Gig Review: Korpiklaani / Heidevolk – O2 Academy, Oxford (2nd March 2024)

Well, it has been a long time coming, but finally I have the pleasure of writing a review that is not related in any way to M2TM. This time I find myself in a completely different venue within the great city of Oxford, the O2 Academy. It had been a while since I was last here, and upon arrival I wished I had turned up much sooner. Parking was a complete nightmare along with the amount of traffic that had accumulated on Cowley Road, including not one but three full sized articulated lorries parked directly outside the main doors. Not only was it obviously noticeable that something big was happening here, but an enormous queue had also already formed which I knew full well I would have to join the back of.

So after a quick trip to the box office to collect my ticket for the evening I joined said queue and started my journey doing the most British thing possible… patiently waiting in line. I did not spend the entire evening alone however. My friends where still making their journey here, so I took this opportunity to speak to a people who were currently waiting alongside. It turns out a couple in front of me had travelled all the way from York just to be here this evening. That must be a great amount of dedication just to see live music.

After a short amount of time passing, it was not long before I had advanced to the front, ticket scanned and received a very thorough pat down by a friendly gentleman and heading through the doors and straight to the bar for my one and only drink of the evening. From previous experience, I know that the maximum capacity of this venue is around one thousand persons including staff and band support, but at this time there was not even half of that inside. Quite surprising despite this being a sold-out night. It was only about 10 minutes or so before the first band was due to take to the stage, so I found a nice spot off to the side with a couple of people that I knew from previous gigs and waited for the lights to dim. I failed to notice my surroundings as before I knew it, the venue was getting packed out. Turning round was a sea of heads all eager for the first band. From the pit wall, all the way to behind the sound booth was just a shear mass of bodies.

Before I knew it the lights finally dimmed, and the show started with an eruption of cheering. Heidevolk had taken to the stage with an awe-inspiring opening. Their Viking chants echoed around the room and the crowd loved it. I had not heard of Heidevolk prior to my arrival, and if I have the pleasure of listening to a band live for the first time I never do any research beforehand, so as to experience them raw with no expectations. Man, was I in for a treat.

They reminded me of a folk version of Amon Amarth, donning a more tradition Viking style attire. Normally I am gutted when band perform songs in their native language because I have no clue what their lyrics are about. My English is bad enough on a good day, so listen to bands like Rammstein is completely lost on me. But Heidevolk brought something different, they brought passion and emotion to their songs. Yes, I have no clue what half their lyrics were or meant, but I did not need to. Just simply closing my eyes and letting their music run through me was enough to understand.

As for the band’s performance, well that was a whole different level. They could have easily been mistaken for a headlining band. Their performance was faultless from start to finish and their crowd interaction was completely on point both during and in between songs. Every song felt and sounded completely different, showing the amount of talent that this band has. And this easily shows from the difference between my two favourite songs that they played. “Nehalennia” was a nice fast-paced song with a great folk stye showing their range of talent with both guitarist playing in unison through to “Yngwas’ Zonen”, which was nothing but a constant drumbeat, with what I can only assume is an authentic traditional Norse chanting. I wish I knew what the words were so I could chant along with them, but the feeling I got from just listening was profoundly moving. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Heidevolk, and without doubt, would love to see them on a bigger stage playing to a bigger crowd.

So, with their set finishing, it was time to grab fresh air and a vape, catching up with familiar faces that I have seen over the last 12 months and different venues and gigs. Before long, it was time to make my way back to the same spot to the side of the stage and witness the band who kindly invited me along to see. Another talented group from outside the UK that I had not heard of before, Korpiklaani, took their place upon the stage.

Following on from Heidevolk we were greeted by yet more traditional folk metal, but this time it felt and sounded much more modern than the Nordic music from prior. This was more upbeat and somehow even faster than before. This was not a band just to listen to either, as their movement on stage was something of a spectacle to behold. Korpiklaani clearly loved to perform for their adoring fans, constantly engaging with those close to the pit wall with smiles and hand gestures, ensuring that all those facing towards them were enjoying themselves. Yet again I could barely understand anything that was being sung by, what I can only describe as a crazy dreadlocked man in a top hat who seemed completely off his rocker. But as with Heidevolk, I did not need to understand. I could easily listen to Korpiklaani for hours on end, be it in the car, sat in front of my desk in the day job (my non-metalhead co-workers may not appreciate it mind) or even just chilling out at home. Their music is invigorating and extremely catchy, and just listening to them could easily make me smile on one of my darkest days.

The addition of an accordion and a violin ensured that their folk style music pushed it closer and closer to folk thrash, gaining in speed as their set went on. Now I say I did not understand the language of the lyrics, but there were words I certainly did not mistake. But then it dawned on me why there seemed to be a certain craziness with this band, as it seemed like they liked to have a drink. Something I can easily relate to, I know I heard “Tequila”, “Vodka” and “Jägermeister” in three separate songs which, after listening to them afterwards, were actually the titles of their songs. That was me sold in an instant, and I could easily imagine that drinking alongside them would be a night to remember… or not, as the case may be.

Just as the previous band had displayed a talent for having a large repertoire of songs, Korpiklaani could easily slow things down with one song, and bring the atmosphere straight back up to their level of craziness at the right time, ensuring their crowd were fully engaged with them. I did not want their set to end, which seemed to just fly by, but alas the time finally called. I doubt that I will get the chance to see Korpiklaani any time soon, but should they decide they want to come back to the UK in the near future, then I highly recommend getting yourselves a ticket. And who knows, you may find me stood next to you.

Now, for those who have been to the various venues across the UK for this tour, you know that this is not the end of the night, as the headlining band are still yet to grace the stage. However, as far as this review is concerned… That is all I am afraid. Due to cancel culture now playing a major part in this ever-changing world, a decision was made to not review any further.

Mosh adds: To be clear, this was not a decision by Moshville Times management because they don’t like the headliners, but because they can’t be arsed with the backlash (including threats and abuse from a bunch of couch warriors) that they got the last time they mentioned them on the site. We wholeheartedly respect the rights of others to prefer not to hear about a band, to not like them for whatever reason, to voice disapproval and so on. But we draw the line at being threatened, especially by people we know wouldn’t have the balls to do it to our faces. We could name and shame, especially given who one of the worst offenders work for, but we’re not sinking to their level.

It saddens me to know that a minority can drastically affect what others enjoy. But for anyone who knows me, or has read any of my reviews, I will not delve into politics due to a multitude of reasons, the main one being that I will put my foot in it and inadvertently upset someone. Without reviewing the headlining band, for those that have seen them in the past, whether it be a small venue like this, or a big stage at a major festival, you already know how the end of the night went and how they performed. And if you have no idea what I am talking about, then do a quick bit of research, check them out and go watch them for yourself. Hopefully one day, I get the pleasure of writing about a band that I enjoy watching live and listening to at home but, for the time being , I will just have to keep that to myself.

Header image: Teppo-Ristola

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