The North American Leg Of The Paganfest Tour Commences In Canada With Much Acclaim And An Excellent Turnout
To begin with, Korpiklaani was not present for this leg of the Paganfest tour, and it’s nothing short of a tragedy that North Americans had to miss out on the Forest Clan for this event.
Eluveitie was also not in attendance, supposedly because they didn’t file the proper paperwork with the Canadian customs in a timely fashion, so Gwynbleidd was on hand to fill in as an opener at the Medley in Montreal, Quebec. These New Yorkers weren’t quite as folksy as their Scandinavian counterparts, yet they offered a melancholic, progressive metal – slow, dark material, somewhat similar to High On Fire, and they set the stage quite nicely for Tyr.
Tyr looked the same as ever, long-haired and bare-chested, and they treated the crowd to a song from their newest album, “Land”. Fans were pleased to see “Hail to the Hammer” and the Faroese “Ramund Hin Unge” get some play, as well as “Wings of Time”. Unfortunately, their set was cut mercilessly short after a few songs, and they were replaced by Turisas. It is safe to say, even among the crazy Ensiferum fans, that Turisas stole the show that night. They swept up the crowd into the palm of their head and collectively placed it in their pocket.
The members of Turisas took the stage with their faces smeared with their signature warpaint, wrapped in furs and traditional garb. A violinist and accordionist brought a little more flavor to the performance, but “Warlord” Nygård has enough charisma for the entire band, were it needed.
“Five Hundred And One” started the shoving in earnest in the middle of the packed, airless venue, and people sitting around the upper-level balcony crowded to the edge to watch the energy-packed performance. “A Portage to the Unknown” followed shortly thereafter, creating one of the most epic atmospheres conceivable at a show.
In one of the most satisfying setlists that could have been constructed, the audience was treated to the essentials, including “To Holmgard And Beyond”, “One More” for the drinkers and “Rexi Regi Rebellis” for the moshers. “The Court Of Jarisleif” would have made for an excellent square-dance or jig-and-reel, but not much happened apart from a couple of kids running about the pit, looking confused. “Rasputin” made a surprise appearance before Turisas ended their set with “Battle Metal”.
Crowd participation was at an all-time high, to the point where people on the other end of Montreal would likely have heard us pagans lifting our voices in song. Warlord even separated the crowd at one point, wall of death style, so that Olli Vänskä and Netta Skog could lead separate halves of the crowd in singing and chanting.
Ensiferum was greeted by a horde of die-hard fans, as Montreal has a very solid metal scene, much to their credit. These Finnish gents preferred to play in kilts, with Petri Lindroos donning a Finnish flag in front of giant Celtic-themed flags with images of warriors and Viking ships, and Emmi Silvennoinen’s keyboard was stationed behind a giant shield.
I would argue that one needs a strong background in power metal and a healthy appreciation for speed metal to truly enjoy this group, as they do not really offer the folk metal sound of many other bands in the genre, from the structure of the melodies to the death metal vocals. Ensiferum gets their Viking metal status largely from the content of their lyrics, centered upon heroic Finnish and Norse sagas. However, this combination works well for most fans, and they pleased the crowd by playing across the broad range of their entire discography, inserting little Maiden riffs here and there, as though their fingers could possibly be bored after so much shredding.
With fatigue setting in after Turisas, it was only the most energy-fueled and catchy Ensiferum beats that got the crowd going, but these songs merely turned things up from a simmer into a violent boil. Probably the best moments of their set were “Ahti”, “One More Magic Potion” and “Iron”. Yours truly threw herself blithely into the reeling sea of metalheads for the impeccable, galloping rhythm of “Token Of Time”.
“Blood Is The Price Of Glory” and “Victory Song” were featured from “Victory Songs”, as were “Iron’s” “Lai Lai Hei”, and “Into Battle” and the self-titled album saw a performance of “Guardians Of Fate”. Had I been given creative control, I would have nixed many of the more ambivalent songs and pushed for classics like “Dragonheads” and “Hero In A Dream”, but perhaps Ensiferum was merely hoping to convey a wider breadth of their range.
In summation, the absence of certain acts was very disheartening, and I believe that Tyr should have been allotted more playing time. However, Turisas and Ensiferum pulled off a truly amazing show and it was great to finally see a large show catering to us heathen warriors. So raise your drinking horn and catch the Paganfest as it travels through North America!
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