Following the release of “One Man Army“ in late February, ENSIFERUM performed a few album support gigs in their native country. Being one of our old favorites, and remembering how fantastic the “From Afar” release show was back in September 2009, Musicalypse made sure to be there. We headed out to Nosturi in Helsinki on March 7th, 2015, to check it out.
For the first time in who knows how long, I was at a venue in time to see an opener that I wasn’t familiar with, since we had the chance to go back and ask a few casual questions from the band. Firstly, we were hoping to see a guest appearance by Frederik during “Two of Spades.” Though they had actually asked him, he was unfortunately in the Canary Islands at that time, so he wasn’t able to make it. We were also disappointed to find out that they would not be performing “The Bonus Song,” but did confirm that the random line they shout is, in fact, “thunder tits.” They also told us (if I heard correctly) that the mysterious singer in the beginning was actually Emmi, so you can go right ahead and color me impressed if that’s true.
The venue was already half-full by the time the opener started, so there was clearly a lot of excitement in the air. These guys were a collection of young Finns from Jyväskylä under the moniker FROSTTIDE, and musically, they weren’t half bad. However, I wasn’t a big fan of their vocalist. The music was pretty nice though.
After they cleared out and the stage was rearranged and retuned, the curtains opened right on time for “March of War,” which is the intro track from “One Man Army.” At this point, the drunk people got excited and the very drunk people tried to do no less than kill anyone in front of them in an effort to steal their coveted viewpoints on the balcony.
First off, I want to get the big news out of the way: ENSIFERUM is now wearing clothing. No, it’s not that they performed naked before or anything like that, but the bare-shirted days of the past seem behind them, as everyone was wearing a shirt, and only Sami Hinkka (bass) was still in the kilt. This seems to be a trend in the metal scene these days, and is perhaps a bit disappointing to those of us who enjoy the… visual aspect of shirtless folk bands.
Anyway, the first couple of songs were, of course, the first two tracks off the new album: “Axe of Judgment” and “Heathen Horde,” complete with attempts at crowdsurfing and huge circle pits. These were a couple of the new songs that I was really looking forward to hearing live, and I was not disappointed, so it speaks volumes that the show only got better from there. How, you may ask? Because I was thrilled to see who they brought out as a guest musician. It was someone I hadn’t really expected to see on a stage again: Netta Skog (ex-TURISAS). She came out for “Into Battle” to play the accordion and stayed more or less for the rest of the show! And as you may have already guessed, yes, as soon as she showed up, about 86% of the crowd immediately shouted at her to marry them.
The set was a nice mixture of songs, though perhaps leaning a little toward the Lindroos-era fans as opposed to the Mäenpää traditionalists. This is 100% ok for me, though I know that a lot of people might be disappointed in that. Fortunately, I bet those are the ones who are skipping the shows these days, and the ones who still love them are the ones who show up. My favorite of the night from the main set was “Two of Spades,” though I really wish they had had their guest vocalist for it – that would’ve been pure awesome.
Sami maintains his position of the wild-eyed crowd-pleaser, being his general goofy self. Need an example? During “Smoking Ruins,” when they sang the line, “the boy becomes a man,” he made a cupping gesture in front of his genitals to insinuate… well, I don’t need to spell it out for you. The atmosphere was top-notch even without his assistance though. In “Burning Leaves,” the whole floor level was jumping up and down. I can’t deny that I love it when the crowd makes Nosturi shake! They closed out their set with the first single/title track of “One Man Army” and the ever-popular “Victory Song.”
Perhaps the most interesting moment of the night was after the encore break though. Netta was the one to return to the stage, alone and suspiciously without her accordion. She talked to the crowd for a while before introducing the new and improved band, featuring Petri Lindroos on bass, Emmi Silvennoinen and Janne Parviainen on guitars, Sami Hinkka at the keyboards, and Markus Toivonen drumming. She kept the mic for herself and they played a very -ahem- unusual version of “Breaking the Law” by JUDAS PRIEST. It was a ridiculous amount of fun, but they didn’t leave that as their only encore, and followed it up with “From Afar,” “Token of Time,” and “Iron.” And you have to just love it when they play “Iron” in Finland – the tätäädädää really makes that song explode live. And one thing that I’ve always liked about ENSKA is that you can never be certain which encore you’re going to get. “Iron” is a favorite in these parts, but sometimes you get “Lai Lai Hei” instead. They seem to have a handful of songs they pick from, alongside the potential for a new track, and it works to their benefit in keeping you interested in seeing them more than once.
I think the best thing about this show though, was that I’ve been waiting for ENSIFERUM to shake things up a bit. Their concerts follow a fairly straightforward routine – it’s not a bad one by any means, but you get used to it after a while. Having Netta there changed things up and added a little new life to the show. But then again, ENSIFERUM has always been at their pinnacle during album release gigs, and this was one of the best I’ve seen from them. Even if they get a tad on the stale side between albums (and it’s as often the crowd’s fault as much as their own), I don’t think I’ll be skipping one of their release gigs anytime in the near future!
1. March of War (intro)
2. Axe of Judgment
3. Heathen Horde
4. Into Battle
5. Little Dreamer
6. Warrior Without a War
8. Smoking Ruins
9. Two of Spades
10. Unsung Heroes
11. Burning Leaves
12. One Man Army
13. Victory Song
14. Breaking the Law (Judas Priest cover) (encore)
15. From Afar (encore)
16. Token of Time (encore)
17. Iron (encore)
Written by Bear Wiseman
Interview with Scar of the Sun — “I was angry, I was really angry, and that’s why my vocals came out like that.”