It was definitely one of those nights where there was such an odd mashup of bands that left your head scratching: samurai metal from Japan, symphonic metal from Sweden, folk metal from Finland, and Pain. It could have gone terribly wrong or been fantastic. Luckily, it was the latter. Thanks to Hangtime Agency for organizing and Club Boogaloo, this night went very smoothly in almost every aspect.
As announced, the gig itself started quite early, with doors opening at 17:30 and Ryuin taking the stage at 18:00 sharp. After a technical hiccup and learning how to say “sorry” in Japanese, the self-described samurai metalheads opened the show for the night. Although you might find them categorized as “melodic death metal” on the internet, they were much closer to folk metal with some power influences thrown in between. One part cringe, one part fun—that’s how I would describe their gig. It felt like something that would play in the Dragon Ball Z reboot, take that as you wish. Still, their performance was warmly received by the already more than half-full Boogaloo crowd and was engaging from both ends of the spectrum. Special kudos go to Ryoji on the guitar and vocals for his effortless vocal segues between harsh and clean tones, which were a significant part of their songs. All in all, the young lads from Tokyo made the most of their approximately 30 minutes of stage time.
After a quick gear check, Eleine took the stage. This was their second time in Croatia. I vividly remember seeing them supporting Moonspell in 2016, and most of our conversation in the audience back then revolved around whether the vocalist had had a boob job or not. We won’t delve into that topic this time because they sounded eleven times better than seven years ago. The sound was blistering, with Madeleine’s vocals prominent without overshadowing everyone else. This tour’s second half showed; all bands were well-rehearsed and as tight as can be. At this point, I believe all the bands could perform their setlists in their sleep. This was evident with Eleine; their stage performance and music worked like clockwork, every move had meaning. It’s also worth mentioning that their music had become more aggressive than last time, which is always a plus in my book. Strangely, they are categorized as symphonic metal, but there are very few of those elements present. In my opinion, they are a manufactured band selling their material to the widest audience possible, but this is an example of professional performance 101.
After a quick selfie with Eleine, it was time for the co-headliner of the tour: Ensiferum. In case anyone had forgotten who was playing next, half of the audience in the packed Boogaloo was already chanting their name while the sound crew was gearing up the equipment. This was their third or fourth time in Croatia, so saying they felt at home here would be an understatement. While Ryuiyn and Eleine had been a solid warm-up, when Ensiferum started, the whole club erupted. There were times when the audience was even louder than the band itself, and at Petri Lindroos’s command, the mosh pits started on the second song almost immediately. These are the types of concerts where you realize how important communication with the crowd is and how it can change everything for the better. All four bands excelled at that.
Regarding mosh pits, picture twenty-something guys with their shirts off, a healthy combination of beer bellies and ripped arms, going at each other as if they were auditioning for a raid scene in an episode of Vikings. That became a regular occurrence during their entire set, culminating in a wall of death toward the end of their stage time.
I forgot to mention: of all four bands, none of them are in my personal playlist, but they are incredibly entertaining to watch. The whole atmosphere was great. Before the last track of their set, Petri announced that after this tour, they would head straight to the studio to record their next album and that they would be coming back to Croatia next year. We are holding them to their word. Frankly, if I were none the wiser, Ensiferum would have been the main stars of the night and practically stolen Pain‘s spotlight. Such situations are not ordinary, but this was not one of them.
Pain took his sweet time during the sound check; it took about twenty minutes, but for those who were there, it became clear why: a different light show, a cartoon playing on the screen during the songs, also serving as an intro for particular tracks. The band started around 22:00 with the man of the hour: Peter Tägtgren. Sporting stage gear and makeup like a pro, he began with the track “Let Me Out,” his scream echoing through the venue. The guy is 53 years old, and his vocals are still top-notch, including his cleaner vocals, which, I must admit, sound much better than on Pain‘s studio albums. Say what you will about the band, but Pain is something you must experience live; it’s far from five guys re-performing their set on stage—it’s an electric circus. The songs sound so much better live. One of the main highlights was the track “Call Me,” where Joakim from Sabaton took over the song on the screen. I couldn’t stop laughing at the way they did it. In the middle of the track, the whole band stopped, as if something were wrong with the equipment, and this guy from Sabaton appeared on the screen, continuing the song. Bloody genius. I don’t even like that band, but I was still fully into it. Another highlight was my personal favorite: Pain‘s cover of “Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones. Similar to their other cover, “Play Dead” by Bjork, Pain managed to bring another dimension to the track and make it their own without butchering it.
The crowd interaction was again fantastic; the whole place was on fire. An atmosphere like this I hadn’t seen in a long while, especially when the entire audience started chanting the melody from their well-known track “Shut Your Mouth,” two songs too early. Of course, the last of the 19-track long setlist was “Shut Your Mouth,” closing this very impressive night. I’ll mention this again: none of these bands are in my personal playlist, but this was one of the best concerts I’ve seen this year. A big kudos to all of them, both on stage and behind the scenes.
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