It’s not every day that you get to see musicians from three different continents share the stage on the same night, but that’s what occurred last Friday at Baltimore Soundstage. Embarking upon their North American Forest Tour, Finnish symphonic metallers Wintersun headlined, accompanied by Australian act Ne Obliviscaris, with the American technical guitar guru, Sarah Longfield, opening up for both.
If I’m to be completely honest, Sarah’s participation in this tour is what drew me in. After having witnessed her in action opening for Marty Friedman on his Wall Of Sound tour at this very venue, I knew I wanted to come check out her mesmerizing fretboard antics once again. Sarah’s stage show is not what I would call flashy. Her set isn’t backdropped with strobe lights or a huge banner. Whether this is because she’s opening or because she wants to focus on the musical aspect when she’s onstage, I couldn’t say. But I can say that she’s great at what she does, and if others weren’t there to see her at the start of her set, by the end of it she had them yelling for more; notes dancing off her fingertips as she two-hand-tapped her way through songs alongside fellow guitarist Derek Sampson, backed by drummer Cameron Sather.
Be sure to keep an eye out for her new album, Disparity, due out November 30.
Australia’s Ne Obliviscaris is doubly-fronted band: Xenoyr, the lyricist and harsh vocalist, and Tim Charles, on clean vocals and violin. Both did a splendid job rousing the crowd in their own ways, with Tim doing the between-tunes talks while Xen reserved itself to explosive bouts within the songs. The band did a wonderful job mixing the head-banging heaviness of the dual guitar attack, not to mention the intricate basslines, with the eerie hollows filled by the twisting violin notes. The staccato backlighting was quite transfixing, though it did result in some challenging photo opportunities: either enveloping each member in a blanket of darkness or erupting in a cascade of light. Ultimately, however, I feel this does a good job of describing the music visually.
The final band of the night was Wintersun, hailing from Finland. Fronted by Jari Mäenpää, former Ensiferum member, the crowd was enthusiastic at their arrival. Knowing that many of their songs are between 5 and 15 minutes, I was worried about how the longer numbers would carry over to a live setting. Boy, was my worry poorly placed! While songs carried on for a while, the band kept us all entertained, and I never really cared where one song ended and another began, because what was happening in each moment was enthralling. One second, everyone’s cell phones were in the air swaying with the rhythm of the music, and the next moment found Jari picking the rhythm pattern on Teemu Mäntysaari’s guitar while forming the chord on the fretboard of Asim Searah’s. At one point late in the evening, Jari asked the crowd how many more songs they’d like to see. One person screamed “two,” followed by another who screamed “ten.” “Ten?! We’ll be here all night,” exclaimed Mäenpää! The band closed out with “Time,” which the crowd seemed more than willing to continue giving.
While the North American tour has ended, I’d urge you to follow these three acts wherever they may roam going forward. Wintersun has dates in November in Europe, as does Ne Obliviscaris (and a date in the UK), while Sarah Longfield will be traveling to Taiwan soon for some clinics!