The Paganfest America V tour brought its variety of atmosphere and moods to the Tonic Lounge with a night full of Folk Metal. This year’s installment features Korpiklaani, Turisas, Chthonic, Varg, and Winterhymn wsg Anonymia.
Folk Metal is often overshadowed in the U.S. by the wide popularity of more uniformly aggressive styles such as Thrash and Death Metal. Bands that fall into this genre often show up alone as a solo tour or attached to tours devoted primarily to other styles. With this considered, Paganfest is always a treat, and this yearâ€™s installment was in no way a disappointment.
Paganfest began with Winterhymn which was their first ever time in Portland. The Americans brought forth plenty of energy to start the show off right. Due to the timing of the show, they were leaving the stage as I entered the Tonic.
More in the Black Metal vein of the folk metal genre was Germanyâ€™s Varg. Slathered with red and black paint, these ‘bloody wolf freaks’ tore right into the crowd. Varg is capable of making an incredible amount of noise. The deep punch of guitars contrasted well with frontman Frekiâ€™s rasping screams. These Germans even took to educating us Americanâ€™s in a bit of the German language to toast drinks between songs.
A surprising entry into this yearâ€™s proceedings was Chthonic, from Taiwan. Blending a variety of heavy chugging rhythms, mournful melodies, and the sweeter strains of traditional string instruments (Frontman Freddy Lim repeatedly appeared onstage playing an Erhu), Chthonic delivers a darker type of folk than is normally associated with the tour. Black and Death Metal elements are artfully woven together with definitively Asian strains and unapologetically hurled at the audience.
Skirting the line between Folk Metal and Power Metal, Turisas took the stage covered in leather and paint, which they promptly sweated off. While Warlord NygÃ¥rdâ€™s commanding presence and alternately smooth and rasping vocals rightfully hold center stage, my eye kept drifting to violinist Olli VÃ¤nskÃ¤, whose boundless enthusiasm and extremely physical playing style hold the crowdâ€™s attention as much as the front man. They were called back on to the stage for two encores.
Headliners Korpiklaani dove into their set with a seemingly inexhaustible energy. Front man Jonne JÃ¤rvelÃ¤ seems to have taken a liking to his new found freedom of movement. Unencumbered by his guitar, Jonne spent his time running around the stage and hovering above the close-packed crowd with an infectious grin on his face. The heavy, rocking pulse provided by Cane, Jarkko, and Maston (Guitar, Bass, and Drums) provided an upbeat and definitively metal backbone for the sweeter melodies of Toumasâ€™ shamanic violin and new addition Samiâ€™s accordion. Through the entire performance these unflagging Fins kept the crowd whipped into frantic motion, and even returning to the stage to provide the loudly requested encore.
Closing out the night was local addition Anonymia. A solid group of guys and a lady who unfortunately went on stage in front of a largely empty room. With the energy of the earlier lineup, they managed to deliver an awesome show, and an encore too, at the end of a late and protracted set. The show marked the first ever appearance of violin added to the group, as well as the release of their new Anonymiaâ€™s Drunken Demo CD. I am going to keep an eye on Anonymia. They have a good grip on the genre and will be going places!
Huge shout out to my friends Koby McConnell (Nobody) and Chris Lagor (Guy 2) of Anonymia for their contributions to this review. This could not have been done without your help! Cheers!!