Iced Earth + Ensiferum + Kataklysm + Unearth
@ Electric Brixton, London
December 6, 2016
Review by Torbjørn ‘Toby’ Jørstad
The revival of the classic MTV Headbanger’s Ball tour hit London’s Electric Brixton this Tuesday. The highly anticipated line-up, consisting of three North American and one Finnish band, saw eager London metalheads queuing long before doors opened at 6pm. Christmas came early, one could say.
Metal-Rules had the chance to chat with Ensiferum frontman Petri Lindroos prior to the show. The interview can be read here: http://www.metal-rules.com/metalnews/2016/12/07/ensiferum-interview-with-petri-lindroos-2/
Unfortunately, due to our scheduled interview with Petri, I was only able to catch the final three songs of Unearth’s set. The American’s blend of melodic metal with core elements seemed the perfect start of an evening full of quality metal. Despite being labelled as metalcore, the Boston group seemed to appeal to a large part of the audience, and there’s no mistaking the quality of their performance. It’s easy to headbang along to, the impeccable guitar shredding is astonishing, and I did indeed find myself quite enjoying the few songs I caught.
Despite a relatively small audience, their engaging show and connection with the crowd was pleasing. A mosh pit with perhaps 5-10 active participants was also present, adding to the generally joyous atmosphere that evening. The sound was tight and the all parts were executed with skilful precision by the musicians on stage. The guys leave the stage just before 7pm, as Lemmy’s (RIP) raspy voice tears into “Too Late, Too Late” over the speakers.
Canadian melodic death metallers Kataklysm were undoubtedly the reason a large part of the audience came out that night. As the lights go out and the crowd erupts into cheering, the intense symphonic intro tape reaches its climax once the four piece takes the stage, ripping into the first song off their latest album Of Ghosts and Gods. “Breaching the Asylum” instantly gets the crowd, which is considerably larger already than during Unearth’s set, moving. Vocalist Maurizio Iracono asks how we’re all doing, and the massive response speaks for itself. “Let me see those god damn horns in the fucking air!” he says, before announcing the second song, “The Black Sheep”.
Playing four songs off Of Ghosts and Gods, the Canadians still found room for some older classics. Songs like “It Turns to Rust” and “Blood In Heaven” work extremely well live, the latter being performed while the stage is coated in suitably blood red lighting. Personally, I missed some material from Epic (The Poetry of War), but was overall happy with their set. The performance itself was immaculate, and the sound was as tight and clear as can be. A constantly engaged audience is gladly jumping, headbanging, and singing along, and there’s no doubt having Kataklysm on the billing is a huge plus for this tour.
“It’s fucking Tuesday, it sucks, we’re gonna pretend it’s Saturday!” Iracono declares. His connection with the audience is of the rare, exceptional kind, and the crowd obeys every time he commands movement. “Taking the World by Storm” and “At the Edge of the World” are executed perfectly in rapid succession, and the tempo, energy, and atmosphere in the venue is at an all-time high.
The ultra-fast “Crippled & Broken” spawns the biggest mosh pit of the night so far, and the bar is set high as the band leaves the stage a little before 8.
1. Breaching the Asylum
2. The Black Sheep
3. As I Slither
4. Taking the World by Storm
5. At The Edge of the World
6. It Turns to Rust
7. Blood in Heaven
8. Thy Serpents Tongue
9. Crippled & Broken
10. The World is a Dying Insect
Finnish folk metallers Ensiferum drew without doubt the largest and most eager audience of the night, as they joined us on their national day of independence. Their uplifting melodic folk melodies seemed the perfect element to throw into the mix of tonight’s line-up, and the audience undoubtedly agreed. Kicking it off with the title track off their 2009 hit album From Afar, the Finns are clearly enjoying themselves. They’ve had a good go at the material from their latest album One Man Army for almost two years now, and dedicate half their set to songs off that one. “Heathen Horde” provides us with excellent singalong moments, and the prior “In My Sword I Trust” throws a good amount of cheesy folk metal imagery in our face.
“Two of Spades” takes the folk party to the next level, with its funky disco segment. There are some slight sound issues during their set, and although the performance is clearly good, it doesn’t sound nearly as tight as the two previous bands. Complex song arrangements, paired with some slight technical issues (causing guitarist Markus Toivonen to change guitars mid-song at one point) might be to blame for that. “Twilight Tavern”, their staple drinking song about a tavern offering “double the beer, triple the booze” is a great song on record, but still doesn’t quite translate that well live.
Frontman Petri Lindroos is on fire tonight, flawlessly executing even the more complex Jari-era solos, as seen in their final song, the fan favourite “Lai Lai Hei”. A song massively requested by the crowd the last time the band visited London, it’s a pleasure to see it back in the set list, and its immensely catchy singalong consisting of Finnish gibberish couldn’t have ended their (too short) set any better. Hopefully the next time the Finns stop by, it will be as headliners!
1. From Afar
2. Warrior Without a War
3. In My Sword I Trust
4. Two Of Spades
5. Heathen Horde
6. Twilight Tavern
8. Lai Lai Hei
Taking on the challenge of topping Ensiferum’s highly energetic and amusing performance are tonight’s headliners, American Iced Earth. The initial response isn’t quite as good as that one received by the prior band, but after a few songs, the crowd is undeniably appreciating what they’re seeing and hearing. The Tampa group serves us fast, catchy, and pure power metal. Guitarist Jon Schaffer beholds the crowd as he tears into riff after riff, all while vocalist Stu Block is screaming is lungs out in a Halford-like manner. The second song “Burning Tides” has the audience jumping along with fists raised in the air.
Obviously being a genre defining band, Iced Earth touches on every relevant (enjoyable) aspect of power metal as they tear through their set. Newer material such as “Dystopia” and “V” works extremely well live, but seeing classics like “The Hunter” performed with such impeccable perfection is a fantastic treat, and hard to beat. The crowded venue is happily engaged with the musicians on stage, keeping a mosh pit going to some extend for most their set. A few crowdsurfers do in fact eventually also emerge. Unfortunately, vocals are at times a little low, and there is little interaction in between the songs.
The set reaches a surprisingly emotional end as Schaffer receives the mic before the final song. Announcing that a good friend of the band passed away from cancer the night before, “Watching Over You” becomes dedicated to his memory. Clearly struggling to hold the tears back, vocalist Block delivers without doubt the most emotional and moving performance of the whole evening. It’s hard not to get moved by the feelings displayed on stage, and the powerful honouring hit many of us straight in the gut. “I love you, Andy,” Block says as they finish, and so the evening ends. Without doubt a highly enjoyable line up, offering something for most tastes, MTV Headbanger’s Ball is a tour not to be missed.
2. Burning Tides
3. Plagues of Babylon
5. I Died For You
6. Vengeance Is Mine
8. My Own Savior
9. The Hunter
10. Boiling Point
11. Pure Evil
12. Watching Over You