Venue: Blender Theater at Gramercy (New York, NY)
Opener: Alestorm, Belphegor, Kivimetsan Druidi, Vreid
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
First we had the “Paganfest USA” which would be followed by the “Pagan Knights” and these events were successful in bringing the Celtic, Viking, and Folk Metal bands all together for our entertainment. They worked well in bringing us groups that would not have truly be able to do touring in this part of the world if they had come alone and as result gave the Metal legions some rousing experiences. Tonight’s agenda would present the fans with the “Heathen Fest” and I had hoped that this would be as entertaining as those other events had been over the past year and a half. The great thing was that it would compile some of the bands seen on those other tours and add to the mix a couple of new ones for good measure. Headlining the show would be Eluveitie who I had not seen since the first Pagan Fest in 2008. They returned as a headliner later in the year but were doing so on the same night as Amorphis had happened to be playing and since their span of time between visits had been so lengthy I decided that I would have to pass on the Folk Metal rockers that time. Lucky for all who happened to go to Amorphis, Eluveitie would not wait for a couple of years to come and visit us again. Direct support would come from Belphegor and kicking off the show would be Kivimetsan Druidi, Vreid and Alestorm. From beginning to end this all seemed interesting so we got inside nice and early to be sure to absorb all the bands in full. Here is what happened if you by any chance missed out.
Kivimetsan Druidi: This rather large group of Finnish musicians plays a kind of Folk Metal that blends some elements of Symphonic and Power into it and if you were curious their name is translated into “druid of the stone forest”. Their website is amusing as it refers to them as “Rock & Troll” and while the group is primarily male (who all sport war paint and appropriately themed clothing), there is a lone female in the group who handles the more soaring melodies. The band would focus their set on the debut album “Shadowheart” which I rather liked musically and in the way the lyrics flowed but I had to say that fans should be aware that it is primarily in Finnish. Visually the band looked great and they had a nice sound for the first band up and definitely had people interested in what they were doing as opposed to playing to an empty room. I found it rather cool to learn how two of the band members are siblings. Led by Joni Koskinen who handles the darker male vocals and plays the guitar has based the bands music on a story that he is writing. His Brother Antti plays the keyboards and Leeni-Maria handles the necessary clean vocals which balance out the darkness with some light. I enjoyed the presentation and would see them again but the down side of their coming up first would be the fact that they were over before you knew it. Now it was time for Vreid, who was another band that I felt had never been on this side of the fence.
Vreid: Hailing from Norway, this is a band that I didn’t have too much background in but was eager to see just the same based on some recommendations from friends. This would be the first Black Metal band of the evening which essentially made the festival setting of this show shift from Folk to the Blacker stuff. The bands name means “wrath” and you could tell they meant business from the minute the hit the stage. They were intensely serious as one expects a Black Metal band to be and they mixed it up a little by blending elements of Thrash with a touch of the Atmospheric side to end up with a very diverse sound. Historically the band has been around since 2004 and was formed out of the remnants of the band Windir. Tonight the Vreid set would be short as they were the second band on and most of the material delivered seemed to come from their 2007 release “I Krig”. Their newest CD is called “Milorg” and they touched upon that as well. I liked what I was hearing and felt that this is a band that should return as the crowd was rather into them. I also liked seeing just how crowded The Gramercy was at this point and my guess was that it was because of Alestorm hitting the stage next and people wanting to get wild with them.
Alestorm: While I very much respect what the guys in Tyr do with their Metal, I had to say that when the Pagan Knights tour rolled through town back in March that Alestorm was the clear highlight of the whole show. The band was second up on a run of three and literally had the crowd eating out of their hands from the moment they started the set. Since that night the band’s popularity had not waned and they have added “Black Sails At Midnight” to their repertoire and it sits comfortably alongside its brother “Captain Morgan’s Revenge”. When Alestorm hit the stage tonight I had to say that the crowd appeared to be at its most enthusiastic so far. It’s hard for this not to be the case considering the music of Alestorm is just so spirited and exhilarating. They are fronted by singer, keytarist and official spokesperson Christopher Bowes who really gets ones blood pumping. I had to say that the crowd below must be a great sight to these musicians because while they are clearly having fun up there, the audience just lets it all loose and it bears note that this is a band that only has been here once before. It’s nice to see the attention as opposed to disinterest which we have seen being the case on a number of occasions. Alestorm would mix the set up tonight and really keep the people moving as much and as fast as possible. There were points in the set where the entire floor was like the rolling seas that the band sings about sailing into adventure upon and when some of them propelled out of the circle, they quickly caught a breath and jumped right back in. The Metal journey with sword in hand and treasure its hopeful result care of Alestorm featured songs like “Over The Seas”, “Nancy The Tavern Wench” and “Captain Morgan’s Revenge” and some others from the album of that latter tunes name and also “Keelhauled” and more from the new one which is something I still need to get my hands on. Once again they impressed the crowd and even headed down to the merchandise area to meet fans after the show. They probably should have been the direct support band tonight but that would have made too much of a musical closeness between the two bands so instead it was again time to turn the lights out and let the darkness in, as Belphegor had come a calling. Based on just how well the band went over tonight can a headlining appearance for Alestorm be far from happening? I think not.
Belphegor: I had to admit that I felt that Belphegor was a little bit out of place for this bill but in all honesty this particular tour was not as much about Folk and Viking Metal bands this time around and they did mix it up rather nicely by also offering us Vreid who had played a short time earlier this evening. When it came down to it there were probably not any musicians who were bigger on the Heathen level than the dudes in Belphegor and when they play it is always business with heavy duty resolve. If you’ve seen this band before you know that it’s not a laugh fest or even one of those good time experiences as much as it is a lesson in brutality and sometimes a little depravity. The bands themes are nothing less than heavy stuff and they deliver this stuff adeptly. Their latest album is “Walpurgis Rites – Hexenwahn” on Nuclear Blast Records and it had only come out a couple of months before the show which is quite possibly the reason that they would only play two songs from the release. A fair number of songs came from their 2008 recording “Bondage Goat Zombie” which only would have annoyed those who saw the band a number of times in succession since it’s not too different. Of course based on his hulking stature and generally ominous presence, I hardly think that singer/guitarist Helmuth cares what troubles us. In the end it was nice to see the band get a slightly longer set than usual but they did cut one number off the posted set list since I guess the whole night was starting to run long. Now it was time for Eluveitie to close out the fun in a fashion that only their unique brand of music can do.
Eluveitie: Even though I loved hitting that Amorphis show back in 2008 I really hated the fact that it cost me the chance to see Eluveitie because during the Pagan Fest they didn’t play all that long. I guess in the end tonight would be the better chance to enjoy the band as they headlined over the Heathenfest and brought along some other cool acts that many seemed to enjoy quite a bit. A lot of thought has been put into the bands premise, music and overall delivery and it’s far too much to outline here so I recommend using their official links or even their Wikipedia page to learn more about what their origins are and what the name and some of the songs are actually about. To briefly bring you up to speed, the band is a Celtic Folk meets Melodic Death Metal act from Switzerland and their name is a phrase in old Gaulish. The group is a massive one and currently stands at eight members and was formed by singer Chrigel Glanzmann. Their Nuclear Blast Records debut was called “Slania” and this was an album that made many peoples top list for its year of release. It was an astounding recording and in many senses larger than life based on how much was going on in its melodies. The bands larger than normal roster allows a lot of cool things to take place based on their featuring not only the conventional musicians on bass, guitar and drums, but also violin, flutes, mandolin, pipes and a hurdy-gurdy.
The vibe when Eluveitie hit the stage was fantastic and I was really pleased to see just how many people where packed into the venue because when Tyr had followed Alestorm that time around a good chunk of the crowd left the club after their set. Personally I never get the whole leaving early if you pay for a ticket but that is just me. The fact that the room was still full is a testimony to the impact of this bands sound because it is just so deep and moving. Chrigel is impressive as a front man and he keeps himself busy by either singing, playing the pipes, flutes or mandolin as well. He is seldom found doing nothing while he growls away the bands numbers. The girls who handle the violin and hurdy-gurdy do deliver more of the smiles while the rest of the roster keeps straight face. Back in April the band released their third album, and second on Nuclear Blast Records, “Evocation I: The Arcane Dominion” and this was very different from that of “Slania” in that it was entirely acoustic. It was an interesting album but I was happy to find them focusing on the other material for this show since doing an acoustic set would have clearly killed the whole spirit of the night at this point. It seemed as though only one tune would come from the acoustic recording this evening because Chrigel spoke to the crowd about its being released and then they played a song. I didn’t recall him saying “here is another new one for you”. Most of the tunes came to us from “Slania” and if I counted correctly it was something like seven or eight numbers while another batch came from the bands debut album “Spirit”. I don’t own a copy of that album myself and it seems to be hard to find over here so perhaps we shall luck out and find Nuclear Blast releasing it at some time in the future. This band seems to be a sound investment so let’s hope that they are thinking about stuff like that. There was not a moment of boredom in the band’s set and one of the things that continually floors me about them is just how amazing all of these classical instruments sound within a Metal band framework. I think the only thing that I would like to see them do is perhaps make the setting that they perform on reflect a little bit more like the music that they are playing to bring the mood to you as much visually as it manages to do sonically.
I had to say that everything about this show pleased the Metal synapses and even though I expected to find myself tired with this being my second show in two days, I was all the more energized for the next go round. Last night I had attended the Trivium/Chimaira show over at the Fillmore NY and tomorrow I would be back here for the long awaited return of Vader. If this many shows in so close a space keeps happening I think I will just leave my laptop in one of the offices and work from the field. Be sure to look into all of these bands if we have piqued your curiosity because there is something special about all of them when it comes down to it. The new Eluveitie album is almost done and will be released in early 2010.
Belphegor Set List:
1. Bleeding Salvation
2. Seyn Todt In Schwartz (omitted)
3. Belphegor-Hells Ambassador
4. Lucifer Incestus
5. Walpurgis Rites
6. Stigma Diabolicum
7. Justine Soaked In Blood
8. Reichswehr In Blood
9. Bondage Goat Zombie
Eluveitie Set List:
1. Primordial Breath
2. Bloodstained Ground
3. Your Gaulish War
4. Slania’s Song
5. Song Of Life
7. Uis Elveti
8. Inis Mona
9. Gray Sublime Archon
10. The Arcane Dominion
12. Somber Lay
Official Website: http://www.eluvietie.ch
Official Website: http://www.belphegor.at
Official Website: http://www.alestorm.net
Official Website: http://www.kivimetsandruidi.fi
Official Website: http://www.vreid.no/