Ensiferum’s lively gig at New York City’s Irving Plaza was Metal Solstice’s first show of the year, so it was only fitting that their Brooklyn show closed out 2019 with Aenimus, Abigail Williams, and Kalmah in tow.
It was Aenimus’ second time in the five boroughs in 2019; their first appearance supported Hypocrisy and Fleshgod Apocalypse at the Gramercy Theatre on March 31. This year’s performances, including the 30-minute December set, were heavy on content from Dreamcatcher, released February 22 via Nuclear Blast.
The Warsaw venue space was sparse, partially due to the 6:15pm set time, as well as an In Flames show across town on the same night. However, the band- comprised of Alex Green (vocals), Seth Stone (bass), Sean Swafford (guitar), Cody Pulliam (drums), and Jordan Rush (guitar)- showed no signs of road weariness as they powered through their extreme progressive set with songs such as “Before the Eons” and “Eternal”.
Olympia, Washington’s black metal darlings Abigail Williams came next, and no, friends, it’s not just one person on stage, despite being the brainchild of Ken Sorceron. The band, which even included a violinist, cast shadows under red lighting as they played music such as “Sun and Moon” from November 2019’s full-length release, Walk Beyond the Dark (Blood Music).
This set likely made New York fans begin counting down the days until April 3, when they return to Brooklyn on the Devastation on the Nation 2020 tour with Metal Solstice alumni Rotting Christ and Wolfheart, as well as Borknagar and Imperial Triumphant.
Oulu, Finland’s melodic death mainstays Kalmah took the stage next, ready to share new moments with fans, including music from across their entire catalog. It was also their second performance in New York this year, making use of their visas, following up a month-long tour of the U.S. and Canada.
“The Third, The Magical” didn’t show its age; the track from 2003’s Swampsong was a standout of the performance. A hearty mosh pit later took up most of the floor for “Seventh Swamphony”. Smiles abounded among the band, including shirtless bassist Timo Lehtinen and energetic drummer Janne Kusmin, whose grins were likely indicative of both a solid performance, and celebration of no longer being confined to a tour bus.
Singer/guitarist Pekka Kokko uttered some dry humor in between songs, and exited the stage during “Moon of My Nights”, giving room for a groovy improv battle between keyboardist Veli-Matti Kananen and guitarist Harri Hytönen. Metal Solstice heard the question multiple times during both Kalmah shows, “Where’s Antti?”
Tenured Kalmah fans recognize founding member and guitarist Antti Kokko, and some have expressed surprise at his absence on the road. Although the band’s social media accounts haven’t commented on any lineup substitutions for previous tours, Hytönen has occasionally filled in for years. Mystery solved!
Folk metal titans Ensiferum enjoyed a particularly long set, sparking animation among listeners with older material such as “Blood is the Price of Glory”, “One More Magic Potion,” and “Token of Time”. By the time their set arrived, the room was populated with fans in 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise apparel, at which both Ensiferum and Kalmah have performed in recent years.
“Two of Spades” was a particularly memorable point of the set, as the rest of the bands and crew surprised Petri Lindroos (guitars, harsh vocals), Markus Toivonen (guitars, backing vocals), Sami Hinkka (bass, vocals), and Janne Parviainen (drums) with an onstage dance party as soon as the disco-inspired interlude arrived.
The sing-along-worthy “For Those About to Fight for Metal” and “In My Sword I Trust” came later, giving a nod to their most recent full-length Two Paths, released in 2017 on Metal Blade Records.
When Metal Solstice caught up with Hinkka at the beginning of 2019, the band had recently held auditions to replace accordionist Netta Skog onstage; however, the results of that have not yet come to fruition, as an accordionist was still noticeably absent on stage.
The band continued to power through the set with their hallmark sense of humor, slightly changing the words to “Hero in a Dream” and sending the audience into the night with a rousing “Lai Lai Hei”. Hinkka said in the earlier interview, “For us it’s lot about the interaction with the crowd. When the crowd goes crazy it gives us lots of extra boost and play like there is no tomorrow. That’s the greatest feeling in the world.”
See Ensiferum in Europe next summer:
Saturday, May 16: Vienna Metal Meeting – Vienna, Austria
Thursday, June 18: Nummirock – Nummijärvi, Finland
Saturday, June 20: Hellfest – Clisson, France
Saturday, June 27: Tons of Rock – Oslo, Norway
Wednesday, July 1: RockHarz – Ballenstedt, Germany
Wednesday, July 8: Rockmaraton Fesztivál – Dunaújváros, Hungary
Saturday, July 25: Rock the Forest – Rengsdorf, Germany
Friday, July 31: Porispere – Pori, Finland
Saturday, August 8: Leyendas Del Rock – Villena, Spain
…and more to come!