It may be just my opinion but it seems that Paganfest is becoming more and more of a commercial action. While few years back, it’s main purpouse was to show some less known bands that haven’t played here, this year proved that things have changed... Korpiklaani, Moonsorrow, Unleashed and Varg aren’t really what you’d call „less known“ bands, Kivimetsan Druidi had some shows at our Republic as well and so the only really unknown band were the german-israelic band Arafel…
But let’s take it from the start – Abaton is pretty small and so it surprised me that even the upper galleries have been closed. The lack of space was pretty disturbing, people were squeezed even in the rear ends and the gig seemed a bit more like a typical concert then like an international festival. I’m not really sure what made the organisators to change the place of this fest, but... nevermind.
I wasn’t really counting with photo-lane and so I placed my bum right at stage so I could take photos without any problems. The place was cool, except for one little detail – approx. One minute before each of the bands the technicians began to fume the area. I don’t understand this, everyone hates the smoke. Singers can’t sing that well, fans can’t breathe – and don’t get me started what kind of stuff it does to photographs. I can somewhat deal with it in small amounts. But the situation that took place in Abaton was just too much – at times, there was so much smoke that I couldn’t see the singer’s face even though I was like 3 metres away from him (and I’m not even mentioning the photo optics).
Well, enough of the deprived-photographer-talk, let’s get to the bands themselves. First on stage were Kivimetsan Druidi. Leeni-Maria Hovila is this kind of blood-and-milk women with passionate temperament of wild beast and she shown those to her fans with seductive hip moves and her body as whole. Her voice was more of a problem, since she’s pretty to look at, but her singing can, let’s say, tear ears drums at times. Fortunately, due to bad sound, her shrieking was somewhat hard to hear. All-in-all, Kivimetsan Druidi were great starting band, they managed to pre-heat people and that’s what it’s all about.
After a while, Arafel came to the stage and made themselves the high point of the evening for me. I admit that I have known this band just from few quick listenings, but what they did on stage was unbelieveable. The music was crushing the crowd and the pogo that started in the crowd was somewhat good answer for their folk metal cookie with black-ish filling. Though, the violinist shown us why viola is sometimes called „pinchers“, but that was just a little thing on the overally great impression that they’ve left.
Varg. They’ve left me cold at Metalfest and Paganfest just solified me in the decision that I will never be a fan of this band. Brutal blood-like warpaint turned these guys into macho devilish guys like the ones from Inferno in Heroes of Might and Magic III, but their music was mostly about massacring guitars and folk instruments that usually lead the melody were swapped by lead guitar.
Moonsorrow – slow, tired, doomed Moonsorrow almost made me fall asleep. They just didn’t fit into the line-up, but I’d be able to forgive them this - if they’d actually manage to amaze me with their set or if their set would have like any kind of energy in it. Well, it didn’t. I’m sorry but the slow-down that came in form of Moonsorrow wasn’t really good for the atmosphere and in my opinion and they haven’t been as aprecciated as I would expect such a famous band to be.
Unleashed – one of the headliners. This thrash/death metal band made the metalheads bang their heads hard and the mosh that began within the crowd was just hellborn. Singer Johnny Hedlund is a hell of a guy and he knows how to make fans go crazy so he sang a bit of refrain before each of the songs and the crowd did it’s best to repeat it in the actual songs. In short, one hell of a show.
Korpiklaani – it was obvious since the beginning that more then half of the crowd was here for those finnish primeval goblins. If you’d even try to count the horn-ish t-shirts in the hall, you’d fail since there were just so many. To be honest, I’m quite amazed by that. Korpiklaani have their shows in Czech Republic at least three times a year and their fans still follow them. Enough of that, let’s summarize their set. It was the usual thing. For those who like them, it was brilliant, for those who don’t, it was monotonous and nosy. The sound was okay and there was of course a load of dance, singing and catchy refrains.
What is there left so say? The sound was changing with each of the bands, some were better, some were worse, but it wasn’t in no way tragic. Atmosphere was pretty balanced, except for Moonsorrow. If there wouldn’t been the smoke and we’d actually be able to see the bands, it would be even better.