Where else but the beautiful Finland could produce these two giants of folk metal? I’m sure the country’s endless forests, lakes and arctic wilderness has something to do with the breed of metal we see on stage tonight. Despite their shared heritage and the fact that they both fall under the folk metal umbrella their approach is very different; the diverse sounds and feelings that they generate are good examples of how rich and varied folk metal can be.
Being previously unfamiliar with MOONSORROW’s music I was really impressed with their performance tonight. They enter the stage to the sound of shamanic drumming. They play an epic brand of folk. Long tracks unfurl out before the audience; grand, inspiring and comforting. Ville Sorvali’s black metal vocals gives the music a darker heavier edge than many folk metal acts.
Towards the end of the set the fate of tonight’s show is placed entirely on the shoulders of one fan. Whether MOONSORROW would play on was up to one guy – described by Ville as having long hair and a braided beard; a description that could have been applied to about 80% of the audience. Fortunately for all he made enough noise to allow the evening to continue.
Notable tracks from the setlist include the title track from their most recent album ‘Jumalten Aika’ (The Age of Gods) (2016). Also from this album was ‘Ruttolehto’ (Plague Grove) with the band being joined onstage by KORPIKLAANI vocalist Jonne Järvelä. ‘Jotunheim’ was another highlight, a track about the land of the giants; we’re told that it is a place so cold that we couldn’t live there for a second.
Ah – KORPIKLAANI! My go-to band when I need cheering up or am in danger of taking life too seriously. Unlike the previous band, KORPIKLAANI’s tracks are short, catchy little ditties; upbeat and often about booze.
The band is a ragtag crew who would look quite at home playing a country village fair somewhere. The sight of Jonne Järvelä jigging around the stage, his long ginger dreads bouncing around at the same time as the tassles on his outfit is enough to warm anyone’s heart.
Naturally, the first track of the set is ‘Viinamäen mies’, a song about boozing. It’s a good opener as, although it’s in Finnish, the chorus contains the phrase “Hey, hey, hey!”, so everyone can join in. KORPI play a lot of tracks from their latest album ‘Noita’(2015) tonight, including the title track, the slow and beautiful ‘Lempo’ a fertility prayer for luck in love and stamina, and ‘Sahti’ a track (unsurprisingly) about beer!
They also played ‘Sumussa Hämärän Aamun’ (In the Mist of a Dark Morning) from their 2012 album ‘Manala’. It is a dark, brooding, doom-laden track which perfectly conjured the spirit of Sabbath here in Birmingham; the birthplace of metal.
My main gripe tonight is that they made me wait almost till the end of the set to give me my favourite track. The mighty ‘Wooden Pints’ from 2003’s ‘Spirit of the Forest’. This is when guest-violinist, Olli Vänskä of Turisas fame, comes into his own; it’s a great track for the fiddle. When the band leaves the stage at the end of the track we know they must be coming back for the encore. They are yet to play their most loved track ‘Vodka’! KORPIKLAANI’s love song to drink from 2009’s ‘Karkelo’. The jig-pit goes wild! A jig-pit is a sight to behold. Like a moshpit but without the associated violence. ‘Vodka’ is followed (unwisely, perhaps) by ‘Beer beer’ from 2005’s ‘Voice of Wilderness’ with the MOONSORROW lads providing extra percussion.
So that is it, a great night of Finnish folk. Everyone leaves in good spirits to nurse their inevitable hangovers.