29 February 2016

Review: Surprise Your Dead presents ENSIFERUM, Metsatöll and Hærken – O2 Institute, Birmingham: 24 February 2016

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Ensiferum

Ensiferum

ENSIFERUM lifts the spirits. Epic and rousing; it’s the sound for the journey to the battlefield or the tavern after the fight. It’s the sort of music that builds your confidence. Listen to it enough and you start to believe that you will win this battle, and if you don’t win, you’ll at the very least feel like you died a noble death. Like so much folk metal it creates a feeling of purpose, community and brotherhood. But before all that we have some wonderful support acts.

Hærken

Hærken

Like medieval knights of yore, HÆRKEN take to the stage with their banner raised high. The Birmingham Death Metal troupe comes in the form of a Baron, a Scot, a motley Fool and priestly Scribe with the promise of Metal, mirth and merriment. They deliver this in droves. Their mad and entertaining stage presence is backed up by a solid performance. It’s good to see a local act get a large and appreciative crowd, which they well deserve. A highlight of the night included the fast and heavy “One To Defend, One To Defeat”. Make sure you check out their debut album “Of Warriors And Kings” which is out now.

Metsatöll

Metsatöll

Proud Estonian folk metallers METSATÖLL join us on their 17th anniversary and Estonian Independence Day. They provide us with an education in traditional Baltic instruments with Lauri ‘Varulven’ (who incidentally speaks with the deepest voice I’ve ever heard) playing the torupill, flutes, kannel and mouth harp. Yes, you’ll have to google some of those later. They play an ostentatious and upbeat brand of folk – the sort of thing you can imagine getting lost in whilst sitting around an open fire, supping fine mead. Highlights included a love song to beer, “In The Bellies Of Barrels”, and the patriotic “This Is The Land”, both tracks from their 2014 album “Karjajuht”.

Finland’s ENSIFERUM hit the stage, war paint, leather and the sound of “March Of War”. This is followed closely by “Axe Of Judgement”. The crowd tonight will be treated to the majority of their latest album “One Man Army” which was released in 2015. The album certainly has its fans in the audience with everyone singing along to many of the choruses. All voices come together as one for “Heathen Horde”, a track that really lends itself to a good sing-along:

All heathen hearts,
Answer the call,
God of thunder bless our swords,
Our heathen horde,
Will never fall,
We are hungry for blood, steel and war.”

                                                (Heathen Horde – One Man Army, 2015)

Special mention has to be made of the enormously fun “Two Of Spades”; a crazy disco-esque tune about the life of a high roller.

Ensiferum

Ensiferum

The band don’t just stick to the new album though, playing tracks from their back catalogue including; “Treacherous Gods” from their eponymous first album, as well as “Twilight Tavern” and “From Afar” from their 2009 album of the same name.

I’m sure, like me, many in the crowd secretly believe they would have been a mighty warrior in a past life. ENSIFERUM’s music allows us to indulge in this fantasy. A make believe world where we don’t sit behind a desk all day. We have control over our destinies, all inadequacies forgotten. It is fair to say this was one of the best gigs I’ve been to in a while. All bands complemented one another perfectly with each of them nailing their performance, delivering top quality metal with a historical folk twist.

Review by Rebecca Collins

All images by Paul Thrupp. Check out the full photo gallery here.

Ensiferum

Ensiferum

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