Fiesta Pagana - Finntroll, Eluveitie, Black Messiah, Menhir, and many more - 07.06.2008
Fiesta Pagana by Bas (53)
Fiesta Pagana II by Bas (42)
Table of contents
II. The festival Site
IV. Folkstone - missed
V. Heol Telwen
XIII. Black Messiah
XVI. Summing Up
XVII. A few closing thoughts
On the 7th of June, a tiny village called Schmerikon (a place no one had ever heard of before) became a mecca for folk, viking and pagan metal fans. Located right next to the lake of Zurich (nude swimming!) and with a pretty scenery, it was an ideal place for the festival. The weather wasn't all too nice unfortunately, it was raining on the day of arrival (the 6th that is) while many of the long-haired, black-clad people that must have been quite a sight for the villagers were setting up their tents.
Our enthusiasm wasn't to be halted by a mere little drizzle though. What was a considerably harder blow, for me in any case, was that Mägo De Oz, the band that gave the festival its name (Fiesta Pagana is a song by Mägo De Oz) had to cancel their set due to a tragic accident in the vocalists family. I for one was mainly there to see that band, so the news was quite a blow for me, especially since it was announced a few hours before it was their turn. Most people at the festival didn't even seem to know them though, so they didn't mind extremely much that the other bands just played a bit longer to make up for the lost band.
I'm not going to tell you about what we missed out on though, but rather what we did see, so without further ado; my review of Fiesta Pagana.
II. The Festival Site
Little pieces of wood covering a great part of the festival site saved us from muddy feet. The part in front of the stage was concrete. I for my part was pretty happy to not have to clean my shoes afterward in any case. Anyone who ever was at an outdoor festival with not so good weather knows what happens if hundreds of feet, many with heavy boots to boot, trample around on a wet piece of ground for a couple of hours. As it was there were very few small muddy patches but further the ground stayed solid throughout the whole day.
Scattered over the site there were a couple of tents where you could buy jewelry, weaponry, "gothic things", "viking things", clothing, and (more importantly for me) drinks (from beer and mead to coca cola and ice tea), pizza, burgers and a couple of variations of meat (perhaps the most important thing at such a festival?). So if a particular band really didn't manage to grab your attention you could just go about and shop a bit.
There was a big stage outdoors and a smaller stage inside a tent. Until the last few bands, they took turns playing in- and outdoors. Unfortunately, inside the tent the sound quality really wasn't all too good.
The first group to storm the stage were the sympathetic Scots from the up and rising Alestorm. Lyrically sticking to a pirate theme, they play a mix of viking and power metal, they described themselves as "true Scottish pirate metal". Starting off as the first band of a festival in the early noontime, the four guys had some warming up of the crowd to do. And even though the crowd was as slow as to be expected during the first few songs, the band managed to captivate and animate much better than most other bands would have managed at this time of the day! Soon enough heads were swinging and a few voices were chanting along to the catchy choruses of songs like "The Curse Of Captain Morgan" and "Nany The Tavern Wench". I especially liked the accordion sounds throughout some of the songs.
Above all Alestorm gave us a very convincing and entertaining show. For example at one point their vocalist asked the crowd if we wanted to know what was under a true Scotsman's kilt. After adding that it isn't pretty the guitarist gave us some "insight" and you could hear the singer shouting "welcome to Scotland!". All I can say that it really wasn't pretty, but it was quite amusing. The band was also sporting a new drummer, who they introduced as David Hasselhoff. Together with the front man, who was also the man on the keys, he then gave us a nice solo.
Folkstone was the first to play in the tent. However I'll be completely honest and just say they didn't interest me all, especially right after Alestorm. So I preferred just strolling around with a friend and looking at all the pretty things you could buy, there were more than enough bands still to come...
V. Heol Telwen
Next in line was Heol Telwen, to be completely honest I wasn't expecting much from them at all, but I was to be proved very wrong. The mainly melodic black metal based songs were excellent for headbanging and the flute was a very nice addition to the music. From what I've gathered their songs are more folk-oriented on CD, live they limited the folk elements to the flute though.
The audience needed quite a while to get going, there was hardly any participation at all at the beginning, after a while there were more and more people headbanging, eventually there was even a small moshpit for a short while. Later still parts of the crowd literately went wild. After a slow song at the end the French combo left the stage. I for my part will definitely check them out more!
After Heol Telwen it was Hordaks' turn in the tent. The main problem of this gig however was the horrible mixing. Actually, until half of the show was over you couldn't hear the vocals at all. You could see that the vocalist was singing and while I stood pretty much in front of him in the photo pit, I could hear him too, but from where the crowd stood he was like a fish, his mouth moving but no sound coming out. Same thing for the bagpipes, you just couldn't even hear them. So for half of their show Hordak was pretty much only guitars and drumming, the guitar parts were good, but it did become rather boring after a couple of tracks, just when I was about to leave the tent though, the mixing problems started to get solved. The bagpipes and vocals became audible as well, although the vocals stayed soft till the end.
Musically Hordak seemed to play some kind of folk/power metal. One guitar furiously riffing about while the other was playing in a hypermelodic style. the vocals, when they were audible, were pretty aggressive though. Another thing was that after the bagpipes became audible they were only used for a short while and a couple of songs before the band finished their set the bagpipe-player already left the stage. There weren't all too many people in the tent watching their show, but then again, with that bad luck with the mixing at the beginning it wasn't too much of a riddle why.
Now the next band was the very first Swiss band to play at the festival. Innishmore gave us some solid power metal in a few different shades of the genre. Some of the songs were slower and more timid, a few were faster paced, a ballad or two and so on. Furthermore they were also the first band that didn't use any folk influences whatsoever during their set.
The announcement about Mägo de Oz not being able to play at this festival came before Innishmores' performance, that alone was reason enough for me not to pay much attention to Innishmore. I was rather frustrated seeing as Mägo are very close to the top of bands I want to see live most, and they were the main reason I was at the festival. I might still have enjoyed Innishmore though, but they just really didn't manage to captivate me with their music. It seemed like I wasn't the only one though, most people didn't seem to care really much about the Swiss combo.
They ended their set with a cover of the legendary German rock band Böse Onkelz, namely with the song "Auf Alte Freunde". For this last track they also got themselves a few guests on stage who sang along.
Sixth band in the lineup was Svartsot. The Danish paganers were one of the heaviest bands of the festival, either sharing the spot with or just winning it from Cruszt who were to play later in the evening. With their very rhythmic black metal mixed with some nice folkish tunes Svartsot was quite a neck breaker for large parts of the audience, and even though it was in the tent the sound and the mixing really weren't too bad at all. Many of the people attending were swinging their necks off while a mosh pit opened up before the stage on one side.
I personally found Svartsot very boring, but then again the tent was rather crowded, so it seems like the general public disagreed with me on this one. By the way - while looking at the pics note the vocalists' characteristic axe.
When I saw this band back on the 31.12.2006 I was really enthusiastic about them, now one and a half years later at the Fiesta Pagana they were definitely the worst band for me. Completely utterly boring!
The band played power metal with some tries at being epic and (just a bit) harsh vocals. Some folk elements were added by the keyboard and a few random instruments that were only used shortly on some parts of some songs. For example flutes, and one time two sticks that were being hit together and once some strange guitar which was made with a tin, probably self-made.
Despite having three guitarists Excelsis never managed to give us any really good guitar lines. Apart from being very boring they also sang some of their songs in Swiss dialect. For those not in the least familiar with it, when sung it sounds absolutely atrocious... just take my word on that. The crowd that gathered in front of the stage wasn't all too big and most of the audience seemed to be attending only half-heartedly as well. They ended their set with a gruesomely horrible Swiss-dialect poppy song. Out of some reason a huge part of the crowd seemed to know the lyrics to this song, don't ask me why, I'm glad I didn't.
I'm not all too familiar with Odroerir, but what I do know about them, is that they play a very melodic, tranquil and "pretty" type of folk music. Unfortunately I wasn't all too much in the mood for this type of music right now, add that the sound was quite bad in the tent again and this is the type of music you need a good sound quality for to thoroughly enjoy it... So I just stayed in the photo pit till I had a couple of good shots and then I quit the tent. However I'm planning on really seeing them some time or another when they're in Switzerland again.
Odroerir was the last band to play in the tent by the way.
And now for something completely different. Cruszt played a mix of thrash-influenced black metal and melodic death metal, no folk influences whatsoever. Furthermore, in my opinion their show was the absolute highlight of the festival. With their superb grooves and awesome rhythms and an energetic show to boot. Despite the many people headbanging to this music I got a strong impression that a large part of the crowd was already tired and/or saving their energy for the headliners still to come. Yet I didn't see a single head not at least nodding along to the rhythm of the music, with rhythms this good it was hardly possible not to do that.
I can't wait to either see this band live in action again soon or to lay my hands on their debut album which they will surely release sooner or later! For those familiar with the band, Cruszt reminded me greatly of the band Darkmoon from Basel, Switzerland.
Menhir was the first of the "bigger" bands to play at the festival. The band, which is one of the oldest bands of the pagan metal style still around, started their set with their backs towards the audience while the intro player, when they turned around their show started right away.
They played a solid set without interacting much with the crowd at all. I for my part wasn't really convinced by their show at all. In fact I considered them to be pretty boring stuff really. With their epic music they did manage to win a few hearts but as far as I'm concerned I really wasn't all too sad when their set was over. While quite many people were attending, only few were actively banging along to the music. Like Alestorm, Menhir had a new drummer, he was with them since a week as the band told us. With a cover of Bathorys' "Song To Hall Up High", the set ended.
XIII. Black Messiah
Third to last was Black Messiah, a band of whom I previously only knew their cover of Moskau. The five Germans had quite some stage presence, and had the crowd fairly well under control as a result. Their whole music seemed to have quite a chaotic feel to it for me, but then again maybe it was because I was completely unfamiliar with the songs.
After a while Black Messiah's vocalist, who was playing guitar up to now equipped himself with a violin, which definitely made the whole thing sound a lot better. I think it must be quite depressing when the song the crowd wants to hear most and shouts for most is a cover, but hey, nothing I can do about it. In fact I can't remember all too much from their show as it didn't impress me very much, Moskau really was awesome live though.
Eluveitie is arguably THE band in the folk metal scene at this very moment. They're new, they're fresh and they're good, and everyone into this sort of music seems to love them. A short while ago they were only known in some circles, then they became higher and higher in band lists of festivals and the likes, stopped being a supporting band and taking the headliner role instead. At this festival they were already second headliner right after Finntroll and I won't be very surprised if we'll see Finntroll supporting Eluveitie one day. With their really fresh and authentic sounding mix of classic Celtic folk music and Gothenburg elements I think they do deserve their fame though. (Although I preferred their debut over their second album)
Already having seen Eluveitie twice I was afraid to have a horde of moshers around me like the last two times, luckily this wasn't the case though (being a convinced headbanger I'm obviously not all too fond of being pushed around while doing it). Generally there were only very few people really headbanging all out though. Somehow the energy seemed to be missing in the crowd, then again this was the twelfth band. After a certain song, I'm not all too sure which one anymore though I must confess, that animating spark did somehow leap over though, and the crowd went wild after all. In any case Eluveitie always guarantee a good live experience, that's for sure.
Headlining the festival was the probably most successful folk metal band there is: Finntroll. Having seen them one and a half years ago and not being a big fan of the band at all I didn't expect much at all, but I was to be proved wrong.
At the very beginning the sound was a bit screwed up, we couldn't hear any keyboard! But soon enough that problem was solved and the polka tunes started floating about throughout the night. I think it's fair to say that almost everyone who was there liked the show. Because even though Finntroll might not be more than average on CD, they just know how to deliver it live in a warm, sympathetic and above all in a fun way.
From the start of the concert the crowd was quite active, these guys were the headliners after all and so many people were there for them, after a while the energy level seemed to drop considerably though. Not very surprising after an entire day of folk, viking and pagan metal of course. After a while the band managed to animate the crowd again though and when Finntroll played their ultimate hit "Trollhammaren" they went completely wild! During the more melodic songs people were jumping around like crazy. But as with all good things it had to end, and with them the Fiesta Pagana.
XVI. Summing Up
Well that was that I suppose. We laid ourselves to rest in our tents and the next day we said our farewells to people we knew, people we got to know there and to the small village no one had ever heard about before.
The Fiesta Pagana had been quite a special experience for most of it, there was a real, sincere festival atmosphere in the air throughout the short time we spent there, without the grandeur of a Wacken, or a Graspop, or even a Hellfest, but the instead with a charm that those festivals don't posses. There had been some musical highlights this weekend. Eluveitie and Finntroll of course, but also bits and pieces of other bands had been awesome, for me personally the show of Cruszt also stood out really much, and I hold their show in memory as the best one of the festival.
In the end I'm still quite disappointed that I couldn't see Mägo de Oz as they are my personal top favorite folk metal band and generally one of the most special bands in all of the metal scene for me. However, there were more grave circumstances out of our reach, so instead of whining about missing them I'd rather wish Mägos' vocalists' family all the best and a lot of strength to get over the whole issue. To sum the whole thing up, not all of the bands managed to impress me, a couple even downright bored me, but my final impression of the Fiesta Pagana is that it was fun, and nothing less.
XVII. A Few Closing Thoughts
At the moment folk, viking and pagan metal are the big trend in the metal scene. After all the music is catchy and often cheerful and melodic, without the "pussyness" some people accuse other melodic metal styles of (power and Gothic metal come to mind); in other words it's extremely easy to get into. And whenever a youngster gets bored from the happy violining-around of bands like Elvenking, Korpiklaani and their friends, they can just switch to some of the more black metal influenced bands of the pagan consort. It's a big "in" thing, yet as of the time being someone who listens to folk or viking metal is never thought of as a poser, as opposed to the style of nu metal which is a pretty big "in thing" as well (or rather was, as I have the impression that it's getting less and less prominent in today's music world as emo on the "sad" and folk metal on the "happy" have taken its place.). Why is it that a nu metaller will always be considered a poser but a folk metaller is a real metalhead even though folk metal is no less a trend than nu metal? I'll stop at this point though, lest I receive some death threats from the pagan camp from people who know 'just how wrong I am' (this last sentence was written with a light tone of sarcasm for the unobservant reader)
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