Can you imagine what it was like? Going to concerts every week, enjoying the company of your friends, all during loud, pumping bass lines and lighting flashing everywhere? It almost felt like too good to be true, but TRUE CULT CLUB decided to organize their debut show at On the Rocks in Helsinki on 26 August 2020.
A show during COVID-19 times is nothing comparable to the way things used to be, but hey, we’re not complaining. This might be just one of the rare shows of 2020 and even the event suffered under the uncertainty of everyday life as support act THY ROW and the special guest of the evening, SILENTIUM, both had to cancel their shows. The band managed to find a replacement warmup act, AVACIA, which we, unfortunately, had to skip. On the Rocks was transformed into a venue where social distancing was encouraged, having put seats around the otherwise completely full floor and making hand sanitizer pumps available for everyone. Perhaps it’s not the best way to enjoy the gig, but times like these require venues to re-think their entire layout and make it as safe as possible for everyone and I do feel that On the Rocks nailed it. Considering the seats, it was hard to judge whether the place was packed or not, but it at least seemed like a lot of people had shown up to witness the band’s first performance.
We arrived right on time for TRUE CULT CLUB to start their show. During a short atmospheric intro, all musicians came on stage. One by one, they created a lot of expectations for the audience. Seemingly excited, the band started playing their latest single, “Touch Me.” While its studio version is a lot more poppy, it became instantly clear that these live versions are more aggressive and more “metal” (for lack of a better term), but altogether it’s excellent music to party to. Those who came to see the band because they thought they would hear extreme metal couldn’t have been more surprised. With a quite minimal look – except for vocalist Asim Searah spreading glitter all around the stage – the band tackled a handful of unknown songs, with “Take Off” sticking the most into my mind due to its out-of-this-world lyrics. If the tracks all had something in common, it was that they were strongly fused with synth sounds, electronic music, and were probably the equivalent of a musical disco ball. On top of that, focusing a little bit on the lyrics, the songs had a variety of topics, often tongue-in-cheek. “Fire Away” had visuals of fire behind the band, which made me realize how carefully prepared the band had been before taking the stage.
Searah greeted the audience after a handful of tracks, while reacting to the current situation of the world, mentioning that he hasn’t played a show since January – quite a long time for him. Altogether, he seemed to be happy with the thought that their music would make some minds forget about the situation we’re all in.
When the band played “DM Me,” a song about stalking, we were first struck by the versatility of these tracks. The song had a little bit of a Devin Townsend vibe to it, but remained in the lines of the earlier material – metal fused with electronic music and an overall poppy mood. Next up, the screen behind the band lit up with millions of little stars, setting the mood for the emotional, “Till Death Us Do Part.” The ballad started off with a beautiful piano intro, accompanied by Asim Searah‘s softer voice. After a while, all the others kicked in as well, enhancing the meaning of the song.
Searah switched to a British accent introducing the next song, “Eternal Heat”; the track had some clear Goth vibes to it, again illustrating just how different these tracks can be infused by different electronic sounds. TRUE CULT CLUB asked who was feeling some black metal and a couple of people got intensely excited. However, the band continued with the funkier “My Muse,” which had a very impressive bass section. While Rolf Pilve wasn’t exactly doing blast beats, the drums in the track gave the song a little bit of an ominous mood and in the end, Searah impressed us all with a BACKSTREET BOYS -like soft, poppy singing until the song faded out.
Before “Saeed,” Christian “Chrism” Pulkkinen showed his skills in a very to the point keyboard solo, after which the song kicked in, with a projected Maneki Neko spreading good vibes to the audience. “Saeed” probably was the craziest song, heavy with a bit of a futuristic vibe at times. Not a big surprise, since the original song is done by none other than INFECTED MUSHROOM. Even though it was a cover, TRUE CULT CLUB had all the tools in house to create their own version of the song and it worked well live, probably delivering one of the most intense tracks and it totally made me forget about the original; in fact… I didn’t even realize it was a cover until much later. During a keyboard intermezzo, guitarist Miiro Varjus jumped into the audience and continued strumming his guitar from the floor for a little while.
Searah grabbed the mic again and introduced the next song as a big surprise. He mentioned how it would be EMINEM‘s biggest nightmare. Former bandmate Mikko Salovaara (ex-KIUAS, METAL DE FACTO) interrupted the band while handing Searah something, after which he tried to throw it into the audience, but failed, causing a little bit of comic relief. The band continued with “Anymore”; out of all the tracks it was probably the most suited for a live environment since it had lots of intense elements, as well as a lot of singalong moments and a little bit of a punk rock vibe to it; very impressive.
Unfortunately, it was time for the last song of the night, the debut single, “Empty Alley.” During a dance party intro, WINTERSUN‘s vocalist, Jari Mäenpää, who had come to support his crew, grabbed the mic and expressed his love for pussy and ass, giving the platform to Asim Searah to joke about what just had happened. Sometimes it’s these spontaneous moments that are the funniest of the night, especially when they happen to Searah, who is driven by humor in his speeches. “Empty Alley,” as expected was the perfect choice to end the show with; somewhat uplifting, heavier than ever, and a powerful statement especially during these trying times.
Altogether TRUE CULT CLUB did a fantastic job with their very first show. The band promised to surprise and they surely delivered. The songs scheduled for tonight were all heavily synth-driven, with a lot of dance music elements and poppy moods, making the otherwise heavy music – due to Varjus‘ heavy guitar riffs and Pilve‘s impressive dark drum skills – lighter. Light and darkness often get juxtaposed in their music and especially in regard to live music, this works very well. While bringing the arena shows to smaller venues is not an easy thing to do, especially during a show were social distancing is encouraged, I can totally see that when things are back to normal and people are more acquainted with the band’s music, there might be people dancing to the beats, shouting along with the often-powerful choruses, and enabling the torches on their phones during ballads. Should the band hit your town still in 2020, make sure to be present. After all, life is short, concerts are few, so get that ticket and go stand in that queue.
- Touch Me
- Take Off
- Fire Away
- Behind Dark Clouds
- DM Me
- Till Death Us Do Part
- Eternal Heat
- My Muse
- Empty Alley
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