Sirenia + Týr + Unleash The Archers + Xaon + Relicseed
@ O2 Academy Islington, London
November 27, 2016
Review by Torbjørn ‘Toby’ Jørstad
Photography by Graham Hilling
With five bands playing a vast range of different styles of metal, including symphonic, folk, melodic death, and power metal, this evening featured one of the more diverse lineups I have seen in my concert attending career.
Norwegian symphonic metal act Sirenia recently released their 8th studio album, Dim Days of Dolor, and brought along with them Faroese folk metallers Týr, the Canadian power metal energy bomb Unleash The Archers, melodic death metallers Xaon from Switzerland, and finally Relicseed from Latvia. The metalheads occupying the iconic O2 Academy Islington in London were certainly in for a treat this past Sunday evening.
Metal-Rules were lucky enough to speak to Terji Skibenæs of Týr, and Morten Veland of Sirenia prior to the show. Both interviews can be read here:
Due to our scheduled interviews, we were only able to catch the final song of Relicseed’s set, the first band of the night. The already sticky and beer stained floor in front of the stage was occupied by a small crowd, seemingly enjoying what the Latvians had to offer. There was unmistakably some solid riffing going on, and the three piece left the stage after the mandatory social media picture and a rather generous drumstick giveaway.
Xaon take the stage a little after 6. The intro tape features an intense buildup before bearded vocalist Rob hits us with soaring “London!” from behind the stage.
Their set is highly energetic from the very beginning, and there is no doubt that a skillful set of musicians are serving us prime melodic death metal. The venue is starting to fill up quite a bit, but it’s not nearly full yet.
“We are Xaon from Switzerland! Are you ready to bang your fucking heads?” frontman Rob says. The audience gets progressively more involved and engaged in the band’s music, which featured symphonic elements and ominous spoken segments paired with melodic shredding and intense riffing.
The ever present double bass drumming should also be mentioned. Their music stands in stark contrast to Tyr’s folky melodies and Sirenia’s delicate orchestration later on in the evening.
Frontman Rob is clearly a funny guy, and lets us all know we “make [his] dick hard!” He declares the love for London, his former city of residence, and promises to come back.
Canadian power metallers Unleash The Archers released their third album Time Stands Still last year, and visited London for the first time this Sunday.
The lights go out around 7, and the epic opening instrumental “Northern Passage” from their latest album has the crowd passionately clapping along. The band takes the stage, and the beautiful vocalist Brittney Slayes beholds the crowd clad in what looks like half a set of medieval armor. Tearing into “Frozen Steel”, there is unmistakable shredding from the first note.
The quality of their set can be captured in the fact that I saw it necessary to remove my earplugs to ensure my fullest enjoyment. The sound is comfortably loud enough, and the band plays their blend of power metal and melodic death metal with tight precision.
The third song, and arguably their most well-known one, “Tonight We Ride” is the definite highlight of their set, if not the whole night. The crowd goes crazy for this shredfest, and vocalist Slayes really slays all the high notes with impeccable perfection.
The band is obviously having fun on stage, constantly moving around and smiling out onto the crowd. The same goes for the audience, showing their appreciation chanting “archers, archers, archers” before the band announces their final song “General of the Dark Army”.
Synchronized windmill headbanging and a good chunk of segments for singing along finishes their set in a worthy way. Hopefully the Canadians won’t take too long before they return to the UK.
1. Frozen Steel
2. Test Your Metal
3. Tonight We Ride
5. Time Stands Still
6. General of the Dark Army
As the lights go out a short half hour later, we all clutch our Mjölnir pendant as the moment that seemingly a majority of the people in the venue have been waiting for approaches. The Faroese progressive folk metallers in Týr take the stage to a wild roar of cheering from a welcoming audience ready to party, and instantly tears into “Sinklars Vísa” from 2008s Land.
Sadly, the beginning of their set is somewhat brought down by sound issues; guitarist Terji Skibenæs leaves the stage due to sound issues during their first song, and smilingly returns with a new guitar shortly after. Frontman Heri Joensen’s vocals are also initially drowned, and his guitar seems a little buried in the mix.
The kickass “Blood of Heroes” from Valkyrja spawns the first mosh pit of the night, and the collective energy levels in the venue are off the charts by this point.
I can’t help but notice that Joensen looks slightly bored and emotionless in the beginning of their set. Perhaps he was tired of the recent controversy surrounding several venues cancelling their shows on this tour following pressure from animal rights activist groups?
He certainly seems to enjoy himself more after addressing the issue prior to “Grindavisan”, which is about that topic. Worth mentioning is the fact that one single, lone protester showed up outside the O2 Academy Islington before the show, despite numerous claims of protests by several individuals on the Facebook event page.
Songs like “Sinklars Visa”, “Turid Turkillsdottir”, and “Trondur I Gotu”, give us all a reason to pretend we know Faroese as we passionately sing along to the distinct choirs that distinguish Týr’s music.
“Hold The Heathen Hammer High” sees myself headbanging along to the ultimate folk metal anthem. An inflatable hammer balloon appears in the crowd and is passed along as the everlasting moshpit rages on.
“By The Sword in My Hand” is introduced as a song about “the unfortunate event of Christianity being introduced to the Faroe Islands and the north”. The band seems to clearly enjoy themselves on stage, bassist Gunnar Thomsen deserves the price for most merry person on the stage that night.
We are told that the more merch we buy, the sooner the next Týr album will be released. “Mare of my Night” is introduced by Joensen as a song about “what utter complete nightmares women can be… British women too.”
“Hall of Freedom” is quickly followed by the Danish traditional “Ramund Hin Unge”, and the audience are clearly left satisfied. Judging by the decreasing amount of people in the venue after their set is finished, Týr were probably the night’s biggest attraction, a view shared by guitarist Skibenæs in our interview with him.
1. Gandkvæði Tróndar
2. Sinklars Vísa
3. Blood of Heroes
5. Hold The Heathen Hammer High
6. By The Sword In My Hand
7. Turið Torkilsdóttir
8. Lady of the Slain
9. Tróndur Í Gøtu
10. Mare of my Night
11. Hall of Freedom
12. Ramund Hin Unge
The night’s headliner, Norwegian symphonic metal act Sirenia, take the stage at 9:30, and receive a rather lukewarm welcome by the remaining members in the crowd.
There are noticeably fewer people in the audience, and perhaps the high intensity of Týr’s set can be blamed for the tiredness that seems to have spread among the remaining metalheads? Regardless, Sirenia enters to the massive sounding, orchestrated opening track “Seti” from The Seventh Life Path, before embarking on their set packed with fierce riffs, stunning vocal performances, and spectacular symphonies. Perhaps it’s in the nature of symphonic metalheads to rather peacefully behold a band in awe than actively engage with the band on stage? Who knows.
“It’s fucking amazing to be back here!” says guitarist Morten Veland, before announcing “Lost In Life”. The song gets the audience going a little more than their initial response, and the response from the crowd gets progressively more vigorous as Sirenia’s set unfolds.
Unfortunately, the band never fully reaches the devotion and energy that Týr were able to bring out from the fans during their 45 minutes.
A highly debated subject amongst fans of Sirenia is the recent change in vocalists, with Emmanuelle Zoldan taking over the lead vocal duties following the departure of Ailyn, who had been with the band for eight years. Zoldan clearly does a good job handling the older Sirenia songs, although some, including “The Path to Decay” and “The Other Side”, arguably just worked better with Ailyn.
She is able to show herself from her best side performing new material off Dim Days of Dolor though, and looks fantastic up on stage.
“Goddess of the Sea”, the first new song of the night confirms this, and is clearly a song written for her vocal style. Zoldan isn’t the only one deserving praise for her vocal performances tonight, as Veland also does a splendid job providing harsh vocals all while playing guitar, “Sons of the North” being a good example of this.
“Ashes to Ashes”, another new song seems to work nicely, and there’s no doubt that a highly skilled ensemble of musicians are occupying the stage. Session drummer Roland Navratil and lead guitarist Jan Erik Soltvedt both do a great job, perfectly nailing their duties on stage.
The lack of a live bassist might be seen as a downside to their performance, although fans of the band are probably well adjusted to this fact.
Veland keeps the talking to a minimum in between the songs, rarely doing more than introducing the next track, but when Soltvedt suddenly breaks a string and leaves the stage, Veland gives us the quote of the night: “I hope he gets back before the solo, otherwise I’m fucked!”
Sadly, he doesn’t, so hopefully no one came out exclusively to see the solo to “My Mind’s Eye” performed.
The title track off the new album becomes the definite highlight of their set for me personally, and is overall just an immensely catchy song. Veland told us during our interview that they received similar reactions on prior dates on this tour, and that the song will likely remain in the Sirenia setlist for years.
The ordinary set is finished strongly with “The Other Side”, and the band leaves the stage briefly before returning for “The Path to Decay”. Clearly a worthy way to end this massively entertaining night! Let’s all hope to see more diverse lineups like this in the future, a great way for both the bands and the fans to expand their horizons.
2. Lost in Life
3. My Destiny Coming to Pass
4. The End of it All
5. Sons of the North
6. Cold Caress
7. Goddess of the Sea
8. Once My Light
9. Ashes to Ashes
11. Dim Days of Dolor
12. My Mind’s Eye
13. The Other Side
14. The Path to Decay