Amon Amarth / Finntroll / Octavia Sperati
18th April 2007
Carling Academy, Islington / London, England
Review & Pics by HannTu
This was the first time I’ve been to the Islington Academy, and boy was it tough to find. There was some emergency at the Angel tube stop, so I had to walk from King’s Cross. I thought I’d follow a couple of long haired guys wearing Slayer T-shirts but it turned out they were just out for a kebab. After quite a walk and numerous stops for directions, I ended up in…a mall! A metal venue, in a mall. Having got there a bit early, it was quite fun to see the work-leaving City boys in suits and the families with kids gaping at this long haired rabble drinking, smoking, and effing and blinding away, in a shopping mall of all places! One brave kid asked one of the metalheads who was playing tonight and were they any good, the metal bloke nearly pissed himself laughing. Start ‘em off young I say!
In many ways this was almost the perfect show for me. Amon Amarth constantly back up their stellar studio releases with crushing live shows and incessant gigging to please the hordes of rabid fans around Europe. Also, when they go out on the road, they usually take a good solid register of opening bands with them, mixing it up with established bands and up-and-comers. I saw them last November at the Scala in London with Tyr and Wintersun, which was an unbelievable show. And for the second time in a matter of months, I got to witness the Viking gods descend upon London again.
Never heard of them, didn’t even know they were on the bill. With some embarrassment I had to ask my neighbour who they were, who chortled smugly. Octavia Sperati, hailing from Bergen, Norway, consists of five extremely lovely ladies and a not so lovely male drummer. But let’s focus on the music. They play the kind of gothic rock/metal that was first the province of Tristania, Nightwish, Within Temptation, The Sins of Thy Beloved and Darkwell, and then made popular and completely destroyed by Evanescence. We know the type: the female semi-operatic vocals, the symphonic elements and usually male death growl vocals to add that bit of aggression. This band didn’t have the death growl (or the annoying rapping of the putrid Evanescence), but to be frank they didn’t need one. The lovely singer Silje was more than competent. She was more sweet than operatic, and yet she was able to turn on the rock star in her and whip the crowd up (as much as is possible for an opening band).
The band as a whole played very well, however I feel that this type of music isn’t really suited to a live environment. On the records, the guitars are pushed further back to allow the singer to show off her full range. The keyboards are generally heard more, and as with the guitars, the drumming is kept to a level that is somewhere behind the whole band. In the live show however, almost everything is leveled to the same degree, so you have the singer pushing to be heard over the quite-excellent guitars. Ditto for the drums. Now I’m not saying this is a bad thing, in fact, more guitars and drums I say, but it’s not good for a band where the genre dictates that the singer should be the focus. Conversely, I also felt that the singer was doing too much, possibly going overboard with the vocal exercises. She has a lovely voice and charisma in abundance, but too much of the wailing and the “I can do a guitar solo with my voice” for me.
They are a very good band, with a bit more heaviness than you would associate with a goth metal outfit. Reading their myspace site, I see they have toured with Cradle of Filth and doom legends Cathedral among others. Good luck to them!
1. Going North
2. Lifelines of Depths
4. And then the World Froze
6. Guilty am I
The Finnish folk metal jokers are a band that has polarized metalheads: you either love them to bits or you dismiss them as a joke. I’ve never taken them seriously, and after hearing Korpiklaani open for Dream Evil last November I was a bit dismissive of the genre as a whole. Some of my pals (who were also at the Dream Evil gig) expressed the same reservations as I did. Eye-opening experience then last night.
I have to say, Finntroll are nothing like Korpiklaani. At least, not the new Finntroll. I was talking to a photographer (Johan from www.rockersdigest.com) who had been following them for years, and he was quite disappointed that they had lost their “humppa” feel and become more death metal after the arrival of new vocalist Mathias. Well, for a relative Finntroll newcomer like me (and who certainly had not grown up with them) I felt that their performance last night had more than enough “humppa” for me. The accordions and fiddles and whatnot are good for a laugh, used in small doses, but the metal part of the band were what really impressed the heck out of me.
They really took ages to come out on stage, which might have been due to a problem with a setlist (their setlist wasn’t printed, it was hastily scribbled). But when they did come out, the enthusiastic reception from the crowd showed that there were more of the love-them than the hate-them.
They opened with the rocking tune Sang, and never let up from then on. They also played a great mix of new and old (five from the new album UR JORDENS DJUP). NATTFODD got four, and both JAKTENS TID and MIDNATTENS WIDUNDER got decent coverage as well with three each.
I like the new direction they are taking. Certainly they retain their unmistakable folk flavour, and props to them for that. I’m all for diversity in metal (I loved, for all its cheesiness, Luca Turilli’s KING OF THE NORDIC TWILIGHT, and I cannot wait for Avantasia’s new showing). But the focus must be on metal, and if the price to pay is one less accordion solo and one more death growl, then bring it on. I’ve never seen the old singer Katla live so I wouldn’t want to compare performances, but I really like Mathias’ vocals and stage presence. Decent amounts of posturing and fist pumping. I spotted one or two in the crowd trying out some folkish dance, and possibly a Finntroll gig is the only place where you can jump up and down and not feel like you’re in a metalcore show (ahem, In Flames, yes you traitors). The band on the whole was very energetic, and to my pleasant surprise, they are very well received in London. On that performance, they deserve to be. Bring on the Vikings!
2. Korpens Saga
3. Jaktens Tid
4. Fiskarens Fiende
11. Slaget Vid Blodsalv
13. En Maktig Har
14. Det Iskalla Trollblodet
15. Forsvinn Du Som Lyser
Consistency is the watchword of the Swedish Viking metallers. They’ve not had a truly bad record since they started (FATE OF NORNS was a bit dull, but nowhere near REROUTE TO REMAIN standards), and their live shows always kick arse. Part of this I think stems from the fact that they’ve not changed their lineup since they became known as Amon Amarth. This is an amazing statistic considering the fickle world of metal and music in general today. Also, the band works as a unit, we don’t see a Jon Schaffer or a Steve Harris that drives and dictates everything. You can’t call Amon Amarth a Johan Hegg band or a Johan Soderbergh vehicle. You just call them Amon Amarth, and bloody hell, what a band it is.
Firstly I have to say that this was one of the best gigs I’ve been to because of the sound. Most venues turn the volume knobs way past 11 (either because the sound crew are wearing ear plugs or they’re stone deaf). Today, a little sanity and restraint was exercised, and as a result, I could hear almost every note that was played. On each guitar. It’s an amazing achievement I feel, when the object of most bands live is not so much to let you hear a live rendition of a studio song as to crush your head in and stamp it into the mud. Great sound, allows me to hear the band as they are meant to be heard.
The band as always was in fine form. You can call them boring and unchanging, I say bugger off and listen to Radiohead or something. Johan, shirtless, bearded and hulking with the beer horn by his side, by his side, bassist Ted Lundstrom, also shirtless, flanked by Oli and and Johan Soderbergh in matching black Tshirts and their Explorers (a beautiful guitar I think most enthusiasts would agree). Behind them Fredrik, while not a spectacularly skilled or flashy drummer, keeps the tempo with unerring and almost digital accuracy.
Kicking off with Valhall Awaits Me, one of their best tracks on their new album WITH ODEN ON OUR SIDE, this was the cue to start windmilling and headbanging. Amon Amarth increase their live experience by allowing audience-friendly choruses, allowing more involvement from us. That’s what I love about power metal concerts actually, whereas with death or black metal concerts it’s a bit hard to sing along (if you manage to sing along, you shouldn’t be in the crowd, you should be up there on stage making a living!).
They follow up Valhall Awaits Me, the first song on ODEN, with Runes To My Memory, the second song on ODEN. Windmill time! The four of them windmilling in unison, looking very much like four St Catherine’s wheels: one of the best sights in the live metal experience. Death in Fire, one of my absolute favourite tracks, had me singing along even as I was snapping shots from the photo pit! “Die for honour, glory, DEATH IN FIRE!”
The band got the new stuff out of the way first, with Valhall Awaits Me, Runes to My Memory, With Oden on Our Side and Asator making up four of the first five songs. Then it was back to the old Amon Amarth classics. Oldies are goldies, and I was in heaven when the crushing heaviness of The Sound of Eight Hooves kicked me right in the gut. Tremolo picking and double bass, wonderful!
What’s the staple of any Amon Amarth show? Beer break, Viking style. Quaffing beer from their horns, they saluted us and thanked us for coming out to watch them. “Charge your horns my brothers, tomorrow we may die, but we’ll drink and be merry tonight” and so on. Johan Hegg definitely knows how to work the crowd, but where in another it might seem routine or insincere, in Johan, and in Amon Amarth as a whole, it’s heartfelt. I love this band.
Drinks over, back to business. Cry of the Black Birds was next, this was their newest video. I’m not too fond of this song for some reason. But The Victorious March made up for everything else. This is my all time favourite Amon Amarth song. Actually I lie, the German version Seigreischer Marsch is my all time favourite. I wish they’d play the German version on tour, it’s so much more brutal than the English version. There is a doomy element to the song that I love as well, the atmosphere of doom and despair is written in the monotonous and inexorable opening riff. They then closed with crowd pleaser Pursuit of Vikings. Last year when they played this, the sound for some reason died although the PAs onstage were still working. When Johan noticed this, he motioned to the band not to stop playing, and the crowd carried on the vocals for him until the sound came back on. He was well impressed with that! This time the sound was working great, but we did get a couple of choruses in to ourselves: “Oden, guide our ships, our axes, spears and swords!”
Another thing I see bands rarely do is shake hands with the crowd. With Amon Amarth, last night Johan fell offstage trying to shake hands with the front row! This just sums up what a great band they are: amazing music, great live shows, and never forgetting who their fans were. Can’t wait for the next time they come back to London!
2. Valhall Awaits Me
3. Runes To My Memory
4. Death in Fire
5. With Oden On Our Side
7. The Sound of Eight Hooves
8. Bleed For Ancient Gods
9. Fate of Norns
10. Where Silent Gods Stand Guard
11. Ancient Sign of Coming Storm
12. For the Stabwounds In Our Back
13. Cry of The Blackbirds
14. Victorious March
15. Pursuit of Vikings
Thanks to Andy Turner of Metal Blade UK/Ferret Music Europe for the photo pass.