Who would have honestly thought that on this cold, dark and weary mid-Winter's night, that three bands from both sides of Europe would ignite a sweat-pit so hot and steamy in the 02 Islington Academy, that everyone would be clambering around for their ice cold beers? Well you could blame the incessant rampaging of the crowd, or you could blame the magical wizardry of Londoners Pythia, Estonia's Metsatöll and Finland's Ensiferum for their encapsulating and unrelenting assault of metal at it's finest. A night full of bard, folkloric anthems and continual salutations towards the bands unfolded.
Let us indulge in the night's gig and diverge from the near verbose verbiage given above.
A lot was expected of Londoners Pythia at tonight's gig that the overall reaction post-performance was one of slight disillusion and disappointment, despite the heroics of keeping their cool intact and letting themselves go, Pythia never managed to shift out of third gear. Sure their pedigree of late ought have safeguarded their show from criticism, but they seemed out of sync at times, failed to keep the crowd on their toes and above all (which actually isn't their fault) did not fit in tonight's themed gig that well.
Power / Gothic Metal? Folk Metal? You get the idea, it's like putting a Black Metal band with a Glam Metal band, there again imagine a Blackened Glam Metal band? Deviating here, much like what Pythia did at times during their set. It wasn't completely pretty and yet whilst there were glimmers of hope that could have lead to something magical sparking, the fire just did not ignite and this meant that the crowd were left in a state of boredom to the band's dismay.
On another night Pythia may well have blasted the ceiling, but this night it was not meant to be, surely there needed something folkloric to not only get this crowd (and pit) open, cue Metsatöll
Metsatöll brought with them their folkloric antics and atmospherics that would almost certainly have resulted in them being awarded the coveted 12 points at Eurovision, if this was Eurovision that is. Instead the crowd might as well have given them maximum points as they swayed, moshed and ritualistically headbanged to the beauty of Estonian Folk Metal.
Here is a band who despite their language differences; they sing in Estonian, managed to ignite the venue without any restrictions. Not strangers to the British shores, this Baltic horde mix Folk Metal with Thrash Metal to develop something that's fast, heavy, danceable, even funky if you wish to call it that. They even weaved a traditional Pagan song into their set, which was prominently instrumental and was well received by the crowd.
Harking back to the band's antics, one such antic was Varulven playing the Estonian bagpipes behind his back, we've all seen guitarists do this trick (Varulven is one too) but bagpipers? That little trick got a wow from the crowd, however there was an even bigger wow directed towards to the whole band as they laid down the foundations for their Finnish neighbours Ensiferum, and closed their performance with a song about love and beer; the latter of which was flowing like a gushing stream.
For a band who has been knocking around for 17 years, they certainly showed no signs of stopping.
* FYI that is not our meme.
Ensiferum, having celebrated 21 years activity and 15 years since their debut self-titled album dropped, were never destined to set a foot wrong in this most audacious of nights (you know the references). Having just released their latest effort "One Man Army", this show as part of their tour of the same name (as the album) could equate to a thousand-strong horde running riot, crashing into and smashing everything in sight, including you.
That was the sheer force exerted by the Finnish sextet tonight, a full-on onslaught of 'Finnish folkloric anthems' and by that came the bards in metal form, reciting their majestic scripts that will have no doubt be spoken of and sung to on this night.
Whilst the pits opened and closed, the headbanging became rhythmic and the dancing ensued due to the band's uncanny nature of knowing what makes their fans tick. Ensiferum have been there and done it, they know what it takes to make a night unforgettable and as they unleashed song after song, the crowd did not appear to show any signs of slowing down.
Joined on stage by their new live musician Netta Skog (ex-Turisas) of whom took part on the tracks 'Cry For The Earth Bounds' and 'Descendants, Defiance, Domination' on the band's latest album, Ensiferum signed off each song played in style and as the night drew closer and closer to the end, it was apparent that despite the disappointing start by Pythia, both Metsatöll and Ensiferum drew out their swords and did battle, leaving the crowd gasping for air and emerging as valiant warriors born.
Ensiferum this night justified their worth as Finnish Folk Metal leaders as well as pioneering idols, this was a night that everyone in attendance would never forget.
 RHYS STEVENSON
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