Entries in Finnish metal (4)


Nightwish/Kamelot in Salt Lake City - the reward for months of planning

We've had this trip planned for around six months, the last of our big summer of metal travels. We split the drive from Bozeman to Salt Lake City ("SLC") roughly in half, staying in Rexburg, Idaho on Friday night and rolling into SLC mid-afternoon on Saturday. Our only complication was my son, Zane's, sudden onset of some GI ailment, leaving us unsure how much of the show he was going to see. But we managed to get the kids a quick swim in the salty swimming pool at Howard Johnson's, a satisfying dinner at P.F. Chang's and then we headed to the The Complex for the show.

We immediately knew that we'd "arrived" as we drove up. There was a line around the corner, down the block and all the way to the train tracks. This was definitely a metal crowd, lots of black attire and concert T's. It became clear we were facing yet another complication once we'd stood in line for 30 minutes after the doors were scheduled to open. Apparently sound checks had run over by 60-90 minutes and they'd only been able to let 400 people into the main lobby of the venue. Fortunately, much like Calgary, this was also a well-behaved metal crowd,

Eventually the line started moving and we all were able to redeem our Will Call codes to get into the show. It was fortunate that this show had no opening acts, just two headliner-caliber bands. Once we were all in the venue, there wasn't any further delay; Kamelot kicked into their set with a vengeance. I've never seen Kamelot before and was immediately impressed with their energy and polish. I was especially struck by the energy of their new vocalist, Tommy Karevik, and his ability to get the crowd involved. More so than recent shows we've seen in Sweden and Canada, the crowd in Salt Lake City made lots of noise, chanting, yelling and singing along throughout the set.

The four of us also had an extra connection to Kamelot, being big Amaranthe fans. We really enjoyed seeing Elize Ryd, one of Amaranthe's three singers, performing various lead and backup vocals for Kamelot. It was icing on the cake to see and hear Elize live for the second time in less than two months. Now we can hope that, with Amaranthe's new album due out in 2013, perhaps we can see Elize 3 times in one year. I was also impressed with The Agonist's Alissa White-Gluz's vocal contributions to Kamelot's set and was particularly struck by her stage presence. That makes we very curious to see The Agonist if I get the chance.

Kamelot wrapped up a very tight, and perhaps a little too short, set. Thankfully, after the long wait in line, it didn't take the stage crew too long to transition over and get Nightwish onstage. In truth, Nightwish was the reason we made the trip and I was excited to finally be hearing them live. They immediately launched into "Storytime" one of my family's favorite Nightwish songs, and played "Amaranth", another favorite, third. I immediately found myself thinking about how much I enjoy Anette Olzon's easygoing and friendly stage presence, and her sweet, comforting voice. Yes, many fans were disappointed when Tarja Turunen was asked to leave Nightwish, but I have found that both the albums featuring Anette (Dark Passion Play and Imaginaerum) are in my "favorite albums ever" list. In a way, with Anette and Marco Hietala, the band became more listenable for me. The grandiosity of their symphonic elements is counterbalanced perfectly by the rawness of Marco's voice and the personal familiarity of Anette's.

It was fun seeing Marco, and how essential he's become to Nightwish's stage presence. He would be a natural fit for Kopiklaani, both in looks and personality, adding a raucous humor and forcefulness to Nightwish that I welcome.

My daughter, Kiley, had mentioned to me right after dinner that she wanted Nightwish to play a long set. Well, she got her wish. They were on stage for about 90 minutes, playing heavy hitters like the aformentioned "Storytime" and "Amaranthe", along with "Ghost River" and finishing up with "Last Ride of the Day". In between they treated us to acoustic versions of "Nemo" and two of their more folk-infused pieces ("Finlandia" and "Last of the Wilds").

Since the show started late, Zane was completely wiped out by the end of the set. Kiley gave it her all but was also pretty tired. Still, we were all content as we walked the few blocks back to our car and drove the quick trip back to our motel. Once we get back to the room, I was still pretty energized and not quite ready to fall asleep, so I dug around a bit trying to learn a bit about the show and some of the guest performers.

In the process, I discovered just how lucky we were. Having driven over 7 hours to reach Salt Lake City, and dedicated an entire weekend to attend this show, we hadn't allowed ourselves to worry that the show might not happen. Little did we know how close we came to that outcome. Reading through postings on Nightwish's Facebook page, I learned that Anette had been hospitalized the previous night, unable to perform in Denver. I also learned that the band had scrambled to live up to their commitment to the fans in Denver. Thanks to valiant efforts by Elize and Alissa from Kamelot, Nightwish played the Denver show, despite missing their lead singer.

To me, this is a testament to Nightwish's professionalism and commitment. By my rough count, 90% of fans' responses on the Facebook page were positive, although the other 10% were shockingly unkind and insensitive. Personally, I am in awe of everyone who scrambled to make both the Denver and Salt Lake City shows happen despite the difficult circumstances. As a musician, I have nothing but respect for Elize and Alissa, filling in on incredibly short notice and for the rest of Nightwish for pulling a show together. I realize the fans in Denver didn't exactly see the show they had hoped to see, but in a way, they got to see something extra special. I suspect many will remember the show as a unique experience, one that demonstrates success in the face of defeat and one that they'll remember for the rest of their lives. I also suspect that at least some of them will walk away with a greater interest in Amaranth and The Agonist, having seen what Elize and Alissa were able to do on short notice for Nightwish. Based on some of my own recent experiences with family health and hospitals, I think I can imagine how difficult it was for Anette to get back on stage and give an amazing performance, having spent the previous night in the hospital. I wish nothing but the best to Anette and hope this is just one of those sudden and brief medical challenges, much like I hope for Zane's GI complications.

For those Nightwish and Kamelot fans yet to see them on this tour, you are in for a treat; do not miss the show! For those readers that weren't planning to see them, but still have chance to get tickets to upcoming shows, you really should spend the money and go see this show. If you can't catch one of the remaining shows, but are curious about Nightwish and Kamelot, check out their recent releases (e.g. Imaginaerum and Sacrimony (single)). If you are impressed with Elize's and Alissa's efforts to save the show in Denver, be sure to check out Amaranthe and The Agonist. There's a lot of great music to experience between all of these amazing musicians and I recommend you explore it all thoroughly to find how it overlaps with your tastes.


Sentenced - Vengeance Is Mine

Admittedly, I love Sentenced. The "Frozen" and "Crimson" albums are in my regular listening rotation and I often find myself with a craving that can only be satisfied by immersing myself in Sentenced. Those listening moments are typically darkened a bit by my own sadness that Sentenced is gone and only partially replaced by Poisonblack (who I also listen to often). If you're gonna end a band, though, what better than to hold your own funeral. It's not often that entertainment leaves us with a perfect punctuation to end a chapter or series (e.g. the last episode of "Newhart"), but Sentenced did that for us when they released "The Funeral Album" and associated concert video.

Not that Finnish goth metal shies away from dark themes, but Sentenced took the funeral theme that much further for their final album. You can tell, even without listening to a single word or note, just look at the song titles: "End Of The Road", "Lower The Flags", "Consider Us Dead", "Her Last 5 Minutes", "We Are But Falling Leaves", etc. I've often enjoyed albums that have such a well-defined theme that cohesiveness is guaranteed. I have similar feelings about My Chemical Romance's "Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge", there's just this energy that develops out of a solid vision; the songs aren't just thrown together by when they were written and recorded.

As you might guess, I quite often listen to "The Funeral Album" in its entirety. However, there are other times when I need a quick dose, I need some Sentenced and I need that album but I don't have time for the whole thing. When that happens, I need to cut to the chase and go right to the one song that pumps me up when things aren't going well. Unlike many of the other songs in goth metal, "Vengeance Is Mine" is about revenge and retribution, not decline into darkness. Much like Queen's "Death On Two Legs", "Vengeance Is Mine" gets the message across directly and pulls no punches.

There's really no better way to give you a clear picture than to simply present the words. The whole song (words and music) deliver the message, but this verse/chorus combination is sufficient to give you a sense of what I'm talking about:


Excerpt from "Vengeance Is Mine", (Music: Tenkula & Sentenced, Lyrics: Lopakka)

Verse 2
We're not done, I will hunt you down
One by one... I'll blow you all to hell
For you faceless, nameless cowards cannot hide
The day of reckoning will arrive

Strike from behind and knock me to the ground. Kick me while I'm down.
Stab me in the back, you bastards. Tear my heart out of my chest
I'll rise from the ashes, from these ruins of mine, from the wreckage
I'm right on your track you bastards. A dozen of eyes for an eye. Vengeance is mine.

Next time you're feeling a bit beaten down and demoralized, go straight to "Vengeance Is Mine" and crank it up. When you've got more time, listen to "The Funeral Album" in its entirety. I highly recommend the experience!


The Quest: the metal heartland

As I mentioned not long ago in my article about my next project, I'm striving for something new. The ingredients for my next album need to be fresh and unique, yet still completely aligned with my love of heavy, melodic music. Although I have recently become friends with a number of metalheads here in Bozeman, the common theme amongst them leans too heavily toward death metal and guttural vocals to be the right fit for me. I need the contributors for this next album to come naturally to melody; they must be forceful and graceful all at once. And, as I previously mentioned, the most sensible place to look for those musicians is where most of my favorite bands come from: Finland and Sweden.

The plane tickets are purchased, my family's summer has been scheduled. In mid-August we will embark on our quest, combining the goal of seeing Amaranthe perform in their home territory, with my own goal of making the first round of connections I need for the next album. Earlier this year we had hoped to accomplish the family goal, and see Amaranthe at the House of Metal festival. Nancy, Kiley and Zane are all crazy about Amaranthe, and we were immensely excited until we learned that the House of Metal show was not all ages; neither of the kids would make the 13 year old cutoff. Those were sad days in the Hearst-Reynolds house but they planted a seed that continued to grow. A few months later, while preparing my Amaranthe blog article, I was looking at their website and noticed a show planned for August at the Liseberg Stora Scenen. Being part of a family-oriented amusement park, I quickly contacted the park representatives and learned that, yes, there will not be an age limit. With that information, the quest became reality.

Centered around the Amaranthe concert, we will spend a week in Sweden and a week in Finland. I hope to make advance contact with various studios and engineers in HelsinkiStockholm and Göteborg. I'm attempting to find someone that can act as a champion and coordinator for the project, someone that I will pay for their responsibilities but who will also immerse themselves in the vision. Ideally, this person will be able to assemble a collection of musicians, a drummer, a bass player, a keyboardist and a singer, that are perfectly suited to this project. Then, the coordinator/engineer/producer will help me establish the monetary and temporal logistics for the project. I hope to visit with various engineers and producers, and tour their facilities, so that we have enough opportunity to recognize the right fit when it shows itself.

As a family, there will be more to this trip than architecting my next album. We will see the sights, experience the culture and, hopefully, spend some days outside the city, most likely exploring the Finnish wilderness. But, for me, the trip really hinges on my quest. I will strive to gather enough data to make the path to the next album clear. I will also endeavor to gain enough familiarity with the cities and their music scenes so that I'm prepared for a potential return trip. I suspect, budget-wise and time-wise, it will make sense for me to track guitars here in Bozeman, however, I do think that it makes sense for me to take part in as much of the other tracking as possible. Depending on scheduling, perhaps I can be present when basic tracks and vocals are being laid down.

We will see how it all comes together. If you are a heavy musician in Finland or Sweden and have an interest in the project, please contact me. If you are a recording engineer, producer or studio owner in Göteborg, Stockholm or Helsinki and think you could help me accomplish my vision, please let me know. I would be happy to communicate before and to meet with any and all of you in August. If the vision seems still a bit nebulous, you are right, I'm trying to leave a lot of room for it to define itself, based on the creative people involved. I firmly believe in the magic of collaboration and that "my" vision is really more of a catalyst than an exacting road map. For more information, clarification and questions, please do not be shy, I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Lullacry - Their latest: "Where Angels Fear"

After more than a half decade, Lullacry is back with a new album. Having only discovered them in the last 2-3 years I was disappointed to realize that their most recent release was from 2005 and their web site indicated they were searching for a new label. I was worried we'd have to go without new Lullacry material indefinitely. Thankfully, that changed over the last year. Status updates on the website indicated that not only were they back in the studio, but they had made headway on a label for a new album release.

Then over the course of April 2012, "Where Angels Fear" was released around the world and we finally have new music from the band since 2005. I have already and will continue to play songs from the new album on my KGLT radio show. Lullacry hits me right where it counts. They are always melodic, powered by Sami Leppikangas' wall of guitars and Tanja Lainio's emotional vocals. I played the title track, "Where Angels Fear" during my radio show on May 5th, and am looking forward to playing "I Am", and "Antidote To You" in upcoming shows. You can check out their video for the first single, "Bad Blood" on the band's website or on YouTube.

The "Where Angels Fear" album is, to my ear, edgier than the band's earlier material. I don't know if this was a concerted effort or a natural progression but either way it works well for Lullacry. The album sounds fresh and full of energy. The years since their previous release ("Vol. 4", 2005) have helped the band come back with a vengeance, sounding both solidly Lullacry and absolutely contemporary.

I don't know what my chances are of seeing Lullacry in the U.S., so a trip to Finland may be my best bet to catch their show. If you haven't heard the band before, go check them out on your favorite internet music service. If you're lucky enough to live near one of their tour destinations, please go check out their show and give me a play-by-play. I may need to enjoy the show vicariously through your experiences, at least for now. Can you do yourself (and me) that favor?