Harley's Top 11 of '12

This is my last post for TDM and I have to say I have enjoyed blogging here.  Many thanks to Rob for taking me on and to Scott for his support through the year.  Next year I will be contributing to We Love Metal, rather than starting my own blog at this point.  “Real life” just has too much going on, from finishing up my master’s degree, a 10 week intensive military school, another 2 week National Security course, helping run a photography business, and a move next summer to who-knows-where with a new job to learn.

I have been absent lately from here due to demanding classes in school, last minute trips for work, and spending 3 weeks in October and November supporting the response to Hurricane Sandy in NY & NJ.  Plus a quick vacation in October.  It’s been a little crazy and Metal blogging has taken a back seat.

All that said, the reason for this post is to share with you my top albums for 2012, as well as my song and show of the year.  It was really a hit or miss year, with few hits I think.  It is impossible to predict if any of these will be long-term solid albums, ones I go back to years from now and stand the test of time, but there may be a handful of candidates.  My list consists entirely of veteran bands, averaging over 8 full length album releases over their careers, so no one-hit wonders here.

Some albums that were close, but didn’t quite make it to my list are Varg’s Guten Tag, Kreator’s Phantom Antichrist, Sabaton’s Carolus Rex, At Vance’s Facing Your Enemy, Rush’s Clockwork Angels, and Diablo Swing Orchestra’s Pandora’s Pinata.  Here we go…..

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Devil's Review: Wintersun – Time, Vol. 1

It’s been 8 years since Wintersun released their debut.  I am not going to rehash the history, because if you are reading this, you probably already know it.  Time Vol. 1 (with volume 2 supposedly a couple of months away) is the sophomore effort from Jari, the former Ensiferum frontman’s own band.  Eight years is a long time, so expectations were essentially through the roof for this album across the Metal world.  Anything less than exceptional would be unacceptable.  So how did Wintersun do?

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Devil’s Review: Ensiferum – Unsung Heroes

Although I have been a fan for only 4 years, Ensiferum quickly became one of my top three all-time favorite Metal  bands and essentially my introduction to the Folk Metal genre.  They also are probably the first band with truly harsh vocals that I enjoyed.  Up to that point, if there was more than a hint of growling, I usually didn’t like it (exceptions: Testament, Celtic Frost, Venom).  Here they are back with album #5, Unsung Heroes, and number 3 with Petri Lindroos as the lead man.  This album is one of my most anticipated works being released this year.  I heard the song Burning Leaves a while back and although the song is definitely Ensiferum, it didn’t blow me away like I expected it to.  The remainder of the album offers some of the same, some of what I expected, as well as some truly different work from the Finnish band.

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Devil's Review: Ensiferum – Unsung Heroes

Although I have been a fan for only 4 years, Ensiferum quickly became one of my top three all-time favorite Metal  bands and essentially my introduction to the Folk Metal genre.  They also are probably the first band with truly harsh vocals that I enjoyed.  Up to that point, if there was more than a hint of growling, I usually didn’t like it (exceptions: Testament, Celtic Frost, Venom).  Here they are back with album #5, Unsung Heroes, and number 3 with Petri Lindroos as the lead man.  This album is one of my most anticipated works being released this year.  I heard the song Burning Leaves a while back and although the song is definitely Ensiferum, it didn’t blow me away like I expected it to.  The remainder of the album offers some of the same, some of what I expected, as well as some truly different work from the Finnish band.

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Another Eagerly Awaited Album – Ensiferum’s Unsung Heroes

One album I am definitely looking forward to this year is Ensiferum’s follow up to From Afar, and this is the awesome album cover.  After seeing them on the Paganfest tour a few years back, they quickly ascended to the top tier of my favorite bands.  Can’t wait for this one!  Look for it August 27th on Spinefarm.

I hear the sound in a METAL way.

-Harley

Another Eagerly Awaited Album – Ensiferum's Unsung Heroes

One album I am definitely looking forward to this year is Ensiferum’s follow up to From Afar, and this is the awesome album cover.  After seeing them on the Paganfest tour a few years back, they quickly ascended to the top tier of my favorite bands.  Can’t wait for this one!  Look for it August 27th on Spinefarm.

I hear the sound in a METAL way.

-Harley

An Evening at the Finnish Metal Tour

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So the night of February 10th, 2011 I find myself yet again standing in line at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco, CA. For my own off the wall reasons, I paid the extra bit and went for the meet and greet with (what I thought at the time) the whole of Fintroll and Ensiferum. Initially, the crowd outside was pretty minimal and when I got there about 5:30 there was already a line of about 10 or so people. By the time we got to where they were going to let us in for the meet and greet, it appeared that there were about 20 or so going in for that, and I couldn’t see how many people were in the regular line.

I’ll be the first to admit, I have a rudimentary knowledge of these two bands as far as their music is concerned and I couldn’t pick any of them out of a crowd. The same could be said for the opening acts, I’ve never even heard of Barren Earth or Rotten Sound but I was there to support these bands though and I’m well aware of how some of these shows can turn out (the Tarja one a few years ago was the worst, with only about 100 or so people there). I wanted to do my part to keep these bands coming back to America.

There was a small group of people behind two big boxes full of posters and silver pens. The one on the left had a couple people from Finntroll and the one on the right had four people from Ensiferum. They were all SUPER fucking nice.. I cannot say that enough.. they really were extremely thankful we were all there to see them and they were really friendly. The theme to most of the conversations when I ask them my go-to question “How is America treating you so far?” was followed by many of them complaining about the harsh weather back east and the lack of alcohol. 🙂

Posters signed, cd signed and pics taken and I went over to the merch table. They were selling a drumhead signed by EVERYONE on the tour with little drawings and funny messages and I wanted it really, really bad. Sadly, the $50.00 price tag was out of my range at the time so I settled for a very reasonably priced tour shirt. I strayed over to the other side where they were selling the Barren Earth and Rotten Sound items. I purchased Rob’s Curse of the Red River for Rob and kept my eyes open for anyone who looks like they might be in Barren Earth. As you all well know, I succeeded (slightly) and you can see the fruits of my labour here.

On to the show. Barren Earth was up first. Before I get into my review, it’s (obviously) super loud there and I have ear-plugs in (safety first) so my point of view for the sound is going to be different from someone watching at home. I enjoyed the Barren Earth set. It seemed like they really love this project they’re in and this album they’re supporting. The music was really pretty amazing. I heard Rob mention that the clean vocals were a little rough, but I couldn’t tell. Anyways, here’s a little ditty from them and a couple of my pics of them at the show.

Mikko Kotamäki of Barren Earth

Mikko Kotamäki

Olli-Pekka Laine & Janne Perttilä of Barren Earth

Olli-Pekka Laine & Janne Perttilä

Next up is Rotten Sound. Again, I know nothing of them, though I’m pretty sure I’m not a fan of Grindcore. I’m just going to say I didn’t enjoy the music. Regardless, here’s a video from them and some pics I took..

Keijo Niinimaa of Rotten Sound

Keijo Niinimaa

Kristian Toivainen of Rotten Sound

Kristian Toivainen

On to Ensiferum (which is the band I really went to see that evening). They were fucking amazing. First off, they come out shirtless, face painted like Braveheart and wearing Kilts (two of them have the Finnish flag as their kilt design). Their show was high energy and they worked the crowd like seasoned vets. It was then when I had realized just how big the crowd was as I was literally being crushed against the front of the stage and I look behind me and see a sea of people. They really came out for this one! I was on a bit of a time restraint and had to be up early for work the next day so I knew I couldn’t stay late.. I was hoping that Ensiferum would be finished at a decent hour and I could catch a few songs from Finntroll. No such luck. They played 12 amazing songs and by the time all was said and done I was covered with sweat and exhausted. I’m too old for this shit. I did, however, get my hands on a setlist… score! You can see it below. 🙂 I made my way out of the crowd, which dispersed quickly (as people hit the merch tables, restrooms and smoking area) and I looked around for anyone from Barren Earth. No dice there. So I departed the great show, regretting that I had to miss Fintroll but I definitely didn’t feel like I missed out on anything, thanks to Ensiferum.

Enjoy their awesomeness below with (you guessed it) a video and some of my pics of the show..

Petri Lindroos of Ensiferum

Markus Toivonen of Ensiferum

Markus Toivonen

Sami Hinkka of Ensiferum

Sami Hinkka

Markus Toivonen & Sami Hinkka of Ensiferum

Markus Toivonen & Sami Hinkka

Me with members of Ensiferum

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…and here’s my setlist from the show. 🙂

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