|» Paganfest America Part II 2009||
Swashbuckle are, without a doubt, the odd band out on this bill. Their pirate themes and on-stage antics may fit in slightly with the overall feel of Paganfest, however their music does not. This pirate trio from New Jersey plays a form of Thrash Metal, and they sound fine. I saw them on a local festival a few years back, and they were plenty fun and good back then. However, at this show, I was simply not feeling it.
The sound wasn't an issue. It was just that the atmosphere called for
a different type of music, so they got marks off for not really being
in line with the rest of the lineup - sort of an awkward start to an otherwise
fantastic evening. Though had they had any Folk inspiration in their music
they would have fit along perfectly - dressed from head to toe in pirate
garb, with inflated palm trees on both sides of the stage and an inflated
ship behind one of the trees, the band is obviously meant to be good fun.
The band called for "Argh"s from the crowd, and the rest of
the on-stage banter fit in with the pirate theme, so at the very least
the band stuck to their guns with their gimmick. However, despite being
a good band, I couldn't get into them on this night.
5 chalices of 10
(sorry, no setlist)
Blackguard, formerly known as Profugus Mortis, are a Folk Metal band out of Canada. The name change came around the same time as the announcement of the tour, and this was the band's first show on U.S. soil. Frontman Paul made a note of how nice it was for their first show in the United States to be at this venue, as he had frequented the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival, held at the same venue, for the last five or six years.
For me, Blackguard were the true start of Paganfest. Their mixture of Black and Folk Metal is good for some headbanging and surely they made fans out of much of the Worcester crowd. Their vocalist made a mistake before they played The Sword, announcing it as Allegiance (a mistake which he corrected afterwards, before they actually played it).
Before playing This Round's On Me, Paul asked the crowd to do two things for him: sing along to the chorus, and form one of the biggest circle pits that Worcester had ever seen. He brought up the few Canadian shows before us, asking if we were going to let them have a bigger circle pit than us - after all, we kick their asses in hockey all the time.
Set closer, The Last We Wage, was accompanied by a Wall of Death, supposedly the first time they've ever done it for that song - seeing as how Massachusetts is practically the metalcore capital of the world, the crowd chanted for it a few times before the song (most noticeably when Paul asked us to do two things for him before This Round's On Me), and the band gave in. Honestly, a Wall of Death does not belong at a Paganfest, but that's all I'll say on that.
7 chalices of 10
Having only played two U.S. dates in the past, both at the Heathen Crusade festival, for many, including this Metal Covenant staff member, Moonsorrow were the most anticipated band on the bill. Everyone was wondering what, with the short time length they were given compared to the length of their songs, they would play. Not that it mattered very much - as they opened their set with the 14-minute-long Raunioilla off of Kivenkantaja, I knew it wouldn't mattered what they played.
Every time I hear an album, or song, that I think is fantastic, I wonder how the band will manage to pull it off live. I have asked myself that many times when it comes to these warriors from Finland. All of my questions were answered with full force as the band left Worcester begging for more and screaming that it wasn't enough, with the setlist stretching as far back as their Tämä Ikuinen Talvi demo.
The undeniable highlight of the setlist, however, was after the second song. Not believing that they would play my favorite song, as they had a limited time to play and it is around 20 minutes long, I was completely caught off guard when they announced their third song as being Jotunheim (off of Verisäkeet), which is just as crushing live as on record.
The band has to, sadly enough, lose a little for having a muddy sound - while it can't necessarily be considered their fault (The Palladium is notorious for having subpar sound), it did detract from their otherwise outstanding performance, and I can't wait for them to return with a longer set time.
9 chalices of 10
My second most anticipated band of the night, I never exactly got over their initial headlining spot being replaced by Korpiklaani (also Eluveitie being put over them, though they eventually dropped off the tour). However, with the time they had, they were able to come out and make an impression on the large crowd that had amassed by the time they took to the stage.
Kicking off with Empire Falls off of their latest release To the Nameless Dead, the band proceeded to hold on for 50 minutes and blow the crowd away. Many bands get complaints for setlists being too heavy with new material - no one complained when Primordial played exclusively songs from their 2 latest albums, except for Gods to the Godless off of Spirit the Earth Aflame. The reason for this is that Primordial are one of those rare bands that always manage to put out good albums.
I've never before seen a vocalist so emotionally charged on stage as Nemtheanga. There was never a dull moment while watching him on stage, pouring his heart out - before Gods to the Godless, he reminded the crowd that "some music still comes from the heart", and he was not lying. A large portion exploded when he dedicated The Coffin Ships to the members of the crowd with Irish blood, and the introduction to As Rome Burns ("Wherever you are from, your history is being rewritten, your culture sold, and your rights taken from you. We are Nero, AND ROME IS BURNING.") was greeted with a roar.
After this performance, there is no doubt in mind - Primordial deserve to be the largest band in the entire Folk/Pagan scene. Their music is undeniably heartfelt, and Nemtheanga put on a performance unparalleled by any vocalist I've ever seen. Everyone that came to see them went away happy - I noticed quite a few around me screaming the words to every song played, an uncommon (but welcome) occurrence for a non-headliner in Worcester, indeed. Nemtheanga brought up that, a few years back, they had toured Europe with Moonsorrow, and they said how awesome it would be to tour the Americas together - and here they stand, touring on Paganfest America Part II and presenting their music to North American metal fans every night. He thanked us throughout the set, and promised to be back - and honestly, they deserve everything they get and more. Probably one of the most powerful performances I've ever seen, unhindered magically by the usual sound problems of the Palladium.
10 chalices of 10
After Primordial took the stage, I retired to further back in the venue to watch the Forest Clan and their madcap antics, almost out of place after being totally one-upped by a serious, emotional band such as Primordial, and the darker, heavier tones of Moonsorrow. It was indeed an odd pairing, but the crowd (from what I saw) paid no heed to that - Korpiklaani were treated like Kings during their first U.S. appearance.
Honestly, there is not much to say about this fantastic fun band after
Nemtheanga's performance. It's almost a shame that they are being forced
every night to try and follow Primordial - while I'm sure the majority
of the crowd will indeed be screaming for Korpiklaani, I stand by what
I said a few paragraphs above in that Primordial truly deserve to be the
biggest band in this genre. It is on account of their performance that
I could not truly enjoy Korpiklaani to their fullest extent, though they
put on a good performance and are a phenomenal live act, fun to dance
to as well. I will surely see them again when they come through the next
time, hopefully they will not be overshadowed by their openers on that
occasion, because there was simply no beating Primordial's performance.
8 chalices of 10