Kiuas

support Metsatöll + Celesty
author GR date 26/10/10 venue Underworld, London, UK

It seems power metal gigs are like buses, to use a tired and clichéd phrase. The 'Spinefarm Boneshakers 2010' tour hit Camden, making it the third notable show based (mainly) around the aforementioned genre to visit London over a month or so. This time around the bands were lesser known, the venue much smaller and the expected turnout a lot lower, despite a wallet-friendly ticket price (something not to be sniffed at in these days of expensive package tours). Still, we all know popularity doesn't necessarily reflect quality and so it was that I headed to the Underworld with expectations of an enjoyable show. Finding the main doors shut and the fire exit entrance in operation indicated that ticket sales had been even lower than I envisaged, but there was no time to ponder such things as the strains of the opening band could already be heard.

Celesty

Opening the evening was Celesty, one of those bands whose name I'd been familiar with but whose music had never passed my ears - and the only band on the bill that I hadn't seen live before. I'd learnt from a friend prior to the gig that Celesty had taken on a new vocalist earlier in the year, after previous mainman and song-writer Antti Railio quit, and an internet search also reveals the departure of rhythm guitarist Tapani Kangas in the summer. Whilst not making a difference to me given my lack of prior knowledge, these changes probably had established fans wondering about the impact on the band's sound and performance quality. I'm unable to contrast of course, but in terms of ability there should be no complaints, as singer Tony Turunen (brother of ex-Nightwish frontwoman Tarja) displayed a perfectly fine power metal voice and the other members the kind of tight melodic backing expected from such an outfit.

Overall, Celesty didn't overly impress me during the 45 or so minutes I caught of their set. They were by no means bad though, and the opening slot is never an easy one for a band to really show off in. With the Underworld's dingy space being mostly empty - and those of us there remaining largely unenthusiastic - the atmosphere for a great performance was going to be hard to muster. The lack of energy in the crowd was generally reflected onstage too (or should it be the other way around?) as the band members put on what could be described as a low-key show. Not knowing their back catalogue I can't comment on the setlist but it has to be said that the tracks played in latter part of their set had a much more interesting and enjoyable dark and epic feel to them, with keyboard orchestration playing a bigger role in the sound. Celesty are a decent band and have a good reputation amongst fans of the genre, but tonight's show was a fairly standard affair.

6

Metsatöll

I'd seen Estonian folk metal band Metsatöll on one previous occasion, supporting Ensiferum just over a year ago, an appearance which made them the band I was most interested in seeing on this 3 way bill. They combine heavy metal with traditional Estonian folk instrumentation and lyrics sung in their native language, providing an authentic take on a sound very much in vogue these last few years. Taking to the stage with nothing more than "We're Metsatöll, you've probably not seen us before, so let's get on with it", the band embarked on an effective, if unspectacular, show that matched their earthy nature.

By this point a few more people had populated the venue but the overall turnout would still be described as 'disappointing' - although the enthusiasm level did manage to rise a notch, mainly thanks to a group behind me I can only assume were Metsatöll's countrymen given their singing along. For a band used to attracting large crowds in their homeland, Metsatöll didn't seem fazed by the small audience in front of them and blustered through a selection of their back catalogue with little fuss. The band members were not necessarily any more energetic than Celesty had been, but this didn't affect my enjoyment of the performance to the same degree - mainly because I found the music itself intrinsically more interesting. Added to this fact was multi-instrumentalist Lauri Õunapuu's use of various pipes, flutes, whistles and random stringed items, which as well as providing the catchy driving force behind many of the songs also brought a visual spectacle. Not owning any of their records, the song titles were lost to the night but through the pounding rhythms and ancient chanting, via frontman Markus Teeäär's chipmunk-like grin to the once again impressive band-wide vocal culmination, I was left suitably entertained given the circumstances.

7

Kiuas

After a short wait and a final trip to the bar, the night's headliners, Finnish fivesome Kiuas, took to the stage. The most immediately noticeable thing about the band was unfortunately a pretty terrible sound mix, with guitars practically non-existent and the overall power of what was probably meant to be an explosive opener somewhat dampened. As is the way, these issues were gradually sorted out by some equipment fiddling and Mr Soundman, allowing the band to blast out their distinctive power metal in full for the rest of the evening. The other notable factor that quickly became clear was the increased stage presence of Kiuas compared to what had come before - the billing order had definitely been put together correctly.

As with the other bands, I wasn't particularly familiar with Kiuas' recorded output but this didn't really matter as the catchy numbers were belted out with energy and flair, particularly by frontman Ilja Jalkanen. With long dreadlocks that he wasn't afraid of flinging around and a natural knack for performing, he provided much of the band's focus throughout the set. I'd only seen the band on a couple of previous occasions, the last being in the early hours at Hammerfest 2009. Coming at the end of a day of drinking, my memory of that particular performance is hazy to say the least but I did remember Jalkanen having some amusing stage banter and this was again the case as he got us chuckling between songs.

One thing I noted about a number of the songs played was that the structure and rhythm were rather similar, giving a feeling of having heard the track before even though it was new on me. This could easily lead to boredom on an album, but in the live environment it wasn't a major concern. Though the audience was still small, the band rocked out well and some memorable moments were had. A couple of rogue stage-divers launched themselves into an unprepared cluster who only minimally cushioned their trip to the floor, much to the amusement of us not in the diving line. When the night was coming to a close, after the likes of "Warrior Soul" had been played, Kiuas emerged for an encore that saw guitarist Mikko Salovaara take a walk through the crowd for a blazing guitar solo and an (English) uber-fan getting up on stage to sing a section of lyrics in Finnish and get the place bouncing along with Jalkanen. All in all it added up to an enjoyable finish to a night that turned out to be the last gig with this Kiuas line-up - frontman Jalkanen announced his departure from the band the very next day!

Photos by Nikki Ryan

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