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Ensiferum

Thor’s African Safari

by Devon Straticzuk, images by Simeon Simeonov / 12.11.2010

“What band is this?“, asks a voice to my left. “Warthane“, I reply with a bit of a shout – I forgot how loud you have to be at these events. It is late afternoon at the Black Dahlia in Boksburg and the place is packed to the rafters. It’s hot and sweaty and I’m literally choking from the air I’m breathing in. None of what I just pointed out seems to be bothering the many Warthane fans in front of the stage however. I had spent the first couple of bands fooling around so I didn’t really pay attention and earlier, after being evicted from our seats by Sathern – so they could set up that massive drum kit – I wasn’t in the mood for their mediocre music hammering against my eardrums, anyway. Not that I’m much of a Warthane fan either, but I was interested to see how Warthane would get on after losing their guitarist Nazar Berezovsky – who passed away in a tragic car accident last month – and as always they put on a good show. It was full of energy and Sean Gouws (the front man) does know how to get the crowd going. Although, at times it looks like he’s about to make sweet love to his instrument. Which is cool, I mean, whatever works. I’m still not a huge fan of the band’s music though.

After Warthane, Strident took to the stage with what I thought was the best performance of the night, besides Ensiferum. Obviously. “Epic South African Power Metal” is what it says under “genre” on their Facebook page and that’s what they are. Epic. Three guitars on one stage and not much ego floating about. Fast, energetic music with no compromise of melody whatsoever. Those duel solo’s tend to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Not forgetting the vocals of course, which are still ringing in my ears as I type this out. Maybe it was the whiskey but the best element for me was that you could see they were having just as much fun as their many fans in the crowd, and that’s what more metal bands should be aiming for – I reckon – have fun instead of being so serious all the time.

Agro were up next and I don’t have much to report on their set mostly due to the fact that I lost interest after what’s his face told the crowd that metalcore is the new punk and that it all sucks because it isn’t true metal. This coming from the band that had just slaughtered “Holy Diver“ by Dio. Not true metal? What kind of statement is that? It’s all friggen metal. Basically what I saw were a bunch of mostly overweight, old men trying to re-live the glory days, if there were any? They did dedicate a song to Nazar though, which was a notable gesture.

Ensiferum

Much to my relief All Forlorn were soon onstage and I like this band simply because they are unrelenting, there is not a moment to catch your breath except for those brief moments between songs. Tom Hughes is undeniably one of the better drummers we have in this country and he adds that punch to the chest behind the heavy but precise guitars. The vocalist, Wade Sadler, was new for me; he was super energetic, almost to the point of jumping in with the crowd. After All Forlorn I decided to get some air and then wait in the huge clump of people at the bar for a drink, which meant that I missed most of Riddare Av Koden’s set. Great new name, but from what I heard I don’t like them anymore than I did when they were “Elegy”. It’s not that they are horrible musicians but they aren’t great musicians either and as a whole, I think it shows in the overall finished product. But again, maybe it was the whiskey.

After Riddare Av Koden had finished up I decided it was time to start pushing my way to the front of the crowd, which I managed with considerable ease, joining a couple friends right in the front.
After a quick sound check by Ensiferums crew and much chanting from all of us, on came four men and a girl, shirtless and painted with face paint. Well not the girl, sadly. They were finally on stage and into their first song.

Ensiferum are a melodic folk metal band from Finland and are made up of Petri Lindroos and Markus Toivonen on guitars, bassist Sami Hinkka, Janne Parviainen on drums and Emmi Silvennoinen on the keyboard with all the members doing vocals with the exception of the drummer. I’d only ever heard Ensiferum a few days earlier and had really enjoyed what I did hear and I was enjoying what was right in front of me even more and, judging by the pushing and shoving, I wasn’t the only one either. “Scream for me South Africa !”, and we scream. Petri replies, “That was pretty good but I know you can do better than that, let me hear you!”, and again and again we try. “That last one was worse than the one before, again!”, and again we scream, mercifully this time he was satisfied and they start off again.

This band is amazing to watch live, not one chord wrong, not one word sung out of key, song after song after song. But what would you expect from a band that’s been going since 1995 and toured all over the world? You expect them to be amazing and anything less would just be disappointing. The bassist, Sami Hinkka, was the highlight for me. Not just because he looks like a Viking but because he feeds off everyone in the crowd. Going in for high fives, getting us to chant along to songs and making us part of the show. Petri Lindroos is an incredible guitarist with a mean voice to match. He had this sort of look where he puts his leg up on the monitor and just stares at the crowd and you know he’s thinking “hell yeah, I am a metal god!”. They had a nice long set, and by the end of it all I was exhausted and some late night McDonalds was in order. All in all a good night and money well spent. The only down side was the three days of ringing in my right ear.

Ensiferum

*All images © Simeon Simeonov.

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