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THYRFING, KALMAH & VORNA: JAN 12 – 14, 2017, FINNISH TOUR

(TAMPERE – KLUBI, TURKU – GONG 1, HELSINKI – NOSTURI)

Introduction and interruptions by Lady Enslain, full report by Annika.

[Immediately when I heard that Thyrfing and Kalmah were teaming up for an extended weekend tourney across the frozen flatlands of southern Finland, I thought – I need in on that!  And by the graces of the norse gods, I was granted a merching spot, and so I set forth on my wintry way early that Thursday morning to the airport to meet up with Thyrfing, who would be my van companions for the next few days.  But those same gods that put me there, also had a humor as bitter and brutal as the biting cold, which seesawed between plus and minus 1 degrees, creating dangerous road temperatures, and combining with atypically maelstromic winds, sought to sway our van every which way, were it not for the stalwart steering of our brave (yet terribly rattled) driver/TM, Iiro.  Despite the danger, I must say it was quite a sight to spectate; the swirling snow patterns majestically whisking across the highways, erratically, resembling ocean currents of misty condensation.  Too bad Iiro was so frazzled with keeping us alive that he couldn’t enjoy it quite like I did… and the sleep-deprived Swedes who’d flown their red-eye flights were out like lights before we could even notice.

We arrived unusually early to Tampere; early enough that the guys could powernap at their hotel while I began rummaging through their merch before soundcheck.  Thyrfing’s official Finnish tour shirt bore an uncanny resemblance to our road trip, as if it was predestined, and it was also a very cool gesture to make a design exclusively for a 3-day trek.  But before I began, a few of us shared a drink at the hotel, where me and the drummer Dennis [who also used to play for Raise Hell…] reminisced about his first trip to U.S.A., and how I got us arrested on his first night in the country, how we dined-and-ditched at Hooters for no apparent reason other than… we could, and about other sordid misdeeds in Vegas, D.C., Los Angeles, and everywhere. [Did I raise your interest yet?  Perhaps one day I’ll share this tangential story.]

 Now, customarily I’d tell the rest of the tale of this tour, but this time I’m going to leave the words to Annika, the diligent member of what we’ve dubbed the “Enslain FlaskForce,” who joined up with us in Tampere to help with the Enslaining and the merch; and, after I realized that our van had extra ass space in the front, I negotiated for her to come along for the remainder of the trip – thus, in honor of her first tour, here she goes!]

There’s no better way to start 2017 than a Finnish tour!  And touring with Thyrfing and Kalmah has definitely made my mid-January unforgettable.  The journey started in Tampere, we spent the second day in Turku and saved Helsinki for the final gig on Saturday.  After a bus ride and a visit to a local black metal record store [I couldn’t resist!] I headed to Klubi.

You could see from the very moment you got into the venue that the bands were doing a great job preparing for the first gig of the tour, and helping to count and set up the merchandise while Vorna and Kalmah had their soundcheck didn’t feel like a task at all; it was a pleasure!

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When the doors opened, though, I had to ask myself: why were there so few people?  Luckily more fans arrived after a while, and as soon as Vorna started playing I had to ask myself another question: how the hell is the vocalist’s voice so good?  His combination of excellent harsh vocals and the melodic intro was simply wonderful, and the growling matched perfectly to the heavier stuff as well.  The second song performed in Klubi was “Tie Varjoista,” the band’s new single which was released just a week before the tour and never played live before – how cool is that?  The single was noticeably more complex, and included heavier riffs.  It was clear that the band developed their musical style and added a darker feel to it, which created a delightfully grim atmosphere.

It was also at that moment that I realized that with Vorna singing in Finnish, Kalmah’s English lyrics [and undecipherable Northern Swampland Finnish välispiikki ~ed] and Thyrfing’s songs in Swedish, the night featured three bands each singing in different language; for a language freak like me, it was quite a fantastic discovery…!

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The next song Vorna played was “Lehväin Varjoon,” which was slower but just as eerie as the earlier part of the gig.  I’d say the song was slightly repetitive, but very far from boring!
The melancholic mood continued with melodic “Yksin” and its long, sorrowful intro.

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The venue became more crowded just before Kalmah’s showtime.  Their gig, which was beyond entertaining, kicked off with “Seventh Swamphony,” the title song from the band’s newest album from 2013. The contrast between Vorna’s dark, melancholic performance and Kalmah’s fast and incredibly energetic show was one of the best parts of the evening in Tampere.  I probably couldn’t have admired it more than at the moment when “12 Gauge” started.  To tell the truth, I couldn’t wait to hear this live!  The energetic and very rhythmic song manages to balance melodic and aggressive at the same time; the combination of insanely fast drumming and low growling vocals with intense melodic riffs had a wonderfully dramatic feel to it.

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The following songs (“The Black Waltz,” “Blind Leader” and “For the Revolution,” to name a few) created the further opportunity to appreciate how well Kalmah function not just as a band, but as a team.  Their energy and enthusiasm seemed to be everlasting at the gig!  Besides their interaction onstage, the band clearly appreciated the crowd, too.  It was palpable how much Pekka Kokko enjoyed talking to the Tampere audience!

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The songs I’d been listening to so many times before made an even better impression live.  The vocals, both main and backing, sounded significantly deeper and harsher live as well, which was a very positive thing.  Listening to the classic “Heroes to Us” with its wild riffs combined with powerful growling vocals was quite an experience.  Last came the unforgettable “Hades” from Kalmah’s debut; with its characteristic intro and furious vocals it wrapped up the gig in a classical, melodic way.

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This amazing show called for another beer – I mean for just as epic a continuation.  I was getting really impatient for Thyrfing, and their performance was worth waiting for!  One of the things I appreciate the most about their music is how their songs range from wicked-sounding, black metal cacophony to those heavily influenced by folk, like the first one on Thursday’s set, “Mjölner,” which is an excellent classic with a very strong folk feel to it.  Nothing could be better than admiring this rhythmic, punchy song and the band’s aesthetics at the same time.  Their corpse paint made an otherworldly, ‘Moonsorrowesque’ impression, and the backdrop and huge side banners with Norse motifs all over decorated the stage.

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Despite how it began, this viking metal mood didn’t conquer the entire show (even with “Sweoland the Conqueror” from one of the older albums.) Folk tunes didn’t overshadow the songs from the newer, more sinister albums which soon haunted the stage.  One of these was the grim masterpiece “Far Åt Helvete,” ending with a haunting chorus chanted in Latin at the very end.  Frontman Jens Rydén masterfully created a dark atmosphere with his menacing growls and demonic wails.  His dramatic gestures, insane energy and beyond impressive showmanship were simply brilliant throughout the gig!

The show’s overall ambiance couldn’t be described in other words than mind-blowing to the very last songs.  When “Kaos Aterkomst” ended, the crowd’s enthusiasm made it clear how positive the audience’s response had been.

[Clearly also the bands were in high spirits on this exceptional evening, as, despite the long journeys in the wicked weather we all withstood, nearly the entire tour brigade was in full force for afterpartying and getting to know one another the Nordic way – through the lens of a bottle.  Vorna, being mostly locals to Tampere, regrettably had to depart early, as some of the lads had to work that Friday morning.  But the rest of us most definitely consumed their share of liquid hangover, and silliness ensued!  It made me wonder why Kalmah doesn’t hit the road more often these days, with their last tour having been in 2013… They really seem to enjoy the party life!  After very little sleep, an emptying of the minibar [sorry! and thanks! but mostly sorry!] and quite many of us too zombified to awake to our hotel breakfast alarm, we sallied forth to Åbo for round two. ~ed]

Such a beginning of the tour was very promising and left me extremely curious for the remaining two shows.   It was my first time going to Gong in Turku [the venue that used to be called Klubi], and it didn’t look like a very entertaining place initially – I couldn’t really imagine a gig going on there, and impatient fans began entering the more and more crowded club.  I couldn’t have been more wrong though… It was quite a surprise (a good one!) to see hordes of people flooding into the venue as soon as the doors were open.  [And it was particularly remarkable for so many Turkusians to arrive already for the opening act! ~ed]

Gig-goers needed their time to get more excited about the concert, since the first song by Vorna definitely had a calmer and quieter audience… it wasn’t until the band’s second song that the crowd really got into the spirit, and the chanting, clapping and headbanging started.  Such a reaction during the evening’s first concert was promising, and seeing fellow metalheads getting more and more excited after every new song was nothing surprising! [And resultingly, you could see the glowing pride on the Vorna guys’ faces, both on stage and afterwards, really soaking up the energy of the roaringly appreciative audience.  I felt shivers from the gratification and delight the band exuded!  I really don’t think they saw that coming at all.  And their merch sales spoke the same story – we found ourselves “battling” over shirts sold between the three bands, and Vorna was outperforming the others for quite some time! ~ed]

As the next bands appeared onstage, Gong’s audience cheered even louder.
Kalmah’s bold and bombastic music couldn’t just stay unnoticed!  I’d even say that the Turku show had a more dramatic mood than the night before.  Thyrfing’s part of the Friday night was memorable as well.  With its very sinister, thicker sound, my post-gig impressions were definitely more than just positive!  [Curiously, though, while the first two acts played in front of a packed room, you could see that the audience had dwindled to a fraction by halfway through Thyrfing’s set, and it was thoroughly unwarranted and perplexing. ~ed]

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While the placement of the merch stand in Tampere’s Klubi made it possible to watch the merchandise and see the bands playing at the same time (awesome, huh?), Turku, on the other hand, forced us to be more creative.  At Gong, the main stage was up the stairs and around the corner from the merch stand, and we needed to take turns in watching the gig and making sure that our stuff was safe and sound, and customers attended to.  We were lucky enough to have company and enjoyed conversations that sometimes even made sense.  (We were also opening a beer using a chair and a roll of duct tape.)  As a result, we found ourselves overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time, and did some mathematics while converting shots into a whole pint of vodka (let that sink in and imagine a pint full of vodka for hell’s sake.) [and Googling about this made us learn two important things: one, something about jiggers.  Two, this pint would cost approximately 150€ at the bar!  But, how cool would that be!! ~ed]

More mathematics had been done during breaks between the bands.  When selling merchandise we’d actually been mistaken for an ATM [by a belligerent Finnish “lady” with a crackwhore voice ~ed] and my phone was saved probably only by a miracle when a glass crashed exactly in the same place where the phone had been loading just seconds earlier.  The glass obviously didn’t crash itself; an extremely angry and unruly gig-goer who had definitely downed a few glasses beforehand smashed it on the floor and was quite physically escorted – or rather, carried – out of the venue never to be seen again that evening (which was relieving if you ask me).

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Quite fortunately the crowd in Helsinki was better-behaved (and definitely more generous at the merch stall!).  The last day of the tour was an evening to remember… With a huge crowd in Nosturi, more energy onstage than ever and an afterparty [courtesy of Enslain] that could only be called epic, Saturday was the right way to end such a journey!

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Shortly after the gig we found ourselves in a group of absolutely awesome people, most of whom we’ve accompanied during this unforgettable tour. Armed with countless amounts of beer we could already tell the evening would be a very good one!

As we’ve found out quite soon after, not only was there beer everywhere at the party.  Thanks to our Swedish company, snus was omnipresent too. And bright pink sticky notes with silly names on them, thanks to… whoever it was, this remains a mystery.