November 22, 2018 Korpiklaani & Arkona Storm Into Los Angeles 11-18-18
The opportunity to see the same bands return to tour North America year after year is simply taken for granted by many residing in the region. A privilege many other corners of the world are not offered, the largest oversight is that these bands, who travel far and wide, actually continuously improve on all levels from creating music to performing. So when someone says they are not interested in seeing a band on tour because they have seen them before, they are simply doing themselves a disservice.
In the case of Finland’s Korpiklaani, they are without a doubt a must see each time they grace the American shores. That is why their fall 2018 tour with Russian Pagan/Folk Metal act Arkona should not be overlooked. A run consisting of 25 dates, and dubbed The Wayfarer, heading into the final two weeks, they made a visit out to Los Angeles, California to storm a full room of fans at the Regent Threater DTLA on Sunday, November 18th.
Two bands living happily under the blanket of Pagan and Folk Metal, the sub-genres are most certainly synonymous with the European region. However, there are some hidden treasures in the U.S., including San Diego’s Helsótt who acted as direct opening support for the night. The Regent, a perfect mid-sized venue for all acts involved, became a very comfortable setting for the show. For those who showed the aforementioned Pagan Death Metal band Helsótt, which translates to Fatal Illness, kicked off the adventurous night in style.
Originating in 2010, and having just released their latest and greatest album, Slaves And Gods, back in October, they had plenty of rigorous tunes to work with. Yet still, they surprised the audience with an out-of-this-world cover of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ “Runnin’ Down A Dream.” A bold closer, it was chock-full of the best Metal-enhanced, creative drumming by Cooper Dustman and harsher, yet well-played-out vocal stylings of Eric Dow, mixed with the wild, heavy string procession of Mark Dow on guitar and Michael “Doc” Beaulieu on bass.
While their rendition was slightly comical, yet heavily energetic with a somber undertone, it must also be noted that they played the title-track from their latest album among others from that collection. Hearing the new tunes fleshed out in all their glory, mixed in with the earlier tracks from 2014’s Woven, they are constantly proving that they can compete with the best of the best in their genre.
Sadly, Helsótt’s 30 minutes, with all their great energy, did not seem like enough. However, it is to be expected when two Folk Metal giants such as Korpiklaani and Arkona stood in front of them. That in mind, Arkona took over the Regent beginning around 7:15 PM wearing all their stylized Russian garb which comes from their musical concept base of traditional Russian folklore. What is typically well-received at an Arkona show is their culture-based Folk instrument usage which is woven into the band’s heavy styling. This, plus the exceptional vocal range dynamic of Masha Scream, that sends them into a Death Metal or even slightly Black Metal realm, make them a must see.
As mentioned, Maria Arkhipova, aka Masha Scream, is the leader of the pack on vocals and keyboards along with Sergei “Lazar” Atrashkevich on guitars, Ruslan “Kniaz” Rosomaherov on bass, Vladimir “Volk” Reshetnikov as the multi-talent on the wind ethnic instruments, along with newest member since 2014, Andrey Ishchenko on drums. Together, they began with an action-packed metaphorical punch full of dominating red stage lighting blaring out their title-track “Krahm” off of their January 2018 album. From there, they stayed current with a few other titles including “Shtorm,” before eventually winding into the other popular classics “Stenka na Stenku,” and “Yarilo.”
The energy Arkona brings, and their undeniable heaviness, has grown tenfold since the beginning of their career. Arkona is also one of those very structurally theatrical bands in a similar fashion to how Amon Amarth or Eluveitie will carry their story and beliefs through start to finish, adding and taking layers away until minds are blown. No, they do not have all the expensive sets and props that Amon Amarth does, but that further accentuates how powerful they are with their ability to accomplish the same goals in a different way. Additionally, Masha Scream is like an enchanting Russian forest witch or even a banshee at times with her compelling vocal characteristics and stage presence. All this said, Arkona has always been a unique and fulfilling Folk Metal band as they continue to evolve over 15 years since beginning.
Apathetic, spoiled fans aside, both Arkona and Korpiklaani have very loyal, dedicated American following that always turn up to their events dressed in cosplay or just smiling all night long. Their visit to Los Angeles was no exception, and as 9 PM rolled around, Korpiklaani was set to hit the stage, coming out with the strong lineup consisting of founder Jonne Järvelä on the witty, charming, yet raspy vocals, with Matti “Matson” Johansson on the Metal enhanced stylized tribal drums, Kalle “Cane” Savijärvi on guitars, Jarkko Aaltonen on bass, along with newest members Tuomas Rounakari on violin, as well as Sami Perttula on accordion.
Having just released Kulkija in September, naturally they focused on incorporating the majority of that album into the set list. Their landmark tenth studio album, along with Korpiklaani’s concept in general, is a Folk tale journey that is enhanced with a charming forest party involving booze and dancing as a primary ritual. Interestingly enough, in comparison to some of the most popular previous live set tunes, their latest album comes in a bit more traditional Folk and mellow.
This said, in a live setting, it translates as a bit heavier, mostly because the band’s sound and energy on this occasion was exceptional. While some die-hard fans may have missed old school alcohol worshiping favorites such as “Happy Little Boozer” and “Tequila,” the modern direction Korpiklaani are taking is perhaps more eloquent and all the fun-filled happiness of their stage presence was still present in full force. As if that wasn’t enough, to keep the attention of the room, they played 26 songs, ending in an encore including “Beer Beer,” and the all-time favorite party classic “Vodka.”
While Jonne Jarvela and friends are usually dressed to impress, the outfits stood out on this round as extra classy, expensive, and cool. Jonne himself had a black leather fringed outfit that suited his dancing moves and personality well. This is while the violinist and accordion player were dressed head to toe in white suit attire including a top hat that again was fitting to the new album’s conceptual look. To keep such charm and enthusiasm through a complex 2 hour set shows the kind of dedication to craft that separates the men from the boys.
While an hour each of Korpiklanni and Arkona would have been more than the money’s worth, these guys wanted to show a full body of art. Korpiklaani is a noble example of how loving what you do and doing what you love can create a life that will eventually fill in the holes in your pockets. They have been on a steady upward journey to the top of the Folk Metal success ladder and it was great to see a headlining set at a different comparable venue than their previous Los Angeles tour stops, which have consisted of at least two since closed down venues – The Key Club and House Of Blues Sunset. With only a few days left before they head back overseas, it highly recommended to catch this perfect tour package that is one for the books.