LIVE REVIEW : WINTERSUN + NE OBLIVISCARIS
WINTERSUN + NE OBLIVISCARIS + SARAH LONGFIELD Vogue Theatre | Vancouver, BC September 27, 2018
It was serendipitous, weather-wise, on September 27th. The rainy clouds that had shrouded Vancouver since the beginning of the official start of autumn parted to make way for warm comforting rays, welcoming Finnish band Wintersun back after 5 long, gloomy, and Wintersun-less years. With Sarah Longfield and Ne Obliviscaris to warm up Vancouverites, the night was sure to be one to remember. For those not familiar with the name, Sarah Longfield is a guitar virtuoso who plays intricate songs that sound like they were written to call aliens down to Earth. With no vocals and just their astonishing talent to carry them through the 30-or-so minutes set, the trippy songs played by the band’s namesake and her musicians seemed to hit the spot with the crowd, if the thunderous applause that punctuated the first part of the night is any indication. After their time in the spotlight was over, Sarah Longfield & Co. made way for progressive metal band Ne Obliviscaris. Always a favourite in our rainy city, the patrons of the Vogue were clearly ready for the return of the Australian band, even though they had graced us with a headlining tour only 10 months before.
Xenoyr & Tim Charles — Ne Obliviscaris
Though Ne Obliviscaris is not a band that you would find in my playlists, I do have to admit that there is something about their stage presence, about the battle between good and evil played out by harsh vocalist Xenoyr and the soft-voiced Tim Charles, about the complex melodies and touch of violins that really makes Ne O hard to dislike live. Their set saw the first crowd surfer of the night and, though the all-ages crowd was pretty tame, the loud voices that rose from the ranks to sing along to every song were sure to make Ne Obliviscaris feel welcome. I was once again mesmerized by Charles’ flawless technique and his genuine love for playing, especially during “And Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscope,” which was the absolute highlight of their set. Ne Obliviscaris took the crowd on a musical roller coaster with some songs off their latest album Urn and some fan favourites and proved once again why they are deserving of the neverending adulation that comes their way.
Tim Charles — Ne Obliviscaris
The moment Ne Obliviscaris bowed to their adoring audience and walked off, there was a shift in the crowd. As some had come only for the incredibly popular opener, the Ne O. faithfuls moved after the band’s too-short set to make way for the ravenous Wintersun fans, who pressed themselves against the barrier like caged animals to be as close as possible to the seldom-seen-on-North-American-soil Finnish phenomenon. Like many of them, I stood in the front row in solemn silence as Ne Obliviscaris’ backdrop fell and the Forest Seasons backdrop was fully revealed. The moment Wintersun’s intro music started, the hair stood on the back of my neck and my bones became electrified. Heikki Saari – standing in for Kai Hahto - walked on stage and I gasped with anticipation as the ex-Norther and current Finntroll and Whorion drummer saluted the crowd and got to work. Jukka Koskinen and Teemu Mäntysaari took the stage moments later to an earful of eager screams and cheers, but Wintersun’s latest addition was missing in action. After my European friends praised his skills, his stage presence, and his off-stage kindness, I was looking forward to seeing newish member Asim Searah in action but, with a Canadian visa still pending, he was missing. Sadly, his absence created the only downside about Wintersun’s set. The lack of a second guitar dampened the usual Wow factor the Finnish band is known for and, while the whole set was still incredible, Searah’s absence was noticeable.
Jari Mäenpää — Wintersun
That being said, considering the circumstances, Wintersun could not have been better. They transported the show-goers into their cold, dark world and created magical melodies right before our very eyes. From classics such as "Winter Madness" and "Starchild" and the band’s Magnum Opus to date "Sons of Winter and Stars", to three out of four songs from The Forest Seasons, and a new song from Time II with a guitar solo that took my breath away, the Finns could not have picked better songs to represent their talent and range, and to delight their fans.
Teemu Mäntysaari — Wintersun
And still, despite Jari Mäenpää proving himself as a front man to the North American crowd, Teemu Mäntysaari holding the guitar fort on his own, and Jukka Koskinen being the consistent low-frequency hero he’s always been, the crowd singing "Sons of Winter and Stars" loud enough to make me deaf for days, and the new song that promises that Time II will be the best thing Wintersun has ever done, the most amazing thing about last Thursday was still Heikki Saari. No one would dare say that Kai Hahto’s shoes are easy ones to fill. He’s been hailed time and again as one of the best drummers in metal, and very few can do what he does as brilliantly as the O.D. But Saari did it. Through every unnecessarily complicated but oh-so-satisfying bar played that night, Saari performed like he had played each song thousands of times. "Storm"(?), the song off Time II, was a testament to his skills as a drummer. While there was a long intricate solo for Mäntysaari to agonize over, the whole song is relentless and unforgiving for the man behind the kit, and Heikki Saari barely broke a sweat. He didn’t miss a beat all night.
Teemu Mäntysaari — Wintersun
Wintersun ended the night with "Time", and left with a promise to return. Hopefully with Asim Searah next time. Hopefully to promote the release of Time II. Hopefully sooner than in 5 years. Judging by the grins gathered outside The Vogue after the gig, I wasn’t the only one who had missed Wintersun.