Sunday, April 08, 2012

Paganfest Special (Exclusive Photos + Videos Inside!!!)

Hey there, readers of Sin!
I thought I would try something different for this weeks issue. Instead of writing a review, I thought I would do something a little more personable and fun. Everything that follows is entirely depicted in my own personal opinion, as it is my personal experience from Paganfest. I met a lot of band members and had a great time! Included are exclusive photos and videos I took at the show!
Until next time,
Keep spreading the Sin!
 - Villi Thorne

*Note* All of the below photographs and videos belong to and were taken by myself, Villi Thorne, and are not to be used, reprinted, distributed, etc without my consent. I do not own the songs or material presented in the videos.

I have been looking forward to Paganfest since I heard the North American tour announcement last November/December. I'm really big into viking/pagan/folk metal, and also Norse Paganism as a religion, so it only makes sense that my Excite-o-Meter fucking busted when I heard that the show was coming to Montreal.
Now, we didn't get the awe-inspiring line up that the European tour did which included Eluveitie, Korpiklaani, Primordial, and Equilibrium among others, but that isn't to say the line up we had sucked.
In Montreal, the line up consisted of (from headliner to opener) Turisas, Alestorm, Ex Deo, Arkona and Huntress. Now, I'll admit that I had never heard of Arkona or Huntress before the show and I had little to no time to research them much before attending.
Before the show even began I was meeting people left and right. Namely Rob Tremblay, the vocalist/guitarist of death metal band Necronomicon, who was running the show that night. The entire show was tight; it started on time and there wasn't a huge wait between sets... hell I barely had enough time to grab another beer and take a piss before I had go back to the stage.

The opening band was Huntress, a new group from Highland Park, California. To date, they've only released three singles and a three song EP. However, their full-length debut album, "Spell Eater", is due out April 27th in Europe and May 8th in North America. The heavy metal five piece are fronted by Jill Janus who has also worked previously alongside Dave Navarro from Jane's Addiction, and from what I have heard she is also a trained opera singer. The training does stand out, at least in their current single "Eight of Swords". Another interestingly useless piece of information to take up space in your brain is that Eric Harris was also the bass player for Skeletonwitch on their debut album and EP.
Huntress played a 5 song set and I was only able to grab the titles of the last three songs. Maybe I will be able to piece together the first two once their album is released. I'm wanting to say "Snow Witch" was in there somewhere.
Jill Janus - Huntress
1. Sleep and Death (?)
2. ? (Possibly Snow Witch)
3. Aradia
4. Spell Eater
5. Eight of Swords
Anyway, on stage they were really good, especially for a band just beginning. There was a problem, however I'm not sure if it was where I was standing or if the vocals were mixed too low, but Jill was at some points barely audible, though when I could hear her she was on par with the recorded tracks I've heard which goes to say that her voice is phenomenal and authentic. I do think the set could have been better, like I said their debut isn't even released yet. I get that "Eight of Swords" should be on the list since it's their single, but you'd expect at least another track from their EP like "Off With Her Head" seeing as there is a chance people have heard it, unlike the unreleased tracks. From what I've seen around the net the first two songs seem to switch up from show to show.
I had the chance to meet all of the members except Jill Janus and Carl Wierzbicky (drummer), and Ian Alden (rhythm guitarist) actually gave me an interview on film which will be coming up in the following week! They were down to earth and definitely excited to be at Paganfest.

Masha "Scream" Arhipova - Аркона
The next band up was Arkona (or Аркона), who are a folk metal band from Russia. From what I've heard, none of the members speak English except for a few phrases or words here and there. Unfortunately I ended up missing the first two or three songs of their set as I was previously talking with Huntress and setting up a time for the interview. At this point, I had only heard "Yarilo" (or "Jarilo") by Arkona and the only thing I knew about them was that they have a female vocalist. I made my way back up to the front of the stage in time for "Po Syroj Zjemlje". Their energy on stage was amazing! If you have the chance to see Arkona live, DO IT! Vocalist Masha "Scream" Arhipova has an unbridled stage presence: jumping and twirling all around the stage, headbanging, banging a giant drum, and just overall having a great time. The guitarist even joins in on the dancing around the stage. Out of the many bands I've seen live, Arkona are hands down the most fun and energetic. Their lyrics are entirely in Russian, but they don't have a problem conveying the intensity of their message with passion. I honestly would've been happy to see them headline, and hope to see them headlining in the future in Montreal.

1. Аркаим (Arkaim)
2. Гой, Роде, Гой! (Goj, Rode, Goj!)
3. Леший (Leshiy)
4. По сырой земле (Po Syroj Zjemlje)
5. Заклятие (Zakaliatie)
6. Стена на Стенку (Stjenka Na Stjenku)
7. Ярило (Jarilo)
I was able to meet Vladimir "Volk" who plays the flute and bagpipes for the band; he was really happy and joyful when I met him as he was handing out flyers after the show, smoking from an old school wooden pipe and projecting as much energy as he had on stage. I also saw him around various parts of the venue that night as well, he never seemed to stay in one spot too long. Hopefully in the future I will be able to meet the rest of the band, it would be incredible to meet people with that kind of positive energy off stage as much as on stage.

Now, Ex Deo are a band that I really enjoy, and they are formed out of the line-up of Kataklysm with an added keyboardist. Their appearance at Paganfest struck me as both unexpected and odd since they are a symphonic death metal band that base themselves around Roman history and mythology, which isn't really Pagan. The rest of the line-up were bands who sing about witches and vikings, or are of the folk/pagan metal variety; but nonetheless I was excited to see them live for the first time.
I was lucky enough to witness the premier of "I, Caligvla", a brand new unreleased song from their upcoming album "Caligvla" which is due out this August. The song started out really explosive and powerful, and the lyrics that I heard were pretty damn brutal. My camera decided to crap out on me a minute and and a half into the song, which sucked. I was experimenting with new equipment, and even though I still apparently had half of a battery left it decided to die. I didn't purchase a secondary battery because the damn thing was supposed to last longer than 5 recorded songs and a handful of photographs.
Maurizio Iacono - Ex Deo
1. Cruor Nostri Abbas
2. Legion XIII
3. I, Caligvla (New Song)
4. Storm the Gates of Alesia
5. Blood, Courage And The Gods That Walk The Earth
6. Romulus
Ex Deo's performance on stage was full of raw intensity, vocalist Maurizio Iacono's love and pride for all things Roman shone clearly through his actions and strong voice. The rest of the band backed him like beefy soldiers, these guys are huge! I met the bassist that plays with the band live, Dano Apekian, and his fucking muscles have muscles. Each member had leather armor embroidered with "XIII", the Roman numeral for thirteen, on the chest plate. I ended up missing the latter half of their set, I left the front of the stage area part way through "Storm the Gates of Alesia" to do my interview with Huntress, so I'm really unsure of the following songs. When I was outside of the venue catching some fresh air, I thought I heard the chorus of "Invictus", but other sources say differently. There is also a large possibility that "The Final War" was also played, but I believe the new song replaced it. After Ex Deo's set, I saw Maurizio hanging out near the merch tables and I chatted with him briefly about the new song and how much I enjoyed it and he was genuinely pleased to hear my reaction and seems excited for their upcoming full-length release.

Alestorm... ahh, who doesn't enjoy Alestorm? Well, aside from the kvlt black metal elite and people who take metal as thoroughly serious. Pirate themed metal was just as weird to experience at Paganfest as Roman themed metal, slightly misplaced but you can still see where they fit in. Alestorm were a blast to watch, and at this point I had moved from the front right side of the stage up to the left balcony overlooking the stage area. The only recording and photographing device I had at this point was my dying HTC HD7 cellphone which is supposed to be able to record in 1080p HD, but all of the videos that came from my phone had awful audio... which is a shame since the video wasn't that terrible. Don't worry, I replaced the audio in the clips below so I did salvage the video! The entire group were laid back, and during one song (if I remember right, it was "Midget Saw") they let someone from the audience up onto the stage who was somewhat of a midget. The band let him headbang around on stage and even take pictures and videos up there with them, then Chris Bowes (the keytarist and vocalist) assaulted the guy with a foam pirate scimitar before he went back into the crowd.
Daniel Evans, Christopher Bowes, Gareth Murdock - Alestorm
1. Shipwrecked
2. Wenches & Mead
3. The Sunk'n Norweign
4. Nancy The Tavern Wench
5. Back Through Time
6. Keelhauled
7. Rumpelkombo
8. Midget Saw
9. Black Sails At Midnight
10. Rum
During "Nancy the Tavern Wench", Alestorm were joined by a few of the Ex Deo members including Dano who gave the pirate crew some alcohol on stage. Lively, entertaining and funny, Alestorm and Arkona were the best bands at Paganfest in my opinion and really lightened the atmosphere. I met Christopher Bowes after their set and he was happily (and Jack Sparrow-esque drunkenly) interacting with fans around the merch table. I also met Daniel Evans, who plays guitar for the band, at the after party hotspot known as Cafe Chaos. He was hanging out with Blackguard singer Paul Ablaze, and we all hung out for a bit before I ended up leaving since Cafe Chaos was completely dead, being a Sunday night and all. They were really funny guys and a pleasure to meet.

The last band up were Turisas, folk/symphonic metal all the way from Finland. In the past, I've been pretty big into Finnish artists but lately not so much, for me the novelty has worn off. I enjoyed Turisas' older stuff, such as the album "The Varangian Way", but recent releases to me just don't have enough kick to them. I also wasn't impressed with their set list. The previous bands set the crowd up for an intense headlining show, but Turisas sort of killed the mood with a mostly slow set.
Warlord Nygård - Turisas
1. The March of the Varangian Guard
2. Take the Day!
3. To Holmgard and Beyond
4. The Dnieper Rapids
5. One More
6. The Great Escape
7. The Messenger
8. Sahti-Waari
9. Rex Regi Rebellis
10. Stand Up and Fight
11. Hunting Pirates
12. Rasputin
13. Battle Metal
I don't have much to say on this band, which is insanity since they were the headliners, but it was just a mediocre performance all the way. "To Holmgard and Beyond" was really well done, and great to hear live, audio wise the band were fantastic, but after such displays from Alestorm, Ex Deo and Arkona, it felt like Turisas didn't bring anything to the stage with them other than some body paint and new outfits. I was so bored with what was going on that I left the venue during "The Dnieper Rapids" and went across the street with a friend and got some pizza.
Another thing that kind of took away from the performance was the absence of Netta Skog, who played the accordion on their recent full-length "Stand Up and Fight". She won the "Golden Accordion" award in Finland back in 2006, so I was looking forward to her performing with the band. I also didn't meet anyone from Turisas, not to my knowledge anyway, but I did meet Corinne Cardinal (the vocalist for Valfreya), who was passing out a free promotional CD after the show.

All in all, a great time was had. If you have the chance to see Paganfest on tour this year, I recommend it. I hear the band Hammer Horde are playing some venues as well, as well as various local acts in some areas. It's a great time, with great music, and you should treat yourself to some great beer while you attend. The bands are all really friendly, and you may even get lucky enough to meet some of them!
The merch was also great and reasonably priced, $25 CDN for shirts. Not really sure what all was for sale as I didn't look too hard, I spent all of my money on beer in true viking fashion.

More Videos: YouTube
More Photos (Click to Enlarge)


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