Not too many years ago, gigs in Helsinki would invariably start late – so late that the coice between missing the encore and missing the last tram was the rule rather than the exception. Fortunately things have changed, but then again, nowadays the problem is sometimes the opposite. Last weekend at Circus, the first band played a little bit too early for me to catch them, and although I hadn´t known Junius beforehand, their albums at the merch stand looked interesting enough to check them out afterwards: nice melodic prog rock with clean vocals and some indie/pop touches, not spectacular as such but sufficiently in line with the softer sides of the two bands that followed.
Alcest, on the other hand, was a band I was very much looking forward to see again after their enchanting Tuska appearance this summer. The club atmosphere befitted the hypnotic feel of their music even better in spite of the muddy-ish sound; the vocals in particular were almost indiscernible. This problem was rectified for the main act, though, and another thing I was grateful for was that this time it wasn´t quite as crowded as on my earlier visits to Circus. Yet the evening didn´t go altogehter without inconveniences: during “Les voyages de l´âme”, I was troubled by the first symptoms of migraine and, when sitting down in a quieter corner for a while didn´t help, had to skip the rest of the Alcest set to get fresh air and some food.
That did the job, and by the time I returned inside for Katatonia, I was feeling ok again. Still I was worried about how the rest of the evening would go, and furthermore my expectations for the gig were not the highest to begin with, as the band´s recent release, Dead End Kings, had failed to excite me much despite repeated spins. The preconditions for the show, in other words, were less than ideal, and for added frustration, the opening words of the concert, “In the weak light…” turned out to be programmatic with regards to photography. Yet a healthy dose of pessimism is the mother of many a positive surprise, and by the time of “My Twin” if not before it was obvious that at least as a live band, Katatonia had not lost anything of their edge. The rocking ” Burn the Remembrance” was contrasted by the following ballad “Racing Heart”, for which the stage was flooded with pink light.
Next in line was another new song, “Lethean”, which not only was co-written by “new” guitarist Per Eriksson but also showcased him on a couple of butt-kicking solos. “Teargas” and “Strained” represented classic turn-of-the-century Katatonia, but it was “The Longest Year” that surprised with a hint of growl at long last, if only for the question “How cold is the sun?”. “Soil´s Song” featured some serious moshing both on and in front of the stage, whereas “Omerta” saw a hug or two between band members. “Sweet Nurse” came with another standout guitar solo, this time by Anders Nyström. If there was a slightly weak point in the set, it was “New Night”, during which there seemed to be a minor synchronisation problem with a playback track, but that was offset by “July”, another undisputed crowd favorite. “Day And The Shade” again came with some technical trouble, this time affecting Per´s guitar to the effect that the beautiful outro happened without him, but it was the last song anyway and during the break his tech got the issue fixed. The encore contained a full three songs, culminating in a spirited “Leaders” with a pretty furious ending. Katatonia´s previous Helsinki gig a year ago may have been more impressive setlist-wise (the entire Last Fair Deal album plus an additional hour or so of “greatest hits”), but personally, I enjoyed myself better this time – and thankfully, the migraine did not bother to return for the rest of the night. Katatonia´s music indeed seems to have certain healing powers…
Burn the Remembrance
The Racing Heart
The Longest Year
Day and Then the Shade