Firewind + Manimal + Scar of the Sun
@ The Underworld Camden, London
February 19, 2017
Review by Torbjørn ‘Toby’ Jørstad
Photography by Oliver M.
The Underworld in Camden opened up for the hordes of power metal fans last Sunday, as Greek power metal titan Firewind hit the capital. The band, generously stopping by the UK six times this tour, is promoting their latest album Immortals, released via Century Media Records on January 20th. Fellow Greek metallers Scar of the Sun and Swedish Manimal formed a complete line-up offering uplifting melodies, anthem-like singalongs, and a solid dose of ferocious shredding.
Despite power metal arguably not being among the most popular subgenres in the London scene, a fair few people made it out to Camden that night. First band up, Greek metallers Scar of the Sun, having released their sophomore album In Flood last year, received a lukewarm welcome at first. As the lights are dimmed and the music over the PA fades, the commencement of tonight’s show is a fact. More people move towards the stage as the intro track sounds, and we are soon embraced with the presence of the Greek five piece. Tearing into their first song, the band immediately shows good technical skills and showmanship, despite the lacking crowd response.
There’s some casual nodding and beer-sipping here and here in the crowd, although the response does get slightly better as the set progresses. “Good evening everybody!” vocalist Terry Nikas exclaims. “This band was formed in this exact city, so it’s great to finally perform here!” he continues, to cheers from the growing audience as the third song “Versus The World” begins. The band is definitely taking advantage of the small space they’ve been allocated at the front of the stage, bringing an energetic and entertaining show. The sound is satisfactorily mixed, and the band’s dynamic on stage appears impeccable.
Despite good attempts, Nikas isn’t quite able to invoke the crowd interaction he was probably aiming for a few times throughout the show. His vocals also seem a little out of place at times, not quite reaching as high as other renowned vocalists of the genre. The band is without doubt placed within the modern realms of metal, with chugging guitar riffs and a versatile style, as shown in the slower, more melancholic “Sand”.
“We hope you had a great time, we’re going back to our first album and this is ‘Gravity’!” Nikas proclaims, as the soothing orchestral compositions of that song abruptly turns into an aggressive riff-fest. He thanks us all for showing up, and the band quickly leaves the stage at 20:00. Although nothing spectacular, Scar of the Sun fit in well with last Sunday’s theme, and served as a worthy opener for the night.
1. Among Waters and Giants
2. An Ill-Fated Wonder
3. Versus the World
4. Ode To a Failure
6. The Truth About Lies
Merely ten minutes pass before the lights again go out and another instrumental intro track indicates it’s time for the corpse paint wearing swedes of Manimal. The four piece takes the stage, and the low energy of the crowd that dominated the previous set seems to have vanished completely. More energy is clearly present, both on stage and in the crowd, and the first song “Trapped in the Shadows” flies by.
“London, how’re you doing? We’re here to play a couple of heavy metal tunes, is that alright?” vocalist Samuel Nyman exclaims. The following song “Shadows” hits us in the face like a melodic and frenzied wrecking ball, but turns out to be quite catchy in return. The lacking response from the crowd when asked who has their first album The Darkest Room prompts Nyman to exclaim: “Alright, we’re gonna sell lots of CDs here tonight then,” as the band tears into the title track.
Nyman is a true joy to behold on stage. Not only are his vocals reminiscent of Painkiller-era Rob Halford, but his connection with the crowd and genuinely funny banter in between songs boosts the overall enjoyment of their set greatly. As he appears wearing a straightjacket during “Invincible”, a touch of theatricality is thrown into the mix as well.
The music itself can be regarded as relatively safe. Nothing mind-blowing, but also not boring. The sound is tight and well mixed, although the band does suffer a little from the thin sound that’s a product of only having one live guitar player, without backing tracks. With that said, guitarist Henrik Stenroos does a great job, as evident in the numerous shredding solos.
“It’s our first time on tour in the UK, it feels great! We have two more songs for you, fasten your seatbelts because this is ‘Invincible’!” Nyman exclaims as the fast paced monster of a song kicks off with instant double bass drumming and furious riffs, causing quite a few fists to go straight in the air. Becoming my personal highlight of their set, the song best showcased the abilities of the clearly skilled musicians occupying the stage.
As Nyman breaks loose from his straightjacket, the final song “Irresistible” is on. He thanks us wholeheartedly for coming out to see them, and the crowd is enthusiastically chanting the band’s name. Manimal bows and poses for a picture for social media, and leaves a crowd all fired up for the night’s headliner.
1. Trapped in the Shadows
3. The Dark
4. The Darkest Room
6. Human Nature
With their first concept album Immortals out, the pet project of Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Gus G, Firewind had a lot to prove for the London audience that night. Not only the quality and live-compatibility of their new material, but also the skills of fairly newly hired vocalist Henning Basse, who joined the band in 2015.
The lights go out a little before 21:30, and drummer Johan Nunez soon takes the stage. The cheers are massive as the rest of the band enters. The man himself, the Greek god of guitar shredding – Gus G, predictably prompts the best response, and the band tears into their second single off the new album, “Ode to Leonidas”.
It’s only fitting that the Greeks pay homage to the ancient hero of Sparta, and the song works extremely well live, mobilizing all the built up momentum of energy from the two previous bands. The sound is as tight as one could expect, and Gus G tears the venue apart as he wields his characteristic Jackson signature guitar.
Although not completely full, the ground floor is considerably more packed compared to previously that night. The band instantly commences the second song “We Defy”, to the joy of the bystanders.
“Good evening, London! Thank you very much for the warm welcome. Firewind is back, man!” Gus G proclaims. The response is good when he asks if people have the new album. Beer glasses and fists are raised for the melancholic breakdown in “Few Against Many”, with Gus G shredding in the background.
Basse executes his vocal duties skilfully, and provides some witty comments in between the songs. The dynamic between Gus G and rhythm guitarist/keyboardist Bob Katsionis is truly fun to watch, and the many synchronized guitar/keyboard solos provide some great highlights throughout their set.
The new material works very well live, and with catchy, uplifting, and easy-to-sing-along-to songs like “Back on the Throne”, “Hands of Time”, and “Live and Die by the Sword”, Immortals is bound to become a classic piece of their discography.
“Wars of Ages”, about the naval battle of Salamis in 480 BC, is another crown jewel of their set, with Katsionis giving an extended keyboard solo at the end, featuring snippets of “Fear of the Dark” and the classic “Halloween Theme”. Although perhaps not ranked among the mainstream giants of power metal, Firewind certainly stands as pioneers, if not perfectionists of the genre.
With songs like “Head Up High” and “World on Fire”, the band is able to stir up the crowd immensely. One should not fail to mention the nothing less than impressive instrumental “The Fire and the Fury” off 2003s Burning Earth, showcasing fantastic musicianship from all members.
“Lady of 1000 Sorrows” soothingly slows the pace down before erupting into a melodic wall of sound, giving the set an enjoyable flow overall. Gus G grabs the phone of a fan filming from the front row, and gives him a hand in acquiring doubtlessly prime material for social media, before returning to his instrument to finish off this rather enjoyable power ballad.
The band leaves us waiting in excitement following their spot-on performance of “Tyranny”, and soon returns to finish what they started a little more than an hour previously. “Live and Die by the Sword” is quickly followed by a song that “needs no introduction”.
“Falling to Pieces” sees a large portion of the ground floor jumping along, and as the song ends and the band leaves the stage a few minutes later, it’s safe to say most seemed pleased with how their Sunday night was spent.
1. Ode to Leonidas
2. We Defy
3. Head Up High
4. Few Against Many
5. Between Heaven and Hell
6. Back on the Throne
7. Hands of Time
8. Wars of Ages
9. Lady of 1000 Sorrows
10. World on Fire
11. The Fire and the Fury
12. Mercenary Man
14. Live and Die by the Sword
15. Falling to Pieces
The Underworld Camden