After having seen this true wonder a few weeks ago at the Helvation festival in Finland, I decided to book myself a flight to Stockholm and attend the release party of their newest album, “The Great Escape“. The party took place on a snow white Saturday evening in a place called NÃ¶jespalatset. It doesn't look like a regular metal concert venue, but it was a very cosy and spacious place for the amount of people gathered there.
As for the people, it was a great surprise to meet others who had travelled a great distance for this event. Some even crossed the ocean from the States for this, others flew in from the Netherlands, UK or Italy. It also looked like most of the band members had invited family, so it must have been a very special event for them. Another reason for it to be so special was the fact that it was the drummer's (Johnny Sandin) last performance with the band, so this was also a farewell show.
After a 30 minutes signing session in the merchandise booth (where one could buy CDs, t-shirts - which got sold out quite quickly - caps, posters, etc), the band went backstage to prepare for the performance which started a few minutes later than announced. Before talking about the show itself, I want to rant a little about the insane amount of smoke that was blown on the stage making it impossible to breathe in front of if, and the limited amount of light and the lack of front lighting that forced me to use the flash most of the time and feel sorry for the artists' eyes. I heard they had problems seeing their instruments as well, the keyboard player had to bend all the way down to the keys in order to see the buttons that needed to be twisted. Also, the speakers are located quite far from the front of the stage (far towards the crowd, that is) so in front you'd mainly hear the sound from the monitors or even the “natural” voice, not filtered through any amplifier. But that's not a complaint actually, it was an interesting experience for a live performance.
It started from “backstage” with Tommy Karevik singing a beautiful melody while the rest of the members came on stage one by one and raised big amounts of applause from the audience. This made everyone in the band smile and these smiles hardly left their faces, making the whole mood of the evening an incredibly positive one, despite the sadness in many of their songs. All 4 guys in front had the same uniform as in Finland, army-like dark clothes with a red hourglass on one shoulder (a bit of insight on this - uniforms are based on their latest album which, in turn, is inspired from the SF poem Aniara by the Swedish Nobel Prize winner Harry Martinson. And reading it might help you understand the meaning of the hourglass and time passing). Saturday night though, the time flew way too fast while listening to the incredible compositions that tried to present all the band's albums so far: Waiting in the Wings, Mercy Falls and The Great Escape. I personally only heard in Finland 2 songs from the fresh and unreleased album (Alley Cat and Wiseman), but some people in the audience seemed to already know the lyrics. I was mostly impressed by the melodic Long Way Home, where we had a surprise in the presence of Tommy's sister, Jenny, whose voice is brilliant for the small duets she does with her brother (both live and on the album). I heard it was her first time on stage, and I think she did an amazing job. For the older songs, the people in front of the stage (mainly those who travelled the furthest) sang along every word in the lyrics, and one of them even got the microphone from Tommy to sing for a few seconds. The most touching moment of the night was again the ballad Tears for a Father and the level of drama in that song is doubled by the way the crowd sings along.
Besides the impressive compositions in their progressive songs, it is impressive to watch everyone's skills at playing their instruments. Well, maybe except for the keyboard player whose fingers are hidden, and whose fast and harmonic melodies you can only hear. On the other hand, there were moments when the bass playing seemed like the most natural thing in the world to do and everyone should be able to grab one and just play. That's how the 6 strings looked in the hands of Andreas Blomqvist, while he quickly moves his fingers along the long neck, tapping or slapping it and just rocking the place. Then you have an abundance of guitar riffs and solos from Johan Liefvendahl. But none of these would work as well together without the perfect touch of the drums. They go fast, they are varied, you have fills after only a few “normal” bars and the biggest thing is that hardly two consecutive fills sound the same. Yet, this variety is part of the music's harmony and makes all the aforementioned riffs and solos complete, as nothing stands out and leaves the others behind. It all works as a band and as music should: in harmony.
The ending of the evening was epic. As I said, it was Johnny's last concert with the band, hence champagne was brought on stage and served while Andreas B. was holding a speech. He got interrupted by the other band members who said they should play one more song as a surprise for the drummer. They brought a pile of papers with lyrics, shared them with the crowd and announced they'd play a cover of Helloween's I want out. The difference in the band's line-up was that the keyboardist, Andreas “Kyrt” SÃ¶derin, grabbed a guitar for this song. After the first chorus, Johnny was called in front and handed the microphone. Andreas S. gave his guitar to the singer, Tommy, while Tommy himself got the guitar and made his attempt at keeping the rhythm. I have absolutely no idea if they were even close to the original sound of the song, since it was way too fun to just watch this and sing along with the rest of the crowd. But here's a video where you can check out the results: youtube
After the show ended, the band returned to the merch stand for a new signing session, for chatting with fans and taking photos with them. Everyone seemed to be really happy to have the chance to talk to them, and the band members were flattered by the nice compliments they kept hearing. While typing these I am finally listening to the album The Great Escape and actually to the 30 minute song with the same title. It sounds like a masterpiece so far. It is simply beautiful. I hope you get the chance to listen to it yourself, and if I haven't convinced you to do so, maybe some of the reviews from this link might change your mind. As for an ending, I'll hope the music will do the talking in your ears and I send a big thank you to everyone in the band and the audience in Stockholm who made the evening such a special one.
The playlist for the night is as below, while a photo gallery can be found here:
Hide and Seek
Tears for a Father
Not an Angel
Taint the Sky
Welcome to Mercy Falls
Long Way Home
The Black Parade
I Want Out (Helloween cover)
By Andrea Chirulescu