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PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Markus “Rabapagan” Teeäär, 2017

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While Finland has some of the most famous folk and pagan metal bands in the world, there are a few gems to be found in other countries, such as our neighbors to the south in Estonia. The most well-known Estonia folk metal band is easily none other than Metsätoll, and this week we have the playlist of Markus “Rabapagan” Teeäär’s life for you!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
Maurice Ravel -Bolero.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
Faith No More – “Zombie Eaters”

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Prodigy – “Poison”; Obituary – “Infected”

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
W.A.S.P – “Jack Action”; KISS – “King of the Mountain”

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
Killing Joke – “European Super State”

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Lana Del Ray – “West Coast”

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

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

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

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Rotting Christ – “Sleep of the Angels”; Leaether Strip – “Mortal Thoughts”; Gunnar Graps – “Onu Volli”

 

Check out our gallery from their last show in Helsinki HERE!

Or listen to their music on Spotify!

(2017) Tuesday the Sky: Drift (English)

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Artist: Tuesday the Sky
Album: Drift
Release: 30.06.2017
Label: InsideOut

 

It’s no secret that Jim Matheos is one of my favorite musicians. As the captain of progressive metal pioneers Fates Warning and the other half of the OSI duo, this American guitarist has crafted an impressive body of work, on top of which he’s made three solo albums and worked with ex-Fates Warning singer John Arch in Arch/Matheos. Tuesday the Sky is yet another addition to the ever-creative man’s CV; an instrumental rock outfit expanding on what was originally meant to be just a Fates Warning bonus track.

 

According to Matheos, the songs typically started with him experimenting with guitar effects and then coming up with musical ideas, rather than the other way round. The album should indeed tickle the fancy of guitarists and sound geeks: from the cool tremolo of “Far and Away” to the mysterious tones of “Dyatlov Pass,” Matheos masters the use of soundscapes. To give a brief description of the music on Drift, I’d say it’s like post-rock, except not boring. The drummer on the album is Lloyd Hanney of God is an Astronaut, which makes these genre comparisons even more inevitable. I’ve tried giving a chance to bands like Sigur Ros, but my general problem with post-rock is that the songs often seem to take an eternity to build up. Tuesday the Sky avoids this pitfall, as no song on the album grinds on and on endlessly – the 4-7-minute length within which the songs stay really is the sweet spot for this kind of music. The almost-self-titled track, “Today the Sky”, is a good flagship for what the album is all about, as the song grows and blooms gracefully from the quiet beginning like the prettiest flowers. “It Comes in Waves” is the absolute gem here, moving effortlessly from light to melancholy just like a day, from a sunny noon to a sunset. “Kite” should warm the hearts of shoegaze listeners (including yours truly), and the way the song maintains its beauty even during the sudden surge of noisy distortion at the end is incredible.

It’s cool how Drift covers plenty of new ground, yet at the same time you can hear Matheos’ mark all over the compositions and playing. A leopard can’t change its spots: “Dyatlov Pass” gets rather metallic and Fates Warning-reminiscent towards the end (maybe this was the song that got everything started?), the glitchy vocals (courtesy of Anna-Lynne Williams, who also lends her wordless singing to the serene “Westerlies”) on “Vortex Street” must’ve been influenced by Matheos’ OSI past, and “Roger Gordo” takes advantage of spoken word samples like both of the aforementioned bands have. Speaking of that, Matheos’ OSI collaborator – another hero of mine – Kevin Moore only appears on two tracks, although the project’s name is based on his obscure demo track “Wednesday the Sky.” Regardless, you can hear Moore’s musical fingerprints on these songs, as “It Comes in Waves” features his signature Rhodes, and the electronic sounds of the title-track are also typical of him. Although sadly new OSI doesn’t seem to be anywhere on the horizon at the moment, it’s comforting that the pair is still collaborating actively, since Matheos has also contributed some guitar to Moore’s new Chroma Key material.

 

The only weakness of Drift is that the album is quite front-loaded, as the best songs are in the first half. Don’t get me wrong – a track like “The Rowing Endeth” is good, but just gets overshadowed by the greatness of what’s come before it. That said, the soundscapes are fascinating, and the moods are varied enough to hold your interest – bright and warm, dark and haunting, organic and electronic. As someone who’s mainly a fan of music with vocals, I have to admit I’m not sure Drift will be on heavy rotation in my headphones, but it’s a really good record in its own right and absolutely worth your time if you’ve enjoyed Matheos’ previous work or atmospheric instrumental rock in general.

Rating: 8/10, 4 stars

Tracklist:
1. Today the Sky
2. Kite
3. Vortex Street
4. It Comes in Waves
5. Dyatlov Pass
6. Far and Away
7. Westerlies
8. Roger Gordo
9. The Rowing Endeth
10. Drift

(2017) Tuesday the Sky: Drift (suomeksi)

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Artisti: Tuesday the Sky
Albumi: Drift
Julkaisupäivä: 30.06.2017
Levy-yhtiö: InsideOut

 

Ei ole mikään salaisuus, että Jim Matheos on yksi suosikkimuusikoistani. Progemetallipioneeri Fates Warningin kipparina ja OSI-duon toisena puoliskona amerikkalaiskitaristi on luonut vaikuttavan tuotannon, jonka lisäksi hän on tehnyt kolme soololevyä ja yhteistyötä entisen Fates Warning -solisti John Archin kanssa Arch/Matheosissa. Tuesday the Sky on jälleen yksi lisäys tuotteliaan miehen cv:hen; instrumentaalinen rock-projekti, joka sai alkusysäyksensä alun perin Fates Warningin bonusraidaksi tarkoitetusta kappaleesta.

 

Matheosin mukaan kappaleet saivat tyypillisesti alkunsa kitaraefektikokeiluilla ennen varsinaisen musiikin säveltämistä, eli päinvastoin kuin perinteisellä menetelmällä. Albumin luulisikin hivelevän kitaristien ja kamarunkkarien korvia, sillä Matheos taitaa äänimaisemien luonnin “Far and Awayn” jännistä tremoloista “Dyatlov Passin” salamyhkäisiin soundeihin. Kuvaillakseni musiikkia lyhyesti, sanoisin sen olevan kuin post-rockia, mutta ilman tylsyyttä. Albumilla soittaa rumpuja God Is an Astronautin Lloyd Hanney, mikä tekee genrevertailusta vielä välttämättömämpää. Olen yrittänyt kuunnella Sigur Rosin kaltaisia bändejä, mutta yleisenä ongelmana post-rockissa näen sen, että kappaleilla kestää ikuisuus päästä vauhtiin. Tuesday the Sky välttää tämän sudenkuopan, sillä yksikään kappale ei jauha paikallaan loputtomiin – 4-7 minuutin pituus, jonka sisällä biisit pysyvät, on optimaalinen kesto tällaisessa musiikissa. Melkein bändin mukaan nimetty “Today the Sky” on oiva lippulaiva levylle, kappale kun kasvaa ja puhkeaa loistoon kuin kauneimmat kukat. “It Comes in Waves” on ehdotonta voittaja-ainesta, liikkuen vaivattomasti valosta melankoliaan kuin keskipäivä auringonlaskuun konsanaan. “Kite” lämmittänee kenkiintuijottelun ystäviä (joihin myös allekirjoittanut lukeutuu), ja tapa, jolla biisi säilyttää kauneutensa jopa lopun äkillisen säröpurkauksen aikana, on ihmeellinen.

On jännä, miten Drift hiihtää uusia musiikillisia latuja, mutta samanaikaisesti Matheosin kädenjälki kuuluu vankasti sävellyksissä ja soitossa. Koira ei karvoistaan pääse: “Dyatlov Pass” äityy melko metalliseksi ja fateswarningmaiseksi loppua kohti (kenties tästä kappaleesta kaikki sai alkunsa?), “Vortex Streetin” pätkivään lauluun (josta vastaava Anna-Lynne Williams lainaa sanatonta lauluaan myös seesteiseen “Westerliesiin”) on varmasti vaikuttanut Matheosin OSI-menneisyys, ja “Roger Gordo” hyödyntää molemman edellä mainitun yhtyeen tavoin puhesampleja. Siitä puheen ollen, Matheosin OSI-kumppani – toinen sankarini – Kevin Moore esiintyy vain kahdessa kappaleessa, vaikka projektin nimi pohjautuu hänen demobiisiinsä “Wednesday the Sky”. Mooren näpit ovat kuitenkin vahvasti pelissä näissä kappaleissa, sillä “It Comes in Wavesissa” kuullaan hänen tavaramerkki-Rhodesiaan, ja nimibiisin elektroniikka on myös hänelle tyypillistä. Vaikka valitettavasti uutta OSI:ta ei liene juuri nyt näköpiirissä, on lohduttavaa että parivaljakko työskentelee yhä säännöllisesti yhdessä, sillä Matheosin kitarointia kuullaan myös Mooren tuoreessa Chroma Key -materiaalissa.

 

Driftin ainut heikkous on se, että parhaat kappaleet on sijoitettu levyn alkupuolelle. Vaikka esimerkiksi “The Row Endeth” on sinänsä hyvä, se jää hieman jo sitä ennen kuullun mahtavuuden varjoon. Levyn äänimaisemat ovat kuitenkin upeita ja kappalemateriaali ja sen tunnelmat riittävän vaihtelevia – löytyy niin kirkasta ja lämmintä, synkeää ja aavemaista kuin orgaanista ja elektronista. Pääasiallisesti lauletun musiikin ystävänä on pakko myöntää etten ole varma, päätyykö Drift tehosoittoon kuulokkeissani, mutta se on erittäin onnistunut teos omassa genressään ja ehdottomasti tutustumisen arvoinen niille, jotka pitävät ennestään Fates Warningista ja OSI:sta tai ylipäätään maalailevasta instrumentaalirockista.

Arvosana: 8/10, 4 tähteä

Kappalelista:
1. Today the Sky
2. Kite
3. Vortex Street
4. It Comes in Waves
5. Dyatlov Pass
6. Far and Away
7. Westerlies
8. Roger Gordo
9. The Rowing Endeth
10. Drift

(2017) Cellar Darling – This is the Sound

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Artist: Cellar Darling
Album: This is the Sound
Release: 30.06.2017
Label: Nuclear Blast

 

Let me be frank – I’ve been terrified to listen to this album. I really like Cellar Darling. I like Anna Murphy, I like Ivo Henzi, and I like Merlin Sutter. I appreciate their honesty, their straightforwardness, their passion, their heart, their soul, and I want more than anything to like their music. However, their first two releases, “Challenge” and “Fire, Wind, and Earth”, didn’t quite grasp me the way I had hoped. I’m also feeling like the chances of me being crucified by fans who will love their music simply because they love the people who make it is pretty high (though I am so glad to know that these guys have such loyal and dedicated fans before their album has already been released).

However, I also don’t want to judge an album by two songs, nor say that I don’t like the album before I’ve given it an honest-to-goodness chance. So I’ve put it on and listened to it a few times to figure out my overall impression of what these three lovely people are offering the music world.

Be sure to read our interview with these guys over HERE!

 

The album starts off very strongly with “Avalanche”, which has an eerie and moving intro, with some of the most interesting use of hurdy-gurdy that I’ve ever heard. Murphy’s creative way of singing the word ‘avalanche’ over and over manages to create a certain ambiance that I find vastly pleasing. I could certainly consider this for the most chilling song of 2017.

The album continues with another single that you’ve already likely heard, “Black Moon”, which is one of my favorites on the album as one of the heaviest songs, with it’s catchy and powerful chorus. Murphy again proves to be nicely diverse vocally, and I like her backing chants quite a lot.

Another single follows yet again in the form of “Challenge” – a song about rejecting complacency and always fighting forwards and challenging oneself. I appreciate this song’s message quite a lot, and this song gets stuck in my head like no other… unfortunately, while the lyrics are good, I find this song on the whole to be a bit boring, or perhaps repetitive. Credit where due though, the use of strings and hurdy-gurdy work very well in this, and I can definitely see why people like it so much.

“Hullabaloo” has a heavier intro, with a lot going on during the chorus – you can see the complexity of the writing shining in this one. The musical interludes are definitely fun, and I particularly like what’s going on around 2:45. A piano introduces “Six Days”, opening softly and darkly, with some cool guitar work, though the pianos take center stage in this track. Meanwhile, “The Hermit” picks up the pace and has a bright, cheeriness to it musically. “Water” changes the pace yet again, which I find somewhere between the mystical prowess of Ayreon and old classics like Led Zeppelin. It doesn’t last long though, almost acting as an intro or interlude before the heavier and more energetic “Fire, Wind, & Earth”, which I have to admit is growing on me a little at this point.

“Rebels” begins to shine when the hurdy-gurdy comes in, blending nicely with the guitars at the 1:00 point. “Under the Oak Tree” sounds almost like an alternative rock song, which is a nice switch-up. The song feels quite familiar stylistically, though I haven’t been able to pinpoint what it reminds me of. “High Above These Crowns” starts out sounding a lot like an outro track, with gentle backing music that emphasizes the vocals, which are clearly the focal (aural?) point to start out with. Even when the music kicks in, the song feels rather final or conclusive.

“Starcrusher” is another fun, upbeat song. Murphy’s deeper vocals kick things off, and this song actually starts to feel like a repetition of a few other songs on the album, making me wonder if there are a few too many songs on the album at this point – this is already track 12 after all. “Hedonia”, on the other hand, is the longest song on the album, clocking in at over 7 minutes, and Murphy is singing in another language that I’m afraid I don’t recognize. This is one of the coolest songs on the album again, picking up in a really interesting and fun way, and it definitely stands out as one of the more unusual songs on the album. “Redemption” again is feeling a bit like other songs we’ve already heard, and feels a bit less conclusive as an album closer than songs like “High Above These Crowns”, but it does end the album on a nice note.

 

In the end, this album is actually pretty good. It’s nice to put on in the background, and I’ll never groan if anyone I’m hanging out with wants to listen to it, that’s for sure. It has ups and downs, high points and points where you feel like you’ve heard a song already. Murphy’s voice is diverse and unusual, and while I adore her style, I might have hoped for more of her higher singing and less of the lower, deeper parts, that aren’t quite as melodic. The album is a bit on the longish side – it could be fine-tuned a bit, maybe extending some shorter songs, or combining a few that sound essentially the same. If straight-up heavy metal is what you were hoping for, this album will not satisfy that urge, but if you like hints of folk, alternative, rock, and metal blended together, it should appeal to you, as it does have very diverse influences. All-in-all, if songs like “Challenge” appealed to you from the get-go, I think you’ll really enjoy this, but as for myself, I’m already interested to see what their second or third albums are going to be like, now that they’re officially in the swing of things.

Rating: 8/10, 4 stars

Tracklist:
1. Avalanche
2. Black Moon
3. Challenge
4. Hullaballoo
5. Six Days
6. The Hermit
7. Water
8. Fire, Wind, & Earth
9. Rebels
10. Under the Oak Tree
11. High Above These Crowns
12. Starcrusher
13. Hedonia
14. Redemption

SIDEWAYS FESTIVAL @ Suvilahti, Helsinki, 09-10.06.2017

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FullSteam’s Sideways Festival at Suvilahti, 2017, with crowd extras.
Photos by Feng Deng.

CLAUDIO SIMONETTI’S GOBLIN: DAWN OF THE DEAD @ Savoy Teatteri, Helsinki, 24.05.2017

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Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin: Dawn of the Dead, at Savoy Teatteri, 2017.
Photos by Marco Manzi.

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Aleksi Holma (Creinium), 2017

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Helsinki-based hybrid metal troupe Creinium have worked on their thing since 2012, and despite some heavy turbulence in the line-up, they successfully released their first full-length album, Hallucinosis, last summer. Their brand of technical and progressive metal is likely to tickle the fancy of those who enjoy Wintersun, Shade Empire, Dimmu Borgir, Keep of Kalessin, or Wolfheart, for example. With new vocalist Mika Tönning (ex-Catamenia) and guitarists Tom Aho and Valeri Tsatsishvili on board, Creinium is on its way to larger recognition. The mastermind behind their dystopian world, drummer Aleksi Holma, was willing to share the playlist of his life with us.

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
I guess it’s probably A*Teens – “Mamma Mia” from a collection CD called Hits for Kids. It was probably the first CD our parents complied to buy.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
Darude – “Sandstorm.” The song was everywhere when it was released and I, like many others, liked it a lot. I still do.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Daylight Dies – “Last Alone.” Me and my newly wedded wife used to listen to the album Lost to the Living in high school, when trying to wake up on a couch in the school lobby before the first lessons. We actually played the song during our wedding ceremony too. The whole album brings back a lot of memories. I just happened to listen to the album while returning home from visiting her place the very first time. It was a beautiful clear May evening, and the album always brings memories from that evening even now, 7 years later.

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
Nightwish – “Nemo.” I heard the song on some mainstream radio channel, and after its release the song was also everywhere, like “Sandstorm.” I borrowed the album, Once, from my friend and managed to crack the front cover (sorry, Eva!) which had the Nightwish logo embedded in silver… I then burned the album on a CD and listened to it more than I’ve ever listened to any other album since. Nowadays I don’t hold Nightwish in such high regard, but some of the songs from that album still kick ass – “Dark Chest of Wonders”, for example.

Nemo was actually the first song we rehearsed with my brother and our friend – the group that later became Path of Annihilation.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
“Careless Whisper” – the annoying saxophone part. Don’t even know original the artist… And with it I have this vision of the sexy sax man playing the melody in a mall or something. If you haven’t seen the video, you should (NOT!) check it out:

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Hmm, what should I say? I’m not too shy about my guilty pleasures, really. But I guess the song that stands out the most and I actually find good is Sash! – “Ecuador.” Not that I’d actively listen to it, but when I happen to hear it somewhere, I enjoy it.

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Darude – Before the Storm. I remember that it cost like 120 Finnish markka [marks]. And I think I bought it from Anttila, which by the way went bankrupt like last week. Nostalgic!

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Any Shape of Despair song. Although I’d swap the hot beverage for a huge glass of red wine. The music of Shape of Despair is so depressing, yet soothing and comforting. I actually have a playlist for daytime sleeping which consists mostly of Shape of Despair. It was quite handy in the army, because I could take a nap during the day with earphones and the music muffling all the noise.

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Infected Mushroom – “Vicious Delicious.” That’s a song with some kickass bass and it also contains the best rising and climax ever. If only I had a decent set of speakers in my car, not to mention some kind of noise reduction. But what can you expect from a 22-year-old car? Still love it though. Good earphones will suffice.

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Shape of Despair – “Night’s Dew.” That song would probably have a fitting atmosphere for the occasion. Also I wouldn’t mind if there’d be some grotesque death metal in my funeral.

 

Check out the new video for “Prometheus Through Immolation” here:

Or the video for “Project Utopia” here:

Or check out their 2016 debut album on Spotify:

STEELFEST OPEN AIR – Day 2 – Villatehdas, Hyvinkää, 20.05.2017

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Day 2 of Steelfest Open Air at Villatehdas in Hyvinkää, 2017.
Photos by Marco Manzi.
Day 1 can be found HERE!

STEELFEST OPEN AIR – Day 1 @ Villatehdas, Hyvinkää, 19.05.2017

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Day 1 of Steelfest Open Air at Villatehdas in Hyvinkää, 2017.
Photos by Marco Manzi.
Day 2 can be found HERE!

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Nils Nordling (Silver Bullet, ex-Dreamtale), 2017

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Nils Nordling might not be a familiar name to you, unless, perhaps, you’ve listened to a lot of Dreamtale over a decade ago. Norling sang vocals for Dreamtale from 2005-2007, but these days he’s known for a different band: Silver Bullet. We’ve already heard from Silver Bullet’s lead guitarist, Hannes Horma, so today we have the playlist of Nils’ life for you!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
That must be either Boney M’s “River of Babylon” or Abba’s “Waterloo.” I remember that my father used to play these songs on road trips to our grandparents’ home in Porvoo when I was just a kid.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
This is a hard one. There are so many songs that mattered and made a huge impact on me. I remember when I was 10 or something and I got in to punk rock for awhile. There were a lot of tunes that I’ve liked but what was the first song that I’ve truly loved? Hmm.. Maybe it was a Finnish punk artist called Pelle Miljoona and a song called “Moottoritie on kuuma.”

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
In 1984 when W.A.S.P. released their self-titled first album, it hit me like a ton of lead. The album opener, “I Wanna Be Somebody” is of course a classic nowadays, but back then to a teenager, it was a whole new way to travel, and I’ve traveled that same road ever since.

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
This is easy. Without any question I must say that Thin Lizzy’s Chinatown album entirely and especially a song called “We Will Be Strong.” I was in a summer camp back in the days and lying in my bed, when my roommate put this album on a cassette player. It struck me immediately. I begged him to record a copy for me as well. Afterwards we became friends and he introduced me to the world of heavy rock and metal. Bands like Iron Maiden, Saxon, Judas Priest, Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep, Black Sabbath, etc.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
Again this is a hard one. I listen hard rock, classic heavy rock, progressive- and heavy metal music daily and pretty much all the time. It’s not once or twice per a day, when I caught myself singing some song while listening to my Spotify list on headphones, when I’m out to walking my dog. I have to say yet, in reference to your question, Pride of Lion’s “Silent Music.” That’s one catchy motherfucker.

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
I don’t know which is more shameful to admit, that I’m a huge fan of AOR and hard rock music or that I’ve actually liked some of the nu-metal bands in 1990s.

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Virgin Steele – Self titled (1982)

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
There is not such a song. What is the matter with you?;-)

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Dream Evil – “The Book of Heavy Metal” is a very good choice indeed. Yet again, it depends on what mood I’m in. Anything from Ronnie James Dio and Jorn Lande works as well.

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
I’m pretty sure that my funeral song hasn’t been composed yet. It could be one of my own written pieces or then again, maybe not. If I had to pick one song that someone else has written, I think in that case it would be Kamelot’s “House on the Hill.”

Check out Silver Bullet on Spotify here:

ROTTING CHRIST w/ BLOODTHIRST & SHODAN @ Firlej, Wrocław, 10.06.2017

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Rotting Christ in club Firlej in Wrocław, 2017, with Shodan and Bloodthirst.
Photos by Maria Sawicka.

(2007) Sonata Arctica: Unia

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Artist: Sonata Arctica
Album: Unia
Released: 23.05.2007
Label: Nuclear Blast

 

Major stylistic shifts are often frowned upon in the metal scene. Sonata Arctica got to experience this first-hand in 2007 upon the release of their fifth album, Unia, which was a departure from their power metal roots and a leap into a more ambitious and complex direction. After 2 years of heavy touring in support of the preceding album, Reckoning Night (2004), frontman and songwriter Tony Kakko was sick and tired of up-tempo and ultra-melodic songs and felt that making a radical change would be the only way for the band to survive, and the rest of the members agreed to make a different album. While various people – including Kakko himself – have named Unia the band’s finest hour, after 10 years it still seems to be a divisive record among the fans, and the split with guitarist and founding member Jani Liimatainen that took place a couple of months after the album’s release has only fuelled the ‘old vs. new’ arguments. Unia started a chapter that some could not get behind, but for others it only marked the beginning of their musical journey with Sonata Arctica – I belong to the latter group.

Listen along if you like:

 

Unia was my first Sonata album back in early 2008 – having heard “Paid in Full” on the radio and liked it, I decided to shell out some cash to buy the record. After my first listen, I was weirded out, yet intrigued, as I’d never heard of progressive music before, so the notion of not being able to recall what each song had sounded like was new to me. At first the only tracks I ‘got’ were the first two – “In Black and White” and the aforementioned “Paid in Full” – but something about the album fascinated me and drew me in, and after multiple listens Unia slowly but surely started to open up to me.

Kicking off the game with the two catchiest and most traditional Sonata songs may be misleading, but there are some links to the past to be found on other tunes as well, either lyrical or musical. “Caleb” – possibly my favorite SA song ever – is a prologue to the stalker saga, the previous parts of which included “The End of This Chapter” and “Don’t Say a Word.” The hard-hitting farewell message to Liimatainen, “It Won’t Fade” – another all-time favorite – continues the canon of wolf songs, which the band has had on almost every album. “Under Your Tree,” on the other hand, is a classic Sonata ballad in vein of “The Misery”, while “The Harvest” is just as fast as some of SA’s previous double-kick anthems, albeit more aggressive, and shifts in and out of a lighter acoustic interlude effortlessly – a testament to the band’s genius. “Good Enough Is Good Enough”, however, is a total departure from the Sonata sound, as the only instrumentation comes from strings and piano, and the cool-as-hell “Fly with the Black Swan” plays with interesting and complex rhythms, which you sadly don’t hear too often in the band’s music.

While relistening to Unia recently, it struck me that Kakko took his skills as a musical and lyrical storyteller to the next level on the album. The prime example of this is the horribly named but brilliant and adventurous “My Dream’s But a Drop of Fuel for a Nightmare,” which navigates through various moods, enhanced by strings, as the narrator falls asleep and experiences all kinds of bad omens. The way “Under Your Tree” describes the loss of a pet (or child?) by going through quiet melancholy, aching grief, and finally an attempt to let go is moving, and in “Caleb” the title character’s release of pent-up rage is complemented by Liimatainen’s furious solo. Then there’s the post-apocalyptic atmosphere of “The Worlds Forgotten, the Words Forbidden” – although it’s a rather short song, the music and lyrics paint a unique kind of picture together that no other SA song has managed to match. The music and lyrics just go perfectly hand-in-hand on these tracks, which is not always an easy feat to achieve, although the band came close on the more progressive Reckoning Night tracks like “The Boy Who Wanted to Be a Real Puppet” and “White Pearl, Black Oceans.” Kakko’s lyrics have almost never been particularly light, but in the past the upbeat music on tunes like “Victoria’s Secret” and “Kingdom for a Heart” managed to mask them somehow. Maybe Unia’s more in-your-face gloom and aggression is one of the reasons old fans had a hard time getting into it?

Besides the fact that the songs on Unia are not as fast and immediately catchy as on its precedessors, the balance between the instruments changed as well, since Tony Kakko’s vocals were pushed even more to the foreground, and there are loads of vocal layers in vein of his favorite band, Queen – as Kakko himself has stated, the freedom of recording vocals at home gave him room to experiment and lay down as many as hundreds of tracks on some songs. He sings in a more comfortable and natural register than previously, having gotten over his need to be the next Timo Kotipelto [Stratovarius], his English pronunciation is better than before, and he even reveals new sides to his voice on “The Harvest” and the quirky “The Vice.”

Guitar and keyboard solos, which used to be commonplace in SA’s early power metal sound, can only be heard on about half the songs. However, each instrument serves the material, and the impact of the solos is greater exactly because there are not so many of them – Henrik Klingenberg’s keyboard solo on “Paid in Full” is particularly memorable and was one of the things that made the song stick out to me and made me want to check out the band in the first place. Liimatainen’s performance on guitar is also surprisingly inspired, despite him already being mentally out of the band during the recording. The rhythm section work is more intricate and creative than previously – “The Vice” includes the underrated Marko Paasikoski’s greatest bass lines ever, and Tommy Portimo shows that he’s not all about speed, as his imaginative drumming and varied beats elevate even a track like “For the Sake of Revenge” that wouldn’t necessarily be too special otherwise. Guest musician Peter Engberg’s exotic instruments such as bouzouki also contribute to the experimental feel of the album and add some interesting sounds.

Last, but not least, Unia is easily the best-produced Sonata Arctica album – while I love the band’s music, it feels like they have a hard time getting a sound that I have no reservations about whatsoever. The previous releases (apart from 2001’s Silence) have a slightly thin and plastic early noughties sound that’s a little bit dated by now, and they seem to be aiming for something similar with the latest two records, while on Stones Grow Her Name (2012) and especially The Days of Grays (2009) the guitars sound too muddy. On Unia they got everything right: the guitar tone is thick and heavy, the drums sound natural and powerful, and the bass is distinct enough. No instrument buries the others, even though there are lots of vocals and keyboards, but there are also subtle details that you’ll find yourself noticing even after years of listening to the album, which makes it so fun to revisit time and again.

Unia will always have a very special place in my heart for being my introduction to Sonata Arctica and showing me that music doesn’t have to be straightforward to be good, which was a moment of revelation to me and later on led me into the world of progressive metal and rock. I had heard some long songs by Nightwish before, but they were typically one-offs on albums that were otherwise quite easy to grasp, whereas Unia was a tougher pill to swallow on the whole, yet ended up being a very rewarding listen that still speaks to me after all these years. Even discounting the nostalgia factor, I consider Unia Tony Kakko’s coming-of-age as a songwriter and the point where everything just clicked for Sonata. While Reckoning Night was the album on which they finally stepped out of Stratovarius’ shadow, it was Unia that solidified the band’s identity and made them a totally unique band within the whole metal scene.

Rating: 10/10, 5 stars

Tracklist:
1. In Black and White
2. Paid in Full
3. For the Sake of Revenge
4. It Won’t Fade
5. Under Your Tree
6. Caleb
7. The Vice
8. My Dream’s But a Drop of Fuel for a Nightmare
9. The Harvest
10. The Worlds Forgotten, the Words Forbidden
11. Fly with the Black Swan
12. Good Enough Is Good Enough

RED MOON ARCHITECT w/ KAUNIS KUOLEMATON – Nosturi, Helsinki, 08.06.2017 (suomeksi)

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Kesäkuun alun sää ei ole Suomessa oikein osannut päättää, miten päin olisi – välillä on paistanut aurinko, välillä taas vihmonut vettä ja tuullut. Torstai-illaksi ilmatilalotto oli arponut jälkimmäistä, mikä tavallaan sopi tilanteeseen, sillä Nosturissa vietettiin intiimiä bändi-iltaa sangen synkissä tunnelmissa: kouvolalainen Red Moon Architect juhlisti vastikään julkaistua Return of the Black Butterflies -albumiaan, ja lauteet lämmitti haminalainen Kaunis Kuolematon. Keikat piti alun perin soittaa alakerrassa Elmun baarin puolella, mutta noin viikkoa ennen tapahtumaa Nosturi oli päättänyt siirtää bändit yläkerran saliin, ja mikäpäs siinä. Liputkin maksoivat nykymittapuulla naurettavat kuusi euroa, joten ainakaan budjetista ei olisi osallistumisen pitänyt kenelläkään jäädä kiinni.

Päätin suunnata paikalle heti ovien aukeamisaikaan, ja olikin tavallaan uusi kokemus päästä yläkertaan niin, ettei siellä ollut vielä käytännössä ketään paikalla – Red Moon Architectin valomies pläräili Nosturin työntekijän kanssa valopöydän nupikoita läpi, ja tiskillä oli pari asiakasta, mutta muuten yläkerta oli vielä tyhjä ja salin valotkin päällä. En myöskään muista olleeni Nosturissa keikalla niin, että koko sali olisi anniskelualuetta – koska keikan piti alun perin tapahtua alakerrassa vain täysi-ikäisille, tuttu baarialueen rajaava aita loisti poissaolollaan. Kauniin Kuolemattoman soittoaika oli merkitty vasta puolen tunnin päähän, joten älypuhelin oli ystävä. Porukkaa valui saliin pikkuhiljaa, mutta kellon lyödessä puoli yhdeksän ei voitu edelleenkään puhua mistään yleisöryntäyksestä, sillä lavan edustalla oli vain muutaman kymmentä ihmistä. Bändi antoi lopulta odottaa itseään, sillä lavalle noustiin vasta varttia myöhemmin.

 

KK on todella hyvä ja Suomen synkistelymetallin kentässä mukavan erilainenkin bändi. Kitaristi Mikko Heikkilän vahva puhdas lauluääni tuo hienosti kontrastia pääasiallisesti ääntä käyttävän Olli ”Saakeli” Suvannon syvään murinaan ja blackmetallisiin kirkaisuihin, eikä bändin materiaalikaan ole yhdestä puusta veistettyä. Maaliskuun lopussa julkaistun Vapaus-albumin materiaaliin keskittynyt setti seilasi nopeammasta juntasta (esim. ”Hurskas”) hitaampaan maalailuun (”Yksin”), vanhempia hittejä tietenkään unohtamatta (”Itsestään kuollut”, ”En ole mitään”). Viimeiseksi jätetty uuden levyn lopetuskappale ”Sanat jotka jäivät sanomatta” veti täysin hiljaiseksi: kaihoisa kitaraintro räjähti yhtäkkiä täyteen paahtoon, joka nostatuksen jälkeen loppui kuin seinään. Saakeli, basisti Jarno Uski sekä rumpali Miika Hostikka poistuivat lavalta, ja ainoastaan Heikkilä sekä kakkoskitaristi Ville Mussalo jäivät lavalle laulamaan viimeiset säkeet. Valot pois ja ”Kaunis Kuolematon kiittää”. Huikean hieno kappale!

Jos Kaunis Kuolematon ei ole tuttu, ole hyvä ja sivistä itseäsi! Suomi on täynnä lahjakkaita ja relevantteja metallibändejä, joiden suurempi tunnettuus on ainoastaan yleisön tietoisuuteen pääsemisen takana. Keikan loppupuolellakaan ei bändiä ollut seuraamassa noin viittä-kuuttakymmentä ihmistä enempää, mutta paikalle oli tosin eksynyt pari selkeää faniakin, sillä eturivistä kuului ennen keikkaa jatkuvasti taputusta. Nosturin valomies tuntui olevan ajoittain vähän hukassa, sillä osan ajasta valot eivät ehkä täysin palvelleet esitystä, minkä lisäksi Saakelin mikrofoni temppuili läpi keikan ja päästi ääntä sangen vaihtelevasti. KK:n soittajat ovat kuitenkin kaikki tekijämiehiä, ja jos tapanani olisi viljellä henkilökohtaisia mieltymyksiä, vaihtaisin samalle pallokentälle mahtuvista kotimaisista orkestereista esimerkiksi Wolfheartin saman tien vaihtopenkille. Molemmilla bändeillähän on keikka Nummirockissa, joten voitte käydä tarkistamassa asian myös itse.

 

Sitten olikin aika hidastaa tempoa ja rutkasti. Red Moon Architect on ollut jo pitkään nimenä tuttu, mutta en ole vain saanut aikaiseksi tutustua bändin materiaaliin. Keikan jälkeen olikin aika tyhmä olo – hävyttömän hyvää tavaraa! Musiikillisesti Red Moon Architect on keveimmilläänkin raskaampi kuin Swallow the Sun oli alkuaikoinaan, ja vokalisti Ville Rutasen murina tuntui tulevan jostain hyvin syvältä merenpohjasta. Oli myös hauska nähdä basisti Jukka Jauhiainen soittamassa hidasta doomia, sillä miestä on nähnyt viime aikoina lavalla Crimson Sunin kanssa hieman nopeammissa tunnelmissa – haara-asento oli sentään yhtä leveä. Hitaasti soittaminen on vaikeampaa kuin luulisi, mutta rumpali piti biisit kellontarkasti kasassa; kahville ei ihan olisi ehtinyt iskujen välissä, mutta melkein. Jos saksalainen Ahab saapuisi ikinä Suomeen keikalle, olisi Red Moon Architect täydellinen lämppäri.

 

Ehkä ainoa asia, joka keikassa lopulta hämäsi, oli puhtaat laulut upeasti hoitaneen Anni Viljasen sijoittaminen lavan vasempaan takanurkkaan. Ratkaisussa ilmeisesti haettiin ”laulu on vain instrumentti muiden joukossa” –efektiä, mutta kyllä nyt tällainen voimavara pitäisi tuoda lavan etuosaan. Bändin setti kulki taustanauhojen avulla eteenpäin käytännössä katkeamatta, minkä johdosta yleisön reaktiot biiseihin olivat tavallaan hupaisia, sillä kukaan ei oikein tuntunut tietävän, milloin kappale loppuu ja on aika taputtaa. Tunnelma oli pienehköstä yleisömäärästä huolimatta hyvin intiimi ja käsinkosketeltava läpi keikan. Pyydän anteeksi tietämättömyyttäni – pakkohan tässä on luukuttaa levyt läpi ja tulla seuraavallekin keikalle!

CELLAR DARLING – Anna Murphy, Merlin Sutter, & Ivo Henzi, 2017

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By now, everyone knows that Eluveitie had a rough split not long ago, dividing the band. Merlin Sutter, Ivo Henzi, and Anna Murphy departed together, starting up their new band called Cellar Darling. With their debut album release on the horizon, we took the opportunity to chat with them about their new group and the feelings behind their music.

 

To get the obvious out of the way immediately, how are you all feeling as the release date of your debut is coming up?
Anna: Great! I’m exhausted, but in a positive way. We gave it our all, we poured a lot of energy and creativity into this album.

Merlin: We’ve worked on this album non-stop since the day we started the band, pretty much exactly one year ago… I would say it’s probably the most important release of our lives; at least it is for me. So there is certainly much anticipation!

How did you form your partnership with Nuclear Blast, and how is it going so far?
Merlin: As you might know, we’ve worked with Nuclear Blast with our previous band for nearly a decade already – we knew they have an outstanding team, and we knew they’d be among the first we would reach out to.

Anna: We sent them the two tracks we released last year (“Challenge” and “Fire, Wind & Earth”) and they immediately wanted to sign us. It’s going great, we’re very happy to work with them again.

Have you, at any point, considered adding more members to your band, or why have you decided to keep it as just the three of you? The obvious “missing link”, so to speak, would be a bassist.
Anna: No, Cellar Darling is the three of us and it works perfectly this way. Ivo is an amazing bassist, plays bass on the album and we’ll work with session musicians for live shows.

Merlin: I think a big part of the strength of this band is that we’ve been recording and touring together for years – we know what works, we know we work, and this established and proven symbiosis lies very much at the core of This is the Sound, too.

You played with Amorphis and Anneke van Giersbergen at the end of last year – what were some of the highlights? Were there any Spinal Tap moments worth sharing?
Anna: The first show with Amorphis was a bit shaky because of technical problems we had, but we still enjoyed the show and received positive feedback. The show supporting Anneke was much better and the entire trip was basically just one huge party. We traveled with a tour bus and brought all my friends along. Why? Because Amsterdam! 😉

How does it feel to have so few people on stage, as compared to before?
Anna: Definitely very different, I think every person feels like they’re more ‘on display’ than before. But that can also be a good thing, a lot of focus comes with it.

Ivo: It’s challenging too, but in a good way. Besides having more space on stage, it also opens up new possibilities for the live show.

Merlin: For me, there is more room for musicality; I can focus fully on what everyone else on stage is doing, and vice versa.

I’m not sure how the song-writing process went with Eluveitie, but I suppose it’s safe to assume that Chrigel was largely in charge? What differences, both positive and negative, did you notice now, working as a smaller collective?
Anna: Yes, Chrigel was the main songwriter in Eluveitie, with Ivo contributing a lot of riffs and songs and myself also being involved here and there. Cellar Darling songs are written collaboratively, based on ideas from Ivo or myself. It’s a group effort and you can hear that our songs are a symbiosis of us three and not one mastermind with a backing band. We experiment a lot in the rehearsal room and often also arrange whole songs together.

Merlin: From the very first Cellar Darling rehearsal, we played and explored ideas together in the same room – something which was entirely new for all of us, and something which I’ve enjoyed tremendously. We had been wanting to explore this way of working for some time, and it was quite surprising just how naturally it worked for us. The song we worked on during that first rehearsal actually made it on the album, albeit after many iterations!

How did it feel to work with so many fewer instruments now?
Anna: I don’t really perceive it as so much less to be honest. Besides the normal band line-up there’s the hurdy-gurdy, flute, strings, piano & even an Uillean pipe on the album. But of course, our music focuses on what three people play and that is less, but I think it’s great.

Does your current music feel simplistic in any way to you by comparison? And if so, is that a nice change, or is it a bit strange?
Anna: Not at all actually, I think there’s much more variety in our arrangements. Less instruments does not equal simple 😉

Ivo: It’s not strange at all. Having fewer instruments also means that each instrument has more focus, which doesn’t make the songwriting process any easier or more simplistic. In fact, this approach feels more natural to me instead of having a checklist of instruments which have to be on every song.

Do you feel as though the lyrics carry more power with fewer instruments backing them?
Anna: That’s not really something I’ve thought about… we just write music, impulsively, and that results in something. Too much thinking would ruin that magical process.

I’ve noticed that your music is extremely catchy; for example, “Challenge” gets stuck in my head every time I think about it, let alone listen to it. Do you write that intent in mind, or is it just a pleasant side effect of the process?
Anna: That’s nice to hear! I never write music with any intent, it just happens naturally.

Ivo: The music I write mostly starts with a certain mood I am currently in; it’s not something I can control on my own. We don’t sit down and “plan” to make catchy melodies, they just evolve during the writing process.

Many bands travel the self-titled road for their debut – how did you come up with This is the Sound for the album title (which I assume is taken from the line in “Challenge”)?
Anna: We had a long list of album title candidates and like with most things, we went with the option that just felt right. This is the Sound is a statement to ourselves – we found our sound with this album and we’re thrilled about that.

Anna has said in other interviews that she never directly addresses things in her lyrics (like the story of eating too much ice cream) – are there any stories behind songs on the album that are similarly metaphorical? And what might the original stories/inspirations be, if you don’t mind sharing?
Anna: I think pretty much all songs on this album are metaphorical 🙂 I noticed at the end of our songwriting sessions that a lot of songs deal with ‘the end’ in some way or another, whether that is in the form of death or the apocalypse… I guess I wrote about those topics because I was still processing the Eluveitie split without fully realizing it. It’s so interesting how our mind can tell us things and give creative hints like that. Another track that is very personal is “Redemption.” It’s about the people we love, yet manage to hurt, and the regret that comes with it. I turned it into a story about a magical moor that can take you in and give birth to you again as a new person. But with a price.

Are there any overarching themes or concepts on the album, or is each song an individual element? Is there any message you were trying to get across with the music or lyrics? What is the album “about”, if anything?
Anna: There is no lyrical concept; each song tells it’s own story. The only concept being the way the lyrics are written, as stories. I want the listener to drift off into another world, see pictures and colors. Like I do when I’m composing them, or when I’m listening to music that I like. My message is to use your imagination; it’s the most valuable and powerful thing you have.

The length of your songs is surprisingly varied – “Water” is a mere 1:54 minutes, while “Hedonia” is 7:29 – how did some songs end up so short, while others were so long?
Anna: Song lengths are never intentional, they just happen naturally. Here once again we just do what feels right to us.

Finally, the phrase “Cellar Door” has, for many, many years (a century even), been considered to be one of the most beautiful phrases in the English language. Do you agree, and do you think that “Cellar Darling” has a similar beauty, as it is phonetically similar?
Anna: I do actually! 🙂 I’ve always loved the combination of words, there’s something about them. Cellar is dark and Darling is light, like our music.

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Jaakko Metsäpelto (Block Buster), 2017

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Block Buster is a young hard rock band from Kuopio, Finland, formed by brothers Aarni & Jaakko Metsäpelto. With only two EPs under their belt, the band has shared line-ups with many household names such as Bon Jovi, Gojira, and Children of Bodom. Earlier this year, Block Buster released a new single called “Bulletproof” and are currently working on their full length debut album. This week’s playlist comes from none other than Jaakko Metsäpelto.

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
The first song I remember hearing is probably this one song from Jerry Jeff Walker, can’t remember the name of the song or album right now but I remember the album cover; it was a part of my dad’s record collection and I think he still has that CD. I used to play air drums to that all day long when I was about 4 years old.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
I liked a lot of songs of different styles before discovering rock n’ roll, and I gotta admit, just like every other kid in my class in first grade, I really loved “Freestyler” by Bomfunk MCs. Hah! And The Simpsons theme. Let’s say I loved them both equally!

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Again, it’s hard to pick just one… basically any song from the Detroit Rock City soundtrack. I’ll say “Love Gun” by KISS and “Problem Child” by AC/DC. Obviously I still love those songs so I guess it’s not just a teenage-era thing.

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
AC/DC. I borrowed Let There Be Rock album and the Family Jewels DVD set from library and there was no turning back. Aarni (my brother) got into them big-time too, so we put all our money together and within few months we owned the whole discography, including all the live DVDs and such. We also had many of the albums on both CD and Vinyl. We used to spend days and days watching those DVDs and listening to all the albums, wanting to become as good as them.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
I’ve been listening to Ghost a lot lately and the main riff from “Elizabeth” has been stuck in my head for several days.

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
My girlfriend listens to a lot of Lana Del Rey at home and because of that I’ve become somewhat of a fan myself too… if that counts as ‘guilty pleasure’!

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Led Zeppelin ll might have been the first.

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Any song from the album These Days by Jonas and I. A great pop/folk band from our hometown, Kuopio; check’em out if you haven’t yet!

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
“Born to Kill” by Airbourne.

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
I don’t know… I would like my funeral to be my last party, so you might as well play “Party Hard” by Andrew W.K.

Check these guys out on Spotify:

BATUSHKA w/ WORMWOOD, KORGONTHURUS – Kåren, Turku, 03.06.2017 (English)

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The black metal event, Turku Saatanalle V (Turku for Satan V), got its fair share of misfortune in February, when the venue, Gong, prohibited Naer Mataron and Sielunvihollinen from performing in the event, citing the bands’ alleged far-right connections. As if this wasn’t enough, the headliner, Batushka, as well as domestic Korgonthurus, had to cancel their appearances because of the bands’ members’ sudden illnesses. Fortunately, replacements were found swiftly and the event went through successfully, but a lot of people were bummed out by Batushka’s cancellation, including me – I was coming to Turku solely because of Batushka, but ended up selling my ticket.

The organizer, Metallihelvetti, had agreed with Batushka to hold a replacement show in Finland as soon as the band’s schedule allowed it, and soon after Turku Saatanalle V, the date was set on June 3rd in Turku’s Kåren. Korgonthurus was announced as a support band, with Sweden’s up-and-coming Wormwood to complete the line-up. The second time’s the charm, so we headed out on the Turku freeway on a sunny Saturday afternoon. I hadn’t been to Kåren before; acting as Åbo Akademi’s fraternity house, the venue probably wasn’t the most typical place to hold a black metal show, but then again, Tavastia, for example, doesn’t have artwork on the walls spanning from floor to ceiling.

 

As I arrived, there already was a queue spanning over 20 meters outside, but the ticket checkers were able to get the attendants in the doors quickly. Inside, the curtain-clad stage was lit with red light and Korgonthurus’ roll-ups were already in place. There didn’t seem to be a lot of people present just yet, but I had heard that over 200 tickets had been sold in advance. Korgonthurus started off at 21:30 and fired away for 30 minutes with their snarky and cold black metal. The first thing that struck me was the vocalist, Corvus, traditionally dressed in corpse paint and long-nailed bracelets; his high screeching voice is easily top-of-the-line in Finnish black metal. The rest of the band was also on point, though their performance was somewhat static, but you usually won’t see actual partying on stage during a black metal show anyway. I was almost bummed out about not being too familiar with Korgonthurus’ material outside their latest album, last year’s Vuohen siunaus, as I would’ve loved to listen to their set, also containing older songs, for longer. This is how black metal should be done – no unnecessary complexity, but aggressive yet still melodic ass-whooping. The sound was clear and the echo caused by the stone walls didn’t disrupt the show. In addition, the light tech got the best out of the pretty basic setup the stage had. A strong start – go check out these guys at Nummirock!

 

Up second was Wormwood. The Stockholm-based band, formed in 2014, released their debut album, Ghostlands: Wounds from a Bleeding Earth, in March, and this was the first time that they performed in Finland. The set was kicked off with “The Universe is Dying” and the band got hold of the situation pretty quickly – I don’t know how many people were familiar with their stuff beforehand, but after a slightly sluggish start, the audience participated surprisingly wholeheartedly. The good vibe was present on stage as well – Nine, the vocalist, was an energetic performer that couldn’t stay still even for a moment, and the rest of the band seemed to enjoy their warm welcome.

Musically, Wormwood operates somewhere in between more traditional black metal and acts like Thyrfing, also including more folky vibes – you should definitely check out their album in case the more melodic side of black metal is your thing. When it came to the sound, the situation got better as the show went on; the first song lost a bit of its effect on the overall mushy sound. In the chorus of “Oceans”, the backing track was incredibly loud for some reason, burying the whole band, but this didn’t seem to affect the audience. Compared to the two other bands, Wormwood was stylistically pretty different, but that’s exactly the reason why their show worked as a nice interlude before Batushka. Intensity-wise, Korgonthurus pulled off a better show, so switching places with Wormwood would’ve definitely worked as well, but the guys seemed to hurry back to Helsinki after their show, so I understand the scheduling choice.

 

Next up: Batushka! The band is actually a year younger than Wormwood, but their 2015 debut, Litourgiya, instantly elevated them to the frontline of the black metal scene, and since then they’ve been busy touring. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend last year’s Steelfest to see their show, but now the opportunity finally presented itself. Kåren’s curtains were pulled aside at 23:30, revealing a nicely decorated stage with incense holders, a Litourgiya icon, a human skull on a pedestal, and so on. The band’s roadies came out to light the incense, taking their time doing so. Finally, the eight-piece Batushka, dressed in black silk robes and face-covering scarfs, climbed on stage and began their show with a short intro passage. Afterwards the vocalist announced ”литоургиа!”, and off we went.

Absolutely all aspects of the show were on point. The whole Litourgiya album was played from start to finish without any disrupting speeches. Halfway through, before the fifth part, the band played a short interlude passage. The players, identities unknown, are all seasoned Polish metal musicians, which clearly showed in their performance. As a fun detail, the guitarist used an 8-string – you don’t usually even see 7-stringers in black metal. The vocalist was complemented by three backing singers. That’s about all that one can say to describe the show to someone who wasn’t there, as Batushka took the audience someplace very different, and the atmosphere that the band conveyed is impossible to put into words. An amazing show – I hope that you are at least sorry for not attending!

 

As a whole, the evening was excellent. Kåren worked nicely as a concert venue, even though my local friend was concerned about the bad echoing beforehand. In the end, almost 300 tickets were sold, and people were swarming all over the merchandise table already before Korgonthurus had started. I wonder how many people had kept their Turku Saatanalle V ticket, as a 5€ cashback was given at the door to compensate for Batushka’s cancelled show. A big thank you to Metallihelvetti for everything, and see you next time!

BATUSHKA w/ WORMWOOD, KORGONTHURUS – Kåren, Turku, 03.06.2017 (suomeksi)

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Helmikuinen Turku Saatanalle V –tapahtuma joutui taannoin pahaan vastatuuleen, kun tapahtumapaikkana toiminut Gong esti tapahtumaan jo buukattujen Naer Mataronin sekä Sielunvihollisen esiintymisen vedoten bändejä kohtaan esitettyihin natsisyytöksiin. Epäonni ei tietenkään jäänyt tähän, sillä tapahtuman pääesiintyjä, puolalainen Batushka sekä kotimainen Korgonthurus joutuivat perumaan esiintymisensä sairastapausten vuoksi. Korvaavat esiintyjät saatiin onneksi buukattua ja tapahtuma järjestetyksi, mutta monia jäi varmasti hiertämään Batushkan peruttu keikka. Itsekin olin alun perin tulossa katsomaan nimenomaan Batushkaa, mutta uutisen myötä päädyin myymään lippuni pois.

Tapahtuman järjestänyt Metallihelvetti oli kuitenkin sopinut Batushkan kanssa, että bändi saapuu Suomeen korvaavalle keikalle heti, kun aikataulut antavat periksi, ja pian Turku Saatanalle V:n jälkeen korvaava keikkapäivä merkittiin kesäkuun 3. päivälle Turun Kåreniin. Perumaan joutuneen Korgonthuruksen kerrottiin saapuvan lämppäriksi, ja iltaman täydensi tuoreehko ruotsalaisvahvistus, Wormwood. Toinen kerta toden sanoo, joten auton nokka kääntyi kohti Turun moottoritietä hyvissä ajoin lauantai-iltapäivänä. En ollut käynyt Kårenilla aikaisemmin – Åbo Akademin oppilaskuntatalona tunnettu tila ei ollut ehkä tyypillisin paikka black metal –iltamalle, mutta toisaalta Tavastialla ei ole esimerkiksi koko salin korkuisia seinäpiirroksia.

 

Paikalle saapuessani Kårenin edustalla oli useamman kymmenen metrin mittain jono, joka veti mukavan nopeasti. Salin puolella verhoilla peitetty lava oli valaistu punaiseksi ja Korgonthuruksen julisteet olivat jo paikoillaan. Yleisöä oli paikalla vielä kohtuullisen vähän, mutta lippuja oli kuulemma myyty ennakkoon päälle 200. Korgonthurus aloitti noin puoli kymmeneltä ja paiskoi menemään reilun puolituntisen äkäistä ja kylmää black metaliaan. Ensimmäisenä huomio kiinnittyi perinnetietoisesti corpsepainteihin ja niittirannekkeisiin sonnustautuneeseen vokalisti Corvukseen, jonka korkealta rääkyvä ääni menee heittämällä kotimaisten black metal –laulajien parhaimmistoon. Muukin bändi soitti tiukasti, joskin vähäeleisesti, mutta harvemmin sitä black metal –keikoilla suuremmin irrotellaankaan. Melkein harmitti, ettei bändin materiaali ole viimevuotista Vuohen siunaus -täyspitkää lukuunottamatta kovin tuttua, sillä myös vanhempia ralleja sisältänyttä settiä olisi kuunnellut mieluusti pidempäänkin. Juuri näin black metalia kuuluu tehdä: ei turhaa kikkailua, vaan aggressiivista mutta silti melodiaa sisältävää turpaanvetoa. Soundit olivat selkeät, ja salin aiheuttama kaikukin pysyi hyvin aisoissa, minkä lisäksi valomies sai ruuvattua kohtuullisen yksinkertaisesta valosetupista hyvin lisätehoa esitykseen. Vahva aloitus – kannattaa mennä tarkistamaan Nummirockissa!

 

Toisena oli vuorossa ruotsalainen Wormwood. ”Vasta” vuonna 2014 perustettu tukholmalaisbändi julkaisi debyyttilevynsä Ghostlands: Wounds from a Bleeding Earth maaliskuussa ja saapui nyt ensimmäistä kertaa Suomeen keikalle. Setti alkoikin debyytin aloituskappaleella ”The Universe Is Dying”, ja tila otettiin nopeasti haltuun – en tiedä monelleko yleisössä bändi oli ennalta tuttu, mutta ehkä hieman jähmeän alun jälkeen turkulaiset pomppivat mukana yllättävänkin kovaa. Lavallakin riitti virtaa: vokalisti Nine oli energinen esiintyjä eikä tahtonut pystyä hetkeäkään paikallaan, ja muukin bändi tuntui selkeästi nauttivan positiivisesta vastaanotosta.

Musiikillisesti Wormwood seilaa jossain esimerkiksi Thyrfingin ja perinteisemmän black metalin välimaastossa, minkä lisäksi mukana on folkimpiakin sävyjä – debyyttilevy kannattaa ehdottomasti pyöräyttää läpi, jos melodisempi osasto maistuu. Soundien puolesta tilanne parantui koko ajan loppua kohti; ensimmäisen kappaleen tehot hieman sulivat puuroiseen kokonaisääneen. ”Oceansin” kertosäkeen aikana taustanauha oli jostain syystä hävyttömän kovalla ja peitti käytännössä koko bändin alleen, mutta ei tuo menoa tuntunut haittaavan. Illan kahteen muuhun bändiin verrattuna Wormwood oli tyylillisesti aika erilainen, mutta juuri siksi se mielestäni toimikin mainiona välipalana ennen Batushkaa. Intensiteetin puolesta Korgonthurus meni tosin edelle, joten myös lämmittelijöiden soittojärjestyksen vaihto päikseen olisi varmasti toiminut yhtä hyvin. Korgonthuruksella tuntui kuitenkin olevan oman keikkansa jälkeen kova kiire takaisin Helsinkiin, joten ymmärrän ratkaisun näinkin päin.

 

Seuraavaksi Batushka! Bändi on vuoden nuorempi kuin Wormwood, mutta toissa vuonna julkaistu debyytti Litourgiya nosti bändin saman tien black metalin kärkikahinoihin, minkä jälkeen keikkalavoja on kierretty äärimmäisen ahkerasti. Harmikseni en päässyt viime vuoden Steelfestiin todistamaan bändiä liveä, mutta nyt siihen tarjoutui viimeinkin mahdollisuus. Kårenin verhot vedettiin syrjään puoli kahdeltatoista, ja takaa paljastui hienosti koristeltu lava, jolta löytyi suitsuketelineitä, Litourgiya-ikoni, pääkallo jalustalla ja vaikka mitä. Bändin roudarit tulivat sytyttämään suitsukkeet, eikä heillä näyttänyt olevan mitään kiirettä asian kanssa. Lopulta kahdeksanhenkinen, mustiin silkkikaapuihin ja kasvot peittäviin huiveihin sonnustautunut Batushka nousi lavalle. Setti pääsi alkamaan lyhyellä introlla, jonka jälkeen vokalisti julisti ”литоургиа!”, ja sitten mentiin.

Kaikki aspektit keikassa olivat kohdillaan. Koko Litourgiya-levy soitettiin luonnollisesti alusta loppuun ilman tunnelmaa häiritseviä välispiikkejä – puoliväliin soitettiin sentään lyhyt välike ennen levyn viidettä osaa. Tuntemattomaksi jääneet soittajat ovat puolalaisia pitkän linjan metallimuusikoita, joten soittokin oli sen mukaista, ja yksityiskohtana tuli pantua merkille kitaristin 8-kielinen soittopeli – black metalissa harvemmin sahaillaan edes seiskoilla. Vokalistiakin oli tukemassa kolmen taustalaulajan sektio. Siihen loppuvatkin oikeastaan tavat kuvailla esitystä sellaiselle, joka ei ollut itse paikalla: Batushkan seurassa oltiin kolme varttia jossain aivan muualla, ja sen välittämää tunnelmaa on mahdotonta pukea sanoiksi. Aivan käsittämättömän hieno keikka – toivottavasti edes harmittaa, jos päätit jättää väliin!

 

Iltama oli kaiken kaikkiaan loistava. Kåren toimi keikkapaikkana todella hyvin, vaikka paikallinen kaverini ennakkoon kuumottelikin salin pahaa kaikuefektiä. Lippuja oli lopulta mennyt kaupaksi lähemmäs 300, ja merkkaripöydän luona kävi jo ennen Korgonthuruksen aloittamista kova kuhina. Monikohan oli säilyttänyt Turku Saatanalle V –lippunsa? Lauantain pilettiä vastaan sai vitosen alennuksen pääsylipusta hyvityksenä Batushkan helmikuisesta peruutuksesta. Erittäin iso kiitos Metallihelvetille asioiden järjestämisestä – nähdään ensi kerralla!

Rotting Christ to Play Two Gigs in Poland!

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Knock Out Productions along with Left Hand Sounds proudly introduce Rotting Christ, who will be playing two concerts in Poland!

These Greek metal legends will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the band’s formation this year. The band will arrive in Poland during their European summer tour, and we can expect songs from the latest, very well-received release, Rituals, as well as some songs from the older albums as well. 

For a black metal ritual, we highly encourage you to book your tickets for either June 10th to Firlej Club in Wrocław or one day later on June 11th at U Bazyla Club in Poznań.

ROTTING CHRIST (Greece); black metal:
Rotting Christ must perform in Poland, and Polish fans need gigs from the Greek legends. A mere handful of months after their last visit to the land of the Poles, the Greeks are returning once more to perform two shows.

Celebrating their 30th anniversary, the band has had hordes of fans since the very beginning. Band leader Sakis Tolis has often mentioned that in the tapetrading era, Polish fans were the first to whom he’d send tapes with Rotting Christ demos. Today, many of their releases, including Thy Mighty Contract, Non Serviam, Triarchy of the Lost Lovers, or Sanctus Diavolos and Aealo (album of the month in Terrorizer magazine) are considered to be classics. What’s more, during the making of their 2010 release, Rotting Christ managed to contact the almighty Diamanda Galás, who gave them the green light to cover her score, “Orders from the Dead.”

For those who are just discovering Rotting Christ, here’s a beginners guide: the band started out playing black metal, tried Gothic metal for a while, and then went down the dark metal route, just to come back to black metal with even greater ferocity. But this time they’ve added very plastic, almost illustrative elements, and plenty of bits and flavours originating from traditional Greek music. Their latest release was, as we’ve mentioned, “Rituals” from 2016, with guest appearances by (among others) Nick Holmes from Paradise Lost and Vorph from Samael.

BLOODTHIRST (Poznań, Poland); black/thrash metal:
Originating in Poznań in 1999, Bloodthirst kicks their listeners relentlessly with unique combination of the rage and darkness of black metal and thrash metal. They themselves describe their music as “hateful antichristian thrash.” Like any other bringer of evil, guitarist/vocalist Rambo needs company (the more, the merrier) and he found companions in Rybosh (known also from In Twilight’s Embrace), Gregor, and Urpin. Bloodthirst have made a couple of demos and three albums, the last being Chalice of Contempt from 2014. Their latest addition to their discography is an EP released in 2016, Glorious Sinners.

Check them out at the below links:
http://bloodthirst.pl
https://www.facebook.com/bloodthirstpl
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKpgNNEf7uY

SHODAN (Wrocław, Poland); technical death metal:
Shodan is a tri-entity that emerged in 2013 in Wrocław and is proof that Polish bands can actually play interesting technical death metal. The band was created by former members of Extinct Gods, Michał Jarosz and Szczepan Inglot. Bassist Michał Rybak filled the missing spot in the line-up, but has since been replaced by Tomasz Sadlak. Shodan have played already couple of gigs, including Into the Abyss Festival, recorded the EP Zero K, and the very well received longplay, Protocol of Dying in 2016.

Check them out at the below links:
https://shodan.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/Shodanband
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGy6lCVqnY8

When:
Saturday, 10/11.6.2017

Where:
Wrocław @ Firlej, ul. Grabiszyńska 56
Poznań @ U Bazyla, ul. Norwida 18a

Prices:
70 zł – presale, 80 zł – at doors

Buy a ticket:
http://knockoutprod.net/sklep/

Text provided by promoter (KnockOut Productions)

MACHINAE SUPREMACY w/ BLIND CHANNEL, ONE MORNING LEFT – Nosturi, Helsinki, 27.05.2017 (English)

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Sweden’s Machinae Supremacy doesn’t need much introduction in Finland. Hailing from Luleå, this nerd squad combines old Commodore 64 era sounds with metal, and tours extensively in our country, most of the time to near-sold-out venues, even though the more mainstream media still doesn’t recognize them. Having released their new Into the Night World album at the end of last year, the band did a whole spring tour in Finland, traveling through Kuopio, Tampere, and Joensuu, ending at the ever-so-welcoming Nosturi in Helsinki on May 27th, marking their fifth time performing there in this decade. The metalcore party unit One Morning Left was traveling as support, with Blind Channel joining exclusively for this show. Why not!

Check out the gallery HERE!
Lue suomeksi TÄÄLLÄ!
Or listen to the setlist on Spotify:

 

As always, I was almost late by arriving only a few minutes before One Morning Left’s showtime at 20:30. The front of the stage was divided surprisingly unevenly, regarding the attending minors, as only a few meters of space was left outside the bar’s fence. The small area was already filled with people, including the five (or six) girls that seem to follow Blind Channel wherever they perform, when the bar was basically deserted, with maybe 10-15 people. I barely got to order a beer before One Morning Left climbed on stage with a chiptune intro track and began their 30-minute set.

One Morning Left is one of those bands that I have absolutely nothing in common with, but this doesn’t mean that they aren’t entertaining live. The band’s chaotic metalcore, reminiscent of bands like Attack Attack!, is the type of stuff all metal purists just have to hate out of principle, even though the world is full of much more indifferent heavy music. The last time I saw these guys live was at EDGE:Nordic last fall, and in the course of these 8 months nothing has changed – the stage was still packed with action, the band surely can play, and there’s more going on within a single song than most metalcore bands can come up with on a whole album. One Morning Left’s material isn’t that familiar to me, but I think that the pure all-over-the-place-ness of their early material has been toned down a bit in their more recent work. The stage was plenty busy, including the unsuspected attack of three dancing girls, familiar from the latest season of Temptation Island Finland, armed with water guns. A special mention still goes to vocalist-guitarist Leevi Luoto, who completely overshadowed the main vocalist Mika “Misku” Lahti with his energy – Lahti’s microphone seemed to have a pretty bad volume level, though. As a whole, the show was fairly decent, and a good deal of people had arrived mid-set.

Setlist:
1. Bd_l3ftovers!
2. Hey Yo, Let’s Play Tycoon
3. !liaF cipE
4. Kings and Queens
5. Heavy Metal Finland
6. Reetu Inda House?
7. You’re Dead! Let’s Disco!
8. The Star of Africa

 

And now for something completely different: Blind Channel has made excellent progress during their short career, as the band – founded in 2013 – has already had a show at Wacken Open Air after winning their Metal Battle contest, and after last year’s debut, Revolutions, they’ve toured a fair bit both in and out of Finland. At 21:20, Blind Channel took the stage dressed completely in white and fired away with their almost obnoxiously catchy material for a good 45 minutes, and were welcomed with the loud screaming coming from the front row.

I don’t know what was wrong, but without counting the girls out front of the stage, Blind Channel had considerable difficulty getting the audience warmed up. The band sure can perform, and their musical output didn’t differ that much from the two other bands of the evening, but the audience’s reactions throughout the set were surprisingly lame. I guess this is something that, like One Morning Left, one isn’t just supposed to like? I caught a hilarious piece of conversation in the bathroom after the show: “I always try to find something good about everything, but I just didn’t get anything positive out of that band!” This actually completely proves that Blind Channel knows exactly what they’re doing, and because of it you definitely should go and see the band, even just once – Blind Channel disregards traditional heavy music conventions and makes music that only sounds like themselves, combining the sound of early 2000s American metal, pop-influenced choruses, and Niko Moilanen’s and Joel Hokka’s rap verses. The band also has talent when it comes to cover songs – the set contained both “Don’t” by Ed Sheeran and “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore, and without knowing the originals, one couldn’t have guessed that either were covers. By the end of the show the audience seemed to be warmed up to the extent that Moilanen managed to ask everyone to squat, and at the beginning of their latest single, “Alone Against All”, to jump back up. In the end, the deal’s the same as with One Morning Left: I probably wouldn’t listen to this at home, but I’d watch a show any day!

Setlist:
1. Enemy for Me
2. My Revolution
3. Bullet (With Your Name on It)
4. Deja FU
5. Can’t Hold Us (Macklemore cover)
6. Don’t (Ed Sheeran cover)
7. Unforgiving
8. Alone Against All
9. Darker Than Black

 

Lately I’ve watched Nosturi shows behind the mixing booth, but Machinae Supremacy is such an important band that I had to move closer to the stage. I think I’ve seen almost ten of their shows in Finland, and so far none of them have been anything less than excellent. At half past ten, the curtains were pulled aside and the show began with “My Dragons Will Decimate” and “Into the Night World” off the new album. Right after that, the band pulled a surprise by playing “Player One” from their commercial debut, Deus Ex Machinae. DE-CENT!

I remember, probably at the 2010 Nosturi show, being bummed that Machinae Supremacy doesn’t play their old classics anymore, as their fame is so cult-like that the audience surely would know all the songs anyway. Two years later, after the release of Rise of the Digital Nation, I came to the conclusion that who really cares – it doesn’t matter what they pick for their setlist, because every song is a sure hit. Over the years, Rise of the Digital Nation and 2010’s A View from the End of the World have clearly formed the backbone of their live shows, because missing out on songs like “Force Feedback”, “Nova Prospekt”, or “Rise of the Digital Nation” would feel downright weird these days. The new album was featured with great choices, as “Twe27ySeven” and “The Last March of the Undead” worked excellent live – before the former, the band invited Ingeborg Ekeland, the female voice on their records, back to the stage. The self-proclaimed party song of the set was, less surprisingly, “Indiscriminate Murder is Counter-Productive” – I think I’ve seen one MaSu show after the release of A View from the End of the World during which it wasn’t played.

Machinae Supremacy’s encores have always had a good deal of variety – this time ”Rocket Dragon” and ”Dark City” were heard before their de facto show closer and greatest hit, Redeemer’s “Through the Looking Glass”, again featuring Ekeland on additional vocals. A great set, and how good did the band sound! The mix was clear and Robert Stjärnström’s vocals had the perfect volume, and in addition the man pulled off his best performance in years – the first YouTube clips after the release of Into the Night World had made me expect slightly rocky vocals, but Stjärnström held his pitch flawlessly. The band’s line-up has been the same for several years now, and the players have clearly become a tight unit, with their performance turning out to be as sturdy as one would expect. Though unexpectedly, the guitarist Tomi Luoma had shaved his head – I could’ve sworn that I saw him on the side balcony with his hair ON during Blind Channel!

 

MaSu is an extremely important band in their effect toward bringing all the nerds closer to one another. They have also worked on behalf of music’s free distribution over the internet, since the band has encouraged their fans to share their music over peer-to-peer networks for over 10 years now. Their old releases are still freely available via their website. On top of all this, Machinae Supremacy is musically unique, and their material easily holds up in comparison with much bigger metal bands. I’ll see you guys next time – I wonder if “Winterstorm” might finally be included in the set then?

Setlist:
1. My Dragons Will Decimate
2. Into the Night World
3. Player One
4. Force Feedback
5. Laser Speed Force
6. Republic of Gamers
7. Truth of Tomorrow
8. Indiscriminate Murder Is Counter-Productive
9. Renegades
10. Nova Prospekt
11. Twe27ySeven
12. Rise of a Digital Nation
13. The Last March of the Undead

Encore:
14. Rocket Dragon
15. Dark City
16. Through the Looking Glass

Photos: Janne Puronen

MACHINAE SUPREMACY w/ BLIND CHANNEL, ONE MORNING LEFT – Nosturi, Helsinki, 27.05.2017 (suomeksi)

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Ruotsalainen Machinae Supremacy ei juuri Suomessa esittelyjä kaipaa. Luulajasta kotoisin oleva, vanhoja Commodore 64 -soundeja metalliin yhdistelevä nörttipartio keikkailee kotimaassamme tiheään ja keikkapaikat ovat järjestään lähes täyteen ammuttuja, vaikkei valtavirran metallimedia edelleenkään nosta bändiä kovin usein otsikoihin. Aivan viime vuoden lopussa mainion Into the Night World -levyn julkaissut bändi rykäisi neljän keikan kevätkiertueen, joka kulki Kuopion, Tampereen ja Joensuun kautta ja päättyi 27. toukokuuta tuttuun ja turvalliseen Helsingin Nosturiin, jossa MaSu on ehtinyt esiintyä tällä vuosikymmenellä jo neljä kertaa aiemmin. Mukaan kiertueelle oltiin saatu metalcore-hassuttelu One Morning Left sekä räppiä ja poppia raskaampaan ilmaisuun yhdistelevä Blind Channel. Mikäpä jottei!

Kuvat TÄÄLLÄ!
Read in English HERE!
Kuuntele Spotifysta täällä:

 

Nosturille siirtyminen meinasi livetä pitkäksi, sillä pääsin paikalle vasta hieman ennen puolta yhdeksää, jolloin One Morning Leftin oli määrä aloittaa. Lavan edusta oli jaettu yllättävänkin leveästi täysi-ikäisiä katsojia ajatellen, sillä lavan edustalla oli ainoastaan muutama metri tilaa syvyyssuunnassa ennen kaljakarsinan aitaa. Tila olikin jo täynnä porukkaa, mukaan lukien Blind Channelia joka paikkaan seuraava viiden (tai kuuden) tytön faniporukka, kun taas baarin puolella olleet ihmiset pystyi lähes laskemaan kahden käden sormilla. Tuskin sitä ehti baaritiskiltä poistua, kun One Morning jo astelikin lavalle chiptune-pulputuksen säestämänä ja aloitti noin puolen tunnin settinsä.

One Morning Left on niitä bändejä, joiden kanssa minulla ei ole oikein mitään yhteistä, mutta jotka jaksavat viihdyttää livenä. Bändin äkkiväärä, esimerkiksi jenkkiläisen Attack Attack!in suuntaan kallellaan oleva räime on tavaraa, jota kaikki hevipuristit vihaavat periaatteesta, vaikka maailmasta löytyy järkyttävä määrä paljon yhdentekevämpääkin metallia. Näin bändin livenä viimeksi syksyllä järjestetyssä EDGE:Nordic –pomppuhevitapahtumassa, eikä reilun puolen vuoden jälkeen mikään ole muuttunut: meininki lavalla on edelleen kova, bändi osaa soittaa ja yksittäisessä biisissä tapahtuu enemmän asioita kuin mistä keskiverto metalcore-bändi kykenee kasaamaan kokonaisen levyn. One Morning Leftin biisimateriaali ei ole kovinkaan tuttua, mutta alkuaikojen biisien puhdas kohkaaminen on tuntunut jääneen viimeisimpien julkaisujen myötä vähemmälle. Lavalla taasen tapahtui mitä erinäisimpiä asioita, esimerkiksi tämän kauden Temptation Islandista repäistyjen vesipyssyillä aseistettujen tanssityttöjen yllätyshyökkäys. Erityismaininta esiintymisen suhteen menee silti laulaja-kitaristi Leevi Luodolle, joka jättää energiallaan bändin varsinaisen vokalistin Mika “Miksu” Lahden täysin varjoonsa – Lahden mikrofoni tosin tuntui olevan koko keikan ajan aika hiljaisella. Kokonaisuudessaan keikka oli sangen menevä, ja yleisöäkin oli valunut paikalle tasaiseen tahtiin.

One Morning Leftin setti:
1. Bd_l3ftovers!
2. Hey Yo, Let’s Play Tycoon
3. !liaF cipE
4. Kings and Queens
5. Heavy Metal Finland
6. Reetu Inda House?
7. You’re Dead! Let’s Disco!
8. The Star of Africa

 

Sitten jotain täysin erilaista: oululainen Blind Channel on tehnyt lyhyen uransa aikana kovaa nousua, sillä vuonna 2013 perustettu bändi ehti vain vuotta myöhemmin käydä jo Wackenissa asti keikalla voitettuaan festarin Metal Battle –kisan, ja viime vuonna julkaistun Revolutions-debyyttialbumin jälkeen koto-Suomea on kierretty tiuhaan tahtiin. Kello 21:20 bändi nousi eturivistä kuuluvan kirkunan säestämänä lavalle täysin valkoisiin vaatteisiin sonnustautuneena ja paiskoi menemään miltei hävyttömän tarttuvaa materiaaliaan kolmen vartin edestä.

En tiedä mikä tällä kertaa oli vikana, mutta lavan edustaa lukuunottamatta Blind Channel ei tuntunut saavan yleisöä yhtään mukaansa. Esiintymistaitoa bändiltä ei puutu, eikä musiikillinen linjakaan poikennut merkittävästi iltaman muusta tarjonnasta, mutta vastaanotto yleisössä oli yllättävänkin laimea. Ehkä tästä ei One Morning Leftin tapaan sitten vain kuulu pitää? Kuulin keikan jälkeen hulvattoman tilityksen vessassa: ”Kyllä mie koetan kaikesta löytää jotain hyvää mutta tosta mie en kyllä saanut sitten mitään positiivista irti!” Oikeastaan juuri tämä todistaa Blind Channelin olevan asian ytimessä, ja sen vuoksi bändiä kannattaa mennä katsomaan edes kerran: Blind Channel viis veisaa raskaan musiikin konventioista ja tekee täysin omankuuloistaan musiikkia, jossa yhdistyvät 2000-luvun alun jenkkimetallisoundi, poppikertsit ja vokalistikaksikko Niko Moilasen ja Joel Hokan räpäytys. Versiointitaitoakin löytyy, sillä settiin oli mahdutettu sekä debyytillä julkaistu Ed Sheeranin ”Don’t” että Macklemoren ”Can’t Hold Us”, joita ei alkuperäisiä biisejä tuntematta olisi mitenkään arvannut covereiksi. Loppuvaiheessa yleisö oli kuitenkin saatu sen verran mukaan, että Moilanen sai käskytettyä koko lavan edustan kyykkyyn ja ponkaisemaan uusimman sinkun, ”Alone Against Allin”, alkaessa takaisin ylös. Loppuarvio on sama kuin One Morning Leftin kohdalla: ei tätä kotona kuuntelisi, mutta keikalla katsoo mielellään!

Blind Channelin setti:
1. Enemy for Me
2. My Revolution
3. Bullet (With Your Name on It)
4. Deja FU
5. Can’t Hold Us (Macklemore-cover)
6. Don’t (Ed Sheeran –cover)
7. Unforgiving
8. Alone Against All
9. Darker Than Black

 

Nosturi-keikat tulee nykyään rokkipoliiseiltua harmittavan usein miksauspöydän takana, mutta Machinae Supremacy on niin tärkeä bändi, että oli pakko hipsiä lavan edustan puolelle odottelemaan keikan alkua. Suomen-keikkoja on tullut nähtyä lähemmäs kymmenen, ja huonoa show’ta ei ole vielä tullut vastaan. Puoli yhdeltätoista verhot vedettiin syrjään ja keikka lähti käyntiin uuden levyn ”My Dragons Will Decimate” – ”Into the Night World” –kaksikolla, joiden perään soitettiin jopa yllättävästi debyyttilevy Deus Ex Machinaen ”Player One”. KO-VA!

Muistan joskus, ehkä Nosturin-keikalla 2010, harmitelleeni sitä, ettei Machinae Supremacy enää soita oikeasti vanhoja klassikoitaan, sillä bändin suosio on sen verran kulttimaista, että yleisö varmasti tunnistaisi kaikki kappaleet. Kaksi vuotta myöhemmin, Rise of a Digital Nationin julkaisun jälkeisellä keikalla tulin siihen tulokseen, että mitä väliä – on aivan sama, mitä bändi valitsee settiin, sillä jokainen kappale oli hitti. Rise of the Digital Nationista sekä vuoden 2010 A View from the End of the Worldista on vuosien aikana selkeästi muodostunut settilistan selkäranka, sillä “Force Feedbackin”, “Nova Prospektin” ja “Rise of a Digital Nationin” kaltaisten rallien puuttuminen setistä tuntuu nykyään hassulta ajatukselta. Uudelta levyltä oli otettu mukaan kovia valintoja, sillä ”Twe27ySeven” ja ”The Last March of the Undead” toimivat todella hyvin livenä – ensimmäisen ajaksi bändi kutsui lavalle levyilläkin laulaneen Ingeborg Ekelandin. Kovimmat bileet kirvoitti vähemmän yllättävästi ”Indiscriminate Murder is Counter-Productive” – olen tainnut nähdä A View From the End of the Worldin julkaisun jälkeen yhden MaSu-keikan, jolla sitä ei ole soitettu.

Machinae Supremacyn encoret ovat aina vaihdelleet mukavasti – tällä kertaa kuultiin ”Rocket Dragon”, ”Dark City” sekä viimeisenä itseoikeutetusti bändin suurin hitti, Redeemerin ”Through the Looking Glass”, johon Ekeland saapui jälleen kakkoslaulajaksi. Aivan todella kova setti, ja kylläpä bändi muuten myös kuulosti hyvältä! Miksaus oli selkeä ja Robert Stjärnströmin laulu juuri sopivan kovalla, minkä lisäksi mies myös teki todennäköisesti parhaan laulusuorituksen vuosiin – aivan ensimmäiset Into the Night Worldin jälkeiset YouTube-taltioinnit antoivat odottaa hieman ailahtelevaa menoa, mutta mies pysyi Nosturissa aivan suvereenisti nuotissa. Jo useamman vuoden samana pysynyt miehistökin on hitsautunut tiukasti yhteen, ja soitto kulki totutun jämäkästi. Kitaristi Tomi Luoma oli yllättäen ajanut hiuksensa pois; voisin vaikka vannoa, että näin miehen vielä Blind Channelin aikana lavan sivutasanteella hiukset päässään!

 

MaSu on äärimmäisen tärkeä bändi, joka on varmasti tuonut nörttikansaa lähemmäksi toisiaan. Se on myös tehnyt tärkeää työtä Internetissä musiikin vapaan leviämisen puolesta, sillä bändi kehotti fanejaan jakamaan musiikkiaan vertaisverkoissa jo reilusti yli 10 vuotta sitten. Vanhat biisijulkaisut ovat edelleen ladattavissa vapaasti bändin verkkosivuilta. Kaiken tämän lisäksi Machinae Supremacy on musiikillisesti täysin uniikki tapaus, ja sen materiaali on täysin vertailukelpoista monen suuremman raskaan musiikin orkesterin kanssa. Nähdään taas ensi kerralla – josko se ”Winterstorm” olisi silloin taas viimein mukana setissä?

Machinae Supremacyn setti:
1. My Dragons Will Decimate
2. Into the Night World
3. Player One
4. Force Feedback
5. Laser Speed Force
6. Republic of Gamers
7. Truth of Tomorrow
8. Indiscriminate Murder Is Counter-Productive
9. Renegades
10. Nova Prospekt
11. Twe27ySeven
12. Rise of a Digital Nation
13. The Last March of the Undead

Encore:
14. Rocket Dragon
15. Dark City
16. Through the Looking Glass

Kuvat: Janne Puronen

Festival Season: Ticket Sale Scams and How to Avoid Them

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It’s festival season yet again and many people out there will be selling concert and festival tickets for a discount because they aren’t able to get to the festival/show, and they’d rather sell a 125€ for 100€ than lose their money altogether. However, this is a common way for scammers to steal your money as well, so it’s wise to think things through carefully before you buy tickets from anyone online (particularly trade sites like Tori.fi and Huuto.net).

To help avoid getting ripped off, here are a few things you can do:

  1. Search for sales, don’t post requests!
    Scammers tend not to post their own advertisements (most of the time, not always), but they will reply to posts that go up for someone searching for tickets, regardless of whether the show is sold out or not. They will give you a fake story to make it sound legitimate too – you’re looking for one ticket, they might have two, the show is in Tampere but they’re in Rovaniemi and can’t make the trip down – they want it to be believable so you don’t question it. They are often quite quick on the draw too because they’re searching for people all the time, so if you put up an advertisement searching for a ticket and they respond in 30 minutes or less, that’s a red flag.
  2. Buy paper tickets, not .pdf!
    Scammers will rarely offer you a paper ticket, usually saying they will transfer a .pdf ticket to you via email; .pdf tickets are already questionable because if the person does have one, they could sell it to many people and you can’t be certain you’re getting the only copy, and it becomes a matter of who arrives at the venue first as to who gets to use it. If they have a paper ticket, there’s less of a chance of a scam. Likewise, if you’re buying tickets from a retailer to a show that you’re not 100% sure you can go to, it’s better to buy a paper ticket than a .pdf so that people will trust you more if you have to sell it.
  3. Speak to them on the phone!
    Scammers use pre-paid phones and will use them to text you. As such, if someone texts you with an offer, call them back and discuss things in person. Scammers will never answer the phone.
  4. Arrange a false meeting!
    If you have the time to do this before the show (as in, if it’s still a day or two before the show), arrange a false meeting with the person. If they claim to be in Oulu with a ticket to a show in Helsinki, say that you happen to be there at the moment too, and could buy it off them in person. If they’re willing to meet you to pass over the ticket, you can tell them that you were just checking to see if they were real and not a scammer, and chances are they won’t hold it against you. If they’re a scammer though, they’ll make excuses. Better safe than sorry, right?
  5. Ask for proof of purchase!
    If the person selling you a ticket can’t prove they have one, well, don’t buy it! Scammers don’t post photos of their tickets because they don’t have them. You don’t need to see the bar code to know it’s real, just a photo of the ticket with the date and venue. Then, once you do have the proof photo, do a quick Google search to make sure the photo in question doesn’t match any other photos that could have easily been snagged online.
  6. Purchase in person!
    To be fair, we can never really be certain of what we’re getting when we buy used tickets, so if at all possible, buy your tickets in a way that you ensure that you’ll be meeting the person face-to-face and you can double-check that the ticket is authentic and the dates and venue are correct.

 

The Gentleman’s Rule
Let’s say you’re living in Turku and have a ticket to Tuska, and someone in Helsinki wants to buy it, but neither of you is going to be in the same city at any point before the festival. I propose a gentleman’s rule in that, if you’re mailing a ticket, the buyer pays half and sends some proof (screenshot or whatever), the sellers sends the ticket, and the buyer pays the other half. Usually it just goes that the buyer puts their faith in the seller, but that’s not entirely fair. This rule allows both parties to take a more equal risk with one another.

 

What if it happens anyways?
Okay, you’ve followed all these rules and still someone managed to scam you out of a ticket. What now? Simple: tell the police. Find your local police department and tell them what happened. You might feel foolish, you might not want to go to the police department, but do it anyways. If people don’t report these crimes, no one will ever get caught. And if you do, who knows, you might actually get your money back someday.

 

It’s great to help people out by taking their tickets off their hands, and it’s a good way to save a bit of money, particularly with festivals, but be sure that you think things through before making a commitment to buying a ticket from someone who lives out of town. Safe purchases, and see you at the shows!

MACHINAE SUPREMACY w/ ONE MORNING LEFT & BLIND CHANNEL @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 27.05.2017

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Machinae Supremacy with One Morning Left & Blind Channel at Nosturi, 2017.
Photos by Janne Puronen.
Gig report in English HERE!
Lue suomeksi TÄÄLLÄ!

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Niko Pyhäjärvi (Savage Land), 2017

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Savage Land is a Finnish thrash metal band, based out of Turku. Formed in early 2016, the band has already played several gigs across southern Finland since their inception. While paying homage to all-time thrash metal greats like Metallica, Megadeth, and Testament, the band has mixed also some unusual influences into the band’s sound. Today we have the playlist of Niko Pyhäjärvi’s life for you!

 

The first song you remember hearing as a child?
Well, the first song I remember has got to be “F-F-F-Falling” by The Rasmus. It’s a really catchy song and the song always got me excited.

The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving?
There have been probably many songs that have been my ‘favorites’, but my only one always has to be “Dyers Eve” by Metallica. I just love the sheer aggressiveness of the song! Although I’m far from being an aggressive person, haha. But I think that song will always have a soft spot in my heart.

A song you loved as a teenager / reminds you of high school?
Well, during high school, core music was really a big thing with my friends. First I despised it, but later I started to dig it more and more. Again, there are so many songs I could say as an answer, but I’ve got to go with “Cryomancer” by Defiler. The lyrics are kinda childish angst, but the playing and the musicianship is great! And that breakdown… damn.

The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in) ?
The bands that got me to metal music have to be Metallica and Slipknot. One of my old friends lived in the next house and he used to listen all kinds of heavy bands. Again, first I was thinking as a child that, “What’s this?” but you listen to it enough, it starts to grow on you. As for what band got me to play thrash metal, I have to blame Metallica again. Watch the 1989 Seattle concert and try to say with a straight face that they didn’t kick ass then, haha. (They still do kick ass!)

The most recent song to get stuck in your head?
“Superterrorizer” by Black Label Society. The rhythm on that song is almost too catchy!

Your guilty pleasure song or band?
The truth is, even though metal is the best music genre in my opinion, I don’t want to listen it all the time. I just can’t! That being said, the most guilty pleasure song would be probably “No Broken Hearts” by Bebe Rexha. It’s a good song when you just wanna chill and relax.

The first album you bought with your own money / the first album you were really excited to own?
I remember being 5 or 6 years old and we were going to the supermarket with my mom and uncle. Then I got my first album which was Hell of a Collection by The Rasmus. I played it every chance I could! I think I could still have it somewhere…

A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage?
Turn down the lights so there’s only a little bit of light, take a blanket, press play, and listen to “Foreclosure of a Dream” by Megadeth. Just try it, it’s so relaxing.

A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road?
Well, we already kinda did this the other night when we were driving back from our last gig in Lahti. And the song we blasted was “Suicide Messiah” from Black Label Society. It’s just such awesome song that it almost makes the trip go faster than it actually goes!

The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral?
I think the song would have to be a song that I would like to listen to even when I lived. But at the same time, the song would have to be right for the moment, so my pick would be “Orion” by Metallica. But I hope that there’s many decades before people will have to listen to it when I’m gone.

Thank you for this interview, it was a pleasure! Make sure to follow Savage Land on social media, we will have a new song out soon so stay tuned! 🙂

METALLIHELVETTI: Who is Wormwood?

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Metallihelvetti brings Batushka to Finland for the second time! The show will take place in Kåren, Turku, on Saturday, June 3rd. The Swedish Wormwood and Finnish Korgonthurus have the honor to warm up the stage for the Polish black metal phenomenon. As a heads-up, Wormwood guitarist Nox gave us some background information about the band.

 

1. First off, tell us a bit about yourselves?
The band was formed in early 2014 by Rydsheim, Borka, Johtun, and Nine. I joined forces a few months later, and the line-up was complete. During 2015 we tried to play live as much as possible to spread our name, including a European tour during the summer. 2016 was mostly about writing and recording our debut album, Ghostlands – Wounds From a Bleeding Earth, and also recording the music video for “Godless Serenade.” The album was released in March 2017 and we’re really proud of the great reviews it has received so far. As for now, we want to get out there and play even more, and to write our next album!

2. For anyone who hasn’t heard your music before, can you tell us a little bit about your sound?
Many reviewers have described us as ‘melodic black metal’, but I tend to think that we include a lot more in our music. When we were writing songs for the debut album, the sound started to evolve into something special and different. We’ve molded down several genres and the whole spectrum of songs is quite wide, without losing the theme. You can find black metal parts for sure, but also a lot of Scandinavian folk tunes, melancholy melodies, etc. In general, we feel that we have found our sound with this album.

3. Is there anything you’re interested in or excited about in playing in Finland?
Finland has exported a lot of great metal over the years, and we’re very excited to see how you guys like our music. I believe that Finns, just like Swedes, are quite picky about their music – and I’m certain that we will win some fans this evening. We’re arriving early in the morning, so we’ll also have plenty of time to scout Turku before the show!

4. What do you think is going to be the highlight of the upcoming show?
Playing with Batushka is an honor, and it’s going to be great to see them live, and what I’ve heard of Korgonthurus so far sound really good as well. But of course, playing our own songs for new people is what we look forward to the most.

5. Do you have any last words for potential viewers about the upcoming show?
We’ll get upon that stage and deliver a great show for our neighbors in the east! Hopefully we’ll have a chance to meet up with people afterwards and grab a beer. Kippis!

 

Give Ghostlands – Wounds From a Bleeding Earth a listen on Spotify:

For details about the upcoming event, click HERE!
For tickets, click HERE!

METALLIHELVETTI: Who is Korgonthurus?

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Metallihelvetti brings Batushka to Finland for the second time! The show will take place in Kåren, Turku, on Saturday, June 3rd. The Swedish Wormwood and Finnish Korgonthurus have the honor to warm up the stage for the Polish black metal phenomenon. As a heads-up, Korgonthurus’ bass player Necron gave us some background information about the band.

 

1. First off, tell us a bit about yourselves?
Well, we are KORGONTHURUS. We’ve existed in this decadent world for 17 years already. Over the years, we have released several EPs and only two full length albums, of which the latest, Vuohen Siunaus, was about a year ago.

2. For anyone who hasn’t heard your music before, can tell us a little bit about your sound?
We like to have a clear sound, yet still keep certain ruggedness in it. It has to sound professional, but still as good as we sound live.

3. What’s your best/worst memory of playing in Finland?
We are a Finnish band, so basically we have played only in Finland. We have done only one show in Germany, Under the Black Sun Festival. For me, the best show so far is the latest one in Steelfest Open Air. I thought that there would be no one in the audience because of our early showtime, but I was wrong. There were loads of people who knew the lyrics to our songs, banged their heads off – can’t get better than that. The more shows we do, the more intense they get. I mean both the audience and us.

4. What do you think is going to be the highlight of the upcoming show?
It’s hard to say, we’ll see when we get there.

5. Do you have any last words for potential viewers about the upcoming show?
Our setlist consists of both new and old songs, so be prepared to bang your heads off. See you in Turku!

 

Give “Vuohen Siunaus” a listen on Spotify:

For details about the upcoming event, click HERE!
For tickets, click HERE!

(2000) Iron Maiden: Brave New World

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Artist: Iron Maiden
Album: Brave New World
Released: 29.05.2000
Label: EMI

 

Certain albums carry powerful nostalgic value. In 2000, Iron Maiden released an album titled after Aldous Huxley’s classic dystopian novel of the same name (and in my opinion, the only dystopian novel that truly predicted the path the world is on). In an era when all popular music was starting to sound the same, this album opened the doors to the world of literary-themed lyrics and stories unrelated to love, masterfully crafted to the tune of guitars. For those of you who weren’t newly warming up to heavy metal at this point in your life, this album also marked the glorious return of Bruce Dickinson (vocals), as well as Adrian Smith rejoining Dave Murray and Janick Gers on guitars. As this was the first Iron Maiden album that I truly loved, start-to-finish, I might not be the most objective commentator, but I genuinely believe that this is Iron Maiden’s most under-appreciated album, hence the 17-year-late review.

Feel free to listen along:

1. The Wicker Man
If this song doesn’t get you into Iron Maiden, there’s a chance that the band is just not for you. This is one of the easily-accessible Iron Maiden songs that manages to be textbook-definition heavy metal, as well as catchy and fun as hell. The iconic riff in this song is a modern Maiden classic and this was still the era when Dickinson’s vocals weren’t under any age-related strain. While the chorus is a tad repetitive (a rather constant problem with Maiden on the whole, or at least recently), the song has great energy and is easy to sing along to – especially with the “whoah” parts towards the end; it’s a shame it doesn’t make it to many live sets these days. Also, how cool is the shirt for this song? Amazing artwork!

2. Ghost of the Navigator
If you want a song to kick off an album and get you hyped, “The Wicker Man” is a great place to start, and if you want to just show off some songwriting and musical talent, “Ghost of the Navigator” is a perfect followup. Maiden has had a lot of mystique embedded in their music over the years, notable in songs like “Infinite Dreams” and “Childhood’s End” to name a few. Of all the songs on this album – with the possible exception of “The Nomad” – this track has the most mysterious vibe, likely created by the opening riff, which for whatever reason has always made me think of Charon (the ferryman from Greek mythology, not the band). This song is, from start to finish, just simply great. The mood constantly changes as it heads towards the solo, but never falters.

3. Brave New World
The flow of music that leads the listener from “Ghost of the Navigator” into “Brave New World” is nothing short of perfect. The move is seamless, with no hesitation, yet you can still listen to the songs separately, in playlists for example, without them feeling incomplete as standalone songs. I know at least a handful of other bands who have done a tribute to this dystopian classic novel (Iron Savior and The Strokes, to name a few), though I can’t say any of them quite captured its soul in the way that this song does. While I don’t think it’s musically the best song on the album, it manages to dig deep into the heart of the source material and summarizes it beautifully. And when I say it’s not the best song on the album musically, that doesn’t mean the music isn’t good, just that the other material is better, likely relating to this being one of the more laid-back songs on the album. It does suffer again from a lack of diversity in the lyrics in the chorus, but the dynamic build-up following the first chorus helps remedy it. I also enjoy the way Dickinson sings, “bring this savage back home,” as the song fades out.

4. Blood Brothers
I’ve heard word on the street that this is the ‘worst song on the album’, though I can’t recall from where (maybe one of my brothers). However, I would tend to disagree. I’m a big fan of the guitarwork in this song… the riff doesn’t lurk or tiptoe, but it moves in a way that feels almost exploratory and tentative. It’s hard to describe the feeling it instills, but walking through a graveyard might be close. There is yet another repeated one-line chorus in this song, but the overall track doesn’t suffer for it. I enjoy the passion in the C-part as well, and the lyrics are rather moving. This is the only song that has a meaning deep enough to carry on this album’s legacy in the modern day – the song was originally written for Steve Harris‘ (bass) late father, but has more recently been dedicated to the late Ronnie James Dio in 2010 and to the brotherhood of Iron Maiden fans worldwide as recently as 2016. I also love the way the riff flows later on, to the point when Dickinson starts singing “When you think that you’ve used all your chances…” and then moves on into a nice solo.

5. The Mercenary
This is the only song on the album that I can’t quite get behind, which makes me sad, as this was one of the few songs from this album to make it onto any live setlists. Perhaps the riff feels a bit like early classic Maiden – I’m talking Paul Di’Anno -era Maiden – but that doesn’t explain what prevents me from loving the song, as I liked the classic Maiden guitarwork. I believe it’s the style in which Dickinson sings the verses, combined with yet another overly simple chorus, lyrically, that holds this song back. “Show them no fear, show them no pain” is by far one of the best parts of this song, and though it’s my least favorite, it is still a decent track. Perhaps it is fortunate that it is one of the shorter songs on the album, around the 4-minute mark.

6. Dream of Mirrors
I adored this song in my teenage years, and while my affection towards this song has been inconsistent, I do still think it’s a cool track. That lurking riff borders on creepy, and combined with the lyrics sets an interesting atmosphere. The song builds up beautifully, switching to a heavier sound in the bridge, before building up to a much more interesting chorus than many of the previous songs. I also enjoy the sped-up part that kicks off just after the 5:45 mark, flipping the song from its eerie vibe back into the heavy metal that Iron Maiden is so well-loved for! There’s no shortage of soloing in this song, which is highly satisfying, and even though the song is over 9 minutes long, it doesn’t feel like a long song.

[An odd note – my rising and falling love of a former favorite is also present in Helloween’s “Mirror, Mirror” (The Dark Ride, 2000) and Blind Guardian’s “Mirror Mirror” (Nightfall in Middle-Earth, 1998); does anyone else find it weird that they are all songs from a similar era and all have the word “mirror” in their title?]

7. The Fallen Angel
This song has one of the coolest intros, with its wicked drums (thanks, Nicko McBrain!) and fantastically dynamic build-up. Something about this song makes me think it is what “The Clansman” should have been if Dickinson had been the vocalist. I love “The Clansman”, but it lacks a certain energy and exuberance that “The Fallen Angel” makes up completely. They didn’t skimp on the chorus in this one either, keeping the song’s story going in full force. I’d be curious to know what inspired this particular song, as the concepts of “fallen angel” and “chosen one” were and still are pretty common tropes. More excellent soloing follows, with I’m assuming at least two of the guitarists getting a turn at the song, as the solo changes up three times. I would have loved to see this song live at some point. It has great energy and fits well between two particularly long and mystical songs.

8. The Nomad
While it’s incredibly hard to pick, this is nevertheless probably my favorite song on the album. The riff is amazing and the entire song sets an unbelievable mood for the story it tells. Not only does this song tell a story, but it creates a viscerally real character, secretive and mysterious. You can’t tell if this nomad is alive or dead, good or evil. It’s poetic and Dickinson shines as a narrator. Apart from that, this song is just a 9-minute orgasm of solos, riffs, and wicked lyrics. It’s hard for me to express how much I enjoy this song, but if you like mystical things, fantasy, or just good ol’ heavy metal, I find it hard to believe that you wouldn’t like this song.

9. Out of the Silent Planet
This could have easily been the closer the album. It has a cool opening riff and Dickinson’s echoing and layered vocals have a really final feel to them. Lyrically, this song is phenomenal. I confess that once upon a time, I thought that Brave New World was a concept album. If that had been the case, this was one of the few songs that actually made sense in such a context. I wonder what it was actually written about, if not the eponymous novel. The ferocity of the message in this song is biting and Dickinson is yet again at the top of his game – this was back before his voice sounded overly strained, and thank goodness, because some of those high notes would have suffered in the present decade. Though this song has another fairly simple chorus lyrically, I really enjoy the way the guitars take on the vocal line and they pair up so nicely. All of the guitarwork in this song is beautiful and the dynamics are perfect. The solo just keeps going and going and never gets dull – it sounds like whichever guitarist, if not all three, playing these parts enjoyed the song enough that they didn’t want it to end, and neither do I!

10. The Thin Line Between Love and Hate
Now, I said that “Out of the Silent Planet” could have been the album’s closer, but I’m so glad it wasn’t, because this track is such a great finale. In fact, I don’t think a single Maiden album closer was this good until “Empire of the Clouds” from The Book of Souls (2015). That’s 15 years and three albums falling short before they had an album that could match this as a finale. Anyways, I love the heavy, bordering on industrial beat in the beginning of the song. A song potentially about the fine line between good and evil, I really enjoy the lyrics in this track. There is a bit of political judgment, and also some rather provocative thought regarding the future. I love the sort of dual-chorus in this song, the first being “There’s a thin line between love and hate” and the second being the “I will hope, my soul will fly, and I will live forever” – each has its own power and creates a different atmosphere. The “thin line” parts are cautionary, while the “my soul” parts are more hopeful, and thus eventually ends the album on an optimistic note. More amazing solos follow, briefly interspersed between choruses, and then longer solos follow toward the end to help the song wind down, though they just keep going, riffing the vocal lines a bit before Dickinson joins in again. You think the song is drawing to a close, but then the song picks up once more and goes into some more awesome soloing. The solos aren’t wanky or overdone either – they fit the feeling of the song and make it all the more enjoyable to listen to. This is how you do guitars right in heavy metal! The guitars once again reintroduce the vocal line before Dickinson joins in, and the song fades out, ending the album on what I consider to be a perfect note.

 

And so, we conclude a phenomenal album and one of my personal all-time favorites. Brave New World appeared at a time when the ‘classics’ were behind Iron Maiden already, so most of the songs from this album are sadly absent from their live shows, and I consider that to be nothing short of a tragedy. This album has everything I love about heavy metal – outstanding musicianship (and oh so many great solos), thought provoking and/or story-like lyrics, and Bruce Dickinson before his voice started sounding too strained. While a few of the songs suffer from the traditional Iron Maiden ‘one-line’ choruses, the songs aren’t made any worse by the lack of diversity. Overall, while I’d love to give this album a full score, I think “The Mercenary” is just low enough on my appeal list to knock it down just a tad.

Rating: 9.5-10/10, 5 stars.

Tracklist:
1. The Wickerman
2. Ghost of the Navigator
3. Brave New World
4. Blood Brothers
5. The Mercenary
6. Dream of Mirrors
7. The Fallen Angel
8. The Nomad
9. Out of the Silent Planet
10. The Thin Line Between Love and Hate

AVATARIUM – Marcus Jidell, 2017

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Sweden’s doomy vintage rockers, Avatarium, just released their third album, Hurricanes and Halos, so the time was appropriate to catch up with six-string maestro Marcus Jidell. He talked about the new songs, the making of the album, as well as their upcoming Finnish live debut at Tuska.

 

First of all, congratulations on your new album, Hurricans & Halos. To my ears, the songs on the new album are catchier than before, and while Jennie-Ann Smith’s vocals are great as usual, it feels like the material plays to her strengths even more than before. Was this more melodic and vocal-centered approach something you aimed for or did it just take shape naturally?
I think we aimed for a different mood on this album, because we wanted to take our music further. I’m not sure if it’s more melodic actually, but I think it’s more diverse and more bluesy and jazzy. We already had this sort of touch in Moonhorse, for example, but I’m glad that we can use it now a little bit more.

I also noticed that the doom elements have been toned down in favor of 70s heavy rock and other influences. Did the fact that Leif [Edling] now has another doom metal project [The Doomsday Kingdom] have an effect on Avatarium?
Yes, I think it’s good for both me and Leif to have a place (with The Doomsday Kingdom) where we can totally work with our love for old school metal! In that sense it’s a good thing, but Avatarium is rather a band in progress and we mix many different styles. When I take a look into my record collection and to what I listen to at home, Avatarium is more close to that now than it was a few years ago.

Hurricanes and Halos marks the first time you and Jennie-Ann have contributed to the songwriting. Was it intimidating at all to step into the territory of a prolific writer like Leif?
As a start we actually wrote “Deep Well” on the EP, so it’s not the first time we wrote something. And since that song is very popular when we play it live, it helped our self-confidence a bit. But I’m very happy to have Leif around me – he helped me a lot with becoming a better songwriter. But of course this also means that we have to bring very good stuff to the table, otherwise it wouldn’t make sense. It’s so inspiring… Leif works a lot on each song, puts great effort into small details, and so did we on our songs now. And since we always worked on song arrangements together, even before being involved in the songwriting, we had the feeling for Avatarium songs from the beginning on.

You have Mats Rydström on bass, now that Leif is concentrating on songwriting. How did you find him and how is he fitting in?
I saw Mats in a blues club in Stockholm; me and some friends went out for a beer and I was stunned, because he took all my attention while being on stage. I immediately felt that he would be perfect for the band. And Leif never played live with us, so we needed a new member anyway. We had Anders Iwers before, but he lives in Gothenburg, so working with Mats was easier for us and he’s just a brilliant musician.

One track that stood out to me immediately is “Road to Jerusalem” – can you tell a bit more about that song and how it came together?
It was inspired by Crosbys, Stills & Nash as well as Led Zeppelin’s acoustic stuff and their special way of tuning a guitar. That’s how it started, we wrote it completely on an acoustic guitar. And Leif really liked how it sounded and said, “You should try to do some sort of gospel lyric to that, something about finding the way to salvation,” and he came up with the title, before Jennie-Ann wrote the lyrics. There’s quite a 60s vibe in it and I’m very happy about that, as I always wanted to bring that flair into our music… Jimi Hendrix style.

You’ve named “When Breath Turns to Air” – a song with personal significance to you, as it’s dedicated to your late father. Do you have any other favorites on the album?
It’s hard to pick favorites; I think I love them all equally and we are very proud of that album. We always want to move forward and reach for new horizons and of course can’t wait to play the new songs live.

The sound of the album is quite warm and even dynamic by modern standards. Did you approach the recording process differently in terms of equipment or production choices this time around?
Once again, we’re continuing our journey with sounds and emotions and we’re getting better at what we’re doing. We used both vintage and modern equipment and what we go after is the gut feeling… how you feel when you hear the music. But we spend a lot of money on good studios and equipment, so yes, I can say that I’m extremely concerned about the sound. And this is the first time in my life that I’m 100% happy with it.

In the press release, you say the album title was inspired by the abuse of power in the modern world, yet judging by the song titles you haven’t abandoned the mystic fantasy themes of the previous albums either. As a creative person, do you feel it’s inevitable that your work ends up reflecting what’s going on in the outside world or is it possible to shut it all out and use music as a means of escape?
We are looking inside a human mind with our lyrics… we try to find the dark corners and a few bright parts. And I think music should be a way of escapism. Sometimes you need it as a form of drug. What we are interested in is the psychological stuff of a human mind, but also telling stories. We’re not a political band but we felt that there is too much crazy stuff going on in the world. Weird politicians… In Sweden, the second biggest party used to be a Nazi party 25 years ago. This shouldn’t be normal! We don’t want to be too political but we don’t want people to get used to right-winged crazy guys, even though they wear suits and act innocent. We always have to react when people try to scare us and try to exclude other people. Don’t get used to hate and discrimination!

A while ago you also joined Soen and played on their new album Lykaia. How has your time in the band been so far?
It’s been good. I started touring with the band after they had delivered their previous album and now I played on the new one and also produced it. They are awesome musicians and great guys, we have the same kind of attitude and I’m very happy to play with them.

Unless I’m mistaken, your slot at the Tuska Festival in Helsinki will be Avatarium’s first appearance on Finnish soil. What are your expectations for the show and can we expect club gigs around here in the near future?
We expect to be… brilliant. Haha. I love Finland and I’ve always loved playing in Finland with my other bands. We will play in a tentat Tuska, which is always better than in bright daylight. But we also hope to be able to play some headlining shows in the future and return to Finland, as it’s such a great country with wonderful people.

Thanks for your time!

LACUNA COIL @ YO-talo, Tampere, 24.05.2017

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Lacuna Coil at YO-talo, Tampere 2017.
Photos by Lene L.
Gig report HERE!
Interview with Cristina & Andrea HERE!

LACUNA COIL – YO-talo, Tampere, 24.05.2017

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I was starting to get worried that the European Sanatorium Tour from Lacuna Coil, following the release of Delirium over a year ago, might skip Finland altogether. After all, they missed us when they did Sweden and Norway, and usually these three Nordics go hand-in-hand gig-wise. Luckily, they passed by Tampere’s YO-talo on May 24th, 2017, so we made sure to be there for the show!

Full gallery HERE!
Or have a look at our interview with Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro over HERE!

Or listen to the set on Spotify:

 

I’ve lived in Tampere in the past, but oddly enough, I’ve never had occasion to go to YO-talo before, so this was an oppotunity to see what I know to be a great live band while simultaneously checking out a new venue. The venue itself is small, possibly even smaller than Klubi, and I was shocked to see that I couldn’t find a merch booth anywhere, and it wasn’t for a lack of space. I wondered what the reason for the lack of merch might have been, but couldn’t come up with anything.

A dark, ambient intro introduced the band, and they roared on stage with “Ultima Ratio” – a strong starter, though I think “The House of Sleep” may have been more effective; I understand the urge to not use the album opener as the gig opener though. The sound was a bit muddled, unfortunately, with the vocals being a bit hard to make out as both Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro sounded like they were under water. I could still tell though, that Scabbia’s wails were perfect and so reminiscent of the old days, in the best possible way.

Their stage outfits are really great, and definitely help to add another layer to the performance. The two vocalists remain fantastic performers and work so well trading lines on stage and the band as a whole interact very nicely. There was no break before they went into “Spellbound” – what felt like a heavier, less poppy “Spellbound”, if I do say so. Again, you can really tell how much Scabbia and Ferro feel what they’re singing – they’re so animated all the time. A great example of fantastic performers, if I may say.

Scabbia greeted the crowd, asking how everyone was doing thanking them for being part of the night – “We’ll all go home cured. Are you guys ready to have a good time with us? Once you hit the bottom the only way to go is up.” “Die & Rise” naturally followed.

A gloriously familiar piano intro started afterwards, which only meant it was time for “Heaven’s a Lie”; I was really heartbroken about the sound quality at this point, because I could tell through the murk that both vocalists were bringing their A-games and the band, new and old, were simply tearing it up. That song is still as good as it was over 10 years ago.

“Blood, Tears, Dust” is the most recent music video, and they played it, sounding heavy as hell. “Ghost in the Mist” can’t really be considered a slow song, but it was still a welcome respite at this point in the set. “I don’t know much about your inner demons, but I can tell you a lot about mine,” Scabbia said, and they continued with another new song, the following album track, “My Demons.” The sound quality had improved, but not by too much. That didn’t stop the song from being cool though – the band can play, regardless of the equipment. Also, bonus points to the solo in this one.

A low ominous note then meant that it was time for “Downfall”, bringing us back to Delirium. Scabbia then checked how everyone was doing, and then suggested the energy level was a bit mediocre and that the crowd could stop being shy – they don’t bite. The perfect song to follow that statement came in “Our Truth”! The crowd certainly perked up, as it’s a great song and common fan favorite.

“Nothing makes us happier than hearing you sing along with us,” Scabbia said, before asking the crowd to sing along to their cover of “Enjoy the Silence”, originally by Depeche Mode. I’m glad they’re still playing it, but likewise glad that they didn’t reuse the ‘crowd karaoke’ bit they did back in 2012 or 2010. Scabbia then spoke of the first release from Broken Crown Halo, which had a line that meant a great deal to them all: we fear nothing. “We all know that life sucks,” she went on, encouraging the crowd that, “the trip isn’t over until you get to the end. Would you like to say it with us?” The crowd screamed “We fear nothing!” at her command, as they played “Nothing Stands in Our Way.”

The band then vacated the stage and the crowd stomped and cheered to urge them to return. They waited a good long while before more deep, dark music brought them back. “Delirium” was an obvious choice to kick off the encore, seeing as how it inspired the entire album’s concept, and with lots of stage fog and general disturbing ambience, it was great, even if it’s a bit slower of a song than I like my encores. I’ve always loved Scabbia’s voice, but I don’t think I’ve ever noticed the magnitude of how cool and unique it is before this moment.

“Zombies” wouldn’t have been my pick for the second encore song – I’d have gone with “Swamped”, or even better, “Senzafine”, but both have sadly been missing from this tour. The encore is the place for old fan favorites though, and “Zombies” is merely one album old now, and not a song I know, let alone get hyped for. They ended with “The House of Shame”, though, and I’m glad they did – I’d have hated not to hear it. “You will always be welcome in our house of shame,” Scabbia said.

 

If you’re looking for the definition of a cool live band who know their music and know how to put on a good show, go no farther than Lacuna Coil. Even the material from their albums that I haven’t liked as much sounded great and the mediocre quality of the overall sound didn’t hold them back from doing a great job. I might have liked a few more songs from Comalies, Karmacode, or even Shallow Life, but the new material came out very well live and and I can’t say I had much of anything to complain about (other than the sound). It was definitely worth the trip to Tampere and I hope that it’s not another 5-year wait for their next show here.

Setlist:
1. Ultima Ratio
2. Spellbound
3. Die and Rise
4. Heaven’s a Lie
5. Blood, Tears, Dust
6. Ghost in the Mist
7. My Demons
8. Trip the Darkness
9. Downfall
10. Our Truth
11. Enjoy the Silence (Depeche Mode cover)
12. Nothing Stands in Our Way

Encore:
13. Delirium
14. Zombies
15. The House of Shame

Photos by Lene L.

LACUNA COIL – Cristina Scabbia & Andrea Ferro, Tampere 2017

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We’ve been waiting no less than 5 years for Lacuna Coil to come back to Finland, and the European Sanatorium Tour finally brought them to Tampere after passing over Helsinki earlier on during the Nordic leg. We made the trip up to Tampere for the show, and managed to get a few minutes with Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro to talk about the album and more!

 

Welcome back to Finland. Was there any reason that Lacuna Coil decided to come to Tampere instead of Helsinki this time around?
Cristina: I honestly cannot tell you.

Andrea: I think the reason was that we were going to Russia, so it was more comfortable for some reason to book a show here than in Helsinki. I don’t know why, exactly. It’s just a logistical thing. Of course, we haven’t come here in a long time, so that could be the reason.

Most bands come to Finland when they come through Norway and Sweden as well, but you guys happened to miss it that time. Was there any reason?
Andrea: It was just the way the routing of the tour was possible. Sometimes you don’t have a venue available the day you’re in [town], so you have to go back and do other markets because it’s too expensive to just stay around an extra day. So it’s just bad luck on the routing of the tour, I think. We wish we could come more often, because we always have a good reception here in Finland. It’s always a good show.

Let’s talk about the album then, briefly. Delirium is a concept album about an asylum inhabited by the living and dead (spirits) – how much research did you do into mental illness, or did you draw more from personal experience?
Cristina: What you said is the main idea behind it, let’s say, to match with the visual concept as well, but the main thematics are mental insanities, mental illnesses, intended in a medical way but also in a more extended way, in the little crazy things that we do every day. It was something that we felt really close to, because it was not a way for us to just be cool or let’s say, “Let’s talk about a weird topic”; we are really close to these issues for personal reasons or illnesses within the families. We’ve been very close to centers that are taking care of these types of illnesses. We also visited a lot of abandoned asylums around the area we live in. We’ve always been fascinated about the mystery behind it, because there’s so many things we still don’t know about these medical issues. We’re still attracted because there’s this barrier that we will never pass.

Andrea: There was a connection with the music, the way Marco – the bass player and main songwriter for the music – was coming up with a lot of songs without thinking too much, without putting too many barriers into where it was going with the music. If there was an extreme song, he was pushing the extreme double-bass or whatever for the rhythmical parts for the song, or it was going in a completely different direction, so the songwriting itself was also not crazy, but very free, without too many preconceptions, without worrying too much about being what we’ve always been as a band, without worry that this is too heavy, this is too crazy. So it fit perfectly with the mood of the project.

You’ve said that you’ve visited some of these old, abandoned asylums, and I’ve heard they can be really dangerous to enter – did you have any problems with them falling apart on your visits?
Cristina: It was dangerous, at least in one of them, because in theory we were not supposed to get in. It’s a closed area, around a huge hospital, out of Milano. So you can still enter even if you’re not supposed to get in, but the times we went in we did it in a very respectful way. It was more pure curiosity, call it morbid a little bit, but it is still fascinating.

Creative research as well, perhaps?
Cristina: Yeah. And that actually happened way before we even thought about the concept for this record, so it’s not something we did after we thought about this record. We thought about the world of Delirium when we started to write the song, “Delirium”, and from there we started to think about… we were living the last couple of years and we said, “Hmm, we have a lot of things to say about this.”

You’ve said in other interviews that the new, heavier aspects of the album came quite organically, as opposed to being a conscious decision to go in a heavier direction. Were there any moments during the album making that really surprised you, where you were like, “Whoa, this is not where I expected this to go!”?
Cristina: Not something that surprised us, because I think that our music always incorporated different elements from more aggressive, heavier elements, to more melodic ones. Our music has always been a mix. Maybe for us it was… maybe it was more surprising for other people, let’s say, to hear what we had to offer with this record, as I think a lot of people were really surprised about the first song that we put out, “House of Shame.” I know for sure that we raised a lot of eyebrows, in a positive way, because they weren’t expecting something like this from us. So it’s not something that surprised us.

Well, it definitely happened to me. I put the album on and with the first growl I was blown away.
Cristina: [laughter] That’s the whole point, doing something slightly different every time, incorporating something new. Life goes on and of course you’re always influenced by different stuff and it’s impossible to not put it in your music.

On that same note, your [Andrea] growls on this album are incredible, and I don’t remember hearing them quite this much or this strongly before – did you train your voice for it, or was it more of a power that you summoned?
Andrea: I didn’t train, because we used to have it in the past as well, but we never used it so much in the songs in the end, in the way the songs were coming up during the end of the songwriting. It was not so necessary to have all those growl parts. This time we just decided to use it more, so obviously, the more you do it, the better it becomes. If you don’t do it for a while then you’re not as good as when you do it all the time, so I ended up practicing it for the demos of the songs for the songwriting sessions. After all the experience of learning better how to sing, how to do it in different ways, helps also the growl because you can hold the notes longer or the breath or whatever you need in order to sound good. So it was just something we always had but never needed to use so much. And we like the result of using it, actually. Everybody likes it, so it seems a good decision.

In the past, you’ve had fairly uniform stage appearances – in 2012 you had the black collared shirts, for example, though I’ve never seen you with such a strong visual element to your shows. Have you done full costumes before, or is this the first time you’ve worked with such a strong image?
Cristina: We’ve always thought about the visual part of the show, and I’m not talking about special effects on stage; I’m more talking about us as a unit and not just me, let’s say, as the female front of a band, and a band disappearing behind it. We always wanted to deliver a sort of an army look, where each one of us would be an individual, but altogether we will be Lacuna Coil.

When it came to Delirium, we thought about the uniforms because they were fitting the idea behind the record, so the straight jackets, of course personalized with a lot of elements that belong to Lacuna Coil, our logo… we created the logo that’s supposed to be the logo of this fictional sanatorium…

Andrea: Probably also the Delirium team also helped pushing a little bit more of certain things, like the make-up or the crazy looks. That probably helped also probably bring it in even more.

Cristina: It’s something that we want to keep, because a live performance is different than just putting the CD on at home and listening to the music. I think it’s more fun for us, in the first place, and I think it’s more fun for the crowd who comes to have a good time with us, so it’s a way to offer something more. Something more theatrical.

Do you have any plans to do a live DVD related to this album at all, with the visual elements?
Cristina: Yes and no [laughs].

Andrea: We have a project for a live DVD but I don’t know if it’s going to be strictly tied-in with the album, because we’re also having, next year, our 20th anniversary of the band. So maybe it will probably be something more overall about the 20 years’ history of the band, so it will be also Delirium but not only. There’s an idea we’re working on. There’s actually several ideas, several projects, we’re working on to celebrate next year, the 20 years. One of them could also be the DVD.

That ties in nicely to another one of my questions. Anniversary shows are getting really popular these days. Perhaps it’s because the albums are finally reaching these milestones…
Cristina: This is kind of crazy. We thought about that, because our anniversary will come next year. Of course there are other bands that have had our type of career and now it’s way more difficult for new bands to have a 20-year, 25-30-year story. It’s kind of crazy that it’s all coming up around the same time.

Andrea: If you think about it, most of these bands are all around the same time when we started. Bands like Moonspell or… they’re more or less, maybe a little older than us, but not so much; we’re more or less in the same time-frame.

Do you think the band might do any anniversary tours for your albums in the next few years – for example, Comalies in 2022?
Andrea: We’ll see. Now we’re more working on a special thing, more about the history, not just one specific album. But maybe. Never say never. We did once, a few years ago, we played a festival in Belgium called Metal Female Voices. They want us to be the headliners for the second year in a row. We said yes, but we’re on the same album cycle, so we can’t come back and play exactly more or less the same songs we’ve already played, so we decided to do the Karmacode altogether with the original stage clothes, the backdrop, the same setup for the lights. But that was just because it was cool to do it because we did the normal set the year before.

I think that’s been happening a lot, that when tour cycles cross over, bands do special album sets instead.
Andrea: It can make sense. We don’t like to do it too many times. I think it has to be something special. If you do it all the time, it’s not so special anymore.

You guys just released a music video, very recently. Did you have to interrupt the tour to film the video, or have you had these videos pre-filmed?
Cristina: Not at all. The video was filmed months ago. We decided to postpone the release of the video because of different reasons. We had another single coming out around Christmas, then we started another tour, and then we released “Blood, Tears, Dust” so that took at least a month to be properly viewed. Also because the premier in Italy was done from a very big, artistic TV channel, so they wanted to do a special TV thing about the history of the band, with an interview, so that took time to put together for them.

Andrea: Like a documentary.

Cristina: We thought it would’ve been cool to release it together with this, but we didn’t have to interrupt because it was already filmed.

Your albums used to, back in the day, have 3-4 year gaps between their release. In the last decade you’ve been releasing them in regular 2-year intervals. Do you think you’ve gotten better at songwriting, or is there urgency to produce new material and tour?
Cristina: I think the only one that took 4 years was from Comalies to Karmacode, and that was because we started to become more popular in the States, so we took a longer time to go around the world and especially in the States, to do all our tours, so that’s why it took longer. Honestly, I think we’re pretty good at songwriting. If we would only focus on the songwriting, we could probably write easily a record every year. Easily. But the point is, once you release a record, there is at least 1-2 years of a cycle of touring, and we are not one of those bands that are writing on the road. We just want to be home, focusing on the record, and if it’s home or somewhere else to record it, but we need to focus on the songwriting.

Andrea: I think you also need some time to experience, to have something to say on the next record. You need to live a little bit and experience and collect experiences and then bring it out on the next record, reflect on what you’re doing a little bit, having material for the lyrics, for the concept, so it needs a little bit of time for me.

Cristina: We don’t want to rush it. If we don’t have something to say, we don’t want to rush it just because.

Andrea: Ideally for me, I think even 3 years would be even better than 2 years, because I think you have more time to develop everything. In general, I think 2 years is a good standard for nowadays music.

I was thinking that 2 years is actually quite fast – do you take much time to yourselves once your tours are over to go on vacation or spend time with your families and friends?
Andrea: We try to, but it’s not so easy. The way we work, we have to tour in many places, so it takes time. Even if you don’t do a tour every month, still you have to cover a lot of territories, and now it’s 1 year since the album has been released and we still have to do a lot of touring for next year as well. So it’s a lot of work.

Cristina: But even when we write, we take some time off, obviously, for our families. It’s not that we work 24/7. We work during the day and in the evening you’re spending time with your dear ones or the weekends, we take the weekends off, because you need to lighten up your head every once in a while in order to work better.

Do you get to get out and see the sites much when you’re traveling and touring? Or is it just arrive -> sound check -> perform?
Cristina: Sometimes we do. Sometimes it gets unfortunate. We were in Israel a few days ago – the day before yesterday – we had a day off and we planned to visit some places like Jerusalem, but we couldn’t make it because Trump was in town that one day, so they closed the site and we couldn’t see anything. But sometimes we do. We take the time to visit around, even if, unfortunately, most of the time it’s just venues [to] hotels. We know exactly what’s going on around the venue, but not more.

Andrea: It depends, but we’re lucky now we’ve been doing it for many years, so we’ve been to places more than once, so if we don’t see you this time, we’ll see it next time. There’s always the chance to see something.

I’ve noticed that, on Instagram, there seems to be a really nice fellowship between female vocalists. You all seem really close, commenting and supporting one another, which is really cool. Do you all know each other quite well? For example, Alissa White-Gluz of Arch Enemy, Simone Simons of Epica, Anneke van Giersbergen, etc.
Cristina: The one that I know the most is Simone, because I’m very much in touch with her. I’ve known her for forever. We toured with Arch Enemy. We did a very small tour in Germany recent and we’ve met Alissa before. With Anneke we toured at the beginning of our tour when she was still with The Gathering and we met regularly.

Andrea: Tarja as well.

Cristina: We have a lot of friends… Tarja as well. Sharon [den Adel] from Within Temptation. I think it’s normal for me to build up a good relationship with other female… but the same thing with guys. We have so many friends now in the music business, and I have to say that we always get along with everyone. Of course it seems that there is more camaraderie with the females because we’re still the different element in metal, regardless, but I think it’s cool to support the others. Each one of us has something different to offer, a completely different style. I’m talking about girls, and guys as well. It makes no sense to feel competitive with the others. We are positive people, we like to have friends.

Anneke van Giersbergen did The Sirens project with Liv Kristine and Kari Rueslåtten a couple years ago – do you think any of you guys might consider doing something like that at some point, or would you be interested?
Cristina: Why not? I would definitely be interested. I love to sing and it’s cool to do it with people that you like and you admire, definitely. Of course, my main focus is Lacuna Coil. I didn’t even think about a solo record because I feel completely good in Lacuna Coil. I can express myself, I can do what I want with no barriers. There is nothing that I really miss that I could express in a different way, because I put everything I have in the band. But I would love to work with friends. I always do. I love cooperations.

You worked with Arjen Lucassen on The Theory of Everything
Cristina: He asked me to participate on The Theory of Everything, he was just like, “I would love you to be a part of it.” And he writes everything, so you basically just perform what he writes, which was great because it’s a challenge. Of course if I write my stuff, I know that I can do it, I know that I can sing it, but to sing something that a guy wrote, it’s even more difficult, because voices are different. Sometimes it’s not easy to perform. It’s not a guitar that you’re tuning in a different way. A voice is something absolutely personal, so to sing someone’s lyrics and melodies is really, really challenging. Some of them were really high, but I’m happy that I was able to wrap everything up in a day and a half.

My last question then – the ‘Italian question’ – is if you were to describe Lacuna Coil as a pizza, what kind of pizza would it be and what would be on it?
Cristina: Whoa [laughter].

Andrea: I feel it would be something stronger with some strong contrasts. Something like Gorgonzola cheese and, I don’t know, salami or something. Or tuna fish and onion.

Cristina: See, I would go for the opposite. I would say a margarita pizza with buffalo mozzarella, because it seems simple, but it’s really, really hard to find the right balance to serve the perfect one.

Very cool! Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us and best of luck with the rest of the tour!
Cristina: Thank you!

Photos: Lene L.

HAPPORADIO @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 24.05.2017

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Happoradio at Tavastia, 2017.
Photos by Feng Deng.

(2017) Avatarium: Hurricanes and Halos (English)

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Artist: Avatarium
Album: Hurricanes and Halos
Release: 26.05.2017
Label: Nuclear Blast

 

It seems like only yesterday when Sweden’s Avatarium captured my attention with their mix of doom metal and vintage rock on their previous album, The Girl with the Raven Mask (2015). Hurricanes and Halos follows it up just a year and a half later, despite songwriter Leif Edling‘s serious illness, and is already the band’s third full-length album since its formation in 2012. Although the cover art is stylistically similar to the self-titled debut from 2013, a few winds of change have blown over the Avatarium camp: Edling still writes most of the songs, but he’s given up his position as the bassist to Mats Rydström, and vocalist Jennie-Ann Smith and guitarist Marcus Jidell have also contributed a couple of tunes.

 

Lead single “Into the Fire/Into the Storm” kicks things off with a bang – Rickard Nilsson‘s relentless organ playing evokes the late Jon Lord of Deep Purple, and Smith almost manages to sound like a female Ian Gillan. Although the song is compact with no traces of doom and as such a good single, it manages to squeeze in a tempo change in the middle, which makes it more interesting than your average preview track. That said, it’s “The Starless Sleep” that’s the clearest hit on the album – good luck trying not to get that chorus stuck in your head! There’s also some nice layering going on with subtle acoustic guitars and tambourine, and Jidell tops it all off with a tasty solo.

After this accessible pair of tracks, the album takes an experimental turn with some new sounds. “Road to Jerusalem” is the album’s crown: a psychedelic and exotic song that I imagine would sound amazing live with the band jamming out and doing an extended instrumental break towards the end. However, I’m less excited about “Medusa Child” and its jarring transitions – I find the child vocals mildly irritating, and the chorus where they are heard comes out of nowhere and is a bit of an anticlimax after a really promising and omínous verse with howling feedback guitars. A brave sidestep for sure, but ultimately not a successful experiment.

“The Sky at the Bottom of the Sea” takes us back to the 70s hard rock vibes heard at the beginning of the record – it’s like Avatarium’s response to Uriah Heep’s “Easy Livin'”, once again featuring catchy melodies and fierce handling of the organ, as well as some cool wah-wah guitar. Now that’s how to do it, Kirk Hammett! “When Breath Turns to Air” is a 180-degree turn from all the rocking; a jazzy ballad dedicated to Jidell’s late father. You can hear a sense of loss and yearning in the fragile guitar playing, and Smith’s vocal delivery is smooth as velvet, like a mother singing a lullaby. “A Kiss (from the End of the World)” is probably the doomiest song on the album, but even this one begins with an acoustic intro and ends on a mellower note. Finally, the instrumental title cut closes the album like an epilogue of sorts with its quiet and minimalistic guitars.

 

The most striking thing about Hurricanes and Halos is how doom metal has taken the backseat, while the 70s influences are behind the wheel, the songs are catchier, and the non-metal experiments of Girl with the Raven Mask continue. While I can imagine this coming as a disappointment to a certain portion of the fanbase, I think the new style and stronger melody lines support Jennie-Ann Smith’s versatile vocals better. Her singing has been exceptional on every album, but it feels like on Hurricanes and Halos she finally gets to use her voice to its full potential, and her sultry and slightly husky tone is without a doubt one of the best and most unique in today’s heavy music. Fortunately the rest of the band are not statists either: Marcus Jidell’s guitar playing is more evocative than ever, and Rickard Nilsson often steals the show with his rocking organ. Jidell’s work behind the mixing desk is also worth an honorable mention, as the production is nicely earthy and organic, and there’s even room for dynamics despite the broad layering.

Since Hurricanes and Halos is more immediate and accessible than its precedessors, it’ll be interesting to see how it stands the test of time. The album is nicely compact, but it’s a pity that the song I’m not really into (“Medusa Child”) happens to be the longest one at 9 minutes. Anyway, my overall impression is that Avatarium are on the right track and continue to improve, which makes them one of the best new bands of the past 5 years.

Rating: 8½/10, 4 stars

Tracklist:
1. Into the Fire/Into the Storm
2. The Starless Sleep
3. Road to Jerusalem
4. Medusa Child
5. The Sky at the Bottom of the Sea
6. When Breath Turns to Air
7. A Kiss (from the End of the World)
8. Hurricanes and Halos

(2017) Avatarium: Hurricanes and Halos (suomeksi)

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Artisti: Avatarium
Albumi: Hurricanes and Halos
Julkaistu: 26.05.2017
Levy-yhtiö: Nuclear Blast

Tuntuu kuin eiliseltä, kun ruotsalainen Avatarium kiinnitti huomioni doom metalin ja vintagerockin sekoituksellaan edellisellä levyllään, Girl with the Raven Maskilla (2015). Hurricanes and Halos seuraa sitä vain puoltatoista vuotta myöhemmin lauluntekijä Leif Edlingin vakavasta sairastumisesta huolimatta ja on jo kolmas levy vuonna 2012 perustetulta bändiltä. Vaikka kansitaide on tyyliltään samankaltainen kuin vuoden 2013 nimikkodebyytti, muutamat muutoksen tuulet ovat puhaltaneet Avatarium-leirissä: Edling kirjoittaa edelleen suuren osan musiikista, mutta hän on luovuttanut basistin paikkansa Mats Rydströmille, ja laulaja Jennie-Ann Smith ja kitaristi Marcus Jidell ovat myös osallistuneet biisintekotalkoisiin muutaman kappaleen voimin.

 

Sinkkubiisi “Into the Fire/Into the Storm” pamauttaa albumin käyntiin komeasti: Rickard Nilssonin kurittaa urkuja kuin Deep Purplen edesmennyt Jon Lord konsanaan, ja Smith onnistuu lähestulkoon kuulostamaan naispuoliselta Ian Gillanilta. Vaikka ralli on ytimekäs eikä sisällä doom-sävyjä, ja on sellaisenaan toimiva single, väliosaan saadaan puristettua mukaan yksi temponvaihdos, mikä tekee siitä mielenkiintoisemman kuin useimmat tyypilliset näytekappaleet. “The Starless Sleep” on kuitenkin levyn selkein hitti – jos haluat välttää kertosäkeen soimista päässäsi, niin lykkyä tykö! Biisissä on mukavasti hyödynnetty kerrostamista akustisten kitaroiden ja tamburiinin voimin, ja Jidellin tyylikäs soolo huipentaa kaiken.

Tämän helposti lähestyttävän kappaleparin jälkeen levy siirtyy kokeellisemmille poluille ja uusien soundien pariin. “Road to Jerusalem” on albumin kruunu, psykedeelinen ja eksoottinen kappale, jonka voisi kuvitella toimivan täydellisesti livenä pidennetyllä jamilla höystettynä. En ole kuitenkaan yhtä innoissani “Medusa Childista” ja sen kankeista siirtymistä – lievästi ärsyttävää lapsen laulua sisältävä kertosäe ilmestyy tyhjästä ja on pienoinen antikliimaksi uhkaavien ja ulvovien feedback-kitaroiden säestämien lupaavien säkeistöjen jälkeen. Rohkea veto epäilemättä, muttei nappiin mennyt kokeilu.

“The Sky at the Bottom of the Sea” vie takaisin levyn alun 70-lukulaisiin hard rock -tunnelmiin ja on kuin Avatariumin vastaus Uriah Heepin “Easy Livin’iin” – mukana on jälleen tarttuvia melodioita, raivokasta urkujen käsittelyä sekä siistiä wah-wah-kitaraa. Näin se homma hoidetaan, Kirk Hammett! “When Breath Turns to Air” on 180 asteen käännös rokkaamisesta; jazzahtava balladi, joka on omistettu Jidellin menehtyneelle isälle. Herkässä kitaroinnissa kuuluu menetys ja kaipuu, ja Smithin tulkinta on sametinpehmeää kuin äidin tuutulaulu konsanaan. “A Kiss (from the End of the World) on kenties doomein veto albumilla, mutta sekin alkaa akustisella introlla ja päättyy rauhallisesti. Lopuksi vielä instrumentaalinen nimiraita päättää albumin kuin eräänlainen epilogi minimalistisine ja hiljaisine kitaroineen.

 

Huomattavinta Hurricanes and Halosissa on se, että doom metal on jäänyt taka-alalle, kun taas 70-luvun vaikutteet ovat vallalla, kappaleet ovat tarttuvampia ja Girl with the Raven Maskin metallin ulkopuoliset kokeilut jatkuvat. Tämä voi tulla pettymyksenä osalle fanikunnasta, mutta mielestäni uusi tyyli ja vahvemmat melodialinjat tukevat Jennie-Ann Smithin monipuolista äänenkäyttöä paremmin. Hänen laulunsa on ollut upeaa aiemmillakin tuotoksilla, mutta tuntuu siltä, että Hurricanes and Halosilla hän saa vihdoin otettua äänestään kaiken irti, ja hänen aistikas ja aavistuksen käheä äänensä on epäilemättä yksi parhaimmista ja omalaatuisimmista raskaassa musiikissa tällä hetkellä. Onneksi muut jäsenetkään eivät ole pelkkiä statisteja: Marcus Jidellin kitaransoitto on puhuttelevampaa kuin koskaan, ja Rickard Nilsson varastaa show’n useaan otteeseen rokkaavilla uruillaan. Jidellin työ miksauspöydän takana on niin ikään kunniamaininnan arvoista, sillä tuotanto on mukavan maanläheinen ja luonnollinen, ja musiikin vahvasta kerroksisuudesta huolimatta dynamiikalle on tilaa.

Tulee olemaan mielenkiintoista nähdä, miten Hurricanes and Halos kestää ajan hammasta, sillä se on edeltäjiinsä verrattuna helpommin ja välittömämmin avautuva. Kokonaisuus on mukavan ytimekäs, mutta on sääli että kappale, josta en pahemmin välitä (“Medusa Child”) on kaikkein pisin 9 minuutin kestollaan. Joka tapauksessa kokonaisvaikutelmani on, että Avatarium on oikealla polulla ja parantaa levy levyltä, mikä tekee siitä yhden viimeisten viiden vuoden parhaista uusista yhtyeistä.

 

Arvosana: 8½/10, 4 tähteä

Kappalelista:
1. Into the Fire/Into the Storm
2. The Starless Sleep
3. Road to Jerusalem
4. Medusa Child
5. The Sky at the Bottom of the Sea
6. When Breath Turns to Air
7. A Kiss (from the End of the World)
8. Hurricanes and Halos

(2004) Ayreon: The Human Equation

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Artist: Ayreon
Album: The Human Equation
Released: 24.05.2004
Label: InsideOut Music

 

When you think of a rock/metal opera, or a concept album, you know that no one does it better than Arjen Lucassen’s Ayreon (unless you want to argue a case for Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia). With Ayreon’s first-ever live shows coming up this year following the recent live success of the stage version of this album (The Theater Equation) and its live DVDand the successful release of his latest epic, The Source, it makes sense to fly back a long 13 years in time to look at The Human Equation and what makes it so good.

Listen along on Spotify, if you so desire:

 

So what is The Human Equation all about? While connected to the overall concept of the Forever that has covered around four or five of Ayreon’s albums, this album at first comes off as unrelated to the story as a whole. It follows the main character, Me (James Labrie; Dream Theater), following a mysterious car accident, who is in a coma accompanied by embodiments of his emotions, while his Best Friend (Arjen Lucassen) and Wife (Marcela Bovio; Stream of Passion, Vuur) try to wake him up from the outside. Every song features a day of Me’s coma, totaling 20 days, as everyone tries to solve the mystery of the car accident, and what events in the past led up to that moment. I’m writing this on the assumption that you either want to know the story, or you already know it, so… spoilers abound, though it should be fine if you listen along with the music – I won’t jump ahead.

 

Day 1: Vigil
The album starts off with “Day 1: Vigil”, which is more of an introduction to the concept than a song in and of itself. It introduces us to Best Friend and Wife, who explain to the listener that Me is in a coma. You can hear the beeping of life support, and the music is undeniably Ayreon. There is skepticism and what could be denial or perhaps a hint of defensiveness from those on the outside. The sound of a car starting is heard, followed by an increase in the heart rate monitor, the squeal of tires, and an implied crash.

Day 2: Isolation
“Day 2: Isolation” is where the album truly starts, as Me ‘awakens’ to find himself trapped in his own mind. I’ve always imagined him to be in a sort of dream-like state, trapped in different parts of his memories or in a sort of limbo with the personified emotions, depending on the song. He first encounters Fear (Mikael Åkerfeldt, Opeth), and then the music kicks off with a wicked combination of organ/guitar that is one of the most iconic riffs from this album that still gets me hyped every time I hear it, knowing what is to come. Reason (Eric Clayton; Saviour Machine) appears and offers his services as a guide. Passion (Irene Jansen) and and Pride (Magnus Ekwall; The Quill) respectively) are also present in this track, amping up the epic levels. The point of this song is to set a bit of the scene for Me and explain that he is trapped inside a strange place with his embodied emotions. Me is also described as cold and in control by his emotions at this point. However, Love (Heather Findlay; Mostly Autumn) also appears, offering her assistance as well, claiming to be the strongest of them all, and promising that Me is not alone. A choir joins in on the chorus later with Jansen and Ekwall, creating an absolutely phenomenal dynamic.

Day 3: Pain
“Day 3: Pain” is where we get a good feel for what Me is feeling. The song is eerie and vaguely ominous, as Agony (Devon Graves; Deadsoul Tribe) explains what he is and tells Me that he was never as strong as he pretended to be. Graves was one of many names I had never heard before this album, and he is absolutely haunting in this song, and the music does nothing but make it even more so. Me talks with Agony, and in the chorus, a wild mingling of voices takes over, including Devin Townsend (DTP, Ocean Machine, Casualties of Cool, Strapping Young Lad) screaming as Rage in the background. The song lightens up near the end, with some flute and violin riffing (is that what you’d call that?) as Love reappears to encourage Me through his confrontation with his own inner pain. This song works perfectly as an introduction to the other half of Me – “Day 2” suggests that he is cold and cruel, while “Day 3” suggests that this was all an act and that inside there is something suffering, but does not yet explain why.

Day 4: Mystery
“Day 4: Mystery” returns to the outside world, where Best Friend and Wife continue to discuss what ‘happened’ before the accident. There was no reason for a car crash. It becomes evident that something had happened, and they wonder if Me had seen it, and speculate over whether or not he will survive. Both of them sing the same lines to one another, but neither of them sounds particularly convinced. They have done something, and they are not admitting to one another (and likely themselves) that they are at least a part of the reason why Me is in a coma. They are also being overly optimistic, saying that they don’t think he’ll die, despite there being nothing to suggest that he will survive. In particular, the echoing and trading of vocals that comes and goes in the end is very vivid and creates some incredible imagery. At least for me, I see them both speaking to each other and thinking these thoughts over in their heads. The song ends with Passion, Pride, Love, and Agony singing Wife and Best Friend’s lines opposite Me. Again, Me does not seem very convinced of what he’s saying.

Day 5: Voices
“Day 5: Voices” is an unusual song, and is also one of my favorites from the album, both musically and vocally. It starts with a long introduction, with flutes and violin, and is just generally beautiful. Pride then comes in, asking about these voices he is hearing. The first many times I listened to it, I thought that Me was wondering about the emotions – who and what they are – but it didn’t make sense because the emotions had already been introduced for the most part. Then it was pointed out to me that Me might not know who Best Friend and Wife are in his coma, and the emotions are suggesting that he listen and learn from them. Nearly all of the emotions have an opinion, with Love encouraging Me to open up, while Fear tells him he was afraid to live and now fears death as well. Reason is sure that the voices will help him out of his mind, while Fear continues to suggest that Me is just hiding from the truth. Pride then suggests that Me fight for survival, confront his fears, and go forward, and while Me is hesitant, he agrees.

Day 6: Childhood
In “Day 6: Childhood”, we learn about Me’s youth from Agony and Fear, who inform the listener that Me’s father had abandoned the family as a child. Not only that, but he abused Me horribly and lied to his mother about it, though it doesn’t seem as though it was very subtle or believable. This song starts to paint a conflicting view of the mother, but I’ll get to that later. Ultimately, it sounds as though Me had/has no self-esteem largely as a result of the abuse and mockery he suffered as a child at the hands of his father. There is some suggestion that Me thinks or has thought that he should have been sad when his father left, but isn’t. The line, “How could you learn to care, when nobody cares for you,” is particularly harsh.

Day 7: Hope
“Day 7: Hope” is one of the bounciest songs, with Best Friend and Me reminiscing about their youth, suggesting that they have been best friends for the better part of their lives. This upbeat track does a great job of showing how much Best Friend cares and wants his friend back, regardless of what has happened, but there is still a degree of superficiality to it. Me wants to go with him and come back, but there is something heavy and painful holding him back. Eventually, Me breaks down and cries that, “There’s no way out, my whole world is black”, while the music gets heavy. Something is preventing him from calling out to them.

Day 8: School
The song flows seamlessly into “Day 8: School”, which turns sad, as Fear comes to open up some more of Me’s past, and the listener learns that Me was constantly bullied and laughed at, with no father to defend him and no friends to take his side. Rage is again present in this one, screaming in the background. There’s an incredible instrumental breakdown in this song, with fantastic drums/percussion by Ed Warby (Gorefest, Hail of Bullets), before a bit of a showdown between Reason and Pride. We learn where Me’s arrogance and ruthlessness came from, and it sounds like he started fighting back, as Pride reminds him that he promised to get back at those who wronged him, and Me admits that he got back at them, but couldn’t quit once he had started. The song fades out, and then comes back into the choir of voices/growls before it ends.

Day 9: Playground
“Day 9: Playground” is perhaps the oddest track on the album, as it is an adaptation of Edvard Grieg‘s “Morning Mood” from Peer Gynt and is the only instrumental track on the album. It’s an interesting song choice, and the sounds of children playing in the background create a certain feel to it, but the electric guitars make it truly soar. It’s beautiful, even if I’m not 100% sure about where the song fits into the scheme of the whole story.

Day 10: Memories
“Day 10: Memories” is the technical halfway point of the story, though not the album itself. Again, Best Friend and Wife worry that he isn’t waking up, as there is no medical reason for him to still be in a coma. They decide to recite some of their favorite memories of Me, such as when Me and Best friend bought flashy new bikes and crashed, or when Me proposed to Wife, but was so nervous that she thought he had lost his keys when he dropped to his knees. Towards the end, Love and Reason encourage Me to let Wife’s warmth in, and open up to the memories of her.

Day 11: Love
This leads beautifully into another one of my favorite tracks, “Day 11: Love”, which tells the story of how Me and Wife met at a party. I get chills every single time I hear this song, which has a gorgeous intro, and then Me begins to talk about when he first laid eyes on Wife at the party. Meanwhile, she sees him across the room, waiting for him to ask her to dance, constantly disappointed every time he passes her by. The chorus is absolutely chilling and massively powerful, as me is both encouraged, and warned – “remember your father / well you’re just like him … remember your mother / so lonely and sad / this will be her fate if you treat her as bad.” It’s love at first sight, but his issues with self-esteem hold him back, as expressed by emotions like Pride and Fear. Even though he thinks that no one else could ever love him, his attraction to her overpowers his fear, and they dance all night long. This ends disc 1 on an absolutely incredible note.

Day 12: Trauma
“Day 12: Trauma” starts off disc 2, following a short ambient intro song that reflects on the first disc’s themes, and then some dark and heavy bass suggests that this will not be a happy song. Reason tries to get Me to find his way out of his head, while Fear refuses to let him go. Åkerfeldt’s growling in this song is gut-wrenchingly perfect, as the song tells the story of Me’s mother, who declined steadily after his father left them. It is suggested that she didn’t lead a very good life, ended up needing Me for support, and eventually died. Me feels a great deal of guilt about how things went with her.

This is the point where I get a confused image of the mother. The first track that mentions her, “Day 6: Childhood”, suggests that she accepted the Father’s lies about Me falling down the stairs, and the two songs combined suggest that she truly loved the Father (“your mother died the day your Father left”). Yet, Me clearly feels guilty about her death, as Fear suggests that Me didn’t treat her well in the end either: “You hear her voice from beyond the grave / ‘Where were you son when I needed you? / Is this the thanks for all the warmth I gave / Did you forget what I’d been through?'” Perhaps this truly shows how guilty Me feels about his family, as I suspect that if the mother loved Father, she couldn’t have been that good of a mother, but because Father mistreated her as well, he feels that he should have shown her a better life while he had the chance. Did she truly show her child that much warmth if she loved the man who abused him? Regardless, this is the song that explains why Me began to bury his emotions and how he cut himself off from forming proper connections to others.

Day 13: Sign
The story then moves on to “Day 13: Sign”, which is one of the gentlest songs on the album, with soft guitar and flute opening with a sweet but tragic-sounding song. Love sings first, pointing out that Me had not shown the love he was capable of and encourages him to rediscover his feelings. Fantastically expressive guitars then come in, followed by a lovely violin, as Wife reaches out to Me, desperately trying to call him back to her. Seriously, how great is Marcela Bovio? Me, backed by flute and harpsichord, wonders how he could have treated Wife so badly and how she could have put up with him, and wonders if it’s too late to fix things. Meanwhile, Wife and Best Friend see a tear fall from Me’s eye, and then that he clenches his hand into a fist, and wonder if it is their fault and if they should be grateful he is still feeling something. Wife at this point seems a tad more hopeful, while Best Friend expresses more guilt.

Day 14: Pride
We’re back into some straight-up metal with this song, and I have to declare this to be easily one of the coolest songs on the album, though at this point they are all so great that it’s pretty silly to say that. Labrie and Ekwall show off their true colors in this song, as Me declares what’s in his heart, while Pride contradicts him and tells him how he’s actually behaved, debating love, compassion, and dreams. There’s a heavy guitar breakdown, with the flutes joining in, and this song is the tipping point where things start to build musically towards the climax. The guitar wails as news reels talking about the stock market, among other things, play in the background. In the end, Pride and Reason join forces, encouraging Me not to give in and to fight.

Day 15: Betrayal
One of the last transitions into darkness comes here, as we at last learn the backstory of Me and Best Friend’s tension. The music is eerie, as Fear and Agony express that the two of them worked for the same firm and were both candidates for a promotion. It is revealed that Best Friend once tampered with the books when he messed up a deal and Me left evidence and got him fired, getting the promotion himself; his reasoning for this being his fear that Best Friend was a better man, and more deserving. Reason and Passion encourage him to come clean. A violin and synth solo breaks the song in two, with Reason re-entering in an even more boisterous and thunderous manner, with Passion joining yet again. The song ends with Me admitting to himself that he needs to tell the truth.

Day 16: Loser
This is perhaps the most unusual song on the album musically, as it heavily features an Australian didgeridoo. This is another personal highlight, as well as one of the few songs I can listen to out of the context of the full story. Tonally, this song obviously needs to be different, because this is the song about the Father, performed by the late Mike Baker (Shadow Gallery). This cocky, bouncy song expresses exactly how much of a piece of shit the Father is, as he visits his son in the hospital and calls him a loser for simply being in a coma and mocks his mother for being dead. He goes on to express that he’s got children all over the place, half of them in jail, and couldn’t care less. Can I just take a moment to express how friggin’ cool it is that they got Ken Hensley of Uriah Heep to do the Hammond solo in this track? Because I am a huge fan of Ken Hensley’s work via the Hammond. This is perhaps Devin Townsend’s shining moment on the album as well, as the only other vocalist in this song, who blasts any residual negative Father-related taint out of Me’s mind, screaming, “NEVER! NEVER! NEVER! NEVER! / You’re killing it from afar / Go tell it in a bar / You’re killing it from afar, my father!” as the song concludes. Townsend doesn’t contribute to collaborations often without writing his own lyrics, and I think he nailed it on this occasion.

Day 17: Accident?
The beginning of this song somehow reminds me of a person, trapped by troubled thoughts, alone in a car, driving, and I imagine that was the exact intent of this music, so very well done! The drums and bass come in as Reason explains that Me saw something, as Wife echoes in the background that she smiled at another man, that Best Friend and her had shared a moment together. I get seriously worked up every time I hear this song, when Agony comes in for the short chorus as the music picks up. Reason comes back to haunt him with truth, that he drove himself into the tree as he despaired after seeing the two of them together. Wife again expresses that they needed warmth and meant no harm. But goddamn, every time the organ and Devon Graves come in, I get chills all over my body and tears in my eyes. Passion knows Me has gone too far and without Wife (and likely, to a degree, Best Friend), truly, he has nothing. He lost everyone who meant something to him. “Love left you / Without me you’re all alone,” Agony sings, and if that isn’t heartbreaking, I don’t know what is. And yet, doubt still keeps Me from waking up. But why?

Day 18: Realization
Soft flutes open up this song as we draw nearer and nearer to the end. Me now knows why he is where he is. The organ kicks the energy into overdrive, with the flutes coming in to keep the tone light, and the guitars tagging them out, creating a perfect symbiosis of instruments. Goddamn this song is brilliant. The long intro is so varied that you can just feel the mental struggle that’s going on, with every instrument getting a turn. Extra props to Robert Baba‘s violins, because I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned it yet. Me’s emotions come into full conflict, as some of them tell him he should make them pay, while others encourage forgiveness. Me ignores the negative as he fights, accepting his problems and his blame for how he treated them both, and asks for their help as he shouts, “LET! ME! OUT!” as the song fades out.

Day 19: Disclosure
Take your last breath here, if you can. Best Friend comes back to confess what exactly happened between him and Wife. He was out of a job and alone, with no one to turn to, while Wife assures Me that she always loved him, but she was lonely as he neglected her. They shared their distress, as friends. It’s unclear whether anything sexual or physical happened, or rather, did he just witness a moment of human tenderness and get overwhelmed by jealousy and pain. Best Friend admits now that he thinks Me saw them together, and they both assure him that they were and are not in love, and beg for his forgiveness. Man, the violins in this song again are heart-wrenching, and both Lucassen and Bovio bring tears to my eyes every time, with all the power and emotion they pack into their parts. And then the build-up in the end, as Love and Passion join forces to reassure him that Wife loves him and he shouldn’t keep her waiting, and Me declares that he’ll come back to life and be the husband she deserves.

Day 20: Confrontation
Oh man, this song. This song is perfection. The slow build to the climax as it starts tip-toes as Me draws Best Friend in close to confess his sins… “I have to tell you of my betrayal” is just… I have no words, as the music kicks off following that dark line, and Best Friend declares that they are even and that Me needs to come back to them. Love and Wife roar in telling him to cross the bridge, followed by the true Ayreon music coming in. Agony welcomes him to reality, reminding him that there will always be pain, but he will be able to face it. Passion encourages him to prove he can be a better man. Drums and organs stomp forward as Reason tells him to wake up and rejoice, congratulating him on making the right choice. Pride encourages him to show that the old Me is gone and to start a new life. The music turns dark once more as Fear returns, asking if Me thinks he can handle it, but Me assures Fear that he deserves this chance. “Look at me… I’m alive.” Goddamnit, my skin lights on fire every time the song bursts into this epic climax. The cast comes together as a glorious choir to back Me up (10 points to Bovio’s gorgeous wail). The emotions roar to Me’s victory as he awakens and the song climaxes in such a way that I see fireworks in my head every time.

And suddenly, it’s over… “The human equation program aborted. Have a nice day.” And so we are introduced once more to the Forever. “Emotions. I remember…” But for that, we’ll need to listen to 0101101 and The Source. And maybe the Universal Migrator albums. But what a way to end the album, and neatly tie things in to the rest of the Ayreon universe!

 

It’s hard to summarize this album with mere words. The music is incredible, it has perhaps the best use of organs ever done by man, the harmonizing is unbelievable, it’s complex without being overwhelming, it’s emotionally powerful and dynamic, and the story is told perfectly in 20 songs without being too much or too little. There isn’t a single bad or out-of-place song on the album. Perhaps the best thing about this album, however, is not that it’s a great story well told, but rather, it teaches the listener about self-awareness, empathy, and understanding, as well as personal growth. I can listen to this album over and over without getting sick of it, and I love it more every single time I hear it.

I would go so far as to say that, at least to me, on the scale of quality and story, this is the best album ever written. At least, I can’t think of anything better-executed than this story.

Rating: 11/10, one billion stars

Tracklist:
Disc 1
1. Day One: Vigil
2. Day Two: Isolation
3. Day Three: Pain
4. Day Four: Mystery
5. Day Five: Voices
6. Day Six: Childhood
7. Day Seven: Hope
8. Day Eight: School
9. Day Nine: Playground
10. Day Ten: Memories
11. Day Eleven: Love

Disc 2
12. Day Twelve: Trauma
13. Day Thirteen: Sign
14. Day Fourteen: Pride
15. Day Fifteen: Betrayal
16. Day Sixteen: Loser
17. Day Seventeen: Accident?
18. Day Eighteen: Realization
19. Day Nineteen: Disclosure
20. Day Twenty: Confrontation

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Sami Moilanen (Drug of Choice), 2017

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If you ask Drug of Choice what style of music they play, they’d answer that it combines rock, metal, rap, and punk elements. Founded in 2015 by bassist/vocalist Sami Moilanen and guitarist Olavi Wuorimaa, these guys have played their share of shows, as well as a festival in Russia. Today we have the playlist of aforementioned bassist/vocalist Sami Moilanen’s life for you!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
Fröbelin Palikat rocks

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
The Offspring – “Pretty Fly For a White Guy”

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Eminem’s Encore album

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

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
Kreator – “Satan is Real” (Kuusamo is a song that is also playing in my head way too often.. yeah fuck Danny)

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Hahahaha Toto’s “Africa”

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
AC/DC – “Stiff Upper Lip”

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Don’t know about that but hearing Mombasa makes me want to shoot myself in the face

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Lamb of God – “Forgotten the Lost Angels”

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Sixx AM – “Life is Beautiful”

Give these guys a spin on Spotify here:

BLIND GUARDIAN – Marcus Siepen, 2017

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Marcus Siepen w/ Blind Guardian, Nosturi, Helsinki, 02.06.2017 Photo by Marco Manzi

Having just finished their massive 2-year-long world tour, German progressive power metal outfit Blind Guardian announced a live album, titled Live from Beyond the Spheres. The 3CD/4LP set bookends the world tour with an assortment of songs recorded at different shows from around the world. Rhythm guitarist Marcus Siepen lent us his time via Skype to talk about it.

 

Guten Morgen! Is this Marcus Siepen, rhythm guitarist for Blind Guardian?
Guten Morgen! Yes, right on all three!

I understand you just finished a North American tour last autumn and are now gearing up to tour Europe?
Actually, we finished the whole world tour by the end of last year. We started it at the release of our new album [Beyond the Red Mirror] in April 2015. It went on until December; we played a few shows. We’re about to do some festival shows all over Europe. It’s not really part of the tour we just finished. It’s just some dates, almost a vacation for us, [laughs]!

Great!
Yeah it’s just something like eleven shows at festivals and such – very easy going for us this summer. I mean, we’ve been on the road for almost 2 years now and at some point we have to stay home and work on new songs because otherwise there won’t be a new Blind Guardian album [laughs]. So we just finished the touring cycle and our main focus now is on writing and recording new material so at some point we can put out a new album. And then we’ll go out on the road again…

Right! The North American tour was a little different, though. It was a conceptual thing themed around Imaginations from the Other Side (my personal favorite). Will any of these elements be on this European tour?
Yes, I have to say we played two American legs. The first was in fall 2015 and we did 6-8 months with Grave Digger. Then we went back again with Grave Digger in 2016 – a year later we came back to the US. So coming back with the same support band, hitting some of the same cities, we had to come up with something different. Since it was kind of the anniversary of Imaginations and it fit into the theme of Beyond the Red Mirror, we had this idea of doing Imaginations completely and putting new stuff on top of that as well, of course. It was fun to do that, I have to say! And the reaction! I suddenly got messages from everywhere that, “Oh you need to come here and do the same thing!” and I said, “Okay, we’ll see,” [laughter]!

After that we did a few shows at the end of the year in Europe – brought that over to Europe. We’ll still do that at some of the new shows. Not all of them. The funny thing is, I felt a bit skeptical at the beginning. I prefer not to do these sorts of things because when I go to see one of my favorite bands, I don’t want to know in advance what’s going to happen. Announcing that you’ll do a whole album of course takes a bit away from that element of surprise. But I have to say, playing those songs live was a lot of fun, because the album has such an incredible flow to it. If you play just from agency, the songs work perfectly together in a live setting. It was really fun. I’m looking forward to doing it again for those shows. It’s been about 6 months since we’ve played live and I’m starting to get hungry for that again.

On the official site, you guys have dropped some hints about some kind of orchestral album planned to be released in 2018. Can you please elaborate on what that is, exactly?
Yes I can! That’s actually something we’ve been working on for the last, say 20 years, maybe longer; it’s an eternal sort of project for us. It’s like typical Blind Guardian music but played by an orchestra, so you won’t hear any guitars, any drums. It’ll be an orchestra playing our music. It’s just Hansi [Kürsch] singing over it. It’ll sound very different, of course but it will still be Blind Guardian, because it IS still Blind Guardian’s music!

We’ve been trying to finish it in the last few years and the only thing that’s still missing is some vocal recordings from Hansi. The original idea was that we would use some of the breaks that we had during the tour for him to record those final vocals. The problem is that touring is very demanding for his voice, so he was not in shape to do album recordings in between shows because he needed those breaks to heal his voice for the next shows. So now instead of working on the next album, he’s using this time to work on those vocals for that orchestral thing so we can finish it, mix it, master it, and then put it out. Which will hopefully come out sometime next year.

And these are new songs? Or are they new versions of old songs?
No, no, it’s all new music! No re-arrangements, it’s all new music played by an orchestra but composed by Blind Guardian.

So it’s not one of those kitschy sort of re-workings?
No, no, I’m pretty sure anyone who likes Blind Guardian will most likely be blown away by it. It sounds amazing! It’s very different than you might expect. It’s hard to describe in what way – you’ll just have to wait and hear for yourself.

Wow, you’ve piqued my interest!
Good, then it’s worth it [laughs]!

Now, Live Beyond the Spheres seems to be more or less the same set you played here in Helsinki, back in 2015.
Yes, it’s based around the Beyond the Red Mirror tour and the set is made to represent what we did on that tour. It has a bit of everything. We played pretty long sets on that tour. I think the average set length was like 2 hours 20 minutes. We had a lot of material to work with. We were insane enough to record pretty much every show from that tour. In the end we focused on that first European leg because, we felt, that was technically the best preserved from the recordings. We’re talking about some forty shows of 2½ hours to go through, so… it was a lot!

As I said, it’s composed of different shows. There are some quite long songs on the new album and we couldn’t of course play all of those in a single night. But it gives you a good overview of what the tour was like.

So these are shows from all over? You recorded the Helsinki show, so are any songs from Helsinki?
To be honest, I couldn’t tell you from the top of my head. I know a few shows that made it, but I just don’t remember. At some point I just started to ignore where the show was from. When you come back from a tour, there are some shows that stick to your mind because, like Helsinki, I liked it. My wife was there, we had a good time, and that’s what makes it great. But then somebody else would say, “Oh, but London was great!” or, “Warsaw, was great!” You just have to ignore where the show was and just listen to the recording. At some point I lost the overview; I can’t remember what cities are on there. I think Helsinki might be… You’ll have to see for yourself when it comes out. Listen closely to try if you can hear yourself singing [laughs]!

Alright, what about the artwork? On the last few you’ve had some fantastic artwork by Felipe Machado Franco. Is he back for this new live compilation?
No it’s a different one. This one is by Andrea Christen. She’s done quite a lot of merchandise artwork for us over the years. We wanted to give her a chance to do an album. It has a bit more of an old-school approach when compared to the history of Blind Guardian covers. I’m not saying anything bad at all about the covers done by Felipe, because I love them! We just wanted to try something different for this one. I like it a lot. We don’t know yet about the future – we’ll have to see.

With Felipe you had the whole booklet covered in gorgeous pieces. How about this one?
Well, with live albums you wanna have the booklet filled with more things like pictures from the shows. It’ll look very nice but it’s not comparable to, say, the last few. When I listen to a live album, I want to see pictures from the tour, of the band performing, or just doing whatever on the bus and such.

What about the name, Beyond the Spheres? Is that a reference to something? What are the ‘spheres’?
You know, everybody can make their own interpretations. To me the spheres are the different cities, the different places that we played, and how we’re kind of now beyond that. Now we can look back and listen… It’s always a challenge to come up with these names for live albums. I remember Live from 2003. It was a nightmare! We had like 10 billion names and we didn’t like any of them. So in the end, Andre, Hansi, and me, we just sent a letter to the central thing, “Why not just call it ‘Live‘ and be done with it?” [laughs]

I always found that funny! You had live albums like Imaginations Through the Looking Glass and then one was just Live.
Yeah, ’cause that’s what it is, it’s Blind Guardian live! Why not frame it like that, you know? Sometimes you gotta change things up.

Indeed. So the last album was Beyond the Red Mirror, which is a sequel to Imaginations from the Other Side. My question is: is that story over? You think there’s more to tell there?
I have to say, Hansi did say he didn’t completely finish that story. There was never a plan, really, to continue the story from Imaginations. While we were working on The Red Mirror, we did go back and think we had an unfinished story from Imaginations… I have no idea, might be that there is more. All I know is that this next album will not be continuing from that. Maybe we’ll get back to it at some point. Maybe in another 20 years.

I’m guessing you already have some ideas, some outlines for the next album?
We are, we have some two songs done. Right now we’re finishing up the live thing and the orchestral album, so we really don’t know yet what the rest will sound like. Those two songs haven’t been recorded yet, so it could still all change. The only thing I can tell you is it’ll sound like Blind Guardian, because it’s gonna be Blind Guardian. We also won’t repeat ourselves; it will not sound like another Beyond the Red Mirror. We always wanna do something new. Whatever it’s going to be, I can’t tell you, not yet.

As rhythm guitarist what is your role in the studio? How do you guys work?
Well, I play rhythm guitar, [laughter]! My job really is to lay down this big-sounding foundation for the band, this big wall of sound, so Andre can do his melodic guitars and Hansi can do his vocals. Then the sum of all that is Blind Guardian.

Right, but is it more like that you just play Andre and Hansi’s compositions? Or does the songwriter come up with more of an outline on top of which everyone can do their thing?
It’s different. Sometimes it’s a complete song that is done and other times you can influence that. Yes, they are the main songwriters, but they don’t always do everything. Everybody can have their own influence and if it doesn’t work then we just move on to the next song.

I’d imagine you’re a pretty well-oiled machine by now. If I’m not mistaken, with the exception of the rotating bass player, your line-up hasn’t actually changed at all.
Actually there was one change! Thomen [Stauch], the original drum player, left in 2004, I think. But that was the only line-up change.

Have you ever thought of officially instating a bass player? Or would that mess with your flow?
It would mess with quite a lot of things. We never really thought about this because Blind Guardian has, to us, always been a band with four members. You know, at the point when Hansi stopped playing the bass, which was at the end of the Imaginations tour. He always kept the option that he’d still pick up the bass – I don’t think he ever will, but he likes to keep it open. So we brought in guest bass players for the studio and the tours. There was never talk of making them official and permanent members because to us we were the core of the band and that just worked best for us. They’ve always come in and done a fantastic job. They’ve never expressed that they wanted to join, they always have other things, other projects going on, but they’re always there when we need them.

Makes sense. Going back to those early days: Battalions of Fear, Follow the Blind, and such. How would you say your music and the process of making it has evolved over the years?
Well, we obviously became better musicians, I hope [laughter]! The songwriting has gotten better, I think. I’m using the word ‘better’ but I really mean ‘more skilled.’ I’m not necessarily saying the playing and the songwriting in those days was bad. It’s what we wanted to do back then and it was perfectly fine – I don’t want to take anything away from that. But as I said, when we got ‘better’ we also tried different things that obviously ended up working, so we did that. We of course started out as a pure melodic speed metal band – that was the origin of the band – but then we tried different things, like acoustic things, orchestral things, more progressive stuff, and we liked it. But it’s not like we’ve abandoned that completely. Some of the newer stuff… like “Twilight of the Gods” is probably the fastest thing we’ve ever done. We just like to add new things. We don’t like repetition. It wouldn’t make sense for us to do an album that’s like Battalions of Fear again, because we already did that and we loved it.

Right. Those earlier albums aren’t on Spotify, by the way. Any idea as to why?
There’s copyright, licensing things. Record companies don’t always allow them for streaming. The good thing is though, they’re still available in record stores. So for those who don’t own them, there’s still a chance to buy one [laughs]!

Your music is very fantasy-based and mostly very uplifting and fun. There’s a lot of talk of magic, and such. Would you say that’s the band’s overall message? To bring a little magic into this world?
I don’t think I’d go so far to call it our ‘overall message,’ but to me music has always been magic! From the first time I picked up a guitar, when I was like 11 years old. From those records I picked up, those old Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath albums. Whenever I bought a new album I was just… gone. I’d be gone for weeks! I’d put a record on, an old LP, and just dive deep into the music, you know? That was pure magic for me.

Music should always stay magical. Unfortunately, to the kids today, I feel like it’s not the same thing it was for my generation. Nobody’s buying albums anymore, not like vinyls, those big album artworks, you know? Nowadays, if you’re lucky you’ll have a CD with the little booklet. Then there are people who are always streaming or illegally downloading and they don’t give a fuck about artwork. They just listen to an album, like three times, and then they move on to the next thing. I was reading this thing where people were talking about listening to music on Spotify and services like that. And somebody was saying that even his favorite albums, he’d never listen to them more than ten times. That really shocked me! My favorite albums I’d listen to over and over. I don’t think I’d be making the kind of music I am if it wasn’t for that. Somebody saying they’ve only heard their favorite album ten times… I’m sorry, but that’s pathetic. Either you don’t like that album or you don’t like music.

Yeah, when a new interesting thing comes out I’d listen to it ten times a week!
…A day! [laughter]

Alright, that’s probably all the time we have. We’ll hopefully see you guys in Helsinki again sometime?
Absolutely, because it’s a fun place to play!

That’s good to hear. Live Beyond the Spheres comes out on 3CD and 4LP on July 7th. I’ll be sure to listen to it more than ten times. But for now, Auf Wiedersehen!
Yes, Auf Wiedersehen!

Gallery Portfolio: Jana Blomqvist

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Jana Blomqvist is not only one of the founders and original owners of Musicalypse, but she is also one of our most experienced photographers, having been active in the scene for over 10 years. She currently works for Rumba/Inferno, as well as Musicalypse. This is a collection of what we believe are some of her best photos, exclusively from her history at Musicalypse.

If you would like to see her full portfolio, including photos taken for Rumba and Inferno, please follow this link: Full Portfolio

 

BATUSHKA Turussa Keikalla 03.06.2017!

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(In English below)

Puolalainen black metal -ilmiö Batushka saapuu toista kertaa Suomeen! Turku Saatanalle V -tapahtuman pääesiintyjän paikalta viime hetkillä sairastapauksen vuoksi peruuttamaan joutunut Batushka soittaa korvaavan keikan Turun Kårenissa lauantaina 3. kesäkuuta.

Batushka on ehtinyt olla kasassa vasta pari vuotta, mutta vuonna 2015 julkaistu debyyttialbumi Litourgiya nosti bändin kertaheitolla genren kärkikastiin. Batushkan antikristillisellä otteella ortodoksiseen tematiikkaan perustuva visuaalisuus on vahvasti läsnä myös live-esiintymisessä.

Tapahtuman täydentävät ruotsalainen, melodisen eeppistä black metalia esittävä Wormwood sekä kotimaisen mustan metallin kentän arvostettu kulttinimi Korgonthurus. Kummaltakin on vastikään ilmestynyt uusi albumi.

Ennakkoliput keikalle saa nettilippuina Liveto-palvelusta:
https://liveto.fi/tapahtumat/metallihelvetti-esittaa-batushka-pol-korgonthurus-1-20170301010700/

Paperisia ennakkolippuja myy Turun Levykauppa Äx (100kpl, 25 euroa).
Jos haluat printtilipun postitse kotiisi, ota yhteyttä jussi@metallihelvetti.net niin saat maksutiedot.
Jos olet säilyttänyt Turku Saatanalle V -tapahtuman lauantain lipun, olet oikeutettu viiden euron käteishyvitykseen ovella.

Seuraa tapahtuman Facebook-eventtiä osoitteessa www.facebook.com/events/1161586410605461!

Bändeistä:
www.facebook.com/Batushka-1004746209548365
www.facebook.com/WormwoodSWE
www.facebook.com/KorgonthurusOfficial
www.facebook.com/Metallihelvetti

Yhteistyössä:
www.levykauppax.fi
www.svartrecords.com
www.f-musiikki.fi
www.lightpress.com

Lisätiedot:
Jussi Helenius / jussi@metallihelvetti.net

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Kuuntele:

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IN ENGLISH

The Polish black metal sensation Batushka arrives to Finland for the second time! Having had to cancel their Turku Saatanalle V appearance due to their guitarist’s meningitis, Batushka will play a compensatory show in Turku’s Kåren on Saturday, June 3rd.

Batushka has only been around for a few years, but their 2015 debut, Litourgiya, hoisted them straight to the genre’s frontline. Batushka’s visual prowess, based on orthodox themes with an anti-Christian take, is also strongly present in their live performances.

The event is complemented with the melodic and epic black metal act, Wormwood, along with Finland’s own revered cult black metal band, Korgonthurus. Both bands have recently released a new album.

Presale tickets available online through Liveto:
https://liveto.fi/tapahtumat/metallihelvetti-esittaa-batushka-pol-korgonthurus-1-20170301010700/

Printed presale tickets sold by Levykauppa Äx in Turku (100pc quota, 25 euros).
If you want a ticket by mail, contact jussi@metallihelvetti.net for payment details.
If you’ve retained the Turku Saatanalle V Saturday ticket, you’re entitled to a 5 euro cashback at the door.

Follow the event’s Facebook event at www.facebook.com/events/1161586410605461!

VADER & DECAPITATED w/ THY DISEASE, NOX VORAGO, THRASHRED – Nosturi, Helsinki, 16.05.2017 (English)

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The Finnish rock clubs have seen a lot of sweaty hair and dandruff since the last time the Polish death metal legends, Vader, played indoors in our country. We’ve experienced a couple of festival gigs over the years at Steelfest and Jalometalli, but Vader’s last club show took place 9 years ago. Quite the combination was announced earlier this year, as Vader and their countrymen, Decapitated, were told to visit Finland and play a total of three shows as a part of their Crushing the North 2017 tour.

Photos coming soon!

 

Decapitated has never done a show in Finland, so this was a must-see event – The Negation (2004) and Organic Hallucinosis (2006) were some of my teenage years’ favorites, and the strong comeback record, Carnival is Forever (2011), released after the tragedy that struck the band a few years before, has also garnered a lot of playtime. Based on the comments on the event’s Facebook page, the shows in Seinäjoki and Tampere had been killer performances, so I headed to Nosturi with anticipation on the sunny Tuesday night. Was Pekka Pouta going to be in the moshpit again? We had to find out!

 

The ticket price of 30€ had a nice bang for the buck ratio to it, as in addition to Vader and Decapitated, the line-up consisted of the Polish death metal squad Thy Disease, Swedish Nox Vorago, and Thrashred from Russia. Because of the weekday date, the showtimes were packed tight, leaving Thrashred to kick things off already at 19:00. The Russians got to do their set in front of only a handful of curious attendees, but for a band that was formed only a few years ago and has so far released only one demo tape, their thrashy 25 minutes were fairly decent. If I had to find a comparison, I’d say that their stuff reminded me of our own Profane Omen, just less death-y and more thrashy. For some reason, Thrashred’s stage sound was downright horrible, with the solo guitar burying everything else; it almost sounded like nobody had turned any knobs from their default position during the soundcheck. All-in-all, if one didn’t pay attention to the sounds, Thrashred offered a nice start, and once they get to release more material, I can imagine a bit more attention heading their way.

 

The intermission after Thrashred was quite short, enabling Nox Vorago to take the stage not 15 minutes later. Dressed in black robes and copper-colored masks almost reminiscent of the Scream movies, the Swedes had to play their four-song symphonic death metal set with similarly abysmal sound as their predecessors. During the set, I noticed that half of Nosturi’s mix table had been covered with no one to touch any knobs – was this some kind of ridiculous demand from Vader? No one can pay attention to a show that just sounds like distorted guitar noise! The mix even created a few voids during the first few songs, as the band’s backing track wasn’t quite loud enough.

The sounds aside, Nox Vorago, being completely unfamiliar to me beforehand, managed to convince. Their songs contained a good deal of variance, as full-fledged blast-beat passages were used only to spice things up between more symphonic parts. I also liked vocalist Uduun’s coarse shouting voice, as it was refreshingly different than what you might be accustomed to within their genre. The players were pretty uncommunicative behind their masks, but the lights brought the desired action to the show. The crowd in front of the stage grew significantly larger during Nox Vorago’s set, and the audience seemed to like them – if bands like SepticFlesh or Whorion are your cup of tea, Nox Vorago is definitely worth checking out.

 

Before Decapitated, it was time for the evening’s third Polish act, Thy Disease, to take the stage. The band has admirably managed to keep themselves under the radar – they’re 18 years in the running and I don’t recall even hearing of them before now. Having started off as a death metal act, but shifting towards a more industrial sound later on, Thy Disease’s set was an entertaining 30 minutes of modern metal, but as the mixing booth was still untouched, one couldn’t enjoy this one any more than the two previous shows. The backing tracks were on point, though – the synthesizer loops programmed by Yanuary, the guitarist and only founding member left in the band, whirred and clanked like crazy behind the band instruments. If you’ve heard earlier work from the Russian Grenouer, Thy Disease might interest you. Vocalist Syrus was a sympathetic character in his Gothic pants, scraggly beard, and grown-after-the-latest-promo-shoots hairdo, but also a charismatic performer – even his microphone cable matched the red accent color of his pants. I would’ve allowed a bit more time for these guys, as their set ended almost surprisingly soon; I got to watch a couple of songs with complete attention, after which I ran into a couple of my friends, and suddenly the show was over.

 

The front of the stage had filled during Thy Disease’s show, and once the curtains were pulled aside after the 20-minute intermission, the whole of Nosturi cheered as Decapitated got on stage. The audience were given no quarter as the band kicked things off with “The Blasphemous Psalm to the Dummy God Creation” and the title track from their latest album, Blood Mantra. I was on the upper balcony as the show started, but had to relocate as the intensity downstairs was something I didn’t want to miss. Before their latest single, “Never”, vocalist Rafał Piotrowski commended the audience on the warm welcome and that it’s great to finally get to play in Finland. One hears stuff like this all the time during metal shows, but it’s always great to hear them from one of your favorite bands!

Things continued on with the almost best possible way, as after “Never”, Decapitated jumped to Organic Hallucinosis and played “Day 69” and “Post(?) Organic”, the former being one of my all-time favorites. The time travel went on all the way to Nihility (2002) with “Spheres of Madness.” The remainder of the set continued with more recent tracks, and the second-to-last song, “Homo Sum” from Carnival is Forever, was a clear high point in the show. The last song was Blood Mantra’s “Nest”, after which the feeling was confused – was it over already? Where are all the rest of their killer songs?

Decapitated is just killing it these days, and it’s astounding to see the guitarist and only original member, Vogg, enjoy performing – the horrible tour bus accident 10 years ago killed his brother (and the band’s drummer) Vitek and put the vocalist Covan in a coma. Fortunately, after 2 years of mourning, Vogg decided to continue with the band, and it wasn’t in vain, as the band was on fire this night and the moshpits raged on in the audience. An excellent show from a band that has gone through a lot! I hope that the new Anticult record, set to be released in July, will mark Decapitated’s return to Finland, as there are still a lot of songs to hear.

 

After Decapitated, I was starting to feel a bit worn out, but the show had to go on; Vader is a true death metal legend, boasting a career of twelve full-lengths and a pile of EPs and compilations on top of that. My personal favorites span the previous decade with the amazing Impressions in Blood (2006) up front, but don’t get me wrong – despite the length of their discography, Vader cannot in any way be blamed for inconsistency. A moment before 22:30, Piotr “Peter” Wiwczarek and co. took the stage and started on full throttle with “Wings” off Litany (2000). It’d been 8 years since the last Vader show I’d seen, but Wiwczarek hadn’t aged a bit.

I don’t know Vader’s material well enough to regurgitate the whole setlist, but as a whole, the set was constructed traditionally with tracks from their latest album and from the old classic records. Their latest output, The Empire, from last year, was featured with a bunch of tracks; Tibi Et Igni with a couple ones; and the rest of the choices were from The Ultimate Incantation, De Profundis, and Black to the Blind. For example, the already mentioned Impressions in Blood was completely left out, but as Vader dropped one incredible song after another, I didn’t have time to be bummed. Classic songs like “Sothis” and “Carnal” still defend their place in the set, and The Empire’s more mid-tempo assaults brought welcomed breather moments between faster tracks.

The band itself was solid as ever – Wiwczarek played his almost Kerry King-esque shredding solos effortlessly as usual, Marek “Spider” Pająk and Tomasz “Hal” Halicki, both having joined Vader in the beginning of the decade, handled the rest of the stringed instrument section nicely, and the British drummer, James Stewart, didn’t pale one bit when compared to his predecessors like Doc or Daray. Regarding stage presence though, Vader’s frontman has always been and will always remain Wiwczarek – the man has admirably dedicated himself to Vader for over 30 years now.

After “Black to the Blind”, the final song in the set, I was so tired that I had to leave my last beer behind half-full, but what a show it was! The Polish have always seemed to know how to nail these things; the only complaints I have are related to the unfair performance conditions of the warm-up acts. A big thank you goes out to the organizers, and judging from the number of people leaving the venue with smiles on their faces, I’d suspect that dragging the mid-Europeans back to play metal in the far north had also been profitable.

VADER & DECAPITATED w/ THY DISEASE, NOX VORAGO, THRASHRED – Nosturi, Helsinki, 16.05.2017 (suomeksi)

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Paljon on hilsettä lentänyt kotimaan rockklubeilla sen jälkeen kun puolalainen death metal -legenda Vader on viimeksi käynyt Suomessa sisätilakeikalla. Bändi on viime vuosina soittanut pari festarikeikkaa Steelfestissä sekä Jalometallissa, mutta edellisistä klubikeikoista on vierähtänyt aikaa jo yhdeksän vuotta. Alkuvuodesta julkistettiinkin aikamoinen kombinaatio, kun Vaderin sekä maanmiestensä Decapitatedin kerrottiin saapuvan Suomeen peräti kolmelle keikalle osana Crushing the North 2017 -kiertuettaan.

Kuvia tulossa pian!

 

Decapitated ei ole esiintynyt Suomessa koskaan, joten paikalle oli pakko päästä – The Negation (2004) ja Organic Hallucinosis (2006) olivat omia teiniaikojen suosikkeja, ja bändiä kohdanneen tragedian jälkeinen paluulevy Carnival Is Forever (2011) on myös pyörinyt soittimessa paljon. Edeltäviltä Seinäjoen sekä Tampereen keikoilta oli jo kuulunut uutisia tautisen kovasta meiningistä, joten matka kävi tiistai-iltana Nosturiin odotusten kera. Olisiko Pekka Pouta taas pitissä? Se piti päästä näkemään!

 

30 euron lipun hinnalle oli tarjottu mukavasti vastinetta, sillä Vaderin ja Decapitatedin lisäksi paikalle oltiin saatu puolalainen death-jyrä Thy Disease, ruotsalainen Nox Vorago sekä venäläinen Thrashred. Tapahtuman aikataulut oli arki-illasta johtuen sorvattu äärimmäisen tiukoiksi, joten Thrashredin vuoro koitti jo tasan seitsemältä. Paikalle oli ehtinyt kohtuullisen harvalukuinen joukko uteliaita kävijöitä ihmettelemään venäläisten thrashinsekaista poljentoa, ja ihan mainion 25-minuuttisen kaverit soittivatkin. Vain muutama vuosi sitten perustetun ja yhden demon julkaisseen bändin musiikin lähin kotimainen vertailukohta voisi olla vaikkapa Profane Omen, joskin hieman kevyempänä versiona. Lavaääni oli aivan järkyttävä, sillä kitara peitti kaiken alleen, ja kuulosti muutenkin siltä kuin äänimies ei olisi kääntänyt potikoita oletusasennoista mihinkään suuntaan. Ihan mainio aloitus kuitenkin: lisää treeniä ja biisejä niin kyllä tästä varmasti jotain aikaiseksi saadaan.

 

Thrashredin jälkeinen roudaustauko oli hyvin lyhyt, sillä Nox Vorago nousi jo varttia myöhemmin lavalle. Mustiin kaapuihin ja miltei Scream-leffojen pääkallomaskia muistuttaviin kuparisiin naamioihin sonnustautunut bändi joutui takomaan neljän biisin settinsä yhtä surkeilla lavasoundeilla kuin Thrashred. Puolet Nosturin miksauspöydästä oli peitetty lakanalla, eikä kukaan koskenut potikoihin keikan aikana – oliko tämä jokin typerä Vaderilta tullut vaatimus? Ei kukaan jaksa seurata keikkaa, josta ei saa mitään muuta selvää kuin särökitaran! Soundeista johtuen ensimmäisen kappaleen aikana sattui pari täysin tyhjää kohtaa, sillä taustanauhalta tulleet orkestraatiotkaan eivät päässeet esiin.

Jos unohdetaan luokattomat soundit, allekirjoittaneelle ennestään täysin tuntematon Nox Vorago otti työvoiton: kappalemateriaalissa oli mukavasti koukkua ja vaihtelua, sillä täysiverisiä paahtokohtia käytettiin säästeliäästi tunnelmoivampien osien välissä. Myös vokalisti Uduunin kärisevä lauluääni oli mukavan erilainen kuin genren bändeillä yleensä. Muu soittajisto hoiti tonttinsa naamioiden takana vähäeleisesti, mutta valot toivat keikkaan paljon eloa. Porukkaa oli saapunut keikan aikana mukavasti lisää, ja yleisö tuntui pitävän esityksestä – jos vaikkapa Septicflesh tai Whorion maistuvat, kannattaa Nox Vorago ehdottomasti ainakin katsastaa.

 

Ennen Decapitatedia oli vuorossa vielä illan kolmas puolalaisorkesteri Thy Disease. Tutkan alla on onnistuttu pysymään todella tehokkaasti, sillä vaikka uraa on takana jo 18 vuotta, en muista bändiä aikaisemmin kuulleeni. Death metal –bändinä aloittaneen, mutta industrialimpaan suuntaan vaihtaneen Thy Diseasen puolituntinen setti oli viihdyttävää modernia pomppuheviä, mutta mikseripöytä pysyi edelleen puoliksi peitettynä ja sen myötä tästäkään ei pystynyt täysin rinnoin nauttimaan. Taustanauhat kuitenkin oli saatu viimein kuuluville: bändin ainoan alkuperäisjäsen Yanuaryn ohjelmoimat synataustat säksättivät vimmatusti bändisoiton lomassa, ja materiaali toi muutenkin mieleen venäläisen Grenouerin alkupuolen tuotannon. Vokalisti Syrus oli renksuhousuissaan, risuparrassaan ja viimeisimpien promokuvien jälkeen kasvattamassaan tukkapehkossa sympaattinen ilmestys, mutta myös vakuuttava esiintyjä – mikkikaapelikin oli linjan mukaisesti punainen. Olisin kyllä suonut Thy Diseaselle hieman pidemmän soittoajan, sillä vain puolen tunnin mittainen setti hujahti miltei vahingossa ohi; ehdin kai katsoa pari biisiä mielenkiinnolla, minkä jälkeen törmäsin paikalle saapuneisiin tuttuihin, ja yhtäkkiä keikka olikin ohi.

 

Lavan edusta oli Thy Diseasen aikana täyttynyt kuin varkain, ja kun 20 minuutin roudaustaukon päätteeksi verhot vedettiin lavan edestä syrjään, koko Nosturi hurrasi Decapitatedin noustessa lavalle. Yleisöltä otettiinkin heti luulot pois, sillä setti lähti käyntiin tuoreimman Blood Mantra -levyn (2014) ”The Blasphemous Psalm to the Dummy God Creationilla” sekä nimiraidalla. Olin keikan alkaessa ylätasanteella, mutta meininki alakerrassa oli saman tien niin katossa että oli pakko vaihtaa paikkaa. Ennen kolmantena tarjoiltua uusinta sinkkua, ”Neveriä”, vokalisti Rafał Piotrowski kiitteli yleisöä lämpimästä vastaanotosta ja kertoi, että on hienoa päästä viimeinkin Suomeen keikalle. Samanlaisia lauseita kuulee hevikeikoilla hyvin usein, mutta on aina hienoa kuulla ne oman suosikkibändinsä suusta!

Homma jatkui miltei parhaalla mahdollisella tavalla, sillä ”Neverin” jälkeen hypättiin Organic Hallucinosisille ”Day 69:n” sekä ”Post(?) Organicin” ajaksi – varsinkin ensimmäinen näistä on henkilökohtaisia all-time –suosikkeja. Aikamatkassa päästiin lopulta kakkoslevy Nihilitylle (2002) asti, ja ”Spheres of Madness” upposi sekin yleisöön kuin veitsi voihin. Setin loppuosa paahdettiin taas uudempien biisien voimin, ja toiseksi viimeisenä soitettu Carnival Is Foreverin ”Homo Sum” oli ehdottomasti keikan kohokohta. Viimeisenä soitettiin Blood Mantran ”Nest”, jonka jälkeen olo oli hölmistynyt – joko se loppui? Missä kaikki loput takuuvarmat keikkahitit?

Decapitated on näinä päivinä hurjassa iskussa, ja on huikaisevaa nähdä kitaristin ja ainoan alkuperäisjäsenen Voggin nauttivan esiintymisestä – 10 vuotta sitten sattunut keikkabussionnettomuus jätti miehen täysin tyhjän päälle, sillä veli ja bändin rumpali Vitek kuoli myöhemmin vammoihinsa sairaalassa, ja vokalisti Covan vajosi koomaan. Parin vuoden surutyön jälkeen Vogg kuitenkin päätti onneksi jatkaa, sillä tänäkin iltana bändi oli liekeissä ja pitit käynnistyivät yleisössä pyytämättä. Erittäin hieno keikka kovia kokeneelta bändiltä! Toivottavasti heinäkuussa julkaistavan Anticult-levyn myötä tie tuo taas Suomeen, sillä kuulematta jäi vielä monta suosikkia.

 

Decapitatedin jälkeen voimat olivat aika lailla lopussa, mutta pakko oli vielä jaksaa. Vader on todellinen death metal –legenda, jonka uralle on mahtunut kaksitoista täyspitkää sekä mittava pino pienjulkaisuja ja kokoelmia. Oma Vader-tykkäily on keskittynyt 2000-luvun tuotoksiin loistava Impressions In Blood (2006) etunenässä, mutta tuotannon laajuudesta huolimatta Vaderia ei voi mitenkään syyttää materiaalin laadun heittelemisestä. Vähän ennen puolta yhtätoista Piotr ”Peter” Wiwczarek ja kumppanit nousivat lavalle, ja keikka lähtikin saman tien täysillä liikkeelle Litanyn (2000) avausraidalla ”Wings”. Edellisestä nähdystä Vaderin keikasta on aikaa varmaan kahdeksan vuotta, mutta Wiwczarek ei ollut näyttänyt vanhentuneen tippaakaan.

Vaderin materiaali ei ole niin läpikotaisin tuttua, että pystyisin läpikäymään koko settiä, mutta kokonaisuus oli rakennettu perinteiseen tyyliin uuden levyn sekä vanhimpien klassikoiden ympärille: viime vuonna julkaistulta The Empireltä soitettiin useampi ralli, edellislevy Tibi Et Igniltä pari biisiä, ja loput valinnat olivatin The Ultimate Incantationilta, De Profundisilta sekä Black to the Blindilta. Esimerkiksi jo mainittu Impressions in Blood jäi lopulta setissä täysin paitsioon, mutta Vader tipautteli täsmäiskua täsmäiskun perään sitä tahtia, ettei asiaa ehtinyt jäädä murehtimaan. Klassikkobiisit ”Sothis” ja ”Carnal” puolustavat edelleen paikkaansa setissä, ja The Empiren ehkä aiempaa keskitempoisemmat lanaukset toivat mukaan tervetullutta vaihtelua. Tällä kertaa pitäydyttiin pelkästään omassa materiaalissa – vanhaa keikkasuosikkia eli Slayerin ”Raining Blood” –coveria ei Nosturissa sentään kuultu.

Bändi oli luonnollisesti täyttä rautaa: Wiwczarekin lähes kerrykingmäiset sahaussoolot lähtivät totutun vaivattomasti, 2010-luvun taitteesta mukana olleet Marek “Spider” Pająk sekä Tomasz “Hal” Halicki hoitivat lopun kielisoitinosaston hienosti, ja samoihin aikoihin Vaderiin liittynyt brittirumpali James Stewart ei todellakaan kalpene edeltäjiensä, kuten Docin tai Darayn, rinnalla. Habituksen puolesta Vaderin johtohahmo on kuitenkin ollut ja tulee aina olemaan Wiwczarek – mies on omistautunut kunnioitettavasti Vaderille jo yli 30 vuoden ajan.

Keikan päättäneen ”Black to the Blindin” jälkeen olo oli sen verran väsynyt, että viimeinen kalja jäi kesken, mutta olipahan taas! Puolassa vain jotenkin osataan nämä hommat – ainoat valittamisen aiheet liittyivätkin lämmittelijöille annettuihin epäreiluihin esiintymisolosuhteisiin. Iltamasta kuuluu iso kiitos järjestäjäorganisaatioille, ja tyytyväisenä poistuneen yleisön määrästä päätellen keskieurooppalaisten rahtaaminen Pohjolan perukoille lienee ollut kannattavaa.

(2017) The Night Flight Orchestra: Amber Galactic

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Artist: The Night Flight Orchestra
Album: Amber Galactic
Release: 19.05.2017
Label: Nuclear Blast

 

Although The Night Flight Orchestra features well-known members of Swedish bands like Soilwork and Arch Enemy, it’s a far cry from a melodeath supergroup: instead, the members are channeling their love for classic rock and AOR. I have to admit I’m not familiar with TNFO’s previous work (except some of the members’ famous main bands of course), but Amber Galactic is their third album, so clearly the project has some degree of longevity already and isn’t just a one-off gimmick. As someone who likes a bunch of bands with an old-school spirit and found the preview tracks interesting, I decided to try out the record.

 

It feels like most retro bands focus either on the 70s or the 80s, but never both decades. However, The Night Flight Orchestra marries rock music from both decades seamlessly and in a fresh fashion. For example, “Sad State of Affairs” kicks off with a riff that would be at home on an early KISS album, while “Domino” is like a modern-day take on Toto’s “Africa” – bongos and all. “Space Whisperer” is a heavier track, and the closer, “Saturn in Velvet”, touches on prog territory with its more ambitious structure, just like the opener “Midnight Flyer” with its fast solos. The ballads are also well done; my favorite track at the moment, “Jennie”, has a majestic sound and a chorus to die for. “Josephine” makes me think of Journey’s hits and culminates in brilliant interplay between guitar and synths, and “Something Mysterious” is a tune Whitesnake would surely be proud of.

Björn “Speed” Strid has a powerful rock voice and wide vocal range, belting out high notes with enviable ease like Graham Bonnet of Rainbow back in the day, but also knowing how to be gentle, as proven by the falsettos of “Jennie.” Bassist Sharlee D’Angelo and drummer Jonas Källsbäck lay down sweet grooves, and the axe tandem of David Andersson and Sebastian Forslund provides the record with memorable riffing on the likes of “Star of Rio” and the video track, “Gemini.” However, keyboardist Richard Larsson is the hero of the band in my eyes, as his playing elevates the songs and adds a lot of color into the music, whether it’s the honky-tonk piano of “Sad State of Affairs” or the glorious synths of “Midnight Flyer.” For better or worse, keyboards are usually the instrument that makes it clear which decade a song is from, and in that sense Larsson has definitely nailed the sound choices, as they are always appropriate for the vibe of each tune. Some of the spacey sounds also tie into the record’s theme – Strid has described it as, “a relationship drama set in space,” and there are female spoken word parts (at least) in French on a few tracks also adding to the thematic feel. Although I haven’t been able to read the lyrics and hence don’t know what they’re exactly about, on a musical level this conceptual approach makes the record feel like a captivating journey and more than just the sum of its parts.

 

By the end of my first listen, I was thinking “why in the hell have I not listened to these guys before?” Had this album been released in the early-to-mid 80s, I’m sure it would’ve been a smash hit, as the songs are infectious like a virus, and the playing has enough energy to fuel a spacecraft. The Night Flight Orchestra quenches my thirst for super-melodic rock with slight hints of heaviness and prog that, out of modern bands, only Nightingale has managed to satisfy until now – Sweden is clearly the promised land of AOR! Amber Galactic is slightly tongue-in-cheek and the cheese factor is high, but unlike Steel Panther, it doesn’t come across as a parody or joke – you can tell the members of The Night Flight Orchestra have poured their hearts into the music and their passion for classic rock shines through genuinely. I don’t want to hand out 10’s too often and want to save them for what I expect to become timeless masterpieces, but this record succeeds damn well at what it’s set out to do and is one of the most fun releases I’ve come across lately, so a 9 is definitely deserved.

Rating: 9/10, 4½ stars

Tracklist:
1. Midnight Flyer
2. Star of Rio
3. Gemini
4. Sad State of Affairs
5. Jennie
6. Domino
7. Josephine
8. Space Whisperer
9. Something Mysterious
10. Saturn in Velvet

VADER & DECAPITATED w/ THRASHRED, NOX VORAGO, & THY DISEASE @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 16.05.2017

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Vader & Decapitated with Thrashred, Nox Vorago, & Thy Disease, Nosturi 2017.
Photos by Marco Manzi.

HANS ZIMMER – Hartwall Arena, Helsinki, 16.05.2017

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If you asked me a year ago for a list of bands I don’t ever expect to get the opportunity to see, it might include A Perfect Circle, Alter Bridge, and pretty much any great composer, like Nobuo Uematsu or Hans Zimmer. Except Hans Zimmer has been touring lately, even taking the time to play a set at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki on May 16th, 2017, and so we had to be there to see what sort of show that one of the best composers in the world might put on.

Listen along with the set on Spotify:

If you’ve read my review of Score: Orchestral Game Music from some time ago, or even of Sunrise Avenue‘s show in 2015, you’d know that I am a sucker for anything orchestrated, and as it happens, Hans Zimmer has written some of my all-time favorite movie scores, a few of which were promised in this set. This show was, as such, a do-or-die situation for me.

 

The biggest arena in town (and possibly in the country) had sold out for the event and we showed up with plenty of time to find our seats before the lights dimmed. What was amazing was that, unlike nearly every show I’ve ever seen in any arena, there were no empty seats. People bought their tickets to this show and they showed up. The stage revealed nothing but a collection of instruments and a large curtain, and when the lights dimmed, the maestro himself appeared on stage to uproarious applause. They started the set with a medley of “Driving”, “Discombobulate”, and “Zoosters Breakout” from Driving Miss Daisy, Sherlock Holmes, and Madagascar respectively. The progression was perfect, as Zimmer started alone at the piano under a spotlight. He was then joined by his band in the front row, all still in front of the curtain. And then, of course, when they hit “Zoosters Breakout”, the curtain rose to reveal the orchestra behind them. It was epic and perfect. The choice of songs too – I wouldn’t have expected the scores from those three movies to go so well together, but they did! I could feel my heart racing by the time they finished.

It’s worth mentioning too, that I hadn’t known there would be a separate band from the orchestra. I had been under the impression that, much like Score, this would just be an orchestra with Zimmer introducing and conducting at the front, as opposed to a performance with a band. Zimmer himself was more chatty than I would have expected as well, introducing band members between nearly every song, particularly if one of them was going to be showcased, or had been in the previous song. He told bits of backstory about the songs, such as arguing with the producers about using a choir for “Roll Tide”, or a humorous anecdote about his wife’s reaction to him agreeing to do Gladiator and how it required a female soul, after which Lisa Gerard came on board (though not without feeling guilty that this was her second Russell Crowe movie in recent history). He explained that The Lion King‘s score was about Lebo Morake, the original vocalist who happened to be with them for the show, and gave us backstory on the incredible cellist from China who had been playing strings since the age of 3, among others.

Musically, I couldn’t have asked for more in the first half of the show. “Roll Tide” was haunting and the choir made my hair stand on end; it also showed off perhaps the coolest drummer with the coolest beard ever. I wasn’t familiar with “160 BPM”, but it was wondrous to hear. The medley/collection from Gladiator, combined with the images on the backing scene, made me feel as if I really was in an ancient Colosseum in Rome watching battles to the death, and the addition of vocals (not just the replacement for Lisa Gerard, but the violinist who joined in to harmonize as well) was gorgeous. The blend of classical and modern in The Da Vinci Code was really cool. The Lion King was nothing short of perfection from start to finish and made me realize how badly I need to re-listen to the score of that movie, as I had forgotten how great it is (score, incidentally, should not be confused with soundtrack, which are the Elton John songs). Lebo M. sounded exactly like he did in the original soundtrack, as if over 20 years hadn’t passed. And the Pirates of the Caribbean collection was… well, it left me speechless and buzzing. Those are some of my favorite scores ever and to hear songs like “Up is Down” and “He’s a Pirate” live was pretty much life-changing. It’s a rare occasion that I feel such a physical thrill watching live music these days.

And then we had an intermission. At this point, I will admit that the first half of the show was better than the second half – it had more bombastic and emotional music, for one, and also the most familiar to me, in Driving Miss DaisySherlock, Gladiator, The Lion King, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

The second half started after the break with some light xylophone notes to lure people back to their seats, and they began with “You’re So Cool” from True Romance. After this, he introduced Gary Kettel, and told the story of how they met 30 years ago during Zimmer’s first orchestra. He wasn’t sure how well he had done, but Kettel turned to him, gave him a thumbs up, and said, “Way-hay!” It’s kind of their thing now, and as it was Kettel’s birthday, he had the crowd shout, “Way-hay!” to him a few times in celebration.

The show then continued with “Thunderbird” from Thelma and Louise, with the glorious fluffy-haired hippy-looking fellow taking most of the spotlight with his sexy-sax -like guitars. Zimmer then introduced “some superhero stuff” before the unnecessarily long-named “What are You Going to Do When You are Not Saving the World?” from Man of Steel. The superhero stuff, however, was broken up by “Journey to the Line” from Thin Red Line – an interesting and anxiety-inducing piece with a red backing screen that turned into what almost seemed like slow-motion dubstep at some point. The superheroes then returned with music from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and The Dark Knight trilogy. Zimmer told a wonderful story about the sad loss of Heath Ledger and the tragedy following the shooting during the The Dark Knight Rises premiere, and in the end, the moral was that the world is not a better place since then, but everyone on stage from all over the world had come together making music in their hearts and they were playing from their hearts. They then set into “Aurora” from the likewise-named film. Music from Interstellar then closed out the show before he returned to thank the audience, the choir, the orchestra, the band, and again, the audience, for everything, before the encore of music from Inception, and then everyone took their bows as people cheered and gave a standing ovation – a very well-deserved ovation, if I do say so!

 

On the whole, I do think that I enjoyed Score more than this (exclusively for the reason that I knew almost all of the music, whereas here I knew only about half), yet this combination of band/orchestra made for an absolutely fantastic performance and the 3 hours simply blew by. Some of the band were clearly rock stars in an alternate universe, with how cool and easily they played (I’m looking at you, cellist and bearded drummer). I had chills, my heart raced, and I generally felt parts of my body (like my eyeballs) straining toward the stage to be closer to everything that was happening. I would have loved to hear some music from The Holiday, as I adore its score, though frankly I understand its omission – it’s not the best movie, story-wise. Truly though, this was by far one of, if not the best shows I’ve seen this year so far, and someone will have to work pretty damn hard to top it!

Setlist:
1. Driving / Discombobulate / Zoosters Breakout
(from Driving Miss Daisy, Sherlock Holmes and Madagascar)
2. Crimson Tide
– Roll Tide
3. Angels & Demons
– 160 BPM
4. Gladiator
– The Wheat
– The Battle
– Elysium
– Now We Are Free
5. The Da Vinci Code
– Chevaliers de Sangreal
6. The Lion King
– Circle of Life (prelude) (with Lebo M)
– This Land (with Lebo M)
– King of Pride Rock / Circle of Life (with Lebo M)
7. Pirates of the Caribbean
– Jack Sparrow
– One Day
– Up is Down
– He’s a Pirate

Intermission

8. True Romance
– You’re So Cool
9. Thelma & Louise
– Thunderbird
10. Man of Steel
– What Are You Going to Do When You Are Not Saving the World?
11. Batman vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice
– Is She With You? (Wonder Woman Theme)
12. The Thin Red Line
– Journey to the Line
13. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
– The Electro Suite
14. The Dark Knight Trilogy
– Why So Serious?
– Like a Dog Chasing Cars / Why Do We Fall? / Introduce a Little Anarchy
– Gotham’s Reckoning / The Fire Rises
15. Aurora
– Aurora
16. Interstellar
– Day One
– Where We’re Going
– No Time for Caution
– Stay
17. Inception
– Dream is Collapsing
– Mombasa
– Time

(2017) Iced Earth: Incorruptible

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Artist: Iced Earth
Album: Incorruptible
Release: 16.06.2017
Label: Century Media

 

It’s been 3 years, which means it’s time for another Iced Earth album. There’s been some debate over the progression of the band in recent years following the departure of Matt Barlow on lead vocals. Not everyone was against Tim “Ripper” Owens (ex-Judas Priest) as his replacement, but I can’t say I was on board with him. Then, for a brief time, Barlow returned, but after his second departure, the band went with a much more appropriate replacement in Stu Block (Into Eternity). Block managed to fill Barlow’s shoes far better than Owens had, with a similar range and sound, but he also boasts a bit more vocal diversity. However, the albums since he joined the band have left something to be desired. 2011’s Dystopia started strong but fizzled out a few songs in, while Plagues of Babylon from 2014 wasn’t really much to impress. The third time’s the charm though, so I had hoped that Incorruptible would be that charm.

 

Well, first of all, I have to say that I’m pleased with their album art. I’ve always really loved Iced Earth’s cover art, with the exception of Plagues of Babylon, which maybe intentionally looked… plague-y, but it wasn’t visually pleasing and looked, in my eyes, to be a half-rate black metal album cover. So to see Set Abominae looking cool and professionally done again was a nice bonus.

The opening track, “Great Heathen Army”, starts on a deep, mildly foreboding note, that brings to mind some sort of impending Lord of the Rings -type battle, but brings in the traditional Iced Earth chants (think back to “Damian”). With a Viking-themed song, this feels pretty appropriate. Then there are… growls? They sound almost clanging, so if they are growls, they’re mixed with something else. And then Block comes in with his Halford-esque scream and the John Schaffer rhythm gallop begins! It starts to feel like real, honest-to-whatever Iced Earth, and the solo by Jake Dreyer works quite nicely if I do say so. We get some further Halfordian singing, and I like the rising guitar lines that close out the song. Not sure about the growly part in the beginning, but it feels like a pretty decent start to the album on the whole.

“Black Flag” continues with some haunting bits reminiscent of Horror Show (2001), before the guitars saunter in to pick things up. The track immediately makes me think it could’ve been from Burnt Offerings (1995) until it goes full Iron Maiden gallop about a minute and a half in. I’m also glad to see they’re not squandering Block’s Halfordian high singing at this point, much as they did on the last album. One line stood out to me instantly: “barrels of rum, black powder, and the clash of the blades” – I can’t decide if it’s just trope-y enough to be fun or if it’s a little too on-the-nose regarding pirate tropes, but Block is really emphasizing the ‘R’s in there. It certainly jumps out, as the music takes a backseat to that line each time it shows up. Nevertheless, I’ll go out on a limb and say that a pirate song that doesn’t sound specifically like a ‘pirate song’ (looking at you, Alestorm), but is simple a metal song about pirates, is pretty refreshing.

As the gentle backing music and guitar opens “Raven Wing”, the second single, I was immediately excited at the prospect of another Iced Earth ballad, and waited somewhat impatiently to see if the song would kick off or remain gentle. Block remains calm through the first verse, his deeper range sounding majestic. The guitars kick up a bit going into the chorus though, and the dream of a track-3 ballad fades, though the song remains perhaps a ballad+ (maybe ++) in speed, and appears to have at least somewhat heartfelt lyrics. It might be a bit early in the album’s flow for a gentler track at this point, but we’ll let it slide because the chill solo is really nice.

“The Veil” is another gentle and passionate starter, acting as a potentially high-oomph ballad+ with all the gusto Block offers in the chorus. I’d say at this point the flow of the album is a bit odd – a slower song followed by an even slower song at tracks 3 and 4 is a bit too soon or too much, and the album could’ve started with a bit more energy – maybe one more faster track before these. Credit for the spoken-word parts in here though, which is another Iced Earth tradition that I’d be sad to see missing from an album. Also, the flow thing is a minor complaint in the grand scheme of things.

The album kicks up again with “Seven Headed Whore” – what an odd/great song title. I wish I had the lyrics. I like the harmonizing of Block’s regular vocals with his high vocals throughout the track, as well as the solo, which I find very reminiscent of 1995-1998 -era Blind Guardian. Unexpected, but cool, especially considering the good relationship between these two bands. Ultimately, I think this was a good first single – it shows a lot of the band’s strengths currently, and while I wouldn’t necessarily call it an ear-worm, it does have some good power to it.

“The Relic (pt. 1)” then sounds a bit like a story song, with some very cool guitar parts yet again – I’m finding myself very on board with Dreyer’s performance on lead guitars. Of note, interestingly enough, there is not a part 2 to this song – or at least not immediately evident. A new story could be starting, perhaps? In vibe, this feels a bit like “Damian” but shorter – I love “Damian” but it’s awfully long sometimes, so this is working for me pretty well.

“Ghost Dance (Awaken the Ancestors)” is catchy right off the bat and the first song to truly pique my interest from the get-go, with its clear Iron Maiden influence, yet still sounding oh-so-Iced Earth. The long soloing intro works very well, and truly, this band’s rhythm section – not just Schaffer, but Luke Appleton (bass) and Brent Smedley (drums) – are really shining through. After a vocal-less chorus, I realized that this is, in fact, an instrumental track – not common in Iced Earth to my recollection, but definitely a song I’d like to hear live if Block needs a break midway through a show. There is a vocal part a little over halfway through though, and I can’t say if I like it or not – I’m not even sure if they’re words or sounds being sung, but they’re a little strange. Since the song’s title seems to sound somewhat Native American (for example), and there are some similar-styled flutes here and there, I’ll have to assume that chanting is meant to sound like a Native ritual or something of the sort. ‘Vocally’ it’s a bit odd, but musically, this song is an instant favorite.

“Brothers” brings the vocals back, and the song progresses in a fairly simple, but I’m happy to say effective manner, with a pretty cheery, brotherly (appropriate, no?) chorus. This could be the theme song for any two people taking on pretty much anything together, talking about trust and strong bonds. This could be a pretty basic example of the effectiveness of ‘less is more’ in music. I didn’t realize that this song is actually about Block and Schaffer, which makes it pretty special in that context. The song pretty much hits the peak limits of brotherly love just barely without crossing into the romantic zone; it’s cheesy, but I’m not gonna lie, I kind of love it.

A nice little solo/riff starts off the second-last track, “Defiance”, and on the whole this just feels like a straight-up good Iced Earth track. Nice energy, decent lyrics from what I can tell, a pretty good solo, and such wonderful rhythms. Few bands can really center themselves around the rhythms and pull it off the way that Iced Earth can. Block is nicely dynamic and it feels good to listen to this song. Actually, this might be the first song that got stuck in my head and feels like it’ll be really good to sing along to. Next tour to come here, I hope to hear this!

The album closes out with “Clear the Way (December 13th, 1862)”, and I had to look up what that would be about. The answer is, the Battle of Fredericksburg, and the Irish Brigade in particular. Clocking in at 9½ minutes, this is by far the longest track on the album, and works really well, so very well, as an Iced Earth epic. “Forward clear the way!” chants in the background as Block leads the charge with his vocals. The guitar breaks feel really organic and the song progresses really nicely – you’d hardly know the story was a tragic one because it’s so powerful. There is a straight-up Iron Maiden solo at about 4:45ish, and I can’t deny that I appreciate how much you can feel this band’s love for Iron Maiden, without ever really feeling like a rip-off. That influence is ever-present, but never feels cheap or unoriginal. The song then slows down with some bagpipes, shouting, and war drums (forgive my lack of drummer lingo, but are they the snares?), and then the song kicks back into overdrive. This song definitely closes out the album on a really high note, leaving the listener wanting more – exactly as the last song should!

 

At first I was wondering if what Iced Earth lacks these days is the emotional pull of songs like “Ghost of Freedom”, “The Dark Saga”, “A Question of Heaven”, “Watching Over Me”, and so on, but that really doesn’t seem to be the case. Iced Earth has always been at their best telling stories (making me again very sad that the press copies don’t come with lyrics because otherwise I’d have made this review much more interesting), and they certainly rock the stories on this album; there are lots of great lines and passionate parts on Incorruptible. But while this album on the whole is very good, it still lacks a few stand-out tracks. There aren’t any immediate ear-worms on this album (something Iced Earth has been missing since “Dystopia” and “Anthem”). That said, the album is actually very satisfying – I can listen to it both actively and passively, and in fact, while listening passively, more songs started to reach out and grab me, and I wouldn’t say there are any total duds either. I think it has some of the old things you loved about Iced Earth from the 90s, while it still embraces the newer members and has evolved in a positive manner. The album’s got a bit of a slow burn, but I do recommend giving it a few goes before making up your mind. I think, ultimately, you’ll find yourselves quite satisfied with it. So yes indeed, third time’s the charm!

Rating: 8.5-9/10, 4 stars

Tracklist:
1. Great Heathen Army
2. Black Flag
3. Raven Wing
4. The Veil
5. Seven Headed Whore
6. The Relic (part 1)
7. Ghost Dance (Awaken the Ancestors)
8. Brothers
9. Defiance
10. Clear the Way (December 13th, 1862)

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Hannes Horma (Silver Bullet, ex-Turisas), 2017

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We all know Hannes Horma from his time as bass player for Turisas, but where has he been since his departure in 2011? Apparently, he’s been playing in a new band, Silver Bullet. As it’s been ages since we’ve heard about what he’s been up to, we thought we’d share the playlist of his life with you!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
“Sininen Uni” by Tapio Rautavaara. I guess this was a really popular lullaby for us 80’s kids.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
“Chinatown” by the Hurriganes. I listened to a lot of my dad’s LPs as a kid and I always wanted to hear “Chinatown.” It’s still a cool song.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Emerald Sword” by Rhapsody. When I was a teenager, my father went to Germany to visit his brother. One evening he called me and asked if I want something for souvenir. I was reading Soundi magazine and there was an ad about Rhapsody’s Symphony of Enchanted Lands album. That album blew my mind and started my era of power metal.

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
The metal album that made me a metalhead was Metallica’s Ride the Lightning. I also had a book of tablature for the whole album and I practiced the songs a lot.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
I don’t really get songs stuck in my head, only my own songs that I’ve been mixing for hours… 🙂

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
“True Survivor” by David Hasselhoff. When partying, I have to hear it!

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Smash by The Offspring. Still one of the best punk albums ever.

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Hmm… I would much rather watch a movie or something when relaxing on the couch.

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
“Bring Me the Night” by Overkill. Fast and loud heavy metal. Does it get better than this?

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
“Theme from Jurassic Park” by John Williams. It has a special meaning for me and it also is one of the greatest movie themes ever written.

You can listen to Silver Bullet’s debut album, Screamworks, on Spotify here, and keep an eye open for our review of their show with Blaze Bayley that’s coming out this week!

SOTAJUMALA: Hautajaiset [Funeral] @ Lutakko, Jyväskylä, 13.05.2017

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Sotajumala’s final performance in Jyväskylä’s Lutakko, 2017.
Photos by Marco Manzi.

METSATÖLL w/ VETTEN ÄPÄRÄT @ On the Rocks, Helsinki, 13.05.2017

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Metsatöll with Vetten Äpärät at On the Rocks, 2017.
Photos by Miia Collander.

BLAZE BAYLEY w/ SILVER BULLET & LUKE APPLETON (ICED EARTH) – On the Rocks, Helsinki, 12.05.2017

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A visit form the legendary Blaze Bayley has become something of a spring tradition to us in Scandinavia. Though known to most for his brief stint in Iron Maiden, Blaze’s solo material stands on it’s own and has found a following. They’ve been coming to Finland every year but they’ve had to cancel a few Helsinki shows due to the sad fact that the live venues here keep closing their doors. But this was to be their triumphant return! They had a new album to sell and two new albums worth of new material to play, last year’s Infinite Entanglement and its part deux, Endure and Survive, from this April. On top of that, we had two opening acts ranging from the theatrical local band Silver Bullet, to Iced Earth’s very own Luke Appleton performing solo on acoustic guitar.

Full gallery HERE!

Listen along to the setlist on Spotify:

 

Amy: I had been under the impression that Silver Bullet would be starting at 20:40-45, as that was what one of the three Facebook events had listed as the start time, but the drummer took the stage at 20:30, followed by an intro track and… Leatherface murdering a lovely young lady with a chainsaw. I can’t say I was expecting the night to start out that way, so bonus points for the surprise. The band took the stage, which was decorated with a black picket fence and pedestal adorned with chains and a lantern, and the singer, Nils Nordling, was dressed like some sort of medieval undertaker or torturer – another surprise. As the first notes struck, the sound was wretched and raspy, but like a true professional, Nordling backed away from the mic and let his voice power out the notes and vibrato without the assistance of the mic until it was quickly remedied.

It was cool to see Hannes Horma – the former bass player of Turisas – on guitar; he’s clearly a well-versed showman and was always great live on bass, but he proved himself a very capable and stylish guitarist, notably in the second track, “More than Meets the Eye.” For the third track, a Gothically dressed young lady took the stage next to Horma dancing seductively, making it evident that this horror movie -inspired band has a flare for visuals. The girl soon shed her corset (possibly with a bit of zipper trouble), revealing lingerie beneath. Her striptease was slightly awkward at times, but I’ll forgive her because she wasn’t exactly in a tearaway outfit. But then… once her skirt came off… she just… stormed off stage. Like her 9-5 shift ended and it was time to clock out. I don’t know what happened there but it was really odd.

It was pretty much the end when Nordling stopped to chat with the crowd before announcing “Tormentor”, which a few guys in the crowd clearly knew. They had pulled in a decent crowd by this time, with a few heads bobbing, and I wondered if some of the crowd had been late because of the incorrect start time. Two naughty nurses came on stage along with Jason Voorhees (of Friday the 13th fame), teasing him with a kinky leather whip and riding crop, before pulling out a switchblade and stabbing him repeatedly, then slitting his throat. He shook it off, y’know, ’cause he’s Jason, and pulled out a butcher’s knife and stalked off after them. Props to Horma for rocking a solo while traversing the cramped stage back to his spot after they all left.

When our photographer, Marco Manzi, wondered if this show would be like King Diamond at Tuska 2013, we weren’t expecting him to be dead on. The performance was quite good on the whole and the band was very competent. Musically they weren’t exactly reinventing the wheel, and Vincent pointed out that these guys are about 30 years late for their genre – so this is definitely for fans of mid-80s metal that need some new music to remind them of the old, as well as for fans of the horror genre in general.

 

The roadies changed the stage over to the Blaze Bayley band stuff, and then Luke Appleton of Iced Earth fame took the stage for what turned out to be a short acoustic set. This was an odd experience, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. Appleton had flown in just for the Nordic shows on this tour, and thanked “Star Bullet” for their set (oops). Appleton started his set with Iced Earth’s “Burning Times”, and followed with something I didn’t recognize and Dio’s “The Last in Line”, before moving on to Black Sabbath and then ended his set with another Iced Earth track, “Watching Over Me.” He invited his brother, Chris Appleton (who is also one of Blaze Bayley’s guitarists) up to sing the Sabbath song, which was pretty cool – he was pretty dull to watch but he did a decent job of it vocally. The acoustic aspect of the set was nice, but it was a bit evident why he’s a backing vocalist and not the lead – he sings decently on the whole and has the right spirit and feel for the songs, but doesn’t quite have the voice and the oomph of Matt Barlow (ex-Iced Earth), Stu Block (Iced Earth), or Dio. However, he had a lot of earnestness that I appreciated and was clearly having fun, so even though it was a bit like self-accompanied live karaoke, it was still enjoyable to watch, and I am enthusiastic to see him with Iced Earth if/when they come tour here after the release of Incorruptible in June.

 

Vincent: So at this point of the night we’d had what amounts to a Thor (the band) tribute and a cruise-line acoustic covers act. It was dinner and a show sans the dinner. Luckily, the headliner was Blaze Bayley himself. I’d seen all of their Helsinki shows since 2008 so I had a pretty good idea what to expect. This new band (Absolva) I hadn’t seen yet, however, nor had I heard anything from those Infinite albums live. On the Rocks was also a new conquest for them and I didn’t know how many people they could pull in. My fears for that subsided, however, as the place had filled with fans of classic heavy metal well before they took the stage. Blaze fans are often a unique mix of nerdier metallers and biker dudes, with nary a lady in sight.

Blaze finally ascended to his post accompanied by an instrumental intro. The band all had their backs to the audience, which I assumed could have looked dramatic if the lighting had been thought through. The intro was pretty standard and literally one-note but once the first song kicked off, all was forgiven. “Endure and Survive”, the titular and opening track of both the album and this show, started things off with a bang! The band sounded great! All the instruments were perfectly balanced and the vocals came out clearly. The crowd was 100% with them and most were at least familiar with the song. Without so much as a hello, they continued on with the second track, “Escape Velocity.” Why break up a great flow, right?

The third track came in just in time to assuage the nagging feeling they’d be bold enough to play the new album in its entirety. Since going solo, Blaze has amassed an impressive discography of eight studio albums. However, he always has a Maiden song or two up his sleeve (or… vest). “Futureal” has always been a crowd favorite and tonight was no exception. It was the perfect time for it. After that, we got the heaviest song from Endure and Survive: “Blood.” Invoking horrid imagery of bloodshed and mass murder, the up-tempo track had us all pumping our fists in the air. “Alive” from Blood and Belief flowed in the same vein of feelings of anger and resentment. This followed by the dystopian sci-fi of “Silicon Messiah”, another fan favorite. So far this had been a perfect, energetic, thrilling set.

Getting back to the new album was “Eating Lies”; a nice enough slow song to cram in there. Personally, I would much have preferred hearing something like “Regret” or “While You Were Gone”, but you review the show you got, not the one you wanted. Blaze hasn’t played a lot from the era of The Man Who Would Not Die and Promise & Terror since cutting ties with them, possibly for rights issues. That being said, most sets include either “Samurai” or “Robot”, and surely enough we got “Samurai.” It was fairly disposable. It does have a bit where the audience gets to wave their fists in the air and shout “Die!” though (always cute).

In between another few from the new albums, we got another gem from Iron Maiden. Though “Judgement of Heaven” came with an inherently Jesus-y vibe to it, it was admittedly a welcome change of pace. “Stare at the Sun” – yet another classic from Blaze’s first solo album – followed soon after. The arrangement with only one guitar seemed severely off; Blaze had, up to this point, been almost uncharacteristically on key, but here he had some trouble. The song fell completely flat, which was a real shame since it’s such a fantastic track.

For many the highlight of the evening came in the form of Iron Maiden’s “The Clansman.” By this point the dance floor had become a veritable furnace, powered by sweaty, long-haired lads all crying for freedom. [Amy: This song is was my first favorite metal track, so I stuck around for the sole purpose of seeing it and pandering to my 15-year-old self; she was not disappointed!] To me, the feeling was somewhat dampened by the next song. They rarely do Wolfsbane songs but this night they chose to not only play “Man Hunt” but to also stretch it out with solos and such as much as humanly possible. The band was in good form but none of it rang as very interesting.

Those who stuck around after that were treated with yet another classic Maiden track, “Man on the Edge” and two more tracks from Infinite Entanglement. There wasn’t a clear point that could be called an encore, per se, but I suppose saying, “You guys want more?” counts nowadays. After the show, Blaze did his usual signing session to which roughly the entire audience quickly gravitated. I picked up my Infinite Entanglement LP and walked out happy as a clam.

To me, it seemed as if the first half of the set was more polished and well put together. Some of the songs didn’t reach their potential with just one guitar, even though Chris Appleton did prove himself a superb musician. In fact, this band may well rival the line-up of 2007-2011. The fans also went nuts for the new stuff. Blaze himself was in rare form and his on-stage antics were a delight as always. The first two acts didn’t really reach me, but the crowd seemed pretty into them. Kudos, for at least making sure the support bands were of a somewhat compatible genre. They did promise to come back next year with the third and final installment of Infinite Entanglement, so I’m sure we’ll be seeing them again.

Setlist:
1. Endure and Survive
2. Escape Velocity
3. Futureal (Iron Maiden)
4. Blood
5. Alive
6. Silicon Messiah
7. Eating Lies
8. Samurai
9. Human
10. Fight Back
11. Judgement of Heaven (Iron Maiden)
12. Calling You Home
13. Stare at the Sun
14. The Clansman (Iron Maiden)
15. Man Hunt (Wolfsbane)
16. Man on the Edge
17. Dark Energy 256

Encore:
A Thousand Years

Photos: Marco Manzi

BLAZE BAYLEY w/ SILVER BULLET & LUKE APPLETON (ICED EARTH) @ On the Rocks, Helsinki, 12.05.2017

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Blaze Bayley at On the Rocks with Silver Bullet and Luke Appleton of Iced Earth, Helsinki 2017.
Photos by Marco Manzi.
Gig report HERE.

 

BLAZE BAYLEY – Blaze Bayley & Chris Appleton, Helsinki 2017

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Following the release of their latest album, Endure and Survive – the second installment to a three part concept album – legendary former Iron Maiden singer Blaze Bayley and crew stopped by On the Rocks in Helsinki. We had the pleasure of sitting down with Blaze and his lead guitarist, Chris Appleton, before the show.

 

So Blaze, who are you playing with tonight?
Blaze Bayley: This tour and the last two tours, I’ve had the Absolva band as my backing band; they also played the two albums, Infinite Entanglement and Endure and Survive. And before that we did the anniversary tour of Silicon Messiah and a Soundtrack of My Life best-of tour. As we’ve worked together [Chris Appleton]’s really got a shorthand to the way we do things; we’ve got a lot of similar values and the guys have a huge amount of talent and work-will in mind. It’s worked really well.

So what I’m trying to do now is build and say, “I don’t want to just do bits and pieces of Iron Maiden with different bands and just do my own thing.” It’s taken a while to get to that level. It seems to be working. My fans give me great comments and that’s the most important thing. Some even say it’s the best I’ve ever sounded.

I’ve seen every one of your Helsinki shows in the last 10 or so years and I swear, with only two exceptions, you’ve always come in May. Is it a scheduling thing or do you just love Finnish May?
BB: Well, the whole of Scandinavia, for me the best time is spring or summer. I don’t like touring anywhere in winter – it’s very unhealthy and can be quite dangerous with the weather. So I try to come here in spring, ever since I first toured here with Maiden. The tours that we do, we also try to book around Easter so that we don’t play religious countries at Easter-time.

Chris does most of the booking; we’re totally independent. We don’t have a big label or management, so what we really try to do is if the venue has decent sound and they let us do signings after and the fans like it, then we’ll go back – doesn’t matter if it’s a big or tiny venue. But if they don’t respect the sound, don’t respect the fans, doesn’t matter how prestigious the venue is, we never go back.

Speaking of the fans, I’ve never seen a more fan-oriented rock star. You always stay after the show to give out autographs and talk to the fans, I’ve even seen you selling your own merch. Don’t you ever have a bad enough day that you just want to call it a night?
BB: Well first, I’m not a rock star. I’m a singer – that’s something else. I’m a musician and I love to sing. I’m completely independent; there’s no big record company behind me. I work with a very small group of people in terms of management. The next thing is, I’m a working class person – it’s work. I’m very lucky to have a job that I love. I’m supported completely by my fans. And what we do is we make sure there’s a free signing after every show we do. I’ve even had to threaten to cancel a gig because the venue didn’t let us do a signing. And you know the problem is that support bands take up loads of time. So sometimes I’ve had to finish early so I could sign. The only times that I’ve had to cancel a signing is if I’m sick or if I’ve had to catch a plane.

I’ve also seen you popping up on other albums, doing collaborations with up-and-coming bands like Sinnergod, John Steel, Chris Declerq, Mindghost, and Savage Wizdom, to name a few! Would you say it’s about branching out and trying new things or…?
BB: You know, it’s really, really simple. I’m a professional singer; I work for myself and people hire me to do a job. So there are many bands that are fans who like the sound of my voice. And if I like the sound of it, I’ll do a session for them and get paid. I don’t normally contribute anything to that. So that’s how it works. Now, I don’t have much time to do that. I can only do the odd one here and there.

The last one I’ve heard you on was Geoff Tate’s new album with Operation Mindcrime, Resurrection. You were on “Taking on the World” alongside Tim “Ripper” Owens. How did that come about?
BB: Geoff got in touch that he had an idea to get the three voices together, called it Trinity. We did a little video for it and a short tour at the end of last year. It was a lot of fun.

Now, your new album is Endure and Survive, which is the second part to a trilogy of albums called Infinite Entanglement. I understand it’s something of a sci-fi concept album?
BB: Well, lyrically and musically, we tried to create something that would make sense even if you didn’t know the story. I had this idea and started to work on it with Chris. And it started to get too big. Then I said to Chris, “I think this is three albums, and if it’s three albums, it has to be one album each year.” I think musically we were very interested in telling the story. What do you think, Chris?

Chris Appleton: Yeah, the whole concept and everything that we were putting together, at that time we were only meant to be making one album, one CD. And we ended up having 18 songs after one writing session. We had 18 songs, all really good quality. In the time we had allocated there was no way we could record all 18 songs into this. And as Blaze’s story started to develop, for Infinite Entanglement he got in touch and said, “The reason we couldn’t do this in one album was because it’s a trilogy. It’s much bigger than we first expected.” For me, when we did that first album is when it all really fell into place. With the songs we didn’t use, we could then tell a storyline. We still have songs from the first session that are ready for the third installment. So it’s really just a big thing, it’s a big task. But the reaction has been quite strong, you know, from the last tour and this tour. We’re very happy with it.

Thematically, you’ve done sci-fi before, but this one seems more like a 70s-style sci-fi – darker and more character-driven. And there seems to be a darker theme to Endure and Survive than the first one, kind of like The Empire Strikes Back. Was that intentional?
BB: When we started, we knew that it was the end of a journey of a thousand years. The first album was kind of full of expectation – it set up the story of these two characters and their entanglement, and someone who doesn’t know if they’re human and then makes his decisions based on that. And the second one just naturally seemed to get darker. I worked very closely with Chris on how we could tell this story in terms of the music. He had a lot to say in terms of, “Is this okay, ’cause it’s gonna be so much darker.” He had a lot to do with how it came together musically.

CA: Yeah, that entire album was a lot darker. It goes a bit deeper. The first one sort of set up the trilogy but in Endure and Survive, it gets a bit more into the main character, William Black, and his past, his background. From what Blaze was telling me about what he’d done, these horrific things, I thought to myself, “How do I get all these horrific sounds out of my guitar – to transfer all of this darkness into music?” That was something that we worked on a lot. Not just musical arrangements and chords and solos, but how we get these sort of evil sounds, whether it be in pinched harmonics or big bends on the guitar. Stuff that’s not standard stuff in heavy metal, stuff that hasn’t really been done before. I think we captured that darkness but we still got that quality that you can take one song off the CD and it’s still a heavy metal song but it still fits into the story.

Great! And so I understand you’ll be releasing a third album next year? And then possibly a book?
BB: When I first spoke to Chris, I said, “We’re not gonna wait until it feels right. We’re gonna have three albums, 3 years – first of March, first of March, first of March. The book will come after the last one because the lyrics are all based on the book that I’m writing, this science fiction story. So any bits of information they may have missed, I hope, will be answered in that book. We’re working now on the third album on any days off, any time off that we get. The music, we now know the journeys that we want to take. It’s finding those blanks to fit the story in. The next tour starts in February of next year. The album will come out on the first of March. We’ll do the same tour. Everywhere we’ve been, most every show people have said, “We’d love you to come back with part three.” We have, I think, thirty to forty shows already booked that we’re gonna come back with part three. And then at the end of it, we’re gonna do a DVD – a live album and DVD. It’s gonna be our live set, which will be mostly songs from the trilogy. And then there will be the book.

All that sounds like a massive undertaking.
BB: Yeah we never set out to write one thing. All the time since we knew it was three, we’d start talking, “Where does this song fit?” And a very huge, great thing, this massive thing that we’re very proud of, was just obviously on the last album. So we’ve done it like that, basically. Chris has challenged me many times on the story. I’ve had to explain myself, why I want the character to do this. If I haven’t been able to explain it, I’ve really had to go back and sort out the story. And the exact same thing, I’ve challenged Chris with say, “This musical section, I don’t think we’re telling the story.” On Endure and Survive, Chris is the co-producer, so we kind of split into two. Your side was more studio oriented, right?

CA: Yeah, I kind of took over a lot more on the production side, along with Blaze. I was still pretty involved in the first album, but from the start of the whole process, I was much more involved with Endure and Survive – the production, getting all the pieces together, all the pre-production – before we went to the recording studio. All the guide-tracks and everything. Making sure we had a full album of demos, good quality demos, so we knew how we wanted everything to sound, voice actors, and everything. And that’s all before we went in and recorded the real album, so we could listen to it in full, which takes a lot of time in itself. Because it is a story, you need to be sure that it flows. You need to know that every song is in the correct order, musically. So yeah, we’ve got good responses.

Well thank you very much for your time, and best of luck. Hopefully we’ll see you on the next tour back in Finland.

Photos: Marco Manzi

ANSSI KELA w/ PIMEYS @ Jäähalli (Ice Hall), Helsinki, 06.05.2017

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Anssi Kela at Jäähalli with Pimeys, Helsinki 2017.
Photos by Kirsti Leinonen.

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Blind Hen special edition, 2017

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This week’s playlist(s) come from another relative newcomer: Blind Hen. This collective from Helsinki, Hyvinkää, and Riihimäki take influences from bands like Kingston Wall, Alice in Chains, Amorphis, and Anathema, among others. They have already released three singles that have been out for a while, with a fourth just recently released. This week we have the playlist of Antti Valkama (bass) and Tero Kalliomäki’s (guitar) lives for you!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
Antti: Elvis Presley – “Tutti Frutti.” This song really hit me. I remember like it was yesterday. It was hot summer day maybe ’88 or so. I was sitting in my father’s Toyota and this was in the cassette player. I felt the groove and the voice of Elvis. I was blown away.
Tero: “Nightflight to Venus” by Boney M. I remember that vinyl in my stepfather’s collection and I listened to that album because of that mysterious and cool cover. I still love that song and I even saw Boney M. live in Finland couple of years ago.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
Antti: Guns ‘N’ Roses – “Paradise City.” Catching verse, Axl’s voice, black and white music video, the ‘danger feeling of the band.’
Tero: “Touch Me” by Samantha Fox.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Antti: Fu Manchu – “Evil Eye.” The first stoner song I heard. Simple, catchy.
Tero: “When the Sun Burns Red” by Kreator.

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
Antti: Sepultura – “Beneath Remains” and Metallica – “Master of Puppets.”
Tero: “Fragile Dreams” by Anathema. Anathema got me into world of doom, atmospheric, and progressive music.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
Antti: Massive Attack – “Angel”
Tero: “Kingston” by Blind Hen. I was just in the studio mixing that song and it still plays in my head… ”You must kill it, you must kill it”

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Antti: Rush – “Limelight”
Tero: There isn’t that kind of songs; if you like something, you just like it even if it’s weird for you.

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Antti: Metallica – Masters of Puppets
Tero: Metallica – Ride the Lightning

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Antti: Richard Ashcroft “A Song for the Lovers”
Tero: “One Last Goodbye” by Anathema

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Antti: Kyuss – “Green Machine”
Tero: Deicide – “Scars of the Crucifix.” One of my favorite death metal songs, ever.

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Antti: Mad Season – “Wake Up.” (Okay, I will not wake up, but it’s the most beautiful song)
Tero: Saattue – “Varjojen Saattue.” It’s one of songs that I’ve composed, written lyrics for, and I’m very proud of it. And it’s been made with good friends of mine.

 

Have a listen to some of Blind Hen’s singles here:

BROTHER FIRETRIBE w/ THE NIGHTS – Tavastia, Helsinki, 05.05.2017 (English)

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The ambassadors of so-called tennis heavy metal, Brother Firetribe, have reached the honorable age of 15 as a group. While the band just released their acclaimed fourth album, Sunbound, since their inception the band has been forced to operate within the schedule of their guitarist, Emppu Vuorinen – he has been busy conquering the world with his other better-known band, Nightwish, for at least as long. Currently, Nightwish is having a year off, so Brother Firetribe decided to make use of the time by touring Finland with a total of eleven shows. The tour was justifiably concluded in Helsinki’s Tavastia on May 5th, so it was evident that the place was going to be packed with people and grin-inducing rock tunes.

 

As the show’s opening act, Brother Firetribe had selected The Nights, a band (so far) completely unknown to the larger audience. The mere 2-year-old joint project of successful musicians Sami Hyde and Ilkka Wirtanen (Hyde has sung in the band of TNT-vocalist, Tony Mills; Wirtanen is the court producer of Reckless Love) has released one track off their self-titled debut album, set to be released in the end of summer. I doubt that the band has played more than a few gigs so far, but as the clock struck 21:00, a lot people had already showed up, with some of them clearly being fans of the band, knowing most of the songs. From the opening song “Welcome to the Show” onward, it was pretty obvious that these guys were seasoned professionals, as Hyde’s and Wirtanen’s performances were laid-back, and bassist Harri Kokkonen and drummer Jan-Erik Iivari supposedly weren’t greenhorns either.

Regarding The Nights’ material, one cannot say that the guys have tried to reinvent the wheel, but it’s amazing how composing insanely catchy songs using only those four basic chords in a different order is still possible. The songs contained a great amount of variance, as there were both cheesy ballads and almost heavy metal-ish riffs between the more ‘usual’ energetic AOR tracks. If the Swedish Work of Art is to your liking, but a heavier output is not a problem, I’d suggest you dig into this band right now. As a whole, the show was excellent – The Nights had the element of surprise on their side, and they sure used it. My money’s on wider success!

 

After The Nights, an unusually long intermission ensued, as Brother Firetribe’s showtime was marked at 22:30. Tavastia started to fill up at a constant rate, and once the familiar tennis match intro track started playing, the venue appeared full. The show started off as expected with Sunbound’s titular intro and “Help is on the Way”, and the party was on. The band played “Indelible Heroes” before Pekka Heino greeted the audience for the first time and bemoaned the band’s old age. Afterwards, it was natural to play “One Single Breath”, since it’s reputedly Brother Firetribe’s first composed song.

I hate to say this out loud, but Brother Firetribe’s show was a bit two-fold. The band had additional spotlights on stage, making the show visually very appealing, and every player handled their parts as well as one would have learned to expect over these years. Surprisingly, the weakest link of the evening was Heino himself: the man’s focus seemed a bit off at times, and in addition he seemed to forget his lines (or he just didn’t sing them) on more occasions than would have been possible to just write off as rock show antics. Was it fatigue? Had he caught a cold? Hard to say, as during his interim speeches, Heino was himself and also clearly moved by the audience’s constant cheering.

Sunbound dominated the setlist, as a total of eight out of fifteen songs were from the new album. Considering the tour has been advertised as a 15-year anniversary tour, the choice was, in a way, surprising, but then again, Sunbound might be Firetribe’s greatest output on the whole. Diamond in the Firepit, released 3 years ago, was featured with only the video single ”For Better or For Worse”, and the only song, besides ”One Single Breath”, from the debut album False Metal was ”I’m On Fire.” The main set was concluded with ”Heart Full of Fire”, before Heino invited Jonna Geagea on stage to do a duet with him – I doubt we’ll see Anette Olzon performing the song anymore, for obvious reasons. My personal highlight on the set was the first encore, ”Phantasmagoria” – had Brother Firetribe been around in the 80’s, the band would have been enjoying worldwide success upon the song’s release. As always, the final song for the evening was ”I Am Rock”, still managing to entertain after all these years. The band bowed to the audience, receiving a thunderous applause. An excellent show!

 

The merch table seemed to attract a lot of people afterwards, as the selection featured a few older T-shirt designs in addition to the Sunbound-themed stuff. The coatroom service worked swiftly, as always in Tavastia, but I’ll have to point out the bar prices had once again gone up – it’s understandable to capitalize on the venue’s reputation, but 6,80€ for a small pint is starting to get ridiculous. Regardless, despite the small hiccups here and there, Brother Firetribe was once again solid as steel (or rock), and hardly anyone left Tavastia disappointed. I’ll see you guys at Tuska!

Setlist:
1. Sunbound
2. Help Is on the Way
3. One Single Breath
4. Heart of the Matter
5. For Better or For Worse
6. Shock
7. Runaways
8. Last Forever
9. Taste of a Champion
10. I’m On Fire
11. Big City Dream
12. Give Me Tonight
13. Heart Full of Fire (feat. Jonna Geagea)

Encore:
14. Phantasmagoria
15. I Am Rock

Photos: Feng Deng

BROTHER FIRETRIBE w/ THE NIGHTS – Tavastia, Helsinki, 05.05.2017 (suomeksi)

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Tennishevin sanansaattaja Brother Firetribe on ehtinyt jo kunnioitettavaan viidentoista vuoden ikään. Vastikään mainion Sunbound-neloslevynsä julkaissut bändi on toimintansa alkuajoista lähtien joutunut operoimaan kitaristinsa Emppu Vuorisen aikataulujen puitteissa, sillä miehen vielä astetta tunnetummalla yhtyeellä Nightwishillä on ollut kiire valloittaa maailmaa vähintään yhtä monta vuotta. Tällä hetkellä Nightwish viettää välivuotta, joten Brother Firetribe päätti käyttää ajan hyödykseen kiertämällä Suomea peräti yhdentoista keikan verran. Kiertue päätettiin itseoikeutetusti Helsingin Tavastialle 5. toukokuuta, joten tiedossa oli jo ennakkoon tiivistä tunnelmaa ja hymyn korviin nostavaa hyvän mielen musiikkia.

 

Keikan lämmittelyaktiksi oli valikoitunut suuremmalle yleisölle (vielä toistaiseksi) täysin tuntematon The Nights. TNT-vokalisti Tony Millsin bändissä laulaneen Sami Hyden sekä Reckless Loven hovituottaja Ilkka Wirtasen toissavuonna perustettu yhteisprojekti on toistaiseksi julkaissut ainoastaan yhden kappaleen tulevalta debyyttialbumiltaan, eikä keikkojakaan ole vielä kovin paljoa ollut, mutta kello yhdeksäksi paikalle oli ennättänyt yllättävänkin suuri joukko ihmisiä, joista osa tuntui olevan hyvinkin perillä The Nightsin kappaleista. Keikan aloittaneesta “Welcome to the Show’sta” lähtien peli oli melko selvä – nyt olivat tekijämiehet lavalla. Hyden ja Wirtasen kokemus näkyi esiintymisessä selvästi, eivätkä basisti Harri Kokkonen ja rumpali Jan-Erik Iivarikaan selkeästi ole keltanokkia näissä hommissa.

Biisimateriaalin puolesta The Nightsin ei todellakaan voida sanoa lähteneen keksimään pyörää uudestaan, mutta on ihmeellistä, miten ne tietyt neljä perussointua vähän eri järjestykseen laittamalla voi edelleen saada aikaiseksi hävyttömän tarttuvia rock-biisejä 27 vuotta 80-luvun päättymisen jälkeen. Vaihtelua kappaleista löytyi mukavasti, sillä keikan aikana kuultiin menevien AOR-rallien ohessa niin juustoisia balladeja kuin miltei heavy metalin puolelle lipsahtavia riffijyriäkin. Mikäli esimerkiksi ruotsalainen Work of Art maistuu, muttet kavahda rouheampaa ilmaisua, suosittelisin The Nightsiin tutustumista välittömästi. Kokonaisuudessaan keikka oli äärimmäisen hyvä – bändillä oli yllätysmomentin tuoma hyöty puolellaan, ja sitä todellakin käytettiin. Veikkaan että tästä kuullaan vielä!

 

The Nightsin jälkeen seurasi yllättävänkin pitkä roudaustauko, sillä Brother Firetriben soittoajaksi oli merkitty “vasta” puoli yksitoista. Tavastia alkoikin täyttyä tasaiseen tahtiin, ja Firetriben tutun tennismatsi-intron lähtiessä pyörimään tupa alkoikin olla täysi. Keikka lähti odotetusti käyntiin Sunboundin nimikkointrolla sekä “Help Is On the Waylla”, ja meininki tuntui olevan saman tien katossa. Perään vedettiin vielä “Indelible Heroes”, jonka jälkeen Pekka Heino tervehti yleisöä ensimmäisen kerran päivittelemällä bändin ikää. Seuraavaksi olikin luontevaa soittaa “One Single Breath”, onhan kyseessä bändin ensimmäinen sävelletty kappale.

Harmittaa sanoa tätä ääneen, mutta show’n puolesta meininki oli hieman kaksijakoista. Bändillä oli lavalla ylimääräisiä valospotteja ja visuaalisesti keikka oli todella hieno, minkä lisäksi koko bändi soitti juuri niin hyvin kuin Brother Firetribelta on ollut lupa vuosien saatossa odottaa. Yllättäen illan heikoin lenkki oli Heino, joka tuntui välillä tulkitsevan vain vähän sinne päin, minkä lisäksi mies unohteli (tai jätti laulamatta) biisien sanoja enemmän kuin rock-meiningin piikkiin voisi laittaa. Turnausväsymystä, flunssaa vai mitä? Paha mennä sanomaan – välispiikeissä mies oli kuitenkin oma leppoisa itsensä ja selkeästi vaikuttunut yleisön suosionosoituksista.

Sunbound hallitsi settilistaa, sillä viidestätoista kappaleesta lopulta jopa kahdeksan oli uudelta levyltä. Ottaen huomioon, että kiertuetta markkinoitiin 15-vuotisjuhlakiertueena, ratkaisu oli tavallaan yllättävä, mutta toisaalta Sunbound on hyvinkin mahdollisesti Brother Firetriben uran hienoin kokonaisuus. Kolme vuotta sitten julkaistulta Diamond in the Firepitiltä soitettiin ainoastaan videosinkku “For Better or for Worse” ja debyytti False Metaliltakin “One Single Breathin” lisäksi vain “I’m On Fire”. Varsinainen setti päätettiin “Heart Full Of Fireen”, johon Heino kutsui lavalle Jonna Geagean – Anette Olzonia tuskin fiittaamassa enää sattuneista syistä nähdään. Henkilökohtaisesti koin, että keikan huippukohta saavutettiin encoreksi säästetyn “Phantasmagorian” kohdalla – jos Brother Firetribe olisi vaikuttanut 80-luvulla, olisi kappaleella jyrätty koko rockmaailman tietoisuuteen ja maailmanmaineeseen. Keikka päättyi tuttuun tapaan “I Am Rockiin”, joka kyllä jaksaa edelleen viihdyttää. Bändi kumarsi yleisölle, joka vastasi valtaisin aplodein. Kova keikka!

 

Paitatiskillä tuntui keikan jälkeen käyvän kova kuhina, ja oli hienoa, että myynnissä oli myös vanhempia paitoja. Narikkajono purkautui Tavastialle tuttuun tapaan hyvin nopeasti, mutta paikka ansaitsee pitkän miinuksen jälleen kerran korotetuista baarihinnoista – ymmärrän, että nimellä voi rahastaa, mutta 6,80 pienestä tuopista alkaa olla jo riistoa. Joka tapauksessa pienistä kauneusvirheistä huolimatta Brother Firetribe oli Tavastialla täyttä rautaa (tai kiveä), enkä usko että kukaan poistui paikalta pettyneenä. Tuskassa tavataan!

Brother Firetriben setti:
1. Sunbound
2. Help Is on the Way
3. One Single Breath
4. Heart of the Matter
5. For Better or for Worse
6. Shock
7. Runaways
8. Last Forever
9. Taste of a Champion
10. I’m on Fire
11. Big City Dream
12. Give Me Tonight
13. Heart Full of Fire (feat. Jonna Geagea)

Encore:
14. Phantasmagoria
15. I Am Rock

Kuvat: Feng Deng

BROTHER FIRETRIBE @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 05.05.2017

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Brother Firetribe at Tavastia, 2017.
Photos by Feng Deng.

MANILLA ROAD w/ SATAN’S FALL & TOLEDO STEEL @ Kuudes Linja, Helsinki, 05.05.2017

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Manilla Road at Kuudes Linja with Satan’s Fall and Toledo Steel, Helsinki 2017.
Photos by Marco Manzi.

DARK TRANQUILLITY w/ NAILED TO OBSCURITY & WOLFHEART – Nosturi, Helsinki, 01.05.2017 (English)

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Dark Tranquillity, the Swedish pioneers of the so-called Gothenburg sound, are no newcomers to visiting Finland. The band, having released their acclaimed Atoma album last year, made a pit-stop on their release tour in the midst of the hottest Finnish party season, as they visited Tampere’s YO-talo on May Day’s eve and in Helsinki’s Nosturi the day after. For support bands, Dark Tranquillity had Wolfheart, Tuomas Saukkonen’s latest band, as well as Nailed to Obscurity from Germany, playing a more doomy style of melodic death metal. This presented a wonderful opportunity to end my party streak on a high note, as I was celebrating my last May Day as a student and Dark Tranquillity has been one of the most important bands for me at least over the past 10 years.

 

Since the show took place on a Monday night, the early showtimes presented a problem – I scoured the show’s Facebook event, but didn’t manage to find them anywhere, so I had to try to guess when to arrive. I had the feeling that I would probably be a bit late, and upon arriving at Nosturi around 19:45, Nailed to Obscurity was almost done with their set. I opened up Facebook one more time and finally found the showtimes, stating that the band had started 20 minutes earlier. Definitely my fault, but I’d like to stress that the showtimes should always be visible in the event description, instead of just posting them into the discussion.

Nailed to Obscurity wasn’t familiar to me in any way, but the few songs that I got to check out seemed pretty decent. Their slow songs had great guitar leads and the drummer played sharply; I could easily recommend the band to anyone fancying Swallow the Sun, for example. At the end of their set, the vocalist, Raimund Ennenga, thanked the scarce-ish audience for showing up early and retreated backstage, letting the rest of the band finish the last song. The members left the stage one-by-one, leaving the guitarist and the drummer to play the last bars. I was bummed to miss most of it, but what can you do?

Next up was our own Wolfheart. Led by Tuomas Saukkonen, the band took the stage and delivered a feisty 45-minutes of metal. A few years ago, Saukkonen used to have four different bands going on simultaneously, before suddenly announcing that he was going to disband them all, instead founding Wolfheart. Since then, the band has already released three full-length albums. I’ve always considered the outputs of Saukkonen’s various bands to be pretty similar, and unfortunately tonight’s show didn’t give me any reason to think otherwise, as Wolfheart’s material also consisted of fast melodeath songs, combining Saukkonen’s shredding guitar riffs, harsh vocals, double bass patterns, and blastbeats. To find something different when compared to Saukkonen’s previous bands, Wolfheart’s lead guitar riffs are maybe a bit more reminiscent to, let’s say, Amorphis, and the stand-in guitarist for Mika Lammassaari played them with ease; and he supposedly only had had three days to practice.

To describe it with only one word, I’d have to say that the setlist was a bit numbing; six of the seven songs played were fast and aggressive – only “Abyss” broke the pattern, being by far the most interesting song in the set. The stage sound might have been a factor, since one couldn’t get anything out of Joonas Kauppinen’s totally mushed-up double bass beats. Still, what I found the most annoying thing was Saukkonen’s total lack of interaction with the audience, as he didn’t say a word between songs, leaving the bassist, Lauri Silvonen, to do the speeches. Speaking of the audience, most people raised their hands politely when asked, but for the most part, the action in front of the stage was pretty static. Wolfheart had 50 minutes of play time, but I don’t think they used all of it. To conclude, and concur with our photographer Janne: that’s gonna be a no from both of us, but maybe we can try this again in Nummirock!

Setlist:
1. The Hunt
2. Strength and Valour
3. Aeon of Cold
4. Boneyard
5. Abyss
6. Zero Gravity
7. Routa, pt. 2

Time for the main event! Dark Tranquillity is one of those bands you simply cannot see live too many times, as they have eleven studio albums to pick songs from. DT has also kept the bar high in terms of material quality, wherein their countrymen, In Flames, dipped big time with their 2008 output, A Sense of Purpose, and haven’t recovered since. A moment before the show started, the curtains were pulled aside, revealing a stage-wide video screen, projecting the typical futuristic interlude visuals. Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” served as the intro track, after which the band took the stage and began – maybe a bit surprisingly – with Atoma’s “Force of Hand.” Performed without front spotlights, the photographers probably weren’t very fond of the choice, but the audience gave their all from the start.

After “Your Lesser Faith” followed, Mikael Stanne expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the audience and asked if everyone already has the new record. The band continued with the title track, “Atoma”, after which they took a turn towards more classical material with “The Treason Wall.” As a whole, the setlist contained a delightful mix of newer and older songs – “Monochromatic Stains” and “The Wonders at Your Feet” to name a few. Atoma was featured with a total of six songs, including my personal favorite, “Clearing Skies.” Visually the show was entertaining, as DT’s background visuals must have swallowed a good deal of their tour budget, based on their quality. The light technician did a great job, ‘playing’ most of the lights himself, without pre-programming.

The band seemed to enjoy themselves on stage: Stanne was his usual hyperactive self, bouncing around continuously, and the new bassist, Anders Iwers, smiled behind his formidable facial hair throughout the show. The guitarists, Christopher Amott and Johan Reinholdz, were both stand-ins for the tour, but it didn’t show from their playing – both are seasoned professionals after all. Because of the way the stage was set up, both Anders Jivarp and Martin Brändström were literally left behind, and especially Jivarp’s drum set was positioned to the far left corner – it would have been nice to watch his playing from a better angle.

The main set was wrapped up with Projector’s classic, “ThereIn”, resulting in a loud sing-along in its chorus. The band briefly retreated backstage before the encores. “State of Trust” was a bit peculiar of a choice, since one could easily have selected a Dark Tranquillity classic instead, but “Through Smudged Lenses” was a killer – after all, Character is by far the band’s best record! The show was concluded with the band’s greatest hit, “Misery’s Crown”, still claiming a spot on the list of DT’s finest songs. The audience cheered long after the end of the beautiful outro, and Stanne didn’t have to ask for anyone to raise their hands for a group photo. An excellent show from an even more excellent band once again, I have to say!

Setlist:
1. Force of Hand
2. The Lesser Faith
3. Atoma
4. The Treason Wall
5. The Science of Noise
6. Forward Momentum
7. Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive)
8. The Silence in Between
9. The Pitiless
10. What Only You Know
11. Monochromatic Stains
12. The Wonders at Your Feet
13. White Noise/Black Silence
14. Encircled
15. Clearing Skies
16. Final Resistance
17. ThereIn

Encore:
18. State of Trust
19. Through Smudged Lenses
20. Misery’s Crown

Photos: Janne Puronen

DARK TRANQUILLITY w/ NAILED TO OBSCURITY & WOLFHEART – Nosturi, Helsinki, 01.05.2017 (suomeksi)

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Ruotsalaisen Göteborg-soundin pioneeri Dark Tranquillity on Suomen-vieraana tuttu tapaus. Mainion Atoma-levyn viime marraskuussa julkaissut bändi rantautui julkaisukiertueellaan Suomeen kesken kevään kiireisimmän juhlakauden, sillä ohjelmaan kuuluivat keikat Tampereen Yo-talolla vappuaattona sekä Helsingin Nosturissa vappupäivänä. Mukaan oltiin saatu Tuomas Saukkosen tuorein bändi Wolfheart sekä saksalainen, doomahtavampaa melodeathia soittava Nailed to Obscurity. Allekirjoittaneen oli mukava päättää viimeinen opiskelijavappunsa suosikkimusiikkinsa seurassa, onhan Dark Tranquillity kuulunut itselle rakkaimpiin orkestereihin jo yli kymmenen vuoden ajan.

 

Koska tapahtumailta osui maanantaille, osoittautuivat soittoajat sen mukaisiksi – vaikka kuinka ennen keikkaa yritin, en onnistunut bongaamaan keikan Facebook-tapahtumasta soittoaikatauluja, joten jouduin saapumaan paikalle hiukan sokkona. Takaraivossa oli tunne, että olen todennäköisesti myöhässä, joten ehdittyäni Nosturille noin varttia vaille kahdeksan jouduin toteamaan Nailed to Obscurityn keikan olevan jo viimeisillään. Puhelimen vielä kerran taskusta kaivettuani avasin Facebookin, ja soittoajat pomppasivat tapahtumasta silmille saman tien – bändi oli aloittanut puolen tunnin settinsä jo puoli kahdeksalta. Noh, eihän tässä, joskin peräänkuuluttaisin jälleen kerran: päivitetään ne tärkeät infot aina myös tapahtuman kuvaukseen eikä pelkästään postata niitä keskustelun sekaan, kiitos!

Vaikkei Nailed to Obscurity ollut itselleni millään tasolla tuttu ennestään, se vähä, mitä ehdin keikasta seuraamaan, vaikutti varsin mainiolta. Bändin synkistelyssä yhdistyivät hienot kitaraliidit ja napakka rumputyöskentely, ja voisinkin varauksetta suositella bändiä esimerkiksi kotimaisen Swallow the Sunin ystäville. Keikan lopuksi vokalisti Raimund Ennenga kiitteli paikalle tulleita ja vetäytyi lavan taakse antaen muulle bändille tilaa fiilistellä viimeisen kappaleen päätökseensä. Bändi poistui lavalta vähitellen, ja viimeiset tahdit soitettiin vain toisen kitaristin ja rumpalin voimin. Harmittaa, että missasin suurimman osan, mutta oma vikahan tämä oli täysin.

Toisena vuorossa oli kotimaista tarjontaa, kun Tuomas Saukkosen luotsaama Wolfheart nousi lavalle soittamaan ärhäkän kolmivarttisen metallia. Vielä muutama vuosi sitten Saukkosella taisi olla käynnissä neljä eri bändiprojektia samanaikaisesti, kunnes hän yhtäkkiä ilmoittikin hajottavansa ne kaikki ja perustavansa tilalle Wolfheartin, jonka alla musiikin tekeminen on sittemmin jatkunut jo kolmen levyn edestä. Henkilökohtaisesti olen aina pitänyt Saukkosen aikaisempien bändien ulosantia melko yhdestä puusta veistettynä, eikä tämäkään keikka valitettavasti antanut aihetta muuttaa mielipidettä: homman nimi on edelleen nopeatempoinen melodeath, jossa yhdistyvät Saukkosen sahaavat kitarariffit ja örinä sekä tuplabasarijuoksutukset ja blastbeatit.

Wolfheartin liidiriffit tosin ovat astetta enemmän kallellaan vaikkapa Amorphiksen suuntaan, ja Mika Lammassaarta tuuraamassa ollut kitaristi soittikin osansa kuin vanha tekijä. Päällimmäinen fiilis keikasta oli kuitenkin aavistuksen puuduttava, sillä seitsemän biisin setistä kuusi oli nopeatempoisia juoksutuksia; ainoastaan viidentenä soitettu keskitempoisempi ”Abyss” rikkoi kaavaa, ja olikin tässä suhteessa ehdottomasti setin mielekkäin kappale. Asiaan tosin saattoi vaikuttaa myös puuroinen lavasoundi, sillä Joonas Kauppisen tuplabasarikompeista ei saanut käytännössä mitään selvää. Eniten kuitenkin ärsytti Saukkosen täysi kontaktin puute yleisön kanssa: mies ei sanonut kappaleiden välillä sanaakaan vaan antoi basisti Lauri Silvosen hoitaa välispiikit. Yleisö lähti kohteliaasti mukaan Silvosen aktivointiyrityksiin, mutta noin muuten meno lavan edustallakin oli yllättävän laimeaa. Bändille oli varattu 50 minuuttia soittoaikaa, mutta siitä taidettiin jättää jopa osa käyttämättä. Yhteisarvio valokuvaajamme Jannen kanssa: ei valitettavasti tällä kertaa jatkoon, mutta täytyy yrittää ottaa revanssi Nummirockissa!

Wolfheartin setti:
1. The Hunt
2. Strength and Valour
3. Aeon of Cold
4. Boneyard
5. Abyss
6. Zero Gravity
7. Routa, pt. 2

Sitten itse pihviin. Dark Tranquillity kuuluu bändeihin, joita ei voi nähdä liian montaa kertaa livenä, sillä yhdentoista studioalbumin diskografiasta löytyy aina ammennettavaksi erilainen setti. Bändin tuotanto on myös pysynyt erittäin tasalaatuisena läpi uran, siinä missä aseveljiensä In Flamesin kiinnostavuus romahti vuoden 2008 A Sense of Purposella eikä ole sieltä takaisin Come Clarityn tasolle noussut. Hieman ennen keikan alkua lavan verhot vedettiin syrjään, ja takaa paljastui koko takaseinän kokoinen tuttu videokangas, johon heijastettiin DT:lle tyypillistä futuristista väliaikakuvastoa. Introkappaleena soitettiin Black Sabbathin ”Iron Man”, jonka päätteeksi bändi astui lavalle ja aloitti setin jopa hieman yllättävästi Atoman ”Force of Handilla”. Ilman etuspottivaloja soitettu kappale tuskin oli photopitissä urakoivien valokuvaajien mieleen, mutta yleisö oli saman tien mukana.

Toisena soitetun ”The Lesser Faithin” jälkeen laulaja Mikael Stanne kiitteli vuolaasti yleisöä ja kysyi, onhan kaikilla uusi levy kotona, sillä seuraavana vuorossa olikin nimibiisi ”Atoma”, jonka jälkeen päästiin klassisempiin tunnelmiin ”The Treason Wallin” myötä. Settilista sisälsikin sopivassa suhteessa uusia ja ”Monochromatic Stainsin” tai ”The Wonders at Your Feetin” kaltaisia vanhempia ralleja vuorotellen. Atomalta taisi olla mukana jopa kuusi kappaletta, mukaanlukien henkilökohtainen suosikkini levyltä, ”Clearing Skies”. Visuaalisesti keikka oli viihdyttävää katsottavaa, sillä DT:n taustavideot ovat näyttävyytensä perusteella vieneet hyvän osan kiertuebudjetista. Valomieskin pisti pöydän ääressä parastaan, ja taisi ”soittaa” suuren osan valoista käsin.

Bändi näytti viihtyvän lavalla: Stanne oli oma hyperaktiivinen itsensä ja säntäili edestakaisin ja kelkkaan viime vuonna hypännyt basisti Anders Iwers hymyili kunnioitettavan naamakarvoituksensa takaa jatkuvasti. Jos kitaristit Christopher Amott sekä Johan Reinholdz olivatkin molemmat tuuraajina, ei se ainakaan menosta näkynyt, ja ovathan molemmat pitkän linjan ammattilaisia. Lavarakenteista johtuen Anders Jivarp sekä Martin Brändström jäivät kirjaimellisesti taka-alalle, ja varsinkin Jivarpin rumpusetti oli kasattu aivan lavan vasempaan takakulmaan – miehen rumpalointia olisi mielellään seurannut vähän lähempääkin.

Varsinainen setti päättyi Projectorin ”ThereIn”-klassikkoon, joka sai kertosäkeellään jälleen kerran aikaan hienon yhteislaulun. Bändi poistui hetkeksi lavan taakse, mutta palasi soittamaan vielä muutaman kappaleen. ”State of Trust” oli ehkä hiukan yllättävä veto, sillä tilalle olisi varmasti löytynyt jotain klassisempaakin, mutta ”Through Smudged Lenses” oli nappivalinta – onhan Character heittämällä Dark Tranquillityn kovin levy! Viimeisenä kuultiin tutusti bändin suurimmaksi hitiksi laskettava ”Misery’s Crown”, joka on edelleen myös bändin hienoimpia sävellyksiä. Yleisö hurrasi vielä pitkään kappaleen päättymisen jälkeen, eikä Stannen tarvinnut erikseen pyytää yleisöä nostamaan käsiään lopuksi otettua yhteiskuvaa varten. Hieno keikka vieläkin hienommalta bändiltä jälleen kerran, ei voi mitään!

Dark Tranquillityn setti:
1. Force of Hand
2. The Lesser Faith
3. Atoma
4. The Treason Wall
5. The Science of Noise
6. Forward Momentum
7. Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive)
8. The Silence in Between
9. The Pitiless
10. What Only You Know
11. Monochromatic Stains
12. The Wonders at Your Feet
13. White Noise/Black Silence
14. Encircled
15. Clearing Skies
16. Final Resistance
17. ThereIn

Encore:
18. State of Trust
19. Through Smudged Lenses
20. Misery’s Crown

Kuvat: Janne Puronen

DARK TRANQUILLITY w/ NAILED TO OBSCURITY & WOLFHEART @ Nosturi, Helsinki 01.05.2017

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Dark Tranquillity with Wolfheart and Nailed to Obscurity at Nosturi, 2017.
Photos by Janne Puronen.