Review By Laura Wiebe; Photos by Adam Wills
It was folk metal night in Toronto, but the gods of traffic and employment were against us. While Estonians Metsatoll took to the stage for the first of four festive sets, we were still on the highway and city streets, creeping our way toward the Opera House. By the time we walked in the door, Tyr was already setting up and teasing the crowd. The Faroese four-piece performed nine mostly high-spirited songs, inspiring equally invigorated responses in a room quickly filling with fans. Folks seemed to really enjoy their distinctive interweaving of Scandinavian tradition and heavy metal power. For me, it was their vocal harmonies and chants that stood out the most, like a near-ritual celebration of history and imagination.
As impressive and energizing as live Tyr can be, their music is a bit too much on the joyful side for me to fully appreciate more than a couple of songs at a time. I couldn’t really get into the spirit of things until Moonsorrow turned the event in a darker direction. A long instrumental introduction let the anguished intensity build toward a blackened folkish onslaught of Finnish gloom. Despite the length of individual songs (five took up roughly an hour), the band never let the vicious, lilting momentum slip. Offering the least singalong-ish performance of the night, Moonsorrow was more of an immersive experience – the kind of live metal you can temporarily lose yourself in.
After Moonsorrow, Korpiklaani’s set came off as anti-climactic, with at least half the band appearing to be no more than half present. Aside from a slightly shaky start (and a broken finger barring him from his guitar), frontman Jonne Järvelä did his best to inject a sense of life and motion into the Finns’ performance, with the help of guitarist Kalle “Cane” Savijärvi. Those two were undeniably entertaining, the rest of the band less-so, although after a lively sit-down fiddle solo the violinist kicked up a little jig. Even so, folk metal fans once riled up are hard to bring down, and enough good spirits and energy abounded to let the night swing toward an effervescent end.