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Tuesday, 23 July 2013

The View From The Back Of The Room: Wintersun

Wintersun & Bloodshot Dawn, O2 Academy 2, Bristol

So upon arriving in Bristol, through some fantastic road works, we took up residence in Trenchard Street car park (which is perfectly placed above the venue) and found the last remaining space. We then descended the staircase and searched for refreshment in The Hatchet, where discussions began in earnest. After a few pints we then made the final pre gig ritual of Sausage and chips before walking into the O2 Academy. We were a bit shocked to find that tonight's gig was upstairs in what I was told was the 'metal room' at the local club night, so we ascended the stairs and were thrown into a long thin corridor of a room filled to the brim with black t-shirt clad hoard. Making our way to the back during Savage Messiah's set, we first set out to acquire some merch from Bloodshot Dawn and then once the purchases were done we proceeded to watch Savage Messiahs final songs and also began to sweat profusely (More on that later).

It would be unfair to score Savage Messiah based on two songs but having seen their brand of revivalist thrash before I knew what to expect and the band played their music with gusto and with better sound than the last time I'd seen them.

Bloodshot Dawn

Next were Portsmouth's Bloodshot Dawn who strolled on to a hero's welcome. This is a band that get better every time I see them, their brand of technical death metal is flawless in a live setting and from the opening of Beckoning Oblivion the wind milling began in earnest, with sweat flying like a sprinkler form those who were adverts for L'Oreal. Bloodshot Dawn blend together just the right amount of brutal (br00tal?) death metal vocals from frontman Josh McMorran, ferocious blast beats and guttural roars from drummer Doug Anderson, razor sharp riffage and face melting solo's from McMorran and Ben Ellis whose guitar interplay is nothing short of mesmerising. The guitar fans were happy, the pit starters were happy (despite an abysmal wall of death) and those of us that enjoy quality music also had grins on our faces and our horns held high. The band quickly worked through their set with Vision and Illusion Aesthetic coming in succession before the set ended with the pit inciting The Quantum Apocalypse and the flawless anthem Godless which brought things to a close. In some respects Bloodshot Dawn were the perfect support for Wintersun as they have the same level of intense technical musicianship albeit with none of them orchestral flourishes that the headliners bring. This is just heads down (or spinning) virtuosic no frills metal. 8/10

And with a brief rest bite to cool off we took in some more fluid and gathered ourselves ready to watch the headliners.

Wintersun

The heat in the room was now oppressive, even the females in attendance were covered in a reflective sheen as the venue was starting to resemble a large oven. Still we metal fans are a hardy bunch and as the intro music of When Time Fades Away rang out in its Eastern influenced tones the crowd were cheering at the top of their lungs. 2 and a half minutes later the band launched into Sons Of Winter And Stars which got the baying mob shouting along from the off. What immediately hits you about Wintersun is just how 'big' they sound, despite using backing tracks for a lot of the keys, synths, strings etc. their guitar, bass and drum sound is flawless and they seem to pack more riffs into every song than many bands have in their entire set list. They are also a bit of an enigma drawing fans from the Pagan metal crowd, probably due to the lyrical content and main man Jari Maenpaa's Ensiferum connection, but they also draw fans from the guitar virtuoso crowd because of their intricate and jaw dropping guitar prowess, it was slightly weird to see fans with Korpiklaani shirts standing next to those decked out with Steve Vai shirts. Anyway I digress, back to the set and the band played every song from their fantastic recent album Time I (which I reviewed in an earlier blog) although the album only has 5 tracks, and they also played nearly every track from their debut bar one, the closing 10 minute piece Sadness And Hate. After Sons Of...the Finns followed with Land Of Snow And Sorrow completing the first three songs of Time I in doing so before looking back at the debut with the super speed Battle Against Time which has to be a Nordic Dragonforce track before they changed down a gear to the waltzing pace of Sleeping Stars and then came back up a gear to Beautiful Death which completed the first retrospective part of the show. There was very little audience interaction from the band like there had been in both Savage Messiah and Bloodshot Dawn's set, possibly because the band don't need it they are quite prepared to let the music do the talking. The second intro of Darkness And Frost (the shortest track of the night) signalled a return to the new album with the 12 minute closing statement of Time which sent the crowd into raptures. By now the room crowd were staring to boil and this became a test of wills with a band that do not play 4 minute songs, these were all long complex pieces and I was surprised how many stuck around in the oppressive heat to watch the band and also how many ventured to the front! It was back to the debut for the last four songs and the anthemic Death And The Healing was first before more super-speed metal in the shape of Winter Madness which did indeed incite full pit starting hysteria (or that could have been the heat!) the theme of high speed metal continued to the end with Beyond The Dark Sun and Starchild (not an ode to Paul Stanley unfortunately) both providing dual guitars and speed metal riffs that Blind Guardian would be proud of! Then like a flash of (winter) lighting it was over the exhausted, soaking wet bodies of the crowd threw their final horns and reached out to congratulate the band on a simply incredible show. We filed out back to the relative cool of the outside and as one of my gig companions put it "They were much better than I expected" I couldn't agree with him more I'm not sure what I expected and I was anxious to see whether they could replicate their album live and I was extremely pleased to see that they could and were possibly better than I could have ever predicted, consider me extremely pleasantly surprised and about three stone lighter! 9/10     

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