When IN FLAMES and AMARANTHE lost Jesper Strömblad and Jake E. respectively, we all wondered if and when we’d ever see those artists again. Much to our surprise, the Gothenburg guitarist and electronic metal vocalist are now in the same band! With their sophomore album due for release next month, we jumped on the chance to see these guys live at Ääniwalli on October 3rd, 2019, with OCEANHOARSE as the warm-up act. Check out the full gallery here.
Ääniwalli was a new venue for me, though not for Musicalypse. On arrival, we were surprised to see a skate park and some skater/stoner black light art on the walls. The venue is quite small, with the stage and bar areas more or less equal in size. It felt appropriately underground for hosting the local black metal festivals, but strangely small for a band of this stature.
OCEANHOARSE was set to start at 20:00 and as the crowd began to congregate, the band took the stage. We’ve seen OCEANHOARSE a few times before, myself first catching them and quite enjoying their set at RockFest earlier this summer. The stage this night was considerably smaller than the aforementioned festival, but that didn’t mean that their energy was any lower. Drummer Oskari Niemi was first on stage and right in the spotlight, looking thrilled to be playing. The rest of the band followed and immediately, vocalist Joonas Kosonen greeted the crowd and introduced the first song, their newest single, “Feed the Sirens.”
What caught my eye at RockFest and again on this night was the combination of strong playing and powerful energy. They tore through their set with pure ferocity and bassist Jyri Helko was again a highlight, constantly trying to amp up the crowd and throwing those long dreads around. He hardly stood still for long, moving up on the amps and climbing up on anything that would hold him. And let’s not forget guitar legend Ben Varon. He plays as if he was born with a guitar in hand.
The set was a reasonably diverse mix too. “Fading Neons” had great power and melody, while the slower “Waves” had a pretty cool stoner rock groove to it. Every couple of songs felt like it totally changed the vibe, keeping their whole set fresh. Didn’t like one song? Never fear, each song promised something different every time. My partner appreciated that they stretched their style in so many directions, centralized around Kosonen‘s wide vocal range.
Towards the end of their set, a Cthulhu-masked person in an orange prison jumpsuit appeared: the oceanhoarse itself. Then Kosonen introduced the last song, “Maze of Death,” which appears to be thus far unreleased. This is definitely the sort of band that needs to be seen live at least once!
As the time neared 21:00 and CYHRA‘s set, we happened to notice that their old backdrop had been repurposed for use as the merch stand backdrop and they have a new backdrop to replace it, matching the art from the new songs. They came out to cheers from the crowd and started with the familiar title track from their debut, “Letters to Myself.” Jesper Strömblad was notably missing from the stage, with Marcus Sunesson as his replacement.
Jake E. is of course a fantastic, friendly, and energetic frontman, greeting the crowd in muddled Finnish and making random amusing Finnish outbursts (often including “perkele”). This night included the live debut of several new songs, such as “Dreams Gone Wrong,” “Battles from Within,” and the title track, “No Halos in Hell.” “Battle from Within” in particular was dedicated to Jake‘s late brother, who passed away 10 or so years ago.
Perhaps the most fun to be had was between the songs. As interesting as it was to hear the new songs, the overall sound quality – while balanced – was a bit too murky to make any deeper judgement beyond a positive first impression. However, Jake was constantly chatting with the crowd very personably, as well as joking around with the rest of the band, Euge Valovirta (guitar) in particular. It felt like going to see your friends perform as opposed to a band full of famous people who are disconnected from the audience.
Before the band got a break for “Inside a Lullaby,” there was a bit of a technical hiccup in getting the backing synths to play, which led to the crowd easily getting a guitar solo out of Valovirta, the band’s Finnish representative. When they finally got going, guest drummer Ade Larsson and Valovirta sat down on the front of the drum riser and Sunesson sat at the edge of the stage. One drunken Chilean fan in the front took advantage of this to get a quick selfie with guitarist, while Valovirta took advantage of the opportunity to sit on Larsson‘s lap. However, the highlight of the song was in the second half when the band kicked in – that doesn’t happen on the album, so it made the live performance extra special with that added power.
We did wonder if Jake was having a bit of trouble with his voice, as he shifted a lot of the high notes down throughout the night. “Out of My Life,” the new single, had a good response from the crowd. And speaking of that drunken Chilean superfan, I missed how this happened, but he was pulled up on stage for “Closure” (I think) and got to rock out and take some videos of the band and crowd with their crowd cam – it was also nice for the rest of the crowd because it got him out of the way (he was interfering with a few photographers and crowd members). They then wrapped up the set with their first single, “Karma,” and left the stage to the outro tape playing “Forever.”
To put it plainly, this was a really fun night. OCEANHOARSE is proving to be an unstoppable live force, and while I personally haven’t been able to get into their music in digital format, it’s hard to imagine skipping one of their live shows for any reason. And while this felt very much like a warm-up gig, or testing the waters for CYHRA, the energy and crowd engagement more than made up for the sloppy moments and vocal adjustments. Ultimately, these are just good bands and definitely worth seeing!
Intro: Blood Brothers
1. Letter to Myself
2. Muted Life
3. Dreams Gone Wrong
5. Battle from Within
6. Dark Clarity
7. Inside a Lullaby
8. No Halos in Hell
9. Holding Your Breath
10. Here to Save You
11. Out of My Life
Photos & text by Bear Wiseman