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O2 Academy Islington, London
Tuesday 24th March 2015

steve goldby

The ancient minstrel, He touched again his magic harp-strings, Sang in miracles of concord, Filled the north with joy and gladness.

The sword bearers crossed the English Channel by night and landed before dawn, descending on our fair isle with a hunger and a passion that would not just sway us, but conquer us totally; a mighty victory that will endure for ages to come.

And just after lunchtime an eager and expectant crowd is already gathering to witness the one man army in full flight, the warrior without a war who is here, clad in iron and ready to go into battle. He is here from afar, a hero in a dream, Ahti, the guardian of fate.

And they raised high the heathen flag of defiance as the moon glowed red like the blood of warriors. Brothers, we were blessed by steel and as we armed ourselves, the truth was revealed. Tyrants and cowards for Metal kneeled until justice and reason did wield. And the Gods Of Vengeance did fill our hearts.

Article continues below...

And such was the anticipation for the headline act that Omnium Gatherum, Finnish compatriots of Ensiferum, played to an almost full Academy and those who were wasting away indoors watching Coronation Street at 7.00pm this Tuesday evening missed a treat.

Omnium G produce an atmosphere reminiscent of their homeland, incorporating the battle hardened tales of yore from their ancestry and providing mood and melancholy with big, big tracks such as 'The Sonic Sign', 'New World Shadows' and 'Everfields'. You really must check out their synchronised headbanging too as this is something to behold.

Here's a band who while clearly serious about their art and their content play with a broad smile on their collective faces. They went down really well with the audience too; fists were raised all the way to the back of the hall and the shouts for "more" were heartfelt. They'll be back, for sure.

We were promised that we would be "in good hands" with Insomnium's replacement guitarist, Kari Olli of Finnish progressive Metal band Pressure Points and that promise was most certainly kept.

Regular axeman Ville Friman had to sit out this tour due to "busy work schedules" but Kari was more than an adequate stand-in. In fact, the interplay between himself and fellow six-stringer Markus Vanhala was a joy to watch.

Niilo Sevänen, Insomnium

Insomnium are the possessors of massive songs, like set opener 'The Killjoy', the haunting 'Daughter Of The Moon, the thought provoking 'Where The Last Wave Broke' and the brooding 'Drawn To Black' but the standout song was the superb 'Weighed Down With Sorrow' from the 2009 album 'Across The Dark'.

'Weighed Down...' is an epic, a despairing cry of solitude but a song of hope as well.

Insomnium, like Ensiferum, are six albums in now and the last two, 'One For Sorrow' and 'Shadows Of The Dying Sun' have been with Metal giants Century Media so let's hope that this deal produces the success for the band that they most certainly deserve.

They've really got the lot - strong songs, great artistry and a captivating theme running throughout and the image and stagecraft as well. They most certainly made a good impression on the London crowd tonight, even though they had to contend with playing support to one of the top modern Metal bands around today.

And then, the hour was upon us...

"Thus the wise and worthy singer, Sings not all his garnered wisdom; Better leave unsung some sayings, Than to sing them out of season."

The lights dimmed and the sword bearers entered to the magnificent tones of 'March Of War' and from that moment on it was a full on, heads down, fists in the air aural and visual assault that left everybody present in no doubt that this band of battle hardened Kuussaari are nothing less than totally the real deal.

The 'Axe Of Judgement' was held high and by the time the third number kicked in, the 'Heathen Horde' were captivated and entranced by a completely irresistible force.

Click here for MetalTalk's review of 'One Man Army'

And to follow the first three tracks of the superb new album with a classic in 'Into Battle' was nothing less than an absolute masterstroke. Oh Hell, yes, we most definitely will "fight to the end", forever and always.

Regular Ensiferum keyboardist Emmi Silvennoinen is absent from this tour due to "personal commitments at home" but her stand-in, accordian player and former Turisas member Netta Skog who solo sang 'Neito Pohjolan', played some crazy accordion parts in that song and also did the female vocals on 'Cry For The Earth Bounds' on the 'One Man Army' album, seems totally at home in the band.

Netta took on Emmi's keyboard parts with her digital accordion and it worked really well. A big concern after immersing myself in the new album was that the live production would include an overblown piped version of the choir that was so brilliantly prominent on the album but if overdone live, would dilute the true Ensiferum sound but there was nothing to worry about at all.

It probably explains the exclusion of 'Descendants, Defiance, Domination' from the set list as although a large sound console was present at the front of the stage for the odd extra effect and enhancement here and there, this was essentially a completely and truly live performance and big respect to the band for keeping it that way and not including the biggest epic from the new album due to it not being possible to reproduce it live without overdoing the effects.

The choir from the new album was basically made up of the subtlest effects from the sound console and Netta's superb backing vocals and it was the songs from 'One Man Army' that made the biggest impact tonight.

Easy 'tis to hide a war-horse, In the northland fields and stables, Hard indeed to hide a maiden, Having lovely form and features."

We got surprises with the setlist tonight, especially 'Little Dreamer (Väinämöinen, Part II)' from the very first album which was immediately followed by the superb 'Warrior Without A War' which really got an enormous reaction from the packed out Academy.

And then 'Ahti' from 'Victory Songs' and 'Smoking Ruins' from 2009s 'From Afar' album, both of which were unexpected but extremely welcome additions to the set and which demonstrated just what a huge repertoire Ensiferum now have.

But I say it once again, even with this massive back catalogue of gems, it was the songs from 'One Man Army' that stood out tonight and even without the full blown choir and played "raw" they really did shine through and I am certain they will become Ensiferum's definitive tunes. Unless they can top them of course. More on that in my forthcoming video interview with Sami which you will be able to see in a few days.

'Smoking Ruins' is still a great, great track though and a great story too but Ensiferum like to experiment a little and we were treated to a bit of Finnish Humppa by Netta and Sami next before Petri introduced the dreaded 'Two Of Spades' with it's Boney M bridge.

But live, it is a different animal and even the fiercest critic of Ensiferum's use of 70s disco sound (on this solitary track) could not say that it didn't work superbly well tonight. Once again, as with all the songs from the new album, it was effect free and just played live and raw and highly enjoyable it was as well. And just to prove that the new album has sold some copies in England, it was probably the biggest singalong number of the evening.

'Unsung Heroes', the title track of the last album, followed and despite its mellow tone, the adrenalin levels were maintained and reinforced with another surprise setlist inclusion, 'Burning Leaves' from the same album with it's swirling guitar riff and majestic melodies.

But it has to be said that the new album title track, 'One Man Army', really was a superb moment, perhaps the culmination of a stellar performance that will live in the memory for some time and will certainly take some topping. And to go out on 'Victory Song' was yet another masterstroke and nothing less than a massive statement.

The river slowed to catch the tune, the rocks hastened to learn the rhythm. Even the sun turned an ear, straining to hear the rising tones. The old man wept for joy. The kantele resounded.

But of course there was more and in keeping with the "fun" spirit the band returned to the stage one by one as Netta took the frontman's role and introduced the band in new roles with Petri on bass, Janne on guitar, Sami on accordion, Markus on drums, and Netta herself taking the vocals for a cover of Judas Priest's 'Raking The Lawn' which the band did a great job of and which went down extremely well.

'From Afar' was a certain inclusion in the set and fitted in superbly well before one of the highlights of the now 14-year-old debut album, 'Token Of Time', and just to finnish (see what I did there...) us all off, the truly amazing 'Iron', a real resonating Metal masterpiece.

Ensiferum were certainly not resting on their laurels here and basking in the glory of their greatest album yet and the future is more than interesting with a back catalogue that can be drawn on for years to come. They really have produced an amazing album in 'One Man Army' but there are also many superb tracks from previous offerings that should not be forgotten and can be resurrected for future performances.

'One Man Army' (reviewed here) hit the number one spot in the band's homeland and did remarkably well in other territories too. It didn't make such a massive impact on the charts in this country, however after this performance the band are definitely ready for a step up in venue in the UK.

After this astonishingly great show, catching them at Bloodstock in August in their next scheduled UK appearance is an absolute must.

On aika täyttää lupaus kerran annettu,
Forge oman lumiaura- miekkoja, lähettää sana,
Nosta armeijan lukemattomat kuin taivaan tähdet.

And I'm sure you will agree after having a browse through these shots that MetalTalk's superb photographer Sean Cameron has done us proud, once again.

Click on an image to get the large version and browse the whole gallery at your leisure by clicking the arrow on the right of the photo you are on.

Look out for my video interview with Sami which should be online in the next couple of days. There's some very interesting info in there for all Ensiferum fans.

Ensiferum Setlist:
March Of War
Axe Of Judgement
Heathen Horde
Into Battle
Little Dreamer (Väinämöinen, Part II)
Warrior Without A War
Smoking Ruins
Two Of Spades
Unsung Heroes
Burning Leaves
One Man Army
Victory Song
Breaking The Law (Judas Priest cover)
From Afar
Token Of Time

Remaining One Man Army European Tour Dates
26.03.2015 (NL) Zwolle / Hedon
27.03.2015 (BE) Vosselaar / Biebob
28.03.2015 (DE) Bremen / Tivoli
29.03.2015 (DE) Hamburg / Gruenspan
30.03.2015 (DK) Copenhagen / Vega
31.03.2015 (SE) Stockholm / Göta Källare
01.04.2015 (SE) Gothenburg / Sticky Fingers
02.04.2015 (NO) Oslo / Inferno Metal Festival Norway

Ensiferum/Korpiklaani/Trollfest North American Tour
06.05.2015 (US) Los Angeles, CA / House of Blues
07.05.2015 (US) San Francisco, CA / Slim's
08.05.2015 (US) Portland, OR / Hawthorne Theater
09.05.2015 (US) Seattle, WA / El Corazon
10.05.2015 (CA) Vancouver, BC / Rickshaw Theatre
12.05.2015 (CA) Calgary, AB / Republik
13.05.2015 (CA) Edmonton, AB / Union Hall
15.05.2015 (US) Denver, CO / Summit Music Hall
16.05.2015 (US) Lincoln, NE / Bourbon Theatre
17.05.2015 (US) Minneapolis, MN / Mill City Nights
18.05.2015 (US) Chicago, IL / Bottom Lounge
19.05.2015 (US) Cleveland, OH / Agora Theatre
20.05.2015 (CA) Toronto, ON / Opera House
21.05.2015 (CA) Ottawa, ON / Mavericks
22.05.2015 (CA) Montreal, QC / Club Soda
23.05.2015 (CA) Quebec City, QC / Imperial de Quebec
24.05.2015 (US) Boston, MA / Brighton Music Hall
26.05.2015 (US) Pittsburgh, PA / Mr. Small's Theatre
27.05.2015 (US) Baltimore, MD / Baltimore Soundstage
28.05.2015 (US) Philadelphia, PA / Theatre of Living Arts
29.05.2015 (US) New York, NY / Irving Plaza

19.06.2015 (FR) Hellfest - Clisson
30.07.2015 (DE) Wacken Open Air - Wacken
06.08.2015 (DE) Party San Open Air - Schlotheim
09.08.2015 (UK) Bloodstock Open Air - Walton-On-Trent
13.08.2015 (RO) Rockstadt Extremefest - Rasnov
14.08.2015 (DE) Summer Breeze - Dinkelsbühl

Click here for MetalTalk's review of 'One Man Army'

Click here for MetalTalk's video interview with Sami Hinkka

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