Gig review: WINTERSUN – The Garage, London, 16 July 2013

Support Acts: Bloodshot Dawn & Savage Messiah

There is something truly ironic about a Finnish band visiting London on the hottest day of the year and performing at a venue that feels worse than a sauna, or the very lungs of hell for that matter, but this is what happened on the late afternoon of the 16th of July.

The evening started on the wrong foot for me as the long queue outside meant that by the time I finally made my way into the venue, the London-based Heavy/Thrash outfit was in the middle of performing their very last song. Sadly, that is what happens when opening bands hit the stage fifteen (!) minutes after the doors are opened.

For the second opening act of the day, Bloodshot Dawn, my frustration levels were raised again when it seemed that despite the efforts of the band to ensure that their highly technical but equally aggressive Thrash/Death Metal was presented to the audience in the most professional fashion possible, the soundman seemed to have ‘better things to do’ than work on their sound.

While the rhythm guitar was lost in the mix and both the lead guitar and the drums were loud enough to penetrate even the strongest of earplugs, this guy spent most of his time either playing with his mobile phone or chatting to a female member of the audience. It was only after the band politely complained that he started twisting a few knobs but to limited effect. Of the six songs that the band performed on the night, it was only “Illusion Aesthetic” that sounded remotely decent; still, the South Londoners received a very positive response from the very energetic and, by that stage, fairly sweaty crowd.

It took almost forty minutes for the road crew to prepare the stage for Wintersun and the organisers of the show came up with the peculiar idea of entertaining the crowd by placing a portable CD deck in the middle of the stage, with a DJ in Bermuda shorts blasting Los Del Rio’s “Macarena” and 2 Unlimited’s “No Limit” out to us!?! I am not quite sure whether is was the sheer heat or something else, but there were a few younger members of the audience who jumped to these unholy tunes and sang along to their lyrics – live and let live, I suppose…

Not being in the best of moods by this stage, my expectations for the quality of Wintersun’s performance were pretty low. Luckily for both me and the remaining members of the crowd, Jari Maenpaa and his band mates stormed the stage of The Garage with a winning attitude – almost confirming that the hardships we had endured in order to see their band’s performance were not in vain.

My main concern was whether the key/orchestral samples that the band would undoubtedly use would come out well in the overall mix when combined with the more metalic elements of the band’s music and, though the end result was not the best possible, it was good enough to make the band’s set a very enjoyable occasion.

Jari was in an obviously good mood and that, I am sure, had to do a lot with the crowd’s reaction moments after the first few notes of “When Time Fades Away” were performed. This great vibe continued during the performance of “Sons Of Winter And Stars” and by the time “Land Of Snow And Sorrow” was performed the heat inside The Garage had reached unimaginable heights.

“Battle Against Time” was responsible for extreme action in the pit, while “Beautiful Death” provided a great opportunity for head banging to those who hadn’t fainted from the heat by that stage. One thing that truly characterised the performances of both “Darkness And Frost” and “Time” was stellar guitar work from Jari and right before a quality rendition of “Beyond The Dark Sun” was executed we all sang “Happy Birthday” to the band’s bassist Jukka Koskinen.

A Wintersun show is unthinkable to any of the band’s long term fans without the inclusion of “Starchild”, said song bringing a triumphant ending to this enjoyable but fairly challenging show – much to everyone’s satisfaction.

With only two studio albums behind their belts over a period of ten years, Wintersun may come across to the less initiated as perhaps a slightly overrated musical proposition but that could not be further from the truth. Even in a relatively small venue as The Garage and with the elements stacked against them, the Finnish quartet proved that every positive comment you ever heard about them is truly justified.

Now, if next time they come to London they end up playing a decent size venue (perhaps the Koko?) and employ the services of a REAL soundman then the end result may be quite impressive!

Review by Yiannis Stefanis

Wintersun Set List:

  1. “When Time Fades Away”
  2. “Sons Of Winter And Stars”
  3. “Land Of Snow And Sorrow”
  4. “Battle Against Time”
  5. “Sleeping Stars”
  6. “Beautiful Death”
  7. “Darkness And Frost”
  8. “Time”
  9. “Beyond the Dark Sun”
  10. “Starchild”



 

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