Review by Nicholas Franco
Pics by Rodrigo Fredes
The tiny, torrid epicenter of extreme metal in Brooklyn, NY, otherwise known as St. Vitus, can always be relied upon for a good racket. Within its gloomy confines, one can be exposed to all manner of blackened, sludgy, ice-cold heavy metal noise. On September 7th, 2015, while all but the most essential service folks in the nation took a much needed rest from their toil, another kind of sound sliced through the late summer air. On this date, St. Vitus welcomed the triumphant tones of the “Pagan Rebellion Tour” under its varied sonic umbrella, an event made possible by the hard work of Helsinki Productions. Through the efforts of its dedicated founder, Irina “Helsinki” Crane, came Helsott from California, Heidevolk from the Netherlands, and lastly, to headline the flagship event, Arkona all the way from Russia. Helsinki Productions began life by successfully promoting concerts showcasing local talent, and now – a mere three years later – they’re selling out the borough’s premier extreme metal venue on the strength of some established international talent.
As a genre, folk metal may be taking its lumps in the metal press, but the raucous New York crowd piled into Vitus’ intimate back room proved that the true fans are always prepared to support their heroes. Opening the night’s action were local heroes Yonder Realm, whose upbeat brand of death and folk metal had the crowd moving early. Next up came California’s Helsott, whose brand of death / folk metal featured the dulcet voice of one Bri Steiner, whose flute playing and soprano register provided a nice contrast to the brutal tones of vocalist Eric Dow. As he stomped the stage, Bri whipped her crimson mane of hair back and forth. Despite the set having to be cut a little short, Helsott made the venue theirs, closing with the powerful “Honor Thy Valkyrie.”
Up next came Heidevolk, who make their second trek to U.S. soil, now to promote their latest album Velua. Their first time in America with new vocalist Lars Nachtbraeker provided some added excitement as well. Playing favorites such as “Saksenland,” “Nehalennia,” “Winter Woede,” and the catchy English language newbie “Vinland,” the venue was enthralled by one of the genre’s strongest bands. Fans clad in leather, furs, and even a plastic horse head, danced and headbanged with unwavering fervor. A promise to be back brought fresh roars from the sweating troops, and as the Dutch warriors exited the stage, the welcome they received at St. Vitus was evident in their gracious smiles.
A fantastical backdrop from their latest album Yav heralded the return of Russia’s most famous pagan metal band Arkona. The diminutive maiden of absolute fury known as Masha Scream stormed the stage with her bandmates, and it was clear from the outset that the band was in top gear. As fans screamed, capered, and slammed, Arkona doled out a fan favorite with “Goi, Rode, Goi!” while paying homage to their culture with “Serbia,” and also kept a promise to fans to play some songs voted on via their Facebook page. These included “Slovo,” “Po Syroi Zemle,” and “Vyjdu ya na volushku.” The diverse set was helped along by the sheer intimacy of the venue, as Masha’s nonstop energy could be felt right to the back of the room.
By night’s end, fans left the venue sated and content, confident that what they had witnessed was one of the most intense nights of folk metal any of them had ever experienced. The more sprawling venues up in Manhattan might hold more people, but tonight it truly felt like band and fan were one, with no barriers, no security guards, and a true feeling of camaraderie that no words can properly convey. If the “Pagan Rebellion Tour” comes through your town, be sure not to miss it.
Check out full photos from the night below.