Finntroll / Ensiferum / Rotten Sound / Barren Earth @ Opera House, Toronto ON, Feb 22, 2011

Review by Sean Palmerston; concert photos by Albert Mansour

One of the most interesting tours making its way through the circuit this winter has been the Finnish Metal Tour, which is being co-headlined by Finntroll and Ensiferum. I had just finished seeing both of these bands on the 70000 Tons of Metal cruise, so I was on the fence about going out and checking out this tour’s Toronto date. However, when Hellbound contributor Natalie Zed had to cancel covering the Toronto gig due to a wicked throat infection I decided last minute to take her place as reviewer and I must say I am glad I decided to go.

First band of the night was the ‘supergroup’ Barren Earth. I use that term loosely, as the band is more of a side-project than a full time gig for its members. These guys have regular roles in bands like Swallow The Sun and Moonsorrow, not to mention their bassist Olli-Pekka Laine was an original member of Amorphis. Their 2010 full-length Curse of The Red River is a favourite of mine, actually reminding me quite a bit of Amorphis circa Tales From The Thousand Lakes and Elegy. The songs are well structured, atmospheric mini-epics and because they are all pretty much six minutes or longer, the band only had time to play four songs as lead off band of the night. However, they made the most of those four songs, wowing those early enough to be there already. Definitely cannot wait to hear more from this project in the future.

My favourite set of the night happened next, when Rotten Sound took the stage. Over the past five years I have had the chance to see this grind act a handful of times and they just seem to get better each time. With a new album entitled Cursed about to drop on Relapse at the end of March the band did throw a few new songs onto their setlist, but the majority of the set concentrated on songs from Cycles and the Murderworks album. Front man Keijo Niinimaa had astute control over the crowd, leading them to battle again and again with each energetic burst of grind. Rotten Sound ruled on this night and here are a few videos from their Toronto set, filmed with Keijo’s permission.

I can’t say that I have ever been a big fan of Ensiferum. That is something that I remembered early on during their set this evening. I understand their appeal, they are a talented band who can play well, but I find them to be a bit lacking in the songwriting department. Both of their two most recent albums have been a little lackluster, so sitting through them doing a nearly ninety minute set heavy on their latest releases was not something I really wanted to do. Nor did I expect that I would have to. I figured that the band would play forty-five minutes tops, so imagine my surprise when they kept going and going and going… They played so long that even their most ardent fans were leaving the floor area for drink and smoke breaks. Methinks someone should let them know a little brevity may work wonders for them.

So, after Ensiferum’s attempt to set a new record for longest metal set of the new millennium ended we finally got to to Finntroll. It had been a long time since I have seen them play in Toronto – last time they still had their old singer when they opened for Sodom some four or five years ago. I was primed to see them play a proper set after catching a few songs on the 70000 Tons cruise in January and I am happy to report they did not disappoint. Vocalist Vreth is a better fit both visually and musically for the act, who were spot on throughout what I saw of their set. Unfortunately I could not stay for the whole thing, as I didn’t expect Ensiferum to try and play all night long and had to be home, but their first four songs were excellent. After having somewhat written them off in my disappointment with Nifelvind, I was glad to have seen them live once again. It reminded me that even good bands make bad records and this live set reinforced my memory of them being a great live band. Hopefully next time I’ll get to see more of their set.

Sean Palmerston

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.