It wasn’t Paganfest but it was close enough. On Saturday September 12th Columbus Events Group brought the merry meandering marauders from Europe to southern Ohio for a dose of Euro-history, Pagan powered Scandavaian metal and folk rock. Some of them, including locals brought violins, synthesizers, flutes and bagpipes to. The brew and mead flowed free and lengthy as drinking horns were filled and Thor’s hammer adorned many a neck.
The night’s headliners, from Mother Russia, named for the remains of the last Slavic castle Arkona showed up adorned in medieval swag and brought the party harder than many extreme bands from their side of the world. Dutch co-headliners Heidevolk brought the harmonies from the Netherlands with songs and spirits about Gelderland/Germanic mythology and their love of nature’s natural processes.
The night was a lesson in the true universal unification of music bringing worldwide nationalities under one roof to celebrate metal. Whether the words were in Dutch or Russian, understood or not, the music was loud, heavy and festive and the crowd sang along not allowing any barriers to ruin the experience. Including the three songs requested on Arkona’s site for the Alrosa Villa stop.
Long time Columbus scene vets The Conquering opened with an old school dose of corpse painted black metal with 2/3rds wearing the painted faces of Norway and a drummer so fast he couldn’t be seen. With tastes of Immortal and Dark Funeral properly blast-beated, they invited one and all to “Come Drink Mead with Us.” Pagan, Norse, Scandinavian themes poured out of black leather vs horns and cups. They praised “Ragnarok and “The Bloody Fields of Thezric.” “The Sword of the Scoundrel” had moments of merriment, still leaving darkness in the guitars with a Maiden’ish vibe.
Columbus Paganfest alumni Kingsblood came on next continuing to throw down Thor’s hammer with great force and passion. Opening the second set with Paganfest 2014’s dragon slaying tune “Night of Fire.” The guitars cast the spotlight of blame and shame on those who cast “Shadows of Cowardice.” With the slow and fast paced guitars bleeding guilt over the cowards head.
The vicious blood thirsty king of the wolves stalked its prey without mercy, blended into the shadows, disappearing through the night, the “Creature from the Black Forest.” Guitars squealed, thunderous bass boomed and penetrating vocals described this predatory creature.
The cold air tickled noses through lyrics and breath be seen on the “Frost Mourne,” and to end their show they those fittingly “To End a Siege.”
Four rough, skin wearing forest dwellers and two fair maidens brought you Southern Ohio’s favorite Scandinavian sons and daughters Winterhymn. Also Paganfest 2014 alumni they came to bring new music and pay homage to their Euro-brethren. Inspired by their own North American folklore and mythos powered by the sounds of black, death, symphonic and power metal. They have created their own subversive escape into lyrical worlds of yore and wear the garb and war paint to prove it. New tunes and old were brought out, played under the “Blood of the Moon.” It was early evening but many a warrior would slumber that night with “Dreams of Might.” Regardless of what brought them there or from where they hailed, we all came forth and answered the call of “The Summoning.” They ended with the slain and fallen dripping in blood, their “Legacy in Flames.” www.winterhymn.net
From Southern Ohio to Southern California the last of the nights US based pagan metal bands, Helsott came from the sunny West Coast of San Diego bringing American pagan metal paying homage to all mythologies and all things heathen. Five brutal dudes and a lovely lady comprise the group. The eye catching Bri Steiner served as co-vocalist and whistle blower of sorts to Eric Dow’s monstrous bellows. They opened in the valley of “Folkvangr” where Freyja took the fallen from battle that prefer her haven, over Valhalla. Their name sake drives through the battlefield with reckless intent with the soaring voice of Steiner guiding their path. With mixes of black metal and high pitched guitars searing the blacksmith’s flame welding blades into shape.
“Agamemnon’s” classical, slow, heavy build up roared into the mic switching between death vocals and pure venom while the raven haired flutist added beauty to the beast’s words. In honor of all those modern day and medieval doctors and practitioners of medicine they brought forth “The Healer.” “Honour Thy Valkyrie,” for those brave soldiers that fought, killed and died for their God. www.helsott.com
The peaceful sounds of intro instrumental “Dageraad” (Dawn) from Walhalla wacht (Valhalla Awaits) played as Heidevolk emerged adorned for war. Opening with the battle ready blast of combat anthem “Winter Woede” thus showing how to deal with and survive winters grip. “Ostara” brought Easter from Uit oude grond (From the Old Ground) and heavy guitars and drums throughout the lyrical season. From this year’s Velua with a searing solo came “Herboren In Vlammen (Reborn in Flames).”
The night’s first appearance of the brave and noble Batavi tribe came via “Einde der zege” (The End of Victory), as guitars pounded, riffs and drums beat down foes turning helmets and armor red. They took a trip back to Valhalla and “Saksenland” (Saxon Land) as thunder and rain greeted us with filled horns and raised swords to the fallen brothers in enemy land and an oath to the motherland in blood.
New tune “Urth” told the tales of human gambles and decisions answered by the Goddess of fate. Then came the spoils and reward of sorts, brought with the “Drankgelag” (Orgy), Dutch Netherlands style. They slowed it down a bit giving somber/inebriated praise to the warrior lifestyle and “Het bier zal weer vloeien” (The Beer Will Flow Again) to their victory and Gelderland.
The razor sharp riffs of “Nehalennia” (goddess of sea merchants) cut through the song like large angry waves ready to crush down. Yet they went forward in her name with her blessing. Onward westward they rode to (Vineland) “Vinland,” hail hail!
Taking a page from Netherland brothers Normaal they rode with the “Vulgaris Magistralis,” (Common Leader (?)) mammoth rider, cave dweller and media savvy traveler in demand. They ended with soft played praise to the priestess and prophet “Veleda.”
The group that filled songs and shows with tales of Slavic fantasy, history, mythology and Russian folk-lore, making a flute and bag pipes feel every bit as metal as guitars, bass and death metal growls took the stage.
They opened with the title track from the newest record, the grandiose 13 minute opening opus “Yav” (Jav). For we are all residing in the material world, until we pass on to Nav. Small in stature but high and towering in energy and maniacal movement. Maria “Masha Scream” threw her body around like a possessed soul smashing into imaginary walls, contorting her body in posing/praying positions soaking up the moment, atmosphere and crowd response. Wailing and growling into the mic with the power, passion and soul of a Russian metalized Janis Joplin.
Throughout their set many of the merry mates and maidens watching danced and sang along arm in arm, in circular formation or did it the old fashioned way slamming into one another full force with celebratory smiles. All that fell or stumbled from too much mead were assisted accordingly.
We got a cold taste of sea salt water splashed in the mouth as they went back to ’09, praising the great God of the Universe on the storm-ridden high seas as she cried out yelling “Goi Rode Goi!” (Hail Rod Hail!). Turning the clock back further they revisited 2007 on “Ot Serdtsa k Nebu” (From the Heart to the Heavenly Sky). The flowing flute was quickly ransacked by guitars, bagpipes and the voice of the gods, turning on the heavy speed and growls.
Slovo is represented by the tutelary presence of the shapeshifting “Leshiy.” Is it a guardian or an abductor? Angry, aggressive, teeth-chewing riffs swayed listeners to think the latter. They returned to Yav and seven and a half minutes of old school black metal thrust and pull, jazz grooves, Congo drumming and funky bass on “Na Strazhe Novyh Let” (On Guard of New Aeons).
A lovely flute led stroll through the meadow was next, beaten with the native drum summoning nature and the spirits of their homeland’s founding fathers on “Slavsya Rus!” (Hail Rus!). “Po Syroi Zemle” (On the Moist Earth) from 2005’s Vo Slavu Velilkim! (For Glory of the Great) said hello with Masha taking turns between clean and death metal vocals.
“Nad Propastyu Let” (Over the Abyss of Ages) hit with more fast paced black metal inspired speed and doom laden sounds. Though it slowed down taking a short classical curve at three minutes, the only pretty pipes on this one was from Vladimir “Volks’s” wind breathing instrument. “Kupala i Kostroma” (Kupala and Kostroma) praised the Pagan fertility God and the mortals that loved him.
“Marena” signaled the seasonal change of death by winter and springs rebirth. “Stenka na Stenku” (A Wall Against A Wall), opened the medieval moshpit, settling differences with fists and sweat instead of swords and sharing a drink after. “Po Syrai Zemle” (On the Fruitful Moist Earth) and shorter tune “Yarilo” (Sun (?)) were praised for bringing forth spring, summer and good harvest!
After a loud crowd beckoning, they returned ending the evening with the hyper-speed circle pit dancing of “Vyidu Ya na volyushku” (I’ll come out to the Free Lands).
Images by Mike Ritchie
Partial Arkona Translation by Yekaterina Timmons