Live Review: Moonsorrow/Korpiklaani – Limelight, Belfast

Folk metal is a genre known for its epic and expansive feel, so a double dose – two bands for the price of one – would surely be a gig of majestic proportions, right?

And so it proved to be when the ‘Finnish Folk Metal Mafia’ tour hit Belfast on Saturday night. The tour, consisting of Moonsorrow and Korpiklaani as co-headliners, has been travelling around Europe for the last few weeks, wowing fans wherever it goes. We were lucky enough to get them on a Saturday night (yes!); consequently Belfast’s Limelight was packed with metalheads eager to witness the finest folk/pagan metal Finland has to offer. After a suitably pagan intro, Moonsorrow began their full ninety minute set with ‘Jumalten Aika’ (all their songs are in Finnish). Although they consider themselves to be pagan metal, their music definitely has folk influences, as well as a hefty drop of black metal: the growl of black metal with the added synth and pomp of folk metal, if you will. The almost choral backing vocals are a nice touch, and a surprisingly beautiful addition. In short, it’s as bombastic as good pagan metal should be.

Vocalist Ville Sorvali pauses often to neck his drink. “Sorry. I had to drink beer”, he solemnly intones. He connects well with the crowd in spite of his endearingly broken English, calling upon everyone to chant, fist pump, and generally go nuts, and as a result there are a lot of horns (and beers!) held aloft following each song. Half of their set is dedicated to new album ‘Jumalten Aika’, including “our commercial video song” ‘Suden Tunti’, which calls to mind frozen tundras, desolate landscapes, and yawning darkness – as indeed do most of their songs. It’s these newer tracks that inject the most variety into their rather midpaced set, adding in snarling riffs and solemn tribal beats. Although fairly po-faced and serious musically, there are some funny moments: to the wag who keep calling out “One more tune!” Sorvali replies, “Well, we have several more, but we’ll only play one more if you like!”, while the chap who is clearly trying to reach out to the band in Finnish (calling out ‘kissa’, which means ‘cat’… perhaps he meant ‘kiitos’, which is ‘thank you’?) is unintentionally hilarious. The chugging riff-fest of ‘Sankaritarina’ wraps their set up with a bang, leaving the crowd ecstatic and begging for more.


Jumalten Aika Raunioilla Suden Tunti Jotunheim Ruttolehto incl. Paivattoman Paivan Kansa Ukkosenjumalen Poika Ihmisen Aika Sankaritarina

And more they got… climbing onto the smoky, darkened stage, precisely on time, progressive folk metallers Korpiklaani begin with a very folky, almost polka-esque intro, and proceed to turn every single frown in the room upside down. Songwise, there are two main differences between them and Moonsorrow: the openers played a ninety minute set which contained just eight songs, while the latter’s set, although of the same duration, consists of a staggering twenty-three songs! Moonsorrow’s tracks are largely midpaced, where Korpiklaani are as upbeat as it gets, while losing none of the intricacies and heft of heavy metal.

Frontman Jonne Jarvela, who looks uncannily like a cross between Tim Minchin and Ginger Wildheart, is the ringmaster of the jolliest circus on earth, leading the crowd in several ‘hey hey hey’s and overseeing the most gleeful moshpit/folk dancing combo the Limelight has ever seen. For that is the power of this band: their music simply insists that you move, in some way, joyfully. Try and stop yourself – you just can’t!

Tracks such as ‘Kultonainen’ (again, they sing in Finnish – with a few exceptions) and ”Lempo’ are ludicrously entertaining and… fun; there’s no other word for it. The crowd respond with almost astonished warmth and applause, leaping around almost as much as the explosive band and having, quite simply, a ball. Musically, the accordion sometimes drowns out both the guitars and Jarvela’s vocals, but when those guitars are given a chance to shine, oh boy, do they ever, rolling out classic metal-style riffs and some hefty bass, to boot. The band are at their best when both the folk and electric instruments are playing in tandem; then it’s just pure magic. Jarvela is a more melodic singer than his Moonsorrow counterpart – not quite a growl, but not exactly clean, either. He keeps the chit-chat to a minimum, other than to utter several thank yous, and announce yet another indecipherable song title. Honestly, their set list looks like someone upended a couple of tins of Alphabetti Spaghetti onto a sheet of paper, bar the last three songs.

Truthfully, it’s those final three that receive the biggest response, mainly because of the two things they have in common: they’re in English, and they’re all about alcohol. Never let it be said that folk metal bands don’t know their audience! Thus, their spectacular set ends with ‘Wooden Pints’, ‘Vodka’, and the self explanatory ‘Beer Beer’, to the delirious glee of the crowd, before they finish with a final “Thank you, Belfast!” and exit the room at a cracking pace. Phew!

Tonight saw every aspect of folk and pagan metal given, quite literally, a platform. From folk instruments (accordion, fiddle) to wailing guitar solos and two proper metal vocalists, not to mention enough glorious flailing hair to sink a Viking longship. Each band put on not just a full concert each, but a set that was simply bursting with energy, musical wizardry, and joy, which, when you think about it, is definitely epic, and a lot of bang for your buck. Kiitos!


Viinamaen Mies Journey Man Pilli On Pajusta Tehty Kantaiso Lempo Ammanhauta Eramaan Arjyt Ruumiinmultaa Petoelaimen kuola Sumussa Hamaran Aamun Vaarinpolkka Rauta Kipumylly Metsamies Kultanainen Mina Nain Vedessa Neidon Palovana Sahti Karhunkaatolaula Kylasta Kevainen Kehto Wooden Pints Vodka Beer Beer

Review: Melanie Brehaut Images: Jamie Hunter

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