Live Review: Ensiferum & Metsatöll – Glasgow, Classic Grand 23/2/16

Is there anything better than the promise of an evening of folk metal? A double shot in the shape of Metsatöll and Ensiferum awaited us in Glasgow’s Classic Grand and you can’t deny a bill like that.

There was a slight concern early on in the night before Metsatöll took to the stage as the room was worryingly empty. However, the placement of a cheap Wetherspoons near a venue is probably the main cause of that. By the time the lights died, the missing portion of the crowd rolled in for the opening notes.

Metsatöll are a special beast. While many folk metal bands stick their folk element in the back, Metsatöll fly their folk flag proudly. Lauri “Varulven” Õunapuu takes the place normally reserved for a second guitarist and is arguably the biggest focal point. Most musicians are content to play one instrument, Varulven jumps between various instruments seemingly as easy as flipping channels on TV. Flutes, bagpipes, some sort of box with strings (not a guitar before any smart arse chimes in) and more, not to mention a tremendous deep singing voice.

Official video for Külmking

While the set was initially hampered by the drums overpowering everything, once the levels settled the crowd could experience the group properly. This showed the success of the bands short set. While at first it was merely the front of the crowd properly engaging with the music, by the end the rest of the room were joining in. With any luck we’ll be seeing them again in Glasgow in a headlining capacity.

Ensiferum came next, and they came surprisingly quickly. Many in the crowd were barely through their break time pints (others were barely into their third); perhaps this is why after the big intro leading in Axe of Judgement, there was an odd lack of pits.

They would come, by god would they come. The bruising up my arm and the swelling on my knee is evidence for that (the floor gets slippy. After a while it’s like pits on ice, which needs to be a Disney winter show). In the early minutes though, the act of downing pints was the apparent primary objective.

One of the things the eagle eyed crowd members would have picked out, or anyone who has seen even one line up picture of Ensiferum, is that they were both a member down and a member up. Keyboard player Emmi Silvennoinen couldn’t make the tour and sadly had to sit it out, but an unexpected treat saw ex-Turisas accordion player Netta Skog filling in.

It was an excellent choice of fill in, why get another person just to clone a missing member when you can do something new. Plus it was nice to see Skog back on stage after last seeing her with Turisas years ago now.

Official Video for One Man Army

From Afar is the point where the crowd really comes alive and blow out their throats joining in with the opening growl while getting shoved all over the place. However, it’s Treacherous Gods that, in my opinion, is the song of the night. It’s my favourite Ensiferum track so hearing it live is a tremendous moment.

I think the crowd would argue with me though considering the reaction songs like Ahti and Twilight Tavern receive. Two of Spades, with its disco heavy middle was another hit with the crowd. This is the main strength of the night though; the set spans their career and spans tempos. It’s no secret that Ensiferum are a rather high octane band when going at full pelt and I don’t envy Janne Parviainen on drums when they’re at that pace. The brief slower songs in the set allow for a breather and because of that the band remains consistently on point all night, even after the facepaint begins to run.

It almost feels wrong watching Sami Hinkka charging about the stage in his kilt considering the gig is in the middle of Scotland and we’re all wearing jeans, though with  the amount of energy the man exudes it’s probably good that he’s not a “true Scot.” Kilts and jumping about can be a poor combination!

The set draws to an end, but first the necessary encore needs to be taken care of. Anyone who made the unfortunate decision to pint up during the break is surely regretting it when Into Battle kicks in. A closing two punch of In My Sword I Trust and Iron brings the night to an end and the sweaty masses stagger into the cold Glasgow night. No doubt some will wake up with black lines painted in eyeliner across their noses, the rest will wake up with necks in agony, but I doubt anyone will wake up and not reflect on how much fun Ensiferum are live.

We interviewed Ensiferum’s Petri Lindroos last year, click here to read it.

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