SOILWORK is no stranger to Finnish soil, having been here a whopping three times this year already: opening for KREATOR, on Radio Rock Risteily XXI, and of course, at Tuska Open Air. However, it’s been a while since a proper headlining show, and I think personally, the last time I saw them in a club was in Tampere in 2013. So, it was time to put on our moshing boots and prepare to sweat, as we headed to Tavastia on November 18th to see what the Swedes had to offer this time around. Check out the full gallery here.
The first band of the night was, actually, a band called CHRONUS, whom I had never heard of and alas, I showed up only at the end of their set, just barely catching their last song and not really getting enough to form an opinion. Perhaps next time.
IKINÄ was our first of the night, as such. I’ve heard rather mixed reviews of these guys and gals, with most people saying that they have a metric ton of potential, but haven’t quite hit it in full just yet. Frankly, that was about the long and short of my thoughts on them too. Their stage presence is a lot of fun. It reminded me of PMMP in their prime, but with more input from the rest of the band and far heavier music. I don’t know their music well, but I’ve been told that they write great lyrics, but I can’t speak for them. The only song I knew beforehand was the single “Magic Mike,” so when they came out playing “Kylmääkin kylmempää,” I had thought one of the girls was growling, but figured it must have been a sound issue because it stopped quite quickly. Then as the song progressed I realized that, in fact, Katariina Sorsa (if I’ve got the right one) was actually growling just a bit. So the heavier music style was a surprise, but certainly not a bad one.
The performance was energetic and fun, but definitely needs a bit of fine tuning. The phantom pointed out that Samuli Suokas (guitar) was constantly playing to the sound tech and not to the crowd. As well, while both ladies were fantastic singers on their own, there was a strange issue when they were singing together (an issue that the phantom mentioned is also present on their album) – they seem to almost cancel each other out. I’m not sure if they’re not harmonizing well or what the problem is, but somehow the power of their vocals fades out and goes totally flat when they sing together. It was an unusual effect, and one I hope that they can figure out and fix for the future.
Another positive factor was that the band wasn’t completely spotlighting the female vocalists – bassist/vocalist Lauri Hämäläinen had his share of fun at the mic between songs, telling the crowd that this was a hostile takeover. They played one new song, which I believe was “Turbounelmii,” and it was by far the best song of the night. All-in-all, I enjoyed their set and wouldn’t say no to seeing them again, but they definitely still have some practice to do before they go from good to great. There was a fellow on stage taking videos during their set – I wonder if/where we’ll be seeing that footage in the future?
SOILWORK was scheduled to take the stage at the oddly specific time of 21:10, and an acoustic intro played until Björn “Speed” Strid came in growling to “The Living Infinite pt. II.” One thing that had been curious about this show to me was that it was held at Tavastia. Of course, the venues seem quite full this time of year so maybe everywhere else was already booked, but SOILWORK‘s last DVD was filmed at The Circus, so that’s a fairly sizable difference, and while Tavastia was packed, it didn’t seem sold-out. The enthusiasm these guys bring out from the crowd even from the start is incredible though. By “Like the Average Stalker,” a mere three songs in, there was already a big pit in the middle of the floor that didn’t really ever go away once it started.
Despite the fact that I listen to SOILWORK rather seldomly, I think Strid is becoming one of my favorite Gothenburg vocalists. His growl is melodic and powerful, while his singing voice is deep and strong. He can be doing either and I consistently love it. This night was no exception – his vocals were on point, and to my delight – considering issues with sound at both Tuskas they’ve last played and the KREATOR gig – the sound quality in general was very well balanced, and the band sounded fantastic. David Andersson (guitar) took center stage for a few solos, shaking his head and really immersing himself into the music. Sylvain Coudret was also nailing his guitar parts, Sven Karlsson made keyboarding look as easy as breathing, while the rhythm section never missed a beat. To express how good this was, the phantom had thought they were playing to a backing track, until he realized that it was actually Markus Wibom (bass) and Bastian Thusgaard (drums) playing with flawless accuracy.
The only jumping pit was to “Nerve”, and afterwards Strid announced that this was a special night, that it was the end of their touring cycle, and that this set was a bit special: “We wanted to do some songs we haven’t done before, so we have a new set to keep it interesting. I guess you guys are okay with that? You’d better be!” he shouted, before they played “The Akuma Afterglow” – a song I don’t think I’ve ever heard before, but had some awesome melodic parts that made me want to listen to it again later. The majority of the set seemed to be based off The Living Infinite (2013), but there were gems here and there from most of their other albums, including “Drowning with Silence”, and Atte informs me that “As the Sleeper Awakes” is from Sworn to a Great Divide, which wasn’t very well received following Stabbing the Drama. “Distortion Sleep” was dedicated, as always, to the ladies in the crowd, and Strid mentioned that he expected the audience to be wasted… it was Saturday, after all. “Let this River Flow” is a personal favorite and equally beautiful live as it is on the album (though my hopeless wish for a surprise appearance from Floor Jansen again did not come true). There was a long wait full of chanting following “The Ride Majestic” before they came back for two more songs, “As We Speak” and “Stabbing the Drama” – I was a little disappointed that they dropped “Follow the Hollow” because I had been saving myself up for its inevitable pit, but alas, I guess that was one of the ones they swapped out to try some new songs – a bold move and I certainly have to respect it. That just means I’ll have to come back again, I suppose!
I’ll throw another shout-out to the fellowship of Finnish pits here quickly too – I’m a small female, and the men around me are always looking out for me, even if it’s not necessary. The brotherhood in there is always fantastic – guys are smashing each other around, but also helping each other up, and half of the time they were just locked with their arms around one another in a line or a circle, loving the music and the fellowship. Finnish pits are definitely the best. Also, props to the enthusiastic young buck who body-checked me across the pit when I was moshing in the middle, in spite of being a girl – I appreciate being treated as an equal.
So, Soilwork was the first band to lure me out of my cave since Ensiferum in September, and even though I don’t consider them one of my favorites (for some reason), I was definitely glad to have gone. Ikinä proved to be interesting, and Soilwork put on perhaps the best show of theirs that I’ve seen yet. Even with unfamiliar songs, I enjoyed every second of it. Soilwork loves Finland and Finland very clearly loves them back. If you’re looking for a solid performance from a great band, these guys certainly won’t let you down!
1. The Living Infinite II
2. Rise Above the Sentiment
3. Like the Average Stalker
5. Bastard Chain
6. The Akuma Afterglow
7. Long Live the Misanthrope
8. Drowning with Silence
9. Distortion Sleep
10. As the Sleeper Awakes
11. Parasite Blues
12. Let this River Flow
13. The Phantom
14. The Ride Majestic
15. As We Speak (encore)
16. Stabbing the Drama (encore)
Written by Bear Wiseman
Photos by Janne Puronen