Totally Folking Metal : Ensiferum, Blackguard, Lazarus A.D. @ DNA Lounge, 11/19/09

My night, like this tour, didn’t start off well.

While immigration issues forced Hypocrisy and Ex Deo off this tour, list issues almost had me turning around and going back home. When I was greeted with that look and “I’m sorry but you are not on the list”, I almost left. Two times this week I had been denied press passes because my site isn’t big enough, and now this…but I had the tour manager’s phone number, so a quick text and a minute later I was whisked inside.

Lazarus A.D. are on stage as I make my way up to my usual perch in the balcony. Because Lazarus was a last minute addition to fill the empty space from the drop offs, they aren’t melodic metal like the other bands on the bill. They are thrash metal, and the Metallica and Dimebag shirts that they are wearing point to their heroes. The camo shorts and sneakers slightly edge them into the jock metal / Hatebreed direction, but for the most part I rather enjoyed them. They are young guys with fire in their eyes. They were loving the very receptive crowd- you could tell by their comments and the looks on their faces that they’d come off a string of shows where the crowd wasn’t good to them. The drummer was separated from the rest of the band at the back of the stage- the other bands’ equipment making a big divider across the stage…I felt kind of bad for him. They have the synchronized helicopter headbanging down, and surprised me with some synchronized guitar lifts at the end of their set.

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I got a drink and commended the bartender on his Behemoth shirt.

Let me preface the rest of this write up with a personal bias: I don’t love folk metal, or melodic metal, or whatever you want to call the music the next two bands make. I like my metal dark and heavy, and the keyboards don’t really do it for me. I liken it to ordering chocolate cake for dessert, and having it come out with raspberry syrup on it- I just wanted the cake, man. That said, I kinda wish I loved it for several reasons. One: it seems to have the reputation of being a smarter and more acceptable form of metal. The references and imagery feel kind of like I’m going to a renaissance faire where you learn history while having fun. It also feels like, if I were to say that one of the bands in tonight’s line up was my favorite metal band, I would get a more positive, approving “oh!” instead of the disapproving “oh….” in response to saying Slayer or Behemoth, like I would say. Also, everyone seems to be happy and having fun. The bands on stage look like they want to be there, and not like the want to kill everyone in the crowd, or are too cool or even bored. The crowd, while still getting rough, seems happy. But I just can’t go there….the folk metal imagery makes me giggle a little. I dunno, I guess once you go black metal you never go back.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Blackguard really bring the energy. Six of them are squeezed on that stage- and they move around in an organized chaos. They pull off perfectly coordinated guitar lifts sporadically throughout the set. The vocalist lunges towards the crowd and screams in their faces; the guitarists and bassist stick the arms of their guitars over the crowd like they are blessing them with a sword. And of course I have to mention that they have a pretty kick ass female drummer. I’m not sure why, but their set was really short- they had to cut their setlist when they were informed that they only had 10 minutes left.

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It was hard not to get a little giddy when Ensiferum hit the stage in their war paint and kilts from the faraway land of Finland. And when someone in the front row lifted their little plastic sword…..I lost it. Hahaha I love this metal subculture, even though I will always be an outsider looking in. I was thinking back to being a kid in elementary school, watching He-Man and She-Ra (one of my first excellent Halloween costumes), Beastmaster, Conan, Willow…..going to school with folders decorated with unicorns and vikings. The imagery is fun. Their female keyboardist is on a pedestal at the back of the stage, with the four blonde Scandinavian warriors at the front. I watch the crowd- there are a lot of girls in that pit. I’m thinking about the hero and battle imagery in the lyrics and presence of this band, and start thinking about how the whole thing is like a metal Medieval Times, a reenactment of a bloodless battle. Which is funny, compared to something like a Behemoth show, where it’s like an actual bloody battle. They played a 100 minute crowd pleasing set, which ended with people in the crowd raising their plastic sword and staff high.

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This was my 100th show of the year, and I celebrated accordingly, thus the tardiness of this write up. In hindsight, I should have borrowed the plastic sword for a commemorative picture.

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