Children Of Bodom

support Ensiferum + Machinae Supremacy
author AP date 27/03/11 venue Store Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

Following a successful evening at Stengade the day before, Sunday boded more metal on the menu, albeit by more established international acts this time. Children of Bodom have owed Denmark a headlining performance for a long time, and as we all know, when a band is sorely missed the actual quality of their show often becomes less important than having the chance to see them. This is why so many older metal heads have gathered at Store Vega tonight, seemingly oblivious to the degraded quality of Children of Bodom's show these days (as we shall see) and offering an enthusiastic response no matter what the band does or how it does it. Before dissecting the show, however, there are two support bands to analyse.

Machinae Supremacy

Machinae Supremacy must be some kind of bad joke. Blending chiptunes into textbook modern heavy metal the band sounds like an atrocious pop act with distortion guitar, not helped in the least by a lapse into strange humppa halfway into the set. Despite endearing a small contingent of fans upfront, the band completely fails at establishing a relationship with the audience, coming across as a tired band with little interest in stirring up a proper show. Lead guitarist Jonas "Gibli" Rörling provides small doses of redemption with vaguely impressive solo work, but nothing to compensate for the ridiculous amalgamation of incompatible styles present in the band's music. For some reason this band enjoys a considerable amount of critical acclaim abroad, though I suspect much of this is concentrated in Germany, given that country's inexplicable love of all things heavy and power metal. The band's only selling point seems to be their self-fashioned "SID metal" tag, stemming from their use of the SID chip of the Commodore 64 for producing 8-bit sound effects to back their otherwise generic songs. What the organizers of this tour were thinking including this in the midst of folk- and melodic death metal is beyond me, but one thing stands clear: Machinae Supremacy completely and utterly fails at staging even an adequate support set.

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Ensiferum

Ensiferum, on the other hand, are instantly victorious, winning over the entire crowd in a matter of seconds. The show is a glorious celebration of the band's first time in Denmark, in honour of which the five battle clad Varangians unleash one of the most energetic, enticing performances to happen on Danish soil in recent years. Ensiferum have taken care to hone every aspect of their show, from the wooden shield and swords adorning Emmi Silvennoinen's keyboard to the kilts, bare tops and warpaint of the remaining members, not to mention the surgical instrumentation characteristic of their songs. The sound, for once, is clear as crystal, affording the drums, guitars, bass, and lingering samples and keyboard arrangements equal prominence in the mix. The three frontmost members, vocalist/guitarist Petri Lindroos, backing vocalist/guitarist Markus Toivonen, and backing vocalist/bassist Sami Hinkka, are a bundle of infinite energy and expression, brandishing their instruments like spears and swords whilst exploiting every opportunity to headbang, windmill or storm around the stage like a raging horde of ancient warriors to the tune of such classics as "Token of Time", "Into Battle", "Lai Lai Hei" and "Iron", even managing, against all expectation, to incite a unanimous sing-along in Finnish. The crowd, in general, seems intoxicated with energy, staging one mosh- and circle pit after the other in appreciation of the fantastic performance. Even newer produce in the form of "From Afar", "Twilight Tavern" and "Ahti" is devoured and transformed into a maddening response that clearly drives the band on with full force from beginning to end. An absolutely enthralling performance from one of the finest bands Finland has to offer.

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Children Of Bodom

Still, Children of Bodom are without a doubt the main attraction tonight. That the show is far from sold out is the inevitable outcome of the band's rare ventures into Denmark, but well aware of the repercussions of their absence, Children of Bodom are determined to give their Danish (and some Swedish) fans their money's worth. Unfortunately it takes all of one minute to notice the first problem with the cult band's show tonight: the sound. What began as brilliant sound engineering during Ensiferum's set has somehow regressed into a mix in which bass and percussion take the leading role, clipping and rumbling to the point of frustration. As such, most of the band's characteristic melodies are lost in a maelstrom of noise to the point where the few instances of old à la the eponymous "Children of Bodom" and "Hate Me!" blend into anonymous grind that might as well have been from the band's latest albums (which are far too thrashy and mechanical for my liking).

The second problem is the setlist. Granted, the band should be able to push their latest material to the forefront, having just released a new album ("Reckless Relentless Forever"), but why not scatter these amongst classics like "Silent Night, Bodom Night", "Hatebreeder" and "Every Time I Die" and extend the setlist with, say, five extra songs? Surely Children of Bodom have by now achieved the kind of status that justifies extended sets. While much of the early set is dedicated to material from "Are You Dead Yet?", "Blooddrunk" and "Reckless Relentless Forever", the fan bravado comprising "Angels Don't Kill", "Follow the Reaper", "Downfall", as well as the encore "Was It Worth It?" and "Hate Crew Deathroll" comes too late in the end of the set, accompanied by "Was It Worth It?" and "Hate Crew Deathroll" in the encore. But setlists are a matter of preference of course, and should not form the basis of judgment for any show.

But to Children of Bodom's disadvantage, the punishing sound and relative disinterest of the band bar Alexi Laiho drag the impression down by full grades - even if Janne Wirman has decorated his keyboard with the bras of crazed fans from previous shows. The visual aspect of the show is restricted to an excellent stage setup with ominous shrouds swaying in the air currents accompanied by appropriately moody lighting, which all looks very neat, but in no way compensates for the shortcomings of the show. Having seen this band three times in the past, I know that Children of Bodom can muster up a better performance than this - perhaps it simply takes a festival crowd numbering in the thousands to encourage a band of such legend to give it their very best. Regardless, I, like many others it seems, leave the venue slightly disappointed. Still, hearing one of the quintessential songs for my conversion into metal - "Downfall" - live always conjures up some nostalgia and makes it impossible for me to descend too far down our grading scale.

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Setlist:

1. Not My Funeral

2. Bodom Beach Terror

3. Needled 24/7

4. Ugly / Relentless Reckless Forever

5. Roundtrip to Hell and Back

6. In Your Face

7. Living Dead Beat

8. Children of Bodom

9. Hate Me!

10. Blooddrunk

11. Shovel Knockout

12. Angels Don't Kill

13. Follow the Reaper

14. Downfall

--Encore--

15. Was It Worth It?

16. Hate Crew Deathroll

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