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ConcertsEnsiferum Leads the Pagan Fest Line-up at BB Kings 5/22/2008

Posted on Sunday, September 28 2008 @ 08:26:05 CDT by Pete Pardo
Heavy Metal

Raise your swords in preparation for glorious battle New York City for the Pagan Fest has arrived and brought with them the might of Ensiferum and Turisas along with their combat ready heralds Tyr and Eluveitie. I have to admit that the Viking and Folk Metal genre were pretty new in my list of favorite styles to follow and that I have only been enjoying these kinds of bands for a handful of years but in this short time I have tried to catch up. The styles appeal to me based on their ability to deliver a consistently rousing and glorious battle sound that is as entertaining on the albums as it comes across in the live sense. This would be the first Paganfest to occur in the States to my knowledge and while something much more common outside of this region it was a very special event on this side of the ocean based on the debut. Despite the show being scheduled at the same time as Dream Theater's "Progressive Nation" tour with Opeth, the event at B.B. King Blues Club and Grill would be sold out and the hordes of invading Metal fans were lined up early down 42nd street to ensure that they would not miss out on any of the exciting bands performing tonight. I would miss the DT/Opeth show based on its selling out as well but in truth I was much more excited about having the chance to enjoy four bands that have never performed here before. Each of the four bands tonight come to us via different record labels and as result we would get Napalm Records, Nuclear Blast Records, Century Media Records and Candlelight Music all displaying their finest artisans in the genre. If you were lucky enough to be a part of this then you already know how much fun it was and if you missed it for some unknown reason well here is how the event transpired.

Tyr: According to my references from the earlier events on the tour, Tyr was supposed to come up second after the performance launches by Eluveitie but tonight in NYC this would not be the case and Tyr would kick off the festivities. These particular Vikings hail from the Faroe Islands and most of their material is sung in their native tongue which makes singing along a little difficult if you don't speak it but despite this I was really interested in seeing them. The band is signed to Napalm Records and are named after the Norse God Tyr and while holding some elements of Folk in their style, they are much more Viking in musical nature and do not use any of the "traditional folk" instrumentation as many of the bands who would be referred to as peers do. The band is a powerful unit and sounded great live as they delivered some crushing tunes. They are fronted by Heri Joensen who sings and plays guitar and also feature the imposing presence of Terji Skibenaes who also handles guitar. All members do backing vocals which makes their chorus parts just a little more powerful. Tonight the band would have assistance on the drums by the skin basher for Eluveitie based on the fact that their own drummer was already on his way back home. The band also had to make a flight of their own very shortly after their set and thus they would keep their own set short and sweet. Songs performed were "Gandkvćđi Tróndar", "Sinklars Vísa", "Wings Of Time", "Hail To The Hammer" and "Ramund hin Unge". Two numbers would come from their upcoming album "Land" while the other few touched upon their back catalog. They went over very well which I expected and I hope that they return to these shores to do a longer and more comprehensive set.

Eluveitie: When I first heard Eluveitie's album "Slania" I was immediately made a fan of this band and this was because of the strong Folk aspect to them which was complimented to perfection by some truly crushing Metal riffs as well. They are a massive lineup with a full eight members and while we have the conventional band instruments of guitar and drums there is a larger emphasis on the Folk instrumentation among its membership and that makes them an extraordinary live act. The bands Nuclear Blast Records release had been receiving accolades for several weeks and their performances on the tour as the initial openers had been very well received. To be honest, while I loved what I knew about Turisas and Ensiferum, I was looking forward to the Eluveitie set a little more than everyone else's this evening. The band did not disappoint as they arrived onstage and simply pummeled everyone with the overall energy and intensity of their sound. Given the large membership and all of the different instruments being employed for the songs there was nothing less than a BIG sound to everything that they were doing. The group is led by Chrigel Glanzmann and he not only sings but plays mandolin, flute and bagpipes among other things which make him a very busy man during a show. He is also very into it and gets right into the faces of the fans as he growls the bands tunes out. The band also has twins as a part of the act in the Kirder Brothers Rafi and Sevan who handle bagpipes, flutes, whistles, bass and additional vocals while Anna Murphy plays the hurdy gurdy and Meri Tadic does violin. Merlin Sutter is on drums and was doing great as his second gig for the night after having helped Tyr do their thing and guitar finds Simeon Koch keeping this all in play. Anna's hurdy gurdy and Meri's violin work wonders together during the show and its amazing how such beautiful instruments can be so effectively incorporated into a Metal band. It really made their music all the more interesting. Of course the Kirder Brothers were very active during the show and doing what they could to gear up the audience all the more. During the set the entire crowd was moving and yes there are signs that warn patrons to not mosh around but it was really hard to enforce this with over 1000 Metal fans in attendance. The Eluveitie set moved very quickly and that disappointed me a little because they were clearly keeping everyone's attention and interest this evening. The songs performed were as follows "Inis Mona", "Gray Sublime Archon", "Of Fire, Wind & Wisdom", "Bloodstained Ground", "The Somber Lay", "Your Gaulish War" and "Tegernakô". I am certain that the interest in this band will find them returning soon and I hope to be a part of that performance as well. Turisas was next and now the club was preparing itself for some true Battle Metal.

Turisas: I was very new to the music of Turisas and had only recently snared a copy of their latest album "The Varangian Way" in its "Paganfest Tour Edition" and I had to say that I also enjoyed what I was hearing with this band. I understood that they sported warrior makeup and garb and was not sure about just how much of that they employed until I saw them walking down Broadway and 42nd Street much to the delight and shock of the Big Apple's visiting tourist population. Needless to say the cameras were at the ready and many of the Times Square visitors went home with photos that defied easy explanation. Inside the club the barbarian invaders would begin raising hell from the moment that they hit the stage and I really noticed that a lot of the audience around me knew the words to their tunes. This impressed me, and the bands delivery was not only on target but rather entertaining. They kept the whole warrior mystique throughout and as the bands did before them were providing us with a tight set of material that brought the album to bigger and better life. I was also noticing how much fun the band was having on stage as they hit us with songs like "To Holmgard and Beyond", "One More Magic Potion" and their seeming hit "Rasputin". That last song has a really clever video to it and it's a pretty moving number based on the heavy violin and accordion use during it and since these instruments are rather prevalent in the bands song construction we again are finding just how good they sound when applied to heavy music. The group is led by their own Warlord in Mathias Nygard and he comes on strong during the set and makes you feel that each number is preparing you for glorious conquest of your enemies. Everyone in the band is made up like warrior hordes as I mentioned earlier but it is definitely Mathias and Olli Vanska (the bands violinist) who are the most active on the stage. Visually I felt that they were stealing the show and noticed that while Viking in nature, that their music also had a lot of Symphonic and Folk elements to it. Their set would also move quickly but this was based on its driving nature and they would close with their 2004 classic "Battle Metal". The entire audience at B.B's was singing during this one and as far as the eyes could see there were horns and beers raised high to the sky. Every song from their set made me feel as though I was on an adventure and when they finished up I was drained. The bombastic nature of their set and the closing numbers could have easily found the show ending here based on how energetic it had been but believe it or not we still had one more band to go and that was the headliner for the event Ensiferum.

Ensiferum: Similar to Turisas, the guys in Ensiferum also hailed from Finland but as opposed to the more Viking tunes of that band, the Ensiferum stuff falls more to the Heroic Folk Metal style. I had to admit that the once simple to quantify genre of Viking and Folk were getting a little hard to keep track of based on all of the sub-genres that launched from them. Out of them all it seemed as though Ensiferum had the most full-length albums out between them and perhaps this is what found them to be in the headlining spot. I'm not too sure how this was allotted because it was clear that each of the bands were special and unique and proving that they could easily handle the top billing as well. Ensiferum was the band that I had the least amount of background in but I had loved what they did on their latest release "Victory Songs" and was glad that a strong portion of their set list would be composed of that albums material. They also hit the stage after a lengthy intro piece and then it was right to the business of assaulting the assembled masses. I had mentioned being spent by the time that they hit the stage and I was not alone in this feeling because I noticed those who were once wildly flailing around me had slowed down just a bit and while the pits were still in play they were also slower in their pace. The Ensiferum stuff is also energetic and came off to me as just a bit heavier than the Turisas set. I loved "Windrider" and "One More Magic Potion" and of course "Victory Song" as each was delivered rather well. Observing the crowd on and off I saw that many also seemed to know these guys songs and were shouting them back at them which had to feel good to the band. With Ensiferum being the main act of the night their set would be much longer than the previous bands and although I was digging into it I really would have liked this to be much more of an equal time gig because Tyr and Eluveitie were pretty much done just as you had gotten yourself into them. Ensiferum drew the night to a close with their own "Battle Song" but in the middle of it broke into Iron Maiden's "The Trooper" and while they didn't do the entire tune before returning to their own track it certainly gave everyone that one last push.

In the end this event was an incredible success and I hope that we see another performance like this next year with some of the same bands or even other ones whose work falls into the same lines. During the other bands sets the groups who had performed mingled about with the fans and took photos so it could be better documented. Remember, the bands had never been here either so the entire tour was a treat for them. I didn't realize this going in but tonight appeared to be the final night of this US Tour and maybe, just maybe it was the reason why it was all the more electrified than it could have been on one of the other evenings. Another thing I noticed and liked about this show was that many of the Metal heads who had gone to Progressive Nation instead of this show had made their way back up to B.B. King's after it had finished to try and get to meet some of the bands who were now loading their gear into the trucks after it was all done. I am sure that while the bands would have preferred them to be inside the venue still appreciated being people that were considered worthy to come up to just say hello to. It is without question that everyone had a great time at this one and I think that I was ready to sleep for a day or more when I made it back home. New York City bravely faced a Viking invasion and lived to talk about it but you know that the next time they are just going to come back stronger and with bigger weapons. See you there when it happens.

Ken Pierce


Turisas Set List:
1. The Dnieper Rapids
2. To Holmgard And Beyond
3. A Portage To The Unknown
4. One More
5. In The Court Of Jarisleif
6. Rasputin
7. Battle Metal


Ensiferum Set List:
1. Ad Victoriam
2. Blood Is The Price Of Glory
3. Treacherous Gods
4. Tale Of Revenge
5. One More Magic Potion
6. Windrider
7. LAI LAI HEI
8. Ahti
9. Dragonheads
10. Token Of Time
11. The New Dawn
12. Victory Song
13. Hero In A Dream
14. Guardians Of Fate
15. Iron Maiden Trooper
16. Battle Song


Official Web site: www.ensiferum.com
Official Web site: www.turisas.com
Official Web site: www.eluveitie.ch
Official Web site: www.tyr.net


Hits: 1937

 
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