Gig Report: Wintersun, Eluveitie, Varg (Oakland, USA)

Wintersun’s blood-bonded following has been clamoring for a US tour ever since their self-titled debut was released in 2004. 8 years later, our prayers are answered as the controversial album Time I is released alongside a worldwide tour with Eluveitie and Varg. Was it everything we hoped for?

by Noel Holmes


It’s about midway through a Sunday afternoon, and I’m in the city of Hayward, California, looking at what appears to be a one meter high fort built out of computers and aluminum foil in the center of a barren living room.

“Dude! Check this out! It’s AWESOME!” my friend says from inside.

On a dated laptop running what looked to be Windows 98, he pulled up a YouTube video and demanded that I give it my full attention while he went back to installing Linux on a nearby netbook.

The video showed a man in his thirties, with long blond hair making painful high pitch screams while looking at the camera, over and over again until he lost his voice. Another man in the video would call out to him: “You gotta open up more!”

“That’s WINTERSUN,” interjected my friend, “True Finnish Metal.”

For various reasons, I didn’t take my friend or the video seriously. To me, it just looked like a group of friends that were allowed to get drunk during the day, and didn’t have neighbors that complained about sound.

But for some reason, I still went home and looked them up. It wasn’t long before I realized that Wintersun was much more than a well-respected band in the metal community. They were leaders of a musically-driven and benevolent post-human cult.

Disclaimer: Even though I’ve listened to both Time I and their self-titled album, there is a significant part of me that doesn’t feel ready or worthy to write about Wintersun. This is the  part of me that feels that Wintersun’s message, style, and movement is primarily based around the history and folklore of Finland. Afraid that I might dishonor the proud nation with my ignorance of worldly affairs, I’m hesitant to even attempt to comment on something so far beyond my grasp of understanding.

Fuck it. I’m going to anyway. It was sick as fuck.


On the verge of pneumonia, I waited outside for about an hour, desperately holding my camera bag under my chest to save it from the pouring rain, while texting fellow TOTD writer Jordan Itkowitz with my growing anxiety about missing the first set due to an excruciatingly slow-moving line.

Stepping into the venue was a bit like stepping into a pagan church, in the sense that everyone was covered in hair, and that each attendee seemed to be reminiscent of their own unique mythical creature that “came from the earth.”

Despite the problems with the mismanaged queue, I made it while Varg still had three songs to go. It was plenty of time to get slammed by the awesomeness of the ever-present bass drums (which sparingly dropped to a speed slower than persistent 1/8 notes) and high pitched folk melodies.

When I looked up to see the members decked out in fear mongering make-up and face paint, I couldn’t help but think that they were playing the theme song to a viking warship.

The crowd was greatly impressed by the set and was completely engaged in the testosterone-infused anthems of assault. Even though it was still early, and the average alcohol intake was only one drink, the fire of the crowd quickly escalated to a dangerous level of anarchy, eventually ended by a carefully planned series of anti-crowdsurfing security tackles.

Near the end of their set, lead singer and Guitarist Freki, still covered in blood, addressed the audience with a short speech. Amongst a handful of tidbits related to his gratitude, he let us know that the name Varg meant “wolf” in their native language. With that, he let out an aggressive to demonstrate his deep connection with the earth-shattering power of the wolf’s cry… when he is about to make a kill.



Seeing Jari for the first time was a nothing less than a genuine experience. His posture and facial expressions showed one thing very clearly: he had surpassed his goals, and his tribe was here to congratulate him.

Everyone has heard the controversy surrounding Time I. Too many synths, too much filler, not enough tracks, etc. However, in seeing the performance in person, I realized that the primary error of the critics was that they were listening to the music in the wrong context.

The composition of Time I isn’t designed for people who want background music while chatting on Facebook, nor is it made for music academics who wish to pontificate about whether or not a particular measure is an appropriate time to transition to a 3/4 time signature. This music is actually military-grade group hypnosis designed to summon the spirits within us to march forward towards… some place in Finland.

Did the new symphonic elements make it sound a lot like a Final Fantasy concert? Not at all. The pre-rendered electronic tracks were significantly overshadowed by the vocals, drums, and guitar. In contrast to one of Nobuo Uematsu’s live orchestral performances, the symphonic elements actually played a very minor role.

From the moment soundcheck started, to 5 minutes after the team left the stage, the crowd was insane. It was as if their savior had risen from death, and was guiding them towards a suicidal, yet meaningful march against an invincible yet tyrannical dictatorship. Fortunately, I was not scared, for I was one of them. As I heard Jari yell the keywords of every verse  at the top of his lungs (“sons,” “winter,” “time”), I cheered along and watched in envy as he paid no heed to the fact that the heat was causing his perfectly brushed hair to burst into a chaotic array of golden split ends.

With the exception of the pornographically sexy guitar solo in Winter Madness, the audience sang along throughout the entire production.


As soon as I saw the various instruments laid about the stage, I became immediately frustrated by the incompetency of Eluveitie’s marketing team.


With flutes, crude string instruments, and a hurdy gurdy, this band is a textbook example of a fool-proof panty dropper. It’s artistic. They have instruments that are so underground that no one has ever heard of them. There are cute girls in the band. Their songs resemble the Titanic soundtrack. They promote a culture that will build a statue in your name if you can drink everyone in your home town under the table. The singer is wearing tribal jewelry. With all these elements in play, is there any excuse for a 90% male audience?

As represented by the fact that Google searches for the group primarily return Lord of the Rings fan fiction, and debates about the “true relationship” between Tolkien and C.S. Lewis , it is clear that Eluveitie is detrimentally under-promoted in America.

If you are a fan of the band, and want to see more of this type of music in your area, it is imperative that you get engaged with them on Facebook, or any preferred social media channel, to help spread their message to new fans. Until shows in the classical style of European folk metal receive more grassroots promotion, it is a realistic assumption that they will soon become more extinct than the Visual Kei style of J-Rock.

As expected, the presentation of Eluveitie was truly badass. Aside from the vocalist, who generally stood with his legs planted in a pre-cartwheel lunge, his abdominal muscles as upright and firm as a 19-year-old headliner at a Deathcore festival, every member of the band (violinist included) spent most of their time headbanging.

As they played through the full album of Helvetios, the members stood tall and confident while refraining from any of the artificially aggressive rock postures that are taught to kids when their moms buy them lessons from the drummer of Blink 182. During the rare occasions that the band members gave their neck muscles a rest, they would simply play their instruments with a smile, maintaining warm, appreciative eye contact with the crowd.

Thanks to the fact that I was able to have someone hold my camera, I was able to join the mosh pit for the second half of Eluveitie‘s set. While at first it was somewhat awkward to slam into sweaty men while listening to something that sounded like the soundtrack to The Bards Tale, I quickly got in touch with the backing metal riffs that enabled me to embrace the never ending wave of pain that increased with each collision. On the outskirts of the pit, one could see the single digit number of women performing irish jigs, in hopes of drawing their male partners’ attention away from the space-print tights that defined the curves of Meri’s hips.

In summary:

  • Wintersun, Eluveitie, and Varg are all amazing live
  • Wintersun is not too symphonic when they play in a concert setting
  • Eluveitie makes girls dance
  • Varg means “wolf” in German Norwegian/Swedish (thanks for the correction Shcokwave!)
  • “Pagan Fest” shirts are totally in right now
  • You should promote Folk Metal on your Facebook

See you guys again soon! \m/

Want more photos? Check out the full album on Facebook.



  1. Commented by: Shcokwave

    Varg means wolf in Norwegian and Swedish, not in German, there you just say “Wolf”.

    Oh, Varg are a bunch of assholes.

  2. Commented by: Noel Holmes

    Thanks Shcokwave. I fixed it. :)

  3. Commented by: gabaghoul

    fun write up Noel and great pics as usual. I feel especially compelled to check out Eluveitie now as well, mostly so I can have my panties dropped.

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