BATTLE BEAST had to hold back on touring during the pandemic, despite having released “Circus of Doom“ last year, but with the pandemic largely under control, they’re finally able to tour this album. On January 27th, 2023, they paired up with ENSIFERUM and the reunited KIUAS for a big show at the Helsinki Ice Hall‘s Black Box to celebrate the release. There’s no way we were going to miss out on an event like that!
KIUAS have been lurking back on the scene for a handful of years now, playing select shows at festivals, as well as a few club shows here and there. Having disbanded in 2013, they seem to be showing signs of life, perhaps testing the waters for a full reformation… or has it been officially announced by now? The fans are surely not going to complain if they’re back for good.
They came on stage with a few classics… or are they all classics by now? One way or the other, no one gets sick of hearing “Of Ancient Wounds,” “Of Love, Lust and Human Nature,” or “The Decaying Doctrine,” do they? Well, unsurprisingly the crowd was limp as ever, despite being willing to cheer and put their hands up at every opportunity. Vocalist Ilja Jalkanen, as per usual, relentlessly and hilariously teased the crowd at every possible chance.
A small, maybe 6-man moshpit began growing during “Spirit of Ukko,” which was fun to jump into – I’m usually too old to survive a mosh pit, but sometimes you’ve just got to show the young guys how it’s done (especially when you are safely chasing down a mere six fellows). The set ended up being quite short, but we’re glad to see that the band is aware that “Warrior Soul” is maybe their most famous song, but “Across the Snows” may very well (subjectively? objectively?) be their best song, so it has found a welcome place as the band’s final track – we approve!
Despite the crowd being rather annoyingly stationary, this was otherwise another excellent but too-short set, so luckily the band also announced another show at Tavastia coming out in June, so if you missed this one, don’t hesitate to get those tickets fast, before they sell out.
ENSIFERUM, being the Finnish powerhouse that they are, have already managed to sneak some touring in for “Thalassic“ (2020), so they were the most surprising choice for an opener, fitting in far better with KIUAS than BATTLE BEAST. Well, organizers tend to focus more on who’s relevant and thus has potential to bring in more of a crowd, and less on how well bands pair together, but for us, this meant that we had two awesome openers, so we were not complaining.
They opened with some new material, “Rum, Women, Victory” and “Andromeda,” then gave us a 2009 favorite with “Twilight Tavern,” complete with matching blue lights, before returning to “Thalassic“ with “For Sirens.” It feels like it has been mere moments since their live streamed release show, but keyboardist/vocalist Pekka Montin seems to be fitting in quite comfortably at this point, which is always nice to see. He was then invited to the front of the stage – and the crowd was invited to a moshpit – for “Run from the Crushing Tide.” And mosh they did indeed… or rather, circle pitted. It looked like Pekka still had some nerves to shake off afterwards, but he did a great job.
They gave us another older favorite with “In My Sword I Trust,” which really got the fists in the air. Sami Hinkka‘s wide, crazy eyes and Mahi Toivonen‘s sloshy smiles have become a welcome staple of these shows, and Pete Lindroos is sounding better than ever these days when he lets loose. They got a roar when announcing “Lai Lai Hei,” though we were astounded by how few mouths around us were moving to the words in the beginning – arguably the band’s most singalong-able song! Still, it’s a great gig-closer, so we were happy to headbang and sing as loud as we could to make up for everyone else.
Like ENSIFERUM before them, BATTLE BEAST were able to get some touring done in Europe and the UK last year, but the local shows for “Circus of Doom“ have largely avoided the capital so far. There had been whispers of something fun in the intro, which turned out to be Noora Louhimo descending from the ceiling in a harness with a long, tattered, and, frankly, very cool-looking skirt, to be released as they started the title track from the new album. It would have been fun to have her up there for a full verse, but it seemed that on this occasion, she was sitting on an aerial bar and we couldn’t say if she was strapped into the harness, so the short trip down could have been for safety more than anything. Of note, it seems like one of the camera guys was asleep, because the stage-left screen was showing mainly the outside of Noora‘s leg and arm and not a lot else.
There was no break before going directly into “Straight to the Heart,” but they greeted the crowd before “Familiar Hell” and “Armageddon.” The guitarists were a bit stationary on stage when they were playing, likely more focused on playing well than putting on a show, though points go to bassist Eero Sipilä and occasionally keytarist Janne Björkroth for being the frontmen and engaging with the crowd between songs so Noora could save her voice. The guys were pretty goofy, making up for any lacks in performance charisma during the breaks, especially with their often extremely nerdy antics*.
The pyrotechnic blasts caught a few people off guard for “No More Hollywood Endings,” while fire bursts adorned “Eye of the Storm.” The gents then called for the crowd to get their camera lights in the air (aside: remember when it was lighters? I feel nostalgic…) for a deeply Finnish rendition of Aladdin’s part of “A Whole New World,” before unleashing a hockey vuvuzela, and starting chants for “Where Angels Fear to Fly”… what the utter fuck? Well, that was sure something and we had a good laugh.
Eero again got everyone hyped up, thanking the crowd for their biggest show yet and getting everyone clapping for “Bastard Son of Odin,” which featured synchronized kicks and Noora pretending to bash guitarist Juuso Soinio in the head. This was followed by the return of the moving keyboards with colorful electric drums on wheels, recklessly driven by drummer Pyry Vikki, seemingly with the goal of making playing as difficult as possible. Then one of maybe two strange druids – who had appeared to shuffle the stage a handful of times – rearranged the keyboards and Janne poured a bunch of Hendrick’s gin and tonics while the guitarists played KISS‘ “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” and the band then toasted the crowd with their drinks.
After this romp ended, Noora went back up in the harness to do some spins for “Russian Roulette”… hopefully testing the waters to do more fun stuff with it in the future, and we’re all for it! Noora also introduced her bandmates mid-song, who did solos that built up upon each that came before, and then Eero introduced their “heavy metal princess” before they ripped through the rest of the track.
Noora gave a warm greeting to the crowd then, before introducing “Wings of Light,” as fog blasts let loose. “Eden” wrapped up the main set, but no one expected that to be the end of it. Also, it’s worth mentioning that even the songs from albums we didn’t really like were much better in this live setting! The band returned for a guitar solo from Joona and an amusingly nerdy intro, before Noora returned in spectacular form, and with an updated look to her already-pretty-darn-detailed outfit as well (courtesy of Ilmatar Couture), appearing like a magnificent blonde Maleficent in black and gold. She even busted out some sort of wild spark-blaster during “King for a Day.” The show wrapped up with swirling fog and fire as they played “Beyond the Burning Skies,” thus making a masterful ending to an already spectacular night.
There seems to be something wrong with the Finnish crowds these days… perhaps they haven’t recovered their energy after the pandemic, but for three absolutely bangin’ acts on this Friday night, the crowd was disappointingly stationary, especially when compared to other shows we’ve seen recently. Between KIUAS‘ short set of awesome hits, ENSIFERUM‘s tight sampling of some of their best tracks, and BATTLE BEAST‘s fantastic production, great performance, and incredible lighting, there wasn’t a dull moment in the show. Well, they may not have wanted to move, but we sure as hell did! Ultimately, it looks like these guys are on a great trajectory, so if they’re putting on a show, you should definitely consider checking it out!
Written by Bear Wiseman
*not that I’d ever complain about nerdiness^
Photos by Laureline Tilkin
- Circus of Doom
- Straight to the Heart
- Familiar Hell
- Place That We Call Home
- No More Hollywood Endings
- Eye of the Storm
- A Whole New World (Alan Menken cover)
- Where Angels Fear to Fly
- Bastard Son of Odin
- Russian Roulette
- Wings of Light
- Master of Illusion (encore)
- King for a Day (encore)
- Beyond the Burning Skies (encore)