Amorphis @ Reggies, Chicago (US)

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AMORPHIS / SWALLOW THE SUN / EARTHEN

Date: 27th March, 2017
Venue: Reggies Rock Club
Ticket: $25/€24 (in advance) - $28/€26 (day of)
Promoter: Empire Productions


It has become a well-known fact that in most cases it doesn’t make financial sense for a European band to step over the Atlantic and tour upon US soil. Unless, it is a band which have cracked the always tough shell of the US market and has established such a fanbase that can justify booking in mid to big clubs. We can complain as much as we like but this will not ‘convince’ those bands to take a leap of faith and get on a long tour with the possibility to just break even. Of course, this applies equally to the older bands and to the young ones who just have to go through such ordeals if they want to get their music out. What I am trying to say is that considering these difficulties, going to see a European band in every given chance has become a necessity, unless you can ‘live’ just by watching all those crappy cellphone videos posted online...

It has been a long time since the last time I’ve seen AMORPHIS onstage, so my excitement to get a hearty dose of their Finnish melodic / Folk / Death Metal was over the top. On top of this, “Under The Red Cloud” is a killer LP, so getting to hear some songs live was definitely a treat. And I was not the only one being excited to see the Finns, because Reggies was nicely filled (it was difficult to get close to the stage for the photo-taking part) despite the fact that EARTHEN were about to take the stage. Usually, the crowd grows as it gets closer to the headliners, but in this case, the venue was already close to be considered as packed.

I only knew EARTHEN by name and I am sure I had missed the chance to watch them live in other instances. This is a six-piece band, so it is easy to imagine how limited was the space to move onstage, if you add one more drum-kit on the back and the keyboard stand onstage right. Yeah, the flute player was ‘hidden’ somewhere in the back, so there was not possible to have intense onstage activity. The slow but heavy “Indian Summer” was not the strongest setlist opener, so it was kind of expected to see the metalheads trying to see where this band was musically standing. However, the music sounded awesome and please note that this statement comes from someone who is not a diehard fan of bands like KATATONIA, ANATHEMA from the Gothic / Doom / Dark Metal genre. I am sure why but this moody and in some cases depressive music does not do miracles for a convert setting, unless you are in the appropriate mood (a.k.a. prepared). The faster with a Folk twist “Forever Forgotten” was next and with the faster tempo quickly cleared things up and soon enough there were many clapping along. The vocal lines were awesome and it was a bit of a shame that the flute was buried in the mix because in the studio version it has a stronger presence. Guitarist Mike Legros was the most active member onstage and whenever he was not soloing, he was trying to get the crowd going. I think this really worked because the more EARTHEN played, the more people got involved, and that feels awesome when it happens. As I’ve said in the past, a good show is the result of the band ‘working’ together with the audience. The cover on WOODS OF YPRES“Lightning & Snow” highlighted EARTHEN’s Gothic backbone but I liked more “A Kingdom Beneath A Frozen Sky” that followed next with the stronger Folk flavor but still with a strong footing on the heavy side. That was a great start on this night and I think it did set the mood for what was to follow, since SWALLOW THE SUN were also on the same ‘moody’ path. I will definitely check what EARTHEN have been about and put them on my Metal radar.

EARTHEN setlist:

01. “Indian Summer”
02. “Forever Forgotten”
03. “The Victory Of The Sun”
04. “Lightning & Snow” (WOODS OF YPRES cover)
05. “A Kingdom Beneath A Frozen Sky”
06. “Earth Sings A Death Song”

EARTHEN

Earthen @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Earthen @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Earthen @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Earthen @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Earthen @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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SWALLOW THE SUN had been on my to-check-list, so I was happy to see what I was or wasn't missing all this time. Right on time, the lights went out and a taped intro marked the time to get the Finnish band onstage. If I am not horribly mistaken, the band used Nick Cave’s “Push The Sky Away” to prepare our ears for their melodic Doom Metal, painted with all the shades of grey. Almost every (good) Scandinavian Metal band has a strong aura when it steps onstage and this was not an exception. “Rooms And Shadows” kicked in with a mid but headbanging-worthy groove with the growling / clean vocals mix, adding more depth to the already ‘rich’ music of SWALLOW THE SUN. Most recently, I watched again the two seasons of “Twin Peaks”, so it was a nice twist watching Mikko Kotamäki wearing a white t-shirt with the ‘Wanted’ poster showing Bob’s hand-sketched face... Then, I looked closely and saw that Mikko’s right hand was ‘occupied’ by a cool “Twin Peaks” themed sleeve-tattoo. "Thanks for coming out tonight”, Mikko briefly said before letting the music do the rest with the slower “Falling World”. This PARADISE LOST-type of guitar leads and the way they blend into the hard-hitting rhythm works every time despite the slow bpms. “Heartstrings Shattering” sounded emotional and it was the most powerful moment of the set since the band dedicated this to Aleah who recorded the female vocals for this song but passed away last year at the age of 39. This is the band’s way of honoring her memory and - most importantly - helping a bit with the pain. At any case, “Heartstrings Shattering” came out fantastic and set the appropriate mood for the rest of the setlist.

The hard-hitting “Psychopath’s Lair” saw some headbanging action, following the hard-hitting rhythm and I am sure hearing Mikko introducing this as ‘old stuff’ turned up a notch the audience’s excitement. I mean, it is something like an unwritten rule in Metal; the older the music, the better it gets... The second highlight of the set was the amazing “Don't Fall Asleep (Horror, Part II)” with the combination of Mikko’s clean singing and the lurking guitar arpeggios which build the tension for the heavier break with the killer hammer-ons and pull-offs; just awesome. So yeah, the 50 minutes passed by like faster-running water under the bridge and, like it happened with EARTHEN, I added SWALLOW THE SUN into my to-further-check-list. Don’t you just love to get interested in a band after a show?

SWALLOW THE SUN setlist:

01. “Rooms And Shadows”
02. “These Woods Breathe Evil”
03. “Falling World”
04. “Heartstrings Shattering”
05. “Psychopath's Lair”
06. “Don't Fall Asleep (Horror Pt. 2)”
07. “Swallow (Horror Pt. 1)”
08. “Earth Sings A Death Song”

SWALLOW THE SUN

Swallow The Sun @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Swallow The Sun @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Swallow The Sun @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Swallow The Sun @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Swallow The Sun @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Swallow The Sun @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Swallow The Sun @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Swallow The Sun @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Swallow The Sun @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Swallow The Sun @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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Two great performances just before the headliners were more than enough to warm the crowd up and give additional room for the excitement to grow for AMORPHIS. Just to hear the cheers the moment the lights went out, was more than enough to understand that the Finns have a strong following here in the US. The piano-sounding keyboard intro and the guitar fills lifted the curtain for “Under The Red Cloud“ which sent more shivers down my spine than the first time I spun the band’s latest album for the first time. The transition from the clean to the growling vocals has the same goosebump-effect each and every time. The keyboard-break with the guitar leads just before the solos is the perfect representation of where AMORPHIS musically stand. “Thank you Chicago, we are AMORPHIS from Finland” Tomi said, holding his trademark custom made microphone and before knocking our shocks off with the amazing vocal melodies in the groovy “Sacrifice” and the moody but catchy “Sampo”. The way the guitar and keyboards work for the latter is so perfect for a live show. Even though more than a decade has passed, I still remember the fuss when AMORPHIS announced the replacement of Pasi Koskinen with Tomi Joutsen with fans not willing to stand such a change. You see, metalheads are creature of habits and they do not like at all seeing lineup changes (especially when the singer is involved) and let alone musical deviations from what they consider as norm (basically whatever sounds like the band’s debut or even worse it’s first demo). The truth with AMORPHIS is that did enter a new era following that change and, most importantly, have released fantastic albums that work extremely well with the old material.

Of course the heavier stuff added more enthusiasm into the audience’s response, that to my delight proved to be a well-educated scholar of the AMORPHIS discography. Yeah, it felt awesome trying to stand still in the front rows during “Hopeless Days” and during one my favorites from the last AMORPHIS LP, “Bad Blood”. Yeah, the switch from the ‘latest LPs’ era all the way back to the “Tales From The Thousand Lakes” felt extremely natural and sounded frickin’ amazing. After the kind of mellow and Folk-y “The Smoke” (damn those guitar leads and how they give me goosebumps...), AMORPHIS switched gears with the “Thousand Lakes” intro setting the tone of what was to follow with “Into Hiding”, so there was a lot of commotion in the front rows which was powerfully fueled and non-stop beer consumption... But that did not mind me at all since “On Rich And Poor” was next. The riff selection on this one is to-die-for and really took me back to my teen days when I thought that playing this in the guitar would be as simple as doing so with my air guitar... Yeah right... I wonder how many bands where born after being influenced by the “Elegy” album. Most probably we should be talking about an entire scene trying to recreate what the Finns did in 1996. The deal became even sweeter with another riff-galore titled “My Kantele” which I have to confess I equally like its acoustic version.

Tomi closed the door to the past (for a while) and introduced “House Of Sleep” saying something like this “Let’s test if you know how to sing”. This was a huge change from the previous stuff, but man, did it work great! And I have to blame the audience for keeping the same energy level by singing along during the chorus (“You don't know, you don't know nothing yet, about the dreams I have”) putting the icing on this super-tasty cake. This was the best way to end the set seeing the band saying a brief ‘goodnight’ and stepping off stage. It did not take much for AMORPHIS to return (after all, no one was to leave before ‘one more song’ as the chant has it) and hit us with “Death Of A King”. The setlist closer was another goodie from “Tales From The Thousand Lakes”; the Folk keyboard melodies of “Black Winter Day” built the perfect setting for AMORPHIS to drop the curtain for this awesome performance. Mikko from SWALLOW THE SUN joined Tomi and co-sang this one, ending the evening on the highest of notes.

Watching all these happy and sweaty faces leaving Reggies made me think that AMORPHIS will definitely return to the US and – who knows – they may get the chance to play in a bigger venue, although the intimate feeling of this show is already unbeatable.

AMORPHIS setlist:

01. “Under The Red Cloud”
02. “Sacrifice”
03. “Sampo”
04. “Silver Bride”
05. “Hopeless Days”
06. “Skyforger”
07. “Bad Blood”
08. “The Smoke”
09. “Thousand Lakes”
10. “Into Hiding”
11. “On Rich And Poor”
12. “My Kantele”
13. “House Of Sleep”
14. “Death Of A King”
15. “Black Winter Day”

AMORPHIS

Amorphis @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Amorphis @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Amorphis @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Amorphis @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Amorphis @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Amorphis @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Amorphis @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Amorphis @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Amorphis @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Amorphis @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Amorphis @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Amorphis @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Amorphis @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Amorphis @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Amorphis @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Amorphis @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Amorphis @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Amorphis @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Amorphis @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Amorphis @ Reggies Rock Club (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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