It was a little too easy to find a parking spot at the Masquerade on Monday. I thought Paganfest would get a good bit more attention in Atlanta, the home of Dragon*Con, but unfortunately I was wrong. Unfortunate for all the local metal heads, they missed one hell of a show.
Atlanta natives Prime Mover were slamming the small but energetic crowd with some tasty black metal as we arrived. The six string bass is something you don’t get to see every day, thankfully, but this was exactly the type of blasphemy I was looking for. I’ll be keeping an ear out for these guys; they write some pretty sick songs (mom, that’s a good thing), and after some more opening slots with the majors they’ll have the chops and stage presence to beat a crowd to a bloody mess with ease.
The next set went by like lightning. Not because it was short or forgettable, but because I wasn’t prepared. I was getting comfortable side stage as the guys of “Huntress” came out to do sound check. They were my kind of dudes. Dressed like Hell’s Angels with jean vests covered in patches, excellent facial hair and tattoos. At this point I was mentally prepared for some wicked stoner metal that would make me wish my motorcycle was parked outside instead of my friend’s 4-door cage. Imagine my surprise when, after the musical intro, a blonde demon temptress entered the stage in tight shiny pants and a cape. I just wasn’t ready for that. Somehow I’d convinced myself that Huntress was an acceptable name for a group of hairy drunk men. No. Huntress can only be a band of hairy drunk men fronted by a screeching siren named Jill Janus. Yeah, I looked her up. She’s hot, ok? What was I talking about again? Oh yeah, METAL.
Arkona is a female fronted band from Russia, but instead of a siren, they are lead by a tiny but powerful warrior that battled the air around her as if it were filled with dragons. The band was very much the embodiment of Pagan Folk Metal; most of the them were dressed in tunics and leather pants, including the bagpiper, while the mighty warrior Masha Scream wore animal pelts and beat a large tribal drum between guttural utterances and soaring passages. What’s that? Yeah, I said bagpiper. Vladimir Volk played the hell out of some bagpipes as well as another “ethnic wind instrument” that I’d have just called a recorder had I not peeked at their website. Whether you believe it or not, it was awesome. The energy they gave was far greater than a lesser band would have given to a half empty room. Shame on you Atlanta. Just because half the crowd was dressed as their D&D character doesn’t mean the less fringe metal fans shouldn’t have experienced this impressive display.
I have mixed feelings about the second to last act of the night. Alestorm is a band that sings about drinking, about pirates, about more drinking, about midgets, about pirates drinking, and about chopping up vikings. All of these things are great, and the guys are incredibly proficient with their instruments. I just feel like they would have been better placed a little earlier in the night. I don’t mean that as an insult to the band. They did great, the crowd responded well (especially the ones dressed as drunk pirates), and their energy was some of the highest of the night. I just think that if they’d been earlier in the night there would have been more energy left over for the headliner.
By the time the Turisas road crew was finished with soundcheck, the crowd had died down considerably. The guys weren’t bitter though. They still came out in full armor and facepaint and put on a hell of a show. They kept the energy high as best as they could and when it fell we were treated to a few lessons in the Finnish language. Turisas are listed as Folk Metal, but I think they define themselves better with their song “Battle Metal”, which they played after the exhausted crowd used the last of their energy to ask for an encore. I’d love a chance to see them in an outdoor festival setting, with a beer in my hand instead of a camera, and the crowd that should have been. They deserved better.