The Rickety Old Shack

Live Show Review: Ensiferum — November 16th, 2019

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In all likelihood this will have been be the last live show I attend in 2019, and marks the completion of a small run of 3 shows in 5 weeks that I plotted out at the end of September. When I was at this same venue for Amorphis (review), the wall of show posters prompted me to take a gamble on a bunch of bands I didn't know very well — and certainly had never seen live before. All the previous shows were excellent, and I at least recognised one of the acts on this tour bill.

Having seen Abigail Williams last year, with Ghost Bath (review,) helped, but I also really needed an excuse to give Ensiferum some much deserved attention. So, 13 months after seeing Wintersun (review), I got to see their frontman's old group, and a bunch of other quality bands too. I arrived about 10 minutes before the show began, and everything started right on time.

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Up first was Misshapen. I had just seen this band 3 weeks ago, supporting Immolation, and I liked them enough to buy their new EP, Transcendence, which I've been listening to quite a bit. Their set was the same as last time, which wasn't a surprise, and everything sounded just as good as before. I don't know how often this band plays shows together, but they were very tight and their material grooved hard. The turnout for the first band of the night was also a lot better than is custom, which was a nice surprise.

I strongly encourage you to check out their EP at their Bandcamp site. Their set was a fun half-hour of melodic death metal and their recorded material is really good. I don't know if I will be reviewing the EP on its own or not, but I highly recommend it. If Misshapen continue to open for tours that come through my city, I won't be complaining.

Official Bandcamp: misshapen.bandcamp.com

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Up next was Aenimus, billed as a progressive metal band from California. Their bass player did a few clean vocals, but otherwise it was straight-up death metal growls compelementing some hard-grooving metal with a hint of shred. I was completely unfamiliar with the band, but they were very energetic and intense. That, combined with a very enthusiastic, early mosh pit, made for a fun second set of the night. The band didn't name any of their songs, but I liked what I heard and would like to spend more time processing everything going on in their songs. Aenimus had a really good blend of technical chops and heavy, foot-stomping riffs.

Apparently their vocalist was unable to cross the border into Canada, so they had a local friend fill-in. They gelled really well and you couldn't tell anything was amiss from their performance.

Official website: aenimusofficial.com

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Before they began their set, the frontman for Abigail Williams noted that they would be playing without one of their guitar players "because he's a criminal." This makes for the second show in a row that bands were missing a members due to border issues, but at least it didn't result in purely instrumental performance this time. To be honest, the absence of a second guitar wasn't all that noticeable. They played a lot of material I did not specifically recognise, and some cuts from their new record, Walk Beyond The Dark, which just came out the day before.

By the end of their set, the band's fog machine had completely filled with venue and visibility was nonexistent 2-3 feet out. Near the end of the set, the bass player had a nice little extended solo piece. Despite being down a member, the band seemed unfazed and put on a great show. In typical black metal fashion there was no banter, just 30 minutes of crushing, nihilistic metal. The new record is excellent, by the way, and I should have a review of it done within the next 2-3 weeks.

Official Bandcamp: abigailwilliamsofficial.bandcamp.com

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Kalmah are another band, along with the headliner, whose name I have been seeing for ages. I am pretty sure I was given one of their albums to review a long, long time ago and never got around to it. For almost 2 decades, I just knew they were a well respected melodic metal band from Finland. After seeing this set, I can proudly say I am a huge fan. The energy in their performance, and the incredible mix of crunchy metal and catchy melodicism; everything was just perfect. I had one of those moments — as I often do — where I felt like an idiot for sleeping on this band for so long.

I go to a lot of shows and rarely am I disappointed in what I hear, but Kalmah went way above and beyond in terms of the impression they left. I'm going to be diving deep into their discography, because I loved everything I heard live. The keyboardist and one of the guitarists exchanging solos was one cool moment, of many, in a set that felt criminally short at 45 minutes.

Official website: kalmah.com

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I don't know if Ensiferum started late or just ran long on their set, but I think it was the latter. The show was scheduled to end around 11:30pm, but ran until about 12:45am instead. I didn't even notice how much time had passed, as I was half-a-dozen beer deep into a very enjoyable evening. The mosh pit for the headliners was ridiculous, and even I couldn't resist participating. I got brutalised a fair bit, did some damage of my own, and helped a woman recover her purse from the floor — it was great.

I came to this show largely ignorant about the majority of the line-up and left with a newfound appreciation for every one that I saw. Ensiferum, especially, left a hugely positive impression on me. I could hear a lot of commonalities with Wintersun — such as a penchant for beautiful melodic hooks — but shorter, more concise material. The band was in top shape, they had great stage presence and annihilated us with a vast array of bad-ass tunes.

They wrapped up the night by playing "Victory Song" (as is their custom, I was told) and then 2 more songs whose names I was in no condition to remember. In a year of great concerts, this was possibly the best set I experienced. Ensiferum absolutely won me over and provided a show experience I'll remember for a very long time.

Official website: ensiferum.com

Hands down one of the best shows I've been to in my life; every band on the bill was excellent, and I'm overwhelmed with all the new music I need to follow-up on. Ensiferum vastly exceeded any expectations I had, as did Kalmah. My intention was to see a bunch of shows, take a gamble on finding new music and see how things went. I don't think I could have realistically asked for a better outcome. If you have a chance to see any of these bands, take it!

—by Derek

Published: November 19th, 2019.