September 28, 2018 Wintersun Blast Through The Mayan Los Angeles, CA 9-23-18 w/ Ne Obliviscaris & Sarah Longfield
The importance of finding joy in everything you surround yourself with is not an easy task. Sometimes we can become complacent, or expect something, or, even worse, feel entitled. Take for example how fortunate North America is to have so many different bands from all corners of the globe visit year after year. Believe it or not, this is not the norm elsewhere. Speaking of which, it has been five long years since Finland’s majestic Metal outfit Wintersun has toured the United States. That is right, the last time was in the summer of 2013 when they headlined a bill that included Fleshgod Apocalypse, Arsis, and Starkill.
Now, after giving American fans enough time to yearn for their return, they kicked off a tour on September 14th before arriving in downtown Los Angeles, CA on Sunday, the 23rd to host The Mayan. In support of 2017’s The Forest Seasons, an album that hit number 1 in Finnish charts and ranked very highly on charts around the world, together with Ne Obliviscaris and Sarah Longfield, they were ready to make a major impression.
Up first was the young, talented Guitarist Sarah Longfield and her band. Focused and driven, at a young age, Longfield utilized modern technology, aka YouTube, to quickly gain attention from viewers around the world. Now at 25 years of age, her skills on guitar led her to signing with Seasons of Mist in the winter of 2018, and now she is elate to be out on the road with Wintersun as well as Ne Obliviscaris.
Supporting her latest album, 2017’s Collapse // Expand, Longfield and her band, carried with them skilled background to the stage. Longfield’s melodic technique on guitar dominated while displaying remarkable and peaceful elements of beauty in her work which will only grow over time. Those who arrived early and stayed alert throughout the progression of Longfield’s set were fortunate to experience a moving and serene time.
Being named one of the world’s best seven and eight-string guitarists by Guitar World is an impressive accolade. Getting signed from being a YouTube sensation to touring with big name acts in such a short time is certainly massive, and it says a lot about this performers determination. That all said, Sarah Longfield certainly served as a warm and appropriate table-setter for Ne Obliviscaris.
Taking Progressive Metal to a whole new level of unusual excitement, for those familiar with extremists Ne Obliviscaris, they need little introduction. For those who are not familiar, it is a tough call to whether they can get on the train or not since the unusual combination of instruments and genres takes a certain kind of appreciation. With origins dating back to 2003, Ne Obliviscaris released their debut studio album, Portal of I, in 2012 and since put out two more intense offerings with Citadel in 2014 and Urn last year. Their catalog of work is complicated as well as a varied mix of lengthy tunes full of progressive elements that incorporate splurges of Death and Black Metal. Nonetheless, Ne Obliviscaris are a six-piece band that everyone should pay attention to.
Last visiting the US back in November of 2017, the last time they were in Los Angeles it was at Whisky a Go Go. This time coming to The Mayan, with its ancient Native American inspired decor, the theater’s architecture acted as a sound barrier to those not on the main floor or upstairs on the bench seating. Over time the sound did balance out a little better as they took over with a lengthy set of five songs.
Supporting Urn, Vocalists Tim Charles, who handles the clean vocals as well as plays the violin, along with opposite dark-haired growler Xenoyr were a very dynamic, yet contradicting, duo that prove a delight to witness in action. To round out this team, there was Matt Klavins and Benjamin Baret on guitars, Martino Garattoni on bass, and Daniel Presland on drums. Together they pulled off a great set featuring bits and pieces of their best work to date while entrancing the crowd. Overall, Ne Obliviscaris did not disappoint in the least and the future looks bright for this darkly ambient and talented bunch.
Trudging on, the time came for Wintersun. A welcomed return, they say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and there was no doubt the band gifted a few fun surprises during their time on stage. Looking back, Wintersun – led by the multi-instrumentalist Jari Mäenpää – has not played in Los Angeles area since their House Of Blues Sunset Strip appearance in 2013. This time around just performing vocals, and not on lead guitar, Mäenpää, with a very strong touring band in place, was ready to blast an arctic storm onto The Mayan.
Intense throughout, highlights during the set included “Starchild” and closer “Time,” among other gems from The Forest Seasons including opener “Awaken From The Dark Slumber (Spring).” A two hour set, it was a performance of epic proportions with non-stop entertainment from the rest of the live troops including Rolf Pilve on drums, as well as Asim Searah and Teemu Mäntysaari on guitar. With Searah doing pirouettes on stage while playing his guitar, both he and Mäntysaari were all hair flying in the wind as they strategically displayed impeccable skill as musicians.
Having a little fun, and sneaking in the surprises mentioned, between songs the band teased a bit of Pantera and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven.” In between, the night was filled with magic and dreams come true as Wintersun gave their all through other songs including “Winter Madness,” “Storm,” and “Battle Against Time.” Ending the night by the infamous unison bow, a common thread for European bands, before completely removing themselves from the stage, they also threw drumsticks and tossed around paper airplanes of set list copies into the audience for a laugh.
On the topic of technology and its impact on the modern live music experience, it was interesting to witness a mobile videographer on the stage moving fluidly all over, recording the band the entire time. As distracting from the experience as it was at times, this is the modern age where many sadly take out their cellphones and watch the performance through an inanimate object’s eyes instead of submerging themselves into the three dimensional experience, something that will always be light years better. Through it all, Wintersun and company put on an amazing show full of energy, and the long-awaited North American tour is a one-of-a-kind gem not to be missed.Photo credit: Karina Diane Concert Photography