Just recently, Finnish melodeath outfit Bloodred Hourglass released an absolute banger of a new album with ‘Your Highness’ and that needs a proper celebration. And while they were again unlucky enough to have to postpone their Helsinki show, they still had their gig in their hometown of Mikkeli. When Jarkko Koukonen told us in an interview that it’ll be the biggest show they’ve ever played, both in length (with basically a double setlist) and production, and seeing that they gathered some quality bands like Wolfheart, Sara and Balance Breach with them, we just knew we had to be at the very first Black Box event at the brand new Saimaa Stadium in Mikkeli and took a long drive all the way there…
Balance Breach (****)
The young guns of Mikkeli native metalcore outfit Balance Breach were the first to take over the stage. Last time we caught them live was a good year ago at On The Rocks in Helsinki, and we were really curious to see how their usually energetic performance would translate to a much bigger stage. And we can confirm that it was pretty damn good! Vocalist Aleksi demanded our attention with his gnarly growls/screams and melodic singing. At first his voice seemed a tad bit shaky, but that soon was gone and he was jumping around without any sign of loss of breath. Guitarist Saku took proper use of the extra room on the big stage by running from side to side, twirling around and even spun his guitar around himself, while the other guitarist Terho had a more static and entranced vibe while he was cranking out his riffs. All in all, it was an energetic show from a highly promising band with bangers of songs of their debut album ‘Dead End Diaries‘ (and even their latest new track ‘Escapers Of Paradise’) and crushing breakdowns galore. Looking forward to see where these guys are going to take things in the future!
If there was one band that was somewhat sticking out among the others, it was definitely the alt-rock outfit Sara. And while they do have some metal elements in their music, they are remarkably more on the poppy side compared to the rest of the night. They didn’t let that hold them back and pummeled us with the beats and deep bass tones coming from the speakers, at times at an almost unbearable level. That Sara is more about creating a certain artsy atmosphere was quite clear with their extra lights they set up specifically for them, bathing themselves in colored lights going from deep blue to deep red. Vocalist Joa was dancing to the music almost seemingly uncontrollably when he didn’t have his guitar around the shoulders and the rest of the musicians all seemed completely taken away by their own music as well. While they felt somewhat out of place, it was still very interesting to see this intriguing band live again, especially since they recently released some new music again after about 3 years of nothing new.
Back to proper metal with Wolfheart! One of my personal favorites and one of those bands that I end up seeing at least once a year, apparently even under these limiting circumstances we’re all in. It was however the very first time I got to see them with the hulking figure that is Vagelis Karzis (ex-Rotting Christ) on guitars. And I have to say straight out that the addition of him to the band really lifts the live performance of Wolfheart. Vagelis adds a certain level of raw energy that previously was maybe lacking a bit (not saying that I ever saw a bad show from Wolfheart). His shouts towards the crowd, chest beating, hair whipping and fist pumping are somehow really engaging and I simply love his presence on stage, which completely balances out the signature more static and seemingly contemplative nature of Tuomas Saukkonen. Throughout the show the leader of the pack looked over his followers and saw that everything was as it was supposed to be. Surprisingly enough, the setlist seemed to consist mostly out of old school Wolfheart tracks from the first 2 releases. Not that I’m complaining all that much, because tracks like ‘Aeon of Cold’, ‘Strength and Valor’ and ‘The Hunt’ are all absolutely stellar tracks, but the work on especially ‘Constellation of the Black Light’ and the latest album ‘Wolves Of Karelia’ was so impressive that it really feels like an impossible choice to decide what I’d prefer to hear more of… The masters of “Winter metal” simply never disappoint and am already looking forward to the next time I can catch them live.
Bloodred Hourglass (*****)
On to the main event of the night! Bloodred Hourglass released their latest new full-length ‘Your Highness’ only a week before this show, which basically made this an opportunity for them to properly celebrate it with an epic release show in their hometown. About 10 minutes before they were supposed to kick off their gig, a countdown clock appeared on the screens next to the stage, making the feeling of anticipation slowly increase within ourselves. Once the clock struck 0, the guys came on stage with welcoming shouts from their fans on the sound of the intro bit of ‘Leaves’, the opening track on their latest album. And once vocalist Jarkko ran on stage, the party erupted properly! The first part of the set consisted of ‘Your Highness’ from start to finish with the stellar singles ‘Drag Me The Rain’, ‘Nightmares Are Dreams Too’ and ‘Kings & Queens’ all absolutely kicking ass live. But we were even more impressed when getting to hear the incredibly emotive and deep songs ‘Tell Me About Yesterday Tomorrow’ and ‘Until We Meet Again’ live with the debut of Jarkko‘s clean vocals. Kudos to you, my friend, it really worked tremendously well!
After getting through the full 50 min length that is ‘Your Highness’, BRHG disappeared backstage for a short bit, to re-emerge and barge into the second part of their set that celebrated their older work. With fan favorites like ‘Alysia‘, ‘Valkyrie‘, ‘Waves of Black‘ and ‘Where the Sinners Crawl‘, this was definitely set up to match the energy and excitement of the first half of the set! This was the biggest show they’ve ever done, with the longest setlist they’ve ever had to get through and the biggest production they’ve ever had and in my opinion it gave us a glimpse of the epicness that we can expect of these guys still and the great things that are in store if they continue to progress in their sound and live performances as they have over the past half a decade. A future major name in the making, I dare to say!
For more pictures of the night, go check out our photo report here.