Written by: Kirsti Heitz
Venue: Hard Luck Club Toronto, ON Canada
Masha "Scream" - voice
Sergei "Lazar" - guitar
Ruslan "Kniaz" - bass
Vlad "Artist" - drums
Vladimir "Volk" - wind ethnic instruments
Live session member:
Anton Dobrovolskiy - keyboards, sampler, sound
Label: Napalm Records
Jon Doyle- Vocals
Mike Grund - Guitar
Thomas Ireland - Guitar
Nich Ireland - Drums
Bill Elliott – Bass
Label: CDN Records
Grazzt - Guitar/Back Vocals
Shark - Keyboards
Crook - Lead Vocal
Karhu – Guitar/Back Vocals
Pinch - Bass
Jõtunn - Drums
Label: Maple Metal Records
Conor Filipuzzi - Vocals/Guitar
Glenn Marchildon – Guitar/Vocals
Chris Galbraith – Drums/Vocals
Zak Field - Bass
Halloween brought us a special treat of pagan metal this year with Arkona, Battlesoul, Valfreya and Tsargrad hosting a Halloween show at the Hard Luck in Toronto. Normally being a venue for more local shows, I was pleased to see the level of organization at the Hard Luck. However the sound system left much to be desired. There were not as many costumes as I had thought there would be. Although the amazing jobs fans did dressing up as Magneto, Scots and Jack Sparrow (ahem, that last one was me) more than made up for the lack of Halloween enthusiasm.
With their furs, leather and war paint, Tsargrad was ready to open up this night with a Manowarish sound. Tsargrad had good instrumental pieces with lyrics based on all the good stuff from battles to ancients Gods. Sadly most fans were not exactly “there yet” and so the response was pretty stiff. Their instrumental cover of the “Game of Thrones” theme song received a lot of smiles and much applause.
Valfreya took over to try and squeeze a response from fans. Continuing the trend of the night with their leather corsets, furs and hoods, Valfreya took the night into a melodic/symphonic phase that led into some aggressive riffs. Just as quickly, vocalist Crook’s vocals ripped into some pretty impressive gutterals with the occasional clean vocal for that symphonic touch. If by this point Valfreya’s sound, stage presence and image hadn’t won you over, when they started a LARPing session your heart was stolen. Foam swords were handed out as fans were told to form a wall of death. Man, that is just the best thing I’ve ever heard. Swords in hand, fans got riled up to charge and a mosh pit turned into a duelling pit. Simply amazing.
If you didn’t get enough laughs out of the mock battle scene then Battlesoul’s costumes sure did the trick. Dressed up in a wrestling theme, Battlesoul stormed the stage. Personally, my favourite was guitarist Mike Grund dressed up as Macho Man Randy Savage simply because of the accuracy and flamboyancy of the costume as he kicked into some sick solos. Once again Battlesoul played a heavy set with lots of jokes from vocalist Jon Doyle. At one point he even offered fans a chance to touch his abs, for ten bucks of course, claiming that “we’re just fucking wrestlers.”
The time everyone was waiting for had arrived. Arkona took the stage in their traditional Pagan garb, no costumes were necessary, and fans crowded the small venue to get a better look. Suddenly it seemed like the Hard Luck turned Russian as someone broke out what I think was the flag of the Tsar of Russia and fans chanted the songs lyric for lyric. This is far from my first Arkona show but every time I am awed at how fans hum, vocalize and chant Arkona songs without being able to sing the lyrics (at least for most fans.) Energy was high on both sides as vocalist Masha Scream danced and headbanged and fans were urged to keep up with her.
Despite the size of the venue, fans did everything from jumping, moshing, dancing and there was even a brave lone crowd surfer for a minute or two. Arkona hit all the fan favourites, with metalers singing the melodies as loud as if they were lyrics. Lucky for us, Arkona came out for two encores that lead the show late into the night filling the evening with amazing pagan symphonic without losing that metal aggression that fueled the pit.