25.2.2023 The Abbey & Insomnium @ Tavastia, Helsinki

0
361

Without any doubt, INSOMNIUM’s live shows at Tavastia on February 24th and 25th, 2023, have been among the most anticipated concerts of this year, not only because of their status as a band and their freshly released album Anno 1696,” but also due to the presence of THE ABBEY as an opening act. Both shows were sold out in the blink of an eye, so we are extremely happy that we had the lucky chance to see the second show on February 25th.

THE ABBEY, whose acclaimed debut album, Word of Sin came out on February 17th, 2023, were playing their third show ever, but being that all of the band members are very much experienced at playing live, it absolutely felt like they had performed thousands of times with this lineup, in part due to the undeniable chemistry between them. They took the stage at 18:50 as scheduled, while the church organ solo on their album’s closing tune, “Old Ones,” was playing as an intro. The atmosphere became even more serious and solemn as soon as frontman Jesse Heikkinen greeted us: “Tervetuloa kaikille,” he said, and then the ceremony began. “A Thousand Dead Witches” worked perfectly as an opening tune due to its energetic and compelling vibe; Vesa Ranta’s drum set was placed on the left side of the stage, giving an unusual balance but also the chance for us to have a better view of what he was doing.

The surgical precision of bassist Henri Arvola and guitarist Janne Markus was impressive, but we could say the same thing about all the band members. The songs sounded exactly as they do on the album, but with that magical vibe one can get only from a live setting. The haunting atmosphere on second tune “Crystallion,” paired with the passionate chant of Heikkinen and the obsessive drumming provided by Ranta, made it one of the best live performances we have witnessed in years, no jokes…

We also noticed that many people in the audience were singing and seemed to know the lyrics by heart – not bad, if we take into consideration that the album was released just one week before! “Queen of Pain” brought Natalie Koskinen to the center of the scene and we could not help but let her put a spell on us; her presence on stage was hypnotic, pairing perfectly with her established talent as a singer. “Widow’s Will” followed and we were once again amazed by the band members’ precision and passion. Heikkinen and Koskinen’s vocals together, on the very last part of the song, were one of the many highlights of the whole show.

In this regard, Koskinen’s performance on “Starless” gave us goosebumps, as the intensity of this tune is no secret. Heikkinen’s vocals on this very same piece turned out equally heartfelt and soothing. The dim lights made us feel like we were taking part of a funeral march; a moment of complete silence followed and we can not help but feel that there are no words to properly describe it. Second-to-last tune was “Rat King,” whose strong ’70s vibe highlighted the fun part of playing live – it was pretty visible that Ranta was really enjoying what he was doing. The audience acted accordingly: many people were rising their horns, us included, of course.

The gig was coming to an end, but since THE ABBEY chose “Old Ones” as a closer, we were relieved, as it is a 12-minute song, so the ritual was not over just yet. There was a mystical theatrical vibe at this point, and we all felt as if we were in a parallel dimension, fully part of the ceremony happening on stage. Heikkinen’s guitar solo was the cherry on top. There are not many bands who can be THIS captivating, and we thought that that night could not get any better.

Headliners INSOMNIUM took the stage at 20:00 and the venue was fully packed; dim lights and the acoustic part of their new album’s opening track, “1696,” acted as an intro to warm up the atmosphere. We all were clapping to the beat, impatiently waiting for the band members to start playing. Singer and bassist Niilo Sevänen welcomed the audience by throwing his horns up and we all replied accordingly. The stage looked outstanding: two backdrops on the sides portrayed a crucified Jesus, Sevänen’s microphone stand was shaped like the hands of a witch (quite creepy, we could say, but in a good way), and their sophisticated and elegant band logo was in the back, dominating the whole area, along with two lifeless trees. Such an evocative stage design was a clear and effective reflection of their latest release’s main topic; in fact “Anno 1696” is loosely based on the witch hunt that happened in Torsåker, Sweden, in the 17th century. A famine was going on in the Baltics as well, so such harsh themes deeply inspired the band in composing this opus, guided by their proven straightforward-yet-rich aesthetic.

The second song on their setlist was “White Christ,” which happens to be the second one on the album as well. The presence of three guitarists made the outcome particularly involving, as each one of them showed his own personality; in particular Jani Liimatainen, who was wearing a T-shirt with a satanic kitten pictured on it, is well-known for his insane skills both as a guitarist and as a singer, but we firmly believe that on-stage is where he gives his best. He jumped from one side to another and never stopped smiling at his bandmates, at the audience, and at the many photographers who were shooting the show. A blast from the past came as a third song on the setlist, as they chose “While we Sleep,” taken from “Shadows of the Dying Sun,” released back in 2014 and likely to be considered a classic by now. Its catchy riff is, in our humble opinion, impossible to ignore. Markus Vanhala’s solo was truly remarkable, one of the entire night’s numerous highlights. Sevänen’s interactions with the audience were always welcomed with excitement and joy by the attendees and it really felt like there were no barriers between us and them.

“Change of Heart” was another old song they played for us that night; it was nice to see Vanhala, Liimatainen, and Ville Friman headbanging in sync! The next two songs were new ones: “Godforsaken,” whose video came out the day before the gig, as Sevänen pointed out, and “Lilian.” Both songs have an undisputedly epic vibe that was enhanced by the live setting and we really liked the outcome. Right before they started playing “Lilian,” Sevänen made sure, by soeaking in English, that anyone who did not understand Finnish was enjoying the event.  “The Conjurer” from their EP, “Argent Moon,” was a surprise.

Liimatainen’s dancing all over the stage was cool to see, as he proved to be not only a great musician, but also still able to have a lot of fun no matter how many years have passed. They played some older tunes such as “The Day it All Came Down” from their second album, a treat for their long-time supporters, but of course they did not miss the chance to perform “The Witch Hunter” from their freshly-released album. We noticed that many people already knew the lyrics and based on their reaction, we feel like this song will become an all-time fan favorite. Liimatainen caught both the audience and his bandmates off guard by shamelessly shouting, at the end of the bridge of the song, “All shall fall, all our towers break, for all shall end, if I will fail,” making everyone smile. Their attitude on stage could be summarized by a vibe that felt like teenagers with a lifetime of experience: their incredible precision was perfectly balanced with spontaneity and an almost palpable joy of doing what they were doing.

“Ephemeral” and “Shadow of the Dying Sun” followed, right before an encore break. They all left the stage while we were shouting “we want more!” Well, they came back and delighted us with two more songs from their third full length, “Above the Weeping World,” at the end of which we noticed that Sevänen and drummer Hirvonen smiled at each other. Then “Heart like a Grave” worked as a perfect closer, and finally “Karelia 2049” was playing as a soundtrack while they were greeting us before leaving the stage. We felt overwhelmed by emotions and energy, hoping to see such an immersive live concert again quite soon. We cannot help but feel grateful to INSOMNIUM for performing such an impressive show, where they really managed to fulfil the expectations they raised with their new album, while also proving to be a great and loving team.

Written by Licia Mapelli
Photos by Mirko Luparelli

Setlist

  1. 1696
  2. White Christ
  3. While We Sleep
  4. Change of Heart
  5. Godforsaken
  6. Lilian
  7. The Conjurer
  8. The Day it all Came Down
  9. The Witch Hunter
  10. Ephemeral
  11. Shadows of the Dying Sun
  12. The Gale
  13. Mortal Share
  14. Heart like a Grave