Those of you who have been keeping up with the latest band news should know that KIUAS has decided to go their separate ways. They announced a “funeral show” for October 18th, 2013, at Nosturi in Helsinki to send them off, promising to bring in every past member of the band, including beloved former vocalist, Ilja Jalkanen, for the event.
Local melodic death metal band, MYGRAIN, opened for them, though it’s hard to say much about their show. It was about as solid as you could hope for, and they played well, but it was hard to focus on their show when you couldn’t help but staring at the two high-rises in the background, each with a different drum kit on it. Knowing what was in store, it just wasn’t a night to watch MYGRAIN with much attention to detail.
Right on 22:30, KIUAS blasted on stage with their first song, “Of Ancient Wounds,” complete with fireworks and fire! They followed up with “The Decaying Doctrine” and “Winter in June,” the latter of which is from one of their first EPs from back in 2004, before their first album had been released. It was definitely worth noting that Ilja was chatting away to the crowd more than you’d ever see any frontman normally do. He spoke in bizarrely rapid metaphorical Finnish about their massive menu, including appetizers, the main course, dessert, and when you feel like you can’t take any more, they’re going to stuff in a little bit extra. He chattered on quite a lot between each and every song, and I’m sorry to say that my Finnish isn’t good enough that I caught much of it at the speed he was going. It’s a shame, really, because you almost never see band-mates chatting this much in a show and the bits and pieces I caught were quite entertaining. There was a lot of banter back and forth between him and band mastermind, Mikko Salovaara, throughout the whole show.
A few songs in, Ilja announced that when he became too “old and fat” to continue with KIUAS, they had replaced him with someone younger, thinner, and hotter: Mr. Asim Searah, who came out to perform “Of Love, Lust, and Human Nature.” His version of the song was not particularly well-executed, nor did it suit the overall feel for the song, and it was really a shame that they had picked him for that particular song, especially since his iteration of “The Visionary” was so great.
They had an interesting selection of songs throughout the show, many that hadn’t been played in years, and even two never-before-heard-live tracks, “Reformation” and “The Wanderer’s Lamentation.” They also included a brief acoustic segment where Mikko and Ilja sang “After the Storm” and “Summer’s End.” This transitioned gently into “The Wanderer’s Lamentation” when Ilja started the song acoustically and the crew converted everything around him until he was the last to shed his acoustic guitar. “Bleeding Strings” from “Reformation” was also played, and dedicated to the late Dimebag Darrell [PANTERA] as well.
Also, remember those two drum kits? They switched back and forth between their original drummer, Markku Näreneva, with his replacement, Rainer “Raikku” Tuomikanto. The two sat on high, almost out of sight, only playing together for one track. Likewise, Atte Tanskanen and Jari Pailamo switched off on the keyboards from time to time, giving everyone a chance to be in the spotlight.
Asim performed in a total of four songs. Apart from the aforementioned “Of Love, Lust, and Human Nature,” he did a duet with Ilja in “Black Winged Goddess,” and played an instrument I couldn’t name for the beginning of “To Excel and Ascend” (as well as a short mid-song vocals vs. guitar jam with Mikko). His last solo song was “The Visionary,” and let it not be said that he did a bad job of it. As I mentioned before, he’s always been very solid with that track and perhaps it works so well because he doesn’t stray too far from the song’s original formula. In the former song, he seems to be doing his own thing, and whatever it is, it doesn’t work. When he sings “The Visionary,” however, he seems to be getting it right.
The last song brought out every member the band has ever had. Both drummers, both keyboardists, and both vocalists were on stage for “Warrior Soul,” and the crowd was absolutely insane. In all my years in Finland, I’ve never once seen so many people try and get away with crowd-surfing in a show. The song was filled with power and emotion and was supremely tight. It was a great way to go out.
And still, after nearly three hours of playing, they came out to perform their encore, “The Spirit of Ukko” (featuring fire and sparks in an appropriately mystical and godly display) and the last song ever, “Across the Snows.” Ilja shouted out his farewells, saying something along the lines of, “Whatever the case may be, even if your granny’s in the grave, clap your hands, we won’t ask again, there won’t be another time.” Throughout the show he gave shout-outs to everyone in the band, and they finished the show with an absolutely unreal and unforgettable final song.
The show was memorable, to say the least. There was everything. There was laughter, there were mess-ups. Ilja cracked up laughing in the beginning of “After the Storm” because of something Mikko said or did. One of the smoke machines crapped out for a while. The fire was uneven at times. There were vocal squeaks and instrumental bumps. And it didn’t matter in the slightest, because they gave so much energy and effort into that show that in spite of all the little things that weren’t perfect, the show was perfect.
In the end, if there was anything to complain about (aside from Asim’s borderline obnoxious over-effort in getting the crowd to cheer), for me personally they didn’t play as many of my favorite tracks as I might’ve liked. I might’ve preferred fewer “Reformation” tracks and would’ve been happy to hear “The Quickening” or “Heart and Will.” I was sad that they didn’t play “The Lights are Many,” but hey, that piano solo is insane and probably not easy to replicate live, even with two pianists. Nevertheless, getting to hear all those rare songs while still getting the favorites, like “To Excel and Ascend” and “Across the Snows,” was definitely worth it. My only real complaint was that one of their best songs wasn’t performed by my singer of choice.
If you never got the opportunity to see KIUAS, you missed out. When Ilja was fronting the band, he was a storm of power and vocals onstage and even if you weren’t a fan of Asim on vocals, the music was always phenomenal. If you happened to have been in the UK on the tour that Mikko sang, you would’ve known that they were a force to be reckoned with, no matter what challenges they stood against. And if the only show you ever saw was this last one, you saw the one show that had everything. This show would be like watching NIGHTWISH with Tarja Turunen, Anette Olzon, and Floor Jansen all at once. Or seeing IRON MAIDEN with Bruce Dickinson, Paul Di’Anno, and Blaze Bayley. It was a once in a lifetime show. If you weren’t there, you missed out. If you chose not to go, you made a foolish decision. It was one hell of a finale and anyone who was there won’t be forgetting what a great band KIUAS was any time soon.
1. Of Ancient Wounds
2. The Decaying Doctrine
3. Winter in June
4. On Winds of Death We Ride
5. Of Love, Lust, and Human Nature (Asim vocals)
6. And the North Star Cried
7. Reformation (only time played live)
8. Kiuas War Anthem
9. Bleeding Strings
10. Through the Ice Age
12. The New Dark Age
13. After the Storm (acoustic)
14. Summer’s End (acoustic)
15. The Wanderer’s Lamentation (only time played live)
16. Black Winged Goddess (Ilja & Asim duet)
17. The Visionary (Asim vocals)
18. To Excel and Ascend (extended jam ft. Asim)
19. Of Sacrifice, Loss, and Reward
20. Warrior Soul (ft. every band member)
21. The Spirit of Ukko (encore)
22. Across the Snows (original Kiuas lineup) (encore)
Written by Bear Wiseman