Amorphis @ B.B. King Blues Club (9/29/2008)

Logo - Amorphis

Artist: Amorphis
Venue: B.B. King Blues Club (New York, NY)
Opener: Samael, Virgin Black
Date: 9/29/2008
Label: Nuclear Blast Records

If you live in a city like New York and are a big supporter of any genre’s music scene then you are truly a very lucky person because there is seldom a night where you find yourself with nothing to do or nothing to see – especially when it comes to live music. The city offers up countless bars, venues, and theatres where music across a wide-genre scope is delivered almost nightly and if you are thinking there is no downside to this, well there is when two major events are scheduled for the exact same night. For me, this particular show would conclude the “Finnish Invasion” that I spoke of in both my Apocalyptica and Sonata Arctica commentaries. Sadly, Nightwish had indeed cancelled their appearance based on the illness of singer Anette but we did get a killer set from Sonata. Tonight’s fun at B.B. King Blues Club would also find a killer show that featured Kataklysm, Keep Of Kalessin and Eluveitie going on at the same time over at the Blender Theater and this was really going to make the Metal heads choose because all of the bands combined had the same loyal fan base. For me the choice was simple and locked on Amorphis because the band has not been over here since early 2005 by my recollection and since that time have released two more albums. The show tonight would bring along label mates Samael and Virgin Black from Australia. Here is how the night went down if you had missed it.

Virgin Black: I had seen Virgin Black only once before and the gig was at the Lit Lounge. The space was rather small and one felt as though the band was right on top of them. They played this gig with Unexpect (their The End Records label companions who we had actually seen perform on this very stage with Japan’s Sigh). The roomier stage and much more professional lighting rigs of B.B. King’s allowed for the full drama of this band to take place and while many might not “get” what Virgin Black is all about from a single CD listen, the band is very powerful and interesting. It’s a sort of Gothic meets Doom Metal with a lot of solemn Operatic textures blended in it. They are led by Rowan London who handles the vocals and keyboards and during the set he truly is able to keep your focus on his every melody. I didn’t enjoy them when I first heard the CD and must admit that it took me several listens before I actually was able to see what they were getting at and can say to others that the best way to enjoy them is in the live sense. At points the music is crushing and makes every nerve ending in your body respond and at others it is the most somber and sorrowful stuff that when being delivered live keeps the audience silent and stunned like they were at a funeral service. The band also features the guitar talents of Samantha Escarbe who during the show uses her long black tresses to keep her visage hidden. Overall, the bands six song set was great but far too short for my liking. Their latest release is a part of their “Requiem” trilogy and is called “Requiem – Fortissimo” and this should be investigated by those who love the blending of Classical Music into their Doom Metal.

Samael: I had never followed Samael during their earlier and most influential years and actually finally started to listen to them when they released the “Reign Of Light” CD. They are primarily a Black Metal band but one that uses Industrial and electronic elements in their sound nowadays which makes them a totally different band to experience when they do this stuff in concert. I admit that “Reign Of Light” didn’t do it for me as an album, but I did enjoy “Solar Soul” – the bands latest release on Nuclear Blast Records, so I was excited about being able to see them do their thing in the live sense for the very first time. By the time these guys hit the stage a little bit more of the crowd had assembled and with a full room and dramatic lighting the resounding power of their groove was hitting everyone where it counted. The band is led by Vorph who plays guitar and handles all of the vocals and while there were some drums on the stage, the larger aspect of the percussion was pre-programmed and being delivered by keyboardist Xy and this was interesting to watch as the musician switched from playing boards to hitting certain drums with his sticks. I recognized some of the tunes from “ROL” and the recent album but had to admit that I was unclear about their older stuff which when done was really getting a great response from the crowd. There was a definite driving style for each and every number that was finding the bodies moving on the floor and the fists pumping tonight. It was clear during the first part of the bands set that they could definitely headline an appearance at the venue on their own with some solid opening acts. It’s been speculated that the next album will be more of a return to form for the group and bring back more of their Black Metal roots. That sounds fine by me. Amorphis was up next and I could hardly wait.

Amorphis: As referenced in our introduction, Amorphis was not only returning to US soil for the first time since 2005 but also completing what amounted to a “Finnish Metal Invasion” that was nothing less than thrilling night after night this past weekend. That last time around the band was supporting the release of “Far from the Sun” and it was a heavy and yet more traditional sounding Metal album with a lot of clean singing. They had also visited us with the new vocalist in Tomi Joutsen who was a terrific find for the band as he is not only able to deliver the Death vocals with apparent ease, but also is in possession of an incredible clean melodic tone. Since that visit they had released “Eclipse” and were now supporting the amazing “Silent Waters” CD. It was an album that made many Metal top lists and deservedly so. Based on this it was expected that a larger part of the set list would be focused on the new CD and that was definitely the case tonight. The downside would be that Joutsen had fallen ill and was suffering from a very bad sore throat but he would prevail and not cancel the show. This was clearly a rough week on Finnish singers to say the least. They kept the lighting on the low and dramatic side and the air conditioning off which did make the venue a little bit on the hot side but if it allowed the singer the comfort of continuing the show then I was more than prepared to deal with it. Resultant of his sore throat he would keep most of his vocals to the growling parts as opposed to the melodic side and I had to admit that I wasn’t sure how the gravelly growls were better for a singer to do than the clean notes but with my not being a singer I hardly knew the real reasoning. After only a few songs had gone by the singer was standing there on the stage with no shirt and holding his microphone stand out over the crowd to better absorb their eager cheers and singing and that made me feel as though the Metal energies from the audience were offering up some healing powers this evening.

A great surprise came later on in the night when the lead singer of Swallow The Sun came out and did a duet with Joutsen. It was great to hear Mikko working with Tomi and perhaps this means we shall find some sort of collaboration on future recordings or even a tour in the near future. In the end it seemed as though the show that was happening across town didn’t affect this one at all because we had a largely full house for the last two acts. People were beginning to filter in while Virgin Black was already performing and those who missed them missed the great preamble to the night that they were delivering. I really enjoyed myself at this one and look forward to each of these bands return because all were so musically interesting. Everyone delivered the goods for the hungry audience and while there was some sadness about the cancellation of Leaves’ Eyes who were originally supposed to be a part of this tour, all those in the audience remained confident about that bands eventual return as well. The three acts all have some great new releases that are available to their fans and I recommend each of them for the discerning listener.

Virgin Black Set List:
1. Lacrimosa (Gather Me)
2. Domine
3. Opera De Romanci – Stare
4. Cult of Crucifixion
5. Silent
6. Walk Without Limbs

Samael set list:
1. Intro/Olympus
2. Solar Soul
3. Reign of Light
4. On the Rise
5. Rain
6. Baphomet’s Throne
7. Year Zero
8. The Ones who came before
9. Into the Pentagram
10. Ave !
11. Slavocracy
12. My Savior

Amorphis Setist
1. I of Crimson Blood
2. Leaves Scar
3. Against Widows
4. Into Hiding
5. House of Sleep
6. Signs from the North Side
7. Towards & Against
8. The Smoke
9. Drowned Maid
10. My Kantele
11. Castaway
12. Black Winter Day

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