Have you ever seen a concert so brilliant that you leave wondering if you’ll ever enjoy anything as much? That is exactly what happened to me last Sunday, May 10th when I left the Rickshaw Theatre in Vancouver after treating myself to some über-heavy Viking metal courtesy of Ensiferum, with a side of Korpiklaani, and TrollfesT.
Clad in lab coats, odd glasses, and shiny things, TrollfesT came out to kick off the evening with “Kaptein Kaos.” They played without their high-energy tambourine player, but except for the crazy dancing and some cowbells missing here and there, it did not affect their performance one iota. There is something beautiful about seeing a packed room singing along shamelessly to a cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” dancing at a band’s command, and barking along to a catchy song like “Helvetes Hunded Garm.” Thanks to the Norwegian trolls’ colorful delivery, all of these things happened on Sunday.
Perfectly warmed up after TrollfesT, the crowd welcomed Korpiklaani excitedly. Starting with “Viinamäen Mies,” the first song off their latest album Noita, Korpiklaani crafted an unforgettable experience for all. With the metal humppa unit of violinist Tuomas Rounakari and accordionist Sami Perttula now at the forefront of the new songs, Korpiklaani is in a league of its own. The 90-minute set included many new songs like “Lempo,” “Pilli On Pajusta Tehty,” and “Sahti,” and multiple classics such as “Vodka,” “Rauta,” and “Ruumiinmultaa.”
The band had everything; high energy, the perfect mix of folk and metal, joiking, bass lines you could feel so deep in your chest they changed the rhythm of your heart, lighting that set the mood perfectly, heavy riffs, “lai lai lais,” “hei hei heis,” “iske iske iskes,” and a truly impeccable performance from all six members of the band.
Under any other circumstances, nobody would have been able to follow Korpiklaani and come out on top. This tour, however, is no ordinary tour because Korpiklaani is followed by no ordinary band. On this tour, Korpiklaani is followed by the nec plus ultra of folk metal. On this tour, Korpiklaani makes way for Ensiferum.
The sound of their instrumental masterpiece “March of War” echoed in the stuffy venue, and the crowd lost its collective marbles. Janne Parviainen walked on stage and the sound of people cheering was deafening. One by one, the members of the epic folk metal band took their respective spots, including the world class accordionist and ex-Turisas member Netta Skog, who has been replacing keybaordist Emmi Silvennoinen on the North American tour.
Mere seconds after the introduction music stopped, the band launched a brutal sonic assault on the crowd with “Axe of Judgment,” the second song off Ensiferum’s latest album One Man Army. Never in my life had I seen a crowd so eager to punish the front row. The space previously occupied by one person was occupied by three. Three songs into the set, the people in the front row were battered, bruised, sweaty, reddened, and grinning from ear to ear. They might not have been able to breathe, but Ensiferum was putting the best damn show they had ever seen.
Ensiferum has been going at it hard since 1995, and it showed in every second of their performance. Even with Skog as a temporary member, their act was seamless. Every interaction was calculated brilliantly, from founder and guitar player Markus Toivonen and Netta Skog leaning against one another in the center of the stage, to Sami Hinkka’s undeniable charisma, to front man and Finnish metal legend Petri Lindroos’ general excellence, they had the spectators in a frenzy.
They played some new songs such as “One Man Army,” “Heathen Horde,” and “Two of Spades,” some older songs like “From Afar” and the crowd pleasing “Ahti,” and even treated the crowd to some pre-Lindroos gems such as “Little Dreamer” and “Into Battle,” ending their hour and a half set with “Iron.”
Ensiferum proved that they are worthy of the praises that are constantly showered onto them, and the quintet’s performance at the Rickshaw Theatre brought tears to my eyes. There is something in the contrast between Toivonen’s captivating melodic voice and Lindroos’ powerful growls, the heavy riffs, the high-pitched solos, Netta Skog in the flesh, the breathtaking bass in “Burning Leaves,” and the way Janne Parviainen plays the drums so effortlessly that plucked at my heart strings and shook me to my core.
On a bleak Mother’s Day, I found comfort in TrollfesT, Korpiklaani, and Ensiferum like never before. I found out that Korpiklaani can still improve and surprise me, that my voice can still be hoarse three days after a gig for singing so loud, that I will never ever tire of hearing “Smoking Ruins”, and that accordions are, in fact, metal as fuck.
Written and Photographed by Kai Robidas