Finntroll / Ensiferum / Rotten Sound / Barren Earth Opera House, Toronto ON February 22

Finntroll / Ensiferum / Rotten Sound / Barren Earth Opera House, Toronto ON February 22
With folk metal dominating more than half the lineup, the Finnish Metal Tour's Toronto stop didn't capture much of Finland's metal range. It's more a case of showcasing a few things the Finns pull off rather well.

As one of the newest bands of the tour, Barren Earth opened with a typically (but unfortunately) short set. The band's Amorphis-like resonance on record carries over into their live performance, full of lilting prog-laden melodies. The resemblance is superficial, but Barren Earth's stage presence was subtle and their compelling personality was slow to emerge -- maybe too slow to win over more than the already converted.

Rotten Sound's rumbling grind was the least likely sound on the bill, contrasting sharply with the melodic leaps and flourishes before and after. Rapidly shifting from a sludgy grumble to a tight high-speed intensity, it didn't take long for them to rile up the crowd, inspiring a floor-spanning circle pit only a few songs in. Constantly in motion, Rotten Sound were the most lively part of the night, and their growling aggression fared best in the bass-heavy audio mix.

On a whole other channel, Ensiferum's western- and power-infused folk metal was a tad anti-climactic. Kilted, painted, shirtless (except for the keyboardist) and energetic, they made an entertaining spectacle, with stage antics culminating in behind-the-head soloing and guitar-neck masturbation. But their songs seemed weighed down, relying heavily on backing tracks, and their set became too long. Judging by the jigging and fans' singing, clearly not everyone felt that way, and a minor exodus to the door after their penultimate set proved Ensiferum were a major draw.

But the folk metal continued, and climaxed, with Finntroll. Fast, violent and aggressively melodic, they whirled through song after song like plugged-in backwoods warriors on an easy-going but venue-conquering rampage, easily earning their slot at the top of the night.