Text & photos by: Juho Karila & Laureline Tilkin
Crushing the North -tour had to be one of the most anticipated events in Helsinki this spring. Bringing 5 bands, including the Polish legends Vader and the unfortunate Decapitated we can safely tell that we were stoked for the night. We are going to tell you why.
When announced, Crushing the North tour seemed like a dream line up, both Vader and Decapitated scheduled for a club tour in the Nordics. I knew I had to be there. The gig was scheduled on a Tuesday, starting quite early. Perhaps that’s why when the Russian old school thrash band Thrashred started playing, there were more photographers shooting the gig, than actual audience. Most of the bands playing in the evening were unknown to me, but sometimes bands you have never heard before can surprise you a lot. During Thrashred’s show, more and more people started coming in Nosturi. There was not that many people and it did feel a bit as if the band was a bit disappointed by the turnout. However, they did not seem to care that much as the show went along, they played a solid show and those people who were present were cheering a lot and seemed really excited. They played a tight set and most likely gained some new fans – including me. For such a young band – they were formed in 2014 – they play quite energetically. Hopefully we will see more of them in the future.
Unfortunately Juho missed the first act.
As mentioned I did not know many of the acts playing that day, new to me as well was the Swedish band Nox Vorago and perhaps they were the biggest surprise for me during the night. When they put on their masks and started playing, I couldn’t help but feeling the disappointment of yet another band trying to follow up Ghost, yet another one of those Swedish bands with masks that look quite similar. But I couldn’t have been more surprised and the contrast with Ghost couldn’t have been bigger. One might argue that the masks are not really that necessary for them to stand out, but it does fit their image well. And even though with a lineup like this, you would have expected solely death or thrash acts, a band playing black metal was an interesting choice to add. Moreover their sound is quite refreshing and very progressive in a way. Count me in as a fan.
How am I supposed to write about these…?
The Swedish Nox Vorago was a big question mark to me and I didn’t know what to expect at all. They made it very clear that it was going to be dark and heavy when they emerged to the stage from behind the curtains.
In a flash, the mood of the night changed totally as the notes of their very mesmerizing and beautiful black metal changed the whole venue into a sacred place of unholy ritual of a forbidden cult. I immediately felt a very strong sense of belonging, or maybe I got hypnotized by the masked group, that I was a part of some dark sacrament. It was truly an immersing sensation and I regretted that I hadn’t looked them up before; needless to say they knew how to do their job. They looked like Ghost with all their masks and secrecy, but they sounded like torchbearers of Emperor’s legacy.
Next up to play was Thy Disease, an industrial death metal band from Poland. I had heard from this band before, but never have seem them play live. I was however pleasantly surprised by their energy. The venue was still not completely packed, but they did manage to engage the audience that was there to see their show and everyone seemed quite excited.
After the Swedish cultists, the first Polish band, Thy Disease seemed like an anti-climax. Not only being pretty passive on stage, they were clearly worn out from touring, but also the music sounded soulless and most of the time it felt like they were mixing up industrial influences just for the sake of industrial influence. They weren’t a total dissappointment, though. At best, they grooved and sounded heavy like Whitechapel, which was what they were doing best: crushing, groovy, heavy riffs; even if they weren’t the most original ones. With a little more living up to the energy of the music, it could had been enjoyable, where as now it was only bearable.
Legendary Polish death metal band Decapitated had never played in Finland before this tour. After an extended history of over 20 years, the band finally managed to get there and the audience clearly had waited a long time for this moment. Everyone seemed excited from the first moment Decapitated started playing and while the band had a quite exhausted feel, they played exactly as how they should have been playing. In my opinion it was a great show, what can you wish for more, insane guitar solos, blastbeats and maybe one of the most charismatic death metal vocalists of now, seemed to be a combination that made everyone forget that it’s a Tuesday evening in Finland and most likely a working day tomorrow. That’s how a gig should be. Highlight for me was the song Nest, it somehow made all sense and made me experience the rest of the evening with a smile on my face.
Luckily, the Polish masters of Decapitated were up next and I just had the feeling that they would really kill it. And they did, with the expertise and dedication you could expect from a band of this magnitude. Given the circumstances, the tragic events of the past would had been more than enough to justify them calling it quits, yet they decided to go on. In this light, having the second guitar on a backing track didn’t blow the mood, yet I couldn’t help but feel that something was missing. It was the energy, the band members were quite stationary, and especially the bass player. I can understand it being due the past, and I feel a sting in my conscience for judging them, but they decided to go on like professionals and professionals should be more lively up on the stage.
Surely, the music is technical and complex but handling the stage presence was heavily relied on the singer’s charismatic shoulders. Overall, they delivered a show everyone was expecting and the mood was set for the headlinger. I have to agree with my colleague, the song Nest was the brightest of diamonds in their setlist.
After a gig like that, you would not expect that the evening would get any better, however when the Polish legends of Vader entered the stage, they didn’t really need to do much to show their fans how you need to crush the north and that for a band that has been around longer than I have been. Their new album The Empire has been released in 2016 and while they played some new songs from there, like Angels of Steel, they also were not afraid to throw some hits like Hexenkessel at us. A fine mixture of new and old, one less positive thing about this show is that it didn’t last as long as I would have wanted to and also the day after my neck was hurting a lot with all of the headbanging. Other than that, Vader has been able to fulfill all of my expectations: high precision, determination and the ability to make us believe that the complexity of their songs is not really an issue, because they all make it seem so easy. The crowd went completely wild, banging their heads, screaming along, jumping or whatever way it deemed best and after an evening like this. Crushed by happiness and excitement, the evening ended and has left me with one of the best gigs so far of 2017 and the memory that even boring Tuesdays can become brutal!
It didn’t need me to be a fan to be excited and thrilled for the headliner, as I sort of knew what to expect by having seen Vader live at Tuska in 2007. If any of the supporters were good, these veterans took it to the next level and for the first time tonight I felt like watching a band that was almost too big for the stage. The energy, the charisma, the skill in playing, the stage presence, the everything was beyond anyone else I witnessed and there were no signs of exhaustion due the long tour. Once again I have to use my trademark line, professionals do know their game. With a smile, they delivered us a spectacle which probably left nobody cold and they converted me into a fan. One thing really pleased me, was that they were genuinely happy to get to play in the metal capital of the world and that feeling was contagious. When they played their last encore, I was struck with the feeling that the gig was cut short. I really can’t wait for their return, for this is a really a tough challenger for the best show of 2017.