Amorphis, Eluveitie, Dark Tranquility, Nailed To Obscurity – O2 Ritz, Manchester – 24th November 2022
With tonight’s doors at the un-Metal-like hour of 5.30pm with the first band at 6.00pm, full marks for anyone who met the challenge of catching all four bands on the bill.
Not a complaint or opinion, don’t shoot the messenger. Just an observation from a few comments on social media on putting on four bands, earlier opening times and shorter sets. It scuppers our usual plan of ‘always see the support band’. A shame for Nailed To Obscurity who will have entertained the punters who’d managed, for whatever reason, to get into The Ritz and at the barrier for 6:00. Dark Tranquility too of whose slightly longer set we caught the latter part. Dark yes, tranquil certainly not, the Gothenburg band being part of a bill that wasn’t dissimilar to a Eurovision Song Contest of Metal with Finland, Sweden, Switzerland and Germany all represented in a smorgasbord of Metal cultures and variants.
And so to the main course. Eluveitie was at The Ritz just about three years ago supporting Lacuna Coil. The lineup is an intriguing one. Hurdy-gurdy duties now fall to new member Annie Reidiger and with the violin, harp, bagpipes and whistles alongside the regular Rock guitar/bass/drums, the challenge is on for the FOH engineer. Chrigel Glanzmann’s Death Metal growls shift the balance towards the darker side and when they’re in full hardcore flow in some of the stronger musical sections, the finesse merges into the general maelstrom. Vocal growls vs harp? Vocals win!
Deathwalker is all intense thrash and King is similarly frantic and brutal until the whistles take over and head into Jig-Metal. The sight of a mosh circle forming is a reassuring sight for anyone who believes that Folk Metal is a step too far. There’s even crowd surfing as a couple of bodies make their way over the barrier.
It’s not all full on though as Fabienne Erni switches from harp to deliver to lighter lead vocal and underpinning everything is the brooding presence of Carmen Busch, bridging the gap between folk and Metal. The highlight may well have been the sight of the synchronized head shaking or the bagpipes and hurdy-gurdy dueling across the stage on the raised platforms – something you don’t see every day and normally the preserve of the twin lead guitars or Flying Vs. All in all, great fun and Eluveitie were worthy of duel headline billing.
The Eluveitie website’s bold ‘Pure Folk Metal!’ statement holds true!
Was it only February when Amorphis’ Halo appeared? A chance to ponder as the stage crew impressively transform the stage from Folk Metal risers to a cleaner area for Amorphis’ grand melodic Metal.
We’re in for what turns out to be something a little more majestic rather than the frantic rush that we’ve just encountered, yet no less intense. Metal with depth and melody. Metal with keyboards adding a grand sweep. Metal with grand gestures. It comes with the initial waves of Northward and On The Dark Waters from the new album where Esa Holopainen delivers the first of several telling and searing lead lines that decorate the sweeping and treacle thick riffs.
Amorphis live is a pulsating experience. Tomi Joutsen centre stage, more often than not shielded behind a curtain of hair, one minute delivering a frighteningly effective growl the next, transforming to a clean and soaring vocal. Death Of A King sees him atop the lip of the stage ‘ego riser’ in a triumphant pose and leading the chant of the song title.
Not for the only time, Black Winter Day sees them head back the Tales From The Thousand Lakes album. “Classic shit from the Nineties,” Joutsen calls it and for all the acclaim and wider successes of the more recent albums – Queen Of Time and Under The Red Cloud along with Halo have transformed Amorphis into a Premier League band – it’s good to see how they still highly rate some of their earlier work of Skyforger et al.
At their core is Esa Holopainen a guitarist who decorates the vastness of the Amorphis Metal with an unfailing nouse for melody. Typical of the whole band, not showy or overtly demonstrative, he concentrates intently on the music that flows from a shadowy stage. His quality is there for all to appreciate on his Silver Lake album, but tonight he’s at the heart of Amorphis, guiding their Scandinavian ship with a powerful grace.
Only one complaint – not enough! And that’s the rub with those four bands on the bill that makes for a min/indoor festival feel. Maybe a swift return for the Finns to demonstrate the full extended range of their fury.