Review by Ivor Whitten for MPM
A very excited gathering congregated together in the Limelight, Belfast on a lovely sunny but cool evening. Even being a ‘school night’ there was a good-sized crowd of all hues making sure to get as close to the stage as possible as tonight they will be treated to some power metal!
First up were Finnish power metal purveyors Arion, with vocalist Lassi Vääränen, guitarist Iivo Kaipaine, Keyboardist Arttu Vauhkonen, bassist Gege Velinov and drummer Topias Kupiainen.
The lights went down, and the synth intro build up started before each member came onto stage to cheering from the crowd. Drummer, Keyboardist, bassist, guitarist and finally vocalist.
Lassi looked out to everyone and shouted, “Belfast put your hands up in the air” before the notes were struck for “The End of the Fall”. The crowd immediately got into the way of things as the power metal took over and much fist pumping into the air ensued. Any woes that anyone was carrying would have melted away as the music and the five-piece band performed superbly. And this was just the start of the evening!
On came “I’m Here to Save You” and “Punish You”, both fast and furiously paced anthemic metal. All the while Arttu was rallying the audience all while playing the keyboard which had a fully forward tilt so everyone could see the keys. An interesting way to play but full of fun. Topias drummed like a demon throughout and you could feel it reverberate through the air and floor.
Lassi took a moment to lean forward and engaged wonderfully with everyone saying “Hi Belfast. This is our first time here. We heard you really like heavy metal here and that you can be really loud. Are you ready for some heavy metal tonight?” the replying huge roar gave him his answer and then they delivered “Unforgivable” with the crowd constantly hitting the cheesy but almost euphoric ‘Hey hey hey’ chant.
Lassi’s vocal range is perfect of power metal and hitting those hit notes and it just felt like Arion were an exemplar of old guard euro power metal. After “Bloodline” they finished their set with an audience participation with “At the Break of Dawn”. Everyone there was delighted with the performance, and they were a great warm up for the evening.
Then came the Octet (yes, there are eight of them!) Brothers in Metal. As the stage seemed to be draped in blue pulsating light as epic Nordic music rolled off the stage. Then one by one the incredibly costumed Nordic warriors of metal filled out onto the stage with no less than eight members. Bedecked in barbarian ancient Viking costume they dominated the stage with drums, bass, guitars and three imposing singers, Ylva, Mats and Joakim. Like wild Wotan warriors they began to slay all before them with a power metal sound of epic proportions that it would fill the whole of Valhalla. Ploughing straight into “The Death of the God of Light” and “Prophecy of Ragnarök” telling us all that the gods will fall.
To the words of “Belfast! Thank you for having us.”, they power into “Njord” a hard driving thumping piece of heroic driving metal. The three singers providing a full tour de force that work perfectly together as a symbiosis that pulls you in, as the roiling crowd just go hard rocking out to the catchy rolling metal. You had to catch yourself every so often wanting to grab your axe and go pillaging round Belfast. Which these days would be strongly frowned upon.
Mats then took a moment to chat to the audience “Belfast! Welcome, warriors of metal. We name every place we visit to reflect our own land. And seeing how metal you all are, we name Belfast new Falun after our own mighty city!” There was a huge roar of appreciation with that acknowledgement.
He continued with “I know magic as I can start a song by raising a beer!!” as they proudly began “Ride of the Valkyries” before moving onto “Yggdrasil” as Mats took up the mantle of story teller start as the lights switched to fit with a more whimsical magical feel. The song though just hammered home the mighty Vikingr way. Every song delivered was anthemic and entrancing in the performance.
Then came an announcement “I have bad news and good news. We only have 2 1/2 songs left, but the good news is they will be the best 2 1/2 songs you will hear.” And to yet another enthusiastic roar they rowed into “The Other Son of Odin” and “The Mead Song” before finishing their set with “Fire Blood and Steel” setting up a very different way for audience participation as the Limelight was split into three each one only singing loudly one word – Fire, Blood, or Steel and it worked perfectly.
With loud, tribalistic, anthemic metal Brothers of Metal were the rabble rousers of the night and everyone bought into the whole performance.
Then came the time of the Gloryhammer! The start of which was having a cardboard cut-out of Tom Jones on stage and blaring out across the masses was ‘Delilah”. Everyone couldn’t help themselves but sing along.
Out came the wonderful members of Gloryhammer! Each one came on to massive roars from the crowd, as the anticipation grew and grew. Soon on stage were Christopher Bowes (Zargothrax) on keyboards, Ben Turk (Ralathor) – drums, Paul Templing (Ser Proletius) – guitar, James Cartwright (The Hootsman) and Sozos Michael (Angus McFife), the new lead vocalist.
And with little more ceremony and to loud cheers they went straight into “Terrorvortex of Kor-Virliath”. The corwd just started rocking out using the power of the Hoots! To Angus’ refrain of “Let me hear you Belfast!” they land the crowd pleasing “The Siege of Dunkeld (In Hoots We Trust)”. The roof was beginning to buckle with the noise the crowd were making – there was no holding back. Then to chants of “Hoots” from everyone came “Gloryhammer”
The new Angus proved he had some inkling of the local delicacies letting everyone know that they were so happy to be back in Belfast, land of the curried chip and Buckfast.
With “The Land of Unicorns”, arms and hands were thrown up into the air to chants in time with the beat before “Fly Away”, “Magic Dragon” and a bit of “Also Sprach Zarathustra”.
Angus announced to all and sundry “I just wanted to let you know that this is last ever Gloryhammer gig in Belfast.” This threw the crowd with lots of confused looks. “Before we come back again with a new album early next year.” At this the roar was incandescent with relief and joy.
There were the inevitable repeated chants then of “Hoots” and Gloryhammer continued the onslaught of fun and reverie with “The Hollywood Hootsman”, “Goblin King of the Darkstorm Galaxy” and “Legend of the Astral Hammer” as Angus wielded the great hammer itself, much to the enjoyment of all.
Then came “Masters of the Galaxy”, “Hootsforce”, “Infernus Ad Astra” and “Rise of the Chaos Wizards” as the crowd just started going completely off the rails dancing, headbanging and moshing in sheer delight. The whole band were delivering a solid Gloryhammer performance that delighted the whole place allowing all to have as much fun as possible. Inhibitions were gone as the power metal ruled all here.
Up next were “Angus McFife”, “Universe on Fire”, and “The Unicorn Invasion of Dundee” as the set came to a close. The whole set was finished off with the playing of “The National Anthem Of Unst” and “Rocking All Over The World”. As they finished the roof and pints, arms and smiles were raised in appreciation for the incredible evening of entertainment and metal.
What an evening! Three incredible bands delivering pure power metal fun and cheese that had everyone moving in time, chanting along and singing as loud as they could. Their albums are great but there is something magical about seeing them all on stage giving it their all. All the bands were tight, professional and had the right level of bombast that goes with such a performance.
While this night was very close to the end of their tour, each band had done their job with pure verve and energy that would be expected at the beginning of a tour, not at the end. Many new fans were gathered up on the night and suspect a lot of merch was moved too, including albums. The individual styles and sounds are different but the feeling was the same. Joy.
Keep you eye out for Arion, Brothers of Metal and Gloryhammer, and next time grab that ticket to see them live.