Japanese promoter Evoken de Valhall put on another great folk metal festival in Tokyo headlined by Ensiferum and Trollfest, reports Caroline Misokane.
Pagan Metal Horde Vol 2 at Shinjuku Blaze, Tokyo, 5th January 2018
Following the opening act, Chinese folk metal band DreamSpirit, the second band to rock the stage with their flutes combined with heavy guitars and drums was Boisson Divine, a French band with two albums released and playing outside of their country for the very first time. Opening the gig with “Que Me’n Tornerèi”, Tokyo greeted an enthusiastic band with happy faces and dancing riffs, thrilled by the reception of the Japanese audience. The interesting part of this show was that with the exception of two members, all of the band sings along, forming beautiful choirs while playing their instruments amazingly. Lead vocalist Baptiste Labenne showed not only talent with his voice and guitar, but also a strong sympathy for the audience. With only a 25-minute set, Boisson Divine enchanted the Japanese people with their French lyrics. We might see them in Japan again in the near future.
When the curtains fell down, the amazing Sophie Christensen entered the stage with her flute, playing a beautiful captivating melody that left the venue silent, with everybody paying attention only to the tenderness of her music. Lights went out and the other five members of Valhalore joined Sophie for the triumphant “Upon the Shores” followed by “The Winterstone”. As is quite common among folk metal bands, Valhalore’s members all wear typical clothes and make up, reminding us of the Viking era, which gives the show a more powerful atmosphere. This Australian sextet was also playing outside of their country for the first time and although a little anxiety was noticed on their faces, they did a great job. As they sound heavy, headbanging is a mandatory thing both for the audience and the band. The singer Lachlan Neate not only knows how to command the audience during the instrumental parts of the songs, but also can make his audience stop and pay attention to his amazing voice and screams. It was definitely the best show of the night. Even with a short set, Valhalore showed that they came to stand their ground and conquer stages worldwide.
The venue started filling up with more people when the Italians Wind Rose appeared on the stage with the epic “Dance of Fire”. What we saw was a band dressed properly for a rigorous winter, yet heating up the stage while banging their heads and having a lot of fun. Singer Francesco Cavalieri started the show with his operatic vocals, followed by the amazing riffs of Claudio Falconcini. All of their songs feature an amazing orchestral line, reminding the listener of an epic movie soundtrack, and this is the reason why their show is so intense. Heaviness and feeling describe perfectly what these guys do when on stage, and between some talking and acknowledgments, the metal vibe took control of the venue, making people go crazy in the circle pits. Closing the night with “The Breed of Durin” from 2015’s “Wardens of West Wind”, Wind Rose showed us that they are a very experienced and energetic band, taking the audience to a world of fantasy. A must see for every folk metal fan.
The co-headline band of the Pagan Metal Horde night was Trollfest, a Norwegian band formed in Oslo, calling their own music Balkan metal. It took a little more time than expected for the curtains to fall down, but when they did, the Tokyo audience was surprised by a stage full of party balloons hanging on the instruments as well as on the members’ hats and clothes. This is a very different band, with a sound heavier than most of the folk metal bands, and also featuring a saxophone (very well played by Drekka Dag).
The way the members paint their faces and dress is very peculiar. Trollfest mixes heavy metal, folk music and humour to create a unique experience for those who are watching. Most of their songs are sung in Norwegian, but they have also recorded an unusual cover version of Britney Spears’ “Toxic”, which of course was performed, and to be honest, it is better than the original. The stage at Blaze was large enough for all the bands, however for Trollfest it became a little narrow, as guitarists Mr. Seidel and Dr. Leif Kjønnsfleis, bassist Lodd Bolt and accordion player Fjernkontrollet dance, jump and run across the whole stage during the set. The light show during the set is great, but the greatest part of their show is how funny they can be, probably due to how much they interact with the fans. Balloons flying all around and people following their dancing marked this first presentation of a band that conquered the Japanese hearts with their passion and sympathy.
Ensiferum’s intro music “Ajattomasta Unesta” creates an atmosphere similar to an epic war movie soundtrack. This is followed by the amazing first track of the latest album, “Two Paths”. “For Those About to Fight For Metal” is that kind of song that gets stuck in your head and you just cannot stop singing. As the keyboardist Netta Skog recently left the band, Ensiferum entered the stage as a quartet, but that did not extinguish their fire. The grunt vocals of Petri Lindroos fired up the venue, while Markus Toivonen and Sami Hinkka took care of the clear parts of the chorus together with the audience. Sami is also the highlight of the show, banging his head, warming up the crowd, running, dancing and going crazy with each song. Followed by the title track of the new album, “Two Paths” is a song that reminds me of classic rock’n’roll. The set took us through their whole career, including great successes like “Warrior Without a War” and “Two of Spades” that made the crowd insane. After a brief break, the band came back for an encore consisting of “From Afar” and the beautiful Finnish anthem “Lai Lai Hei”. It is impossible to speak about folk metal without mentioning Ensiferum. It is also not possible to watch their show without getting amazed by their impeccable performance, not only showing their competence as musicians, but also giving the audience much feeling and energy.