GALLERY: 9.10.2022 Bølzer, Tribulation, Abbath, & Watain @ Vanha Ylioppilastalo, Helsinki


One of the most awaited events by the extreme metal community, as well as the last date of the Chariots of Fire Tour, brought a lot of familiar faces together, many of which for the first time at a gig at Vanha Ylioppilastalo in Helsinki.

The tour headlined by WATAIN and ABBATH also featured two very popular bands at these latitudes: TRIBULATION and BØLZER. It was the latter who had the task of opening the night. After quickly exploring the venue and being quite baffled by some of the logistic arrangements (the cloakroom was situated upstairs, while the rest of the upper floor was closed to the audience, not to mention the only bar placed right opposite of the only door in use to enter the main hall, which created many bottlenecks throughout the evening), we were greeted by the familiar blue lights and a surprisingly not-too-overwhelming amount of smoke (for a BØLZER show). The gig was afflicted by the suboptimal sound through the hall, which is a pity since the set was very much focused on the demo material preceding the – so far – only full-length released by the Swiss band.

The situation slightly improved with TRIBULATION. Even though the band had put on a good live show, admittedly it feels like something is amiss without Jonathan Hultén on guitar (no offence to the latest addition, Joseph Tholl). The band also focused almost entirely on their most recent material – including, of course, the single “Hamartia” – completely neglecting two brilliant records like “The Horror” and “The Formulas of Death.” Towards the end of the set, it was a good time to take a breather and squeeze out of the hall for some air before ABBATH.

Largely engulfed in smoke, the ex-IMMORTAL and meme-favourite character of many metal fans showed up in his traditional armor disguise on the notes of “To War” and “Winter Bane” from the homonymous record. Again, the limits of the venue’s acoustics hampered the success of the show, which included of course some old IMMORTAL classics such as “Beyond The North Waves” and “All Shall Fall.”

WATAIN started a few minutes later, as the crew was yet to assemble all the various props on the stage. A bit disappointing was the realization that there would not have been any flames/candles and such (safe to say due to safety regulations), while it was a relief on the other hand that yet again no pig’s blood has been spilled on the audience (who can forget about it back in 2010?). “The Agony and Ecstasy of Watain” was obviously the main focus of the night’s show, who delivered as usual with their live performance. However, it’s songs like “Storm of the Antichrist” and “Devil’s Blood” that really keep the – strictly figurative – flame going. The set was not exceptionally long, or at least doesn’t feel like it, as the final “Malfeitor” sent everybody back upstairs to collect their jackets, and then back home.

All-in-all, the evening was a mixed bag of experiences. A very solid line-up created really high expectations, while the atmosphere (and various technicalities) within the venue somewhat spoiled that mood. The scarcity of good music venues for gigs of this size in Helsinki over the last few years certainly does not help, but let’s not get into that topic…