Ever since Anna Murphy, Ivo Henzi, and Merlin Sutter parted ways with Eluveitie, we’ve been waiting for their new band, Cellar Darling, to come to Finland. While their first album tour for This is the Sound didn’t make it to Finland, their current tour for their sophomore album finally brought them to Helsinki on November 2nd, 2019. With the Danish alternative rock/metallers of Forever Still as their warm-up, we headed to On the Rocks to check out both bands.
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Listen along with the setlist on Spotify as a playlist:
We arrived at the venue in good time and found a considerable queue already waiting for the live club to open, but we were able to get a good spot nevertheless. The venue had impressive Halloween decorations up for the holiday afterparty, and many concert-goers had already donned face paint and/or costumes.
Forever Still took the stage a negligible couple of minutes after their set start time of 20:30 and began powerfully with impressive energy for “Fight!” from the new album. Notably, Mikkael Haastrup was absent; it seems he had to return home to recover from an injury. Maja Shining immediately said hello after the first song and asked to fix some feedback before they continued on to “Awake the Fire.” She was a real powerhouse on stage for someone so petite, constantly moving and gesturing along with the music.
With a quick “kiitos” and a drink of water, they went into “Scars.” Maja greeted the crowd officially then and talked about the new album and how governments are corrupt and how people are fleeing into cyberspace instead of meeting in the real world, and said the next song would take it down a bit: “Say Your Goodbyes.” Guitarist Inuuteq Kleemann switched over to a small (mixing board?) for this powerful ballad, until the chorus where he returned to his guitar.
Speaking of Kleeman, his energy matched Maja’s easily, and his hair was thrown around so much that his face was only visible for half their set. Following the ballad, Maja took over on the (mixing board?), but didn’t let the lack of freedom hold back her passion or power.
Maja then moved over to a single drum for the title track of the new album, “Breathe in Colors,” and then introduced “Do Your Worst.” This was followed by the vicious “Survive,” a song I wasn’t convinced by on the album but which came to life on stage. One of the highlights of the show was during this, when Kleeman hopped off the stage to rock out a bit with the audience, headbanging like crazy but not missing a beat all the while.
Their first release, “Miss Madness,” signaled that their set was almost over, and we found ourselves a bit bummed out. Maja then said they were at the last song, “Rewind,” from the new album. The promised to come to the merch booth after Cellar Darling’s set. She then admitted that the theramin had a life of its own and had to check if it would cooperate on this occasion. The song went just fine though and the theramin played the long last note as (presumably) planned.
Ultimately, their show was both very professional, yet also a ton of fun. They seem like the kind of band that is not only good at what they do but take care of themselves (drinking water, not beer, for example) so they’re at their best during each show.
2. Awake the Fire
4. Say Your Goodbyes
5. Is it Gone?
6. Breathe in Colors
7. Do Your Worst
9. Miss Madness
The stage change-over took a little longer than expected, but they managed to get ready for 21:36. The spoken intro played as the band stood ready on stage, Anna Murphy all smiles. Forever Still had set the bar for the night quite high, but as they opened with “Pain,” they seemed up to the challenge. They followed immediately with “Death” – my personal favorite new song – and I was surprised to learn that Murphy was the one who played the flute in that song.
Before they moved on, the backdrop nearly fully fell down, but Murphy merely laughed it off and they continued into “Love.” By the time they reached “The Spell,” I wondered if they would just play their new album in full. Murphy fully slayed the high notes, leaving my arms with goosebumps, and we also noticed that she had been playing the keyboard as well (which had been hidden from sight to us up until that point). This song felt a tad repetitive on the album, but hearing it live elevated it to a new level.
The show took a heavy turn with “Insomnia,” skipping ahead in the new album, and again it seemed as though seeing it live elevated the song to another level, particularly with the flutes and a great ambient, echoing part, which felt authentically eerie. They continues onto “Drown,” which admittedly was a bit of a slow point in the show (yet had some good moments), as it was quite long.
Murphy greeted the crowd after this, talking about how they have played in Helsinki with other bands in the past, and mentioning that Ivo is half-Finnish, so it’s like coming home for him. The crowd gave him a chant, and then Murphy said that they would play some more upbeat music (though the crowd thought the depressing story of The Spell was very appropriately Finnish). “Black Moon” was a welcome change of pace, bringing the promised energy. We even caught Kleeman in the audience thoroughly enjoying the music alongside the crowd. During “Stargazer,” Murphy introduced the rest of the band. They were doing a great job, though their touring bassist was largely hidden from us the whole time. Merlin Sutter was really putting everything into his performance; Henzi seems like he has a bit of that Finnish shyness in him, but he still gave us a few smiles when the crowd showed him love.
Murphy mentioned that they were told never to cover Queen, so they did, and played one that I’m not personally familiar with: “The Prophet’s Song.” While I can’t myself comment on it as a cover, a friend of mine is a huge fan and during the echoing parts he said he might cry. After the song, he shouted out “Anna Murphury” and she sweetly said it was too much of a compliment.
They moved on to a really groovy jam for “Redemption,” after confessing that they wanted to do something different for those who saw them in Tampere the night before, but then they stuck with what was familiar because they are Swiss. “Redemption” was the last song from the main set, but they were aggressively called back. They closed up with two very obvious fan (and personal) favorites, the eerie and existential “Six Days” and the catchy powerhouse of “Avalanche.” Murphy gave a very heartfelt thanks to the venue, to Forever Still, and of course, to the crowd for supporting them and live music in general.
This was an almost shockingly good night. It’s not as though we came into the evening expecting a bad performance by any means, but we were just taken aback by how passionate and thorough Forever Still was, and how much the live setting brought Cellar Darling’s music to life. Each band brought something unique to the evening, yet they also went well together as a touring pair. Hopefully you’ve all been able to catch this tour, but if not, do keep an eye out for both of these bands in the future! It’ll be worth your while.
4. The Spell
8. Black Moon
9. Starcrusher / Fire, Wind & Earth
10. The Prophet’s Song [Queen cover]
12. Six Days
Photos by Marco Manzi