Concert Review – Primal Fear & Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody (The Mod Club, Toronto, ON, 06/01/2016)

In metal we trust, for metal we live. And last night in Toronto was just another beautiful attestation of all that passion for heavy music, courtesy of the indomitable Primal Fear and the epic Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody.

OPENING ACT: Vesperia

NorthAmerica-PFLTR-TourLet me start this review by thanking Mother Nature for being so amazing to all Torontonians since the end of winter, providing us some beautiful sunny days, warmer-than-usual temperatures and almost no precipitation. And when the weather is as good as now, there’s nothing better than going out with your friends and loved ones for a beer and some good old Heavy Metal, right? If you’re a true metalhead, a true lover of old school Power Metal, last night was the perfect occasion for that to the sound of three excellent heavy bands at the cozy The Mod Club, starting with Canadian Epic/Progressive Death Metal band VESPERIA.

IMG_1344Promoting their latest installment, their 2015 EP entitled The Iron Tempests, which by the way helped them win the 2015 edition of Wacken Metal Battle Canada (and consequently play at the biggest metal festival on earth the same year), this talented quartet showcased all their refined abilities with their instruments during their entire performance, with this demolishing and intricate uproar made in Canada being masterfully led by lead singer and bassist Morgan Rider. Unfortunately I do not have the setlist for their presentation (I know they played songs like Iron Saga and In the Hall of the Mountain King), but I can assure you each and every song sounded just amazing on stage. If you’re searching for a new band that offers complex passages, blazing riffs and an endless amount of stamina in their music, Vesperia might be exactly what you’ve been craving for.

Band members
Morgan Rider – vocals, bass
Frankie Caracci – lead guitars
Casey Elliott – guitars
Dylan Gowan – drums

PRIMAL FEAR

IMG_1353After Vesperia was over, all the metalheads at the venue had a short break to have another beer or quickly go to the washroom before German power metallers PRIMAL FEAR came crushing our ears with their thunderous and metallic music. When you’re a band like Primal Fear, all you have to do to hypnotize the audience right away is kicking off the concert with one of your best compositions to date, and last night not only they did that, but they chose my favorite tune of all to start their setlist, the flammable and thrilling Final Embrace. After that masterpiece, the unstoppable Ralf Scheepers, Mat Sinner & Co. kept firing some of their biggest classics blended with brand new songs from the awesome Rulebreaker, and the reaction of the fans to the new songs couldn’t have been better. Well, you know an album is goddamn amazing when fans really want to listen to new songs on the show, right?

IMG_1370From all new songs played, the ones that drew the most excited screams from the fans and made everyone at the venue raise their fists in the air were Rulebreaker and The End Is Near, not to mention their beautiful performance during the power ballad The Sky Is Burning. In regards to their top-notch metal classics, as a huge fan of the band I must say Angel in Black, Sign of Fear and Metal Is Forever drove the audience crazy while they were being played. Who doesn’t love to scream the words “There is blood there is pain / But my agony is not in vain / Cause there’s life after death / And I’m sure coming back to attack / As an angel in black” together with Ralf and the rest of the band?

IMG_1360The entire band was incredible as usual, with highlights to the explosive performances by Mat and the new drummer Francesco Jovino. Obviously, I don’t need to describe the perfection which Ralf sang all songs of the setlist, nor how guitarists Alex Beyrodt and Tom Naumann blasted some potent riffs and solos throughout the whole concert. The only issue during this entire North American tour was the absence of their third guitarist, Magnus Karlsson, despite having recorded the new album. Three guitarists live would have been awesome, but anyway, it was another exceptional performance by one of the best Power Metal acts in the world (just as good as their 2014 concert in Toronto), and after the encore was over with two more classics, Rollercoaster (another one of their songs I truly love) and Running In The Dust, the German troopers were gone and it was time to set the stage for the last concert of the night. I was expecting Primal Fear to headline the night, but that’s fine, we all got our share of their brilliant Power Metal. There was absolutely nothing to complain about that.

Setlist
Countdown to Insanity/Jaws of Death
Final Embrace
In Metal We Trust
Angel in Black
Rulebreaker
Sign of Fear
The Sky Is Burning
Nuclear Fire
Angels of Mercy
The End Is Near
When Death Comes Knocking
Chainbreaker
Metal Is Forever

Encore:
Rollercoaster
Running In The Dust

Band members
Ralf Scheepers – vocals
Mat Sinner – bass, backing vocals
Alex Beyrodt – guitars
Tom Naumann – guitars, backing vocals
Francesco Jovino – drums

LUCA TURILLI’S RHAPSODY

IMG_1388It was indeed a huge surprise for me that Italian Epic/Cinematic Metal band LUCA TURILLI’S RHAPSODY was the main attraction of the night. Nothing against them, but I believe Primal Fear are a lot more relevant to the world of heavy music than Luca and his crew, especially after all the countless changes the band has suffered through the years. Honestly, I lost count of how many times the band switched from one name to another, all the band members coming and going, and so on. I don’t know anymore if a song was originally recorded by Rhapsody, by Rhapsody of Fire, by Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody or by any other of those weird ramifications. If you’re a fan of any of those bands (or just a fan of one of them, who knows), please forgive me for my ignorance.

IMG_1386Anyway, what can I say about a band that claims to play “Cinematic Metal”? All fans were able to actually witness the soundtrack to an epic battle movie, one of those fantasy blockbusters full of dragons, knights, princesses and so on. The band itself looks very theatrical (and sometimes even cartoon-ish), and their performance was a lot better than what I was expecting, especially the idiosyncratic moves and facial expressions by the band’s leader, Mr. Luca Turilli. It was fun watching him firing his complex riffs while prancing around the stage with his stylish hair and a Guess T-shirt. Truly unique, I should say.

Although I got lost in time with all the changes that affected the original Rhapsody, it was a pleasure to see the band playing old classics like Unholy Warcry (my favorite of their setlist) and Emerald Sword, whereas at the same time their Game Of Thrones-themed drum solo was a very welcome surprise for all fans. My only complaint about their concert was the excessive usage of pre-recorded sounds used for all orchestrations and choir. I bet when they play at any European festivals that shouldn’t be a problem, but for smaller venues it sometimes sounds like a metal karaoke. That’s not the band’s fault, though, just a minor annoying detail in their decent performance. Now please excuse me, as I have to grab my sword, my shield and get ready for battle.

Setlist
Nova Genesis (Ad Splendorem Angeli Triumphantis)
Knightrider of Doom
Rosenkreuz (The Rose and the Cross)
Land of Immortals
Unholy Warcry
Son of Pain
Prometheus
Drum Solo (Game Of Thrones Theme)
Il Cigno Nero
Guitar Solo
The Pride of the Tyrant
Demonheart
Bass Solo
Dawn of Victory

Encore:
Quantum X
Emerald Sword
Outro

Band members
Alessandro Conti – vocals
Luca Turilli – guitars
Dominique Leurquin – guitars
Patrice Guers – bass
Alex Landenburg – drums

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Album Review – Ensiferum / One Man Army (2015)

Another good heavy music album by one of the most influential Folk Metal armies from Finland.

Rating5

ensiferum_one man armyWhen Folk Metal came into prominence in the early 2000’s, more specifically due to several promising bands from Finland such as Finntroll, Korpiklaani and Turisas, we all knew that was a subgenre of heavy music that was definitely here to stay. However, despite each band having their own characteristics, the nature and limitations of Folk Metal made it clear it was going to be really tough for all bands to reinvent themselves over the years and to avoid becoming stale or ostracized, a terrible curse upon any type of artist in the world. Even with this dark shadow over every band who decided to follow the path of folk and heavy music, Finnish Epic Folk Metal band Ensiferum have managed somehow to remain relevant and kept delivering decent albums like One Man Army, the sixth full-length album in their career.

Fans of the band will agree with me when I say that Ensiferum (the Latin word for “Sword Bearer” in case you don’t know it) have as their main attribute their ability to always craft melodic and epic songs, it doesn’t matter the album nor the speed or length of the song. One Man Army, featuring a great album art by renowned illustrator Gyula Havancsák, is no exception to that and will surely please most admirers of epic metal music. Far from being a masterpiece, perhaps the biggest problem with One Man Army is that some of its songs sound too repetitive and in some cases too epic (even knowing this feature is deeply rooted in their music), but that doesn’t mean you cannot grab you sword and shield or maybe enjoy a huge pint of barley wine while listening to it.

Although the intro March Of War sounds more like “Western Folk” than pure folk music, that doesn’t make it less fun nor harms the next track, the faster and more violent than usual Axe Of Judgment. Can it be called Blackened Epic Folk Metal? Anyway, the harsh screams by Petri Lindroos are quite effective, with the keyboards by Emmi Silvennoinen and its backing vocals adding more “epicness” to this battle tune. Then we have a truly awesome Epic Metal song entitled Heaten Horde, where the 100% Manowar chorus sung by Ensiferum’s “horde” is its highlight for sure and will thrill all fans during their live concerts (“All heathen hearts, / Answer the call, / God of thunder bless our swords, / Our heathen horde, / Will never fall, / We are hungry for blood, steel and war”), not to mention they even used an Old Norse poem in the lyrics as an amazing “bonus”.

One Man Army, the first single of the album, showcases riffs and double bass that couldn’t sound more Scandinavian metal, and again they abuse of the backing vocals in a good way. In addition, it’s kind of impressive how bands like Ensiferum can sing about battles and war in each and every song they record and still sound fresh in many cases. But getting back to the album, after the nice folk intro Burden Of The Fallen, perfect for enjoying around the fire pit while roasting a leg of goose and having a cold beer, Ensiferum offer us Warrior Without A War, which despite its epic start and all the band’s efforts to make it even more epic, especially the “Oh-oh-oh!” in the background, is just an average song with not much to offer to the listener.

ensiferumAnd the boring Cry For The Earth Bounds follows a similar formula: another epic battle intro done by some kind of choir, lyrics talking about war, keyboards giving it an extra touch of magic and so on, but nothing that makes the song outstanding. Quite the contrary, it gets really tiring and falls totally flat after a while. In the excellent Two Of Spades, they finally sing about something that’s not a medieval battle, but a more contemporary type of war: gambling! Its truly exciting riffs and vocals are good indicators they should invest more on this type of raw and direct metal, with its disco beats and Finnish lines being interesting elements added to the song.

The following two tracks, My Ancestor’s Blood and Descendants, Defiance, Domination , form one song name “Heathen Throne Part III”. The first song is pretty boring, with its riffs sounding too generic and its rhythm being as monotone as possible, while the second part is even worse: there was no doubt an 11-minute tune would sound epic, sorrowful and imposing, but the overall result is extremely disappointing due to the lack of energy and entrenchment. In other words, the song just goes on and on forever, with its instrumental parts being very basic, and you even forget to follow the storyline at a given point. Fortunately, Neito Pohjolan closes the regular version of the album beautifully with its awesome lyrics (“Eessä myrskytuulien / Eessä elon taistojen / Aina sydämessäin oon / Neito pohjolan”, or in English “In front of storm clouds / In front of battles of life / In my heart I’ll always be / Lady of the North”). It is as folk as it can be, with Emmi leading the singing and more important than that, in Finnish, making it a very enjoyable tune.

And if you’re in doubt about purchasing One Man Army or not, or which version of the album is the most suitable for your collection, I suggest you go for the limited edition with its four witty bonus tracks. I would say the best ones are the fun Rawhide and the violent Warmetal, which by the way are better than 90% of the songs from the regular version of the album. In summary, Ensiferum might not exactly be a “one man army” as the name of the album says nor the most creative band in the world, but they’re indeed a solid and interesting Folk Metal army that will keep you entertained and ready for battle with their epic and melodic heavy music.

Best moments of the album: Heaten Horde, One Man Army and Two Of Spades.

Worst moments of the album: Cry For The Earth Bounds, My Ancestor’s Blood and Descendants, Defiance, Domination.

Released in 2015 Metal Blade Records

Track listing
1. March Of War 1:32
2. Axe Of Judgment 4:33
3. Heathen Horde 4:12
4. One Man Army 4:25
5. Burden Of The Fallen 1:49
6. Warrior Without A War 5:24
7. Cry For The Earth Bounds 7:31
8. Two Of Spades 3:39
9. My Ancestors’ Blood (Heathen Throne Рart III) 4:30
10. Descendants, Defiance, Domination (Heathen Throne Рart III) 11:20
11. Neito Pohjolan 4:10

Limited Edition bonus tracks
12. Candour And Lies 4:11
13. Rawhide 2:35
14. Warmetal 2:54
15. Bonus Song 4:29

Band members
Petri Lindroos – harsh vocals, guitars
Markus Toivonen – guitars, backing vocals, clean vocals
Sami Hinkka – bass, clean vocals
Emmi Silvennoinen – keyboards, backing vocals
Janne Parviainen – drums