Moonsorrow Live at the HiFi Bar

Moonsorrow: Image courtesy of xpressmag.com.au

I firmly believe that Things are more enjoyable when they’re free. This is certainly true of concerts. After leaving the Korpiklaani concert several weeks ago, I noticed a poster for Moonsorrow’s Australian tour outside The Zoo. I went home, listened to them and cursed my bank account for not letting me see this amazing band. Generally referred to as pagan metal, Moonsorrow’s music is very dark, with a combination of distorted guitars, harsh vocals and synths on top of it all. Cut to a few weeks later and I got a message from my friend who’s the bass player for local death metal band Inhailed. He was permitted to get one person in the door for free and he offered me the place that evening. I quickly closed my laptop, got in my car and headed straight for the HiFi.

Inhailed were the first opening act that evening. I had seen them once before when they opened for the Blaze Bayley/Paul Di’Anno concert in 2012. As with that show, Inhailed managed to pull off a very tight set. This was quite a remarkable feat considering that their vocalist Ryan Farago has sliced his knee open at work that day. Despite his limited ability to walk around the stage, he delivered his vocals just as well as the rest of the band played their instruments. However, the band experienced the usual problem of people not showing up early on in the show. Inhailed played to a rather small audience but that didn’t stop them from giving it their best.

The next support band was Fear the Setting Sun. Having never heard this band before, the thing that struck me most about them was the fact that they could come up with such interesting sounds with only three musicians. This included a period of a few minutes where the guitarist/vocalist Henry switched to the clean channel and took the whole band’s sound down a few levels of intensity. It may seem like a small thing to remember, but the drum kit was a defining feature. The kit appeared to have only two tom-toms, a regular one and an absolutely enormous floor tom. The sound of their drummer Samuel beating both toms as hard as he could seemed to shake the whole building. Overall, I was impressed with Fear the Setting Sun’s performance and would definitely listen to them in future.

As Moonsorrow’s equipment was tested the venue began to fill up quickly. Before too long, the lights went out and their eerie intro music began to play from the venue’s massive speakers. Fog started to fill the stage and I wondered whether the air conditioners had deliberately been turned to a lower temperature to give the venue the cold feeling of Finland. The intro music went on for a while but the band finally emerged and began their set with Sankarihauta (which was actually the first Moonsorrow song I ever heard). However, almost as soon as they started playing, a rodie ran out on stage and began desperately fiddling around with some of the cables on the front of the keyboard. This went on for a bit and I’m still not certain what the technical problem was. Undeterred, the band then went straight into Ukkosenjumalan Poika, which they delivered with equal intensity. After that, well, they were the only two songs I could really remember. This was due to the fact that I hadn’t been listening to them for very long. But that didn’t matter. A few more songs into their set I decided to leave my place at the front of the crowd and head further back.

While standing towards the back of the venue I made note of several things about the show. The first was the lack of a moshpit. No circle pits, no crowdsurfing, no people slamming into each other. Just a group of people casually headbanging towards the front of the crowd. It was a strange site considering I had previously seen bands like Cannibal Corpse at that same venue. But, the thing about Moonsorrow’s music is that you don’t need to be in a super-aggressive moshpit to enjoy it. Due the atmospheric nature of their music, one can easily enjoy the live experience just by standing back and letting the soundscape consume them. Of course, headbanging can help during the band’s heavier moments, but it’s not the sole purpose of Moonsorrow’s music.

Something else that really stood out was the stage presence of the band. Specifically, that of one of their guitarists. With his white Gibson Flying V, guitarist Mitja Harvilahti spent a great deal of the show displaying guitar moves that would seem more appropriate at a Van Halen concert, including swinging his whole right arm around in circles when striking chords. Some may call this being a rockstar poser. I prefer to think of it as the guitarist enjoying the fact that he’s playing in front of an audience. His on-stage persona leads me to the band’s final song for the night. Their bass player/vocalist Ville Sorvali mournfully announced that everything must come to and end, including life itself, before playing their epic 15-minute closing track Kuolleiden Maa. The end of this song featured a drawn out period of the open strummed chords and drums being pounded every five seconds or so. Harvilahti then raised his guitar into the air, detuned his lowest string to a full octave lower than the chord that was being played, left his guitar in front his amplifier to feed back and then walked off stage. The other guitarist Henri Sorvali (I think) then left his guitar in front of his amplifier and left as well. The rest of the band acknowledged the audience and left the stage, leaving it to the roadies to pick up their guitars and switch off their amplifiers which by now were deafening the audience with feedback.

Before heading for the show I expected a lot from Moonsorrow. What I expected, I got. Despite the technical difficulties of translating a studio effort to the live venue, they managed to put me in the same mood that I get in when listening to their music from my speakers. Their live show still presented at atmosphere of darkness and coldness, something that metal bands from Finland are very familiar with. Overall, I was very impressed with Moonsorrow’s first ever Australian show and I anticipate their return in the near future.

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