The joint show of the two somewhat-cornerstones of thrash metal, Kreator and Sepultura, came to The Circus in Helsinki on February 10th, 2017; the event was originally meant to take place in Jäähalli’s Black Box, but soon after the ticket sale began, the event was relocated. Considering that the event originally allowed minors, the practical arrangements were a bit of a question mark beforehand – the venue has quite a few narrow corridors, and one could anticipate, if not completely, at least an almost sold-out event.
If Kreator and Sepultura can both be regarded as heavyweight considering the years they’ve been active, the warm-up acts were no newcomers either – both Soilwork and Aborted have long and successful careers. I absolutely wanted to catch all our bands, since I’ve been a fan of Soilwork for at least 10 years, and Aborted managed to wholeheartedly convince me with their Nosturi show last year.
As I arrived to the doors of Circus about 10 minutes before the opening of the doors, quite a few fellow show-goers had clearly had the same plan, as the queue was tens of meters long already. The doors were opened almost 10 minutes late for some reason, but fortunately the coatroom personnel worked delightfully quickly to get people in, and I found myself in the bar before I even noticed.
Considering the presence of minors, the situation was handled sensibly – one managed to walk into a separately fenced-off area right in front of the stage through The Circus’ second room, as the main show room and the second floor balcony was reserved for beer chuggers. In addition to Kreator’s props and gear, the stage was already loaded with two drum kits. At about 19:05, Aborted started off with “Divine Impediment” off their latest Retrogore album, took a hold of the situation pretty fast, and didn’t let the intensity drop for a second during their 30 minute set. For the longest time, the mix was great from the start, and the band’s light technician was clearly at his best – the band even had two of Kreator’s four smoke cannons at their disposal.
Aborted’s vocalist, Svencho de Caluwé, can easily claim a spot in the top ten of the most tongue-in-cheek frontmen of the metal scene – when puffing up the audience, why use the worn-out “I can’t fucking hear you” when you can elaborate with “you sound like the equivalent of a dead hooker”? I cannot understand why Aborted hasn’t managed to break into death metal’s first class – the band’s visual concept doesn’t deviate at all from bands like Carcass for example, and there’s a plethora of bands that have to fill a whole album with the amount of content Aborted uses in only a few songs. Fortunately, the band seems to have a bunch of followers in Finland, since there were a lot of Aborted shirts to be seen in the audience. A strong start for the evening!
One could say that Soilwork had returned to their home field, since the band has stated numerous times that Helsinki is one of their favorite spots to play in the whole world, and their last show in The Circus was even released as a live DVD. I’ve managed to catch Soilwork live only once since their latest record, The Ride Majestic (2015), so I had high hopes for their show. The set was indeed kicked off with the album’s title track, but unfortunately this was one of those times when anyone would have noticed the sound technician’s pivotal position in terms of a successful live experience, as the band sounded pretty much horrible for the whole 45 minutes. Björn Strid clearly had to yell his lungs out to rise above the ripping guitar wall, the bass drums were really distorted when they played “Nerve” – which apparently didn’t go unnoticed by the sound tech, but he overreacted by dropping the levels so much that you could only hear the cymbals and snare on “Rise Above the Sentiment.” In a clear counterattack to the other three bands, Soilwork had chosen a bunch of songs from the heavier side of their catalogue, which in turn amplified the bumming effect of the bad mix.
Soilwork’s lineup had changed quite a bit since the last time I’ve seen them, since Taylor Nordberg played bass in place of Markus Wibom and Ronny Gutierrez was substituting for David Andersson on second guitar. Apparently Dirk Verbeuren has retreated from the band completely, as the young Bastian Thursgaard was sitting behind the drum kit, playing Verbeuren’s complex beats with such laidback-ness that one could have imagined him being on a Sunday stroll through the park. Strid was as pleasant as ever, chitchatting with the audience and once again titling themselves as the svedupelles [Swedish clowns, per se] they are. The set was concluded with the de facto “Stabbing the Drama,” which, after 12 years, remains a kick-ass song, but because of the short length and the daunting mix, the show had a bit of a lukewarm feel to it as a whole. Please do a headlining show in Finland, and do it fast!
Having combined thrash metal with traditional Brazilian rhythms for over 30 years, Sepultura was in charge of the folk vibes for the evening. For a good while, I’ve felt that people haven’t given the band a chance after the last founding member, drummer Igor Cavalera, left the band 10 years ago – when asked, the average fan thinks that present-time Sepultura “sucks balls.” Come on already, Andreas Kisser and Paulo Jr. have been a part of Sepultura for over 30 years, and the singer Derrick Green for a good 20 years as well – wouldn’t it be time to leave the past behind? I can’t say that I’ve ever been that big of a fan, but that’s probably why it was so easy to enjoy Sepultura’s show – the hour-long set was a hefty mix of new tunes and old classics, with the brand new fourteenth album, Machine Messiah, being featured with a total of five songs.
Sepultura started off with “I Am the Enemy” and “Phantom Self”, after which the band took a step to the past with “Choke” off Against and “Desperate Cry” from Arise, an album generally regarded as a thrash metal classic. The audience’s reaction towards the new songs was politely accepting, while the older bangers caused a lot more stir. After “Alethea” and “Sworn Oath” off the new album, the remainder of the show was devoted to the classics: “Inner Self”, “Refuse/Resist”, “Arise”, “Ratamahatta”, and of course, “Roots Bloody Roots.” I remember reading a review of Machine Messiah, slamming the record as tiresome, and I most certainly cannot follow suit; the show felt really consistent, and the band had a great vibe throughout. Derrick Green is a formidable frontman, lacking no charisma with his already-greying beard, but without a doubt, the title of the evening’s most prominent performer goes to the drummer Eloy Casagrande, who bashed his kit with such force that it’s a miracle that nothing broke down.
During the intermission before Kreator, the change of venue finally showed its ugly face as the age check fence between the bar and the corridor towards the bathrooms got hugely crowded, and finally the bouncers had to move the fences aside for a while. Another peculiar situation happened in the bar on the left side of the stage, as the attendees had apparently bought the beer tanks empty. I’m not saying that this shouldn’t happen at all, but there’s certainly been a lot of sold-out shows at The Circus, and it took an unusually long time to get the beer tap flowing again. Not that it finally even paid out to buy a pint – when Kreator begun their first song, a huge circle pit erupted instantly, and a good deal of people were soaked in assorted beverages rather soon after.
Let me be honest up front: I can’t think of a metal genre as personally unappealing as thrash metal, especially German thrash metal, so there’s not much to say about Kreator’s setlist or the state of their present day live shows when compared to their earlier shows in Finland. Still, Kreator threw a really good show in front of a huge number of almost fanatic people, letting the experience of over 30 years show in their playing. The setlist featured songs from ten different Kreator records, the main focus being in Gods of Violence, released only a few weeks ago. Mille Petrozza, the frontman and founding member, didn’t let Derrick Green overshadow him, and I gotta say I like his screeching high voice, which could easily be ranked as one of the best in the genre. Petrozza also pumped the audience up to various shenanigans, including a wall of death during the intro for “Coma of Souls.”
Technically-speaking, the show was great. The sound was clear, and a good deal of money had been invested in the band’s light show, as there were two large video elements with mounted spotlights on both sides of the drum riser. The light tech had maximum effort going on as the red-and-white lights supported Kreator’s music nicely. In addition to Petrozza, Ventor Reil on drums, Speesy Giesler on bass, and Finland’s own Sami Yli-Sirniö on lead guitar also gave their best, but one really couldn’t expect less with a band with this much mileage. The audience was wild from the start, but I hate to say that for me, there was that special something missing, as with thrash metal shows there usually is, but I have to emphasize that this was not Kreator’s fault in any way. I decided to bail out as “Civilization Collapse” ended Kreator’s main set to avoid the crowded coatroom – I can always attend the next show if I want to hear “Flag of Hate” and “Pleasure to Kill.”
In conclusion, the evening was a great mix of Aborted’s and Soilwork’s modern metal sound and Sepultura’s and Kreator’s more traditional leveling, and even if the tickets were priced at almost 50€, the value was definitely there. Too bad that the venue change from Jäähalli to The Circus certainly wasn’t in everyone’s favor, and there were a bunch of snarky comments on the Facebook event regarding the arrangements and especially the price of beer, and I have to say they weren’t completely wrong: 7€ for a watery small pint of Lapin Kulta is a bit steep.
Photos: Janne Puronen