On Hallowe’en night, a motley group of costumed metalheads gathered at the Hard Luck Bar in Toronto to watch a fantastic lineup consisting of Tsargrad, Valfreya, Battlesoul, and Arkona.

The mood in the venue was one of friendly, celebratory excitement that was only enhanced by the costumes and the bar’s cozy layout. The crowd was fairly large from the start, which was a pleasant surprise. Quite a few people were dressed up (excellently, I might add) and compliments on costumes were flying before Tsargrad took the stage.

Tsargrad put on a great show and looked metal as hell doing it. Energetic and skillful, they got the crowd moving and excited for not just the headlining act but also the other bands that followed. They were fun to watch on stage and put their all into their set. Their lyrics were also surprisingly good; if you’re interested, they released their EP, Axes High, on the 30th.

Valfreya hit the stage next to an insane amount of fanfare. I had never heard them before their set and I was impressed. Valfreya sounds similar to Arkona, but perhaps more aggressive instrumentally speaking; I wouldn’t call Valfreya a pure folk metal band, but they definitely have folk in there. Their lead singer, Crook, is a beautiful woman with impressive range; she can go from epic growls to lovely singing in an instant. Everyone in the band was energetic and just seemed happy to be playing.

Up next came the fantastic Battlesoul. They put on an awesome show, despite numerous technical/sound issues about halfway through their set. Hilarious and truly skilled, they pumped the crowd up to a frenzy from their first song. Between telling jokes and letting anyone touch his abs (for a price, of course), Jon belted out some truly astonishing vocals. They played fast and perfectly; it’s really unfortunate that half the power kept going out throughout their set. Still, they played on in the face of adversity without letting it slow their thrash by a beat.

Finally, everyone lost their collective mind when Arkona came on-stage. Moshing was immediate, flag waving was imminent, and crowd surfing occurred a few times. Masha’s vocals were spot on, and when she beats on her drum-shield, it’s like being transported to a battlefield. The whole band was wild, rarely if ever standing still for more than a few seconds, and dancing across the stage at times. They played “Yarilo”, one of my favourite songs of all time, as well as “Goi, Rode, Goi” and “Arkaim”, to name a few. They’re a very powerful and skilled band whose presence demands your complete attention; if their music doesn’t, a look from Masha certainly will. They all get very “into” their music when they perform to great effect. They don’t seem to be a modern day band; rather, they seem like a group of Pagans transported from the far past to make our blood race. Words can’t actually describe how epic it is to see Arkona perform, so if you missed them this time around, make sure to catch them on their next North American tour.

Words By: Becca Leclerc

Photography By: Alex Woods






  1. Hello. I am a member of Tsargrad and we give you many praises to have written about us in a wicked awesome review! In the title of the evening review it is written “ARKONA w/ BATTLESOUL, TSENGARD & VALFREYA | The Hard Luck Bar” I cant wait to post this on our fan page, but was wondering if its possible to fix the spelling error before we proceed. Thanks again! Well written and much appreciated!

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