Wednesday 12th November 2014
Sound Control in Manchester, UK
Reviews by Salomé Sequeira; Photography by Mark Holmes
I had no idea how big folk and Viking influenced metal music was in England. This became pretty clear in Sound Control when the Eluveitie, Arkona and Skálmöld 2014 European tour hit Manchester. The night had an early start with what I would say was the biggest surprise of the night - Skálmöld. With their Viking style brought from Iceland, they didn’t take long to conquer the sold out venue. Those that were not there to see them soon approached the stage to witness what I would call the happiest band I’ve seen live. And don’t get me wrong, it was not a silly happiness; it was a band passing their heritage in their native language, with a lack of English lyrics that didn’t seem to affect the crowd. Everyone engaged with their universal sound; sometimes you don’t need to understand fully what is going on lyric-wise when you have the music demonstrating it. The chemistry between band members was evident, a flawless team, with the same goals and passion. A guitar player (Baldur Ragnarsson) with a stunning high pitched scream that blended perfectly with the surprisingly perfectly performed growl by the lead, Björgvin Sigurđsso (it easily became one of my live favorite growlers of the past few years). But the Skálmöld vocal versatility does not end here. It is quite rare to see a band with the entire line-up singing and even rarer when they are all extremely good. The band decided to leave one of the best songs close to the end of their 45 minutes set, and they were rewarded with a crowd in ecstasy after a choir-like passage, with all the members in perfect synchrony and harmony. I can only say good things about these guys; they had a massive smile on their faces the entire concert and so did I.
Click on thumbnails for larger images:
Eluveitie at Sound Control in Manchester, UK, 12th November 2014
Photograph copyright © 2014 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Arkona, already big in the scene, were one of the bands I was looking forward to watching for a few years now and I can only say that I got positively impressed by Maria Arkhipova’s live performance. This woman has absolute control over her voice, both on clean vocals and growling. She sounds absolutely stunning live. The band’s energy is something worth mentioning as well, they would not stop moving around; they even managed a really interesting ethnic dance on that really tiny stage. They are beasts! Really good ones, I must say! Unfortunately, and this is becoming something frequent, another live experience with a band that I was really looking forward to watching was ruined by the sound technician. It was really hard to understand what was going on with the instruments as everything was extremely distorted, and the only instrument you could have a decent listen to was the pipes. And the pipes were stunning. I will be waiting to watch Arkona as headliners in a venue compatible to their sound (or at least with a decent sound check).
The mood was beautifully set within the now extremely busy Sound Control. The almighty Eluveitie soon entered the stage to a very excited crowd. If I ever thought that the English crowd was not as warm as I am used to back in Portugal, I was clearly mistaken; in this land, it might be harder to conquer a crowd, but when you do, it’s because you really deserve it. And Eluveitie proved it when, on the third song 'King', a very spontaneous mosh-pit started and it was beautiful to see. The emotions were flowing and, for the first time, I saw a crowd extremely engaged in the most recent album from a band. 'Origins' seem to have conquered everyone. When you expect to have a warmer reaction to old hymns like 'Inis Mona' (it was really warm, don’t get me wrong!) you get surprised to the reaction that would come to songs as 'Sucellos', 'Inception' (with a beautiful wall of death!), 'The Silver Sister' and the 'The Call of the Mountains'... which, to my surprise, was sang in Swiss-German! A very warm Anna Murphy asked the crowd to choose between the album version and the Swiss-German one and I was one of the few asking for English! It is impressive how a band can move people to their origins.
Soon after, we got blessed with the beautiful 'Vianna', with Chrigel Glanzmann explaining the meaning of this beautiful song; one of the highlights of the night, the beautiful duet between Anna and Chrigel. Those two could not be better. This was not the only song introduced by our frontman as a couple of them started with his beautiful, almost whispery, rough voice, and it was just heart-melting. This man would be perfect to narrate a beautiful Celtic fairy tale. A well balanced set list, mainly focused on the new album, did not forget to include beautifully performed songs such as 'Thousandfold' (the crowd just loves this one); 'A Rose for Epona' which, in its beauty and clearly a ballad, was able to make a lot of people bang their head; and, of course, the timeless 'Helvetios' that brought all the emotions to an overwhelming need to see them perform again, very soon. Our frontman could not stop thanking Manchester and mentioning that if they do what they love it’s because of us, but Chrigel, I think we all agree - no, thank YOU!
Click on thumbnails for larger images: