Sweden’s metallers Amaranthe finally made it all the way to Eastern Finland in support of their new album The Nexus. Amaranthe is one of those bands that metalheads without a sense of humour love to hate going as far as describing them as E-Type metal. Admittedly, when I first saw the video for Hunger from their first album associations to E-Type came easily, but the backbone of the Gothenburg sound was also easily heard. Keep reading for more thoughts and photographs, but also check out our full gallery of photographs from the gig.
While the sound is definitely pop-metal, the use of three differently styled vocalists combined to the catchy and mainly happy songs is a good combination. And the fact that the whole band can pull off a live gig without any issues in vocal harmonies is a testament to the amount of skill on stage.
To me Amaranthe has always been a refreshing burst of positivity in my Gothenburg playlist among all of the various death metal acts from Southern Sweden and of course Evergrey. And Amaranthe has its own connections to the Gothenburg scene.
The challenge in photographing Amaranthe came from the fact of having three vocalists on stage who moved around actively and had to be captured every now and then all in one frame when they were signing harmonies. It was a refreshing challenge and great gig to photograph since they really interacted with the crowd and photographers.
And, it was the first gig that I have ever seen in which hearts are made on stage and in the crowd :)
I wasn’t the only photographer present, Rami Saarikorpi was there shooting several 360 panoramas of the gig (you can spot me in most of them, just look for the camera and Evergrey shirt). The following two photographs are taken at about the same time that two of the panoramas were made from.
As stated earlier, the main act for the warmup of this years Ilosaarirock was Michael Monroe. Michael is one of the true legends of Finnish rock – after all Hanoi Rocks is mentioned as one of the first bands of 80’s glam rock and the first Finnish band to be any kind of success outside of Finland.
Michael is known for his energetic performances and his inability to stay still while on stage. The 50 year old (he celebrated his birthday the weekend before in Ruisrock in an incredible gig) didn’t disappoint. As a photographer, I’m very glad I’d done my homework and watched YouTube videos of him performing live. It gave me many pointers of what to watch out for and still I felt like I lost him every know and then.
The crowd was also wild, especially in the front rows. While I can anticipate a circle pit in metal gigs, the energy and wildness of some of the fans really surprised me. The crowd was so lively that we found ourselves moving back from the third row in the crowd to the sixth or seventh during the set.
Right behind us for most of the gig was an older man, who recalled seeing Hanoi live before Razzle’s death and during the memorial gigs they threw in early 1985. We’re young enough to only have seen Hanoi in it’s later incarnation when Andy McCoy and Michael restarted it in the last decade.
For a set that started at 0:45 and ended around 01:45, the crowd sure didn’t show any sign of slowing down. If anything, as the gig neared it’s end the crowd got more and more energy. An unforgettable experience that even the slight problems with the mix can’t ruin.
Shooting notes: As with Viikate’s set, I was initially planning on shooting the first three with the 70-200 at ISO800. However, with the crowd being as lively as they were, the long lens seemed like too much of a risk and I quickly switched over to the 17-55 for the rest of the set. I also bumped up the ISO to 1600 since Michael spent a large portion of the gig in front of the monitor cabinets and thus out of the stage lights. All in all there was plenty of light, but the man just moves around too much ;)
While I’m way behind in editing and posting concert photographs from April, I started work on the photographs I took in Sulo-klubi (a warm up set of gigs for the official Ilosaarirock festival) immediately. The main reason why we went was to see the main act of the evening, Michael Monroe (photos coming later). But Viikate didn’t disappoint either.
To be honest, we missed the first two bands of the evening, but isn’t picking and choosing the ones you want to hear a part of the festival? Luckily Sulo-klubi was held in a very large tent instead of it being outdoors since the weather forecast promised rain. And it wasn’t wrong either.
After Viikate, Finnish trash metallers Stam1na hit the stage. I ventured into the tent to make a few photographs, but other than that we took the opportunity to get some refreshments and stand out in the rain :)
More photographs of both Viikate and Stam1na in our gallery, as usual.
Shooting notes: Viikate started out with lighting that was very strong on blue washes, but still lit well enough that I was at ISO800 through the whole gig. Since I wasn’t in the pit, I was free to shoot through the whole gig, but I started out with my 70-200/f4 for the first three and the switched to my 15-55/f2.8 for the rest of the gig. We were in the third row or so through the gig. With Stam1na I started out near the back of the tent and used the 70-200. Later I moved to the front a side and then ventured out to stand right in front of the pit. Picking up a 70-200 and trying to keep an eye out for the pit denizens is not something I recommend.
When we noticed a poster advertising an Amorphis tour in Finland during the spring, we immediately went and bought tickets for the nearest show, which in this case was Savonlinna. What intrigued us about the whole tour was that most of the venues listed where not typical rock clubs but concert halls. When they finally released press releases on the tour, the idea became clear: they would be collaborating with several guest artists, most notably multi-instrumentalist Sakari Kukko. The Savonlinna stop was their second show of the tour.
Alas, I didn’t get a permit to photograph the show, but naturally I did utilized the camera that is always with me, my iPhone. So, all pictures are taken with the phone in typical rock concert lighting which means that for a camera it was dark.
They started off the set with three acoustic renditions of songs from all over their over twenty year career, the attached video at the end of the post is of the third song of the set, Sign from the North Side (from their first album Karelian Isthmus). Alas, I’ve never been one to memorize setlists so I can’t give a full setlist here. The acoustic renditions were performed by the whole band joined with Sakari Kukko and Mari Multanen a female vocalist whose name I didn’t catch when Tomi announced it.
The acoustic renditions where a marvelous showcase of the musical skills in Amorphis. They weren’t in any way done by just taking the shortest path of replacing electrical instruments with acoustic but they had been fully rearranged. Anyone who knows early Amorphis will be expecting growl vocals in the video clip, but the vocals are everything but. The acoustic portion was almost like I could expect a good session in a Jazz club would feel like.
After the three acoustic songs, the instruments were replaced with the more traditional electrics and Tomi Joutsen stuck to only vocals. Sakari Kukko and the female vocalist joined the band on stage for several of the songs with only a few performed only by the pure Amorphis lineup. For example the vocals in the beginning of Mermaid (from the latest album The Beginning of Times) were sung live instead of coming from a backing track. After a set of a bit over an hour, it was time for the encores.
The encores again started off with a fully acoustic set with two songs performed acoustically. Again sorry, but I don’t remember which ones. After that, it was back to electrics with Amorphis’ sing-along hit, House of Sleep. Although the house wasn’t full and the crowd was – well small to what I’m used to seeing when they are on stage – the crowd managed to make quite a good amount of noise during the chorus’. The evening was finally capped after about 90 minutes of solid music with the traditional closer My Kantele.
All in all, the gig and concept are a wonderful change to the typical Amorphis gigs. Sure, the inclusion of acoustics meant that the amount of growl vocals was reduced from the typical Amorphis gig, but Amorphis hasn’t been a pure death metal band for ages anyway. I’m fairly certain that the fans lamenting after old-school Amorphis won’t enjoy the gigs, but they manage to complain about modern day Amorphis anyway. Anyone who has an open mind and enjoys shows of excellent musicianship (and likes Amorphis) will enjoy these gigs. For me, the gig was one the best I’ve seen from them, and definitely sharing the spot of most memorable with the Magic & Mayhem tour gig from 2010.
P.S. Sorry about the camera shake in the video, while my hand is fairly steady, the fact that the concert room floor swayed with the crowd made absolute steadiness impossible. Not even a tripod would have helped. And honestly, if the house would have been full I’m not sure if the floor would have withstood a metal audience ;)
So, the other day Nightwish kicked off their European tour from their homebase in North Karelia with a arena sized gig. The band has come a long way from the first time my wife saw them in 1998 (at their fifth gig) to be performing to sold out arenas now. And at the same time many a thing has changed. For me, the underlying feeling after the evening was of melancholy and slight disappointment.
The thing is, that during the concert I finally figured out what has been my problem with Nightwish’s latest album, Imaginaerum: it is a soundtrack to a movie and not an album of independent songs or even a concept album of connected songs. Sure, making movie scores has always been Tuomas’ dream and in that he has – maybe – succeeded. Maybe since I haven’t seen the movie yet, for which the album is a soundtrack.
I kept wanting to see the story, as it seemed like the songs were missing a vital part of them – the visual story. For me, good album will have songs that stand alone without the need of other mediums filling up the story. It should be my mind that produces my own stories and emotions based on the song. With the latest album, it just does not happen. And I find it extremely worrisome that my favorite song from the whole album of a (ex-)metal band is the jazz-piece.
Sure, the whole concert was a visual spectacle filled with pyrotechnics, a huge screen projecting animations, and the largest stage ever built by a Finnish band. But those visuals were not enough to give the latest songs the needed substance.
And, now we come to the part I never thought I’d write, I truly wish that Nightwish would refrain from performing Tarja-era songs with Anette. While her voice fits in with the DPP and Imaginaerum songs, it lacks power even in those when performed live. And then when we get to the earlier songs it completely falls short, especially when contrasted with Marco’s powerful singing. In Friday’s gig Planet Hell got me enthusiastic for a moment, until Anette started singing and I honestly hoped the song would be over. And when the final song of the gig, Over the Hills and Far Away started with bagpipes and all on the stage I felt a moment of joy. Unfortunately, the joy crashed down with the vocals.
Despite it all, it was great to see how much Emppu, Jukka, Tuomas, and Marco enjoy being on stage with the new Nightwish. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Jukka smile as much as he did while drumming and Emppu was running around the stage like the happy little boy that he always has been. But still, I can’t shake the feeling that this was an end of an era for me. Sure, I might find myself seeing them live still in the future – but the anticipation of a great musical experience is gone.
And I can’t help but feel disappointed that the opportunity to headbang is gone when Nightwish hits the stage. At least Poisonblack gave a rocking and solid performance when opening the stage. Ville Lahiala and crew were enough to keep me smiling through the Nightwish gig.