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KORPIKLAANI w/ CRIMFALL & METSÄTÖLL @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 18.03.2017

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Korpiklaani at Nosturi, 2017, with Crimfall and Metsätöll.
Photos by Miia Collander.

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

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

Lue suomeksi TÄÄLLÄ!
Full gallery TÄÄLLÄ!

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Read in English HERE!
Kuvagalleria TÄÄLLÄ!

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Ed: Ville Karttunen

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ferry: Smashing Pumpkins – “Today”

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

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

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

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

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

Ferry: Warpaint – “New Song”

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

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

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

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

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

Ferry: Faith No More – The Real Thing

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

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

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

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

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

Ferry: Deftones – “Be Quiet and Drive”

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

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

Ferry: Chris Cornell – “Seasons”

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

 

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

Or have a look at their studio diary here:

BELPHEGOR – Helmuth Lehner, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(2017) Beauty and the Beast: Original Soundtrack

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

 

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

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

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

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

Let’s get into it then, shall we?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Rating: 9/10, 4.5 stars.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Photos: Lene L.

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

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

(2017) Brother Firetribe: Sunbound (English)

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Score: 9/10 or 4.5/5 stars

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

Ed: Amy W

(2017) Brother Firetribe: Sunbound (suomeksi)

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Arvosana: 9/10, 4,5/5 tähteä

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

Ed: Ville Karttunen

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Photos: Marco Manzi | Ed: Amy W

KULTPRODUKT: Who is Unzucht?

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Check out the music video for “Unendlich” here:

For more videos, head over to their YouTube channel!

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

J: You need them as well.

Humbling reviews?
A: Yeah.

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

A: Yeah, yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

J: Oh! You’re such nice guys.

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

J: Now I’m blushing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

T: I did the logo for the band.

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

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

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

A: Which ones did you write?

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

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

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

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

T: Inside.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A: In the Netherlands.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos: Lene L.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Jord: Tool – “Forty-Six & 2”

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

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

Jord: Children of Bodom – “Bed of Razors”

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

Marcela: Celestial Season – “Above Azure Oceans”

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

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

Marcela: Motörhead – “The Hammer”

Jord: Karnivool – “New Day”

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

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

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

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

Marcela: Héroes del Silencio – El espíritu del vino

Jord: Muse – Origin of Symmetry

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

Marcela: Bill Frissel – “Strange Meeting”

Jord: Haunted Shores – “Vectors”

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

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

Jord: Decapitated – “Homo sum”

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

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

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

 

Check out the introductory video for Vuur here:

Or have a look at their studio diary here:

(2017) Interviews

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Our collection of interview photos from 2017.

KING COMPANY @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 08.03.2017

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

 

DISCO ENSEMBLE @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 10.03.2017

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

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

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

Listen along with the set here:

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

URFAUST w/ KYY, TELOCH, & TOTALSELFHATRED @ Virgin Oil Co., Helsinki, 17.02.2017

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Urfaust with Kyy, Teloch, and Totalselfhatred at Virgin Oil Co, 2017. Due to a timeframe issue, Urfaust played in the third slot, with Totalselfhatred closing the night.
Photos by Kirsti Leinonen.

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

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

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

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Photo by Petri Anttila

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Check out the video for “Aallot” here:

FEMMAGAALA @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 03.03.2017

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

WINTERSUN – Jukka Koskinen, 2017

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Wintersun @ Tuska 2013

There has been a long debate and controversy about the upcoming Wintersun crowdfunding campaign and its subsequent album, The Forest Seasons. We got the opportunity to speak to Jukka Koskinen, Wintersun’s bassist, to learn a bit more about their feelings surrounding the campaign, the negative reactions from some fans surrounding it, and their relationship with the label!

If you haven’t seen their Indiegogo page, you can check it out by clicking THIS LINK! As of March 3rd, the campaign has made 220,000€ of its 150,000€ goal.

 

First of all, talk on since social media has suggested that there have been extensive negotiations between Wintersun and Nuclear Blast, so what the relationship between band and label at the moment? Have things been sorted out so that both parties are satisfied? Presumably, if Nuclear Blast is promoting the new album, you haven’t parted ways just yet at least.
Everything is on good terms with Nuclear Blast. We wanted to offer them a new kind of business plan to make things better for the band, but also for the label. We wanted to chance the fact to offer our album directly with the fans via crowdfunding so that we could seriously get out from the unfortunate “nothing happens” situation and build our own studio. This is the best solution time and money-wise, since we are not making a living out of Wintersun; that might be a myth amongst some people who think we do.

Most people out there don’t know much about the inner workings of bands and labels, so how did the negotiations go? What were the biggest roadblocks to the final outcome?
Of course this outcome we came up together with Nuclear Blast is a totally new situation that the band can make a crowdfunding. The label will release the physical versions of the album like normally. We, the band, do not have anything to do with that process. Nuclear Blast is the pro on the physical items so it is better that they handle that side ☺

There has been a lot of negative feedback from fans surrounding this crowdfunding campaign, with some people saying that they “don’t want to pay for your sauna” and things like this. I personally think that’s a foolish way to look at is, as no matter what, crowdfunding is first and foremost optional, and secondly, you still get a product if you pay for it (in this case, an album). Do you have any thoughts on this controversy?
This is something that is very unfortunate that some people just are negative without thinking about the simple fact that Wintersun is selling the album totally normally. Actually even more, since we are transparently telling everyone where the money will go and how. Isn’t this the fairest way possible to work together and directly with the fans? I think it is. It’s interesting that everyone needs to know all of a sudden where the money is going to go. Nobody cares where the your smartphone company’s money is going or other things you buy in your daily life, right? So it’s kind of weird how some people react in our case. Of course we want to be transparent with everyone and to show that we are now seriously working our way up at last to release Wintersun albums faster, with our true vision, and with the best production in the future. And we are really reaching that since our crowdfunding campaign is going great! Thank you all who are participating in it, we know we can make this happen together!

Many people out there don’t know how recording studios actually work. We’ve heard that Time II is awaiting the proper tender loving care provided by your own studio, but is there any reason you guys couldn’t have recorded at, for example, Sonic Pump Studios? (as I know Teemu works there) – what prevented you guys from using an existing studio?
This is the controversy that 3rd party studios cost hundreds of euros per day. Especially TIME I and II are massive cinematic productions, and technical projects where music meets mathematics, where all the hundreds of tracks need to merge with each other, you know. This would require so much money that it would just be a waste. Thus building our own studio would be the right choice and not to spend immense amounts of money (which we do not have) for a 3rd party studio and lose this money. Isn’t this the best way possible that all the crowdfunding income will be invested to a Wintersun studio to ensure future album releases in the best possible way? I think it is ☺

There is some speculation that the new album will be a placeholder – a sort of in-between album before you make the album you want to make, or you’re doing it to fulfill your contract with Nuclear Blast. After all, if you can make this album, why not make Time II? What would you have to say about such speculation?
The new album, The Forest Seasons, is a full, solid Wintersun album made with the current resources we have. It’s more primitive (but deeper and more emotional than before) and that gave us the possibility to make this album, since the productions are not as massive as on TIME I or II, though the album sounds majestic in the way it was made. We definitely do not want to disappoint anyone by releasing some ‘in between’ album. Time I sounds 60% like it was supposed to after making too many compromises, since we did not have the resources to complete it, so to say. This time, (<- haha) we want to really make things different and better.

All albums need a specific [type of] production and especially if the vision you want to do is [definite] and it’s 100% in your head – then it is like that. You need to aim for the goal with as few compromises as possible, and then you are satisfied.

Apart from the seasonal theme, is there any sort of message that’s a part of the new album that you’re hoping to share with the world? What was the initial inspiration to make this album? Is there anything you’d like everyone to know about the album when it comes out?
The album has such a deep emotional charge related to emotions, life, and death, and the beauty and harshness of nature. You need to listen to it and see for yourself.

The initial inspiration came from the Finnish forest while Jari [Mäenpää] was walking in the woods and started to be inspired to write something about the majestic nature surrounding us. Especially Finland, the whole country is a big forest, so there’s a lot to adventure and explore.

The Forest Seasons is the most emotional album ever from Wintersun with the most contrast – four unique songs about each season of the year and songs from beautiful melodies to harsh black metal. We are so proud of it!

Thank you very much for your time, and best of luck with the campaign!

Wintersun @ Tuska 2013

EPICA w/ CRIMSON SUN @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 28.02.2017

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Epica with Crimson Sun at Tavastia, 2017.
Photos by Janne Puronen.

DREAM THEATER – Jäähalli (Ice Hall), Helsinki, 27.02.2017 (English)

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This year marks 25 years since the release of Dream Theater’s seminal album Images and Words (1992). To celebrate this, the prog metal legends set upon a European tour called Images, Words and Beyond. Musicalypse went to see the last show of the first leg at the Ice Hall in Helsinki on February 27.

Full gallery HERE!

 

To be honest, to me this nostalgia tour felt a bit like a plan B, as bandleader John Petrucci had stated as recently as last October that Dream Theater would bring their rock opera, The Astonishing (2016), to Asia and to Europe for a second round. Somewhere along the way, the band’s plans must’ve changed, for one reason or another, and this meant that Finnish DT fans didn’t get to see The Astonishing live, as the European tour last year only included performances in select cities. Some people on social media were upset about this, but given the mixed reception to the album, I’d imagine most fans (including yours truly) were happy to hear the classics instead. Awake (1994) remains the dearest Dream Theater album to me, but Images and Words comes very close, so I certainly didn’t mind the band’s decision to perform the record from start to finish. Despite its 80s-style production, the album has stood the test of time very well, and its daring mix of styles still sounds fresh today, although it was quite the black sheep in the grunge-dominated musical climate of its time.

 

On the night of the show, there were long lines of people outside the Ice Hall doors, and while not a throng, the crowd seemed to be bigger than 3 years ago in the same venue. The nostalgia angle of the tour must’ve drawn in people who don’t necessarily follow Dream Theater actively anymore but wanted to experience the band’s most famous album live. Of course on the Along for the Ride Tour, the setlist included a heavy dose of Awake and Scenes from a Memory (1999), but it wasn’t implied explicitly in the promotion, so perhaps some potential concertgoers stayed home that night.

The show got off to a shaky start with “The Dark Eternal Night”, which didn’t exactly make the audience ecstatic. It’s the lowest point of my least favorite album, Systematic Chaos (2007), because its forced heaviness and endless shredding sums up the most annoying traits of late 00s Dream Theater. Admittedly it sounded better than on the album, but the quality went up immediately when it was followed by “The Bigger Picture”, which is one of the most powerful tunes on the band’s otherwise slightly lukewarm self-titled album from 2013. The crowd was clapping along during the song’s climax, and not even James LaBrie’s struggling with the high notes ate away the impact. The instrumental of the night was the picturesque “Hell’s Kitchen”, which was introduced with a haunting intro. Digging up the song after a 19-year break was more than welcome, although Mike Mangini’s drumming came across as a little stiff compared to Mike Portnoy’s playing on the original. The Astonishing was represented with two singles, but it felt like people didn’t warm up to the new material despite LaBrie and keyboardist Jordan Rudess’s best attempts to pump them up – Dream Theater’s opening acts are always in a tough spot, even when DT themselves are in that role.

Bass solos may be a bit of a joke in rock circles, but John Myung’s Jaco Pastorius tribute, “Portrait of Tracy”, was wonderful with its clever use of harmonics. However, the piece was just the calm before the storm, as it was succeeded by the steamroller that is “As I Am.” Musical tips of the hat continued when the song was combined with the first verse and chorus of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” At the end there was also a “One” teaser, and John Petrucci even threw in the “Master of Puppets” main riff. The first set concluded with one of my favorites, “Breaking All Illusions,” which seems to have become a modern classic (deservedly so), as the band has played it on almost every tour since its release. Petrucci’s bluesy solo was once more in a class of its own, as was the song’s culmination.

After the intermission, the time traveling began with a collage of the music released in 1992, which ranged from “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-a-Lot(!) to “November Rain” by Guns N’ Roses, and a DJ introduction led to Dream Theater’s ‘new’ hit single, “Pull Me Under.” The people’s reactions immediately gave away what they’d come to the Ice Hall for, as the crowd went bananas, at least as much as a Finnish prog audience can. Although the Images songs were performed in the correct order, the band didn’t follow the album versions slavishly, instead extending them with additional solos. At the end of “Another Day”, Rudess played a keyboard solo, while an excerpt of John Petrucci’s “Glasgow Kiss” was incorporated into “Take the Time.” Mike Mangini, on the other hand, got to play a drum solo in the middle of “Metropolis Pt. 1,” and the moody ballad “Wait for Sleep” was introduced with some piano improv by Rudess, which according to LaBrie sounded different every night. Furthermore, Rush fans’ hearts were warmed with little teasers of “Xanadu” and “Cygnus X-1.”

The instrumentation was handled gracefully, although Mangini messed up the beat at the end of “Pull Me Under” and Rudess brutally slaughtered one of Kevin Moore’s best keyboard solos in “Take the Time.” However, the guitar bear Petrucci was the shining star of the night, and the legendary solos of “Another Day” and “Under a Glass Moon” were pure ear candy. During the intermission I’d wondered how James LaBrie could pull of the Images and Words material, as during the first set his cold had been made perfectly clear by the hoarseness of his upper register and the constant lowering of vocal melodies. Apparently the constant sips of water (or some other voice-aiding liquid) during the instrumental breaks, downtuning the songs, and the additional breathing spaces given by the extra solos helped, because apart from occasional off-key moments and his voice breaking during the second verse of “Take the Time”, the classics sounded alright coming from a 53-year-old. The concert atmosphere was upbeat and the instrumentation a well-oiled machine, so even LaBrie’s weakest moments didn’t dim the glow of the music. Although you could sense a little bit of frustration in his demeanor when he couldn’t nail some parts, LaBrie didn’t let it take over, handling his duties professionally. During his speeches he was much more talkative than at my previous DT shows: he was astonished by the number of female fans in attendance (“where the hell were you 25 years ago?”) and later recalled the champagne-fueled listening session of the final mixes of Images and Words.

The visual side of the show was a little modest compared to the previous tours, as this time there was no video screen, most likely due to the short break between The Astonishing tour and the anniversary gigs that also included the holidays. Fortunately, the backdrop looked cool when it was colored by the lights, and the stripped-down production was appropriate for the nostalgia theme, as were the cover snippets and little jams, which DT hasn’t played much of since Mike Portnoy’s departure. At least I couldn’t sense any notable tiredness in the band, as the five-piece seemed to be in a good mood: Rudess and Mangini were making faces and gestures at each other, and even the typically cool-as-a-cucumber Myung rose onto the drum riser a couple of times.

 

Although a few of the song picks in the first set weren’t totally up my alley and LaBrie wasn’t at his best, my main impression of the performance was still highly positive, thanks to Images and Words and the epic encore, “A Change of Seasons.” The show beat the 2015 stub set at Kulttuuritalo effortlessly, although the Along for the Ride concert is still unmatched. All-in-all, Dream Theater offered a nice experience both to old fans who came to relive their memories and my own generation that had barely been born 25 years ago.

Setlist:
Act 1:
Intro (The Colonel by Two Steps from Hell)
1. The Dark Eternal Night
2. The Bigger Picture
3. Hell’s Kitchen
4. The Gift of Music
5. Our New World
6. Portrait of Tracy (Jaco Pastorius cover, John Myung bass solo)
7. As I Am (with Metallica snippets)
8. Breaking All Illusions

Act 2:
Intro (Happy New Year 1992)
9. Pull Me Under
10. Another Day
11. Take the Time (with an excerpt of John Petrucci’s “Glasgow Kiss”)
12. Surrounded
13. Metropolis Pt. 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper
14. Under a Glass Moon
15. Wait for Sleep
16. Learning to Live

Encore:
17. A Change of Seasons

Photos: Charlotta Rajala

DREAM THEATER – Jäähalli, Helsinki, 27.02.2017 (suomeksi)

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Tänä vuonna tulee 25 vuotta kuluneeksi Dream Theaterin uraauurtavan Images and Words -albumin julkaisusta. Tätä merkkipaalua juhlistaakseen progemetallin legendat lähtivät Eurooppaan Images, Words and Beyond -kiertueelle, jonka ensimmäisen osion viimeistä keikkaa Musicalypse oli seuraamassa 27. helmikuuta Helsingin Jäähallissa.

Kuvagalleria TÄÄLLÄ!

 

Rehellisesti sanottuna tämä nostalgiakiertue tuntui olevan jonkinlainen suunnitelma B, sillä vielä viime lokakuussa johtohahmo John Petrucci kertoi Dream Theaterin tuovan The Astonishing -rockoopperansa Aasiaan sekä uusintakierrokselle Eurooppaan. Jossain vaiheessa bändin suunnitelmien on täytynyt muuttua jostain syystä, mikä tarkoittaa sitä, etteivät suomalaiset DT-fanit päässeet näkemään The Astonishingia livenä, sillä viimevuotiseen Euroopan-kiertueeseen kuului esiintymisiä vain harvoissa ja valituissa kaupungeissa. Jotkut olivat sosiaalisessa mediassa pettyneitä tästä, mutta ottaen huomioon albumin saaman ristiriitaisen vastaanoton, arvelisin useimpien fanien (mukaan lukien allekirjoittanut) olleen iloisia päästessään sen sijaan kuulemaan klassikoita. Awake on itselleni yhä se rakkain Dream Theater -albumi, mutta Images and Words ei jää kauas vertailussa, joten en todellakaan pistänyt pahakseni bändin päätöstä esittää levy alusta loppuun. Albumi on kasarihenkisistä soundeistaan huolimatta kestänyt ajan hammasta loistavasti, ja sen ennakkoluuloton sekoitus tyylejä on edelleen tuoreen kuuloinen, vaikka ilmestyessään se oli melkoinen outolintu grungen hallitsemassa ilmapiirissä.

 

Keikkailtana jonot Jäähallin ovien ulkopuolella olivat pitkiä ja yleisöä tuntui olevan enemmän kuin kolme vuotta sitten samassa paikassa, vaikkei varsinaisesta tungoksesta voi puhua. Kiertueen nostalgiateema lienee houkutellut paikalle ihmisiä, jotka eivät välttämättä seuraa Dream Theateria enää aktiivisesti, mutta halusivat kokea bändin tunnetuimman albumin livenä. Toki vuoden 2014 Along for the Ride -kiertueella settilista sisälsi reilun annoksen Awakea ja Scenes from a Memorya (1999), mutta se ei käynyt ilmi mainoksista, joten kenties jotkut potentiaaliset kävijät jäivät kotiin kyseisenä iltana.

Keikka ei alkanut parhaalla mahdollisella tavalla, sillä avauksena toimi ”The Dark Eternal Night”, joka ei tuntunut synnyttävän mitään varsinaista hurmosta. Kyseinen ralli on mielestäni Dream Theaterin heikoimman tekeleen Systematic Chaosin (2007) kehnoin kappale, sillä sen väkinäiseen rankkuuteen ja loputtomaan tilutteluun kiteytyvät Dream Theaterin 2000-luvun lopun tuotannon ärsyttävimmät piirteet. Vaikka biisi kuulostikin hieman paremmalta livenä kuin levyllä, taso kohosi heti tämän jälkeen, kun vuorossa oli ”The Bigger Picture”, joka on yksi kokonaisuutena hieman laimeaksi jääneen nimikkolevyn (2013) säväyttävimpiä viisuja. Biisin kliimaksissa yleisö yltyi taputtamaan mukana, eikä laulaja James LaBrien lievä takeltelu korkeimmissa kohdissakaan syönyt kappaleen tehoa. Illan instrumentaalina toimi maalaileva ”Hell’s Kitchen”, jota pohjustettiin upealla fiilistelyintrolla. Kappaleen kaivaminen naftaliinista 19 vuoden tauon jälkeen oli erittäin tervetullut ratkaisu, vaikka rumpali Mike Manginin soitto kuulosti hieman jäykältä Mike Portnoyn alkuperäiseen verrattuna. Tuoreinta The Astonishing -albumia oli edustamassa kaksi sinkkubiisiä, mutta yleisö ei tuntunut täysin lämpiävän uudelle materiaalille LaBrien ja kosketinsoittaja Jordan Rudessin yllytyksestä huolimatta – Dream Theaterin lämmittelijä on aina kovan paikan edessä, jopa silloin kun roolissa on itse Dream Theater.

Bassosoolot ovat vitsin aihe rokkipiireissä, mutta John Myungin Jaco Pastorius -tribuutti ”Portrait of Tracy” oli hienoa kuultavaa huiluäänineen. Rauhallinen teos oli kuitenkin vain tyyntä myrskyn edellä, sillä sitä seurasi rautainen keikkajyrä ”As I Am”. Musiikilliset hatunnostot jatkuivat, kun biisiä höystettiin Metallican ”Enter Sandmanin” ensimmäisellä säkeistöllä ja kertosäkeellä. Lopussa kuultiin myös ”Onea”, ja soittipa John Petrucci pikaisesti ”Master of Puppetsin” riffinkin. Ensimmäinen setti päättyi omiin suosikkeihini kuuluvaan ”Breaking All Illusionsiin”, josta on ansaitusti muodostunut moderni klassikko, bändi kun on soittanut sitä lähes jokaisella kiertueella julkaisustaan lähtien. Petruccin bluesahtava soolo oli jälleen omaa luokkaansa, kuten myös teoksen loppuhuipentuma.

Väliajan jälkeen aikamatka alkoi nauhalta tulleella koosteella vuoden 1992 musiikista, johon sisältyi muun muassa Sir Mix-a-Lotin ”Baby Got Back”(!) ja Guns N’ Rosesin ”November Rain”. Juontajan esittelyn myötä siirryttiin Dream Theaterin ”uuteen” hittiin ”Pull Me Under”. Ihmisten reaktioista kävi välittömästi ilmi, mitä varten Jäähalliin oltiin tultu, sillä väki suorastaan hullaantui, ainakin niin paljon kuin suomalainen progeyleisö voi. Vaikka Imagesin kappaleet tulivat oikeassa järjestyksessä, bändi ei soittanut niitä orjallisesti alkuperäisversioita seuraten, vaan mukaan oli lisätty ylimääräisiä ja pidennettyjä soolo-osuuksia. ”Another Dayn” lopussa kuultiin Rudessin kosketinsoolo, ja Petruccin soolobiisistä ”Glasgow Kiss” oli lisätty pätkä ”Take the Timeen”. ”Metropolis Pt. 1:n” puolivälissä Mike Mangini sai puolestaan soittaa rumpusoolon, ja tunnelmallisen ”Wait for Sleep” -balladin alkajaisiksi kuultiin Rudessin pianoimprovisointia, joka LaBrien mukaan kuulosti erilaiselta kiertueen jokaisena iltana. Lisäksi Rush-fanien mieltä lämmittivät pienet pätkät ”Xanadusta” ja ”Cygnus X-1:sta”.

Soittopuoli sujui hyvin mallikkaasti, vaikka Mangini sekoili ”Pull Me Underin” lopun komppikäännöksessä ja Rudess teurasti julmasti Kevin Mooren parhaimpiin kuuluvan kosketinsoolon ”Take the Timessa”. Kitarakarhu Petrucci oli kuitenkin illan kirkkain tähti, ja ”Another Dayn” ja ”Under a Glass Moonin” legendaariset soolot olivat mannaa korville. Väliajalla olin pohtinut, miten James LaBrie selviäisi Images and Wordsin materiaalista, sillä ensimmäisen setin aikana miehen flunssa oli kuulunut ylärekisterin tunkkaisuutena ja laulumelodioiden muokkaamisena matalammiksi. Ilmeisesti jatkuva veden (tai jonkin muun ääntä avaavan juoman) siemailu instrumentaaliosioiden aikana, kappaleiden vireen pudottaminen ja ekstrasoolojen antamat ylimääräiset hengähdystauot kuitenkin auttoivat, sillä ajoittaista epävireisyyttä ja ”Take the Timen” toisessa säkeistössä tapahtunutta äänen romahdusta lukuun ottamatta klassikot sujuivat ihan kohtuullisesti 53-vuotiaalta. Konserttitunnelma oli muutenkin korkealla ja instrumentaalipuoli toimi pitkälti kuin junan vessa, joten LaBrien heikoimmatkaan hetket eivät latistaneet musiikin hehkua. Vaikka hänen olemuksestaan oli aistittavissa lievää ärtymystä, kun laulu ei mennyt ihan putkeen, LaBrie ei antanut sen ottaa ylivaltaa vaan hoiti hommansa ammattimaisesti. Välispiikeissä mies yltyi tarinoimaan huomattavasti enemmän kuin edellisillä näkemilläni DT-keikoilla: hän muun muassa äimisteli paikalle ilmaantuneiden naiskuulijoiden määrää (”where the hell were you 25 years ago?”) ja muisteli myöhemmin samppanjanhuuruiseksi äitynyttä Images and Wordsin miksauksen kuuntelusessiota.

Konsertin visuaalinen ilme oli hieman vaatimaton edellisiin kiertueisiin verrattuna, sillä tällä kertaa mukana ei ollut videoruutua, todennäköisesti The Astonishing -keikkojen ja juhlaturneen välissä lyhyeksi jääneen tauon ja siihen sisältyneen joulunajan vuoksi. Taustakangas näytti kuitenkin hienolta valojen värittäessä sitä, ja riisutumpi visuaalisuus sopi nostalgiateemaan, kuten myös coverpätkät ja jammailut, joita DT ei ole pahemmin harrastanut Mike Portnoyn lähdön jälkeen. Bändistä ei ainakaan itselleni välittynyt väsymys kuukauden kiertämisestä huolimatta, vaan viisikko tuntui olevan hyvässä hapessa: Rudess ja Mangini elehtivät toisilleen vähän väliä, ja viilipyttynä tunnettu Myung jopa nousi rumpukorokkeelle pari kertaa.

 

Vaikka muutamat kappalevalinnat ensimmäisessä setissä eivät olleet itselleni kaikkein mieluisimpia ja LaBrie ei ollut parhaassa iskussa, keikka jäi silti reilusti plussan puolelle Images and Wordsin ja encorena kuullun ”A Change of Seasons” -järkäleen ansiosta. Esitys päihitti toissavuotisen Kulttuuritalo-tynkävedon mennen tullen, vaikkei Along for the Ride -keikan voittanutta vieläkään ole. Dream Theater tarjosi kaiken kaikkiaan mukavan elämyksen niin menneitä verestäneille vanhoille faneille kuin omalle sukupolvelleni, joka oli hädin tuskin vielä syntynyt 25 vuotta sitten.

Settilista:
1. osa:
Intro (Two Steps from Hell – The Colonel)
1. The Dark Eternal Night
2. The Bigger Picture
3. Hell’s Kitchen
4. The Gift of Music
5. Our New World
6. Portrait of Tracy (Jaco Pastorius -cover, John Myungin bassosoolo)
7. As I Am
8. Breaking All Illusions

2. osa:
Intro (Happy New Year 1992)
9. Pull Me Under
10. Another Day
11. Take the Time
12. Surrounded
13. Metropolis Pt. 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper
14. Under a Glass Moon
15. Wait for Sleep
16. Learning to Live

Encore:
17. A Change of Seasons

Kuvat: Charlotta Rajala

DREAM THEATER @ Jäähalli (Ice Hall), Helsinki, 27.02.2017

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Dream Theater at the Helsinki Ice Hall, 2017.
Photos by Charlotta Rajala.
Gig report in English coming soon!
Keikka-arvio suomeksi tulossa kohta!

DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT (DTP) w/ LEPROUS & BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME – The Circus, Helsinki, 28.02.2017

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It’s starting to feel a bit like spring is a very Devin Townsend time of the year, considering he was recently here in at least March of 2015 and 2014. No one can complain though, as this Canadian legend never fails to put on a worthwhile show. With the release of Transcendence last year, it was only natural for the DTP to return once more for yet another show, this time accompanied by Leprous, whose 2016 live DVD promised an interesting show, and the ever-popular Between the Buried and Me. This tour came through The Circus on February 28th, 2017, and more than one of us at Musicalypse was there to watch the show.

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

 

Vincent: Having only fairly recently stepped out of the great Ihsahn’s shadow, Leprous ascended the stage to greet an anxious crowd. It was clear that a good portion of the audience had intentionally showed up early in order to see all of the bands. To me this was a bit surprising, as I had understood that Leprous only has a very modest following. That being said, the atmosphere in the hall was absolutely electric as the first notes of “Foe” sounded. Acquired taste or no, on that night they were more than welcome.

The moody temperament of Norwegian prog metal clashed somewhat with Devin’s happy and playful sound, but the dissonance did little to discourage The Circus. Each agonizingly sentimental note seemed to hit home as the crowd tried their very best to show their appreciation whenever they could figure out an easy enough time to clap their hands or even nod their heads, seeing as the time signatures proved largely unpredictable.

Leprous themselves never missed a beat or displayed any sign of weakness or confusion. They played everything with the same absolute precision as they have on on their studio albums and the aforementioned live DVD. How they managed to do that and still thrash about like any proper metal group on stage, I will never understand. Keyboardist and vocalist Einar Solberg in particular proved himself an exceptional live presence with his angelic voice. From the catchy choruses of songs like “Third Law” and “Rewind” to the chilling ballad, “Slave”, these avatars of suffering made sure that every last spectator became a Leprous fan.

Leprous’ setlist:
1. Foe
2. Third Law
3. The Price
4. The Flood
5. Rewind
6. Slave

 

Vincent: Known for their unique blend of progressive metal, psychedelic rock, and metalcore, Between the Buried and Me did little to ease us into a more optimistic groove but charged right into the carnival-esque intro of their 12 minute epic, “Fossil Genera – A Feed from Cloud Mountain.” The humongous and complex song sported a myriad of different styles that would have gone over the heads of almost any crowd, save this one. Their sound was very clear and distinct and all the various instruments came out in a good mix. Though if I had one nitpick, the keyboards were a lot quieter than I would have liked.

Having mostly familiarized myself with their earlier work, I found the set somewhat unexpected as it was exclusively built around their latest two albums. That being said, the newer material was much more mature and interesting. They had shaken off the metalcore sound of the 00’s without abandoning the extreme metal influences completely. This paired with their apparent astounding musical prowess, both in terms of precision and charisma, rekindled my interest in the band. I for one will be seeing them again next time they come to town.

Between the Buried and Me’s setlist:
1. Fossil Genera – A Feed from Cloud Mountain
2. The Coma Machine
3. Lay Your Ghosts to Rest
4. Bloom
5. Option Oblivion
6. Life in Velvet

 

Amy: Our clan arrived at the venue somewhere in BtBaM’s set, which gave us the opportunity to enjoy their music for a while before DTP took the stage. The changeover was unique in that the venue was playing an interesting collection of pop hits, while we didn’t have the traditional ‘strange things playing on the screen’ that Townsend often arranges. In fact, this year there was no screen at all – I appreciated the simplicity of the production, as there were fewer things for me to focus on (especially in a sold-out venue where I was struggling to even see the stage). The show had sold out by the 28th, so it was packed to capacity, and I’ll be a little surprised if he doesn’t upgrade to the Jäähalli Black Box by the next DTP gig.

Devin announced their arrival to the stage by telling us how awkward the night would be and, “Let’s make some bad life decisions!” as they kicked things off with “Rejoice”, which I’m glad they’ve still kept on the set. Anneke van Giersbergen’s voice was present in the backing vocals alone (sadly), as Townsend promised a night full of awkward heavy metal for us and our kin. They then continued with Ocean Machine’s “Night” – a song that I clearly need to familiarize myself with better, because I’ve heard it live a few times now and it always sounds so cool.

Of course, they were promoting a new album, so Townsend said that the next song would be about something beautiful, from Transcendence: Stormbending. I have to say that I enjoy the way he doesn’t necessarily stop the songs to talk to the crowd, just saying whatever, whenever. They continued with the following Transcendence track, “Failure”, which featured some really noteworthy soloing from Dave Young on guitars as Townsend teased the crowd by having little interactions with random people.

By the time they started “Hyperdrive!” (which is fortunately back on the set after its absence in 2015) I had gotten really impressed with the flow of the songs, as they were all moving incredibly smoothly from one to the other. It was only after this (five songs!) that they finally had a little pause, as Townsend declared that he liked the way his voice sounded in The Circus, like an announcer, and that he was going to use that voice all night because it sounded cool. He then proceeded to tell a story about swimming in a pool that day with 60-year-old men whose balls floated some horrifyingly great distance behind them. He then went on to discuss their thirty records of shit, varying degrees of musical shit, and that it was time for some 80s-style shit, with “Where We Belong.” Perfect timing for a bit of a slower song, and this one in particular is always a lovely choice, with this occasion featuring a pretty cool solo-y outro.

Townsend then said that he had woken up inspired this morning, as he had gotten 8 hours of sleep, saying that he probably hadn’t gotten a full 8 hours in 8 months. There were lots of ideas in his head, he thought about the upcoming cock symphony, and then about achievements in general, and that the crowd probably gets it if they’re watching that show. “Feel the power coursing through my infinite veins!” he shouted as they then set into “Planet of the Apes” – about midway through the song, the crowd began waving their arms back and forth, to which Townsend teased, “I know, it’s that time, right?” and began waving his fingers at the crowd. The song itself isn’t one of my favorites, but it was kind of cool to see fog coming from below Townsend during his solo.

“Hi! I’m just trying to get on your wavelength,” Townsend said, wondering what persona he should take on, such as the jackass, which comes so naturally; he was looking at who was in the crowd to get a feel for us – there were people in paper crowns, some wearing bowties, and so many Ziltoids! He then went on to talk about how he had been having a great day – he did cool things (“Don’t applaud!”), and got some new underpants. Well, not new. He had flipped them inside out. He also found stray underpants on the tour bus and gave them the sniff test; they definitely smelled of piss, but it wasn’t his! He then explained that when he’s uncomfortable he defaults to shit talk and by the end of the show he wouldn’t be talking about poopoo and peepee and that, “We will rock like in your dreams!” This led into “Ziltoid Goes Home.”

As “Suicide” followed, the intro got the crowd absolutely screaming, with their hands up in the air and clapping. After this, Townsend profusely thanked the crowd for 25 years of this, seriously, seriously, seriously. “There has been alien puppets, mellow stuff, suicidal, brutal… your mid-40s is a brutal place in life to be.” He almost made a poop joke, but caught himself and called it progress, and then announced a song about being happy, because he knows that we are, and then shouted, “I love your balls!” before they started “Supercrush!” I love that he sings van Giersbergen’s parts in that song, incidentally, as opposed to relying on a backing track.

Then afterward it was time for a song about Poozers. Townsend told us that, in fact, Ziltoid was born and raised in Helsinki, “though you’d never know it to look at him… ball balls balls shit piss!” Because why not, right? “March of the Poozers”, incidentally, had disappointed me a bit last time with a lack of energy (Townsend was getting a bit sick, if I recall correctly), and this year it was completely remedied, with all the heavy energy and glorious moshy goodness I had hoped for in 2015. He then announced that it was time for the last track (though not really): a Canadian love song from the depths of his mother’s uterus straight to our ear pussies, which was of course “Kingdom” – a sort of DTP requirement song that I could actually do without one of these days (though I’m betting most people at that show would disagree, based on their reaction to it).

The band left the stage for the encore, but Townsend remained because it was time for a popular acoustic number: “Ih-Ah!” If you haven’t seen DTP before, this may have been disappointing, because Townsend was goofing around with it the whole time, testing how high he could take the notes and so on; however, if you expect him to take anything too seriously, you might be at the wrong concert. I caught a nice version as done by van Giersbergen a year or so ago, and her acoustic shows are the place to look if you want to hear a beautiful version of that song! Townsend then teased us with a little excerpt of “Life”, but truly, truly unfortunately, didn’t play it all the way through. It’s possible that he was baiting the crowd for it, and they just didn’t sing along loud enough for him to want to continue. He then teased a little bit of “By Your Command.” “It’s been hard to connect tonight,” Townsend said, admitting that sometimes he’s got it and sometimes he doesn’t, and thanked the crowd for their patience with him before the band returned to end the show with “Higher”, which I have to say was the only song off Transendence that I didn’t enjoy (to be clear, I like about 75% of that song, but the 25% that I don’t like ruins it). I suppose if you like that track, it was a great closer, but I for one hope it doesn’t stay on the set.

 

So, my third official DTP club show proved to be an overall success! I like that their setlists are a bit unpredictable. However, I think songs like “Secret Sciences” might have worked better live than “Failure”, and of course, personally wouldn’t have chosen “Higher” at all. As for the rest of the set though, apart from “Planet of the Apes”, it was a fairly nice blend of older material. Perhaps there could be a little bit less from Addicted! and a few more from some of the other albums – I wish “Universal Flame” from Z2 had become a regular (listen to your son, Townsend!), and perhaps either “Seventh Wave” or “Regulator” from Ocean Machine: Biomech. And bring back “Life”! Okay, but really, I loved the show. They brought better energy and life to the shows than they did at least in 2015, and I enjoyed this set more than the 2015 set too. The performance was great across the board – Bryan “Beav” Waddell and Ryan van der Poederooyen keep a phenomenal and heavy beat throughout almost effortlessly, and Mike St-Jean’s keys add a little something extra into the mix. If only Anneke van Geirsbergen didn’t have her own things going on with Vuur – then the line-up would be perfect. But, yet again, I do believe that if you didn’t stick around for this show, you missed out on a worthwhile use of a Tuesday night!

Devin Townsend Project’s setlist:
1. Rejoice
2. Night (Ocean Machine)
3. Stormbending
4. Failure
5. Hyperdrive!
6. Where We Belong
7. Planet of the Apes
8. Ziltoid Goes Home
9. Suicide
10. Supercrush!
11. March of the Poozers
12. Kingdom

Encore:
13. Ih-Ah!
14. Life (clip)
15. By Your Command (clip)
16. Higher

Text: Vincent Parkkonen, Amy W | Photos: Jana Blomqvist

DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT w/ GUESTS @ The Circus, Helsinki, 28.02.2017

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Devin Townsend Project with Leprous and Between the Buried and Me at The Circus, 2017.
Photos by Jana Blomqvist.
Gig report HERE!

LORD OF THE LOST w/ FEAR OF DOMINATION – On the Rocks, Helsinki, 25.02.2017

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Celebrating the Gothic side of rock and metal, German dark rock masters Lord of the Lost returned to Helsinki for an intimate club gig at On the Rocks on February 25th, 2017. While promoting their 2016 album, Empyrean, this was to be their seventh outing in Finland. To sweeten the deal, they had booked established local industrial melodic death metallers, Fear of Domination. Both bands are known for putting on flashy and extravagant shows with fairly similar aesthetics, so their fanbases should mix with relative ease.

Full gallery HERE!

 

Since my background is more metal-oriented, I was most looking forward to seeing Fear of Domination, whom I had seen once before in that same venue on April 8th, 2016. Their songs are largely rooted in melodic death metal riffs and growling vocals with added flavors of Goth and industrial music. Contrary to Finnish tradition, in anticipation for the show, the crowd had assembled on the dance floor instead of at the bar. The crowd consisted of a seemingly even 50/50 split of men and women, almost all of whom were in the 18-35 range.

 

Fear of Domination started their set a fashionable 15 minutes late to the thunderous sound of young ladies’ screams. Their stage-attire was note-worthy as usual – the leather-clad crew sported their signature corpse paint with splotches of UV face-paint which lit up on stage in bright neon colors. It gave off the impression that these were Goth versions of the lost boys from Peter Pan if they found a few cans of paint. To allow for mobility, keyboardist Lasse Raelahti had a keytar, which is an unusual sight among metal bands and never fails to get a chuckle out of yours truly.

Kicking off their set, they had a few upbeat hits such as “Paperdoll” to warm up the crowd. It didn’t take long until special guest vocalist Sara Strömmer took the stage to the tune of “II.” The song itself was a rare subversion of the band’s formula with a primary emphasis on clean vocals presented in Finnish. This one rubbed me in all the wrong ways as the chorus sounded more like schlager than metal or even rock.

No matter what she was singing, however, Strömmer herself was consistently a vision. A vocal coach by trade, she was on point at all times and always seemed to know exactly what she wanted out of her performance. “Needle” came near the end of the set as a highlight; since the female vocals in the song already had a strong melody to them, she took every opportunity to jazz it up and make it her own. If by then everyone wasn’t convinced that she was a real find, they were afterwards. It was fortunate then that she stayed for the remainder of the set. Her charisma and chemistry with lead vocalist Saku Solin truly elevated the whole show.

Solin was his usual crazy, pro-active self. Like any true metal vocalist he sang with his whole body and couldn’t keep his hands still for an instant. Solin has never been afraid of going all out and a good example of this was “Organ Grinder” – as the song began, he requested that the ladies in the front make their way forward and suddenly he was walking around the dance floor. He spent the whole song singing and waltzing with the fans. Strömmer joined him for a dance at the end of the song, leaving the crowd dumbstruck and with huge grins on their faces. Such displays of genuine cuteness are admittedly seldom seen but at the time it felt most welcome.

For the finale, they did the obvious fan favorites, “Fear of Domination” and “Pandemonium.” The crowd had been moshing and/or swaying throughout the set but for these they actually raised some fists and sang along. As a whole, the set was tightly packed, since they only had 45 minutes. I have no doubt that they would’ve gotten an even bigger response with a longer set or if they’d had a warm-up before them; but as it was, it was a great and memorable performance from a band headed for greatness.

By the time Lord of the Lost took the stage, the place had filled up nicely; the dance floor was a veritable sauna from the writhing masses. The band – looking a lot younger than I had expected from the promo pics – began with “The Love of God”, which got those masses moving in earnest. Lord of the Lost being used to much bigger venues and larger acclaim, was visibly disappointed by the club’s ability (or lack thereof) to sing along. The crowd did get better at participation later on, so I’m chalking that up to common Finnish shyness.

The band’s overall demeanor on stage was obviously more tailored to larger venues. They even exited the stage mid-set to allow for a drum solo, to return accompanied by a backing track. I’ve also never seen a band take a picture from the stage of such a humble venue. Singer Chris Harms played rhythm guitar on half the songs, and they had a crew-member walk on and off stage to accommodate their needs for each song. I took note that on the wall just left of the stage, he had written printed-out instructions (very German). Said crew-member also had to fix the cymbals during some of the first songs, after which it was admittedly gratifying to see drummer Tobias Mertens let loose.

The stage wasn’t outfitted with any backdrops or banners, however, the lighting was rigged to perfectly accent the nuances of the music. It never went all the way to full strobe-lights but it was consistently fast-paced. That being said, the actual sound was very full, with more of an emphasis on the rock and metal aspects. For instance, Harms screamed and growled a lot more than on the albums. It felt to me as if the band got more metal as they got more excited, which in turn got the crowd more excited.

Though right off the bat they played surefire hits, such as “Fists up in the Air” and “Drag Me to Hell”, it was the more ballad-like songs, “Dry the Rain” and “Blood for Blood”, that seemed to get the biggest reaction from the fans. Looking back, the whole set was filled to the brim with hits. Every song seemed to start with a classic melody. Songs like “La Bomba”, “Full Metal Whore”, and “Black Lolita” made for excellent party tracks. The true highlight of the show was the finale, “Raining Stars”, to which the band insisted the crowd sing along.

 

For the group’s rabid fanbase, the night was a dream come true. After the gig, they held a meet & greet and even a full afterparty at Bar Bäkkäri nearby. For me, it was much better than I had expected. Though the big-fish-in-a-small-pond antics of Lord of the Lost were a bit distracting, they did deliver a great show. The two bands worked together gorgeously and were well worth the price of admission. I did end up feeling as if these bands would feel more at home at say Tavastia or Nosturi. Hopefully they’ll bear that in mind when they decide to come for that eighth visit.

Photos: Miia Collander | Ed: Amy Wiseman

LORD OF THE LOST w/ FEAR OF DOMINATION @ On the Rocks, Helsinki, 25.02.2017

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Lord of the Lost with Fear of Domination, Helsinki 2017.
Photos by Miia Collander.
Gig report here!

DARK HELSINKI – Who is Covenant?

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Dark Helsinki has a new event coming up this spring at Helsinki’s Gloria! On April 1st (no jokes), Covenant will come over from Sweden to play a show, with locals Ten After Dawn warming up the stage. To help get you in the mood, here’s a bit of background information on Covenant from Eskil Simonsson.

 

1. First off, tell us a bit about yourselves?
Hi, we are an electronic band from Sweden that just released our ninth album, The Blinding Dark.

2. For anyone who hasn’t heard your music before, can tell us a little bit about your sound?
Pop music with an edge! A bit dark and a bit light all mixed with electronic sounds and rhythms all around.

3. Have you ever played in Finland before? If so, what’s your best/worst memory there? If not, is there anything you’re interested in or excited about in playing there?
Yes many times! We love traveling and have performed in more than 40 countries over the years. Finland is a very special soulmate country with beautiful nature and architecture. Looking forward to having coffee at Torni and visiting Temppeliaukio.

4. What do you think is going to be the highlight of the upcoming show?
A concert is where our noise and passion meets and mixes with our audience. It’s almost a spiritual experience to the sound of blasting drums. Come and join!

5. Do you have any last words for potential viewers about the upcoming shows?
Check out our new album, The Blinding Dark. We will perform a lot of new songs as well as old classics.

 

Have a listen on Spotify here:

For details about the upcoming event, click HERE!
For tickets to the show, click HERE!
For details from the venue, click HERE! [currently not online]

SABATON w/ TWILIGHT FORCE & ACCEPT – Jäähalli (Ice Hall), Helsinki, 24.02.2017

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Clearly, the time has come for the bands to tour their 2016 albums in Finland. With Sonata Arctica’s Ninth Hour Tour just behind us, and Devin Townsend’s Transcendence Tour on the 28th, we can comfortably bridge the gap with The Last Tour (hopefully not literally) by Sabaton for their 2016 release, The Last Stand. The show hit Jäähalli with the legendary Accept and the unfamiliar Twilight Force on February 24th, 2017.

Full gallery HERE!
And feel free to listen along with the setlist on Spotify:

 

We arrived at Jäähalli at 19:30 and it was nicely packed. Unfortunately, as I showed up a bit late, I missed Twilight Force’s set, but our new journalist, Hiski, was at the venue in good time, and here’s what he had to say about them:

“The knights of twilight of Twilight Force had the honor of opening up the night. This show being their first one in Finland ever, I was quite pleasantly surprised of how many people decided to actually check them out despite the early show time. Dressed up as various generic fantasy heroes, the band entered the stage with the opener off their latest album, Heroes of Mighty Magic, “Battle of Arcane Might”, following this with “To the Stars”, “Riders of the Dawn”, and “Flight of the Sapphire Dragon”, all from the aforementioned album. They then closed the show with two songs from their debut, Tales of Ancient Prophecies: “Enchanted Dragon of Wisdom” and “The Power of the Ancient Force”, where the band unfortunately faced some technical difficulties, which luckily were resolved quickly.

As a big fan of the band and cheesy power metal in general, the band did not disappoint me with their set. Although their play-time of only about half an hour was without a doubt short, they managed to offer the audience a nice selection of songs from both of their albums. Interestingly enough though, Twilight Force found time for little intros for most of the songs. Maybe they could have fit one more song into their limited support set instead of those? Unlike other Swedish bands on Finnish soil, vocalist Christian “Chrileon” Eriksson decided to make use of the bilingualism of Finland and held his speeches both in Swedish and in English – resulting in a funny mash-up of both languages.

All-in-all, Twilight Force’s debut in Finland was a triumph. The band played tightly and Chrileon’s voice was as over-the-top and clean as ever. I just hope they are going to make a return with a full headliner set. And from what I heard in the halls of the venue, I won’t be the only one attending such a show, as the band apparently made a bunch of new friends with their sympathetic power metal – rightfully so!”

Twilight Force’s setlist:
1. Battle of Arcane Might
2. To the Stars
3. Riders of the Dawn
4. Flight of the Sapphire Dragon
5. Enchanted Dragon of Wisdom
6. The Power of the Ancient Force

 

I don’t know much (or anything really) about Accept, but I was still looking forward to their set because I saw them once before at South Park in 2015 and had a great time. They got off to a great start with some great lighting, fog, and classic heavy metal, starting with “Stampede” and “Stalingrad.” I think something that I appreciate about these guys is that their music’s range, on the low end, is actually low. They’ve got heavy bass and some chill, dark drums, and Mark Tornillo has some grit in his vocals, even if he can wail. I didn’t know the band during Udo Dirkschneider’s reign, so I can neither compare nor contrast the vocalists, but I have no problem whatsoever with Tornillo as a vocalist or a performer.

Of course, Wolf Hoffman’s guitarwork continues to show why he is so beloved. Even from way up in the stands, he was clear as day and sounded pretty great. Tornillo let out a bit gravelly welcome before they started my personal favorite, “London Leatherboys”! I was grateful for the incredible lighting, because I could see the stage beautifully, even from a distance. These guys put on a nice performance – their music doesn’t have the sort of energy that requires them to fly around, so their presence nicely matches the music. They are active and lively, but not too much so, sticking closer to the in-sync rocking out and a strong focus on soloing with style. The crowd was willing to shout out the lyrics when prompted in a few songs, like “Princess of the Dawn”, which also included a pretty nice chant-along.

There was what I might call a schlager intro before they sunk their teeth into “Fast as a Shark”, yet in spite of performing very nicely, the crowd was a bit on the still side, with only the odd fist in the air, here and there. When they started laying down the solos, that managed to get some hands up and clapping, but I was a bit surprised by the lack of enthusiasm during the songs. However, I should mention that I was told by my fellows down on the floor that, while perhaps there wasn’t a lot of jumping or fist-pumping, the crowd was definitely feeling the groove, bobbing their heads and whatnot.

Of course I recognized the iconic intro to “Metal Heart”, and at last there was some proper enthusiasm from the crowd. And of course they closed out the night, after “Teutonic Terror”, with good old “Balls to the Wall”, which was opened with a single horizontal spotlight on Hoffman as he played. As their set concluded, I also noted Uwe Lulis (guitar) making sure some of the front-rowers got some guitar picks, which was awfully nice of him. Overall, in spite of me still not knowing the band very well, I really enjoyed their set. Jäähalli was pretty packed, so you have to assume these guys have a lot of local fans, yet it was a shame that only the standard big-hype moments got a real reaction from the floor, like the chant-along in the final track. Still, they did give them a loud cheer in the end as the fog cannons blasted, so maybe they were just saving their energy for Sabaton?

Accept’s setlist:
1. Stampede
2. Stalingrad
3. Restless and Wild
4. London Leatherboys
5. Final Journey
6. Princess of the Dawn
7. Fast as a Shark
8. Metal Heart
9. Teutonic Terror
10. Balls to the Wall

 

And then, after the stage changeover was complete, it was time for the Swedish lords of war metal! Sabaton’s performance was introduced with two intros, as seems to be the norm with them. The first of these was “In the Army Now”, a song by Bolland and Bolland. I was glad to see that they’ve dropped “The Final Countdown”, as that song is more than a little overplayed. This was followed by “The March to War”, featuring some videos of tanks and molten metal on the back screen, and the show started with – you guessed it – “Ghost Division.” Why these guys never change their de facto starting track is beyond me, because their shows have become a little predictable over the years as a result. “Night Witches” and even the second track from this show, “Sparta”, all have the potential to be great starters, but due to their unyielding desire to never change the opening track, I feel as though opportunities have been missed. Bonus points for the wicked pyros though.

Now I have to say, Sabaton is kind of amazing right now. The last few times I saw them, they were still playing The Circus, and then suddenly they played at Espoo Metro Areena, and now Jäähalli? When did these guys hit stadium-level popularity without my notice? I think it’s great – these guys have so much energy that it’s no issue for them to fill a much bigger stage. Plus, the extra budget into making the stage performance better was put to excellent use with the screen (though I have to say, for the most of the show I was so compelled by the band that I didn’t even glance at the screen – a problem relating to watching a show from the side and not the crowd, I suppose).

It seems as though my hypothesis may have been correct, because there was no shortage of fists in the air as shots of fire blazed toward the ceiling as Joakim Brodén donned a Spartan helmet and cape (while lesser-clad men took the stage behind him in helms with spears and shields). They also had a partial lyric video up on the screen, though it was hardly necessary – the crowd knew the lyrics. One nice thing about being up in the nosebleeds was my great view of Hannes van Dahl on his epic tank platform. I could see him smashing away at his kit with twirling his sticks like it was nothing, and his hair was everywhere – it was really cool to get an eagle-eye view of him. I am really happy with him in this band.

Brodén greeted and thanked the crowd, mentioning a few changes, such as Tommy Johansson who replaced Thobbe Englund on guitars. The crowd absolutely roared for him, and he got the crowd all hyped up for “Swedish Pagans”, by playing its riff. They then had a discussion about what mulkku [motherfucker] means before the rest of the band joined for the song and the crowd was clapping pretty much from start to finish. Johansson, incidentally, proved to be an incredible addition to the band throughout the night, having no trouble with the material, nor keeping up with the band’s energy. “No surprise there, with him being the guitar god and mastermind of power metal band ReinXeed,” Hiski noted.

“The Last Stand”, even if it kind of sounds like a Christmas carol, though I hope it doesn’t stick to the set, as some of the other new songs work better live, like “Sparta” and, I hate to say it, “Shiroyama.” I might be outvoted on that though, because the crowd showed no loss of energy at that point. Yet, you can’t deny that the hype was higher for “Carolus Rex”, as Brodén came on stage in a wicked kingly cloak of the Swedish blue and yellow and the crowd did their clap-clap-fist(s). Brodén has always soaked up the crowd’s love and given it back tenfold, so imagine what it was like in a stadium as he gave another speech about what they could do that’s different since they’re here so often. He then asked if anyone remembers The Art of War (2008), and they started up “Union (Slopes of St. Benedict)” to the sound of screaming, while poppies gently fell on the screen. True to his word, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard that one live before, and indeed, Hiski agreed that it’s probably never been played in Finland before now.

The tape then played “The Diary of an Unknown Soldier” to the sound of loud gunfire from the guns on stage, before they got the crowd’s hands up and clapping to “The Lost Battalion.” Brodén went on to discuss their setlists, and discussed “White Death”, and again mentioned how it had inspired the Heroes (2014) album, as it was the first song they had written about one man, instead of big events and such. I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed that they had played this song instead of “Gott Mit Uns”, which is what they’ve usually been playing in this slot, but maybe they feel as though they can’t be in Finland without performing the historical Finnish songs?

There was more fire from the guns for “The Lion from the North”, and then the roadies brought out a keyboard and some acoustic guitars for “The Final Solution” – Brodén said that everything would be acoustic for now on, though he was only teasing. Johansson took over the keyboard and plays beautifully no less, incidentally. This song had incredible ambience with all the lighters/cell phones up and some lines of fire on the edge of the stage. Van Dahl took a little break before joining them in the chorus on the cajón. Actually, this was a highlight of the night for me – the song sounded great, hasn’t been played here in ages, and had a hint of a Blind Guardian vibe (and I adore Blind Guardian).

Again, while I like the Finnish-based songs as much as the next person, but I can’t believe they left out “Resist and Bite” in favor of “Soldier of 3 Armies.” I’m not the only one who feels this way either, as I heard some murmurs from the crowd as the stadium emptied later on – the Finns clearly appreciate it, as these songs always get huge cheers, but fans who have seen them repeatedly are starting to feel as though it’s time for a change, time to hear some different songs (like “Union”). They did follow it up with “Night Witches” though, which is a great live song, and had big explodey red blasts from the stage guns. Oh yes! And lots of fire. “Winged Hussars” then closed out the main set, with its oh-so Sabaton riffs, fist-pump-worthy beat, beams of light, and crisscrossing blasts of fire.

There didn’t even appear to be much of a stream of people leaving as the crowd begged for more. “Primo Victoria” kicked off the encore to more blasts from the stage guns, as well as fire. Brodén thanked the crowd again before announcing “Shiroyama”, which I won’t deny I was hyped for. And not just me, based on the magnitude of fists in the air. So stupid, yet so epic… that song is clearly my favorite guilty pleasure. It was a lot of fun live. All it was lacking was a faux samurai battle on stage. They then stuck an extra song into their set, the again unfortunate Finland-based “Talvisota”, while blowing some sort of fake snow on the crowd (that or someone opened a window on the roof). I was worried that they had replaced “To Hell and Back” with this song, but fortunately they had one more song in them and closed out the night with it.

 

Overall, the show wasn’t perfect, but it was still easily one of the best shows I’ve ever seen from Sabaton. Firstly, I really wish they’d drop the Finnish songs – they’re great tracks and I love that they’re showing some respect to the country when they come here, but they’ve left the local tracks out in other shows on this tour, so I had hoped that they would do the same in Finland. However, it was incredible to see them on a bigger stage, really getting to explore the space and show off what they’ve got! While we did lose out on the weird, intimate discussions between Brodén and random people in the crowd, it was cool to see that they were able to reach a much bigger crowd. As well, for once they didn’t end their show with “Metal Injection” and/or “Metal Crüe”! So while openers like “Ghost Division” and the Finnish songs were predictable, they didn’t give us a standard set, which ultimately made for a fantastic evening!

Sabaton’s setlist:
Intro: In the Army Now (Bolland & Bolland)
Intro: The March to War
1. Ghost Division
2. Sparta
3. Blood of Bannockburn
4. Swedish Pagans
5. The Last Stand
6. Carolus Rex
7. Union (Slopes of St. Benedict)
Diary of an Unknown Soldier (tape)
8. The Lost Battalion
9. White Death
Dominium Maris Baltici (tape)
10. The Lion from the North
11. The Final Solution (acoustic)
12. Soldier of 3 Armies
13. Night Witches
14. Winged Hussars

Encore:
15. Primo Victoria
16. Shiroyama
17. Talvisota
18. To Hell and Back

Text: Hiski H, Amy W | Photos: Kirsti Leinonen

SABATON w/ TWILIGHT FORCE & ACCEPT @ Jäähalli (Ice Hall), Helsinki, 24.02.2017

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Sabaton with Twilight Force and Accept, Jäähalli 2017.
Photos by Kirsti Leinonen.
Full gig report HERE!

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Harri Koskela (Lost in Grey), 2017

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Founded not long ago in 2013, it’s possible that you haven’t heard about Lost in Grey just yet. This ambitious project has been influenced by everything from symphonic and folk metal through to music scores and nature itself. With an album coming out on March 3rd, we thought we’d give you a brief overview on vocalist, keyboardist, and general mastermind Harri Koskela. Here is the playlist of his life!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
There must be quite many of which I’ve been listening when I was a child, but the first that comes to my mind is “Living in a Box” by ­ Living in a Box. Total 80’s super-hit with awesome keyboards. I think this has something to do with the fact that I’m really fond of 80’s music.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
Relying on pure intuition, it must be Michael Jackson’s ­ “Earth Song.” I remember how I was touched when I heard this for the first time ­ and I still am. It is an awesome piece of music and as sad it is, the lyrics are still current.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
A song that reminds of my times at junior high school is definitely Bomfunk MC’s ­”Uprocking Beats.” There was a huge dance/hip-hop thing going on then, and as a keyboardist I’ve always liked the sound of synths & etc… Some would say that it’s strange that couple of years after that I mainly listened to Cradle of Filth, but I’ve always been very open to all kinds of musical genres.

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
I think that a lot of people says this, but the songs in Metallica’s Master of Puppets must have had a big influence on how I found my way to metal music. However, I feel that the biggest and dearest band that led me to metal music is Iron Maiden. I still get the same kind of cold shivers that I got in the early days.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
I try to get to know new music as much as possible, and when doing that there are no genre boundaries. A couple of the most recent songs that I’ve been enjoying, even when stuck in my head, are Wardruna’s ­ “Raido”, Equilibrium’s ­ “Born to be Epic”, and Eivør’s ­ “Trøllabundin.” With Wardruna and Eivør, I really like the organic approach and the overall themes in the songs a lot, and I often catch myself humming the themes in my head. Now, when it comes to Equilibrium, I really like the whole recent album, but for me this particular song stands out in a good way, for its somewhat different approach compared to the overall mass of metal music produced nowadays.

6. Your guilty pleasure song
Coldplay – ­ “Princess of China” ft. Rihanna.

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Iron Maiden’s Best of the Beast, which had a huge influence on me and where I am now with my musical taste. I remember listening to the album at a cabin with my cousins, and straight after the cabin trip I went to a local record store and bought the album. The melodies took me far away instantly, and I especially loved the song “Virus.” That was also the first song from Iron Maiden that I played along with, both with keyboards and guitar, ­ obviously with the skills available at the time. 😉

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Anything from Hans Zimmer’s Inception soundtrack works perfectly. Actually this doesn’t make me want to curl up on the couch, but I could imagine this working perfectly in those situations.

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
There’s a ton of these songs too, but lately I’ve been enjoying Dio’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Children” a lot! Awesome song that has to be played at the maximum volume of eleven each time when listened to in a car!

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Pink Floyd – “High Hopes.”

 

Check out the music video for “Dark Skies” here:

Or have a look at their album interviews/trailers here:

DARK HELSINKI – Who is Ten After Dawn?

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Dark Helsinki has a new event coming up this spring at Helsinki’s Gloria! On April 1st (no jokes), local band Ten After Dawn will open the stage for Covenant (Sweden). To help get you in the mood, here’s a bit of background information on Ten After Dawn from Teemu Salo.

 

1. First off, tell us a bit about yourselves?
We are an electro/dark-pop band from Finland with a hint of organic elements added to the mix. We have released just few singles to this date but actually the day before this Gloria show, the 31st of March, is the release date of our new “Melody” single and video! Later on the 23th of April the EP should come out. Hopefully there will be a lot of new live dates too!

2. For anyone who hasn’t heard your music before, can tell us a little bit about your sound?
Our sound is a mix of electronic beats mixed to melodic vocals and melody lines with a hint of the organic world too. Dark and melodic synth pop with an edge of industrial rock harshness.

3. Have you ever played in Finland before? If so, what’s your best/worst memory there? If not, is there anything you’re interested in or excited about in playing there?
We have played in Finland many times before as we are local. I think our worst memory is related to one gig back then when we had our first live drummer, Lauri, and we were just in the very beginning. We were in the slightly wrong place, as people were expecting something different, because it was a pure EBM party and we were something different. We were more industrial rock back then. So anyway, the gig started and one friend of ours came to the stage to take photos in the beginning of the second song. It was otherwise good, but he managed to stumble in a way that he hit himself on our then-live keyboard player Tommi’s Macbook stand, so the laptop just kept on flying and finally landed in the middle of the dance floor… we just watched it flying like in a slow motion film! Surprisingly, the computer was okay, but it kinda nailed that gig. We continued ’til the end after that, but it was a very… difficult gig. No hard feelings buddy, anything can happen!

One of the best gigs we played here might be the one last October when we were opening for a German electro act, Solar Fake, at On the Rocks here in Helsinki. There were also many of their fans from abroad too, and it was nice to notice that they seemed to like us too.

4. What do you think is going to be the highlight of the upcoming show?
The highlight of the forthcoming gig? It can be the moment when you get off from the stage after a great show with your endorphins, or some particular moment during the set. Hopefully you will enjoy [the show] and have a good time!

5. Do you have any last words for potential viewers about the upcoming shows?
Hopefully you will come early to see our set too! If you’re a full electro-head or you might come from the world of more organic soundscapes, we might have something slightly different for you anyway! See you there and let’s have a party!

 

Check out the song “Red Carpet Fever” here:

For details about the upcoming event, click HERE!
For tickets to the show, click HERE!
For details from the venue, click HERE! [currently not online]

BATTLE BEAST – Noora Louhimo & Janne Björkroth, 2017

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Popular Finnish heavy metallers, Battle Beast, just released their fourth studio album, Bringer of Pain, on February 17th. With their new tour starting up, the Helsinki natives started up at the Virgin Oil Co, so we took the opportunity to grab Noora Louhimo (vocals) and Janne Björkroth (keyboards) to talk about the new album and the upcoming tours.

The Virgin Oil Co.’s gig gallery can be found HERE!

 

I hear there’s a North American tour coming up – is there anything you’re looking forward to?
Janne: Yeah with Sabaton.
Noora: We will be there about 5 weeks starting in April.

That’s quite exciting.
J: Yeah, First time.
N: Let’s do the European tour first, there is also thirty-six dates there.

So it’s really good to get out there with the new songs?
J: It is really nice to have the new songs now.
N: I feel like there is a new energy in the band; everyone is really excited about bringing out the new material.

Congratulations on the release of your latest album. What was it like to write music with your new line-up, and how collaborative was the writing process?
J: Making this album, there are six song writers, so everyone has to find their own role in this process.
N: I feel like it was really great, this whole process, because we learned so much about each other and how we want to work things out and what are the ways people like to do things. It was a learning experience also. Of course it is never easy to do an album, but I think we managed really well.
We really need to thank Janne, as he was the producer and he kept the package and schedules together; without him this wouldn’t have been as professional as it is.

What was it like working with Tomi Joutsen? What was it about him that made you want to include him?
J: He is a really nice guy; it was an easy day with him. I just asked, “Hey, can you sing this?” and he said, “Yeah, yeah, of course.” It was no problem at all and he was really easy going, a great singer, and great to have him.

Why did you want a guest vocalist in that song, specifically?
J: I wanted to do a duo song and I wasn’t sure who was going to sing it but when I called Tomi and he said, “Of course I can come.”
N: We didn’t have to persuade him.
J: When I wrote the song, I didn’t know that Tomi was going to be the singer, but I knew that Tomi’s low voice is really cool so I decided to do this low speaking part and asked him. He was in mind from the start when I wrote the song. I also thought about Till Lindeman . . .
N: But he didn’t have the time.
J: We can say he didn’t have the time.

It’s probably safe to say that the single “King for a Day” sounds like it was written about politicians in general. Was this a coincidence or was that something you were influenced by?
J: It was kind of a coincidence. Many people are saying, “is it a song about Trump?” but we had already written the song way before Trump was elected. It’s not a specific person, it can be whoever. Anywhere in the world are people who fit to the lyrics.
N: And anybody can have a bad boss at their workplace or something, so for me, the song represents a common evil or a bad person who just uses power in the wrong way.

Do you have any strong political feelings, as a band, that you wanted to express in this album?
J: We try to stay away from political themes but of course power and those types of themes are nice to write songs about.
N: It’s a cool way to deal with these different problems in life no matter what is the issue. “King for a Day” actually sounds cheery and [has] positive vibes that make you feel like you want to dance, but we also deal with something pretty serious. But I think it makes it easier for people and listeners to approach those types of issues, if you don’t do it so seriously.

What other influences did you have when writing this album?
N: I think we had different influences. As we had more than one songwriter, everyone has their own influences. Even if you are only just one person, you have many different influences over the years [as] you have grown.
J: We didn’t want to have an overall theme so we wrote about whatever came to mind.

Your music videos also seem to have very strong themes to them. Can you tell us a bit about the background for “Familiar Hell”? Do you design your videos yourselves, or do the directors do that?
J: We sent the song and the lyrics to the director, Markus, and most of the ideas came from him.
N: The whole thing about the song was this person is lost and stuck in a world where they are afraid to get out of there. In the music video, Markus wanted to express that happening. It was really cool that Markus wanted to do it which such an effort and that I could do some acting in all the music videos we have had. It has been something I have always dreamed about.

Lastly, apart from the touring, is there anything you’re looking forward to, both in the next year and the future in general?
J: We are really focusing on the touring right now. It is really hard to think further.
N: We just go with the flow.
J: During the tour we will already be thinking about new songs during any free time.

Are there any places that you are looking forward to playing over the next year?
N: I think the whole of North America, as this is all new for us. We have read all the comments asking to come there.
J: I hope after the summer we would be able to visit South America and even Japan and play shows there.
N: Also Australia, they are really waiting for us. That would be cool.

Text/photos: Tom Benjamin | Ed: Amy W

BATTLE BEAST @ Virgin Oil Co., Helsinki, 24.02.2017

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Battle Beast at Virgin Oil Co., 2017.
Photos by Tom Benjamin.
Interview with Noora & Janne HERE!

HEXVESSEL W/ KAIRON;IRSE & DEATH HAWKS @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 09.02.2017

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Hexvessel with Kairon;IRSE and Death Hawks at Tavastia, 2017.
Photos by Marco Manzi.

DIABLO w/ KYPCK – TAVASTIA, HELSINKI, 18.02.2017 (English)

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If Diablo was a person, it could finally enter a liquor store and buy booze without a fake ID – the nowadays Tampere-based band turns 20 years old this year. One could have attended a sort of double anniversary party at Tavastia last Friday, since the warm-up act, KYPCK – the most Russian band in all of Finland – also turns 10. Having maintained a solid radio silence for the first half of the decade, Diablo released their latest record, Silvër Horizon, in the fall of 2015, receiving praise from fans and media alike, but despite the good reviews, for some reason I managed to bring myself to listen through the album only a few times. I still decided to attend the show that came through Tavastia on February 18th, 2017, as at last summer’s festivals, the new tracks worked live just as well as the older (one could almost say) classics.

 

Because of Saturday disco – Tavastia’s every-Saturday teenager-hell concept – the doors opened as early as 19:00. As I arrived at the venue 15 minutes later, there was a nice bunch of people smoking cigarettes outside, and the ticket queue spanned almost to the front door. A pleasant surprise presented itself at the bar, as Diablo’s own Corium Black stout was priced at 6€, instantly heightening Tavastia’s price-to-quality ratio considerably. The actual band space was still pretty empty, but once KYPCK began their set with “Ya Svoboden”, the opening track of their latest album, Zero, the hall filled up pretty quickly.

After the second track, “Stalingrad”, vocalist Erkki Seppänen did a quick catch-up of the band’s recent doings, receiving a hefty applause on the fact that KYPCK is already 10 years old. The set continued with “Progulka po Neve” and “2017”, nodding towards the 100 years ‘older’ song of the debut album, Cherno. As I was listening to Inema na Stene’s title track, I couldn’t help but wonder about how consistently strong the band’s songs have always been. KYPCK has toured Russia on several occasions and after “Russofob”, Seppänen announced that the band will embark on a Russian tour later in the spring. They’ve always returned so far, hopefully this time will be no different! If I compared the set, ending with “Alleya Stalina”, to the previous KYPCK show I’ve seen – also in Tavastia – very few things have changed, but why fix something that’s not broken? The little-less-than-hour-long show went by before I even noticed.

I’ve always liked KYPCK; the band’s concept is simply brilliant. If Seppänen didn’t do his speeches in Finnish, one would totally mistake him as Russian, that’s how fluent his pronunciation is. Sami Lopakka’s and Sami Kukkohovi’s impact in Sentenced (RIP) cannot be undermined, but personally I’ve always preferred KYPCK’s leaden doom metal over Sentenced’s angsty rock. The band’s visual appearance is also thought-through; why does a bass guitar even have four strings, if J.T. Ylä-Rautio does well with only one? Lopakka’s custom-built AK-47 guitar and A.K. Karihtala’s Tsar Bomba drum kit are always impressive to see live, and the cherry on top was the Soviet era pictures and videos projected on the band’s backdrop.

KYPCK’s set:
1. Ya Svoboden
2. Stalingrad
3. Progulka po Neve
4. 2017
5. Inema na Stene
6. Chernaya Dyra
7. Russofob
8. Alleya Stalina

 

At 20:30, Tavastia’s stage lit up again as the dark blue lights were turned on, and Diablo’s grin-inducing intro tape began playing. Expressing the visual appearance of their latest album, the members Rainer Nygård [vocals, guitar], Aadolf Virtanen [bass], Marko Utriainen [guitar], and Heikki Malmberg [drums] climbed on stage wearing identical worker shirts and began their set with the album’s opening track, “The Call”, and from Nygård’s first “Hiiop!” scream onwards, the audience was fully committed to the show. Things continued on with “Isolation” and “The Serpent Holder”, and considering the band’s outfits, things started to incline towards playing the album from start to finish. This eventually happened, as all ten of Silvër Horizon’s tracks were played back-to-back, with only the album’s ambient interludes in between. A pretty bold move to pull off at an anniversary show, I thought, but the concept turned out to be excellent – since Silvër Horizon is a concept album, the story was conveyed to its full extent, and at some point I suddenly became aware of the amount of kick-ass choruses; the chorus in “The Serpent Holder” is insane! After the album’s closer, “Voyage to Eternity”, the band suddenly left the stage, and a midtro tape, spoken in Finnish and Russian, announced a 10-minute intermission. Quite something at a venue of this size!

The second half of the show started out with a bang, as Diablo played Mimic47’s closing track, ”D.O.A” – I doubt that the song has been played too many times since the album’s release tour. After the song, the show had finally progressed to one of its most essential elements: Nygård’s shamelessly Finnish speeches. It turned out that there was a bunch of first-timers in the audience, so it seemed only appropriate to play “The Preacher”, since that’s what Diablo’s known for, at least according to Nygård. You can probably guess that he had to shout “PERKELE!” at all in the beginning. The set seemed to be full of more peculiar choices, since the band threw in their legendary ABBA cover of ”Dancing Queen” before playing ”Read My Scars.” I took a trip to the bar during “Resign From Life”, but I almost left my Visa to the card machine as I had to hurry back to the audience afterwards – the guys decided to play ”Crystal Mountain” by the legendary Death, and boy, did they do a fantastic job!

The fans of the old Diablo were spoiled with “Icon of Flesh” from the Renaissance album, after which the set seemed to near its end. The band concluded their set on a high note with “Icaros” and “Into the Sea” – I haven’t heard the latter since the Icaros album’s release tour in 2008. A truly great song! The band asked people to pose for a group photo, after which a good deal of people with some shit-eating grins started to make their way towards the coatroom. In that moment, the second half of the show seemed awfully short, but afterwards I realized that it was only one song shorter than all of Silvër Horizon.

 

Although I can’t say that I’ve ever listened to Diablo at home or attended many of their shows, I cannot deny their significance in the Finnish metal scene, and I know people who place the band as high as first place in their domestic ranking. Diablo manages to entertain thoroughly every time, and as a drumming enthusiast I cannot help but emphasize Heikki Malmberg’s role behind the kit. The man is undoubtedly one of the best drummers in Finland, and he’s clearly grasped something very essential on constructing a drum set; one simply cannot have too many chinas – I think I counted ten. The sounds were brilliant, not to mention the lights. I decided to attend the show on a whim, but afterwards I’ve found myself already waiting for the next shows. Thank you, Diablo!

Diablo’s set:
1. The Call
2. Isolation
3. The Serpent Holder
4. Into the Void
5. Illuminati
6. Prince of the Machine
7. Silver Horizon
8. Savage
9. Corium Black
10. Voyage to Eternity)
Intermission
11. D.O.A
12. The Preacher
13. Dancing Queen (ABBA cover)
14. Read My Scars
15. Resign From Life
16. Crystal Mountain (Death cover)
17. Icon of Flesh
18. Icaros
19. Into the Sea

Photos: Janne Puronen | Ed: Amy W

DIABLO w/ KYPCK – TAVASTIA, HELSINKI, 18.2.2017 (suomeksi)

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Jos Diablo olisi ihminen, se voisi viimeinkin kävellä Alkoon ja ostaa jallua ilman vääriä papereita; Tampereella jo pidemmän aikaa vaikuttanut bändi täyttää nimittäin tänä vuonna 20 vuotta. Viime lauantaina Tavastialla päästiin viettämään tietynlaisia kaksoissynttäreitä, sillä lämmittelijänä toiminut KYPCK – tuo Suomen venäläisin bändi – tulee myös kuluvana vuonna 10 vuoden ikään. Kuluvan vuosikymmenen alkupuoliskon ajaksi täyteen radiohiljaisuuteen vaipunut Diablo julkaisi fanien pitkän odotuksen päätteeksi toissasyksynä kehutun Silvër Horizon –levyn, joka ainakin allekirjoittaneella jäi valitettavan vähälle kuuntelulle kovista arvioista ja tuttavien kehuista huolimatta. Päätin silti osallistua bändin juhlakeikalle, sillä viime kesän festareilla kuullut livevedot uuden levyn kappaleista toimivat vähintään yhtä hyvin kuin vanhemmat – voidaanko jo sanoa – klassikot.

 

Myöhemmin käynnistyneen, Tavastian jokalauantaisen teinihelvettikonsepti Lauantaidiskon vuoksi ovet avautuivat edellisillan Arkona-keikan tavoin jo seitsemältä illalla. Päästessäni paikalle noin varttia yli, baarin ulkopuolella parveili jo mukavasti siirtymäröökejään imailevia keikkakävijöitä, ja lippujonokin ulottui melkein ulko-ovelle saakka. Baaritiskillä odotti iloinen yllätys, kun Diablon omaa Corium Black –nimikko-stoutia sai lunastettua kohtuulliseen kuuden euron hintaan, mikä nosti Tavastian juomavalikoiman hinta-laatusuhdetta huomattavasti. Salin puoli oli vielä kohtuullisen tyhjillään, mutta KYPCKin aloittaessa settinsä uusimman Zero-levynsä ”Ya Svobodenilla” tasan varttia yli seitsemän tila täyttyi hyvinkin nopeasti.

Toisena soitetun ”Stalingradin” jälkeen laulaja Erkki Seppänen kertoili bändin kuulumisia ja kertoi bändin tulleen kymmenen vuoden ikään, saaden yleisöltä raikuvat aplodit. Setti jatkui uusilla kappaleilla ”Progulka po Neve” sekä ”2017”, viitaten debyyttilevy Chernon sata vuotta ”aikaisempaan” teokseen. Kolmoslevy Inema na Stenen nimiraitaa kuunnellessa havahtui väkisin siihen, kuinka tasavahvaa bändin materiaali on aina ollut. KYPCK on kiertänyt Venäjää useampaan otteeseen, ja toiseksi viimeisenä kuullun ”Russofobin” jälkeen Seppänen kertoi yhtyeen kääntävän Ladan nokan keväämmällä taas kohti itänaapuria. Aina sieltä on kuulemma takaisin päästy, toivottavasti tälläkin kertaa! Jos ”Alleya Stalinaan” päättynyttä settiä vertaa edelliseen näkemääni KYPCK-keikkaan, joka myöskin soitettiin Tavastialla, hyvin harva asia bändin livemenossa oli muuttunut, mutta miksi korjata jotain mikä ei ole rikki? Vajaan tunnin mittainen setti hujahtikin kuin siivillä.

Olen pitänyt KYPCKista sen uran alusta saakka – bändin konsepti on kaikessa yksinkertaisuudessaan loistava. Jos Seppänen ei puhuisi välispiikkejään suomeksi, hän menisi täydestä venäläisestä, niin sujuvaa miehen ääntämys on. Jäsenten S.S. Lopakka ja S. Kukkohovi panosta jo kuopatussa Sentencedissä kukaan tuskin tohtii kiistää, mutta henkilökohtaisesti KYPCKin lyijynraskas doom metal kolisee paljon kovempaa kuin Sentencedin angstirock koskaan, minkä lisäksi bändin visuaalinen ilmekin on loppuun asti mietitty: miksi bassokitarassa ylipäätään tarvitsee olla neljä kieltä, jos J.T. Ylä-Rautio pärjää yhdellä? Lopakan AK-47:n runkoon rakennettu kitara sekä Hiili Hiilesmaan viitisen vuotta sitten korvanneen rumpali A.K. Karihtalan Tsar Bomba –settikin ovat aina vaikuttavia näkyjä lavalla, ja kokonaisuuden kruunasivat tälläkin kertaa bändin taustalakanalle heijastetut neuvostoliittolaiset arkistokuvat ja –videot.

KYPCKin setti:
1. Ya Svoboden
2. Stalingrad
3. Progulka po Neve
4. 2017
5. Inema na Stene
6. Chernaya Dyra
7. Russofob
8. Alleya Stalina

 

Puoli yhdeksältä Tavastian lava heräsi eloon tummien valojen syttyessä, ja Diablon väkisinkin suupieliä kohottava intronauha pärähti soimaan. Uuden levyn teemaa mukaillen jäsenet Rainer Nygård [laulu, kitara], Aadolf Virtanen [basso], Marko Utriainen [kitara] ja Heikki Malmberg [rummut] nousivat lavalle identtisissä työmiespaidoissaan, setti käynnistyi Silvër Horizonin avausraita ”The Callilla” ja Nygårdin ensimmäisestä ”Hiiop!”-huudosta lähtien yleisö oli saman tien mukana. Seuraavana vuorossa olivat ”Isolation” ja ”The Serpent Holder”, ja ottaen huomioon bändin pukeutumisen, ilmassa alkoi jo kärytä uuden levyn soittaminen kokonaisuudessaan. Näinhän siinä lopulta kävikin, sillä Silvër Horizonin kaikki 10 kappaletta soitettiin putkeen pelkillä asiaankuuluvilla ambient-välikkeillä. Aika rohkea veto juhlakeikalle, mutta myös äärimmäisen toimiva – teemalevyn draaman kaari välittyi hienosti, ja tulipa sitä myös havahduttua äärimmäisen kovien kertosäkeiden määrään levyllä ihan eri tavalla kuin aiemmin; varsinkin ”The Serpent Holderin” kertsi on aivan TÖRKEÄN kova! Levyn päätösraita ”Voyage to Eternityn” päätteeksi bändi poistui yllättäen lavalta, ja sekä suomeksi että venäjäksi spiikattu taustanauha kertoi keikalla olevan 10 minuutin väliaika. Ison maailman meininkiä!

Toinen puoliaika käynnistyikin sitten aikamoisella yllätyksellä, nimittäin Mimic47:n päätösraita ”D.O.A”:lla, jota tuskin on levyn julkaisukiertueen jälkeen soitettu kertaakaan. Kappaleen päätteeksi päästiin Diablo-keikkojen todelliseen suolaan: Nygårdin hävyttömän perisuomalaisiin välispiikkeihin. Kävi ilmi, että yleisössä oli useita bändin keikalla ensimmäistä kertaa olleita, joten oli vain paikallaan jatkaa eteenpäin ”The Preacherilla”; siitähän Diablo miehen mukaan tunnetaan. Voitte varmaan arvata, tarvitsiko Nygårdin itse huutaa alkuun ”PERKELE!” Setin yllättävämmät valinnat jatkuivat, sillä bändi rykäisi legendaarisen ABBA-coverinsa, ”Dancing Queenin” ennen ”Read My Scarsia”. ”Resign from Lifen” yhteydessä koin sopivaksi pyörähtää tiskillä, mutta hyvä ettei Visa-kortti jäänyt maksulaitteeseen, kun tuli kiire juosta takaisin yleisöön: päättivät sitten vetää Deathin ”Crystal Mountain” -coverin, ja hyvin muuten vetivätkin!

Vanhan Diablon faneja hemmoteltiin vielä kakkoslevy Renaissancen ”Icon of Fleshillä”, jonka jälkeen alettiin selkeästi siirtyä loppusuoralle. Bändi päättikin settinsä todella hienosti ”Icarosilla” sekä ”Into the Sealla”, jonka olen kuullut vain kerran aikaisemmin Icaros-levyn rundilla vuonna 2008. Hieno biisi! Bändi pyysi kävijöitä jäämään vielä hetkeksi yhteiskuvaan, minkä jälkeen salista alkoi purkautua leveästi virnistävää keikkakansaa kohti narikkaa. Jälkimmäinen puolisko tuntui välittömästi keikan jälkeen yllättävän lyhyeltä, mutta jälkeenpäin ajateltuna se oli vain yhtä kappaletta lyhyempi kuin Silvër Horizon-osio.

 

Vaikken ole käytännössä ikinä kuunnellut Diabloa kotioloissa tai kiertänyt bändin keikkoja sen kummemmin, en voi kiistää sen merkitystä suomalaisessa metalliskenessä, ja tunnen ihmisiä, jotka nostavat bändin omassa Suomi-rankingissaan jopa kärkipaikalle. Diablo viihdyttää livenä joka kerta, enkä voi rumpufanina olla alleviivaamatta varsinkin Heikki Malmbergin taiteilua setin takana. Mies on Suomen ehdotonta eliittiä, minkä lisäksi rumpusetin kasaamisesta on ymmärretty jotain todella oleellista: chinoja ei todellakaan voi olla setissä liikaa, taisin nimittäin laskea niitä olleen kymmenen kappaletta. Sounditkin olivat todella hyvät, valoista puhumattakaan. Lähdin Tavastialle hyvin pitkälti hetken mielijohteesta, mutta tässähän huomaa jo odottavansa seuraavia keikkoja. Kiitos Diablo!

Diablon setti:
1. The Call
2. Isolation
3. The Serpent Holder
4. Into the Void
5. Illuminati
6. Prince of the Machine
7. Silver Horizon
8. Savage
9. Corium Black
10. Voyage to Eternity
Väliaika
11. D.O.A
12. The Preacher
13. Dancing Queen (ABBA cover)
14. Read My Scars
15. Resign from Life
16. Crystal Mountain (Death cover)
17. Icon of Flesh
18. Icaros
19. Into the Sea

Kuvat: Janne Puronen | Ed: Ville Karttunen

(2017) Zeal and Ardor: Devil is Fine

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Artist: Zeal and Ardor
Album: Devil is Fine
Release: 24.02.2017
Label: MVKA

 

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you come across something like this. Zeal and Ardor is a one-man project by Swiss-born Manuel Gagneux, which he describes as spiritual black metal blues. Now, combining blues and metal is hardly a new idea but Zeal and Ardor doesn’t stop at that. I came across the titular track “Devil is Fine” earlier this year whilst browsing upcoming releases and I was hooked after the first listen. It was an ingenious mix of African-American crooning and Luciferian black metal. It brings to mind the devil-infused early days of blues. It’s Gagneux’s imagining of America’s slaves rebelling in the same way as Nordic black metallers, i.e. by turning to the Lord of Light.

 

01. Devil is Fine
Sure enough, the first track, “Devil is Fine”, starts with a howling Southern voice screaming the gospel of the adversary of the soul. His warbling is accented by the rhythmic chime of men in chains in the midst of hard labor. In this song, the familiar guitars and blastbeats of black metal take a backseat to the power of wicked prayer. The idea becomes crystal clear, to these people Satan is the only salvation. He offers everything but demands very little. These people live in hell so the lake of fire is no deterrent. The sound is superbly distorted through reverb with just enough simple piano accompaniment to really drive the point home. This song alone is one of the most interesting things I’ve heard in a good while.

02. In Ashes
The guitars kick off “In Ashes” but still remain mostly as a background element. The African-American round singing turns possibly even more ominous with this one. The line “Burn the young boy, burn him good” should send a chill down any goodly little lamb’s spine. The whole song expresses doubt in a god and begins to revel in the realization of his absence. The minimal use of guitars and growling vocals serve to illustrate this. It goes slow when it wants to be creepy and fast when it wants to embrace the flames. It’s incredible how effective it is. This being the first new song I’ve heard on the record, I’d say we’re off to a grand start.

03. Sacrilegium I
At this point one would be forgiven for double-checking that they’re still listening to the same album. “Sacrilegium I” is a straight-up electronic house music song. In any other context I’d rule it as nothing more than a way to test my sub-woofer. I wouldn’t recommend it to fans of EDM, however, since it takes every opportunity to mess with the time signature and would prove very difficult to dance to. In its 2 minute runtime, it does manage to dish out one good Daft Punk-esque melody and a lot of what I believe today’s youth refer to as ‘sick beats.’ It’s not entirely removed from the album since it does have some recordings thrown in which fit the larger tone. A strange interlude, no doubt but it keeps the listener on their toes.

04. Come on Down
A beautifully over-reverbed vocal melody gets us back on track; it’s very gospel-inspired and catchy, the cornerstone of “Come on Down”. If you came for fast guitars and growls – this one is for you. The guitar melodies are recognizably black metal with a few dips into modern melodic death metal and some more dulcet breaks. Here Gagneux gets to show off his pipes a bit more as the vocals get more powerful while still remaining properly soulful. The growling vocals, however, remain as mere occasional roars. That being said, they are perfectly placed and gorgeously nuanced, even when the song would’ve already been great as is it still dares to end in a melancholy and subdued note. As I’m analyzing it, I realize that on paper it shouldn’t work, but somehow it still does. A true testament to Gagneux’s musicianship – it makes me want to listen to it again and again.

05. Children’s Summon
It seems “Children’s Summon” heard my prayers and not only brings even heavier and more ferocious guitars into the mix but also echoes elements of “Come on Down.” The guitars shred away in the background while an enthralling synth melody takes center stage. This is, at times, either somewhat downplayed or completely halted by Satanic chants (my Latin is a bit rusty, so forgive me if I classify anything with “hail” and “Satani” in it as Satanic.) “Children’s Summon” has a sense of urgency that no other song on the album has. It’s not just fast, it’s ridiculously fast. I can see why it takes breathers – I certainly would.

06. Sacrilegium II
“Sacrilegium II” sounds like the devil’s music box. No really, it’s a music box. But even this gentle lullaby has an underlying eeriness to it. Seeing as the last part of this song was a detour, it seems prudent for the continuation to also be a subversion of the formula. The logically illogical intermission has a very subtle and gradual build-up. Starting out with just the clear sound of thin strands of metal reverberating as they are plucked by tiny bumps on a rotating cylinder, it simulates the sensation of falling asleep by fading into a blurry, ethereal world. If anything on this album could be referred to as ‘lovely’, this would be it.

07. Blood in the River
Going back to what I only hesitantly describe as the status quo, “Blood in the River” sees the return of the chains and pickaxes, as well as the blastbeats. This is the point at which the sheer speed and precision of the kick-drum makes sure everyone can see that the drums are programmed. Though that may annoy some listeners, they are still at very least fitting for this record. The dark parish’s mantra of “a good god is a dead one” isn’t even the half of it for this one. I would recommend exercising caution in choosing the company in which one should listen to this. Positively evil and exhilarating – a high-speed barrage of defiant rage.

08. What is a Killer like You Gonna Do Here
Not enough songs begin with a clear bass-line. When they do, however, it usually works. “What is a Killer Like You Gonna Do Here” has a smooth, slow, and low groove. Gagneux brings his vocals way down to a gravely baritone in order to issue some spoken-word prose. This is further accented by beatnik-y finger-snaps which make me want to rumble with The Sharks, but we don’t want to advocate musical violence so we suggest the listener simply nod in agreement whilst preferably in a turtleneck and beret. Halfway through the song, the guitar joins in with with a defiantly 1950s sound. An exemplary blues guitar solo brings the song home before it fades out in anticipation for the finale.

09. Sacrilegium III
Bringing the album to a close is “Sacrilegium III.” It’s best seen as an outro or epilogue; it’s not a grandiose epic but simply a moody synth melody and not much else. It layers those synths expertly and always knows to what it wants to draw the listener’s attention. It invokes a feeling of dread and emptiness. It echoes as if in a chasm of despair and leaves us there wanting for more.

 

My hopes for this album were so lofty that I wasn’t sure it’d ever meet them. However, even on the first listen I knew this artist was far from a one-hit-wonder. It’s a bizarre record that doesn’t feel at home at either parties or lazy Sunday reading sessions. What it is though, is a fantastic, subversive, innovative, and memorable record. It’s not just a cheap mix of genres – each move seems deliberate and poignant. The Satanism never feels shallow or attention-seeking, but genuine and fresh. For its short runtime, this is an exceptionally well-put-together album with all the makings of a modern classic. I would be surprised if I heard a more interesting release all year.

Rating: 9.5/10

Tracklist
1. Devil is Fine
2. In Ashes
3. Sacrilegium I
4. Come On Down
5. Children’s Summon
6. Sacrilegium II
7. Blood In the River
8 .What is a Killer Like You Gonna Do Here?
9. Sacrilegium III

Ed: Amy W

(2017) The Mute Gods: Tardigrades Will Inherit the Earth

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Artist: The Mute Gods
Album: Tardigrades Will Inherit the Earth
Release date: 24.02.2017
Label: InsideOut

 

My favorite debut album last year was Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me by the new prog rock act The Mute Gods, as mentioned in our “2016 in Metal” blog post, and therefore I was delighted to find out that their sophomore effort would arrive in February 2017 already. I was surprised that Nick Beggs, Roger King, and Marco Minnemann had had enough time to make another album so soon amidst their duties in the backing bands of Steven Wilson, Steve Hackett, and Joe Satriani, but luckily recording is extremely convenient nowadays.

 

The familiar box-headed figure from the debut – which seems to be TMG’s own Eddie or Rattlehead – adorns the cover once more, but Tardigrades Will Inherit the Earth is a darker and heavier album than its predecessor, both lyrically and musically. You won’t hear a whole lot of personal reflections in vein of “Nightschool for Idiots” this time around, as the songs revolve around politics, nature, media, and religion, even more so than the debut. Exhibit A of this darker approach is “Animal Army”, whose rhythmic riffage must’ve taken a leaf out of Steven Wilson’s book, as it’s slightly reminiscent of “Home Invasion” from 2015’s Hand. Cannot. Erase., on which Beggs and Minnemann were the rhythm section. The ‘dark vs. light’ contrasts are fairly Wilson-esque too, and I can hear some Porcupine Tree in the catchiness of “Window onto the Sun” and the riffs of “The Dumbing of the Stupid,” although the latter gets more shreddy and jazzy than your typical PT song. The songs that stick out to me the most are the titletrack, with its ’80s Marillion-meets-alt rock’ vibe and “Early Warning,” which has got some cool bass playing and a wintry feel. The gentle “Stranger than Fiction” – written for Beggs’ wife – is a break from the societal themes and closes the album optimistically, feeling like a sequel to last album’s “Father, Daughter.” However, there’s one filler track, and that’s “The Singing Fish of Batticaloa,” which lulls a little too long during the quiet respite in the middle and doesn’t measure up to the other mellow songs.

The musicianship is great, even if it’s hard to tell who’s playing what on each song, since the guitars are handled by all three members, and both King and Beggs contribute keyboards. However, as the mastermind, bassist and vocalist Nick Beggs is naturally the most crucial piece of the jigsaw puzzle. Besides his typical pristine and high-pitched singing, he spits the lyrics of “We Can’t Carry On” in an accusatory tone, utilizes a dramatic, almost Muse-style voice on “The Dumbing of the Stupid”, while delivering the title-track in a crooning fashion. I can’t believe this guy has only been a backing vocalist for the majority of his career! Minnemann’s drumming throughout the album is remarkable – he can bash the skins like they owe him money, but can also play in a very relaxed manner. However, the King-penned cinematic intro, “Saltatio Mortis”, and the melodic Chapman Stick instrumental, “Lament”, prove that The Mute Gods are capable of minimalism as well. Beggs’ pop background also ensures that the album is full of great hooks and that the instrumentation side doesn’t take over completely. The Mute Gods have managed to build on the strengths of their debut, and Tardigrades… is a successful step forward with a powerful message.

Rating: 8½/10, 4 stars

Tracklist:
1. Saltatio Mortis
2. Animal Army
3. We Can’t Carry On
4. The Dumbing of the Stupid
5. Early Warning
6. Tardigrades Will Inherit the Earth
7. Window onto the Sun
8. Lament
9. The Singing Fish of Batticaloa
10. The Andromeda Stain
11. Stranger than Fiction

Ed: Amy W

DIABLO w/ KYPCK @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 18.02.2017

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Diablo with KYPCK in Helsinki, 2017.
Photos by Janne Puronen.
Gig report coming soon.
Keikka-arvio tulossa.

NETTA SKOG – On the Rocks, Helsinki, 18.02.2017

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Netta Skog is no new name to the music scene, particularly in Finland. This champion accordionist made a name for herself as the replacement for Lisko in Turisas, but has since moved on to replace Emmi Silvennoinen in Ensiferum. I’ve personally never known her to perform solo shows, at least since she became a popular metal musician, so when she lined up a solo performance at On the Rocks on February 18th, 2017, I figured I should go see what sort of show she’d put on by herself… except she wasn’t completely alone! A few short hours before the show, she announced that she’d have a special guest on stage with her. You may have heard of him – Children of Bodom’s own Alexi Laiho.

[Due to a misunderstanding of the digital accordion’s capabilities, this review has been updated as of 24.02.2017]

 

With the club doors opening at 22:00, I thought it would be wise to show up a bit beforehand – you never know what kind of a crowd this sort of show would bring in. The venue was clearly kicking people out of the basement before they were letting show-goers in, so the line in the upstairs of the bar got a little bit insane around 22:00. With Laiho and Skog still doing some final touches on the sound, I was surprised that fewer people were early to the venue to stalk them. I mean, they both have their fair share of raving fans.

There was a steady trickle of people inside nevertheless, and from all walks of life. There were clear heavy fans donning their band shirts, with a lot of Ensiferum visible, as well as people that I assumed knew her for her work as a competitor. And so I found myself a seat wondering what sort of music the former-Turisas/present-Ensiferum/2015 World Championship victor would play at a solo show.

 

They were late getting started, with the showtime listed as 22:30, but the bar music didn’t fade out until 22:45, and that’s even after the original start time of 22:00 was announced to be pushed back. The lights grew dark and the fog machines started up, while Two Steps from Hell’s “Victory” played – great song! Skog took the stage, unfortunately seated, thus making it hard to see her, and started things off with “Poison” by Alice Cooper. She didn’t sing, rather choosing to let the accordion do the work for her, and at this point I have to make some changes to what I had originally written: I had originally thought that Skog was playing to a backing track, but after the fact, she informed me that these ‘backing tracks’ were all, in fact, played by her on the accordion. I will maintain that the sound was slightly unbalanced – what I would consider to be the back-up music (the looped guitars and drums) was overpowering the main riffs to a certain extent – I’m not sure if that relates simply to the mechanics of the accordion, or if it was the venue’s sound. However, having learned this, I am nothing short of amazed at the level of detail and intricacy she has put into these arrangements! This also explains how what I thought was the backing track stopped instantly in some songs at the same time she stopped, so, lesson learned, and I am truly humbled and wildly impressed.

She greeted the crowd enthusiastically, expressing how excited she was about this show. She then discussed playing Nightwish and asked the crowd to sing along with the next medley, starting with “I Want My Tears Back.” That was really interesting, as the accordion did a great job of the violin parts, sounding rather similar, but also gave it a bit of a sea shanty effect. However, having promised a “potpourri” of Nightwish, she transitioned this into “Nemo.” This switched again into something from Endless Forms Most Beautiful, I think, before going back to “I Want My Tears Back” briefly before finishing up. The crowd began shouting requests and she teased them a while before saying “no way” and that she had her own set, offering some Scorpions instead.

I didn’t recognize the next track, but Skog mentioned Bullet for My Valentine – turns out it was “Betrayal”, which is not one of their songs that I’m intimately familiar with. It sounded really cool on the accordion, and wickedly heavy before “Rock You like a Hurricane”, which was a ton of fun, particularly when she rocked the solo and got all the drunks clapping and singing along. I say drunks, incidentally, because the sober Finns hadn’t come out of their shells yet. She then asked who had seen her before, with Turisas, Mokoma, Turmion Kätilöt, and Children of Bodom, and thanked everyone for the support. She also gave a shout-out in English to the foreigners in the crowd as well, which was lovely.

Skog then started up a rather “well known” song, none other than Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”… and sang, only backing herself up a touch with the accordion, apart from the solo; the girl has a lovely voice, in case you weren’t aware. It’s a shame some of the older rocker drunks wrote the show off at this point, grumpily muttering that they should go somewhere else and listen to Iron Maiden – ironic, but I’ll get to that later.

She then asked the crowd if everyone was from Helsinki, and one woman shouted that she was from Rovaniemi, which Skog replied was incredibly cool. The crowd clearly clued into her next song faster than I did, as they started screaming before I figured out that she was playing a Children of Bodom medley. Interesting song choices though, and I’ve never seen anyone do a keyboard slide on an accordion before, so that was new for me. She then introduced her beloved friend, Alexi Laiho.

Laiho took his seat next to Skog and proved that there is good reason for his popularity, as he really revved the crowd up, shredding away like it was nothing to a song I didn’t know, but turned out to be Bodom’s “Every Time I Die” and “In Your Face.” Skog herself couldn’t help but rock out as he was going at it. The next track, “Lake Bodom”, was a personal favorite, as the mixing accordion and electric guitar traded off and sounded really cool together, even going full-on humppa for a while.

Laiho left the stage, and someone requested “Poison”, to which she teased the perpetrator mercilessly. She then suggested that the next songs would be by Amorphis, possibly newer material. That was another highlight, as it’s no secret that Under the Red Cloud won me over to Amorphis fandom. She then threw the crowd a curveball by starting up “The Trooper” by Iron Maiden, allowing the crowd to sing some of the vocals, and not even trying to hide her grin at the “ohh-oh” parts. It was a short rendition, but clearly the crowd was thrilled about it. Shame those cranky drunks had given up so soon, no? That’s what music snobbery will get you, it seems.

She finally announced the last song of the set, discussing a competition that she won some years ago, with Yngwie Malmsteen’s “Far Beyond the Sun.” It’s not a song I’m familiar with, but it got the crowd chanting and their fists in the air. I have to say, the neoclassical, wanky guitar music worked really nicely on the accordion.

The crowd called her back to the stage after she said her thanks, and she called her friend Alexi back as well. She then graced us with a little riff from her favorite accordion song, “Säkkijärven polkka”, as Laiho plugged in an acoustic guitar. She announced that the last song of the night would be “Hurts” by Johnny Cash (actually Nine Inch Nails, but they had been inspired by the Johnny Cash version when deciding to perform it) and profusely thanked the crowd once again. This was the only other song that she sang along with, other than “Wicked Game.” It was a very nice rendition, and one of the more stand-out of the night as it didn’t have that extra arrangement on the accordion, but rather, stuck to the traditional riffs that you would expect to hear from such an instrument. It was maybe not the most upbeat note to end the night on, but that’s hardly a fault, as it was a fun show as a whole.

 

So, this was a very interesting night, and reminded me why it’s rarely a bad idea to just go out and watch something new from time to time – particularly when taking on a new instrument that I apparently know absolutely nothing about. The show was really fun and Skog is a great showman, interacting with the crowd and getting a little cheeky when necessary. It reminded me a bit of Ilja Jalkanen’s troubadour shows. Plus she clearly had fun, bouncing around on her stool and smiling the whole time. I will say though that visually, it was less fun to see a show of two people sitting down than it could have been if they had stood. It might have been a little more compelling if she had owned the stage the way she owned the songs and the crowd. However, this s due to the footpedal she uses, so it makes sense that the music will be better if she its, and of course, that is the main point, right? And I must credit her for picking songs that were sure to please her audience. If you’ve lived in Finland and spent any time in the music community, you’ll understand what I mean. All she missed was “Tallulah” by Sonata Arctica. Overall though, apart from some issues with sound balance, I had a good time and I’d certainly recommend checking her out if you’re a fan of accordions and/or covers and/or Netta Skog!

Setlist (incomplete):
Intro: Victory (Two Steps from Hell)
1. Poison (Alice Cooper)
2. Nightwish medley (I Want My Tears Back, Nemo, Elán)
3. Betrayal (Bullet for My Valentine)
4. Rock You Like a Hurricane (Scorpions)
5. Wicked Game (Chris Isaak)
6. Children of Bodom medley (Hate Me, Downfall)
7. Every Time I Die, In Your Face (Children of Bodom; ft. Alexi Laiho)
8. Lake Bodom (Children of Bodom; ft. Alexi Laiho)
9. Amorphis medley (Tree of Ages, You I Need, House of Sleep)
10. The Trooper (Iron Maiden)
11. Far Beyond the Sun (Yngwie Malmsteen)

Encore:
12. Säkkijärven polkka (snippet)
13. Hurt (Nine Inch Nails; ft. Alexi Laiho)

Photos: Feng Deng

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Tuomas Saukkonen (Wolfheart), 2017

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You may or may not know about Wolfheart yet, but there’s reasonable certainty that you’ve at least heard of the band’s creator, Tuomas Saukkonen. Known for countless musical projects over the years, such as Before the Dawn and Black Sun Aeon to name a few, he decided a while ago to stop all projects to focus on one new one, and that is where Wolfheart comes in. With their sophomore album coming out on March 3rd, we thought we’d share the playlist of Tuomas Saukkonen’s life with you!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
“Over the Hills and Far Away” – Gary More

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
“Over the Hills and Far Away” – Gary More. That song made a huge impact.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
“Enter Sandman” – Metallica

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
“Mother Nature” – Scum

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
“Wash it all Away” – Five Finger Death Punch (good drumming warm up)

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
“Equador” – Sash

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Dr. Feelgood – Mötley Crüe

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
“A Drowning” – How to Destroy Angels

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
“Walk” – Pantera

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
“A Song for my Funeral” – Black Sun Aeon

 

Be sure to check out the video for “Boneyard” over here:

Wolfheart will be on tour this March. You can check them out in Finland here:
04.03 Helsinki, Virgin Oil Co
10.03 Jyväskylä, Lutakko
11.03 Oulu, Hevimesta

(2016) Amaranthe: Maximalism

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Artist: Amaranthe
Album: Maximalism
Released: 21.10.2016
Label: Spinefarm Records

 

I’ve been trying to decide for a good while now whether I should review Maximalism by Amaranthe. As you may or may not have caught, I was largely disappointed in this album the first time I heard it, with the opinion that it was simultaneously trying to be something it’s not and clinging too much to what they have already done in excess. Eventually, however, I decided that after 4 months, it was time to give it another spin and see if I like it better after some time away.

 

The thing is, I think this album has one massive flaw, which is an overall lack of cohesiveness. The band can’t seem to decide if they want to be an electronic/dance band or a metal band. While some bands, like Blind Channel and Ember Falls, have developed the ability to blend genres with style and grace, when Amaranthe blends genres, it sounds messy and overdone.

The first two tracks, “Maximize” and the single, “Boomerang”, hang closer to their original electro-metal sound, yet the album quickly degenerates into something that sounds like a sad effort to blend 80s rock (think Queen or Skid Row -era music) with modern electronic music, and I’m sorry to say, it’s not pretty. Those first two tracks manage to recreate their original sound fairly decently, with “Boomerang” almost sounding too much like songs from their self-titled debut (a good album with only one song on it, essentially), but ends up suffering from overproduction and a severe lack of heavy elements – namely, a lead guitar and decent drumming (sorry, Morten Sørensen). Honestly, if these guys had Ember Falls’ drummer, the album might not have failed quite as badly. To be honest, if you want to be considered a heavy band, you need more than one occasionally-present heavy element; talking about Henrik Wilmhelmsson‘s growls here. He is literally the only heavy factor in many of these songs, and as one of three vocalists, he’s not exactly the focus of the music. Still, the first two tracks manage to be decent, if overdone. At least the lyrical concept in “Boomerang” is somewhat clever.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the next three tracks, “That Song”, “21”, and “On the Rocks.” The first of these has an intro directly ripped off from “We Will Rock You” by Queen, featuring lyrics much like they’ve been taken from Bon Jovi’s discography (think “Livin’ on a Prayer”). The song feels horribly unoriginal, and while very catchy, doesn’t offer anything interesting in spite of the good vocal performances across the board. Meanwhile, “21” sounds like an uninspired version of every other song they’ve ever written, and “On the Rocks” just feels… dull. The “nah-nah” parts again feel a bit too oldschool 80s for this band’s style, and the rest of the music is purely uninteresting. There is a much-needed guitar solo by Olof Mörck, but it doesn’t last long enough to save the song.

I’ve noticed that Amaranthe likewise has a pattern on every album. I suspect they follow a sort of formula when they both write and organize their songs, because on every one of their albums, one of the slowest songs (usually a ballad) has always been track 6. It is also always the best song on the album – “Amaranthe” on their 2011 debut was beautiful, “Burn with Me” from The Nexus (2013) was heartfelt and easy to relate to, and “True” from 2014’s Massive Addictive had a great deal of romantic passion. Now we have “Limitless”, which is not quite their usual ballad, but still one of the the slowest songs, and likewise the best track on the album. Why, you may ask? Because this song actually has a specific style and some structure to it, unlike the rest. It slows down just enough to be cohesive and has some actual feeling and emotion to it. This is the only song I find myself moving to when I’m not paying attention – easily my favorite and probably the reason this album scored as high as it did for me (I’d have given it two fewer points if this song hadn’t been on it).

Sadly, the album continues on with yet another super-generic Amaranthe song that sounds like every other Amaranthe song ever: “Fury”, which didn’t manage to catch my eye in any way before the album moves onto more of the same in “Faster” – one of the few songs that sounds like original Amaranthe (probably because Jake E wrote this one) and manages to be interesting in its semi-Asian-influenced solo. Meanwhile, “Break Down and Cry” is another one of the only good songs on the album (also written by Jake), but has anyone else noticed some seriously bad file corruption on Spotify? This song glitches out like a badly scratched CD.

I could keep going, but at this point, there hardly seems to be any point to it. I find very few Amaranthe songs stand out from the masses. If anyone out there can name a non-single, non-ballad favorite Amaranthe song, I’ll be genuinely impressed, because after a while, they all just blend into one another. Don’t get me wrong, the music is catchy and fun, and I don’t necessarily dislike listening to it per se, but there’s just not much that differentiates one song from another. It’s all over-produced, offers almost nothing to appease fans of the heavy aspects, and Elize Ryd on vocals often sounds nearly identical to Rhianna. Even the bass (by Johan Andreassen) doesn’t stand out in the mix, and that’s a huge part of electronic metal that’s nearly completely absent.

“Endlessly” is the only other slower song, closing out the album, and it’s nice enough. However, the lyrics are pretty generic and again, the song lacks any necessary depth and beauty to make it stand out as a ballad; I find this particularly sad, as ballads were the one thing I always thought Amaranthe was great at. Love songs are a dime a dozen or more, so you have to work hard to make them mean something these days; Amaranthe used to do that, yet this song fails in that regard. Maybe if I was younger and had heard less music in the span of my life I’d like it, but I feel like I’ve heard these lyrics a thousand times before. There’s also something vaguely familiar about the riff that I can’t put my finger on. Maybe something by Queen again. I think it might have helped if this had been a proper duet with Jake E, as both male vocalists are mysteriously absent, and Jake in particular could have added some depth to the mix. Alas, it fades into oblivion as one more romantic yet unimaginative song.

 

I’ve been trying to be a fan of Amaranthe for ages now, but once again I find myself listening to their newest album with a rather large degree of distaste. Their music is fun and upbeat and great for festival scenarios, but as always, their albums have maybe one to three genuinely good songs, followed by a massive amount of unimaginative filler. I mean, even Ryd, who is an amazing singer, manages to sound painfully generic on this album. There isn’t a single song on that breaches the 4 minute length, making a 12-song album clock in at under 40 minutes, and still manages to feel overly long. It’s not a bad album if you want to listen to some pop music in the background and not pay attention, yet there are practically no songs that stand out and there are a few early on that are just downright bad. Honestly, I don’t know why they don’t drop Wilhelmsson’s growls altogether and just turn themselves into an electro-pop band, as that feels like the genre that holds their true passion, considering there is nothing heavy about them musically. I frankly can’t blame Jake E for dropping out of the band at this point.

Rating: 4/10, 2 stars.

Track list:
1. Maximize
2. Boomerang
3. That Song
4. 21
5. On the Rocks
6. Limitless
7. Fury
8. Faster
9. Break Down and Cry
10. Supersonic
11. Fireball
12. Endlessly

ARKONA w/ KIVIMETSÄN DRUIDI – Kuudes Linja, Helsinki, 17.02.2017 (English)

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The Tampere-based NEM Agency is doing fine cultural work in the domestic live music scene, since they finally got Arkona, the Russian folk metal act, to throw a gig in Finland. The band, founded in 2002 in Moscow, split up before the release of their first album, but the vocalist and primus motor, Maša Arihipova, gathered a group of studio musicians to record the band’s first two albums, and afterwards the session musicians joined the band as permanent members. Arkona has a reputation of being a great live act, and they’ve played pretty big stages with success in the past, so beforehand it was evident that the Finnish show was going to be intense, since it was to take place in the intimate Kuudes Linja on February 17th. Kouvola’s own Kivimetsän Druidi was there to warm up the stage, and since they’ve been active as long as Arkona, there was a certain Battle of the Nations –type of feel in the air.

Lue suomeksi TÄÄLLÄ!
Full gallery HERE!

 

In spite of being on a Friday, the showtimes were marked surprisingly early, with Kivimetsän Druidi starting at 19:30 and Arkona at 22:45. I arrived at Kuudes Linja at about 19:00, right at the time the doors were supposed to open, but it took a good 20 minutes to get the coatroom line moving. Fortunately the line melted away pretty fast, but as Kivimetsän Druidi started off their set a few minutes late, there were quite a few people who were still queuing outside, hoping to already be at the bar.

As with other Finnish folk metal acts with fantasy elements in their songs, KMD’s domestic fanbase hasn’t quite grown to the size they deserve, which is truly a shame; as always, the band played an excellent show to the somewhat small but steadily growing audience. Their latest release, last year’s The Lost Captains EP, was played in full and combined with nice picks from their previous efforts, and they even played the title track from their first EP, Kristallivuoren maa. The band was performing in a pleasant mood, getting the audience to shove their fists in the air and clap along, and the bassist, Simo Lehtonen, doing all the interim speeches, was as laid-back as ever. The mix was great for the most part, although Leeni-Maria Hovila’s classical vocals tended to get behind the rest of the band at times.

From their debut album, Shadowheart, the set ended with the feisty “Blacksmith” and “Jäässä varttunut”, the latter probably still being the band’s most well-known track. It’s not easy to make yourself known to the audience these days, especially when Kivimetsän Druidi doesn’t currently have a label to back them up and promote them, but I still wish that the band could yank their success to (at least) the next level, both in Finland and central Europe – their songs are clearly good enough for the task.

 

Near the end of the intermission, the atmosphere was almost tangible, as the music was changed to stripped-down traditional singing and the lights were dimmed to a minimum, with the venue being full of anxious people waiting for Arkona to take the stage. Finally the band of five climbed on stage and kicked things off with “Yav”, the colossal title track off their latest album. Every player was instantly moved into a passive role, as Arihipova took a hold of the situation with her unbelievable energy. She paced back and forth and let so many different sounds out of her vocal cords that I’m hard-pressed to think of another frontlady quite as spectacular. Of course the rest of the band performed with confidence and the band’s flutist, Vladimir Reshetnikov, was especially amazing to witness live, as in addition to his smaller fipple flute, he also played the bagpipe. The show wasn’t without minor technical difficulties, however, as Sergey Atrashkevich’s guitar amp blew something after a moment of popping sounds. The rest of the band barely noticed the situation and continued on, leaving Atrashkevich to fiddle with his gear without rush. After the amp was again up and running, he jumped in to the end of the song as nothing had happened.

The show had an amazing audience – fists were pumping in the air and the cheering was non-stop. Arihipova even got the audience to do a wall of death before ”Stenka na Stenku”; everyone who has attended a show at Kuudes Linja can probably imagine what I’m talking about if I say that it was a little pathetic. Also as a pretty rare but extremely nice move, Arkona didn’t leave the stage before their encore, but instead played their whole set in one piece, ending the show with Goi, Rode, Goi!’s “Yarilo.” Having thanked the audience wholeheartedly on almost every occasion she could, Arihipova once again told the audience how great they had been, and it was pretty clear that the show had been a great experience for both the band and the audience. The set wasn’t as long as a week ago in Moscow (30 songs!), but a tad short of an hour and a half was still more than enough. The light technician had utilized the stage’s setup to its fullest, and the sound was excellent throughout: the mixer spent the most of his time in the audience, adjusting the levels with his iPad – mobile apps are clearly making their way to live shows as well.

 

It’s always nice to attend shows at Kuudes Linja, as the whole package works regardless of music genre, and since the show ended pretty early, it was easy to continue with the evening in the city center. Earlier, as I was queuing to the ticket booth, I felt a great deal of pity towards this clearly under-aged girl, who had arrived at the venue with her dad and had purchased a ticket beforehand, begging the doorman to let her in, which obviously the guy couldn’t do. She was hugely disappointed, but I can say that if there’s anything to be deducted from tonight’s action, I think it’s a certainty that Arkona will return to Finland!

Photos: Miia Collander | Ed: Amy W

ARKONA w/ KIVIMETSÄN DRUIDI – Kuudes Linja, Helsinki, 17.02.2017 (suomeksi)

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Tamperelainen NEM Agency tekee tällä hetkellä hienoa kulttuurityötä kotimaisessa tapahtumaskenessä, sillä ohjelmatoimisto sai viimein venäläisen pitkän linjan folk metal –yhtye Arkonan Suomeen keikalle. Vuonna 2002 perustettu moskovalaisbändi hajosi pian perustamisensa jälkeen, mutta vokalisti ja primus motor Maša Arihipova herätti yhtyeen uudelleen henkiin studiomuusikoiden voimin, ja pian sessiojäsenet liittyivätkin bändiin vakituisesti. Kovan livebändin maineessa oleva Arkona on ehtinyt kiertää isojakin lavoja menestyksekkäästi, joten tiedossa oli intensiivinen keikka, olihan tapahtumapaikkana intiimi Kuudes Linja. Illan avaajaksi oli valikoitunut Arkonan kanssa samanikäinen, kouvolalainen Kivimetsän Druidi, joten ilmassa oli myös selkeää Suomi-Venäjä -ottelutunnelmaa.

Read in English HERE!
Galleria TÄÄLLÄ!

 

Vaikka kyseessä oli perjantaipäivä, illan aikataulu oli yllättävän aikainen ovien avautuessa jo seitsemältä, Kivimetsän Druidin aloittaessa puoli kahdeksalta ja Arkonan varttia vaille yhdeksän. Ehdin paikalle seitsemän pintaan, mutta ovet avautuivat lopulta vasta melkein kahtakymmentä yli. Narikkajono veti onneksi mukavaa vauhtia, mutta Kivimetsän Druidin aloittaessa hieman myöhässä pihalla oli varmasti vielä suuri joukko ihmisiä, jotka olisivat mielellään olleet jo baaritiskillä notkumassa.

Kuten kotimaisilla astetta enemmän fantasiaelementteihin nojaavilla folk metal –bändeillä yleensä, KMD:nkään suosio ei ole Suomessa koskaan noussut aivan sille tasolle jonka bändi ansaitsisi, mikä on todella harmi. Bändi soitti jälleen kerran takuuvarman keikan kohtuullisen harvalukuiselle, joskin jatkuvasti kasvavalle yleisölle. Monen vuoden levytystauon katkaissut, mainio The Lost Captains –EP soitettiin kokonaan, minkä lisäksi setissä oli hyviä valintoja uran varhaisemmilta vaiheilta, ja käytiinpä sitä ensimmäisellä Kristallivuoren maa –EP:lläkin asti. Bändi esiintyi hyväntuulisesti ja sai yleisön osallistumaan nyrkkien heiluttamiseen ja taputtamiseen mukavasti, ja välispiikit hoitanut basisti Simo Lehtonen oli jälleen leppoisa itsensä. Miksaus oli suurimmaksi osaksi hyvin kohdallaan, joskin Leeni-Maria Hovilan klassinen laulu jäi paikoitellen muun bändin jalkoihin.

Setti päättyi ärhäkästi debyyttilevy Shadowheartin ”Blacksmithiin” sekä musiikkivideobiisi ”Jäässä varttuneeseen”, joka lienee edelleen Kivimetsän Druidin tunnetuin kappale. Nykyaikana edukseen erottuminen on jatkuvasti vaikeampaa, varsinkin kun bändin takana ei ole tällä hetkellä levy-yhtiötä hoitamassa promootiota, mutta toivoisin bändille silti ainakin kertaluokkaa suurempaa sukseeta niin kotimaassa kuin Keski-Euroopassakin – ei tällä kappalemateriaalilla ainakaan hävitä voi.

 

Arkonaa edeltäneen roudaustauon lopussa tunnelma oli miltei käsinkosketeltava, kun perinteisempi väliaikamusiikki vaihdettiin riisuttuun perinnelauluun ja valot himmennettiin minimiin lähes täyden salin odottaessa kiivaasti bändiä lavalle. Lopulta viisihenkinen Arkona kipusi lavalle ja keikka käynnistyi uusimman Yav-levyn kolossaalisen pituisella nimikappaleella. Bändin soittajisto jäi välittömästi statistien rooliin, sillä laulaja Arihipova otti tilan haltuun uskomattomalla energiallaan. Hän sinkoili pitkin poikin lavaa ja päästi kurkustaan niin montaa erityylistä ääntä, ettei ihan heti tule mieleen toista yhtä vaikuttavaa keulahahmoa – mikkiständiäkin huidottiin ilmaan kuin stadionkeikalla konsanaan. Muukin bändi esiintyi vakuuttavasti, ja varsinkin huilisti Vladimir Reshetnikovin soittoa oli mahtavaa kuunnella livenä miehen soittaessa sekä pientä nokkahuilua että säkkipilliä. Teknisiltä ongelmilta ei täysin vältytty: läpi keikan alkupuolen PA:sta kuultiin paikoittaista napsumista, ja jossain vaiheessa kitaristi Sergey Atrashkevichin vahvistin mykistyi täysin. Muu bändi ei tästä ollut moksiskaan, ja menossa ollut kappale jatkui pelkällä bassolla. Atrashkevich räpläsi vahvarinsa kuntoon rauhassa ja hyppäsi kappaleen loppuun lennosta mukaan saatuaan tekniikan taas toimimaan.

Keikalla oli aivan loistava yleisö: nyrkit puivat ilmaa taukoamatta ja huutomyrsky oli jatkuvaa. Arihipova myös yllytti yleisön wall of deathiin ennen ”Stenka na Stenkua”; kutosen kokoisessa keikkapaikassa näkyä pystyi kuvailla vain sanalla sympaattinen. Arkona teki harvinaisen, mutta äärimmäisen toimivan ratkaisun jättämällä turhan lavalta poistumisen ja palaamisen pois. Bändi soitti koko settinsä yhteen menoon, lopettaen keikan Goi, Rode, Goi! -levyn ”Yariloon”. Arihipova kiitteli yleisöä lähes jokaisen kappaleen jälkeen vuolaasti, ja oli selvää, että keikka oli hieno kokemus sekä bändille että yleisölle. Viikon takaisen Moskovan keikan pituuteen (30 kappaletta!) ei tämän illan settilistassa sentään ylletty, mutta nämäkin vajaat puolitoista tuntia olivat täyttä asiaa. Valomies käytti lavan kevyttä valoarsenaalia mainiosti hyödykseen, minkä lisäksi soundit olivat kautta linjan loistavat. Miksaaja vietti suurimman osan ajasta yleisön seassa säätäen lavaääntä iPadistaan – mobiilisovellukset tekevät selkeästi tuloaan bänditekniikkaankin.

 

Kutosella on aina mukavaa käydä keikalla, sillä homma toimii musiikkigenrestä riippumatta, ja keikan aikainen alkamisajankohtakin mahdollisti illan jatkamisen mukavasti keskustassa. Keikalle vielä jonottaessani kävi sääliksi isänsä kanssa paikalle tullutta selkeästi alaikäistä tyttöä, jolla oli lippukin etukäteen hankittuna, mutta jota ovimies ei voinut ottaa sisään baariin. Pettymys oli selkeästi todella suuri, mutta lohdutukseksi voin sanoa: jos illan meiningistä mitään voi päätellä, Arkona palaa vielä satavarmasti Suomeen!

Kuvat: Miia Collander | Ed: Ville Karttunen

NETTA SKOG @ On the Rocks, Helsinki, 18.02.2017

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Netta Skog ft. Alexi Laiho, Helsinki 2017.
Photos by Feng Deng.

KREATOR w/ ABORTED, SOILWORK, & SEPULTURA @ Progresja, Warsaw, 15.02.2017

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Kreator with Aborted, Soilwork, and Sepultura in Progresja, 2017.
Photos by Maria Sawicka.

In the Studio: Frosttide, part 1

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In case you haven’t gotten the news, Frosttide underwent a line-up change toward the end of 2016. As such, it’s time to look to the future, and Frosttide is continuing their journey now, having already spent some time in the studio working on their next album as a trio. First off, we wanted to check what the situation is with the band, as they now lack a bassist.

“Juho [Patinen, guitar/vocals] will take care of the bass for this album. Frosttide is a unit where everybody’s contribution is needed. For the moment, we will remain as a three-piece band and future shows will be carried out with help from session musicians. Eventually we will take new members to the band but we will take our time to make sure these are the right musicians. The last live guitars were played by our friends Markus Hirvonen [Noumena & Avenie] and bass by Matti Auerkallio [Manzana, Soulfallen, Ultimatium, Avenie]. We are very thankful to them for helping us with the last two shows without any hesitation.”

While in the past, the distance between cities didn’t cause too much trouble during the songwriting and recording process, Felipe’s [Muñoz, keyboards] recent temporary move to Jyväskylä has simplified the process.

“Felipe moved to Jyväskylä last December [2016] until the end of March to work in the new album. At the moment, everything is very easy as we are recording everything on our own and we are living in the same city. The recording process is going great! There is good chemistry within the band and we are very happy how the new material is progressing.

When recording Blood Oath, the entire band was present when recording drums and vocals. Bass and guitars were recorded at Juho’s home studio in Jyväskylä, and Felipe recorded most of the keyboards/orchestration tracks at home in Tampere. Still, he had to visit Jyväskylä several times to record the final orchestrations with Juho. The schedule was very hectic so it was definitely energy-consuming. For this chapter, everything is easier when compared to the previous recordings.”

When it comes to the writing itself, we were curious as to how far along the band is at this point. As well, it’s clear that the band writes very collaboratively, but we were interested to hear if there’s any concept at this point.

“Before going into recording mode, the album concept is set and most of the songs are written. Still, we are very open to make changes on the go. We like to try new ideas as long it respects the vision of the song. For example, the drums came to be quite different from what on the demo tracks were like. And these new drum parts also led us to make some changes in the arrangements for the other instruments. It will be the same for the guitars and keyboards. It is very exciting to see how these songs evolve from the demos into their final form!”

That concludes our first discussion about the upcoming Frosttide album. Stay tuned for more!

ARKONA w/ KIVIMETSÄN DRUIDI @ Kuudes Linja, Helsinki, 17.02.2017

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Arkona’s first gig in Finland, with Kivimetsän Druidi, Helsinki 2017.
Photos by Miia Collander.
Gig report in English HERE!
Keikka-arvio suomeksi TÄÄLLÄ!

(2017) Lost in Grey – The Grey Realms

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Artist: Lost in Grey
Album: The Grey Realms
Release: 03.03.2017
Label: NoiseArt Records

 

Lost in Grey is a newcomer to the Finnish metal scene, even if frontman Harri Koskela [Thaurorod] is not. This symphonic metal project tells the story of Lillian, who is running away and gets lost in a place called the Grey Realms. There she meets the rulers, Patrick and Odessa, and though the place seems like paradise at first, she soon becomes disenchanted with it and is forced to deal with the things from which she was fleeing. This musical sextet was formed in 2013 and now has their debut album out in two short weeks. With a lot of positive words being spoken about this band, it seemed like it’d be worth my while to give the album a listen. My only regret is that I didn’t have the album’s lyrics in front of me, as it’s hard to review a concept album without the lyrics to help delve into the story.

 

My first impression as the album started was that it might appeal to fans of Epica. It has that same feeling Epica’s songs often offer, cranking things up to 11 immediately and then turning it down afterwards (if at all). The first track, “Waltz of Lillian”, hits hard and fast with a bombastic intro and some operatic backing vocals, before it calms down (I particularly enjoyed that progression) completely to vocalist Harri Koskela, singing nearly alone but for some ambient music and soft keys. You can imagine him on a stage alone under a single spotlight. One of the female vocalists joins in, and then the music picks up very nicely. I’m not 100% sure what I’m hearing after the female vocalist departs, but it sounds like clean and growling vocals simultaneously. Symphonics, vocalists of all types and styles, and dynamics up the wazoo – if you’re into this type of heavy drama in your music, I’m already pretty convinced, based on this one song, that this album will be right up your alley.

“Road to Styx” starts off with some guitars that sound rather like (neo)classical power metal (Symphony X, Rhapsody of Fire, etc), but amps up with the symphonics and double-kick (by Joonas Pykälä-aho) pretty much instantly. One of the female vocalists – either Emily Leone or Anne Lill – is largely in charge of the vocals in this track, though she is frequently backed up by the growls, and they work rather nicely together; the wordless notes that Leone (I’m assuming, because she’s the operatic singer, right?) frequently sings in the background are lovely. There’s a pretty 80s-style synth solo around three quarters of the way through that was rather surprising, but not too out of place. Following this, the song goes into full theatrical drama with what feels like a medieval stage choir getting a bit freaky at a masquerade.

The intro to “Dark Skies” sounds potentially Asian folk-influenced, and the first verses are quite balanced between the music and symphonics in energy. At this point, I realized that without my speaker system connected, I was enjoying this album less than I had in the past – this album does very well with a proper sound system, and feels a bit limp played on laptop speakers. I’ll chalk a bit of that up to Aapo Lindberg on bass. There seemed to be a Tolkien reference, intentional or not (Misty Mountains) hidden in there, though I’m not sure to what effect. Lyrically, this song seems to offer a degree of temptation from the male vocalist. I’m not sure whether or not I appreciate the female vocalist’s attempt at vocal grit towards the end, as she drops it eventually (or it switches to the other vocalist, whom I assume is Leone as it gets a bit operatic) and it sounds a bit better from there on out.

“Revelation” has an ambient, whispering, folky intro, and I really like it. The build-up is perhaps slightly too instant and powerful, but I can’t dislike it because the folk elements in it are really great. If you want really strong growls combined with some pretty excellent double-kick, “Revelation” is a definite winner. The female vocals that start up the verses are lovely as well, and this song has begun to feel like my favorite from the album, at least at this point. The next part is taken over by the growling male vocals, which are also sounding particularly good in this track. Props as well to Miika Haavisto on guitars for this track, for the echoing effects and somewhat Blind Guardian-esque medieval sound blending with the straight-up classic electric guitar bits. Just after 5 minutes in, there’s a wicked slow dynamic, with some lurking keys, slowly building into something that picks up oh so gently when the vocalist joins in. Yeah, we’ll call this my favorite from this album.

“Revelation” transitions seamlessly into “The Order”, which has a definite theatrical vibe to it, bringing back that sensation of watching a play, particularly in some of the female vocals from Leone (I think) that sound like comments, as though you’re listening to a conversation. It also has nice Gregorian-style chants toward the end that are really excellent. “New Horizon” shows some folk influence as well in its gentle intro, in a more Viking metal style than the prior Asian-sounding intro in “Dark Skies” at least. This is one of my favorite parts on the album as well, sounding very mystical and somehow mythological. This is a very choir-centric song, but manages to not get too over-the-top.

The title track is also the album’s epic, clocking in at over 12 minutes in length. It opens with a gentle vocal intro with light backing instrumentals, with the vocals fading out, and the sweet instrumental bit is nicely highlighted. The hint of violin in the progression is really well-done as well. In particular, this is one song where I would’ve liked to know the lyrics, as I feel like something really interesting and climactic is happening in the story, at least based on the overall feel of the song. The long fade-out matches the intro as well, creating a full-circle track that feels very complete, with added folk elements toward the end. Feeling-wise, this could be the last track, as it does feel quite final. However, there are still 6 minutes to go in the form of “Silence Falls”, which has a soft violin intro and again flows seamlessly from “The Grey Realms.” The starting vocals reminded me strongly of old-era Sharon den Adel from Within Temptation, and all of the vocalists come together quite nicely in this track. Actually, this track winds the album’s energy down beautifully and works even better as a closer than “The Grey Realms” would have, even if I can’t comment on the story.

 

After listening through this album once, my first thoughts were that it was a very ambitious project, but perhaps had a bit too much crammed into a mere eight songs. Some of the songs are pretty over-the-top, but I’d be a fool to think there aren’t people out there who will totally love that (such as the aforementioned Epica fans). However, after a few listens, more and more of the musical nuances began to stand out, and I’d say, in particular, those who like really strong symphonic music will likely appreciate this. I complained a bit that The Holographic Principle was turned up to 11 the entire time and became overwhelming – this album doesn’t suffer from that issue, as the dynamics are pretty nice throughout. I’m a big fan of Michiru Yamane (who writes Castlevania soundtracks, if the name is unfamiliar), and there were parts of this album that gave me that epic, classical Castlevania soundtrack vibe. Overall, the quality of the album is pretty excellent, so if this sort of high-powered symphonic music is to your taste, I’d certainly recommend giving this album a spin or four.

Rating: 9/10, 4.5 stars.

Tracklist:
1. Waltz of Lillian
2. Road to Styx
3. Dark Skies
4. Revelation
5. The Order
6. New Horizon
7. The Grey Realms
8. Silence Falls

(2017) Tim Bowness: Lost in the Ghost Light

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Artist: Tim Bowness
Album: Lost in the Ghost Light
Release date: 17.02.2017
Label: InsideOut

 

Tim Bowness is best known as the other half of the British art pop duo No-Man, which also includes Steven Wilson. For some reason, No-Man’s music has failed to resonate with me, although I like most of Wilson’s projects, but I did enjoy “No Celebrations,” the OSI song that Bowness sang on as a guest vocalist. Since Wilson has been busy with his other endeavors lately, Bowness has concentrated on his solo career; Lost in the Ghost Light is his fourth solo album overall, and his third in the past 3 years.

 

The concept of Lost in the Ghost Light deals with an elderly rock musician reflecting on his career and the changes in the music industry, as well as their impact on his private life. Bowness has gathered an impressive line-up for the album that includes bassist Colin Edwin [Porcupine Tree] and guitarist Bruce Soord [The Pineapple Thief], to name a few. Out of the additional guest musicians, the most famous has got to be the legendary Jethro Tull flutist, Ian Anderson.

The music has a lush 70s feel reminiscent of bands like Camel, which complements the album’s theme. The keyboards play a salient role, and old-school sounds such as the organ on the opener “World of Yesterday” and the Moog on “Moonshot Manchild” add a lot to the classic feel of the album. You’d be hard-pressed to find distorted guitar riffs here, but the 6-strings are in the spotlight during the rocking “Kill the Pain That’s Killing You” and “You’ll Be the Silence” has a brilliant guitar solo towards the end. String arrangements enrich “Nowhere Good to Go”, while the flute makes the closer “Distant Summers” memorable. However, it’s Bowness himself who is in the center – his delivery reminds me a bit of Peter Nicholls of IQ and is a little on the laconic side, but dulcet enough to justify the vocal-centric approach of the songs. “You Wanted to Be Seen” is my favorite track here, starting off beautifully as a piano ballad and culminating in a glorious crescendo where the guitars roar and the violins sound dramatic.

Lost in the Ghost Light manages not to sound like tired classic prog worship despite its retro leanings, and although the instrumentation is fairly subdued, even the 9-minute tracks remain compelling until the very end. The sedative nature of the music makes the songs blend into each other a little bit, but instead of making the listening experience boring, the result is a cohesive record that is pleasurable to listen to – the 43 minutes fly by more quickly than you notice. However, I can’t help thinking that at least one more rock-oriented or otherwise powerful song would’ve been a good addition, especially considering the ‘rock star’ theme. The combination of Bowness’s calm voice and intense music is so successful on “Kill the Pain That’s Killing You,” just like the OSI collaboration back in the day. On the other hand, the gentle and 70s-influenced approach suits the reflective mood of the concept, and Lost in the Ghost Light is a good chill-out album as is. In Musicalypse’s Playlist of My Life series, one of the slots is for “a song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage,” and I could place this whole record in that spot, which is not a bad thing!

Rating: 8/10, 4 stars

Tracklist:
1. Worlds of Yesterday
2. Moonshot Manchild
3. Kill the Pain That’s Killing You
4. Nowhere Good to Go
5. You’ll Be the Silence
6. Lost in the Ghost Light
7. You Wanted to Be Seen
8. Distant Summers

Ed: Amy W

DARK SARAH w/ ARION – Virgin Oil Co., Helsinki, 11.02.2017

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On a dark and slippery Saturday night, sometimes it’s best to stay home. However, occasionally, there comes an event that’s intriguing enough to pull you away from the warm cozy comfort of your house, and on the 11th of February, 2017, Dark Sarah’s release show for their latest album, The Puzzle, (which, interestingly enough, was released November 18th, 2016) was one such event. With Arion as the opener (along with another new name, Manzana), and considering I hadn’t even heard of Dark Sarah until a week or so ago, I figured it’d be worth my while to pop by and check it out.

Full gallery HERE!
Listen along with the setlist here:

 

I was too late to the venue to check out Manzana, but made it just in time to catch Arion’s set. They started things out with “Out of the Ashes” and unfortunately, the sound quality was immediately abysmal. The sound engineer did some work to fix it, but alas, as is common at Virgin Oil, the show never achieved a proper balance. This has plagued Arion every time I’ve seen them at this venue, which is to say, every time I’ve seen them save once, at On the Rocks of all places. Nevertheless, the band gave it their all, as is to be expected from these guys.