Having heated up a little at the 2021 edition of Dark River Festival, local heavy metal act KIUAS have been promising a return to the stages for some time since their breakup back in the early 2010s, leaving many fans devastated. Now, with their original lineup back together, some of the aforementioned and promised shows have finally begun to take place, with the first of these happening at On the Rocks in Helsinki on November 11th, 2022. There was no warm-up act needed on this night, as KIUAS were sure to heat things up!
On the Rocks was indeed heated up like a sauna already at 20:00, as the show was sold-out and – bafflingly – had no opening act of which to speak. Needless to say, this was one of the sweatiest and steamiest shows in recent memory, as the venue was packed to capacity with people of all ages sporting KIUAS shirts from throughout their tenure. The timeless appeal of this act could be seen throughout the surprisingly varied ages of the attendees – the band hasn’t been properly active in almost a decade, yet there were quite a few young people in attendance nevertheless. Though the show was a bit late to get started, seemingly due to some persisting sound issues and the large queue outside, the crowd didn’t mind the wait – except for the ones outside.
Original vocalist Ilja Jalkanen was at the top of his game from the beginning. As a notorious chatterbox and crowd heckler, he immediately began to chat up the audience, joking that he’s too old for band life and is the only one among them who has aged, though the vivacity of his performance seemed to suggest otherwise – he seemed to be drawing a lot of energy from the crowd throughout the show. The first official track after the “Anvil of Crom” (by Basil Poledouris) intro was “The Decaying Doctrine” and it seemed as if this band hadn’t ever left the stage, what with the ferocious power they let loose. It was truly a great loss to the metal scene back when Ilja left the band, for his charisma, style, and skill are all top-notch, and it took him no effort to get the audience immediately singing along.
Some sound issues did seem to persist throughout the show, but the band soldiered on like champs, through awesome tracks like “Of Sacrifice, Loss & Reward” and “Of Love, Lust & Human Nature,” and were allowed a bit of a break during the “Child of Cimmeria” intro, which led naturally into “Black Winged Goddess.” All of this nicely showcased how versatile Ilja‘s vocals are, from tender softness to roaring growls, all with seeming ease, while the rest of the band really showed off how they’ve still got it after all this time. The first half of the show was absolutely fantastic musically. Visually, oftentimes it was hard to see the band on stage, since whoever was manning the light station seemed to prefer to shine spotlights on the audience more than the band.
The show itself was a bit like a sauna, so it seemed appropriate when they switched to acoustics for “Summer’s End,” which was performed by Mikko Salovaara (guitar) and Ilja alone. This was also the moment when the lighting guy managed to line up the lights with the desired atmosphere. This calm and beautiful track was then followed by its album followup, “Winter’s Sting,” and the thrashier “Aftermath,” also from “Lustdriven.” Unfortunately, the bass cabinet broke down during “To Excel and Ascend,” through Ilja gladly took the time it took to fix it to chat with the crowd some more. This minor setback continued into “Lights Are Many,” but the beautiful singalongs and incredible piano solo by Atte Tanskanen nevertheless induced goosebumps.
The show was bound to get more bombastic before it ended, so they returned to their energetic debut album for “Spirit of Ukko” and natural fan-favorite “Warrior Soul,” both of which were true treats – the front of the stage was absolutely steaming and the mosh pit was full. The band had promised to play thirteen tracks and two encores, so when they were called back for more, they delivered! “And the North Star Cried” was a positive and tear-inducing surprise for many in the audience, and as one of the band’s most ass-kicking tracks, “Across the Snows” was a brilliant way to end, especially with that Finnish singalong! The show was overall really delightful, completely nostalgic, and it was great to see how happy the band seemed to be on stage together. Löylyä lisää*, I say!
* “löylyä lisää” doesn’t translate directly into English, but is a way to request someone to throw more water onto the kiuas [sauna stove]
Notes by Riia L., text by Bear W.
- (intro) Prologue/Anvil of Crom
- The Decaying Doctrine
- Of Sacrifice, Loss & Reward
- Of Love, Lust & Human Nature
- Child of Cimmeria / Black Winged Goddess
- Of Ancient Wounds
- The Visionary
- Summer’s End (acoustic)
- Winter’s Sting
- To Excel and Ascend
- Lights are Many
- The Spirit of Ukko
- Warrior Soul
- And the North Star Cried (encore)
- Across the Snows (encore)