Omnium Gatherum + Skálmöld + Stam1na
@ The Underworld, London
October 27, 2017
Review and photography by Torbjørn ‘Toby’ Jørstad
The newly formed Arctic Circle Alliance, consisting of Finish melodeath act OMNIUM GATHERUM, Icelandic folk metallers SKÁLMÖLD and progressive thrash metal Finns STAM1NA hit The Underworld in Camden last Friday. A co-headlining tour bringing two pioneers of their respective genres together, as well as another cult classic from the frosty north was surely a hit among the UK capital’s metalheads present that night.
Metal-Rules also had chance to chat to Skálmöld guitarists Baldur Ragnarsson and Þráinn Árni Baldvinsson prior to the show. The interview can be read here: www.metal-rules.com/metalnews/2017/11/02/skalmold-interview-with-baldur-ragnarsson-and-thrainn-arni-baldvinsson/
As people are still descending the stairs to the cozy locale of The Underworld, Finnish Stam1na discreetly take the stage a little past 6. The band’s seventh album Elokuutio was released last year, and claims three of the band’s eight songs that night.
Saying that Stam1na delivered the goods would be a massive understatement. Despite a low turnout for their early set, they make the most of their 30 minutes in the spotlight.
From the constant movement around the small club stage, to the furious headbanging raining drops of sweat over the audience, the Finns gave nothing but everything.
Antti “Hyrde” Hyyrynen and co. have complete control of the crowd as they rush through their fast-paced set. Rarely have I seen an opening band receive the same kind of passionate welcome as they did last Friday.
The quintet are highly entertaining to watch as they perform their fusion of progressive elements with thrash and heavy metal. “Kuudet Raamit” from their latest album ends their set, and Stam1na were without a doubt a worthy opener to the Arctic Circle Alliance’s visit to London.
1. Viisi laukausta päähän
2. Pienet vihreät miehet
5. Paha arkkitehti
6. Pala palalta
8. Kuudet raamit
Icelandic folk metal act Skálmöld last ventured to UK shores in 2014, then supporting genre giants Eluveitie together with Arkona. Returning for the first time with their very own 75-minute headlining slot, an eager lot of metal musicians from up north had lots to prove.
With their fourth full-length Vögguvísur Yggdrasils [“Lullabies of Yggdrasil”] still fresh, the Icelanders choose instead to bring out “Árás” from their 2010 debut album as the first song.
Instantly making the crowd move, the six-piece crank out classic after classic from their (so far) relatively compact career.
Fan-favorite “Gleiðnir” follows, and the pagan metal party has officially begun. The guitarist trio, consisting of Björgvin Sigurðsson, Baldur Ragnarsson and Þráinn Árni Baldvinsson perform their duties meticulously, as melodies and riffs are professionally merged together.
“Niðavellir” sees drummer Jón Geir Jóhannsson’s foot firmly planted on the accelerator pedal throughout. “Narfi” from Börn Loka sees the band’s supreme strong suit featured, as Icelandic melodies vocal melodies are blended together with corresponding guitar harmonies and sweeping licks, courtesy of guitarist Baldvinsson.
“Með Drekum” is another certain fan-favorite, and “Útgarður” is surely in the process of becoming one.
The band’s perhaps darkest song, the new single “Höndin Sem Veggina Klórar”, is received well by the audience, and might perhaps be an indicator of style on the band’s upcoming album, due to be released next year.
Not surprisingly, it’s the uplifting melodies of the classic “Kvaðning” that gets the honor of ending the band’s first headlining set on UK shores. Hopefully it won’t be long before the Icelandic folk metal machine can be witnessed again on this island.
Not long after, the lights go out again and the mesmerizing instrumental intro track “Luoto” from 2013s Beyond indicates the time is nigh for Omnium Gatherum.
Guitarists Markus Vanhala and Joonas Koto take their place on each side of the stage, as drummer Tuomo Latvala counts in the fast-paced opening track “The Pit”.
Vocalist Jukka Pelkonen sounds as good as ever, and pours all his energy into his vocal duties on stage, while seemingly having a great time. More than once he points two devil horned hands together, forming the band’s distinct “Sonic Sign” as seen on their logo.
Last year’s single “Skyline” follows, and the band truly fulfills their role as a pioneer of melody-driven death metal, with the catchy guitar melodies supporting the hard-hitting riffs and drumbeat.
“Blade Reflections” from the band’s recent split single with Skálmöld seems to work well in a live setting. The song’s sinister tone, with its lyrical theme surrounding suicide, is a nice change of pace after the rapid “New Dynamic”.
Although their career has spanned for 20 years now, the band chooses to focus on their material since 2008s The Redshift when playing live.
Hardcore fans have probably accepted this fact long ago, although one can wonder why a band so influential in the Finnish melodic death metal scene chooses to ignore their material from the time when the genre was still being shaped into what it now is.
Songs from last year’s Grey Heavens are prominently featured in the setlist, and rightfully so. Their critically acclaimed seventh album is undoubtedly a crowd-pleaser, and songs like “Skyline” and “Frontiers” sound almost as good live as on record. They certainly bring out the energy in both performers and bystanders.
“The Nail” followed by “The Unknowing” and “The Sonic Sign” speeds up the tempo and becomes a personal highlight of the night. 2013s Beyond is also strongly represented in the band’s set, taking up six out of 14 songs.
In fact, only three songs from before 2013 was played [“The Nail”, “New World Shadows” and “Ego”]. The band finishes their regular set with “New World Shadows” from the album of the same name.
The soothing acoustic arrangements of “These Grey Heavens” sound over the PA before the band returns to stage. Vocalist Pelkonnen ties up his (now very sweaty) hair as the band tears into “Ego” from 2011s New World Shadows, a certain hit among fans in the crowd.
Last years “Storm Front” gives closure to the Arctic Circle Alliance’s conquering of London this past Halloween-weekend, and one can safely say it was a night well spent in the cozy basement of The World’s End.
2. The Pit
4. New Dynamic
5. Blade Reflections
9. The Nail
10. The Unknowing
11. The Sonic Sign
12. New World Shadows
These Grey Heavens (tape)
14. Storm Front