Every year the city of Savonlinna organizes a festival dedicated to opera in the famous Olavinlinna castle. While I’m actually a big fan of opera, it’s actually the annual event Opera Rocks that caught my attention. Every year the festival has managed to invite outstanding Finnish bands, but I never made it, until now… As BATTLE BEAST, ARION and WHEEL were scheduled to play on 21 July 2019 at the castle, we made the decision to attend the festival for the very first time.
Progressive rock/metal act WHEEL exploded the last couple of months. Ever since the release of their debut album “Moving Backwards,” the band has had been on every poster imaginable. They even were able to go on tour with the progressive metal act SOEN. We have seen the band play live now a bunch of time, and it has been a nice surprise to see just how much the four-piece have grown in one year.
WHEEL so far has had very moody shows, with grim lighting and a mysterious atmosphere as all the band members are cloaking in hoods. The backdrop of the castle, therefore, only made the show more magical, and almost seemed meant to be.
Every show I have seen, the band has slightly shuffled around with their setlist, which I definitely appreciate, and it makes so far that every gig has been a unique gig-experience. With a lot of energy, the band played a very tight set of 6 tracks, and even though we all know the length of prog songs, I still could have enjoyed a couple of tracks added to that list. Let’s hope they’ll get to that point soon enough!
- Where The Pieces Lie
What all of these three bands have in common is that they were present on almost every festival you can think of in Finland, due to the release of their recent albums. Apart from releasing “Life Is Not Beautiful”, symphonic power metal act ARION also toured around Europe with BATTLE BEAST.
Right on time the intro track from “Life Is Not Beautiful” started to play, and flows nicely into “No One Stands In My Way”, the band kicks off their show with a lot of energy. One thing that immediately set me a bit off was just how different the audience was from a standard gig. I personally don’t like seated concerts, and especially not when a band like ARION is playing. From my chair, I tried to headbang, but it seemed a little bit inappropriate to say the least. Unfortunate though because with songs like “I Am The Storm”, “Out of the Ashes”, and “Unforgivable” it seems almost a sin not to party hard.
I’ve seen ARION a couple of times, when they have longer sets, guitarist Iivo Kaipainen usually gets a moment to shine, this time he played an inventive solo containing elements from “Finlandia” by Jean Sibelius. It really showed just how talented the young guitarist is, and was a great addition to the evening. The setlist was different from the times I have seen them this year, playing about 11 tracks, including an outstanding live version of “Burn Your Ship” which I’m personally not completely sure if I’ve ever seen live. All-in-all once again, no surprise there, I enjoyed ARION‘s show, in fact, I wouldn’t have objected to even more songs!
- No One Stands in My Way
- I Am the Storm
- Punish You
- The Last Sacrifice
- Guitar Solo (including elements of Finlandia by Jean Sibelius)
- Out of the Ashes
- You’re My Melody
- Burn Your Ship
- At the Break of Dawn
BATTLE BEAST was up next, I have seen the band play a bunch of times now, and what always grabs my attention is how much fun it seems that they are having on stage. Their energy is infectious, and can even make a resting bitch face like mine smile without having to do any effort for it.
The band started off with “Unbroken”, and the mood was set. The first couple of songs were explosive, “Familiar Hell”, “Straight to the Heart”, and the ultimate BATTLE BEAST classic “Black Ninja”. The band then took the tempo down with “Endless Summer”, and “I Wish” from the last album. Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of ballads in general, so for me, the band could have easily left these out and I would have been a bit more excited, however, of course, they played the songs very tightly and the emotive “I Wish” at least seemed to grab the audience’s attention.
The tempo went up again with songs like “Raise Your Fists”, “The Golden Horde”, and “Bastard Son of Odin”. The former made me really wanna throw the whole row of benches somewhere far away, and dance if it would have been possible, but unfortunately it seemed a bit rude towards the other people. “No More Hollywood Endings” was a bit of a mystery to me, during their show at Jäähalli the band invited four dancers to stage, now there were only two left who didn’t dance in sync at all, at least in my eyes, having them dance in sync would have even created more of a magical atmosphere. I think the ultimate highlight of the show, however, was when ARION vocalist Lassi Vääränen joined the band, to sing a duet with singer Noora Louhimo on “Beyond the Burning Skies”, it may have been because of my earplugs, but I couldn’t hear him all too well, but the times I did, he really shined. This really calls for an ARION ft. Noora Louhimo duet. Next album, guys?
All-in-all the evening went by smoothly, without any major issues. The event was organized nicely, with an outstanding selection of bands. If I have the opportunity again next year, I hope to definitely make it.
- Familiar Hell
- Straight to the Heart
- Black Ninja
- Endless Summer
- I Wish
- Raise Your Fists
- The Golden Horde
- Bastard Son of Odin
- The Hero
- No More Hollywood Endings
- King for a Day
- Beyond the Burning Skies (ft. Lassi Vääränen)