LIVE REVIEW : METSATÖLL
TROLLBAND + METSATÖLL (+ ARKONA) Rickshaw Theatre | Vancouver, BC September 16, 2019
Lauri Õunapuu (Metsatöll)
September in Vancouver can be unpredictable. Between scorching heats and torrential downpours, the rainy city always has something unexpected in store for its residents. Monday, the 16th of September was no different. What started as a gloomy day turned into a beautiful afternoon after a bus full of Russians and Estonians parked in the alley by the Rickshaw Theatre in the Downtown Eastside area of Vancouver. On board: Russian folk metal heroes Arkona and the face of Estonian metal, Metsatöll. Both bands were in town for their Pagan Rebellion tour, and at least one of them made a lasting impression that night.*
Local openers Trollband did as good a job as ever warming up the crowd. With a scantily-clad, cheeseburger-eating, devilish troll antagonizing the band members for a good part of the set, laughter and entertainment mingled well with the three-piece’s short performance. Though I did enjoy them, I did have a one-track mind that night, my thoughts clouded by what was to come. Having seen them three times before, I knew Metsatöll’s energy and presence well and was eager to feel the thunder in my spine again.
Markus Teeäär & Lauri Õunapuu (Metsatöll)
After what seemed like an eternity, the lights turned down and the tension built up with every second spent in the darkness. When the first notes from “Toona” reverberated through the Rickshaw, the crowd stood silent under the spell of the incantation-like song that served as Metsatöll’s introduction. Early into it, fresh-faced Tõnis Noevere stood behind his drum kit for the first time in Vancouver since taking over percussive duties in the band and was received warmly by the Metsafans. Joined by the rest of the band shortly thereafter, the foursome took no time to launch into their set, starting with “Katk Kutsariks,” the title track of the band’s latest album, setting the perfect pace for their contribution to the evening.
Though the bulk of the showgoers weren’t there for Metsatöll and started off just patiently waiting for the Estonians to make room for Arkona, the four men were able to win them over song after song. With every traditional instrument played by multi-instrumentalist Lauri Õunapuu, intrigue for the band grew, as did the amount of heads violently banging along to the thrash metal event unfolding in front of their very eyes. Whether he played the torupill - a traditional Estonian bagpipe - like in the witchy seduction ballad “Ballaad Punastest Paeltest,” the jaw harp in “Kivine Maa,” the flute, or any of his unusual string instruments, the man behind the many sounds of Metsatöll had the crowd in awe.
Lauri Õunapuu (Metsatöll)
But perhaps the best instrument in Metsatöll’s arsenal comes from within. Õunapuu’s voice is deeper than the Mariana Trench and intimidating, coming out of him loudly and powerfully to bend the world to its will, while pack leader Markus Teeäär’s voice is husky and familiar, like the smoky aural form of a warm campfire by the lake on a hot summer night. Together, they create harmonies as rich as mahogany and smooth as a 21 year old single malt whiskey. The contribution of bass player Raivo Piirsalu is also not negligible. With a voice that is barely higher and only slightly more nasally than Teeaäär’s, Piirsalu surprised me with his perfectly controlled vocals when he took over singing duties during “Kurjajuur”, one of the best songs of the set. Gruff and enthusiastic, his voice provided a nice change and rounded off Metsatöll’s vocal section nicely. The difference between the professionally recorded and mastered studio vocals and the raw, live vocals is impressively imperceptible, reinforcing just how strong the three musicians are in the singing department.
Throughout the night, Metsatöll made sure to make a lasting impression, playing some of their greatest tunes like “Küü,” “Tõrrede Kõhtudes,” and “Lööme Meesti,” getting the crowd off their feet and into the mood to stomp, dance, and mosh for Arkona. Playing their role as openers perfectly, the wolf pack left the showgoers hungry for more folk metal.
To make sure that their vocal acrobatics would be remembered by all, Metsatöll closed with Metsaviha 2, a dark chant from the deepest depths of the Estonian woods showcasing a breathy vocal rollercoaster that swallows whole the near-tribal sound of the drum in the background. Õunapuu picked up a guitar to finish off the song in a thrashy blitz while the word “Tappa” - Estonian for “to kill” - repeated by the musicians as they punished their instruments echoed throughout the Rickshaw.
The four forest creatures bowed to the thundering sound of the crowd begging for more and left, much to all’s chagrin. That night, Metsatöll rocked a lukewarm stage and brought the Vancouver crowd to its knees.
They came, they saw, they Rui Ra Ra Raa’ed.
* No shade to Arkona, we simply couldn’t stay out late and had to miss Arkona’s set.
Photos courtesy of Goblin Photography