It was one of those nights where the day’s work prevented me from getting to the show in time to catch the opening bands perform at the ungodly hour of 6 pm. Fortunately, I was there in time to catch the 3 main acts in their entirety.
The Republik was surprisingly full considering the genre and the fact it was Wednesday. But people were there bearded; garbed in kilts and/or chain mail and with the signature Turisas face paint on (red base with black streaks). It was set change so I made my way around the venue bumping into both familiar and unfamiliar faces.
After 20 mins or so, the lights dimmed and Taiwan’s Chthonic took the stage. This quartet really knew their craft. The expert vocals ranged from guttural rage to hi-pitched shrieks to beautiful traditional Taiwanese melodies; all executed with easeful dynamics and placed impeccably within the context of masterful songwriting. The interesting thing about Chthonic is that they manage to simultaneously pummel you polyrhythmic extreme metal and soothe you with slow, haunting traditional melodies. The first song I’d ever heard from them was “Defenders of Bu-Tik Palace”. I remember the feeling of being floored with something so intense, beautiful and majestic. Hearing it live was no different. I was captivated by their entire performance and just wished people would stop bumping into me so I could sit and gaze at musical perfection for a few fleeting, brief moments.
After Chthonic, the mighty Turisas seized the stage. Now, I always had these guys pegged as epic battle metal. But for some reason, their set started off unmemorable and surprisingly soft. Don’t get me wrong, the band was rocking out but the music lacked impact and it’s predictable anthemic qualities were lacking; especially after witnessing Chthonic’s extreme folk metal majesty. As Turisas set continued it eventually gained momentum. The crowd kept giving them tons of energy and finally the band started playing some of their older repertoire. Hits like “Battle Metal”, “Stand-up and Fight” and the infamous “Rasputin” were played near the end and these numbers more than made up for the lack-lustre start. To hear these tracks executed with passion and precision was no small feat and I feel that they had done their job of winning me over by the end of their set.
Korpiklaani closed the night with their bizarre mix of drunken, Finnish hill-billy, and party antics. I often describe this group as the “ACDC of Folk Metal” in that they sure know how to get a crowd going with anthem after anthem of songs praising various alcoholic beverages. It also impresses me how they keep true to their roots and sing in Finnish, yet, manage to garner so much praise and attention from anglophonic crowds. These guys are not my favourite band in the world mostly because they epitomize the 3-chord ‘let’s get wasted’ folk metal and lack the depth as other bands like oh… say… Chthonic. But I have to give them credit where it’s due that they know their craft well. They don’t rock out as hard as other bands. Instead, they stand on stage and let the audience descend into a sprawling mass of drinking-horn-pounding chaos as they belt out furious violin melodies and gruff vocals that speak of barstool wisdom.
Fun was the adjective of the night (with the exception of the 35-minutes of ecstasy my soul experienced during Chthonic’s set). I left feeling upbeat and not too deaf. It was nice seeing a show where dynamics and clarity were present. It’s impressive to see folk metal really taking a stronger uptick in the Canadian metal world. I hope this trend continues.
These bands Online
ChthoniC – www.facebook.com/chthonicEN
Turisas – www.turisas.com
Korpiklaani – www.korpiklaani.com
Paganfest – www.facebook.com/PaganfestUSA