On September 8, 2012, the current North American tour featuring Korpiklaani (Finland), Moonsorrow (Finland), Týr (Faroe Islands), and Metsatöll (Estonia) hit Seattle’s Studio Seven, with local support from Funeral Age and Blood and Thunder, and yours truly was there to bear witness. I again brought my camera, which both thinks for me and defeats my thinking because it speaks a language I don’t understand. I took pics, did the best I could to pretty them up on iPhoto, and have included the most tolerable ones in this post.
We got to the venue in broad daylight, at door-opening time because the guys from Blood and Thunder were starting off the night and we didn’t want to miss them. We headed for the venue’s balcony bar, hoping to grab a couple of the stools up against the balcony’s front railing so I could get an unobstructed view of the stage for pics and so I would have a place to park my lazy ass instead of standing for the next 5-6 hours.
No problem getting to the rail . . . but the stools were nowhere to be seen! I could already feel my ancient back beginning to stiffen up. But I put the anticipation of pain out of my head as soon as Blood and Thunder started to crank it up.
This was the first time I’d seen these dudes since a line-up change that brought on board a new bass player (not sure who he is) and new second guitarist and backing vocalist (Vance Bratcher). I had some question marks about what would happen, particularly because the band’s blackened form of melodic death metal gets intricate and relies in part on dual guitar solo’s and leads. But all was well.
Vance Bratcher matched pace and meshed well with Billy Keller’s racing fretwork, and Billy can still reliably shred it up. Drummer/vocalist Ryan Yancey was in excellent form, and I could hear what keyboardist James Furrow was doing better than I ever have. Not sure whether that was because of a change in the sound mix or my damaged hearing just happened to have a good night, but it changed the character of the songs compared to how I’ve heard them performed live in the past, and I really liked what I heard.
In a nutshell, B&T sounded great, and despite the early start there was a good-sized and enthusiastic crowd. (And in other B&T news, they’ve got a new web site (here) and their music is now available on CDBaby (here). Pics:
Funeral Age was up next. They’ve been around for more than a decade, though both their name and their musical style has changed since the early days. Despite the fact that they’re been a fixture in the local scene and gig a lot, I think I’d only seen them once before, and that was a couple of years ago. So this was really the one set of the night that for me was a chance to discover something new — and I really enjoyed what I heard.
The music is a hybrid of black thrash and death metal, with some extended instrumental jams that really get the blood pumping. They look badass on stage, too. I need to get my hands on an album.
I decided to move down to the floor at some point during the Funeral Age set, which I probably should have done for B&T, to get some different camera angles.
I stumbled across Metsatöll about a year ago because of the artwork to their latest album, Ulg, and wrote about them in one of those EYE-CATCHERS posts. That post, by the way, includes an official music video for one of the band’s songs that’s just awesome (the band performs underwater, with a mermaid).
Metsatöll just about stole the whole show. It was as good an example of an audience/band biofeedback loop as I’ve ever seen. By this point, Studio Seven was packed, and the crowd reacted with tremendous enthusiasm to Metsatöll. The band were obviously thrilled and surprised at the response (huge smiles on their faces, frequent thanks to the audience in somewhat broken English between songs), and it seemed to drive them to even more and more energetic performances, which drove the crowd into even more tumultuous reactions.
The music was an interesting fast-paced mix of indigenous folk music and heavy riffing. Frontman Markus “Rabapagan” Teeäär is a really engaging presence on stage, but the real star of the show was Lauri “Varulven” Õunapuu. He rapidly moved from flute, to mouth harp, to some kind of traditional stringed instrument played with a bow, to Estonian bagpipes — all the while whirling and bouncing around like a man on fire. And he also contributed some tremendously deep vocals that came pretty close to Tuvan throat singing.
In short, a shitload of fun was had by all.
I haven’t been able to get into Týr’s recorded music. For me, some of the songs are fun and catchy, but I’ve yet to hear an album that has grabbed my attention and held it all the way through. Still, I was curious to see them live for the first time.
It was obvious from the start that the Týr faithful were out in force on the floor. The packed crowd was exuberantly enthusiastic, singing along with the choruses, bouncing up and down, cheering like crazy between songs. The feeling was infectious, and I found myself headbanging away by the time the set ended, notwithstanding the high cheese factor. But ironically the song I liked the best was the slowest of the set, a ballad from their latest album called “Evening Star”.
Moonsorrow: This was the band I most wanted to see on this tour. I had seen them more than two years ago on one of the Finnish Metal Tours (reviewed here), but that was at a time when I was largely unfamiliar with their music. Since then, I’ve become a devout fan and have become more familiar with many of their songs.
The music was . . . electrifying. Long, dense, atmospheric songs that combined dark, immersive melodies with the scathing power of black metal (and yes, the performances were much more in that black/pagan vein than in the territory of folk metal). Of the songs I recognized, they performed “Tähdetön” and “Kuolleiden Maa” from the latest album (Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa), plus earlier music from Kivenkantaja and Voimasta Ja Kunniasta, plus one song that apparently goes back to their 1999 demo, Tämä Ikuinen Talvi, though I hadn’t heard it before.
As compelling as the music was, the band was also riveting to watch. They were drenched in “blood”, and guitarist Mitja Harvilahti and Janne Perttilä were in constant motion. Perhaps because my own tastes favor this kind of music over more traditional folk metal — and also because Moonsorrow are SO damned powerful — this set was the highlight of the night for me.
I’ve written before that my opinion about Korpiklaani changed dramatically for the better after seeing them perform live in Seattle last year during a tour they headlined with support from Arkona, among others. I became a complete Korpiklaani convert after seeing that show. It was a foot-stomping avalanche of fun, and so was their set last weekend (or as much of it as I saw, because I had to leave before it was over to catch a ferry boat home).
Jonne Järvelä is a magnetic, high-energy, infectiously good-natured frontman, the smiling Buddha-like bass-player Jarkko Aaltonen has an epic beard, they sing a lot about drinking, and they know how to rock the fuck out in a live setting. The crowd loved it. So did I.
This tour isn’t quite finished. If you’re within striking distance of any of the remaining venues, it’s definitely worth seeing. You can find what’s left of the schedule here.