Local excitement leading up to a concert doesn't always translate to a high-energy or well-attended event, but the second Paganfest tour had the Opera House swarming with metal fans who like a little folk with their metal. Headliners Korpiklaani are touring on the strength of last year's album with their second for Nuclear Blast soon to hit. Turns out one major record and a lesser known back catalogue was enough to inspire "dancing" and chanting, the band's spirited performance ending the night on an upbeat. Accordion, fiddle, and deer skull with antlers provided the backwoods atmosphere while Korpiklaani delivered a cheery brand of metal tinged with Finnish traditional sounds.
Also representing Finland, Moonsorrow's contribution was less jolly but still strongly rooted in folk traditions. The band wasn't at their best, following up a recent Toronto appearance with one less guitarist (and some related sound issues), but they put their shorter time slot to good use, reinventing themselves as a quartet for an already packed venue.
The Finns' sets bracketted the much more fierce and serious performance by Irish metallers Primordial, drawing on material from their latest albums for the band's first show in Canada. Invoking ties linking Toronto to Ireland through references to famine and death, Primordial were predictably grim (the mavericks of the tour in this respect) but amazingly together, living up to every expectation their recorded music has established. The crowd sounded utterly and passionately convinced, hopefully enough to lure the band back onto Ontario soil soon.
Primordial and Korpiklaani owned the night, but the festivities actually began much earlier with the amusingly pirate-themed Swashbuckle, followed by Canadian heathens Blackguard (formerly Profugus Mortis) supporting their Nuclear Blast debut - both overshadowed but Blackguard, especially, a good choice for the tour and one more draw for the early Tuesday night horde.
By Laura Wiebe Taylor