Katatonia/Swallow the Sun/Orphaned Land/Nightfire

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Seeing international metal bands in the United States used to be a rare occasion that was reserved for festivals and tours that only came to a handful of cities, but in recent years this has been changing as more and more groups come over and tour all around North America. The latest tour of this type is Katatonia’s Night Over North America tour which finds the long running Swedish act bringing Swallow the Sun and Orphaned Land along with them. I had a chance to attend the very first date, which was in Baltimore, MD, and came away impressed with all three bands.

For this particular stop of the tour there was an opening act called Nightfire who are from Delaware. I’m not entirely sure if the tour is coming anywhere near that state and if the group stayed on the road with this package for a few days or just did this date but in any event they were a decent opener that was able to get the crowd going. While this touring package is more progressive and melodically oriented, Nightfire did to seem a bit more traditional. Their sound can best be described as standard death metal with some occasional black metal influences and a little bit of melody. The group had a very short set and in the time they played I did find that I enjoyed their overall sound. However, what worried me was that even after a few songs the riffs sounded a little similar to one another and it wasn’t clear if the band would be able to maintain interest for a longer set. They have a little ways to go and I would like to see some of their progressive influences shine through, but Nightfire does have potential and could transform into a band people are really aware of in the years to come.

Orphaned Land was up next, and although I had heard a lot of buzz about the Israeli progressive/folk metal band before but had not listened to them before going to the concert. As it turns out, these guys have a really interesting sound that is a cross between your standard progressive/folk metal band and traditional Middle Eastern arrangements. Because the group uses a lot of studio musicians and vocalists, their live performance uses a lot of recorded elements and thankfully the venue had managed to work out the mix so that all of the different elements were audible. Orphaned Land’s newer material features a lot of female vocal performances, so it is interesting to see lead singer Kobi Farhi backed by recorded voices and have it work so well (I would like to see the band in a bigger stage with even more live members though). Speaking of Farhi, he sounds stunning live and is able to move between larger than life growls and clean vocals without losing any intensity. The band also knows how to work the crowd and show their influences on stage as the members were all wearing traditional attire and got the crowd to clap their hands and do other things throughout the set. Admittedly Orphaned Land is not the type of group that will appeal to every metal fan, but it is safe to say that this audience appreciated them and they are worth seeing live if you enjoy their music on album.

Finland’s Swallow the Sun has really tried to create their own brand of doom/death metal by focusing more on melody and atmosphere over the past decade and it has worked quite well. Their newest album New Moon came out last year, and because of this the majority of their set consisted of material from the release (although there was time to include a few of the group’s older songs). This certainly isn’t a bad thing though, considering that the album had some truly memorable moments. As some of you may know, Swallow the Sun writes extremely lengthy songs so their set only consisted of a handful of tunes but because their riffs are so entrancing it seemed as though they had finished playing almost as soon as they began. On stage the group has quite a bit of energy and while singer Mikko Katamaki’s mellower vocals got buried underneath the wall of instrumentals his screams/growls were able to steal the spotlight with their sheer power and intensity. As with Orphaned Land, these guys benefited from a good mix as the keyboards were audible despite the fact that the guitars were so loud. This set really floored me and although this isn’t the kind of band that really does a lot of crowd participation or anything like that it was evident that the majority of the attendees were amazed by how powerful the material sounds in a live setting. From what I understand Swallow the Sun has been able to make it to the US more frequently than some of the other bands out there, and I certainly hope this is true because I really want to see them again.

Set List:

1. These Woods Breathe Evil
2. Hold This Woe
3. These Hours of Despair
4. Sleepless Swans
5. Plague of Butterflies
6. New Moon 7. Swallow (Horror Pt. 1)

Katatonia may have started off as a death/doom band but over the past two decades they have transformed into a mellower gothic rock band that still retains some of the depressive elements of the doom genre. I personally really liked last year’s Night Is the New Day (although I realize I never did a proper album write up on the site) and was excited to see them play. Despite the fact that they had some of the typical first day of touring technical issues after a few adjustments the band jumped right into their lengthy set and kept the audience’s interest. As you might expect, the set was oriented towards newer albums like Night Is the New Day and The Great Cold Distance but there were some moments where Katatonia really dug into their back catalog to please long time fans. Once the aforementioned technical issues had been ironed out the band sounded great and their atmospheric and chilling arrangements really make an impact on you in a live setting which makes them really enjoyable to watch. Vocalist Jonas Renkse has an absolutely wonderful voice that is captivating and more powerful than you would expect it to be in person, and it’s safe to say that if you’ve ever liked Katatonia or depressive doom/gothic rock that the group won’t disappoint and will be one of your new favorites.

Set List:

1. Day and Then the Shade
2. Liberation
3. My Twin
4. Onward Into Battle
5. The Longest Year
6. Soil’s Song
7. Omerta
8. Teargas
9. Saw You Drown
10. Idle Blood
11. Ghost of the Sun
12. Evidence
13. July
14. Criminals
15. Forsaker
16. Leaders

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