May 29, 2014 Paganfest America Part V Takes Over Ramona Mainstage Ramona, CA 5-12-14
On a very hot evening on Monday May 12th Paganfest America Part V pillaged its way to Southern California to play Ramona Main Stage in San Diego County. The evening’s bill would consist of Helsótt, Winterhymn, Varg, ChthoniC , Turisas, and Korpiklaani. A sizable, anxious crowd gathered early baking outside in the 98 degree sun waiting for the festivities to begin.
First to take the stage was California’s own pagan metal band Helsótt. Formed in the winter of 2010 the band consists of Eric Dow – Vocals, Mark Dow – Guitar, David Walston – Lead Guitar, Mikey “Mjölnir” Muller – Bass, and Cooper Dustman – Drums. Making a big name for themselves in the past couple years, Helsótt was the opening act for America’s Paganfest IV, alongside Ensiferum, Tyr, Heidevolk, and Trollfest. For this year’s round of dates of Paganfest the band would only be featured at Ramona Mainstage playing to their home state.
Cracking up the sound with thrashing guitars Helsótt received a positive reaction from the incoming crowd entering the venue . Performing songs from their upcoming album Woven, slated to be released August 26, 2014, they performed “Helsótt” and ”Agamemnon” . Their brief but powerful set closed with guest clean vocals of Josiah Guile blending nicely with Dow’s on “The Sacking of Lindisfarne”. Helsótt is about to hit the extreme metal world by storm and people should check out their music.
In the position that Helsótt was last year, this year’s band opening Paganfest America was Winterhymn from Cincinnati, Ohio. The band came out on stage full force with prominent folk metal featuring excellent fiddle work. The six piece band, unknown to most of the audience, showed why they deserved to be on this year’s Paganfest lineup. Everything from the vocal work of rhythm guitarist Draug and bassist Alvadar, to the energy of Varrik (Lead Guitar), Exura (Keyboards), and Valthrun (Drums) synced into place perfectly.
They opened up their set with the first song off their debut album Songs for the Slain (2011) titled “In the Troll Forest”, followed up with the drinking and dancing song “Ale Song” which received a warm response. Another crowd favorite was sing-along Skyrim-themed “The Dragonborn Comes”. Igniting a sizable mosh pit, it is always impressive when the opening acts come out with a load of energy as Winterhymn did. As their set concluded they invited everyone to the merchandise table which had a variety of t-shirts and CD’s, including an album which featured their complete Paganfest set.
Next up was Germany’s Varg. The word Varg means “wolf” in Swedish as well as old Norwegian, hence why frontman, Freki, refers to their music as “wolf metal”. Formed back in 2005, the band has released four full-length albums in that time and caused quite a stir in the underground scene across the sea. Mixing folk, metal and even some punk elements, Varg is a band which brought plenty of intrigue with them across to North America.
They came out to the stage decorated in a burnt red color paints filling the venue with some killer head banging, speedy drums, heavy guitars and harsh vocals. Freki portrayed a very strong stage presence, leaning forward aggressively over the crowd as he delivered the words to each and every song. Showing each band member’s personality in vivid color, Hati (guitar), and Managarm (bass) interacted with the audience with a variety of animated facial expressions as they played. Some of the highlights during their set was their attempt to teach the audience a few German words and phrases during the songs “Rotkäppchen” and “Guten Tag”. While relatatively new to this part of the globe, Varg is an impressive band that everyone should check out.
Directly following was Taiwanese band ChthoniC (閃靈). Together now for nearly two decades the band has represented their country proudly with a unique blend of melodic death and black metal. With seven full-length albums now ChthoniC’s music possesses a modern lyrical approach about the annihilation of their native peoples as they take clear human right stands in the arena of politics. Having made their way to the USA in previous years, word has traveled fast of their intense and theatrical stage performance which had this room buzzing for their performance to begin.
Playing a six song set they played a strong offering of new songs off their 2013 album Bu-tík. Bassist Doris Yeh’s played impressively and captivated the room as she head banged along moving across the stage glimmering in the pink stage lights. Their set also featured songs such as “Oceanquake” and “Takao” from Takasago Army (2011). Providing an eye-catching stage show already, one of the most impressive instruments to see played by vocalist Freddy Lim was the Chinese fiddle called a Erhu. Upon the conclusion of their set the band posed for pictures with fans showing appreciation for their love and support. If you are looking for a unique and interesting band full of depth, ChthoniC (閃靈) is definitely the band for you.
The time had arrived for the evenings direct supporting act, Finland’s Turisas. Emerging on the stage one-by-one faces covered in red and black war paint, this band needed no introductions as the anxious audience was already chanting their name loud and clear. It was time for the battle metal to commence!
Opening up with “Ten More Miles,” Turisas commanded the stage with passion flowing through the whole band, especially from Olli Vänskä on violin and Mathias “Warlord” Nygård on vocals. Nygård is a forceful frontman, interacting with the audience in between each song and making everyone feel part of the celebration. Playing a great mix of songs old and new including audience favorites “Rex Regi Rebellis”, “Miklagard Overture”, and of course “Battle Metal” had everyone’s blood flowing as a few circle pits moved about on the floor. Turisas closed out their set with a triumphant encore of “Rasputin” and “Stand Up and Fight”. As this band continues to progress it is clear their core fan base remains as passionate as ever and it is an event full of excitement whenever they grace the shores of North America.
With plenty of laughter and beer flowing through Ramona Mainstage the fun was nowhere near complete with Finns Korpiklanni ready to hit the stage. Korpiklaani has been around the folk metal scene for quite some time having built a very strong following over the course of eight studio album. Interesting enough, the band incorporates Kalevala-styled lyrics with the metal sounds while interjecting fiddles and accordions allowing them to preserve a Finnish historical tone.
Korpiklaani played a sixteen song set offering fans many pieces from their latest album Manala (2012) accompanied by their popular drinking themed pieces of “Vodka”. Exciting as ever, vocalist Jonne Järvelä bounced up and down around the stage with his dreadlocks flying all over as he sang infectiously to loyal followers. Newest addition, Sam Perttula, gave off great vibes as he played his Bayan, proving he is a worthy addition to the wilderness clan. Songs like “Levan Polkka,” “Wooden Pints”, and closer “Happy Little Boozer” really had the crowd going as everyone joyfully moshed and danced. As the evening concluded the universal consensus around the room was that this was absolutely one of the best shows that Korpiklaani has performed in a long time.
As in years past 2014’s Paganfest introduced a lot of great new music and talented bands ,while mixing in regular Paganfest veterans. Even though many fans were hesitant about the Paganfest America Part V’s line up, everyone walk away from the venue smiling and satisfied. Fans can only look forward to the another chapter of Paganfest in 2015 to see what will be in store next.