18.12.2021 Metal de Facto & Ensiferum @ Tavastia, Helsinki

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Having released an impressive new album, Thalassic,” last year, ENSIFERUM have yet to be able to tour their new music properly due to the pandemic. The band had been able to host a livestreamed release show, but it wasn’t until winter 2021 that they were able to bring their show to a few of the Finnish stages at long last. With METAL DE FACTO opening up the evening, we caught this part of the Thalassic Tour on December 18th, 2021, at Helsinki’s Tavastia. Check out the full gallery here.

The evening was sold out and much of the audience had already arrived for the opening act. Bassist Sami Hinkka was working double-duty this night and he was one of the first on stage, in all of his bearded and long-haired glory, when METAL DE FACTO began their set. The stage was bathed in beauitful red and white lights as they opened the set with “Inferno.” As vocalist Mikael Salo had been unable to attend the show for personal reasons, he had been replaced by two colleagues. The first of these, Tomi Kurtti of MYSTERIZER fame, was a completely new face, but he immediately impressed us with his clear, beautiful voice. The band as a whole, really, was a big collection of familiar talents, with Mikko Salovaara (KIUAS, DAIMONIC) on guitars and Benji Connelly (EVERFROST) on keyboards, both showing how natural they are with their instruments. Of course, one of the chattiest people on stage was guitarist Esa Orjasalo, who stepped in after the first song to thank Tomi for joining them on such short notice. They followed with “Jupiter’s Might,” which was an easy highlight from their set with its vibrant energy and catchy melodies.

There was a bit of goofy banter between songs, especially leading up to “Bacchanalia,” a nonsensical fun-time party of a song, where the second guest vocalist of the night, Marko Skou – whom you may know from Esa‘s other band, BLOODY HELL – was tagged in on vocals. This was another highlight of the night, as not only did we get a taste of both singers, but a few of the band members also got to show off with some pretty slick soloing. “Legionnaire’s Oath” always has a nice shred to it, with a little bit of Sami‘s innate Steve Harris showing through a bit… man that guys plays a stylish bass!

There was a bit more stage banter before they wrapped things up with “Conqueror,” leaving a very pleasant overall feeling from their set. Surely, it goes without saying that the absence of Mikael Salo was felt – he is more than just a voice and the way he encapsulates the songs so fully in a performance is not something that just anyone can hop in and replicate easily. That said, both replacement vocalists were able to pull together an impressive feat in learning to sing these ambitious songs with such short notice, and audience members were treated to a unique experience, with two different vocalists with vastly different styles, taking on the daunting task of a last-minute replacement. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly and hope we’ll be able to see them again soon with Mikael back on vocals! And perhaps we’ll get to see those singers with their own bands along the way, as they certainly showed us they’ve got talent.

The stage changeover went quite smoothly and the few remaining holes in the audience padded out quickly. There was a long intro before the lights began and the crowd roared as the local heroic metal heroes took the stage and started with one of their new singles, “Andromeda.” Performance-wise, these guys immediately meant business, calmly claiming their rightful place on the stage in front of their willing audience, who were happy to raise their fists. From the first track until the end, their notoriously well-lubricated guitarist, Markus Toivonen, had his commonly-seen big lazy smile smeared all over his face as he drifted around on stage, looking as natural with a guitar as can be, as though he was in his happy place, while Sami continued to make crazy faces and headbang as he moved around the stage.

The first pits already showed in “Rum, Women, Victory,” but things took a bit of a laidback turn for “For Sirens,” with a bit more of a relaxed tempo. Unfortunately, it was a bit hard to see new keyboardist and vocalist Pekka Montin at times due to his location at the back of the stage, but from what we could see, he seems to have loosened up and overcome some of his nerves since the livestream, looking a little more comfortable in his place now. Surely, with a few more proper shows under his belt, he’ll really be able to let loose!

When it was time to play a few older songs, like “From Afar,” the siren call of the moshpit overtook me and I was pleased to find myself in one of the friendliest and most enjoyable moshpits of recent memory (and do keep in mind that “recent memory” means I haven’t been in a moshpit in over 2 years – thanks, pandemic!). Most Finnish pits are pretty nice places, but every once in a while you get in a mean one, so this was a very pleasant welcome back to the pit circuit. The crowd then got even rowdier for “One More Magic Potion.”

Pekka came out from behind his keyboards to focus on “Run from the Crushing Tide,” wailing like an absolute banshee; this happened again for “The Defense of the Sampo,” which was notably great due to its big choruses and the glorious spaghetti western interlude. The crowd also got pretty hyped up again when “In My Sword I Trust” was announced and it soon became evident that many shirts were getting lost in the moshpit, as more and more sweaty, topless men kept popping in and out. There were a few more older songs snuck in here, to which the crowd enthusiastically went totally fucking nuts.

“Cold Northland (Väinämöinen pt. III),” “One with the Sea,” and “Two of Spades” started to wrap up the evening, but the crowd was quite unwilling to let the band finish their set, begging for more until we were given “Lai Lai Hei” and a couple more as encores. The crowd was loathe to let them go afterwards, but all good things must come to an end eventually.

This was a really wonderful night to spend at Tavastia, thanks to the lovely performers that were willing to brave the pandemic to put on a show. While it’s hard to replace a singer at last notice, we were still gifted a fierce set from METAL DE FACTO, while ENSIFERUM continues to prove themselves to be a professional band that know what they’re doing and are good at it. It was great to finally get to hear some of these new songs live at long last, after being teased for so long. Here’s hoping these guys will be able to get on the road again soon to continue sharing what they do best!

Tracklist

  1. Andromeda
  2. Rum, Women, Victory
  3. For Sirens
  4. From Afar
  5. One More Magic Potion
  6. Run from the Crushing Tide
  7. In My Sword I Trust
  8. The Defense of the Sampo
  9. Tale of Revenge
  10. Treacherous Gods
  11. Cold Northland (Väinämöinen pt. III)
  12. One with the Sea
  13. Two of Spades
  14. Lai Lai Hei (encore)
  15. Into Battle (encore)