Szene. Vienna. 6th of May. The line stretches out in front of the gate of one of the most popular stages in Vienna, with more than 25 years of activity behind it. Tonight we will travel between genres and cultures, ranging from the power sounds of Wind Rose to the imperial ones branded Ex Deo… up to land to the hard Finnish folk of Ensiferum.
Wind Rose, a Tuscan band with three albums in the active, gets the party started, The Hobbit’s soundtrack as a backdrop. Their explosive charge is astonishing: the frontman Francesco Cavalieri immediately throws himself into a wild headbanging, on the notes of “Fallen Timbers“. But let’s face it: “To Erebor” is the true masterpiece of this sound inspired directly from Tolkien sagas,and the audience approves as the first rows start dancing. The genre is well-known but properly executed. A dense alternation of lights follows the closing track, “The Breed of Durin“. They take the opportunity to promote their merchandise and in fact I meet them immediately after the show at the desk, signing CD and thanking old and new fans.
When it’s time for the Ex Deo, a claret light curtain falls on the stage. Everything is a reminiscence of the blood of which the hands of the Roman emperors have been soaked through the centuries. Enemies’ blood, of course, but also of allies. At the entrance of Maurizio Iacono, the crowd loses control: a man, a protagonist. His presence gives way to “The Rise of Hannibal“, the first step of a series of among all the bands’ albums. Secondly, my favorite track comes: “I, Caligvla“ hits literally the nail on the head. Note after note, word by word, we all follow the evolution of the chef-d’oeuvre. With “Pollice Verso” come Stéphane Barbe‘s riff and Iacono’s scream: “Are you still alive?” The final triad features exceptional pieces: “Final War“, “The Roman” and – of course – the epic longstanding “Romulus“. Nothing to say, if not the best: involving, vibrant, aggressive. They gave bystanders, what bystanders yearn for.
The Nordic protagonists of the evening come right after Ex Deo. There is not a square centimeter of free space in the hall. Guitarist Markus Toivonen enters the scene toasting and the party starts with “For Those About to Fight for Metal“: new but well-known by most. The whole audience participates in the choirs of the songs so well rooted in the Ensiferum tradition as “Heathen Horde“ and “In My Sword I Trust“. Short interruptions by Markus and Sami Hinkka occur and the show is served: as if it was not already hot enough, the audience is further turned on with hints to great classics like “Smoke on the Water” played on a vertical guitar, behind the head or on the top of loudspeakers. Then the slow start of one of the most famous songs of the Finnish production: the language is not a problem when we talk about “Lai Lai Hei“. The hall is united in the chant that shakes the chest: Petri Lindroos would not even need to open his mouth, that we would go on undaunted. The band must repeat the theme of the track over and over again, as long as they desist in order to reach the final bars. But the problem recurs at the beginning of “Iron“: everyone wants Ensiferum to stay on stage and play, just to go back with the memories to ten years ago… If they hint at quitting, the spectators sing and exhort them to go further.
Now it’s really late and the room must be left quickly. Tired, exhausted faces all around. Just a fast flutter at the coat check and go. On the way, I meet again Wind Rose for a drink among Italians, a drink that in a bit widens till including all those who are still around.
Therefore, the night appears still young… even if it’s Sunday!