- - - - - -

Paganfest America III Tour

PaganFest America III Tour
March 31, 2012 - Gramercy Theatre
New York City

I’ve been looking forward to a proper folk metal tour through the US since I missed Heathenfest a few years ago, and finally, the day had come for Paganfest to land on American shores once more. And what a lineup! First of all, there was Arkona, who, if you’ve read any of my reviews of their albums, you’ll know I’m slightly obsessed with. They were the only band on the bill I’d listened to before the tour was announced, and after seeing them live with Korpiklaani back in November, I knew they alone were reason enough to go to this show. After checking out the other bands on the bill, I discovered Huntress, a badass pagan heavy metal band from California who are newly signed to Napalm Records, fronted by the equally badass banshee Jill Janus. They only had one song, but their single "Eight of Swords" had me convinced this band was special. I also looked up the headliner, Turisas, and was surprised to find how much I loved their epic genre of "battle metal" and the historical content of their lyrics. Then there was Alestorm, whose music I never really liked, but I heard great things about their live performance and was fairly excited about letting my inner pirate out for the show.

In line at the Gramercy Theatre in New York, I met up with a few friends I made at the aforementioned Arkona/Korpiklaani concert and met a few new people as well as we waited for the sure to be epic, sold-out performance. The show started with a local band by the name of Yonder Realm, your typical folky death metal band. They weren’t horrible, which is more than I can say for a number of opening acts I’ve seen in my time, and they did their job and got the crowd warmed up.

Next up, Huntress. Boy, what a show! As the boys in the band played the opening riffs of "The Tower," Jill ran out and began to scream her head off! It was a performance full of energy, excitement, and raw heavy metal, especially as it was Huntress’s first show in Jill’s hometown. The band pounded through their 6-song set and topped it off with their single "Eight of Swords." If you’ve ever wanted to hear a banshee scream, Jill does a pretty good job of replicating one, leaving the crowd more than impressed. No doubt Huntress earned a number of new fans that night! It’s just a shame their debut album, Spell Eater, won’t be released until May, or they could’ve sold a ton of CDs at the show.

Now it was time for Arkona, and I’ll admit, I was a little too excited for my own good. But so was everyone, it seems because as the band came out, the crowd, full of fans who likely remember them from back in November, let out a deafening cheer. Masha was jumping all over the place, screaming out the lyrics to "Arkaim," not even standing still long enough for me take a proper picture. When the time came to play "Stenka na Stenku," Masha called for a wall of death, and despite my being squeezed like a lemon against the barrier, it was quite a sight! Their half-hour set ended with "Yarilo," to which nearly the entire crowd moshed like crazy. I wanted to keep my limbs intact though, as well as my front-and-center spot, so I decided not to join.

Alestorm was the only band on the bill I didn’t care for originally, but I was totally convinced by their performance. The only thing missing was actual rum as the pirates from Scotland played one catchy swashbuckling tune after another, with frontman Christopher Bowes introducing "Wenches and Mead" with "This is a song about bitches and beer!" (to which he got a deafening cheer from the crowd). I’m still not a big fan of the music, but man, they put on a fun show. Of all the more gimmicky bands out there, Alestorm is probably one of the best.

Finally, it was time for Turisas. In full fighting garb and covered in war paint, the band wasted no time and dove right into "March of the Varangian Guard" to much cheering and singing from the crowd. The epic battle metal clearly went over well with the audience, as they sang loudly to the band’s live hits "To Holmgard and Beyond" and "Stand Up and Fight," but the set was also peppered with amazing interludes and a number of wonderful solos from violinist Olli Vänskä, proving this band is more than a gimmick and certainly a force to be reckoned with. Frontman Mathias gave it his all and kept the crowd excited. Just as he was about to announce the encore, the crowd began to chant "Rasputin! Rasputin!" begging for the band to play their renowned cover of the 70’s hit by Boney M. Though it wasn’t originally on the setlist, when a sold-out venue chants a request, you don’t ignore it, and it turned out to be one of the highlights of the night! The set ended with "Battle Metal," and the band left the stage thanking the crowd for such a great show on their first headlining tour in the US and promised to come back as soon as they could. And I, for one, can’t wait for that day!

All-in-all, Paganfest was a brilliant success. Huntress is probably 2012’s best new band in my book, Alestorm won a place in my heart, and I’ll no doubt be playing Turisas on repeat for some time to come. Arkona, however, stole the show, and it’s a shame they only had a half hour to play! When the day comes for them to headline their own US tour, I’ll be first in line, ready for what promises to be an amazing show!

Paganfest America continues through April 19th, so grab your tickets now and rock out with some amazing bands! Trust me, it’s a show you can’t miss!

Napalm Band Huntress

Band Set Lists

The Tower
Sleep and Death
Spell Eater
Eight of Swords

Az’ (intro)
Goi, Rode, Goi!
Slavsia Rus’
Stenka na Stenku

Wenches and Mead
The Sunk’n Norwegian
Nancy the Tavern Wench
Back Through Time
Midget Saw
Black Sails at Midnight

The March of the Varangian Guard
Take the Day!
To Holmgard and Beyond
1st violin interlude
The Dnieper Rapids
One More
The Great Escape
2nd violin interlude
Rex Regi Rebellis
Hunting Pirates
Stand Up and Fight

Battle Metal

A big thanks to Nathan Birk & Napalm Records for the opportunity to attend the festival!

Napalm Records Website
Napalm Records Facebook