We pre-gamed with Korpiklaani!
(L to R: Bassist Jarkko Aaltonen, drummer Matti “Matson” Johansson, accordionist Sami Perttula, vocalist Jonne Järvelä, fiddler Tuomas Rounakari, and guitarist Kalle “Cane” Savijärvi)

We gathered our armor and made our way past the pagan vast lands and in to the depths of green pastures and snow. Well okay, it wasn’t in our budget so the bards in Korpiklaani came to us on Nov. 17! We halted our unintentional butchering of the Finnish language to get to the great festivity, we had to make it past the piss soaked streets of downtown San Diego and in to the arms of House of Blues to see the Finnish troubadours. But before we could partake in the great debauchery, we had to fight for our right to party!

We suited up and joined our favorite local vikings in Helsott! The quartet morphed into a quintet that night by having Sicosis guitarist Rafael Ortega join them for this extra gritty battle. Helsott didn’t hold back and gave us a face melting ear full with tracks from their latest release, Slaves and Gods, which you can totally see how yours truly felt about it here, such as the bar fight lovin’ “Tavern’s Tale.” YES THE PIT, SHE WAS ALIIIIIIVE! And so were we! Come on now, the fun’s not over. This is a Helsott set dammit! And they are not tired after the first fight. The quintet then treated us to their folky and badass cover of “Runnin’ Down A Dream” and filled the crowd with wanderlust.

Helsott arrive to the shores of House of Blues to unite and conquer!
(Front and center: Guitarist Mark Dow and vocalist Eric Dow)

Helsott capped off their night with “Honor Thy Valkyrie” but the band didn’t want to swallow up the entire spotlight themselves. Vocalist Eric Dow invited frontman of local melodic thrash metal band Battlefront, Sean Ziemer. A fun fact about Battlefront is that when Dow isn’t unleashing growls for Helsott, he’s pounding away at the drum kit for this band!  Ziemer’s semi-clean vocals complimented Dow’s guttural growls in this final battle and pleased the pit to say the least. Their faithful legion and Helsott virgins alike were drunk with the power and energy Helsott had bestowed on them.

It is never a dull moment with Helsott, and for those who have seen them more than once or twice or maybe more than three times, know that they are still fresh and filled with an intoxicating vigor. By the looks and sounds within the venue, we’d say the SoCal vikings had another successful raid. If you wanna see how Battlefront’s like, you can see what we thought about them too right hurrrr! And you can also check out what we’ve thought about Helsott’s previous raids!

Sean Ziemer of Battlefront joins Eric Dow for one last battle cry.

After all that beer shed we spilled on the concrete battlefield, we needed a cleanse, a spiritual healing of a sort. So we ventured deeper in to the metaphorical woods and paid a visit to our comrades in Arkona, from Russia! Once we saw the glowing red eyes within the horned skull that was mounted on the mic stand, and the moment the robe clad Maria “Masha Scream” Arkhipova let out her ominous chant for “Mantra (Intro),” we knew we were no longer in our neck of the woods. Masha effortlessly enveloped us in her magick and teamed up with the rest of the collective to reel us in with their synchronized windmills. Now that Arkona had us in their clutches, we all willingly gave in to the first chant of the night with the ominous “Shtorm.” We all followed Vladimir “Volk” Reshetnikov’s lute deeper into this journey and planted ourselves in to the center of this offering. The collective drum beats from Masha and drummer Andrey Ishchenko along with the children’s chant in the ritualistic “Tseluya Zhizn,” charged the atmosphere with electricity.

Deep from within the Pagan vast lands is Arkona from Russia!
(L to R: Guitarist Sergei “Lazar” Atrashkevich, bassist Ruslan “Kniaz” Rosomaherov and vocalist Maria “Masha Scream” Arkhipova)

Though Arkona was conjuring some serious magic with their incantations, they ditched their enigmatic personas and lightened up the mood with the faster paced and uber festive “Stenka na Stenku,” and the equally upbeat and victorious “Yarilo.” All we needed were some good ol’ beer mugs! And yes, the pit was very pleased with these party chants. Masha’s fierce growls could slice and dice any form of ancient dark magic and the ripple effect would be so effective, it will leak over to your next D&D sesh. The vocalist effortlessly swooped around the stage with a perfect combination of grace and stealth fueling the magnetism and intrigue to their set, especially for those that have never seen these mages in action. There is no need to get plastered to have fun with Arkona, obnoxious-drunken-moron-who-was-next-to-us-who-got-kicked-out. BAHAHA!    

Masha commanding the crowd with her chants, and growls.

We cleansed our souls and pre-gamed with Arkona but it was time for THE party with Korpiklaani. The swagalicious Finnish collective fanned our excitement as they trickled out to the slow burning intro to “Neito” before the main and fashionable party monster, Jonne Järvelä, began with his unmistakable gruff vocals. Because Korpiklaani were celebrating their latest release Kulkija, they performed many songs featured in the record such as the jubilant “Korpikuusen Kyynel” followed by the infectious “Aallon Alla” which will entice any listener with that intro from the fiddle courtesy of the man in white Toumas Rounakari. The troubadours wanted to get our blood pumping so that we can venture deeper in to this wild ride with them, and so they busted out “Erämaan Ärjyt” and one of the tavern favorites “A Man With A Plan.”

Fiddler Tuomas Rounakari knows he is one sharp dressed mutha.

Korpiklaani were just warming up so bassist Jarkko Aaltonen did what we would all do, he ditched his shoes and made himself comfortable. Meanwhile accordion player Sami Perttula pranced around the stage with an enviable energy level and bad ass modern cowboy/ guitarist Kalle “Cane” Savijärvi traded off with Aaltonen and spread their chill presence all over the stage. Yeah, they may be the life of the party but in the end of the day they are just sensitive artists and so they serenaded us with “Harmaja.” By mid set, Järvelä reemerged on the stage without his jacket, which meant he was ready for business!

Cane and Jonne Järvelä were one of the most sharp dressed gents in this partay.

After wooing us with these beautifully tame hymns, the band shifted gears because it was Saturday night after all, and the festivities must go on! “Sahti” had Rounakari and Perttula respectively have killer solos which drove everyone wild and gave us a chaser called “Metsämies.” Don’t worry! No beers were spilled, well as far as we know. The pit became active with the relatively rougher “Petoeläimen Kuola” and the spirited “Pilli on Pajusta Tehty.” The sextet knew they could not leave us without a grand finale, so they busted out the big guns and played the pub loving anthems “Beer Beer,” “Wooden Pints,” and “Vodka.” The crowd had morphed into a giant swinging mass by this point and moved to the chaotic rhythm of the buzzing pit and giving us all a sweet wave of pandemonium before closing off with “Crows Bring The Spring.”

Even after it was time for them to skedaddle, the collective took a bow and briefly interacted with their legion. Rounakari and Perttula basked in the spotlight and made a series of synchronized bows that had the crowd cheer whenever they would rise up and did this for a good while. “Dull” does not exist in the magical world of Korpiklaani and are masters in showmanship, so be sure to hit that speed dial button on them for a good time. Oh and yours truly will be sure to hit them up for fashion advice, they’re not the only ones that gotta look good. 😉

(L to R: Guitarist Kalle “Cane” Savijärvi, bassist Jarkko Aaltonen, and vocalist Jonne Järvelä)