Words and Photos: David Thrower
The Corporation may well be situated in a nondescript backstreet of Sheffield yet it makes its presence known in a variety of ways most noticeably by the huge, white-painted letters spelling ‘Corporation’ down one full side of the building and by attracting some big names from the rock/metal field through its doors. Sadly, the venue was partitioned for tonight’s excellent billing meaning the assembled crowd were smaller than I expected but this only added to the intimate atmosphere of the gig on a stage that almost appears to be in wide-screen such are the dimensions.
Having already heard Strikers new self-titled album I was really looking forward to their set and was not disappointed as elements of thrash and NWOBHM jostled for position amidst melody, bounce and, sadly, vocal problems. Due to four weeks of intensive touring singer Dan Cleary was clearly suffering – in fact, even if the high notes had been pinned against a barn door he wouldn’t have been able to hit them with a banjo. However, this did lead the band to include the blistering guitar instrumental ‘Escape from Shred City’ to allow Dan some respite. Great music, great musicians and certainly ones to watch. Let’s hope the band keeps to their promise of returning to give everyone the full Striker experience.
Finnish stalwarts Thunderstone, on the other hand, had no such problems and strode on stage as though they were the headline act. Professional from the off they treated tracks like the wonderful ‘Veterans of the Apocalypse’ and the Eurovision Song Contest entry ‘Forevermore’ with passionate fury while the sorrowful ‘Weak’ got the full, house lights down, phone lights up treatment to great effect. Vocalist Pasi Rantanen owned the stage though Jukka Karinen did his best to upstage the front-man with a display of boundless enthusiasm rarely seen from a keyboard player.
The second Finnish contingent of the night, Sonata Arctica, arrived on stage in true headliner fashion and sprang into immediate action with the pacey ‘Closer to an Animal’ from 2016’s wonderful ‘The Ninth Hour’. Vocalist Tony Kakko grabbed immediate attention with his illuminated microphone stand, theatrical manner, and wonderful voice but never overshadowed a band performance honed through years of touring – Pasi Kauppinen shunned the notion that bass players are nothing but bit players while Henrik Klingenberg has to be, and I never thought I’d use this phrase, the coolest keytar player around. Bathed in spotlights and carrying messages of hope, acceptance and the need for change they ran through a setlist that was as melodic, powerful and, ultimately, uplifting. ‘I Have the Right’ was a beautiful statement on tolerance while ‘We Are What We Are’ highlighted humanity’s efforts to destroy its home World despite having the ability for change. Tony even took time out to address the audience and thank them for keeping live music alive, asking that they continue in their support of touring bands for the benefit of everyone. In all fairness, he was preaching to the converted.
Closing on ‘Don’t Say a Word’ from 2004s ‘Reckoning Night’ Tony sang that ‘it’s not how long you live, but what your morals say’ and in doing so drew the curtain on a night of reflection amidst captivating music – a combination that should ensure anyone who immerses themselves in Sonata Arctica emerges a better human being.
SETLIST (transcribed from paper plate)
Closer to an Animal
Wolves Die Young
In Black and White
Among the Shooting Stars
We Are What We Are
The Power of One
I Have a Right
Don’t Say a Word