The tour was called “Pagan Knights” and it would bring together three powerhouse groups that dish out the Viking and Folk Metal stuff with apparent ease. Very similar to the successful Pagan Fest which happened in the USA for the first time last year, this show offered those fans of the genres an additional gig to enjoy even more bands. To my knowledge both Suidakra and Alestorm had never been around these parts before, but Tyr had and was the opening group for many of the Pagan Fest shows that rumbled through the towns. Tonight they would headline and that was interesting to me since while popular, I was unsure of the being able to command the main spot on the tour. I got there nice and early and was curious as to who would actually be starting off the night and as luck would have it, this would be Suidakra. Here is how the event went down for those who are curious.
Suidakra: Signed to Wacken Records and in the states care of SPV Records came Suidakra who I really believe were here for the very first time and if this was not their first stateside adventure I was convinced that the band had never been in NYC before tonight. They recently released a DVD and CD set called “13 Years Of Celtic Wartunes” which is an incredible piece and brings you as up to date as possible should you be like me and many of my friends who are only getting to enjoy this band many years after they began their adventures. They would play ten songs and presented to a reasonably full house the following tunes: “Wartunes”, “Conlaoch”,“Darkane Times”, “Isle Of Skye”, “Dead Man’s Reel”, “Shattering Swords”, “Gilded Oars” & “The IXth Legion”. It was a rousing set and the guys were full of energy. It seemed that tonight in NYC would be the final night of the whole tour and as the set was getting near its closing the singer half jokingly announced that “here was New York's chance to end their memories of the tour properly by showing some boobs”. He directed this at the four women that he could see in the audience from his vantage point and when one of the guys bared his chest the singer groaned and said “no man boobs”. The band has a new CD coming out on Wacken Records and this one is called “Crogacht”. If the kind of stuff that we hear from bands like Turisas, Ensiferum and maybe even Eluveitie is of appeal to you then you should turn your attention to Suidakra as I think you will enjoy them. In case you were curious, the band hails from Germany so let’s hope they can muster enough finances to come back here again and entertain us. Alestorm was next and I had to admit that I was probably the most excited to see them this evening.
Alestorm: I remember reading the liner notes for the bands "Captain Morgan's Revenge" CD and cringing when I saw it labeled as “Scottish Pirate Metal”. I mean, how could I not have this reaction when the genre qualification was yet another new one for the books. One is best to view their music as energetic Folk Metal with a distinct Pirate them to it. Well, I loved the CD and found it to be one of the better Metal releases of the year that gave it to us and started to wonder just how this kind of stuff would go over in the live sense. My answer was clearly painted on my Metal canvas when we found the largest grouping of people ready for action during this set and not so much as elbow room to move around while they played. They hit the stage like a ships cannon set on repeat fire and the audience below responded in kind. The Scots all arrived bare chested with the exception of one of their guitar players and delivered one of the most entertaining sets I have experienced in quite some time. Fronted by Christopher Bowes (vocals and keyboards), he led us through the experience with levels of energy that I have not seen enough of during the shows and this added to the fun. He talked to the crowd often who were hanging on his every word and after the driving “Over The Seas” he took it down a bit for “a gay f**kin’ ballad with “Nancy The Tavern Wench”. “Huntmaster” is another favorite of mine as this is more of a straight ahead Metal tune in some sense and by this point the crowd was in frenzy. You could tell that the band was enjoying this as well as they were all smiles, laughs, joking and raising whatever beers they could grab to drink. While the singer is a keyboardist, he does not sit back up on the stage tickling the ivories and instead sports a “keytar” and is very in your face during the gig. His animated nature truly added to the enjoyment found here this evening.
The band was preparing to release a new recording called “Black Sails At Midnight” and that was when the song “Keelhauled” came upon us. The “good old fashioned hoedown” found the band dividing the crowd into separate sides and ordering a charge upon command. It was nothing less than a melee and people were whipping and spinning in every direction. If you’ve seen the space that The Highline Ballroom offers, you will know that you are essentially on a sizable open floor in the form of a square and with a swirling pit in the middle of it, it offers you no quarter should you prefer sanctuary as opposed to mayhem. The impact of the Alestorm set was truly felt when the band left the stage and numerous fans left the club. Clearly they were the band that most came to see here tonight and while I never understood those who pay decent money for a ticket splitting before the show totally ends I had to admit that the different aspect of Metal to be offered up by Tyr would be very hard to follow what just went on for the last forty five minutes or so. I hope we see Alestorm again very soon and highly recommend you join us for any return that they present us with. It was important to note that not one item from the Alestorm merchandise table was available by the end of their set and the band had sold out of everything that they brought with them. That had to feel good to the guys.
Tyr: Tyr had been to the states only once before to my knowledge and that was for last years Paganfest (which we covered in some detail on this very site). For that show in NYC the bands all hit B.B. King’s and now we were enjoying that tours step-brother in that same venues sister club. To me Tyr is much more of a serious band and that was going to be a problem after seeing two bands that were all about raising hell and having a good time. For me this was like seeing KISS before Aerosmith and while both bands were good for that tour, I had no more energy based on all that I had spent rallying for KISS. The guys in Tyr all arrived in battle armor or at least a couple of them did and they began to deliver a very sound set that those who had wisely remained were enjoying but to be brutally honest this was not lively. This was a bunch of Vikings from a far away land telling folk stories set to music and I think that under the circumstances they should have been the direct support while Alestorm the closer. I don’t say this lightly as I really enjoy that which Tyr does and feel if they played with Ensiferum and worked out very well that there is another Folk Act or Viking one that will find their sound a little easier to enjoy. They have released what appears to be an album a year and are set to deliver the third such recording in the third year that I have been paying attention to them with “By The Light Of Then Northern Star”. The guys would actually open up the show with a tune from this album by giving us “Hold The Heathen Hammer High” which I thought was brave for them to do. I often find it is better to play a song people know when you start off and then get to some new things later in the set.
Highlights from the band included a couple of my own favorites with “Reign Smidur” and of course “Hail To the Hammer” and during it all singer, guitarist Heri Joensen led us into each track by offering up some background on it. This was a good thing until they played a song which refers to a Scottish defeat and that pissed a few people off in the crowd. Oh well, you can’t win them all right? The delivering of “The Wild Rover” was in my opinion the very best tune from the Tyr set because this brought out the guys in Suidakra, Alestorm and a bunch of their road crew members and it was insane up on the stage as everyone in the venue sang along with them. One tricky part about the music of Tyr is that a number of their songs are delivered in their native language so at times they can be a little difficult to follow and properly find yourself into. That is unless you speak Faroese.
So to sum it up this was a really cool night and a great way to whet the appetite for the next go round of the Pagan Fest. I would see all of these bands again without question but hope that the touring roster works a little bit better with each bands unique style. For me the winner of the prize this evening was Alestorm who gave us their all and then some. Tyr was nothing less than a powerful presence on stage and their music tight but it was too intense and dramatic after such a fun demonstration. Nice work to all involved and thanks for closing this out in NYC. Both Alestorm and Tyr are currently signed to Napalm Records which is a label that provides the Metal community with numerous bands of this type. If you like what these folks do then you should dig around their artist roster to see what else they bring to the table.
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Official Web Site: www.tyr.net
Official Web Site: www.myspace.com/alestorm
Official Web Site: www.suidakra.com
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