The European Siege, a shared tour between Unto Others, Carcass, Behemoth and Arch Enemy swept across the continent this fall. The sieging was originally scheduled to take place a year ago, but was postponed to this fall due to covid-19. The tour was well worth the wait for the bands and fans alike, as the venues in each country have been packed to capacity or close enough, and the sold-out show in Finland last Wednesday was no exception. The fiery atmosphere conjured by the four bands and the audience, as well as the inferno of pyrotechnics of the main acts, made short work of the darkness and gloom of a late autumn night.
Unto Others, by far the most obscure band on the bill, proved themselves a positive surprise. I listened to some of their songs the day before their concert, so the surprise wasn’t quite complete. In a dim live setting, the band delivered half an hour’s worth of chill and easy-going blend of goth rock and heavy metal. The band’s output stood in stark contrast to the rest of the evening’s fare, and it was easy to see and hear why Michael Amott and Nergal had personally asked them to join this tour. The audience seemed quite receptive towards Unto Others as well, so inviting these Americans onboard The European Siege turned out to be a winning bet for the main men of Behemoth and Arch Enemy.
Carcass, the English extreme metal veterans, stormed the stage next. After the deceptively mellow Unto Others, Carcass set the tune for what the evening was really about: a relentless barrage of extreme metal with varying degrees of focus on riffing and melody. Carcass opted for a more straightforward pummeling, with Bill Steer’s tasteful guitar leads spicing up the meaty dish here and there. Whereas Unto Others had to settle for a sparsely populated hall, the venue had filled out considerably by the time it was Carcass’s turn to tear up the place. As one can expect of a gig in Finland, the part of the “black box” where the bar was located was every bit as packed, if not more so, as the area in front of the stage. Whereas Behemoth and Arch Enemy relied on pyrotechnics, Carcass had background screens providing them visual support. The nine-song set of Carcass flew by in a flash, after which it was time for the evening’s first headliner.
The European Siege-tour was billed as a co-headline effort between Behemoth and Arch Enemy, both having roughly an hour to show what they got. Prior to Behemoth’s set the stage was veiled with a white sheet upon which a video intro of an agitated Nergal was projected. When the veil was removed, it was time for Nergal to agitate the audience accompanied by a torrent of furiously shredding riffs, blasting drums and blazing flames that lit up the stage frequently. Behemoth does not rank among my favorite bands, but I must admit they put up one hell of a show at the black box in Helsinki ice hall. Frontman Adam “Nergal” Darski has evolved into a supreme showman in his later years, and he performed and psyched the audience with a decisive fury. The black box was packed to the point it got difficult to move around, and the audience did their best to match the band’s energy. At one point Nergal held out flares that gave off blue and yellow smoke, and for a split second I thought the showman was trolling his Finnish audience with the colors of our western neighbor. Then I remembered the other European country sporting the same colors in their flag, and “Off to War!” was raged through in support of Ukraine. As the dying tunes of “Chant for Eschaton 2000” rang in the hall, I wondered if Arch Enemy could match the uncompromising intensity of Behemoth.
The atmosphere wasn’t quite so electric during the closing act, which is not to say Arch Enemy wouldn’t have put up a good show. Musically these melodic death metal veterans are much closer to my tastes, but ultimately they fell short of Behemoth’s downright possessed energy. Arch Enemy released their latest album back in August, and “Deceivers” was represented on their setlist with six songs. all of which worked very well alongside the older tunes. The black box didn’t seem quite so overcrowded anymore during Arch Enemy’s set, and their sonic onslaught was a treat to listen to thanks to their crisp sound. Besides her terrific vocals, frontwoman Alissa White-Gluz delighted the audience with a well-pronounced Finnish greeting, to which the crowd answered with roaring enthusiasm. Despite their status as the evening’s nominal main attraction, Arch Enemy played a slightly shorter set than Behemoth, which served well the Wednesday-night crowd eager to get home to prepare for the next day
As “Fields of Desolation” rang from the loudspeakers, a greatful band and an equally grateful audience bid each other farewell. The four-band bacchanal at the ice hall as well as the entire European Siege tour was a resounding success, proving that the concert scene is in full rebound from the nightmarish years of covid-19. The ongoing European siege draws to a close this weekend, so cheers to this successful round, and all the sieges yet to come.