How often do you get the chance to witness history in the making? Particularly when it comes to music, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the feeling that it’s all been done already and that there may never be another true classic. So much new music sounds like every other band you’ve ever heard, with an altered tune or slightly different lyrics.
BLIND CHANNEL only appeared on our radar about half a year ago when I saw the video for “Darker than Black,” and I was hooked immediately. Shortly afterward, we had the opportunity to check out their show at South Park and got a quick interview with Niko Moilanen and Joel Hokka. It was immediately evident that this band is made up of equal parts raw talent and an incredible work ethic.
Since that first gig, I’ve made no secret of my enthusiasm for these guys, and went on to see them again at Korso Rock and EDGE:Nordic, and gladly gave their debut album a very positive review. New bands are often hit-or-miss, and though it does happen, I rarely find new music that I think is so unique and well-made. Accompanied by consistently strong live performances, BLIND CHANNEL has, in half a year, proved themselves to truly be a force to be reckoned with!
“Revolutions” was officially released on October 1st, 2016, and the band celebrated the occasion by kicking off their Finnish album tour with a CD release gig, accompanied by frequent collaborators EMBER FALLS, as well as RUST ‘N’ RAGE, at the Virgin Oil Co. in Helsinki. Musicalypse was there in full force to see history in the big event!
The night’s schedule offered three bands, with Rust N’ Rage starting things off at around 20:30. Unfortunately, the night was off to a slow start, as this band was rather forgettable. The stage show was nothing noteworthy, nor was the music particularly striking or catchy. They have the visual aspect of ’80s glam/hard rock going on, but they don’t have that same “it” factor that has gotten RECKLESS LOVE and SHIRAZ LANE so much attention. While they all seemed competent enough with their instruments, I can’t say there was much to impress from their time on stage.
The opener’s set ran a bit long, but Ember Falls took the stage as soon as they were able. Much like Blind Channel, you might know by now that we’re rather fond of Ember Falls, having picked them up at the same time and same place as the BC guys. Why do we like them? They have the full package – great music, a consistent visual style, and strong live performances. On this night, they came on stage to some sort of awesome electronic movie score type music (I’ll have to ask if that’s their own track or if they’ve borrowed it from somewhere), and then kicked things off with “The Cost of Doing Business,” which really is a great track. From there on, I immediately knew that this was going to be one of their best shows yet. It says something about a band when they start their show and there are maybe four people standing, and by halfway through the first song, they’ve got a floor full of people dancing and rocking out.
The mix was far better than you usually hear at Virgin Oil, though it was unfortunate that the keyboards weren’t quite as audible as the rest, and the drums were a bit on the loud side. Can’t really complain about the latter though, because damn, Ace was playing well! Drums are a largely underappreciated aspect of music, and he is extremely good at what he does. Actually, to give credit where credit is due, everyone was really giving it their all – Thomas Grove on vocals was hitting the tricky notes and Calu was putting full power into his growls and guitars. Jay V was doing his solos like it was second nature, and even though Oswald‘s bass playing was relaxed, he wasn’t taking it easy – he even hopped off the stage during the third song to rock out a bit with the people in the crowd. Every band has their on and off nights, and these guys were definitely on tonight; though I suspect it doesn’t hurt anyone’s energy levels when they get to celebrate their friends’ milestone.
With a shorter set, the speeches were kept to a minimum, though they did poke a little fun at Joonas Porko (Blind Channel‘s guitarist), and naturally had to congratulate their friends on the release of their debut and thank them for being included. Every time I see one of their shows, I take a little bit more home with me. I really enjoy “COE” and there was one couple dancing a bit to “Freedom” (okay, maybe that was me). Actually, at this point in time, the Mekanism song is the weakest in their set, so when their album comes out and they’re playing 100% Ember Falls material… it’s only going to get better. Naturally, they ended things with “Shut Down with Me,” and it was one of the best live versions of this song I’ve heard – at least the best since South Park! Grove jumped down into the crowd towards the end to mosh with everyone for a while as well. I really can’t wait for their own album release show – it’s going to be another night that you won’t want to miss!
1. The Cost of Doing Business
2. Enemy You Need
3. Falling Rain
5. Rising Tide
6. Of Letting Go
8. Shut Down With Me
With that, Ember Falls took the stage apart as quickly as they could so Blind Channel could start their party. They came on stage with an explosive start, complete with fog cannons (something I’ve never seen at Virgin Oil) to play “My Revolution” – a solid opening track and one of my favorite non-singles from the new album. I began to think that it must be a fun challenge to rearrange an album so that you’re playing all of the songs, but not in the same order as they are in the album; if you want “Darker than Black” to be the encore, what will you use as the closer before the encore, and what will you start with? Albums are often arranged already to have the songs in the optimal play order, so how do you take it apart and put it back together when it’s already just right? Well, however they decided, they did well with it! If there was one flaw in the play order – and I’m being very loose with the term “flaw” here – it was the positioning of the song “Pitfall” in the set. On the album, it’s the fourth track and a good breather, especially after three hard-hitters and before another high-energy track, “Deja FU.” Coming in at track four in the live set, after “Hold on to Hopeless” (another somewhat chill song)… well, I’m not exactly complaining because the song was still great, but it didn’t quite have the same effect as on the album. But let’s be honest, if this was the worst they could do… they’re doing pretty fucking well!
“Deja FU” has been getting better and better the more they practice it, and continues to be a personal favorite. “Hold on to Hopeless,” another great non-single track, really took off and soared in a live scenario – the guys brought that song to life properly! And just for fun, Niko Moilanen borrowed an audience member’s hat for the rapping parts in “Bullet (With Your Name on It),” and he wore a white mask for the new single, “Enemy for Me.” I was surprised to find out that they hadn’t played “What’s Wrong” live before – as a slow song by a band with a sea of young girls in their fanbase, you’d think that would be a staple. It’s a good track, so it wouldn’t hurt them to bring it back again, I’m sure. As well, “Another Sun” had its live debut on this night, to my immense pleasure. That song has a rather relaxed power that really worked well on stage. I was happy that it stayed in a towards-the-end slot, as it was in a perfect place on the album, and stayed actually in the third-to-last (pre-encore) slot for this show as well.
If we’re talking about quality of live performances, Blind Channel have already set their own bar pretty high. It’s tough to compare one great show to another, though on this occasion they were clearly giving it 100% or more, if you consider that possible. Moilanen was bouncing and happy, while Joel Hokka was singing his heart out every time he took the mic. Joonas Porko was energetic and enthusiastic on the guitar, and Olli Matela (bass) and Tommi Lalli (drums) couldn’t have done a better of keeping the rhythm upbeat and lively.
“Don’t” was moved up from encore to closer for this night, as the guys had something new and special in mind for the encore. They left the stage, only to return a short while later, no longer clad in black, but now in white. I got a little nostalgia there because it reminded me of the Backstreet Boys! They then played “Save Me” and “Calling Out” – two of their songs that pre-date the album, which were a special treat for their really die-hard fans. As well, Moilanen brought out a bottle of champagne to spray on the crowd as an act of celebration.
They closed out the night with “Darker than Black” – finally putting that song in the encore position where it belongs – and took a photo with the crowd before taking their bows and heading off stage. It was truly a memorable night and a ton of fun. If you weren’t able to make it, we hope you were able to watch the show on Facebook where it was streaming. For me, I think this is easily another nomination of best show of the year!
At this point you might wonder why I’ve declared this show to be history in the making. Well, as I said before, it’s hard to watch music and not think that you’ve heard it all already. But as I’ve said in the album review, these guys are managing to put so many genres together that shouldn’t work, but somehow do. I can hear influences from Bring Me the Horizon, Linkin Park, Backstreet Boys, Twenty-One Pilots, and much, much more… and yet you could never possibly say, “Oh, Blind Channel! Yeah, they sound a lot like [insert band name here]!” Even though some of the influences are clear, these guys just don’t sound like anyone else. That’s a rare and beautiful thing these days, and if these guys keep up what they’re doing, if they continue writing songs with this much heart and performing with this much soul, I see huge things for them in the future. We’re very happy to have had the opportunity to see these guys from the beginning and can’t wait to find out where their music takes them!
1. My Revolution
2. Deja FU
3. Hold on to Hopeless
6. Bullet (With Your Name on It)
7. What’s Wrong
8. Another Sun
9. Enemy for Me
10. Don’t (Ed Sheeran cover)
11. Save Me (encore)
12. Calling Out (encore)
13. Darker than Black (encore)
Written by Bear Wiseman
Photos by Eliza Rask & Jana B-