An awesome multicultural festival in the world’s most multicultural city.
Let me start by asking a very simple question before I actually talk about the amazing festival that happened last night: who the hell had the brilliant idea of scheduling a festival at SIX O’CLOCK ON A THURSDAY, a day and time where pretty much EVERYONE is still at work and there’s also a lot of traffic? Because of that, I guess many people that attended PAGANFEST AMERICA PART V yesterday at The Opera House, in Toronto, missed at least the opening act, American Folk Metal band Winterhymn, and maybe even some of the other bands. Fortunately I was able to get there before 7:30pm and could watch half of the concert from the following band and the rest of the festival, which is where this review starts!
People dressed up accordingly (which means Viking, warrior and/or pagan costumes), corpsepainting, lots of good and cold beer, friends hugging each other and dancing together, metalheads screaming with their fists and horns in the air, and German Melodic Death Metal band Varg kickin’ ass on stage! The first impression from the festival was very positive, and knowing the Pagan Metal community in Toronto is so big was great for me. Not only that, getting in contact with Varg for the first time was also amazing as their music has that kind of energy I love, and although I don’t know German (they sing only in their mother tongue) it was easy to follow their message in each song. Highlights to the excellent song Guten Tag and to the girls the band called on stage to headbang like crazy, and I promise I’ll go after more of their material in the future.
Freki – vocals, guitars
Managarm – bass, backing vocals, guitars, lead guitars
Hati – guitars
Fenrier – drums
A few microphone issues, a relatively short setlist and the absence of keyboardist CJ Kao didn’t prevent Taiwanese Orient Metal warriors Chthonic from delivering an unforgettable performance at The Opera House. “WE ARE CHTHONIC FROM TAIWAN!”, screamed an all fired-up Freddy Lim to the fans, who promptly responded screaming and raising their fists in the air. The band looked pretty excited to be back in Toronto for the first time since their tour with Arch Enemy in 2011, and their music sounded even more powerful and cohesive this time.
After the beautiful intro Arising Armament, our beloved Taiwanese icons Freddy, Jesse, Dani and, of course, the stunning Doris Yeh, kicked off their concert with the superb song Supreme Pain for the Tyrant, from their 2013 album Bú-Tik, and it was impossible not to scream at full force with them “Let me stand up like a Taiwanese! Only justice will bring you peace!”, lyrics that make total sense even for non-Taiwanese fans like myself. We’re all together in this war, right? By the way, almost the whole setlist was based on the Bú-Tik album, with the exception of the classics Oceanquake and Takao, which closed the show. Highlights to the great songs Sail Into the Sunset’s Fire and Defenders of Bú-Tik Palace, which sounded even more amazing live.
Last but not least, all band members are not only exceptional musicians, but also really good people. It’s easy to be mesmerized by Doris’ performance on stage, or by the unique sound of the erhu beautifully played by Freddy, but things get even better when you have a chance to interact with them offstage. Freddy, Doris and Jesse were extremely relaxed, happy and very, very considerate of all their fans, taking pictures, answering any questions and having a beer with everybody. At least for me, that explains a lot why they are so successful and becoming so important in the world of heavy music. All I can say is THANKS, CHTHONIC! It will always be my pleasure to “stand up like a Taiwanese” with you guys!
1. Arising Armament (intro)
2. Supreme Pain for the Tyrant
4. Next Republic
5. Sail Into the Sunset’s Fire
6. Defenders of Bú-Tik Palace
Freddy Lim – vocals, erhu
Doris Yeh – bass, backing vocals
Jesse Liu – guitars, backing vocals
Dani Wang – drums
CJ Kao – keyboards*
* Missed the concert in Toronto due to personal issues.
In my opinion, the show by Finnish Symphonic Power Metal band Turisas was the most anticipated concert of the night, and also the one where you could see the highest amount of smiles on the faces of the crowd. I don’t remember seeing so many people dancing and prancing like yesterday, especially when they played their cover version for the discotheque classic Rasputin, by Boney M., but they kicked ass during the whole gig, of course.
There were very few moments where either the songs were too long or too slow, but the fans didn’t care too much about that and enjoyed every single second of that “Viking fest”. Besides the awesome craziness of Rasputin, the most memorable songs were Battle Metal, Stand Up and Fight and We Ride Together. Did you notice all their best songs are related to battle, courage and loyalty? That’s what has always made Heavy Metal so powerful in regards to inspiring people to face their fears and challenges in life, and I’m sure all fans that are studying, working or doing anything else today are a lot happier and feeling better than during the previous weeks or even months.
The whole band was on fire, especially frontman Mathias “Warlord” Nygård and violinist Olli Vänskä, who didn’t stop banging their heads for a single moment. Those guys love what they do, and will keep on rockin’ for the rest of their lives without a shadow of a doubt.
Mathias Nygård – vocals
Jussi Wickström – guitar, backing vocal
Jesper Anastasiadis – bass guitar
Jaakko Jakku – drums, percussion
Olli Vänskä – violin, backing vocal
After Turisas were done, many people had to leave as it was getting really late and they probably had to get ready for a full day at work the next day. Unfortunately those who left missed all the dancing in between concerts when the DJ played some excellent old traditional Finnish songs, but the fans that could stay to the end of the festival were able to enjoy that and, of course, another “dance party” with Finnish Folk Metal band Korpiklaani and their music tailored for drinking beer and dancing with your friends.
It was my first Korpiklaani concert and I was impressed by frontman Jonne Järvelä’s charisma and bassist Jarkko Aaltonen’s technique. Jarkko is a beast with his bass, which could be easily appreciated in fun songs such as Tuonelan Tuvilla, Vodka and Ievan Polkka. How come this awesome bass player has never been mentioned in any lists of “top bassists” that I’ve seen? Or maybe I’m checking the wrong lists? Anyway, it was another great heavy music concert, which made every cent spent with the event ticket even worthier than before.
Jonne Järvelä – vocals
Kalle “Cane” Savijärvi – guitars
Matti “Matson” Johansson – drums
Jarkko Aaltonen – bass
Tuomas Rounakari – violin
Sami Perttula – accordion
And that was the end of a truly multicultural festival with bands from the United States, Germany, Taiwan and Finland, with fans from several different backgrounds speaking different languages, in the most multicultural city in the world. Honestly, I have no idea how it can get any better than this. Maybe Paganfest VI next year can answer that question, right? Well, until then, I’ll proudly wear my Chthonic’s NEXT REPUBLIC T-shirt on the streets to show everyone that it doesn’t matter if you’re Canadian, Brazilian, Taiwanese, German, Finnish or anything else: if you’re a headbanger, you’re definitely part of the unbreakable and unique republic of HEAVY METAL.