By Justin Richardson
An end of tour review for such a solid lineup is risky. By the end of a tour band members and crew have been subjected to illness, rabid fans, and copious amounts of alcohol. Let’s be real here, the smart thing to do on tour would be to spend a lot of time sleeping, avoiding alcohol, and being realistic about hanging out with fans. But we all know this isn’t the way things are done on metal tours. My point here is that I knew going in that the bands might lack energy and emotion in their performances. I have seen all four bands at separate shows before as well, so I knew I had a comparison point.
First up was Barren Earth. After seeing them last summer at the Tuska Open Air festival in Helsinki, Finland, I was really looking forward to their set. I discovered them a few months prior to the show and their punchy mix of Tales-era Amorphis tinged sound, combined with modern production qualities and a dash of originality made them a perfect fit for my taste. Just enough of that old Amorphis sound to make that makes me excited, but enough of their own sound that I don’t feel I’m listening to a carbon copy. They were fantastic at Tuska, so I was curious as to how it would go at these lesser venues. I knew that most people would not be familiar with the band, but was hoping that they would at least be intrigued.
Even with the audience lacking numbers initially, the band took the stage with full smiles. The sound was a bit off, but this issue can easily be placed squarely on the venue. It’s acceptable, but many of the nuances in the music just could not be heard. Due to their limited time, they were only able to play five songs. But, considering the band has only one album to their name right now, this is enough to get the crowd interested. Admittedly, it’s rare to see an opening a band that already has their live show down, but chalk that up to the experience these guys have in their respective “main” bands.
Now anyone who is already really loving Barren Earth and their first album might have similar concerns as I did about it being a side project. Fear not friends, I spoke with Olli-Pekka Laine after the show about their status as a band, and he told me that they do consider Barren Earth to be a legitimate band and not a side project. He said they’re already writing their second album, so this is great news to anyone who really loved Curse of the Red River. My worry about slow releases and lack of touring has been abated for now.
Next up was Rotten Sound. Their short and brutal attack anthems got the audience into a frenzy. Many brave souls got on stage and dove into the crowd. The band was amused and just kept up the aural assault with each song. They played a few cuts from their newest album, Cursed, which was also available early for purchase at their merchandise tables. Being the second time I’ve seen these guys, I knew it would be intense. And even with the tour coming to a close, I’d have to say they outperformed themselves when I last saw them with 1349 and Carcass a few years ago. The Raleigh show in particular had them grinning from ear to ear. It was so brutal that someone forgot they were wearing glasses, stage dove and moshed and then realized they no longer had them and began to freak out and ask everyone around after the band left the stage. The band was intense and I look forward to seeing them again in the future.
After seeing Ensiferum a few years ago on the first PaganFest tour, I figured their crowd numbers would probably increase between sets. Sure enough, by the time the kilt clad warriors took the stage, the crowd numbers swelled near capacity. This fact was evident on both nights, and even though they weren’t the headliners, you wouldn’t have known that from the energy of the crowd. As much as I enjoy smaller venues, there are some bands that really need that freedom to move about. Both guitarists fed heavily off the crowd and did their best to move back and forth on the stage. Their lovely keyboardist was hidden behind the guys for the most part, which was a little disappointing as she could have worked the crowd just as easily as the guys had she had a little more room to work with. Their longer set length allowed them to play more than they did on PaganFest and the band was noticeably pleased with the crowds ability to sing every song. Wrapping up their set with Twilight Tavern and Iron, the band tossed a few small packages to the crowd. Ensiferum brand condoms with the motto, “Hard as Iron”. The crowd was such a sausagefest that I find it doubtful that any were put to use that night.
Even though the crowd was a bit smaller by the time Finntroll began to play, by the second or third song the numbers were about the same as Ensiferum. Maybe they were all assisting each other in the bathroom.
Now I’ve been listening to Finntroll since Jaktens Tid was released back in 2001. Even though there were a few folk style bands rolling across the metal plains back then, there certainly weren’t the number there are now. I attribute Finntroll’s success as having a direct impact on Finland’s departure from the Sentenced style bands to the folk oriented ones. It’s just a personal observation and it’s not meant to take away any credit from other successful acts. The big issue for Finntroll was their slow start to doing tours in the USA and in particular the southeast. It wasn’t until I went to Tuska in 2010 to watch them on their home soil that I was finally able to see these guys live. I talked to the guys after the show at Tuska and shared my dismay at their lack of southeastern tour dates, and it was then that I was informed by Tundra that they would actually be hitting the southeast in their yet unannounced tour. To say I was excited would be an understatement.
Their crowd at Tuska was significantly different from the crowds on this tour. While the Tuska crowd stuck to dancing around with each other, most pits broke out in the southeast. It’s just one of those idiosyncrasies that you notice when you go to shows in completely different regions. Being the last night of the tour, we were treated to various members of the other bands taking the stage. Mikko from Barren Earth/Swallow the Sun jumped on stage at the very beginning and sported a pig nose and a leather police cap. Other guys who joined Finntroll during the evening were Olli-Pekka Laine and Janne Perttilä from Barren Earth, Petri Lindroos from Ensiferum, and Keijo Niinimaa of Rotten Sound. Even as the last songs were sung, there was a mood of excitement, gratitude, and celebration. Finntroll played their heart out for everyone. Skrymer in particular was trying his best to avoid smiling, but couldn’t help but crack a few. Hopefully, even with the issues they’ve had on the tour, they will hit the southeast again when they do their next tour.
I hope that all of the bands feel that they were successful on this tour. They all deserve the praise they get, and none of the many problems that they were plagued with on the tour. Here’s hoping it won’t be too long until they return to our shores.