by Jason Hraynyk
The area near the corner of Broadview and Queen Street in Toronto turned into a pagan heaven on on August 30th as Finnish band KORPIKLAANI brought their 2012 Manala Tour to North America. With three other bands in tow, the clans came in droves to celebrate and they certainly were not disappointed.
On the heals of the bands recent release Manala via Nuclear Blast, it was evident from the moment anyone stepped inside The Opera House that this was going to be a party. It was an eye opening mix of casual music lovers and die hard fans in past and present tour shirts from all bands on the bill (METSATÖLL, TÝR, MOONSORROW and Korpiklaani). Amongst the crowd, many with beer cup in hand, there was a vast divide in age from youngsters not far into double digits on the age scale, to “elders” if we are playing the pagan card. At any given metal gig it isn’t quite the norm to see the dress code include casual office attire, but this night was different and it didn’t matter as fully kilted pagan lovers mixed mingled and polka’d side by side. It was also evident that it was not only Korpiklaani who were the nights draw. A short but lively set by Estonia’s Metsatöll warmed up the crowd and started the amber nectar flowing with their folk metal featuring flutes, torupill (Estonian bagpipes) along with other traditional instruments. Sung in the old Estonian language, much of the band’s topical content is based on the wars for independence of the 13th and 14th centuries. Up next were Týr from the Faroe Islands who brought crusade like rhythms along with pumelling riffs and strong harmonious vocals. The crowd was quickly pulled into battle cries, chants and sing alongs with pumping fists held high. Stand outs included ‘Tróndur í Gøtu’, ‘Hold The Heathen Hammer High’ and ‘By The Sword In My Hand’. The mood soon turned darker and more sinister as Moonsorrow prepared to take the stage, their fans pushing closer to the front. It is safe to say that this could certainly be considered a double-heading bill as the number of shirts in the crowd for Moonsorrow equaled those of Korpiklaani.
With darkened stage Ville Sorvali and company soon had the crowd on a doom filled journey as his guttural vocals pierced the blackness. Their hour long setlist was filled with only five pieces of music, rightly called pieces as each was epic in length. Covered in blood from previous battles, the band was tight from the first notes and Marko Tarvonen displayed impressive technique and some of the hardest and quickest blast beats around. As the lights came up for the changeover, the crowd started buzzing with chants for KORPI! KORPI! The beer lineup turned into the longest of the evening in preparation for the festival of fun to come. A note didn’t need to be taken as the crowd burst into pandemonium when the band strode onstage and like a volcanic eruption, the crowd exploded with the first notes of ‘Tuonelan Tuvilla’ rang out. The intensity did not stop for the remainder of the 16-song set. Sporting his fairly recent cast after breaking his finger in New York city, leader singer Jonne Järvelä, though unable to play guitar, didn’t let it slow him down. By the third song the party was in full swing with the first singalong of the night Juodaan Viinaa had everyone jigging and singing “ly dy lala ly ly”. Though there are many critics of this genre of metal music, and you either love it or hate it, it certainly is creative and unique. With so many talentless groups in other genres of music, metal of all types has musicianship. Where else can you find bands with violin and accordion and a long list of unique and sometimes ancient instruments; a hurdy gurdy for example. Korpiklaani take that creativity and Sami heritage and bring it to the masses. A perfect example was Tuomas Rounakari’s stirring violin solo Langetus, which saw him using bells around his ankles for a percussion element.
It would be easy to go in great depth about the musicianship of each member of the band. It isn’t required. It can be summed up by saying that all six members are a tight knit group brining the eclectic mix of heavy metal riffs, pounding bass lines, high speed drumming, and tying it together with violin and accordion. Jonne Järvelä is the final mix of the perfect cocktail. High energy from the start, he pulls the crowd in and makes sure that everyone is having fun. From conducting sing-alongs and fist pumps, he often spins around the stage in a fury. With a selection of new material from their new Manala release mixed in with older material, by the second half of the set, it was full on party mode and the crowd produced one of the craziest pit/polka parties the region has seen. How could there not be with a row of drinking fueled songs including ‘Vodka’, ‘Happy Little Boozer’, ‘Tequila’, ‘Beer Beer’ and ‘Wodden Pints’. By the end of the night, even those who were not enjoying their mead, ale, or elixir of choice went home perhaps a bit worse for ware, but certainly knowing that it had been one hell of a party.