22 May 2010
The Factory Theatre, Sydney
I have tried to see TURISAS twice at Wacken Open Air. The first time in 2005 when it was wet and cold and they were playing at 2 am and all I could think about was raising my body temperature with a warm shower. The second time in 2007 they were playing on the Wet Stage and the tent was so crammed, you couldn’t even get near the entry.
When their Australian tour was announced I was ecstatic, but I didn’t purchase my tickets straight away — I’d already been disappointed by the promoter with the cancellation of the PARADISE LOST tour. Sure enough, the TURISAS tour was canceled and if I hadn’t received an email from Soundwave Touring (of Soundwave Festivals fame) announcing the reinstatement of the tour, I’d have never known it was canceled in the first place. The unfortunate casualty of the off/on status of the tour was the Brisbane venue had already filled the vacant date and TURISAS was only going to play Sydney and Melbourne.
The day finally arrived and I bounced around the house, randomly shouting lines or singing melodies of TURISAS songs. If I could find my drinking horn I’m sure that would have been randomly raised in the air a few times as well.
When it was time, I donned battle metal gear—black leather pants and a chainmaille-like top I knitted for the occasion and my battle paint was simple—a black and red stripe under my left eye a la ADAM ANT’s Prince Charming—because my photo pass was granted at the 11th hour.
When we arrived at the venue, I was glad to see a lot of black and red paint and a few furry costumes. Raymond and I stayed downstairs for a drink or two with some friends during the support bands, DEAD LETTER OPENER and BEL’AKOR (on the eve of their European tour) and when the long line finally disappeared in front of the merchandise stand, I bought my T-shirt and was lucky to get the last printed with the Australian tour dates.
I really love the fact that more metal bands are playing The Factory Theatre. Contrary to the venue being called a ‘theatre’, the bands play in a big room with a good size stage with quality stage lights at one end and a bar at the other. Thick, black curtains strategically hanging ceiling to floor, couches against walls and bar tables and stools give the room character. And, the floor has three subtle levels on about two steps in difference which would make it much easier to watch what was going on stage if the room is full. The downstairs outdoor area has a festival feel to it with the bar, couches and tables under cover and a tent where you can grab a quick bite to eat. The toilets even look like the pay-for toilets at Wacken but with only three cubicles instead of twenty.
We eventually moved upstairs to the stage area. I was hoping for a good crowd size, but felt deflated when I saw curtains had been moved around to reduce the size of the room. TURISAS have been around for a long time and based on their great live reputation thought there’d be more people. My Sydney metal-brothers and -sisters have disappointed me. I saw some familiar faces, but most I didn’t recognise.
Finally the house lights dimmed, the background music switched off and the stage was awash in red and orange. The intro music played and the band burst into To Holmgard and Beyond. Being the only photographer in the pit was a little strange (and again, disappointing), but it was easier to take photos which meant I could really enjoy the first three songs.
Tuomas Lehtonen on drums
The fans were ecstatic and a smiling TURISAS when straight into Portage to the Unknown.
After The Messenger, Warlord Mathias Nygård welcomed and thanked everyone for coming to the show. He especially thanked the battle metallers who flew in from interstate—Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. When addressing people from Brisbane, Warlord named and shamed the original promoter of the tour.
Warlord then went on to complain about being in Australia and being given "Belgian piss" (Stella Artios) to drink, that they travel all over the world and like to try the local beer and local girls. Yes, we all guffawed at that. He was then handed a bottle of local beer and the crowd started to chant "Scull! scull! scull!". Warlord took a few big swigs but then stopped as the beer fizzed and poured out.
A roadie then carried a small tray with vodka-filled shot glasses on stage and each member took one. TURISAS raised their drinks to the audience and toasted to returning to Australia again then dedicated One More to their return. Raymond was amused watching me drink, sing and swing my glass in time with the music. It’s rare to be so animated at a metal show. There were swords and drinking horns raised above the heads of the crowd and an air of joviality I usually only see at festivals. The only things that seemed to be missing from this Viking celebration was a fire and roasted joints of meat…oh, and maybe some of that good Nordic mead in our vessels.
During Dark Eyes at the end of In the Court of Jarisleif the band danced around the stage, looping arms and swinging in circles. Taking example from the band, the audience started a moshpit of arm in arm dancing and heel kicking.
With so many references to things Rus in their songs like the Dnieper River, Jarisleif, more commonly known as Yaroslav the Wise, and playing the famous Russian gypsy song Dark Eyes, it’s no wonder, TURISAS speaks to me more than any other band in this genre. Not to mention one of the standout elements of TURISAS is the accordion. Seeing Netta Skog playing accordion for a metal band almost makes me want pull out my piano accordion…almost.
Jussi Wickström on guitar
The joviality continued on stage and off for Rex Regi Rebellis and Miklagard Overture and then it was over much too soon. With waves TURISAS left the stage.
Hannes Horma on bass
It took a little while but eventually everyone was shouting and cheering enough for the band to return. I think I even heard a continuing chant of the song line "one more".
Violinist, Olli Vänskä, was one of the first back on stage for the encore and he complimented the crowd for their polka circle and told us Netta Skog had a treat for us. When she walked out on stage there were two Australian flags erected on her accordion and started the very fast accordion introduction to Sahti-Waari and a lot of people seemed to be singing the lyrics. It must have been the Finnish lyrics, because Warlord looked really impressed—a genuinely warm smile lit up his face.
The Devil came down to Australia
Next Warlord had the crowd separate in two groups. There was a lot of murmuring and cheering as the separated crowd faced each other and Warlord said, "Before you morons start slamming into each other this isn’t a wall of death!" There were two reactions to this—laughter and groans of disappointment. By taking turns at which half of the crowd could shout "hey" the loudest, it was the crowd who started the BONEY M cover Rasputin. Knowing the lyrics really shows your age.
Before the last song Warlord thanked us and vowed to return. "We’ll finish with a slow song because this is what you’re here for—violins and accordions—Battle Metal!" The crowd responded with a few of their own chants of "battle metal" and the anthem began.
Even though the set list looked like a typical forty minute festival set, I’d forgotten some of the songs are epics so TURISAS were on stage for an hour and twenty minutes. It sounds short considering some bands give us a whopping two hour set, but when you take into consideration they can’t scratch or wipe the sweat from their battle painted faces, it’s a lot longer than I’d be able to cope.
While the outro played, the band jumped into the pit to shake hands with everyone against the barrier and anyone else who could extend their hand.
I was buzzing leaving the venue, almost skipping to my car and I’m sure Raymond was wondering if I’d had a few more than I should have. They say ‘Good things are worth waiting for’; I think the longer you wait, the greater those things are when you finally get them.
Thirty-six hours later and my battle paint is still pristine thanks to waterproof liquid eyeliner and lipstick. Raymond’s even asked if it’s going to stay. Could make an interesting facial tattoo, but for now walking into the supermarket with it a second day in a row, and a weekday at that, might attract some not so understanding looks. Suitably I reach for my Finnish arctic linen seed waterproof makeup remover and remove the battle paint with regret.
I’m thinking about the stopover in Japan TURISAS will be making for Finland Fest after performing at World Expo in Shanghai. With TAROT and POISONBLACK also on the bill the ten hours to Tokyo to see TURISAS again is such a short journey and all too tempting.