Fleshgod Apocolypse, Obscura, Wolfheart, Thulcandra, and Vintersea
Bossanova Ballroom – Portland, Oregon 02/19/23
I had been waiting for this show for a while! I hadn’t seen Wolfheart, which happens to be one of my favorite bands, in a few years due to the pandemic.
I met up with a few friends prior to the show and awaited word on interview times with Wolfheart and Thulcandra. Unfortunately, as this was just the second show on the tour, Steffan of Thulcandra (also Obscura) was very busy pulling double duty and taking extra time with set up, as the show in San Francisco I understand was wrought with technical difficulty. Once I had the go-ahead to meet Tuomas, I headed to the Wolfheart bus. Tuomas and I had a good chat (listen to the interview audio below), where we talked about the new album, touring post-pandemic, how he splits writing time between bands, and which Wolfheart album is his favorite.
After the interview, the line of fans was entering the venue and I headed to the back of the line, which wrapped around the city block.
The Bossanova Ballroom is one of my favorite venues; intimate, in and out privileges, and has a nice balcony perfect to get great full-stage shots.
By the time I made it into the venue, Portland heavyweights Vintersea were halfway through their set. The place was packed, so I squeezed in on Vintersea guitarist Jorma Spaziano’s side of the stage to collect a few shots before their set ended. It’s no secret that I’m not a big fan of female vocals in metal, but Vintersea vocalist Avienne did a stellar job in a top-notch performance.
In fact, it was one of the best sets I’ve seen. Headbanging in full force, they looked and sounded like a well-oiled and polished metal machine.
I tried to snuggle (I don’t force) my way up front to see Thulcandra, but the crowd was packed in like sardines, and I decided it best to go upstairs; awe the challenges of a short photographer. Since there were no official photo passes, and since I was told I could shoot anywhere in the venue, I stopped at the VIP area security stand and they gave me the thumbs up to shoot from the advantageous spot. It’s an L-shaped room with the remaining bands utilizing one side, and empty chairs resting on tables due to the other side being closed off to the public. I pulled up a chair in the closed-off section and sat unnoticed to photograph Thulcandra.
Bossanova’s sound is fantastic. Since the pandemic, they have done significant work to the venue, stage, and sound; it continues to be one of my favorite venues to witness live music in Portland.
Germany’s Thulcandra absolutely blew me away on this, their first-ever tour in the states. I was excited to see how Steffan would fair pulling double duty with Thulcandra and Obscura. I was curious to see the difference that one man can do playing black metal in one band, taking a short break during Wolfheart, and then returning to the stage fronting a technical death metal band. Steffan and his fellow bandmates were phenomenal. Heavy, dark, yet surprisingly groove-based. But for Wolfheart, Thulcandra would have been my favorite of the night. The band looked like they were having fun, and the fans responded in kind. Since I knew they had had some difficulties on the first night of the tour in San Francisco, I was thrilled that they were able to play a full, flawless set on this night.
Two different security guards passed by during the first three bands and continued to give me permission to shoot from the balcony; I felt privileged and happy to have this unique vantage point, sans moshers.
Up next was Finland’s Wolfheart. I’ve been a big fan of Wolfheart for many years and was excited to hear some of the songs from their newest release “King of the North,” released in late summer of 2022. The band was positioned in perfect symmetry between the two Wolfheart banners. The mic stands donned masculine antlers, and the mighty Tuomas positioned himself center stage. There is something very sexy about Wolfheart between the beautiful guitar chord choices and the raw masculinity of the band. Wolfheart performs music with the depth and breadth of few. Wolfheart’s music translates beautifully live. Their music transports you to a cold and mysterious place that you somehow long to go to. They invoke visions of Vikings and Finnish mythology and folklore from a land far away. While I generally pay attention mostly to melody, all components of Wolfheart fit together perfectly to give you cohesive completeness. The power the men of Wolfheart bring to the stage is omnipotent. With the new addition of occasional vocals by band members Vagelis and Lauri, the band played a stunning set. Never long enough, Wolfheart’s superior showmanship was a delight of both sight and sound.
Next up was Obscura. The first song threw the mosh pit into a frenzy, as they played without fault. Their fast-paced – highly technical metal – was entertaining and enjoyable. I often feel that technical death metal live can get overwhelming and be overstimulating through its controlled chaos construct, but not with Obscura. I would have loved to see them play longer than I did, but song two found us engulfed in a thick layer of fog. The stage setup had three smoke pods from my perspective that may have been turned up too high (if that is even a thing). It was not possible to see even one foot in front of my face, and my chewing gum morphed into a new and interesting flavor after about 30 seconds of the aggressive fog assault. I tried to capture shots, but they came out utterly awful. While the background lighting was pretty, the band members were invisible.
It was about four songs into Obscura’s set when a security guard, one that I hadn’t seen previously, approached and asked me to follow. Confused, and unable to hear what she was saying, I packed up my gear and followed her. Another photographer for a major metal magazine wasn’t granted access upstairs apparently, and that alerted the new security guard to the fact that I was up there. While I had multi-level permission, this particular security guard seemed to suspect that I was an outlaw gangster, gaining access to the VIP area in a devious way, and proceeded to follow me closely until I exited the building.
I was a bit bemused, and due to Obscura being on stage, I couldn’t communicate with her effectively. I soon found myself outside of the building. Between Obscura’s thick fog, my disgusting-tasting gum, and the security snafu, I decided it best to just cut my losses and head home.
C’est la vie – Lucky for me I’d seen Fleshgod Apocolypse previously, but I was sincerely bummed.
I thoroughly enjoyed Thulcandra and Wolfheart. If you are a fan of European metal, both black and melodic death, check these bands out. I’m confident you will not be disappointed.
Also – I heard from an official source that the fog was stopped as a precaution for everyone’s safety. I suspect Obscura will reduce the output of the fog, or remove it all together moving forward.
I hold no hard feelings for the early ejection. I received an outpouring of condolences and apologies for the misunderstanding.