Written by: Marty Adem
Photographer: Navneet Johal
(C)2017 All rights reserved by www.metalmasterkingdom.com
@ The Mod Club
Toronto, ON Canada
March 18, 2017
Presented by Inertia Entertainment
During the weekend of March 17th, 18th and 19th, Toronto was packed with a ton of amazing shows, and it would have been difficult to pick which one to go to for a night out, but if you were in the mood for some death and folk metal, interspersed with lilting melodies and poetic lyrics, the Amorphis, Swallow The Sun and Vesperia show at the Mod Club on the 18th of March was definitely the place to be. I think it is necessary to take a moment to compare this particular show with the one in the fall with Dark Tranquillity, Swallow The Sun, Enforcer, and Starkill. That show had a wide variety of metal genres, spanning from 80s heavy metal, to folk, to ambient, where as this show kept the span of genres more focused, and narrowed it down to three bands who had a cross over of melodic death, thrash, and folk (even within this, there was a lot of variety). By keeping the styles similar, the sets transitioned more smoothly, the audience was more engaged, and I believe that the response of the musicians to
Morgan Rider (Vocals, Bass)
Casey Elliott (Guitar)
Frankie Caracci (Guitar)
Dylan Gowan (Drums)
Swallow the Sun is:
Mikko Kotamäki - vocals
Juha Raivio - guitars
Markus Jämsen - guitars
Aleksi Munter - keyboards
Matti Honkonen - bass
Juuso Raatikainen - drums
Tomi Joutsen - Vocals
Esa Holopainen - Lead guitars
Tomi Koivusaari - Rhythm guitars
Niclas Etelävuori - Bass & backing vocals
Santeri Kallio - Keyboards
Jan Rechberger - Drums
Vesperia is a band I have never seen live, although I had heard of them and the reputation that preceded them (winner of the 2015 Wacken Metal Battle in Germany), and I was prepared to be impressed. I was not let down. They are one of those bands that has a “tightness” to them, with each member playing their own intricate part and also masterfully weaving it in with the other sections. What I enjoyed the most was their use of space within songs, taking moments to really slow down their playing and let things linger for a bit before diving back into another fast riff or transitioning into an intricate solo.
This quality of restraint is, I think, what really solidified their sound for me, because it transformed their ability to play quickly from a showcasing of technique to an expression of musicality and lyricism. The vocal harmonies between Morgan Rider and Frankie Caracci were also wonderful to hear, and Morgan’s ability to switch between harsh and clean vocals was praiseworthy. The only disappointing moment for me was their very last song, which was a new track coming off of their future album. This piece, although it possessed each member’s complex parts, failed when it came to synchronicity. Different guitar lines didn’t match up, and the drums drowned out the vocals, making the entire piece sound muddy, distorted, and lack-luster. I had really hoped that they would end on a strong note, especially as the rest of their set has been truly captivating and had lived up to their name.
Next up was Swallow the Sun, a metal band who embodies the word “progressive,” in the truest sense of its meaning. Their style, although often defined as doom, melodic death and ambient, is simultaneously all of those, and yet continues to transcend the confines of these labels. Their sound has evolved and shifted with each album, with adjustments being made and elements being added or highlighted depending on the theme and intention of each release. Watching this band is a pleasure, and evokes a feeling of forest magic; it is as if you are privy to a gathering of sorcerers at a secluded grove deep in the wilderness. It was also my impression that with this performance they commanded the stage more strongly than during their set in November and were really able to feed off of the energy of the audience.
The crowd was also more responsive than the last time Swallow The Sun played the Mod Club, and I think this factored into making the entire show feel more unified. This performance demonstrated the band's ability to use subtlety and restraint, and emphasized the beauty and mystique of their sound. What was also great is that the set they created was a mixture of songs that ranged from more heavy to more ambient from across several of their albums rather than being off predominantly just one. They began with ‘Rooms and Shadows,’ transitioning into ‘These Woods Breathe Evil,’ off of their album New Moon. The highlight of their set was definitely their performance of ‘Don’t Fall Asleep (Horror Part 2).’ I was impressed by how they transitioned into each song, and that they are continuously able to create different soundscapes that tell a story. Mikko’s vocals also only ever seem to become stronger, and their unique and ever-changing sound is a delight to hear live every single time.
Amorphis, the headliner, took the stage right on schedule (every one hit the stage right on time) and opened up with one of their latest songs, "Under The Red Cloud." However, instead of just playing the whole album straight on through, the band decided to formulate a set that included older songs as well, such as "Karelia", "My Kantela", and "Silver Bride". Their performance was high energy, beautifully executed, and even included several crowd surfers dancing up on stage. This being my first time seeing them live, I was ecstatic to hear that Tomi Joutsen’s vocals sound just as good live as they do in recordings. It was also great to see him utilizing his steampunk looking microphone which shrouded half of his face like a bionic mask. They totally pulled of the deep pink and purple lighting that shone throughout many of their songs.
Overall, Amorphis synchs well as a musical group, with each band member following each other and playing off of each other’s musical parts and energies, creating a consistent exchange throughout the whole performance. Their newer songs also continue to have this beautiful mix of melody that, although derived from folk, veers off into the direction of melodic death metal and heavy metal. Like Swallow The Sun, they are band that is difficult to pigeon-hole into one category, and I think that doing so would be detrimental to being open to seeing how Amorphis will change and evolve. Their lyrics are heavily based on the Kalevala still, but their experimentation with new and original stories and themes, and their development of their ethereal sound with heavy vocals makes them stand apart from many other typically ‘folk’ bands. Because of the thematic similarity and build up of the previous sets, the audience was more than primed to fully engage and enjoy Amorphis’ set, and their consistent cheers after each and every song was a true indicator that Amorphis is welcome back to Toronto any time.