22.5.2022 Gwendydd, Marianas Rest, Ensiferum, & Dark Tranquillity @ Vanha Ylioppilastalo, Helsinki

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A concert on a Sunday night might seem a bit too much for any adult preparing for Monday, but if you add four bands to the combo then it ends up being a bumpy experience for the body. Nonetheless, the energy, contrast, and live quality of this concert really made up for any tiredness of May 22nd, 2022. The four bands, GWENDYDD, MARIANAS REST, ENSIFERUM, and DARK TRANQUILITY brought a mixture of different energies to the stage of Helsinki’s Vanha Ylioppilastalo, which – combined with a full house – created an ambiance of mosh-pits and sorrow.  

The concert started on a cold yet sunny evening with the first band, GWENDYDD, who took on the stage soon after the venue doors were open. The band combines metalcore riffs with sharp feminine growls that energize the stamina levels of any listener. I will be honest, I did not have proper time to check them out in the days before the show, and although metalcore is not exactly my cup of tea, they turned out to be a pleasant discovery! GWENDYDD hail from Bulgaria and have been on tour with ENSIFERUM and DARK TRANQUILITY over the last year and, as a recent band (with two full albums so far), they seem to be going in a positive direction. Personally, what I liked the most about this band was the fact that it is led by young female musicians (plus one male drummer) who are not afraid to show the strength of a generation that challenges gender and age boundaries. It is possible to notice their ferocity on stage, with energy that enforced the audience to warm up their mood for rest of the bands to come over the night.

Up next after GWENDYDD, MARIANAS REST came on board with a more melancholic vibe that did justice to their calming name. The band transported the audience to a mournful scape where darkness prevailed, very similar to how the venue looked on the occasion. In this sense, I must say that the main reason for attending this event was because the venue is one of my favorite concert spots in Helsinki. Vanha Ylioppilastalo [“old student house”], it is a renaissance-style theater and was formerly the headquarters of the student union of the University of Helsinki. As a graduate of this institution, I have been to a few different parties at this place, so it was naturally nostalgic to be back for a different purpose but still with darkness, flashing lights, and a drink in hand. MARIANAS REST added a pinch to that nostalgic feeling, as they bring a very slow harmony in their music, together with the peaceful growls that attracted the attention of the audience while waiting for the upcoming stamina of the next bands. Their music swung between death and doom metal, with both aggressiveness and melancholy at its core, and on the stage they made this contrast by allowing the fans to roam around from the bar to the stage, and in their steps still going through the gloomy feeling of the dark venue visually and audibly.

The time for ENSIFERUM to take the stage was at 20:15, with “Rum, Women, Victory” opening up the set. I have seen ENSIFERUM live a few times over the years and they never disappoint; however unlike previous occasions, I paid more attention to the recent addition of Pekka Montin on the keyboards and clean vocals and he really gripped the stage! Especially when “Run From The Crushing Tide” came, he jumped to the front together with Petri and Markus to delight the audience with a mixture of growls and clean vocals – it was one of the peak moments of ENSIFERUM’s performance. Perhaps this new vibe in their music – between power and folk metal, with melodic male voices overlapping the growls and the aggressive riffs – is a bit sweet in comparison to their more aggressive first works… or so it may seem upon first listening to Thalassic (2020). Nonetheless, the vibe of this combination on the stage is very energetic, which makes for a truly adequate formula for both a mosh pit and a singalong among the attendees. It is also important to mention the role of the riffs and guitar solos in their set, as many of the songs were led by the powerful presence of Markus Toivonen. With “One More Magic Potion,” they came to cheer up the audience while playing solos and combining the guitar presence of Markus and Sami Hinkka with the aggressive growling voice of Petri Lindroos.

All throughout the show, they interacted with the fans, especially by mentioning that they were happy to be playing in their home city, which made it a truly special concert after a long hiatus due to the ongoing pandemic. Another highlight of ENSIFERUM’s set was the song “In My Sword I Trust,” which was enacted with a showcase of swords together with some smoke cannons throughout the entire piece – a performance that was basic in elements, but still created an ambiance of the old-fashioned folk metal majesty. They finished off their set with the two classics, “Lai Lai Hei” and “From Afar,” transporting the fans to their early years with an epic sound that awakened a mosh pit. In this way, they closed the stage as a celebration of what the summer might bring with brighter days ahead.

Right at the end of the evening and to wind up with a full house, it was DARK TRANQUILITY‘s turn. The essence of the band on stage was calm but aggressive, with an illustrative background of screens that re-created images adequate for the energy that each song of their set holds. By entering into the madness with “Identical to None,” the band took the stage with an energy that made the whole audience run quickly from the bar to the hall of the venue. They had a good selection of songs from different records across their career, going from “The Gallery” (1995) all the way to the most recent, Moment (2020). This feature was easy to spot on the many levels of energy that the band transmitted over the course of the show, with songs that opened up mosh pits, whereas others motivated the audience to headbang and sing along with the notes led by Mikael Stanne.

This was my first time attending a DARK TRANQUILITY show and, I must say, I was not very familiar with their music. I got prepared a few days before by scrolling through their records on their Spotify profile, and by then I thought they were going to be an interesting experience full of stamina. They really fulfilled my expectations, however, what I liked the most about their performance was that they make a good mixture between songs, a light show, and the background of screens that gives extra brightness to the stage. In short, they put on a concert where, even if you are not into melodic death metal, you will enjoy yourself nevertheless, thanks to all of the elements on stage. They interacted constantly with the public, especially by saying that they were thankful to be back on the road and present in Helsinki, surrounded by fans and a few band members from other local bands. The peak instant on their set was “Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive),” an old song from their early years that gave a bunch of extra energy right in the middle of the repertoire.

Later on, they continued with songs from different moments in time that swayed the expectations of fans who wanted to either hear new tunes or classics from their first albums: from “A Drawn Out Exit” (2020), to “Punish my Heaven” (1995), passing through “The New Build” (2005), and more in between. The show came to an end with “ThereIn,” though they came back for an encore that included not one but three extra pieces: “The Treason Wall,” “Lost to Apathy” and “Misery’s Crown.” All-in-all, it was a long-lasting show with sixteen tracks, and while they went overboard on time in comparison with the previous bands, it was worth it with all the combination of songs that did not remain in one specific moment but gave a clear picture of the many chapters of their career.

The four bands at Tavastia encompassed a great fusion of calmness, energy, moshpits, lights, darkness, and swords. They all brought a different vibe, either melodic or energetic, but they all together made the attendees start their week off right with a sore neck from headbanging. 

 Setlist

  1. Identical to None
  2. Transient
  3. The Lesser Faith
  4. Monochromatic Stains
  5. Forward Momentum
  6. Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive)
  7. A Drawn Out Exit
  8. Punish My Heaven
  9. Atoma
  10. The New Build
  11. Phantom Days
  12. Encircled
  13. ThereIn
  14. The Treason Wall (encore)
  15. Lost to Apathy (encore)
  16. Misery’s Crown (encore)

Written by Hector Sanchez
Photos by Laureline Tilkin