It’s the mid-term season for many of us, which means hours of studying and no social life. So, you can imagine the pure joy I felt as I stepped outside my home to go somewhere other than school or the library. And that somewhere just happened Club Soda where pure mayhem was about to be unleashed. On the bill, Sarah Longfield, Ne Obliviscaris, and the mighty Wintersun, back for the second time in five years. I extremely pleased to hear some new music and also to finally realized they had released a new album. The other two acts were unknown to me, so I was also in for a surprise. As I braved the streets of Montreal and approached Club Soda, I could already feel the pressure of metal on my back. This one was definitely going to be remembered for a long time.
Right from the beginning, there was a solid crowd at the Club Soda, rare for such an early first act. But the metal heads were present and cheered on as Sarah Longfield took the stage with two other musicians who would hold down the rhythm section. The first song started and I immediately realized two things. First; this was going to be instrumental and second; Sarah Longfield plays her guitar in a very technical way. I’m often harsh on instrumental bands because I consider the vocals extremely important when it comes to making the act itself interesting. I’m guessing Sarah traded her voice for insane guitar skills because that it was I witnessed. It’s hard to really put a finger on her genre, which is a good thing actually. Her sound is unique, at some times sounding heavy and other times almost sounding electronic. A strange pick for such a heavy lineup you might say, but to see her play was pure pleasure and the metalheads cheered on. It was a great way to start the night and warm up the crowd for what was to come.
Up next, Ne Obliviscaris. I can usually tell a band has a solid fan base when the audience reacts to the songs. When the band announces a song and you hear words (or screams) of happiness, that’s a clear sign that the band is doing alright. This was the case for these guys. I was surprised to see two male singers on stage, something I had not seen before. Xen, the dark and silent one, had a tight grip on harsh vocals and growls while Tim Charles sang clean vocals and, get this, played the violin. I was blown away seeing a violin in such a heavy band. Mind you, I am aware that this has been done before, but the effortless blend of classical music and death metal was incredible to hear. I enjoyed the complexity of their compositions but must admit having gotten tired of the ongoing double bass drums. Again, I am aware that this is typical of the genre, but that’s just my taste. Halfway through the show, the sense of community had started to take whole of the audience. It’s an interesting phenomenon, seeing it happen. In a matter of minutes, a crowd of over a hundred people went from being individuals to grabbing each other’s shoulders and raising their mugs while chanting a lot of “Hey(s)!” The members of Ne Obliviscaris also did a tremendous job in keeping the audience occupied. I think they knew they had fans here the moment they took the stage because I immediately felt that they were at ease.
It was time for the main act to take the stage. First came in Kai Hato, who probably has the best cardio in the world, seeing as he never stops drumming. Already the people cheered. Next came guitarist Teemu Mäntysaari and bassist Jukka Koskinen. A backing track started and in came Jari Mäenpää, now only a singer on live shows. They immediately started playing “Awaken From The Dark Slumber (Spring),” hot off their latest album The Forest Seasons. In front of a sea of black t-shirts and long hair, Wintersun were the kings. I think what makes the music so appealing to even me, someone who listens to less and less extreme genres as time goes by, is the melodies. Metal, in general, is known to play with the vivid imaginations of its fans. Mix that in with epic melodies that could be playing while you fight off a dragon with Jari’s mystic writing and you got yourself a formula that will make people go wild. And wild they went, running in circles and bashing into each other with such joy. The chanting of “Hey(s)” and “Ooooh(s)” continued as they played classics and new songs alike. I jumped with joy when they played “Sons of Winter and Stars,” a song I remembered from 2013, back when I was but only 17 years old. Now, five years later, I could truly appreciate the complexity of the music and the sense of community bands like these create. The show ended after the encore we all wanted: “Time.” This is the definitive Wintersun song. Everything about it is epic and if you’ve never listened to it I highly suggest you do that once your done reading this article! The crowd erupted one more time for Wintersun and after a good five minutes of farewells, the band departed and everyone shed a tear.
This was definitely a night to remember and I feel sorry if you weren’t there! Sarah Longfield, Ne Obliviscaris and Wintersun all played some of tightest sets I have ever seen, all with much passion. As I walked out of the venue, the line to the merchandise table was full, another clear sign that the show was a great success. Metal brings people together and I truly witnessed it once more, under the banner of Wintersun.
Written by Johnathan Robinson
Photography by Michael Kovacs
*edited by Danielle Kenedy