This past weekend I had the opportunity to see Tyr, one of my favourite bands, not once, but twice.
Saturday night, Mike T. And Pete and I made our way to The Union Hall (formerlyThunderdome, and in times of yore, Goose Loonie's) for the 'Halo of Blood' tour, headlined by Finland's premier 'melodious death-metal' act, Children of Bodom. When I had purchased the tickets back in December, I knew my guys from the Faroes were only an opening act, but since the bill read Children of Bodom, Tyr and Special Guest, my presumption was that Tyr would have the second longest set, but, alas, this was not to be.
After an interminable wait outside in the minus 20 degree weather, we finally got in through the rear entrance, checked our coats and staked out a good position on the upper level, prior to browsing the merch table and securing some lagers, which, sadly, could only be purchased in cans and not horns.
Tyr was the first act onstage, a downtempo synth arrangement of the title track to Valkyrja playing while their touring drummer got into position (founding member Kari Stremoy had to leave last year, having never fully recovered from an auto accident in 2008), and then the three guitarists strode onstage and banged out their signature single, "Hold Your Heathen Hammer High". This was very well received by the decent sized crowd in this smallish venue, especially in the surging mosh pit right in front of the stage.
Lead singer and songwriter Heri Joensen is a personable frontman who seemed genuinely gratified by the crowd's response, as well as the frankly startling number of Tyr t-shirts visible in the audience. After playing "Blood of Heroes" and "Mare of My Night" from the new album, he apologized for not having as much time as they'd like, since they needed to make way for Death Angel and Children of Bodom, then launched into "Lady of the Slain" before wrapping up with "Shadow of the Swastika", their brilliant dual rebuttal to liberal guilt and racist idiots.
From the upper floor of UH, and situated close to the side of the stage, we had a great view of lead guitarist Terji Skibanæs as he fretted his way through the frantic fingerwork that is the hallmark of modern metal. Bassist Gunnar H. Thomsen had a positively gleeful look on his face as he made eye contact with the diehards right in front of the stage. While the sound mix could probably have been better, my only real complaint is that I only got to hear a mere 5 songs from the band I came to see. Still better than nothing, and five more live songs than I had seen up to that point, so I was still pleased on the whole.
Concord California's Death Angel was up next, and I have to say, while his vocal style is a little more screamy than I would like, lead singer and frontman Mark Osegueda comes across as one articulate and sincere individual. His fan-service did not involve any disparaging references to Calgary or an endorsement of 'local' beers 'like Labatt's', but on Edmonton being a source of great memories from the band's early days, and having a vibrant underground and vinyl collecting scene even back in the day. It's also gratifying to see some diversity on the metal stage, to break up the seemingly endless wall of white faces.
The music itself was classic thrash metal played with speed, reckless abandon and a complete disregard for aural safety, so us oldsters decided discretion was the better part of valour in this instance, and discreetly applied the earplugs I had brought. By the time Death Angel got to their most recent single, "The Dream Calls for Blood", the mosh pit was at a fever pitch, with some of burliest lads having removed their shirts to better facilitate shoving anyone within reach with maximum force.
That's not to say it was unfriendly; whenever anyone lost their footing, there was always someone on hand to help them up, dust them off, and then, usually, shove them again in another direction. The bravest were those trying to keep their beers from being spilled as they held them above the teeming mass, lowering them only to sip.
T-shirts notwithstanding, the majority of the crowd had clearly come to see Children Of Bodom, with occasional chants of "BO-DOM, BO-DOM, BO-DOM!" punctuating the crowd noise at fairly regular intervals before and between sets. By the time they got onstage, there was a full size Finnish flag and a hockey jersey on display, in addition to t-shirts old and new. They were the only band featuring a keyboard, which I tend to really appreciate in heavy music (Rammstein, Sonata Arctica), but overall, I have to say melodeath just isn't my thing.
I'm not much of a judge of musicianship, since I can't play anything myself, but even as a layman I could appreciate the speed and technicality of their guitar work, and the syncopation of their power chords that turned the entire band into a most impressive percussion unit. Children of Bodom know their business, but I am clearly not their customer; just as clearly, there are many who are, and they left Union Hall happy. We departed before the end of their set in order to avoid the inevitable coat check mob, and to get at least some merger amount of shut-eye prior to arising at 4:00 am to go and watch the gold medal hockey game.
After a wonderful and victorious time at Jeff and Heather's, followed by a refreshing nap at our house, Glory and I hit the road to go see the same show again at an all-ages venue in Calgary, the Macewan Ballroom. We had a great trip down, listening to a fantastic power metal compilation called Louder Than The Dragon, and then having dinner at the legendary Peter's Drive-In.
Glory was kitted out in the hoodie and hammer pendant I had purchased the night before, since there had been a lull at that able in Edmonton, and I was unsure just how chaotic it might be in Calgary, having never been to the venue. She took care not get any grease or barbecue sauce on her new sweatshirt as we ate in the Flex. I gently corrected the form of her metal salute, suggesting she put her thumb over the middle two fingers, and she nodded emphatically. "Right, right," she said agreeably, "thumb out is Spider-Man."
A short drive later and we were parked at the Olympic Oval at the University of Calgary, which was at least connected to the MacEwan Ballroom.
I have no gift for estimating numbers, but I would hazard a guess that the crowd at the U of C campus was easily triple whatever was at the Union Hall the previous night, and the line-up to get in was far more sizeable, but at least this one was indoors. I'm sure it was funny to watch the middle aged guy and the tweenager get frisked on the way in, but the security staff were courteous and professional, and no one made any wry observations at our expense. Best of all, when we checked our coats, we found that the earplugs that had been sold for $2 in Edmonton were free here, which was decidedly convenient, since Glory had forgotten hers in the car at the other end of the immense building we were in.
Inside it played much the same: Tyr's set was great, but too short, and Glory was extremely happy that they played her favourite song first.
Death Angel's Mark Osegueda was just as eloquent in his praise for Calgary, saying it's been important to them since 1987, so "if you don't know how Death Angel feels about Calgary, you've never been to a Death Angel show. And that's not a problem! Welcome! You are going to see a bunch of musicians doing what they love up here, and all we ask is that you listen with open ears, an open mind, and an open heart." Great stuff. And then a little later on, he got the crowd riled up by screaming, "I SAID I WANT TO SEE YOU MOVE, YOU GOLD MEDAL-WINNING MOTHERF*****S!!" which might have been pandering, but also felt really, really gratifying.
The stage was a little bigger than at the Union Hall, so Children of Bodom could space their stuff out a little more, and give a little more free reign to their light rigs. Unfortunately, the various types of smoke drifting in from outside and onstage were a little too much for Glory's asthma, so after a break and a brief return, we decided to call it a night.
We grabbed a Big Gulp and some pretzel bits at 7-Eleven for the trip home, through temperatures that made us grateful for the heated seats. We talked about the concert, and the people and things we saw, and going to see Sonata Arctica in September with the whole family, and how I was grateful for the opportunity to help her demystify what a heavy metal show looks and feels like. Thanks to bypassing the customary Red Deer pit stop, we were in our garage 2 hours and 46 minutes after getting on the Deerfoot. Glory wanted to go to sleep when we passed Leduc but managed to stay awake until getting into bed just before 2:00 A.M, a wonderful end to a long but glorious day.
T-shirt Sidebar: Fenya had heard the tale before, but had also been listening when I told Glory about the figure of Tyr on the back of her sweatshirt; about how Tyr was the Norse god of war and justice, and how he agreed to place his hand in the mouth of the great hellwolf Fenris as a hostage to his safety and freedom. And how after the other gods had chained the beast, Tyr had allowed Fenris to bite off his hand, because he had given his word, and how much credibility he gained from that sacrifice.
Later that afternoon, while Glory and I were driving to Cowtown, Fenya went to the IMAX Theater with our minister and his husband to see Jerusalem. When they asked Fenya about where Glory and I were going she said, "To a metal show in Calgary."
"That's right," Glen said, "I saw the t-shirt. Hey, why does the guy in the picture have only one hand?"
Fenya was perplexed. "Because he's Tyr."
"You know, the Norse god?"
A quizzical glance between the two of them.
"The one the band is named after? Geez, come on, guys!"
That made James laugh: "You are just like a teenage girl version of your father! Any other girl your age would be all, 'omigawd you guys, Katy Perry is just, like, the best,' but not Fenya; she is just 'you guys, Tyr is totally a Norse god'!"
Fenya just laughed in return; "Yep, that's me."