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40 WATT SUN w/ GRETEL’S MOONLIGHT MOTEL – Korjaamon Vintti, Helsinki, 26.11.2016 (suomeksi)

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Marraskuun lopussa koettiin pienimuotoinen spektaakkeli Korjaamon intiimillä Vintillä, kun brittiläinen doom metal –yhtye 40 Watt Sun saapui Suomeen juhlistamaan vastikään julkaistua Wider Than the Sky –kakkosalbumiaan. Bändin nokkamies Patrick Walker tunnetaan parhaiten edellisestä bändistään Warningista, joka ehti viisitoistavuotisen uransa aikana julkaista kaksi genren klassikoihin luettavaa albumia, The Strength to Dreamin (1999) sekä Watching from a Distancen (2006), ennen hajoamiastaan 2009, mistä eteenpäin Walker on tehnyt musiikkia 40 Watt Sun –nimen alla. Walkerin julkaisutahti ei ole ollut järin nopea viime vuosinakaan, sillä 40 Watt Sunin The Inside Room -debyytistä on ehtinyt vierähtää jo viisi vuotta. Hyvää kuitenkin kannattaa odottaa, sillä vinyylinä kotimaisen Svart Recordsin kautta julkaistu Wider Than the Sky on aivan loistava doom metal –levy.

Read in English HERE!

 

Keikan lämmittelyaktiksi oli valikoitunut kouvolalainen, viime aikoina hyvässä nosteessa ollut Gretel’s Moonlight Motel. Keulahahmo Gretel Kiviojan sooloprojektina alkanut, mutta sittemmin viisihenkiseksi orkesteriksi kasvanut bändi on ehtinyt julkaista vasta I Am the Night -digi-EP:n (kuunneltavissa Soundcloudissa), mutta on jo ehtinyt heittää vaikuttavan määrän keikkoja pienempien ja suurempien kotimaisten nimien kanssa. Itselleni bändi oli ennalta tuttu vain nimen tasolla, mutta hommaahan täytyy selkeästi alkaa pitämään silmällä: Gretel’s Moonlight Motel soitti tukevan 45-minuuttisen garagehtavaa tunnelmointirockia. Bändin esiintyminen oli vähäeleisen itsevarmaa; ainoastaan kosketinsoittaja Niko heilui vintage-synansa takana jatkuvasti joka suuntaan kielisoittajien pitäessä omat paikkansa lavalla. Laulaja-kitaristi Gretelin toimintaa olisi mieluusti katsellut pidempäänkin, sillä neidin viipyilevä esiintyminen ja soitto oli valloittavaa seurattavaa.

Korjaamon Vintti oli keikkapaikkana bändille aavituksen brutaali, sillä lavaääni toistettiin ainoastaan kahdesta PA-kaiuttimesta, mikä sai pienessä tilassa soundit paikoitellen puuroutumaan. Valot pidettiin minimissä ilman etuspotteja, mikä toi bändin ja yleisön välille mukavaa hengitystilaa. Väkeä oli myös saapunut seuraamaan lämmittelijää mukavan kokoisesti, sillä paikka oli reilusti yli puolillaan jo Gretel’s Moonlight Motelin puolivälissä. Ihmettelen, jos bändiltä ei tule ensi vuoden aikana fyysistä julkaisua jonkin kotimaisen pienlevy-yhtiön kautta.

Gretel’s Moonlight Motelin jälkeen seurasi nykymittapuulla pitkä kolmen vartin tauko, ja olikin mukava siemailla väliajalla pari olutta normaalia verkkaisempaan tahtiin. Viimeistään roudaustauon alkaessa tuntui siltä, että Vintti alkoi olla täynnä, ja ilta saattoi hyvinkin olla ovelta loppuunmyyty. Kello yhdeltätoista Patrick Walker, William Spong sekä jo Warningissa vaikuttanut Christian Leitch nousivat lavalle raikuvien aplodien säestämänä, uuden levyn kakkosraita “Beyond You” lähti soimaan, ja seuraavan reilun tunnin ajan tunnelma oli harras kuin adventtikirkossa, kun jokainen yleisössä pysähtyi kuuntelemaan 40 Watt Sunin laahaavan hidasta, mutta pakahduttavan kaunista musiikkia, jota Walkerin riipivä lauluääni kuljetti eteenpäin.

Kahtakymmentä minuuttia – eli vain ”Beyond Youta” sekä ”Another Roomia” – myöhemmin Walker kiitteli yleisöä vuolaasti paikalletulosta ja ryhtyi vaihtamaan soitintaan sähkökitarasta elektroakustiseen. Lyhyeksi tarkoitettu vaihto venähti, kun elektroakkarin 9-volttinen paristo oli ilmeisesti kuollut ja turvonnut kitaran rungossa sen verran, että vanhaa paristoa kaivettiin ulos kitarasta sekä korvaavaa etsittiin noin viiden minuutin ajan. Walker ei ottanut asiasta yhtään stressiä, vaan totesi muina miehinä mikrofoniinsa ihanalla brittiaksentillaan ”trust me, this’ll be worth it!” Millä tahansa muulla metallikeikalla joku yleisöstä olisi kypsynyt ja alkanut huutelemaan lavalle, mutta tänään kellään ei ollut kiire minnekään. Lopulta kitara saatiin kuntoon, ja bändi pääsi aloittamaan uuden levyn päätösraita ”Marazionin”. Seuraavina soitettujen ”A Thousand Milesin” sekä ”Craven Roadin” jälkeen bändi vetäytyi lavan taakse, mutta palasi takaisin yleisön raivokkaan taputuksen säestämänä soittamaan vielä kaksi raitaa debyyttilevyltä: ”Carry Me Home” sekä ”Restless” päättivät keikan upeasti.

 

40 Watt Sun soitti lopulta ”vain” seitsemän kappaletta, mutta keikalla oli yhteismittaa lähemmäs puolitoista tuntia – bändin soittaessa ajantaju katosi täysin. Tunnelma oli erittäin intiimi läpi keikan, ja paikalla oli selkeästi pitkän linjan faneja ja asianharrastajia. Vintti oli keikkapaikkana täydellinen tällaiselle esiintymiselle, sillä kitaran, basson ja rumpujen muodostama äänimaisema ei vaadi monimutkaista miksausta, ja Gretel’s Moonlight Moteliin verrattuna tilan meluaste olikin selkeästi vähäisempi. Visuaalisesti keikka oli sangen koruton: valoista käytettiin pelkästään staattisia spottivaloja, ja keikan aikana näytetyt videotykiltä toistetut taustapätkät olivat monotonisia, mutta toivat tilanteeseen hienosti syvyyttä.

40 Watt Sun maalasi äärimmäisen tyylitietoisesti harmaan eri sävyillä, tuoden todella paljon väriä ja valoa tihkusateiseen pimeään loppusyksyyn. Todella hieno ilta!

Setti:
1. Beyond You
2. Another Room
3. Marazion
4. A Thousand Miles
5. Craven Road

Encore:
6. Carry Me Home
7. Restless

Ed: Ville Karttunen

40 WATT SUN w/ GRETEL’S MOONLIGHT MOTEL – Korjaamon Vintti, Helsinki, 26.11.2016 (English)

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At the end of November, one could experience somewhat of a spectacle in the attic of Korjaamo, as the British doom metal unit, 40 Watt Sun, arrived to Finland on November 26th, to celebrate the release of their sophomore album, Wider than the Sky, released only a couple of weeks ago. The frontman, Patrick Walker, is best known for his previous band, Warning, which produced two genre classics in the course of its 15-year career, The Strength to Dream (1999) and Watching From a Distance (2006), before disbanding in 2009. Since then, Walker has been making music under the 40 Watt Sun name, but hasn’t hurried with the release schedule, since the debut album, The Inside Room, was released 5 years ago, but good things come to those who wait: Wider than the Sky, released on vinyl through our own Svart Records, is an excellent doom metal record.

Lue kohta suomeksi TÄÄLLÄ!

 

Gretel’s Moonlight Motel, hailing from Kouvola, had the honor to serve as the opening act for the evening. The band originally started out as the solo project of the frontlady, Gretel Kivioja, but has since grown to a five-piece and has been climbing up the ladder by playing shows with a variety of Finnish bands, even though they only have one digital EP, I Am the Night (listenable on Soundcloud). I only knew the band by name beforehand, but I really have to start eyeballing their progress from now on: Gretel’s Moonlight Motel played a hefty 45-minute set of garage-smelling rock with an impressive atmosphere. The band’s performance was somewhat static but confident; only the keyboardist, Niko, swung around constantly behind his vintage organ, while the stringed instrumentalists pretty much held their own spots on stage. The singer-guitarist Gretel herself was something one could have watched for a longer period of time; her dwelling performance and playing was delightful to witness.

As a venue, the attic was a bit harsh for the band, since the stage sound was delivered to the audience using only two speakers, making the sound a bit cluttered at times. The lights were kept to a minimum with no front spotlights, which was a nice move, creating an additional space between the band and the audience. By the middle of Gretel’s Moonlight Motel’s set, probably over a half of the venue’s capacity had filled up. If there’s not a physical release out by some Finnish independent label from these guys by the end of next year, there’s gotta be something wrong with the world.

After Gretel’s Moonlight Motel, a moderately long break of 45 minutes ensued, and it was nice to sip through a couple of beers in a slower pace than usual. At the beginning of the break, the venue was already almost at capacity; the gig might have been sold out from the door by the end of the evening. At 23:00 sharp, Patrick Walker, William Spong, and Christian Leitch, also from Warning, climbed on stage, the set was kicked off with “Beyond You”, the second track from the new album, and for the next hour to hour and a half, the atmosphere was as devout as in an advent service, as everyone in the audience stopped to listen to 40 Watt Sun’s draggingly slow but burstingly beautiful music, conveyed by Patrick Walker’s wailing voice.

Twenty minutes – that is ”Beyond You” and ”Another Room” – later, Walker wholeheartedly thanked the audience for showing up and started changing guitars from his electric to an electro-acoustic, but the change took a bit longer than expected, since the guitar’s 9V battery had apparently died and swollen inside the trunk, leading to a 5-minute struggle to replace the battery with a new one. Walker didn’t stress himself out, but instead said to the mic, “Trust me, this’ll be worth it!” in his delightful British accent. At any other metal show, someone from the audience would have been annoyed enough to start shouting something stupid at the stage, but tonight absolutely nobody was in a rush. Eventually, Walker and the tech guy got the situation sorted out, and the band got to start out the closing track off the new album, “Marazion.” After the following “A Thousand Miles” and “Craven Road”, the band went backstage, but returned to the audience’s thunderous applause to play two songs from the debut album, and “Carry Me Home” and “Restless” concluded the set marvelously.

In the end, 40 Watt Sun played ”only” seven tracks, but the set was well over an hour in length. As the band played, any sense of time was blurred completely. The atmosphere was incredibly intimate for the whole set, as the venue was full of – clearly – long-term fans and doom metal enthusiasts. Korjaamo’s attic was a perfect venue for the band’s performance, since the combination of guitar, bass, and drums doesn’t require a complicated mix; compared to Gretel’s Moonlight Motel, the stage volumes were probably a bit lower. Visually, the set was really barren – only static spotlights were used, and the looped video clips projected to the backdrop were monotonic, but added a lot of depth.

When painting, 40 Watt Sun only used the different shades of gray, but they did it with immense style, bringing a lot of color and light to the fall full of drizzle and darkness. A wonderful evening, all in all.

Setlist:
1. Beyond You
2. Another Room
3. Marazion
4. A Thousand Miles
5. Craven Road

Encore:
6. Carry Me Home
7. Restless

Ed: Amy Wiseman

(2016) Metallica: Hardwired…To Self-Destruct

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Artist: Metallica
Album: Hardwired… To Self-Destruct
Released: 18.11.2016
Label: Blackened

 

Like many of our dear readers, my courtship with heavy metal music started in my early teens with no doubt the same two or three bands as everyone else. It was back in the early 2000s when not every kid had access to a fast enough internet connection to even think about downloading whole discographies and so one had to blindly pick out albums at the record store. It was due to this want of information that I managed to remain blissfully unaware that Metallica had given up their crown as the flagship of thrash metal for a more modest, MTV-friendly style. That was, of course, until their newest album, St. Anger, came out and scarred my adolescent heart for life. A great divide happened to Metallica in and after the so called Black Album. I personally find it a well balanced work, even if I don’t fully appreciate songs like “Wherever I May Roam”, “Nothing Else Matters”, or “Unforgiven.” Consider this a warning, I will be reviewing this album with the notion that Metallica is indeed a thrash metal band and will subsequently not be granting any special allowances for improvement over the last 25 years of debauchery.

That being said, Hardwired…To Self-Destruct is the closest the band has gotten to what I would consider ‘the Metallica sound’ since the eighties. I had been cautiously optimistic about it since I’d heard the three previously released tracks: “Hardwired”, “Moth into Flame”, and “Atlas, Rise!” “Hardwired” is the simplest of the bunch and works perfectly as the opening track. It’s high-paced but also classic – a great way to signal that they’ve gone back to basics. In these dark times (both in terms of political climate and actual climate), a straight-forward visceral catharsis such as this is more than welcome.

The next song, “Atlas, Rise!”, has an air of nostalgia to it as well. It showcases the band’s roots better than they’ve let them show since perhaps Ride the Lighting. The harmonized guitars and musical breaks in the bridge bring to mind early Iron Maiden and by extension the new wave of British heavy metal. Lars Ulrich‘s drumming seems heavily edited and unnatural. His reputation for precision and technique is less than stellar. Ulrich seems to coast on the one or two hooks he knows for the entire length of the album. This is a constant annoyance as practically every drum break is the same.

“Now That We’re Dead” is a mid-paced, very basic song. It’s one of the weaker points on the album and they wisely hid it between two good songs so it doesn’t have enough time to drag the whole record down with it. It’s more akin to their usual motif as modern rock than the old-school stuff I have been praising so far. It’s high point is the short mid-section. The guitar solo has a nice groove to it. If it wasn’t for those pesky drums it could be pretty interesting.

The zenith comes as “Moth Into Flame” picks up the slack. From the first time I heard this one I knew this would be a modern classic. It’s high-octane action all the way through. Its melodic charms ensnare the listener. The lead guitars especially have a classic, almost seventies-like style to them. Even the simplistic drums don’t bring it down. They still manage a great dynamic sound. It takes such audacious joy in its sneering contempt that you can’t help but get sucked in.

Guitarist and singer James Hetfield has done H.P. Lovecraft -inspired songs before. These include: “Call of Ktulu”, “The Thing that Should Not Be”, “All Nightmare Long”, and now, “Dream No More.” The early 20th century Gothic horror aesthetic of the Cthulhu mythos can easily lend itself to the dark and brooding sounds of heavy metal and this is no exception. Its minimalist, slow approach is a clear nod to its predecessor, “The Thing that Should Not Be” from Master of Puppets. A surprisingly subdued and airy sound invokes the maddening horrors the lie beneath the sea. Cthulhu fhtang!

Continuing the trend of slow and eerie songs is “Halo on Fire.” At an impressive length of 8:15, it settles into a good groove and stays there for the majority of the song. It starts out almost like a Black Sabbath song and lets Hetfield showcase his emotional range. The slow groove starts to escalate halfway through and makes way for the guitars to really shine. At the 6 minute mark, an excellent guitar riff sounds and builds to a full-blown epic solo. This may well be the best groove Metallica has gotten into since “Orion” from Master of Puppets. I’d be willing to call this the best song on the album.

Kicking off the second disc is “Confusion”, another mid-paced song. In terms of the main riff and breakdowns, it would feel well at home with …And Justice for All. However, Hetfield’s vocals are a bit more of the modern persuasion. It’s not just the lack of rasp in his voice… it’s due in large part to the lyrics. It has one of the strangest lines I’ve heard all year: “My life, the war that never ends.” You do realize one day your life and by extension the war will end? It’s no, “Couldn’t be much more from the heart,” or, “Love is a four letter word,” in terms of silliness, but remains an annoyance nonetheless.

“ManUNkind” starts off with a calm Iron Maiden-esque intro with Robert Trujillo‘s bass in rare prominence. This lasts roughly 34 seconds before the main riff begins and destroys all semblance of serenity. This appears to have been intentional, because the song has a cynical, even misanthropic view. It’s definitely a classic Metallica sound with a very 70s groove to it. The title is a cute pun which, coming from a band in this age group, is practically a dad-joke.

Following the trend of slow-to-mid-paced songs is “Here Comes Revenge.” Ulrich’s beat has a nice jungle drum effect in the verses, which also lend more focus to Hetfield’s vocals. Aside from the verses, this 7:18 track is pretty much business as usual. It becomes apparent that this album has been drawn out some.

“Am I Savage?” is a bit more interesting. It has an ominous horror theme which seems to be a werewolf story. My interpretation is that the monster movie stuff is merely a thinly veiled metaphor to talk about the conflict within us all regarding whether we are beasts or beings of intellect. This alone should keep the listener engaged but the song itself has a few good hooks to it in order to keep your attention.

Speaking of concepts for songs, “Murder One” is an obvious nod to the late Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister from Motörhead. Named for his signature amp, it’s written as an homage to a man they notably considered an idol and a friend. As a Motörhead fan myself, I find it interesting to try and guess how many of the lyrics were intended as references. There probably isn’t one right answer to that as many of them are unmistakable, such as, “Born to lose, living to win,” but then whether or not, “One fist, hammers through the mist,” is any reference to “Iron Wrist” or the album, Hammered, is best left to the interpreter. This is actually a great tribute as it’s still clearly a Metallica song; they didn’t try to change their sound to be anything other than themselves. It’s also not a cheesy ballad or a maudlin display. It’s perfectly in-line with Lemmy’s philosophy that we shouldn’t mourn his passing but celebrate the great music he’s made and just play rock n’ roll.

Concluding the album is “Spit Out the Bone.” Right away I notice it’s the most energetic piece since “Hardwired” or “Moth into Flame.” If most of this record is meant to sound like classic thrash metal, then these three would be the only ones with enough speed to actually reach that goal. This is achieved with a creative use of breakdowns as cool-down periods; however, Ulrich’s blastbeat still doesn’t sound real. The song is very angry and in-your-face. It’s enough to invoke a need to grab a denim vest and bang one’s head vigorously.

As for packaging, the standard version comes with the album on two discs with a total playtime of 1h 17min. A 3-disc Deluxe Edition is also available for those with an extra €7 in their pockets. The third disc contains the 2014 single “Lords of Summer” as well as some of the covers Metallica have contributed to various collections over the last few years. These are well worth the investment, especially “Ronnie Rising”, which is a medley of Rainbow songs as a tribute to the late Ronnie James Dio, and of course, their versions of Iron Maiden’s “Remember Tomorrow” and Deep Purple’s “When a Blind Man Cries.” Also included are a bunch of live tracks recorded earlier this year. They are very focused on Metallica’s earlier material, which I find fitting for this release. The deluxe version is well worth the extra just for the covers, but the live tracks are also serviceable.

 

In the end, Hardwired…To Self-Destruct is a mixed bag. On one hand, it’s entirely too long. It could easily fit on one disc if you took out all the filler, such as “Now that We’re Dead”, “Confusion”, “ManUNkind”, and “Here Comes Revenge.” Then there’s the issue of the drums. Compared to any of the great thrash bands still active, such as Testament, Anthrax, or Kreator, they just don’t hold up. Fans are of course used to this, but we can’t review albums with handicaps. All that said, overall the record does have a great feel and sound to it. For me personally, it feels as if the last 25 years have been wiped out and this is the long-awaited follow up to the Black Album. By no means can I call it a fantastic album, but by its own standards, it’s the best new Metallica album I could have ever hoped to hear. I recommend it to fans of the band and to fans of eighties thrash metal.

Rating: 7/10, 3.5 Stars.

Tracklist:
Disc 1:
1. Hardwired
2. Atlas, Rise!
3. Now That We’re Dead
4. Moth Into Flame
5. Dream No More
6. Halo on Fire

Disc 2
1. Confusion
2. ManUNkind
3. Here Comes Revenge
4. Am I Savage?
5. Murder One
6. Spit Out the Bone

Deluxe Version:
Disc 3
1. Lords of Summer
2. Ronnie Rising Medley (A Light in the Black/Tarot Woman/Stargazer/Kill the King)
3. When a Blind Man Cries (Deep Purple cover)
4. Remember Tomorrow (Iron Maiden cover)
5. Helpless (Live at Rasputin Music)
6. Hit the Lights (Live at Rasputin Music)
7. The Four Horsemen (Live at Rasputin Music)
8. Ride the Lightning (Live at Rasputin Music)
9. Fade to Black (Live at Rasputin Music)
10. Jump in the Fire (Live at Rasputin Music)
11. For Whom the Bell Tolls (Live at Rasputin Music)
12. Creeping Death (Live at Rasputin Music)
13. Metal Militia (Live at Rasputin Music)
14. Hardwired (Live in Minneapolis)

Ed: Amy Wiseman

INQUISITION w/ KORGONTHURUS @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 18.11.2016

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Inquisition with Korgonthurus at Nosturi, 2016.
Photos by Marco Manzi.

(2016) Machinae Supremacy: Into the Night World

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Artist: Machinae Supremacy
Album: Into the Night World
Released: 16.12.2016
Label: self-published

 

It should come as no surprise that I am a bit of a MaSu fangirl. I am one of those new-age fans who joined the party around the time of A View from the End of the World (2010), and to this day, I still don’t think MaSu writes ‘bad’ songs, so to speak. Back in 2014, two of my favorite bands, the Devin Townsend Project and Machinae Supremacy, released two great albums – Z2 versus Phantom Shadow, and while when I wrote the 2014 album awards post, I gave album of the year to Dev and his gang, in hindsight maybe I shouldn’t have. 2016 promised to face these two bands off once more, and while I enjoyed Transcendence from DTP, it didn’t rock my world quite in the way I had hoped. As such, I had a bit of super-powered excitement during my long anticipation for Phantom Shadow‘s followup, wondering if they would steal my heart yet again.

 

Of note, this album was originally going to be the direct sequel to Phantom Shadow, however, while much/most/all of the story is sequential to PS, I chose not to ask about the story beforehand. I hoped to have some base opinions on this album first, form some theories of my own, and then, maybe a year from now, I’ll do another special feature based on this album’s story.

1. My Dragons Will Decimate
“Firelight for as far as heaven is wide…”
Dragons? Decimation? You’ve already got my attention. The album gets off to an extremely strong start with what I refer to as the “boss monster” song, as it reminds me of some sort of 8-bit dungeon crawler boss fight with it’s nice anticipatory feel and SID style. You know what I mean, the type of music that gets you all excited and/or nervous before the boss battle – ominous yet energetic. Notably, right off the bat, Robert Stjärnström‘s vocals take a very interesting turn. I know not everyone is sold on his voice, though I most certainly am, and it’s quite evident that he’s been toying with some new sounds and styles to a wonderful effect. I think this song is a pretty rousing success and the album is off to a great start!

2. Into the Night World
“I will decide and shed forever / My frozen image here on earth / I’m being pulled into the night world / Enter a phantom universe…”
There is something so cool in this song’s riff – it sounds really sci-fi without being remotely sci-fi in a way. This is already probably but not definitely my favorite track on the album. “Into the Night World” took a couple of spins to convince me, but convince me it surely did! It starts out with some sort of synth/SID blend that sounded weird on first listen but now I absolutely love. This is the obvious live track on the album, with a lot of the great MaSu energy that I love and an awesome singalong chorus. “The fire’s fading, I am wooooaaaaah!” is so fantastic and I want to dance around the house with my fist in the air during the chorus. The C-part also adds a bit of emotion as well; “I know this ink on my skin forms a link from my sins to my soul…” is my favorite line on the album (and honestly, my favorite line from any song this year). I suspect that if you liked “Perfect Dark”, this is going to be another favorite.

3. Twe27ySeven
“Once our common cause, I would give my all / The sun could not outshine me / It wasn’t something new, just something real and true…”
I’ll never get used to spelling this song’s name. This album is starting to feel a tad like ‘MaSu in space’ at this point (both lyrically and thematically), and while I’m normally not a big fan of space themes, this is really working for them. There is a really strange and delightful harmonization between Ingeborg Ekeland (whom you may recall from Phantom Shadow) and Stjärnström; meanwhile, the phantom in my house pointed out that this song has more of an Amiga vibe than Commodore 64. It’s also quite interesting that there isn’t any guitar at all in the verses – I’d dub this one of the more experimental songs on the album, but the gaming sounds are nevertheless fantastic in this one. This one took a little longer to grow on me than the first two, but now I consider it equally good, and I can very clearly envision a lot of heartfelt singing along with fists in the air during live shows, with Tomi Luoma rocking his solo in proper metal-guy form. In fact, I would love to see a live-shot music video to this song. Also, mad props for the ambition-contrition-mission rhyme – I am a sucker for a creative rhyme, especially in triple!

4. Remember Me
“I know it isn’t easy / But nothing worthwhile ever is…”
Forgive my lack of familiarity with the older MaSu material, but have these guys ever done a straight-up ballad before? “Flagcarrier” and “Europa” both dance on the ballad/not-ballad line, and “One Day in the Universe” might have been if it had been slowed down a bit. This song has a beautiful piano line that is bound to tug at the heartstrings, particularly combined with the powerful lyrics about parting ways with a loved one. You could take this song in so many ways, and no matter which way I look at it, I confess that every listen results in me being anywhere on the scale from choked up to having full tears in my eyes. Furthermore, the song almost starts to fade out near the 3:30 mark, and then switches to an unexpected and epic solo that works surprisingly nicely to build up the emotion to hit a massive climax. Another beautiful dynamic is toward the end when Stjärnström changes the key to go up instead of down and nearly breaks me every time. And, one of my favorite things is that every chorus fades out after “remember”, but when the line is sung the last time, he finally sings “remember… me.” Perfect! Let’s not forget the incredible harmonizing with Ekeland yet again either. This could be the most objectively beautiful song they’ve written yet, so prepare to have all the feels.

5. Space Boat
“I would totally fight for you / But not for this fucking planet…”
A love song called “Space Boat”? Why yes, I do think this is the greatest idea ever. The space theme has returned! Okay, this song might divide some people because it is cheesy as hell, but in a way that I find very enjoyable. This isn’t a slow romantic ballad, this is a fun, upbeat song about two people in love and their… space boat? Musically the song doesn’t let up, with the right kind of groove to be cheeky enough to work – it’s not like they slacked off musically even if it is the least serious song on the album. I like the feel in the bridge between the first chorus and the second verse as well – a nice little bit of composition there. This song has the power to be a goofy favorite if you don’t take its lyrics too seriously. And let’s be honest, right after the emotionally heavy and heartbreaking “Remember Me”, you need something a little bit silly to lighten the mood.

6. Stars Had to Die So that You Could Live
“How many women killed / Because we feared they would rock the boat?”
We’ve hit controversy! This song has the foundation of a great song in it, but of all the songs on this album, this is the one that feels like it needs a little more work. It’s taken me a rather long time to figure out why I can’t quite get on board with this song, because if you break it into its individual parts, I don’t find any of them offensive. Ultimately, I think the song sounds either somehow incomplete or unpolished. The funky guitar transitions between parts stand out a bit awkwardly, though I still can’t quite say why that is. Maybe they feel like a different style than the verses/chorus. Well, you can help me make up my mind about it. I compare this to “Throne of Games” on Phantom Shadow, as it’s the one song that doesn’t necessarily fit in with the rest of the album.

With that out of the way, it’s not like the song doesn’t have good parts. As I said, I like many of the segments individually, such as the ambient “who we are” part before the solo starts, and I can’t complain about the solo either. As well, on the positive side, this song feels like it has a feminist message (which I always approve of). However, unlike almost every other song on this album, it only has two verses (the first of which is only two lines) and no C-part. So as much as I like the lyrics in this song, there is nothing more after the second rather thought-provoking verse, leaving the song feeling a bit lyrically incomplete.

7. Beast Engine
“I touch the fire and I soar / Embrace your burning heart, be something more…”
“Beast Engine” is a very intriguing song, as there is a lot going on, feeling a little more serious than many of the others. Lyrically, I get a strong hint of the Dark Souls or Bloodborne series, though knowing Robert Stjärnström, that’s not the only take you could have on this song. There’s another good marching beat that comes and goes throughout, with just a hint of 90s-era Iron Maiden chugging guitar riffing – unexpected, but highly welcome! I love the guitar part during the “your souls will fuel the engine” bit, and the solos are pretty classic metal as well, as performed by Jonas Rörling. Perhaps my favorite line from this one is: “What if hell isn’t future but part of our past? / Some always seek to resurrect old ways / Travel back in haste, have the world relive its darkest days…” Again, rather thought-provoking, no?

8. Dream Sequence
“I know that you’ll find me if I believe / If… If I keep breathing / I fear my time is here so would you please / Please hurry, I need you…”
Toss another log on the fire of enjoyment, my friends, because this is a good one! “Dream Sequence” is one of the strangest and perhaps most experimental songs in recent MaSu years and I very much appreciate the effort because they’ve done well with it. I adore the guitarwork in the bridge, and even more so in the chorus. As well, there is urgency and passion in the vocals to this song, particularly in the chorus, which is what draws me the most to this song. Ekeland also appears from time to time in the background, adding just a hint of something extra to push this over the top. The desperation in this track is wonderful and it tugs on my heart almost as badly as “Remember Me” does, causing me to get choked up from time to time while listening. Lyrically, I couldn’t say what this is about, but there is certainly a story there and I’d love to hear some theories on this one.

9. SID Metal Legacy
This is the one familiar song on this album, having been released back in June 2015, give or take. This isn’t the same version as in the video though, as I’m quite sure this has been updated! Of course the SID is delightful, but the riff is also fun and the bass is solid yet again. You’ll certainly have an idea of what you’re in for if you already know the original, however, I have to say that while the song is a bit repetitive, it’s catchy as hell and in the context of album, it’s in the perfect place – “Dream Sequence” is passionate and emotional and “Last March of the Undead” is the epic closer, so this sort of simple SID energy is exactly what was needed at track 9. Well played, MaSu!

10. Last March of the Undead
“Will you pretend with me / what we once were, we will return / sky, earth, and in between / come watch with me as our world burns…”
The piano intro immediately informs us that the album is coming to a close – how do you make a song feel like ‘the end’ so nicely, I wonder? Does this mean that this series of songs has come to an end as well? The piano is strong in this one and soon gets powered up by the guitars and bass. This dies out when the vocals start though, replaced by some long-note SID before going off into a powerful bridge and an equally powerful chorus, the latter of which has some of the nicest SID riffs on the album. Lyrically, this one seems to have a more concrete story than some of the more ambiguous “March of the Undead” songs from the past (such as “Remnant”), with a first-person narrator. The “come watch with me as our world burns” line was leaked by the band in advance, and for good reason, because it’s a great line and was pretty world-context appropriate at the time. Can I throw a proper shout-out to the rhythm section here at this point too? Bassist Andreas Gerdin has been rock solid and drummer Nicky Karvonen has been doing a phenomenal job throughout the album – this song is a good demonstration as such. This song makes the album feel quite full-circle, as in the beginning verse it uses that deep note from the first track… you know, that one that makes it sound like an 8-bit boss battle. As well, the nice piano parts in this song make me wish again that these guys had a live keyboardist so they wouldn’t need backing tracks.

 

My trusted mostly-Swedish friends, you have lived up to your SID legacy (sorry, not sorry) once again! I had hoped to break down and credit these songs a bit more individually, but it turns out that these guys write in such a collaborative way that it became quite an effort and I gave up. So what could I possibly say about this album as a whole? It is vocally far more developed than anything in the past, and musically more experimental than at least their last three albums. The guitar and drumming in particular are top-notch. The SID elements, while not present in every song, are used diversely in excellent taste, and more than anything else, the songs have great lyrics and good musical hooks. The production is excellent to my untrained ear. While the album trips and stumbles a bit over the one song, it still manages to be one of the best collections of music from this year and I heartily recommend it to fans and non-fans alike.

Rating: 9.5/10, 5 stars, and a very strong contender for album of the year!

Tracklist:
1. My Dragons Will Decimate
2. Into the Night World
3. Twe27ySeven
4. Remember Me
5. Space Boat
6. Stars Had to Die So that You Could Live
7. Beast Engine
8. Dream Sequence
9. Sid Legacy
10. Last March of the Undead

PAIN w/ EMBER FALLS & TURMION KÄTILÖT @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 19.11.2016

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Swedish Pain has been a rare sight lately in Finland. After releasing a new album this September, Pain finally paid us a visit, touring with Turmion Kätilöt. The Har Du Horat Runt på Campingen Tour consisted of six gigs, one of which took place at Nosturi in Helsinki on November 19th.

Full gallery HERE!

 

Looks like each of my reviews includes a short memoir of my early metal days. This time it considers Pain, Peter Tägtgren’s one-man techno metal band, which originally caught my attention around 8 years ago when Cynic Paradise came out. Short story short, I listened a couple of songs, ended up buying all the albums and thought Tägtgren was awesome. Fast forward to this year. I still think Tägtgren is awesome, but when I heard that Pain was releasing a new album and touring in Finland I was not sure if this was for real. You Only Live Twice came out in 2011 and I had given up all hope of another album ever being released – partly because the aforementioned album sounded a bit like Tägtgren had run out of energy and ideas for the project (despite being awesome).

Pain’s newest release, Coming Home, did not quite convince me either. Still, I remember enjoying the band the last time I saw them live in Turku (incidentally, also with Turmion Kätilöt) some years ago. Thus I knew I couldn’t miss this opportunity to see if Pain still had at least some of that old magic left that I once so enjoyed.

 

2016-11-19-1-ember-falls-nosturi-13I had to wait for some time, though, since the evening at Nosturi was opened by Finnish new(ish)comer Ember Falls. The band was signed by Spinefarm/Universal Music Group last February and their debut album is set to be released next year. They were a new acquaintance for me but fellow Musicalypsers told me that the band was definitely worth checking out.

Even though the sold-out Nosturi was still quite far away from being full, the front of the stage was nicely occupied before Ember Falls started their set. Once the band hit the stage, they captured their audience straight away. I dislike labeling bands by their genre, but electronic rock/metal might be the best way to describe Ember Falls. Strong clean vocals backed up with some growling, melodic keyboard riffs and heavy guitars combined formed a nice entity that works both live and undoubtedly in the studio as well.

Ember Falls has obviously done some touring already. The members were relaxed and energetic on stage, focusing on the performance and dropping any unnecessary chit-chat. I think this is just the way to go if one is playing as the opening act – let the music talk. The 30-minute set convinced me that the upcoming album is something worth waiting for.

 

2016-11-19-2-turmion-katilot-nosturi-1-20After Ember Falls’ good start to the evening, it was time for the one and only Turmion Kätilöt to take over the place. Turmion Kätilöt is one of those bands that are hard to describe – you pretty much have to experience them personally. But I’ll try my best.

Imagine six men on stage, wearing some sort of corpse paint. One of the singers is wearing a long leather jacket and pants that seem to have a gas mask attached to the knee. The other vocalist is wearing a leather vest and somewhat glittery green shorts. Now imagine the band playing disco-like metal (industrial might be the politically correct genre), singing about how the butcher shakes his ass to the rhythm of the music. And people in the crowd are dancing and singing along to it as if they were at a rave.

2016-11-19-2-turmion-katilot-nosturi-1-8Needless to say, the show was as absurd and awesome as one could imagine with a band like this. Songs like “Jalopiina,” “Verta ja Lihaa,” and “Suolainen kapteeni” made sure that the audience got what they came for: grotesque lyrics, techno beats, and singalongs. I also heard my personal favorite “Grand Ball”, though without Peter Tägtgren, even though the band tried to lure him out from backstage.

I’ve seen Turmion Kätilöt a couple of times but this was the first time I can say I got the full experience. Not only were the middle speeches full of sexually explicit jokes (which was to be expected), there was full nudity (which I didn’t expect). Well, you know how the saying goes, there’s nothing more beautiful than a naked Finnish man… though I must admit, I prefer my gigs with fully-clothed artists.

 

2016-11-19-3-pain-nosturi-22Finally, it was time for Pain. Quite literally, since at this point my feet were hurting from all the dancing and jumping I did during Turmion Kätilöt. And I just knew I couldn’t stay still if Pain would play any of the older songs I liked.

The gig started with “Designed to Piss You Off”, the opening track from Coming Home. This removed some of my doubts, since it seemed like the new material would work live just fine. Other songs from the newest album were “A wannabe”, “Pain in the Ass”, “Coming Home”, and maybe a bit surprisingly, “Call Me.” The last one featured Sabaton’s singer, Joakim Brodén – as a background track since the head of Joakim we saw on stage behind the band’s roll-ups looked unnaturally big and hollow.

Apart from the newer songs, the gig had plenty of older material. “Zombie Slam”, “Monkey Business”, “It’s Only Them”, “Dirty Woman”, “Same Old Song”… it was definitely a nice hit parade. All of the albums got covered except the first, Pain. Unfortunately it seems like the norm that the first album is forgotten once the band has enough material.

2016-11-19-3-pain-nosturi-18As the encore, the band played “Shut Your Mouth”, which definitely lit the audience for one final round. Despite being tired and about to lose my voice, I still found the last bit of energy to sing and mosh to the song.

The night got its own special twist after the encore, when first the bassist, André Skaug, decided it was a good idea to do some crowd surfing. I was surprised that there was no attempt to intervene on behalf of Nosturi’s bouncers. As far as I know, crowdsurfing is prohibited basically everywhere in Finland for security reasons.

This was not good enough for guitarist Greger Andersson, who decided to climb to the second floor of Nosturi and jump into the open arms of the audience. My heart probably skipped a beat when he jumped, but everything turned out fine. At least for Andersson, as he got back to the stage in one piece.

 

I left the venue without my voice but otherwise feeling quite happy. Even though the years have left their mark on Peter Tägtgren, he still had that crazy charisma on stage that grabs your attention and doesn’t let go.

Also, it was nice to notice that the next generation are well on their way – behind the drum set, covering for David Wallin, was Tägtgren’s son, Sebastian, who looked young enough to make me feel older than I would like to feel. But I guess that is just something we all have to come to terms with – our idols are getting older and at some point, so are we. But that does not mean they couldn’t deliver a good gig at Nosturi, and we moshed and shouted the night away with them.

Turmion Kätilöt’s setlist:
1. Intro
2. Silmät sumeat
3. Rehtori
4. Hyvissä höyryissä
5. Jalopiina
6. Sinä saatana
7. Verta ja lihaa
8. Teurastaja
9. Hades
10. Tirehtööri
11. Grand Ball
12. Pyhä maa
13. Suolainen kapteeni
14. Lataa ja varmista

Pain setlist:
1. Designed to Piss You Off
2. Suicide Machine
3. The Great Pretender
4. A Wannabe
5. Zombie Slam
6. Monkey Business
7. End of the Line
8. It’s Only Them
9. Pain in the Ass
10. I’m Going In
11. Coming Home
12. Call Me
13. Dirty Woman
14. Same Old Song

Encore:
15. Shut Your Mouth

2016-11-19-3-pain-nosturi-12Photos: Janne Puronen | Ed: Amy Wiseman

SANTA CRUZ w/ SAINTS FOR MASS PRODUCTION @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 25.11.2016

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Santa Cruz with Saints for Mass Production at Tavastia, 2016.
Photos by Kirsti Leinonen.

BRING ME THE HORIZON – Jäähalli, Helsinki, 22.11.2016

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Bring Me the Horizon, Jäähalli 2016.
Photos by Jana Blomqvist.

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Marina La Torraca (Phantom Elite), 2016

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Photo by Jeroen Moerdijk of www.jeroenmoerdijk.com

If the Phantom Elite name doesn’t sound familiar to you, perhaps Sander Gommans’ name might. This ex-After Forever musician’s project, HDK (Hate, Death, Kill), needed some life breathed into it following the release of Serenades of the Netherworld in 2014, but the band worked so well together that inspiration struck, and thus Phantom Elite was born. On vocals is none other than Marina La Torraca, known largely for her time performing live with Avantasia, and this week we have the playlist of her life for you!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
Hard to say! My mom is an Alice Cooper fan, maybe she played “Billion Dollar Babies” to make me sleep. And maybe that’s why I wouldn’t…

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
A Brazilian version of “I’m Your Lady” by Celine Dion. Still love it, pure cheese.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
“Detroit Rock City” by KISS. A friend of mine and I were addicted to the movie (of the same name). We identified a lot with the outcast-rock-rebel-disco-hating characters.

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

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
“You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette. I heard it somewhere a few days ago and it’s still stuck in my head. Incredible song! 🙂

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Oh my God… do I have to be honest? I love My Chemical Romance. Love it. (All right, it’s out there… don’t hate me!)

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Most likely still Iron Maiden… probably Brave New World, at the time it was released. But the first album I was ever excited about was Madonna’s The Immaculate Collection, when I was 7.

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
I don’t think songs make me wanna do that… but the new Marvel series, Luke Cage, does, haha.

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
I’d have to say “Sweet Home Alabama” [Kansas] or “Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou Reed.

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
I don’t intend on dying… but if I ever have to, “The Show Must Go On.” Because it must.

 

Find out more about the band at their website HERE or their Facebook page HERE.

Or, check out the lyric video for “Siren’s Call”:

(2016) Taylor Davis: Odyssey

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Artist: Taylor Davis
Album: Odyssey
Released: 28.10.2016
Label: self-released

 

Popular YouTube violinist, Taylor Davis, is back with yet another album. October 2016 marked the release of her second album, comprised entirely of her own material. We’ve covered all of her past albums (excluding anything seasonal), so it’s only natural that we cover Odyssey as well. I had hoped to write this up the week it was released, but I was distracted by another upcoming album that I’ve been listening to like crazy, so we’ll have to settle for its one month anniversary.

 

The album opens with a song called “Gateway”, which has a vaguely industrial feel at the beginning – before and during the violin parts – with some creeping ambience in the backing music. The drums are minimal at first, but build up nicely as the song builds up. The addition of the violin harmonization makes the song quite powerful. This is followed by a song called “The Summit.” The music starts out a bit on the deep and gentle side, but lightens up before a minute passes, making the song feel a bit like an ascent already. There’s a hint of electronica in the music, which adds a nice touch (perhaps some Lindsey Stirling influence?). The song feels rather uplifting, which is appropriate based on the title, and I enjoy the harmonizing line (though I confess I don’t know what type of programmed sound it is).

Next up is “Wilderness”, which you’ve likely already heard, as its video has been out a while now. I’ll say from the start that I love this music video, from the imagery to her outfit and the music itself, it’s very enjoyable. I love how the music kicks off quickly to the plucked violin parts – those should be used more often in violin music! It’s hard for me to break this song apart to explain what I like about it because it’s the song as a whole with the beat and energy that feels really good. I could listen to this while walking in the woods or while running around Skyrim.

“Wilderness” is followed by “Hunter’s Frontier”, which is one of my very favorites on this album. Davis said in our interview with her earlier this fall that this song was dedicated to her late dog, Hunter, and that it was the most positive song on the album because Hunter was so full of life and energy. I particularly enjoy the folky Canadian prairie vibe that this song gives off because it reminds me of home and playing violin throughout my youth. I also like this song because it makes me imagine a dog running around in a field with that happy, carefree energy that dogs have.

Next up is “Voyager”, which doesn’t sound like it’s going to be a violin song when it starts up (a pop or rock song, maybe). It takes a nice turn when the violin starts though, not going where I would have expected if it was a pop/rock song. The hint of electronica is present again, giving off a bit of a digital vibe. This song grows on me every time I hear it. “Tales of the Wind” sounds like, from its title, it might be from a Miyazaki movie, though the piano intro doesn’t have that lighthearted fairytale style one would expect from Miyazaki. The gentle intro is almost-but-not-quite melancholic. Respectful comes to mind. This is one of the slower songs on the album.

“Highland Spirit” gave me the hopes for something Scottish-influenced, as again, much of the music I played in my youth was either Scottish or Irish influenced. The song does not fail to impress, as the percussion and feeling to bring me a bit back to Nova Scotia and even the Scottish highlands themselves. This mid-tempo song really pleases me, in spite of the fact that I usually prefer more upbeat songs. It might be the 3/4 tempo that does it but something in the music feels rather authentic to me, and that’s what makes this a winner.

Some deep piano notes introduce “Everlasting”, which is another one of the more gentle tracks on the album. The piano (I think) part in the background gives this slower track a hint of playfulness that almost reminds me of The Legend of Zelda in some nonspecific way. This song feels like it could be in the score for an adventure movie, right before things kick off (like when Frodo leaves The Shire – that kind of moment). “Legendary Guardian”, interestingly enough, sounds just like that. With a few modifications, it sounds like it could be from the Titan Soul soundtrack until the music speeds up a bit. The progression of this song is a bit all over the place and a couple transitions are awkward, but I do like the bit at about 2:30 that reminds me of some of the Pirates of the Caribbean theme music. This track feels a bit like there’s two different songs mashed together, as the second half is quite different from the first half, but I seem to enjoy it nevertheless.

“Solace” is another slower song, and the shortest on the album at just over 3 minutes. This gives me a bit of a flashback to the Naruto song that she had covered, “Sadness and Sorrow”, though they’re not exactly comparable. They do have a similar feel of melancholy to them though. “Ignite” is another personal favorite – I did say I liked the faster songs after all. By a bit of an odd circumstance I got to know this one a little better than the others immediately, in that my Spotify got stuck on one-song repeat and I ended up listening to this song three times by accident before I realized what had happened. I like the introduction and the violin line in this one feels a bit more inspired. This one somehow suits the album art to me, in my mind, and I like the light, airy feel it has.

The album then closes up with “Starfire.” I’ve usually had a minor complaint in Davis’ album organization in that the albums tend to end on a low note instead of a high one, but this song has a lot to it and a good deal of nice energy and fun arrangement that make it actually a rather good closer for the album. One of the nicer songs on the album again, it’s bright and cheerful and ends the album on a nice note.

 

One thing I love about Davis’ music is that it feels like score music with just a little bit of something extra that makes it into something you can listen to actively. If you like your music more poppy and electronic, you might prefer the stylings of Lindsey Stirling, but I like my instrumental music to stick closer to movie scores or game scores, which obviously makes Davis appeal to me a bit more. In particular, “Wilderness”, “Hunter’s Frontier”, and “Ignite” are some of the most delightful songs on the album and I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys violin music in one way or another.

Rating: 9.5/10, 5 stars

Tracklist:
1. Gateway
2. The Summit
3. Wilderness
4. Hunter’s Frontier
5. Voyager
6. Tales of the Wind
7. Highland Spirit
8. Everlasting
9. Legendary Guardian
10. Solace
11. Ignite
12. Starfire

(2016) Nightwish: Vehicle of Spirit

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Artist: Nightwish
Album: Vehicle of Spirit
Released: 09.12.2016
Label: Nuclear Blast

 

It’s always a good day when you go outside and find a Nightwish demo in your mailbox. I hadn’t been expecting to do another review of this DVD since I’ve seen the Wembley half of it at its screening. However, the Ratina show was so memorable that I couldn’t resist taking another swing at it. After all, Wembley was indoors and Ratina was far, far more atmospheric, at least in my memory.

You can check out our review of the Wembley show from the DVD screening by clicking HERE!
Or you can have a look at the full live review of the Ratina show over HERE!

 

After the big wash of excitement wore off half a minute after pressing play, we were surprised to hear that the intro track, “Roll Tide” by Hans Zimmer, was not included – perhaps they couldn’t get the rights for it? As the band took the stage, we immediately noticed that the video looked oddly… turquoise. We’re not sure if it was the twilight, the DVD quality, the cameras, or the editing, but the color wasn’t particularly good, leaving some of the blonde hair a bit greenish and the crowd as a whole with a rather bluish hue. Hopefully it’s not like that in the BluRay, but I guess we’ll have to wait and find out.

Of course, the show started out with “Shudder Before the Beautiful”, which like in the Wembley show, had the excessively electronic-sounding keyboards by Tuomas Holopainen, leaving me wondering whose stylistic choice it was and why it was turned up quite so loud. Marco Hietala‘s voice stands out nicely in the ending chants, which was unexpectedly cool. I had noticed neither of these things back during the live show.

I’m not sure how much I’ve whined about this already now, but again, Floor Jansen‘s growls are too quiet in “Yours is an Empty Hope.” They don’t need to be turned up much at all to make it work, but when they’re so quiet, they almost sound like a sound glitch or an error in editing. It’s weird to have them at all if they’re turned down so far that you can hardly hear them. Also, Jansen’s ethereal wordless vocals are eerie and fantastic.

In our interview with Jansen, she mentioned that she considers “Amaranthe” to be one of the trickier songs for her to sing, as its poppy style is not her usual style. It was fascinating to re-watch this song in that context, because this is the track she tinkers with vocally the most. The verses are very delicately and almost tentatively done, she encourages the crowd to sing her parts more than in most other songs; she also completely flips over the chorus, doing her own thing and almost growling the word “caress” in the beginning. It’s only in the “reaching, searching” part where she returns to her own style again. None of the above comments are meant to be taken as criticism, as I actually really enjoy this version of the song; I like seeing a completely new take on an already good song.

It was awesome to hear “She is My Sin” again, and big props to the guitars as done by Emppu Vuorinen in this one – there’s a tricky rhythm in there and he seems to have a lot of fun with it. As well, I have to express the joy I get from the pipes in “My Walden”, which was much softer and less abrasive than bagpipes, which is always nice. Plus Troy Donockley‘s vocals in the beginning are always lovely. It’s cool that the flutes are turned up enough that you can hear them properly, which was not always the case in the live show. The flutes on “The Islander” also stand out nicely and add a new level to the gentle beauty of that song. This song still has the power to send chills up the spine, particularly during the absolutely perfect harmonization between Hietala and Jansen.

I was thrilled to be reminded that “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” had been played at the Ratina show. I think it’s easily one of if not the most live-friendly tracks from the album and I’m sad to say that it certainly won’t be the one they keep on, as it was only played at some shows on the tour, not all. “Alpenglow” continues to be a forever-favorite of mine and the one song I hope they indefinitely keep in their sets. There is just something magical and powerful in that song and getting a close-up of what was going on on stage while they were performing it makes it even more special. Flashing back again to an old album, the same keyboard effect from “Shudder Before the Beautiful” is present in “Stargazers”, but considering the older Nightwish style in that song, it’s not quite as jarring.

Again, thinking back to the interview, it was great to re-see Jansen performing “Sleeping Sun.” I find her voice gentler than Tarja Turunen’s was, meaning that I do, in fact, prefer this version. Particularly in the context of the twilight hour, the dark crowd with some phones or lighters in the air, with the warm light on her, it was indeed perfect – Jansen nailed it! Vuorinen’s solo was also beautifully edited – he is nearly a silhouette with purplish fog billowing out behind him. It looks so cool! In fact, a big round of applause to all of the editing in this particular song – it’s very tastefully and flatteringly done.

“Ghost Love Score” remains a highlight, even if I have grown tired of it as a live song. Particularly, the fire blasts in the end during the “my fall will be for you” parts really and truly creates a memorable atmosphere to this song. “Last Ride of the Day” is one of many good examples of how great the stage looked, with the three lower screens, the larger screen, and then the six hanging light screens above – with the amusement park showing on it in the wide-angle shot, you can get a glimpse of how fantastic their stage set-up was. Indeed, Ms. Jansen, you couldn’t call it minimalistic! (I refer again to the interview).

Of course, as you may recall, the show ends with “The Greatest Show on Earth.” I had forgotten somehow that the fireworks were already firing at the beginning of the song – epic! While the video cannot quite capture the buzz in the atmosphere that was present if you were physically there, it is certainly a vast improvement on the performance at Wembley. Even if the video couldn’t capture the feeling, the open-air setting and the lights (I’m looking at you, blue sky-like background and while spotlights in part I) is so much more entrancing when contrasted against the indoor shoow. And of course, the fireworks. Everything is better with fireworks; in particular, the drone shots of the stadium surrounded by the river are unbelievable. The only thing it was missing was Richard Dawkins‘ live performance of his lines.

 

With that covered then, the only other thing I haven’t delved into is the extras. Reviewing them feels a little bit like announcing spoilers though. Essentially, the last disc is comprised of extra footage from various other shows all over the world, including one song from the show at Espoo Metro Areena last year. I hate to reveal too much, but some of the highlights for me personally from disc 3 include “Sahara” from Tampa Bay, where Jansen’s stronger and deeper voice give the song an extra kick, and the live premier of “Edema Ruh” from the Nightwish Cruise, which was done acoustically and somehow makes this song way better than it originally was. As well, the vocal harmonization between Jansen, Hietala, and Donockley is top-notch. Lastly, “Last Ride of the Day” at Rock in Rio with Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica) singing alongside Floor Jansen was a tad weird but totally cool to see, and Kakko looks really excited to be there.

The other special treat on the third disc is a short, 7.5 minute interview conducted with Richard Dawkins before the Wembley show. The questions are quite entertaining and very interesting, including topics like the last live performance he’s seen, his own experiences on stage in front of big crowds, and doing the recordings for Endless Forms Most Beautiful.

 

Again, I’m so glad to see the evolution this band has undergone in recent years. Contrasted to Showtime, Storytime (2013), the band naturally seems far more comfortable, both with the music and each other. I cannot comment enough on how lovely it is to see the great big smiles on all of their faces while they perform. If you want a memento of Nightwish at their prime, this is definitely worth your money.

2016-nightwish-vehicle-of-spirit

PAIN w/ EMBER FALLS & TURMION KÄTILÖT @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 19.11.2016

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Pain headlining with Ember Falls and Turmion Kätilöt as openers, Nosturi 2016.
Photos by Janne Puronen.
Gig report coming soon!

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Pasi Pasanen (Red Eleven, ex-Swallow the Sun), 2016

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Once upon a time, Juha Raivio and Pasi Pasanen started a band that today is known as Swallow the Sun. Nowadays, Pasanen has moved on from StS, but you can still hear his precise drumming style in Red Eleven, and we certainly can’t complain about the move, as Red Eleven have proven themselves to be extremely competent in the alternative/grunge/metal music field. Today we have the playlist of his life for you!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
I think it was some song by Elvis. I remember my dad listening to it often at home when I was a kid.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
“Avatar” by Dead Can Dance. My sister gave me a cassette copy of Spleen & Ideal sometime back in ’86 or something.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Can’t say any particular song, but I think something from either Kreator, S.O.D., Acid Reign, Nuclear Assault, or Death; those were a big thing for me at that time.

The first song that comes to my mind is “Love Us or Hate Us” by Kreator.

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
Some of the bands in the previous answer, maybe S.O.D. Still, Death is the metal band that struck me in awe mostly. Still does.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
“Bleed it Dry” by Alter Bridge and “Clockworks” by Meshuggah, playing equally loud in my head; been listening to these albums a lot lately.

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Haha, the duet with Eminem & Rihanna! Don’t remember the name of the song. [ed: either “Love the Way You Lie” or “Monster”]

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Creatures of the Night by Kiss, a cassette album. I remember taking it out with me to show it to my friends.

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
“God is an Astronaut” – Dark Rift; a very atmospheric song to listen to lying on your couch, preferably in the dark.

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Meshuggah – “Soul Burn”

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
“Schwabadaba ding ding” by Jouko & Kosti

 

Check out Red Eleven’s video for “I Follow” here:

Or the video for “Narrow Mind” here:

STRATOVARIUS w/ THUNDERSTONE @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 19.11.2016

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Stratovarius with Thunderstone at Nosturi, 2016.
Photos by Miia Collander.
Gig review from Tampere HERE!

STRATOVARIUS w/ THUNDERSTONE – Pakkahuone, Tampere, 19.11.2016

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A few years ago, Stratovarius did a tour where they played the classic album Visions (1997) in its entirety. This year it was Episode‘s (1996) turn to get a special gig, as the album turned 20 years old. To top things off, Thunderstone was announced as the support act for the Finnish mini-tour to make sure ticket-buyers would get a double dose of domestic prime power metal. Musicalypse checked out the show at Pakkahuone, Tampere, on November 19th.

Check out the full gallery from Nosturi HERE!

 

2016-11-17-01-thunderstone-nosturi-3I arrived at Pakkahuone around 19:45, just in time for Thunderstone’s set, and they kicked things off with “The Path” much to my surprise, as I’d expected “Veterans of the Apocalypse” to remain in the opening slot. However, as a single that’s received plenty of airplay on the rock stations in Finland this year, “The Path” wasn’t a bad choice by any means, and “Veterans…” did get played later on in the set anyway. What can I say about Thunderstone that hasn’t been said on these pages yet? These guys’ enthusiasm is infectious! Pasi Rantanen – the Finnish Coverdale – is a beast of a singer, and I’m amazed Atte Palokangas catches his drum sticks every time he throws them in the air.

Thunderstone’s nine-song set naturally concentrated on this year’s Apocalypse Again, but there was also room for good ol’ warhorses like “Tool of the Devil” and the closer “Until We Touch the Burning Sun.” The most memorable moment for me was “Weak”, for the start of which the house lights were turned off, and the band asked people to light the room with their cellphones. For a few minutes it felt like you were transported back to the classic era of stadium ballads! Thunderstone were an excellent choice for support band, as Pakkahuone was packed right from the start with a lot of TS fans in the crowd. The attendance was better than at the record release gig at Tavastia back in April, and bassist Titus Hjelm seemed to acknowledge this when he said “Helsinki may be the capital city of Finland, but Tampere is the rock capital!” 2016 has been a strong comeback year for Thunderstone, and playing for such a receptive audience must’ve been a great ending for it.

2016-11-17-02-stratovarius-nosturi-14At 22:00, the familiar notes of the instrumental title-track of Episode started ringing through the PA and the Stratovarius members made their entrance to kick things off with “Speed of Light.” After the classic, which lived up to its name, Timo Kotipelto said they would play Episode “from start to finish,” but as the opening had demonstrated, this wasn’t exactly true, as “Father Time” is the first track on the CD. In other words, the band played the songs in a different sequence, most likely for the sake of pacing and in order to preserve Kotipelto’s voice. I thought this was sacrilegious and that full album performances should be played in the correct order, but if the changes were needed to make sure the band could deliver, then I guess they were justified.

I haven’t followed or listened to Stratovarius actively in about 4 years, but I was curious to hear Episode live because it had been my favorite album by the band during my fandom, and because I’d never seen them in concert before. Therefore, the show did a great job reminding me of the greatness of the material. “Eternity” was an unexpected choice for the second song, being on the slower side, but I didn’t mind, because it’s one of the crown jewels of the Strato catalog. For a prog fan like me, the other highlights of the set were the ambitious “Season of Change” and the underrated “Night Time Eclipse”, the former of which seemed to be a favorite among the fans as well, based on some enthusiastic screams heard when the song was introduced. A deep cut that surprised me positively was “Uncertainty”, which is one of the very few Stratovarius tunes completely penned by Kotipelto. I’d never been a big fan of it, but in the live environment it sounded heavy as hell, and the rhythm section of Lauri Porra (bass) and Rolf Pilve (drums) laid down a sweet groove during the verses that brought to mind “Heaven and Hell” by Black Sabbath. Porra also did a great job with the call-and-response vocals in the chorus with Kotipelto, and later on he played cello on a gorgeous rendition of “Forever” – it should be no surprise that a multi-talent like this is a descendant of Sibelius!

2016-11-17-02-stratovarius-nosturi-12Then of course there were the speedy tunes, which Stratovarius is best known for: “Will the Sun Rise?” and the instrumental “Stratosphere” allowed guitarist Matias Kupiainen and keyboardist Jens Johansson to present some killer neo-classical solo work, and the melodies of “Tomorrow” sounded glorious, making me wonder why it’s been played so scarcely live. “Father Time” was finally played at the end, and Kotipelto nailed the high notes of the chorus, which he might not have been able to do if it had been played as the first song. The only real downer and mood killer out of the 11 songs (not counting the instrumental intro tape) was “Babylon”: although I have a soft spot for oriental melodies in metal, “Babylon” is a boring and plodding song with an incredibly weak chorus, although at least Johansson managed to save the instrumental section with an impressive keyboard solo. The only other bummer – and a mild one at that – was the lack of the bonus track “When the Night Meets the Day”; since they weren’t staying faithful to the original tracklist, they might as well have thrown that one in.

2016-11-17-02-stratovarius-nosturi-3The encore was reserved for newer material – although I haven’t really listened to the latest couple of Stratovarius albums, I haven’t been able to avoid “Unbreakable” and “Shine in the Dark” on the rock radio, so they were familiar tunes to me and sounded great. As an exclusive bonus, Kotipelto said Strato would play an additional song, so the Tampere crowd was treated to “My Eternal Dream” from the latest album, Eternal (2015), which hadn’t been in the set at the previous shows. The audience’s response to the new stuff was just as positive as to the 20-year-old main attraction, which showed that the loss of guitarist and songwriter Timo Tolkki was far from a death knell for the band. “Hunting High and Low” was the righteous closing song, being Stratovarius’ most famous hit. While I had no problem with the idea of the extended bit in the middle where Kotipelto interacted with the fans and asked them to sing louder, he could’ve rambled less, because the comparisons to crowd participation at the previous stops of the tour felt endless and forced. At least the nicely-full Pakkahuone did make a lot of noise, so the end justified the means, and “Hunting…” was a great finale for the night. Some fans might’ve been disappointed by the lack of “Black Diamond”, but Thunderstone had played a teaser of it at the end of their set, so it wasn’t completely absent.

 

So how was my first Strato concert? While I’m not really a power metal fan anymore, I feel Episode has aged extremely well, thanks to the nice balance between the progressive overtones of the band’s early stuff and the more straightforward and upbeat material of later years. Kotipelto rightly pointed out that the album is slightly challenging for listeners live, because there are a lot of epic songs, but the fans in Tampere didn’t seem to mind for the most part. While I bet the Visions shows were more energetic due to the higher number of fast tunes, I personally prefer the proggy and mid-tempo stuff. A cynical person might question the point of performing an album with only 2/5 of the line-up that played on it and without the primary songwriter, but the young musicians in the current incarnation of Stratovarius did justice to the material. Matias Kupiainen in particular treated Timo Tolkki’s iconic solos with respect and grace, while injecting a bit of his own style into them. The veterans were also in a good shape: Jens Johansson shows no signs of slowing down, and while Timo Kotipelto can’t hold high notes as long as he used to, he’s still capable of hitting them, albeit with the help of downtuning. As the warm reception to the encore songs demonstrated, Stratovarius is an institution: regardless of who’s playing or writing the songs, the spirit of the band has remained intact, and there are still lots of people – old and young – interested in what they’re doing. I’m sure these guys still have a lot more years left in them…

2016-11-17-01-thunderstone-nosturi-6Thunderstone setlist:
Intro (Barren Land)
1. The Path
2. 10,000 Ways
3. Tool of the Devil
4. Fire and Ice
5. Forevermore
6. Weak
7. Veterans of the Apocalypse
8. Through the Pain
9. Until We Touch the Burning Sun

Stratovarius setlist:
Intro (Episode)
1. Speed of Light
2. Eternity
3. Will the Sun Rise?
4. Uncertainty
5. Tomorrow
2016-11-17-02-stratovarius-nosturi-166. Babylon
7. Season of Change
8. Stratosphere
9. Night Time Eclipse
10. Forever
11. Father Time

Encore:
12. Unbreakable
13. My Eternal Dream
14. Shine in the Dark
15. Hunting High and Low

Text: Ville Karttunen | Photos: Miia Collander | Ed: Amy Wiseman

BLUES PILLS w/ DEATH HAWKS – Rytmikorjaamo, Seinäjoki 17.11.2016

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Blues Pills‘ sophomore effort, Lady in Gold, was released in August, and it built on the success of their 2014 debut. In Finland, the album entered the top 10 on the official charts, so the Sweden-based group have already managed to charm their neighbors on this side of the gulf rather well. This November, Blues Pills treated their Finnish fans to three club gigs, the first of which took place at Rytmikorjaamo, Seinäjoki, on November 17th.

Full gallery HERE!

Listen along to Blues Pills’ setlist here:

2016-11-17-01-death-hawks-rytmikorjaamo-cr-5The domestic psychedelic rockers Death Hawks had been announced as the opening act for the show fairly late, and in fact I hadn’t found out that they were playing until the day of the show. The size of the crowd was pretty modest, so maybe I wasn’t the only one. It’s been 4 years since my last concert at Rytmis, so having become accustomed to the venues in Tampere and Helsinki, I was surprised that there was a MC, who introduced Death Hawks and said Blues Pills would start at 21:30. Seems a bit weird to me at a club show that isn’t a festival, but maybe that’s become the norm while I’ve been away. Anyway, the first two songs of Death Hawks’ set were a little too repetitive for my taste, but things slowly got more interesting after that. Their music included spacey synths and effect-laden guitars, but they had a few fairly straightforward songs as well. Keyboardist Tenho Mattila even played saxophone on two songs, which was a nice addition. The vocals were low in the mix, and it was a little hard to make out what guitarist/vocalist Teemu Markkula was singing, but on the other hand, vocals rarely are the focal point in this genre. There was also very little banter in between songs, though the limited 45-minute slot probably had a lot to do with that. Despite the opening band status, Death Hawks had a black-and-white screen on stage that showed both psychedelic projections and old film footage. The last song, “Black Acid”, was very hypnotic and had a nice groove – I even saw some dude dancing to the rhythm. All-in-all, Death Hawks were all right, though their stage presence could’ve been more engaging. I’d imagine their music works better while listened to at home.

2016-11-17-02-blues-pills-rytmikorjaamo-cr-15Blues Pills started with no intro tape; instead, Elin Larsson greeted the people and asked them to come closer to the stage, and the reserved Southern Ostrobothnians followed suit while the band launched into “Lady in Gold.” Larsson’s outfit was more scant and less hippie-looking than I’d expected based on the band’s press photos, but she definitely had a good reason for it, as she was bouncing around on stage like a Duracell bunny right from the start – it must’ve been hot up there! Despite her best efforts to engage the crowd, it took a while for people to warm up and it wasn’t until “Black Smoke” and “Bliss” were played that you could see some real energy in the audience, and not just polite clapping and cheering. To be fair though, the band started with four new songs, which might’ve been less familiar to the fans, and the energy level may have been slightly low due to the high number of middle-aged people in attendance, though there were youngsters as well. During the Tony Joe White cover, “Elements and Things”, Larsson appropriately made people raise their hands in the air during the line, “reach up to the sky.” She also dedicated “High Class Woman” to the “beautiful Finnish ladies.” This started a streak of three songs from the debut that brought the set to a powerful end, culminating in the furious “Devil Man.” The audience didn’t have to clap too long, as Larsson returned in no more than a minute and played and sang the band’s latest video track, the soulful ballad, “I Felt a Change”, by herself. Her bandmates came back and two more new songs, “Rejection” and “Gone So Long”, brought the night to an end.

2016-11-17-02-blues-pills-rytmikorjaamo-cr-30Blues Pills had an extra touring member, Rickard Nygren, on keyboards and rhythm guitar. I hadn’t expected to see a five-piece lineup, but hiring another musician makes sense as there are plenty of keyboard parts on Lady in Gold, and the old songs didn’t suffer from the extra guitar either. The lack of backing choirs (or any backing vocals, for that matter) made the songs less layered compared to the album versions, but to be honest, I didn’t really miss them and it was cool to see a band play without any backing tracks for once. You could hear how tight Blues Pills had become after so many weeks of touring in Europe and the jams at the end of “Little Boy Preacher” and “High Class Woman” were ear candy. The light show was cool too, especially the blue lights on the mellow “Little Sun” and the red and white lights during “You Gotta Try.”

 

I can’t help wondering where Blues Pills would be without a luminous figure like Elin Larsson fronting them – she’s got the pipes, energy, and charisma. On the other hand, seeing guitarist Dorian Sorriaux deep in thought while soloing and watching André Kvarnström banging the heck out of his drums was entertaining too. Blues Pills played a great show and their music came to life on stage – if Death Hawks came across as more of a studio band, BP were the opposite, as I liked them even better live than on their albums. Blues rock is not just music for old farts, and these guys (and girl) proved it!

Blues Pills setlist:
1. Lady in Gold
2. Little Boy Preacher
3. Bad Talkers
4. Won’t Go Back
5. Black Smoke
6. Bliss
7. Little Sun
8. Elements and Things (Tony Joe White cover)
9. You Gotta Try
10. High Class Woman
11. Ain’t No Change
12. Devil Man

Encore:
13. I Felt a Change
14. Rejection
15. Gone So Long

2016-11-17-02-blues-pills-rytmikorjaamo-cr-7Text: Ville Karttunen | Photos: Charlotta Rajala | Ed: Amy Wiseman

BLUES PILLS w/ DEATH HAWKS @ Rytmikorjaamo, Seinäjoki, 17.11.2016

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Blues Pills with Death Hawks, Rytmikorjaamo 2016.
Photos by Charlotta Rajala.
Gig report HERE!

Perfect Albums

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Ensiferum - From Afar; Wintersun - Time I; Ayreon - The Theater Equation

I’ve been writing album reviews for a while now, so you may have noticed that I pretty much never award an album a full score. Many of my selections for album of the year have failed to draw a 10/10 out of me, and that includes years like 2015 when there were incredible albums coming out week after week. So, if I’m such a hardass then, you might wonder what some of my favorite albums are. What do I consider a 10/10 album?

So what are my criteria? First of all, I have to like every song on the album. Secondly, I have to be able to listen through the whole album every time without feeling the need to skip a song. On top of that, it has to be an album that makes me feel something – it can’t just be good, it has to be memorable, to strike something in me. It also has to be a musical style that I can go back to in any mood, though that’s a bit subjective… album reviews will never be 100% objective though. That in mind, here are a few of my picks (compilations not included):

 

01. Amorphis – Under the Red Cloud (2015)
I didn’t write the review for this album last year, but I certainly could have. Amorphis was, until this album’s release, a band that I enjoyed live, and could name a few hits that I thought were great, but ultimately felt rather neutral about as a whole. However, Under the Red Cloud is one of those perfect sorts of albums that you can listen through without feeling any sort of annoyance (yes, I’m even giving “Sacrifice” a pass – though it is an inoffensive radio hit, it’s still catchy and enjoyable), without wanting to skip a single song. The concept is great, the lyrics are great, the music is great, and Tomi Joutsen’s vocals are great. Because of this album, I now officially consider myself a fan of Amorphis.

02. Machinae Supremacy – A View from the End of the World (2010)
I discovered Machinae Supremacy back around the release of this album when my partner came into the room declaring, to some unknown music, “I’m gonna do you a favor and not teabag you for your behavior” (“Crouching Camper, Hidden Sniper”), to which I declared with amusement, “No, those are not lyrics. No band is that silly.” I was wrong. Though this is one of MaSu’s less risky or experimental albums, certainly, yet the lack of risk makes nearly every song on the album an instant hit. Perhaps the riskiest song on the album is “One Day in the Universe”, a song that Spinefarm was hesitant to allow the band to include, which is in my opinion one of the greatest love songs ever written. Combined with classics like “Indiscriminate Murder is Counterproductive” and another tasty piece of the “March of the Undead” series, there’s nothing I don’t love on this album. While Rise of a Digital Nation easily gets a 9/10 and Phantom Shadow earned itself a near-perfect 9.5/10, their predecessor is one of my all-time favorite albums, and one that I can go back to any day when I need a pick-me-up.

03. Ayreon – The Human Equation (2004)
Concept albums are hard to nail (refer back to my thoughts on MaSu’s Phantom Shadow), but Arjen Lucassen has been fairly consistent in his efforts to make true and proper concept albums that really dig deep and hit hard. While the entire album series that follows the concept of the Forever has been incredible as a whole, the only album that I would call truly perfect is The Human Equation – with a cast of legends at his disposal, including James Labrie, Devin Townsend, Mikael Åkerfeldt, and so many more, not a single voice or instrument went to waste. Every song (and there are many) serves a deep and touching purpose to the storyline, and every time I listen to the album, the final crescendo makes me shed a tear. It’s hard to listen to any song on this album out of context – to listen to one song means you have to listen to them all, and there is nothing that I ever want to skip. Each song is vital, integral to the story, and exactly zero of them fail to hold up the musical or vocal standard. This is a concept album in all its glory, and the success of the live production of The Theater Equation will back me up on this.

04. Bruce Dickinson – Accident of Birth (1997) and The Chemical Wedding (1998)
While it may surprise those who know me that I don’t think that Iron Maiden has a perfect album, Bruce Dickinson managed to nail it twice within a year with Accident of Birth and The Chemical Wedding. While these were some of my starter albums as a metalhead, there is just something about both of these albums and all of the songs on them (extended editions not included) that pleases me. “Accident of Birth” was one of the first ‘heavy’ songs I really enjoyed and every year I listen to the album I have a different favorite song, while pretty much everything on TCW appealed to me straight out of the gate. There was something fantastical about both albums and when I discovered them, I was in a place where I needed that. These are two albums that are very close to my heart to this day.

05. Ensiferum – From Afar (2009)
I am a bit hesitant to declare this a 10/10 instead of a 9.5/10, but let’s be honest, if the fault I find in this album is the fact that the two “Heathen Throne” songs are a bit long and epic… that’s not really a fault. It’s more an issue with my attention span, because those are both excellent songs. As for the rest of the album, it has some of my favorite songs from Enska, and their CD release show back in September 2009 is still one of my fondest live memories, so I’m going to have to give this one a full score.

06. Wintersun – Time I (2012)
I might get some scorn from the Mäenpää haters for this, but fact is, this is a great album. I don’t even enjoy listening to the songs without the other songs present. This album is one whole, complete unit, and it’s beautiful. So even though the debate over who is right in Mäenpää’s argument with Nuclear Blast is still raging on, I will simply say that this album is beautiful and pretty much perfect. Let’s see if Time II can live up to it… if it ever gets released.

07. Bring Me the Horizon – That’s the Spirit (2015)
I gave this album a full score in its review last year, though honestly in hindsight I’d knock it down to a 9.5/10 if I was grading it today. That may just be proof of me getting a little harsher in my old age though. “What You Need” and “Run” are the two weak spots on the album, though they don’t actually drag it down in any way (unlike The Dark Ride‘s two low points, below), and as such, it seems I was willing to give this album a full score.

08. Blind Channel – Revolutions (2016)
This album came out this year and for some reason, I gave it a 9.5/10 on its official review. After a great deal of consideration, I asked myself what held this album back? What kept it from being a 10/10 album? I listened to “Unforgiving”, and “Don’t” a fair bit over the summer before the album officially came out, so by the time the album had come out, I was sick of the latter two songs, but that was more a result of over-listening than the songs not actually being as good. Ultimately, if I gave Bring Me the Horizon’s latest album a full score, this easily deserves one too and if I’ll be backdating an updated full score for these guys.

 

RUNNERS UP:
For curiosity’s sake, here is a list of 9.5/10 albums, along with the reason I think they missed half a point. Sometimes it’s a good reason, sometimes it’s just due to my own weirdness.

01. Iron Maiden – Brave New World (2000): One of my all-time favorite albums, I’ve never quite gotten on board with “The Mercenary”, no matter how hard I’ve tried. Ultimately, I end up skipping that one song each time I listen to this album. I’d also be lying if I didn’t admit that “Brave New World” gets skipped from time to time.
02. Machinae Supremacy – Phantom Shadow (2014): I have mixed feelings about this album as a concept if we take the canon story into consideration, but if I was to think about my own theory from before I knew their version, I am better able to integrate “Throne of Games”; if we were going on my theory, this would be a perfect album, but since I’m going off the band’s story, it misses a point for including the filler song and for being a concept album that doesn’t really cover enough of the concept to be a concept (case in point: “Renegades”).
03. Blind Guardian – Nightfall in Middle Earth (1998): This is another rather successful concept album; however, because I could never chew my way through The Silmarillion, I don’t have as much use for the full story as the average listener, and therefore I tend to skip over all of the non-song tracks/interludes on the album. If only I had been able to stomach that book…
04. Helloween – The Dark Ride (2000): Another first favorite album of mine, and one that continues to be a favorite to this day. This album is nearly perfect, except for the two songs that don’t quite fit into the mix: “All Over the Nations” and “Salvation” to a lesser degree. If these two super power metal tracks hadn’t brought the heavy and dark feeling down, this album would be 100% pure bliss.
05. Devin Townsend Project – Z2 (2014): I had wanted to give this album a full score because the sheer amazement of some of the songs alone made me want to allow it. However, I do have my standards, so “Fallout”, “Universal Flame”, and “March of the Poozers” couldn’t make up for the 25% filler songs or music that both Sky Blue and Dark Matters have, so the album certainly doesn’t fit he criteria to be considered perfect. However, it surely says something that its good songs earned it a 9.5 with so much filler!
06. Entwine – Chaotic Nation (2015): This one is really, really borderline between 9.5 and 10 for me. I like the whole album, I always listen through the whole album without skipping anything, so the only missing thing is that last factor, that thing where it has to affect me on some deeper level. As much as I truly enjoy this delightful slice of comeback, I can’t say that it has managed to hit me hard in any way, so it didn’t quite make the list.
07. Insomnium – Winter’s Gate (2016): While Lene was happy to give this a full score, I am hesitant to call it perfect, though I’m not sure why exactly that is. What she wrote about the album is true – it is essentially perfect. Perhaps it lacks a bit of that thing that grips me (though I adore the original story), or perhaps I liked the story better than the album (though I love when music is put to stories), or perhaps it is just a concept that doesn’t make me feel the way something like The Human Equation does (though I think the adaptation was excellent). Ultimately, maybe I don’t want to call it perfect because it is a dark, heavy album that is hard to get much out of if you don’t give it your full attention. It’s not something I could put on at any time – it’s an album I have to be in the mood to take on, like reading a book.
08. Kiuas – Lustdriven (2010): Oh how I want to declare this album perfect! This album has achieved greatness in a way that many albums have not, and I would be willing to declare this one of the greatest ‘band’s last albums’ of all time. However, “Cry Little Angel” tends to get skipped when I listen most times, and “Aftermath” gets skipped maybe 50% of the time, so as such, I cannot declare this a 10/10.
09. Nightwish – Endless Forms Most Beautiful (2015): Another album I wish I could declare perfect, but alas… as impressed as I am by Floor Jansen’s growling in “Yours is an Empty Hope”, I really just can’t get behind that song – it throws off the groove and feeling of the album for me. Plus I’d be lying if I said I didn’t skip the last two songs from time to time. I have high hopes for their next album though…
10. Norther – N (2008): Yet another borderline case makes the list. While I do enjoy every song on this album, this is a case where the album entirely consists of 4 star or 5 star songs, meaning while I like all of the songs, I don’t like them all equally, so sometimes I listen to the album as a whole and sometimes I just listen to my favorites. There is some degree of a gap between the good songs and the great songs that holds this one back just enough that I don’t want to call it perfect.
11. A Perfect Circle – Mer de Noms (2000): Not unlike N, this is an album I will gladly listen straight through, however, I do have clear favorite songs and I will skip about half of the songs on this album if I’m not in the exact perfect mood for them.
12. Santa Cruz – Santa Cruz (2015): If party rock is your thing, you might disagree that this album doesn’t hold up. I adored this album from the first listen onward, but after listening to it quite a lot over the last year, I no longer feel the need to come back to it. I suppose I feel like it more or less ran its course and while I don’t mind listening to it if someone else puts it on, I don’t feel the need myself to play it anymore, hence the missing half a point.
13. Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again (2016): This album is a 9.5 largely because power metal is just not exactly my genre. I can’t put on a power metal album whenever to just enjoy, although if I would, it’d be this one. Also, there is one faulty song on the album, which is “Wounds” – a decent track, but as the year has gone by, it’s lost favor with me.
14. Turisas – The Varangian Way (2008): In spite of the fact that this was my favorite album for a solid 2-3 years, like N, it has a few flaws. As a concept album it works extremely well and the songs are for the most part fantastic; however, a few songs simply don’t work for me day in and day out, like “In the Court of Jarisleif”, so I will have to leave it at a 9.5.
15. Within Temptation – The Silent Force (2004): There was a time in my life when I would’ve gladly called this a perfect album, however, the songs simply just didn’t hold up the way many of the above-listed perfect albums did. Back in 2008 I would’ve called nearly every song on this album a 5 star track, but nowadays I might say that they are all very solid 4 star songs, as they just don’t have the same effect on me as they once did.

 

So that’s that! Now you can peg my taste in music against yours to see if you have anything in common with me, and can see how my feelings towards some albums compare to your feelings, to see if you want to trust my judgment or not!

(2016) Sabaton: The Last Stand

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Artist: Sabaton
Album: The Last Stand
Released: 19.08.2016
Label: Nuclear Blast

 

Sabaton. The great divide on this band never fails to amaze me. People either really love these guys, or strongly detest them. As per usual, I fall under neither category – I like them, I think they have great, catchy music, and they put on a phenomenal live show… but I don’t put a great deal of stock into them. Much like Manowar, they write kind of cheesy, epic music, but unlike Manowar, Sabaton doesn’t seem to take what they’re doing too seriously, which is exactly what I appreciate about them. I do enjoy their classics though – you know, the standard live songs. As such, after the success of Heroes (2014), and my tentative lack of enthusiasm over their first single, “The Lost Battalion”, I was quite curious to see how the new album as a whole would pan out.

Listen along on Spotify, if you like:

To be clear, I think I understand why people are so divided on Sabaton. I’ve heard them referred to as “a machine that keeps producing the same music over and over,” which frankly isn’t exactly an unfair criticism. They have a very distinct style that is high-energy, and good fun, and their music doesn’t get very experimental pretty much ever. You could argue that, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ might have been Sabaton’s motto over the years. However, I think they were aware of the risk of sounding the exact same when they wrote this album. As I mentioned, when I first heard “The Lost Battalion” I was convinced we were going to get another album of the exact same thing as always, but then I heard the first track, “Sparta”, which includes a rather different tone and I was quite impressed by the whole “boom-kah” thing – a totally new type of energy for these guys.

Ultimately, I think The Last Stand is a step up musically and there’s very little to complain about – these guys have tried a couple of new things, and while the album is still very much a Sabaton album, it doesn’t quite sound like the rehashed and recycled music I expected it to be after hearing the first single (though I do think the title track sounds a lot like a Christmas carol). I agree with those who would give them 100% credit not for using Japanese pipes and drums in “Shiroyama”, which would have been predictable and likely would not have suited their musical style. Conversely, in “Blood of Bannockburn” the bagpipe sounds, while not overdone, do feel a bit like they were tacked on for the purpose of emphasizing the song’s Scottish background, and I think the song would lose nothing if they left it out.

I think the song “Shiroyama” alone explains everything I like and dislike about this album in one go, so let’s focus on it for a while. Let’s flash back to the past – what has always made Sabaton a little bit respectable for me is their historical accuracy – and to be honest, I have not looked into it myself, but a friend who I consider a trusted source has attested to this. However, on both Heroes and The Last Stand, they have been slipping. The token Finnish song from the former, “Soldier of 3 Armies”, and “Shiroyama” from the latter have both failed in… I don’t want to say historical accuracy exactly, but they have failed to tell the whole story about the subjects in question.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story of Shiroyama, I’ll recap the history here: the Battle of Shiroyama is largely viewed as the end of the Japanese samurai era. There is a lot of speculation over the situation, as it is almost as much a myth as history in Japan, however, what we can determine is that Saigō Takamori (the “last samurai”) had been instrumental in modernizing the Japanese army and making the samurai, including himself, redundant. Realizing his days of glory were over, he tried to sacrifice himself by going to Korea to ignite a war (something Japan had wanted), but was denied and sent home. Ashamed, he used his amassed fortune to found schools for the children of the samurai class people in his home province and essentially wanted to retire in peace and be done with war and politics. However, as one of the last and most powerful of the samurai lords, he became a hero (against his will) to the other samurai and the government decided to assassinate him, just to be sure, and failed. This led to a short Satsuma-samurai vs Imperial forces war, where Saigō led the samurai and Saigō’s old friend and fellow commander led the Imperial forces. It appeared that Saigō did not want a war, but he was given no choice because the Imperials wanted him dead to make sure the samurai didn’t rise into a full-blown rebellion.

Prior to the Battle of Shiroyama, the Satsuma forces had been beaten and forced back with the Imperials in pursuit. Many of Saigō’s forces wanted to make a last stand on the slopes of the nearby hills, but Saigō wanted to return to his home province for the last time. Losing most of his forces, he evaded the Imperial troops by using the cover of mist and made it to their fortress at Shiroyama, where they sat and waited for the Imperial forces, who soon arrived and built fortifications to prevent anyone from escaping. The samurai tried to parlay for peace, but they were told that the samurai was wanted dead by order of the emperor, so in essence, their options were fight and die or surrender and die anyway. The remaining samurai had melted down anything they could to make bullets and held their ground. The Imperials attacked with full force at 03:00a.m. and by 06:00 a.m. all of the samurai were dead. [Ed: A huge thank you to Björn Bumblebee for this summary.]

The point in me telling this story is to contrast the nuanced details to the rather black-and-white portrayal Sabaton has made of the situation. I’m unclear as to how exactly the Imperial force was “defied” unless they are just referring to the fact that the samurai didn’t want to give up and die, and the “sword face the gun” portrayal is not exactly accurate – the samurai were using guns as well, they were just more proficient in close combat than the Imperials were. The second set of verses don’t really offer anything to the story/song either; it’s pretty much just a rehash of the first verses. As well, the second bridge doesn’t make a lot of sense in context – “An offer of surrender / Saigō ignore contender…” What does this refer to? The samurai did offer to surrender (and die anyways), but what does “Saigō ignore contender” mean? And though it’s not inaccurate per se, it’s a bit unclear the way they group together that forty were left and then all were dead – that could have been more clear.

Basically, I really loved this song the first time I heard it. Honestly, I still kind of love it. It’s probably the catchiest song on the album, for good reason, and even though the lyrics “Bushido dignified” are cheesy beyond all reason, whatever, it’s all fun, right? Except, there was a lot to the story of Shiroyama. They could have written something truly epic about this little slice of history, but instead, we get a rather contrived group of semi-accurate words that at times don’t even make much sense. Lyrically, I hate to say it, but this song is a disappointment. I think they’ve gotten a little lazy on that front… to further my point, the word “last” appears in three song titles. Why not switch one to “final”, for example?

How many more Sabaton songs are like “Shiroyama” lyrically these days? Frankly, I don’t know. Ignorance is bliss, so they say. I like this album for the most part, and I don’t want to read too much into it and ruin it for myself. However, it does say something that I would have to choose willful ignorance to ensure my enjoyment of their music. What I would like to see from these guys is a little more research and some more inspired and accurate lyrics. Because frankly, when it comes to music, these guys know what they’re doing – I give the music on this album a hearty two thumbs up. Now it’s the lyrics where they should focus their attention and make sure they don’t phone it in in the future.

Rating: 8/10, 4 stars.

Tracklist:
1. Sparta
2. Last Dying Breath
3. Blood of Bannockburn
4. Diary of an Unknown Soldier
5. The Lost Battalion
6. Rorke’s Drift
7. The Last Stand
8. Hill 3234
9. Shiroyama
10. Winged Hussars
11. The Last Battle

Summary of Shiroyama: Björn Bumblebee

(2016) Leprous: Live at Rockefeller Music Hall

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Artist: Leprous
Album: Live at Rockefeller Music Hall
Release: 25.11.2016
Label: InsideOut Music

 

Like many, I first heard of the Norwegian prog metal group Leprous when they were acting as Ihsahn’s backing band; Ihsahn of course having risen to fame as the singer, song-writer, and guitarist of Norwegian melodic black metal legends, Emperor. Upon leaving for his solo act, he segued to more of an extreme progressive metal style. Since 2009, the current and past members of what is now Leprous have mostly played live with Ihsahn while also working on their own more-or-less like-minded project. I was introduced to them via their second full-length album, ”Bilateral” – a unique blend of depressing, psychedelic, and progressive, bordering on extreme metal.

 

This live DVD comes to me as a perfect appetizer before seeing them live, supporting The Devin Townsend Project along with Between the Buried and Me at The Circus in Helsinki next year. The DVD comes with the full concert recording of their show at Rockefeller Music Hall in Oslo on June 4th, 2016, as well as four music videos. It also comes with an official bootleg video recording of an unnamed song they played at the same venue 13 years ago. The video and sound quality is quite amateur-esque and the same could be said of the performance. It seems like it could be a very good song as it is in the vein of Leprous, but is still rough around the edges. Including it was a bold choice to say the least but it does establish a stark contrast between itself and the actual concert recording.

Also included is a 5 ½ minute feature called ”Making of.” I hesitate to call it a documentary as it is just a collection of footage of random things, such as the doorway to the venue, stage gear, a fan, a lamp, and anything else they felt the need to show us. This all without musical accompaniment save for whatever noises come from tuning and setting up. I guess it’s fun if you’re a big tech fan or are really interested in what it feels like to get ready for a show. As a musician myself, I think they nailed it, as it is boring and tedious to the point that it makes tapestries seem interesting.

The bulk of the DVD is of course the concert, which begins with a dimly lit shot of the concert hall filled with chanting fans. They milk this for a few seconds before starting with the slow opening track, ”The Flood.” Einar Solberg‘s angelic voice breaks the near silence and keeps the audience enthralled with his pure charisma until the band joins in at just past 1 minute. They’ve clearly got this down to a science as it feels genuinely rewarding. Many bands try this with long-winded intro tracks but this proves once again that less is more.

As it is a hometown show, Einar feels comfortable enough to make his on-stage announcements in Norwegian but tries to remember that this will be seen worldwide. He eludes to this in his first speech (as far as I can gather) but isn’t entirely consistent on it over the course of the night. It seems doubtful that this would really be a problem for anyone as most of his speeches are something along the lines of ”thank you” or ”tusen takk” respectively. Einar is one of those singers who also plays synth but he isn’t bound to it constantly. For large portions of the show he’s free to move around the stage with his mic. For a band with such a bleak, misanthropic, and apathetic theme, they sure are energetic. I feel out of breath just watching these guys thrashing about.

The lighting is mostly dim or back-lit to achieve a darker feel without reducing quality. Every song seems to have a different color scheme, which ranges from blue and green to purple and red. On stage they have a few screens showing fitting imagery. For the songs with actual music videos, they show clips from them which are then interspersed with the regular editing. Mostly they show deliberate static or nonsense – whatever they felt works with the song.

This is supported by the rapid camera movement and editing, more akin to that of a music video. This is an effect that often grows stale quite quickly as the viewer gets used to it. In this case, however, Leprous just so happens to have just enough quiet moments in which the viewer can reflect and recharge. Then when the beat picks up again it all comes back with full force. Make no mistake: this is one of the most powerful live DVDs I’ve ever seen.

Another important element on stage is that there are two drumkits on stage. That is because on they have a guest drummer playing alongside the current drummer, Baard Kolstad. He is never formally introduced but he looks to be Shining drummer Tobias Ørnes Andersen, who used to play for Leprous between 2007 and 2014. He seems to reappear for the older songs and then sheepishly disappears for the new ones. He is not the only one as a great performer is later announced as “another fellow” whom bears the distinct likeness and vocal sound of the aforementioned Ihsahn. He joins the fray only at the very end of the encore for the final song, “Contaminate Me”, for which he did the guest vocals for the album version on Coal.

The set itself is very energetic and powerful. It consists mainly of the new album, The Congregation, with only a few songs from the older albums, which featured longer and less straightforward songs. In fact, it seems they saved most of them for the end, as the final three songs are all older. It makes sense to play the more easily digestible tracks live and to save something a bit stranger, like “Forced Entry” for the encore. “Contaminate Me” also works wonderfully as a closer for its raw, visceral feel, which is of course helped with the added star power of Ihsahn and Tobias.

 

The DVD really comes together as a cohesive whole with the Rockefeller Music Hall as its centerpiece. Though the concert itself focuses very heavily on the newer material, the rest of the package does an eloquent job at celebrating and acknowledging the group’s past with the collection of music videos and the rare glimpse from 13 years ago. For a band’s first live release, it’s a beautiful and well-put-together DVD; a great introduction to those who may only have heard very little from them as well as a glorious milestone for longtime fans. It has everything you could want from a live album. That being said, I can’t help but feel let down by there not being an actual behind the scenes feature, since they teased it. Even if it had just been one or two of them talking for 5 minutes, it would have left a better taste in my mouth.

Rating: 9/10, 4.5 stars

Setlist:
1. The Flood
2. Foe
3. Third Law
4. Rewind
5. The Cloak
6. Acquired Taste
7. Red
8. Slave
9. The Price
10. Moon
11. Down
12. The Valley

Encore:
13. Forced Entry
14. Contaminate Me

Text: Vincent Parkkonen

(2016) Maschine: Naturalis

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Artist: Maschine
Album: Naturalis
Released: 18.11.2016
Label: InsideOut

 

British progressive rock/metal band Maschine is a new name to me, although they’ve got one record, Rubidium (2013), under their belts already. Their new release, Naturalis, is a concept album about natural events and disasters, such as tsunamis, though there’s hope in the lyrics as well. There are only 6 songs, but the total running time is 52 minutes, so it’s needless to say that there are some long pieces on the record.

 

What strikes me is how diverse the music on Naturalis is: while a lot of modern prog bands are content with treading in the footsteps of a certain classic band – whether it’s Genesis, Dream Theater, or Tool – Maschine have a wide array of influences and you can’t call them a copycat of any specific group. The 12-minute opener, “Resistance”, begins with mysterious ambient synths and is rather heavy and dark, complete with Opeth-y dissonance and tremolo picking. However, there’s a break in the middle with a lighter feel, mellotron, and acoustic guitars, before it’s time for more metal riffing and a wild guitar solo. The other 12-minute epic, “Megacyma”, is the last song and likewise technical and heavy, but calms down at the very end, closing the album on a somewhat positive note. On the mellow side you have the lush and funky “Hidden in Plain Sight” and the relaxed and jazzy “A New Reality.” The lead single “Night and Day” and “Make Believe” are somewhere between these two extremes, containing moments of intensity, but never getting quite as dark as the bookending tracks.

Despite the conceptual approach, Naturalis is an instrumentally driven record, though there are vocals on every song. Guitarist and songwriter Luke Machin sings with a nice British accent and his voice has got a pleasant tone. His range may be a touch limited, but keyboardist Marie-Eve de Gaultier complements him well and her ethereal vocals in the intro of “Make Believe” are gorgeous. Hopefully we’ll hear more of her on the next album! The interplay between male and female voices brings to mind Anathema and Pure Reason Revolution, though the music itself is different from those groups. The musicians clearly know how to play, but there’s an effortless and natural feel in the playing. The soloing and technicality come in small doses and always on the terms of the song, which is something that is often missing on young bands’ releases. The production, handled by Machin in his home studio, is fairly good and dynamic by today’s standards. It’s especially refreshing that the guitars aren’t overly distorted or in a low tuning even on the heavier tracks, though the music has a bit of a metallic edge at times.

 

Maschine know when to chill out and when to hit the gas. The songs flow naturally and never get tedious at any point, and the transitions are well thought out. Naturalis is a balanced and intriguing album with both modern and vintage sounds that I wholeheartedly recommend to any self-respecting prog fan out there. This band is far from generic, and I’m sure we’ll hear more greatness from them in the future.

Rating: 9/10, 4½ stars

Tracklist:
1. Resistance
2. Night and Day
3. Make Believe
4. Hidden in Plain Sight
5. A New Reality
6. Megacyma

Text: Ville Karttunen | Ed: Amy Wiseman

TAYLOR DAVIS – Kwadrat, Kraków, 13.11.2016

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Taylor Davis at Kwadrat, 2016.
Photos by Maria Sawicka

PENTAGRAM w/ GUESTS @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 12.11.2016

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Pentagram, with opening bands Satan’s Fall, The Order of Israfel, Spiritus Mortis, and Satan; Nosturi 2016.
Photos by Marco Manzi.

DIRE STRAITS EXPERIENCE @ Finlandia-talo, Helsinki, 12.11.2016

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Dire Straits Experience at Finlandia-talo, Helsinki 2016.
Photos by Jana Blomqvist.

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Jussi Reuhkala (Force Majeure), 2016

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If you’re a fan of local music and good old fashioned power metal, you might be familiar with Force Majeure, who originated from Järvenpää originally in 1998. Their latest release was Saints of Sulphur in 2011, though rumor has it that there is a new album in the works, featuring their new vocalist, Markus Lång. Though members have come and gone over the years, founding members Eemeli Ojanen and Jussi Reuhkala have stayed together through thick and thin, so here is the playlist of the latter’s life!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
The first one I really remember hearing and liking is Kirka’s “Hengaillaan.” It came out in ’84 so I was the tender age of 3 back then. Some other vague memories I have of hearing songs from Abba, The Carpenters, Cyndi Lauper, or “Mörköooppera” by Marjatta Pokela, but I think Kirka was the first.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
I have liked songs over the years but love being a bit stronger term, there is only one song that earns that – Iron Maiden’s “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.” I still love it by the way! It was a dream come true to see IrMa play it live in 2013. It has become some kind of adjective expressing ultimate joy, awesomeness, and all possible nice things… you wanna say those things? Just say “Seventh Son!”

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
In Flames – “Dialogue with the Stars”

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
It was Guns n’ Roses, not sure of the song though. Maybe “You Could be Mine”? GnR acted as a gateway to Iron Maiden, Metallica, and Megadeth in early 90s.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
“Hey Lord!” by Helloween. Its chorus is an earworm of the catchiest kind.

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
I don’t feel so much guilt about it but I have a thing for 90s Eurodance. For example Sash! – “Ecuador” could perhaps be seen as guilty pleasure. Or Scatman John – “Scatman World”… which always reminds me of nice times in Salla.

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
I come from the age of cassette tapes so my first album was either Queen’s Greatest Hits II or Roxette’s Tourism on a cassette. The first CD was some weird album by Alice Cooper that is not listed even on his official discography. Possibly some sort of bootleg but I remember my disappointment since it had nothing to do with stuff he had on Trash, which was my favorite back then.

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
This must be Seventh Wonder – Mercy Falls… the whole album. You need to enjoy its story as a whole, not just one song, so one needs a couch to withstand its epicness. I must say though, alongside listening, I prefer cold beverages!

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Ice-T – “Warning”

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
As most likely David Shankle (ex-Manowar) is not going to be available for one of his awesome guitar solos to be performed live, I am going to go with Hans Zimmer – “Interstellar theme” performed on a piano or church organ.

 

Force Majeure released a track demonstrative track with Markus Lång on vocals in 2015, which you can check out over here:

ELÄKELÄISET @ Virgin Oil Co., Helsinki, 11.11.2016

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Eläkeläiset at Virgin Oil Co., 2016.
Photos by Janne Puronen.

OBSCURA w/ RIVERS OF NIHIL, BEYOND CREATION, & REVOCATION @ Firlej, Wrocław, 05.11.2016

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OBSCURA, Rivers Of Nihil, Beyond Creation & Revocation taken at Wrocław, Poland @ Klub Firlej.
Photos by Maria Sawicka.

KATATONIA w/ AGENT FRESCO & VOLA – Klubi, Tampere 01.11.2016

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Although Katatonia just played at Tuska last summer, it’s been a while since the melancholic Swedes have been to other cities in Finland besides Helsinki. Therefore a 5-day tour of Finland, supported by Agent Fresco and VOLA, was a most welcome way to start up November. The Finnish leg of the Fallen Hearts of Europe tour began at Klubi in Tampere on the 1st. Read below to see how it all went down!

Check out the gallery from Helsinki’s show HERE!

You can listen to Katatonia’s setlist here:

The first band of the night was the Danish prog metal quartet, VOLA, whose music combines djenty guitars with atmospheric keyboards and clean vocals. I dislike djent and hope the competition over who can tune their guitars the lowest will be over as soon as possible, so it came as no shock that the heavy moments of VOLA’s 30-minute set weren’t exactly my cup of tea. However, one song sounded pretty interesting due to the use of the major key, and the atmospheric sections, such as the start of “Emily” were nice. As for the individual members, I liked guitarist/vocalist Asger Mygind’s voice and Martin Werner used some cool synth sounds. In other words, while VOLA wasn’t totally my kind of music, there was something to like in it and they got a polite reception from the Katatonia fans.

Progressive alternative rockers Agent Fresco from Iceland continued the Scandinavian theme of the tour package. The first song started out keyboard-driven and atmospheric, and I was surprised to see no guitarist on stage. However, after a few minutes keyboardist Þórarinn Guðnason picked up a guitar and launched into a riff, and vocalist Arnór Dan Arnarson let out a massive primal scream – now that’s what I call dynamics! The band’s music sounded very artsy and emotional, with rather dramatic mood swings, walking the fine line between rock and metal. It was amazing how lively they were on stage; a few times it looked like Arnarson and bassist Vignir Rafn Hilmarsson would bump into each other on the small stage, and the frontman sounded audibly exhausted while speaking after a heavy section with intense screams. Arnarson’s vocals reminded me of Maynard James Keenan of Tool, and he gave a profound speech while introducing a song about the passing of his father. Agent Fresco took me by surprise, and based on the reactions of the crowd I wasn’t the only one impressed by their performance. They even had a few enthusiastic fans close to the front row, and Arnarson said he recognized them from an earlier Finnish show – apparently a bit of a cult following has already started to develop, and they definitely deserve it.

2016-11-05-katatonia-12-the-circusI’d seen Katatonia once before, at Unioni-festivaali in 2014, where they only played 14 songs despite being the headliner, so for me, getting to see a proper full-length set after 6 years of fandom was way overdue. The band came on at about 21:35, 10 minutes late, and the first song was – ironically enough – “Last Song Before the Fade.” It didn’t grab the audience by the throat like a perfect opening number would, but when “Deliberation” followed, people started clapping to the rhythm of the song immediately. The set continued with music from the three latest albums, until “Teargas” was played, and its introduction got the biggest cheer of the night. However, the band played the song with the guitars tuned down to C, like on the new stuff, which in my opinion made the song sound too chunky and took away the airiness of the original studio version, though of course it’s easier for the band not to take all of their guitars out on the road for the ease of switching. “Ghost of the Sun” was up next – I’m not a big fan of this song due to its angsty vibe and I would’ve preferred to hear “Saw You Drown”, which had been in the band’s setlist earlier on in the tour, but it was fun to hear the crowd shout “a fucking lie!” at the top of their lungs. Throughout the show, I got the impression that the audience seemed to favor the more straightforward and gothic-leaning pre-2009 material. I still have mixed feelings about the new album, The Fall of Hearts, which the band was promoting on this tour, but luckily Katatonia played five of the best songs from it. “Serac” was intense, “The Night Subscriber” showed what drummer Daniel Moilanen was capable of, and I’d say “Old Heart Falls” has already become a modern Katatonia classic, as the chorus was simply soaring.

2016-11-05-katatonia-07-the-circusA significant portion of the set was devoted to 2006’s The Great Cold Distance, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and was played in full at a few shows recently. This was certainly justified, as the hard-hitting “Soil’s Song” and “Leaders” came across extremely well, and of course the encore tunes “My Twin” and “July” are big fan favorites. The high point for me was the atmospheric and trippy “In the White” – the lyrics about “the quiet cold of late November” weren’t 100% perfect for the occasion, as it was the first day of the month, but the song itself truly captures the essence of Katatonia with its quiet vs loud contrasts and is one of my all-time favorites from the Swedes.

When it comes to the band’s performance, it’s amazing how much tighter Katatonia has become over the years. Of course this was only my second time seeing them, but judging by earlier live videos like the Live Consternation DVD (2007), the guys have come a long way, and the line-up changes have only made them stronger. While Jonas Renkse is still not the most animate frontman ever, his singing was spot on, and at times his voice had a raspy edge that is absent on the studio albums. He engaged the audience on multiple occasions, even throwing in a bit of humor, like when he called the band “ruotsipaska [Swedish shit].” When the band members were drinking water and tuning their instruments, some dude loudly yelled “carry on, carry on, carry on!” to which Renkse responded “we will carry on…” The true MVP of the night, however, was the new guitarist, Roger Öjersson. He played the keyboard solo of “Dead Letters” on guitar and did some cool stuff on “Lethean” as well. Öjersson also had a good voice for backing vocals that meshed well with Renkse’s, and at the end of “Evidence” he sang the “no one will find you” mantra by himself, showing what a wide range he has.

 

2016-11-05-katatonia-06-the-circusKatatonia’s 19-song set was a good mix of new and old, and while it would be easy to nitpick about the inclusion or omission of certain songs, it left me satisfied. The sound was good and balanced enough, and while I was puzzled that they were playing at Klubi instead of Pakkahuone, where they’d played 4 years ago, the intimate vibe of the venue turned out to be a great fit for the music. Katatonia has a special relationship with Finland and they were visibly happy to be back. I’m already looking forward to my next dose of ruotsipaska!

 

Setlist:
01. Last Song Before the Fade
02. Deliberation
03. Serein
04. Dead Letters
05. Day and Then the Shade
06. Serac
07. Teargas
08. Ghost of the Sun
09. Evidence
10. The Night Subscriber
11. Soil’s Song
12. Old Heart Falls
13. For My Demons
14. Leaders
15. In the White
16. Forsaker

Encore:
17. My Twin
18. Lethean
19. July

Text: Ville Karttunen | Photos: Eliza Rask (The Circus, Helsinki, 05.11.2016) | Ed: Amy Wiseman

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Jere Saloranta (Gira), 2016

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Promo photo by Tapio Ranta-Aho

Gira is an alternative metal band from Southern Finland that consists of five members. They have roamed the venues of Finland since 2012, but found their current form in 2014. The band is known for its eccentric, high-energy live performance, modern heavy metal sound, and catchy melodies. Gira’s music takes a lot of influence from genres such as shoegaze, djent, black metal, and thrash metal, and mixes it up to a fresh kind of music. The band’s sound has been compared to the leading Finnish Metal acts such as Stam1na and Mokoma, and to the metal classic Strapping Young Lad. Today we have vocalist Jere Saloranta’s playlist for you!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
You remember the Smurfs? They made albums. They were basically chipmunk parody versions of popular 90’s pop songs. In Finnish. So that used to be my jam.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
That would be Metallica’s “One.” I was truly obsessed with that song when I was 5 or so. I was bugging my big brother all day, every day to play that song for me from his stereos.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
As a teenager I would often go to my friends house to listen to all kind of music. Mars Volta with the song “Goliath” blew our minds and the song still takes me back to those days.

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
My brother was a Slipknot fan when I was a kid and I was (still am) sucking every bit of influence of him. I think it was the song [sic] that made me think “Wow, this is weird and aggressive… I like this.” By the time I was 10 I had seen Slipknot live with Slayer.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
“FourFiveSeconds” by Rihanna. Love that song.

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
I don’t ever feel guilty about liking a song. If I like the song I like the song and there is nothing more to it. But if I had to say something I’d say that I rather enjoy the Twilight soundtracks. Christina Perri and all that sappy stuff.

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Most likely it was System of a Down’s Hypnotize. My good friend and now bandmate had a bootleg of the album and it tended to skip so I decided to make that investment. That started my addiction of buying albums. I don’t even own a CD-player anymore, but still I buy CDs. I have a problem…

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Sufjan Steven’s “Casimir Pulaski Day.” A very sad and thought-provoking song with great storytelling in it.

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
In Flames – “My Sweet Shadow.” You’re on the road with your best friends. You’re getting close to your folk’s summer cottage. Your main man from the front seat turns up the volume and puts this song on. The poor driver has to try to maneuver a curvy dirt road while these apes scream and shout. There is no other way to start a cottage party.

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
To be honest it would be nice if they played something I took part in composing. If somebody is planning my funeral at the moment (first of all stop, that’s creepy), play “Peili.” The somewhat uplifting lyrics on a sad sounding song would hit the spot.

KATATONIA @ The Circus, Helsinki, 05.11.2016

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Katatonia’s 2016 performance at The Circus, Helsinki.
Gig report of Tampere’s show HERE!

AMORPHIS: ECLIPSE 10th ANNIVERSARY SHOW – Nosturi, Helsinki, 11.05.2016

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Amorphis is no stranger to the metal scene or Musicalypse readers at this point. With two anniversaries this year (Elegy‘s 20th and Eclipse‘s 10th), and particularly after their Under the Red Cloud show earlier this summer, we were happy to get another opportunity to see these guys performing yet another full album. This Eclipse anniversary mini-tour started at Nosturi in Helsinki on November 5th, 2016 – an appropriate setting for such an event!

Check out the full gallery HERE!

Listen along with the set, if you like!

 

2016-11-05-amorphis-eclipse-anniversary-show-nosturi-jb-1I love the music in Eclipse – “House of Sleep” and “The Smoke” are classics – yet I can’t say that I enjoy listening to the album very much. It was pretty obvious that it was Tomi Joutsen’s first album with Amorphis and while these songs are great, they are far better live. Amorphis has pretty much always known how to write good songs, but when Eclipse was released, it was very clearly a transitional phase for them and the quality of that album is sub-par by today’s standards. That’s a great deal of what made this show so exciting and special to see.

We arrived at Nosturi well before the listed start time of 21:30 to note that the venue has undergone some changes. I presume this has something to do with the venue taking over the Alakerta restaurant on the main floor – patrons were now entering via the Alakerta entrance, as there was a stage set up in front of the regular entrance. We wondered if that was just for tonight, or if it was a permanent thing. As well, they’ve had a paint job and the upstairs bar has been furnished with refurbished storage pallets now. We hope this means that Nosturi is going to start fighting to get some more gigs these days – it would be a shame if one of the best venues in town faded to memory.

2016-11-05-amorphis-eclipse-anniversary-show-nosturi-jb-14Nevertheless, the bar was now open on the main floor, with only a small ‘hall’ for non-drinkers to pass through. This was much like the set-up for Machinae Supremacy’s latest show, or myGRAIN’s farewell show, only on this occasion the upstairs was open as the show had sold out a few hours before it started. The stage was fairly simplistic – I wondered if they had done it on purpose to give it a more authentic 10-year-old feel, as they had the Eclipse stage banners and vocalist Tomi Joutsen didn’t have his trademark microphone this time around.

Showtime, as mentioned, was listed as 21:30, though the gig did not kick off until 21:50. The show promised the full Eclipse set, plus another shorter set after a brief hiatus, and I was surprised to find that they played the Eclipse set first. The Under the Red Cloud show this summer was done in the opposite order, so I had assumed this show would be done the same way. The show started, naturally, with “Two Moons” and the crowd’s overwhelming excitement was finally given an outlet. We were up front and unfortunately the mix was pretty sub-par in that location – everything (particularly the vocals) was quite muted and nothing was very crisp or clear. This did get sorted out after a few songs, but the first couple of songs suffered a bit from the muddled sound quality. This was a shame because the band was playing extremely well. “House of Sleep” was an obvious fan favorite, and evidently the crowd has not gotten sick of it, even after hearing it at nearly every show for 10 years. Who can blame them – it’s a great song, and in the context of the album, it came hand-in-hand with a nice wave of nostalgia that came and went throughout the set (it definitely hit me again during “The Smoke”).

2016-11-05-amorphis-eclipse-anniversary-show-nosturi-jb-72What was cool about this show was to see how the band has progressed over the years. As mentioned, the album itself is like an unpolished gemstone – the value is there, but it’s hidden under the rough edges. This show had those rough edges polished down, turning the tired old album into something new and fresh and honestly, far better than it originally was. If you were in the right place in the venue, every song sounded much nicer, and of note, the quality of Joutsen’s vocals was really what made this performance stand out. On the album, he is still new and finding his place. In the show, he was a guy who has been with a band for a decade and has comfortably settled in as a vocalist. It was a wonderful change.

The stage show was pretty relaxed, with very little banter, as usual, and not too much energy expended on stage, which is also pretty normal for Amorphis. You can’t fault their playing though, because it was top-notch. The second half of the set was reserved for some of the old favorites too, as they didn’t dip into UtRC at all. The deep drums in the intro before “Skyforger” were really great, and it was nice to hear “From the Heaven of My Heart” again, even if the riffs in that song do feel a bit recycled. “Enigma” had some great guitarwork from Esa Holopainen, and for the first time, I finally saw the beauty in “My Kantele” that everyone has been talking about. I’m not sure how I’ve never noticed it before, but that song is lovely! It also had some of Joutsen’s best gentle singing. Of course, “Silent Water” is a must from the old material, and they ended the night with “Silver Bride” as the encore, though we missed it for the sake of getting our coats before the sold out crowd began to leave.

 

2016-11-05-amorphis-eclipse-anniversary-show-nosturi-jb-35Ultimately, this was a nice night and a couple of hours that absolutely flew by. I often attend gigs and wonder what’s taking so long, but this show felt like it was over before it had even started. There was very little to complain about either, apart from the rough sound in the beginning. The lights weren’t spectacular, but they did the trick, and the band isn’t the most lively on stage, but they don’t need to be. Frankly, if you were like me and came to see a revamped version of a decent old album, you definitely got your money’s worth – I’d even go so far as to say that I’d definitely support a re-recording of Eclipse. Now, how about an anniversary tour for Elegy?

Tracklist:
Set 1:
1. Two Moons
2. House of Sleep
3. Leaves Scar
4. Born from Fire
5. Under a Soil and Black Stone
6. Perkele (The God of Fire)
7. The Smoke
8. Same Flesh
9. Brother Moon
10. Empty Opening

Set 2:
11. Skyforger
12. Towards and Against
13. From the Heaven of My Heart
14. Enigma
15. My Kantele
16. Silent Waters
17. Sampo

Encore:
18. Silver Bride

Text: Amy Wiseman | Photos: Jana Blomqvist

AMORPHIS: ECLIPSE 10th ANNIVERSARY SHOW @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 05.11.2016

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First show of Amorphis’ Eclipse anniversary tour, Nosturi 2016.
Photos by Jana Blomqvist.
Gig report HERE!

(2016) Trees of Eternity: Hour of the Nightingale

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Artist: Trees of Eternity
Album: Hour of the Nightingale
Release: 11.11.2016
Label: Svart Records

 

Death is not an unfamiliar topic for the vast majority of metal bands, as most of them handle the subject in at least one song over the span of their career, and some dedicate their whole repertoire to covering it. But rare are the circumstances when a real-life tragedy suddenly gives the subject a whole new perspective for a band, their audience, and the reviewer. The passing of singer-songwriter Aleah Stanbridge who, together with Juha Raivio (guitar) was the leading force behind Trees of Eternity, is one of these, and likewise marks the release of their debut, Hour of the Nightingale, as the end of the band as it was. But stating it as just an end would belittle all that has been done for it.

Packed with musicians from bands like Wintersun, October Tide, and Swallow the Sun, with vocal features from Mike Moss of Antimatter and Nick Holmes of Paradise Lost, it goes without saying that the album is guaranteed to hold a high standard. If described with one word alone, I would simply use ‘beautiful’, as it sums up all the qualities of Hour of the Nightingale. It is an ethereal type of beauty – not haunting or eerie, though; I save those two adjectives for things that contain an element that can and probably will disturb you in some way. Even in the ending track, “Gallows Bird”, which stands out as different from the others as it starts – and momentarily one might expect it to take a turn to a hopeless-sounding end – the airy, almost fairytale-like quality guides the listener with a firm hang. In Trees of Eternity’s world, darkness is not always a place for fear and abandonment, it feels rather as though it is a source of comfort, a blanket to wrap you in for a moment of serenity. There is something deeply soothing in Aleah Stanbridge’s voice, which is gentle and soft as the raindrops drumming on my roof as I type this. The doom metal aesthetics are not everyone’s cup of tea, but with the vocals as the backbone and shining star of this album, I find it hard to imagine that the approach to the style alone could keep someone from listening. Then again, it’s not for the ones who look for something technically complicated to keep their attention. The atmosphere is thoughtfully built and there is nothing added that the album wouldn’t need – it is kept simple and tasteful, with lovely traces of the band’s origin as an acoustic project. The use of acoustic guitars in tracks like “Sinking Ships” blends into the whole picture so seamlessly that it took me a couple of spins to realize the song was completely acoustic.

An unexpected yet somehow fitting comparison crossed my mind mid-listening, as the music and especially Stanbridge’s voice struck me with similar kind of otherworldly calmness and wisdom as I’ve imagined JRR Tolkien’s elves carrying when they took their last journey to the Grey Havens, gracefully leaving the woes of the mortal world behind to cross the Great Sea. I have to assume that was likely not intended, but regardless, you have to have done something extremely right to be able to paint a mental picture like that.

That being said, when it comes to lyrics, I throw my hands in the air and declare that I am not remotely able to imagine the range of feelings that have been a part of making this album, yet the very thought that the writer and singer of these lines is not with us any longer gives them a poignancy that won’t fail to move you deeply. The lyrics are as delicately crafted as their delivery and would have been powerful on their own, but within such a context bring a truer, rawer edge to the dreamlike presentation of the whole album without erasing any of it. Yet, while the definite weight of the end is present throughout the record, it doesn’t shut out the light; quite the opposite. The last track, “Gallows Bird”, is again a perfect example to illustrate the point and as such, is one of the highlights of the album.

It would’ve been a terrible misfortune if this record had been left unreleased, and for that I give a big kudos to Svart Records for picking it up and my utmost respect for Raivio and rest of the band for pulling through. Hour of the Nightingale is a beautiful tribute, an homage to Aleah Stanbridge’s life and music, all the while being a touchingly beautiful album. And my, do we all need some comfort from the beauty in this world.

Rating: 9/10, 4.5 stars

Tracklist:
1. My Requiem
2. Eye of Night
3. Condemned to Silence (feat. Mick Moss of Antimatter)
4. A Million Tears
5. Hour of the Nightingale
6. The Passage
7. Broken Mirror
8. Black Ocean
9. Sinking Ships
10. Gallows Bird (feat. Nick Holmes of Paradise Lost)

Text: Lene L. | Ed: Amy Wiseman

ULI JON ROTH w/ MR. FASTFINGER & CRYSTAL BREED – Tavastia, Helsinki 31.10.2016

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Legendary ex-Scorpions guitarist and neo-classical metal pioneer Uli Jon Roth has never graced the Finnish soil with his presence before, but on October 31, 2016, he finally played his first show in Helsinki at Tavastia, supported by Crystal Breed and Mr. Fastfinger. To make the German guitar legend’s first visit to mainland Finland (he’d played in Mariehamn, Åland, 2 nights earlier) even more special, the show was advertised as part of the Tokyo Tapes Revisited tour, which celebrated the classic Scorpions live album from 1978. Who could say no to an event like that?

Listen to Uli Jon Roth’s setlist here:

2016-10-31-01-mr-fastfinger-tavastia-1The night was opened by Mr. Fastfinger aka Mika Tyyskä, who was familiar to me as the man behind several animated videos Dream Theater has used on screen while playing live. Based on his background and stage name, I had expected a total shredfest, but Tyyskä and co. surprised me with how dynamic their instrumental music was. There was plenty of groove and rock in the band’s playing, and while the songs were technical, they didn’t sound merely like a music academy graduates’ finger exercises. It’s quite telling that Tyyskä described one of the songs saying, “This is what it would sound like if Eddie Van Halen and Bruce Lee had a child!” He also used various guitar effects creatively and made his axe sound like a female Japanese vocalist on the last song. Bassist Lasse Rantanen, whom Tyyskä introduced as, “The most dangerous bassist in the world,” did a lot of the talking and looked like a true rockstar with his badass beard and stage moves. There was also a little screen that showed the animated adventures of Mr. Fastfinger – during the second song there was even a Guitar Hero-like game going on. All-in-all, the 30-minute instrumental performance was very entertaining, and I’d definitely go see Mr. Fastfinger again.

 

2016-10-31-02-crystal-breed-tavastia-5Next up was Crystal Breed from Hannover. This quartet played traditional progressive rock with a hint of heaviness, flashy playing, old-school keyboards, and lots of tempo changes. While the songwriting failed to convince me, the guys surely had chops, and they were visibly having tons of fun on stage. Bassist Nico Deppisch’s playing was pretty interesting though, so I was glad he got plenty of time to shine. I also thought he looked a bit like Niclas Etelävuori of Amorphis and Martin Mendez of Opeth – long black hair and beards seem to be the norm for bassists! At the beginning of the last song, the band tried to get the crowd to sing along to a wordless melody, with guys doing the lower harmony and girls singing the higher one. The combination of a Monday night, an audience that was waiting for the headliner, and typical Finnish reservedness was, as expected, not exactly a recipe for success, but you can’t blame the Germans for a lack of effort.

 

2016-10-31-03-uli-jon-roth-tavastia-2At 22:45, after a 15-minute delay, the righteous star of the night, Uli Jon Roth, finally arrived, and his band started off with “All Night Long.” A few hundred spectators were present, which was a decent showing at that time of the week. I noticed a lot of Scorpions T-shirts and a surprisingly high number of young(ish) people in the audience – evidently this was not just a concert for the fogies. You can imagine my confusion when I saw the musicians of Crystal Breed (with the exception of the drummer) on stage again. I hadn’t read about them before, so I didn’t realize they were in Uli’s backing band as well. There was also a third guitarist – I thought he’d be there to keep the rhythm guitar going underneath the lead guitar harmonies, but as it soon turned out, they all played 3-part harmonies. “More is more” was clearly the motto of the night, as also proven by the loud stage volume. I was wearing earplugs so it didn’t hurt my hearing, but I could feel the sheer pressure of the sound and see a guy covering his ears at a few points. Uli’s guitar was so high in the mix that it overshadowed his voice during “Sun in My Hand,” so turning it down just a little bit would’ve done no harm.

My favorite Scorpions songs were played early on in the set: “The Sails of Charon” got people moving and clapping, and “We’ll Burn the Sky” was met with a roar of approval. “In Trance” began with a gentle intro solo, and you could just get lost in the great atmosphere. Guitarist-vocalist Niklas Turmann was certainly no Klaus Meine, and he was off-key more than once, but he harmonized nicely with keyboardist Corvin Bahn. Though the focus was on Scorpions material, Roth sneaked in a couple of songs from his solo albums: “Just Another Rainbow” and “Starlight.” Luckily they meshed well with the Scorpions tunes and didn’t disrupt the flow of the set. For a 61-year-old, Uli is still in an amazing shape as a player, and his doubleneck guitar work on “Rainbow Dream Prelude” was so effortless that it sounded like two guitarists playing at the same time.

2016-10-31-03-uli-jon-roth-tavastia-14Unfortunately, a disastrous misstep took place in the middle of “I’ve Got to Be Free”, when Roth left the stage after his solo and every other member of the band – yes, everybody! – got their own solo spot. After the first couple of solos I thought “surely they’re not going to let everybody solo for a minute, right?” but unfortunately my fear came true, and the normally concise and rocking song was watered down completely. Uli came back for “Dark Lady”, but the damage had been done already: fatigue was starting to set in and after the overblown “I’ve Got to Be Free”, I was no longer in the mood for extended soloing and jamming.

The band gathered to take a bow, but instead of exiting and making the crowd chant and clap for more, they started an encore right away. “Yellow Raven” was a great rendition, but after that, the night came to an anticlimactic end with two Jimi Hendrix covers: “All Along the Watchtower” (originally recorded by recent Nobel winner Bob Dylan) and “Little Wing.” Honestly, this is the only time I’ve ever wondered “when will this end?” while watching a headlining band’s performance. To add insult to injury, I’d seen a recent setlist from Sweden that had included a second encore that consisted of more Scorpions tunes. Apparently they were dropped in Helsinki due to the late start, considering it was past midnight already. “Pictured Life” is a favorite of mine that I would’ve loved to hear, and the omission of “Catch Your Train” must’ve been a disappointment to the guy who had kept shouting the title of that song throughout the set. Nothing against Hendrix, but I’m sure everyone would’ve preferred to hear more songs that Roth had originally co-written and recorded.

2016-10-31-03-uli-jon-roth-tavastia-29Although the stage volume was outrageous and the momentum faded towards the end, it was still a pleasure to hear 70s hard rock classics performed by the influential guitarist behind them, especially when Scorpions rarely play anything from the Roth era. As 2016 has dourly taught us, veteran rockers are a dying breed, so you should see them while you still have the chance.

Text: Ville Karttunen | Photos: Janne Puronen | Ed: Amy Wiseman

ULI JON ROTH w/ MR. FASTFINGER & CRYSTAL BREED @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 31.10.2016

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Uli Jon Roth at Tavastia with Mr. Fastfinger and Crystal Breed, 2016.
Photos by Janne Puronen.
Gig report soon.

(2016) In Flames: Battles

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Artist: In Flames
Album: Battles
Released: 11.11.2016
Label: Nuclear Blast

 

In Flames, much like Sonata Arctica, have seen a great deal of rising and falling in their popularity of late, with fans largely divided between the first era (Lunar Strain from 1994 through Colony from 1999), the second era (Clayman from 2000 through A Sense of Purpose in 2008), and the modern era that starts with Sounds of a Playground Fading from 2011. Of course, there are those who cross the borders, but the old era, middle era, and modern era fans often seem pretty divided on their feelings these days.

This is maybe the generic path, but I discovered In Flames via “Only for the Weak”, and it was the first song with death metal growls that I fell in love with. Before In Flames, I didn’t consider growling to be a legitimate form of singing, but after that one song, I was a changed kid, and they’re on my list of favorite live bands, regardless of my feelings on their material. On the whole, I’m more of a song-enjoyer than an album-enjoyer when it comes to In Flames. While I’m not big on the first three albums, Whoracle and Colony have some great material, and if you want to put me in one of the eras, most of the IF music I like comes from the middle era, with songs like “Clayman,” “System,” “Evil in a Closet,” “Come Clarity,” and “Delight and Angers” ranking amongst the many, many In Flames tracks that are on my ‘favorites’ playlists. While the modern era has had its moments with songs like “Fear is the Weakness” and “Through Oblivion,” the newer material has, as a whole, failed to impress me. With two very different-sounding songs released in quick succession, I was curious to know what would fall in between the two extremes on Battles.

 

I really, really, really wanted to like this album. I came into it with the most open mind I could muster, however, I’m very sorry to admit that you In Flames fans from the older and middle eras are probably not going to be much more satisfied with this album than you were with Siren Charms or Sounds of a Playground Fading.

Why do I feel this way? Let’s put it this way – did you like “The End”? Cool, I agree. I think it’s one of the better songs on the album, which throws me back to A Sense of Purpose, which I think was the last truly decent In Flames album. However, there aren’t that many songs on the album that hit the standard “The End” set as a single. Did you like “The Truth”? If so, not to worry – that song is a rather good depiction of what the album will offer.

For me, I can’t say I was a big fan of “The Truth”, if I’m being honest. If “The End” was the track I immediately liked, “The Truth” is the one I’ve been largely unsure of. The repeated chanting of “We are, we are, we are” reminds me a great deal of “Youth of the Nation” by the now presumably long-forgotten Christian rock band, P.O.D. The choir of children is perhaps the largest factor preventing me from liking this song a bit more. I’m not exactly off-board (is that a thing?) with this song. I like the riffing, for example, but to tell the truth, the solo felt short and uninspired. “The End”, on the other hand, appealed to me because it reminds me of ASoP. While I have never much cared for children’s choirs, and I don’t understand why they sing the “when we were young” part of the song (they’re children – they’re already young…), I think the song as a whole is at least as good as the worst material on ASoP.

I’m not going to spend this whole review crapping on this album though. While I don’t think it’s a masterpiece, or that it’s even particularly progressive for the band, I do think it’s pretty okay throughout. It’s very consistently mediocre – there is nothing aurally offensive on this album (songs I considered offensive to the ear by In Flames include “The Attic” from SoaPF, so use that as your reference point as to whether or not you want to take me seriously). For one, it still feels like In Flames. It has those guitar lines and riffs that feel very… ‘In Flames.’ It’s familiar in a good way. I do think it’s an improvement over Siren Charms.

However, Anders Fridén is singing either as much or more as he is growling these days, still. So it could be true – the proper heavy, growly era of In Flames may be over. As well, there are nearly no interesting solos on the album, and the drumming often feels straight-up lazy. With regard to that last comment, it’s the destroyer of a few songs. Take “Before I Fall” for example – you couldn’t call the song slow or lazy, but the drums are holding it back. The vibe is there and yet lacking, but if you kicked some oomph into the drumming, the song would be so much better. It would take so little to up this from an okay album to a pretty good one, it seems.

The ballad on the album, “Here Until Forever,” is a good depiction of the problem with this album – have you ever heard some music that you’d like to label as good, but it doesn’t hold to the standard of the band that made it? An example that pops to mind is The Unforgiving by Within Temptation – a catchy pop-metal album, but nothing compared to the previous two incredible symphonic/Gothic albums. I wouldn’t call it bad, but when you compare it to the band’s truly great material, it’s just… blah. If it had come from a different band that’s known for a different style, it might be okay, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. “Here Until Forever” has a very similar melody to “Drown” by Bring Me the Horizon – a song that I love – but a BMtH-style song from In Flames? It really doesn’t work.

As a further rundown of a few of the other songs, “Drained” starts the album off in a decent manner. It’s certainly not the weirdest song on the album, but it ultimately ends up being a little too safe and has a bit of that lazy drumming I mentioned.”Through My Eyes” has the thrashiest, old-school In Flames sound in the verses, but it doesn’t last through the chorus – oldschool fans might have some hope with this one. “Battles” feels for me like a mix of experimental new sounds and middle era older sounds. It’s a bit weird that the album’s title track is the one song that clocked in under 3 minutes in length. It manages to be quite catchy but still have some good melodies and some very strictly ‘In Flames’ -sounding bits. I can easily see people’s reactions to this song being quite divided – I like it. It’s a bit of a bummer then that probably the best and most ‘In Flames-y’ song on the album is the last track, “Save Me.” It’s one of the only songs with proper drumming and the melody is good. Just when the album finally gets good, it ends.

 

Overall, while I do feel as though the absence of Jesper Stromblad‘s (guitar) influence is still quite evident in the songwriting, they do seem to have taken a half step back towards the late 2000s and a half step forward beyond what they did with Siren Charms. I can’t complain too much about what I would consider to be a positive progression in many senses. They’re still experimenting with their sound, but have bridged the gap between the middle and modern eras a bit with this album. While I want to be positive about this album though, Battles still lacks the hard-hitting heavy hits that made In Flames what they are. The album is mellow and decent, but they break no new ground, invent no new wheels, nor are there any instant hits – if you liked Siren Charms though, I’m sure you’ll find very little fault in Battles. I’ve yet to decide if there are any/many hits at all, but that remains to be seen after many more listen-throughs. And, if nothing else, these guys are still a great live show!

Rating: 6.5/10 or 3 stars.

Tracklist:
1. Drained
2. The End
3. Like Sand
4. The Truth
5. In My Room
6. Before I Fall
7. Through My Es
8. Battles
9. Here Until Forever
10. Underneath My Skin
11. Wallflower
12. Save Me

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In Flames, Tuska 2015

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Mika Tauriainen (Entwine), 2016

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One can never complain when an old favorite band comes back after a hiatus with brilliant new material, nor can they complain when said band performs club gigs in their home town three times within the year since its release! Entwine’s 2015 album, Chaotic Nation was a staff favorite, and we’ve been enjoying their shows ever since its release, so it was only natural for us to get the playlist of vocalist Mika Tauriainen’s life to share with you!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
There are many, but the first that really, really hit was Europe’s “Final Countdown.” I was 9, I think. Some of you weren’t even alive at that time [laughs].

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
It was “The Final Countdown.” I was like, “what the fuck is this!?” I was a kid and I was like [hums the riff]. I think that’s probably the song.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
There are so many songs… Iron Maiden, Yngwie Malmsteen, Helloween… probably the Iron Maiden album, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son or Somewhere in Time.

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
Maybe if we say the band or thing that got me singing, it was probably Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, all of the grunge stuff that was going on. That day I had to start to sing, because I played drums for 4-5 years before I started to sing, but those were probably the reasons I started to sing.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
Those are the worst! The last one that I remember that was 2 days ago… Kaija Koo. It just popped into my ear and I was like, “Oh no, not this one!” I don’t remember the song right now, thank God, but that’s the latest, I think.

2016.05.13 02 Entwine (04) @ Virgin Oil Co6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Oh, now we’re going into the dark area. The skeletons from the closet. Nowadays or when I was younger… there were a lot of things. Nowadays… I don’t know, I like every kind of music nowadays. It’s very hard to say. Nothing comes to my mind. Of course when I was a teenager I liked to go to the discos. I was a dancer. With my friend, we didn’t drink, we went there to dance for 4-5 hours. During that time, there was some Ace of Base… the sweet stuff [laughs]. Those are the things, but those were the early days.

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force. I bought it from Sweden. It was a casette, because I thought that guy was playing in Europe [laughs]. I thought he was the other guitarist from Europe and I bought it and I was like, “Okay fuck, this is not him,” but I started to like it [laughs].

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
This is so hard… probably some Ellie Goulding. I’ve been listening to a lot of female artists for the past 3-4 years. Something from her, I think.

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Korn – “Narcissistic Cannibal.” That’s good.

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Some song from Vangelis, from the album Oceanic or Voices. Something from there.

DARK TRANQUILLITY – Mikael Stanne, 2016

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Dark Tranquillity @ Gefle Metal Festival, 2016

Founded around the start of the 90s in Gothenburg, alongside the likes of In Flames and At the Gates, Dark Tranquillity are still going strong. The Swedish melodic death metal pioneers are releasing their 11th opus, Atoma, on the 4th of November, so we called up frontman Mikael Stanne to chat about the new album, line-up changes, the current state of the world, as well as his passion for progressive rock.

 

First of all, congratulations on your new album, Atoma.
Hey, cool, thank you. Thank you.

I think it’s your best since Fiction, actually.
Holy shit, wow, all right. That means a lot, man. Thank you!

So, let’s talk about the lyrics.
Okay, yes.

On Construct you wrote about themes like the irrationality of religion. What kinds of topics did you want to tackle this time around?
Well, there’s a little bit of that here too, I would say [laughs].

It’s a timeless topic.
Definitely, definitely. Until we get rid of it. Not anytime soon, I guess. But there’s a lot of other things. For me, I wanted to tackle some of the stuff that I’ve been seeing lately, like in the world and especially here in Sweden, like how everyday, normal people have – because of what’s going on in the world and how we actually need to respond to it all of a sudden – resorted to some kind of fear. Fear of other cultures, fear of other kinds of people, this kind of… I don’t know, like this big fear of having something change, just a little bit. Because, I guess you know… are you Finnish?

Yes.
So you know the kind of immigration crisis and all of that.

Yeah, yeah.
That’s been going on. It is an issue, definitely, all over Europe. But it’s not really about that. I mean, for me, what fascinated me… as much as you try to help out and feel for people who need our help, what fascinated me and what really scared me was how people react to it, how they deal with it. All of a sudden, people really, really need help. They need your empathy and sympathy and they need a helping hand in order to get them through a crisis like nothing we could ever even imagine in our lives, because obviously we haven’t seen anything like this. Nothing even close to this here. So all of a sudden, this comes close. All this stuff that we’ve only seen on TV and it’s on the other side of the screen, it’s on the other side of the world, it’s not our problem, let them solve it, that kind of thing. All of a sudden, it’s getting closer. People just freak out about it.

Immediately, you started seeing these right-wing weird thoughts and movements rise and without at all resorting to any kind of politics, I just figured, what’s going on? What’s going on in the minds of people who cannot walk around with this suppressed hate, but maybe they never say anything but all of a sudden just start voting a certain way or start expressing themselves, maybe online, maybe in a closed-off forum or something like that. You put some comment on Twitter. Whatever. What’s going on there? Where is all this hatred coming from and where is all this fear coming from?

I guess we’re just basically very territorial and this kind of tribal instinct that it’s us against them, it’s always ‘we are the good ones and the other guys on the other side of the road are weird.’ Or the other side of the city is weird, or the other side of the border, those are the bad guys and we are the good guys. That kind of thing. Why are we still like that? It seems like a very archaic kind of behavior. We don’t need that anymore. The world is so open, it’s so free, we have everything we need, and we have more than we’ll ever need, so we can help out. We can support our fellow man, whatever [laughs]. You’re just like, oh, all of a sudden, you go like, “Maybe I don’t want to share. Maybe I don’t want to help out, because maybe that will change a bit of my mundane existence. I want…” That kind of thing. That was something that really frustrated me and made me super angry and just… I don’t know, you just want to… you lose hope for humanity, when you see that kind of thing. Obviously, you see the other side as well, where people are doing incredible stuff just to help people, but that wasn’t really my focus.

So stuff like that has fueled my frustration as I started writing and putting together material for the album, so that was one part of it. Also, how do we deal with what’s going on in the world? How do we explain that to our kids? How do we make sense of it? Is there a way to make sense of it and how come we don’t really understand what’s going on fundamentally, and then all of a sudden we’re back to religion, I guess, and conviction and belief systems.

Yeah, I’ve noticed those same things going on in Finland as well.
Oh yeah, I know about that too. Really, really strange. It’s just… I don’t know, maybe very human in a way? I guess what I’m looking for is that we should be bigger and better than that? We should see past all our little… all the worst sides of humanity. We should go like, “Okay, I realize how I sometimes feel, but that’s not how I should act. Maybe that’s how I feel fundamentally, but let’s change that in order to be a better person and be a better human being, instead of embracing that fear and hatred and intolerance.” It’s kind of sad. It’s a strange world we’re living in. Of course I realize that. I’m not going to change shit. I’m not going to do anything about it. But the only thing that I know will make me feel a little bit better is to write and scream about it.

It’s great that you can express your feelings that way.
Yeah, it’s insignificant and it’s kind of pointless in the grand scheme of things, but what can I do?

http://i1.wp.com/www.musicalypse.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/2016.06.24-06-Dark-Tranquillity-09-@-Nummirock.jpg?fit=900%2C598

Nummirock 2016

Martin Henriksson dropped quite the bomb when he quit the band suddenly. What was it like to work without him for the first time? And on the other hand, what did Anders Iwers bring to the table as a new member?
It was weird not having Martin around. I guess, looking back at it, it already started on Construct. He felt like he didn’t really have anything to contribute and he was kind of frustrated and he wanted to write but he just couldn’t; there was something blocking him and he just didn’t feel good about it. So Anders Jivarp [drums] picked up the slack and started writing way more than he normally does, which was great. So in terms of the actual songwriting, it didn’t change much from Construct.

So when Martin told us that he wanted to leave, we already had more than the songs for the album, actually – we had like fifteen songs already or something like that – and I guess he just felt frustrated. He was like, “I’m not into it. I don’t feel like I can contribute anything.” It didn’t feel creative, because his mind was already somewhere else. That somewhere else is actually just everything else that has to do with the band. He is the manager, he is the guy who controls all the income and outcome, and travel arrangements, and all that stuff. That’s what he wants to do. That’s what he’s so great at. I guess he just lost focus on playing guitar and just focused on being the best manager he can be and now that would be all he’s doing. He’s really happy with that and I guess we’re still trying to figure out where to go next, but it was weird.

It didn’t change anything, when it comes to the music on the album. Niklas [Sundin, guitar] recorded all the guitars, even for Construct, so this was kind of like the same process, but it of course, we felt it. Like, emotionally and in terms of the mood of the recording and all that stuff, obviously. Just having him leave really put us in a different spirit and I guess we second-guessed ourselves and we tried to figure out what the hell is wrong and how come he doesn’t feel it, maybe I’m not feeling it, that kind of thing. But in the end, I think it motivated us as well. It made us really make sure that this album should be everything that we are and more. Of course, it did help having Anders Iwers in the band. He’s such a creative and great force and such a cool guy and an old good friend of ours. Just having him around made it so much easier to deal with as well. So that really did help.

It must be cool to have Martin around, even though he’s not in the band anymore.
Oh yeah. I mean, we are in contact every single day, just figuring things out and booking shows and stuff.

You released “The Pitiless” as the first single, the title track as the second, and I’ve heard that “Forward Momentum” will be the third. Who chose these singles? Is it the label or did you have any effect on it?
No, we talk with the label about all those things and come up with something that we’re all satisfied with. I think it was said that maybe “The Pitiless” is a good first song because it’s reminiscent of what we’re known for, I guess. It has all the elements of a traditional Dark Tranquillity song, so to speak. Then “Atoma” is just a song that we felt really strongly about. We were so happy with the way that it came out. It’s such a straightforward song with such a carved-out melody and all that kind of stuff. So we were really happy about that. Then once we decided on a video, we wanted a totally different video and something that had a different vibe, so we felt like “Forward Momentum” was a great song for that, so that video is coming out the day after tomorrow, on Friday [ed: the interview was conducted on 19.10.2016; the video can be viewed here]. We just finished it. It was made by Vesa Ranta, the old drummer from Sentenced. He shot and edited it, so I met up with him up in way, way north of Sweden, up in Abisko, which is a beautiful, beautiful place. We shot there for a couple days with an all-Finnish crew, all from Oulu, and it was really, really cool. It looks fantastic, and it’s a really different video; something that we certainly haven’t done before, and it required a lot of things that I’ve never seen in a video, so it’s really, really cool.

Yeah, I saw some of the photos from the video shoot and they looked pretty cool.
I think you’ll like it! It’s a really cool video. I’m really, really proud of it and happy that we did something, we managed to put together something that is… just totally outside of the normal metal norm, I think.

2016-dark-tranquillity-atoma-press-promo-photos-3
Atoma promo photos

“Clearing Skies” is one of the most interesting songs on the album, in my opinion. It’s not a very typical Dark Tranquillity song, so what’s the story behind it and who wrote it?
Most of the stuff, I think, is Anders, and I think Martin Brändström wrote some parts of it too. I’m not really sure. I mix that up all the time. It was a song that we worked on a lot. Like, it’s one of those that we knew had some great riffs in there, we had a great hook-line, I knew the chorus… I was really happy with it, and we had a totally different idea in the mind at first and then we changed it as the studio session went on. I think emotionally it’s a very powerful song and lyrically it’s basically about being afraid of the fact that you need to tell the people around you, people you care for and people you love, what is actually going on. Dropping an information bomb somehow. It could either be telling your kids the realities of life or it’s telling someone you care about that you need to leave, or something like that. Or you just get out of someone’s life or move on or stuff like that. Big decisions like that. Just… information dumps. I think that was something that formed that song and I think it became really great. I love it. One of my favorite songs.

I’m also intrigued by the title of “Merciless Fate” – is that an intentional tribute to Mercyful Fate?
Of course [laughs]. I couldn’t help myself. I was writing the song and normally what I do is I record an early demo of a song. As soon as I hear the song for the first time, I immediately record a rough vocal demo of it. Just my instincts, just record whatever feels right on that first listen-through or I listen to the song first and then I go like, “Okay, got it, I know the basic structure of the song,” and then I record whatever feels right. Sometimes you make up words, sometimes you just sing a bullshit lyric, and sometimes some words stick in there and ‘merciless fate’ was one of those things. It’s just something that I maybe used before in lyrics or something similar, and it just felt right and I stuck with it and I guess it’s about the inevitable nature of things.

We have this tendency as human beings to see patterns in everything. If something happens and something else happens, you always say, “Oh, there has to be a correlation between one of those, because I always get a little bit cold just before I have to travel somewhere.” That kind of thing. Just because it happens once, it doesn’t meant it’s a pattern. All that kind of stuff. But it’s confirmation bias and it’s something that’s just fundamentally human but it’s also something that we should aspire to get away from, because it’s not helping at all. It’s just bordering on pseudoscience. Of course, this goes back to the old tried and true formula of talking about how religion destroys everything and as much as you like to believe that there’s something after your time is over here on the planet earth, well, there is nothing else. How can we have such a hard time dealing with facts? How come the truth is so much harder than fiction? That kind of thing. No matter how hard you try, ehhh, you’ll eventually end up in the same place as everyone else.

That’s a grand topic, for sure.
Yeah, and I’m totally fine with that. I like that. I was talking to an American journalist yesterday, and he was stunned. He was like, “Whoa, what do you mean? Are you saying you’re an atheist or something like that?” I was like, “Yeah, that’s what I’m saying.” [laughs] But he was like, “Don’t you think that there’s something else out there?” I said, “No, I don’t.” “Then what’s the point?” “It’s what you make of it. That’s the point. You do your best, you try to figure your own path out, not have some 3000-year-old book tell you what to do.” “But the rules are rules!” He was very frustrated. I didn’t have the heart to go at him. I was just trying to be nice. I said, “This is the way I’m brought up. I’m Scandinavian, excuse me,” that kind of thing. It was strange. I basically told him, I’m totally happy with this. I’m fine with that. I don’t actually understand why anyone needs the comfort of a fairytale to make them feel easier about themselves.

http://i0.wp.com/www.musicalypse.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/2016.06.24-06-Dark-Tranquillity-11-@-Nummirock.jpg?fit=900%2C598

Nummirock 2016

The bonus tracks are also pretty interesting. Have you ever thought about starting a side project where you only sing with clean vocals, as you certainly have the voice for that?
Well thanks, but no, I really have… not seriously, anyway. I kind of love doing these things, and we all love doing these really different songs, just because we can and we feel that it’s a challenge, but it’s also a creative outlet, to do something that is far from what we normally do, you know? With these songs, we realized early on when we were writing that, okay, these are pretty special songs and I recorded some of the vocal lines early on for demos and we thought, okay, these are good, strong songs, but maybe not something that is a part of the album. Early this year, we decided on what songs out of these twenty or something that we had were going to end up on the album. We said, these are the twelve songs, let’s go for it. That’s there. Then we had these two songs that we were like, okay, if we have time, if the album recording goes well, everything is done by the deadline, then we might have some more time to just record these two songs as well, just as a bonus track if someone needs it, and normally there are certain territories like Japan and whatever that need some extra tracks just to fight global imports, that kind of stuff.

Most of the album was done and we were totally exhausted and burnt out. We figured, okay, let’s record these songs, but let’s try something else. There’s no way we can just keep doing the same thing. That would be boring. So we asked a guy who works right next door to us. Martin Brändström [keyboards] has a studio here in town, but it’s a complex of studios – there are four or five studios under the same roof, so to speak – and one of the guys is just a fascinating dude. He’s this really retro-loving, crazy, mad-scientist kind of guy, so whenever I look into his studio, there are just stacks of old tape recorders and analogue reverbs and delay effects and tape reverbs, things like that. All this analogue equipment that’s so fascinating. Stuff that I remember from childhood, stuff that I’ve only seen in documentaries, things like that. It’s really, really cool. He’s just like a mad dude, and we asked him, “Do you want to produce two songs for us?” and he was like, “I’ve never done metal before. I’ve only done synth and indie rock and stuff like that, but I’ll give it a go.” We said, “Okay, let’s do it! No pressure, do your worst, do your best,” and we said to each other, “Hey, if it works out, fine, if it doesn’t, we blame him and we don’t release it,” [laughs] and he was fine with that too.

So this was just an experiment and for people who know the band, we have never used a producer in any proper sense before. All the albums we made have always been recorded by us. We’ve always had the final say on everything when it comes to the recording and what goes into it and what ends up on tape, but then we’ve always had someone else handle the mix, because that’s the one part that we cannot do, not good enough. This was the first time where we left the decision-making to someone else that we barely knew. Just some cool guy that we could have a beer with sometime. It was great! All of a sudden we could relax and for 2 days, we transformed our studio into some kind of retro museum of old equipment and we started recording and since there was no pressure at all, we just wanted to make the best songs possible, but other than that we were like, “We’ll leave it in your hands. If you feel it’s good, then it’s good. Fine.” It was so liberating! It made for a really, really cool recording experience, actually. Something we have kind of been dreading all these years, and now it turned out – especially for songs like this – it was a blast! I think they sound incredibly cool. I love the sounds of it. You can tell there’s a Leslie piano that Martin plays that runs through a distortion pedal and goes through a cool reverb effect. Just some crazy stuff that sounds so different from anything else that we’ve done and again, we had a blast.

We also realized that these two songs are not really what the Atoma album is about, so therefore we kind of joked that they are so different that they need a different piece of plastic when it comes to packaging. So therefore those two songs will only be available on the deluxe version of the CD. It’s only there that you can get those two songs, actually. So for collectors and people who love physical products, and of course the deluxe edition also includes some of the coolest artwork that Niklas had done… it’s a beautiful, huge box with all the lyrics and tons of extra artwork that represent all the different songs and shit. Of course, my dream is always that people listen to it that way, the old way, where you sit down and open up the lyric sheet and you read through it as you listen to the album and you look at all the artwork and all that stuff. I know I’m just an old man dreaming, but that would be nice.

Before we have to call it a day, I want to ask you about the recent Instagram post that you made. You said you were going to see King Crimson for the first time live – what was that like?
Oh fuck, it was fantastic! It was an absolute dream come true for me. It’s one of my favorite bands and I’ve never seen them, so I bought tickets… what was it, 8 months ago or something like that? Just ridiculous! It was the day of the release, and then of course they announced 1 month later that they would actually play Sweden too, but I had to go to Copenhagen. Which was not bad – it’s pretty close and fantastic. It was beautiful. Almost 3.5 hours of incredible musicianship and amazing songs. It was super inspiring, so it was great. So many people from Sweden were there. I was there with Anders and Jonas Björler from At the Gates and Daniel Ekeroth, who writes metal books and plays, and then our old guitar player, Fredrik, who played on The Gallery and The Mind’s I and Projector. I went with him, and I remember I was with him when he got a tattoo, like in ’85, of the Discipline album cover, so he’s a hardcore fan as well. It was cool. One of the highlights of the concert year for me, for sure.

You also seemed to be excited about the new Marillion and Kansas albums – what are your thoughts on those?
I am, too! Kansas was pretty good, I thought. It’s fun to hear and it’s been one of those classic progressive rock bands that I really love. I love the old albums and actually maybe we’ll be able to see them when we go to the US in the next couple of weeks, because they’re going to be touring. They’re going to do the whole Leftoverture album, so hey-o! That’s awesome, so maybe I’ll get to see them.

Marillion has been my favorite band forever and I always follow them and I’ve been a true supporter, always paying for their albums a month in advance and I try to go to see them whenever I can. They’re also on tour in America but I figured out there’s no way I get to see them. They’re playing like 2 days before I arrive in New York, aww fuck.

Too bad.
Yeah, but they’re coming here. I know they always do, so it’s going to be amazing. And the new album is, oh, fucking phenomenal. I think they’re in a new era of their music. I think with Sounds That Can’t Be Made and this… they’re better than ever, in my opinion.

Are you coming to Finland next year, maybe?
Without a doubt. We’re already planning it. It’s going to happen. I think it’s going to be late January, early February, something like that. That’s when it’s going to happen.

All right! I hope to see you there.
Absolutely! Cheers, man!

Text: Ville Karttunen | Photos: Musicalypse; Century Media promo photo by Dirk Behlau | Ed: Amy Wiseman

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE: Anna Murphy, Merlin Sutter, Ivo Henzi (Cellar Darling, ex-Eluveitie), 2016

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Though these bands have certainly kept their affairs private, many people were heartbroken to see Eluveitie split down the middle. Merlin Sutter, Anna Murphy, and Ivo Henzi have now separated from the band and gone on to form Cellar Darling, a name that I can only presume comes from Anna Murphy’s 2013 solo album, Cellar Darling. With a new single out in September, “Challenge”, the band is winning over the hearts of the divided fans. We’ve managed to get all three of them to share the playlists of their lives with you today!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
Anna: Probably some kind of opera. My parents are both opera singers, so I hung out in theaters pretty much after having emerged from the womb. 😉

Merlin: “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” by Iron Butterfly. Yes, my dad had (and still has) long hair.

Ivo: Probably some classical music my parents listened to.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
Anna: “Bitter Sweet Symphony” by The Verve. My dad made a tape of that song for me when I was a kid and it’s the only thing I listened to on repeat for at least a year.

Merlin: “Freedom” by DJ Bobo.

Ivo: “Every Breath You Take” by The Police.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Anna: “Hexagram” by the Deftones.

Merlin: Dream Theater – Scenes From a Memory (I used to listen to this album as one song).

Ivo: “What’s My Age Again” by Blink 182.

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
Anna: When I was in 6th grade my math teacher played Limp Bizkit during classes and that probably paved the path. One or two years later I got into extreme metal by discovering Darkthrone.

Merlin: Dream Theater. Then Slipknot – “People = Shit”.

Ivo: Slipknot and Iron Maiden were my entry to metal music, while Dissection was my first extreme metal band.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
Anna: “Lore” by the band Elder.

Merlin: “Hurts” by Emili Sandé.

Ivo: “Depravity Favours the Bold” by Anaal Nathrakh.

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Anna: “Locked out of Heaven” by Bruno Mars. I don’t feel guilty for listening to it, it’s simply just a good song, but some of my friends are weirded out by it. 😉

Merlin: You name it. I love nearly all types of music, but particularly female pop singers, for some reason. Beyoncé, Taylor Swift…

Ivo: “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” by Fall Out Boy.

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Anna: I don’t remember the very first one, but I bought the Braveheart soundtrack at a very young age. I listened to it so many times that it looks like it was run over by a truck…

Merlin: A Bravo Hits tape. I don’t remember which issue, there were many.

Ivo: Looking for Freedom by David Hasselhoff.

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Anna: “Lights” by Archive

Merlin: “Hollow Years” by Dream Theater. Ideally in the ‘Live at Budokan’ version.

Ivo: “All I Know” by Karnivool.

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Anna: “Sirens” by Coroner.

Merlin: “Wanted Dead or Alive” by Bon Jovi.

Ivo: “Self Esteem” by The Offspring.

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Anna: “Blue” by Eiffel 65 or the Chicken Song (or both)

Merlin: Anything by Queen.

Ivo: “United” by Decapitated

 

Check out their music video for “Challenge” here:

Or try the audio-only version of “Fire, Wind, & Earth” here:

TAMPERE BLACK MASS II @ Yo-talo, Tampere, 21-22.10.2016

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Tampere Black Mass II at Yo-talo in Tampere, 2016.
Photos by Marco Manzi. More available HERE!

TAYLOR DAVIS – Taylor Davis, 2016

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At this point, you may or may not have seen the odd post on Musicalypse regarding Taylor Davis, an American violinist who has made a name for herself on YouTube. With her European tour starting just last night, we thought it was fitting to share an interview we did with her, regarding working on YouTube, her new album, and more! Do check it out!

 

You’ve shared your journey about your career on YouTube in one of your vlogs and you talked about the high and low points in your life; if we’re being more specific, what were some of the best and worst moments of your journey, and how did you deal with or react to them?
There have definitely been a lot of highs and lows along the way! I think that’s something that makes this kind of career difficult, but of course also interesting. The first time I ever did one of my own live shows, that was so exciting. It wasn’t a huge show and it didn’t sell out or anything, but just being able to perform my own show for a crowd of people who actually knew who I was and enjoyed the music I was performing was such an amazing feeling. Low points happen all the time, and I try not to focus on them too much but I’ve had a lot of disappointments along the way, mainly in the form of people making promises that didn’t end up coming through, people trying to use me, and people being dishonest and telling lies to me and about me. No matter how many times those things happen, they’re never easy to deal with, but I’ve had a lot of those experiences at this point so I know how to deal with them in a better way now than I did when I was first starting out!

Are there any songs that you’ve tried to learn and failed because they are too difficult/they don’t translate well to the key range the violin covers? Are there any songs you wanted to learn but didn’t bother trying because it was too daunting?
There have been songs that I’ve thought would be fun to try on the violin that ended up not really translating well. I think the songs that sound best on the violin need to have a strong melodic line, otherwise it can be hard to make a nice arrangement out of it. I always like trying a song, even if I know it’s going to be very difficult. That being said, I have tried playing many classical songs that I’ve never practiced long enough to feel comfortable performing. I really respect classical music and like incorporating it in my practice routines, but I don’t have the passion or the patience for what it would take to actually be a great performer of that type of music.

What was your favorite video to film? Which was the toughest video to film (weather, etc.)?
I loved filming the video for one of my original songs called “Hidden Falls.” The weather was great, the hikes to the waterfalls were a lot of fun, and it was really just a nice, easy shoot in beautiful scenery! One of the toughest ones was my video for “Gerudo Valley.” We almost had to stop filming because it was so uncomfortably cold, even though you can’t really tell that from the video since it’s brightly and warmly colored. I love that video though so I’m glad we powered through!

Which was your favorite outfit from your videos? Do you design and/or make them yourself, or does someone help out?
I had a lot of fun wearing the Sheik costume for two videos [“Bolero of Fire” and “Song of Time & Song of Storms“]. I borrowed that from a very talented cosplayer named Seifer-Sama. Sometimes I borrow costumes from cosplayers, and other times I’ll purchase a costume from somewhere online. Other times, when I’m not going for a cosplay look, I’ll just try and find some unique pieces on Etsy or other sites online. The outfit from my latest video, “Wilderness”, is pieced together from so many different places. I got the faux fur hood from a site called Spirit Hoods and also the skirt from Etsy both about 2 years ago and was just waiting for the right video to wear those, and then the top, boots, and leggings were all from different places too. Sometimes when I have some down time I’ll just browse all sorts of stores online for cool pieces that fit my style and I’ll just hold on to them until the right video comes along!

I imagine that you’re more interested in working on new songs these days, but if you were going to go back and rerecord and do a new video for a song, which one would it be?
That’s a tough question! I think it would be fun to maybe do something a little more special for the Skyrim Theme since that video ended up being popular despite the more basic style.

Our parents’ generation is often a little behind the times technologically speaking – how do your parents feel about you being a YouTube star?
I’m very blessed because my parents are both really supportive of it! My mom has always been my #1 fan when it comes to my music and she is so happy that all those years of encouragement and violin lessons are paying off, haha! When I first started posting on YouTube almost 6 and a half years ago, I had graduated college and was working a business day job, and I had no idea YouTube could turn into a full-time career. When my following started growing and I saw an opportunity for this to turn into something more than a hobby, I told my parents I wanted to quit my day job and work on my music full-time to see if this could become my career. My dad was apprehensive since it’s obviously not a traditional career path, but now he’s so interested in the business aspect of what I do and he’s so supportive and proud of what this has turned into so I’m grateful that both of my parents kept an open mind about it.

Are there any dark sides to working on YouTube? For example, commentor trolls, etc?
Absolutely. Of course the negative comments and trolls come with the territory and are some things that you have to learn to deal with, even though it does hurt your feelings. As much as I love what I do, I’d be lying if I said this was a perfect job and that I loved everything about it. It takes a thick skin and a strong sense of self to put yourself and your art out there in the world for people to judge. With how social the internet has become, everyone has the ability to share their opinion about everything now. I’m grateful that in most ways, because the reason I was able to turn this into a career was because of all the wonderful and positive people who watched my videos, shared what I was doing, made nice comments to encourage me to stick with it, etc. But of course the downside is that it also leaves the door open for mean people to say whatever nasty things they want about you. Now that I’ve achieved a certain level of success, I always have a constant stream of people who are sharing their opinion, both good and bad, about what they think of me all over these different social media sites. I’m fortunate because my audience is so positive, but I still do get mean comments every day and they still sometimes hurt.

It can also feel overwhelming to have so many voices talking at you every day, whether they’re good or bad. Despite the fact that I chose to pursue a career that is fairly dependent on social media, I’m actually pretty introverted and still don’t feel comfortable with all the attention, so I’ve really had to work hard to adapt to that because I want to have a connection with my fans even though it feels unnatural for me sometimes. There’s also so much about my career that not many people can relate to, and while sometimes those are the things that make it so unique and special, there have also been a lot of times where I’ve felt very lonely and isolated because a lot of people can’t relate to this.

Do you have any career goals, or any specific things you’d like to achieve?
Nothing too specific, I’d just love to continue my career as a musician for as long as I can. I hope that I keep enjoying what I’m doing and that my fans will also continue to enjoy what I’m making!

 

It might be hard to describe with instrumental music, but what sorts of things inspire you to write your own music?
I really like to write music that makes me feel something emotionally. A lot of the time, I like to write songs that make me feel positive or inspired, and that’s a huge theme on my latest album. Everyone has hardships and trials to deal with in life, and I love hearing from fans who have told me that my music has helped them emotionally through a difficult time. When I was going through a few difficult years dealing with bullying and depression when I was younger, I looked for ways to escape and found a lot of peace through video games and music. The fact that some people tell me that my music is that peace that is helping them through a difficult time is so meaningful to me because I know how that feels. I will feel so happy if my music is able to help anyone in a positive way.

On the new album, do any of the songs have specific feelings or meanings or themes that are associated with any of the songs?
I named a few of the songs after images that I envisioned when listening to them, but I try not to be too specific because I know that some people will envision and feel completely different emotions when listening to the same songs, and I think that’s really neat! I love that about instrumental music. One of the songs is called “Hunter’s Frontier” after my dog, Hunter, that I lost in February to cancer, but I think it’s the happiest song on the album because he was honestly the sweetest and happiest animal, so I wanted his memory to live on like that.

I know you’re going to be quite busy on the tour, but did you consider at all trying to do any filming while you are touring (for an upcoming song, for example)?
No sadly, with my schedule we’re usually doing 5-6 shows in a row in different countries each night, and our “day off” is generally a full travel day to a new country so there’s not enough time to get any filming in on tour.

What aspects of touring Europe are you looking forward to revisiting?
The audiences are so amazing and have such a great energy so I’m really looking forward to that!

What new experiences are you looking most forward to on the expanded tour?
I’ll be visiting a lot of new cities this time, and some new countries too, so that’s always exciting! A lot of the venues this time are larger, so there will be even more people at the shows too, which should be fun.

 

What are some of your favorite YouTube channels to follow?
I love 2Cellos, The Piano Guys, Kurt Hugo Schneider, Lindsey Stirling, and Peter Hollens.

At this point in time, what is your favorite: game, song, show, movie, anime, band?
Game: Final Fantasy VII
Song: “New Life” by Thomas Bergersen
Show: Game of Thrones
Movie: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Anime: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Band: Collective Soul

Any final words?
Just a huge thank-you to all my fans who have supported me since I started my career in music about 6 and a half years ago! I wouldn’t be here without you and can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!

(2016) Dark Tranquillity: Atoma

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Artist: Dark Tranquillity
Album: Atoma
Released: 04.11.2016
Label: Century Media

 

I still remember it as if it were yesterday: about 9 years ago, I had received a bunch of Dark Tranquillity songs to listen to from a friend of mine. I was a huge fan of In Flames at the time, and I had got the notion that Dark Tranquillity would be to In Flames what our own Norther was to Children of Bodom: like a little brother following in their big brother’s footsteps. I knew that this probably wouldn’t be the case, but still, for some reason, I took my time pressing the play button for the first time. The first song on the playlist was “Dry Run” from DT’s 2005 Character album, and the immediate thought that popped into my head was to question everything that I’d done with the time given to me before that point. A passionate relationship between me and Dark Tranquillity began, and since then I’ve regarded Dark Tranquillity as one of the best metal bands out there. While their fellow countrymen from In Flames lost their way completely on their 2007 album, A Sense of Purpose, Dark Tranquillity has managed to keep their output at an incredibly high-level of quality since Fiction, released that same year.

 

The year is late 2016, and Dark Tranquillity is to release their 11th album, Atoma, in a few weeks. It’s been over 3 years since their latest effort, Construct, saw the light of day. Having never been a band that repeats itself, it was still difficult to try to predict the direction Mikael Stanne (guitar, vocals) and the others had taken this time. After the almost industrial-sounding 2010 album, We Are the Void, Construct was a bit slower and, well, more tranquil than their previous work. I loved Construct – it was a really mature album from a finely matured band. With Atoma, I feel as though the band has taken a good look at their back catalog and cherry-picked all the best parts from Haven (2000), Character, Fiction, We Are the Void, and Construct.

The album’s opener, “Encircled,” begins with a short intro passage before changing to full speed, and is probably the band’s fastest opening track since Character’s “The New Build”, but stylistically leaning towards the more industrially-spiced sound of the last two albums, definitely helping fans feel right at home. A great prelude to the title track indeed – did you love “Misery’s Crown”? “Atoma” is a spiritual successor to the Fiction hit, and if there’s any sanity left in the world, it’ll be an instant live favorite. The song also features Mikael Stanne’s clean singing voice – what’s always been great about Dark Tranquillity is that, while Stanne may not have the strongest of clean voices out there, the band has had the courage to utilize it to its full extent, delivering beautiful contrast to his harsh vocals, which are as dry and ripping as ever.

“Forward Momentum” is a bit slower than the first two songs, continuing in the vein of Construct’s and We Are the Void’s more mellow songs, again with Stanne’s clean voice in the verses, building up to the chorus, which in turn gives way to the beautiful bridge. A music video for the song should be released soon. “Neutrality” is again a faster song with a brilliant lead guitar riff, before “Force of Hand” and “Faithless by Default” offer a moment’s breather, the latter having probably the most beautiful chorus on the whole album.

As for individual songs, the album’s first single, “The Pitiless”, and “Our Proof of Life”, are maybe a bit more on the average side, but “Clearing Skies” is a great track. The pre-chorus has a lot of impact as both guitars, bass, and drums all follow the guitar riff while the keyboard soars above them with one of the best melodies on the album. “When the World Screams” has an immensely powerful chorus, and again as a fast, almost thrashy track, provides a great contrast to “Merciless Fate”, the album’s ballad, which has an immensely beautiful chorus.

Pitiless official video:

Dark Tranquillity has always had a quirk for writing excellent album closing tracks, but unfortunately this time “Caves and Embers” doesn’t hold up in comparison to “None Becoming”, “Iridium”, “Mundane and the Magic”, and definitely not against The Dark Tranquillity Song™, “My Negation.” Being only four and a half minutes in length, the song feels like it cuts out midway through, and while being pretty outro-like in terms of chording, it’s almost out of place as the last song. Don’t get me wrong, “Caves and Embers” is a nice song, but when compared to the rest of the album, I don’t think it quite holds up to the quality most Dark Tranquillity closers have, creating a bit of an underwhelming ending to an otherwise excellent Dark Tranquillity album.

 

Once again, Dark Tranquillity has produced a collection of grating but beautiful melodic death metal songs. The album by no means reinvents the wheel, but one cannot say that Dark Tranquillity has gotten stuck in a rut either – the band has utilized the best parts of their musical palette to craft an album that holds up great against their best work. The fans of the Damage Done era have to swallow their disappointment once again, but I don’t think that the band has been interested in writing more straight-line mid-tempo stuff after Character anyway. That being said, for me, Character still remains as the peak of DT’s career, but I see no reason why someone else wouldn’t think that Atoma is the best album the band has made. What’s self-evident though, is that Dark Tranquillity once again has a tough time building a setlist for the upcoming tours, with Atoma offering a bunch of strong candidates to overthrow a great number of fan favorites!

Rating: 8/10, 4 stars.

Track list:
1. Encircled
2. Atoma
3. Forward Momentum
4. Neutrality
5. Force of Hand
6. Faithless by Default
7. The Pitiless
8. Our Proof of Life
9. Clearing Skies
10. When the World Screams
11. Merciless Fate
12. Caves and Embers

Text: Atte Valtonen | Ed: Amy Wiseman | Photos: Press photos kindly provided by Century Media

(2016) Riverside: Eye of the Soundscape

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Artist: Riverside
Album: Eye of the Soundscape
Release: 21.10.2016
Label: Inside Out

 

Arguably one of the greatest progressive rock bands of the 21st century, Riverside faced a tragedy earlier this year when founding member Piotr Grudziński unexpectedly passed away. However, the surviving members decided to finish the new ambient and instrumental music they’d been working on in the studio, which means that Eye of the Soundscape features the late guitarist’s last recordings.

Eye of the Soundscape is a 2-disc compilation that consists of four previously unreleased songs, two remixes, and the bonus content originally released on the special editions of the last two full-length albums. Those expecting a traditional Riverside album will be disappointed, as these ambient- and electronica-tinged instrumental songs represent the band’s experimental side. To be honest, for me the “Day Session” bonus disc of last year’s Love, Fear and the Time Machine has been merely a curiosity that I’ve never really felt like going back to, so I wasn’t sure how I’d react to 100 minutes of music in that vein, since I’d never heard the other tracks. Luckily there turns out to be plenty of variety within the two discs.

“Where the River Flows” opens the first disc with lush keyboards, sound effects, and electronic beats. The guitar playing reminds me a bit of the James Bond theme(!), and frontman Mariusz Duda’s wordless falsetto vocals at the end are beautiful. “Shine” has got a darker mood, but it’s rather energetic with a driving beat – I could imagine this song on the soundtrack of a crime series on TV. The other two new pieces, “Sleepwalkers” and “Eye of the Soundscape,” bookend disc 2 – the former is very electronic and includes some distorted bass and mysterious whispering, while the latter is a fully ambient track. The title track is too uneventful to work as a regular stand-alone song, but “Sleepwalkers” is really cool and gives me a hospital show vibe.

As for the previously released material, The Pink Floydian delay guitars and groove of “Rapid Eye Movement,” and the light and relaxed “Rainbow Trip” – which combines guitar-oriented and electronic sounds – are the highlights. As the name implies, both parts of “Night Session” are great to listen to in the small hours. The “Day Session” tracks, however, are not any more interesting than they were a year ago when I first listened to them. It’s nice to spot some familiar references to Riverside’s rock songs though, such as the “Celebrity Touch” keyboards heard on “Machines”, and the saxophonist from “Deprived (Irretrievably Lost Imagination)”, who makes an appearance on the second part of “Night Session.”

 

Eye of the Soundscape may not be the kind of record you specifically put on and sit down to listen to, but it works perfectly as a mood-setter or background music for, say, reading or relaxation. Then again, songs like “Where the River Flows” flow (no pun intended) so nicely that they don’t feel very long even if you’re really concentrating on them. This album is also the perfect send-off and a beautiful tribute to the underrated and talented Grudziński, who was a fan of this kind of atmospheric instrumental music. Now that these pieces have been compiled onto one release and they’re not overshadowed by the songs on the main albums, I’ve gained a new appreciation for Riverside’s ambient side, which I had previously overlooked due to the strength of the band’s rock-oriented material.

Rating: 8/10, 4 stars

Tracklist:

CD1:
1. Where the River Flows
2. Shine
3. Rapid Eye Movement (2016 Mix)
4. Night Session – Part One
5. Night Session – Part Two

CD2:
1. Sleepwalkers
2. Rainbow Trip (2016 Mix)
3. Heavenland
4. Return
5. Aether
6. Machines
7. Promise
8. Eye of the Soundscape

Text: Ville Karttunen | Ed: Amy Wiseman

The Taylor Davis Collection (2012-2015)

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London 2016, photo by Maria Sawicka

“Who is Taylor Davis?” you might be wondering, looking at the title of this blog. The short answer to that, is that Taylor Davis is a violinist who found a devoted following on YouTube playing covers of movie, anime, and particularly game music. The long answer can be found in her vlogs on her YouTube channel, as she’ll explain it far better than I could.

I discovered Taylor Davis some 4-odd years ago when I came across this video on YouTube during the peak of my Skyrim craze:

I adored this song, played it all the time, and then for some time completely forgot that Taylor Davis existed. A while later, it struck me when hearing this song that I should go and see what else she has been doing in recent years. What I found was a treasure trove of unbelievable violin adaptations of pretty much most of my favorite songs or soundtracks. Seriously, this girl is me, just on an alternate timeline where I liked playing violin more than I did. You might’ve read my review of Score’s gaming music symphony from early 2016, so it should be no surprise that I absolutely love this kind of music, and my history of many years of playing the violin makes me appreciate this particular instrument more than the average person. Not only has Davis played some of my absolute favorite anime themes, she’s played my favorite songs from some of my favorite games, and even some of my favorite songs from movie scores. It was getting weirdly uncanny.

So I wanted to write about her music to share it with you. Unlike Lindsey Stirling, Davis hasn’t broken quite so well into the Nordic market, and I was quite devastated to hear that her shows in Stockholm and Gothenburg were cancelled – I was so excited to be able to go and see her play, but now chances are I won’t be able to get over to another country to see her show. Maria will be able to see her again in Poland, but chances are that I won’t be able to get to one of her shows to write a review for you. So instead, to express my adoration and appreciation of her music, I’m going to write up a few of her albums (everything except the Christmas music, because I loathe Christmas music).

Listen along to some of Davis’ music on Spotify:

And here are the album reviews:

01. Gaming Fantasy – read HERE!

02. Game On: 2 Player Mode – read HERE!

03. Legendary Movie Music – read HERE!

04. Melodies of Hyrule: Music from The Legend of Zelda – read HERE!

05. The Anime and Game Collection – read HERE!

06. Taylor Davis – read HERE!

 

So that’s it for my collection of Taylor Davis reviews. Keep an eye open for her upcoming album, Odyssey, out on October 28th, 2016. You can have a look at the video for “Wilderness” already! I don’t know about you, but if she has this many great albums already, I’m pretty sure that Odyssey won’t disappoint!

Davis’ upcoming album is now available for preorder on her Pledge campaign page. You can hear the first single here:

BLOW UP FESTIVAL – Korjaamo, Helsinki, 14-15.10.2016

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Blow Up vol. 2 is the second annual celebration of slow and gloomy music organized by Blow Up That Gramophone. On trying to find out some background information to share about the background of this festival, we hit a few road blocks, as BUtG’s website and Facebook page don’t actually say anywhere what exactly they are – in theory they could be a booking agency, a label (unlikely), a production company – we’re not really certain. Either way, they organized a small festival last year at around the same time, and evidently it was successful enough to warrant a second round in 2016. On this occasion, the festival took place in a lesser-known location in Helsinki from October 14-15th, 2016.

Full gallery HERE!

 

Day 1
Once again, Blow Up was held at Kulttuuritehdas Korjaamo in Helsinki. It was an interesting location as the main stage was, in fact, inside a tram museum. On top of this, the location had a movie theater in which a film called Titicut Follies was scheduled to play accompanied by a live music performance by Veli-Matti O. “Läjä” Äijälä and Markku Leinonen. Sadly, due to unfortunate circumstances, they were unable to perform and the movie was shown on its own for free. I decided to not get into that as we’re not in the business of making movie reviews, so I went directly to the museum to see the bands themselves.

AU-Dessus
AU-Dessus

The first band, AU-Dessus, was founded in Lithuania quite recently in 2014, and so I’d never heard of them before this festival. Their sound can be described as black metal or post-black metal – a fitting opening act for a night such as this. They only have one EP from which to draw material, so we got to enjoy their full discography. Their name is French and roughly translates to “above”, which is indicative of their dislike for social norms and cliches. And so, four black-hooded figures appeared and as the intense sludge began, I thought to myself, ”You fancy yourselves the thinking man’s black metal? I’ll bite, show me what you’ve got.” The sound was intensely fuzzy and mostly low-end with some notable dissonance going on, but it wasn’t as though one couldn’t make out the melodies. The crowd stood perfectly still as per Finnish custom – little did I know AU-Dessus would later turn out to be one of the most energetic acts of the festival. At the time, however, I mostly nodded subtly and focused on the strange triangle shaped emblem on the singer’s mic stand. It had a crescent moon protruding from it, which unintentionally looked like a dolphin from my angle – perhaps that wasn’t quite the emblem for which the band was aiming. That being said, it was well above average as far as black metal live shows go. I recommend checking out their eponymous EP.

Bastard Noise
Bastard Noise

Following that was a much more peculiar act. There were notes all around the venue recommending the attendees wear earplugs, especially during Bastard Noise. On stage there was nothing more than one obviously homemade soundboard. A balding American gentleman in his casual-wear began the show stating that, ”Jazz is music, metal is music, noise is music,” and began twisting the knobs on his apparatuses. What ensued was, without a doubt, as promised: noise. The atonal and amelodic machine torture ranged from quiet to loud as well as low to high. It was at times painful and grating akin to having a dentist drill up in your eardrum. I felt incredibly bad for those poor souls who did not heed the warnings and left their earplugs at home. A good portion of the show, however, was fairly subdued and quiet. It was at these times that my mind raced. I started to focus on everything else. The smell of the fellow standing next to me. It was actually very interesting, I swear I could feel the moisture coming off his armpits, like a cloud of thick smoke. To my right I felt the cold emanating from the white pillars of brick. The minuscule bumps on said construct looked like a whole universe with infinite possibilities for unseen tiny flicks of dust floating in the air. I began to feel conscious of the follicles on my socks. This so called music had allowed me to rise to a higher awareness of my surroundings. Sadly this feeling only lasted up until the soundscape moved back up to tortuously loud. I still don’t know whether or not this can be called music but I had an experience with it nonetheless.

Atomikylä
Atomikylä

A bit later, back on Earth, the Finnish band Atomikylä began to play. This one more closely resembled a progressive or psychedelic jam band, but with a doom metal skin. As another newer band, they only have a limited pool to draw from, but considering their genre, it seems doubtful the audience is even aware of which song is being played. The sound was actually very clear at this point – or as clear as they wanted it to be. The setup was admittedly fuzz-friendly as the guitars were amplified by Marshall and Orange amps. The dark psychedelics took me to a much better place as the daring rhythms ensnared us. It’s always refreshing to hear clear and powerful basslines in this day and age. Their sound didn’t rely on mere nostalgia though. They had interesting and innovative hooks all around; for instance they’d tune strings up and down to create an unsettling, dissonant, and strange sound. This was a delightful opposite to Bastard Noise in execution with one key factor in common: they both made excellent use of dynamics. At times, Atomikylä went slow and then built up to something faster, or sometimes just ended in a nice, smooth place of pure serenity.

Lucifer
Lucifer

Before the Berlin/London-based (you tell me how that works) Lucifer took the stage, we were treated to the best intro tape of all time: the theme to Rosemary’s Baby. The haunting lullaby set an absolutely perfect mood for some oldschool doom metal. Fronted by arguably the definition of beauty, Johanna Sadonis, and backed by former Angel Witch drummer, Andrew Prestidge, as well as ex-Cathedral guitarist Gaz Jennings, this band’s fast rise to fame should come as no surprise. Their big YouTube hit, “Izrael”, electrified the previously very passive crowd up to very clear headnods and even some light arm movements. The bands were clearly not to blame for this lack of energy, it was just a very stoic sort of people. Lucifer themselves were full of pep. Sadonis moved around like Ozzy Osborne in his prime, but sang loudly and precisely. On stage she truly knew she was the queen and we were but her loyal followers. The one big downside to music that is so dedicated to replicating the past is that every now and then, one had to take a few seconds to guess whether they were playing a Black Sabbath cover or an original song. Everything was, of course, original (even if only in the strictest definition of the word) and for the most part it was a well put together set that got us all genuinely pumped. I’ll be sure to check them out again should they return to Helsinki.

The act to which I was most looking forward was Oranssi Pazuzu. I’d seen them once before at Tuska Open Air and their new album, Värähtelijä, had won them a lot of acclaim from critics, not to mention myself. The smell of excitement lay thick in the air as the first notes began to sound. No introduction needed – what ensued was just a powerful, trippy, gloomy jam. The stage lights went absolutely mental, flickering and changing color as rapidly as in any rave, but somehow corresponding to the music, which itself hardly ever escalated beyond a walking pace, so to speak. Even the mic stand had an LED light on it that changed colors accordingly. This music was obviously meant for a club environment, since the lighting was such an essential component. There were no bits of banter between songs either; they let the feel of the music itself guide us through the show. I can respect that. Even the very last song ended just like The Sopranos – cut to black, show’s over folks. No “Thank you, be sure to tip your waitresses.” The song ended and everyone just knew to clear out. It was an interesting and admittedly anti-climactic ending to a strange night indeed. One could only wonder what madness lay in wait for us on Saturday.

Oranssi Pazuzu
Oranssi Pazuzu

Day 2

Albinö Rhino & Morbid Evils
Albinö Rhino & Morbid Evils

Due to my usual hectic schedule, I only managed to catch a brief glimpse of the first act, which was a collaboration between Albinö Rhino and Morbid Evils. Both bands can be described as old school stoner doom metal. If you like over-10-minute songs that sound like deliberate dissections of Black Sabbath songs, I recommend checking them both out. Morbid Evils, however, only if you don’t find death metal vocals abrasive.

Skepticism
Skepticism

A short time afterward, an ominous and dire sound filled the hall. Skepticism may well be the most depressing band in a nation that has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Apart from the drummer, the band seemed to be dressed for a funeral. Vocalist Matti Tilaeus in particular looked to be wearing a scuffed up tux, as if he was supposed to get married that day but something had gone horribly wrong. The synth player was hunched over in the corner playing what looked like a classic electric piano with a mirror mounted on it for no clearly discernible reason – likely just to see the cues from his bandmates. The slow, brooding sound was almost suspiciously heavy and low-end considering they had no bass player. They managed this by having the guitar mostly play slow power chords with very few distinct melodies. In the midst of this wall of sound, the only thing that really registered from Tilaeus’ vocals was his extremely Finnish pronunciation. His low growls, however, did fit the sound perfectly and he carried himself very convincingly as a man who’d lost everything. The whole set felt bad to watch… in a good way.

Lord Vicar
Lord Vicar

The second day seemed to have filled the hall to the brim. This became ever more apparent by the time Lord Vicar took the stage. They obviously had a great following of largely young women, as I overheard quite a few conversations wherein the ladies were discussing looking forward to seeing them. Most of them mispronounced the name, but perhaps they were privy to some inside information on it that I just wasn’t. Lord Vicar was another example of the diet Black Sabbath discipline of doom metal. They had a clear sound and performed adequately to a crowd that was very much into them. I generally like Lord Vicar but admittedly, when put together with this many doom metal bands, they didn’t bring much to the table that the others couldn’t. The only thing that really set them apart was their on-stage banter, which was very boyish and cute. Not bad by any means but hardly anything to write home about.

Conan
Conan

Continuing the trend of new bands that sound old, Conan was evidently another big draw – a very large, murky, but also minimalistic sort of group from the UK. They had an urgency to their sound that brought Celtic Frost to mind. On a day that hosted doom metal bands exclusively otherwise, they were the brightest spot. Their songs centered around viking mythology and warfare as opposed to occultism and depression. This managed to still be evident even though, in the live setting, the vocals were damn-near incomprehensible. This was accomplished through clever work of attitude and projected imagery. The band’s album art is all gorgeous and hand drawn and could easily be used as backdrops for the show. It really brought to mind bloody, glorious battles with broadswords swinging and skulls cracking like brittle eggshells. Conan was head and shoulders above the rest of the weekend. I hope to see them again some day.

Before the gods of gloom released us, there was one more act left to see – the Swedish stoner doom crew, Monolord. Flaunting trucker caps and denim vests, they strutted their crunchy grooves to an insatiable audience. Despite having only three members, they created one of the loudest sounds I’ve ever encountered. I even heard there had been noise complaints from neighboring buildings. They never let the fact that their music itself is extremely slow and brooding slow them down. All throughout the set, the guitarist and bassist made full use of their space on stage, swinging their instruments in a wild, ape-like manner. It was no wonder they had to stop to retune every chance they got. The crowd enjoyed the display in quiet, mellow contemplation. Me, I couldn’t shake the feeling like I was witnessing an Electric Wizard tribute act.

Monolord
Monolord

As the final band wound down, it became ever more evident that for me doom metal is a drug best enjoyed in moderation. Saturday had been entirely devoted to one very precise niche, which obviously had an audience but came close to becoming an ordeal by the end. On Friday, as much as I hated Bastard Noise, at least it was different. The Black Sabbath/Electic Wizard style is a path so well trod at this point, it’s practically a trench. On the other hand, it’s not a bad place for today’s youth to look should they need an alternative to the ridiculously over-produced, digital rubbish that tops the charts these days. Judging by Saturday’s crowd, I can tell many have. I, however, would like to see more diversity in future. More akin to the first Blow Up, which not only had stoner doom bands such as UFOMAMMUT, but also less definable acts such as Callisto, Betrayal at Bespin, and Fleshpress. Do that and I’ll be sure to blow up next year as well.

Text: Vincent Parkkonen | Photos: Marco Manzi | Ed: Amy Wiseman

BLOW UP FESTIVAL @ Korjaamo, Helsinki, 14-15.10.2016

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Blow Up Festival volume 2, Korjaamo 2016.
Photos by Marco Manzi.
Festival report HERE!

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Maja Shining (Forever Still), 2016

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Forever Still is one of Nuclear Blast’s latest acquisitions, having just announced their collaboration at the end of August, 2016. The band is comprised of diverse vocalist Maja Shining and multi-instrumentalist Mikkel Haastrup; we’ve already had a chance to listen to and review their debut, Tied Down, and can’t deny that these guys have some serious potential. Here is the playlist of Maja’s life!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
“Brahms Lullaby.” My grandparents had this music box, from when I was a baby, where you could pull a string and this tune would play without the words. This led me to write the first lyrics I’ve ever written and I still remember them to this day.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
“Our Farewell” by Within Temptation. I heard it on a Celtic Circle CD when I was 13 and I just thought it was so beautifully sad.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
System of a Down’s “Chop Suey” or anything punk rock reminds me of those years. Everyone was listening to numetal and emo music at that time!

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
I’ve never heard a band and thought, “I wanna do THAT,” but growing up and getting into metal music I really loved Slipknot’s mix of heavy meets melodic and Corey Taylor’s versatile vocals – “Duality” was definitely one of my favorites.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
“Push the Sky Away” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
I have nothing that I’m ashamed of listening to, it’s all about broadening your horizons. Something unexpected though might be Melanie Martinez, because I’ve been obsessing over the dark visuals and concepts in her music videos.

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Nightwish’s Wishmaster when I was 14. I still have it, but I doubt the songs will still play, after the abuse I put it through in my teens.

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Tori Amos – “Winter.” Particularly the version from Live at Montreux 1991/1992.

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Limp Bizkit – “Rollin’.” Doesn’t need much explanation, does it?

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Julie Christmas’ rendition of “If You Go Away” originally by Jacques Brel (“Ne me quitte pas”).

 

Check out their music video for “Miss Madness” here:

Or watch the first three parts of their album trailer here:

Here:

And here:

Tied Down will be released via Nuclear Blast Records on October 21st, 2016. Catch them on tour with Lacuna Coil in Europe this fall!

NE OBLIVISCARIS w/ ODDLAND & BRYMIR – Nosturi, Helsinki, 12.10.2016 (English)

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The fans of extreme metal rubbed their eyes last year, when Tuska festival announced that they had added Ne Obliviscaris, hailing all the way from Melbourne, Australia, to their line-up. The band, founded in 2003, had popped up on extreme metal fans’ collective radar in 2012 after the release of their stellar debut album, Portal of I, combining elements from various metal genres and using two vocalists, one of them also playing violin. The sheer distance between Australia and pretty much the rest of the world forced Ne Obliviscaris to only tour in Asia after the debut’s release, but after the release of the sophomore album, Citadel, the band announced that they would do a crowdfunding campaign to enable them to embark on a world tour. The fans responded: in only 2 days, the initial target of 40,000 AUD was capped, and the final result landed the band with almost 90,000 AUD to spend – the largest amount of money collected through Kickstarter in Australian history.

The Tuska show during the resulting tour was a huge success. I myself thought that, considering the circumstances, I wasn’t going to see the band live ever again, but boy was I wrong – Ne Obliviscaris returned to Finland as a support act for Cradle of Filth in the fall of 2015. The Nosturi show was packed, as a huge number of people had come only to see Ne Obliviscaris, resulting in a massive queue outside the venue, resulting in a lot of people (myself included) missing half of their set. Overwhelmed by the audience’s response, the band promised to return to Finland, and they kept their promise only a year after it was made, as Ne Obliviscaris played a headlining show in Nosturi, supported by Finland’s own Oddland and Brymir.

Full gallery HERE!
Lue suomeksi TÄÄLLÄ!

 

2016-10-12-1-oddland-nosturi-jp-7Being held on a Wednesday, the event started pretty early, as Oddland’s showtime was marked as 19:30. As I arrived at Nosturi about 10 minutes before, there was already a 15 meter queue outside, but when I got to the top floor, the venue was still pretty quiet. What a shame, I thought; I’ve been a fan of the band ever since I saw their winning Suomi Metal Star performance in 2011’s Helsinki Metal Meeting (RIP), which landed them a record deal with Century Media. The debut, The Threachery of Senses, a brilliant mix of djent and other progressive influences, receiving praise from media and fans alike. However, the label didn’t promote the band at all and eventually Oddland parted ways with Century Media. The band took their sweet time with preparing their second full-length, Origin, which was released through Sensory Records in September of this year.

Oddland begun their 30-minute set on time with “Flooding Light” off the debut album. The vocalist, Sakari Ojanen, had problems with his guitar, as he had to run behind his guitar rig to fix the cabling every time he didn’t have to be in front of the microphone. The problem was apparently fixed by the time they continued with “Thanatos”, the second single off Origin, and I wished that the problems would have ended there, but no. During “Hidden”, their backing track apparently decided to cut out mid-song, instantly throwing the drummer, Ville Viitanen, off balance, and the song got really messed up. I almost thought that they would have to start the song over, but they decided to take a minute to grab a hold of the track and finish the song. The bassist, Joni Palmroth, handled the situation brilliantly with a joke about prog musicians and what happens when they lose the backing track from their ear monitors: mistakes, that’s what you get! The rest of the show went off without a hitch, but I sincerely felt bad for the band’s bad luck, since this would have been a great opportunity to attract new fans. Not that the situation was too profitable to begin with – Oddland’s material is hugely different when compared to the two following bands. Hopefully the audience, which steadily grew in numbers as the show progressed, got the hang of Oddland. I enjoyed it as always – please come again, and soon!

2016-10-12-1-oddland-nosturi-jp-15Oddland’s setlist:
1. Flooding Light
2. Thanatos
3. Hidden
4. Skylines
5. Unknown
6. Will

 

2016-10-12-2-brymir-nosturi-jp-18Second up was Brymir. The 10-year old Sipoo-based symphonic metal group has released two full-length albums, with the sophomore effort, Slayer of Gods, coming out only this year. While having absorbed their primary influences from folk metal bands like Ensiferum, the band’s material takes a more Keep of Kalessin-ish approach on tempos and guitar riffing. The introduction of their present drummer, Patrik Fält of Feastem fame, really made the rest of the band step it up a notch when compared to the first time I saw the band live years ago in Nummirock. Jarkko Niemi (bass, vocals) asked the audience “DO YOU HAVE HATE?!” followed by an awkward silence, until someone shouted from the back “…NO!”

While the band’s show was great, performance and mixing-wise, I have to say a few words about the stage lighting. The light table was operated by two of (probably) the band’s friends, who constantly tried to utilize everything attached to the stage’s ceiling beams. While I agree that Brymir’s material has a lot going on at any given point, the lighting was just too chaotic and over the top. It’s about contrast, guys! The show must have been challenging to shoot from the photopit, since there was a constant barrage of strobes and moving backlights, but the front spots weren’t used at all. Nosturi’s own light technician seemed really stressed about the situation, pacing back and forth in the mixing booth and clearly wanting to tell the guys not to destroy the table.

All-in-all, Brymir, with the lead of the charismatic vocalist, Viktor Gullichsen, pulled off an entertaining show, and the band hopefully made themselves a bunch of new fans – Brymir’s material holds up against much more well-known and older acts. Too bad though, that the setlist didn’t include a single song off their debut album, Breathe Fire to the Sun.

2016-10-12-2-brymir-nosturi-jp-20Brymir’s setlist:
1. Risen
2. The Black Hammer
3. Stormsoul
4. Thus I Became Kronos
5. Slayer of Gods
6. The Rain
7. For Those Who Died

 

2016-10-12-3-ne-obliviscaris-nosturi-jp-3By the time Brymir finished their set, Nosturi was already packed with fans impatiently waiting for Ne Obliviscaris to take the stage. There were a notable number of Ne Obliviscaris T-shirts to be seen, including the ones you could only get via backing the band in their crowdfunding. At 21:30 sharp, the stage curtains were pulled aside and total awesomeness ensued. Starting off with Citadel’s “Devour Me, Colossus Pt. I – Blackholes”, the band had barely reached the first more mellow part of the song, when practically everyone was shoving their fists in the air. The last two times Ne Obliviscaris has been in Finland, their time on stage has been very limited, forcing them to cut out small parts of their songs, but this time as a headlining act, the next song, “Of Petrichor Weaves Black Noise”, was played in full; the lead guitarist, Benjamin Baret, and the violinist/vocalist, Tim Charles, played the beautiful outro as a duet after the rest of the band had gone backstage for a brief rest.

2016-10-12-3-ne-obliviscaris-nosturi-jp-24After the first two songs, Charles introduced the band and noted the crowdfunded T-shirts in the audience, thanking everyone for their continued support. For the next song, my prayers were answered, as the band kicked off the debut album’s killer, “Xenoflux.” The serene part near the end is one of the best passages in metal since Opeth’s Deliverance – you know what I mean. Next up was “Painters of the Tempest Pt. II – Triptych Lux”, which in turn contains three movements. Last time in Nosturi, Ne Obliviscaris only had time for the last one, “Curator”, but this time the band fortunately had time for “Creator” and ”Cynosure” as well. Again, in the end of “Curator”, the rest of the band retreated backstage, as Baret and Charles also played “Reveries from the Stained Glass Womb”, the third part of “Painters of the Tempest.” Now that’s something I’ve never seen before: a flamenco guitar solo played on an 8-string guitar!

Before the last song in the main set, Charles again took his time to wholeheartedly thank the Finnish fans and mentioned that, to make this headlining show possible, the band had joined Patreon, a service for fans to directly channel funds to culture creators, addressing the issue of bands having to resort to the help of their fanbase, because record labels don’t have the resources other than promotion these days. “Pyrrhic” had the honor to be the final song in the main set, but the audience immediately started to cheer the band back on stage to play the song that’s become the de factor closer of Ne Obliviscaris’ shows: “And Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscope.” Everyone knew what to expect: as Charles played the first note of his violin intro to the song, the audience instantly started applauding. Eleven and a half minutes of blissful progressive metal later the show was over. Charles thanked the audience once again and promised that Ne Obliviscaris will hopefully return next year once they’ve finished their next album (receiving a thunderous applause for this). Everyone went backstage to get changed before descending to the coatroom hall to meet their fans beside the merchandise stand. As I was leaving, the whole area was packed, and I can imagine that those shirts must have sold quite well!

2016-10-12-3-ne-obliviscaris-nosturi-jp-30

 

Ne Obliviscaris is a unique band – there’s nothing even remotely close to their blend of extreme metal and classical music anywhere else. All the mileage the band has racked up in the last few years also clearly shows in their stage presence with their synchronous headbanging and almost inhumanly precise playing – it would be absolutely pointless for the band to ever record a live album, since it would sound exactly like their studio albums. The harsh vocalist, Xenoyr, and Charles are also wildly different performers, as the former has an immensely ominous appearance, while the latter is the most sympathetic gentleman having the time of his life on stage.

There’s no reason why Ne Obliviscaris couldn’t be a self-sustained success in the future, because already they’ve proven themselves able to get international recognition purely on their musical prowess, not because of furious marketing on the internet. Godspeed, and welcome again!

Ne Obliviscaris’ setlist:
1. Devour Me, Colossus, Pt. I – Blackholes
2. Of Petrichor Weaves Black Noise
3. Xenoflux
4. Painters of the Tempest, Pt. II – Triptych Lux (Creator/Cynosure/Curator)
5. Painters of the Tempest, Pt. III – Reveries from the Stained Glass Womb
6. Pyrrhic

Encore:
7. And Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscope

Text: Atte Valtonen | Photos: Janne Puronen | Ed: Amy Wiseman

NE OBLIVISCARIS w/ ODDLAND & BRYMIR – Nosturi, Helsinki, 12.10.2016 (suomeksi)

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Äärimetallin ystävät hieraisivat viime vuonna silmiään, kun Tuska-festivaali kiinnitti ohjelmistoonsa australialaisen Ne Obliviscarisin. Vuonna 2003 perustettu, kahden vokalistin ääniä hyödyntävä bändi nousi äärimetalliväen kollektiiviselle tutkalle vuoden 2012 loistavalla debyyttialbumillaan Portal of I, jossa yhdisteltiin äärimmäisen sulavasti metallin eri tyylisuuntia ja klassista viulua. Valtava välimatka Australian ja oikeastaan koko muun maailman välillä pakotti Ne Obliviscarisin kiertämään kotimaansa lisäksi ainoastaan Aasiassa, mutta kakkoslevynsä Citadelin (2014) julkaisun jälkeen bändi ilmoitti keräävänsä rahaa maailmankiertueen mahdollistamiseen yhteisörajoituskampanjalla. Tavoitteena oli saada kokoon 40 000 Australian dollaria, mutta bändin fanien valtavan panostuksen turvin tavoite rikkoutui vain kahdessa päivässä, ja lopullinen summa kohosi lähemmäs 90 000:een – suurimpaan rahamäärään Australian Kickstarter-historiassa.

Kerätyillä rahoilla Ne Obliviscaris pääsi myös Tuskaan asti, ja keikka oli loistava. Ajattelin tuon viikonlopun jälkeen, etten tulisi bändiä enää toiste näkemään, mutta mitäpä vielä – Cradle of Filth nappasi bändin lämmittelijäkseen syksyn Euroopan-kiertueelleen, joka rantautui myös Helsingin Nosturiin. Paikka oli bändille liian pieni, sillä kaikki pelkästään Ne Obliviscarisia katsomaan tulleet – allekirjoittanut mukaanlukien – eivät ehtineet edes sisälle asti keikan alkuun mennessä. Vaikuttuneena saamastaan vastaanotosta bändi lupasi palata Suomeen, ja nyt kahta vuotta myöhemmin lupaus pidettiin, kun Ne Obliviscaris soitti Nosturissa illan pääesiintyjänä kotimaisten Brymirin sekä Oddlandin tukemina.

Kuvagalleria TÄÄLLÄ!
Read in English HERE!

 

2016-10-12-1-oddland-nosturi-jp-7Koska keikkailta osui keskelle viikkoa, esiintymisajat olivat kohtuullisen aikaiset, ja Oddlandin showtime oli jo puoli kahdeksalta. Nosturille saapuessani pihalla oli jo noin 15-metrinen jono, mutta sisälle päästyäni ja portaat yläkertaan kiivettyäni lavan edustan yleisö oli tyypillisen vähälukuinen. Ehdottomasti harmi: olen ollut Oddlandin djentahtavan progemetallin fani siitä asti, kun näin bändin vuoden 2011 Helsinki Metal Meetingissä (RIP) Suomi Metal Star –kilpailun voittoesiintymisen, jonka ansiosta bändi sai levydiilin Century Median kanssa. Vuonna 2012 The Treachery of Senses-debyyttiä suitsuttivat metallimediat sekä asianharrastajat, mutta Oddland ei saanut tarvittavaa vetoapua levy-yhtiöltään, mikä johtikin osapuolten teiden eroamiseen. Kakkoslevyä kypsyteltiin kaikessa rauhassa, sillä yhdysvaltalaisen Sensory Recordsin kautta julkaistu Origin saateltiin maailmaan vasta noin kuukausi sitten.

Oddland aloitti puolituntisen settinsä debyyttilevyn ”Flooding Light” –biisillä, joka soitettiin läpi käytännössä vain yhdellä kitaralla – kitaristilaulaja Sakari Ojasen soittopeli temppuili, minkä takia mies joutui juoksemaan kitararäkkinsä taakse korjailemaan piuhoituksia aina kun laulamiselta jäi aikaa. Toisena soitetun Origin-levyn kakkossinkku ”Thanatosin” alkuun mennessä ongelma ilmeisesti saatiin korjattua, mutta epäonni ei loppunut siihen – kolmosbiisi ”Hiddenin” alkupuolella bändin taustanauha ilmeisesti päätti katketa kesken soiton, minkä johdosta rumpali Ville Viitasen komppi meni saman tien täysin mutkalle, muun bändin seuratessa perässä. Ajattelin jo että biisi pitäisi varmaan aloittaa alusta, mutta bändi päätti hetkisen aikaa keräillä itseään, ja kun taustanauha saatiin taas toimimaan, homma jatkui mallikkaasti. Basisti Jori Palmroth vitsailikin kappaleen jälkeen klassiseen Kummeli-sketsiin viitaten, että virheitähän siinä käy, kun progebändiltä häviää taustanauha korvamonitoreista. Loppukeikka sujui ongelmitta, mutta jätkien huono onni harmitti, sillä tämä olisi ollut hyvä paikka hankkia uusia faneja tilanteessa, jossa ensimmäisen bändin materiaali on äärimmäisen erityyppistä kahteen seuraavaan nähden. Toivottavasti keikan mittaan hyvää vauhtia kasvanut yleisö sai Oddlandin ”jutusta” kiinni. Äkkiä vain uutta keikkaa perään, paikalle tullaan kyllä!

2016-10-12-1-oddland-nosturi-jp-15Oddlandin setti:
1. Flooding Light
2. Thanatos
3. Hidden
4. Skylines
5. Unknown
6. Will

 

2016-10-12-2-brymir-nosturi-jp-18Noin puoli yhdeksältä oli vuorossa sipoolainen sinfonista metallia paiskiva Brymir. Tänä vuonna 10-vuotispäiviään viettävä on ehtinyt julkaista kaksi kokopitkää, joista uudempi, Slayer of Gods, saapui levykauppoihin tänä keväänä. Musiikillisesti liikutaan hyvin pitkälle sekoituksessa, jonka saa, jos heittää Ensiferumin folk metal –vaikutteet sekä vaikkapa Keep of Kalessinin tempot ja riffittelyn tehosekoittimeen. Bändin nykyisen, Feastemistäkin tutun Patrik Fältin, liittyminen bändiin kolme vuotta sitten on selkeästi tehnyt meiningille hyvää verraten vuosia sitten Nummirockissa ensimmäiseen näkemääni Brymir-keikkaan, sillä bändi kaahasi settinsä läpi kunnioitettavalla voimalla. Yleisö ei ainakaan aluksi ollut täysin samoilla aaltopituuksilla: kahden ensimmäisen kappaleen, ”Risenin” sekä ”The Black Hammerin”, jälkeen basisti Jarkko Niemi kysyi yleisöltä ”ONKS TEIL VIHAA?!”, jota seurasi ensin pienen hetken vaivaantunut hiljaisuus, kunnes joku huusi takarivistä ”…EI!”

Brymirin lavashow sekä –ääni olivat todella kohdillaan, mutta en voi olla sanomatta paria sanaa valoista. Valopöydän ääressä teki töitä pari bändin ystävää, joiden pyrkimys ilmeisesti oli käyttää kaikkia mahdollisia lavarakenteisiin kiinnitettyjä valonlähteitä samaan aikaan. Vaikka Brymirin materiaalissa onkin paljon liikkuvia osia, mentiin valojen kanssa tällä kertaa vähän yli. Jätkät, kontrasti! Keikan valokuvaaminen on varmasti ollut haasteellista, sillä etuvaloja ei käytetty ollenkaan, mutta samaan aikaan vastavalo oli jatkuvaa stroboilla ja liikkuvilla valokeiloilla pommitusta. Nosturin oma valomies oli keikan aikana mielenkiintoista seurattavaa: mies yritti istua paikallaan, nousi ylös, meni hengittelemään valopöydän kavereiden niskaan, meni takaisin paikalleen, päivitteli tilannetta Nosturin äänimiehelle, sekä näytti jatkuvasti siltä kuin olisi halunnut sanoa miehille ”älkää hajottako sitä pöytää”.

Kokonaisuutena Brymir kuitenkin soitti karismaattisen vokalisti Viktor Gullichsenin johdolla viihdyttävän keikan, ja todennäköisesti voitti puolelleen tukun uusia faneja – biiseistä ei ainakaan pitäisi jäädä kiinni, sillä bändin materiaali kestää vertailun kertaluokkaa suurempiin ja kokeneempiin kilpakumppaneihinsakin verrattuna. Harmi tosin, ettei settilistassa ollut ensimmäistäkään debyyttilevy Breathe Fire to the Sunin kappaletta.

2016-10-12-2-brymir-nosturi-jp-20Brymirin setti:
1. Risen
2. The Black Hammer
3. Stormsoul
4. Thus I Became Kronos
5. Slayer of Gods
6. The Rain
7. For Those Who Died

 

2016-10-12-3-ne-obliviscaris-nosturi-jp-3Brymirin lopetettua Nosturi oli jo täynnä kärsimättömiä faneja odottamassa H-hetkeä – yleisön seassa näkyi paljon Ne Obliviscaris –paitoja, myös mallia jota sai ainoastaan osallistumalla bändin Kickstarter-kampanjaan. Tasan puoli yhdeksältä lavan verhot vedettiin syrjään, ja parhauttahan siitä seurasi. Keikka aloitettiin Citadel-levyn “Devour Me, Colossus Pt. I – Blackholes” –kappaleella, ja bändi ehti tuskin ensimmäiseen suvantokohtaan asti, kun käytännössä jokainen yleisössä pui nyrkkiä biisin tahtiin. Aikaisemmilla Suomen-keikoilla Ne Obliviscarisin soittoslotit ovat olleet rajoitettuja, mikä on paikoitellen johtanut kappaleiden lyhentämiseen, mutta tällä kertaa pääesiintyjänä ollessaan bändillä oli aikaa soittaa seuraavana vuorossa ollut ”Of Petrichor Weaves Black Noise” kokonaisuudessaan – muun bändin vetäytyessä lavan taakse hengähtämään, liidikitaristi Benjamin Baret sekä viulisti-vokalisti Tim Charles jäivät soittamaan kappaleen kauniin outron duettona.

2016-10-12-3-ne-obliviscaris-nosturi-jp-24Esitellessään bändin Charles pani myös merkille yleisössä näkyneet joukkorahoitus-T-paidat ja kiitti yleisöä saamastaan tuesta, jota ilman he eivät olisi alun perinkään päässeet Suomeen esiintymään. Sitten saatiinkin vastaus rukouksiin, kun vuorossa oli henkilökohtainen suosikki, debyyttilevyn ässäraita ”Xenoflux”. Kappaleen loppupuolen suvantokohta on yksi hienoimpia osioita metallimusiikissa sitten Opethin “Deliverancen” – kyllä te tiedätte mitä tarkoitan. Seuraavana saatiin kuulla Citadelin ”Painters of the Tempest” –trilogian kakkososa ”Triptych Lux”, joka sekin sisältää kolme osaa. Lämmitellessään Cradle of Filthiä bändillä oli aikaa soittaa ainoastaan päätösosa ”Curator”, mutta tällä kertaa oli onneksi aikaa myös ”Creatorille” sekä ”Cynosurelle”. Yleisökin sai hetken hengähdystauon, kun ”Curatorin” lopuksi muu bändi vetäytyi taasen lavan taakse päästäen Baretin ja Charlesin loistamaan ”Tempest”-trilogian päätösosassa ”Reveries from the Stained Glass Womb”. Enpä olekaan ennen kuullut flamenkokitarasooloa soitettavan kahdeksankielisellä!

Ennen setin viimeistä kappaletta Charles käytti taas hetken kiittääkseen sydämensä pohjasta suomalaista fanikuntaa sekä kertoi, että tätäkään keikkaa ei oltaisi voitu tehdä ilman rahoituspalvelu Patreonin kautta saatua fanien taloudellista tukea. Hän otti samalla kantaa nykytilanteeseen, jossa bändien täytyy turvautua faneihinsa – vaikka levy-yhtiöt tarjoavatkin näkyvyyttä, kulujen kattaminen levy-yhtiön toimesta on nykyään yhä harvemmille bändeille suotu etuoikeus. ”Pyrrhic” sai kunnian olla varsinaisen setin viimeinen kappale, mutta heti biisin lopuksi yleisö alkoi vaatia bändiä takaisin lavalle soittamaan Ne Obliviscarisin keikkojen de facto -lopetuskappaleeksi muodostununeen ”And Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscopen”. Kaikki kyllä tiesivät mitä odottaa: yleisö alkoi osoittaa suosiotaan samalla sekunnilla, kun kappaleen ensimmäinen nuotti lähti Charlesin viulusta.

Yhdentoista ja puolen minuutin progemetallihuikeuden jälkeen keikka oli ohi, ja Charles kiitti yleisöä vielä kerran ja lupasi bändin palaavan Suomeen ensi vuonna seuraavan levyn julkaisun jälkeen, saaden raikuvat aplodit. Bändi vetäytyi bäkkärille hetkeksi siistiytymään ennen alakerran paitamyyntipisteelle siirtymistä. Narikalle päästyäni bändin ympärillä kävi kova kuhina, ja voisin kuvitella, että fanipaidat vaihtoivat omistajaa hyvällä prosentilla.

2016-10-12-3-ne-obliviscaris-nosturi-jp-30

 

Ne Obliviscaris on ainutlaatuinen bändi – yksikään toinen metalliakti ei ole lähelläkään bändin tapaa yhdistellä äärimetallielementtejä ja klassista musiikkia. Viimeisen parin vuoden aikana matkatut kilometrit näkyvät bändin lavapresenssissä täydellisen synkronisena headbangingina ja miltei naurettavan tarkkana yhteissoittona. En tiedä, olisiko Ne Obliviscarisin ikinä järkeä nauhoittaa livelevyä, sillä se kuulostaisi vain täysin samalta kuin studioalbumit. Bändin kaksi vokalistia, rääkylaulaja Xenoyr sekä Charles, ovat myös hurjan erilaisia esiintyjiä: Xenoyr on todella uhkaavan oloinen, kun taas Charles on äärimmäisen sympaattinen herrasmies, ja lavalla ollessaan näyttää nauttivan olostaan täysin rinnoin.

Ei ole mitään syytä, miksei Ne Obliviscaris ei voisi olla tulevaisuudessa täysin omavarainen menestystarina, sillä jo nyt bändi on pystynyt hankkimaan kansainvälistä suosiota yksinomaan musiikillisten ansioidensa avulla, ei yltiöpäisellä somemarkkinoinnilla. Onnea jatkoon ja tervetuloa uudestaan Suomeen!

Ne Obliviscarisin setti:
1. Devour Me, Colossus, Pt. I – Blackholes
2. Of Petrichor Weaves Black Noise
3. Xenoflux
4. Painters of the Tempest, Pt. II – Triptych Lux (Creator/Cynosure/Curator)
5. Painters of the Tempest, Pt. III – Reveries from the Stained Glass Womb
6. Pyrrhic

Encore:
7. And Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscope

Texti: Atte Valtonen | Kuvat: Janne Puronen | Ed: Ville Karttunen

NE OBLIVISCARIS w/ ODDLAND & BRYMIR @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 12.10.2016

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Ne Obliviscaris with Oddland and Brymir at Nosturi, 2016.
Photos by Janne Puronen.
Gig report in English HERE.
Keikka-arvio suomeksi TÄÄLLÄ.

INSOMNIUM w/ PRESSURE POINTS & SWALLOW THE SUN @ The Circus, Helsinki, 08.10.2016

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Insomnium’s Winter’s Gate release show in Helsinki, 2016.
Photos by Jana Blomqvist.
Gig report HERE!

INSOMNIUM – Niilo Sevänen, Helsinki 2016

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Approximately 9 years ago, Niilo Sevänen wrote a short folklore/fantasy story called Winter’s Gate, which went on to get published and win a few awards. Now, in 2016, Winter’s Gate inspired an album by Sevänen’s band, Insomnium, that has elevated them to a new level and landed them at #1 on the Finnish charts on the week of its release. With their first gig already behind them, we thought we should grab a few minutes of Sevänen’s time to ask him about his feelings on the album and its success.

 

First of all, how did it feel to do something that was so different from any other Insomnium album, or most albums for that matter?
It’s been interesting and a bit challenging of course, but those were the reasons why we wanted to do it in the first place – to try something different. We’ve done normal albums six times already, so it was about time to try something a bit different. Actually, it all went pretty smoothly and naturally, without forcing anything. We just started making stuff with the idea that, let’s see how long it will be. It will be an EP or a full album, let’s see. Everything went pretty smoothly.

So you just went with the flow, seeing where the music took you?
Exactly.

2016-10-08-niilo-sevanen-insomnium-the-circus-8Has this album inspired you guys at all to venture even further away from the musical ‘normal’ or do you think the next step will be a return to form?
It’s hard to say, but if I would take a guess now, the next album will be more of a ‘normal’ album with several songs. But let’s see. I’m sure that we are even more confident now to try new things.

You were the original author of the short story – what inspired you to write the story? Where did the idea come from?
It’s already been like 9 years; I don’t fully remember what I was thinking back then, but I think I had a couple of themes that I wanted to connect. Without spoiling anything from the story, there was a historical background – Vikings, historical stuff, and then some fantasy elements, and I wanted to combine them and… it just happened. But I wrote it for a competition. That was the original reason.

What was it like to read the audiobook? Was it fun or was it weird?
Yeah… I was nervous – I’m not an actor, so I didn’t know what it was going to sound like, but it went pretty easily. I read it once through and then the sound engineer said, “Let’s take the first two chapters [again]. You were a bit nervous in the beginning.” Then I read them again and it was okay. It’s good enough.

At least for me, I enjoyed the reading, particularly with your slight Finnish accent – as a native English speaker, even though there weren’t any Vikings in Finland, it still feels more authentic than if it was read, for example, in an American accent by someone else.
Yeah, it doesn’t fit the story. I agree, I did it on purpose [laughs].

2016-10-08-niilo-sevanen-insomnium-the-circus-6Now that the album is out, how does it feel to have topped the Finnish charts during the release week? Were you expecting that sort of a response?
Of course we were hoping, because the previous album was #2, so naturally we hoped that, okay, maybe we can now be #1. Beforehand we checked what other albums were coming out that week and do we have any chance. If some big popstar in Finland would release something, then we wouldn’t have any chance, but luckily we were #1. Of course, doing that with this kind of very special release feels even better. Naturally we are very happy about it.

Do you feel as though you really successfully captured the whole story, or was it tricky to fit the whole thing into one song?
You have to kind of make an adaptation of the story to transform it, the ‘dramatic arc’, the language of music first, then the lyrics… of course I had to erase the story a bit. I would say that in the story there are three narrators, three perspectives on what happened, and the lyrics are kind of the fourth perspective. It kind of gives maybe some additional information on what happened, especially the Asbjörn character and what he’s thinking, so it’s kind of a fourth perspective on the whole thing. They go together, the story and the lyrics.

Was there anything that you felt had to be cut to make it work, or was it pretty satisfactory as a whole?
Well, not every scene from the story could be put in the song. I don’t think it matters. It’s a different kind of adaptation, but right from the start I decided that this three-narrator tactic won’t work in lyrics, so it’s more from the perspective of one character, more of a general view.

2016-10-08-niilo-sevanen-insomnium-the-circus-4Would you say the lyrics are more like an omnipotent narrator who is watching the scene, as opposed to the characters themselves?
I think it’s mostly written from Asbjörn’s view, but there are some times where it takes this higher perspective, like a general narrator, seeing everything. Especially in the end.

The idea was, according to your album trailers, that you wanted from the beginning to make it into one long song – was there any point when you were thinking that maybe you should break it into a couple songs, or was it just one song the whole time?
I think we were pretty sure all the time that we want to make one track. Of course when it was ready, we heard from iTunes and Spotify that they can’t release it like that. It has to be cut into pieces. We had to make a compromise that in Spotify and iTunes it will be it separated into seven tracks and better then than if it wouldn’t be there at all. Those are important mediums. But yeah, from the beginning the idea was to make one track and see how we can make it work.

Now that it is broken up a bit, is it weird to think that some people might be listening to one part of the song without the rest of it?
Yeah, it’s kind of ‘wrong’ of course, because in one review it was said very nicely that, if you read a book or watch a movie, you don’t start from the middle. You take it as a whole. That’s how this is meant to be. Of course I understand if some people have some favorite part and they only want to listen to it and they find it convenient to do it like that, I don’t mind. People can enjoy it as they want, but it’s meant to be a whole thing.

2016-10-08-niilo-sevanen-insomnium-the-circus-5After this tour, do you have any plans to integrate Winter’s Gate into future shows, or is it just too hard to find a way? It’s hard to say, but of course it’s a 40 minute song, so on future tours, like with the next album, it’s hard to see us playing the whole thing. Maybe some parts, I don’t know yet. Let’s see what happens, but at least for this tour we naturally have to play it all. The fans expect to see it and hear it.

Now that you’ve played it once through in Turku, how did it feel to play for 40 minutes without a break?
I think we were just relieved that we survived and it went well [laughs] and we were of course happy. Then we played some older songs. The first part of the set is Winter’s Gate and then we played 40 minutes of older stuff. It was really relaxed, playing the old songs. We had a good time and it was a very good show and I’m pretty sure we will have a good show here tonight in Helsinki.

My last question then is, as the author of the story, did you consider the story to be ‘real’ or did you intend it to be metaphorical in any way, for example, Vikings freezing over the winter?
It’s not a metaphor. It’s a historical fantasy hybrid story and it’s not written to be a metaphor for something else.

So it’s meant to be a proper fantasy tale.
Yes, that’s how I wrote it.

Great, that is all of my questions. Thank you for your time and have a great show!

Text: Amy Wiseman | Photos: Jana Blomqvist

INSOMNIUM w/ PRESSURE POINTS & SWALLOW THE SUN – The Circus, Helsinki, 08.10.2016

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Topping the Finnish charts on the week of its release, Insomnium’s experimental new album, Winter’s Gate, has certainly caught the attention of the music world, as well as Musicalypse! Not only did the band promise to play the entire 40 minute one-song album from start to finish, but there would be a second 40-minute set to follow. With Pressure Points and Swallow the Sun also on the roster, it was only natural for us to be there to see what we assumed would be very few opportunities to hear “Winter’s Gate” in its entirety. We also swung by earlier in the night to have a short chat with Niilo Sevänen about the album, book, and its tour.

Full gallery HERE!

 

2016-10-08-01-pressure-points-the-circus-jb-6Pressure Points was a new name for me, but if we were going to be in town for an interview already, I thought it might be worthwhile to check these guys out. I had a listen through their sophomore album from last year, False Lights, and thought it was pretty decent, so I was happy to show up and see their set. For the first of three bands, these guys brought in a fairly impressive crowd already. It seemed as though they’re still physically trying to find their rhythm on stage – it’s a bit of an issue with prog in general, as a lot of the music is quite technical, so either the stage show suffers as the band members focus on playing well, or the show is dull but the playing is good (Dream Theater tends to have a bit of the latter going on, for example). These guys did their best to move about, but ultimately the performance aspect took a backseat to getting the music right. Keyboardist Veli-Matti Kyllönen had a rather mellow and relaxing voice, almost hard to hear at times, but it was quite pleasing. I had joked to my companions that their set was going to be only three songs long, only for one of the guys from the band to make the same joke a few minutes later… only it wasn’t a joke. Their set actually was just three songs long, each of them around 10 minutes in length. As a whole, I enjoyed their show, but much like a lot of progressive music, I prefer to listen to it at home than live. These guys might benefit from an overcast festival setting though!

 

2016-10-08-02-swallow-the-sun-sts-the-circus-jb-21Once Pressure Points had cleared away their instruments, it was time for Swallow the Sun to take the stage, and for the second half of the venue to open up to accommodate all the people coming in. It’s been a good long while since I’ve watched Swallow the Sun in a scenario other than me watching with half an eye at a festival, so I was immediately impressed by the number of people who slowly trickled on stage to their long intro track – two vocalists, two acoustic guitarists, keyboards, bass, and drums. I recalled seeing the second vocalist at Tuska this year, but not knowing who he was there either. They mentioned his name tonight – Jaani Peuhu [Iconcrash] – and I have to say that I enjoyed his contribution to the show. Though he didn’t sing during every song, he was, I believe, present for the new tracks from Songs from the North, and they benefited nicely from the harmonizing. Of all of the people on the stage, I was saddened to see that Juha Raivio was not among them. I wondered if he is still mourning the recent tragic loss of Aleah Stanbridge. His replacement, whose name I didn’t catch, did a nice job of filling his shoes, though there was a little hint of something missing without Raivio on stage.

2016-10-08-02-swallow-the-sun-sts-the-circus-jb-25As much as I enjoyed and maybe even prefer the newer songs with live acoustic guitars, it was nice to hear something that featured Mikko Kotamäki growling a bit later on, as he has a rather strong voice. In one of the songs, there was a very prolonged deep growling scream that I truly appreciated, and I’m a bit disappointed that I wasn’t sure which song it was from. I would also like to give a shout out to Juuso Raatikainen on drums – he’s doing very well, considering he is following in the footsteps of Pasi Pasanen and Kai Hahto.

Overall, these guys played a very pleasing set that made me wonder how it is that I’ve lost touch with their music. I’ll be listening through the three discs of Songs from the North in the very near future, I’m sure.

StS setlist:
1. The Heart of a Cold White Land
2. Pray for the Winds to Come
3. Songs from the North
4. Autumn Fire
5. 10 Silver Bullets
6. Rooms and Shadows
7. Hate, Lead the Way!
9. New Moon
10. Descending Winters

 

2016-10-08-03-insomnium-the-circus-jb-10With that, it was time for Insomnium to start their event! My very first thought that followed the rush of adrenaline and excitement, was that I might’ve preferred to see this song in a setting like Kulttuuritalo or Tampere-talo. A seated venue would’ve allowed people to see the performance from no matter where they were, and to hear the show with balanced sound. I had the misfortune of having two yappy guys behind me who would not shut up – I couldn’t imagine how you could possibly be speaking so much during the 40-minute-long song. “Winter’s Gate” is, I assume, a one-tour-in-a-lifetime show, and having people behind me shout-talking was distracting and irritating.

That said, I was very impressed by the band’s performance. It takes a great deal of stamina to play for 40 minutes without a proper break. They had a strong start with a lot of headbanging and energy, but didn’t come across as nervous – I suppose the Turku show on the previous night had proved to them that they could definitely pull it off. They truly did not disappoint. Part of me wanted to watch the show, but I kept finding myself with my eyes closed, swaying back and forth, lost in the story and the music. It would have been nice for them to have a live keyboardist or someone on synths for this show to ease up the burden of staying in perfect time with he backing track (not that they had any trouble with it – it just allows more freedom) – I know they have had Aleksi Munter of Swallow the Sun playing with them in live shows (2009-2010 -era), and I was just a tad disappointed that he hadn’t been a part of this show, especially considering he did the keyboard compositions for the album.

2016-10-08-03-insomnium-the-circus-jb-17Visually, I was torn. The fog cannons were great in the moments they were used, but I would consider the lighting as a whole to be a failure. I suspect that whoever was in charge was going for cold, ambient, and ominous, but mostly it was just blue and dark, making it hard to see the band at times, and the attempt at ambience had failed. I have seen some brilliant ambient lighting in my day that would have really benefited this show, but that was just not the case. There was one moment, however, which I think was around the 15:55 mark of the song give or take, when the music just gets evil and the lights changed and the fog cannons blasted up – it was massive and perfect, and it saddened me a bit that there was only one moment of properly appropriate lighting during the whole song.

2016-10-08-03-insomnium-the-circus-jb-14However, as a whole I think the entirety of the “Winter’s Gate” performance was a great success, and I’m very happy to have gotten to experience it; that was perhaps the shortest 40 minutes of my life – you would think a song that long might drag on, but it felt like maybe 15-20 minutes at most. After the song ended, I was surprised that the band didn’t even take a proper break; “The Gale” started up quite soon after the fade-out (both of which I suppose allowed them a few minutes’ rest) and then they returned for “Mortal Share.”

The rest of the show didn’t waste much breath on chit-chat, with the only “speech” being Niilo Sevänen’s moment to thank the audience for being a part of this tour and refer them to the merch booth mid-way through the second half of the show. Rather, they just played, and played their hearts out. As my friend put it, “this is a professional band on stage.” While you might take that to mean that they are a bit serious, Markus Vanhala (guitar) interacts a great deal on a goofy and personal level with people in the crowd, so I wouldn’t say that’s the case. But they do come across as a band with a lot of practice who are comfortable with one another on stage and who know their music through-and-through.

2016-10-08-03-insomnium-the-circus-jb-12They left the stage after “The Promethean Song” but came back to play “The Killjoy” and “Weighed Down with Sorrow” as encores. I headed towards the exit during the latter and wondered if there had been a pit at some point – a large open space had appeared in the center of the venue, though no one was in it as I was heading towards the back.

 

Ultimately, as per usual, Insomnium proved to be a rock solid band who, in spite of the visual setback, put on an extremely memorable show thanks to the material they had written. I would go so far as to say that Winter’s Gate has certainly elevated this band to another level, and if you get the opportunity to catch one of the last few shows on this tour, do not hesitate to grab a ticket – you may never get another chance to hear all of Winter’s Gate in its full and proper epic form after this!

 

Setlist pt.1:
1. Winter’s Gate

Setlist pt.2:
2. The Gale
3. Mortal Share
4. Drawn to Black
5. Where the Last Wave Broke
6. While We Sleep
7. Last Statement
8. Change of Heart
9. The Promethean Song

Encore:
10. The Killjoy
11. Weighed Down with Sorrow

2016-10-08-03-insomnium-the-circus-jb-13Text: Amy Wiseman | Photos: Jana Blomqvist

 

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Jan-Erik Kari (Fear of Domination), 2016

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Founded in 2006, Fear of Domination is known for their heavy blend of shock/industrial metal, painted faces, and strong performances. With three or so albums under their belt already, the band released Atlas in the late spring of 2016. We’re a bit behind on the release, but we’re happy to now share the playlist of guitarist Jan-Erik Kari’s life for you!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
I can’t remember any certain one song but it has to be something from Metallica or David Bowie since my big brother and big sister used to listen to them a lot when I was little.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
“Nothing Else Matters” from Metallica was the first but Wintersun’s “Death and the Healing” really hit me. An old and dear friend of mine introduced me to the song when I was having a rough time back then. It still gives me goosebumps.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Raptori definitely! It played a lot in those junior discos. Fun, catchy, and not-so-serious. It is still fun to listen to them and I (and many others of my age) remember tons of their lyrics.

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
There are actually four bands that got me into rock and metal. My ‘personal BIG4’ consists of Metallica, Stratovarius, Klamydia, and AC/DC. They were all equally part of teaching me the ‘dark arts of rock ’n roll’. Big thanks to my big brother for the conversion.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
“Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins. Because Archer. No further explanation needed. LANAAAAAA!

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
I don’t really have any guilty pleasure songs or bands since I openly listen to anything from Steen1 to Behemoth, from Ke$ha to Motörhead, and from Topi Sorsakoski to Parov Stelar. Anything goes and my friends keep being surprised of my playlists.
But for the sake of the question, let’s say Little Big, the Russian equivalent of Die Antwoord.

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Believe it or not but it was Before the Storm by Darude. Still got it in my shelf…

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
The piano version of “Crucify My Heart” from Lullacry. I just love it…

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Any song from Motörhead works the magic but “Ace of Spades” is my choice!

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
“Lintu” by Timo Rautiainen & Trio Niskalaukaus. That song can really make a grown man cry.

 

Listen to Atlas on Spotify:

Or check out the single, “Adrenaline,” on YouTube:

EMBER FALLS @ Virgin Oil Co., Helsinki, 01.10.2016

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Ember Falls opening for Blind Channel during their Revolutions release gig, fall 2016. So many photos that it needed its own gallery.
Photos by Jana Blomqvist.
Official gig gallery HERE!
Gig report HERE!
Behind the scenes report HERE!

(2016) John Wesley: a way you’ll never be

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Artist: John Wesley
Album: a way you’ll never be
Release: 7.10.2016
Label: InsideOut

 

John Wesley is known to most prog fans as a sideman, having worked as Marillion’s guitar tech, Fish’s songwriting partner and guitarist, and most famously as Porcupine Tree’s live guitarist and backing vocalist. However, throughout the years he’s had his own solo career as well, and a way you’ll never be (the lack of capitalization is an intentional stylistic choice) is already his seventh full-length studio album. Wesley’s great playing and unique singing voice impressed me on Porcupine Tree’s live DVDs and convinced me to check out his previous solo album, Disconnect (2014), when it came out. The record hasn’t exactly been in constant rotation, but I’ve found myself revisiting various songs occasionally, such as “Mary Will” and “How Goes the War,” thanks to the great guitarwork and melodies on them.

Listen along here:

On a way you’ll never be, only Wesley himself, drummer Mark Prator, and backing vocalist Geri X – who makes an appearance on the title-track – are left of the Disconnect line-up. They’re joined by bassist Sean Malone of Cynic fame, whose rumbling bass reinforces the sound with a booming low end. Like its predecessor, the album presents guitar-driven alternative rock with a progressive edge, but the songwriting on a way you’ll never be is perhaps a little more complex.

Opener and lead single “by the light of a sun” combines catchiness with interesting rhythms, and the second single “to outrun the light” includes some clever key changes. The guitarwork on “sun.a.rose” is slightly reminiscent of Rush’s “Jacob’s Ladder” at times, and the song has got some cool effect-laden vocal harmonies. The up-tempo “the revolutionist” shines in the riff department, while the focus on the instrumental track “unsafe space” is soloing. The most interesting and varied song is “nada,” which ranges from acoustic arpeggios to heavy wah-wah riffing and frenetic drum fills.

Wesley’s playing is tasteful and never veers into shredding-for-the-sake-of-shredding Yngwie Malmsteen territory. He’s also got a knack for good riffs and vocal lines, and the songwriting is more consistent than on Disconnect. However, the weakness of a way you’ll never be lies in its lack of dynamics. Wesley’s voice stays in the same mid-range register for the most part, and almost all of the songs are on the rocking side, which makes the album rather fatiguing to listen to in one sitting. The only ballad is “the silence in coffee,” and even that one is played on electric guitars with some distortion. It’d be great to hear more of Wesley’s acoustic playing and the falsetto that he made good use of on various Porcupine Tree live recordings. If the music calmed down just a bit more often, a way you’ll never be would be more compelling to listen to and go back to.

Rating: 7/10, 3½ stars

Tracklist:
01. by the light of a sun
02. a way you’ll never be
03. to outrun the light
04. the revolutionist
05. nada
06. the silence in coffee
07. unsafe space
08. sun.a.rose
09. epic
10. pointless endeavors

Text: Ville Karttunen | Ed: Amy Wiseman

ENTWINE w/ RED ELEVEN – Tavastia, Helsinki, 06.10.2016

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It’s been nearly a year since Entwine had their Chaotic Nation release gig in Lahti, but they’ve been doing enough local shows since then that they’ve managed to stay fresh in our minds. However, these guys were shockingly absent from the summer festivals, so it felt like a necessity to head over to Tavastia on October 6th, 2016, to see how the music holds up a year after the album was released. As well, they were accompanied by Red Eleven, who popped onto our radar during John Smith Festival this summer, so all-in-all it was a good opportunity to check out an old favorite and a new potential in the same go.

Full gallery HERE!

 

2016-10-06-01-red-eleven-tavastia-mc-2Arriving at Tavastia, there was a rather reasonable handful of people already present to see the opener, Red Eleven, whom I was not familiar with. The mix was better closer to the sound booth, so I stepped back so I could see the stage front-and-center to watch a bit of their set. I tend to have a hard time appreciating bands that I’m unfamiliar with, but this was one of those rare moments where I was very happy to have showed up in time to catch a warm-up set. Vocalist Tony Kaikkonen has a lot of power and versatility to sing clean, a bit grungy (think Alice in Chains), and even to throw some growls in here and there. Ex-Swallow the Sun drummer Pasi Pasanen also proved to be a strong element in their music, keeping an appropriately energetic pace throughout their set. As well, Teemu Liekkala (guitar) harmonized very nicely in many songs with Kaikkonen. Under their own fancy backing lights in the shape of an ’11’, the band had a very nice, professional gig, and I would be happy to get the chance to see them again sometime after familiarizing myself with their music.

 

2016-10-06-02-entwine-tavastia-mc-2With the stage changeover complete, it was Entwine’s turn. When the red lights hit the stage, their ominous intro track began to play and Aksu Hanttu was the first to be seen, taking his place at the drum stand. They started things off with “Saint of Sorrow”, the standard starter song from the shows that have promoted Chaotic Nation. There were still a few mixing errors that needed to be sorted out before everything was crystal clear, but it didn’t take more than a song or two for them to get things up to snuff, and by the end of “End of Silence”, things were more or less in order.

If I’m comparing to the last show at Virgin Oil, I would say that the performance was stronger on this night. It was just a little bit tighter, in a bit better tune, with a bit more comfort, and naturally, far far better sound quality. The show had everything that you would expect from Entwine, from Mika Tauriainen spraying water, to Hanttu’s unique flare on the drum kit. It also turned out that Jaani Kähkönen has been absent this entire tour, with Tomi Luoma (Machinae Supremacy) having been his substitute in all the gigs for the Chaotic Nation shows.

2016-10-06-02-entwine-tavastia-mc-17After the first two songs, Tauriainen greeted the crowd, joked around in a weird voice, and ultimately had to ask Tom Mikkola (guitar) to see his setlist because he couldn’t remember what came next, before announcing “Out of You.” What I really enjoyed about this show was how laid-back the performance was. Luoma did the solos and shred with ease, the interaction on stage was goofy and comfortable, and the singing was strong but Tauriainen didn’t hesitate to have fun and play around with the vocals – the show seemed meant to be a good time, not to be perfect, and I mean that in a good way. These guys don’t take themselves too seriously, as seen when Hanttu stood up and, to the beat of his drum, chugged some Jägermeister. As well, the blend of nostalgia from older songs like “Chameleon Halo”, “Bitter Sweet”, or “Fatal Design” feel great mixed in with the mature newer songs – and they’ve still got some of the best material from Chaotic Nation in their shows, as you can see from the setlist below.

2016-10-06-02-entwine-tavastia-mc-19When they closed the set out with “As We Arise”, the band was raucously called back and Tauriainen couldn’t contain his cheeky grin when the audience screamed when the first notes of “Break Me” began to play. Equally enthusiastic screaming followed when “Surrender” began to play next, and they naturally finished the night with the ever-popular first release from the latest album, “Plastic World.”

 

Before the show, I had a chance to speak to Tauriainen for a moment about the year since the release of Chaotic Nation, and I was sad to learn that things had been “weird” and that the future of the band was uncertain. It could be seen, for example, in the absence of Kähkönen, as well as in their lack of summer festival gigs. Though it certainly wasn’t a discussion about how this was the end for Entwine, it does seem as though these guys might need some extra encouragement to keep on with music. While I would hate to see a band call it quits after such a strong comeback album, I also can’t deny that Chaotic Nation would be a great album to go out on (not unlike Kiuas and Lustdriven). However, I for one would like to encourage these guys to search once more for the magic before letting Entwine go for good. They’ve got a great thing going and it would be hard to say goodbye.

 

Setlist:
1. Saint of Sorrow
2. End of Silence
3. Out of You
4. Chameleon Halo
5. Bleeding for the Cure
6. Bitter Sweet
7. Twisted
8. Frozen by the Sun
9. Fortune Falls
10. The Evil Lives in the Shadows
11. Fatal Design
12. Strife
13. Revolt for Redemption
14. Lost, but Still Alive
15. As We Arise

Encore:
16. Break Me
17. Surrender
18. Plastic World

2016-10-06-02-entwine-tavastia-mc-18Text: Amy Wiseman | Photos: Miia Collander

ENTWINE w/ RED ELEVEN @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 06.10.2016

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Entwine with guests, Red Eleven, at Tavastia, Helsinki 2016.
Photos by Miia Collander.
Gig report HERE!

(2016) Interviews

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Interview shots, 2016!

(2016) Forever Still: Tied Down

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Artist: Forever Still
Album: Tied Down
Release: 21.10.2016
Label: Nuclear Blast

 

Who are Forever Still, you may be asking yourselves. This Danish duo came onto our radar after we were poking around to find out who Nuclear Blast was showing interest in these days, so for you newcomers, the band consists of Maja Shining (vocals) and Mikkel Haastrup (instruments), and at this point we can say that you’ll hear a lot of influence from a ton of bands you like in their music. Their debut is concept album about, “the journey of an individual being held down by their depression before a spark of hope appears and recovery starts setting in,” [Maja Shining, 3rd album trailer], a concept that many people will surely relate to and even find comfort in.

 

“Scars” is a strong, hard-hitting introduction to the album that puts all of their strengths on display, from Maja’s gentle vocals, hard rock strength, and full on growling screams, to the comprehensive way in which they put their songs together. “Once Upon a Time” brings me back to a time when Evanescence was considered a decent band, only I can take this song far more seriously than most of Evanescence’s music. They seem to have noticed what worked for Evanescence and what was worth leaving behind. I love the powerful build-ups in this track, the hefty lyrics, as well the strong chorus. There’s also a hint of Karmacode -era Lacuna Coil (2006) in here as well, which I’m all for.

Check out the video for “Scars” here:

I dig the keyboard intro to “Miss Madness,” even if it isn’t a groundbreaking riff. This song has a very distinct early Charlotte Wessels feel in the vocals, and I feel as though Maja is going to be a vocalist to keep an eye on. We’ve no shortage of cute female singers these days, but we are still missing singers who can cover a range of styles at all, let alone covering so many styles already on three tracks. This song has a familiar groove that’s a little more hard rock than original Delain, which I find quite pleasing. With the slower overall beat to the song, it’s a decent single, but I might’ve personally chosen a more energetic track that sounds a bit less like other bands to share before the offical release, though with “Scars” also out, this can be forgiven.

Check out the music video here:

“Awake the Fire” has a fairly different vocal sound from “Miss Madness” and may have worked well as a single. “Breathe In” gets going with a very impressive shout that I’d love to see if Maja can replicate live, then mellows into some casual rock with some nice bass lines and decent riffing that mix well together, along with a strong chorus that would make for some good singalongs. We also get some more of that hardcore growling that’s helping my affection for this band grow. “I just breathe in and… SCREAM!” Love that. This song is surprisingly short, at under 3 minutes, though it doesn’t feel as short as it is when you listen to it. I’m not sure how familiar anyone is with a band called Nemesea from the Netherlands, but I get a bit of a feel of their sound in a few of these songs as well.

“Save Me” is the token slow-down at track six, and in spite of some solid build-ups, manages to keep a rather mellow pace throughout. I could use a little less hard rock guitars and a bit more beauty in this track to bring out its full potential, but there’s nothing offensive to the ear in here. “Your Light” is a casual pick-up after the slower track, but doesn’t go full-power back into things, rather taking it easy and building things up to a chill but upbeat chorus. Not something that would get a crowd jumping around, but definitely something that’d get you swaying in front of the stage.

The muted vocals in “Alone” are a nice change to the start of the song, and this feels like a darker path than some of the other songs, bringing out those lyrics about anxiety, helplessness, and depression and making them stand out and hit harder. I really enjoy the intro to “Break the Glass” and immediately this song reminds me of a nice blend of older Lacuna Coil with a hint of Evanescence again. This is one of my favorite tracks from the album, with it’s nice musical progressions and somewhat nostalgic feeling. The album closes up shop with the reasonably heavy-starting title track, “Tied Down,” which has relaxed hard rock pacing and feels like a nice conclusion to the whole album.

 

Overall, Tied Down feels like a strong combination of a lot of things that I’ve already heard. While I can’t say the sound is strictly original and thus might say that their promotional material is a tad overstated, I do feel as though these guys have figured out what to pick out from certain bands, such as the aforementioned Evanescence, Lacuna Coil, Nemesea, and Delain, and managed to make a good blend out of it. The music is solid and emotional across the board without experimenting too much, and steers more to the hard rock crowds rather than the straight-up metal, preferring rock riffs to metal melodies, but this nevertheless makes for an appealing debut album. If I have one complaint, it’s simply the generic song titles – there are very few songs on this list that don’t share a name with about a hundred other songs. In a moment of total irony, I had decided “Once Upon a Nightmare” was the only original-sounding name, only to learn a week or two ago that Epica’s latest album also has a song with, I kid you not, the exact same name. However, Maja Shining’s diverse vocals alone make this a band that I’m interested in hearing more from in the future, and I’d like to see how this music translates to the stage. Even more than that, once their debut is out and they’ve toured it sufficiently, I’m really curious to see where their sophomore effort takes them! I’ll be waiting!

Score: 7.5/10, four stars.

Tracklist:
1. Scars
2. Once Upon a Nightmare
3. Miss Madness
4. Awake the Fire
5. Breathe in
6. Save Me
7. Your Light
8. Alone
9. Break the Glass
10. Tied Down

Text: Amy Wiseman

CRIMSON SUN @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 01.10.2016

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A second specialized gallery from Crimson Sun’s opening set at Nosturi in October 2016.
Photos by Janne Puronen.
Gig report in English HERE!
Keikka-arvio suomeksi HERE!
Gallery ft. Cain’s Offering HERE!

CAIN’S OFFERING w/ CRIMSON SUN – Nosturi, Helsinki, 1.10.2016 (English)

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For the larger audiences, guitarist Jani Liimatainen is probably most known for his work in one of the most well-known Finnish metal bands, Sonata Arctica, though his time with them ended in 2007. The split between him and the rest of the band happened under pretty shady circumstances, resulting in Liimatainen’s short withdrawal from the limelight. However, in 2009, the power metal supergroup, Cain’s Offering, which was founded by Liimatainen a year before, released its debut album, Gather the Faithful. The debut, recorded by Timo Kotipelto (Stratovarius), Jukka Koskinen (Norther), Mikko Härkin (ex-Sonata Arctica), and the old friend and Paul Di’Anno live band mate of Liimatainen’s, Jani “Hurtsi” Hurula, instantly claimed a spot in the frontline of Finnish power metal. In comparison to the (at that time) latest Sonata record, Unia, which felt really distant and directionless, Gather the Faithful was a delightfully traditional power metal record conceived with utmost professionalism.

After the debut’s release, save Liimatainen’s occasional mentions, Cain’s Offering seemed to wither away quickly with no information regarding the band’s future, until an official Facebook page popped up in 2014, featuring Liimatainen’s updates on the writing process of a new Cain’s Offering album. The sophomore album, Stormcrow, was released in May last year, but the band kept its audience waiting for their first live performances until this summer. After two shows in Japan, Cain’s Offering performed their first show in Finland on Tuska festival’s Helsinki Stage with new members Jonas Kuhlberg (ex-myGRAIN) and Jens Johansson (Stratovarius), replacing Koskinen and Härkin, respectively. While the show was great, all its power was lost thanks to the abysmal stage sound. Fortunately, Kotipelto announced that Cain’s Offering would play a couple of club shows in the fall, so we headed to Nosturi on October 1st, 2016, to check the band out in a more intimate setting!

Full gallery HERE!
Lue suomeksi TÄÄLLÄ!

 

2016-10-01-01-crimson-sun-nosturi-6The local warm-up act, Hamina-based Crimson Sun, has recently climbed the ladder towards the top tier of Finnish metal bands, and for good reason – the band’s 2015 debut album, Towards the Light, was a skillfully crafted package of melodic metal and the album clearly has found its audience afterwards – compared to the band’s last Nosturi show in MetalOrgy last February, the crowd had multiplied in numbers. Crimson Sun was granted a mere 30 minutes of showtime, but during the six songs they played it became evident that the band had again progressed: they performed better, vocalist Sini Seppälä hit all her notes in near perfect tune, and the rest of the band seemed to play in a far more relaxed manner than before. The bassist, Jukka Jauhiainen, utilized a large fan to blow his near-meter-long hair in all directions, looking amazing on stage. Unfortunately the stage sound hadn’t changed for the better since winter – the tom and snare drums started to be on point during the last song, “Memories Burning,” and at times the guitar and bass felt pretty raw. Nevertheless, the audience once again liked what they had seen, and there seemed to be a fair number of first-timers present. Seppälä mentioned that the band is writing new material for the second album – bring it on, and fast!

Crimson Sun’s set:
1. The Storm
2. Clockwork Heart
3. Towards the Light
4. Awaken
5. The Spark
6. Memories Burning

 

2016-10-01-02-cains-offering-nosturi-10After the intermission, which surely felt a lot longer than 30 minutes, Cain’s Offering finally took the stage using the interlude song, “I Am Legion,” from Stormcrow to set the stage, and once the title track started playing, the audience instantly went nuts. My immediate thoughts were that the band had clearly stressed about the reception they would get beforehand, since Jani Liimatainen’s fingers were visibly shaky during “Stormcrow” and “The Best of Times,” which played right after. Only after Timo Kotipelto first spoke to the audience and thanked them for coming to see “this new band” that they had, did Liimatainen seem to relax. Kotipelto introduced the band one member at a time between songs, joking to Jens Johansson that he wasn’t going to introduce the Swede at all, but had to relent once the audience started chanting his first name – hardly anyone can deny Johansson’s impact on the history of Finnish power metal.

On a general level, the show was incredibly awesome. All of the members of Cain’s Offering are seasoned professionals and having collaborated with each other on numerous occasions over the years clearly showed in their performance. The band had their own sound technician and equipment, providing excellent stage output throughout – a special mention to Kuhlberg’s extra dirty bass sound! Kotipelto’s interlude speeches were as corny as always, which he blamed on Liimatainen, since they’ve had so many acoustic duo shows lately. As a funny detail, I noticed that the whole band was dressed pretty much identically compared to the Tuska gig, with Liimatainen rocking his “Greetings from Kotka” –tank top and Hurula in his super corny flame beanie – the only thing missing was a pair of mirrored Mojaves. Hurula, while moderately unknown to the masses, is an excellent drummer and the band’s backbone with his hard-hitting double bass beats, which he’s surely played a couple of times in his life – the man’s calves are about as thick as the average bodybuilder’s thighs!

2016-10-01-02-cains-offering-nosturi-12The setlist was weighed towards Stormcrow’s material, since Gather the Faithful was only featured via “More than Friends,” “Oceans of Regret,” “Thorn in My Side,” and “Stolen Waters,” of which “Thorn in My Side” was a surprising choice – I would have expected the opener, “My Queen of Winter,” or the excellent ballad, “Into the Blue,” to have found their way onto the set. The grand surprise, however, was that when the band went backstage after playing “On the Shore” as the final song of the main set, they returned to kick off the encore with “My Selene,” a Sonata Arctica song that Liimatainen wrote for their 2004 album, Reckoning Night. I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve heard the song live once before when performed by Sonata during the Reckoning Night tour, but I could be wrong. It was a wonderful choice, since the song is one of the best tracks on that album, and Liimatainen was clearly stylistically on point 12 years ago already! In a sense, the band themselves diminished the power of their last song of the evening, “I Will Build You a Rome”; while being an excellent track, it surely didn’t manage to do anything to further the good mood after the brief surge of nostalgia that “My Selene” created.

Age-wise, the audience was evidently on the more mature side, which Nosturi had taken into account by expanding the bar area all the way to the photopit, enabling fans to drink beer in the front row, while the area designated for minors was shrunk to a small strip on the left side of the stage. Cain’s Offering truly gave the celebrating crowd a run for their money. Power metal still has fans domestically and especially outside the borders of our country, so let’s hope that the next Cain’s Offering album will be released sooner than 6 years from now. There are no additional shows expected in the near future as of now, so you should have been present in Nosturi, especially if you missed the Tuska gig!

Cain’s Offering’s set:
1. I Am Legion (intro)
2. Stormcrow
3. The Best of Times
4. More Than Friends
5. A Night to Forget
6. Constellation of Tears
7. Thorn in My Side
8. Too Tired to Run
9. Stolen Waters
10. My Heart Beats for No One
11. Oceans of Regret
12. Antemortem
13. On the Shore

Encore:
14. My Selene (Sonata Arctica cover)
15. I Will Build You a Rome

2016-10-01-02-cains-offering-nosturi-14Text: Atte Valtonen | Photos: Miia Collander | Ed: Amy Wiseman

CAIN’S OFFERING w/ CRIMSON SUN – Nosturi, Helsinki, 1.10.2016 (suomeksi)

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Kitaristi Jani Liimatainen on suurelle yleisölle todennäköisesti eniten tuttu kotimaamme tunnetuimpiin metalliorkestereihin lukeutuvasta Sonata Arcticasta, josta mies sai kenkää vuonna 2007. Epäselvissä olosuhteissa tapahtunut välirikko Liimataisen ja muun bändin välillä sai miehen viettämään jonkin aikaa hiljaiseloa, joka rikottiin vuonna 2009, kun Liimataisen edeltävänä vuonna perustama superkokoonpano Cain’s Offering julkaisi debyyttilevynsä Gather the Faithful. Liimataisen lisäksi Stratovarius-vokalisti Timo Kotipellon, Norther-basisti Jukka Koskisen, myös Sonata Arcticassa muinoin vaikuttaneen synisti Mikko Härkinin sekä Liimataisen vanhan kemiläisen ystävän ja Paul Di’Anno-aikaisen bänditoveri Jani ”Hurtsi” Hurulan muodostaman kokoonpanon levy ampaisi saman tien kotimaisen power metalin kärkikastiin, ja oli esimerkiksi Sonatan tuolloin viimeisimpään, etäiseksi jääneeseen Unia-levyyn verrattuna ihastuttavan perinteistä ja rautaisella ammattitaidolla toteutettua musiikkia.

Debyytin julkaisun jälkeen Cain’s Offeringista ei Liimataisen satunnaisia mainintoja lukuunottamatta kuulunut pitkään aikaan mitään, kunnes toissavuonna Facebookiin perustettiin bändin virallinen sivu, jonne Liimatainen alkoi kirjoittaa uuden levyn kirjoitusprosessista. Kakkoslevy Stormcrow ilmestyi viime vuoden toukokuussa, mutta bändin ensimmäisiä live-esiintymisiä saatiin odottaa tämän vuoden kesään asti. Koskisen korvanneen entisen myGRAIN-basisti Jonas Kuhlbergin sekä Kotipellon pitkäaikaisen Stratovarius-bänditoverin Jens Johanssonin vahvistama Cain’s Offering heitti vaatimattomasti ensimmäisen Suomen-keikkansa Tuskan Helsinki Stagella kahden Japanin-esiintymisen jälkeen. Keikan tehot hukkuivat täysin umpisurkeisiin lavasoundeihin, mutta fanien onneksi Kotipelto ilmoitti Cain’s Offeringin soittavan pari klubikeikkaa syksymmällä. Toinen keikoista osui Helsingin Nosturiin 1. lokakuuta, ja paikallehan sitä oli päästävä!

Kuvagalleria TÄÄLLÄ!
Read in English HERE!

 

2016-10-01-01-crimson-sun-nosturi-6Cain’s Offeringin lämmittelijäksi valikoitunut, Haminasta kotoisin oleva Crimson Sun on tehnyt viime aikoina kovaa nousua kohti kotimaan metallibändien kärkikastia, eikä suotta. Bändin viime vuonna julkaistu debyytti Towards the Light oli taidokkaasti sävellettyä melodista metallia, joka selkeästi on löytänyt kuulijakuntansa tämän vuoden aikana – keväiseen MetalOrgyjen Nosturin-keikkaan nähden yleisömäärä oli moninkertaistunut. Harmillisen lyhyen, vain 30-minuuttisen ja kuuden kappaleen mittaisen lämppärikeikan vetäissyt Crimson Sun oli tällä kertaa vielä parempi kuin keväällä: yhteissoitto oli tiukempaa, vokalisti Sini Seppälä lauloi täydellisesti nuottiin ja muun bändin esiintyminenkin oli huomattavasti rennomman oloista. Basisti Jukka Jauhiainen oli lähemmäs metrin mittaisine hiuksineen näyttävä ilmestys lavalla: miehen naamalle puhaltanut tuulikone oli ilmeisesti jatkuvasti täydellä teholla, puhaltaen hiuksia joka suuntaan. Valitettavasti lavasoundi ei ollut parantunut keväästä; en tiedä, kuka keikan tällä kertaa miksasi, mutta rummut alkoivat virvelin ja tomien puolesta olla kohdallaan vasta viimeisenä soitetun ”Memories Burningin” aikana, ja osan ajasta kielisoittimet kuulostivat täysin miksaamattomilta. Yleisö kuitenkin piti selvästi näkemästään, ja paikalla taisi olla paljon bändin ensi kertaa nähneitä. Nyt vaan sitä keikan aikana mainittua uutta materiaalia pian pihalle, niin saadaan homma oikeasti isolleen!

Crimson Sunin setti:
1. The Storm
2. Clockwork Heart
3. Towards the Light
4. Awaken
5. The Spark
6. Memories Burning

 

2016-10-01-02-cains-offering-nosturi-10Ikuisuudelta tuntuneen puolituntisen roudaustauon jälkeen Cain’s Offering nousi viimein lavalle Stormcrow’n välisoiton ”I Am Legion” saattelemana, ja kun levyn nimiraita pärähti soimaan, yleisö oli saman tien täysillä mukana. Lavalla keikkaa oltiin selkeästi jännitetty etukäteen – ainakin Jani Liimataisen kädet vapisivat aluksi selkeästi, mutta toisena soitetusta ”The Best of Timesista” eteenpäin mies uskalsi rentoutua, ja Timo Kotipelto kiittikin vilpittömästi yleisöä, joka oli saapunut katsomaan sankoin joukoin tätä ”uutta bändiä”. Mies esitteli muun bändin vähän kerrassaan biisien välillä, vitsaillen viimeisenä vuorossa olevan Jens Johanssonin kohdalla, ettei hän aikoisi miestä esitellä laisinkaan, mutta joutui myöntymään yleisön ”Jens! Jens!”-huutojen myötä – tuskin miehen panosta kotimaisen power metalin historiassa voi kukaan kiistää.

Yleisellä tasolla keikka oli hävyttömän kova. Bändin kaikki jäsenet ovat pitkän linjan ammattilaisia, jotka ovat myös tahoillaan soittaneet pitkään yhdessä, ja se näkyi. Soundit olivat kerrankin todella hyvin kohdallaan, olihan bändillä mukana oma miksaaja ja laitteisto, minkä lisäksi Jonas Kuhlbergin bassosoundi oli juuri niin ryönäinen kuin pitääkin. Kotipellon lavaspiikit ovat aina olleet korniudessaan viihdyttäviä, eikä tälläkään kertaa tarvinnut pettyä miehen spiikatessa ennen ”Stolen Watersin” alkua, ettei biisi kerro siitä jätkästä, joka varastaa lavan kaljaa, vaan lavan vettä. Hauskana yksityiskohtana koko bändi näytti käytännössä täysin samalta kuin kesän Tuskan-keikalla: Liimataisella oli päällään sama Terveisiä Kotkasta –wifebeater, ja rumpali Hurulalla sama liekkipipo – nopeat lasit vain puuttuivat. Suurelle yleisölle tuntematon Hurula oli muutenkin bändin selkäranka tanakkoine tuplabasarijuoksutuksineen, joita on varmasti tullut soitettua kerta jos toinenkin – miehen pohkeet ovat paksummat kuin keskivertobodarin reidet!

2016-10-01-02-cains-offering-nosturi-12Settilista painottui tuoreemman Stormcrow-levyn materiaaliin, sillä debyytti Gather the Faithfulilta mukaan pääsivät ainoastaan ”More Than Friends”, ”Oceans of Regret”, ”Thorn in My Side” sekä jo mainittu ”Stolen Waters”, joista varsinkin toiseksi viimeinen oli valintana yllättävä – olisin olettanut levyn avausraita ”My Queen of Winterin” tai loistavan balladin ”Into the Bluen” olevan mukana setissä. Keikan ylivoimaisesti suurin yllätys kuitenkin koettiin varsinaisen setin viimeisenä soitetun ”On the Shoren” jälkeen, kun bändi palasi lavalle ja polkaisi käyntiin Liimataisen Sonata Arctican vuoden 2004 Reckoning Night -levylle säveltämän ”My Selenen”. Allekirjoittaneella on voimakkaasti sellainen fiilis, että biisi on kuultu kerran livenä Reckoning Nightin julkaisukiertueella, mutta voin kyllä olla väärässäkin. Loistava veto, onhan biisi hyvä ja tyylillisesti Liimatainen on ollut jo reilut 12 vuotta sitten asian ytimessä! Tavallaan bändi teki itselleen karhunpalveluksen, sillä vaikka uuden levyn hitti ”I Will Build You a Rome” onkin loistava power-ralli, ei se keikan päättäjänä enää niin puhutellut edellisen nostalgiaryöpyn jälkeen.

Yleisö oli selkeästi varttuneemmasta päästä, mikä näkyikin hienosti Nosturin anniskelualueen laajennuksessa niin, että törppö kädessä pääsi eturiviin asti, siinä missä alaikäisille oli varattu vain pieni kaistale lavan vasemmasta reunasta. Cain’s Offering viihdyttikin juhlakansaa vajaalla puolitoistatuntisellaan koko rahan edestä. Power metalille löytyy edelleen Suomessa ja varsinkin Suomen ulkopuolella kysyntää, joten toivotaan ettei seuraavaa levyä jouduta odottamaan kuutta vuotta. Lisää keikkojakaan ei ilmeisesti ole näillä näkymin tiedossa, joten varsinkin jos Tuskan-veto sattui jäämään väliin, olisi kannattanut olla paikalla!

Cain’s Offeringin setti:
1. I Am Legion (intro)
2. Stormcrow
3. The Best of Times
4. More Than Friends
5. A Night to Forget
6. Constellation of Tears
7. Thorn in My Side
8. Too Tired to Run
9. Stolen Waters
10. My Heart Beats for No One
11. Oceans of Regret
12. Antemortem
13. On the Shore

Encore:
14. My Selene (Sonata Arctica cover)
15. I Will Build You a Rome

2016-10-01-02-cains-offering-nosturi-14Teksti: Atte Valtonen | Kuvat: Miia Collander | Ed: Ville Karttunen

CAINS OFFERING w/ CRIMSON SUN @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 01.10.2016

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Cain’s Offering with Crimson Sun at Nosturi, 2016.
Photos by Miia Collander.
Gig report HERE!
Keikka-arvio TÄÄLLÄ!

BLIND CHANNEL: Behind the Scenes at the Revolutions CD Release Show @ Virgin Oil Co., Helsinki, 01.10.2016

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Okay, maybe it’s time for Musicalypse to take a break from covering Blind Channel shows… but come on, what fun would that be? This young band from Oulu is off to a hot start and we’re really curious to follow them and see what happens in the future! Their long-awaited debut album, Revolutions, is finally out and they celebrated with a gig at Virgin Oil Co. in Helsinki on October 1st, 2016, and we’re pretty sure this is the start of something great. As such, we headed over to VOC right as the guys were arriving to have a look at the full adventure – arrival, setting up, sound check, and of course, what goes on backstage before a gig!

The gig review can be seen over HERE!
And the full gallery is up HERE!

 

The band arrived at Virgin Oil shortly before 17:00 and immediately began unpacking. There was a ton to do to get ready, especially since their management had put everything they had into this show to make it great. There were new banner stands to assemble for the first time, a backdrop to hang, fog cannons to set up, LED lights to attach to the drum stand, and of course, the instruments to get ready. It was over an hour before the guys were done getting everything put together.

2016-10-01-blind-channel-backstage-voc-sound-check-10As the band was getting everything ready, Ember Falls and Rust N’ Rage began to slowly trickle into the venue as well to unload their own gear. Once Blind Channel’s stage was prepped, it was time to get the instruments ready to go. Starting, as always, with Tommi Lalli on drums, through Olli Matela on bass, Joonas Porko on guitar, Joel Hokka‘s guitars and vocals, and of course, Niko Moilanen on vocals as well, they one-by-one tested everything out, and then did a couple play-throughs of “My Revolution” and a few others to try and get the sound in good balance. I’m not sure who their sound tech was, but I will commend him on doing a decent job – Virgin Oil’s roundish shape makes for weird echoes and the sound quality is often very poor there, but in spite of this, the music was more or less in decent shape by the end of the sound check – nice work!