Only in the UK last month for a main stage appearance at Bloodstock Open Air, Tolkien enthusiasts Battlelore return to these shores as sole support act on Finntroll's short tour, with tonight's show in Nottingham Rock City's basement being the first date. Chatting to frontman Tomi Mykkänen earlier this afternoon just after the Finnish septet's soundcheck, he wasn't happy with how that had gone in terms of a muddy sound through the PA, and as they launch into opening track 'Storm of the Blades' from 2005's 'Third Age of the Sun', his concerns are unresolved and clearly audible. A bass-heavy mix clouds guitars and keyboards, while frontwoman Kaisa Jouhki's vocals, although note perfect, are 'lost' during most passages, submerged by what is, overall, a general mess of a sound. On the plus side, Tomi's singing, both growls and clean, shines through with power and clarity, which is particularly impressive considering the sore throat/cold he developed en route to the UK. Further, the band's collectively enthusiastic performance compensates for said sound problems, engendering, and matched by, an equally enthusiastic crowd response, perhaps at its most energetic during 'Third Immortal' which leads to the evening's first small pit. I am also impressed by the musical tightness of the seven musicians (packed ever so tightly onto the basement venue's small stage), and despite the bass bias in the mix, the richly melodic layers of Battlelore's music can still be heard (albeit muddy) and remain aurally engaging throughout. In a setlist that also includes airings of 'Exile the Daystar', 'The Great Gathering', 'House of Heroes', 'Sons of Riddermark', 'Journey to Undying Lands', and 'The Star of High Hope' (which I notice to be written as 'High Dope' on their setlist!), the Finns' time on stage seems all too short and, as the only support band tonight, it's a shame the evening didn't commence earlier to allow them a longer set. Still, sound problems aside, which are obviously out of the band's control, Battlelore utilise their time on stage well and genuinely look like they're having fun, reciprocating with each other and Rock City's audience to good effect, and I've never seen a keyboard player headbang so maniacally as Maria Honkanen! A mightily impressive performance.
Friday 25th September 2009
Rock City in Nottingham, UK
Tonight's headliners arrive onstage around half an hour after Battlelore vacate it, commencing their set against a background of bare brick, evidently touring without a backdrop, unlike the Middle Earth metallers. It's been a while since I last caught Finntroll live (Bloodstock 2007), and recall finding their performance that day musically engaging, although a little flat in terms of their stage presence as they seemingly lacked the enthusiastic essence that characterised the previous time I saw them at 2005's Thirteenth Day festival. Opening their set with 'Det iskalla trollblodet' ('The Ice-Cold Troll Blood'), sound through the PA, although far from perfect, is better than for Battlelore, and their onstage energy is thankfully how I remember them from 2005 (albeit with previous vocalist, Tapio Wilska, back then). 'Nedgång' ('Descent') swiftly follows, before an airing of earlier song 'Slaget vid blodsälv' ('The Battle of Bloodriver'), and so forms the pattern of tonight's setlist, one of contrasts between their trademark humppa metal, and the darker aesthetic prevalent in most recent studio album, 2007's 'Ur jordens djup'. Such variance works incredibly well. Rock City's basement venue, which is noticeably busier than for Battlelore, and now around three quarters full, erupts in jig-pit frenzy at each slab of humppa metal that bursts forth from the PA, and at its most chaotic during 'Trollhammaren', as frontman Mathias "Vreth" Lillmåns does a fine job in working the crowd. As impressive as Finntroll are as a live act, dare I say the night, at least for me, belongs to Battlelore.
Click on thumbnails for larger images:
Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
Click on thumbnails for larger images: