Venue: The Gramercy Theatre (New York, NY)
Opener: Tyr, White Wizzard, Swashbuckle, Desdemon
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the forest, Korpiklaani was back and headlining another tour that was bound to increase the energy and alcohol levels of many a Metal fan in the region. Tonight’s adventure would effectively be my first Metal show of the year and considering it was going to be the return appearance of Finland’s Korpiklaani, I could think of no better way to start off 2010. The band last visited these shores when they headlined the second Paganfest USA back in May of 2009. That was an exemplary show that found Ireland’s Primordial, Finland’s Moonsorrow and Montreal’s Blackguard all on point for the causes of Metal. While my first Metal show of the year this was not my first actual show as I had gone to see legendary Blues guitarist Johnny Winter only a couple of days prior to this event. After expanding my mind with the sounds of the inspirational guitarist I felt that I was absolutely ready for the rousing blast of Folk Metal fun that Korpiklaani brings to the beer pint stocked table. Joining them for the tour would be Tyr, Swashbuckle, White Wizzard and the whole shebang would be started off by one area band. I made sure to get in early enough to see everyone because from beginning to end I knew this was going to be a fun night.
Desdemon: Starting off the show would be some area locals that went by the name Desdemon. I had to say that they were a pleasant surprise from some of the recent openers that I felt had really let me down in shows attended over the past and I was starting to fear that my region had nothing to offer its own residents in terms of Metal superiority. When I first heard we had some locals on the show I walked in with dread but from the moment I heard what they were playing I was reasonably impressed to say the least. I viewed them as a Power Metal band but they label themselves as Dark Power Metal which is alright by me if it works out to their advantage. They are a female fronted act and deliver the kind of epic soaring that one regularly enjoys when either Epica or Nightwish takes the stage. The band is fronted by Mistress Tina who clearly has some pipes and the hulking guitar presence of Lord Metadox. They were very happy to be a part of this show and they did sound good and would be celebrating the recent release of their EP entitled “The Awakening”. I managed to get my hands on a copy of this release at the show and hope to review it sometime soon. Stay tuned for that article. Coming up next was White Wizzard who I had some small background on already.
White Wizzard: The guys in White Wizzard had made an appearance back in August at the only US appearance (at the time) of Ross The Boss and his new band. Ross of course is formerly of Manowar and was delivering a classic set of their tunes along with some new amazing stuff that night and part of the whole evenings appeal was these California residents who had come all the way across the country for the show. That’s quite a trip to make and one that you hope doesn’t let anyone down. Fortunately they won fans over quickly at that show so it was great to find them being the first signed act on this particular tour. They’re on Earache Records and are still supporting their “High Speed GTO” recording which while an EP, has a good number of songs on it. I first heard their music on the “Heavy Metal Killers” release that Earache had done and this album brought to the table a great crop of semi-new bands who were maintaining the charge set in motion by the Old Guard. The question remains as to whether or not White Wizzard can become the new saviors of the classic sound and while the outcome cannot be decided as yet, they are sure on a solid path of defense for it as far as I’m concerned. Swashbuckle time.
Swashbuckle: Déjà vu for a Swashbuckle set and a Korpiklaani show as it was during the Paganfest USA 2 gig that I first caught this band and to be honest with you I was not too crazy about them on that particular night. They label their sound as Pirate Metal and having been a fan of the likes of Alestorm for a couple of years I have to say that while the “theme” of their music might be Pirate in nature, the actual sound is a lot more like blazing Thrash and Death Metal. They were very exciting this time around and I was finding myself a little more open to how they did things. Of course the band wears pirate garb in terms of the outrageous clothes and hats and their singer Admiral Nobeard has a parrot on his shoulder. His stature is massive and his demeanor rather intense and by the way he does have a full beard. Their set blazed by as they delivered material from the Nuclear Blast Records debut “Back To The Noose” and while the stories being sung about were amusing one should be aware that they are not along the same tune of the more Folkish and seaworthy Alestorm. The audience this evening also seemed to be more receptive this time around and I gave them credit for getting us all riled up for the soon to be hitting the stage Tyr.
Tyr: Tonight marked Tyr’s third appearance in the USA and that’s not too shabby for a band from the far off reaches of the Faroe Islands. They first dropped anchor during the first go round of the USA Paganfest and returned a year later as the headliner on the Pagan Knights tour in 2009. We documented both of those great shows so please feel free to search for them. Tonight I was curious about just how well Tyr would go over because with this being my third time at their material in the live sense I had to say that I did not enjoy the Pagan Knights gig as much as I did the Paganfest show. My thoughts on why this was the case was based on my finding them to be far too serious and intense on their headlining show and that was done after a rousing bit of fun at the hands of Alestorm. The mood brought up by that band was brought down by the more serious Vikings and while they played commendably I felt it was a little bit of a mismatch. Tyr is a great band and has some fantastic songs that bring to vivid life the culture of their homeland and its incredible legends and this evening they hit the stage like a brewing storm. It was a lot more energetic than the last time and perhaps they also felt they were a little too rigid the last time around themselves. Fronted by Heri Joensen, the band all seemed to discard the idea of armor which was used the last time and instead tonight would perform bare chested. It was likely a little bit more comfortable in the end and they would present some tunes from their most recently released Napalm Records CD “By The Light Of The Northern Star”. I have not heard the full release yet but enjoyed what they played from it and appreciated that they also touched upon a couple of other recordings even if they did choose to leave out one of my favorites “Reign Smidr”. Granted the tune is a little slow and long, but I do prefer it and think it works out well live. It was clear to me that the guys were also a little looser this evening and appeared to be having a little more fun this time around. Perhaps the fact that they did not need to worry about as much being the direct support act as opposed to the headliner made some difference. After the set they went down to the merchandise area and met with any of the fans who came down to try and get a moment with them. The downstairs of the Gramercy Theatre is really a great place for this kind of interaction and one of the main things I enjoy about the space. Now it was time to refill the beverage and get set for some good old fashioned Polka Metal as only Korpiklaani could deliver it.
Korpiklaani: Admiral Nobeard came out to announce the guys in his best manner and said were we ready for the “drunkest band in the world” before the guys came out. It was rather amusing to realize that the band was supporting a new album when they headlined Paganfest 2 and now not even one year later were back and supporting yet another release on Nuclear Blast Records. Perhaps its easier to dish out Folkish Polka Metal but even if it is not, there are other bands that I would love to see following in this example as opposed to making their fans wait 5, 10 or even 15 years to give us something new. The new CD is called “Karkelo” which is translated into “Party” and based on what goes on at their kind of show it is the perfect title. I was impressed to see just how well they did the last time around for while I knew that they had some popularity over here that does not always guarantee a packed show. I can count on three hands the number of bands with a superb audience who brought no one to their gigs and that really has to hurt. Korpiklaani would not be suffering the sophomore curse in terms of their gig tonight either as the room was packed and dancing. There was your conventional moshing going on but that surely seemed out of place against letting this kind of music move your body. No matter what vantage point you had for the show you could tell it was a good time, and one that singer/guitarist Jonne Jarvela could keenly observe from the stage himself even though he was positioned behind a giant skeletal head of some kind of elk. His smile was often beaming and his eyes shined a little bit more than usual and perhaps he and the rest of the guys did a little extra celebrating before taking a bite out of the Big Apple Metal scene.
The music of Korpiklaani seems to be perfectly suited for the live concert stage and its material that brings you to another place and setting. I always find my mind taking me to forest festivals as big fires blaze while the ale flows continuously and heavy feasting takes place with good friends. They bring that atmosphere along with them from town to town and while such a thing is probably pointless in this region, I feel that a great outdoor Metal festival with them as a center attraction would be very, very cool. Some folks might be unaware about this but Korpiklaani partially achieves their musical magic with the help of the violin, pipes and accordion which are handled adeptly by Jaakko Lemmetty and Juho Kauppinen. The growing rise of Folk Metal as a popular aspect of the heavy genre has suddenly made violin and accordion lessons cool and that is a good thing. “Karkelo” is the bands sixth full length album and their second for Nuclear Blast. They’ve four others on Napalm Records and while some might say if you’ve heard one Korpiklaani album you have heard them all I tend to disagree with that view. Each one offer something fun and different but it is clear to me that to be a better fan of the band a few Finnish lessons might be in order (that or making friends with some Finns who will explain it to you in exchange for a few pints). The guys would do a little of everything tonight and not just spend a heavy focus on the new release. That was good based on just how popular some of their older material is in their fans eyes. I cannot imagine them omitting “Happy Little Boozer” from their set ever when it comes down to it. From beginning to end the show was festive and enough so to find Terji from Tyr wandering onto the stage towards the end of it to have a drink with his touring buddies in Korpiklaani. You just cannot plan stuff like this to happen in bands of this kind.
I had to say that this event was an absolute blast even though it was surely a concert that would fail a breathalyzer test in a second. All of the bands were enjoyable tonight from the first one to the headliner and everyone delivered their best in order to entertain. I was also happy to see the sense of community in the Metal faithful that were present. It was a night of many, many familiar faces and friends who I know keep this stuff vital at show after show. Keep that passion and interest going my friends because this stuff does not get any radio play when it comes down to it. Thanks Korpiklaani for bringing the spirit of a woodland festival to this concrete jungle of ours. We’ll see you soon and have the beers chilling in advance to your return.
Tyr Set List:
1. By The Sword In My Hand
2. Trondur I Gotu
3. Hold The Heathen Hammer High
4. Lokka Tattur
6. Northern Gate
7. Hail To The Hammer
8. The Wild Rover
Korpiklaani Set List:
2. Journey Man
4. Cottages & Saunas
6. Huppiaan Aarre
8. Bring Us Pints Of Beer
9. Juodaan Viinaa
10. Eramaan Arjyt
13. Paljon On Koskessa Kivia
14. Tuli Kokko
15. Pine Woods
16. Wooden Pints
17. Happy Little Boozer
18. Let’s Drink
Official Website: http://www.korpiklaani.com
Official Website: http://www.tyr.net
Official Website: http://www.myspace.com/whitewizzard
Official Website: http://www.swashbuckle.com
Official Website: http://www.desdemon.com