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?

Gallery and photos coming soon.
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.

Photos and gallery coming soon.

 

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 in English HERE!
Lue suomeksi keikasta TÄÄLLÄ!

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.

The heavy intro to “Letter to Myself” was fantastic, and after that, Jake E. finally greeted the crowd, saying it was fucking fantastic to be back in Helsinki, and to give Valovirta a big round of applause, as he’s a local. “We are CyHra from Sweden,” he said, and mentioned that their debut came out last week and thanked everyone from the bottom of his heart for being at the show. He then announced a song that they really love, “Heartrage.”

The show was, unfortunately, plagued by some sound issues. The high end was scratchy and it wasn’t uncommon for Jake E.’s vocal pitch to be lower than the backing track, as Atte pointed out. However, the performance itself was really nice and the crowd was willing to put their phones up for “Closure”, one of the ballads. I will say that I’m a bit sad that they didn’t play the other ballad, “Inside a Lullaby”, though I can understand the reason, as it’s mostly just Jake E. and a piano, so naturally it was the one they left out. However, it’s a gorgeous song and I’d have liked to hear it live.

After “Black Wings”, Jake E. mentioned that it’s been a long time since most of them have been on stage, and did the crowd know them from any other bands? He then told a short story from when he was 18 years old, saving up his lunch money to go to Gothenburg to hear Jesper and Peter playing in a club like Nosturi, and here he is 15 years later, playing on stage with them. He then said that the next song was one of the hardest he’s ever written, and asked the crowd to sing along if they know the words. “Holding Your Breath” seems indeed like a really tough song to sing, especially live with the vocal overlaps and very high notes, and I was impressed that he chose to sing the hardest parts and not only that, but he nailed them! That was one hell of a memorable performance.

The electronica aspects had been downplayed a lot live, but were more evident in “Here to Save You” and “Rescue Ride.” Jake E. asked how many people had bought or listened to the album, and then thanked the crowd for believing in them, declared that it meant everything to them, and then asked for a round of applause for the opening acts as well. After “Rescue Ride”, he made one more short speech, saying that they are a band new band and they’d love to do this again. “Without you, we are nothing. Thank you so fucking much!” They then closed out their set with “Karma”, their first release. That song somehow worked so much better live than on the album, standing out a bit from the other songs with its more equal balance between heavy and electronica. It was a great song to close with.

One interesting thing about the band was that each member had their own style. Landenburg is efficient and tight, Strömblad is stoic with the occasional smile, Iwers is straight-up cool, Valovirta is a showman, and Jake E. is passionate. They’re all excellent players, but they will need to get to know one another on stage a bit more before their shows become really fluent. Still, I think there’s quite a lot of potential in there. It’s a shame that the sound was problematic throughout the show though.

 

So CyHra is officially on the map! While there is evidence of a newness to being on stage together, these are all seasoned professionals who play their music very well, and I suspect that in time they’re going to be a great live group, each with their own style to offer. While it’s uncertain as to whether the live show would convince anyone who’s on the fence about these guys, I’m confident that if you liked the album, you’d really like the live show, and I’d recommend taking the opportunity to see them in that case.

Setlist:
1. Dead to Me
2. Muted Life
3. Letter to Myself
4. Heartrage
5. Dark Clarity
6. Closure
7. Holding Your Breath
8. Black Wings
9. Here to Save You
10. Rescue Ride
11. Karma

Photos: Janne Puronen

CYHRA w/ EMBER FALLS & EYES WIDE OPEN @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 27.10.2017

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CyHra’s live debut with Ember Falls and Eyes Wide Open at Nosturi, 2017.
Photos by Janne Puronen.
Gig report HERE!
Interview with Peter Iwers HERE!

LEPROUS & AGENT FRESCO w/ ASTROSAUR & ALITHIA – Tavastia, Helsinki, 24.10.2017

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Leprous’ Malina tour with Agent Fresco, Alithia, and Astrosaur, at Tavastia, 2017.
Photos by Marco Manzi.
Gig report in English HERE.
Lue keikasta suomeksi TÄÄLLÄ.

LEPROUS & AGENT FRESCO w/ ALITHIA & ASTROSAUR – Tavastia, Helsinki, 24.10.2017 (English)

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After the release of their 2013 album, Coal, Norwegian Leprous have quickly made their way to the frontlines of progressive music. For prog enthusiasts, the band has naturally been familiar as part of Ihsahn’s [Emperor] live offering, but in the last few years they’ve been busy conquering the world on their own. Leprous has played in Finland plenty of times, and their latest show at this year’s Ilosaarirock was a blast. Having just released their latest album, Malina, the band embarked on a sizable European tour, starting in Russia and making their way to Finland for a three-show run. The band’s fans in Helsinki had the chance to enjoy Leprous alongside Agent Fresco from Iceland, Alithia from Australia (!), and their Norwegian countrymen, Astrosaur, at Tavastia, on October 24th, 2017.

Lue keikasta suomeksi TÄÄLLÄ!
The full gallery can be found HERE.
Listen along to the setlist for Agent Fresco and Leprous here:

I’d thought beforehand about how the date would play a part in people’s attendance, since Tuesday is the quietest night of the week, and there also was a show in Nosturi featuring Mayhem on the same evening. We headed to Tavastia as soon as the doors opened, but already at 18:30, Tavastia’s bar was nicely crowded. There’s always some hassle related to the first shows of a tour, and the timetables were pushed back by half an hour from the start – the stage space wasn’t open and judging from the sound, the line check wasn’t done. When the stage doors were pulled aside at 19:20, the bar was almost packed. Apparently pre-sale tickets had sold well, as the upstairs was also open!

Astrosaur kicked things off at about 19:30, and the three-piece from Oslo played a nice 30 minutes of instrumental progressive-ish rock. I’d hastily listened through their debut, Fade In // Space Out, released only this year, and the songs worked even better live. Their material contained a good deal of variation, as the opener, “Necronauts”, features a really mellow part in the middle, only to jump to a furious blastbeat in the end. I have to say that their drummer, Jonatan Eikum, thundered away with a respectably relaxed grip. Eikum played a traditional rock drumset, but because he needed a china cymbal for the second and third songs, he took out his other crash and placed a smaller effect cymbal underneath it. Quite inventive! Astrosaur utilized a wide array of sounds otherwise as well, as at some point only a guitar sound was present, but it didn’t come from Eirik Kråkenes’ guitar but from Steinar Glas’ bass instead, only pushed through some effect pedal. The band probably was fairly unknown to a majority of the audience, but the clapping and cheering seemed to get louder towards the end of their set. A great start!

 

Next up was Alithia, joining the tour all the way from Melbourne, Australia. I rarely get the chance to say that I don’t know what to expect from a show, as the band’s second album, To the Edge of Time, left me pretty bewildered after the single playthrough I had time for; the long and winding compositions didn’t seem to have a common thread at all. Various metal medias have praised their shows in the past, so I decided to approach the situation with interest. Unfortunately, the show confirmed my preconceptions, as the result was a bit over half an hour of prog spiced with some kind of world music themes with pretty much nothing in place. The songs had too many ideas without any glue to hold them together, leading to abrupt tempo changes and verse-preceding interludes during which nothing seemed to happen on stage. The six-piece band had recruited Marjana Semkina from the Russian band Iamthemorning as vocalist, but her (beautiful) voice was mixed too inaudibly and her pitch was almost disturbingly flat at times – this might of course been because of bad stage monitoring, preventing her from hearing herself. Alithia’s sound tech seemed to be a bit stressed out behind the desk, and for example, keyboardist Jeffrey Castro, having the looks of Chuck Billy’s twin brother who’s deeply interested in mindfulness, couldn’t get his electric bongo drums and other percussion to rise above the guitars. If there’s something Alithia can’t be accused of, though, it’s being boring to watch on stage, as the players switched positions on a number of occasions and took advantage of the limited stage space by other means. It was a bummer that “Sacrifice” was played last, as its rising intensity towards the end was the only part of the set to cause more reaction in the audience than polite applause. If the band manages to write more coherent songs to their next album, Alithia might turn out just fine, but at this point I’ll have to say that I didn’t get it.

 

If Alithia left a somewhat sore taste to my mouth, the next band turned the evening’s course completely around. I saw Agent Fresco’s previous Helsinki show last autumn, when they were opening up for Katatonia, and I honestly don’t remember the last time I’d been as excited about new music or seen a show as perfect as that. The band’s more recent album, Destrier, is a 10/10 record, but what can you expect from a band that’s been formed only a few weeks before participating in and emptying the prize table of Iceland’s revered Músíktilraunir contest? I anticipated a sublime show and that’s what I received. Agent Fresco’s music is full of contrast – their set began with “Anomia” and “He is Listening” from the debut album, A Long Time Listening, the former including the guitarist Þórarinn Guðnason’s piano melody, with the latter charging to a snarky djent passage with Arnór Dan Arnarson’s screaming. Arnarson utilized his microphone marvelously by waving it in front of his face, fading his voice in and out, and it seems that the mic cord and the stage floor make up a nice percussion instrument as he lashed away. The drummer, Hrafnkell Örn Guðjónsson, with his almost obscenely large afro hair, along with the bassist Nicolai Mogensen, held the package together with ease. Mogensen, from the Danish band VOLA, had actually been summoned to fill in for Vignir Rafn Hilmarsson, who had to stay in Iceland and get ready to become a father.

The 45-minute set, comprised mostly of Destrier’s material, went by in a flash, and the band actually played one completely new song as well. Arnarson thanked the audience numerous times during the show, and one could easily spot the attendees who had mainly come to see them. If you, for some reason, decided to skip the night altogether or arrived to only see Leprous, do not fret – I think it’s safe to assume that the band will return to town. I personally feel that Agent Fresco is one of the most important (a bit) heavier bands these days, along with Ne Obliviscaris, for example, even they aren’t close to each other musically.

Setlist:
1. Anemoi
2. He Is Listening
3. Howls
4. Pyre
5. Wait For Me
6. (a new song)
7. See Hell
8. Angst
9. Bemoan
10. Dark Water
11. Eyes of a Cloud Catcher
12. The Autumn Red

 

Agent Fresco left the stage pretty much scorched for Leprous, but the Norwegians handled the situation with ease. The band had a featuring cello player with them, who started the show almost thievingly, as he was the last to do a soundcheck during the changeover, then stayed on stage, began a solo, during which the rest of the band got on stage and began the set with “Bonneville” and “Stuck” from the new Malina album. The sheer virtuosity of the band shouldn’t be unclear to anyone who has seen Leprous live before, but their playing and especially Einar Solberg’s magnificent voice just get me every time. Solberg had considerable problems with his voice on the release tour of their previous album, The Congregation, but as with this year’s Ilosaari, this night he was at full throttle. The band’s newest member, second guitarist Robin Ognedal, has clearly claimed his spot, as one doesn’t even notice Øystein Landsverk’s absence anymore. The featuring cellist brought the finishing touch, as the “Stuck” outro, for example, would’ve been a bummer to hear from a backing track.

The first half of the set featured some surprising choices, as “Moon” from The Congregation and “Salt” from Coal were played, the latter being its live debut. “The Valley”, on the other hand, is a staple in Leprous’ live set in my opinion. Because this was the Malina release tour, the set was built around its material, and in the end a whopping eight songs were played from the album. “The Price”, the first encore song, as well as “Rewind”, completely deserve their place in the set, although I would’ve loved to hear the latter in full, as the faster ending is one of The Congregation’s finest moments. The second album, Bilateral, was featured with only “Restless.” Leprous probably would’ve had time to do a second encore if the timetables hadn’t gone awry – like in Ilosaari, it would’ve been a pleasure to hear the band’s Greatest Song, “Forced Entry.” Visually, the show was excellent, as Leprous’ light tech used everything the Tavastia stage had to offer to his advantage. The mix was great, though I can’t recall seeing a bad-sounding Tavastia show. The coatroom queue seemed so long that if the evening wasn’t sold out, it probably was close.

 

In conclusion: one great, one not that great, and two awesome shows! The 25€ tickets were pretty affordably priced, as one might easily have to pay the same amount for popular Finnish bands. Thank you to Leprous and Agent Fresco, until next time!

Setlist:
1. Bonneville
2. Stuck
3. Moon
4. Salt
5. The Valley
6. Illuminate
7. Rewind
8. Restless
9. Malina
10. The Weight of Disaster
11. The Last Milestone

Encore:
12. The Price
13. Mirage
14. From the Flame

Photos: Marco Manzi

LEPROUS & AGENT FRESCO w/ ALITHIA & ASTROSAUR – Tavastia, Helsinki, 24.10.2017 (suomeksi)

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Norjalainen Leprous on viimeistään vuoden 2013 Coal-albuminsa jälkeen raivannut tiensä progressiivisen musiikin etulinjaan nopealla tahdilla. Progeharrastajille yhtye on totta kai ollut tuttu sen toimittua Emperor-mies Ihsahnin taustayhtyeenä jo aiemmin, mutta viime vuosina bändillä on ollut kiire valloittaa maailmaa vain omalla nimellään. Suomessa Leprous on ehtinyt vierailla jo monesti, ja bändi soittikin loistavan keikan tämän kesän Ilosaarirockissa ennen tuoreen Malina-levynsä julkaisua. Bändi starttasi mittavan levynjulkaisukiertueensa Venäjältä, josta tie vei luonnollisesti Suomeen kolmelle keikalle. Helsinkiläisyleisö pääsi nauttimaan Leprousin, islantilaisen Agent Frescon, australialaisen (!) Alithian sekä maanmiestensä Astrosaurin venkoilusta Tavastialla.

Read in English HERE!
Kuvagalleria TÄÄLLÄ.
Kuuntele Agent Frescon ja Leprousin settilistat tästä:

Olin miettinyt etukäteen, miten keikan ajankohta vetäisi ihmisiä paikalle, sillä tiistai on tunnetusti viikon hiljaisin ravintolapäivä, ja samana iltana oli tarjolla myös Nosturissa eräskin Mayhem-niminen orkesteri. Suuntasimme paikalle heti ovien avauduttua, mutta jo puoli seitsemältä Tavastian baarin puoli oli mukavasti kansoitettu. Kiertueen alkuun liittyy aina kaikenlaista hämminkiä, jonka johdosta aikataulut olivat heti kärkeen puolisen tuntia myöhässä – salia ei oltu avattu vielä laisinkaan, ja äänistä päätellen linjacheck oli vielä kesken. Kun salin ovet avattiin kahtakymmentä yli seitsemän aikoihin, baarissa oli jo oikeasti tungosta. Ilmeisesti ennakkoliput olivat menneet mainiosti kaupaksi, sillä Tavastian yläkertakin oli käytössä!

Astrosaur avasi pelin puoli kahdeksan aikoihin, ja kolmimiehinen oslolaisbändi soitti mainion reilun puolituntisen verran instrumentaalista progehtavaa rockia. Vasta tänä vuonna julkaistu debyyttilevy Fade In // Space Out tuli kuunneltua edeltävänä päivänä hätäisesti läpi, mutta kappaleet heräsivät aivan eri tavalla eloon livenä. Kappalemateriaalista löytyy mukavasti vaihtelua, sillä avausraita “Necronautsin” keskivaiheilla on useamman minuutin mittainen suvantokohta, josta hypätään suoraan blastbeatiin, jonka rumpali Jonatan Eikum soitti kunnioitettavan rennolla otteella. Eikum paukutti perinteisen karsitulla rock-setillä, mutta koska välillä tarvittiin china-soundia mukaan, mies vaihtoi ensimmäisen kappaleen jälkeen toisen crashinsa alle pienemmän efektipellin. Kekseliästä! Soundien kirjo oli muutenkin hieno, sillä jossain vaiheessa lavalta kuului ainoastaan kitarasoundi, vaikkei kitaristi Eirik Kråkenes koskenutkaan soittopeliinsä. Tajusin vasta hetkisen päästä, että ääni tulikin Steinar Glasin bassosta jonkinlaisen efektin läpi. Bändi oli todennäköisesti yleisölle ennalta tuntematon, mutta keikan loppupuolella alkoi näkyä koko ajan enemmän taputuksia. Varsin hyvä aloitus!

 

Toisena oli vuorossa Alithia, joka oli liittynyt mukaan kiertueeseen Australian Melbournesta asti. Harvoin voin sanoa ennen keikkaa, etten oikein tiedä mitä odottaa, sillä myöskin edeltävänä iltana nopeasti tutustuttuna Alithian kakkoslevy To the Edge of Time jätti sekavan kuvan; polveilevista kappaleista ei tahtonut löytyä punaista lankaa sitten millään. Metallimedioissa on kuitenkin ruodittu bändin keikkoja varsin mairittelevaan sävyyn, joten päätin lähestyä tilannetta mielenkiinnolla. Keikka kuitenkin valitettavasti vahvisti etukäteiskuumotukset todeksi, sillä tuloksena oli reilu puolituntinen maailmanmusiikkivaikutteilla höystettyä progea, jossa oikein mikään ei tuntunut osuvan kohdilleen. Biisit sisälsivät aivan liikaa ideoita, joita ei kuitenkaan ole osattu naittaa yhteen, vaan tempovaihtelut olivat töksähteleviä ja säkeistöjä pohjustavat instrumentaalikohdat jäivät kovin tyhjiksi, kun lavalla ei niiden aikana tuntunut tapahtuvan mitään. Kuusimiehinen bändi oli napannut rundille vierailevaksi vokalistiksi venäläisen Iamthemorningin Marjana Semkinan, jonka (kaunis) ääni oli miksattu turhan hiljaiselle, minkä lisäksi Semkina lauloi miltei häiritsevän alavireisesti – totta kai myös lavamiksaus saattoi olla sen verran huono, ettei hän vain kuulllut itseään selkeästi. Alithian miksaaja tuntui olevan muutenkin hieman nesteessä miksauspöydän ääressä, ja esimerkiksi Chuck Billyn mindfulnessiin flipanneelta kaksoisveljeltä näyttävän synistin Jeffrey Castron perkussiot hukkuivat pahasti kitaravallin alle. Alithiaa ei silti voi syyttää livebändiksi, jota olisi tylsää katsoa, sillä soittajat vaihtoivat välillä paikkoja keskenään ja hyödynsivät muutenkin lavatilaa. Harmi kuitenkin, että “Sacrifice” soitettiin viimeisenä, sillä sen loppunostatus oli ainoa osio, joka sai yleisöön enemmän liikettä kuin kohteliaat taputukset. Jos seuraavalle levylle saadaan johdonmukaisempia biisejä, tästä voidaan saada vielä ihan hyvä juttu, mutta tällaisenaan joudun toteamaan ensimmäistä kertaa: valitettavasti ei jatkoon.

 

Jos Alithia jättikin hieman happaman jälkimaun, seuraavaksi mentiinkin sitten täysin läpi katosta. Todistin islantilaisen Agent Frescon edellisen Helsingin-keikan viime syksynä, jolloin bändi oli lämppäämässä Katatoniaa, enkä muista milloin olisin innostunut musiikista yhtä kokonaisvaltaisesti tai nähnyt yhtä täydellistä keikkaa. Bändin tuoreempi Destrier-levy on täyden kympin arvoinen tekele, mutta mitä voikaan odottaa yhtyeeltä, joka on perustettu vain muutamaa viikkoa ennen arvostettuun Músíktilraunir-kilpailuun osallistumista ja sen palkintopöydän tyhjentämistä saman tien? Odotin tälläkin kertaa täysin suvereenia esitystä ja sen myös sain. Agent Frescon musiikki on täynnä kontrasteja: setti käynnistyi debyyttilevy A Long Time Listeningin avauskaksikolla “Anomia” – “He Is Listening”, joista ensimmäistä kuljettaa kitaristi Þórarinn Guðnasonin pianomelodia, mutta jälkimmäinen hyökkää äkkiväärään djent-venkoiluun vokalisti Arnór Dan Arnarsonin huudon myötä. Arnarson käytti mikrofonin heiluttamista suunsa editse tehokeinona häivyttäen osan äänestään, minkä lisäksi mikkipiuha tuntui olevan lyömäsoitin siinä missä rumpusettikin miehen piiskatessa sillä lavaa. Miltei hävyttömän kokoisella afrokampauksella varustettu rumpali Hrafnkell Örn Guðjónsson piti paketin kasassa yhdessä VOLAn basisti Nicolai Mogensenin kanssa, joka oli hälytetty tuuraamaan Islannissa isyyteen valmistautuvaa Vignir Rafn Hilmarssonia.

Suurimmaksi osaksi Destrierin materiaalista koostunut kolmivarttinen sujui kuin siivillä, ja yleisöstä oli selkeästi poimittavissa pääasiassa Agent Frescoa katsomaan tulleita faneja, joille tarjoiltiin yksi täysin uusi kappalekin. Arnarson kiittikin helsinkiläisyleisöä useaan otteeseen, ja jos jostain tilapäisestä mielenhäiriöstä johtuen päätit jättää illan kokonaan väliin tai saapua paikalle vasta Leprousia katsomaan, lienee turvallista sanoa että bändi palaa vielä kaupunkiin. Koen Agent Frescon olevan tämän hetken tärkeimpiä raskaamman musiikin orkestereita esimerkiksi australialaisen Ne Obliviscarisin ohella, vaikkeivät yhtyeet samaan lokeroon mahdukaan.

Setti:
1. Anomia
2. He Is Listening
3. Howls
4. Pyre
5. Wait For Me
6. (uusi kappale)
7. See Hell
8. Angst
9. Bemoan
10. Dark Water
11. Eyes of a Cloud Catcher
12. The Autumn Red

 

Agent Fresco jätti lauteet melko lailla tuleen Leprousia varten, mutta kyllähän norjalaiset hoitivat silti homman kotiin. Bändi oli napannut kiertueelle mukaan jopa oman sellistin, joka käynnisti setin kuin varkain – sello soundcheckattiin changeoverin aikana viimeisenä, mutta sen (todella taidokas) soittaja jäi lavalle ja aloitti soolon, jonka lopussa muu bändi nousi lavalle ja aloitti keikan Malina-levyn “Bonnevillellä” sekä “Stuckilla”. Kenellekään Leprousin aiemmin livenä nähneelle tuskin on epäselvää miten taidokas yhtye on kyseessä, mutta silti on aina vain pakko ihastella miesten yhteissoiton tiukkuutta ja totta kai laulaja Einar Solbergin huikeaa ääntä. Edellislevy The Congregationin julkaisukiertueen Nosturin-keikalla Solbergin ääni tuntui olevan hukassa, mutta Ilosaaressa sekä nyt Tavastialla mies oli täydessä vireessä. Bändin tuorein jäsen, kakkoskitaristi Robin Ognedal, on selkeästi hitsautunut mukaan todella hyvin, sillä Øystein Landsverkin poisjääntiä ei enää edes huomaa. Vierailevan sellistin läsnäolo toi loistavaa lisämaustetta keikkaan, sillä “Stuckin” outro olisi ollut paljon tylsempää kuunnella nauhalta miesten vain patsastellessa lavalla.

Setin alkupuolella saatiin kuulla jopa yllättäviä valintoja The Congregationin “Moonin” sekä Coalin “Saltin” muodossa, joista jälkimmäistä ei oltu koskaan aiemmin soitettu livenä. Viidentenä soitettu “The Valley” taas on mielestäni lähes itsestäänselvyys bändin setissä. Koska kiertue juhlistaa Malinaa, keskittyi setti luonnollisesti sen materiaaliin, ja levyltä taidettiin kuulla lopulta kokonaista kahdeksan kappaletta. The Congregationin “The Price”, jolla bändi avasi encoren, sekä “Rewind” puolustivat paikkaansa setissä, joskin oli harmillista että jälkimmäisestä soitettiin ainoastaan alkupuoli – lopun nopeampi rypistys on mielestäni levyn ehdottomia huippuhetkiä. Kakkoslevy Bilateralilta kuultiin ainoastaan “Restless”. On sinänsä harmi, että illan aikataulut olivat venähtäneet pitkäksi, sillä jos Leprousilla olisi ollut aikaa palata lavalle vielä toistamiseen, olisi totta kai ollut Ilosaaren tapaan hienoa kuulla vielä bändin Se Paras Biisi, “Forced Entry”. Visuaalisesti setti oli upea, sillä Leprousin valomies oli todellakin tehtäviensä tasalla. Miksaus oli mainio, enkä kyllä muista Tavastialla huonolta kuulostavaa keikkaa ikinä kuulleenikaan. Narikkajono purkautui sen verran pitkään, että keikka oli selkeästi, jos ei täysin loppuunmyyty, niin ainakin lähelle.

 

Illan saldona oli yksi hyvä bongaus, yksi ehkä aavistuksenomainen huti, mutta myös kaksi täysosumaa, joten lippujen 25 euron hintaa voidaan kuitenkin pitää täysin perusteltuna – kotimaisten menestysbändien Tavastian-keikoista joutuu välillä maksamaan enemmän. Kiitokset Leprousille sekä Agent Frescolle ja nähdään taas ensi kerralla!

Setti:
1. Bonneville
2. Stuck
3. Moon
4. Salt
5. The Valley
6. Illuminate
7. Rewind
8. Restless
9. Malina
10. The Weight of Disaster
11. The Last Milestone

Encore:
12. The Price
13. Mirage
14. From the Flame

Kuvat: Marco Manzi

(2017) Interviews

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Our collection of interview photos from 2017.

(2017) Delain: A Decade of Delain – Live at Paradiso

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Artist: Delain
Album: A Decade of Delain – Live at Paradiso
Released: 27.10.2017
Label: Napalm Records

 

Dutch melodic metallers Delain celebrated the first full decade from releasing their debut album, Lucidity, with a sold-out Paradiso concert hall in Amsterdam last December. Now, after many long months of anxious waiting, the anniversary show is neatly packed into a DVD and double album that carries the name A Decade of Delain – Live at Paradiso, so attendees can relive the evening and those who couldn’t attend can join the party. The DVD/BluRay package also contains a documentary called “We are the Others – A Decade of Delain”, as well as “We are the Others” live recording at Masters of Rock 2015, and the official music video for “Suckerpunch”, but since we have to wait for the official release to see the extras as well, we’ll only review the live show in here.

I was lucky enough to go and see the whole spectacular show at Paradiso, and it was easily in my top three gigs I saw last year. Numerous feats from visitors like Alissa White-Gluz, Marco Hietala, some of the former members (and more), one of best audiences I’ve ever seen, a gorgeous venue, and almost 2 hours of the best of Delain – I could go on for a good while, but you get the point. So, I was naturally more than psyched to experience it again on DVD, and my expectations were mile-high, since it was not reasonably possible to get a mediocre final product out of that. Now that I’ve actually watched the film a few times, did it really deliver the atmosphere and what I’ve called the ‘goddamn confetti bomb of awesome’? Well… yes and no.

 

If we start with the ‘yes’ part, the audio is excellent, which is no surprise – the live tracks Delain has released on their EPs and special editions have always been of great quality. On first watch, I felt that the audience could have sounded a teeny bit louder – really, the crowd was one of the craziest and loudest I’ve ever witnessed – but a good pair of headphones proved that notion unnecessary on later viewings. In general, it sounds well balanced and it’s easy to recognize all of the instruments clearly, as well as the orchestrations and other backing tracks; I admit I hadn’t even noticed or had a good grasp of some of the orchestrations in certain songs with their studio versions, so those of you with home theaters and good set of speakers are in for quite a treat.

The noise from the audience with “The Monarch” intro sets the atmosphere perfectly, and the dark stage lights up as the band kicks things off full force with “Hands of Gold.” Every time I’ve watched this, I’ve had goosebumps by when Alissa White-Gluz comes on stage at the latest, delivering both her harsh parts and gorgeous cleans with Charlotte Wessels in chorus; those goosebumps return numerous times throughout the rest of the recording. For some reason, Wessels’ shouts in her speeches always send chills down my spine – something in her voice reminds me of some sort of fierce warrior queen and leaves me in awe. She’s like a concentrated bomb of charisma, and that alone makes me wonder how it’s even possible for Delain to still be so criminally underrated in Finland (and I haven’t even started about the general top-notch musicianship and strong discography here). But going back to “Hands of Gold”, it makes for a perfect set opener and is definitely one of Delain’s best live songs, along with pretty much all of their album opening tracks; an interesting pattern and one I don’t mind at all. On the topic of setlists, the one at Paradiso was a great cross-section into Delain’s repertoire, if leaning slightly toward the two latest albums. As the tracks from both of them work wonderfully live, I have nothing to complain about there either – on the whole, even if I would have switched a song or two myself, it was one damn great live set.

The first half of the show (and the first disc of the double CD) is significantly heavier on the newer material, including most tracks from Moonbathers and quite a few from The Human Contradiction as well. The second half was, naturally, dedicated to Lucidity. Unfortunately, I’m still not too familiar with the first album – I’d hopped on shortly after April Rain – but I’m fairly sure its songs were greeted with much joy by those who have been there from the start. Along with that, they were certainly justified by the anniversary (and some by rarity, too), as well as an opportunity to bring more visitors on stage. We were treated with “Sleepwalker’s Dream” performed by the almost complete 2006 line-up, “See Me in Shadow” with Liv Kristine [ex-Leave’s Eyes] and cellist Elianne Anemaat, and then George Oosthoek [MaYaN, ex-Orphanage] on growls in “Pristine”; rarely have I seen a show with as many excellent visitors. Alissa White-Gluz is heard again in “Tragedy of the Commons” during the first half, as well as Burton C. Bell of Fear Factory in yet another rarity, “Where is the Blood”, but perhaps the most memorable visitor was not physically present at all. By now you probably know already that Nightwish’s Marco Hietala was featured in “Your Body is a Battleground” and “Sing to Me”, as a wizard of Oz -like gigantic head projected on the wall behind the stage, and let me tell you, it was awesome in a way I would never have believed possible. His parts could have merely been played from backing tracks, but like this – as a black and white singing face disappearing into smoke and reappearing again – he was actually part of the show, and made it even more unique. It’s also a nice touch that the video projections were edited on top of the footage on the DVD for a few moments, because they’re naturally not quite as impressive through video as they were when watching with one’s bare eyes. Another pleased note I made while watching the DVD was that each of the album covers (that acted as backdrops most of the time) were also edited to be shown during the intermissions, as well as the video footage that was projected on the wall during “Mother Machine”; it looked cool at the show, but was actually even better the way it was used on the DVD.

However, as I said in the beginning, there was also a ‘no’ in the answer as to whether the DVD met the expectations I had placed on it. After the first spin, I found myself wondering if I was just visually too picky and fussy, but after binging a few other concert DVDs from our shelves, followed by a few more rounds of Delain’s, I had to admit that it wasn’t just me being overly pedantic about visual matters. And I really hate to admit that, both as a fan and a reviewer – there was so much potential for this to be one of the best live DVDs I’ve ever seen, given that the show blew me and the whole Paradiso away in the best way possible.

One thing you’ll notice in the first few minutes is that the footage is surprisingly dark for the better part of the first half, but that’s luckily not much of an issue during the second. What to me personally seems to be the main issue with the video quality is the inconsistency – there are plenty of wonderful montages and stunning frames, but roughly nearly equal choices I couldn’t figure out a reason for. The cutting feels oddly jumpy at times, not always finding a rhythm between audio and movement, and every now and then when focusing on someone or something happening onstage, the shot is suddenly cut to somewhere completely else and back again, so it starts to feel a bit restless. There’s a lot of gracefully sweeping crane shots, but it’s slightly on the edge of too much – if you have something cool all the time, it usually loses some of its thrill. Sometimes there’s simply unfortunate angles and framing, but I have to cut the camera crew some slack here – it’s not always possible to be exactly on the right spot to get a good shot of something, or where the most interesting action happens, as the movements on stage are mostly unpredictable. It’s got a lot to do with lucky positioning, just like in the photopit for photographers, and I’m not completely sure how many cameras in total they had to shoot this show. But again, if and when there’s as many cameras as there appeared to be at Paradiso (meaning there likely was more than enough material), the weight of the choices moves to the cutting board. The bottom line here is that if something can and has been done really well to some extent, why not all of it? It doesn’t need to be overly polished and Hollywood-like, far from that, but it shouldn’t feel rushed, either.

These relatively small things are something that, in the end, distinguish an exceptional live recording from one that could have been such. Of course, this doesn’t mean it’s not good, quite the contrary. Some of my all-time favorite concert DVDs, like Sonata Arctica’s For the Sake of Revenge, are miles away from perfect, but they still hold a certain value. For one, I know I will be happy to relive the Paradiso show again – there’s a fair amount of that incredible atmosphere captured, especially in the audio, but also in the video footage, from bandmembers’ shenanigans and wide smiles to the audience’s immense energy. Delain is essentially a live band, and while the studio albums are great the way they are, the songs rise to a whole other level when this bunch gets on stage. If I really, really would want to have one more thing on this DVD, it would be that it shows a little more of the direct interaction between the band and their audience – there was no shortage of that, and the relationship Delain has with their fans is one of sweetest I’ve seen first-hand.

 

All-in-all, I’m certain that those who were at the Paradiso show will enjoy this (I know I want a physical copy once they’re out), and I would see it without a doubt becoming an integral part of any Delain fan’s collection. But in particular, I’d recommend the live album even for those who are not at all familiar with the band yet – I’m fairly certain that it has the power to inspire people to take a closer look at their discography and jump at the opportunity to check them out live when they tour nearby.

Rating:
Live CD: 9.5
DVD: 7.5
Total: 8.5/10, 4.25 stars

Tracklist:
1. The Monarch Intro
2. Hands of Gold – ft. Alissa White-Gluz
3. Suckerpunch
4. The Glory and the Scum
5. Get the Devil Out of Me
6. Army of Dolls
7. The Hurricane
8. April Rain
9. Where is the Blood – ft. Burton C. Bell
10. Here Come the Vultures
11. Fire with Fire
12. The Tragedy of the Commons – ft. Alissa White-Gluz
13. Danse Macabre
14. Sleepwalker’s Dream – ft. Rob van der Loo, Sander Zoer and Guus Eikens
15. Your Body is a Battleground – ft. Marco Hietala (vid)
16. Stay Forever
17. See Me in Shadow – ft. Liv Kristine and Elianne Anemaat
18. The Gathering
19. Pristine – ft. George Oosthoek
20. Mother Machine
21. Sing to Me – ft. Marco Hietala (vid)
22. Don’t Let Go
23. We are the Others

DYING FETUS w/ GUESTS @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 20.10.2017

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Dying Fetus, with Disentomb, Beyond Creation, and Psycroptic at Nosturi, 2017.
Photos by Marco Manzi.

OPETH w/ HEXVESSEL – Finlandia-talo, Helsinki, 16.10.2017 (English)

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Opeth’s Sorceress tour didn’t reach Finland last year, although mainman Mikael Åkerfeldt had said they would come to Helsinki. Luckily this year, the Swedish progsters made up for it by announcing a show at Finlandia-talo – yet another addition to the list of prestigious venues in the band’s touring history. They were joined by Hexvessel, the Finnish-English psychedelic folk rock group. Musicalypse was present on October 16th to see how the two bands’ music would come alive in an all-seated venue.

Lue suomeksi keikasta TÄÄLLÄ!
Check out the full gallery HERE!
Feel free to listen along with the set on Spotify:

Starting back in 2014, I’ve seen Opeth once a year up until now, so I was happy to continue the tradition. This was also a good reason to visit Finlandia-talo for the first time – Apocalyptica had played there before, but they’re in a bubble of their own due to the use of cellos, so Opeth would be the first metal band with guitars to play at the concert hall. Having admired Alvar Aalto’s architecture for a bit, we went in and started waiting for the first band of the night.

 

Hexvessel is one of the numerous groups that I’ve heard of but never actually listened to. I had reviewed the latest album by Grave Pleasures, frontman Mat McNerney’s other band, but obviously Hexvessel is a totally different beast. While Hexvessel’s songs sounded interesting, their 30-minute set flew by so quickly that it felt like it was over before it had even begun properly and left very little room for natural interaction between the band and the audience, so it was hard to judge their music fairly based on this show alone. Besides, the lighting was very static and minimalistic, and they were plagued by the bad sound – the PA volume was so low that the acoustic sound of the drums bled through and covered up the rest of the instruments in a distracting way. I had heard criticism for Finlandia-talo’s acoustics before, but I had no idea that a band could sound that bad in the concert hall. However, from what I could make out, the songs were nicely varied with both atmospheric and rocking moments, and McNerney’s Robert Smith [The Cure]-like voice worked surprisingly smoothly with this kind of music. “When I’m Dead” in particular was a smart pick to close the set with, as it was very immediate and catchy. I’ll have to check out some of Hexvessel’s studio material to get a better idea of what their music is like when half the mix doesn’t consist of the drums alone.

Setlist:
1. Transparent Eyeball
2. Teeth of the Mountain
3. Cosmic Truth
4. Hunter’s Prayer
5. ?
6. When I’m Dead

 

Although Opeth’s lineup and music have changed over the years, the one constant fixture in the band’s live shows is the intro, “Through Pain to Heaven”, by Popol Vuh. At 20:00, the familiar music started playing and the audience was greeted by bassist Martin Mendez, drummer Martin “Axe” Axenrot, and keyboardist Joakim Svalberg, who launched into the title-track of Sorceress. They were soon joined by the guitar tandem of Mikael Åkerfeldt and Fredrik Åkesson, who started the chugging the heavy main riff. The song sounded crushing just like on the album, although Åkerfeldt held back a little vocally and didn’t go all out with raspy singing. An extended spooky sound effect break, which allowed time for a guitar change, led into “Ghost of Perdition.” I was happy to hear it again, having missed the first half of the song while queuing to the cloakroom and finding my seat at Kulttuuritalo 2 years ago. Svalberg’s backing vocals were on point and Axenrot’s drumming was relentless, although the quiet volume of Åkerfeldt’s microphone made it a little hard to make out his growls, which were quite probably the first ever uttered on the Finlandia-talo stage.

The classic “Demon of the Fall” – a song that had been, “written in a hostel in the anus of Sweden: Gothenburg” according to Åkerfeldt – sounded considerably better than at last year’s Monsters of Rock event due to the better mix, but it was performed slightly routinely. Maybe Åkerfeldt’s joke about the song being “a bit dull to be honest” was a Freudian slip with an ounce of truth to it, and it might be a good idea to retire it for a few years. “The Wilde Flowers” from the latest album, on the other hand, sounded tight and energetic, and Åkesson’s fierce solo and the quiet yet uneasy buildup to the explosive conclusion made it the best song of the night. The contemplative “In My Time of Need” offered a nice little respite, and Svalberg’s Rhodes solo sounded great in place of the slide guitar bit of the studio version. “Cusp of Eternity” brought the energy levels up again, and it’s become a setlist staple for a reason, as it is uptempo and quite catchy. It transitioned directly into the brutal “Heir Apparent”, another song from last year’s poor-sounding Monsters of Rock show that I got a second chance to hear indoors. Åkesson looked like a true rock god while shredding with his foot on the monitor, and the melodic outro was glorious.

Next up was a bit of musical humor, as Åkerfeldt introduced a cover of “You Suffer” by Napalm Death, the world’s shortest song. After it had been played, someone shouted: “Play it again!” Åkerfeldt’s response was, “why not?” and hence the burst of grindcore graced the concert hall for a second round. The genre exploration continued with the ‘cock rock’ tune, “Era”, from the latest album, which was a last-minute addition to the setlist that the band had rehearsed in the soundcheck. I doubt the average listener noticed that though, as it was performed with precision, and Axenrot in particular was on fire, pounding his drums like a madman. As a response to some audience requests, Åkerfeldt teased the audience with snippets of “Paranoid” [Black Sabbath] and “Black Rose Immortal”, as well as “Harvest”, before “The Drapery Falls” closed the main set beautifully. Finally the rhythmic riffage of the traditional encore song, “Deliverance”, sent everyone home with a blast of heaviness.

I was a little worried about Opeth’s live mix beforehand due to Hexvessel’s poor sound, but in the end they sounded alright, although the vocals were a little low at first. The light show was elaborate, and the patterns reflected onto the walls during “Demon of the Fall” in particular looked cool. Unfortunately, the combination of a Monday evening, a Finnish crowd, and seated venue sucked out all the potential energy on the audience’s part, although the concert hall was almost full of people. The absolute lack of clapping and cheering during “Sorceress”, even in the most quiet moments, was a little awkward, and even later on there were points where Åkesson had to try and encourage people to clap. Before “In My Time of Need”, Åkerfeldt announced that at one point he would stop singing and let the audience take over, but despite this the singalong ended up being very subdued. Luckily the applause became more enthusiastic as the show went on and people became at least a bit more engaged, although you could never see more than a handful of fans banging their heads or raising their fists. Åkerfeldt’s various jokes and stories in between the songs resulted in a lot of laughter and broke the ice as well: after his traditional boasting about Sweden being a superior hockey country, he admitted that he can’t even skate himself, and that the high point of his sports career as a child was getting a package of banana ice cream for being the most valuable player as the goalkeeper in his football team. He also told the fans about the sorry story of “The Drapery Falls” CD single with a 5-minute edit that Opeth’s American label at the time pushed to get released, despite his skepticism about the song’s radio-friendliness.

 

Progressive metal isn’t the kind of music you get to hear at Finlandia-talo too often, so Opeth’s show was certainly a one-of-a-kind experience. Too bad the environment ended up being a little too sterile in terms of audience participation – Kulttuuritalo 2 years ago was better in this regard due to the fact that the whole venue wasn’t seated. Although the band played well and tried their best, the lack of response must’ve eaten away some of their enthusiasm. Additionally, Åkerfeldt admitted that he was a little tired, having just played in Japan 2 days earlier, and I think this showed a bit in his performance. While the show was a good experience musically, I hope next time Opeth will play at a club(s) again – my first Opeth gig at Pakkahuone, Tampere in 2014 remains my favorite, because both the crowd and the band were in a great mood, and there was lots of energy in form of mosh pits and headbanging. Maybe the sabbatical Åkerfeldt has talked about and a bit of a setlist shake-up would also help, as the guys in the band clearly have the most fun playing the newer stuff. Nevertheless, Opeth’s shows are always worth attending for the great musicianship and Åkerfeldt’s comedy alone.

Opeth setlist:
1. Sorceress
2. Ghost of Perdition
3. Demon of the Fall
4. The Wilde Flowers
5. In My Time of Need
6. Cusp of Eternity
7. Heir Apparent
8. You Suffer (Napalm Death cover)
9. You Suffer (Napalm Death cover)
10. Era
11. The Drapery Falls

Encore:
12. Deliverance

Photos: Charlotta Rajala

OPETH w/ HEXVESSEL – Finlandia-talo, Helsinki, 16.10.2017 (suomeksi)

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Opethin Sorceress-kiertue ei saapunut Suomeen viime vuonna, vaikka johtohahmo Mikael Åkerfeldt oli lupaillut bändin tulevan Helsinkiin. Onneksi Ruotsin progeilijat korvasivat tämän julkistamalla keikan Finlandia-talossa, joka oli jälleen yksi lisäys bändin konserttihistoriasta löytyvien hienojen keikkapaikkojen listaan. Mukana menossa oli myös suomalais-englantilainen psykedeelisen folk rockin sanansaattaja Hexvessel. Musicalypse oli paikalla 16. lokakuuta katsomassa, miten näiden kahden yhtyeen musiikki tulisi eloon pelkillä istumapaikoilla varustetussa salissa.

Read in English HERE!
Katso kuvagalleria TÄÄLLÄ!
Kuuntele settilistat tästä:

Vuodesta 2014 alkaen olen nähnyt tähän mennessä nähnyt Opethin aina kerran vuodessa, joten jatkoin perinnettä mielelläni. Tämä oli myös hyvä syy vierailla Finlandia-talossa ensimmäistä kertaa – Apocalyptica oli soittanut paikassa jo aiemmin, mutta kyseinen poppoo on selloineen aivan omassa kuplassaan, joten Opeth olisi ensimmäinen metallibändi, joka soittaisi konserttisalissa kitaroiden kera. Hetken aikaa Alvar Aallon arkkitehtuuria ihailtuamme menimme sisään ja aloimme odottaa illan ensimmäistä bändiä.

 

Hexvessel on yksi lukuisista bändeistä, joista olen kuullut, mutta joita en ole kuunnellut. Olin toki arvostellut keulahahmo Mat McNerneyn toisen pumpun, Grave Pleasuresin, levyn, mutta Hexvessel on tietysti aivan oma lukunsa. Vaikka Hexvesselin biisit kuulostivat mielenkiintoisilta, sen puolituntinen setti oli ohitse niin pian, että se tuntui päättyneen ennen kuin oli edes päässyt kunnolla alkuun ja jätti niin vähän tilaa luonnolliselle vuorovaikutukselle bändin ja yleisön välillä, että musiikkia oli vaikea arvioida reilusti pelkästään tämän esityksen perusteella. Lisäksi valot olivat melko staattiset ja minimalistiset, ja musiikkia varjostivat huonot soundit – PA:n äänenvoimakkuus oli niin matala, että rumpujen akustinen pauke kuului läpi ja peitti muut soittimet alleen häiritsevästi. Olin kuullut kritiikkiä Finlandia-talon akustiikkaa kohtaan, mutten tiennyt että yhdenkään bändin soundit salissa voisivat olla näin huonot. Sikäli kun sain soitosta selvää, kappaleet olivat mukavan vaihtelevia, sisältäen niin tunnelmointia kuin rokkaavuutta, ja McNerneyn robertsmithmainen ulosanti toimi yllättävän luontevasti tällaisessa musiikissa. “When I’m Dead” oli erityisesti hyvä valinta keikan lopetukseksi, sillä se oli hyvin helposti omaksuttava ja tarttuva ralli. Pitääpä tsekata Hexvesselin studiomateriaalia, jotta voin saada paremman käsityksen siitä, miltä sen musiikki kuulostaa kun puolet miksauksesta ei koostu ainoastaan rummuista.

Hexvesselin settilista:
1. Transparent Eyeball
2. Teeth of the Mountain
3. Cosmic Truth
4. Hunter’s Prayer
5. ?
6. When I’m Dead

 

Vaikka Opethin kokoonpano ja tyyli ovat vaihdelleet vuosien mittaan, yhtenä pysyvänä elementtinä bändin live show’ssa on ollut intronauhana toimiva Popol Vuhin “Through Pain to Heaven”. Iltakahdeksalta tuttu musiikki alkoi soimaan, ja basisti Martin Mendez, rumpali Martin :”Axe” Axenrot ja kosketinsoittaja Joakim Svalberg tervehtivät yleisöä ja ponkaisivat käyntiin Sorceressin nimikkoraidan. Pian mukaan liittyi Mikael Åkerfeldtin ja Fredrik Åkessonin kitaraparivaljakko, ja pääriffin jytinä alkoi. Biisi kuulosti jyräävältä kuten levylläkin, vaikka Åkerfeldt hieman pidätteli laulun suhteen eikä revitellyt raspillaan täysin palkein. Aavemaisista ääniefekteistä koostunut tauko, jonka aikana kitarat vaihtuivat toisiin, johdatteli “Ghost of Perditionin” pariin. Olin iloinen saadessani kuulla biisin uudelleen, sillä kaksi vuotta sitten Kulttuuritalolla sen ensmmäinen puolisko jäi väliin narikassa jonottaessa ja omaa paikkaa etsiessä. Svalbergin taustalaulut olivat kohdillaan ja Axenrotin takominen sinnikästä, mutta Åkerfeldtin mikrofonin alhainen volyymi teki hänen murinoistaan – mitä todennäköisimmin ensimmäisistä Finlandia-talon lavalta kuulluista sellaisista – hieman hankalasti erottuvia.

Klassikkobiisi “Demon of the Fall” – joka Åkerfeldtin mukaan oli “written in a hostel in the anus of Sweden” eli Göteborgissa – kuulosti huomattavasti paremmalta kuin viime vuoden Monsters of Rock -tapahtumassa parempien soundien ansiosta, mutta se soitettiin hieman rutiininomaisesti. Kenties Åkerfeldtin vitsailu kappaleen lievästä tylsyydestä oli freudilainen lipsahdus, jossa oli totuuden siemen, ja biisin laittaminen jäähylle pariksi vuodeksi voisi olla hyvä idea. “The Wilde Flowers” tuoreimmalta albumilta sen sijaan kuulosti tiukalta ja energiseltä, ja Åkessonin raivokas soolo ja hiljaisen levoton nostatus räjähtävään lopetukseen tekivät siitä illan kohokohdan. Pohdiskeleva “In My Time of Need” tarjosi mukavan pienen hengähdystauon, ja Svalbergin Rhodes-soolo kuulosti hyvältä studioversion slide-kitaroinnin paikalla. “Cusp of Eternity” nosti energiatasoa jälleen ylös, ja siitä on tullut vakiokappale hyvästä syystä, tarttuvuutensa ja menevyytensä vuoksi. Tästä siirryttiin suoraan brutaaliin “Heir Apparentiin”, joka oli toinen viime vuoden Monsters of Rock -keikalla huonoista soundeista kärsinyt biisi, joka sai nyt revanssin sisätiloissa. Åkesson näytti oikealta rokkijumalalta tiluttaessaan jalka monitorilĺa, ja melodinen outro oli kunniallisen kuuloinen.

Seuraavaksi oli vuorossa musiikillista huumoria, kun Åkerfeldt esitteli Napalm Death -cover “You Sufferin”, joka on tunnetusti maailman lyhyin kappale. Kun se oli soitettu, joku halusi kuulla sen uudelleen – Åkerfeldtin vastaus oli “why not?”, ja näin konserttisalissa ilmoille kajahti toinen kierros grindcorea. Genretutkiskelu jatkui “cock rockia” edustavan “Eran” voimin; tämä oli viime hetken lisäys settilistaan, jota bändi oli treenannut soundcheckissä. Arvelen kuitenkin, ettei keskivertokuulija huomannut tätä, sillä ralli vedettiin läpi tarkkuudella, ja varsinkin Axenrot oli liekeissä paukuttaessaan rumpujaan mielettömästi. Yleisön pyynnöstä Åkerfeldt tarjoili lyhyitä pätkiä “Paranoidista”, “Black Rose Immortalista” sekä “Harvestista” ennen kuin “The Drapery Falls” päätti setin kauniisti. Lopuksi perinteinen, rytmisesti riffittelevä encoreralli “Deliverance” lähetti ihmiset kotiin raskaalla jyräyksellään.

Olin hieman huolestunut Opethin saliäänestä etukäteen Hexvesselin kehnojen soundien vuoksi, mutta lopulta se kuulosti kelvolliselta, vaikka laulu oli alussa hieman hiljalla. Valoshow oli huoliteltu, ja erityisesti seinille heijastuneet kuviot “Demon of the Fallin” aikana näyttivät upeilta. Valitettavasti maanantai-ilta, suomalainen yleisö ja istumapaikat osoittautuivat kohtalokkaaksi yhdistelmäksi energian kannalta, vaikka tupa oli melkein täynnä. “Sorceressin” aikana yleisössä vallinnut täysi äänettömyys hiljaisimmissakin kohdissa oli hieman vaivaannuttavaa, ja myöhemminkin Åkessonin piti rohkaista ihmisiä taputtamaan mukana. Ennen “In My Time of Needia” Åkerfeldt ilmoitti, että yhdessä kohtaa hän lopettaisi laulamisen hetkeksi ja siirtäisi vastuun yleisölle, mutta tästä huolimatta yhteislaulu jäi hyvin vaatimattomaksi. Onneksi aplodit kuitenkin muuttuivat innokkaammiksi illan edetessä, ja yleisö oli hieman paremmin läsnä, vaikkei heiluvia päitä ja nyrkkejä näkynytkään kuin yhden käden sormilla laskettava määrä. Åkerfeldtin vitsit ja tarinat saivat kuitenkin monessa kohtaa aikaan naurunremakan, mikä niin ikään rikkoi jäätä: kerskailtuaan perinteiseen tapaansa Ruotsin olevan Suomea parempi jääkiekossa, hän myönsi ettei osaa edes luistella itse ja muisteli lapsuutensa urheiluaikojen kohokohdan olleen banaanijäätelöpaketin voittaminen palkintona parhaan pelaajan tittelistä hänen ollessaan jalkapallojoukkueen maalivahtina. Hän kertoi myös onnettoman tarinan 5-minuuttisen leikatun version sisältävästä “The Drapery Falls” -CD-singlestä, jonka julkaisua Opethin silloinen levy-yhtiö Amerikassa ajoi eteenpäin, vaikka miehellä itsellään oli epäilyksiä kappaleen radioystävällisyydestä.

 

Progressiivinen metalli ei ole musiikkia, jota Finlandia-talossa kuulee turhan usein, joten Opethin keikka oli ehdottomasti omalaatuinen kokemus. Oli harmillista, että ympäristö oli hieman turhan steriili yleisön läsnäolon kannalta – Kulttuuritalo oli parempi paikka kaksi vuotta sitten tässä mielessä, sillä sali ei koostunut kokonaan istumapaikoista. Vaikka bändi soitti hyvin ja yritti parhaansa, vastakaiun puute varmasti söi hieman innostusta. Lisäksi Åkerfeldt myönsi olevansa hieman väsynyt, sillä bändi oli soittanut Japanissa vain kakdi päivää aiemmin, ja tämä heijastui hieman hänen esiintymiseensä. Vaikka keikka oli musiikillisilta ansioiltaan hyvä kokemus, toivon mukaan Opeth soittaa ensi kerralla jälleen klub(e)issa – ensimmäinen Opeth-keikkani Tampereen Pakkahuoneella vuonna 2014 on yhä suosikkini, koska tuolloin seä bändillä että yleisöllä oli lämmin tunnelma, ja energisyys näkyi moshpittien ja lukuisien heiluvien päiden muodossa. Ehkä myös sapattivuosi, josta Åkerfeldt on puhunut, sekä pieni settilistan uudistaminen voisivat tehdä terää, sillä bändin jäsenillä oli selvästi eniten hauskaa uudempaa tuotantoa soittaessa. Oli miten oli, Opethin keikat ovat aina näkemisen arvoisia jo pelkästään mahtavan soiton ja Åkerfeldtin komiikan ansiosta.

Opethin settilista:
1. Sorceress
2. Ghost of Perdition
3. Demon of the Fall
4. The Wilde Flowers
5. In My Time of Need
6. Cusp of Eternity
7. Heir Apparent
8. You Suffer (Napalm Death -cover)
9. You Suffer (Napalm Death -cover)
10. Era
11. The Drapery Falls

Encore:
12. Deliverance

Kuvat: Charlotta Rajala

OPETH w/ HEXVESSEL @ Finlandia-talo, Helsinki, 16.10.2017

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Opeth with Hexvessel at Finlandia-talo, Helsinki, 2017.
Photos by Charlotta Rajala.
Gig report in English HERE!
Lue suomeksi keikasta TÄÄLLÄ!

BLOW UP VOL. 3 @ Korjaamo, Helsinki, 2017.10.13-14

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Blow Up vol. 3 festival at Korjaamo, 2017.
Photos by Marco Manzi.
Check out the gig report HERE!
Tai lue keikasta suomeksi TÄÄLLÄ!

BLOW UP VOL. 3 – Korjaamo, Helsinki, 13-14.10.2017 (English)

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For several years already, the Helsinki-based production agency, Blow Up That Gramophone, has brought the newer and older relevant names of stoner, sludge, and doom metal to perform in Finland. In addition to single shows, the agency has organized their eponymous Blow Up festival twice before, at Korjaamo here in Helsinki, to great success. Not unlike in previous years, the third Blow Up was celebrated in mid-October, giving a total of ten bands a chance to shake the main hall’s roof and walls. Two-day tickets were sold out a good while beforehand, and single day tickets were practically sold out on Friday, so one could have easily called the weekend a success before it even began.

Lue keikasta suomeksi TÄÄLLÄ!
Full gallery HERE!

 

FRIDAY
As I arrived at the venue a bit before 19:00, a nice 50-meter queue had already formed behind the front doors. Once the doors opened, the entrance was swift and one had plenty of time to check out the merchandise booths and the bar, before the Russian Phurpa was to kick things off at 19:30. The booths featured a wide selection of heavy music on vinyl cassettes and CDs, both bars were well-tended, plus an additional beer-only counter was set up on the right side of the hall. The DJs played background music traditionally with turntables from their own vinyl records. Everything seemed to be in order!

As the clock struck half past seven, the PA system started playing an ominous ambient tune, and the two-man Phurpa climbed on stage. Having created a respectable discography over course of 10 years, the group defines themselves more as a performance group instead of a band, and one really couldn’t call the events that were to occur in any way ordinary. The guys spent the first 5 minutes dressing up in silk robes and scarves, and then took their places behind the large horns set up on the stage. A highly amplified throat singing voice filled the space and the concept of time seemed to disappear. At times, the singing was backed up with drumming or cymbals, and the set featured a section played with the metal horns. However, for the most part, the chanting alone was enough to make your innards shake from the wall of sound. The front of the stage was pretty empty at the beginning of the set, but the number of people had multiplied quickly and nobody seemed to leave before the set was over and Phurpa started to disrobe. What an immensely bewildering, but excellent start to the evening, and one doesn’t get to witness stuff like this every month, or even every year. If I had to think of something to nag about, Korjaamo’s stage is not that high up, so you had to be in the first three rows to see anything – Phurpa was sitting for the whole set.

From rituals to more traditional band music: the British Warning is a doom metal legend. The band gained their cult status with their debut album, The Strength to Dream (1999), and the sophomore Watching from a Distance is regarded as one of the metal milestones of the 2000s. I don’t know how the Blow Up crew had convinced the band to reconsider, as singer-guitarist Patrick Walker reassembled the band, which had disbanded in 2009, only for a one-off show in this year’s Roadburn Festival. The Korjaamo show could be described best as magnificent – the audience lived through the show with such commitment that Walker seemed to be genuinely confused about the warm welcome they received. As at Roadburn, Warning played the 50-minute Watching from a Distance in full; Walker spent the rest of the slot by chatting with the audience as sympathetically as a British gentleman possibly can. The harrowing, beautiful music got additional power from the hopelessly-themed monochronous background visuals. I’d totally understand if Walker, who records with his band 40 Watt Sun these days, doesn’t want to continue with Warning, but I sincerely hope that this won’t be the end of the band. I also believe that Warning might have gathered the largest audience of the evening.

Friday’s rowdiest part happened midway through, as Japan’s gift to doom metal, Church of Misery, took the stage to the interest of many, as the hall was totally packed to at least halfway full. The band has had its share of lineup changes in the past, and 3 years ago the founding member, Tatsu Mikami, was left alone as the rest of the band collectively quit after a summer tour. The latest album, And Then There Was None, was recorded with the help of session musicians, but this year the lineup was finally completed and the journey continues. For some reason, I’ve managed to skip all of the band’s shows in Finland so far, but I guess it’s better late than never, as Church of Misery was a blast to see live. Mikami, hanging his bass almost obscenely low, couldn’t keep still for a second, and the new-ish vocalist, Hiroyuki Takano, was an entertaining showman as well. The set leaned towards their older material, as only one song was played from And Then There Were None. The fourth record and the most familiar to me, Houses of the Unholy, was featured with two songs, but much to my dismay, “Shotgun Boogie” wasn’t one of them.

Usnea was up second to last. I hadn’t heard of them beforehand, and a large portion of Church of Misery’s audience seemed to have vanished during the changeover, but it was their loss. Usnea ended up wiping the floor with the rest of the bands fair and square. Having been formed ‘only’ in 2011, the Oregon-based four-man group’s extremely crushing doom metal hit the audience like a sledgehammer. Bassist Joel Banishing and guitarist Justin Cory split the vocal duties, as Banishing growled and Cory screamed – Cory’s technique was especially on point, as his voice was immensely strong but effortless. If Warning’s songs were slow and they only got to play five of them, Usnea’s set had only four songs: three from the brand new Portals into Futility, and “Detritus” from Random Cosmic Violence. The shortest of the bunch, “Lathe of Heaven”, clocks at nearly 10 minutes, while the set-ender, “A Crown of Desolation”, almost 20. If Ahab’s your thing, I’d definitely recommend checking out Usnea! The band’s feats weren’t limited to music though, as I don’t recall being at a metal show with similarly simple but awesome background visuals. Usnea’s backdrop featured a sun-like form with an eye in the center – found on the cover of their self-titled debut – and various effects were projected over it. At one point, the eye was in flames, and at another, a smoldering blue fireball circled around it, to name a few.

The Italian doom metal beast Ufomammut had the honor to wrap up Blowup’s Friday. As with Church of Misery, the band has been to Finland numerous times – for example at the same festival 2 years ago – and I’ve likewise never seen them before. Unfortunately, Usnea had taken away the element of surprise with their immensely strong set, which somehow prevented me from getting as hyped about Ufomammut’s show as I probably would’ve been otherwise. This doesn’t mean in any way that Ufomammut wouldn’t have been great, I just probably wasn’t in the most receiving of moods. I have to admit though, that the band’s discography isn’t that familiar to me through and through, so I would’ve suspected the set to be a little less violent, in vein of EVE, as I know it best. Instead, the band blasted away and definitely unclogged my ears with their huge force. Ufomammut was probably the only act of the day during which the use of earplugs would’ve been beneficial. As I had worked a full 8 hours and watched four great shows, I didn’t have the energy to witness the whole set, so I guess I’ll have to attend Ufomammut’s next show that comes by!

 

SATURDAY
Considering that I had probably drunk one beer too many the previous night, Saturday morning presented itself surprisingly peacefully. After filling up on food and a couple of drinks, we headed back to Korjaamo with good energy levels to check out Saturday’s selection of bands, with our own PH being first up. The doors were once again opened at 19:00 sharp, but as we got there at maybe 19:15, a considerably lower number of attendees were present when compared to the same time the day before.

PH climbed on stage at 19:30 to a pretty scarce audience. Fortunately, the situation improved as the show went on, as PH, once again pretty unknown to me, revealed themselves to be an excellent blend of post-/doom metal, and their hour-long set seemed to go by at an instant. The band changed pace with ease, as it was hard to tell when one song ended and the next began. The round DIY lighting structure with the PH logo, set up behind the drumset, worked nicely alongside Korjaamo’s own lights, and the video projector was also used for additional effect. I don’t know who operated the PH logo lighting, though, as it seemed to shut down and light up randomly, not in rhythm or during passage changes. All in all, the five-piece band left me with a nice need to hear more, so the new Eternal Hayden record is probably something I should check out.

The mood took a steep change of pace from PH’s psychedelia, as second up was the Swedish sludge band, Domkraft. The three-piece band from Stockholm relied heavily on crushing riffs and tight group play, as their performance didn’t include any additional elements. Domkraft’s material, with songs easily reaching over the 5-minute mark, worked flawlessly live even though this isn’t the type of stuff I usually listen to at home. The bassist-vocalist, Martin Wegeland, who by the way played with an obscenely buzzing sound, thanked the audience and the Blow Up crew numerous times during the set. Despite the fact that the amount of people had doubled since PH, Domkraft should’ve had a bigger crowd to see them – I guess they aren’t that well-known (yet). A definite ‘yes’ from me.

Things continued on with sludge, but the atmosphere couldn’t have changed more as Noothgrush, all the way from California, took the stage. The band managed to be entertaining already during their soundcheck, as vocalist Dino Sommese asked the sound tech to mute the vocals from his monitors, as he didn’t want to listen to himself. The showtime was at least 5 minutes away, but the band decided to begin the set straight after the soundcheck, because why climb off the stage only to return 3 minutes later? And the show… that shit was the bomb! Musically, Noothgrush was extremely gruesome and slow, even for sludge, and Sommese’s dedication to his craft was amazing. The drummer, Chiyo Nukaga, seemed to beat her set with such force that I totally understand the use of 20-something-inch crash cymbals; anything smaller and thinner would’ve been in pieces 5 minutes in. The band’s discography consists almost entirely of split EPs, and I cannot say I’m familiar with their work, but I’m sure that the set offered a nice selection for people more into the subject. Noothgrush also thanked the Blow Up crew for a nicely organized festival near the end of their set. The band probably won’t return to Finland for a while, so if you weren’t present, your loss!

Continuing on with the United States of America! A real doom metal veteran, Saint Vitus, took the stage second to last. The band was supposed to conclude the evening, but guitarist Dave Chandler had injured his leg only a few days before the show, so they decided to switch places with Spiritus Mortis to allow Chandler to rest. There has been some changes in the band’s lineup: Pat Bruders of Crowbar fame had filled in for Mark Adams for some time now, and Wino Weinrich, who got caught in possession of drugs a few years ago, was replaced by the band’s original vocalist, Scott Reagers, for this year’s tour.

The Korjaamo hall was already almost full a good 15 minutes before Saint Vitus’ showtime, so it was pretty clear which band the audience had come to see. The band, as well as the audience, seemed to be on fire for the full hour – Bruders’ stage presence was really confident, drummer Henry Vasquez almost bent his cymbal stands from the force he used to bash his set, and Chandler grinned insanely towards the audience. His leg injury might have been a factor to this, of course. The setlist was justifiably built around the Reagers-era material, but also featured one completely new song, “Bloodshed.” In conclusion, Saint Vitus was a great watch, and the number of sweat-drenched people returning from the front rows indicated that the show will surely rise to people’s personal highlights of 2017.

Having been formed already in 1987 and regarded as the first Finnish doom metal band, Spiritus Mortis had the honor of concluding Blowup’s Saturday. The show was special for the band beforehand, as their vocalist, Sami “Albert Witchfinder” Hynninen, had decided to step down. Spiritus Mortis used their sudden headliner slot quite well, playing a set of slower songs to emphasize Hynninen’s passing of sorts. If the rest of the band performed with little rowdiness, one couldn’t have said the same about Hynninen, who sang a part of the show by lying on his back on the stage or twitching on his knees behind a red book he had brought with him. He has mentioned in an interview that it’s not enough if the music is beautiful or not, but it also has to include conflicts and contrast, and that’s what his performance was all about.

The set was comprised of mostly Hynninen-era material, but also featured older well-known songs. The audience, having already given their everything to Saint Vitus, would probably have wanted to hear faster songs, but considering the sort of funeral theme, the selection was understandable. To much surprise, the latest album was only featured with one track. Hynninen focused on his character, leaving speeches to the rest of the band, until disbanding the theatrics before the final song and thanking the band for the years spent as himself. It’s interesting to see the direction the band is going to take after he’s gone – if they’d decided to call it quits, I’m sure it would’ve been announced beforehand.

 

To wrap things up, I have to say that Blowup vol. 3 was an excellently organized and well-thought-out event. The lineup was meticulously crafted, allowing a wide spectrum of styles to be seen during a single evening, but also by dividing the bands into Friday’s more recent names and Saturday’s older legends. Initially, I was a bit skeptical of the long changeovers, as they were always 30 minutes long, but the loose schedule made beer runs feel less hurried and also gave time to catch up with old friends, who were present in large numbers. Especially, I’d like to thank Teemu for providing a good deal of additional points to back up my limited knowledge on Saint Vitus and Spiritus Mortis.

Korjaamo is always a pleasurable venue to come to see shows, as the crew is really professional and nice. With the festival being sold out, it probably came as a surprise to no one that the next year’s date was already set during Saturday, so it’s possible to enjoy quality buzzing sounds in 2018 around the same time in October. Mark it up! Literally the only thing that can be improved on is to stock up on beer for next year, as the IV-grade Kukko was sold out already on Friday, even when the brewery, Laitila Soda Factory, was partnered with the event.

Photos: Marco Manzi

BLOW UP VOL. 3 – Korjaamo, Helsinki, 13-14.10.2017 (suomeksi)

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Helsinkiläinen tuotantotoimisto Blow Up That Gramophone on kunnostautunut raskaan vaihtoehtomusiikin sanansaattajana jo useamman vuoden ajan, tuoden Suomeen esiintymään stonerin, sludgen ja doom metalin uusia ja vanhempia kärkinimiä. Yksittäisten keikkailtojen lisäksi yhtiö on järjestänyt nimikkofestivaalinsa Blow Upin Helsingin Korjaamolla kahtena edellisenä vuonna, ja tapahtumat ovat olleet menestyksiä. Blow Upeja juhlittiin tänä vuonna aiempien vuosien tapaan lokakuun puolivälissä, ja Vaunusalin lavalle nousi kahden illan aikana kymmenen yhtyettä vavisuttamaan entisen ratikkahallin rakenteita. Kahden päivän liput oli myyty loppuun jo hyvän aikaa ennen tapahtumaa, eikä yhden päivän lipareitakaan ollut perjantaina jäljellä kuin muutamia, joten voidaan hyvin puhua jo ennakkoon loppuunmyydystä festivaalista.

Read in English HERE!
Kuvagalleria TÄÄLLÄ!

 

PERJANTAI
Päästessäni paikalle vähän ennen seitsemää, oli Korjaamon pääoven eteen kerääntynyt jo 50 metrin jono. Sisäänpääsy sujui kuitenkin jouhevasti ovien avauduttua, ja ennen ensimmäisenä esiintynyttä venäläistä Phurpaa oli hyvä aika käydä tiskillä ja tutustumassa levymyyntikojujen tarjontaan. Tarjolla oli raskasta musiikkia paitojen, vinyylien, kassujen ja CD-levyjen muodossa – salin molemmat baaritiskit olivat miehitettyinä, minkä lisäksi pelkästään oluenjanoisille kävijöille oli pystytetty vielä ylimääräinen tiski oikealle puolelle tilaa. DJ:t soittivat taustamusiikkia perinteiseen tapaan vinyyleiltä. Puitteet vaikuttivat siis olevan heti alkuun varsin kunnossa.

Kellon lyödessä puoli seitsemän Vaunusalin PA:sta alkoi kuulua painostavaa ambient-kohinaa, ja kaksimiehinen Phurpa nousi lavalle. Kymmenessä vuodessa kunnioitettavan pituisen diskografian kerännyt ryhmä määrittelee itsensä enemmänkin performanssitaiteeksi, eikä seuraavan tunnin aikana lavalla tapahtuneista asioista voi suurin surminkaan puhua bändikeikkana. Ensimmäiset viisi minuuttia kuluivat miesten pukeutuessa silkkikaapuihin ja huiveihin, minkä jälkeen he ottivat paikkansa lavalle aseteltujen torvien takana. Voimakkaasti vahvistettu kurkkulaulu täytti tilan ja ajantaju tuntui katoavan täysin. Välillä soitettiin rumpua ja symbaaleja ja noin puolivälissä oli torviosio, mutta pääpaino oli hypnoottisessa laulussa, joka voimakkaimmillaan sai sisuskalut tärisemään. Lavan edusta täyttyi hyvää tahtia, mutta kukaan ei tuntunut poistuvan ennen kuin tunti oli täynnä ja Phurpa alkoi riisua vaatteitaan. Äärimmäisen hämmentävä, mutta hieno aloitus illalle, eikä tällaista todellakaan tule todistettua joka kuukausi tai edes vuosi. Ainoa miinus Phurpassa oli oikeastaan se, että koska miehet istuivat koko esityksen ajan, oli lähes mahdotonta nähdä mitään mitä lavalla tapahtui, jos et ollut muutaman ensimmäisen rivin joukossa seisomassa.

Rituaaleista perinteisemmän bändimusiikin pariin: brittiläinen Warning on ehta doom metal -legenda. Bändi nousi kulttimaineeseen vuoden 1999 debyytillään The Strength to Dream, ja kakkoslevy Watching from A Distancea (2006) pidetään yhtenä 2000-luvun metallin virstanpylväistä. En tiedä miten Blow Up-porukka oli ylipäätään saanut bändin pyörtämään päätöksensä, sillä laulaja-kitaristi Patrick Walker kokosi vuonna 2009 hajonneen bändin uudestaan kasaan tämän vuoden Roadburn-festivaalille, ja keikan piti olla ainoa laatuaan. Korjaamon-keikkaa voisi kuvailla parhaiten sanalla hurmoksellinen: niin antaumuksella helsinkiläisyleisö eli mukana, ja Walker tuntui olevan aidosti hämillään saamastaan vastaanotosta. Kuten Roadburnissa, bändi esitti 50-minuuttisen Watching from a Distancen alusta loppuun; Walker käytti tunnin soittoajasta loput jutustelemalla yleisön kanssa juuri niin sympaattisesti kuin brittiläinen herrasmies vain voi. Riipaisevan kaunis musiikki sai lisätehoa taustalle heijastetuista lohduttoman harmaista videopätkistä. Ymmärrän täysin, jos musiikkia nykyään 40 Watt Sun -bändinsä kanssa julkaiseva Walker ei enää halua antaa Warningille jatkoaikaa, mutta toivon kovasti ettei tämä jäisi tähän. Warning tuntui myös keränneen perjantain ehdottomasti suurimman yleisön.

Perjantai-illan lennokkain osuus oli asetettu illan puoliväliin. Japanin doom metal -ylpeys Church of Misery tuntui kiinnostavan, sillä Vaunusali oli aivan täyteen ammuttu vähintään tilan puoliväliin asti. Bändin historiassa on tapahtunut runsaasti miehistönvaihdoksia, ja kolme vuotta sitten perustajajäsen Tatsu Mikami jäi yksin, kun bändin muut jäsenet ottivat yhdessä lopputilin kiertueen päätteeksi. Viimeisin levy And Then There Were None (2016) nauhoitettiin sessiomuusikoiden voimin, mutta tänä vuonna miehistö on saatu taas kokonaiseksi ja matka jatkuu. Olen jollain ilveellä onnistunut skippaamaan kaikki bändin Suomen-keikat toistaiseksi, mutta parempi myöhään kuin ei milloinkaan, ja olihan Church of Misery todella kova livenä. Miltei hävyttömän alhaalla bassoaan roikottava Mikami pyöri lavalla kuin väkkärä, ja vokalisti Hiroyuki Takano oli viihdyttävä showmies hänkin. Setti painottui selkeästi vanhempaan materiaaliin, sillä And Then There Were Nonelta taidettiin soittaa vain yksi kappale. Allekirjoittaneelle tutuimmalta, neloslevy Houses of the Unholylta (2009) soitettiin kaksikin rallia, joskin oli harmi ettei suosikkini, “Shotgun Boogie”, ollut mukana setissä.

Toiseksi viimeisenä vuorossa ollut Usnea oli itselleni ennakkoon täysin tuntematon tapaus. Suuri osa Church of Miseryn yleisöstäkin tuntui kadonneen vaihdon aikana, mutta virheet on tunnetusti tehtävä itse: Usnea päätyi luuttuamaan illan muilla bändeillä lattiaa aivan suvereenisti. Vuonna 2011 perustetun oregonilaisnelikon äärimmäisen raskas doom metal iski kuin leka päähän. Basisti Joel Banishing sekä kitaristi Justin Cory jakoivat vokaalivastuun Banishingin muristessa ja Coryn rääkyessä – varsinkin Corylle täytyy nostaa hattua, sillä miehen rääkyääni oli todella vahva ja tekniikka oli selkeästi kohdallaan. Jos Warningin hidastempoisuudesta johtuen heidän setissään oli vain viisi kappaletta, Usnealla niitä taisi olla vain neljä. Setti keskittyi vastikään julkaistun Portals Into Futility -levyyn, jolta soitettiin kolme kappaletta ja edellislevy Random Cosmic Violencelta (2014) avausraita “Detritus”. Näistäkin kestoltaan lyhyin kappale “Lathe of Heaven” kellottaa lähes 10 minuuttia, kun taas setin päättänyt “A Crown of Desolation” vastaavasti melkein 20. Jos Ahab maistuu, kannattaa Usnea ehdottomasti tarkastaa! Bändin ansiot eivät kuitenkaan rajoittuneet pelkästään musiikkiin, sillä en muista milloin olisin nähnyt yhtä yksinkertaisen toimivia taustavisuaaleja metallikeikalla. Taustakankaassa oli bändin debyyttilevyn kannesta löytyvä aurinkokuvion keskellä oleva silmä, jonka päälle heijastettiin erilaisia efektejä – välillä silmä oli liekeissä, välillä sitä taas kiersi kytevä sininen tulipallo.

Italialaisella Ufomammutilla oli kunnia päättää Blowup-perjantai. Church of Miseryn tapaan bändi on käynyt Suomessa useaan otteeseen – muun muassa kahden vuoden takaisilla Blowupeilla – mutta olen silti onnistunut missaamaan jokaisen mahdollisuuden nähdä bändi livenä. Usnea teki väkivahvalla keikallaan bändille aikamoisen karhunpalveluksen, sillä olisin halunnut syttyä Ufomammutinkin vedosta paljon enemmän kuin mitä lopulta siitä pidin. Bändi ei missään tapauksessa ollut huono, mutta yllätysmomentti ei ollut enää samalla tapaa läsnä. Täytyy tosin myös myöntää, ettei Ufomammutin diskografia ole kauttaaltaan hallussa, joten olisin olettanut setin olevan hieman vähemmän päällekäyvä itselleni tutuimman EVE-levyn (2010) tyyliin. Nyt mentiin täysillä käytännössä alusta loppuun, ja korvavaikut ainakin irtosivat bändin aikaansaaman äänivallin ansiosta. Ufomammut olikin perjantain ainoa akti, jonka aikana korvatulppien käyttäminen olisi ollut suotavaa. Aivan loppuun asti en jaksanut keikkaa katsoa, sillä alla oli kuitenkin jo neljä kovaa rypistystä ja täysi työpäivä, joten joudun ottamaan revanssin kun bändi seuraavalla kerralla Suomeen saapuu!

 

LAUANTAI
Vaikka edellisiltana oli tullut särvittyä se kuuluisa yksi olut liikaa, valkeni lauantaiaamupäivä yllättävänkin vireissä merkeissä. Iltapäivän ruoka- ja juomatankkauksen myötä pystyi suuntaamaan hyvillä mielin Korjaamolle todistamaan myös lauantai-illan tarjontaa, jonka oli määrä aloittaa kotimainen PH (aiemmin Mr. Peter Hayden). Korjaamon ovet avautuivat taasen tasan seitsemältä, mutta paikalle noin varttia yli päästyämme paikalla tuntui olevan huomattavasti vähemmän porukkaa kuin perjantaina samaan aikaan.

PH astui lavalle puoli kahdeksalta, jolloin lavan edustalla oli vieläkin kohtuullisen väljää. Tilanne onneksi parani huomattavasti keikan edetessä, sillä PH paljastui erittäin hyväksi post- ja doom metalin sekasikiöksi – bändin tunnin mittainen slotti hujahti kuin siivillä. PH:n diskografiaa tuntemattomana oli vaikea sanoa, milloin yksi kappale loppui ja seuraava alkoi, sillä tuntui kuin koko setti olisi ollut vain yksi pitkä teos, niin sujuvasti bändi vaihtoi tunnelmasta toiseen. Rumpusetin taakse sijoitettu itsetehty PH-logolla varustettu valoelementti toimi hienosti Korjaamon omien valojen rinnalla, ja videotykiltä toistettuja taustavisuaalejakin käytettiin runsaasti. En tosin tiedä oliko PH-logon taustavalon sammuminen ja taas syttyminen hieman oudoissa paikoissa tarkoituksenmukaista, sillä tahdissa tai kahden kappaleosion välissä niin ei tainnut käydä kertaakaan. Kaiken kaikkiaan viisihenkinen PH jätti mukavasti tarpeen kuulla lisää, joten tuore Eternal Hayden -pitkäsoitto täytynee ottaa tarkempaan syyniin.

PH:n psykedeliasta vaihdettiin jyrkästi suuntaa, kun toisena vuorossa oli ruotsalainen sludge-jyrä Domkraft. Tukholmalaiskolmikko luotti yksinomaan tanakoiden riffien ja tiukan yhteissoiton voimaan, sillä bändin esityksessä ei ollut mitään turhaa tai ylimääräistä. Reilusti viiden minuutin paremmalle puolen kurottavat kappaleet toimivat livenä todella hyvin, vaikken välttämättä tällaista osastoa kotona kuuntelisikaan. Täysin hävyttömällä pörinäsoundilla soittanut basisti-laulaja Martin Wegeland kiitteli yleisöä sekä festivaalin järjestäjiä useampaan otteeseen keikan aikana, ja vaikka yleisömäärä olikin arviolta tuplaantunut PH:n vastaavasta, olisin suonut jätkille enemmänkin katsojia – ilmeisesti tunnettuus ei (vielä) ole ansaitulla tasolla. Ehdottomasti jatkoon.

Ilta jatkui sludgen parissa, mutta tunnelma ei taas olisi kovin paljoa enempää voinut vaihtua, kun lavalle nousi kalifornialaisbändi Noothgrush. Bändi onnistui olemaan jo soundcheckin aikana viihdyttävä, sillä vokalisti Dino Sommese pyysi miksaajaa vetämään vokaalit omista monitoreistaan nollaan, sillä mies ei kuulemma jaksanut kuunnella itseään. Määritettyyn showtimeen olisi ollut vielä ainakin viisi minuuttia, mutta keikka päätettiin aloittaa suoraan soundcheckin perään – mitä sitä turhaan enää lavan taakse lähtemään. Ja keikka, sehän oli älyttömän kova. Noothgrushin musiikki on sludgeksikin äärimmäisen rujoa ja hidasta, ja Sommesen eläytyminen oli aivan omaa luokkaansa. Rumpali Chiyo Nukaga näytti soittavan sellaisella voimalla, että ymmärrän suurikokoisten crash-peltien käytön; pienemmät ja ohuemmat lautaset olisivat olleet saman tien säpäleinä. Setistä en osaa kauheasti sanoa, sillä bändin mittava diskografia koostuu lähes täysin pienjulkaisuista, mutta ns. tietäjille keikka tarjosi varmasti kattavan otannan. Myös Noothgrush kiitti Blow Upin järjestäjiä hienosti tehdystä festivaalista. Bändi ei todennäköisesti ihan heti Suomeen palaa, joten olisi kannattanut olla paikalla!

Iltamat jatkuivat yhdysvaltalaisissa merkeissä, sillä toiseksi viimeisenä lavan otti haltuun todellinen doom-konkari Saint Vitus. Bändin oli alun perin tarkoitus päättää Blowupin lauantai, mutta kitaristi Dave Chandler loukkasi jalkansa vain paria päivää ennen keikkaa, joten Saint Vitusin sekä kotimaisen Spiritus Mortisin paikkoja päätettiin vaihtaa. Vitusin rivistössä on parin viime vuoden aikana tapahtunut pientä liikettä, sillä alkuperäistä basistia, Mark Adamsia, jo viime vuonna tuurannut Crowbar-mies Pat Bruders oli tälläkin kertaa bassonvarressa, minkä lisäksi toissavuonna huumeista narahtaneen Wino Weinrichin tilalla on tästä lähtien vetänyt alkuperäisvokalisti Scott Reagers.

Jo varttia ennen Vitusin soittoaikaa Vaunusali oli lähes täynnä, joten ei ollut epäselvää, mitä bändiä paikalle oltiin tultu katsomaan. Sekä bändi että yleisö tuntuivat olevan liekeissä koko tunnin ajan: Brudersin lavapresenssi oli todella itsevarma, rumpali Henry Vasquez kuritti settiään sellaisella voimalla että peltiständit meinasivat mennä solmuun, ja kitaristi Chandler irvisteli häiriintyneen oloisesti – tähän saattoi totta kai vaikuttaa tuore loukkaantuminenkin. Setti keskittyi oikeutetusti Reagersin aikaiseen materiaaliin, mutta yleisö sai kuulla myös yhden uuden, “Bloodshed”-nimisen rallin. Kokonaisuudessaan keikka oli äärimmäisen viihdyttävää katsottavaa, vaikkei Saint Vitus suosikkibändeihin lukeudukaan. Eturivistä purkautui keikan loputtua sen verran hikistä porukkaa, että uskoisin vedon nousevan kohtuullisen korkealle kävijöiden vuoden suosikkilistoilla.

Blowup-lauantain sai kunnian päättää kotimainen, Suomen ensimmäiseksi doom-bändiksikin tituleerattu, jo vuonna 1987 perustettu Spiritus Mortis. Keikka oli bändille jo etukäteen erityinen, sillä vokalisti Sami “Albert Witchfinder” Hynninen oli päättänyt astua syrjään laulajan paikalta. Bändi käyttikin yllättäen syliin tipahtaneen viimeisen bändin slottinsa varsin mallikaasti ja soitti kohtuullisen hitaan setin korostaakseen Hynnisen poistumista rivistöstä. Jos muu bändi esiintyi hillitysti, samaa ei todellakaan voi sanoa Hynnisestä, joka lauloi osan ajasta maaten keskellä lavaa tai sätkien tai venkoillen lavalle kantamansa punaisen kirjan takana polvillaan. Mies onkin jossain haastattelussa maininnut, ettei musiikin kauneus tai rujous riitä, vaan sen täytyy sisältää myös ristiriitoja, ja lavalla olikin lähes koko setin ajan kontrastia kerrakseen.

Settiin oli valikoitu lähinnä Hynnisen bändissäolon aikaista materiaalia, mutta myös vanhempia olennaisuuksia. Bändi teki todennäköisesti Saint Vitusille jo kaikkensa antaneelle yleisölle karhunpalveluksen jättämällä nopeampia ralleja pois, mutta tilaisuuden huomioon ottaen tämä oli sinänsä ymmärrettävää. Uudelta levyltä soitettiin ehkä hieman yllättäen ainoastaan yksi kappale. Hynninen keskittyi hahmoonsa ja jätti välispiikit soittajille, kunnes ennen viimeistä kappaletta käytti hetken kiittääkseen muita menneistä vuosista omana itsenään. Onkin mielenkiintoista nähdä, mihin suuntaan bändi lähtee taitavana sanoittajana tunnetun Hynnisen lähdön jälkeen – jos Spiritus Mortis päättäisi lopettaa, siitä olisi todennäköisesti tiedotettu etukäteen.

 

Kokonaisuudessaan Blowupin kolmas tuleminen oli erittäin hyvin järjestetty ja mietitty tapahtuma. Bändikattaukseen oli selkeästi laitettu paljon ajatusta, ja saman illan aikana oli mahdollista kokea raskasta vaihtoehtomusiikkia laidasta laitaan. Päiväjako oli myös selkeästi ajateltu niin, että perjantaina kohkasivat tuoreemmat nimet ja lauantaina luotettiin perinteen voimaan. Olin alun perin hieman skeptinen pitkistä väliajoista – vaihdot olivat aina puolen tunnin mittaisia – mutta löysä aikataulu mahdollisti leppoisemmat baaritiskikäynnit sekä antoi aikaa jututtaa vanhoja ystäviä, joita paikalle oli tullut todella paljon. Erityisesti haluaisinkin kiittää Teemua, jolta sain paljon hyvää knoppitietoa rajallisen Saint Vitus/Spiritus Mortis -tietämyksen tueksi.

Korjaamolla on muutenkin aina ilo käydä keikoilla, sillä talon henkilökunta on todella asiallista. Ei ollutkaan yllätys, että seuraavan vuoden Blowupien ajankohta oli jo lauantain aikana lyöty lukkoon, joten laatupörinästä voi halutessaan nauttia myös vuonna 2018 suunnilleen samoihin aikoihin lokakuussa. Laitetaan korvan taakse! Ainoa asia, jossa ensi vuodelle voidaan vielä parantaa, on varautua paremmin olutmenekkiin: vaikka Laitilan virvoitusjuomatehdas oli tapahtuman yhteistyökumppani, IV-Kukko juotiin loppuun jo perjantain aikana.

Kuvat: Marco Manzi

ENSIFERUM – Pete Lindroos, Helsinki 2017

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Ensiferum has had a lot going on lately, with a new line-up and a new album. With the Two Paths release gig taking place on October 13th, 2017, we decided that it would be a good time to sit down with guitarist, vocalist, and frontman Pete Lindroos, and talk a bit about the new material, and what Ensiferum’s been up to leading up to it.

 

Your new album, Two Paths, has been out for nearly a month now and it’s been only about 2 years since One Man Army was released, which is rather quick for you guys – usually you’re about 3 years between albums. So how did this album come together and so quickly?
Usually it takes longer. In our opinion it took forever to finish this one, but since you put it that way, it was kind of fast-ish.

Did you tour the last album any less, that might’ve led to the studio time coming a bit sooner, or anything like that?
No, actually… no. We did say no to pretty many shows just because we wanted to get to the studio and get the new album out, since you cannot work in this business if you don’t have a new album out. So 3 years starts to become a long time to not [releasing] anything.

Were there any changes to the way you did things this time around, during the writing and recordings? Considering, of course, that you have a new member.
Pretty much, yeah. We went back to old-school. We did it on a tape recording, recording on tape the whole thing. It was extremely cool, ’cause at least in the studio you can really hear and feel the difference with the sound in it and working with the tape recorder, it was even nostalgic, a little bit. I remember I did my first album with Norther 17 years ago. We used that kind of machine on that one. After that it’s been all digital.

It was very nice. It was kind of scary to go out of there, because in the digital world you can just erase and do it again, erase and do it again… it doesn’t matter. You’ve got endless space. But on the tape, you don’t want to fuck up that much [laughs].

So it was kind of scary, but also very… I don’t know how to say it… in a way a bit more loose? Yeah. Also, since we got the accordion player and singer, Netta Skog, in the band, we used the accordion a lot, with the real sounds and not-so-much real sounds, so that is also a very big difference. She also sang one whole song on the album, so that’s also kind of new for us.

That was actually one of my next questions. I recall that Emmi [Silvennoinen, ex-keyboards] didn’t sing all that often on your old albums…
Yeah, mostly in the backing vocals.

Do you expect to have more songs with female vocals in the future, or will it be the same?
I hadn’t given it that much thought.

Just see how the music feels?
Yeah. Why not? If the material is in that kind of way that the female vocals would fit better…

If it suits the song?
Yeah, and she’s the best singer in the band, so why not? [laughs]

Were there any stories or themes that were unusual for you guys in this album, or was this a fairly traditional album thematically and lyrically?
Huh… not so much. We’ve got swords and stuff, so we kind of stuck to the basics, a little bit, but still… from a lyrical point… well first of all, our bass player, Sami [Hinkka], is responsible for all that. He also doesn’t like to comment about the lyrics that much, so that people can find their own… relations to the lyrics, to see how they see them without giving any ideas of how it should be. Just figure it out yourself.

Letting people find their own meaning in the music.
Yeah. I think it actually suits it a lot better, unless it’s really, really epically personal.

Netta seemed to have gone from Turisas to more or less disappearing from the metal world, and then started showing up as a guest musician with bands like Children of Bodom and Mokoma, and then started playing shows with you guys, and then she took over for Emmi when she left. So do you know much about her story, returning to the scene and joining Ensiferum?
On the One Man Army studio sessions she was there also, doing the song “Neitto pohjolaan”, playing accordion and singing, and then Emmi couldn’t make it for a tour, so it was easy to ask her since she had already been doing that with Turisas, so she knows how it is. “Sure, why not? I’ve got nothing else to do. Nice to tour!” Okay, so, after that it kind of just stayed, so I think she likes it.

Was there any particular reason that Emmi left, or was it just a lack of enthusiasm to continue?
In a way, you see this business side of it quite fast. She also wanted to finish her studies, so she took the time off and stayed off [laughs], in a shorter way of saying it.

Fair enough. Now, there were a couple of changes to your sound, including the use of the accordion. What was it like to include that instead of the piano? Was it challenging or was it easy, or was it more or less the same?
I would say that it’s pretty much the same, but using the original accordion sound even makes it a little bit more ‘folkish’, you know? It’s a very, very old folk instrument, and definitely not that common in the heavy metal circles. So we actually liked more of the accordion in the sound itself. But the accordion sound was used a lot and it just sounds fucking fabulous.

Well, you pretty much answered my next question about whether it sounds more authentic to your style.
Yeah, actually, it does.

I know that the digital accordion is capable of some really cool stuff. I know when Netta plays her solo shows, she loops all her own music. Will that change anything about your live shows? Will she be taking over any of the backing music as well?
Uhh… no. At least so far, no. I just hope that she doesn’t put some weird drum beats on accidentally or whatever. That would be awkward [laughter]… but so far no.

The other major change I noticed on the album was that there was a lot less of you growling and a lot more of someone else singing. How did that happen?
It kind of happened since we have four singers in the band. There was a little bit of debate about that one in the studio, but since we got the vocals recorded, “Fuck, it sounds good. Fuck that.” We did the two alternative versions with my vocals on it just for the fuck of it, because we had one extra night still leftover, so I could have the ‘privilege’ of doing these vocals [laughs] and, well, since there are four singers in the band, why not use them?

Did you have any troubles with the clean vocals, combined with the accordion, in any way ending up with a sort of Alestorm, pirate-shanty sort of sound?
I don’t think there is every going to be a problem with us sounding like Alestorm. I fucking hope [laughter]. I’ll raise my voice when I hear that kind of music.

I also noticed that this is the first time in quite a while that you guys haven’t included a cover song on the album.
I guess we did not have time to check out any song that would suit us for this occasion, so we decided to fuck it. And we also had the bonus acoustic show from On the Rocks from about 1 year ago, so that was already planned to be the bonus whatever on the album, so that’s about it. Plus there’s all the classical songs, they’re already done, and then if you want to dig out some really cool song from the archives, no one will ever know about them.

So nothing really jumped out this time?
No, and we don’t want to make it one-to-one. You can always play some more Iron Maiden or Judas Priest or whatever, but if we want to make it sound like ‘us’, we would need to work on developing it a bit more. So not this time, but maybe next time.

What are your plans for tours or summer festivals at this point? Has anything been set up as of now?
This year is pretty much figured out. We’ve got these shows in Finland until the beginning of next month, and then we’re going to stop by South America for about ten shows, and then we’re going to stop by in Russian for a nice vodka weekend, and then for New Years’ time we’re going to stop by China and Japan. There are some tour plans for the beginning of next year and the festivals are starting to drop in now, but nothing is 100% settled so I cannot say anything out loud.

My last question then, is that these anniversary tours are gaining a lot deal of popularity these days, or even specialty one-off shows where a whole album is played. You guys have been around quite a long time now and some of your albums are getting up there in the years as well. Have you considered doing any anniversary tours, or has it never come up? 
We have talked about it, yes. Decided anything? No. I think now Victory Songs is about 10 years, and From Afar, I think 2009. I don’t know. We’ll have to figure it out. We’d have to learn to play the songs again first [laughs].

It could happen, but nothing set in stone?
Probably, maybe.

All right, well thank you for your time. Any last words to the readers?
We need shitloads of people at [the shows]!

Photos: Kirsti Leinonen

ENSIFERUM: Two Paths Album Release Gig – The Circus, Helsinki, 13.10.2017

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Ensiferum has always been at their live peak during album release shows, with some of their best including the album release party for From Afar in 2009 and One Man Army in 2015. With that in mind, it seemed like a good idea to check out this show. How would the new material work out live, especially with the new line-up and change in vocal style on this year’s Two Paths?

Photos coming soon.
And listen along to the playlist on Spotify here:

I was on the fence about my feelings toward this gig for quite a while. It took me ages to decide whether or not I would even attend. For one, while From Afar is one of my favorite albums, Unsung Heroes (2012) started strong and fizzled out, and One Man Army (2015) sort of just… never really grasped me over time. As well, I wasn’t a fan at all of the clean vocals in Two Paths, so I was unsure of whether I’m still on the Ensiferum train or not. However, this seemed like a good opportunity to decide if I want to keep up with their live shows or leave them as a fun band to enjoy at festivals.

 

This Friday the 13th proved iffy for the band, as Pete Lindroos (growls, guitar) mentioned to us prior to our interview that he cut his hand, making guitar slightly iffy, and that their sound tech had fallen ill and they needed to use the house staff, which is always a risk. The doors to The Circus opened at an unfortunately late 20:00 (19:00 would’ve been a bit nicer), with Ensiferum’s set starting at a hefty 23:00. As much as I had hoped to see Crimfall and Wolfheart, I had business to attend to, and so returned to the venue at 22:45 to find the merch booth making plenty of sales and an impressive crowd gathered… though I was surprised to note that the show hadn’t sold so well that the upstairs was open.

The show began right on time, starting with a tape of the album’s intro, “Ajattomasta unesta” and then opened into “For Those About to Fight for Metal”, which elicited a great many cheers from the crowd. It was clearly a fan favorite as the first release from Two Paths.

Sami Hinkka (bass) immediately jumped up on the amps and showed that he’s got as much energy as ever, and Markus Toivonen (guitar, vocals) smiled broadly and wagged his tongue out at the crowd. Crowd-pleaser Netta Skog (accordion, vocals) was looking lovely with her blonde hair done up in curls – pretty but not scruffy enough to be very Viking. There were some issues in matching up the vocals, as Skog was a bit over-loud and not quite in harmony with Lindroos.

“Two Paths” sounded excellent musically, as expected based on the album, but vocally sounded blunt and barely in tune, as expected based on the album. Lindroos’ vocals shined though, and he pulled off one difficult-looking extended low growl nicely. They regained my full admiration again with “Two of Spades”, being a newer favorite of mine, and their lively rendition brought a smile to my face as Skog and Toivonen goofed and danced around together and Hinkka let the bass funk reign from atop the speakers. The crowd chimed in during the “hoo-hah” and the Finnish lines, and the fog cannons helped add some style to the visuals. Also, I’ve always loved Enska for their lights – they often pick lighting that matches the song in question’s album art in color, and the blues and greens looked perfect in this track.

“King of Storms” had some surprisingly loud singing along from the crowd, for a new song and not one I’d have expected as an obvious singalong. Lindroos’ growling was again the highlight while the clean vocals were not too bad. Then Hinkka started to play… “Enter Sandman” [Metallica]? I guess it served as short bass interlude before “Treacherous Gods”, but the crowd began rowdy chanting, so maybe they were disappointed it wasn’t the full song. “Treacherous Gods” had some of the most notable parts from Skog’s digital accordion, and the crowd showed their appreciation with a wall of death. “In My Sword I Trust” was one of the better songs off Unsung Heroes and was a fun inclusion even though Lindroos’ vocals were a bit quiet at first.

Hinkka played another bass interlude before “One Man Army” that got the crowd dancing and goofing around again; the title track of 2015’s album proved yet another popular live track. At this point I was surprised how few old songs had been played, but the crowd didn’t seem to care. The female vocals in the back were again a bit out of balance in the mix.

There was an actual interlude then with a recording of “Tumman virran taa” from From Afar before they played “The Longest Journey (Heathen Throne pt. 2)”, which was a welcome surprise as one of their better epics. “Way of the Warrior”, being one of my favorites from Two Paths, was also easily the live highlight of the new material. It’s not a surprise stylistically for Enska the way “Two of Spades” was on release, but feels like such a traditional, good ol’ Ensiferum song, and it’s properly catchy, so what’s really not to like? Beautiful blue and green lights again too.

Perhaps one of the oddest moments of the night was when Skog took the mic and spotlight for “Feast with Valkyries”, a very accordion-heavy track, and did not actually play the accordion. I guess the idea was to focus on singing well, but… all the guys are perfectly capable of singing and playing their instruments and jumping around. It was a nice performance and she sang well… but it felt kind of attention-grabby. To be fair though, an accordion is a lot heavier than a guitar, so perhaps that’s the reason.

The second legitimate interlude was the “Mourning Heart” track played on a full-green stage and the band came in for “Tale of Revenge.” “Victory Song” – another live classic to which I even saw a few happy couples dancing – was announced as the last song before the encore. We were left to guess if they’d play “Iron” or “Lai Lai Hei” after the short break, and Hinkka teased the crowd with a tune know from hockey games. They started up the encore with the always excellent “From Afar”, which sounded kinda cool with the accordion, and finished up with “Lai Lai Hei.”

 

I will have to say that the set was actually quite good on the whole in spite of my issues with the new material. They played most of their best tracks from over the years, even lacking greats like “Token of Time” and “Ahti”, but that’s the way it goes when your song base keeps growing. I’d have liked to leave pre-encore, but they kept dropping good songs and made it impossible to make it out before the crowd. And, considering they didn’t have their regular sound tech, I was glad to notice that the only sound issues I heard were also more or less present on the album too, so I suspect it was pretty close to how they wanted it. I do wonder why Hinkka and Toivonen’s, and even Skog’s vocals are still so much better and well-mixed in older songs like “Victory Songs” than the new stuff though. So, as I said, these guys remain at their best during album release shows, even if my overall approval of their music is waning.

Setlist:
1. Ajattomasta unesta
2. For Those About to Fight for Metal
3. Two Paths
4. Two of Spades
5. King of Storms
6. Treacherous Gods
7. In My Sword I Trust
8. One Man Army
9. Tumman virran taa (tape)
10. The Longest Journey (Heathen Theone pt. 2)
11. Way if the Warrior
12. Feast with Valkyries
13. Mourning Heart – Interlude (tape)
14. Tale of Revenge
15. Victory Song

Encore:
16. From Afar
17. Lai Lai Hei

Photos: Kirsti Leinonen

(2017) Sons of Apollo: Psychotic Symphony (English)

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Artist: Sons of Apollo
Album: Psychotic Symphony
Release: 20.10.2017
Label: InsideOut Music

 

“For Apollo so loved the world that he gave his only 5 sons…” Or in layman’s terms, Dream Theater alumni Mike Portnoy (drums) and Derek Sherinian (keyboards) joined forces with ex-Guns N’ Roses guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, Mr. Big bassist Billy Sheehan, and one-time Journey frontman Jeff Scott Soto to form a progressive metal supergroup under the banner Sons of Apollo. As a founding member of Dream Theater, Portnoy is surely one of the father figures of the genre, but after his departure from the group in 2010 he hasn’t revisited that style in any of his studio bands until now, so there’s been a certain amount of excitement about his return. Sherinian has been talking about ‘reclaiming the throne’ and taking more or less veiled jabs at his and Portnoy’s former band on Twitter, so it’s time to listen to Psychotic Symphony and see whether the hype is real or if the self-proclaimed new kings have no clothes.

 

To be completely honest, I haven’t actively listened to any of Portnoy’s projects outside of Dream Theater besides OSI, of which he’s no longer a part. Although I feel that DT went downhill towards the end of his tenure, partially because of his increasing control on their direction, it’s not that I hate the guy, but for some reason none of his bands in particular have resonated with me. Now that he’s paired up with Sherinian, whose time with DT was so short that he didn’t get to show his full potential, I wanted to hear whether I’d finally get into something he’s done. The talks about combining modern prog metal with classic hard rock were also intriguing, as that’s an influence that’s unfortunately neglected by a lot of newer bands in the scene.

“God of the Sun” opens the album with sitar sounds and a keyboard solo reminiscent of the intro to Dream Theater’s “Lines in the Sand.” The orientally influenced epic is a great way to kick things off with its soaring chorus and heavy riffs. In the middle it calms down for a while, only to be followed by a complex instrumental section, which along with the song’s structure is reminiscent of latter-day Portnoy-era DT, but doesn’t go totally over the top luckily. Video track “Coming Home” is a straightforward rocker that you can almost imagine playing after a Horatio Caine one-liner, with the opening scream and all. It may not be a groundbreaking tune, but it’s catchy, and the organ and delay guitar break in the middle is nice. The first single, “Signs of the Time” is a fairly standard prog metal song and not that special, but it’s saved by Thal’s fascinating solo.

“Labyrinth” makes me think Sherinian has been listening to Haken lately, as the 80s synths at the 2½-minute mark are like straight out of “1985.” Most likely both have simply been influenced by Vince DiCola, but the similarities are uncanny nevertheless, and this coupled with the forgettable instrumental break in the middle is a letdown, because the song starts out so well. “Alive” is a post-grunge/alternative rock-sounding melodic anthem that’s the closest thing to a ballad on the album, which makes it refreshing and one of the standout songs. “Lost in Oblivion”, on the other hand, is prog metal business as usual – the riffs and melodies are fairly standard, and apart from the album name dropping there’s not much of note here. Sherinian’s organ solo “Figaro’s Whore” leads us into the Deep Purple-influenced “Divine Addiction”, which is like a cousin of “Perfect Strangers.” The vibe and the energy are good on this tune, and I can see it working nicely live. Sadly the album falls flat at the end – “Opus Maximus” may please fans of Sherinian’s Planet X project and those who like their prog super-technical, but I find the 10-minute instrumental rather tedious and self-indulgent, as well as a weird choice to end the album.

When it comes to individual performances, Ron Thal and Derek Sherinian are the star players. Thal in particular surprised me, as I’d never heard his playing before, but he’s an accomplished guitarist whose solos are tonally interesting and not your typical shred or pentatonic licks. Sherinian’s sound palette is wide, with more symphonic and modern sounds than during his Dream Theater tenure, and he has a much bigger role in Sons of Apollo. While Mike Portnoy may be the boss, it’s clear that without Sherinian’s input, Psychotic Symphony wouldn’t sound the way it is. Speaking of Portnoy, he does his job well behind the kit, but despite having played other styles than progressive metal for the past 7 years, he’s still recycling the fills and tricks he was playing in Dream Theater. Whether that makes you feel nostalgic or think he’s stagnated probably depends on how big a fan of the man you are – I find myself leaning towards the latter option. Billy Sheehan’s playing is fine, but I’m not a big fan of his bass tone, as at some points the rumble buries the guitar, the worst offender being the verses of “Coming Home.” Also, most prog bands have a vocalist with a distinctive voice that may split opinions among listeners, but this is where Sons of Apollo fall short a bit – Jeff Scott Soto is a competent hard rock/AOR singer who is the perfect man to sing a track like “Alive”, but in the proggiest moments he comes across as a hired pair of lungs and his voice doesn’t have the kind of uniquity that would elevate the music to the next level.

 

So are Sons of Apollo the saviors of prog metal? Based on Psychotic Symphony I have to say nay, but it’s not a bad start. Due to the lack of ballads and slow moments I find the album a little fatiguing, and “Opus Maximus” comes across as a desperate attempt to one-up both Dream Theater and the new generation of shredders. I find myself enjoying the fivesome’s rocking side though, as it seems to come more naturally from them, and Soto’s vocals in particular work better in that style. I’m a little skeptical about the longevity of supergroups in general, but if these guys get to tour the world, become a tighter unit, and make another record, I can see good things happening.

Rating: 7/10, 3½ stars

Tracklist:
1. God of the Sun
2. Coming Home
3. Signs of the Time
4. Labyrinth
5. Alive
6. Lost in Oblivion
7. Figaro’s Whore
8. Divine Addiction
9. Opus Maximus

(2017) Sons of Apollo: Psychotic Symphony (suomeksi)

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Artisti: Sons of Apollo
Albumi: Psychotic Symphony
Julkaisupäivä: 20.10.2017
Levy-yhtiö: Inside Out Music

 

“Apollo on rakastanut maailmaa niin paljon, että antoi ainoat viisi poikaansa…” Toisin sanoen Dream Theater -alumnit Mike Portnoy (rummut) ja Derek Sherinian (kosketinsoittimet) pistivät ex-Guns N’ Roses -kitaristi Ron “Bumblefoot” Thalin, Mr. Big -basisti Billy Sheehanin ja kertaalleen Journeyn keulilla laulaneen Jeff Scott Soton kanssa pystyyn progressiivisen metallin superryhmän Sons of Apollo. Dream Theaterin perustajajäsenenä Portnoy on yksi genren isähahmoista, mutta bändistä erottuaan hän ei ole päätynyt kyseisen tyylin pariin yhdenkään studiobändinsä kanssa ennen kuin nyt, joten hänen paluunsa on herättänyt jonkinasteista innostusta. Sherinian on puhunut valtaistuimen lunastamisesta takaisin ja heittänyt enemmän tai vähemmän verhoiltuja herjoja entistä bändiään kohtaan Twitterissä, joten on aika kuunnella Psychotic Symphony ja katsoa, onko hype aiheellista vai onko uusiksi kuninkaiksi julistautuneilla vaatteita lainkaan.

 

Jos rehellisiä ollaan, en ole kuunnellut aktiivisesti yhtään Portnoyn Dream Theaterin ulkopuolista projektia, lukuun ottamatta OSI:ta, jossa hän ei enää soita. Vaikka DT menikin hänen aikanaan alamäkeen loppua kohti, osittain hänen vahvan otteensa vuoksi, en inhoa miestä, vaan jostain syystä yksikään hänen bändeistään ei ole erityisesti säväyttänyt minua. Nyt kun hän on lyönyt hynttyyt yhteen Sherinianin kanssa, jonka pesti DT:ssä jäi niin lyhyeksi, ettei hän kerennyt näyttämään kaikeka potentiaaliaan, halusin nähdä joko vihdoin tykästyisin johonkin hänen tuotokseensa. Puheet modernin progemetallin yhdistämisestä klassisen hard rockin kanssa olivat myös mielenkiintoisia, sillä kyseessä on vaikute, jonka harmillisen monet uudet bändit skenessä ovat jättäneet huomiotta.

“God of the Sun” avaa albumin sitar-soundeilla ja Dream Theaterin “Lines in the Sandin” introa muistuttavalla kosketinsoololla. Itämaisilla vaikutteilla höystetty eepos on mainio tapa potkaista levy käyntiin huimine kertosäkeineen ja raskaine riffeineen. Puolivälissä biisi rauhoittuu hetkeksi, vain jatkuakseen monimutkaisella instrumentaaliosiolla, joka kappaleen rakenteen tavoin muistuttaa myöhempää Portnoyn aikaista DT:ia, muttei onneksi mene ihan överiksi. Videoraita “Coming Home” on suoraviivainen rokkiralli, jonka alkukiljaisuineen voisi melkein kuvitella kuulevansa Horatio Cainen repliikin jälkeen. Se ei välttämättä ole mullistava kappale, mutta se on tarttuva, ja puolivälin urku- ja delay-kitaraosuus on antoisa. Ensisingle “Signs of the Time” on aika tavallinen progemetallibiisi eikä sinällään erityinen, mutta Thalin kiehtova soolo pelastaa sen.

“Labyrinth” pistää miettimään, onko Sherinian kuunnellut Hakenia lähiaikoina, sillä kahden ja puolen minuutin kohdalla kuultavat kasarisyntikat ovat kuin suoraan “1985:sta”. Todennäköisesti molemmat ovat vain ottaneet vaikutteita Vince DiColalta, mutta samankaltaisuus on hämmästyttävän suuri, ja tämä yhdistettynä yhdentekevään instrumentaaliväliosaan on pettymys, sillä biisi alkaa erittäin lupaavasti. “Alive” on post-grunge/vaihtoehtorock-henkinen melodinen laulu, joka on levyn annista lähimpänä balladia, mikä tekee siitä piristävän ja erottuvan. “Lost in Oblivion” sen sijaan edustaa jälleen tavanomaista progemetallia – riffit ja melodiat ovat peruskauraa, eikä albumin nimen mainintaa lukuun ottamatta mitään huomioitavaa tapahdu. Sherinianin urkusoolo “Figaro’s Whore” johdattelee deeppurplemaisen “Divine Addictionin” pariin, joka on kuin “Perfect Strangersin” serkku. Biisin tunnelma ja energia ovat hyviä, ja uskon sen toimivan mainiosti livenä. Harmillisesti levy loppuu latteasti: “Opus Maximus” tyydyttänee Sherinianin Planet X -projektin faneja ja niitä, jotka haluavat progensa superteknisesti tarjoiltuna, mutta itse pidän tätä 10-minuuttista instrumentaalia melko pitkäveteisenä ja omahyväisenä sekä outona tapana päättää albumi.

Kun yksittäiset soittosuoritukset otetaan puheeksi, Ron Thal ja Derek Sherinian ovat levyn tähdet. Varsinkin Thal yllätti minut, sillä en ollut kuullut hänen soittoaan aiemmin, mutta hän on pätevä kitaristi, jonka soolot ovat nuottivalinnoiltaan mielenkiintoisia eivätkä tyypillisintä tilutusta tai pentatonista kikkailua. Sherinianin äänipaletti on laaja, sisältäen enemmän sinfonisia soundeja kuin hänen Dream Theater -pestinsä aikaan, ja hänen roolinsa Sons of Apollossa on paljon suurempi. Vaikka Mike Portnoy ehkä onkin pomo, on selvää ettei Psychotic Symphony kuulostaisi tällaiselta ilman Sherinianin panosta. Portnoysta puheen ollen, hän hoitaa hommansa kannujen takana hyvin, mutta vaikka hän onkin soittanut ihan muuta musiikkia kuin progressiivista metallia viimeisten seitsemän vuoden ajan, hän kierrättää samoja fillejä ja temppuja kuin Dream Theater -aikoinaan. Se, tekeekö tämä nostalgiseksi vai saako se pitämään miestä kaavoihin kangistuneena riippunee siitä, kuinka suuri miehen fani on – itse kallistun jälkimmäiseen vaihtoehtoon. Billy Sheehanin soitossa ei ole vikaa, mutten erityisemmin innostu hänen bassosoundistaan, sillä paikoitellen sen jyrinä hautaa kitaran alleen, pahimpana esimerkkinä “Coming Homen” säkeistöt. Lisäksi siinä, missä useimmilla progebändeillä on laulaja, jolla on mahdollisesti mielipiteitä jakava omalaatuinen ääni, Sons of Apollo ei ihan onnistu: Jeff Scott Soto on osaava hard rock/AOR -solisti, joka on mies paikallaan “Aliven” kaltaisissa kappaleissa, mutta progressiivisemmissa biiseissä hän kuulostaa lähinnä palkatulta sessiokeuhkoparilta, eikä hänen äänessään ole ainutlaatuisuutta, joka nostaisi musiikin seuraavalle tasolle.

 

Ovatko Apollon pojat progemetallin pelastajia? Psychotic Symphonyn perusteella vastaukseni on kieltävä, mutta aloitus ei ole hassumpi. Balladien ja hitaiden hetkien puutteen vuoksi levy on putkeen kuunneltuna hieman väsyttävä, ja “Opus Maximus” tuntuu epätoivoiselta yritykseltä päihittää Dream Theater ja uuden sukupolven tiluttajat teknisyydessä. Nautin kuitenkin viisikon rokkaavasta puolesta, sillä se tuntuu heille luontaisemmalta, ja varsinkin Soton ääni toimii kyseisessä tyylissä paremmin. Olen hieman skeptinen superkokoonpanojen pitkäikäisyyden suhteen, mutta jos nämä tyypit kiertävät maailmaa, hitsaantuvat tiiviimmin yhteen ja tekevät toisen levyn, uskon parempaa olevan luvassa.

Arvosana: 7/10, 3½ tähteä

Kappalelista:
1. God of the Sun
2. Coming Home
3. Signs of the Time
4. Labyrinth
5. Alive
6. Lost in Oblivion
7. Figaro’s Whore
8. Divine Addiction
9. Opus Maximus

(2017) VUUR: In this Moment We are Free – Cities

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Artist: VUUR
Album: In this Moment We are Free – Cities
Release: 20.10.2017
Label: InsideOutMusic

 

We at Musicalypse have known and loved Anneke van Giersbergen for many years and many projects, from The Gentle Storm and Ayreon, back to The Gathering, and onward to pretty much anything she’s ever done with Devin Townsend. However, the one thing that’s never quite clicked has been her solo music, at least for me personally; so when the band VUUR was announced, anticipation ensued! Not only was the legendary vocalist going to be heading back into heavy waters with her music, but she had some of Ayreon’s absolutely fantastic musicians with her, including the incredible Ed Warby on drums, Jord Otto and Ferry Duijsens on guitars, and Johan van Stratum on bass. Do any of those names sound familiar? They might, if you’ve been following any of Arjen Lucassen/Ayreon‘s work in the past few years.

VUUR’s debut album, titled In this Moment We are Free – Cities, promised eleven tracks that would in some way capture the spirit and/or feeling of cities that van Giersbergen has traveled to throughout her life. The songs may be about the vibe she gets from a place, the history, or another significant event, meaning the album should be a bit of an adventure. As I have complained on many occasions in the past, I wish promo albums came with lyrics, because it would help so much more to get a feel for the songs.

Check out the recent interview that Vincent did with van Giersbergen over HERE!

 

The album opens with “My Champion – Berlin”, which you should know by now from its music video. It starts with some straight-up oldschool heavy guitars, and the vocals are immediately that style of ethereal beautiful that only van Giersbergen can manage. There is a ton of vibrato, and they’re not afraid to slow it down a bit towards the end.

An even heavier intro starts “Time – Rotterdam”, which is the only city from her home country (the Netherlands) on the album. There is a mention of “days gone by” in the lyrics, which may somehow tie into “Days Go By – London”, or could just be a coincidence. This song sticks to a fairly simple formula, and is perhaps a bit longer than it needs to be. “The Martyr and the Saint – Beirut” stands out as one of the most unique tracks on the album with great variation in vocals with beautiful layering. The rhythm guitars feel familiar, while the proggy heavy sound of this song is really nice overall.

Another one of the better songs is “The Fire – San Francisco”, where she does some wonderful parts, doing some sort of up-and-down vocals with almost Devin Townsend Project-esque vocals in the back (by that I refer to her parts from DTP, as styled by Townsend), and then goes on to hit some absolutely gorgeous high notes. “Freedom – Rio” is a more traditional heavy rock/light metal song and manages to come across as one of the most beautiful songs on the album without exactly being what I’d call a ballad. This song also has the titular line, “In this moment we are free” accompanied by some catchy, gentle guitar, and the vocal layering becomes similar to some of van Giersbergen’s parts in Ayreon songs.

The first song that the band had released was the aforementioned “Days Go By – London.” I think this song works as a pretty good introduction to the album on the whole, expressing the band’s sound fairly accurately. The guitar sound from the beginning you’ll hear already before this song, and while it’s not the best song on the album, it shows off a lot of what they’re about.

“Sail Away – Santiago” is another basic hard rock/metal song, and one of the least notable tracks on the album. “Valley of Diamonds – Mexico City” has an almost Goth/alternative-rock intro and stays as a rather catchy rock song without dipping too deep into the heavy aspects. Bonus points here to the varying rhythms that Ed Warby is able to maintain so effortlessly, and for the guitar solos yet again.

Finnish locals are likely most excited for “Your Glorious Light Will Shine – Helsinki”, especially considering how Finland is not exactly known for light. It’s only a theory, but I suspect she might be talking about the people and their beauty, rather than the actual physical light the country lacks in winter. The intro to this one is more orchestral than anything yet, yet maintains the heavy rhythmic guitars and wonderful layered vocals that the rest of the album boasts. I’m not sure if I like this one a lot objectively or subjectively. It’s one of the more unique songs, so perhaps it’s a bit of both.

The album starts its wind-down with “Save Me – Istanbul”, which has an appropriate hint of eastern music in the lead guitar line that helps it stand out a bit. The song hits its peak power around 3 minutes in and when van Giersbergen sings “save me” it sounds like a choir of her – cool. The album then ends with “Reunite! – Paris”, which is by far the slowest song, and also one of the most lovely, building up to a fairly good finale to the album.

 

The one problem I’ve had a bit with van Giersbergen’s solo music is that the songs tend to be a bit indistinguishable from one another. This problem persists a bit on this album – the sound in itself is very diverse, but the songs still all fit the band’s style so well that they become a bit same-sounding if you don’t pay attention. The solos are fantastic, but sometimes the songs get a bit repetitive and could maybe use one chorus fewer. As well, the album maintains a fairly steady page throughout, never particularly kicking up the energy or turning it down until the end. That said, the album has a lot of passion and the musicianship is excellent across the board. I suspect that if you’re a fan of her voice in general or if you’re a bigger fan of her solo stuff than I have been, you’ll love this new, heavy album. And even if you’re not a big fan of her solo material, I’d recommend giving this a play-through or at least seeing it live, as I think I enjoyed it even more at Tuska this year than on the album itself.

Rating: 8/10, 4 stars.

Tracklist:
1. My Champion – Berlin
2. Time – Rotterdam
3. The Martyr and the Saint – Beirut
4. The Fire – San Francisco
5. Freedom – Rio
6. Days Go By – London
7. Sail Away – Santiago
8. Valley of Diamonds – Mexico
9. Your Glorious Light will Shine – Helsinki
10. Save Me – Istanbul
11. Reunite! – Paris

(2017) Daniel Cavanagh: Monochrome (English)

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Artist: Daniel Cavanagh
Album: Monochrome
Release: 13.10.2017
Label: Kscope

 

Daniel Cavanagh is known as the main songwriter of Anathema, and therefore he’s not the first person you’d expect to release a solo album. On top of that, his main band’s latest album, The Optimist, was released less than half a year ago, which makes the question ‘why now?’ even more relevant. According to Cavanagh himself, the material would’ve been strong enough for Anathema, but the songs are, “So personal as to not need more input.” Having followed Anathema for 6 years, I was curious to hear how he would do on his own, so Monochrome was a must-listen for me.

 

Opening track “The Exorcist” shares its name with the horror film, but the music is far from terrifying – instead it’s like a beautiful cross between “One Last Goodbye” and “Untouchable, Pt. 2”, while standing on its own. What took me by surprise were Cavanagh’s vocals, as he sings the latter half in a higher register than usual. As a singer, he’s always been overshadowed by his brother Vincent and Lee Douglas in his main band, but “The Exorcist” is his strongest performance to date, as well as one of the best songs he’s ever written – his signature lead guitar playing at the end is the icing on the cake. “This Music” introduces Cavanagh’s past touring partner, Dutch siren Anneke van Giersbergen on guest vocals for the first time on the record. I enjoy the call-and-response approach between van Giersbergen’s somnolent vocals and Cavanagh’s subdued delivery when they sing “Just this song, just this music.” The wonderful “Soho” is like a musical triptych: at first van Giersbergen sings alone, only accompanied by the piano, after which the pace picks up, she and Cavanagh duet, and at the end, things wind down and Cavanagh is left alone, with only piano and keyboards in the background once again. The whole song is so picturesque, like two soulmates meeting in the night briefly before going their own ways.

The instrumental “The Silent Flight of the Raven Winged Hours” is the first big departure from the Anathema sound, as the early piano runs have a touch of classical music, while in the second half there are wordless vocals reminiscent of Mariusz Duda’s Lunatic Soul project and some 70s prog-style spacey synth leads, as well as a burst of guitars. What an epic track! “Dawn” is another atypical piece, as the combination of fingerpicked acoustic guitar, violin (played by Anna Phoebe, who has performed with Anathema before), and the upbeat rhythm makes it quite folky and almost Celtic-sounding. The lush “Oceans of Time” is another duet with van Giersbergen, featuring strong vocals from Cavanagh and a slight throwback to “Fragile Dreams” in one piano melody, although it’s so subtle that it may not have been intentional. On the closing instrumental, “Some Dreams Come True”, there’s presumably Cavanagh’s own child’s laughter, which is a sweet way to conclude the album.

 

Monochrome is slightly stripped down compared to Anathema’s latest works, and the piano dominates the music, but there are big buildups here as well. Cavanagh’s wailing leads likewise make plenty of appearances, which is a positive thing, as there hasn’t been a lot of them on Anathema’s albums lately. “The Exorcist” is by far the best song on the record in my eyes, but instead of making the rest of the album pale in comparison, which is a typical problem with strong openers, it sucks you in and just makes you want to listen to the whole record. Monochrome sounds relaxed, yet passionate at the same time – it’s as if Cavanagh knew that not many would expect a solo album from him, so he’d have full freedom to record personally meaningful songs and explore some slightly different sounds with no external pressure. This music (no pun intended) is best listened to in the quiet hours of the night, and I’d dare say Monochrome is the most satisfying and consistently great album Cavanagh has made since 2010’s We’re Here Because We’re Here.

Rating: 9/10, 4½ stars

Tracklist:
1. The Exorcist
2. This Music
3. Soho
4. The Silent Flight of the Raven Winged Hours
5. Dawn
6. Oceans of Time
7. Some Dreams Come True

(2017) Daniel Cavanagh: Monochrome (suomeksi)

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Artisti: Daniel Cavanagh
Albumi: Monochrome
Julkaisupäivä: 13.10.2017
Levy-yhtiö: Kscope

 

Daniel Cavanagh tunnetaan Anatheman pääasiallisena lauluntekijänä, joten häneltä ei ihan ensimmäisenä odottaisi sooloalbumia. Lisäksi hänen pääbändinsä viimeisin julkaisu, The Optimist, näki päivänvalon alle puoli vuotta sitten, mikä tekee kysymyksen “miksi nyt?” vielä relevantimmaksi. Cavanaghin itsensä mukaan materiaali olisi ollut riittävän vahvaa Anathemalle, mutta kappaleet olivat niin henkilökohtaisia, etteivät ne tarvinneet muiden panosta. Seurattuani Anathemaa kuuden vuoden ajan olin kiinnostunut kuulemaan, millaista jälkeä hän saisi aikaan omillaan, joten Monochrome piti tietenkin katsastaa.

 

Avausraita “The Exorcist” ei nimestään huolimatta ole kauhuleffamainen teos – sen sijaan kyseessä on kuin kaunis risteytys “One Last Goodbyeta” ja “Untouchable, Pt. 2:ta”, joka kuitenkin seisoo omilla jaloillaan. Cavanaghin laulu yllätti minut, sillä hän laulaa toisen puoliskon korkeammassa rekisterissä kuin yleensä. Laulajana hän on aina jäänyt veljensä Vincentin ja Lee Douglasin varjoon, mutta “The Exorcist” on hänen vahvin laulusuorituksensa koskaan ja yksi hänen parhaista kappaleistaan – miehen tavaramerkkikitaraliidit biisin lopussa ovat kirsikka kakun päälle. “This Music” esittelee ensimmäistä kertaa levyllä Cavanaghin aiemman kiertuekumppanin, hollantilaisen seireenin Anneke van Giersbergenin vierailevana solistina. Hänen raukean laulunsa ja Cavanaghin hillityn tulkinnan välinen vuorottelu heidän laulaessaan “just this song, just this music” on nautinnollista kuunneltavaa. “Soho” on kuin musiikillinen triptyykki: aluksi van Giersbergen laulaa yksin pianon säestyksellä, sitten tahti nopeutuu hieman ja hän ja Cavanagh duetoivat, ja lopussa kappale rauhoittuu ja Cavanagh jää yksin laulamaan, jälleen vain pianon ja koskettimien soidessa taustalla. Koko kappale on hyvin kuvauksellinen – kuin kaksi sielunkumppania, jotka tapaavat pikaisesti yössä ja menevät sitten omia polkujaan.

Instrumentaalinen “The Silent Flight of the Raven Winged Hours” on ensimmäinen iso irtiotto Anathemasta, sillä alun pianojuoksutuksissa on klassisen musiikin sävyjä, kun taas jälkimmäisessä puoliskossa kuullaan Mariusz Dudan Lunatic Soul -projektin mieleen tuovaa sanatonta laulua, 70-lukulaisia avaruusprogesyntikoita ja kitaroiden jyrinää. Melkoinen eepos! “Dawn” on toinen epätyypillinen sävellys: akustisen näppäilyn, viulun (soittajana Anna Phoebe, joka on aiemmin esiintynyt Anatheman kanssa) ja menevän rytmin yhdistelmä nimittäin tekee siitä melko folkahtavan ja lähes kelttiläisen kuuloisen. Upealla “Oceans of Timella” Cavanagh duetoi jälleen vahvasti van Giersbergenin kanssa, ja mukana on pieni viittaus “Fragile Dreamsin”, vaikka se onkin niin hienovarainen, ettei se ole välttämättä tietoinen ratkaisu. Lopetusinstrumentaalissa “Some Dreams Come True” kuullaan oletettavasti Cavanaghin oman lapsen naurua, mikä on kaunis tapa päättää albumi.

 

Monochrome on hieman riisuttu verrattuna Anatheman viimeisimpiin julkaisuihin, ja piano on vallitsevana elementtinä musiikissa, mutta mukana on myös jonkin verran paisuttelua. Miellyttävää on myös se, että Cavanaghin ulvovia kitaraliidejä kuullaan useaan otteeseen, sillä niitä ei ole kuultu järin runsaasti Anatheman albumeilla viime aikoina. “The Exorcist” on ehdottomasti levyn paras kappale, mutta sen sijaan että muut biisit kalpenisivat sen rinnalla, mikä on vahvojen avausten tyypillinen ongelma, se imaisee mukaansa ja saa haluamaan kuunnella koko albumin. Monochrome kuulostaa rennolta, mutta silti intohimoiselta – aivan kuin Cavanagh olisi tiennyt, että harva odottaisi häneltä soololevyä, joten hänellä olisi täysi vapaus äänittää itselleen tärkeitä kappaleita ja kokeilla hieman erilaisia vaikutteita ilman ulkopuolisia paineita. Tällainen musiikki kuulostaa parhaalta yön hiljaisina tunteina kuunneltuna, ja rohkenen väittää Monochromen olevan tasalaatuisuudessaan paras albumi, jonka Cavanagh on tehnyt sitten vuoden 2010 We’re Here Because We’re Heren.

Arvosana: 9/10, 4½ tähteä

Kappalelista:
1. The Exorcist
2. This Music
3. Soho
4. The Silent Flight of the Raven Winged Hours
5. Dawn
6. Oceans of Time
7. Some Dreams Come True

(2017) Hallatar: No Stars Upon the Bridge

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Artist: Hallatar
Album: No Stars Upon the Bridge
Release: 13.10.2017
Label: Svart Records

 

As some of you likely know already, the tragic origin of Hallatar is far from usual. After the untimely passing of singer-songwriter Aleah Starbridge last year, her partner Juha Raivio [Swallow the Sun, Trees of Eternity] gathered poems and lyrics she had written, and during one week’s time wrote music that would become Hallatar’s debut album. The band’s line-up was completed with former HIM drummer Gas Lipstick and Tomi Joutsen of Amorphis on vocals, both of them saying yes to the project before hearing a single note of the music. Without any changes made to its songs after they were written, No Stars Upon the Bridge stands as an unfiltered, harrowing journey into bereavement.

I thought for a long time about how to even begin this review, because casual doesn’t feel like the right way to go. I seem to have a pattern forming in reviewing a doom album every fall, with Trees of Eternity’s The Hour of the Nightingale last year, and now this year with Hallatar. Both of these are albums that evoke a wide array of thoughts, but only a little in actual words, and finding the right words is my job here.

 

In the same way I looked for a way to start this text, I also looked for opportune moments to listen and really focus on the album, but as it turned out, it’s rarely a perfect time for anything like that. That in turn led into thinking of an analogy to describe the sound on No Stars Upon the Bridge; if The Hour of the Nightingale was like mentally preparing yourself to face something ahead, Hallatar’s debut sounds like when the actual blow hits you. That is present especially on the first track, “Mirrors”, and peaks from time-to-time throughout the album. Musically, it’s not Swallow the Sun nor Trees of Eternity – Hallatar dives deeper into the voids of doom, and while you can easily recognize Raivio’s hand in the music, the trademark sound is a touch subtler than in the aforementioned two bands, giving way for the needed approach.

When it comes to the completing pieces of the lineup, Tomi Joutsen is clearly a perfect match for the music, along with visiting vocalist Heike Langhans [Draconian], whose calming, whispering voice is heard in the upcoming video track, “My Mistake”, and in spoken tracks “Raven’s Song”, “Pieces”, and “Spiral Gate.” Those who are used to Joutsen’s singing in Amorphis might be in for a bit of surprise, as on No Stars Upon the Bridge, the vocalist covers a wider range of harsh styles, from outright cries and rattles to the more familiar growl. His vocals channel raw emotions in a way that is teetering on the edge between disturbing and purging, shaking out the listener’s own frailties with ease. On the other hand, his soothing clean vocals are the highlight of tracks like “Severed Eyes”, complemented by acoustic guitars, and in their lamenting softness is something one doesn’t get to hear too often with Amorphis.

Still on the topic of vocals, I didn’t really expect to hear Aleah’s voice on this album, and was extremely happy to hear her in the closing track, “Dreams Burn Down”, which has become one of my favorite songs that have been released this year. Her lyrics are again poignant and beautiful, with a touch of the kind of personal that resonates in others, wonderfully complementing the different sort of moving that is presented in the music on this album. While the poems and writings have as otherworldly an air as her singing, they tread through thoughts that are deeply humane and recognizable, and by that, unexpectedly comforting. Aside from that, reading them and listening to the last track made me want to put The Hour of the Nightingale on for a few spins after some time.

There’s one thing that this album makes painfully clear and worth remembering: grief is hardly ever beautiful in the usual sense of the word, nor is there anything to glorify about it. When you lay it out in the open, it’s not like something out of a romantic movie or book – it might look ugly on the surface, but conventional beauty is not exactly written in grief’s description. As such, No Stars Upon the Bridge is like a black hole of sorrow; but despite their name, black holes and the space around them are not completely devoid of light, and neither is this album. It may be small and it may be fleeting, but that light is still present in what would otherwise be a crushing whorl of darkness.

 

As a final thought, this is an album that gets to you little-by-little – even though the delivery is heavy-handed, it’s not aggressive or demanding attention to itself. It will get that anyway, and while it doesn’t demand, it does need attention – or at least a bit of non-rushed time – to thrive. That being said, it’s not an album for everyone. It doesn’t try to be easy to approach or process (as it shouldn’t try) and some won’t find anything appealing in it no matter how hard they try. From another point of view, it can and will become extremely personal at times – essentially, this is what losing a loved one sounds like, to the letter.

It’s not the first time I’ve said, and likely will not be the last, but I hate having to give a numeral rating or stars to an album like this. For one, I don’t see much point in it because I don’t have a clear base to refer to (as my more active doom listening days are long past), and secondly, I simply don’t want to. From my opinion, with or without rating, here’s a piece I wish people will find and experience.

Rating: 9/10, 4.5 stars

Tracklist:
1. Mirrors
2. Raven’s Song
3. Melt
4. My Mistake (feat. Heike Langhans)
5. Pieces
6. Severed Eyes
7. The Maze
8. Spiral Gate
9. Dreams Burn Down (feat. Aleah Starbridge)

(2017) Cyhra: Letters to Myself

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Artist: CyHra
Album: Letters to Myself
Release: 20.10.2017
Label: Spinefarm Records

 

When one door closes, they say another opens, and that was true for Jake E. [ex-Amaranthe], Jesper Strömblad [ex-In Flames], Peter Iwers [ex-In Flames], and Alex Landenburg [ex-Rhapsody, ex-Annihilator]. This group of well-known artists have come together to create a band known as CyHra (‘sigh-rah’ for those of you who haven’t heard it pronounced out loud yet) after leaving their respective bands. They also recently announced a new member, who had helped out with some of their solos on the album: Euge Valovirta [ex-Shining].

I’m not sure about you guys, but I have been massively hyped about this band since I learned of their existence. I liked Amaranthe once upon a time, but on the release of Maximalism last year, I’ve pretty much given up hope that they’ll be good without Jake E. Meanwhile, In Flames hasn’t really been good for nearly 10 years, which incidentally coincides with the time when Jesper Strömblad was still a member. I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. I have wanted this album, but more than that, I have had some really high hopes for it, needing it to be great so I can let go of those two bands who lost their ‘it’ value.

What is further interesting about this is the sound potential. I mean, let’s be real for a minute – Amaranthe and In Flames are pretty much on opposite ends of the ‘metal’ spectrum (if you can even call the former a metal band anymore). How will Jake E.’s polished and produced clean vocals work with the kickass riffing and heavy rhythms of the ex-In Flames guys? With power metal classic Alex Landenburg on board and hardcore heavy guitarist Euge Valovirta, that gap could be pretty effectively bridged.

Check out the first single on Spotify here:

The album opens with “Karma”, which I’ve become fairly familiar with by now, as it was released in the end of August. The song immediately feels like good old nostalgic In Flames, with riffing that is very clearly Strömblad’s. I actually got a big thrill on hearing it, knowing that sound could be back once more. The vocals come in and the contrast is pretty stark – you have the classic mid-era In Flames guitar song matched with a bit of an overly-produced, overly-clean sound. On the whole it actually doesn’t bother me, but it was a bit of a shock on the first few listens. I do think that the song would benefit from a bit less polish in the vocals – Jake could use a bit of grit in his voice to allow the sounds to blend together a bit more cohesively.

In the end, this does sound a bit like more of a mix of In Flames and Amaranthe than the album as a whole, and thus slightly misrepresents the album. However, I understand why they would include a song like this, and put it up front – this is to get fans of the band members’ old music excited for the album and ready for this new thing. In fact, this song is possibly the least original track on the album, and the rest of the music is far more unique.

“Heartrage” has a nice heavy intro with some good drum rolls, and a bit less polish in the vocals, so it’s already better than the single, and peaks with a nice, powerful chorus. The hints of pop are downtuned from “Karma” already, but Jake E.’s influence is still clearly there. “Here to Save You” starts slow but doesn’t hide its electronica, which acts as a backing sound rather than a ‘focal’ point, which I think works quite well. There are some progressions in there that sound familiar from some Amaranthe songs, though they’re in there so sparsely that it’s not bothersome.

“Muted Life” has a good feel to it and the layered vocals in the chorus combat the over-polished sound to even things out. I like the way Jake E. sort of whisper-sings in the verses as well. “Closure” has some classic Strömblad guitars and dark melodies, but with a modern and revitalized feeling. Again, this still isn’t In Flames and I mean that in a good way. The passionate chorus makes this feel like a fantastic song to raise some lighters to in a dark live setting – as far as ballads go, this is a definite winner.

The album turns up the heavy then with “Letter to Myself”, while “Dark Clarity” does a great job of blending disco rhythms with metal. As well, these songs have a lot of emotion packed into them, which comes across powerfully via the vocal strength of Jake E. A lyric sheet might have been nice for this album, as songs like “Holding Your Breath” have a lot of feel to them and I’d love to get into it more here, but I’d need to be certain of the lyrics. As well, the phantom was actually quite surprised that all of the vocals were done by Jake E., as he hits some impressively high notes.

“Black Wings” and “Inside a Lullaby” start the wind-down, with the former using the last of the high energy, and the latter as another ballad that blatantly shows off Jake E’s talent. Both ballads on the album are beautiful, but with the addition of some gorgeous piano, this one truly soars. The most risky and unusual song on the album is by far “Dead to Me”, which has a spoken-word part that sounds a bit like it belongs in a hip-hop song. It’s actually a pretty good song on the whole, though I’m still uncertain as to whether I like the spoken parts or if they distract from how good the rest of the song is.

 

For fans who are hoping to hear a blend of Amaranthe and In Flames and nothing more, I suspect you’ll be satisfied with this album. However, if you hold these guys to a higher standard and hope to get something that has the feel of both In Flames and Amaranthe, yet is its own unique sound with an entirely different vibe from either predecessors, then you will, I think, be quite happy with this band. CyHra has the emotional charge of bands like Linkin Park with the musical maturity of the best heavy Gothenburg metal, making this a fantastic debut. A lot of music gets ruined by bands who want to write tunes but have nothing to say, or the bands might have something to say but not the musical originality to back it up. Cyhra has both aplenty. The album on the whole is very diverse, with upbeat tracks interspersed with milder pacing and beautiful ballads. I’d definitely recommend giving it a listen.

Rating: 9/10, 5 stars

Tracklist:
1. Karma
2. Heartrage
3. Here to Save You
4. Muted Life
5. Closure
6. Letter to Myself
7. Dark Clarity
8. Holding Your Breath
9. Rescue Ride
10. Black Wings
11. Inside a Lullaby
12. Dead to Me

ARCH ENEMY w/ JINJER @ The Circus, Helsinki, 01.10.2017

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Arch Enemy with Jinjer at The Circus, Helsinki, 2017.
Photos by Janne Puronen.
Full gig report HERE!

ARCH ENEMY w/ JINJER – The Circus, Helsinki, 01.10.2017

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The Swedish melodic death metal group Arch Enemy has enjoyed immense acclaim and popularity in their modern incarnation. Though some may still miss the valkyrie-esque Angela Gossow, the fans have had two albums to get used to new vocalist Alissa White-Gluz from Canada. In addition, the new line-up also includes a veritable guitar god from America, Jeff Loomis, most known from Nevermore. The term “Swedish” is staring to feel loose. Their last two albums have been massively popular, the newest of which, Will to Power, came out just this September, landing in at #2 on the Finnish album sales charts. Therefore, it was no surprise that their show at The Circus was sold out.

Check out the full gallery HERE!
Or listen to the setlist on Spotify here:

Strangely enough, I’d never seen Arch Enemy before. I’d heard some of their stuff in the early ’00s but it failed to reach me and therefore I never really followed up on them. Then since their resurgence with War Eternal, when everyone was hyping on them, I felt the need to check them out. Though maybe not the most innovative record in existence, it was a solid melodic death metal romp done with great attention to detail and atmosphere. I did since discover more of their classic material but I fear I will always be a rookie when it comes to these guys. Obviously I was very excited to see them live for the first time and was hoping they’d play at least some songs I’d recognize.

 

From 19:00 when the doors open and on, there was a continuously long queue to get in. This tends to happen when The Circus is sold out. The first wave of fans swarmed the merch stand so that the most popular sizes sold out within the hour. I wasn’t sure if this was a sign they had been unprepared or if the fans had just been particularly enthusiastic. The most popular shirts were the ones with the album cover on them. At first I wasn’t sure if I liked it that much but ever since I got the LP I it really opened up to me. It had a sort of emblem that was kind of at war with itself.

The opening act was a Ukrainian metalcore group called Jinjer. Before they took the stage, an intro tape riled up the crowd, who tried as they might to clap along to it but tired quickly. Following this was an awkward silence whilst the band still checked their instruments. After what felt like the longest minute of my life they finally began to play. They were very much of the school of thought that melodic death and metalcore are essentially the same. Soon after the first riff, the vocalist climbed on stage. They, not unlike the headliner, also have a female vocalist, Tatiana Shmaylyuk. She was a commanding presence, taking control of the crowd immediately. She stood up on the monitors so the whole crowd could see her imposing image. Her vocals mostly consisted of brutal growls and screams, occasionally breaking for some clean singing. On the albums these clean vocals had been heavily modified so that a more old school listener would easily dismiss them. Here they were in no way distorted and we got to enjoy them as welcome variety, as opposed to a constant annoyance.

Jinjer’s sound seemed almost proggy at times. Rest assured this was no Attack Attack! The sound relied heavily on bass guitar, which consistently served as the lead instrument, leaving the guitar to mostly play power chords. The bass sound was largely influence by the likes of Meshuggah and Gojira, which wasn’t a bad thing per se but wasn’t exactly new. Their drumkit was almost adorably small. Seldomly does one see a drummer’s whole torso at a large club such as The Circus.

Even though it wasn’t my genre, I enjoyed it. Their sound was dynamic and interesting. The clean vocals were admittedly the weakest parts but at least they weren’t absolute deal-breakers like on the albums. Shmaylyuk’s accent was a bit distracting but I didn’t spot any egregious grammar mistakes, which was a huge point in their favor. They also had very erratic lighting that was perfectly in tune with the music. I’d say I liked Jinjer a lot more than I thought I would.

 

Just before Arch Enemy came on stage, they played an intro track. It was “Thuderstruck” by AC/DC. The audience was thrilled and clapped along to it but gave up after the first verse. Following that was yet another tape. It was the intro track to Will to Power, “Set Flame to the Night”, after which the show began in earnest. The first song proper was “The World is Yours.” At first they had an issue with the vocals, as they came out too quietly, but they soon fixed it. The song itself was the single with which they promoted the new album. It’s all about finding the strength within to pursue one’s dreams. Lofty ideals aside I always found it a banal song with little to offer. It’s mostly based on one particularly weak melody and it was always the weakest song on the record. In a sense I was relieved they did it straight away. It was like ripping off a Band-Aid.

White-Gluz was a returning champion the entire night. Her presence on stage was undeniable. The crowd was obviously 100% on board to begin with so she got to strut around like a heavy metal Freddy Mercury. Her almost iconic hairstyle was modified to be blond on one side while blue on the other. This created a sort of Harley Quinn look – but with cornrows on the side. I’m no fashion critic but it looked fabulous on stage. It was also a delight to watch legendary guitarist Michael Amott harmonizing with Loomis. It was a real shame Amott didn’t let Loomis write any music since he joined the band for fear of messing with the sound. It seemed like a waste of a perfectly good Loomis. That being said they had an obvious chemistry on stage. Loomis fit the band like a glove.

During “Apocalypse” the sound lost all low-end for a bit near the end. Fortunately, the bridge had a crowd participation phase to offset the problem. The crowd went along with it as if nothing weird had gone down but I saw White-Gluz’s face twitched just a little when the problem appeared. It resurfaced during “You Will Know My Name” soon after. It kept coming up for a while but never lingered that long. In between songs it always came back to the default setting.

Once White-Gluz announced “Blood in the Water” from Will to Power it became clear that the crowd was familiar with the new album and were enthusiastic about it. Sometimes the crowd chanted along with admirable passion but admittedly clapped way off tempo. Such is the way of the world.

Before they did the video track, Liina Rislakki from Century Media came on stage to announce that the War Eternal video had just reached 27 million views and gave them a plaque to commemorate the occasion. White-Gluz cordially thanked the fans as being the reason they got this distinction in the first place.

After a triumphant few songs, it was abruptly time to wind down the set. In one monologue, White-Gluz gave a clear shout out to Jinjer. She said they were honored to play with such a great band and that they had lots more shows to go. For “No Gods No Masters” they asked the crowd to get their hearts beating in the same rhythm. “That’s 666/bpm.” I’m not ashamed to admit I laughed out loud.

After “We Will Rise”, they did the usual disappearance waiting for an encore, which they promptly provided in the form of “Avalanche”, after which Loomis played a solo that had the crowd clapping along. At times it was sublime. Amott joined in after a while. It was the best bit – just the both of them, masters in their field, having at it. It only took a few minutes, then they finished the show with “Nemesis.” It was a catchy, melodic, great song, and it was the perfect note on which to end.

 

Despite some minor technical issues it was a solid, great gig. AEs resurgence is well on track and the group, as well as the fans, seemed brimming with enthusiasm. The set was mostly focused on the last two records, but can you blame them considering how popular they have proven themselves to be? Even the opening act was far better live than I could have expected. Seeing as it was a sold-out night, there seemed to be no doubt they would return and soon. As they themselves said, next time they have to go some place bigger. You may find me in the front row.

Setlist:
Set Flame to the Night
The World Is Yours
Ravenous
Stolen Life
War Eternal
My Apocalypse
Blood in the Water
You Will Know My Name
Play Video
The Race
The Eagle Flies Alone
As the Pages Burn
Burning Angel
No Gods, No Masters
Dead Bury Their Dead
We Will Rise

Encore:
Avalanche
Snow Bound
Nemesis

Photos: Janne Puronen

RIVERSIDE/LUNATIC SOUL – Mariusz Duda, Tampere 2017

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2016 was a rough time for Mariusz Duda, as both his Riverside bandmate Piotr Grudziński (guitar) and his father passed away. However, the talented Pole is back on the live circuit this year on Riverside’s extensive Towards the Blue Horizon Tour, and his solo project Lunatic Soul just released its fifth album, Fractured, through Kscope on October 6th. We talked to Duda before Riverside’s concert at Klubi in Tampere on September 29th, and the jovial man discussed both the hardships he’s faced lately and the future, which fortunately looks bright.

 

First of all, I’m just happy to be able to talk you right now, because after what happened last year, I wasn’t sure if you guys would continue.
Yeah, we’re happy too that we can talk. [chuckles] At the very beginning there were just some weird thoughts, that maybe this should be the end of the band, maybe we should just split our paths. But later we realized that the heritage was too big, and we’d sacrificed lots of our own time for doing that. And it wouldn’t be fair for us and the fans, so we just decided to carry on. Fortunately, we found a good soulmate who can help us with playing live shows, so it’s perfect.

What was it like to step on stage in Warsaw in February? What was going through your head back then?
It just… Imagine this enormous balloon that was bigger and bigger with every month when we started practicing in September. So in February, the balloon was so big that I was just waiting for it to puff up, and it happened when we started to play. The very beginning of the first track – it’s all gone. It was tough, but I think everyone needs that – us and the people that came. It was very fine, because we sold out two shows, and I’m sure that lots of people were convinced that these shows would be the first after the break and the last ones – you know, maybe it’d be the last one – but later we just announced the tour and decided to go back on tour. I’m happy that we reached Scandinavia too, and Finland, because we know that we’ve got lots of fans here. We wanted to do it last year, but under the circumstances it didn’t work out. But we’re here this year, and all these memories from February now… they’re not as important as they used to be, so we just moved on.

It must’ve been a relief.
Yeah, we’ve moved on. We will not change the past, and it was tough for us, but I seriously think that we should have another chance. I know that people need time to realize, especially all these people that were very into us with Piotr. Now it’s really difficult for them, but I know that time will change everything, you know? And seeing us live in a new lineup once or for the second time will change for sure.

Unless I’m mistaken, this is your most extensive Finnish tour so far. How has it been?
When we picked the specific songs for this tour – very moody and the big, powerful… we didn’t want to play things like “Artificial Smile” and that kind of stuff, you know? We wanted to sound more Pink Floydish or whatever, so we’ve picked all these emotional, big things, like “Second Life Syndrome”, “Escalator Shrine”, and stuff like that. We wanted to show that we’re a different band now a bit, ’cause we can’t pretend that we’re the same band as we used to be. But the music is the same, and we just play who we are, what we do. So I’m happy for this tour to be honest, because this is the catharsis – not only for us, but also for the audience. Plus it’s nice to hear all these songs that we missed a bit.

I was going to ask about the setlist later on, because I know you haven’t been playing any songs from Out of Myself (2003) or Anno Domini High Definition (2009)…
Yeah, no – we’re not playing that.

So I kind of got the answer there. Lion Shepherd is the support band on this tour, did you know those guys beforehand?
Actually we’re friends from a long time ago, and we even played here together live 4 years ago. They’ve been Maqama, but now they’ve just changed the name and they sound more oriental. I like this project much better than the previous one, because it’s first and foremost oriental and second, the initials are really close to my heart: LS, like Lunatic Soul.

That’s a nice bridge into the Lunatic Soul questions. [laughter] The new album is more song-based than before – was that affected by your experiences or did you just want to change things up after the previous records?
I think lots of things… You know, Lunatic Soul is mostly connected with the subject of death: the first two albums were about the journey in the afterlife, Impressions (2011) was a supplement to that, and Walking on a Flashlight Beam (2014) was a really dark album about depression, loneliness, and suicide… so just imagine that. When I lost my father, when I lost my friend, and everything that I was writing about happened in my real life, I just decided, “Ok, maybe it’s time to stop, I can’t record another very, very dark album to reflect everything that I feel.” ‘Cause I was simply, you know… “I will die!” And that was so intense and it was so dark that I just thought to myself, “Ok, maybe it’s time to get out of this darkness and try to do something which will be more bright, more optimistic.” I wanted to reflect my mental state, so the title Fractured is like it is. But the main message was more optimistic, so I thought I should do something which I think I’ve recently done best, so I focused on songs simply. And I also focus on some experiments with a new sound, ’cause I didn’t want to do another oriental album. I wanted to move on and change something, so I just skipped all these oriental parts and exchanged them for electronic sounds. That’s maybe why the sound is different from the previous albums.

You’ve mentioned 80s artists like Depeche Mode and Peter Gabriel as influences, and some 80s-style stuff can be heard on Love, Fear and the Time Machine (2015) as well.
I think this is what I continue, you know? ‘Cause when I said earlier that I’m not the generation of the 70s, and let’s say that I play a sort of progressive rock, but I grew up in the 80s. These are my years, and I don’t think that these years were terrible, and everything that happened in the 70s was only “great, great, great” and the 80s not. Well-written songs were always close to my heart, so I didn’t do 80s now, because I know Steven Wilson did that, right? I did that much earlier and I always had lots of songs in my things, but I started this with Love, Fear and the Time Machine. I said to myself, “Ok, maybe this is enough of the inspiration of Genesis and that kind of stuff – let’s be inspired by The Cure or Depeche Mode and let’s create something more original.” When Riverside was more rock-oriented, if I can say that, inspiration was connected with The Cure in the basslines and that kind of stuff. Now, when it comes to electronic sounds, I just thought, “Ok, The Cure was checked off, so let’s now go to different inspirations, like maybe Depeche Mode even.” But it’s not only electronic sounds on Fractured, this is not only connected with the 80s. I was also very much inspired by early 90s, you know? The Bristol sound like Massive Attack, Portishead, that kind of thing. Hooverphonic, Lamb, all these trip-hop bands… Those kinds of sounds were always close to my heart, so I wanted to do that in Lunatic Soul too.

In “Red Light Escape” there’s this line about “four red digits”, and it kind of reminded me of “Under the Pillow” for some reason, like maybe there’s some kind of relation to the daily grind, but it probably wasn’t intentional?
I think that Love, Fear and the Time Machine and Fractured are kind of similar speaking of the lyrical subject, because both albums are talking about moving on. Love, Fear and the Time Machine is about making a choice, that you should do something with your life and make the right decision, and Fractured is about leaving the past and doing something with your life, you know? It’s more about how you struggle with loneliness when you lose someone and start your life over again. And here the end of the album is kind of optimistic, as for my things that I always do – it’s the biggest difference. Maybe I’ve changed in the last years and I simply want to record my albums in the way of all these self-help books, you know, how to help yourself to struggle with all the bad things around. I’ve started to write that way, so it’s kind of similar.

One lyric that particularly caught my attention was “Battlefield.” You’re singing, “I got up from my knees and became a man / Standing over the boy’s grave.” I took it as a message about growing and becoming stronger after a tough experience.
Well yeah, when I turned 40 I just realized that I’m not Peter Pan anymore, but I still want to enjoy that, you know? Probably I’ll be a child forever until the end of my days, but that’s very true – some circumstances that happened in my life changed me. I think I’m more self-confident right now, speaking of the things that I do for a living, speaking of my personal life, and also speaking about the things that I do in my musical world. So I don’t think that, “I shouldn’t do this or I shouldn’t do that,” I’m just simply doing what I feel and I don’t care what people think about that. Of course I respect my fans and I respect everything, so I don’t want to change everything 180 degrees and start doing some kind of… ’cause I’m a kind of aesthetic guy, and when I’ve started something with Riverside I want to continue that in this particular genre, as with Lunatic Soul. I also want to do it in this particular way that you can hear from the beginning that it’s Lunatic Soul – different, but still… So yeah, this is what I do. But for sure, I’m not so frustrated anymore.

You feel liberated?
A bit, yeah. I just feel more mature, that’s very true. Plus my skin got more thick, and I’m just maybe not so sensitive anymore. My shell is just bigger now, but that’s life, that’s maturity. When I hear about lots of problems now, I just say to myself, “Jesus, really? This is what you think is a problem? But ok, you’ve got your time.” I know that everyone needs to grow up to everything. But I grew up for sure.

Probably my favorite song right now is “Crumbling Teeth and the Owl Eyes” – on the surface it’s a kind of sweet song, but at the same time there’s this sinister darkness to it.
It’s dark, it’s about nightmares, you know? Yeah, it’s very true. You know what? I’ve got a new family in the last 2 years. I met a very beautiful woman with kids, so I almost became a father to them. And I remember when the time was really dark and when I saw the girl sleeping… she was so innocent and she was so fragile. I thought it’d be nice. You know, that kind of thing is sometimes much better than taking some pills… painkillers or antidepressants or that kind of stuff. Just looking at her and she’s still… you know? All these dark things just run away. So I just imagined someone who’s just stealing all these innocent dreams from a child’s brain and just taking them to himself to help himself in some sort of way.

But yeah, “Crumbling Teeth and the Owl Eyes”, the title, these are my two favorite nightmares that I always have, you know? First that was this checking, always… after I woke up I was checking my teeth. That’s the worst feeling ever. And the owl eyes… when I was a child, very small, I’d seen that kind of picture, and the window was dark, and suddenly I saw big eyes, like the owl eyes, with nothing around, so it was pretty scary. So I thought it’d be a good title – how to fight your own scary dreams.

That explains a lot! Have you written any new music for Riverside yet?
Yeah, I’ve got three songs I think will be pretty ok. Just after the whole promotional thing connected with Lunatic Soul I think I will create a demo, and at the very beginning of the next year we will try to start something in the studio. The plan is to release the album around late August, early September next year. The plan is to do more self-confident music, I think.

Have you got any new idea for a new trilogy or overall theme?
Yeah, I’ve got it for sure. Something that I can now reveal is the fact that I will start [using] short titles now. [laughs]

No more acronyms?
No, that was part of the previous trilogy, you know? Out of Myself, Second Life Syndrome (2005), and Rapid Eye Movement (2007): these are albums [in the] Reality Dream trilogy. Three words in the titles and nine songs each – three per three. That was that kind of pattern. Later we’ve got Anno Domini High Definition: fourth album, Shrine of New Generation Slaves (2013): five, Love, Fear and the Time Machine: six. That was that part.

Oh, I never realized that!
Yeah, so now you know. And now, I’ll probably switch the titles to letters, so the very next Riverside album will have seven letters, the eighth eight, and the ninth nine letters. This is what I can reveal for now, and the music I think will be… still Riverside, but probably we will have to find some specific theme or the subject for another three ones – we’ll see.

So no 2-letter titles like Peter Gabriel?
No, I just like when you take a look from the wider perspective and you see that the patterns are still here. Just like Lunatic Soul: the same covers. I just like it, you know? So I will continue in this weird phase.

You have a new live guitarist, Maciej Meller. How is he fitting in?
I think perfectly, ’cause thanks to him, we can be a band on stage. That was very important from the beginning, to hire someone who’ll create a band with us, not being part of a different world. Everyone can see that he’s amazing, but it’s obvious that he’s just paid by us, because he’s so awesome. I think we didn’t want to do it, so Maciej is great on stage, because thanks to him Riverside can be a live band. But he’s still not an official member, we’re like a trio. Maciej helps us only with the live shows, so when it comes to the new album, we’ll still be a trio.

So you’ll play guitar?
I will play the parts of the guitar probably, and there’ll be guests, that kind of thing. I for sure, I will compose the new album. And Maciej probably will also be a part of that, but still as a guest musician. But we don’t know what the future brings – maybe we’ll change in the future, but now I think it’s too early for that. When we announced that we are a trio, we wanted to be this trio, you know? And the new album will be the proof that we can be like this, so we’ll see.

So Maciej may still play a solo or two here and there?
Yeah, of course I hope that. He’s open to playing live shows with us, but he understands that I’m the main guy in Riverside, so it’s not like we compose [as a] band, just taking this or that. No, last two albums were mostly composed by me, and I’m going to continue that as soon as I have a vision, but of course it’s still like, you know, we’ve got the conversation – I mean, the reaction between us speaking of the new album, so for sure the guys will help me with achieving that final result. But yeah, the trio will compose the new Riverside album mostly then of course – this is how it is.

I saw this photo of you guys meeting Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman at some festival.
Yeah, we played in Charlotty Valley, Poland with Yes [featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman]. That was a really nice experience, I was so surprised when I saw them playing live. I think they’re much, much better than all the Yes lineups in the past 15 years. They were great, and Trevor Rabin is an astonishing guitar player, so I really loved them. Of course I was very into the Fragile (1971) and Close to the Edge (1972) era, but I also admire… 9125? [90125 (1983)] And Talk (1994), these albums are really great. Trevor Rabin is… I [highly] respect him.

Yeah, that’s a great era too. Did you have any time to talk to them?
Yeah, that was nice – a short conversation. We’d been together with Jon Anderson in England, UK, when we got a reward from Prog magazine, because Riverside received a reward for an Anthem [with] “Towards the Blue Horizon.”

Oh yeah, I remember that.
And at the same time Jon Anderson received the reward for Prog God. So when we were talking, I said to him, “Do you remember we met up in the UK? You became a Prog God, so now you can bless me.” He said, “Yeah, of course.” So he blessed me and now I’m just blessed by a Prog God.

That’s awesome!
Yeah, I know.

So I assume Chris Squire must’ve been an influence on your bass playing?
Yeah, I like his bass playing. Speaking of progressive music, yeah – Chris Squire, Geddy Lee [Rush]… that way of playing bass was always great for me. I didn’t like the kind of bass playing like …And Justice for All (1988) by Metallica.

[laughs] There barely is any bass on that album.
That’s what I’m saying, you know? Maybe there’s something, but you can’t hear that. I picked especially this album, because there was no bass there, but anyway, that kind of playing bass was not my intention. I didn’t want to do only the helper for the guitar, I wanted to be a guitar player, [laughs] taking the bass guitar, so that’s why that kind of style fits me. It suits me, I think.

Geddy and Chris are good influences for sure. Steven Wilson is obviously a very busy man, but I loved the song you wrote together, “The Old Peace.” Could you see yourselves collaborating more in the future?
The funny thing is that I’m just getting as busy as him recently, and it’s really hard to find free time [for] us. Always when we tried to meet up on his tour or my tour, he’s said that he can’t because he’s got interviews, and now he just probably came to Poland too, and I said, “I’m sorry, I’m on tour.” We’re always just passing each other by, but just imagine that it was also hard to write the music together. There’s still a B-side that we should create, because we promised each other that maybe we should release this song, but doing this on vinyl we should create another one. We’ll see, maybe in the future – who knows?

Now everybody will be waiting for that! What do you think of Steven’s new album [To the Bone]? It has been a little divisive in the prog rock community.
For me this is just… I don’t believe in this whole pop, 80s inspiration, whatever it is, because for me there’s nothing from the 80s there. It’s just the same music that Steven always did. For me it’s just the Stupid Dream (1999) era or Lightbulb Sun (2000) era, but in shorter compositions, you know?

Yeah, I kind of agree with you.
For me it’s more 90s than 80s, so… I like it! I think it’s good, you know? Maybe I’m not a huge fan of the “Permanating” style, it’s not my cup of tea, but I think there are lots of well-written songs. But definitely for me this is not like 80s-inspired, I don’t see that. It’s just a normal Steven album, that’s it.

Those were all my questions, so thanks for your time and good luck with the show!
Thank you very much!

 

Photos: Charlotta Rajala

RIVERSIDE w/ LION SHEPHERD @ Klubi, Tampere, 29.9.2017

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Riverside with Lion Shepherd at Klubi, Tampere, 2017.
Photos by Charlotta Rajala.
Gig report in English HERE!
Lue keikasta suomeksi TÄÄLLÄ!

RIVERSIDE w/ LION SHEPHERD – Klubi, Tampere, 29.09.2017 (English)

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The Polish prog rockers Riverside lost their guitarist Piotr Grudziński tragically last year, which put the band’s touring to a halt. Fortunately, the surviving members decided to soldier on as a trio with the help of session guitarists, and starting with two hometown shows in Warsaw last February, the Towards the Blue Horizon Tour brought them back into the live circuit. After a European leg in the spring and festival appearances in the summer, this fall it was the Nordic countries’ turn to see Riverside’s return, with support from fellow Poles, Lion Shepherd. Finnish fans were lucky enough to get a total of four shows, and Musicalypse went to see the one at Klubi in Tampere, on September 29th.

Full photo gallery HERE!
Lue suomeksi TÄÄLLÄ!
Listen to Riverside’s setlist here:

 

Back in the spring, I noticed that Riverside had responded to a Facebook commenter asking them to come to Denmark, saying that Scandinavian dates would be announced soon. Since Finland technically doesn’t belong to Scandinavia, any local shows were in question, yet it still gave me hope that I would finally get to see them live for the first time. Lo and behold, the dates were announced and Finland was included, so attending the show in Tampere was a no-brainer for me. My biggest regret as a concert-goer has to be skipping Riverside’s previous Finnish tour back in 2013 after I’d just gotten into their music, because obviously I had no idea it would’ve been my only chance to see them with Grudziński. It was time for me to remedy my earlier mistake.

 

Having interviewed Riverside bassist/vocalist Mariusz Duda, we were at the venue early on. There wasn’t an abundance of people around yet, so I wasn’t sure how big of an audience to expect. The showtime for Lion Shepherd had been announced as 21:00, but about 20 minutes before that, an intro of oriental-style music with female vocals started playing. I assumed the band would start early, but the tape went on and on, lasting for all those 20 minutes until they finally hit the stage. I’d never listened to Lion Shepherd before, so I went in with fresh ears, although I’d read that their music falls under the progressive umbrella, and Duda had told me they have eastern influences in their music.

Lion Shepherd’s music did match these descriptions, as there was a distinct oriental flavor in the outro melodies, along with occasional odd time signatures and other rhythmic hooks. Drummer Piotr Podgórski played some percussion sounds on his drum pads, but it was the multi-talented guitar tandem of Mateusz Owczarek and Łukasz Belcyr that stole the show as they effortlessly shifted between electric and acoustic guitars, as well as exotic instruments such as oud and Irish bouzouki, the latter of which frontman Kamil Haidar introduced as the band’s ‘secret weapon.’ The dark-featured singer’s voice actually sounded a bit like Duda’s to my ears, although it may have just been the Polish accent playing a trick in on my mind. Some of the songs had a rocking vibe going on, while others were more metallic with low and chunky riffs – the heaviest one reminded me of Porcupine Tree and Tool, and Haidar even let out a few screams. Lion Shepherd’s fusion of western and eastern sounds was engrossing, and the only real bummer was how quiet Haidar’s vocals and some of the acoustic instruments were in the mix, although it got better later on.  The band used their slot very effectively with little room for banter, but the show was nevertheless well-received by the crowd, which had grown quite a bit in number by the end, and you could even hear some enthusiastic squeals. “I’ve got to buy their record,” I heard someone declare to their fellow afterwards, and while I didn’t rush to the merch stand myself, these guys’ two albums are definitely on my shopping list now.

 

After some pieces from last year’s ambient compilation Eye of the Soundscape had been played through the PA, Riverside got on stage at 22:00. However, they started in an unusual manner, as Mariusz Duda gave the audience a speech, telling what the show would be all about. He talked about the sad circumstances that prevented the band from coming here last year and said they would tell a story through the music for the following 2 hours. They started with a dark version of “Coda” from Shrine of New Generation Slaves (2013) as a trio, until about halfway through when guest guitarist Maciej Meller joined them. On the album, “Coda” is the short acoustic reprise of “Feel Like Falling” with more positive lyrics, but this version was an extended full-band piece with solos and all. An alternate version of an album outro track is not your typical way to open a concert, but it set the mood for the show very well. It also transitioned nicely into “Second Life Syndrome”, one of my all-time favorite Riverside songs, which was performed magically. While a spot in the setlist as the epic finale might typically seem more appropriate for it, being played this early on made sense in the context of the story Duda talked about – after all, Riverside was basically starting a second life after last year’s events.

The set continued with a beautiful rendition of “Conceiving You” and “Caterpillar and the Barbed Wire.” One surprising highlight for me was “The Depth of Self-Delusion”, the studio version of which never particularly struck me as an amazing song. Hearing it live made me see the error of my ways, and the extra solos by Duda and Meller at the end were fantastic. Another tune that seemed to get a brand new life on stage was “Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened by a Hat)?”, which was played as a semi-acoustic version with Duda on guitar – the folky singer-songwriter vibe was lovely. While at the start of the show Duda had told us not to expect too much heavy stuff, “02 Panic Room” was a welcome burst of energy, and “Saturate Me” likewise had people nodding their heads. During the monumental “Escalator Shrine” you could just feel the music wash over you and forget about all the pointless thoughts in your head, and “Before” brought the main set to a climactic close as the band left the stage while the guitar was still ringing with feedback. After another speech by Duda, they kicked off the encore with an emotional performance of the title-track of the tour, “Towards the Blue Horizon”, which was dedicated to Grudziński. While the lyrics had originally been penned about Duda’s late friend, they got a poignant new meaning as he sang “You can still play the guitar / And sing your songs,” and the band’s demeanor was a little more serious than during the other songs. Finally, the night came to an end and the circle was completed with the bright version of “Coda”, at the conclusion of which Duda sang “When something ends, something else begins / We are moving on.”

Considering the intimidating task Maciej Meller had as the substitute for a dead man, he handled his job admirably; staying faithful to the original guitar parts and not trying to steal the spotlight from the band members themselves, while getting to display his talents during the extra solos. The most heartwarming thing about the whole show was simply seeing the three surviving members of Riverside looking visibly happy on stage and being able to do what they love again. Keyboardist Michał Łapaj in particular was constantly grinning from ear to ear behind his keyboard kiosk, and even the crew guy at the side of the stage was occasionally moving along to the music and exchanging funny faces with him. The packed house showed its appreciation for the band and clearly included a lot of faithful listeners, although the sing-alongs in “Lost” and “02 Panic Room” were a little quiet and bashful in typical Finnish fashion. As Duda stated during the encore, “We don’t have fans, we have a family,” and that spirit was in the air throughout the night.

 

By midnight I’d killed two birds with one stone: I’d seen Riverside live at last and been introduced to an interesting new band in Lion Shepherd. While Riverside’s setlist for the tour had looked a little weird and short on paper and didn’t include a lot of my personal favorites, the various segues, extensions, and alternate versions made it flow well and helped the show become an experience of its own. The visual side of things with the rotating triangles of lighting looked great, and the sound was pleasant, although “Saturate Me” could’ve used some more prominent organ from Łapaj. Duda promised Riverside would come back next year, which is something that I’m looking forward to already. Ladies and gentlemen, Riverside is reborn and the journey is far from being over.

Setlist:
1. Coda (dark version)
2. Second Life Syndrome
3. Conceiving You
4. Caterpillar and the Barbed Wire
5. The Depth of Self-Delusion
6. Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened by a Hat?)
7. 02 Panic Room
8. Saturate Me
9. Escalator Shrine
10. Before

Encore:
11. Towards the Blue Horizon
12. Coda (bright version)

Photos: Charlotta Rajala

RIVERSIDE w/ LION SHEPHERD – Klubi, Tampere, 29.09.2017 (suomeksi)

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Puolan progeylpeys Riverside menetti kitaristinsa Piotr Grudzińskin traagisesti viime vuonna, mikä laittoi bändin kiertuesuunnitelmat jäihin. Onneksi eloonjääneet jäsenet päättivät marssia eteenpäin triona sessiokitaristien avustuksella, ja kahdella kotikenttäkeikalla Varsovassa käynnistynyt Towards the Blue Horizon -kiertue toi heidät takaisin live-esiintymisten pariin. Keväisen Euroopan-kierroksen ja kesäisten festivaalien jälkeen syksyllä oli Pohjoismaiden vuoro todistaa Riversiden paluuta, lämmittelijänä toimivien Lion Shepherdin maanmiesten kera. Suomalaisfanit olivat onnekkaita saadessaan peräti neljä keikkaa, ja Musicalypse oli näistä paikalla Tampereen Klubilla 29. syyskuuta.

Kuvagalleria TÄÄLLÄ.
Read in English HERE!
Kuuntele Riversiden settilista tästä:

 

Keväällä huomasin Riversiden vastanneen Facebook-kommenttiin, jossa bändiä pyydettiin tulemaan Tanskaan – Skandinavian kiertuepäivät julkistettaisiin kuulemma pian. Koska Suomi ei kaikkien määritelmien mukaan teknisesti kuulu Skandinaviaan, mahdolliset keikat täällä olivat kysymysmerkkinä, mutta sain silti toivoa siitä, että näkisin bändin ensimmäistä kertaa livenä. Kuinka ollakaan, kiertuepäivämäärät julkistettiin ja Suomi oli mukana, joten Tampereen-keikalle osallistuminen oli itsestäänselvyys minulle. Kenties suurin katumuksen kohteeni keikoilla kävijänä on se, että jätin väliin Riversiden edellisen Suomen-kiertueen vuonna 2013 juuri kun olin alkanut kuunnella heitä, koska en tietenkään voinut silloin arvata, että se olisi ollut ainut mahdollisuuteni nähdä bändi livenä Grudzińskin kanssa. Oli siis aika korjata aiempi virheeni.

 

Haastateltuamme Riversiden basisti-laulaja Mariusz Dudaa olimme Klubilla hyvin etuajassa. Paikalla ei ollut vielä hirveästi porukkaa, joten en tiennyt kuinka suurta yleisöä odottaa. Lion Shepherdin soittoajaksi oli merkitty 21:00, mutta noin 20 minuuttia ennen tätä alkoi soida naislaululla höystetty orientaalinen intro. Oletin bändin nousevan lavalle etuajassa, mutta nauha jatkui ja jatkui, kestäen koko 20 minuutin ajan kunnes bändi vihdoin nousi lavalle. En ollut koskaan kuullut Lion Shepherdin musiikkia, joten olin paikalla ummikkona, vaikka olin lukenut heidän musiikkinsa kuuluvan progen piiriin, ja Duda oli kertonut minulle heidän itämaisista vaikutteistaan.

Lion Shepherdin musiikki vastasi kuvauksia, sillä kuten intronauhassa, melodioissa oli selvä orientaalinen säväys, ja mukaan mahtui myös erilaisia tahtilajeja ja muita rytmisiä koukkuja. Rumpali Piotr Podgórski soitti rumpupadeillaan joitain perkussiosoundeja, mutta monilahjakas kitarapari Mateusz Owczarek ja Łukasz Belcyr varasti show’n vuorotellessaan vaivattomasti sähkö- ja akustisten kitaroiden sekä eksoottisten soittimien, kuten udin ja irlantilaisen bouzoukin välillä. Näistä jälkimmäistä keulahahmo Kamil Haidar luonnehti bändin salaiseksi aseeksi. Tummapiirteisen laulajan ääni kuulosti itse asiassa hieman Dudalta, mutta voi olla että puolalainen aksentti vain hämäsi minua. Jotkin kappaleet olivat hieman rokkaavia, kun taas jotkin olivat metallisia mataline ja painavine riffeineen – raskain biisi toi mieleen Porcupine Treen ja Toolin, ja Haidar päästi ilmoille jopa pari huutoa. Lion Shepherdin sekoitus läntisiä ja itäisiä vivahteita oli kiehtova, ja ainut harmin aihe oli se, kuinka alhaalla Haidarin ääni ja jotkin akustisista soittimista olivat miksauksessa, vaikka se parani myöhemmin. Bändi käytti aikansa tehokkaasti eikä juurikaan jutustellut yleisön kanssa, mutta esitys sai silti hyvän vastaanoton väeltä, jonka lukumäärä oli loppuun menessä kasvanut melkoisesti, ja jostain kuului jopa innokkaita kiljaisuja. “Noiden levy pitää ostaa,” joku julisti kaverilleen jälkeenpäin, ja vaikken itse rynnännyt merkkarikojulle, tämän porukan kaksi albumia kuuluu nyt ehdottomasti ostoslistalleni.

 

Kuultuamme joitain viimevuotisen ambient-kokoelma Eye of the Soundscapen teoksista PA:n kautta, Riverside nousi lavalle 22:00. Bändi aloitti kuitenkin varsin epätavallisesti, sillä Mariusz Duda piti puheen, jossa hän kertoi yleisölle mitä oli odotettavissa. Mies puhui surullisesta tilanteesta, jonka vuoksi he eivät päässeet tänne viime vuonna, ja ilmoitti bändin kertovan tarinan musiikkinsa kautta seuraavien kahden tunnin ajan. Alkuun päästiin synkällä versiolla Shrine of New Generation Slavesilla (2013) julkaistusta “Codasta” triopohjalla, kunnes puolivälissä vierailijakitaristi Maciej Meller liittyi mukaan. Levyllä “Coda” on lyhyt akustinen kertaus “Feel Like Fallingista” positiivisemmilla sanoituksilla, mutta tämä versio oli täyspitkä sooloineen päivineen, ja siinä soitti koko bändi. Vaihtoehtoinen versio outroraidasta ei ole tyypillinen tapa avata konsertti, mutta se loi hyvin tunnelmaa. Siitä siirryttiin luontevasti kaikkien aikojen suosikkibiiseihini Riversidelta lukeutuvaan “Second Life Syndromeen”, joka soi maagisesti. Vaikka kappale tuntuisi yleisesti ottaen soveltuvan paremmin eeppiseksi lopetukseksi, näin aikainen paikka settilistassa kävi järkeen Dudan mainitseman tarinan vuoksi – olihan Riverside käytännössä aloittamassa toista elämää viime vuoden tapahtumien jäljiltä.

Setti jatkui kauniilla “Conceiving Youlla” ja “Caterpillar and the Barbed Wirella”. Yksi yllättävä kohokohta oli “The Depth of Self-Delusion”, jonka studioversiota en ole koskaan pitänyt erityisen mahtavana biisinä. Sen kuuleminen livenä sai minut kuitenkin ymmärtämään erehdykseni, ja Dudan ja Mellerin ylimääräiset soolot olivat upeita. Toinen lavalla henkiin tullut kappale oli “Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened by a Hat?)”, joka soitettiin semiakustisena versiona, jossa Duda soitti kitaraa – esityksen folkahtava laulaja-lauluntekijä-tyylinen meininki oli miellyttävä. Vaikka keikan alussa Duda oli kertonut, ettei raskaampaa materiaalia olisi luvassa, “02 Panic Room” oli tervetullut energiapommi, ja “Saturate Me” sai ihmiset niin ikään nyökyttelemään päitään. Monumentaalisen “Escalator Shrinen aikana musiikin pystyi tuntemaan vyöryvän yllään, ja turhat ajatukset unohtuivat. “Before” päätti varsinaisen setin vahvasti, ja kitara jäi ulvomaan vielä bändin poistuttua lavalta. Dudan toisen puheen jälkeen encore alkoi tunteikkaalla esityksellä kiertueen nimiraidasta “Towards the Blue Horizon”, joka omistettiin Grudzińskille. Vaikka sanoitukset kertovat Dudan edesmenneestä ystävästä, ne saivat uuden liikuttavan merkityksen, kun hän lauloi “You can still play the guitar / And sing your songs”, ja bändin olemus oli hieman vakavampi kuin muiden kappaleiden aikana. Lopulta ilta sai päätöksensä ja ympyrä sulkeutui “Codan” valoisalla versiolla, jonka lopussa Duda lauloi “When something ends, something else begins / We are moving on”.

Ottaen huomioon Maciej Mellerin pelottavan tehtävän kuolleen miehen paikkaajana, hän hoiti työnsä ihailtavasti, pysytellen uskollisena alkuperäisille kitaraosuuksille varastamatta huomiota varsinaiselta bändiltä, mutta saaden taitojaan esille ylimääräisten soolojen aikana. Lämmittävintä koko keikassa oli saada nähdä Riversiden jäljelle jääneiden jäsenten hymyilevän ja pystyvän jälleen tekemään sitä, mitä he rakastavat. Erityisesti Michał Łapajin oli jatkuvasti naama virneessä kosketinkioskinsa takana, ja jopa bändin roudari lavan sivussa liikkui musiikin tahtiin ja ilmeili hänen kanssaan. Täysi tupa osoitti suosiotaan bändille ja sisälsi selvästi runsaasti uskollisia kuulijoita, vaikka “Lostin” ja “02 Panic Roomin” yhteislaulut jäivät hieman hiljaisiksi ja aroiksi perisuomalaiseen tapaan. Kuten Duda totesi encoressa, “meillä ei ole faneja vaan perhe”, ja tämä henki oli vahvasti ilmassa läpi keikan.

 

Keskiyön koittaessa olin tappanut kaksi kärpästä yhdellä iskulla: olin vihdoin nähnyt Riversiden elävänä ja saanut Lion Shepherdistä uuden mielenkiintoisen tuttavuuden. Vaikka Riversiden settilista kiertueelle oli näyttänyt hieman erikoiselta ja lyhyeltä paperilla eikä sisältänyt monia henkilökohtaisia suosikkejani, kaikki pidennykset, siirtymät ja erilaiset versiot tekivät siitä hyvin rytmitetyn ja omanlaisensa kokemuksen. Visuaalinen puoli pyörivine valokolmioineen näytti hienolta, ja soundit olivat mieluisat, vaikka “Saturate Messä” Łapaj’n urkuosuus olisi voinut olla äänekkäämpi. Duda lupasi Riversiden palaavan jo ensi vuonna, mitä odotan innolla jo nyt. Hyvät naiset ja herrat: Riverside on jälleensyntynyt, ja matka ei ole lähelläkään loppua.

Settilista:
1. Coda (dark version)
2. Second Life Syndrome
3. Conceiving You
4. Caterpillar and the Barbed Wire
5. The Depth of Self-Delusion
6. Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened by a Hat?)
7. 02 Panic Room
8. Saturate Me
9. Escalator Shrine
10. Before

Encore:
11. Towards the Blue Horizon
12. Coda (bright version)

Kuvat: Charlotta Rajala

VUUR – Anneke van Giersbergen, 2017

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Anneke van Giersbergen is no stranger to this site. She is best known for her vocal performances with The Gathering, Ayreon, the Devin Townsend Project, and The Gentle Storm, just to name a few! Since this summer she has been unveiling her new band, VUUR a progressive metal outfit. Since their debut album, In This Moment We Are Free – Cities, comes out soon, Anneke granted us a phone interview from her home in the Netherlands.

 

Hello?
Hi, how are you doing?

I’m fantastic, I’m speaking to Anneke van Giersbergen!
I know. Awesome.

Totally, and you get to speak to Vincent Parkkonen himself.
Ah, my dream just came true! [laughter]

So the new band: VUUR. By the way am I saying that right? Is it with a v or f sound?
It’s VUUR [a husk f-sound]

VUUR?
Yes, perfect!

Right, like how Dutch people say Vincent van Gogh. It has to hurt.
Yeah exactly. It’s a difficult pronunciation. I realize that.

Okay, so for my first question: Finnish people love to hear about Finland so I have to ask about your performance at Tuska this summer. You hadn’t released any material yet but the crowd was really into it.
That’s true! It was a really big thing because that was the first gig we did outside of a tryout gig in Holland. At Tuska we just threw ourselves on the stage with these really, really intricate songs nobody ever heard. We don’t have fireworks, backing-tracks, or anything like that. It was really down-to-earth. We just played the songs as best as we could. We had no idea how people were going to react! And they were… so awesome! It was fantastic to do a couple of summer shows just to say “hi” and let everybody know that we are here. Now we’re going to tour once the album is out. We’ll work some more on the show and it will be better.

You did do a couple of The Gathering songs there too…
Yeah, I always do. You can’t really tour with just one album, so we got to do some of the songs we really wanted to do and we also do some The Gathering, Devin Townsend, and The Gentle Storm.

Awesome. I have one last question about Tuska, because it fascinates me. You came on with VUUR, then you did an acoustic show, and then also came on with Devin Townsend Project. That’s 3 gigs in one day!
That was… an interesting day [laughs]. I also did like ten interviews that day. Then really early in the morning we had to leave because of another festival or something. I do like those kinds of days though. Just rush rush rush and do everything that a human can possibly do in a day, in 24 hours. It feels like I got everything out of Helsinki, you know?

Before I get to the new band, I have to ask since it was such a big event: Ayreon Universe! This massive ensemble! What was it like putting something like that on?
It was epic, I can tell you that! Arjen [Lucassen] never really comes out. but when he does, something really, really amazing happens. You know the band was basically the VUUR band. They did an excellent job and they had more band members from the Ayreon Universe too. There were sixteen singers. It was really great to play with these other people and all these fantastic singers.

Oh VUUR made up a bunch of the band? I knew Ed Warby and you had been on Ayreon before but the others have also participated?
Yeah, our bass player Johan [van Stratum] has done some Ayreon stuff. He used to be on Star One. And Joost [van den Broek]! He produced our album for VUUR and helped put it all together. He plays keyboards and is always working with Ayreon.

So a lot of Ayreon performers have defected into the new group?
Absolutely.

Cool! VUUR seems to be some of the heaviest and proggiest stuff you’ve done so far. In recent years you’ve been doing a lot of acoustic stuff and those solo albums were perhaps a bit poppier. Was it an intentional decision to go back to heavier music?
In the last 10 years of my solo career, I did a lot of different stuff because I could! I had the freedom to do it. I collaborated with a lot of different people from a lot of different genres. They taught me so much! I grew to be a better singer, song-writer, everything.

You know, I’ve always been in the metal world. I’ve worked with Arjen, Devin Townsend, all the guys. I hadn’t made a really heavy album until The Gentle Storm and this new album. It’s not that I didn’t want to but the stars were never aligned. I never had the right musicians or a good producer for metal around me. It just never happened. I worked with the live bands we threw together for The Gentle Storm and I just realized they were really good metal and prog musicians. So I decided to take the chance to make a heavy album.

Okay, you got to play guitar with them too?
Yeah, but not on the album, only live. It’s an extra element for the live shows. We have two fantastic guitarists so they did all the guitars for the album.

I get that. The new album In This Moment We Are Free – Cities. I understand it’s kind of a love letter to the places that inspire you?
That’s a good way of putting it. That’s awesome, well said. I think you just answered your own question. Next! [laughter] It’s true. I’m very inspired by travelling. I’m always writing and I thought it might be a good idea to write about a lot of these places that I would go to. Every song has its own sound, its own vibe. I’ve had this idea for a long time but it really fit best with heavy music.

I found myself wondering if the cities theme would maybe continue on later albums?
I am afraid I may have to make a part 2. There are so many places and you have to make a choice, you know? You can’t put seventy-two songs on an album.

And one of them is Helsinki?
Yeah there’s one on the new album. It’s one of the best songs on the album, man! Check it out, I hope you like it.

I’ve seen you play with lots of groups and sometimes by yourself. Your on stage banter is always great and when you get hecklers, I feel you deal with them in the best ways. Do any weird heckles come to mind?
Not really. Sometimes you have these crowds that are a bit loud. Sometimes you get some wise-ass who shouts or whatever. I’m not really shocked by that. In the past you’d get these guys who would come on stage and try to touch you or whatever. In recent years the crowds have been a bit older, a bit calmer. I haven’t really had any trouble.

I quite vividly remember this one acoustic show you did and you were taking requests. So this loudmouth insisted on yelling “bring me more beer!” and you just roller your eyes like “Uh, okay sir”
Oh, I remember! That was in Helsinki, right? Nos-something?

Yeah, Nosturi in Helsinki
Yeah! And he was like that the whole evening, right? Sometimes you get guys like that. If it’s like a quick thing you can just make a joke and move on. The risk is that if they get the attention they’ll just keep doing it for the rest of the night. Sometimes you just need to ignore them.

Well, I think you handled that pretty well.
Thank you.

Okay, that’s it for my questions. You are an inspiration to us all and we’ll be looking forward to seeing you guys again soon.
Oh thank you. We’ll be sure to come to Helsinki and Finland again soon.

In This Moment We Are Free – Cities comes out October 20th, 2017. We’ll be sure to check it out. Good bye!
Bye!

WINDHAND w/ SATAN’S SATYRS @ Kuudes Linja, Helsinki, 25.09.2017

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Windhand with Satan’s Satyrs at Kuudes Linja, 2017.
Photos by Marco Manzi.

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Iivo Kaipainen (Arion), 2017

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Arion is hardly a stranger anymore to fans of Finnish melodic metal, and the upcoming second album of the Helsinki-based troupe is one of the most anticipated future releases in Musicalypse headquarters as well. Following their new single, “No One Stands in My Way”, and while waiting for the release date for the whole album, we are delighted to share the playlist of band guitarist and main composer Iivo Kaipainen’s life.

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
I’m a child of a classical composer and a classical singer so I’ve been to an incredible number of classical concerts as a kid. Back then I was always sung to sleep and that’s why I’ll answer the Brahms’ Lullaby. One of the most beautiful melodies in the world.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
The first Pokemon theme! It’s still so freaking nostalgic to me… And I think I’m not the only one who feels this way (of those at my age).

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
I had ”Psychosocial” by Slipknot on endless repeat when I was 13-14 I think. I still love the song. I also remember blasting ”Dead to the World” by Nightwish with Viljami, the first singer of Arion during our pre-high school years.

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
“Nemo” by Nightwish. I heard it playing on Finnish pop station Radio Nova when I was 9-10 years old. My heart has belonged to heavy rock and metal ever since. It’s probably worth mentioning that I was exposed to the music of Children of Bodom and Iron Maiden by my friends in elementary school and that’s why I ended up playing the guitar.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
Arch Enemy – “The Eagle Flies Alone.” I can’t get the intro melody out of my head. It haunts me…

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
I’ve got way too many of those! Hah… Anyway ”Lost Boys” by The 69 Eyes, “La la la” by Naughty Boy, “All of Me” by John Legend, etc.… I also have to list ”Can You Feel the Love Tonight” by Elton John. I don’t fancy the original studio version too much – it feels a bit cheesy to me – but the song itself is one of greatest ever written.

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
I think it was a Nightwish album, most probably Once or Highest Hopes. I also remember buying almost every record made by Children of Bodom.

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
“Bother” by Stone Sour. Hauntingly beautiful, sad, and intene song written and sung by one of my favorite vocalists.

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
When I get my chance to be the DJ while on the road, I always choose at least “Throne” by Bring Me the Horizon, “War Eternal” by Arch Enemy, “Numb” by Linkin Park, “Last Ride of the Day” by Nightwish, “Feel Invincible” by Skillet, and “Lift Me Up” by Five Finger Death Punch.

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
“One Day” by Hanz Zimmer. It includes one of my favorite soundtrack themes of all time.

 

Listen “No One Stands in My Way” and more from Arion on Spotify:

AMORPHIS @ The Circus, Helsinki, 23.09.2017

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Amorphis’ final show of the Under the Red Cloud World Tour at The Circus, 2017.
Photos by Miia Collander.

DARK DAYS OF HELSINKI @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 22-23.09.2017

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Dark Days of Helsinki festival at Nosturi, 2017.
Photos by Marco Manzi.