PAGAN REBELLION part 1: North America
Journalist: Kirsti Heitz
Photography: Navneet Johal
Published: Septemeber 28, 2015
@ The Garrison
Toronto, ON Canada
September 11, 2015
Toronto was gifted with a night of folk metal with an amazing lineup of Arkona, Heidevolk, Helsott and Vesperia. It was great to see a full venue from doors to finish even though it was a late show. First up were local Torontonians and Wacken Battle winners, Vesperia, who are always a treat to see. Added to their set was a metaltastic version of "The Hall of The Mountain King", which gave fans a chance to stretch their headbanging muscles.
With their backs to the crowd and a folky backing track, Heidevolk turned around to a fist pumping crowd and screechy microphones. Sadly some sound issues kept on interrupting the vibe and got the band a bit annoyed, but Heidevolk is well worth sitting through some ear ringing microphones. Heidevolk are as folky as it gets with duo vocalists Mark Splintervuyscht and Lars NachtBraecker creating a magical combination of clean vocals. The size of the stage in the Garrison did not do them justice. Cramming a six piece band plus equipment on a small stage is bad enough, but placing a band that knows how to work the stage on one that isn’t big enough for them is such a waste (there were plenty of elbows and guitars in faces). But the crowd didn’t care as they jumped, danced and headbanged along to the songs so much that I thought we were going to bring the building down.
Gracing the stage, Helsott took over to give us some of what they call “American Pagan Metal.” Fast drums and gutturals were accompanied by a statuesque flutist on wind instruments, giving the tunes a little folky touch. I could have gone without some of the awkward headbanging (the stage was quite small for some of those reaching windmills), but Helsott got the crowd bouncing around and ready for Heidevolk with their tune “The Tavern’s Tale.”
Arkona is as good as the first time. Years have passed and yet Arkona still put the same high energy and effort into their performance. Masha Scream’s dramatics on stage make for the perfect stage presence and today was no different. Stepping out on stage in a sorcerer-like hood, she whipped it off as she started to headbang to their intro song. You simply cannot break Masha from her on stage persona, she either looks at the crowd in disappointment, egging them on into a frenzy or stand back with a small smirk of approval. She is a woman of few words (most likely because her English is not so good), so the main interaction between the crowd and Arkona relies on a game of "Simon Says" as they will get the crowd to clap, fist pump and jump along to certain rhythms. Guitarit Sergei Lazar added some feeling to the tunes with the backing chants as multi-instrumentalist Vladimir Volk adds that oh-so-sweet folky sound in-between some bad ass headbanging.