In the arena of folk and pagan influenced metal, which is often (and at times unfairly) thought of as pure silliness, drinking and near cartoonish portrayals, Dutch Folk Metallers Heidevolk have always been a consistently decent outfit, but one that has never reached the mainstream dabblings of a Turisas. Perhaps this is, in part, due to their more balanced take on the genre which sits between the fun-loving, grandiose approach, thoroughbred Heavy Metal grit and a more intelligent, nuanced side; Heidevolk is a name yet to progress beyond the most ardent of Folk Metal fan-bases only. Continue reading
If you have even the slightest interest in Viking Folk Metal, then you are sure to have heard of Ensiferum. Formed in 1995, the Finnish five-piece took six years to release their eponymously titled début album, but quickly built up a reputation as one of the major players on the scene. A lofty position they still find themselves in today. Continue reading
The 2017 Hellfest Open Air Festival will be taking place from June 16th-18th in Clisson, France next year, and the final lineup has now been confirmed. Continue reading
“The World’s Biggest Heavy Metal Cruise” the 70000 Tons of Metal Cruise has announced the first 10 bands for their 2016 cruise. So far the bands slated to perform are At The Gates, Delain, Dragonforce, Firewind, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Iced Earth, Lacuna Coil, Moonspell, and Turisas. The cruise takes place from February 4th to 8th 2016, and departs from Miami/Ft. Lauderdale Florida setting a course for an as yet to be named destination, before returning again. Tickets are on sale and updates are available from the cruise’s website:
With a brand new album entitled One Man Army under their belts and a brand new home on the legendary Metal Blade Records, things in the Ensiferum camp are looking the strongest they have ever been. In the second part, vocalist Petri Lindroos discusses the recording process, and how vigorous yet surprisingly relaxed the whole period was.
Another factor that arguably set Ensiferum apart from their peers is the venturing into the use of orchestral parts previously in their back catalogue, but in an overshadowing manner, but more as in a sense of bulking their palette and trying something new. 2009’s From Afar (Spinefarm) set the precedence for this, before 2012’s Unsung Heroes (Spinefarm) reduced the use. Interestingly, newest album One Man Army (Metal Blade) sees the dynamic of orchestration shift again; an overall process that Lindroos explains.
“From Afar was kind of an experiment with the orchestrations for Ensiferum and it’s pretty full of it now, that you listen to it in perspective and it sounded so cool during the recordings but it got a little out of hand, so after that we kind of learned that you don’t have to put it into every single riff part available, but I think we got it nailed on this one. Its pretty much trial and error, live and learn, every time you make a new album you learn and now we are getting the hang of it.”
“Finding a balance with the orchestration is difficult in the sense that heavy metal itself is already very powerful in its own way and adding a full orchestra to that is a little tricky, and making it sound good without eating away at each other is very difficult and pretty much a balance question.”
Of course, no band’s recording story would be complete without tales of arduous and testing experiences, and with the sheer work rate of producer Ansi Kippo and his supposed super human abilities.
“Our producer/recorder/owner of the studio is a man who can work without any sleep, which is crazy and amazing at the same time, but he can do as long as necessary. If you have enough energy to sing until six in the morning he will stay up too, if you’re on a good run you don’t have to give up, if someone is fired up we can keep going all night.”
“We started a little later in the afternoon, there’s no point picking up a guitar at 8 in the morning, everyone knows that’s not going to work so we would start at midday, so obviously its going to go late into the night. I’d been working with Ansi a couple of times before and its been like that from the start, he just can’t stop, he’s a workaholic.”
Despite the long days, Lindroos is very adamant that this was beneficial in the recording process and on the final result, being an absolute necessity: “Without that we couldn’t have finished in time, it would have taken a couple of weeks, cost us more money which wouldn’t have made anyone happy so a big thanks goes to him that we could do it pretty much on time.”
Speaking of recording, it has almost become cliché for bands to speak of sleepless nights, stress, even arguments and other problems that make for a mantra that Ensiferum clearly didn’t get: “There were no big problems, in our point of view the only thing stopping us was when a tube blew up from a guitar amp that took 45 minutes to change, that was the biggest issue. Otherwise it was a case of whoever is ready to record would do so. It was very relaxed and smooth. It was surprising, but I knew before that Ansi was a smooth guy, he makes it all so easy.”
WORDS BY CHRIS TIPPELL
With a brand new album entitled One Man Army under their belts and a brand new home on the legendary Metal Blade Records, things in the Ensiferum camp are looking the strongest they have ever been. Vocalist Petri Lindroos chatted to Ghost Cult about the the band’s sense of fun, experimentation and THAT infamous disco number.
For all the talk and stereotyping regarding metal music as a po-faced, overly serious and even evil and dangerous form of art there are also as countless moments of whimsy and cartoonish silliness and absurdity with a huge focus on that little word ‘fun’. Folk metal especially has a history of the OTT and tomfoolery with an equal measure of the anthemic.
At first glance, Finnish act Ensiferum may appear one of the genre’s more direct and hardened presences; but as vocalist Petri Lindroos explains, this isn’t the case at all: “We also like to have a lot of fun with the music but also do it very seriously. Having a small moment in a particular song, like we have “Stone Cold Metal” which had a western bridge part and we have a lot of fun with that, and it seems the fans also understood it, they didn’t knock us down”
Compared to the likes of the instantly recognisable image and infamous camp covers of Turisas or the alcohol drenched party vibes ala Korpiklaani as examples, Ensiferum may not be as overtly animated, but a little digging reveals a lot of experimentation and forays into the ridiculous. Even so latest album One Man Army (Metal Blade) throws a number of curveballs; most notably the now infamous ‘Two Spades’.
“So we did ‘Two Of Spades’ and it felt it needed a special bridge part and I think someone said out loud without really thinking “hey lets do disco” and we were all like, sure lets do it.” “If he hadn’t said disco, he might have saud funk and we would have a lot more funk on it. I don’t think even god knows what’s going to be on the next one.”
The aforementioned ‘Two Spades’ encapsulates archetypal sides to the folk metal coin; a rather lengthy epic of powerful and empowering metal, with a bridge segment in the centre based on a disco beat and upbeat tone. On the one hand it’s a segment that makes perfect sense but on the other it remains quite a surprise. A surprise that Petri believes the band have pulled off substantially.
“If they see that coming then they have to be some kind of wizard. It all needs that fun aspect and needs to be entertaining yet done seriously and professionally. I think on this we did an excellent job.”
But it isn’t just ‘Two Spades’ that should catch people off guard, as the bonus edition also features a cover of a well known song that is a little unconventional even for folk metal:
The song ‘Rawhide’ came right before the studio, our label and our management wanted a few bonus tracks for different worldwide releases and we started running out of time; and ‘Rawhide’ is an excellent song and as we noticed digging into it, the Blues Brothers version is a cover, its actually a song from the 50’s, really old and with dozens of versions. But its very catchy, pretty much everyone knows it already, plus its nice and short and we didn’t need that much time to make it sound good.”
Ensiferum’s last album, 2012’s Unsung Heroes (Spinefarm), was met with pretty harsh reviews when it came out, though the Finnish quintet look to be back on track and making things right with their sixth effort, One Man Army (Metal Blade). While the band – Markus Toivonen (Guitars), Sami Hinkka (Bass), Petri Lindroos (Guitars & Vocals), Janne Parviainen (Drums) and Emmi Silvennoinen (keyboards) – haven’t drastically changed their sound, the usual combination of Viking-themed folk, bombast and thrash is present, it is simply that the quality has just been improved.
Intro track ‘March of War’ sets the tone; there’s chanting, pipes, and a real sense of preparation as if for some unnamed medieval battle, before segueing straight into the furious ‘Axe of Judgement’ – it’s a furious combination of shredding guitars, epic synths and Lindroo’s rasping vocals where you can perceptively hear the urgency, all captured in analogue warmth by award winning producer Anssi Kippo (Children of Bodom). ‘Heathen Horde’ is a stomping mid-paced sing-along anthem, while title track is almost pure melo-death bar the huge operatic chorus, before ‘Burden of the Fallen’ provides another medieval interlude for respite. There’s plenty of rousing chant-along moments that will have live audiences eating from the palms of their hands, big moments that are cleverly worked into what are often out-and-out thrash songs complete with some blistering solos, and are a sizeable part of what makes this such an enjoyable listen. It’s hard to remember the last time an album made me want to see a band live the way One Man Army does.
‘Two of Spades’ is a bit of a wildcard and sees a polka/disco sound sneak in – Turisas’ cover of Boney M.’s ‘Rasputin’ is the nearest comparison. The second half of the record then sees the band delve into more progressive territory, containing both the seven minute ‘Cry for the Earth Bounds’ and eleven minute epic ‘Descendants, Defiance, Domination’; the former a slow epic featuring clean female vocals, while the latter is more upbeat and even hints at 70s prog and boasts spoken word segments. With clean female vocals and country guitar, closer ‘Neito Pohjolan’ barely sounds like the same band.
On top of a great main album, the bonus disc is worth hunting down purely for the Ensiferum’s take on the classic Rawhide theme tune, while their cover of Barathrum’s ‘Warmetal’ is addictive. Overall, One Man Army is a very enjoyable experience, combining heavy with epic bombast and folk touches. Best of all, though, this is damn fun.
A definite return to form.
Ensiferum on Facebook
Scotland’s favourite purveyors of Pirate Metal, Alestorm, have once again sailed into port with a new album, Sunset on the Golden Age (Napalm). Keeping a shtick going after four albums is no easy task, but Alestorm do a fair job at showing there’s some life in the old sea dog yet.
Captained by Christopher Bowes (vocals & keytar) and his merry crew (Dani Evans – guitars, Gareth Murdock – bass, Elliot Vernon – keyboards and Peter Alcorn – drums), Alestorm have always had their critics and with Sunset on the Golden Age they’ve made an album that shows them at their best and worst.
The album’s lead single ‘Drink’ is the typical feel-good shanty you expect from the band with lyrics about alcohol, folky tones and shout-a-long choruses, it’s addictively catchy and good fun. Other early tracks such as ‘Walk The Plank’ and ‘Magnetic North’ are great, combining those folk elements with bombastic horns resulting in some of the most energetic music they’ve made in a while. Back Through Time‘s ‘Death Throes Of The Terrorsquid’ showed that the band could mix their Rum & Cutlass style with serious musical chops, and there’s a couple of moments on where they show the same of musical aspirations here.
The self-titled closing track is an ambitious 11-minute beast, while ‘1741 (The Battle Of Cartagena)’ is easily the musical highpoint. A seven-minute multi-part epic, it shows the band have more to offer than gimmicks and can compete with the likes of Turisas and Korpiklaani when they want to. Sadly it’s mostly downhill from here.
‘Wooden Leg’ is a short sharp thrust of hardcore punk given a pirate makeover, while tracks such as ‘Surf Squid Warfare’ and ‘Mead from Hell’ add almost thrash elements to mix. While they aren’t terrible, they don’t stand up to the focus and quality of the first half of the record. Alestorm have a history of cheesy pop covers, and, depending on your point of view, their latest cover of Taio Cruz’s ‘Hangover’ is either a genius or downright awful. Horribly catchy, but sounding like a Nu-Metal meets Ibiza pop song, it’s completely at musical odds with the rest of the album but no doubt destined to become a sing along classic.
Though enjoyable, Sunset on the Golden Age is a mixed affair. It swings from high quality booty to Pirates of the Caribbean-esque clichés and cheap jokes, and generally lacks cohesion or consistency, much like a rum-soaked pirate in many respects. It won’t change your view on the band, but if you liked previous jaunts, this could just be the ship for you.
The last stop on this year’s Paganfest America tour was Worcester, MA, in the tiny upstairs portion of The Palladium. With a lineup consisting of the Finnish darlings Korpiklaani and Turisas, Taiwan’s Chthonic, Germany’s VARG, and Cincinnati’s own Winterhymn, it was bound to be an excellent way to spend a Sunday night.
Wait a minute. A folk metal band…from Ohio? It’s true! If you’re like me, you’re used to folk metal coming from European countries but Winterhymn plays the part well, violin and all. It may have been the last show of the tour but they played as though it were the very first and the crowd danced and drank along with every song. Even their tour mates in VARG got involved when they came onstage to prank the band by slathering them in fake blood in the middle of their set. All in all, it was a job well done.
Let’s get this out of the way right now: I love Germans and I probably shouldn’t be allowed into their country unsupervised. That said, how did I feel about VARG? I loved them too and judging by the crowd’s reaction, they agreed with me. I had heard of this band in passing but this was my first time actually being exposed to their music. One of the highlights of the evening was when Winterhymn came back out to stage dive and crowd surf near the end of VARG’s set. They were the heaviest band on the bill and easily wound up sneaking into my number two spot because of this. They were loud, energetic, and perhaps even a tad intimidating. I would love to see them again in the future.
The third band on the bill was Chthonic. Their sound seemed a bit out of place compared to the other bands. It was bit too monotonous for my taste but they were visually interesting. Chthonic was using screens and lights in an area where most bands choose to not to simply due to the lack of space for anything, but the musicians themselves. Overall, they weren’t bad but they also didn’t wow me either. I didn’t have a very strong opinion either way after this performance but I am willing to give them another shot the next time they come Stateside.
I have to be completely honest and say that the reason that I even went to this show in the first place was specifically to see Turisas again. If you have never had a chance to see them live, you can usually pick out fans in the crowd by their red and black war paint. There were more crowd surfers during Turisas’ set than any other band but it was their closing song that really took the cake. Sure, they have a ton of great original material but everyone and their mom has a huge soft spot for their cover of Boney M’s ‘Rasputin’. The band pulled over a dozen people up on stage to dance and sing along with them. It was a great way to end things and I’m glad that years of demanding to have that song played has finally paid off.
Headliners Korpiklaani seemed a bit more subdued than the last time I had seen them. I was expecting lots of dancing and men resembling wizards making strange hand gestures. The typical playful banter was instead replaced with their brand of face melting folk metal. Korpiklaani definitely put on a top notch show and things were significantly less boozy until the band ended with ‘Happy Little Boozer’ and we danced with our Jager Bombs held up high. It was a mess. It was interesting to see a group that I usually consider more of a “party band” take a different approach and I believe it worked well. Could this be a sign of things to come? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what these Finns have into store for us next.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who hasn’t enjoyed attending a Paganfest show. From the great lineups bursting at the seams with incredible talent to fellow fans dressed in full Viking garb, these events are not to be missed and grow in size every year. Here’s hoping Paganfest 2015 gets moved downstairs so we can get some real dancing in.
WORDS BY ALEIDA LA LLAVE
Touring with Heidenfest has been a bit tough on violin player Olli Vänskä this time. He got sick, but nevertheless took the time for this interview and manages to give an energetic performance with Turisas each night. So while he was all wrapped up in a hoodie and sipping tea, Ghost Cult chatted with Vänskä about the band’s latest effort, Turisas2013 (Century Media). Continue reading