With so many good bands on tour all over Europe, it seems natural that STALKER keeps tracking them down, especially those considered the creme de la creme of contemporary Dark Melodic Metal, bearing the sign of the Northern blue-on-white cross… three STALKER provided reports:
Tavastia, Helsinki, FIN, 22.11.2009
The collaboration of Insomnium and Swallow the Sun is only so natural and frequent nowadays, it is easy to mistake for one whole act rather than 2 independent acts. Especially that Aleksi Munter keyboards for both sides. Both bands have recently put out a new album and on both there are a lot more clear vocals than earlier, also StS have been doing this for the past couple of albums already.
Anyway, hearing clear vocals on Insomnium and in Friman´s singing was definitely a novelty to me and a pleasant surprise at the same time. The new material is solid, heavy, serious and very headbangable, which is difficult to perform when there is a whole band on stage, lined up, headbanging in strong synchronised motion. What more to say, other than agree with Papa Wilska, who said that “By far, Swallow the Sun and Insomnium are Finland’s best metal export to date.” Having been watching Insomnium´s shows for the past years, it´s easily visible how much more confident and solid the band became. It is pure heavy metal quality, doomy enough to be melancholic, yet complex and melodic and hard enough not to slip into this depressive poser-gothy sound. And for that ticket price, only 8E for both bands, it is just a catch! Hurry to see those bands before they become too big and unfashionably soldout. (MS)
Swallow The Sun
had chosen a pretty unusual intro – a (US American?) fan rambled on about music he basically enjoyed a lot, but unfortunately the singer was crap, as he sounded like the Sesame street Cookie Monster…
The audience had obviously a different opinion; because photographing became a suicide mission when the band entered the stage (taking photos of Insomnium was already some ordeal, without a photopit). Those guys pulled it off once again in the usual fashion – that means musically a flawless performance, Aleksi and Juha banging non-stop, Matti and Jämsä as the rhythm power duo, and in the middle Mikko “Cookie Monster” Kotamäki, who despite the Black-Metalish influences still did not sport Corpsepaint or ecstatic acrobatics a la Dragonforce (thankgod!). On display, however, was much more self-confidence, in comparison with shows in their early years; and the “new guy” Kai Hahto seemed to fit in nicely, especially when pulling off those Blast Beats – no problem for the Rotten Sound/Wintersun drummer. He seems to be more into complexity and detail than ex-drummer Pasi, but in my opinion this did not distract or distort the old songs (yet, as I found out later, not all die-hard STS fans shared this opinion).
Their setlist focused naturally on the new album and contained also all 3 Horror parts = “Sorrow” in the beginning, “Don´t Fall Asleep” and towards the end “Lights On The Lake”, which also featured guest vocalist Aleah who surprisingly walked on stage. After the title track of the new CD “New Moon” the band took a break, but not for long… backstage we had been goofing around that they should give “Plague Of Butterflies” as encore (which is a 40 min song!) – and VOILA, indeed, they played it, yet just a 10-15-min excerpt… Summary: fans could – as always – enjoy a great evening, yet surely missed some of their personal faves (from the “Ghosts of Loss” or “Hope” album). (KW)
Exit Chmelnice, Prague, CZ, 16.12.2009
Being the first review I have ever been asked to do, I was a little nervous going to the appropriately sized “Exit Chmelnice” and trying to describe a concert in a city that is becoming increasingly less foreign to me.
From the opening notes of Omnium Gatherum, I realized Exit has some pretty good acoustics given the size and look of the place. Omnium Gatherum played for about 30-35 minutes, and though guitarist Markus Vanhala was sick, the music stayed tight, the band animated, but the crowd stayed a bit calm. They had a really good percussion sound, everything was good and heavy and it made for an excellent introduction to a band I was previously unfamiliar with.
About 20 minutes later, Insomnium took the stage, in what I must say was an outstanding performance. I have always adored this band, and their music has led me through some pretty difficult times. They opened with The Gale and a few minutes later they played one of my favorites, Drawn to Black. Everything sounded great at the start of the set, but then became a little too bassy. The acoustic parts were always clear and the crowd was more energetic. Frontman Niilo Sevänen tried with success to create a rivalry of crowds between Bratislava and Prague. The band had time for an encore, Devoid of Caring, a beautiful performance.
Swallow the Sun appeared a little while later, drinking local Branik beer from cans. Not much to say about this act other than FUCKING AWESOME! Swallow the Sun was also a bit heavy on the bass sound, only this time it was perfectly clear and working totally in their favor. The sound quality was excellent and the heavy parts were representative of pure strength. This was one of the purest, heaviest acts I have seen and would love to see them again in Prague. (Lann Davis)
K17, Berlin, GER, 17.12.2009
One day later the new moon rose over the small but nice K17 in Berlin.
Already half an hour after the club opened the guys of Omnium Gatherum kicked off their show in front of rather small crowd. The first row started about in the middle of the room and shifted only slighly forward throughout the gig. The band itself concentrated more on their slower, more melancholic material, maybe one of the reasons why the guys seemed a bit apathic tonight. Even the otherwise so dynamic fronter Jukka Pelkonen could only force a tired smile and shone only with his brain-damaging headbanging – after three weeks on the road it´s no surprise that at some point there´s no energy left anymore. That the band can do better live they have proved in the past but tonight it simply didn´t work for me.
After a short break Insomnium entered the arena. At this point the now numerous crowd had already gathered in front of the stage to await the arrival of the band with increasing impatience. And the guys didn´t disappoint, with their extremely headbanging-friendly material they kept everyone´s hair flying from the first second on, also if you weren´t familiar with the songs of the Finns before. Despite the fact that the guys must have been at least as exhausted as their tourmates of Omnium Gatherum, the band, who played in Berlin already for the third time, had visibly fun on stage.
Singer Niilo Sevänen made even more friends by announcing the songs in German and so not only the band thought the gig was “supertoll”. The crowd was totally in it and couldn´t get enough, also after the band left the stage people chanted “one more song, one more song” and the guys, with Aleksi Munter tickling the ivories, delivered. Measured by the crowd´s reaction, Insomnium were definitely the heroes of the night but wasn´t there also another band coming up…
Exactly, and so Swallow the Sun got the crowd into the right mood for the last gig of the night with a spookingly-beautiful intro of storm, smoke and voices out of nowhere. There are two things that I noticed right away, there are less people in front of the stage compared to Insomnium and all musicians onstage, except for new drummer Kai Hahto, are on the front line. However, it is neither fronter Mikko Kotamäki, who still has a lot to offer vocally even after being on tour that long, nor main songwriter Juha Raivio who attract most of the crowd´s attention.
This is done mainly by the “backers”, bassist Matti Honkonen and keyboarder Aleksi Munter who, with their passionate playing and fearsome look in the case of Mr. Munter, are able to get at least partially the emotionality of the music across. There isn´t much to complain about the sound as such, the only thing I´m missing is the contact to the crowd – a little bit more than just the pure music! Also here, the crowd demanded more and they got it and with it the new moon set over the K17 again. (Kathleen Gransalke)
photos: Klaudia Weber, Kathleen Gransalke