Finnish Takeover: Amorphis, Swallow The Sun bring North American Tour to Kentucky

By Rosie Walker
(photos by Brian Wyner)


March 23rd 2017, Diamond Pub Concert Hall, Louisville KY: Nestled in an industrial corner of Louisville, Kentucky rests Diamond Pub & Billiards. Aged factory buildings loom over the bar and concert hall as if keeping it safe from the ‘less than ideal’ neighborhood it resides in. Louisville is home to the Kentucky Derby and the Major League baseball bat factory. A city you’d last expect a legendary heavy metal band to play, but Amorphis showed up and a magical night of heaviness happened.

In the pleasant cool of a spring evening you could hear some loud distortion and sloppy blast beats as you approached the Diamond Pub’s back entrance. It’s in the back where you climb the rickety stairs to the pub’s concert hall. Attendees in black t-shirts trickled in to casually catch the local talent. Strigoi, Ascend to Dust, and The Darkening were all admired for their effort, but given the lack of applause, the on-lookers were just politely waiting for the touring bands. The crowd of a couple hundred grew impatient when the final opening act ran over their time. We all held our breath when the fuddled frontman announced another song. Without hesitation his mic was cut off and music came over the loud speakers. Embarrassed, the band skidded off stage and finally the night could really begin. It was pleasant to be in a place where the crew were doing their job and were not afraid to get a band off stage.

In a timely manner, the first of the two Finnish metal master acts took the stage. Swallow the Sun is one of those bands who achieve perfection in their slotted sound. Seeing them live illuminates their superior quality and excellence. With dim blue lights and extra mist billowing from the fog machine the crowd became enraptured as the extreme, atmospheric, doom metal band performed. You sway to the sound of Swallow the Sun. The bittersweet tone in the guitars and the melancholy in the keys put a chill in the air as this band from the North shared their sound. The patient grace and stout charm of each member made for a heavy, ambient show.

Vocalist Mikko Kotamaki rumbled like a distant thunder and moved the crowd with his range. The windmill head banging of the group swung you into a gothic dream. Their potent and poised playing left little time for talking or even smiling. With serious, sincere glances, the crowd was even ‘shushed’ a few times, encouraging everyone to really listen and become a part of their set. Highlights included songs like ‘Fallen World’ and ‘Don’t Fall Asleep’ where the band effortlessly played with drama and finesse. The somber mood set by Swallow the Sun captured the crowd and had everyone appreciating the weight and substance of their sound. Everyone needs a little doom ’n gloom in their life.

Swallow The Sun

After Swallow The Sun’s 45-minute set, the audience buzzed with excitement waiting for the headliners. Just before 11 PM, the distinctive sound that is Amorphis drifted through the speakers. The opening track sent a ripple of pleasure through the crowd as they migrated closer to the stage. Chilled Budweiser rested on the amps and sweat rags were carefully placed by the drum set when the band strolled on stage. A majority of Amorphis’ work is based on the Epic Finnish poem, Kalevala. The beautiful, sad stories about wild beasts and warriors came to life as the band kicked into their first number, ‘Under the Red Cloud’. This group started over 25 years ago and still love to play. Guitarist Esa Holopainen shines a pure light of melodic goodness on the folk death metal landscape that is Amorphis. His fluent agility made you look forward to every single one of his solos. Vocalist Tomi Joutsen mesmerized the crowd with his robust energy, flawless singing, and all-encompassing passion for performing.

Experiencing this band in Europe at a sold-out venue twice the size of the Diamond Pub years ago made me appreciate the intimate and approachable feel as the band played here. These guys are used to crowds of thousands, but still jammed out to a small group in Bumpkinville, Kentucky proving their professionalism and heart. Playing songs like ‘Sampo’ and ‘Hopeless’ the setlist was varied and entertaining. Between most the songs the lights would dim and the synths would simply carry us to the next number. Sometimes Esa would chime in, giving the set a cool, progressive feel. Time flew by as we were serenaded by Kalevala’s tales of triumph and tragedy. The floor of the venue trembled as they kicked into their last number ‘Black Winter Day’. Vocalist Mikko from Swallow the Sun joined Amorphis on stage for the grand finale and growled along on the band’s legendary song. The members smiled and stood dignified as masters over their skills. They cohesively protect their refined, glorious sound of death, folk, and progressive metal. They’re like a fine wine you want to swish in your mouth and savor forever. Their unity was like a sweet caress and the their impeccable showmanship revitalizing. With constant horns raised in the crowd, it was evident all were immersed in the show from beginning to end.

Amorphis featuring Swallow The Sun vocalist Mikko Kotamäki

Just past 12:15 AM, the band took their final bow. The audience roared at the Finnish metal icons with satisfaction and gratification. At the back of the venue, sitting at the bar, were two blind kids. They sat there all night grinning ear to ear. To see how metal can bring such joy generates hope and motivation was fantastic. All walks of life can come under the banner of metal and all together celebrate the ecstasy that is music. Amorphis brought powerful passion and magnificent magic to Louisville that night. And here’s to them doing it for another 25 years.

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Amorphis + Swallow The Sun remaining tour dates:
03/28/2017 – Minneapolis, MN @ The Cabooze
03/29/2017 – Winnipeg, MB @ Park Theatre
03/30/2017 – Regina, SK @ The Exhange
03/31/2017 – Edmonton, AB @ The Starlite Room
04/01/2017 – Calgary, AB @ Dickens
04/03/2017 – Vancouver, BC @ Rickshaw Theatre
04/04/2017 – Seattle, WA @ El Corazon
04/06/2017 – San Francisco, CA @ Slim’s
04/07/2017 – Los Angeles, CA @ Whisky-A-Go-Go
04/08/2017 – Anaheim, CA @ Grove of Anaheim
04/09/2017 – Mesa, AZ @ Club Red
04/10/2017 – Albuquerque, NM @ Launchpad
04/11/2017 – Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theater
04/12/2017 – Merriam, KS @ Aftershock
04/14/2017 – Dallas, TX @ Trees
04/15/2017 – San Antonio, TX @ Fitzgerald’s
04/16/2017 – Houston, TX @ Scout Bar
04/17/2017 – Jefferson, LA @ Southport Hall
04/18/2017 – Tampa, FL @ The Orpheum
04/19/2017 – Winter Park, FL @ The Haven
04/20/2017 – Athens, GA @ Georgia Theatre
04/21/2017 – Baltimore, MD @ Ottobar
04/22/2017 – Worcester, MA @ The Palladium
04/23/2017 – Amityville, NY @ Revolution