Photos by Kassandra Carmona
The 2013 Paganfest America tour that featured Ensiferum, Tyr, Heidevolk, Trollfest, and Helsott came to an end on April 21st, at the Gramercy Theater in NYC, and here are some of the highlight photos from that sold out night.
Ensiferum – what name would suit a band playing battle metal better, than a name that in Latin means “Swordbearer”?
After founding the band in 1995, Ensiferum’s mastermind, guitarist/main songwriter/vocalist Markus Toivonen has taken the band safely through turmoils of line-up changes and busy schedules ever since. The band’s career fully took flight in 2000 after Spinefarm Records released their self titled debut album ‘Ensiferum’, and their busy touring made them a household favourite all over Finland. Their second album ‘Iron’ took Ensiferum a step further, all the way to Copenhagen’s Sweet Silence Studios. There in Denmark, during the Fall of 2003, their second album was recorded in the capable hands of producer Flemming Rasmussen, known for his work on such masterpieces as Metallica’s ‘Master of Puppets’ and ‘Ride the Lightning.’
‘Iron’ was a great success and grew the band’s popularity to whole new heights. The album also got the band some extensive touring abroad, but these gigs finally took a toll on the band. 2004 saw three band members depart: drummer Oliver Fokin, bassist Jukka-Pekka Miettinen and vocalist Jari Mäenpää (later known for his work with Wintersun). This was not the end of the world for the warriors of Ensiferum and mastermind Markus. Instead, new and capable musicians took their places. Bassist/vocalist Sami Hinkka, drummer Janne Parviainen (also known for his work on Waltari and Barathrum) and vocalist/guitarist Petri Lindroos all joined the ranks to finalise the new Ensiferum line-up.
The new line-up was tried and tested on the road touring all through 2005, and from the tour the members headed straight for the studio to make a new mini-album. This mini-CD, later titled ‘Dragonheads’, saw the band test their new growler Petri’s vocals and their new bassist and drummer’s skills in a recorded form. Such fun was had recording that the band did not stop with the mini-album, but also made a live DVD to honour their 10-year career. The “10th Anniversary Live” showed the new line-up playing hits from all Ensiferum albums, ranging from the earliest songs to the latest offerings of Dragonheads. Selling thousands of units worldwide, the DVD was the definitive proof that Ensiferum were as strong as ever.
In the end of 2006, Ensiferum took their gear to Helsinki’s Sonic Pump Studios to record their third full-length album with producer Nino Laurenne. Metallic guitars combined with the traditional sounds of instruments as the Finnish kantele, bagpipes, nyckelharpa and bodhrans, the sound of ‘Victory Songs’ was a full, balanced mixture of folk, heavy and battle anthem-like power, accompanied by the gentle balance between Petri’s growling vocals and Markus’s and Sami’s harmonised choruses.
‘Victory Songs’ was released during spring 2007 and right after the album release the band started their European tour, played several festivals and did a tour of Finland.
After the Summer Ensiferum again suffered a loss – the band’s long-time keyboard player Meiju Enho decided to leave the band. A replacement was found in the form of Emmi Silvennoinen who has been playing with the band ever since.
More touring took place in the latter part of 2007, and the band stayed on the road for the whole of 2008, even playing their first ever tour in USA & Canada. Between the release of ‘Victory Songs’ and the beginning of 2009, the band embarked on 3 European tours, 3 North American tours and numerous festival shows around the world totalling 154 shows.
After being very busy writing and rehearsing new material in early 2009 Ensiferum entered studio Petrax (in Hollola, Finland) on the 13th of April to start the recordings of their fourth studio album with recorder/producer Tero Kinnunen (Nightwish, Amorphis etc.) and Janne Joutsenniemi (the producer of ‘Victory Songs’). ‘From Afar’ was released in September 2009, with global touring to accompany.
In April 2012, the latest Ensiferum album ‘Unsung Heroes’ was completed. The album was mixed by Hiili Hiilesmaa (HIM, Sentenced, Amorphis etc.), with a release date set for August 24th 2012 in Finland and Germany. In September 2012, the band embarks on their Unsung Heroes Finland tour, followed by the Bearers of the Sword European tour. With more shows and tours to be announced in support of the new album, 2012 marks the beginning of a new era for Ensiferum.
Profession of the Christian Faith or Decapitation: This was the choice given by Sigmundur to his Faroese Viking compatriot Tróndur í Gøtu. And so it was that in 999 A.D., the Christianization of the small “Faeroe Islands” began, casting a veil of oblivion over the ancient Scandinavian gods and only leaving the relics of forgotten heathenry buried deep within the Christian ritual. Or so it was believed…
Exactly 999 years later, a small group fondly remembering the archaic gods and rites came together to form the Faroese Viking metal band, TÝR. The one-armed God of War —the bravest of all— became the eponym of the Nordic quartet. Yet TÝR mastermind Heri Joensen is no war monger in disguise and points out that TÝR (also known as the God of Justice) is also revered for first seeking the avenues of diplomacy—an attribute that does not take away from this god of war’s drive.
A distinctive trademark that sets TÝR apart from most other bands of the Viking metal genre is the authenticity of their music: “Traditional music dating back to the Vikings, that is not preserved anywhere else in the world, not even in Iceland, is passed on in an oral tradition here and it is still alive and well. That is what we build our music on and draw great inspiration from” explains Joensen.
Almost every song is based on Faroese or Norwegian lore, and is riveted in the garb of the folk metal genre. Its approach unmistakably creates very true Viking metal.
Following the release of a demo, the “Ólavur Riddararos” single, “How Far to Asgard”, six years of innumerable gigs, and several domestic television appearances, TÝR’s second full-length “Eric the Red” became the Islands’ best-selling album, coming to the attention of Napalm Records, the label that finally made the album available worldwide in 2006.
Immediately, the unique approach of TÝR´s music, melting traditional Nordic songs and dances with Celtic influences, doom, heavy, and progressive metal found fans around the globe. “Hail to The Hammer” became the hymn to the new generation of folk, pagan, and Viking metal fans.
In late 2006, TÝR refined their trademark sound with “Ragnarok”. Technically brilliant and 100 percent authentic, Ragnarok was nothing less than a masterpiece within the true Viking metal genre. The Faroese band embarked on a European tour with Die Apokalyptischen Reiter and a few months later with AMON AMARTH. Though musically different, TÝR gained legions of new fans, impressed by the four men on stage, who were able to turn every show into a demonstration of musical prowess.
Festival appearances throughout Europe and continued touring followed until TÝR enjoyed their biggest live triumph ever at the very over-crowded Wet Stage in Wacken.
“Land” was released in 2008 and proved to be yet another milestone in the band’s career. Traditional Faroese lyrics marked tracks such as “Gátu Ríma”, “Fípan Fagra” and “Lokka Táttur”, and “Gandkvæði Tróndar”, which is a poem by J.H.O. Djurhuus about the Faroese chieftain Tróndur, who fought against the dying of the old beliefs and for the independence of the Faeroes. A video clip was produced to the fan favorite “Sinklars Vísa”. “Land” received overwhelming positive feedback and a new audience was able to experience the power of TÝR for the first time.
Following the release of “Land”, TÝR embarked on numerous tours through Europe. One of the highlights was without a doubt the Aaskereia Festival tour with labelmates Alestorm and Hollenthon. Thanks to their efforts, the band reached many new fans with their memorable concerts. The year 2008 ended with a little sensation, as TÝR was nominated as “Band of the Year” by the Faroese National TV and radio. However, the band had no time to rest on its laurels and embarked on yet another tour through North America in the spring of 2009.
Despite their busy touring schedule, TÝR worked on new songs recorded in early 2009. The band chose to produce the album on native soil. Jacob Hansen mixed the new material and finishing touches were provided by the mastering experts at Finnvox. “By the Light of the Northern Star” met with great feedback from fans and critics alike. The new anthem “Hold the Heathen Hammer High” was regarded as the legitimate successor to “Hail to the Hammer”. After the release of the album, the band played numerous concerts and festivals, as well as taking part in the “70.000 Tons of Metal” cruise, while still finding the time to work on new material for their upcoming release.
The story of King Thrym, who dared steal Thor´s hammer “Mjollnir”, may set the lyrical stage on TÝR’s latest album, but it does not prevent them from covering more current topics like in the track “Shadow of the Swastika”. “The Lay of Thrym” follows the path of the band’s previous releases by uniting classic heavy metal riffs with impressive drumming, traditional melodies, and powerful choruses. The result is a number of epic anthems, such as “Take Your TÝRant” and “Hall of Freedom”, both of which will most certainly earn a permanent spot on TÝR’s future setlists. Frontman Heri Joensen continues to give TÝR a unique and unmistakable edge with magnificent vocals and superb guitar work. Jacob Hansen was again responsible for recording, mixing, and mastering the album, complementing this fascinating Faeroese sound universe with finishing touches that allow every last detail to shine. “The Lay of Thrym” is a genuine Viking metal album that will undoubtedly secure TÝR’s hold on this genre with its heroic melodies and glorious riffs.
Heidevolk was founded under the name Hymir in 2002 by six men. The name was changed to Heidevolk (Dutch for “heath-folk”) inspired by the Veluwe landscape. The band started performing live in 2003. Since then the band has released one demo, four full-length studio albums, and one EP.
Their third album, Uit oude Grond, (Dutch for “From old soil”), was released to generally positive critical acclaim, with one writer calling the album “A hugely enjoyable release combining aggressive metallic riffage with tastefully-entwined traditional folk instrumentation and melody”
Formed Feb 1st 2010 Helsótt is a melding of American Thrash/Death and Pagan Metal. Very melodic and very brutal music sets the pace for a high energy live act that can only be described as crushing.
Helsótt has supported national and international acts such as: Finntroll, Ensiferum, Moonsorrow, Turisas, Nile, Ex Deo, Dio’s Disciples, Tyr, Korpiklaani, Nevermore, Suidakra, Eluveitie, Arkona, Alestorm, Metsatöll, Kill Devil Hill, Fear Factory, Rotting Christ, Epica, Death Angel, Hate, Kampfar, Vreid, Keep of Kalessin, Warbringer, Mayhem, Destruction, Heathen, Goatwhore, Possessed Woods of Ypres, Origin, Decrepit Birth, Aborted and many more.
One weekend in 2003, in Oslo, Norway, a bunch of goons became bored with the selection of party music that was available to them, and, helped along by the consumption of large quantities of alcohol, the soon-to-be members of TrollfesT decided to take matters into their own hands. One website and six songs later, a German label, which at the time was called Solistium, recognised the potential in the madness and got in touch. With the immortal words “what the heck, let’s give it a go” TrollfesT agreed to a deal and started writing new material. By 2005 “Willkommen Folk tell Drekka Fest!!” hit the streets. And life as we know it was never the same again.
Containing a selection of sounds and comments, many of which you would not necessary come across if you only frequented polite parties, “Willkommen…” displayed some unique qualities that caught people’s attention and consequently sold rather a lot of copies, so a deal for a second album was signed and in 2006 the story of Brakebein the Troll was released. “Brakebein” (not a bad choice for a title really given its subject matter), appeared in two versions – one that included a cartoon illustrating Brakebein’s voyage, and the other that included the lyrics.
During the first years, TrollfesT never actually played live, but nevertheless the two albums succeeded in making the band a sought after addition to festivals, and the first foray beyond the planning stage occurred in 2007 as one of the headlining bands at the Ninth Barther Metal Open Air Festival. TrollfesT then went on to headline and play various festivals and concerts around Europe during 2007/08 including the Ragnarök and Riedfest festivals.
January 2009 saw the release of TrollfesT’s third studio album “Villanden”. A much-anticipated underground album according to feedback from the fans, “Villanden” was quickly acknowledged as one of the craziest albums to have been released in a very long time, mixing, as it did, European Balkan music with extreme metal, and spread rapidly through the viral networks like YouTube, MySpace and Facebook.
So how would anyone, in their right mind, or otherwise, dare to define TrollfesT? The closest you would come is probably True Norwegian Balkan Black Metal, but even then you would need to include influences from lots more genres. The best way to put it is that this band is all about alcohol, joy and music, three subjects that draw in fans from all ages and genres, eager to listen to TrollfesT’s records and witness the exuberant and skilled live performances.