Wintersun @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US)

WINTERSUN / FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE / ARSIS / STARKILL

Date: 15th August, 2013
Venue: House Of Blues Chicago
Ticket: $37 (€28)
Promoter: Live Nation


I happen to consider WINTERSUN’s “Time I” as one of the most impressive albums of the last decade (or maybe more) because the music content is dense and at the same time straightforward with amazing melodies to sing-along and bang your head. You have to agree with me that it’s really tough to find such a combination but the truth is WINTERSUN have done it and in fact I am very much excited for the second part that will be released whenever Jari feels right to do so. Taking into account the quality of the first, I don’t have any issues waiting for the right moment because this band has already shown its true colors and has proven its worth. So, it was not such a big surprise to see WINTERSUN returning to North US as headliners and in a bigger venue than the last time.

The show was scheduled on a Thursday so I did not expect a big hassle driving for one hour to get to HOB. But just to be sure and do the interview with WINTERSUN, I started my trip right after work... But the traffic was brutal to say the least and my stress levels skyrocketed watching the minutes passing by and the miles staying pretty much the same. Anyway, with the kind help of the band’s management, everything was sorted out but I had to sacrifice STARKILL’s set who stepped onstage right on schedule. From the two songs I watched, the youngsters of STARKILL seem to have the potential to get big in the symphonic/tech Black Metal with DIMMU BORGIR-influenced songs. Their onstage presence was full of confidence and I have to admit their young age did not reflect to the quality of their performance, so it was not a big surprise that they got the crowd going. I will keep an eye on them to see how they will develop.


Next on the billing were the tech Death/ Black metallers of ARSIS. This was not the first time to watch them onstage so I was pretty much prepared for the intense shredding and the full-of-blast beats action. The sound was perfect and did justice to the dual guitar action with the fret-melting riffs that I think are gravely influenced by the prog-era of DEATH. Since this was a supporting slot, ARSIS did not waste time to chit-chat and hit us with “Handbook For The Recently Deceased” even though I think there was an issue with the vocals in the beginning but I may be wrong since it is hard to judge while in the photo-pit. The young on average US audience followed the no-warming-up setlist opener and soon enough there were bodies flying and the trademark "pushing-around-like-bulls" mosh-pit.

Having a lot of shredding and really technical solos leaves no space for a lot of stage movement - at least from the two guitarists (ok, James Malone is handling the vocals also) - but bassist Noah Martin did more than just to compensate for this; he was headbanging all the time while roaming the stage and that was appreciated by the guys in the front rows who responded with more headbanging. You see, whatever the audience sees, it does, so if you’re watching a band performing without moving an inch, then why should you?

The oldie “Carve My Cross” and the new “The Face Of My Innocence” dropped the curtain for ARSIS’ setlist and this was done with a nice and violent mosh-pit in the center of the arena, being the perfect pass to Italy’s FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE to keep the fire burning.

ARSIS setlist:

01. “Handbook For The Recently Deceased”
02. “A Diamond For Disease”
03. “Seven Whispers Fell Silent”
04. “Unwelcome”
05. “Carve My Cross”
06. “The Face Of My Innocence”

ARSIS

Arsis @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Arsis @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Arsis @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Arsis @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Arsis @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Arsis @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Arsis @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Arsis @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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Yeah, ARSIS did warm us up and I think the steadily growing audience was ready for the next Death Metal treatment with a touch of horror aesthetics straight from Italy. There is not such a strong stream of Death Metal bands from that country, so I was pretty much surprised to learn FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE’s point of origin. Having only listened to their latest album, without checking the band from live footage, I was pretty much surprised by the old horror movie looks and the corpse paint. It’s crucial for a band to be able to visually support the music and FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE did that and then walked a couple of miles more. Even though it felt that they had rehearsed their onstage moves (at least to some extent), it didn’t bother me at all and in fact made their set even more special. And this means that the band sounded better onstage and I have to give additional credit to Paolo Rossi for his dominating bass work and clean vocals. Of course, the two axeman did not hold anything back and spent most of the playing time as close as possible to the front rows (Francesco Paoli’s orchestra director-hand gestures were the icing on the cake), while the presence of a real piano instead of keyboards added more to the theatrics. I mean, it was great watching Francesco Ferrini serving the piano tunes looking like he had just come out from a 70s horror movie.

Ok, the symphonic parts were a little bit buried in the mix (this is a price you have to pay when you are using pre-recorded parts) but I don’t think anyone cared because the response from the audience was more energetic than during the ARSIS set. Songs like the MORBID ANGEL-esque “The Egoism” (loved the soprano backing singing by Veronica Bordacchini who was wearing a baroque-looking mask), the symphonic “Elegy” and the setlist closer “The Forsaking” sounded absolutely fantastic and proved why many consider FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE as a rising force in the Death Metal scene today.

FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE setlist:

01. “The Hypocrisy”
02. “Minotaur (Wrath Of Poseidon)”
03. “The Deceit”
04. “The Violation”
05. “The Egoism”
06. “Elegy”
07. “The Forsaking”

FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE

Fleshgod Apocalypse @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Fleshgod Apocalypse @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Fleshgod Apocalypse @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Fleshgod Apocalypse @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Fleshgod Apocalypse @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Fleshgod Apocalypse @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Fleshgod Apocalypse @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Fleshgod Apocalypse @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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At last it was time to see a full set by WINTERSUN who have put a strong foot in the door of the US market after having conquered Europe with their masterpiece “Time I”. Sure, it took some time to crack the tough shell of the US, but you have to blame the dense music of this album that without a shadow of a doubt needs more listening to reveal all the layers Jari and the rest of the band have used. Trust me when I say that this album deserves more than the fast-food listening sessions most of us use in a futile attempt to keep track with all the new releases.

It was already a long and tiring day for me, so the longer than usual stage preparations could have fueled my frustration but they didn’t because I trusted Jari and his positive perfectionism. I mean, in order to get all the flavors from WINTERSUN you need everything to look and, most importantly, sound perfect. So, the moment the lights went out and the pre-recorded part of “When Time Fades Away” hit the speakers, all my fatigue went straight to the garbage bin. The lights looked awesome and being at the photo-pit I was already getting blown away by the building-excitement by the US fans who exploded the moment the band had set foot onstage. It was Kai Hahto who showed up first wearing the biggest of smiles as he sat behind his drum kit and everyone went bananas when Jari stepped close to the microphone and started playing “Sons Of Winter And Stars”. I think that Jari possesses the Kai Hansen attitude mojo meaning that you cannot resist his extremely friendly-infectious smile and most positive energy surge. When the groovy part of the 14 minutes long epic song kicked in, the first bodies started flying (again) following the hair-rising lyrics “I have awaken the darkness”...  and time did fade away since the fourteen minutes went by like water down the drain but there was more... so without stopping “Land Of Snow And Sorrow” followed kicking in with the mid-temp and most melodic intro-part and multiple vocal harmonies.

The sound, the lights and on top of everything the band were perfect and despite the complexity of the music, the Finns were moving up and down the stage constantly fueling the communication channel they had established with the US fans. “Do you wanna hear something beautiful?”, rhetorically asked Jari and everyone went crazy because it was time to visit the WINTERSUN debut with “Beautifull Death” and as you can imagine there was a mosh-pit during the blast-beat break and the galloping part.

Despite the long in time duration tracks, WINTERSUN did not waste time taking breaks, so the interlude / instrumental “Darkness And Frost” came next. “Chicago are you ready to scream?” asked the frontman seconds before the climax that led straight to the magnificent “Time” during which time obeyed the rules of relativity and the twelve minutes went by in a blink of an eye (well, not literally, but you got my point, right?). The multiple guitar riffs were served with perfection, so equally number of kudos should be directed to Jari’s wingman Teemu Mäntysaari who made it look annoyingly easy. Everyone was singing especially during the extremely catchy chorus lines that carry along a distinct sad feeling (pay closer attention to the combination of the lyrics with music). Jukka Koskinen and Kai Hahto delivered a solid rhythm rhythm section and I have to underline that Kai was not wearing headphones to keep the tempo right on the pre-recorded parts like most of the drummers do in similar occasions.

The band left the stage for a brief moment and the first who came back was Teemu who started soloing for a little bit before getting back to work with the opening and main riff of “Death And The Healing”. The epic atmosphere of this song (reminding a little bit Jari’s time with ENSIFERUM) and the shredding guitar action gave their place to “Winter Madness” that indeed brought some madness inside House Of Blues. Once again bodies were flying and there was a lot of pushing around following the blast-beat tempos and the almost growling singing that pays respect to the band’s Folk Metal foundations. “Do you wanna hear some more? How about this?” said the band’s frontman and then we were served with an excerpt of Neil Young’s “Girl You’ll Be A Woman Soon” and a second one that I failed to recognize but all these ended with a taste from the upcoming second part of the “Time” concept, entitled “The Way Of Fire”. This is an 8-minutes long epic track starting up with clean guitar melodies and then speeds up with fast drumming and intense riff action. I think this might show signs that the upcoming album may be a little heavier than the first one, but then again you can never be sure with WINTERSUN. What I can surely say is that the chorus is epic as hell!

The show ended with a big bang and more moshing following the galloping and riff-driven “Starchild”. This one took the last drop of energy everyone had that working day but it was after the band’s goodbyes that I realized / remembered how exhausted I was. But it was worth each and every minute of it and placed even higher the expectations for the new WINTERSUN album that will be release whenever the band is ready. And judging by “Time I” then we should wait without complaining at all. Until the next time...

“But tonight I feel so alone and I know that you are forever gone
Oh time, don´t fade away when I need you here, oh please don’t leave me now”

WINTERSUN setlist:

01. “When Time Fades Away”
02. “Sons Of Winter And Stars”
03. “Land Of Snow And Sorrow”
04. “Beautiful Death”
05. “Darkness And Frost”
06. “Time”
07. “Death And The Healing”
08. “Winter Madness”
09. “Beyond The Dark Sun
10. “The Way Of The Fire”
11. “Starchild”

WINTERSUN

Wintersun @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Wintersun @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Wintersun @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Wintersun @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Wintersun @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Wintersun @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Wintersun @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Wintersun @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Wintersun @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Wintersun @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Wintersun @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Wintersun @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Wintersun @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Wintersun @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Wintersun @ House Of Blues, Chicago (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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