Ensiferum at Théâtre Corona, Jan 9 2019

Truth be told, I hadn’t delved into Ensiferum’s music before summer 2017 when I caught them at Montebello Rockfest. I was, however, turned into an instant fan when their pulsating anthems roared into my unsuspecting ears. Really, what I learned that day was the strength of Ensiferum’s music, and their most recent visit to Montreal’s Corona Theatre (all the way from Finland no less) further confirmed it. You don’t need to be an Ensiferum fan to enjoy their show. The melodic nature of their songwriting is enough to sing along to just about any of their songs, while being fast and aggressive at the same time. The dash of folk music (which really can be summed up to the use of accordions, among other unusual instruments) adds to the feel-good vibe. Going to an Ensiferum concert is like enjoying the banquet after your monthly Viking raid, with drinking, chanting, moshing and quite a lot of dancing. I was only disappointed by the pre-recorded accordion and keyboards, accordion player Netta Skog having quit early last year.

There were not too many surprises in the setlist. Despite their lackluster reception, Ensiferum played a fair bit off of their last two records, Two Paths and One Man Army, which translated pretty well in a live setting. They gave an energetic performance and created an enthusiastic crowd with songs like “For Those About to Fight for Metal”, “Way of the Warrior” and the strange “Two of Spades”, which provided a cool change of pace with its disco flair. Ultimately, it was very clear that most of the crowd was eager to hear their favourites of olde, such as the ever so classic “Iron”, “Guardians of Fate” and my personal favourite “Wanderer”. One of Ensiferum’s many excellent epics would have been welcome, but, in the end, each of their records was represented.

Supporting act Septicflesh provided a much different vibe, focusing on dissonant riffs and bolstered by frontman Seth Siro Anton's powerful commands. I cannot overstate how exciting their set was due to his battle cries. The orchestral-laden songs helped guide us through otherwise incredibly brutal death metal, making each moment feel like a scene from 300 with the armour-clad Greek warriors towering over the crowd. Along with an intricate light-show, their set was a sight to behold, smoke and light patterns abound. I would not miss them next time they came around.

Along with the Finns and Greeks came Sweden’s Arsis, a straight forward death-thrash band. Although definitely less flashy than what came after them, a strong dose of energy kicked the show into gear. They provided a great contrast to our local boys in The Unconscious Mind, who played a set of new songs to a large early-bird crowd.

Concerts like these are more than worth the price of admission. Don’t miss Ensiferum or Sepcticflesh next time they’re in town for a good time, and watch out for new material from Arsis and The Unconcsious Mind on the horizon. Horns up!