GIG REVIEW: Leaves Eyes, Sonata Arctica & Omnium Gatherum Live at Token Lounge, Westland, MI
November 18, the Token Lounge in Westland Michigan saw a hat trick of melodic metal come to town. Opening the gig was Finnish band Omnium Gatherum with their original take on melodic death metal. Lead by king growler Jukka Pelkonen and the Jackson V axe shredding of Markus Vanhala, they served as the perfect intro to get the fists pumping. Most of the eight song set was dedicated to tracks off their latest LP ‘Grey Heavens‘ including the energy filled “The Pit”and “Skyline”.
Loyal fans and the music world in general are always shocked when a band suddenly announces the departure of a longtime founding member. The rumor mill swirls and all kinds of scenarios are brought forth on social media as the information gets disseminated. Such was the case with Leaves Eyes, who back in April, showed up with a brand new lead singer at the Hammersonic Festival in Jakarta, Indonesia. Gone was founding member and lead vocalist Liv Kristine, replaced by Finnish vocalist Elina Siirala.
This show was the first time I’d seen the band live since Elina took over the lead vocal reins. I was truly impressed as Siirala brings a “heavier” side to the band. Her operatic range exploded as she ran up and down the octaves, belting out the lyrics to Mike Oldfield’s “To France”. Much like Sammy Hagar molded Van Halen into a different direction after taking over for David Lee Roth, I can see Siirala doing the same on future Leaves Eyes LPs.
Opening with “Halvdan the Black”, the band ripped through a 10 song, just under 50 minute set of solid symphonic and melodic Celtic metal. Male vocalist, Alex Krull, is the premier front man and the perfect compliment to Elina, as he continually encouraged the sold out crowd to jump, clap, throw their fists in the air and sing along. The band rolled thru “My Destiny”, “Swords in Rock”, and “Hell to the Heavens”, before Krull donned his trademark Norse outfit and sword to finish with “Mot Fjerne Land”.
Krull took a few moments to comment on the recent United States Presidential elections, telling the crowd that “we as metal fans have always and will forever be united as one”, no matter what is taking place in world politics. Regardless of who is leading the nations of the world, one thing stands unchanged, Leaves Eyes is still the leader of the symphonic metal realm. After the set, Siirala and Krull spent time mingling with the fans, talking shop, taking selfies, and showing their apparent humility and gratefulness, a sign rarely seen in today’s arrogant rock world.
Completing the hat trick was Kemi, Finland’s export Sonata Arctica supporting their latest release ‘The Ninth Hour’. After Leaves Eyes, the room was clearly fully engaged and wanting more and they would not be disappointed. From the opening taped riffs to “We Are What We Are”, lead singer Tony Kakko and his supporting staff brought the house down. The lyrics to “Closer to the Animal”, “The Wolves Die Young” and my personal favorite “In Black and White” could be heard loud and strong as the crowd sang along.
Following in Krull’s footsteps, Kakko gave a brief speech on “saving live music” before breaking into the chorus of “Wind Beneath My Wings” to start their 2 song encore of “I Have a Right” and “Don’t Say a Word”.
This was not your typical metal show. There was a defined absence of any crowd surfing or a mosh pit breaking out, replaced by a metal crowd with hands in the air, swaying to the melodic tunes. I was introduced to the two handed, sideways held, devil horns by my companions in the crowd. However, the symphonic melodies were overlaid with fierce riffs and growling vocals from all the bands. This was an incredible show put on by our friends from across the ocean and definitely put a huge grin on everyone’s face in attendance.