Venue: Gramercy Theatre (New York, NY)
Opener: Moonsorrow, Swallow The Sun, Operatika
Label: Century Media Records
Now that April was officially off and running, one had to agree that it was doing its best to keep in the pace that was kicked off by March Metal Madness. We began our own Metal adventures earlier this week with Finnish powerhouse Sonata Arctica who stopped by NYC with both Mutiny Within and Powerglove in tow and now it was time for the aptly labeled “Finnish Metal Tour”. This show would bring us Finntroll, Moonsorrow, Swallow The Sun and Operatika and while I know that you scratch your head at the mention of the New Jersey Power Metallers, there is a reason for their appearance on this area’s show. Apparently the band Survivor’s Zero had dropped off the tour before it ever hit the USA and as result an area band would fill in the gap that they left. For me this was a pleasant surprise because they also have some good stuff. Here is how the night went down should you have missed out for any reason.
Operatika: Since this would be the only spot on the tour for these New Jersey & Brooklyn based Symphonic Power Metallers it was clear that they had to make the best use of the time to get the party started in their own unique fashion. Having seen Operatika a number of times over the years I can tell you that their music is very interesting and well executed in the live sense and very enjoyable if you are someone who leans to the Symphonic side. The last time they played in the city was when they opened up for original Iron Maiden singer Paul DiAnno. That show was a blast and blended the Old School with the new but tonight the band would be acting Finnish and bringing along once more on the bass, the mighty Mike LePond from Symphony X. LePond joined Slava, Yuri, Bill and Anna on their debut CD “The Calling” and while he is only filling in when time allows him to do so I must admit he is a welcome addition to their number. Being first up meant get down to business quick and sadly also lose a few numbers that had planned on being done. For this evening’s show Slava was wearing a long dress and it seems as though this is the proper look for the vocalist as it brings her look to a much more stylish level. She embraced the audience from the stage and played to each and every one of them while Yuri pounded the drums and shredder Bill Visser showcased some serious technical chops. We would only get four songs this evening and among them were “Gladiator”, “The Calling”, “Tears Of The Sun” and “Dark Horizon”. I was glad that we had them do this show and am very interested in the new material that I was told is being finalized since the band is not planning on going away any time soon. Swallow The Sun would be up next.
Swallow The Sun: The Finnish Doom Metal band STS had last visited New York City very early last year when Soilwork was touring with Darkane and while they went over rather well they were an odd choice of opener for a very technical and speed driven Metal show. Tonight there was a little of everything so the Doom would be let loose. From the moment that they went on this evening the band set up a solemn but crushing groove and while I recognized several numbers from their repertoire I did not see them listed anywhere to confirm what was happening. Instead I chose to just let this bands tunes permeate my very core and hypnotize us all with their intense style. They performed in almost complete darkness tonight but that seems to suit this kind of music very well and while singer Mikko has a lot of lines to deliver in their songs, he rarely speaks to the crowd. I felt this was a good bill for their sound because almost everyone I have ever spoken to about their tunes has been a fan and there are few that have little interest. They might be too similar for an Opeth show but maybe if Candlemass or Trouble comes back around they can be tapped for the gig and impress a whole different crowd from the one that always seems to flock to shows like this particular one. The Gramercy Theatre was reasonably crowded by the time that they went on so it was safe to assume that a lot more people were affected by the delivery and overall musical presentation and I had to say that this was a very good thing. “New Moon” is the bands latest release and this show would be New York’s first time seeing them perform with Wintersun drummer Kai Hahto. Nice job for sure and now it was Moonsorrow’s turn.
Moonsorrow: Thinking back on it, the guys in Moonsorrow were here when the second Paganfest was making its rounds and for that show they were earlier on the bill and hence were given a shorter set. That works for some bands but not really for Moonsorrow since they give a new meaning to the word epic tunes. If you are not sure about what I mean just take a look at their two song release “Viides Luku: Havitetty” as that is a great example of this. Tonight with the band acting as direct support they would get a little bit of a longer set and also hit the stage with a lot more aggression than I remembered them displaying during the Paganfest. They are fronted by Ville Sorvali who is cousin to the famous “Trollhorn” who is a principal writer and member of Finntroll. The bassist was quite energetic up on the stage and was doing good at rallying the Epic Heathen Metal charge without question. It was impressive to say the least and was a strong showcasing of their headliner capabilities which I think might just happen after the manner of performance tonight and across this tour. The band was supporting a new EP this evening and that is called “Tulimyrsky”, but since that song is thirty minutes in length they would only play a portion of it. Another track came from “Verisakeet” but I was not too sure about the rest since I am a more of a newer fan when it comes to them. I am happy however to find them returning so quickly since they bring a lot to the table. The audience was eating them up and what I have found happening with bands of this kind is that once the crowd is behind you they will remain passionate for quite some time. The night was now getting a little late but that was ok as Finntroll was back for the attack.
Finntroll: Ever since the band decimated the stage as direct support for Germany’s Sodom, the mighty Finntroll has made it a habit of visiting their fans across the seas and that my Metal fiends is a very good thing. Their latest recording is called “Nifelvind” which in English is translated to “Wind Of Hell” or “Underworld” and it’s a worthy successor to “Ur Jordens Djup”. Tonight would mark the fourth time that the band set foot in New York City and I am proud to report that I have managed to catch all of the appearances that led up to this one. After some brief intro music the band was on the stage and ready to deliver that crushing Troll invasion and I had to say they were clearly happy to be back in town. They’ve managed to win a special place in the dark hearts of this brand of Extreme meets Folk Metal and with the new album are showing that the musical creativity is not slowing down at all. Fronted by Vreth since 2006 at this point, there are two albums under the singers command and he has proven to be adept at the bands older material. With a couple of years under his belt in the role of this bands lead singer I can honestly say that he really does a great job. He attacks the stage and is right in the face of the fans as they scream until their lungs hurt.
The set list makeup for this evening was pretty much a little bit of everything and while they had a new release to support, the band would still make the time to touch upon a number of older releases. The fans seemed to eat this up and were showing their appreciation by way of some serious circle pit activity that was a blend of the usual stuff and folk dancing. The new release seems very strong in the live sense and is probably the best from them so far but even with this being the case we would only get about three numbers from it. The fans still need to brush up on their Swedish to know what the band is singing about and while I doubt that most around me did that it didn’t seem to affect the show’s liveliness. I’m still rather new to the latest material and am still taking it all in so as result I lean to the previous release and the classic “Nattfodd”. After seeing the absolute chaos that it churned up I can tell the readers that “Trollhammaren” is probably a tune of legend at this point. When the band kicked into this one it was like watching sharks attack a herd of seals. To say that the floor of the Gramercy Theatre was not the place to be for the novice once this got underway would be an understatement. This would be the bands first time playing here and while the space is different and larger in the general floor area, the venue itself is not bigger than B.B. King’s where they had played three times previous. Another surprise came via the song “Under Dvärgens Fot” which is a track only available on a special edition version of the new album. The fans seemed to enjoy this surprise quite a bit as well.
After the show the venue cleared out rather quickly as it was on the late side and while there was no “official” meet and greet all of the talented people playing tonight could be found around their merchandise tables downstairs in the lounge at various parts of the night. Those who had interest in meeting the groups took advantage of this observation. All in all this was a very entertaining night from beginning to end and while I would have started it just a little earlier had no other complaints to speak of. I hope to see more tours like this one assembled where every act manages to keep the fans interest and leave them breathless at the end of the night. Since the Trolls have staked some claims upon our Metal interests in this region one can be sure that they will return again eventually. Get prepared early for that as forewarned is forearmed after all.
Moonsorrow Set List:
1. Jumalten Kavpunki
2. Koylionjaryen Jaalla
4. Tulimyrsky (partial)
5. Aurinko Ja Kuu
Finntroll Set List:
11. Under Dvärgens Fot
17. Maktens Spira
One can never get too many shots of a bands name up in lights and one has to wonder if they ever thought that they would see such a sight for themselves in a region such as this one.