On May 1st, 2014 I had the pleasure of attending Paganfest V at The Opera House in Toronto. This year, Paganfest is celebrating its fifth anniversary. It’s been 5 years since Rock The Nation America started their crusade to bring the best in viking metal to North America, and over the years this festival has become one of the most important dates on any self-respecting folk metaller’s calendar.

While taking the stage not long after doors open means opening band Winterhymn begin their set with a relatively small crowd, they nonetheless played the show as if their lives depended on it.

20 minutes later, we’re presented with Varg. The German band manages to have a folk metal feel without using any folk instruments. The lead guitar work mimics the violin and fiddle patterns utilized on many folk metal records. While Varg’s crunching attack gets heads banging and beer flying, you can’t help but feel like you’ve heard it all before. They were a lot of fun to watch though. During their show two girls were called on stage by the lead singer himself and rocked the hell out with him.

Next up was Chthonic, a band that shouts out for Taiwanese independence (we all know Taiwan is governed by Chinese rule) and it often lands them in trouble. When they last toured North America they got death threats from Chinese nationalists. Chthonic is a band heavily influenced by the best of Scandinavia’s black and death metal. They created sinister feelings through bewitching songwriting that genuinely connects with the crowd on a deep level and seems to delve into the dark side of the subconscious.

Clearly the crowd were saving themselves for the next band Turisas. The feverish response they receive is credit to how far they’ve climbed in recent years. The Finnish band took their fans on an adventure as epic as the Viking legends that inspired the band’s formation. Their sound is equal parts Norse  saga and 21st century metal. It’s like a pirate film. It’s just ‘bang!’ and everyone’s on a ship in the middle of the action! The band grew in confidence as the set progressed and by time they’re hammering through ‘Battle Metal’, they’re firing on all cylinders to very impressive effect.

Around 10 o’clock, the crowd was finally given what they really came for! Boasting a violinist (Toumas Rounakan) and an accordion player (Sami Pertulla) in their ranks, Korpiklaani have numerous songs about booze! Rich in galloping riffs and majestic melodies these folksters shone. The band has matured in their sound, but manages to keep it fun. Ageless lead singer, Jonne, jumped around the stage as he radiated pure joy. Sure, the man isn’t always in tune, but most of the time with the mood of the song, it just doesn’t matter. The highlight of the show was the massive rowing session, in which people would drop to the ground  in unison and row like mad!






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