Moonsorrow’s ‘Jumalten Aika‘, released earlier this month, received a perfect score from myself for its dark, epic folk metal mastery (you can see the review here). As an album that is likely to be one of my top albums of the year by the end of 2016, of course I was highly anticipating the opportunity to see some of these masterpieces performed live.
The lack of any support band for this show, at first, had me slightly disappointed, but upon realising that this meant both Moonsorrow and Korpiklaani were to have 90 minute set lengths, this was somewhat remedied. This meant that soon after our arrival, Moonsorrow [5/5] were to set foot on the stage.
Donning blood-like war paint, they open with the latest album’s title track ‘Jumalten Aika‘, the band set the atmosphere with their simple chanting plus a little ambience before charging into the distorted opening segment of the song. Although Ville Sorvali’s vocals were a little quiet to start with, I was elated to hear that Markus Eurén’s keyboards were crystal clear in the mix right off the bat, which is rare when watching bands featuring this instrument.
Although this was a headline set by Moonsorrow, they were still challenged with being the first act of the evening, so it took a fair amount of time for the crowd to warm up and begin participating by chanting along to sections of ‘Raunioilla’ from the 2003 album ‘Kivenkataja‘. This was followed by encouragement from the surprisingly charismatic Ville to headbang in unison to ‘Suden Tunti‘ for which they recorded their ‘commercial music video’.
The real gem of the setlist was announced by explaining that it always rains where they are from (as well as in the UK), which is not quite Finland, in fact, its not even of this world: ‘Jotunheim’ – a near 20-minute long epic from the album ‘Verisäkeet’ (although slightly shortened without the ambience at the end of the track). This is exactly the sort of material I had hoped the band would play with a 90 minute set.
Something I personally enjoy in a live setlist is performing new material side by side with some old material, and this is precisely what Moonsorrow did next. Showcasing more from their impressive 2016 album, the band played through ‘Ruttolehto sis. Päivättömän Päivän Kansa’, with impressive vocals from guitarists Janne Perttilä and Mitja Harvilahti, and drummer Marko Tarvonen, as well as Markus Eurén. Together, they form a choir-like vocal assault, which I only wish was a little louder in the overall mix. However, the crowd had increased the number of choir members more than tenfold, and together we sang our hearts out.
This epic song, which I referred to as a ‘sonic equivalent to a vast, beautiful landscape that has seen its fair share of turmoil‘ in my review of the album, was followed by a bit of nostalgia, as put by vocalist and bass player Ville. As he said this, I had high hopes for a performance of Pakanajuhla, but the equally fantastic ‘Ukkosenjamalan Poika‘ was chosen from debut album ‘Suden Uni‘. Members of the crowd seemed to particularly enjoy this number as hair was seen flying and slight jigging broke out. The outro of this song featured fast and well-delivered blast beats from Marko and had me windmilling until the conclusion of the song.
As time nears the end of their set, one last song from Jumalten Aika is played, this time, the closing track Ihmisen Aika (Kumarrus Pimeyteen). The outro of this song is something to be reckoned with. When I say ‘outro’, I mean the final 5 mintues of the song. Epic crowd-participation in the form of chanting once again broke out, leaving the audience feeling empowered. It seems this can only be topped by one song – crowd favourite ‘Sankaritarina‘ from the album ‘ Voimasta ja Kunniasta‘ which has the audience singing louder than any of the songs before. It makes for a perfect closer and rounds off their set nicely, which notably featured 4 songs from the latest album, whilst ensuring a wide range of previous albums were also represented.
Throughout the set, there was an atmosphere of sorts which kept the audience in awe. Although there was some movement, headbanging and chanting, the crowd mainly remained still, simply admiring the song arrangements whilst watching guitarists Janne Perttilä and Mitja Harvilahti perform impressive stage moves. As they leave the stage, smiles all around, they have achieved what they came here to do, which was to present their art to a willing audience whilst demonstrating an unmatched passion whilst doing so.
After this phenomenal set, its hard to believe that there is still a full headline set from Korpiklaani (3.5/5) to come. Although both of these bands are considered to be folk metal bands, they are certainly from opposite ends of the spectrum.
As members of the band are cheered onto the stage, including Turisas’ Olli Vänskä standing in on violin duties, the band burst into action with a tonne of energy as singer Jonne Järvelä runs onto the stage to perform ‘Viinamäen Mies‘ which recently had a music video made for an English version of the song entitled ‘A Man With a Plan’.
The once dormant crowd explodes into life and jig pits open up immediately. Beer flies up into the air, pints and cans are abandoned as crowd members can no longer hold on to them. Those of us with a drink still in hand at the end of this opener barely have a chance to take a sip before the absolute classic ‘Journey Man‘ from ‘Voice of Wilderness‘ is thrust upon us. The crowd go insane and Korpiklaani appear to be on top form with a very strong opening run of songs including ‘Kantaiso‘ from Korven Kuningas.
The slower tempo songs ‘Lempo‘ and ‘Ämmänhauta‘ from latest album ‘Noita‘ give people a chance to have a drink and rest a little after the previous onslaught, before picking up the pace again with ‘Erämaan Ärjyt’ from the album ‘Karkelo‘. I notice around this point just how big bassist Jarkko Altonen’s beard has gotten!
Sami Perttula’s accordian could be heard clearly, and once again, the sound was well balanced and each of the instruments could be heard clearly, with Kalle “Cane” Savijärvi providing the distortion and Matti “Matson” Johansson on drums.
Olli seemed to steal the show in some respects, with his high levels of energy; the novelty of seeing him without the signature war paint of Turisas and instead donning a farmer’s flat cap; and his unbelievably good violin skills, which were particularly well demonstrated in the next song ‘Ruumiinmultaa‘ from ‘Manala‘.
However, a string of songs from this album , including the long and down tempo ‘Sumussa Hämärän Aamun‘ upset the pace of the set somewhat, with a lack of any earlier material for a significant proportion of the set. ‘Vaarinpolkka‘ and ‘Rauta‘ are excellent songs in their own right, and I was glad to hear their inclusion in the set, but at this point, it seemed clear that the band wish to showcase their later material. I decided to retreat from the crowd and enjoy the show from the comfort of the bar.
Thankfully, a personal favourite brings the set back on track in the form of ‘Kipumylly‘ followed by ‘Metsämies‘ both from ‘Korven Kuningas‘, before returning to a couple more longer and slower tempo songs in the form of ‘Kultanainen‘ and ‘Minä Näin Vedessä Neidon‘.
Nearing the end of the set, some slightly older material from ‘Tervaskanto‘ makes an appearance albeit the lesser known tracks ‘Palovana‘ and ‘Karhunkaatolaulu‘ which sandwich the brilliant ‘Sahti‘ from ‘Noita’. One last song, ‘Kylästä Keväinen Kehto‘, from their latest album is squeezed into the set towards the end. During these last few songs, the band had regained my interest and I return to the front of the crowd to join in with the jig pits for the final run of classic Korpiklaani drinking songs: ‘Wooden Pints‘, ‘Vodka‘ and ‘Beer Beer‘, which all go down a storm as the crowd have been itching the hear them throughout the whole set.
It seems the performance was not let down by the musicianship or the sound, in fact, those elements were spot on. It was simply the setlist. Although every single song is brilliant in itself, and even with gems such as ‘Kipumylly’, ‘Wooden Pints‘ and ‘Journey Man’, it was the decision to have long periods of the set comprise of recent material and the choice to have many of the band’s longer and slower songs included in the setlist. It was also disappointing not to hear ‘Happy Little Boozer‘ in a 90 minute long set, or in fact, anything from one of their greatest albums ‘Tales Along This Road‘. Where was ‘Under the Sun‘, ‘Korpiklaani‘, ‘Cottages and Saunas‘, ‘Hunting Song‘, ‘Keep on Galloping‘, ‘Viima‘ or even ‘Juodan Viinaa‘? These are the sorts of tracks I was hoping to hear in a 90 minute headline set from Korpiklaani. I have only seen them before in support slots and festival appearances, so I have always understood the time constraints in those situations when putting a setlist together, but it was disappointing not to hear more classics from the band’s own headline show.