Kreator is currently touring with Lamb Of God as support, but they managed to slot in two UK headline shows, one in Leeds and the other in Brighton on the 11th of March, which I was fortunate to attend. To make the occasion even more unique, this was the first time the German Thrash veterans have played in Brighton, and to top it off, they played a special deep cuts set list, especially for these two shows. The CHALK venue is a small intimate venue; you wouldn’t expect a band of their calibre to play here, which added to the rare thrash metal spectacle.
January 20, 2023 we in Tampere, Finland were lucky enough to catch not only the first show of an epic European tour, but also the first ones to hear Katatonia‘s much anticipated 13th full-length albumSky Void of Starslive, on its release day! Pakkahuone was sold out long before the gig in Helsinki, although that too was eventually a sold out show.
Hailing all the way from across the pond, SOM from the US opened the night with a flurry of ethereal doom-pop-shoe-gaze sounds emanating from a smoke clad stage. It felt as if their sound pulled those still trickling in slowly forward as if on a string. Their sound and presence gave me similar vibes to Hangmans Chair…. but replace the grit and grime with fluffy clouds and you get SOM. Hangmans Chair meets Deftones.
Next up was Icelandic cowboys of metal Sólstafir. Although it has been over two years since their last release, it was still fresh and new to see live. We all know why. Their gig flew far beyond my expectations. I could never have imagined such an attention grabbing, spectacle of a show after years of listening to their music. It was intriguing to see how all the members have their own style and pace on stage, yet it all blends together seamlessly. At times it felt as natural as if watching them during a jam session in someones garage. Sæþór with his chiller than chill guitar playing in the shadows, to Aðalbjörn’s most eccentric front man agility, there was not one single dull moment. They also had a special (local?) guest come on stage to play the saxophone live.
Katatonia was another first for me. It was really astonishing how all three bands had a totally different sound and stage presence yet they fit together in one lineup. Katatonia was more of a performance. All the members flowed together on the same page, not as if over rehearsed but just incredibly in sync and with the same level of passion. That dry Swedish stage humor that is becoming more and more familiar to me was hidden a bit under, maybe nerves, of playing all this new material for the first time, but it was there. Jonas’s vocals have such unimaginable soul and yet a subtle flare of eccentric charisma (fueled by his walking around the stage as if arguing with himself, and classy wine glass). The backing vocals also added a beautiful undercurrent of raw emotion that the recorded versions of these songs just couldn’t portrey. It was an honor to be the first to see these new songs live, and a real pleasure to finally be able to hear a few old classics live (not to mention to achieve the impossible of photographing Mr. Renkse’s face on stage!)
Talvihelvetti, the winter sister of Saarihelvetti summer festival that takes place on Viikinsaari, an Island in a lake in Tampere, Finland. This year, Talvihelvetti was a heaping warm bowl of comfort food for the ears and eyes. Bands we know, love and cant get enough of. A metal extension to the comfort of the holidays, or the finale some look forward to, to get through the noxious and relentless jingles and cheer.
Although the lineup was traditional for the Tampere metal fest scene, all the bands had a pleasant mix of new and old. Aside from Brymir being the band with the most recent album release, and the excitement of seeing their new songs live, Fear of Domination brought back their glow paint along with a tweaked live setup to accommodate their missing drummer. Finntroll also put a new spin on their live set up with new stage gear, including an epic smoking ram skull. Both Detset and Mors Subita brought the energy from the summer festivals indoors, and played a surprisingly genuine and enthralling set as well. Most memorable moments personally was how cozy Brymir’s set was, maybe it was being home after their long European tour that made them give off such a friendly familiar vibe, as if we were all just hanging out in their living room (not to mention throwing fish into the mosh pit), and the crowd during Finntroll. Not only was it the first time I’ve experienced the “rowing” trend happen at an indoor gig, the whole audience seemed to partake in that or mosh pits at some point. It was a different feeling of coziness, even in the larger space of the venue.
Finnish Love Metal pioneer, Ville Valo (VV) of HIM, will release his debut solo album, ‘Neon Noir’ on January 13th via Heartagram Records, distributed by UMG/ Spinefarm. HIM disbanded in 2017, and as a huge fan of theirs, I was heartbroken, so I was very excited about Ville’s debut album. Fortunately for us HIM fans, this is the perfect bridge between HIM and Ville’s new era of music. We got a taste of Ville’s solo work in 2020 under the VV banner with the EP ‘Gothica Fennica Vol. 1’, which included three Neon Noir tracks. The three previously released songs are also some of the best and most quintessentially HIM-sounding offerings, and hearing the rest of the album, they fit perfectly with the tone and mood.
December 17, 2022 Shape of Despair and Counting Hours played an iconic gig at Olympia Kortteli in Tampere, Finland.
Counting Hours warmed the night up, or chilled it down with pounding melodic doom. Followed by an intense 2 hours of funeral doom, including Shape of Despair’s newest releaseReturn to the Voidin its entirety, plus an array of songs from their earlier albums. It was the perfect way to welcome the darkest week of the year.
October 19, 2022, Paradise Lost and Hangman’s Chair filled Pakkahuone in Tampere, Finland with the most resonating performance I’ve ever witnessed at that venue both sonically and viscerally.
Initially the gig was planned for the smaller “club” sized part of the building, but after weeks of the gig being sold out, hours before doors they announced they would move to the larger hall, opening up more tickets. It was 110% the right decision, in my opinion. Of course, the intimacy of Klubi can enhance many things when bands such as these play, it would have definitely been a completely different gig had it been kept there. However, both of these bands have such a deep, powerful sound I feel the space of Pakkahuone allowed their sound and atmosphere to expand to is full potential.
Hangman’s Chair blew me away during the first chords struck. Their sound and presence were literally and unexpectedly breathtaking. There was one audience member standing in the middle of the crowd just listening with his eyes closed, I joined him for a few seconds and yes, without sight, you could feel the music and energy in your bones. Hangman’s Chair have probably been the most energetic and raw band to fit into the “doom”genre that I have seen live. It’s pretty unique and intriguing how diverse the “doom” genre, sound and aesthetic has become. I look forward to seeing them again with Igorr in the spring.
Paradise Lost played an equally spectacular gig. Their set flowed elegantly between old and new songs, across their diverse discography of genres and vibes. The bands stage presence was chameleon-like in adapting and flowing along with the varying sounds and atmosphere of the music. Not taking themselves too seriously, they (specifically Nick Holmes) gave of a slight Type-O/Pete Steele sarcastic vibe, which, by the count of Type-O logos spotted in the audience, was just perfect. They seem to really know their fans, what they want to hear, what atmosphere to bring to the stage… would definitely love to see them again.
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