FINNTROLL recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of their well-loved “Nattfödd” album and LiveNation saw fit to send them on a local tour with a couple fellow Finnish bands, THE MAN-EATING TREE and WOLFHEART, to celebrate! The last stop of Unioni-kiertue was at Tavastia in Helsinki on April 25th, 2015, and Musicalypse was there to check out the celebration!
This was a rare moment for me when I decided to take the full opportunity to check out some music I wasn’t familiar with. I’ve seen THE MAN-EATING TREE as an opener for other bands or playing festivals I’ve been at a few times, so it seemed like a good time to give them a try. I had always just presumed that they were Swedish, since that’s where most doom metal bands seem to come from, so I was interested to find out that they were local.
They had a very nice instrumental opening track before coming on stage. My immediate thought was that they were like a heavier version of KATATONIA, or a softer version of SWALLOW THE SUN. Musically, they sounded quite good, though I felt like some of the songs had dynamics that were practically begging for growling. While most of those songs remained clean vocal-wise, “Of Birth for Passing” did exactly what I had hoped. There was a great growling part a few times throughout, coupled with a really cool “red-strobe” effect in the lighting. This doubly pleased me because up until that song, I had been thinking that the lighting was kind of lackluster and it got really dramatic in this song. Of note, whenever the lights turned red, it meant that someone was growling. It was a neat little detail.
I also noted that the singer seemed rather passionate about what he was doing. He seemed very in touch with the songs lyrically, putting some feeling into his performance, and there was some great harmonizing with some of the other band members throughout. Overall, I’d say that I enjoyed their performance, though it’s a shame they don’t have a live keyboardist, because some of the music in their backing track was unbelievable.
Next up was WOLFHEART, which I have recently learned is the newest and only project of Tuomas Saukkonen (BEFORE THE SUN, BLACK SUN AEON, ROUTASIELU). I haven’t seen him live (at least while aware) since a BEFORE THE DAWN show in 2009 and I was surprised to see him looking almost unrecognizable (the word beefy comes to mind – in a good way). I’ve missed out on most of his projects, even though I really enjoyed BEFORE THE DAWN, and I’m glad to see that he’s still going.
WOLFHEART teetered on the edge of too-thrashy and just right for me throughout the whole show. I am not really into the mashing of double-kick and melody-less drumming, but man, some of the songs they played were really fucking cool. This is exactly the kind of thing I might like to listen to when I just want something heavy. It sounds like they have a new album coming out soon too, as I thought I caught some mention of new songs in their set. And like with THE MAN-EATING TREE, they had some really phenomenal backing music in some of their songs. Overall, I’m pretty glad I came to see both these bands.
And lastly… FINNTROLL. As you may know, FINNTROLL is one of those bands that I try not to miss if I can help it. They’re just so consistently great; every show is a new and memorable experience, and especially if you’re in Helsinki, it’s nice to see Henri Sorvali, who adds a little something special with the banjo or extra set of keys. That guy is so talented. Every time I review a FINNTROLL show, I get nervous that I won’t have anything to say that I haven’t already said a hundred times, and every time it’s never an issue.
There was some weird, ambient, “Visor om slutet” -style music playing during the stage change, complete with unsettling laughter every 30 seconds or so. They got started a bit late, potentially because of some sound issues (the sound check took a long while), but the opening track off “Nattfödd,” “Vindfärd,” got things going, and they proceeded to play through “Nattfödd” in its entirety.
Visually, the band was a blend of old and new. Vreth had his current pants (without the former leather parts) and the unusual mic, but the old face paint and was shirtless. Skrymer was shirtless with the old makeup, but had suspenders and a trucker hat. Trollhorn, who as I said, I was very happy to see, wore the old outfit for the “Nattfödd” half, but switched to the new style once that album was over. You get the picture. It was a cool little detail, blending the old and new.
I also was apparently quite behind in the times, because I didn’t know that Beast Dominator had left the band last year. In his place was Heikki Saari, aka Mörkö, whom you might remember from NORTHER. I’ve always really liked him, so he was a fantastic choice for a replacement. He’s got a lot of talent and he’s got style to boot. He was very natural with them – he looked like he belonged.
The stage performance was, as a whole, really awesome. I love them live, and the shows are always somehow really (possibly strangely) memorable. This one had a lot of fun things going on, like the occasional mad circus lighting in songs like “Trollhammaren,” and some special guests. I’m not gonna lie, I almost needed to change my pants when they started up “Grottans barn” and Tapio Wilska stepped out on stage to sing with Vreth. I had never seen him live because he had left the band a couple years before I learned of FINNTROLL’s existence, so I never expected to see him in a live gig. He was sounding really great, and it made me wonder what he’s up to these days.
Vreth was either in a great mood or pretty drunk, because he was dancing around stage in a rather non-characteristic manner. Everything was lively and fun though. Tavastia was packed and the mosh-pit was full of frolicking joyous people. The air was boiling with body heat and good vibes all night. Oh, and for the (totally awesome choice of) encore, there were a couple of troll ladies dancing on stage with them. Good times, as always!
To tell you the truth, I don’t really know what “Unioni” is – it’s been a tour and a festival now. It sort of seems to be a name that LiveNation tacks onto mini-festivals and nothing more. Last year’s gig was a 2-day Helsinki mini-festival focusing mostly on doom metal bands, while this year was a 10th anniversary tour for one band with openers. I can’t tell you why this happened, and who knows what’ll happen in the future, but it was a great night regardless. The three bands present were completely different in style, from Gothic doom to somewhat thrashy and melodic, over to the pagan folk stuff. It was a worthwhile experience and like I always say, if you haven’t seen FINNTROLL live yet, you’re missing out.
1. Vindfärd (intro)
4. Fiskarens fiende
9. Det iskalla trollblodet
10. Grottans barn (ft. Tapio Wilska)
14. Midnattens widunder (intro)
16. När jättar marschera
18. Jaktens tid
19. Under bergets rot (encore)
20. Rök (outro) (encore)
Written by Bear Wiseman