Bilston…yes I wasn’t sure where it was either as I headed towards Wolverhampton on the train. Only a short journey away from both Wolverhampton and Birmingham, Bilston has a gem of a venue that you just don’t get in London – and for us living in London, that’s a bad thing. The Robin 2 has a lot going for it; a 700 capacity and its own modestly sized hotel attached to the venue as well as Woody’s bar which you go through to the venue. The sound was good throughout the night and due to the height of the stage you have a good view no matter where you choose to stand (unless that’s behind the mixing desk and in which case it’s your own fault).
There’s a good local feel to the venue with tables and seating at the side, recycle points for bottles and pizza from the bar. Such a good combination; have a beer, grab some pizza and watch some cracking bands. As there’s no barrier you can stand right in front of the stage. Close enough to see the sweat running down the guitars and to get dealt some of that sweat over you; a good combination of laid back and front row atmosphere.
First up on stage were Skámöld and I have to say at the start – where the hell have I been to miss this band before? Hailing from Iceland they certainly brought the party to Bilston. With three guitars, bass, drum and differing vocal styles, there was just so much in their music and set to grab your attention and keep you entertained.
From the first song you’re treated to the varied vocal styles with the lead’s deep growling tones which are interspersed with Balur Ragnarsson’s (guitar) screaming deathstyle vocals, which are later added to by singing from the other members of the band. When you’re listening to it they’re distinct and separate styles but they complement each other and harmonise really well. So if one of those vocals styles is not your thing, do not let it put you off as it really does work and blend together brilliantly.
Musically there’s a pleasing mixture of Viking inspired metal, with heavier aspects of death vocals combined with sea shanty tones that then lighten the atmosphere and get the crowd dancing as well as head banging. They also have one of the happiest looking drummers I’ve ever seen – if you’re at the front, look out for his facial expressions; pure entertainment. There’s so much guitar work going on as well and I was transfixed watching who was playing which parts. When they declared they only had one more song I was genuinely disappointed as I would have more than happily watched them for much longer and I think it’s fair to say they enjoyed themselves as well. For me, my face was stuck on a permanent smile throughout their set which I wasn’t able to dismantle for some time afterwards. It’s kind of like that old saying your parents used to say when you pulled stupid faces; ‘if the wind changes you’ll stay like that’. Well if Skámöld are playing you’ll be stuck smiling.
Baldur Ragnarsson – Guitar
Björgvin Sigurðsson – Vocals/Guitar
Gunnar Ben – Keyboards
Jón Geir Jóhannsson – Drums
Snæbjörn Ragnarsson – Bass
Þráinn Árni Baldvinsson – Guitar
Up next was Tỳr who very clearly had a number of fans in the crowd from their welcome to the stage. Bringing with them a bit more straight forward heavy metal sound, but keeping the battle feel going. By this time it was much more crowded at the front, as well as more active with plenty of head banging going on throughout the set. As I said earlier this was clearly a popular band with the audience as I could hear many singing along with the band. So much so that at one point I couldn’t tell where the band’s vocals stopped and the audience began. Hearing the words sung in total stereo was brilliant and completely wraps you up in the song.
One clear similarity between this band and the first was yet another damn happy man, this time in the form of their bass player (Gunnar H. Thomsen) who just looked so happy to be right where he was. Encouraging the crowd (who needed little encouragement) to cheer and shout, it was great to see him enjoying himself as much as the audience.
It was also great to watch the seamless switching between the two guitarists of who played lead; each providing opposing sounds, they blended into the song and between solos nicely. I must also give serious kudos to Terji Skibenæs for the amazing dragon tattoo that ran from his shoulder to his neck – nice!
I’d heard good things about this band both before and after the set and I can now see why. I certainly wouldn’t be sorry to see them on the bill of the next gig I go to.
- Hold the Heathen Hammer High
- Blood of Heroes
- Tróndur Í Gøtu
- Mare of My Night
- Lady of the Slain
- Sinklars Vísa
- Another Fallen Brother
- Shadow of the Swastika
Heri Joensen – vocals & guitar
Terji Skibenæs – guitar & backing vocals
Gunnar H. Thomsen – bass & backing vocals
Amon Ellingsgaard – drums & backing vocals
Another plus point for this venue was that there’s no early curfew due club nights which meant that Finntroll’s set lasted till 11.30pm; a good hour and a half of troll entertainment. Having unfortunately missed the one UK show on their last tour I was perhaps a tad excited about seeing them live and made sure I was right at the front for this one. Which given the height of the stage would explain my sore neck the following morning. But it was worth it.
Coming onto stage to loud applause, they made an interesting sight and what better way to start then Blodsvept; getting straight into the party spirit. I love everything about this song; from the drums, happy, jazzy keys and contrastingly harsh vocals. You can bang you head, dance, jump, whatever, it all fits. The audience were clearly au fait with the recent album, as well as showing on obvious appreciation for their earlier albums.
Though the audience appeared to be around 200, you would never have known from the reaction of the crowd throughout the set. People were there to have a great time and were not disappointed in the slightest. Normally I scribble down some notes in between songs but this was just not going to happen tonight. With the numerous dancing couples and mosh and dancing pits there was much going on as well as much to watch on stage, that taking notes was never going to be an option.
From watching the bass player, to the guitarist, to the drums, and enjoying those fabulous keys which were great to hear live, to the old fashioned microphone, to the little dance steps being played out on stage, there was a great deal to keep your attention…and then there’s the ears. Normally you get looked at like a lunatic if you stare at people’s ears tying to figure out how they stay on, but I figured on this occasion it was ok.
The set was brilliant and one and a half hours flew by (unfortunately) and before you knew it, it was over and it was a weird feeling. I was simultaneously perfectly happy and content with this one gig but also still wishing I could go back in time and see them play the Underworld at the gig I missed. I was also jealous of our photographer as they would have been great to photograph from so close with their positioning and the way they move on stage.
Tonight was not quite what I expected, from the nature of the venue and the size of the crowd, and I wouldn’t have traded it for another venue or evening. I had a fantastically close view, the crowd were completely engaged and having a great time, and Finntroll were brilliant. I loved every bit of their set and just wish they would do some more shows in the UK soon. Though I could easily be persuaded to travel even further for the next one; it’ll be worth it after all.
- Ett folk förbannat
- Slaget vid blodsälv
- En mäktig här
- När Jättar Marschera
- Under bergets rot
- Skövlarens död
- Jaktens tid
Vreth – Vocals
Routa – Guitars
Skrymer – Guitars
Trollhorn – Keyboards, Guitar
Virta – Keyboards
Tundra – Bass
Beast Dominator – Drums