According to the tagline on their MySpace page, Alestorm play 'True Scottish Pirate Metal', and with song titles such as 'Captain Morgan's Revenge', 'Wenches and Mead' and 'Set Sail and Conquer', one can be left in no doubt as to their overt gimmick. Turning up at the venue a little later than anticipated, I only manage to catch the second half of Alestorm's set, and am impressed by what I hear. Signed to Napalm Records, the band have already gained something of a cult following, with certain audience members dressed in pirate attire for the occasion and, to be honest, look a lot more 'piraety' than the Scottish quartet themselves! Performance-wise, Alestorm convey a fun vibe a la ex-labelmates Korpiklaani with their anthemic drinking songs, and receive lively crowd reactions, although limiting themselves to pirate iconography could prove to compromise the longevity of their popularity in the future. I guess time will tell, though with several prestigious festival appearances lined up for later in the year including Wacken, Bloodstock, and Metal Camp, their convivial approach to an often over serious metal genre will undoubtedly excel in the festival context.
Friday 7th March 2008
The Park in Peterborough, UK
I'd seen Norther once before previous to this evening at the Thirteenth Day festival in Birmingham back in 2005, and recall being impressed with their brand of melodic death metal. Also, the last time I saw the band's frontman, Petri Lindroos, was ironically with Turisas at Bloodstock Open Air 2006 when he joined them on stage after his set with Ensiferum for a surreal Finnish sauna scene. Engendering a less boisterous crowd response than Alestorm, Norther still manage to get some heads banging to the up tempo drive of their thrash infused melo-death. Incessantly compared to Children of Bodom in the press, there are evident similarities, though is ultimately an unfair comparison by lazy journalists as the Finns have a unique identity of their own. At the same time, they offer little by way of originality, though their combination of hard-hitting retro-Slayer-esque guitar riffs with rich sounding keyboard chords and leads is infectiously engaging in what is overall a fine performance from a talented bunch of musicians.
Click on thumbnails for larger images:
NORTHER + ALESTORM
Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
Seemingly perpetually on the road with a constant heavy touring schedule, Turisas arrive back in the UK for 13 dates as part of a much larger European tour. Previously on tour in the UK during September last year, their return sees the battle-painted warriors go forth and conquer other parts of the country they've yet to visit. And tonight is Peterborough's turn. Just before Turisas are due on stage, The Park is rammed with eager fans, young and old, in what is one of the more bizarre venues I've encountered in recent years. The section directly in front of the stage probably has around a 150 capacity, although adjacent to this is the bar area which has room for 250 or so people. Inevitably, then, some punters end up watching the gig with a restricted view of the stage from in front of the bar. As the band appear to huge cheers and commence 'battle' with opener 'The Dnieper Rapids', swiftly followed by 'To Holmgard and Beyond', those in front of the stage respond with intense mosh pits as the expected display of plastic toy weaponry is wielded around with chaotic enthusiasm, making it a hazardous mosh pit to be standing in the middle of while trying to take photographs with expensive camera gear (I do hate venues without dedicated press/photo pits!). A few songs in and frontman Mathias 'Warlord' Nygård comments on the audience's wild reactions, stating "I see you're good at dancing, but remember that some people just want to see the show". However, he then says "...here's one you can dance to" as the band launch into 'In The Court Of Jarisleif', perhaps Turisas' most up tempo track, and the pit suddenly erupts with even greater pandemonium! His usual charismatic self, Nygård comments on the small size of the venue - "I can actually see our sound engineer for a change...smiling at me!", and then informs the crowd "we didn't feel like playing tonight, but you've made it feel worthwhile", which prompts loud chants of "we love Turisas, we love Turisas...". With a beaming grin Nygård asserts "this is actually turning into a fucking good night!", and proclaiming "this is the best gig of the tour so far". Violinist Olli Vänskä's idiomatic "fuck the guitar solo" routine is also aired tonight, and their stand-in accordion player, Netta Skog, a temporary replacement for the absconded Janne 'Lisko' Mäkinen, shines with an energetic performance. Set closers 'Rasputin' and the anthemic 'Battle Metal' receive the biggest crowd reactions of the evening from a tireless audience, as Turisas exit the stage having conquered yet another city in the UK. Based on tonight, and from what I've heard about other dates on this tour, venues have been sold out, or nearly full to capacity, which is indicative of the band's huge, and ever growing, fan base in this country. Turisas are fast proving themselves to transcend the gimmickry with which they've become associated that attracted them a significant amount of attention in the first place. Beyond gimmicks, bands need strong music to sustain their appeal, and Turisas have this in abundance with an array of varied compositions that combine not only elements of various metal sub-genres, but also other disparate genres of music too. Turisas' appeal is potentially massive, and they will undoubtedly return to these shores with appearances in much larger venues in the future. They are a phenomenal band on every level - sheer unmitigated brilliance!
Click on thumbnails for larger images: