WORDS: James Weaver
Out of all of metal’s vast array of sub-genres none is more entertaining in the live environment than folk metal. The often up-beat and uplifting style of the sub-genre makes for live performances that ooze energy and large crowd participation. ENSIFERUM are a band that have been at forefront of the scene since 1995 and have a huge international following. Still in support of last year’s One Man Army, the band are set to bring their folk-driven metal to cities across Europe. But after all these years do ENSIFERUM still have what it takes to compete with the scene’s strongest bands?
With only one support, Estonia’s METSATOLL had more than enough time to win over the audience. The band have been active roughly the same amount of time as ENSIFERUM and with six albums under their belt, the band had a wide range of tracks at their disposal to expose to would be fans. With the majority of the 12 song setlist composed of tracks from 2014’s Karjajuht, the band’s latest material held up well in the live environment. As far as their style goes, METSATOLL certainly focused on the more traditional route of using the folk influences to enforce their melodies. And to a large extent this worked very well; frontman Markus Teeäär‘s harsh vocals were ferocious and reinforced the strong riffs rather well and despite the vocals sung in the band’s native tongue, it encouraged a warm reception from the dense crowd. With Lauri Õunapuu carrying the sole responsibility of bringing METSATOLL‘s folk driven sound, he had a huge weight on his shoulders. Making use of guitar duties, flutes, bagpipes and so forth, there is no denying that he is a versatile musician yet often it was reliant to a backing track. Disappointing but understandable. Overall despite the challenge, METSATOLL brought a solid performance to the stage, replicating the style of folk metal in fine fashion and set the stage perfectly for ENSIFERUM.
ENSIFERUM have been a staple in folk metal for years now. Often regarded as one of folk metal’s most successful exports the Finnish outfit have consistently have upheld their reputation of being an excellent live band. With last year’s One Man Army still fresh in the fan’s minds, it was clear that the band would unleash a torrent of new material to those in attendance. Opening with the instrumental March of War set the stage perfectly for the band and leading into Axe of Judgement ignited the crowd like wildfire. From that the band had made their mark and it continued throughout their performance; riff-heavy, fun and intoxicatingly enjoyable folk metal. With Heathen Horde, Two of Spades, Warrior Without a War and My Ancestor’s Blood all making an appearance in the band’s set, the new material held their own merit compared to the band’s classics.
Musically, the band were a tight knit outfit, with their epic sound translated well onto the live environment. Petri Lindroos‘ signature harsh vocals replicated the band’s studio sound in grand fashion, Janne Parviainen‘s drumming carried enough force to keep the beat at an all time high and Sami Hinkka‘s performance oozed energy. And despite the absence of Emmi Silvennoinen [keyboards/backing vocals], Netta Skog did a remarkable job filling in with a performance that showcased true professionalism.
With classics such as Twilight Tavern, Iron, Into Battle and the addictive chorus of In My Sword I Trust met with a thunderous reception from the crowd, ENSIFERUM more than proved their worth in an intimate venue. The Finnish warriors came, saw and conquered and kept the flag of folk metal flying high.