Though I imagine that at some point in history hearing someone shout, “The Vikings are coming!” would have inspired fear and given you a reason to bury your valuables, nowadays it is much more likely to be cause for celebration and head banging; such is the case of February 23rd, when Finntroll, Ensiferum, Rotten Sound, and Barren Earth play the Gramercy. Dubbed the Finnish Metal Tour Part II, because once wasn’t enough, Fintroll, Ensiferum, and Co. are bringing folk-heavy melodic death and black metal to the masses, and I’m going to be there, taking pictures of grown men wearing the Scandinavian equivalent of kilts and covered in body paint.
Finntroll has been around since 1997 and have been turning heads ever since with their uniquely “trollish” music, a blend of folk/death/black metal with a heavy dose of traditional Finnish “humppa”. Their sound is seriously heavy but at the same time is sinisterly playful courtesy of the humppa and the occasional gang vocals, the kind of singing you might expect to hear from a crew of Vikings rowing their longboat towards shore to burn the local church and steal some sheep. Just a typical Tuesday, you know. Lead vocalist Vreth has a pretty brutal bark, rich and deep with layering that mixes extraordinarily well with the blastbeats and the shredding and grinding guitars.
If Fintroll has the occasional sludgy texture to it, then Ensiferum is a tall glass of water. Self-described “heroic folk metal”, Ensiferum plays speedy melodic death metal with an emphasis on the melodic, sometimes approaching a Rhapsody-esque level of regal shredding. Not so Rhapsody-esque is lead singer/lead guitarist Jari Mäenpää’s (you may have heard of his side project, the excellent Wintersun) Alexi Laiho-like screech. I’m really looking forward to seeing these guys; this type of music is always a blast live.
As for Rotten Sound, I’m just learning about them. My first impressions are that they are a much more hardcore/grindcore band. They sound absolutely crazy; their mix is filled with fuzzy guitars, dirty drumming, and a demonic growl. They seem like the Finnish Cannibal Corpse, so, in other words, they’re awesome.
Lastly is Barren Earth, a death metal band with a psychedelic edge to it, that reminds me a lot of golden-era Amorphis (Tales from the Thousand Lakes, Elegy), my all-time favorite band. Perhaps it is no coincidence—ex-Amorphis bassist Olli-Pekka Laine is in the band. Keeping with the Amorphis similarities, lead singer Mikko Kotamäki’s growl and clean vocals sound like Tomi Kouvusaari’s old growl and Pasi Koskinen’s clean vocals, respectively.
Though the tour is called the Finnish Metal Tour, it could have been called the Helsinki Metal tour—all four bands hail from Helsinki. The concentration of metal talent and innovation in Helsinki never ceases to amaze me. I’ll have a review of this show towards the end of the month.
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