This concert is a Scandinavian gift to myself in this December month.
Tonight I was first one of the Viking warriors tearing down walls, then I was part of a wolf pack, dying young. The viking part was Norwegian-German band Leaves’ Eyes playing and the wolf pack part was Finnish band Sonata Arctica playing. Discovering their tour just a few days before the show is like my youth suddenly dropped in to say hello—I’ve pretty much only listened to one same album for both of them since college.
Sonata Arctica was my first personal impression of Finland. It was the only heavy metal band I listened to that had so many nature elements depicted in such an objective way and I was fascinated. Wolves, tundras, ice, snow, winter. It was honest, neutral and passionate tellings of the rough northern world and undisguised human nature. Sometimes it has the darkest/the most positive lyrics ( “It’s a dumb thing to say but life is better alive”). Tonight the show background recording was vocalizing something about perhaps it’s time to control the population so nature can survive. It’s a theme secretly swimming in my mind for years. And I believe that theme has also been swimming in the unconscious mind of Mother Earth. The struggle and the faith in life is common in metal music but in Sonata Arctica’s music, human concerns is intertwined with natural concerns. Looking back, they not only sparked my curiosity for Finland but probably also opened up my pagan path.
Sonata Arctica vocal Tony has a unique, very “power metal” voice that’s theatrical and weird for my taste, but I really like his songs and I feel grateful he’s been singing and writing music for this band for two decades. Going to a live show is a personal thing to “meet” the musicians and know what they’re like, and Tony seems to me an affectionate, down-to-earth human being who gives their music an emotional depth, and who lauded the audience for “keeping live music alive” by “coming to the show and buying someone’s CD or t-shirt 20 years ago.” They traveled all the way from mysterious Finland to San Francisco and brought their unique Scandinavian sound here for me to experience. Between songs was sounds of water, of wind, wolf howls, and the voice of a reasoning mind that’s so neutral it sounds evil. Sonata Arctica steals the heart of my sentimental soul.
I was sad that I’m never going to see Leaves’ Eyes with Liv Kristine. I only discovered she was “fired” from the band a day before the show. The new vocal has strong, powerful voice but is newer to the stage, and to me Liv Kristine’s voice is always my ideal sound for the female vocal gothic metal, especially with the beauty and the beast vocals she pioneered at Theatre of Tragedy. Theatre of Tragedy hits the mark—dark, elegant, delicate, clouded by the unknown—as with Leaves’ Eyes when her soft, solid, melodic soprano sings the consistent theme of the Vikings age in so many albums! PS. Educate me about the Viking age… to me they are the raiders who destroyed many ancient sites in Ireland 😦
One theme of the night was that we’re all the same. Alexander of Leaves’ Eyes turned us into one big Viking family of the north despite that America has a mad new king who is obsessed with separating people. Sonata Arctica introduced me a new favorite with the lyrics “Give me the gift to be heard to be seen to be loved to be free to be everything I need to be me” (and I heard their new album The 9th Hour is very current and comments on Trump as well).
Hexenfest producer Shannon once stated something like, when I say metal, I don’t mean the anger and destruction—I mean epic! I’ve been surprised that after so many years, my ears and soul still crave heavy metal. But I realized there is so much spirit, culture and aesthetics inherent in metal music.
To me, metal is the sound of earth and human vibrating in harmony.
Oh, and mosh pits. I’m kind of terrified by mosh pits, but it’s liberating to see men thrashing out their animal instincts in a safe space. It can be a cute scene, like little piglets racing in a den, especially when occasionally a guy “helps” push those people back into the den when they’re charging too far. I would stand behind two rows of men to feel safe 😀 Although metal concert is one of the rare times I experience how annoying it is to have my view blocked by tall people. _/|\_