Ensiferum — fighting to the Finnish
By Kallak Jonesic
1 November 2010
This year's Halloween weekend began with Finnish band Ensiferum showing us their pale, half-naked bodies at the Rumours Lounge in Wetevreden Park. And the week leading to this gig? Flu infested with most people in my life coughing out speckles of some early summer virus brought over from God knows where — the mood of the week, including mine, feverishly made me switch off the chip on the Tuesday, whether RICA like it or not. And I think I beat them to it. The bastards won't have me register, even if it means never having to use a cell phone again. If they so badly want to chip me, they will have to come to my house with a hypodermic needle like they do at the SPCA; and I'll be waiting for them quietly, in a dark room clenching to a cocked crossbow.
But enough of this mumbo jumbo, control thing. I still believe we have some choice in all this, and if not REVOLUTION will be coming their way!
In actual fact, I have sat down to write something about this Halloween thing and I better do it before I start cussing at the Americans for creating this impious holiday (modern Christmas and the modern Santa being another of their depraved inventions).
So here it goes.
It is no secret that writing about metal shows in South Africa is a difficult task. It's probably easier to write about politics: They are all corrupt sons of bitches. Liars. Scoundrels!
But this article is not entirely about one metal show, so it gives me hope and a little more excitement about where this thing might eventually end up. Of course, there are easier ways out of the cul-de-sac when reviewing a music event. One could take the route of stating all the facts by writing down trivial information such as the times, set lengths, tracks played, the thoughts of some kid guitarist who always says that "If it ain't fun, there is no need to do it," or just by finely spreading out the history of the band like Wikipedia never existed. But no — I won't do that, because I believe that all of you out there are capable of doing the following:
Google Search: Ensiferum band
Click ... ... ...
Meaning: Sword Bearer
**Played so and so festival, like every other better known band out of
Europe, and each member plays for a hundred similarly sounding bands.
Some guys left the band, others joined.**
What you won't read about however, and I'm stating this again, is how badly this band needs the sun before they decide to go out there, in Africa, wearing only kilts. What you will also not read in Wikipedia is that whenever a band member from a band like this leaves the group, a clone is sent from some secret industrial unit to replace the carve-out and carry forth with the same riffs whilst brandishing an imaginary sword up towards the gods. And I'm going to let you in on a little secret. It is a special little secret, and one that most don't think about. I will tell you why it doesn't matter who the replacement musician — or clone — is.
It is because this kind of music is actually pop!
Oh, the fallacy, you might say. How can this cretin equate underground music to pop, you might add? And I'll tell you how. I have had some time to think about this. A whole 5 minutes to be exact. And I'll answer the question with a clarification of what pop is without discriminating against any particular genre of music.
Pop is having to play the same song the same way every time.
Pop is posing.
Pop is not feeling music.
Pop is imagining being something more than music.
Pop is putting on a voice when you address the crowd.
Pop is when you are Japanese and you feel the need to wear a Kimono so you can be discerned.
Pop is when you do not offer an explanation about this life through your art.
Pop is being "just ok" and being forgotten about a few days later when the next pop act comes to town.
Pop is a sound done by many.
Pop is when your label is an offshoot of the Universal Music Group.
Pop is when you give it all away in the first song.
In other words, everything in the world of music has become pop, except only for a few acts that can still be regarded as ornamental and artistic. I believe that most of them sit somewhere in the genres of deep electronica, jazz or noise; and since metal has been grated down to its core of clichés, like an onion that has not only been peeled to its heart, but has also dehydrated the eyes of the mind, the only thing that was left to do that Friday was give in and try enjoy the concert. But before the Finns got on to play forever, with the drummer Janne who has as much emotion on his mug as Hannibal Lecter tossing a salad, a not-so-pop band made an impression on me and the Serbian friend that had come with; the same Serbian that had also joined me for last year's Balkanology flop.
The band's name is All Forlorn, a band that rocks out more in the grunge sense of metal music than anything else; similar to At the Gates, and the drummer Thomas Hughes reminded me of another famous metal drummer by the name of Derek Roddy. The band played a short set. It was just right, although the Serbian "Leonard" wanted to kick the one guitarists' ass for "being rude". "This guy is a total pleb, man!" I told him to relax and stop with the beers. "We don't want enemies here, they'll skin us alive," I told him.
The crowd was heroic, and I'm sure the music was pivotal in making them assemble that particular demeanor; and one positive thing about this crowd — in the organizers' minds at least — was that they would have eaten up anything that was presented to them, as long as it was foreign. The sound was somehow persuaded through the house sound system; the same one that in all probability had the Currie Cup Final blasting out Pat Lambie's name the following day, and a system that looks like it houses a colony of Malagasy Hissing Cockroaches. At 230 bucks a head I thought that hiring out a 7 grand system would have made me write more positively about this.
The tour had by now gone for a few days, beginning in Durban and Burn Night Club and then 3 shows in Johannesburg. Cape Town got none of it.
Someone was bitching about the sound at Cool Runnings the previous night, where self proclaimed official opening act Riddare Av Koden broke the neck of their only left-handed guitar to a premature set end, which a lot of people told me was a blessing in disguise. And the following night's Black Dahlia performance was to be the grand finale with a couple of freaks running around dressed like they dress at Doors Nightclub on the same Halloween evening, or at Comic-Con in San Diego. I was not there, but I can only imagine the litres and litres of blotted makeup on the floor and people slipping on the tiles to torn up chins and smashed cheekbones. It must have been like Tuonela.
After about an hour and a half of the same songs, the Serbian and I decided to get some fresh air outside where we saw others smoking cigarettes and sitting in between the cars. Some even left before the band was finished and I asked which they thought the best act of the night was and most said Haggis and Bong; a Scottish-bagpipe, metal band that utilizes the same drummer, Thomas Hughes.
Not that the Finns are so terrible. To the contrary, I thought they were quite good. The thing that angered me a little, or maybe a lot then and there, is how people always believe that anything, and I mean anything, foreign is always better than what we have right here at home. The psychology also holds 100% true for other countries around this dwindling globe of ours — even the US. In the beginning of the year the whole West Coast became mind bogglingly zealous about Die Antwoord's performance at the Coachella festival near LA. The reason was that the band had come from this exotic place called South Africa. And that was all there was to it. They gulped it up like everything else that gets gavage fed down their throats and they never asked the simple, terse question: Is this real? And now when I tell them it's all an act, they won't believe it. They just won't. To them, these people are the real white South Africans, like Borat the Kazakhstani.
And funny enough the same type of ignorance is present here just the same. For some inane reason we believe that anything Scandinavian must be infallible, especially when we think and speak of metal music. But it is really important that we too ask the same question; and the answer will reveal to us that not all Scandinavians are real Vikings, or even the cultural descendents of sword bearers, or gods of brain music, or anything for that matter. In fact, we must completely and once and for all understand that they are probably heftier nerds than the rest of us and that all they really strive for is the big stage of fame (there is pop again), and a little bit of free porn in those chilly Helsinki eves. The lack of swing, open-endedness and imperfection (yes mistakes are important in music) in most Scandinavian metal is what makes the same music tedious and overly clinical. They are as real as the characters from the World of Warcraft game and if you choose to play along, then it is entirely your choice, but you are prohibited to simper when someone like me criticizes your psychosis. You should rather begin crying quietly under the shower and think about how much time you have been spending in front of you television set and computer.
What these bastards wouldn't give to be far away from their socialist nightmares of astronomical taxes, strict alcohol laws, and perverted solstices. What they wouldn't give for a little bit of cheap weed and surfer magic, even if it turns out to be detrimental to their GDP.
The next day after we married the Serbian at a Commissioner of Oath's office in Industria; an old supermarket space that is placarded with Mecca posters and inside an old Muslim man smokes cheap, red cigarettes through a gold cigarette holder and plays with his white, corkscrew beard, we decided to check out the Tattoo Convention at Cool Runnings, Fourways. In my mind the best South African live venue of 2010.
Finally there we watched, outside in the sun with many beers and close to real conversations, some bands that had real rocker moxie southern moxie to be precise. The openers were Reverend Wright and the Mystery Train Gamblers who played a great version of Rockabilly through an upright bass, a Gretsch guitar and solid drums. Then Free or Charles Manson — depending on your imagination — lookalikes Black Cat Bone hit an explosive set, although I thought their new bass player was a little sloppy. Afterwards Martin Rocka and the Sick Shop had the best sound of the day and a little later Fuzigish played an enthusiastic set amidst an African storm that was brewing up to no release the thing just missed the fresh tattoo-wounds on the big, pale girls that ran around the venue and I was wondering why an old, drunk guy opted for a full back-piece. We sat at the back, next to the bar and chatted to Norman, the guitarist from the Reverend's band and I found out that this awesome, no-nonsense outfit may not be playing around for much longer. And this means that you should go out and watch them as soon as you can.
When the sun came down we went to the Serbian's house where many animals live and drank Chinese Baijiu until we passed out on the couches and I am glad that I still haven't written anything on this Halloween thing or the type of people that are enthusiastic enough to dress up for yet another alien holiday.
Author: Chillager, 4 November 2010
Sounds like a great weekend
Author: fin, 11 November 2010
wish I were there, great review as always.
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