Eluveitie / Arkona / Skalmold – Classic Grand, Glasgow

Image (c) Moshville Times
Image (c) Moshville Times

[photos: Eluveitie / Arkona / Skalmold]

[avatar user=”Mosh” size=”50″ align=”left” /]What a great folk metal line-up, featuring bands with different takes on the genre and from different places internationally – similar to the recent PirateFest at The Arches.

First up were Icelandic sensations Skalmold who, it seems, are a jinxed band for me. Last time they played, it was as support to Finntroll and Tyr at the same venue and I was supposed to interview and review them. Sadly, travel problems resulted in everything being rushed before the gig, the interview was cancelled and I had to head home leaving Sean to review the fun stuff.

This time the interview went like a dream (link shortly once it’s been edited), but their stage time clashed with my interview with Eluveitie’s Chrigel so I missed the first half of their set. I’d also not grabbed my photo pass by then so the only pictures I got were from the back of the venue.

Jinx aside, at least I got to see half of their forty-minute set, a good length for an opening band and the only problem with it was that it was too short. Oh, and that they were all crammed into a tiny space stage right!

Both of these issues could be addressed by letting these titans headline next time around. The venue was packed and this wasn’t just the loyal “turn up and support the opening bands” ethos, this was a huge number of people who were as interested in seeing the Vikings as they were the Russkies and the Celts who were to follow.

Sound was excellent – testament to the “seventh member” of the band, their sound engineer who tours with them – and the guys looked as happy as pigs in the proverbial up there growling out Icelandic legend to the beat of Jon’s drums.

I confess I’m no expert on the song names – not helped by the use of Icelandic titles which I struggle to pronounce let alone spell! – but it was a strong set with a couple of new tracks as well as the obvious favourites such as “Gleipnir”.

The crowd were very much into them and such support genuinely indicates that they deserve a higher place in the bill. Why they’ve not been granted a headlining tour yet, I  don’t know. Maybe next year if enough of you rush out and buy the new release? It’s worth the pennies, I can tell you (review here!)

Image (c) Moshville Times
Image (c) Moshville Times

A short intermission of around twenty minutes was followed by second-billers Arkona (Аркона), a band I had heard of but in all honesty knew very little about beyond that. They’re a five-member Russian folk-metal act whose songs are mainly about myth and folklore from their home nation. Led by lead singer Masha Arkhipova, they didn’t hang around immediately launching into a noisy opening number.

The band were all in traditional Russian dress (not quite the curly-shoe stereotype, but not far off), with Masha also donning a furry hat and a dead animal of some type that would probably have the folk of PETA rushing to B&Q to purchase every tin of Salsa Red Dulux paint they could find to throw over her. Unperturbed by such concerns, Masha screamed and growled her way through several number as the band rocked on.

Most noticeable amongst them was Vladimir who covers duties on bagpipes and various tubes with holes which get blown through. The sound was as good as for Skalmold, and all the instruments could be heard well. Masha – also a multi-instrumentalist on the albums – settled with a Shaman drum as her only musical contribution during the set. Guitarist Sergey casts an imposing figure next to her while Ruslan and Andrey (bass and drums respectively) were squashed onto one side of the stage, a result of the cramped setup for this evening.

While Masha addressed the crowd in English, I couldn’t grab the song titles (they’re all in Russian), but their set impressed. While not a new band – they’ve been on the go for about ten years – I was surprised by the number of people down the front who seemed to know the words. What I will say, though, is that they kept the catchier, folkier numbers for  near the end of the set and left me more impressed than I had been at the beginning. Just a shame I don’t know the songs individually so I guess I’ll just have to dig through their whole catalogue…

I had a nice chat during the next break with an Italian photographer and Fishbones from gigtog.com – the man is an utter legend and simultaneously a pleasure and a humbling experience to talk to.

Soon enough, the lights dimmed again and the stage setup which cramped the first two acts was revealed. As headliners, Eluveitie deserved and received the full use of the stage including an impressive (certainly for this venue) drum riser complete with “posing areas” either side for guitarists and bassists to strut their stuff. While not the acreage of a festival stage, it did mean that the seven members hardly ever bumped into one another.

Image (c) Moshville Times
Image (c) Moshville Times

Seven? Ah, yes, for reasons not explained – though insinuated to be personal – bagpipe artiste Päde Kistler had had to return home so the band continued without him. This didn’t put a dent in their ability to put on a good show, though.

The last (and first) time I’d caught Eluveitie was opening for Sabaton at the Garage almost exactly two years ago. They were good enough for me to look them up and listen to some of their stuff, but tonight’s headlining performance was definitely more impressive – and not just the light show. Origins is probably their best album to date and they didn’t shy away from digging tracks off it, as well as giving all the older albums an airing.

Credit once more goes to the sound engineers for managing to ensure that the myriad of instruments used by the band were clear throughout each song, something that can’t be an easy task with such a mixture! Penny whistles, hurdy-gurgy, violin and so forth were all clear as day.

Over the ninety minutes or so they played, Eluveitie didn’t let up. Chrigel fronts the majority of the songs and is very emotive in gesture as well as voice as he thunders out the more harsh tones. Anna took the reigns a couple of times, most notably for “Call of the Mountains” for which the crowd were given the choice of language in which it would be sung – it’s been recorded in all four official Swiss languages as well as English. Tonight, the crowd opted for Swiss German and Anna duly obliged. Probably my favourite song of the evening.

A quick break was had before the encore – a gap filled with the usual “one more tune” chants unique to Glasgow – and the band finished with a flourish and a group bow to huge applause. A great group to both watch and listen to, they were just the icing on a very rich cake tonight with such good support acts.

Arkona are very much now on my “I need to dig some stuff out” list, while Eluveitie and Skalmold have cemented their places in my playlist. To those with tickets for forthcoming dates – you’ll have a hell of a time!

Eluveitie: official | facebook | twitter | myspace | last.fm | youtube

Arkona: official

Skalmold: official | facebook | twitter | youtube | instagram | flickr | soundcloud

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