoittaja Joe Cornetti ja saksofonisti Jason Frey. Shuttin mukaan hän sai idean levystä ollessaan pilvessä ja halutessaan kuulla metalliversion “Timesta”. Onko siis kyseessä vain yksi päihteiden vaikutuksesta syntynyt hirveä aivopieru vai neronleimaus?

 

Suuresti rakastamansa albumin cover-version arvosteleminen voi olla hankalaa, sillä on helppoa heittäytyä suojelevaiseksi ja inhota pienimpiäkin muutoksia, mutta Pink Floydin 70-luvun klassikoiden fanittamisestani huolimatta päätin kuunnella levyn avoimin mielin. Onneksi Doom Side of the Moonin vaihtelevuus on mieluisa yllätys, sillä Shutt ja kumppanit eivät tyydy vain soittamaan biisejä läpi hitaammalla tempolla ja lisäsäröllä. Esimerkiksi “Breathe” on tässä yhteydessä akustinen veto, ja siirtymä meluisaan “On the Runiin” on aikamoinen. Saksofoni ja retrohenkiset lauluefektit toimivat mukavana linkkinä alkuperäiseen albumiin, ja lehmänkello on hauska mauste kovalla kädellä rokkaavassa “Moneyssa”.

Floydin musiikki on suosittua pössyttelijöiden keskuudessa aivan kuten stoner rock ja -metal (yllätys yllätys!), joten albumin genreloikka ei ole tässä mielessä niin valtava harppaus. Lisäksi Roger Watersin mietteet sodasta, ahneudesta, mielisairaudesta ja kuoleman väistämättömyydestä soveltuvat oikein mukavasti metalliin. Tämä kuuluu parhaiten teollistuneessa “Brain Damagessa”, jolla vinksahtaneet, puoliksi puhutut lauluosuudet haiskahtavat Marilyn Mansonilta ja hulluuden teemasta on saatu kiinni onnistuneesti. Suosikkiversioni on “Us and Them”, jonka säkeistöjen arpeggioita on muutettu luovasti ja dynamiikkaa on vahvistettu.

Levyllä on kuitenkin heikkoutensa: “Any Color You Like” (sic) haahuilee päämäärättömästi, “The Great Gig in the Skyn” äkillinen loppu vetää maton jalkojen alta ja saa versioinnin vaikuttamaan keskeneräiseltä, ja “Moneyn” väliosan lätkäurut ovat melko kornit. Kaiken kukkuraksi haastattelupätkät ja ääniefektit, jotka osittain tekivät The Dark Sidesta vallankumouksellisen levyn aikanaan, loistavat poissaolollaan, eikä mitään niistä olla lähdetty tekemään uudestaan Doom Sidella, mikä tekee joistain osioista turhan riisutun ja onton kuuloisia. Levy ei kuitenkaan kaadu näihin seikkoihin, ja onneksi kappaleet soljuvat yhteen lähes yhtä saumattomasti kuin alkuperäisteoksessa, ilman turhia taukoja.

 

Doom Side of the Moon on hyvin toteutettu kunnianosoitus yhdelle kaikkien aikojen parhaista albumeista: riittävän mielikuvituksekas ja erilainen oikeuttaakseen olemassaolonsa, onnistuen kuitenkin samalla säilyttämään alkuperäislevyn hengen kiehtovalla tavalla. Rehellisesti sanottuna en usko koskaan haluavani kuunnella sitä erityisesti Floydin albumin sijaan, mutta nostan hattua Kyle Shuttille hänen vaivannäöstään ja suosittelen levyä jokaiselle, joka on tämäntyyppiseen metalliin päin kallellaan, vaikka The Dark Side of the Moonia ei syystä tai toisesta olisikaan kuullut.

 

Arvosana: 8/10, 4 tähteä

Kappalelista:
1. Speak to Me
2. Breathe (In the Air)
3. On the Run
4. Time
5. The Great Gig in the Sky
6. Money
7. Us and Them
8. Any Color You Like
9. Brain Damage
10. Eclipse

STRATOVARIUS – Tavastia, Helsinki, 24.11.2017

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2017 has been a slightly quiet time for Stratovarius, but towards the end of the year they did a five-stop mini-tour in Finland, and we were fortunate enough to catch the show at Tavastia, Helsinki, on November 24th. Due to a scheduling conflict, regular bassist Lauri Porra was unavailable to play on this occasion, so Jari Kainulainen, the band’s former bassist, filled Porra’s and his own shoes, which made the gig special in a way.

Growing up listening to Stratovarius, along with their similar contemporaries Sonata Arctica, Rhapsody, Iron Savior, and Gamma Ray, my love for cheese, fantasy, and sci-fi was never higher. A hugely nostalgic band from early teens and one of my personal first introductions to the world of metal – power or otherwise – Stratovarius was a must-see.

Check out the full gallery HERE!
Jam along to the setlist, with the exception of “Eternity” (the third song):

 

Apparently a lot of people had the same nostalgic pull as me, since Tavastia was surprisingly crowded for a band with no warm-up act and a somewhat underwhelming domestic reputation. I noticed many younger concert-goers as well, so it seems Stratovarius has already ensnared acquainted the next generation of metalheads, and if that’s the case, welcome victims friends. Balcony and beer – being the tried and true modus operandi – was the plan for the night and the ideal vantage point.

 

The intro kicked off around 21:30, the music being equally reminiscent of Hollywood orchestral soundtracks and Nightwish synthesizers, and the cheese was already palpable. Starting off with the somewhat typical ‘instrumentalists on stage, vocalist rushing onto the stage at the last second’ type of opening, “Forever Free” from their Visions (1997) album, was the opener and apparently the fear of no warm-up was unfounded. The crowd was already electrified and energetic during the first song and a lot of fists were raised. This was partly due to Timo Kotipelto and his vigorous performance: he was mounting the stage monitors, tossing the microphone between his hands, and overall being a fun performer to watch and listen to, except on the occasions when he was standing still at the mic stand. The presence of Kainulainen is not to be understated either, since he easily towered over his former bandmates and apparently was having a blast being under the spotlights again. There were some points during the set when the audio, either from Kotipelto’s or the mixing desk’s side, was too low and as such wasn’t heard in the audience (at least upstairs), but these minor technical difficulties aside, Stratovarius showed everyone their professionalism on stage.

Timo Kotipelto’s speeches were fun to listen to, being a combination of rehearsed showmanship and boyish charm. Teasing their replacement bassist about his Norwegianness and scolding fans trying to take a peek at the setlist, he seemed at home on stage and interacting with the crowd. Saving the crowd-pleasers for the latter half, the ensemble reminded everyone with “Speed of Light” from Episode why the Finnish word “tiluttelu” was first born, somewhat akin to the word “shredding”, but less serious. Let’s call it “tiluting.” Making eclairs without tools would probably be possible judging by the quickness of their playing. Quoting the frontman himself, the song, “was over before it kind of even began.” Unloading “The Kiss of Judas”, “Black Diamond”, and “Hunting High and Low” during their encore, like Roman emperors, the band judged the worthiness of the audience with a show of thumbs. The thumbs remained stubbornly horizontal though, so the audience were spared sentence for their efforts at least. The show thus over, it was time to head home and reflect on the evening.

 

Stratovarius, with their long career and impressive discography, is a line-up with heaps of experience, but still lacks that X factor. Functional, with hit songs to spare, but boring. In a scene where a certain sense of danger and rebellion should be ever-present, Stratovarius sadly lacks this. Though Kotipelto is a good leader for the band with charm and an apparent readiness for words and the rest of the band are masterful with their instruments, they however don’t possess that certain edge that gives metal its allure, the pull of something primal and sinister. Nonetheless, Stratovarius serves as an excellent jumping-off point for the wonderful soundscape of the metal scene, with its friendly rivalries and arguments on what constitutes which genre. Welcome neophytes, pick your poison.

Setlist:
1. Forever Free
2. Shine in the Dark
3. Eternity
4. My Eternal Dream
5. Distant Skies
6. Speed of Light
7. Season of Change
8. SOS
9. Against the Wind
10. Unbreakable

Encore:
11. The Kiss of Judas
12. Black Diamond
13. Hunting High and Low

Photos: Miia Collander

STRATOVARIUS @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 24.11.2017

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Stratovarius at Tavastia, Helsinki, 2017.
Photos by Miia Collander.
Gig report HERE!

SPARZANZA w/ DOOM UNIT @ Elmun Baari, Helsinki, 17.11.2017

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Sparzanza with Doom Unit, Elmun Baari, November 2017.
Photos by Miia Collander.

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Konsta Vehkala (Psychework, Psykoanalyysi, LOJOHH)

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Konsta Vehkala might not be the first name to pop up when thinking of Finnish drummers, but he certainly has his hands full with several bands and genres, from melodic metal outfit Psychework to hardcore punk troupe Psykoanalyysi, to alternative rock band LOJOHH and Gian and Scars of Solitude (as rhythm guitarist) in the past. Along with release of Psychework’s new single, “Siege”, we asked Konsta what the playlist of his life looks like:

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
Status Quo – “Going Downtown Tonight”

My dad has been a huge fan of Status Quo for as long as I can remember, so when I was a little child he played their songs to me all the time and from what I’ve heard, I loved this track the most. I guess he purposely ‘trained’ me to become a Quo fan too, because later I started to listen them more and I became sort of a fan as well. I don’t know if it was the trucks in the music video or that synth riff in the beginning why I liked the song.


2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
Rammstein – “Links 2-3-4”

It was this song that got me into Rammstein. I think I was 11 when I saw the music video of this song and the massive wall of guitars; the simple and effective drum beat and Till Lindemann’s low voice was something I had never heard before, and the video was awesome as well. I then asked my dad to find more songs by Rammstein for me. Then a few days later he gave me a CD-R full of Rammstein which was pretty much the best thing ever. I still remember the day when I walked to school after listening to the song for the first time with good speakers and loud volume – it felt like something had changed in me.

I can’t express enough how much Rammstein and especially the album Mutter has influenced me in pretty much everything I do and how much it has formed my taste in music!

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Skinny Puppy – “Worlock”

During my high school years I had my most ‘electronic period’ in music. I listened to a lot of industrial, EBM, synthpop, and other electronic stuff and not that much metal, though grindcore came into the picture during that time. This song was kind of my anthem at the time and Skinny Puppy is still one of my favorite bands.

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
Linkin Park – “In the End” / Slipknot – “My Plague”

I think Linkin Park, and numetal in general, are somehow responsible for getting me into metal. At the age when I started to understand something about music, numetal was at its high point and I was listening to Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, Papa Roach, etc. that kind of stuff. Then I went deeper, found heavier stuff through my friends, and here we are.

Another remarkable track would be ”My Plague” by Slipknot. I remember when I was around 11 when I discovered this song with an old friend of mine, until one day he came to me and told me seriously that ”Man, we can’t listen to this anymore. There were 666 signs and pentagrams on the stage in their video!” We were terrified. And as we know, Slipknot is satanic as hell. This felt kind of forbidden and exciting, so I borrowed ”Iowa” from a local library and started listening to it. I think Slipknot was the gateway to the more extreme metal.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
Priest – “History in Black”

This and their other singles from their upcoming debut album have been on heavy rotation lately over here. It’s a synthpop/electronic/somewhat industrial-ish band formed by ex-members of Ghost. Really good stuff, I’m really looking forward to their debut album which comes out later this month.

Other songs that are worth mentioning here would be ”Time” by Wintersun, ”Where’s the Revolution?” by Depeche Mode, and”Spit it Out” by IAMX.

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Kent – “Om du var här”

I don’t really think anything as ‘guilty pleasures’ or something that I wouldn’t be allowed to listen to because I don’t really care if something is kind of ‘banned stuff’ or something like that. I picked this because it would probably be something that people wouldn’t guess that I like. Kent has some good sad pop tunes and this is one of those.

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Carcass – “Choice Cuts”

I can’t really remember what it was exactly. I think the best of album Choice Cuts by Carcass was one of the first albums I bought with my own money. I was 14 or something. It was one of my first touches to grindcore too. I remember that I had heard only one newer track by Carcass and it was kind of a shock when the album kicked off with their earlier material. The first actual CDs that I got were probably Smurffit vol. 1 and a dance hits compilation CD when I was a kid; I guess that was really exciting stuff back then…

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Nine Inch Nails – “The Great Below”

Nine Inch Nails’s The Fragile would be my perfect soundtrack for cold and rainy autumn and winter nights. One of my favorite albums ever as well. It was hard to pick just one song from it so I picked up this just for the overall feeling of the track. This is also one of the less recognized tracks by NIN that I think needs more attention. I could imagine myself curling up on the couch with a hot cup of tea and listening to it with good headphones while it’s raining and dark outside.

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Ministry – “Just One Fix”

I actually drive around quite a lot just for fun, mostly just to listen to music at full volume. Therefore there are plenty of options for this, but my list wouldn’t be anything without posting a track by Ministry, so let it be this! The main (and the only) riff of this song just never gets old and it’s meant to be listened at maximum volume. Anything from Rammstein would fit into this category too.


10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Ghost – “Monstrance Clock”

I’d love to hear a choir singing this song at my funeral, just listen to the ending of the song with the choir and church organ. That would be my kind of funeral! Great track by a great band. This would give a nice little twist for the party.

 

Listen “Siege” from Psychework here:

Photo: Psychework promotional photos 2017

HEAVY METAL CAULDRON @ Ääniwalli, Helsinki, 27-28.10.2017

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Heavy Metal Cauldron mini-festival at Ääniwalli, Helsinki, 2017.
Photos by Marco Manzi.

 

APULANTA w/ HUORA – Pakkahuone, Tampere, 10.11.2017

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When the Finnish punk band from Heinola found themselves in Tampere during their autumn club tour, we had no choice but to be there. Formed in 1991, this band has been gracing us with plenty of hits over the years, and it came as no surprise that the show at Pakkahuone was sold out. Their last album, Kunnes siitä tuli totta, was released in 2015, but luckily the lack of new material was no problem. Well, singer Toni Wirtanen’s participation in the popular TV show Vain Elämää may have influenced some to attend this particular show.

I had seen Apulanta a couple of times before, and as a teenager I listened to them regularly. Unfortunately, it had been a criminally long time since my last Apulanta show, so I was more than ready to be that 16-year-old again and thus ended up at Pakkahuone.

Check out the full gallery HERE!

 

When I arrived about an hour after the doors had opened, the place was already packed. Before I got to enjoy the intense nostalgia trip that is Apulanta, I was introduced to a band called Huora. This Tampere-born punk phenomenon acted as the second support band for Apulanta. (Sadly I missed the first act, Lemmenpyssyt). I had heard the name Huora before, but I had no idea what to expect. I must say I was positively surprised! I was mostly focusing on the singer, Anni Lötjönen, because her energy was insane and she very much overshadowed the rest of the band members with her passionate performance. It was clear the crowd was feeling them too, and I saw quite a few people singing along to the material from their album Normaali?, released in October 2017. Some of the songs in their short set were new, and the band was excited to share them with their home audience. Lötjönen in particular was quite emotional and gave a huge thanks to everyone who had showed up. As far as support acts go, Huora was definitely a good choice, and Lötjönen’s easygoing attitude put a smile on my face. Will go see these guys again in the future!

 

Now it was time for Apulanta! The show started with a song from the album Ehjä (1996), “Poistuisitko mun elämästäni”, and from the first beat the crowd was alive and clapping along to the chorus. I didn’t even remember this particular song, since I’d last seen the band perform years ago, but when the guys immediately followed the first song with another oldie, “Mitä kuuluu”, I was in. And when next up was my personal favourite, “Ravistettava ennen käyttöä”, I knew I was going to enjoy this show.

At this point Toni Wirtanen, the lead singer and guitar player, took a break to thank everyone for showing up on a Friday night. He gave a special shout-out to the dedicated fans in the front row and said the next song was for those who had been with them from the beginning. “For the old fans,” he laughed. It was time for “Mato”, a song I personally didn’t know before Jenni Vartiainen covered it on Vain Elämää. Now I found myself liking this faster and rougher version of the original slow one.

This show was the first time I saw the new bass player, Ville Mäkinen, who joined in 2014, playing with the band. As a former Bomfunk MC’s fan, it was cool to see Mäkinen in this completely different environment. Because Mr. Wirtanen has such a strong presence on stage, it is sometimes difficult to stop looking at his intense style of singing, but when “Vasten mun kasvojani” started, all I could hear was Mäkinen and his bass. When you hear this song on the radio or listen to it on Spotify, you can’t tell how strong and intricate the bass is in this piece. I’ve always liked the song and now I thought it was even better.

Before the next song, Wirtanen apologized for what we were about to witness. The band surprised us with “Soita mua”, a song Wirtanen performed on Vain Elämää (originally by Sanni). The people who aren’t necessarily big fans of the show and the cover versions that come out of it will probably disagree with me, but I enjoyed it. Though a bit messy, it was funny and entertaining. I was already looking forward to hearing more of the cover songs.

After “Ruhtinaat” and the beautiful “Armo”, we were rewarded with “Vapaa.” Toni Wirtanen originally wrote this song for Kaija Koo, but in my opinion it fit nicely into Apulanta’s setlist. This was the second time the guys performed this live and you could hear it. The key is slightly higher than in most Apulanta songs, and at times Wirtanen struggled with the higher notes. But on the other hand, Apulanta has never been about perfection; at least that’s how I see it. Their music is about emotion and performing each song with all their passion. Sometimes the crowd was singing along so loudly I couldn’t hear Wirtanen’s voice anyway.

At least that is certainly what happened during “Jumala.” I love going to shows and being able to belt out the lyrics with the rest of the crowd. From the first verse of this old hit, everyone at the sold out Pakkahuone was singing along, and since the show mainly consisted of their hit songs instead of focusing on one album only, there were a lot chances for us to warm up our vocal cords. After “Saasta”, Wirtanen said the next song was a surprise for the drummer, Simo “Sipe” Santapukki. We got a song I used to listen to a lot as a teenager; it was time for “Hiekka.” The crowd was pumped, especially when Wirtanen finished the song with a fantastic guitar solo.

Wirtanen was the one who interacted with the crowd the most, but Santapukki threw in a comment every now and then. He also joked about how he almost got lost on his way to the venue because of all the construction work, but a nice mother-daughter duo showed him the way. According to him, these same people were also featured in the music video of the next song on the setlist, “Valot pimeyksien reunoilla.” This song has such a different feel to it when you compare it to most of their older material, but it was very clear how important a song it is to the band. I must agree it has a strong and powerful message, and it owned its place as many people’s favorite. Strangely, it was the only song featured from their latest album, Kunnes siitä tuli totta. Too quickly, Wirtanen announced it was time for the last song of the set – before the obvious encore, that is. “Pahempi toistaan” had the crowd going absolutely insane, and Wirtanen was milking it, making us sing the chorus without the band’s backup.

When the band came back on stage, they played “Koneeseen kadonnut”, another one of my favorites, and I would have been surprised if this one had not been on the setlist. Again the crowd was screaming the bridge along with Wirtanen. At this point I didn’t know what else the guys could have in store for us, but Wirtanen surprised everyone when he asked us which song they should play next. Immediately it was decided by the singer that the next one would be “Liikaa”, a track from one of their first albums, Kolme, released in 1997. The official last song of the night came from the same album, though it had a far lighter mood. We got to jump and scream along to “Anna mulle piiskaa”, and the guys made everyone laugh when they broke into a folky bit mid-song. I still have no idea what it was, but it was the perfect finish. After this good spanking session, the band got the traditional crowd photo taken, and I was quite sad I didn’t catch the guitar pick that was thrown my way!

 

All-in-all, it was really good to see Apulanta live again, and they certainly still know how to keep a crowd entertained. What I enjoyed the most were Mäkinen’s moments with the double bass, Santapukki’s trademark drumming, and Wirtanen’s perfect imperfection behind the microphone. All of this is what makes Apulanta, and I can’t wait to see – and most importantly hear – what the guys will do in the future. I hope you all already have tickets to Apulanta’s spring concert hall tour – I know it will be special!

Setlist:
1. Poistuisitko mun elämästäni
2. Mitä kuuluu
3. Ravistettava ennen käyttöä
4. Mato
5. Vasten mun kasvojani
6. Soita mua (S&M) (Sanni cover)
7. Ruhtinaat
8. Armo
9. Vapaa (Kaija Koo cover)
10. Poltettu karma
11. Jumala
12. Saasta
13. Hiekka
14. Valot pimeyksien reunoilla
15. Pahempi toistaan

Encore:
16. Koneeseen kadonnut
17. Liikaa
18. Anna mulle piiskaa

Text: Sara Kangasniemi | Photos: Charlotta Rajala

SOILWORK w/ IKINÄ – Tavastia, Helsinki, 18.11.2017

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Soilwork is no stranger to Finnish soil, having been here a whopping three times this year already: opening for Kreator, on Radio Rock Risteily XXI, and of course, at Tuska Open Air. However, it’s been a while since a proper headlining show, and I think personally, the last time I saw them in a club was in Tampere in 2013. So, it was time to put on our moshing boots and prepare to sweat, as we headed to Tavastia on November 18th to see what the Swedes had to offer this time around.

Check out the full gallery HERE!
And listen along with the setlist on Spotify here:

The first band of the night was, actually, a band called Chronus, whom I had never heard of and alas, I showed up only at the end of their set, just barely catching their last song and not really getting enough to form an opinion. Perhaps next time.

Ikinä was our first of the night, as such. I’ve heard rather mixed reviews of these guys and gals, with most people saying that they have a metric ton of potential, but haven’t quite hit it in full just yet. Frankly, that was about the long and short of my thoughts on them too. Their stage presence is a lot of fun. It reminded me of PMMP in their prime, but with more input from the rest of the band and far heavier music. I don’t know their music well, but I’ve been told that they write great lyrics, but I can’t speak for them. The only song I knew beforehand was “Magic Mike”, so when they came out playing “Kylmääkin kylmempää”, I had thought one of the girls was growling, but figured it must have been a sound issue because it stopped quite quickly. Then as the song progressed I realized that, in fact, Katariina Sorsa (if I’ve got the right one) was actually growling just a bit. So the heavier music style was a surprise, but certainly not a bad one.

The performance was energetic and fun, but definitely needs a bit of fine tuning. The phantom pointed out that Samuli Suokas (guitar) was constantly playing to the sound tech and not to the crowd. As well, while both ladies were fantastic singers on their own, there was a strange issue when they were singing together (an issue that the phantom mentioned is also present on their album) – they seem to almost cancel each other out. I’m not sure if they’re not harmonizing well or what the problem is, but somehow the power of their vocals fades out and goes totally flat when they sing together. It was an unusual effect, and one I hope that they can figure out and fix for the future.

Another positive factor was that the band wasn’t completely spotlighting the female vocalists – bassist/vocalist Lauri Hämäläinen had his share of fun at the mic between songs, telling the crowd that this was a hostile takeover. They played one new song, which I believe was “Turbounelmii”, and it was by far the best song of the night. All-in-all, I enjoyed their set and wouldn’t say no to seeing them again, but they definitely still have some practice to do before they go from good to great. There was a fellow on stage taking videos during their set – I wonder if/where we’ll be seeing that footage in the future?

Soilwork was scheduled to take the stage at the oddly specific time of 21:10, and an acoustic intro played until Björn “Speed” Strid came in growling to “The Living Infinite pt. II.” One thing that had been curious about this show to me was that it was held at Tavastia. Of course, the venues seem quite full this time of year so maybe everywhere else was already booked, but Soilwork’s last DVD was filmed at The Circus, so that’s a fairly sizable difference, and while Tavastia was packed, it didn’t seem sold-out. The enthusiasm these guys bring out from the crowd even from the start is incredible though. By “Like the Average Stalker”, a mere three songs in, there was already a big pit in the middle of the floor that didn’t really ever go away once it started.

Despite the fact that I listen to Soilwork rather seldomly, I think Strid is becoming one of my favorite Gothenburg vocalists. His growl is melodic and powerful, while his singing voice is deep and strong. He can be doing either and I consistently love it. This night was no exception – his vocals were on point, and to my delight – considering issues with sound at both Tuskas they’ve last played and the Kreator gig – the sound quality in general was very well balanced, and the band sounded fantastic. David Andersson (guitar) took center stage for a few solos, shaking his head and really immersing himself into the music. Sylvain Coudret was also nailing his guitar parts, Sven Karlsson made keyboarding look as easy as breathing, while the rhythm section never missed a beat. To express how good this was, the phantom had thought they were playing to a backing track, until he realized that it was actually Markus Wibom (bass) and Bastian Thusgaard (drums) playing with flawless accuracy.

 

The only jumping pit was to “Nerve”, and afterwards Strid announced that this was a special night, that it was the end of their touring cycle, and that this set was a bit special: “We wanted to do some songs we haven’t done before, so we have a new set to keep it interesting. I guess you guys are okay with that? You’d better be!” he shouted, before they played “The Akuma Afterglow” – a song I don’t think I’ve ever heard before, but had some awesome melodic parts that made me want to listen to it again later. The majority of the set seemed to be based off The Living Infinite (2013), but there were gems here and there from most of their other albums, including “Drowning with Silence”, and Atte informs me that “As the Sleeper Awakes” is from Sworn to a Great Divide, which wasn’t very well received following Stabbing the Drama. “Distortion Sleep” was dedicated, as always, to the ladies in the crowd, and Strid mentioned that he expected the audience to be wasted… it was Saturday, after all. “Let this River Flow” is a personal favorite and equally beautiful live as it is on the album (though my hopeless wish for a surprise appearance from Floor Jansen again did not come true). There was a long wait full of chanting following “The Ride Majestic” before they came back for two more songs, “As We Speak” and “Stabbing the Drama” – I was a little disappointed that they dropped “Follow the Hollow” because I had been saving myself up for its inevitable pit, but alas, I guess that was one of the ones they swapped out to try some new songs – a bold move and I certainly have to respect it. That just means I’ll have to come back again, I suppose!

I’ll throw another shout-out to the fellowship of Finnish pits here quickly too – I’m a small female, and the men around me are always looking out for me, even if it’s not necessary. The brotherhood in there is always fantastic – guys are smashing each other around, but also helping each other up, and half of the time they were just locked with their arms around one another in a line or a circle, loving the music and the fellowship. Finnish pits are definitely the best. Also, props to the enthusiastic young buck who body-checked me across the pit when I was moshing in the middle, in spite of being a girl – I appreciate being treated as an equal.

 

So, Soilwork was the first band to lure me out of my cave since Ensiferum in September, and even though I don’t consider them one of my favorites (for some reason), I was definitely glad to have gone. Ikinä proved to be interesting, and Soilwork put on perhaps the best show of theirs that I’ve seen yet. Even with unfamiliar songs, I enjoyed every second of it. Soilwork loves Finland and Finland very clearly loves them back. If you’re looking for a solid performance from a great band, these guys certainly won’t let you down!

Setlist:
1. The Living Infinite II
2. Rise Above the Sentiment
3. Like the Average Stalker
4. Nerve
5. Bastard Chain
6. The Akuma Afterglow
7. Long Live the Misanthrope
8. Drowning with Silence
9. Distortion Sleep
10. As the Sleeper Awakes
11. Parasite Blues
12. Let this River Flow
13. The Phantom
14. The Ride Majestic

Encore:
15. As We Speak
16. Stabbing the Drama

Photos: Janne Puronen

SOILWORK w/ CHRONUS & IKINÄ @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 18.11.2017

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Soilwork with Chronus and Ikinä at Tavastia, Helsinki, 2017.
Photos by Janne Puronen.

IN FLAMES & FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH w/ OF MICE AND MEN @ Hartwall Arena, Helsinki, 14.11.2017

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In Flames and Five Finger Death Punch with Of Mice & Men at Hartwall Arena, Helsinki, 2017.
Photos by Janne Puronen.

SÓLSTAFIR w/ HELÉN & GRAVE PLEASURES – Tavastia, Helsinki, 13.11.2017

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Icelandic heavy metal giants, Sólstafir, released their sixth studio album in May of this year, Berdreyminn, following a 3-year time period since their last album. Their most recent European tour brought them to Tavastia in Helsinki on the 13th of November, 2017, and we were there to see if they would live up to the hype.

Sólstafir has been one of those, “Oh yeah, I’ve heard of ’em,” bands to me for years now, but for reasons unknown, there was never a pressing enough concern to remedy this. However, this gap in general knowledge had to be filled, so what better time and place to listen to moody music than darkening autumn nights in the legendary Tavastia club?

Check out the full gallery HERE!
Listen along to the setlist on Spotify:

Arriving around a quarter hour after the doors had opened, the venue was still only sparsely populated, with some small crowds assembled here and there. Climbing upstairs to get the best view of the stage once again, I grabbed a beer from the counter and prepared myself for the evening.

 

Opening the show was Helén, the brainchild of Kimmo Helén, known also from Hexvessel. The start was slow and atmospheric, the intro setting up the stage for this post-rock quintet. Right off the bat, the dedicated guitarist and bassist were feeling the music, swaying and obviously enjoying it. After their first song, the frontman picked up a violin from his stand and let loose. He seemed much more comfortable with an instrument in his hands, since he had a tendency to sway and stay low, posturing in some kind of battle crouch without something to play. Every now and then, a shamanistic vibe was heard and felt from the music, even somewhat Twin Peaks-y at times, otherworldly and channeling primordial feelings. Outside of their performance, none of the artists said a thing. The only word heard outside a song was “Kiitos” after their last song. Satisfied with, and even a bit enlightened by Helén, it definitely was worth the time if post-rock/ambient rock is up your alley.

 

Grave Pleasures, a local post-punk/Gothic rock line-up was up next. Their intro reminded somewhat of a 1920s radio broadcast, scratchy and distorted. The first song started straightforward and the group seemingly a bit tentative about their performance, yet was still a joy to hear. Around the second song, a security guy crept on stage, snooping around for something, probably checking some wires or other assorted audio stuff, likely making some minor changes and fixing things up. By the third song, everyone had set into their groove, with frontman Mat “Kvohst” McNerney climbing on the monitors for dramatic effect, using every available inch of space to move around, occasionally stopping to interact with his bandmates. While being much more subdued in performance than their predecessor under the spotlights, Grave Pleasures delivered stylish Goth rock with catchy songs, including “Genocidal Crush” by Beastmilk (their previous incarnation), and almost none of the space in their catalog was wasted.

 

The meat of the evening, Sólstafir, thus prepared for us, the band took the stage during a proggy intro and to a completely packed Tavastia. Frontman Aðalbjörn Tryggvason praised the crowd for coming out on a Monday evening and they kicked their performance off with “Silfur-Refur” from their newest Berdreyminn album. Singing in Icelandic, the songs were unintelligible in word but not in tone, with Tryggvason’s voice perfectly embodying distress and deep emotion. Immediately at home in front of the audience, Svavar Austman was lively, playing his bass with vigor and enthusiasm, almost slapping the disobedience out of it. “Ótta”, from the album of the same name, was their second song, and very rarely have I seen or heard music with such flawless build-up to its crescendo, the mid-song interlude giving an opportunity to enjoy sorrowful melodies. Goosebumps probably weren’t rare. Tryggvason, during one of his speeches, told us about the first time he had ever been to Tavastia, “Around 2005 or so, I came in here completely hammered and thought to myself, I’ll play up there some day.” I bet there were a lot of people who were happy that he had made that declaration. On the subject of speeches, his way of talking and interacting with the audience must be applauded. Taking the time to listen to the fan’s jokes from the mass of people, to answering and joking along with them. Even after the show, the guys from Sólstafir were touring the venue, giving fans autographs and taking photos. Kind and charismatic don’t seem to embody these fellows enough.

The way Sólstafir brings their soundscape alive is absolutely amazing, and while their albums have it, they don’t do justice to it the way a live performance does. The bass that shakes your core, that all-enveloping wall of sound that makes you feel what the song is about, the absolute contentment brought on by music that is alive and has a soul. A lot of concert-goers were touching each other in the audience, happy to have been able to share such an experience with each other. They even performed “Hula”, apparently for the first time live ever (again from Berdreyminn). Goddess of the Ages” from Köld was the last song of the evening, performed during the encore. Had I been a bigger fan of the band beforehand, I guarantee that I wouldn’t have left the venue with pants on because they would’ve burst right off me. At the start, Tryggvason put down his guitar and equipped with only his microphone, jumped off stage, jumped back on, and did a crowdwalk, held aloft by fans. The absolutely sublime build-up to the finale of the song and the concert as a whole, Sólstafir lit feelings on fire that night.

 

Once again in uncharted territories, each and every band surpassed expectations. Helén, the tad unoriginal name aside, was creative and brought out their sound very well with the limited timeslot and number of songs. Grave Pleasures, being the most straightforward of the evening, was enjoyable and Goth-rock definitely being underrepresented in the world is a wrong that must be rectified. Sólstafir met, and indeed, easily surpassed the mental image I had of them. Grab some candles, pour a glass of wine, dim the lights, and put Berdreyminn on. That’s when you realize that late autumn isn’t that bad a time of the year.

Setlist:
1. Silfur-Refur
2. Ótta
3. Lágnætti
4. Ísafold
5. Köld
6. Fjara
7. Hula (live debut)
8. Bláfjall

Encore:
9. Goddess of the Ages

Photos: Marco Manzi

ANATHEMA – Daniel Cavanagh, Tampere 2017

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Daniel “Danny” Cavanagh is a creative man who has released two albums this year: the story-based The Optimist with his main band, Anathema, and his first proper solo album, Monochrome. Musicalypse caught up with Cavanagh on the tour bus before Anathema’s show at Klubi in Tampere, and the tired yet friendly man discussed the current tour, the aforementioned releases, and social media, in addition to talking frankly about the downsides of life on the road.

 

How is the tour going so far?
It’s been good, enjoyable actually – no complaints.

You’ve been touring with Alcest – they’re more black metal-oriented, but I feel their music goes well along with yours. What do you think of them?
Well, the last song they play is really nice – it’s called “Délivrance”, and it’s quite gorgeous, so anybody who can write that must be quite good.

I remember you guys were talking about playing The Optimist from start to finish on this tour, but you’ve only been playing about half of it. Is that something you still want to do in the future?
Yeah, we will [do it] next year probably.

Was there any reason why you haven’t done it yet?
It’s just kind of good to mix things up, you know what I mean? It’s good to mix songs from different albums; that’s the only reason. I’m sure we will eventually.

John Douglas [drums, percussion] had to leave the tour in the middle, so when will he be back on the road?
On the next tour – he’ll be back then.

Did you guys have to make a lot of adjustments to your performance, now that you’re playing as a five-piece?
Well, Daniel [Cardoso, drums] had to lend John’s style. He had to learn the more simple style that John plays – the more primal style of John. Daniel’s natural thing is to be technical and busy as a drummer, and John isn’t like that. He kind of had to learn that stuff, but it didn’t take him long. But that was the only adjustment really.

So you didn’t have to drop any specific songs?
No, we could play any of them. Some songs don’t feel right to play unless John plays them, you know what I mean? Because it’s his style and his material. He wrote “Universal” – we did it for a couple of gigs after he left, but I said, “It doesn’t feel right.” Not only for the style, but because it just didn’t feel right. But he also wrote some of the biggest songs on the new album and we still play them – we play three of his songs from the new album on this tour… or two.

Do you still get lots of requests for really old songs? Are people shouting for “Sleepless”?
Not many, you might get one. You might get one guy, usually a drunk guy will do it. It just becomes a joke in the end. We’ve had some good jokes about it, like Vinnie [vocalist/guitarist Vincent Cavanagh] said in America, “You realize that’s like me going to your work and shouting at you to do what you did 20 years ago?” And he said, “What do you do?” [The guy] says, “I work at IT.” I said [in a growly voice], “Windows 95!” [laughter] And everybody laughed.

So people seem to accept that you’re playing the new stuff?
It’s been a long time – I mean, anybody who’s still complaining… is stupid. [laughs] But it’s not usually complaints – it’s said half as a joke, it seems to me these days. You get people complaining online, but that doesn’t matter. People always complain online.

That’s true! Now The Optimist is a sequel to A Fine Day to Exit (2001). How has that album aged for you? I think it’s one of your most underrated.
Yeah, I think you’re right, I think it is one of the most underrated. I enjoyed the re-release that happened in 2015, because I changed the running order and put the intro back on, and it was remastered as well. It made more sense musically to me then. To be honest, it probably should’ve happened in the beginning, but you know…

Better late than never?
Yeah, absolutely. I’d waited a long time to do that – years. I was really happy to get the opportunity. It was put out as, I think, a 4-disc edition called Fine Days.

I’ve got that.
Yeah, it’s on that. It’s different from the original. “Pressure” is like track… 5, I think? Or 4. But that’s okay, you know what I mean? It’s a shame to have made such a big mistake at a crucial time, but you know…

I think “Release” is more natural as the first proper song.
Yeah, it is. And that would never happen now, you know what I mean? A mistake like that would never happen now. I mean, we could’ve done… there’s always some debate about running orders. Actually on the last album, I changed the running order at the very last minute, ’cause Vinnie and the producer thought that “Leaving it Behind” should open the album. I wasn’t sure about that at first, but after I did a version of the album and lived with it for a bit, I realized it could be right. Then eventually we thankfully had the time and the money to go back in and fix it, so I did that, and also the record label very supportively said, “It’s got to be right,” and they agreed also, so it worked.

You played some of the songs on the new album live last year on tour. Is that something you want to do in the future as well?
Probably… it worked. It did work, it was good. You make demos as close as you can and then tour for a couple of weeks. I enjoyed that, it was a good tour. That tour and this one have been very pleasant for me. Not so much the South American tour, because the flying schedule was horrible. But the tour bus is great.

Didn’t Vinnie lose his voice?
In South America?

Yeah, didn’t you play one show without him?
Oh yeah, he got a pretty bad flu. It was terrible – poor guy.

What was it like to step in for him and sing?
It was good. I’ll tell you, that was the gig… if he was gonna miss one gig, that was the one. It was in a pretty crappy venue, and [there was] a pretty weird audience. But I enjoyed it – I like singing. The biggest difference [between] the band and the solo stuff that I do is that I get the chance to sing the stuff. Because I write the lyrics as well, and the vocal melodies. The sound of the band is with Vinnie singing, but I like singing. [It’s] a different style.

I think you also premiered some songs that didn’t end up on the album. Do you think you’ll release those later, maybe on an EP?
I could do them as a solo piece on a solo album. I think there was only one that didn’t end up on the album – all the rest did, one of them didn’t. It was only ’cause we toured it and listened back to it and realized the reaction wasn’t very good. We listened back to it on YouTube and it didn’t sound great, and everyone just preferred not to finish that one. I forget the name of that one – “Bricks”… I think it’s called “Bricks”, yeah. Also, the song “The Optimist” – the piano riff in that song only happened because we toured. If we’d never toured the album, that might never have happened, and that’s one of the best riffs on the record. So yeah, in answer to the question, we probably will do that again.

You just put out your first proper solo album of original material [Monochrome]. Were these songs that you’d had lying around for years or did they come together within a short period of time?
Almost all of them have been around for at least 10 years, just sitting around. I mean, the last one’s an improvisational thing, but the rest were all around for absolutely ages – 10, 15, 20 years or so.

Just waiting for the right time…
Yeah, they were just sitting there, you know? I just thought [they] could just sit there on a hard drive or I could do something with it – that was it. That is the only real reason I did it, and to stay busy. A side effect is that I like singing. That’s it, there was no other plan – no other reason to do it, you know what I mean? It wasn’t like a big need to get away from the band, ’cause I have a lot of fun with the group in the studio. I enjoy it – I have a lot of laughs, especially with John. I laugh a lot with him.

Why was it released now? Did it just feel like the right moment?
I recorded it in 2015, ’cause I was going into Parr Street Studios to make the songs for the Pledge campaign called Memory and Meaning. I was in the studio and I had free time. I just thought, “I’ll do something.” It was going to originally be instrumental piano, and then it grew, and then it became song songs, and then it became… not just piano, but other stuff as well. It just grew like that.

There are Celtic influences on “Dawn” and some classical piano on “The Silent Flight of the Raven Winged Hours.” When you wrote those, did you already know they were not going to be for Anathema?
No, the band could’ve done them, particularly “Silent Flight” would’ve been great. But the thing about it is, it wouldn’t have been like that if the band had [done] it. Vincent probably would’ve tried to pick apart the whole thing. And one advantage is being able to do things without having endless discussions about how it’s supposed to be. Usually that’s okay, ’cause it makes songs better, and often Vinnie spots things that would make them better. It could’ve made these songs better, but I just like the simplicity of the way it’s done. It was easy, really easy, and “Silent Flight” and “The Exorcist” could’ve easily been good enough for the band, but I’m glad I did them like that.

I like how the album is a bit more stripped down.
Yeah, I mean there might be some rock songs next time, but the band always has the first refusal, because I don’t wanna weaken the band’s position. I don’t wanna suddenly start writing collaborations or solo albums – stuff the band should’ve done. That’s always a bit of a difficulty, but if there’s anything the band doesn’t feel like doing, then I’ll do it.

You’ve been playing “The Exorcist” at some gigs on this tour. Will you do it tonight?
Probably not tonight, but I’ll do it again before the end. I’m a bit tired today to be honest – I felt a bit sick today. So yeah, it’ll probably be a low key gig tonight, I think.

You lived in Norway for quite a while. Did coming back to England make you see things you hadn’t noticed before?
In the years before I left Liverpool, I always wanted to leave Liverpool, and then when I went back, because I’d done it, I was able to just enjoy Liverpool for what it was. I noticed that, but apart from that – no. I’ve got good memories of all those places – I also lived a couple of months in Germany. I love Germany, so… I’ve got good memories of them: London, Liverpool, Oslo, Germany. I’ve got good memories of all of it.

You’ve been to a lot of places.
Yeah, but I’ve only lived in those places.

I’ve noticed that you’ve been more active on Twitter lately, for the past year or so.
That was after Brexit, mostly political stuff. I’ve stopped doing that now, because you can’t change anybody’s opinion on Twitter. If you ever argue with someone, they just become more entrenched in their beliefs, and it’s very difficult online, especially on Twitter, to rationally change somebody’s mind, so I just stopped trying.

There’s only so much you can say in 140 characters.
Yeah, even if you got more characters, it doesn’t make any difference. It doesn’t really change anything, that’s the problem with online activities. It’s like an echo chamber, I think.

Did the changing state of the world make you feel like you had to say something?
It was Brexit really – Brexit and the state of the Labour Party in the UK, because we need the Labour Party, and we need them to win lots of elections and make positive changes. I just don’t think they’re capable of it, even now though the election results were surprisingly good. It won’t happen, and it disappoints me. Also arguing with those people, you may as well argue with religious fundamentalists. They won’t change anything.

You have Anneke van Giersbergen singing on the new album, and you’ve played some duo gigs together in the past. Do you think you’ll do more in the future?
Yeah, I’m sure we will eventually, but she’s really busy at the moment, and so am I.

She’s got a new band and everything…
Yeah. I haven’t even got plans to tour this solo album, because this tour is so long. I haven’t got the energy right now to think about touring solo. I mean, if the money was really good I would, because you’ve gotta pay the rent. It would take a lot for me to do it right now, ’cause I’m so tired, as you can see.

I hope I’ll get to see you two someday.
We’ve played in here – me and Anneke – in this venue. It was several years ago now.

It’s been a while. Finally, what’s next for Anathema – more touring?
Yeah, Australia after this, and Turkey, but I can’t really think about that until it’s ready to happen because it’s exhausting thinking about it. Especially flying to Australia – it’s so far away. I just wish I had a teleport device that could just teleport me straight there and straight back. That’d be the best thing, ’cause it’s hard to do – the flying is hard. This is easy – I mean, it’s tiring, but it’s much much easier. Like when there’s interviews, then I could have 10 minutes lying down on my bed before the next one starts.

The jetlag must be awful.
It’s not that, it’s the waiting around in airports, staying at hotels, and waking up early. It’s horrible. I can handle jetlag, it’s the rest of it I can’t handle. Especially getting up early, going to an airport – you have to leave the hotel 3-4 hours before your flight, and you have to fucking get on the thing and then wait for it to take off. Oh my god, I absolutely despise doing that – I hate it. It’s the one side of this job I hate. I don’t hate anything else, but I hate that. I’m sick of it.

Hopefully they’ll invent that teleportation machine some day…
Yeah, otherwise I’m gonna have to retire when I’m 60. It’s just the life that I have to live. It sucks, it’s the way it is. I should get a stand-in guitarist and just stay in bed. [laughs] That’s a joke by the way, readers. [laughs] Don’t send your demo tapes!

So you won’t become a Brian Wilson [The Beach Boys] type of figure?
Writing and staying at home? I like touring, it’s just that I don’t like. I like actually playing the gig, and it’s quite nice meeting people. It’s good to be hanging around with the guys and stuff like that – you have a laugh. But my favorite thing is recording albums, you know? But I like playing the actual gigs, I just don’t like anything else. But like I said, if there’s a way you wanna do it, this is the way to do it. I’d have my own bus for just me and my entourage, and I’d have this [turned] into a big bedroom. I’d have a shower and that… and a personal assistant and everything. If I could I’d do all of that.

That’d be pretty luxurious.
Very luxurious, but it’s not actually gonna happen.

You’re only on stage for 2 hours and people don’t see the rest of it, like the preparations.
Yeah. Well, you know, most people have a misconception about what it’s really like. If anybody like you came on this tour for 2 weeks, you’d be absolutely wiped out: bags on your eyes and spots of all kinds. [laughs]

Well, those were all the questions I had.
They were good questions, thanks very much for your interview.

Thanks for your time!

Photo: Caroline Traitler

STEELCHAOS – Nosturi, Helsinki, 10-11.11.2017

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The annual summer festival, Steelfest, is a place for black, thrash, and grunge metallers to get down and dirty. Not satisfied with one festival this year, however, Steelfest Open Air hosted a second fall festival at Nosturi, from the 10th-11th of November, called SteelChaos. Musicalypse decided to check it out and see what kind of show they’d put on.

Being a first-timer is never particularly easy. This festival was my first time at a full-fledged black/death metal festival and also my first time covering anything of any sort. Thus armed with double the usual amount of anxiety and excitement reserved for new things, I set out for Nosturi. Mostly a passing acquaintance to black metal, I was eager to find out more of what’s happening in and around the scene. Apparently the scene is very much alive, judging by the sheer number of people that were present in Nosturi.

Check out the full gallery HERE!

 

Day 1
Arriving at Nosturi shortly after the venue had opened, I noticed that the doors to the upper level were still closed, so I headed to the terrace to grab a breath of fresh air (and a drink) and was struck up in conversation by another fellow festival-goer. We discussed the bands we wanted to see and were both bummed out by the fact that Bölzer had cancelled their appearance at SteelChaos due to a back injury, but their replacement, Archgoat, was very much up to the task of filling their shoes. After about 10 minutes of small-talk and pleasantries, both of us headed upstairs to find a spot. I chose the balcony, right in the middle so I could get a clear view of the stage and the bands.

First up was Sawhill Sacrifice, a Hyvinkää-based domestic band which, unsurprisingly, plays black metal with some thrashy elements. The start of their set was a bit stiff, mostly on purpose due to the statuesque poses the artists on stage had adapted during the intro. As the singer came out, the stillness was present only for a short while longer, the tempo was set, and the first song started to play. At the start, everyone on stage seemed a bit nervous – their singer most of all – but as the set continued, the band visibly relaxed and got into their groove. Their lead guitarist in particular was a lot of fun to watch, particularly during the latter half of their set. During their penultimate song, a guest singer emerged from the darkened stage, tearing up a book (presumably a bible) and throwing it into a bucket and then proceeding defecate into it. I’m fairly certain that this was staged, but I wasn’t honestly looking all that intently. Further gestures during the last two songs consisted of eating/drinking out of the bucket and it remains a mystery to me if there was anything in there other than ripped pages. The stage was thus set for the rest of the festival and Sawhill Sacrifice left us with a memorable impression, if not from the music, at least in performance. Overall, their set was above average, yet I personally had a terrible time disassociating their singer from a friend I knew a dozen years ago, who was the kindest man that ever lived, and thus had trouble taking all the grimness seriously.

Next up was Urn, a black/thrash metal band from Tampere. The start of their set was visibly more relaxed and their presence more energetic. While their music was as catchy as black metal gets, the thing that caught my attention were the speeches in between songs. The guys on stage were obviously having fun up there playing. The very down-to-earth attitude of frontman Sulphur was endearing and he seemed like a funny guy to be around. Urn’s set was pretty enjoyable and I’d recommend catching one of their gigs, if straightforward BM suits your interests.

Third under the spotlight was Crimson Moon, our first foreign import from the US/Germany. While high volumes are expected at metal gigs, these guys took a page out of Spinal Tap’s book and cranked their equipment up to 11 and it had a definite impact on the audience. Things were a bit livelier in the crowd, people had shuffled in to fill the empty spaces in the venue, and chants and fists were more common than they had been earlier on. Someone in the crowd was even holding up an inverted cross made with the help of a crutch. There were some technical difficulties during the second-to-last song (I recall something about a bass drum), but otherwise the set was good. The band’s overall feel on stage was more natural than some of the others.

Following Crimson Moon, Heretic from the Netherlands – one of the many, many bands to carry the name of Heretic – was set to take the stage. The practiced ease of years of live performing showed through, as the trio easily took control of the crowd and proceeded to share the joys of their Luciferian gospel. The black’n’roll style was a breath of fresh air after the unrelenting blast beats from the former bands and it seemed the rest of the audience agreed with me. This old-school group had the honor of the first mosh pit of the festival and there was an energy in the audience that hadn’t been there before. “The drunker you are, the better we sound,” claimed the frontman, Thomas Goat. The one thought that I had throughout their time on stage was, “This is a bit too American for me,” even though they hail from continental Europe. While definitely not to my tastes, Heretic was energetic and had a firm grip of the stage and the crowd – a solid performance by obvious professionals.

Deströyer 666 was (to me at least) the first big name of the festival, being the only band I could actually name a song from beforehand, hailing all the way from Australia. The start of their set was surprisingly low volume and it gradually grew into that glorious wall-shaking madness that one associates with heavy shows. Predictably, with a band of this caliber, they had no problems capturing the audience and owning the stage. The band’s frontman, K.K. Warslut, was visibly intoxicated, but knowing his way around a stage, it had no impact on his performance and we were all richer for it. A person I had previously struck a conversation with described D.666 as, “almost exactly like Metallica,” but I didn’t hear the resemblance, nor had I hoped to.  For the last song, Warslut ditched his guitar and switched his arsenal over to a microphone. An excellent performance by these long-timers, Deströyer 666 was definitely my favorite of the evening.

Bölzer was supposed to be the penultimate band for the evening, but unfortunately had to cancel their appearance, so the speedy replacement for them was Archgoat. These guys have had some buzz about them for a while now and the trio on this night took the stage with ease and confidence in their music. There was a solid wall of bass reverberating out from the stage, even though I had backed out of my spot to rest at this point. Casual headbanging through fast beats and shredding strings dominated the stage. I had heard good things about their live performances, but aside from being flawless in execution, I couldn’t see anything special enough to warrant the high praise. Maybe it was because of the lack of preparation time (the Bölzer cancellation happened early in the morning on the same day they were supposed to be playing) or perhaps due to the smallness of the stage. Regardless of the reasons, I owe it to Archgoat to cover them properly and with thought the next time they’re playing.

The headliner for the first night was Nifelheim from Sweden. If the other bands had pros among their ranks, Nifelheim was the ‘first company’ and it showed. I’ve said a lot about the ease of taking the stage and casual occupation of it, but Nifelheim showed everyone how it was done. Their legendary reputation and respect for their music heard was heard in the crowd’s chants of “NI-FEL-HEIM” between songs. The energy in the audience throughout the venue did justice to these giants of black metal. Exhausted, I headed home a bit early, before their set had ended. With Friday thus over, I gathered my thoughts for the evening and prepared for the next day.

 

Day 2
Having arrived a bit later in the day than Friday, I did the same round as before: a quiet contemplative quarter hour with a drink in my hand and the cool autumn wind coming off the harbor. Having learned the my lesson the previous day, I decided to sit whenever possible to conserve my energy and attention for Saturday’s bands.

Finnish Malum were the ones to kick off the evening, and while I have positive memories of their stage presence, I am hard-pressed to really recall any specifics about them. Their movements under the spotlights were minimal and their music, while excellent if unoriginal, started to merge together with everything else I had already heard. The hooded figures with their instruments on stage were likewise interchangeable with every other hooded figure already seen during the festival.

Havukruunu, our next domestic group, was instantly a relief with their straightforward appearance, no-nonsense attitude towards their craft, and very humble style of speaking between songs, similar to the way Urn had done it on the first day. Their frontman – jokingly or not, it’s hard to be sure – trying to remember what was their next song was funny. “What the hell was it again?” he exclaimed, and so the artists seemed to be having a lot fun playing and being on stage, headbanging throughout their setlist and enjoying the short timeslot they were given.

Antimateria, the third band to fly the Finnish flag that day, was different from the nine that preceded them, having some doom metal elements in their songs, being more contemplative and slower paced than their predecessors. Very much a welcome change of pace, I remember taking the atmosphere in as much as possible. Incidentally, this particular Antimateria shares a name with a terrible Finnish rock troupe and a Spanish(?) hipster alt-rock band, neither being very high on my enjoyment scale, but I digress. Overall Antimateria was very entertaining and a likewise refreshing change of pace at that point in the night.

Speaking of hard-to-find bands, Ride for Revenge/Bizarre Uproar were a total mystery to me beforehand. Being under-prepared was nothing new to me during this festival, but even if I had listened to RfR/BU beforehand, it wouldn’t have prepared me for the show they put up. Musically, they were somewhat akin to cult favorite Sunn O))). A solid wave of sound and bass assailed the space, distressed and distorted screaming was heard through the microphone, and droning guitar and bass repeated the same hypnotic and mesmerizing riffs to an entranced crowd. However, their music wasn’t what caught everyone’s attention – it was the stage show, which would have been more at home in a BDSM-cave or at Sexhibition. Rubber-clad and masked, bizarre domination rituals were performed and grotesque acts involving bodily excretions and fluids followed. Watching intently, if not excitedly, my interest seemed to be shared by everyone else in the room. There were a lot of phones in the air, taking footage of the performance. The spell was broken, however, when one of the subjugated proceeded to defecate on stage and throw it into the audience. The reaction from the concert-goers was predictably to disperse and avoid getting hit. Apparently there was a dead rat in there somewhere as well, but it managed to evade me. This put me in a somewhat philosophical mood, but RfR/BU had done what they aimed to: shock and awe. Grossing out an audience used to, and indeed expecting to be shocked by the performers was an unforgettable experience, I would suggest seeing them if they’re playing somewhere near you. Just don’t stand too close to the stage.

The festival promoter, Jani Laine, came on stage after the performance and apologized to everyone, offering to reimburse cleaning costs, if needed. Respect is due for the fast and upstanding response to such unexpected events.

Entrails from Sweden were next to take the stage, resurrected in 2008 after a decade of hiatus, with a surprisingly good and clear sound, playing straightforward and enjoyable death metal. With catchy music, their playing formed the first mosh pit of the second evening. During the later half of their set, Markus Makkonen from Sadistik Forest took over the vocals, freeing up the frontman’s time to focus on his playing and headbanging. An extremely enjoyable live band, their sound was top notch and easily the most polished of these 2 days thus far.

Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult was another very memorable experience, with a combination of good music and showmanship. One of the first noticeable things was the extremely loud bass drum, which penetrated straight through to the core, as well as the roar of sound emanating from the stringed instruments, shaking the walls. Dark and oppressive, the emotion perfectly fit into the performance. While starting the show clad and veiled in white, frontwoman Onielar took off her white veil after the second song, joining the corpse painted visages of her bandmates, her appearance growing more sinister between songs after drinking blood out of a goblet and spitting it on herself and the audience. Her screams during the songs were equal parts haunting, distressed, and otherworldly. It would be an understatement to say that the band had perfect presence on stage; DNS easily climbed to the top performer of the festival for me at that point.

To close out the festival, Czech Master’s Hammer was the headliner for the evening. Emerging with a pair of very scantily-clad women with goat heads, and their stage instructions for the first song being “Don’t move at all,” the ritual was about to begin. Having grown accustomed to a lot of long hair and corpse-painted faces, the appearance of their lead, Franta Štorm, was surprising, wearing an old-timey hat and a stylish jacket. Though with a reputation like his, one doesn’t need to impress anymore. Another unique feature of their composition was a pair of kettle drums on stage, whose effect was lost on me… unsurprisingly as I wasn’t anywhere near the stage. The band seemed to be enjoying themselves, moving and swaying around in time with the music, with even the tympanist joining in the triumphant posing after songs. I took some amusement from the fact that their guitarist’s stage name is Necrocock. The maturity is strong here, right? Being completely spent by the bands and events of the evening, I had to leave early (around the sixth song), but in that time I managed to witness the return of the goat heads. Master’s Hammer was pretty much how I imagined it, unique and a cult-favorite for a reason, very much themselves in sound, in appearance, and in performance. I’d very much like to see them on a bigger stage or maybe at a dedicated show, to really show us how to praise the Adversary.

 

The festival thus over, I’m still gathering thoughts on the bands and scene. I tremendously enjoyed my time at SteelChaos and the black metal scene in itself is intriguing enough in itself to keep me interested in its happenings. The festival itself was very well organized, the staff friendly and professional. Special shout-out to the bartender with the Mark of Chaos hanging from his shirt – Grandfather Nurgle’s blessings to you, brother. We’ll meet again.

Photos: Marco Manzi

MARILYN MANSON w/ AMAZONICA @ Ice Hall (Jäähalli), Helsinki, 12.11.2017

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The self-proclaimed antichrist superstar, Marilyn Manson, has had a tumultuous year. Between the delayed album release, the summer festival circuit, a family tragedy, drama with band members, and even an on-stage injury, it was almost a surprise this tour actually got going. Nevertheless, they persevered. Heaven Upside Down was released October 6th, and the corresponding tour started at Jäähalli in Helsinki on November 12th.

Full disclosure: I’ve never been a huge Marilyn Manson fan. My background is in metal and their sound never really had enough riffs or song progression to pique my interest. That being said, I’ve always admired the man’s delivery and style. This would be my first time seeing him live and I found myself curious.

Check out the full gallery HERE!
Listen to the setlist over on Spotify:

The opening act was a DJ by the name of Amazonica. It was pretty much what you’d expect from a DJ. The lady was alone on stage with her table full of doodads. She mostly played half a song and sometimes just bastardized a riff. The choices ranged from rock classics such as AC/DC, Nirvana, Black Sabbath, and even The Beatles, over to pop and house. Opening for an iconic act was a thankless job and she did the best she could. I couldn’t help but feel a live band would have fared better.

 

Before Marilyn Manson started their set, there was an almost unseemly pause. From my vantage point, I could see them prepping the stage before the show. There was one big prop in the center but not much else. Instead, they had a huge black tent that took a quarter of the stage. The drums were to the side to accommodate it. What lay inside the mystery tent remained to be seen.

The soundtrack was mostly classic rock as well. Mötley Crüe, Dio, Slayer, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, etc. I thought it was a mistake until the actual intro turned out to be “Screaming for Vengeance” by Judas Priest, which transitioned into David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust.”

 

The curtain fell to the beat of “Revelation#12” from the new album. Manson confirmed rumors of him having a broken ankle by appearing in a wheelchair tricked out to look like a throne. At first he was noticeably off-key, but considering his signature singing style, it didn’t seem to matter. His adjustable throne that let him appear standing or sitting at will was a novel idea; though he seemed very restless spinning around in it. After the first song he said, “Let’s just all get past the fact that he has been crippled by his own behavior.” He said it in a way that had a hint of good humor.

After “This is the New Shit”, to everyone’s surprise, he suddenly appeared standing. “Ah, you can break my leg but you can’t break my soul,” he exclaimed. He was in the front of the stage with his broken ankle propped up behind him. He had two stagehands dressed as paramedics standing by, directly behind him, as they started “Disposable Teens.” He then finished the song by freestyling anything off his head that rhymed with teen. It was rambling and weird. I’d never seen him before so it was hard to tell if he was just high on pain medication or if this was normal. He also defiantly insisted on dropping his mic after practically every song. That’s just desperate overkill.

In general, Manson’s vocals were in good shape. His screams had a lot of power and rasp behind them. However, the older material especially had so many rapid-fire sections that they simply couldn’t be done live convincingly with just one singer. The two guitarists helped out a bit but this could have benefited from just a little bit of backing track.

For “Sweet Dreams”, the medics helped him onto a gurney. It seemed a cute way for him to rest his leg. From there he waved a light around the dimly lit stage. The crowd also waved their phones, producing a gorgeous, romantic scene akin to the night sky. The crowd would later reprise that for “Coma White”, which was a compelling performance from Manson and crew. These rare moments of perfect synchronicity between the artists and fans were wonderful things to behold. On the other end of the spectrum, there were also moments such as when, during “Deep Six”, a girl in the audience went topless and climbed on a friend’s shoulders (how very retro). She got shooed down by the ever-vigilant bouncers almost instantly. Brought back to earth from Gomorrah…

Almost all of the costume changes were just jackets they draped on him between songs. One was a hideous red raincoat, another was a Cruella Deville -esque fur coat. He did still don his weird fascist-chic outfit for “The Beautiful People” at the end of the night. For most of the show, Manson would alternate between either standing up or sitting on his throne. To preserve the mystery, they had to bring the stage-lights down every time. Those paramedics had to work overtime.

During “We Know Where You Fucking Live”, he was wheeled around the stage in a regular wheelchair. It was hilarious. It was a great idea to lean into the tragedy and just make it out to be a bit of a laugh. So instead of it being sad, it’s actually funny. To their credit, they came up with a lot of variation on it as well. The big tent on stage was presumably there for all these props on wheels.

Before the set drew to a close they did another song from Heaven Upside Down, “Say10.” Manson sat on his throne wearing a crown of thorns while screaming a poppy song about Satan. The obvious pun aside, the atmosphere was absolutely perfect. The way he sang the line, “You say ‘God’ and I say ‘Say 10′” made the word “God” sound scary and judgmental whilst “Say 10” is just adorable. I think that was the mood they were going for. Surprisingly, it ended up as one of the highlights for me.

Of course they had to do “The Beautiful People” at the end. They even had some backing vocals. The crowd was really into it and the quasi-Nazi outfit helped sell it. They followed up with “Lunchbox”, which Manson aborted near the end. Then he turned to his guitarist and started singing “Killing Strangers.” The band never fully joined in. After the first chorus, they stopped entirely and left the stage, never to return. I was left to assume Manson might have gotten tired on account of his leg and they had to cut it just a bit short. It was a pretty lackluster finish, but understandable.

 

I never thought I’d use this phrase, but Marilyn Manson was worth seeing just for the wheelchair. The changes between chairs and the standing position were creative and fun. Unfortunately, it also meant an inordinate amount of time was spent in the dark silence, waiting for something to happen. It was hard to tell which point was encore-baiting and which was just a long transition. The set was good enough for me but I can see how it would stick in someone’s craw. That there were enough classics and a couple songs from the latest album was pretty standard. Even though it wasn’t really my thing and the flow was a mess, based on this show I might be interested in seeing them again when they return to Finland next summer. I’m sure they’ll have another crazy spectacle ready by then.

Setlist:
1. Revelation#12
2. This is the New Shit
3. Disposable Teens
4. mOBSCENE
5. KILL4ME
6. Deep Six
7. The Dope Show
8. 1°
9. Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
10. Tourniquet
11. WE KNOW WHERE YOU FUCKING LIVE
12. Say10

Encore:
13. The Beautiful People
14. Coma White
15. Lunchbox
16. Killing Strangers

Photos: Janne Puronen

MARILYN MANSON @ Ice Hall (Jäähalli), Helsinki, 12.11.2017

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Marilyn Manson at Helsingin Jäähalli, Helsinki, 2017.
Photos by Janne Puronen.

APULANTA w/ LEMMENPYSSYT & HUORA @ Pakkahuone, Tampere, 10.11.2017

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Apulanta with Lemmenpyssyt and Huora at Pakkahuone, 2017.
Photos by Charlotta Rajala.
Gig report HERE!

ANATHEMA w/ ALCEST – Klubi, Tampere, 08.11.2017 (English)

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Liverpool’s atmospheric rockers, Anathema, haven’t graced Finnish stages since South Park Helsinki in 2015, which was a support set played acoustically due to the circumstances, and their last headlining shows were in 2014. Following the release of their cinematic new album, The Optimist, earlier this year, they finally returned for a couple of shows, together with France’s blackgaze pioneers, Alcest, who likewise haven’t visited our country in a while. On November 8th, the tour reached Tampere, where the two groups played at Klubi.

Listen along to the sets here:

Rarely have I been lucky enough to see two bands I love playing together, but the combination of Anathema and Alcest was a dream package, as both have a dreamy, emotional quality to their music. The two bands have toured together before in the States, and now it was finally Europe’s turn, so I jumped at the chance to see the Brits and the French sharing the same stage. Additionally, both Anathema and Alcest have released new albums since I’d last seen them, so hearing the new songs come to life was yet another incentive. Judging by the fact that the show had been sold out in advance, I was far from being alone in my curiosity.

 

Alcest took the stage at 20:00 with an intro tape of the instrumental “Onyx” from their latest album, Kodama (2016), after which they played the title-track of the record. Kodama was represented with three tracks in the 7-song set, all of which went down well with the audience, and right from the start you could tell that some people had specifically come to see them. Vocalist/guitarist Neige – wearing a Kate Bush T-shirt – was visibly delighted at the reception, always smiling widely and basking in the applause for a moment before saying anything into the mic. Although still quite shy in his demeanor, he seemed to be a bit more more comfortable in his role as the frontman than previously. Neige’s clean vocals were angelic as always, while his screams still managed to amaze me, although I’d seen them live twice before – how can such a gentle-looking man let out such shrieks? Alcest’s sound was good, and the nuances of their songs came across very nicely, the only downside being that touring guitarist Zero’s backing vocals were sometimes drowned in the mix. When I saw the band opening for Opeth at Pakkahuone 3 years ago, they looked a bit lost on the bigger stage, but at a smaller venue like Klubi the atmosphere is perfect for their music. It’s hard to talk very analytically about any specific songs in the set, because the music just wrapped itself around you and never let go until the end. The magic was broken only briefly during one mellow section in “Éclosion”, when two guys were babbling loudly to each other – shut up and enjoy, damnit! At the end of the last song, “Délivrance”, Neige stayed on stage to make his guitar howl with feedback while the others made their exit – now that’s an unusual ending! I wish they would’ve played something from their debut, Souvenirs d’un autre monde (2007), as it’s my favorite record and was even reissued recently, but understandably there are only so many songs you can squeeze into a 1-hour set. Definitely the best performance I’ve seen by Neige and co. so far and one of the best this year!

Setlist:
Intro (Onyx)
1. Kodama
2. Là où naissent les couleurs nouvelles
3. Oiseaux de proie
4. Éclosion
5. Autre temps
6. Percées de lumière
7. Délivrance

 

Anathema’s show started only 5 minutes late at 21:35 with an intro video based on the cover of A Fine Day to Exit (2001) (to which The Optimist is a sequel), with the man in a car on the beach. The first song was the instrumental “San Francisco”, which started as a taped intro, but the band members entered the stage and joined in to play on it, one after the other. The track transitioned directly into the modern Anathema classic “Untouchable Pt. 1”, which featured the band’s rich trademark vocal harmonies in full force and got the audience in the right mood. However, as a bit of a change from the album version, the finger-picked acoustic guitar came from a backing track, and the headphone-wearing Daniel “Danny” Cavanagh played a delay-laden guitar line over it. The first part was naturally followed by the second, after which vocalist/guitarist Vincent Cavanagh greeted the audience in Finnish: “Moi moi, terve Tampere!” They continued with a triple punch of songs from The Optimist: the rolling “Can’t Let Go”, the mesmerizing “Endless Ways”, and the melodic title-track. A deeper cut in the set was “Barriers”, which gave Danny Cavanagh the chance to take the lead on vocals – it was a pleasure to hear such an obscure gem from the oft-overlooked A Fine Day to Exit.

At this point someone shouted “play some doom!” to which Vincent replied,: “Where have you been for the past 20 years?” Danny also pointed out that the previous song, “wasn’t exactly Bruno Mars either… Not that there’s anything wrong with Bruno Mars.” Instead of succumbing to an old-school fan’s wishes, the band moved on with “Thin Air” from 2010’s We’re Here Because We’re Here, which was played without any backing vocals from Danny or Lee Douglas for some reason. This took the wind out of the song’s sails unfortunately, as the part in the middle sounded rather hollow without the harmonies. Luckily one of my favorites, “A Simple Mistake”, was up next. Once again the arrangement was slightly different, as Douglas handled the lead vocals instead of Vincent – this was something I hadn’t expected, but it worked nonetheless, and the climax sounded so big and heavy that it should’ve satisfied the heckler who had yearned for metal. “Closer” brought the main set to an end with Vincent on Vocoder, but it didn’t sound as forceful as it could have. Clearly I’m becoming quite picky with performances of songs I’ve heard live before!

The crowd didn’t have to clap for long until the taped instrumental “Firelight” started playing as a prelude to the electronic and dancey title-track of Distant Satellites (2014). This is a good example of a song that sounds much better live – the ending sounds quite tame on the album, but here Vincent was whacking away on his percussion while Danny played a rocking guitar part. “Springfield” from the new album seems to have inherited the spot that used to belong to “A Natural Disaster” as the song for which the audience members are asked to light the room with the lights on their phones. To be honest, I think “Disaster” is a better tune for this purpose, as “Springfield” is still very new, and it’s not as emotionally charged, but I get the band’s need for variety. “Back to the Start” was a bit of an odd pick from The Optimist, as I find it a bit dull on the album, and sadly hearing it live didn’t manage to sway my head. There are way better songs on the record, such as “Leaving it Behind”, which I’m sure would’ve sounded great live earlier on in the set. To conclude the show, the band threw in a little tribute to Pink Floyd, as Danny played a “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” teaser, over which Vincent sang “See Emily Play” before an energetic and well-received rendition of “Fragile Dreams.” As a fun little extra, the outro tape was a mashup of the vocals from Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” and the instruments from Radiohead’s “No Surprises”, and Danny roused the crowd to a sing-along of the chorus.

Towards the end, I couldn’t help noticing that Vincent was in a sullen mood – he knocked over the mic stand in front of his keyboards at the end of “A Simple Mistake”, and after “Fragile Dreams” he left the stage immediately, while the others stayed to thank the audience. I doubt the request for old stuff managed to ruin his vibe, as he and Danny laughed it off, so I bet he was having some technical issues. Meanwhile, Danny seemed a little distant and wasn’t interacting with the audience much or firing them up in his usual fashion, although at the end he said, “I hope you enjoyed it – I surely did.” During my interview with him earlier that evening he’d mentioned being tired, so apparently this was still affecting him on stage. However, singer Lee Douglas and the third Cavanagh brother, bassist Jamie, seemed to be having a good time, and I ended up paying a lot of attention to Jamie and drummer Daniel Cardoso, which made me realize how critical a tight rhythm section is on a tune like “The Lost Song Pt. 3.” Speaking of rhythm, I’m surprised the band didn’t mention the absence of drummer (nowadays mainly percussionist) John Douglas, who had left the tour a month earlier. While they did survive without him, he’s a founding member, and there were some key songs (co)written by him in the setlist as well, so an acknowledgement would’ve been fair.

 

Although Anathema were professionals and their show was enjoyable in itself, I was still left yearning for a bit more. Judging by setlist.fm, Tampere got one of the (if not the) shortest sets of the tour, and while the video screen was a nice addition, it could’ve been used more effectively. I suspect I might not have been as happy with Anathema had Alcest not put me in such a good mood beforehand. Hopefully next time everything will work out for the Cavanaghs!

Setlist:
Intro (32.63N 117.14W)
1. San Francisco
2. Untouchable Pt. 1
3. Untouchable Pt. 2
4. Can’t Let Go
5. Endless Ways
6. The Optimist
7. The Lost Song Pt. 3
8. Barriers
9. Thin Air
10. A Simple Mistake
11. Closer

Encore:
Intro (Firelight)
12. Distant Satellites
13. Springfield
14. Back to the Start
15. Fragile Dreams
Outro (No Surprises/What a Wonderful World)

ANATHEMA w/ ALCEST – Klubi, Tampere, 08.11.2017 (suomeksi)

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Anatheman liverpoolilaiset tunnelmarokkarit eivät ole siunanneet Suomen keikkalavoja läsnäolollaan sitten vuoden 2015 South Park Helsingin, joka oli olosuhteiden johdosta akustisesti vedetty lämmittelysetti, ja viimeisimmät keikat pääesiintyjän roolissakin olivat vuonna 2014. Tuoreen elokuvallisen The Optimist -albumin julkaisun myötä he palasivat vihdoin parille keikalle, mukanaan Ranskan blackgaze-pioneeri Alcest, joka ei myöskään ollut vieraillut maassamme vähään aikaan. Marraskuun 8. päivänä kiertue saavutti Tampereen, missä yhtyeet soittivat Klubilla.

Kuuntele settilistat tästä:

Hyvin harvoin olen ollut niin onnekas, että olisin päässyt näkemään kahden rakastamani bändin soittamassa yhdessä, mutta Anatheman ja Alcestin yhdistelmä oli unelmapaketti, sillä molemmilla on musiikissaan unenomainen ja tunteikas ote. Bändit olivat kiertäneet Yhdysvaltoja yhdessä aiemmin, ja nyt oli vihdoin Euroopan vuoro, joten paloin halusta nähdä brittien ja ranskalaisten jakavan samat lauteet. Sekä Anathema että Alcest olivat sitä paitsi julkaisseet uudet albumit sitten viime näkemän, joten uusien kappaleiden kuuleminen elävänä oli yksi porkkana lisää. Siitä päätellen, että keikka oli myyty loppuun etukäteen, en ollut yksin uteliaisuuteni kanssa.

 

Alcest nousi lavalle 20:00 intronauhanaan “Onyx”-instrumentaali tuoreimmalta Kodama-albumilta (2016), jonka jälkeen soitettiin levyn nimibiisi. Kodama oli edustettuna kolmen kappaleen verran seitsemän biisiä sisältäneessä setissä, ja niistä kaikki saivat yleisöltä hyväksyvän vastaanoton – oli alusta asti selvää, että jotkut olivat tulleet paikalle varta vasten katsomaan Alcestia. Kate Bush -paitaan sonnustautunut laulaja-kitaristi Neige oli selvästi otettu saamastaan vastaanotosta, hymyillen leveästi ja paistatellen yleisön aplodeissa aina hetken ennen kuin sanoi mitään mikrofoniin. Vaikka hän on yhä melko ujo olemukseltaan, hän vaikutti hieman aiempaa varmemmalta keulahahmon roolissaan. Neigen puhtaat laulut olivat enkelimäisiä kuten aina, kun taas hänen huutonsa onnistui yhä hämmästyttämään – miten näin hennon näköisestä miehestä voi lähteä tuollainen ääni? Alcestin soundit olivat hyvät, ja kappaleiden nyanssit erottuivat mukavasti – ainoana miinuksena oli se, että kiertuekitaristi Zeron taustalaulut hukkuivat välillä miksauksessa. Kun näin bändin lämmittelevän Opethia Pakkahuoneella kolme vuotta sitten, se näytti hieman hukassa olevalta isommalla lavalla, mutta Klubin kaltaisessa pienemmässä paikassa tunnelma on juuri oikeanlainen heidän musiikilleen. On vaikeaa puhua järin analyyttisesti yksittäisistä biiseistä setissä, sillä musiikki vain kietoutui ympärille eikä päästänyt irti ennen kuin esitys oli ohi. Taika rikkoutui vain hetkeksi “Éclosionin” aikana, kun pari miestä koki tarpeelliseksi jutella toisilleen kovaan ääneen – olisivatpa vain olleet hiljaa ja nauttineet musiikista! Päätöskappale “Délivrancen” lopussa Neige jäi lavalle ulvottamaan kitaraansa feedbackin merkeissä muiden poistuessa lavalta – ei mikään tyypillinen lopetus! Olisin halunnut kuulla jotain debyyttialbumi Souvenirs d’un autre mondelta (2007), sillä se on lempilevyni yhtyeeltä ja uudelleenjulkaistiin juuri hiljattain, mutta ymmärrettävästi yhteen tuntiin ei mahdu määräänsä enempää biisejä. Ehdottomasti paras näkemäni veto Neigeltä ja kumppaneilta tähän mennessä ja yksi koko vuoden parhaista!

Settilista:
Intro (Onyx)
1. Kodama
2. Là où naissent les couleurs nouvelles
3. Oiseaux de proie
4. Éclosion
5. Autre temps
6. Percées de lumière
7. Délivrance

 

Anatheman keikka alkoi vain viitisen minuuttia myöhässä 21:35 The Optimistin tarinaa pohjustaneen A Fine Day to Exitin (2001) kanteen perustuneella introvideolla, jossa mies istui autossa rannalla. Ensimmäinen kappale oli instrumentaali “San Francisco”, joka alkoi nauhalta soitettuna, mutta bändin jäsenet nousivat lavalle ja alkoivat soittamaan sen päälle yksi kerrallaan. Tästä siirryttiin suoraan moderniin Anathema-klassikkoon “Untouchable Pt. 1”, joka bändin rikkaine tavaramerkkistemmoineen sai yleisön oikeaan tunnelmaan. Pienenä muutoksena albumiversiosta akustinen näppäily tuli nauhalta, ja isot luurit päässä esiintynyt Daniel “Danny” Cavanagh soitti delay-efektillä höystettyä kitarakuviota sen päällä. Ensimmäistä osaa seurasi luonnollisesti toinen, jonka jälkeen laulaja-kitaristi Vincent Cavanagh tervehti yleisöä suomeksi: “Moi moi, terve Tampere!” Meno jatkui kolmen kappaleen mittaisella annoksella The Optimistia: ilmoille kajahti rullaava “Can’t Let Go”, lumoava “Endless Ways” ja melodinen nimikkoraita. Harvinaisempi biisi setissä oli “Barriers”, joka antoi Danny Cavanaghille mahdollisuuden toimia laulusolistina – oli mukavaa kuulla tällainen unohdettu helmi monesti ylenkatsotulta A Fine Day to Exitiltä.

Tässä vaiheessa iltaa joku kerjäsi bändiä soittamaan doomia, mihin vastauksena Vincent kysyi, missä mies oli ollut viimeisten 20 vuoden ajan. Danny myös huomautti, ettei edellinen kappale ollut varsinaisesti Bruno Marsia – “not that there’s anything wrong with Bruno Mars.” Vanhan fanin toiveisiin taipumisen sijaan bändi kulki eteenpäin vuoden 2010 We’re Here Because We’re Hereltä soitetulla “Thin Airilla”, joka soitettiin jostain syystä ilman Dannyn ja Lee Douglasin taustalauluja. Tämä valitettavasti vei tuulen pois kappaleen purjeista, sillä väliosa kuulosti melko ontolta ilman stemmoja. Onneksi seuraavana oli vuorossa suosikkeihini lukeutuva “A Simple Mistake”. Sovitus oli jälleen hieman erilainen, sillä Douglas toimi solistina Vincentin sijaan – en ollut odottanut tätä, mutta biisi toimi näinkin mainiosti, ja huippukohta kuulosti niin isolta ja painokkaalta, että jopa metallin perään haikailleen yleisön edustajan luulisi olleen tyytyväinen. “Closer” toi setin pääosuuden päätökseen Vincentin vocoderin kera, mutta olisi voinut kuulostaa vielä voimallisemmalta. Minusta on näköjään tulossa nipottaja aiemmin livenä kuulemieni biisien esitysten suhteen!

Yleisön ei kauaa tarvinnut taputtaa, kun “Firelight”-instrumentaali alkoi soida nauhalta alkusoittona Distant Satellitesin (2014) elektroniselle nimikkoraidalle. Kyseessä on hyvä esimerkki biisistä, joka kuulostaa paljon paremmalta livenä – lopetus on albumilla melko kesy, mutta lavalla Vincent takoi perkussioitaan ja Danny soitti rokkaavaa kitarakuviota. “Springfield” uudelta albumilta on nähtävästi perinyt “A Natural Disasterin” paikan biisinä, jonka aikana yleisöä pyydetään valaisemaan sali kännyköillään. Rehellisesti sanottuna “Disaster” on mielestäni parempi kappale tähän tarkoitukseen, sillä “Springfield” on yhä hyvin uusi, eikä siinä ole yhtä vahvaa tunnelatausta, mutta ymmärrän bändin tarpeen vaihtelulle. “Back to the Start” oli hieman outo valinta The Optimistilta, sillä pidän sitä levyllä hieman tylsähkönä, eikä kappaleen kuuleminen livenä valitettavasti onnistunut kääntämään päätäni. Levyllä on paljon parempia biisejä, kuten “Leaving It Behind”, joka olisi varmasti toiminut hienosti setin alkupuolella. Keikan loppuun bändi heitti pienen Pink Floyd -tribuutin, kun Danny soitti pätkän “Shine on You Crazy Diamondia”, jonka päälle Vincent lauloi “See Emily Playta” ennen energistä ja mukaansatempaavaa luentaa “Fragile Dreamsista”. Hauskana ekstrana outrona toimi mashup Louis Armstrongin “What a Wonderful Worldin” lauluosuuksista ja Radioheadin “No Surprisesin” instrumenttiraidoista, ja Danny yllytti yleisöä yhteislauluun kertosäkeessä.

Keikan loppupuolella en voinut olla huomaamatta, että Vincent oli nyrpeällä päällä – hän kaatoi koskettimiensa kohdalla olleen mikkitelineen “A Simple Mistaken” lopussa ja poistui lavalta heti “Fragile Dreamsin” päätyttyä muiden jäädessä kiittämään yleisöä. En usko, että vanhan tuotannon perään huutelu olisi pilannut hänen tunnelmaansa, sillä hän ja Danny hoitivat tilanteen huumorilla, joten arvelen hänellä olleen joitain teknisiä ongelmia. Danny sen sijaan vaikutti hieman etäiseltä eikä ottanut paljon kontaktia yleisöön tavalliseen tyyliinsä, vaikka lopussa hän sanoi nauttineensa illasta. Haastatellessani häntä paria tuntia ennen keikkaa hän oli maininnut olevansa väsynyt, joten ilmeisesti tämä vaikutti häneen vielä lavallakin. Laulaja Lee Douglas ja kolmas Cavanagh-veljes, basisti Jamie, vaikuttivat kuitenkin olevan hyvällä tuulella, ja kiinnitinkin paljon huomiota Jamien ja rumpali Daniel Cardoson soittoon, mikä sai minut huomaamaan, miten tärkeä tiukka rytmisektio on “The Lost Song Pt. 3:n” kaltaisessa kappaleessa. Rytmistä puheen ollen, oli yllättävää ettei bändi maininnut noin kuukautta aiemmin kiertueelta kotiin lähteneen rumpali (nykyisin lähinnä perkussionisti) John Douglasin poissaoloa. Vaikka bändi pärjäsi ilman häntä, hän on kuitenkin perustajajäsen, ja setissä oli hänen säveltämiään avainkappaleita, joten jonkinlainen huomionosoitus olisi ollut paikallaan.

 

Vaikka Anathema hoiti homman kotiin ammattimaisesti ja keikka oli itsessään nautittava, jäin silti kaipaamaan jotain. Setlist.fm:n perusteella näyttäisi siltä, että Tampere sai yhden kiertueen lyhyimmistä seteistä (kenties jopa sen lyhyimmän), ja vaikka videoskriini oli mukava lisä, sitä olisi voitu hyödyntää tehokkaammin. Luulenpa, että olisin ollut tyytymättömämpi Anathemaan, jos Alcest ei olisi saanut minua niin hyvälle tuulelle. Toivottavasti ensi kerralla Cavanagheilla kaikki menee nappiin!

Settilista:
Intro (32.63N 117.14W)
1. San Francisco
2. Untouchable Pt. 1
3. Untouchable Pt. 2
4. Can’t Let Go
5. Endless Ways
6. The Optimist
7. The Lost Song Pt. 3
8. Barriers
9. Thin Air
10. A Simple Mistake
11. Closer

Encore:
Intro (Firelight)
12. Distant Satellites
13. Springfield
14. Back to the Start
15. Fragile Dreams
Outro (No Surprises/What a Wonderful World)

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Kimmo Puhakka (Heroes Don’t Ask Why), 2017

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If you’re looking for something new to listen to, and the concept of “melodic divorce metal” appeals to you, you might turn your attention to Heroes Don’t Ask Why, who were formed in 2015. Their self-titled debut EP was released in December 2016, and today Playlist of My Life returns with a contribution from their drummer, Kimmo Puhakka.

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
I’ve been listening to heavy music my whole life. I think the first heavy metal song that I heard was “The Prisoner” by Iron Maiden from The Number of the Beast album. The year was about 1982 I think.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
It is very difficult to just pick one song, because this world is full of great songs. But, here’s one: “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Iron Maiden, and it is one of my favorite songs. Ohh, now I remember… the Dallas theme. That’s it. My all time favorite TV-series.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
There are plenty of songs that reminds me of my teenage years: “18 And Life” by Skid Row, “Holy Diver” by Dio, “Last in Line” by Dio, “Spell of Iron” by Tarot, and every Iron Maiden song from the 80-90s. At the end of the 80s I started listening to a Finnish band called Peer Günt that I still listen to a lot. Same with the others.

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
The first true contact as a drummer came by the Finnish all time metal legend, Stone. I was about 12-13 years old then. I still listen to that band quite a lot. When I became an adult, I started listening to Children of Bodom too.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
It is “Dead To Me” by CyHra from their debut album that came out this year. The lead vocals are nice and Jesper Strömblad [ex-In Flames] and Euge Valovirta [ex-Suburban Tribe] play great guitar riffs in that song. The chorus crowns it.

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Hehe… I’ve got few of those, but I think my guilty pleasures are “Runaway” by Bon Jovi and “Rio” by Duran Duran.

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
I think it was Iron Maiden’s album, The Number of the Beast, or Dio’s album, Holy Diver. I really don’t remember. It was a very long time ago. My bandmates laugh at me because now and then I like to look back at the 80s.

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Hmm… quite difficult question, but… “Let Her In” by Peer Gunt. It’s a song that runs like a train through the whole song.

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
There are many of those but here’s a few. If we go on the metal line, “Bullet Ride” by In Flames, “Icaros” by Diablo, “You Want a Battle Here’s a War” by Bullet for My Valentine, and every song by Soilwork and Children of Bodom. It’s impossible to just choose one song, because they both have so many great songs.

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
“The Sign” by the Finnish band, Yö.

Check out their music video for “Seen it All” here:

Or give them a listen on Spotify:

(2015) Devin Townsend Project: Ziltoid – Live at the Royal Albert Hall

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Artist: Devin Townsend Project
DVD: Ziltoid Live at the Royal Albert Hall
Released: 13.11.2015
Label: HevyDevy

 

When you think of Canada and metal, there’s really only one person who comes to mind: Devin Townsend. This creative soul is known for doing whatever his heart desires when it comes to music, from the gone-but-not-forgotten Strapping Young Lad to the more recent Casualties of Cool and everything in between. His most recent album, Z2, is straight-up fantastic, and in 2015 it was brought to life at the Royal Albert in London. The DVD/Blu-Ray concert was released on November 13th and we’ve been enjoying it ever since!

Listen along as you read here:

There were a lot of different versions of Live at the Royal Albert to pick from, but how could you turn down the boxed set that included an artbook from the gig? This comprehensive piece of art includes original Ziltoid artwork, behind the scenes and live gig photography, and band photoshoots. The quality of both the artwork and photography is off the charts, and adds a little something special to the set. It’s definitely worth shelling out a little more for this version.

As for the DVD/Blu-Ray, it includes two full setlists at the phenomenal English venue, the Royal Albert. The first half of the show is Dark Matters, the second disc from Z2, in full. Any fans of the Ziltoid series are sure to be thrilled with this. However, not only were we graced with some good old Ziltoid, but the second half of the show includes an on-request setlist that’s quite a bit different from the usual Devy sets you’d get at any regular show, at least by 2015 standards. However, we don’t want to spoil the whole DVD for you, so we’re going to stick to Ziltoid.

 

Where to begin? Let’s start at the top and work our way down. To start with… hell yeah! Z2 was one of the top-rated albums of 2014 for us, so to get the chance to see the full thing performed live in concert… well let’s just say that we were a bit cheesed that we didn’t hear about the Royal Albert show in time to fly over to London to watch it in person.

The Royal Albert, if you’ve never heard of it, is a gorgeous concert hall in London with the capacity of 8,000. If you watch the documentary in the special features, you’ll see how much effort went into putting this show on: the background panels, the choir, the actors playing the parts of Ziltoid and the Poozers, Dominique Lenore Persi as the War Princess, and more. There is also Chris Jericho and Bill Courage as Captain Spectacular and the narrator respectively, who aren’t physically present, but are seen on the massive backing panels on the stage.

The stage itself was set up with several sets of risers, some of which hosted the choir, some of which were traversed by the characters, including the War Princess and the Poozers. I have to say, the stage show was very nicely balanced between metal show and performance, as you get a little taste of the Ziltoid world, but it never goes so far as to become a true stage performance per say (like The Theater Equation), so the action on stage doesn’t take away from the musicians and Townsend doing their thing.

And the performance was incredible. That’s not to say it was perfect, though who really expects that? But they had clearly done a lot of practice (word on the street was that Townsend was actually using his sound checks during the tour as practice for this show) and it showed. He sounded great, the choir was great, Persi was great, and the band was great. I’m going to take this moment to give a shout-out to Ryan Van Poederooyen on drums – I confess to knowing very little about drums technically, but that guy is absolutely insane. I’ve never seen anyone rock a double-kick quite like he does. He’s kind of my hero.

Townsend himself is all smiles throughout the show, shouting out, encouraging the crowd, and oh so clearly having the time of his life. You can tell this was something he was truly looking forward to. It seems as though the Ziltoid stories are a bit close to his heart and it shows in gigs like this.

Persi absolutely crushed her parts as the War Princess, and if you think that the song is a bit long for the casual listen, you can’t deny that in the full span of the story, as seen live, it’s fantastic just the way it is. On the other hand, it does appear that the spoken vocal parts were lip-synched, though admittedly, it would be a bit weird. The narrator is also present, as a pair of disembodied eyes with an accompanying mouth spread out over the segmented background screens. This can be taken either as a weird choice, or as an artistically clever way of putting him on the screen without taking up too much space – your call. And, to their credit, the vocal parts weren’t exactly the same as they were on the album, so you weren’t getting a carbon copy of the stuff you’ve already heard.

This part of the set ends as the album closes, and Townsend has a little chat about what’s going on. I won’t bother to summarize it because that’d ruin it for anyone watching it in the future. It tells a lot about the mindset and meaning behind this show though, which is definitely worth seeing.

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And that’s the show. If you know and like the music, you’d really benefit from seeing this live video. Complete with the on-request set, including unusual picks like “Earth Day”, “Bastard”, and “The Death of Music”, as well as a personal favorite, “Universal Flame” (which I may never forgive Townsend for leaving out of the Z2 tour), the second half is a great set for DTP fans who want to hear a few unusual picks live.

So, a worthwhile DVD to pick up? I’d sure say so. No regrets on my behalf, and I think the average DTP fan would certainly agree.

Disc 1 setlist:
1. Z2
2. From Sleep Awake
3. Ziltoidian Empire
4. War Princess
5. Deathray
6. March of the Poozers
7. Wandering Eye
8. Earth
9. Ziltoid Goes Home
10. Through the Wormhole
11. Dimension Z

Disc 2 setlist:
1. Namaste
2. Night
3. Deadhead
4. Earth Day
5. Christeen
6. Supercrush!
7. Kingdom
8. Lucky Animals
9. Heatwave
10. Funeral
11. Bastard
12. The Death of Music
13. Universal Flame

THE HAUNTED w/ CARNALATION & KOBRA AND THE LOTUS @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 04.11.2017

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The Haunted with Carnalation and Kobra and the Lotus at Nosturi, Helsinki, 2017.
Photos by Janne Puronen.

MAGMA w/ CIRCLE @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 26.10.2017

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Magma with Circle at Tavastia, 2017.
Photos by Marco Manzi.

CYHRA – Peter Iwers, Nosturi 2017

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When a new band forms from well-known members of old favorites, it’s only natural that there are questions about how everything came together. When CyHra was formed from ex-members of a variety of different bands, including In Flames, Amaranthe, Annihilator, and Shining, Musicalypse had to head to Nosturi a bit early on October 27th, before their debut live performance, to learn what we could about this new band, its music, and its formation.

 

First of all, congratulations on the release of your debut album, Letters to Myself
Thank you.

Just to get things started, can you tell me a bit about how the band was formed? You all seemed to have joined one at a time, at least from the press releases.
That’s actually how it was. It started with Jake and Jesper getting together. They both wanted to do a solo album and wanted the other guy to play and sing on the respective album, and when they started talking about influences, they just realized they should do an album together. They started writing some songs and decided, “let’s do a band,” and then they asked Alex and eventually me to join the band, and we did. I was in In Flames at the time, so I was still thinking that this would be a side project thing, but then events led up to the fact where I decided to quit In Flames and this became the main priority. So that’s the long story, very very short version of it. But basically, a group of friends getting together and playing and making a band, the way it should be, with people you know and enjoy.

You didn’t leave In Flames all that long ago – was that in any way related to joining CyHra?
No, I left In Flames because I was ready to leave. I just felt like it was time for me to do the next thing in my life, and CyHra was conveniently there. But it had nothing to do with the decision of leaving.

Most of you guys come from vastly different musical/metal genres. What was it like to find your own style? Was it challenging or did it happen naturally?
I guess yes and no. I think the key is not to overthink it, just to write in a way that makes you feel comfortable. This record was mainly written by Jake and Jesper, because we came in so late, so we were just there for bits and pieces, but speaking for myself, I think it’s important just to try and relax and write and not think too much about if this sounds too much of this or that. Just write what makes you comfortable and all our varied backgrounds will, in the end, create the sound of CyHra. It doesn’t really matter where we come from. We will always get together and that sound will be where we are today.

I was very interested in the music, because you can definitely hear the individual backgrounds of the musicians and singer, but it doesn’t sound like Amaranthe, it doesn’t sound like In Flames. It has its own unique feel to it.
Thank you very much! Subconsciously, that’s what we aimed for. We didn’t want to sound a certain way, but with Jake’s voice it’s going to sound different than Anders’ voice from In Flames, but still has Jesper’s melodies and my groove thing with Alex. Everything affects the sound. There was never any intention to sound a certain way.

I’m sure you’ve all been asked this a lot lately, but where did the name CyHra come from, and what does it mean, if anything?
It’s the Persian name for “moon” I believe, but we spell it differently, due to the fact that it’s going to be easier to find us if you Google us. Like, Europe is a fantastic band, but it’s also part of the world, so it’s difficult. Obviously the internet wasn’t around then.

We had another name in the beginning that we were looking at, but then we found out there was another band who were actually in the studio where we mixed the record. We found that there was a band with the same name that just recorded their second album, so we changed it to CyHra. It was Jake who found it and we changed the spelling, like I said, for that fact. But as far as I know, it means “moon” in Persian. Somebody who speaks Persian can correct me, but that’s what we think.

Tell me a bit about the album as a whole then – were there any goals in writing it, did the album turn out the way you expected or was it a surprise? 
No, not a surprise. It turned out, I guess, always over expectations. I think the goal was to create music – it sounds like a cliche – but to create music from the heart and to make music that we are comfortable with, that we like. That’s always been the goal when we made music in the past as well, never to please a certain audience or to try to sound like a certain genre. You always make music that you need to make, that you have inside of yourself, and you get it out and try to mix it with everybody else in the band and get all the ingredients together. I guess that was the goal, to achieve something that we could be proud of.

The musicianship and vocals on the album are very good, but it also has quite a lot of emotion packed into it. Are there any themes or topics that you guys had wanted to express through this album? Is there any concept?
Lyric-wise, you mean? Yeah, the album is called Letters to Myself. My interpretation of this – and I say because it was Jake who wrote the lyrics – is basically that if you could talk to a younger version of yourself… or an older version, for that matter, what would you tell yourself. Also, there’s outside advice. It’s always easy to tell your friend when he or she should dump their boyfriend/girlfriend, whatever, or any other piece of advice, but it’s always difficult to act on [that advice] yourself. I think from that angle, that’s how he wrote.

It also has to do with a lot of Jesper’s history and his issues that he’s had in the past, a lot of stuff that he wanted to get out. He told a lot of stuff to Jake who turned it into lyrics, about his feelings, dark emotions, and all that stuff. It’s a therapy record, I’d say. All the lyrics are about healing, trying to make yourself a better person.

So it’s quite personal, in a lot of aspects?
Very personal, yeah, absolutely. It’s very dark, but at the same time, very brave, I have to say. Because [the lyrics] I had no part in, and I’ve read them and I think they’re amazing.

One of the songs that I found most unique was the last one with the spoken words, “Dead to Me.” That’s something that’s perhaps more common in hip-hop music than heavy metal. Can you tell me a bit about that song?
In the beginning we had talked about having that as the opener, the first track, but decided to put it later for various reasons. It was basically, that story was something that was meant to be… that was something that Jesper had as an idea from the beginning, something that wasn’t meant to be sung, but was meant to be spoken. The whole idea, the whole concept, was built around the spoken words in that lyrical part.

The album has been out for about a week now…
That’s right! For me, it feels really old, since I’ve heard it for quite some time [laughter].

At this moment in time, which is your favorite song on the album, if any?
I think… “Black Wings” is my favorite. I think it has a really catchy yet dark feel to it, and I love the solo that Euge is playing in it. It’s one of the best solos on the record and I’m a huge guitar nerd, so I spend my time on YouTube watching good guitar players playing and he’s a really good player, so I enjoy that song a lot.

Now with In Flames you’d been playing clubs and stadiums. How does it feel to be back in more intimate venues like Nosturi?
I don’t know yet, this is the first show [laughter]. I’m thinking it’s going to be great. We did a lot of small shows with In Flames as well. It’s mainly in Europe that we were doing the big ones. In America it was a lot of smaller places. I like it. I was always asked the question, which do I prefer, and I prefer them all. I like a huge outdoor stage with a huge crowd that kind of becomes one unit when they bounce up and down, but I do love the small sweaty clubs as well, where you can interact with the audience and just be there up close and in each other’s faces. So I don’t know, but I’m going to find out and I’ll enjoy every minute of finding out.

My last question then is just, what are your plans from here on out? Is there anything you’d like to do differently than in the past?
I think one thing is that we’re not going to do a gazillion shows. We’re going to try to be very thoughtful when we book our shows. When we go to one place, we won’t come back to that place for a long time, is the plan at least. A lot of times – and I’m the same way – “Ahh, I’ll catch them next time. They’ll come back soon, probably.” And they usually do. So we’re going to try to be a little bit more exclusive with our shows and make every show count. But we’ll see! That’s the thought right now.

Great! Any last words for anyone who might be reading?
Thank you for the support, throughout all of my musical career, and I hope you like the album. Check it out. Keep an open mind, because a lot of times when you listen to music where it features somebody you might know, you always have expectations, but try and just go in and listen to it and see if you like it.

Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, and good luck with the show.
Thank you very much.

Photos: Janne Puronen

CYHRA: Live Debut w/ EMBER FALLS & EYES WIDE OPEN – Nosturi, Helsinki, 27.10.2017

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In 2010, Jesper Strömblad left In Flames, followed by Peter Iwers in 2016. Sometime after, it was announced that these two would be joining forces, accompanied by Jake E., who left Amaranthe earlier this year. With Alex Landenburg [ex-Annihilator], they formed CyHra, and were later joined by session guitarist Euge Valovirta [ex-Shining] to make a full five members.

CyHra’s debut album, Letters to Myself, was released on October 20th, 2017, with their live debut to follow at Nosturi in Helsinki on October 27th. Naturally, with Musicalypse favorite Ember Falls opening, alongside the unknown Eyes Wide Open, this was a night to brave the early autumn snow and head into town.

Check out the interview we did with Peter Iwers (bass) over HERE!
Full gallery HERE!
Listen along to Ember Falls and CyHra’s sets on Spotify:

The doors to Nosturi opened at 20:00 and already there was a short queue outside, eagerly waiting to get in to the front row. Ember Falls started their set at 20:30, opening with “The Cost of Doing Business” and following it with “Falling Rain”, which never fails to fill me with joy. These guys performed excellently, with a great deal of enthusiasm. I’ve seen them what feels like a thousand times this year, and I’m still roaring to see them more. “The Enemy You Need” had some great vocal harmonization I haven’t noticed before, and “Rising Tide” featured a really cool brotherly rockout moment between Jay V and Calu. “One More Time” was sped up a bit and I didn’t quite recognize it at first, and I was surprised, yet thrilled, that they’ve still got “The Lamb Lies Down in Sacrifice” on their set.

They ended, naturally, with “Shut Down with Me”, and here is where I must cease my endless praise for but a moment. Every song on the set was performed beautifully, save this one. This is the track where they play around with the formula, toy with the vocal lines, and so on. It’s standard business for live shows, but this isn’t the first time this song has come across as messy because of it. I’m all for changing up songs on stage and having fun with them, but since these guys are a newer band and known first and foremost for “SDWM”, this is the song that should be their ultimate performance on stage. The other songs could easily have a looser feel if they were so compelled and wouldn’t suffer if they get messed up a little, but if a listener only knows them for their big hit, they might not be impressed when it’s performed sloppily. If I could make one change to their live sets after seeing them so many times, that would be it. Nevertheless, it was really wonderful to see them again and I don’t think I’ll be skipping any of their shows in the future. I’m still not sick of them, and that says a lot.

Second up on stage was Eyes Wide Open, hailing from Sweden. This is a band I’d never heard of before, and on the first song, I wasn’t especially impressed by the vocals. However, as their set went on, the quality improved, making me wonder if the singer does any vocal warm-ups before the show, and if not, maybe he should. He started with an almost thrash metal -style tunelessness, that got a bit more even and melodic as their set went on.

Musically, they were quite fine. Their style was fairly balanced between melodic metal, tipping occasionally into metalcore areas. They sound like they’ve been very heavily influenced by In Flames, as a lot of their songs had a familiar feel to them, though tuned down quite a bit from what you’d expect from IF’s older material – imagine perhaps Soundtrack to Your Escape -era In Flames, but executed in the modern IF style. The set was performed well, but I can’t say they offered anything new or shocking to the genre. If you like them on their albums, I don’t see why you wouldn’t enjoy them live. For me personally, they were perfectly okay to hear in between two bands I was excited about, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to see them again.

CyHra took the stage around 22:30, with the spoken word track from “Dead to Me” as an intro before Jake E. came on stage, to be joined shortly by the rest of the band – the opposite of how it’s usually done. I immediately learned that Strömblad was the rhythm guitarist, and realized that I should have known that based on his history. That left Valovirta to take care of the soloing, and he used his entire body to do it, in a way that reminded me a bit of Janick Gers [Iron Maiden]. They followed with “Muted Life” and by then we were already enjoying their live songs even more than on the album.