This year, though still in its youth, is shaping up to be the “Year of the New Album”, especially for Finnish metal bands. Saturday’s “Kaaos Metal Night” at On The Rocks in Helsinki was the first live celebration of Brymir’s March 8 release, “Wings of Fire”.
The evening, orchestrated by Kaaoszine and Loose Mind Productions, kicked off with Kerava’s own I Revolt. Their thrash-inspired stripe of metal would have also blended well in sound and intensity with last week’s Thrash Attack! festival at Nosturi.
The five-piece, fronted by lead singer Ville Jantunen sporting a Vans hoodie as though he were fresh from the skate park, picked up momentum throughout their set, and transferred that to the audience. Their sound was polished, and the mix was well-balanced for the room.
Jantunen’s well-planned vocal breaks in several songs allowed band members Ville Marttila (lead guitar), Sebastian Rosenlindt (rhythm guitar), Tony Nurminen (bass), Olli Laitio (drums) to shine on stage as well.
Perhaps for fear of missing out on the crowd’s active mosh pit, Jantunen hopped off of the stage and into the action near the end of their performance.
Oceanhoarse followed, opening with their own weather patterns on stage from a fan and a fog machine. The “stormy seas” blew back guitarist Ben Varon’s lengthy hair, and new vocalist Joonas Kosonen elevated himself at the center of the stage in front of drummer Oskari Niemi.
Jyri Helko’s clear bass tones were noteworthy and featured throughout the set. The crowd was responsive, but less physical than they had been during I Revolt’s turn. Kosonen’s vocals shone on “Waves”, and the audience raised their fists as Varon released a quick solo.
“The Oceanhoarse” invited a cleverly-disguised man in a Kraken-inspired head to hop on stage as something of an aquatic hypeman. He punctuated Oceanhoarse’s set as they handed him a guitar; his prowess was surprising for an alleged invertebrate.
The brief set change included music from Swallow the Sun’s 2019 release “When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light”, among others.
With a sound much bigger than the room, Brymir burst switfly into the title track of “Wings of Fire”. Lead singer Viktor Gullichsen, hooded on stage, held nothing back with his growling vocals. The technically-apt group also included Joona Björkroth (guitar and vocals), Sean Haslam (guitar), Jarkko Niemi (bass and vocals), and Patrik Fält (drums).
In a pre-show interview with Metal Solstice, Gullichsen explained how the band chooses what to play on stage, and what to program.
“The reason I started arranging guitars myself, playing slowly, is that so we can play everything live. We used to emphasize backing tracks or keyboards, but the new songs have a strong core. There are still some synths and vocals doubled from the backing tracks, because sometimes there is supposed to be a 50-person Viking choir; but we’ve got no budget for that!” Gullichsen said.
“And So We Age” was another highlight of the evening, with the track from “Wings of Fire” flaunting the band’s steady stream of energy and vocal harmonies. Brymir’s sound is equal parts melodic death metal and symphonic power metal, with some folk elements tucked away, reminiscent of their earlier material.
Gullichsen said, “We don’t identify with [pagan metal] so strongly anymore. There are folk elements you keep just because you love it, but as a whole we don’t want to be identified as a pagan metal band anymore. It’s a matter of taste, and also can limit your creative tools without the synths and strange sci-fi things that inspire me
“Lament of the Ravenous”, also from the new record, took a melodic, emotional turn with lyrics such as: “My amends – Can you hear me? / For your pain – Please forgive me / Bye, my friend / ‘Cause I’m just ravenous / Wish you well”.
Gullichsen said, “Our material used to be based much more on imagination, but this album has matured in a way. I’ve had such a stormy last few years, full of adventures and grief and fear and victories, with a huge pool of emotions to pull inspiration from.”
The richly-arranged “Chasing the Skyline” concluded the set with technical features and doubled guitars, and left the crowd immediately shouting, “We want more!”
The encore crescendoed into “For Those Who Died” from the “Slayer of Gods” album, and the audience sang along to “Starportal” as the night ended.
In addition to a Japan tour in May, more Brymir tour dates are pending. Gullichsen reminisced about the band’s previous Tuska appearance, as they will return to the festival’s stage in 2019.
Gullichsen said, “My father took me to Tuska for the first time in 2001, when I was 11 years old. I went every year for a long time; it was a lifelong dream to play there, and Brymir got to in 2016. I don’t think this year is going to be much different.”