with Norther and Alestorm
Electric Ballroom, London
13th March 2008
All live pics and review by HannTu
There was a noticeable party mood around the venue tonight, even though many of the fans had been standing outside in the London drizzle for the best part of two hours. I suppose that was in keeping with the sea-faring (you’ll see) outdoorsy spirit of the line-up tonight. For once, much of the buzz wasn’t about the headliner, nor even the supporting band. For once, the buzz was about the opening band. The fans came dressed up to party, drink and have a good time, and the Turisas nutters were out in force decked out with battle paint and fur, and plastic swords and Viking helmets in abundance. And cudgels. Cudgels for fuck’s sake. I sometimes wonder. Anyway…
Novelty? Perhaps. Alestorm is the buzz around the venue tonight, with shirts and merch selling out in a flash. The band from Scotland play “Pirate Metal”, and you can pretty much guess what’s going on. Never have I seen so many Jack Sparrow look-alikes – I half expected parrots and wooden legs. This is the latest slant in the seemingly more and more noticeable folk metal genre, that’s gaining popularity and wider acceptance among metalheads. I’m guessing that part of it is to move away from the aggression and machismo of the thrash and death metal gigs, or the doom and gloom of black metal shows. It’s just an excuse to come face-painted, dressed up in silly gear and just be as nutty as you want (or can) in a general sea of nuttiness, to laugh at yourself, others and the band.
To be honest, the only pirate elements in this band’s music is in the vocals and lyrical matter. Singer and keytarist Chris Bowes milks the “arrr me hearties!” voice for all its worth, whether when speaking to the crowd or singing. Other than that, they play pretty much straight up heavy power metal. Take away soaring high pitched vocals and replace with salt crusted growls, and the HammerFall similarities are there for all to see.
The band introduced their third song: “This song is about our pagan ancestors…well, actually it’s just about beer! Nancy The Tavern Wench!!!” This features a great sing-along bit, which the crowd willingly got into. “Time to speed things up” and a bass line introduced “Death Before the Mast”, which really got the crowd moving. Humour isn’t lacking in an Alestorm show; Chris introduces their giant bassist Dani Evans as “3 and a half feet tall, epic and dimunitive at the same time” and their guitarist Gavin Harper as if “the Devil had joined a pirate band!” The incredible catchy “Captain Morgan’s Revenge” was the last song, and the crowd was well and truly warmed up – singing, jumping, dancing etc.
Apparently Alestorm have been a Bloodstock Open Air regular for a couple of years now, and many of you will have a chance to see them at Wacken this year. Their debut album CAPTAIN MORGAN’S REVENGE is out now on Napalm Records; it’s a pretty fun listen. Check them out!
Over The Seas
Nancy The Tavern Wench
Death Before The Mast
Wenches And Mead
Captain Morgan’s Revenge
This was actually the band I was most looking forward to seeing tonight. I saw them in Wacken last year, missing out on Destruction to do so, and they didn’t disappoint. They’ve copped much stick for being a Children of Bodom clone, but as I’m a Bodom fan, that doesn’t bother me. Anyway even though such criticisms might have been relevant in the past, they’ve certainly moved away from it in later years – only the vocals now still bear any resemblance to Children of Bodom.
They kicked off with “My Antichrist”, which I have to say is my least favourite song the new album N. It’s dull and unimaginative, the keyboards don’t do anything to the song, the riffs are flat, and the clean vocals add nothing. Live, it undoubtedly gets heads banging but that’s about all the value this song has. “Down” feels a bit busier, and it’s here that drummer Heikki Saari earns his money. It was a superlatively tight and technical performance from him all night.
“Blackhearted” takes us back to the best song of their best album MIRROR OF MADNESS, with great searing leads and insistent rhythms. Petri’s death yowls are on form tonight – growls and snarls from such a small body, it never fails to surprise me. I can’t say the same about Kride’s clean vocals – I feel that on record, Norther do clean vocals as best as it can be done without sounding emasculated or pussified. However, live, it just sounds weak and out of place.
“We Rock” featured some great “Hey! Hey!” participation from the crowd, and a raging guitar solo, while “Frozen Angel”, one of the better tracks off N, caused a massive pit to open up. Apparently it wasn’t big enough for Petri, who said “I want to see a crazy moshpit right here!” before “Death Unlimited”, again I can’t praise the drumming enough again. While I’m at it, I absolutely love Petri’s guitar style – so damn relaxed and effortless. His right hand is almost completely limp, while his fretting hand is languor personified as it flashes around the fretboard.
They closed with “Self Righteous Fuck”, a so-so song from N. The new album is for me ultimately very hit and miss, and definitely does not hold a candle to MIRROR OF MADNESS and DREAMS OF ENDLESS WAR. Probably in trying to escape the Bodom clone image (no songs tonight from DREAMS OF ENDLESS WAR either – major disappointment), they’ve moved away from what it was that made them really likeable to me in the first place. In the live performance, they are clinical and efficient. No excess, no spare fat, no posing. They race through the songs like there’s a shagfest backstage and they need to get there pronto! A solid performance, nothing else.
Self Righteous Fuck
I swear to you, Finnish people are the craziest, the most over-the-top and just the most fun people to be with. I’m gonna marry a Finnish girl, I just know it. Turisas remind me so much of GWAR with the blood and fur – and Manowar but with more humour, less baby oil and a lot less man-tits. After the seriousness of Norther, the crowd was once again baying for some humppa, accordion, violin and some general nuttiness.
I heard prior to the gig that guitarist Jussi was very ill with a temperature and flu, but that he would do the gig nonetheless. Having this information beforehand, I watched him throughout the performance, and let me say I noticed nothing untoward. He was less subdued and forward than the others, but his playing didn’t suffer one bit. Now that’s Metal with a capital M. Amy Winehouse can cancel an entire tour because she didn’t feel like it, but Turisas know who the performers are and who the fans are.
They opened with “The Dnieper Rapids” off their latest album, 2007’s THE VARANGIAN WAY (almost all the songs off it were played!) – it’s a song that builds up the excitement, starting out relatively flat and ending in a crescendo of choirs and orchestration. The “epic” knobs have been turned to 11 tonight, evidenced by “To Holmgard and Beyond”. An accordion intro brings “A Portage to the Unknown” in, one of my favourites on THE VARANGIAN WAY.
Frontman Mathias then goes off on a rant (one of many that night) – this time about beer. He complains that throughout the tour they’ve been drinking Belgian, German, Italian beer, and tonight they’re drinking “Dutch commercial piss”. “We are pissed off”, he pronounces himself, “where is the English beer?” Almost as one, the crowd chants “LONDON PRIDE! LONDON PRIDE! LONDON PRIDE!” (an English bitter). “Bullshit”, comes the reply, “what are you all drinking?” Sheepish silence, and no wonder, it’s all Continental lager everywhere. Mathias takes pity, “Anyway, you have your pints – raise them. This next one is a drinking song!” before going into “One More”, a heavily violin driven song with a rousing chorus from the crowd, “We’ll FIGHT!” A violin solo and a “Lie lie lie” chant from the audience. Fuckin’ amazing!
Another major speech by the voluble (and presumably pissed out of his mind) Mathias, this time to introduce their tour competition. Follow the reasoning if you can: he’s pissed off with people “watching Turisas from behind their LCD screens.” For all those going back to watch them on Youtube, “Fuck them!” Anyway he’s sick of people taking photos of them, so now it’s their turn to exact the same torture on the audience. They will take a photograph of the crowd, and a face will be selected at random to receive their Turisas gift bag. Shameless plugging of a magazine whose name escapes me. Slight downer to the night unfortunately, but hey, they never claimed to be anti-commercial. Besides, they’re so unabashedly fun…
“We know you can make noise London, but we haven’t seen you dance. How is your dancing tonight London!?!” takes us “In the Court of Jarisleif” – a brilliant fiddle and accordion Eastern European folk tune. While London valiantly tries to dance to the wild flying fiddle, Mathias and Jussi lead by example, capering around each other with gusto. As the song gets faster and faster, the crowd just resorts to jumping and bouncing as one. This is fun!
Olli then treats us to a moving and haunting violin solo that leads us into “Five Hundred and One”. Mathias sings the slow part towards the end perfectly, emotionally, and fists and horns were raised at the epic ending. “Miklagard Overture”. This song was notable for some real rambling by Mathias. He babbled on about being groovy, made some jokes about a shoe thrown on stage, then introduced the band one by one, including a rant about their ex-accordion player who abandoned them in Amsterdam without warning. Anyway, the best revenge was to get an accordion player who played just as well, but additionally, one that was blonde, 17, extremely beautiful, and female (touring accordionist Netta Skog)! He really went on too long there. The band then left the stage.
Olli was first back out, and it was HIS turn to have a speech! Admittedly it was funny – “I come onstage full of myself, talk shit about guitarists, talk shit about Herman Li. Fuck the guitar solo! But there’s no need to show off, because violinists have won the war against guitarists. I have a humble performance for you, a VERY humble performance.” He produces a tiny violin, about the size of a toothpick, and proceeds to ‘play’ a few tunes on it. Someone shouted “Get on with it!” Suitably chastened, he calls Netta out to play some “humppa classics”, and a ‘humppa pit’ opened up for “Saahti-Waari” – a bouncy uptempo number that got the crowd moving again.
“Rasputin” signalled that the evening was drawing to a close. The immensely popular Boney M cover got the crowd singing as one, the “Ra Ra Rasputin!” bit raucous, deafening and rousing. This song really sums up what Turisas are about – Fun. “Battle Metal” closed the night with a fanfare of trumpets.
I wish they had cut down on the talking, but I cannot deny that they were fun as hell, with great crowd rapport and flawless delivery musically. The crowd was really up for it; lots of posing but in a good way. Notwithstanding the fact that I nearly got my eye poked out by some silly girl’s stray plastic sword, I actually would definitely go to watch them again. BATTLE METAL!
The Dnieper Rapids
To Holmgard and Beyond
A Portage to the Unknown
In the Court of Jarisleif
Five Hundred and One
Thanks to Sarah Lees at Century Media for the photo pass!