8.6.2024 Palehørse & Rootbrain@ Skenesali, Vantaa

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The first concert of a band is a special event by definition, even when the musicians involved are far from being “newbies.” In this case, ROOTBRAIN boasts some of the finest talents in the Finnish scene. The lineup includes Thomas Wright and Fat Tony on bass and drums (none other than Usva and Tiera from the recently disbanded KUOLEMANLAAKSO), frontman Jules Näveri (SPIRITRAISER, ex-PROFANE OMEN), Hurja Helle (DAUNTLESS, BONE MECHANICS) on rhythm guitar and backing vocals, and the talented German guitarist and producer V. Santura from TRIPTYKON on lead guitar. With such big names involved, what could possibly go wrong? Absolutely nothing. Their debut album, “Breakwater,” was released almost a year ago, so it was time for them to have a proper live show. This much-anticipated event was held at Skenesali in Vantaa on June 8th, 2024.

The Finnish power trio PALEHØRSE was the opening act, giving the audience a chance to enjoy their set as well. We did not know much about them, but we immediately noticed their ability to combine progressive metal and desert rock in an old-fashioned yet fresh manner, with an explicit and never-ending love for the ’90s as the red thread. It was hard to believe there were just three people on stage: frontman Lassi Mäki-Kala delivered various singing styles, seamlessly blended into the powerful wall of sound provided by the extremely precise drummer Samu Honko and bassist Ville Sivonen, who also provided excellent backing vocals. Most of the songs they played were taken from their most recent album, titled “Hunting Grounds,” which received widespread praise in many reviews. We were curious to see what the impact in a live show would be like, and in our humble opinion, the tunes sounded even better. Their straightforward yet rich style found a perfect balance on stage, enhanced by the unique vibe one gets only in a live setting. The alchemy between the band members was impressive, and we will definitely keep an eye on what they do in the future. Their set consisted of ten songs and lasted about 40 minutes. After that, there was a brief DJ set break while we all waited for ROOTBRAIN to take the stage.

A more than appropriate combo of ALICE IN CHAINS“Dirt” and FAITH NO MORE’s “Crack Hitler” as a soundtrack put us in the right mood for what was about to happen, being these two bands among the main influences in ROOTBRAIN’s music. Fat Tony, Thomas Wright, and V. Santura came to the stage. Tony started playing a martial-like drum intro, then Hurja Helle joined them on the left side of the stage, and finally, Jules joined, too, welcomed by the audience’s enthusiasm. “Gone by the Waves” was the first song they played, and let us tell you, it absolutely did not feel like a first gig ever: they are professionals indeed, but the sense of genuine connection they managed to convey was really something. The in-sync headbanging moments, where Thomas’ dreadlocks looked like whips, paired with Jules’ incredible stage presence made us think that they totally looked like they were in their mid-twenties, with about a decade of experience, if you get what we mean…

We happen to be quite familiar with V. Santura’s present and past bands, and seeing him in this new role was quite interesting: his guitar solos were always top-notch and we could not help but feel lucky for the chance we had to witness such a thing in a completely different environment.

It is no easy task to choose just a few significant moments, as the whole show has been absolutely great from our perspective, both technically and in terms of how a live performance should be. Their synchronicity comes from their spiritual brotherhood, and we could really “feel” it. On “Life in a Grave,” Jules started dancing, literally, and the way he smiled back at the people in the front row was heartwarming. The grunge vibes of the songs were massive, and we can assure our readers that on “Mothertomb” we had the feeling that Layne Staley, the late frontman from ALICE IN CHAINS, was kind of blessing them from an otherworldly dimension and surely feeling proud of being a huge influence for such a sensible and talented ensemble of musicians. Before playing the following tune, Jules introduced the band members one by one, starting with Fat Tony, and the audience reacted accordingly. “A New Leash of Life” was the next one in line, and its catchy melody paired beautifully with the guys’ energetic attitude. V. Santura’s solo and Jules’ closing scream were among the numerous highlights of that night.

Massive influences from FAITH NO MORE’s frontman Mike Patton were detectable on “Bullethead,” too, where bassist Thomas provided some excellent backing vocals. All-in-all, it felt like they were a grunge band with a distinctive metal attitude, infused with the exquisite blend of their own personal, individual touches that cannot be ignored and that, again, gives its best in a live setting. Another unquestionable peak was the ballad “Steer by the Stars,” whose lullaby-like main melody was counterbalanced by the colorful vocal line: Jules’ voice has the ability to convey so many different emotions we can barely handle all of them at once, and this is exactly the overwhelming feeling we look for when we attend a live gig… The red lights on drummer Fat Tony made the atmosphere even better.

They have recently released a cover version of GARBAGE’s “#1 Crush,” and it was great and kind of unexpected that they included that one in the setlist as well, and we enjoyed every second of it. Their very first single “Floating Feathers” was the perfect closure for such a special night: it saw Jules inciting us to wave our hands to the beat, Hurja Helle jumped from the drums’ platform, and finally, Jules leaned on Thomas’ shoulder. Their sense of brotherhood was tangible and touching, and we are glad and grateful for having the chance to witness such a crucial moment in their more than promising career.

Written by Licia Mapelli
Photos by Mirko Luparelli

Setlist

  1. Gone by the Waves
  2. Departures
  3. Unawares
  4. Lion Tamer
  5. Life in a Grave
  6. Mothertomb
  7. A New Leash of Life
  8. Svobomir
  9. Bullethead
  10. Steer by the Stars
  11. #1 Crush
  12. Floating Feathers