Last week's concert at Station Four in Saint Paul was one of my most-anticipated this year. The Finnish Metal Tour (technically Finn Metal Tour II) featured a couple of huge names that I'd never been able to see live before, so it seemed like a golden opportunity to finally see a couple of my favorite Finnish bands in action.
Despite the usual highly disorganized nature or Station Four (I, among others, was not on the guest list), the concert went off very well. There was a very big turnout and the floor space was packed, especially for the last couple of acts. The regular bill was supplemented by local heavy/folk metal band Minos, a mainstay of the local scene. With five bands on the bill, the show drove late into the night.
Minos are a local band from Rochester, MN who play fairly regularly in and around the Twin Cities. Hailed as folk metal, most of their material falls upon my ears as more traditional heavy metal with some Scandinavian folk-inspired melodies and themes. Whatever they may be, they always put on an enjoyable show, and this night was no exception. On top of pumping the crowd up for the following acts that night, Minos were so kind as to allow us an interview that evening, conducted by SpaceKev. Promoting their upcoming debut release, Minos were the obvious choice for an energetic and noteworthy band that enjoys stolid support from the locals.
Barren Earth's debut release Curse Of The Red River was one of the best surprises that I got in 2010. Melodic death metal has rarely, if ever, been written and performed so professionally and fluidly. Live as well as on the cd, Barren Earth convey an utter mastery of the music that they play: I was surprised by just how true to their studio recording their set was. Though they were the opening Finnish band on the bill, don't forget that this is essentially a melo-death supergroup. They showed up some of their cohorts in terms of sound and attitude and gave a resoundingly excellent show. If they had technical troubles earlier on their tour, there was no sign of it in Saint Paul.
It's no secret that I don't like grindcore, but I also love Finnish metal. Therefore, I have to say that Rotten Sound are probably one of the best (of the few, as well) grindcore bands that I've heard. I'm not too well qualified to judge the quality of this band live, but I think they weren't well known. Many people asked why they weren't the opening act instead of the better known and acclaimed Barren Earth. Whatever else they may or may not be, they did whip the crowd into quite a frenzy.
The first of the two really big names on the bill, Ensiferum is a band that I've wanted to see live for quite some time, but have always had an interference. In my opinion, Ensiferum put on the best live show through sheer energy and attitude. While frontman Petri Lindroos presents a very intense and formidable presence on stage, his cohorts Markus and Sami ensured that the audience enjoyed a highly interactive and rollicking good time. The sheer constant energy that Ensiferum pumped out was unmatched by any other band. The instrumental breaks and a cappella sections were forged into sing-alongs by the crowd, and the chorus to "Twilight Tavern" was nothing short of thunderous. With the fans worked into such a fervor, the venue had to open the double doors at the back of the hall and use fans to blow in the frigid -20 degree air to cool everyone off.
The final act, the much-awaited and highly anticipated Finntroll, somehow felt a little bit lacking after Ensiferum's. Perhaps it was I forged my way to the front and was promptly slammed by moshers during "Solsagan", or perhaps it was because of the lack of copious amounts of fog, but the energy and sound just weren't quite so crisp. This isn't to say that Finntroll put on a subpar show whatsoever. It was extremely enjoyable to see Nifelvind played live in (almost) its entirety, and I was impressed with the live musicianship and aggressive attitude of the band. The end of the show was ideal, and Finntroll were certainly the band to do it. Ensiferum would have left the crowd in a frenzy, but lacking a certain closure. The slightly less intense Finntroll ensured that everyone had a chance to cool down, enjoy some quality trollish tunes, and go home happy.
The Finns were just as good as I wanted them to be, and Barren Earth and Ensiferum exceeded my expectations by a fair margin. Folk metal continues to become a stronger niche for me and will probably gain a little more attention at Black Wind in coming days. If you saw the Finns on tour, you know precisely how great the experience was. If you haven't had an opportunity to see any of these bands yet, they've been coming around with relative frequency (about once a year and a half or so), and you owe it to yourself to catch them the next time around!