25th February 2016
Review by Demitri Levantis
Photography by Graham Hilling
Following the release of their sixth studio album, ‘One Man Army’, last year, the Finnish Folk Metal group Ensiferum returned to London on one cloudy Thursday night to liven up the week for many a keen folk metal lover.
The band were on their Burden of the Fallen tour to keep up promotion of their release and to entertain us with many a grand tune of heroism and adventure.
First up on the bill were UK Symphonic/Gothic act Pythia [3.5/5]. The group were showcasing the talents of their new vocalist Sophie Dorman, who had replaced founding member Emily Alice Ovenden last year.
One way I always describe symphonic metal vocalists to outsiders is by comparing them, in terms or range, to opera singers.
And operatic tunes were no stranger to this lady. Dorman delivered every track with aplomb and gave me a reassurance that symphonic metal is not going stale, which I had been debating with friends in recent times.
It was a truly heartwarming opening to the night, hearing songs about love, rejection, heartache and passion for others and the world around us.
Symphonic and gothic metal is the ideal music for someone who feels true passion for someone or something and it motivated me to keep up with enjoying and reviewing this kind of music.
Empowerment is no foreigner to the epicness of said genre and Pythia were certainly representing the UK sound.
Excellent work Pythia. You were tight, chemistry was there between the line up and you came in and got the job done as any true force of passionate warriors would do so in a tough situation.
And I certainly think the crowd agreed with me too when they cheered them off.
Army of the Damned
Just a Lie
Sword of Destiny
I was really feeling pumped up for a good night of party themed metal, which the rest of the line up seemed determined for as well. Next up, all the way from Estonia, we had quirky Folk Metal veterans, Metsatoll [4/5], on the road and making unique music for 17 years.
What I love most about folk ,etal, is how the bands use indigenous instruments and language and folklore to bring stories of their homelands across borders.
And I was mesmerised and hooked by member Varulven who had come equipped with an entire arsenal of Estonian instruments that made this band stand out from most other folk groups I’ve seen in the past.
The use of bagpipes and flutes and harps did remind me of bands like Korpiklaani, but Estonia is a nation I know very little of, so it was wonderful to see instruments that perked my curiosity.
This is what I love about all metal, you can take the most obscure of things and make them into something amazing which will turn the heads of any kid whose sense of adventure is still present.
Metsatoll assured me that time on the road was a good thing, for they were all working together like a well maintained factory churning out excellent tune after excellent tune.
A nicely run production line of Eastern European metal is how best to describe the band – their cries and shouts and melodies echoed stories and legends of a foreign era into my ears which has made me want to travel that part of the world again.
Mythology is a keen theme of most metal and folk metal never ceases to amaze me with it. Well done Metsatoll, please come back to the UK soon.
Kuu Kivine Maa
See On See Kaa
Then finally came the time for the headliners to rock the show once more.
I’d seen Ensiferum [4.5/5] at this same venue last year, just after ‘One Man Army’ had hit the record stores, and I felt the band still had it in them after 20 years to keep making excellent Finnish music.
Major battles of bygone eras and stories of adventure and mythical worlds you’d hear around a campfire are what I’d say Ensiferum are all about.
And it did seem like a full on barrage of war and adventurous bards in battle armour was what I witnessed this wintry evening.
Clad in war paint and ancient battle dress, the Finns took to the stage like a family of ducks to water. We leapt straight into the first song like the front line of troops hitting the enemy lines.
I was pleased they played a wide range of songs from across their career and didn’t concentrate too much on new stuff.
It’s understandable to play lots of new stuff if you’ve just released a new album, but making it themed is only best if you are celebrating an anniversary. And Ensiferum knew the right tracks to pick for this night.
‘From Afar’ made me very happy to be seeing this band live again for they never cease to amaze me with their speed and agility on drum and guitars. And I was particularly happy they played my favourite of their tracks, ‘Twilight Tavern’.
Eventually the band left the stage with the energetic crowd demanding more. The louder the cries became, the more pumped I was to go back onto the audible battlefield with the bards and give the proverbial enemy a good hiding.
And so the Finns returned with Keyboard/Accordion player Emmi Silvennoinen acting as a hype man to get us in the mood for another attack.
Bassist Sami Hinkka and vocalist Petri Lindroos had worked in good unison this night and they too led the second wave of the gig into a well earned victory. Tea and medals all round I say.
A wonderful evening that I won’t forget in a hurry – and all the more reason to visit Finland someday. I feel so proud to know the country with the most metal bands per capita isn’t lagging behind with new blood and the classics.
Warrior Without a War
My Ancestor’s Blood
Two of Spades
In My Sword I Trust