The Swedish Viking metal messenger, Thyrfing, hasn’t exactly kept a busy recording schedule in the course of their over-20-year career, seeing as they’ve only released two records in the last 10 years: Hels Vite (2008) and De Ödeslösa (2013). The band does live shows almost as sparingly, so I suspect the many friends of folkish metal turned their heads when Tampere-based Nem Agency announced Thyrfing would be playing three shows in Finland at the beginning of this year. As supporting acts for this mini-tour, the agency managed to grab Kalmah (having done a ridiculously small number of shows in Finland lately) and the nicely-up-and-coming Vorna, so it would have been foolish not to take advantage of this opportunity – I’ve only seen Thyrfing once, at Nummirock in 2010!
As I arrived at Nosturi about 15 minutes prior to Vorna’s showtime, there were already a number of people queuing, and once I got in, the merchandise table seemed to be nicely crowded. A decent-sized mob of attendees were already waiting for Vorna to start their show upstairs, so everything seemed to be set for a fine evening. The bar area was yet again extended all the way to the front of the stage, only leaving a small strip of space on the left side for minors. The stage curtains were pulled aside at 20:00 sharp, and Vorna begun their 45-minute warm-up show with “Itsetön” off their newer album, Ei Valo Minua Seuraa. This fierce song worked as an excellent introduction to the show, which was a big deal for the band according to their overly-sympathetic vocalist, Vesa Salovaara, who stated that the band had listened to Kalmah and Thyrfing a lot during their teenage years.
To ease the wait for their next record, Vorna has recently released two singles, “Tie Varjoista” and “Aalloista” on Spotify, both of which were included in the set. There’s a huge amount of variety in the band’s material, especially “Aalloista”, as the song begins with some almost poppy synth, contains an almost Swallow the Sun-esque slow passage in the middle, only to speed up to a blast beat only a moment later, still retaining its focus all the way through. The band tried to activate the audience by doing a collective clapping of hands in the beginning of “Yksin”, but the song starts off so slowly that half of the crowd already had lost its timing by the fourth clap. Time seemed to pass very quickly, as before their fifth song, Salovaara already thanked the audience for showing up so early and stating that the song next up, “Jälkemme”, was their last for the evening.
In the field of Finnish folk metal, Vorna has great potential. I only saw the band live for the first time last October, but their presence was convincing right off the bat, and tonight’s show wasn’t even a tad behind the last time in quality. Even if the band, save vocalist Salovaara, performs quite statically, their song material, which is of immense quality, blows you away. Vorna’s first demo was recorded in 2009, so the band already has a lot of mileage, and it’s worth noting that their line-up hasn’t changed since. They probably managed to grab a bunch of new fans, as the venue was practically full near the end of their set, and a good deal of people were moshing. All Vorna now needs is more gigs, especially abroad – all the pieces already seem to be in place. A special mention to the band’s drummer, Mikael Vanninen, for using tom decorations that look like pine trunks!
2. Tie Varjoista
I wouldn’t want to say ”and now for the main monkey business”, but I’m totally going to: as I said after last summer’s Tampere Metal Meeting, Kalmah keeps on entertaining, as the guys from Northern Finland, stubbornly having retained their musical style through the years, were a blast as always. They kicked off their set with the title track of their latest album, Seventh Swampsony (2013), after which the vocalist, Pekka Kokko, got to crack a few jokes about the scarce amount of snow in Southern Finland, forcing his brother to skip the skiing trip he had planned.
Nowadays, Kalmah is starting to be unique in such a way that one – fortunately – cannot witness two identical shows from them: compared to their Metal Meeting show, half of the setlist was reworked and filled with great older songs, such as “Evil in You” from the debut, Swamplord, or “Hollow Heart” and “The Blind Leader” from They Will Return. The real surprise though was the closing track of Swampsong, “Moon of My Nights” – I don’t know if the track has ever been played live! Of course, the familiar Kalmah hits, such as “The Groan of Wind,” “The Black Waltz,” and the de facto setlist closer, “Hades,” were included, so nobody had to be disappointed – as for me, even if I regard The Black Waltz as Kalmah’s best work to date, I would love to hear other songs off the album, such as “Bitter Metallic Side,” or even “Mindrust” sometime. I still cannot complain, as the setlist didn’t include a single track that could have been considered a filler.
Kalmah sped through their hour-long set with respectable intensity, of which we can primarily thank the band’s drummer, Janne Kusmin – the man is by far one of the most under-appreciated Finnish drummers. The audience laughed to Pekka Kokko’s hilarious interim speeches every time he opened his mouth, and the venue was practically full from start to finish – they even opened the upstairs balcony to ease up the strain on the bar area. If there was something to complain about, guitarist Antti Kokko’s instrument could have used higher volume, as his solos didn’t stand out as they should have. The bottom line for Kalmah is nevertheless evident: for crying out loud, do more shows!
1. Seventh Swampsony
2. Evil in You
3. The Groan of Wind
4. Hollow Heart
5. Heroes to Us
6. The Blind Leader
7. 12 Gauge
8. For the Revolution
9. The Black Waltz
10. Moon of My Nights
And now, for the main monkey business for real: at 23:45, Thyrfing’s intro tape began playing and the curtains were pulled aside, revealing the stage, which was decorated with large Viking-themed tapestries on each side. The show began with “Mjölner” off their 2000 album, Urkraft, and the band’s singer, Jens Rydén, grabbed a hold of the audience right from the start, proving himself to be a formidable performer throughout the show. After the first song, the set progressed through Vansinnesvisor’s “The Voyager” to the second-newest album, Hels Vite, as “Griftefrid” was played third. For a second I wondered where Thyrfing had hidden their keyboardist, before realizing that the synths were played from a backing track. Fortunately the synth track was mixed pretty loud, since the band’s music has always utilized keyboards to a great extent. The sounds were great all-around as well – Thyrfing’s own sound tech clearly had his act together!
After ”Raven Eyes”, off their eponymous debut album, Thyrfing briefly returned to their past, before playing “Mot Helgrind” and “Veners Förfall” from their latest output, De Ödeslösa. Thyrfing has always been able to produce strong material, as the newer songs don’t fall behind the older choices for a second. Next up was one of my personal favorites, as Urkraft’s “Sweoland Conqueror” was played – a great song full of those cheesy keyboard passages! Before a brief intermission, “Far Åt Helvete” off Farsotstider and Hels Vite’s “Från Stormens Öga” were played, during which the band’s mixer decided that all the knobs were at correct levels, cracked open a beer and started streaming the show to Facebook with his phone – I don’t recall seeing something like that before.
Thyrfing retreated backstage for a quick breather during somewhat of a midtro, and as with clickbait headlines on the internet, ‘You wouldn’t believe what happened next!’ – people started wandering downstairs to the coatroom! What’s going on? There’s a bunch of songs left! The band returned to the stage and dropped a big one straight away, as they played “…Ty Mörkret Skall Falla”, the opening track off their first demo, Hednaland, and which I believe is their first composed song ever. Despite the declining audience, Thyrfing ended the show on a high note with the three last songs, “Storms of Asgard” off Valdr Galga, and “Digerdöden” and “Kaos Återkomst” from Vansinnesvisor.
As a whole, Thyrfing’s show was plain but strong. The band has always walked their own path musically and one cannot really expect anything really spectacular, nor does anyone even need to. When not counting Rydén, the band performed really discretely, especially bassist Joakim Kristensson who stared at his fretboard most of the time. The setlist, in my opinion, was exceptionally good and diverse, so I really cannot comprehend the people’s sudden urge to leave the venue – as Thyrfing finished, the bar area was practically deserted, with the crowd filling only half of the space between the stage and the mixing booth. Did this many people show up only to see Kalmah’s show? Although it’s worth noting that from the beginning of Kalmah’s show, the bar area was completely packed with thirsty show-goers, and probably because a low number of pre-sale tickets being sold, there were only two guys tending the bar, which created long queues – with the show being held on a Saturday, people could have just been fed up and gone someplace else to get a drink. I enjoyed the whole evening through, and since the tickets were priced at only 18€, one really cannot complain!
2. The Voyager
4. Raven Eyes
5. Mot Helgrind
6. Veners Förfall
7. Sweoland Conqueror
8. Far Åt Helvete
9. Från Stormens Öga
10. …Ty Mörkret Skall Falla
11. Storms of Asgard
13. Kaos Återkomst
Photos: Marco Manzi