Ok who stole the bastard pub? The Wetherspoons above the venue has vanished since I was last at the Islington Academy! Luckily there are others down the road and back at the Academy the queue is snaking right round the corner on this suitably frosty night as we prepare for a Finnish triple pronged attack  Once inside, first on are an unknown quantity to me Wolfheart. It would have been easy to suspect something in the way of Moonspell clones with that moniker but this lot featuring members past and present from Beyond The Dawn, Eternal Tears Of Sorrow and Bloodred Hourglass are not quite that way inclined and it’s quickly evident they have the chops, the storm, the verve and the passion to put them up there with their countrymen. Dour Finns they are not in the slightest and to name a song there’s plenty of “Strength and Valour” about their bravado clad display. The cold from outside is swiftly forgotten and the band are getting a heroic welcome, far more than one would expect from a band visiting our shores for the first time. They have a new album out in March on Spinefarm we are told and it’s got a very hard to pronounce title that would score well at Scrabble ‘Tyhjyys.’ ‘Boneyard’ which they have just shot a video for is aired and gets plenty of fists pumped in the air and “hoy hoying” from the crowd. There’s a massive co-ordinated hair twirling strike from the bassist and guitarist, guttural roars from the vocals and mighty percussive blasts from the drummer. The battle cleave is formidable and it’s hard not to feel invigorated. Older number ‘Zero Gravity’ even gets a pit and even if this was just a short set Wolfheart make a very good impression and promise to return in the future.

I have loved Barren Earth since 1st hearing the ‘Our Twilight’ EP back in 2009 and the appreciation has grown subsequently with each of the three album releases. They too have a huge pedigree of talent in their ranks with members from Mannhai, Moonsorrow, Kreator and October Falls amidst a whole host of others. Vocalist Jón Aldará is a fairly recent addition compared to the others but had not disappointed on the last album at all. Sound is a bit dense and it’s a fair bit cluttered as I attempt to get into 1st number ‘The Leer,’ perhaps its due to the sheer heft of the music and I hope it will settle down. The vocal growls are pretty damn formidable and it’s great to hear that Aldará is equally adept when it comes to hitting the harmonic cleans. There lots of deathly swagger about things but I feel that the subtler nuances are a bit stifled in the mix. There are some quiet interludes and just in case we hadn’t got that message guitarist Janne Perttilä puts his finger to his lips in an attempt to get the crowd to simmer down.  By ‘Set Alight’ things have improved a fair bit and the proggy tendencies of the music and twisting guitar riffs really begin to shine through. The flamboyance of the music really makes this lot stand out from any simple melodeath leanings and it’s well appreciated in songs like this. There’s plenty of rugged movements worthy of stomping boots and banging heads along to and by the time they hit last album number ‘On Lonely Towers’ although it’s not the most upbeat closer they had certainly won over many here tonight.

Everyone’s a bit taken aback as Insomnium come on stage all dressed up as Moomins!  Of course I’m jesting but wouldn’t that have been fantastic? Speaking of which that’s exactly what I thought of last album Winter’s Gate an epic 1 track 40 minute song. Reviewing it I said it would be absolutely great if they ever performed it live in entirety, not actually expecting they would but here we are! It sounds absolutely spot on too, as perfect as it does on album and has the audience eating out the bands hands. It’s seriously rammed in here and the group had proved last time around that The Underworld was not big enough to hold them and it looks like they may have to make an even bigger step up next time around. If you have not heard this mammoth opus it’s not for me to describe each part of the frosty roller-coaster unveiled here tonight under a cloud of cold blue lighting. It’s hoary, majestic and transports off to far off places and it appears that most here know it note for note. The atmosphere is electric and we really get engrossed with every emotional flurry as the tale unfolds. My mind wanders a little and I have to wonder what the great Finnish composer Sibelius would think of this modern-day masterpiece, the grandeur and stirring emotion would surely have been appreciated by him. As the last segment absolutely batters in and sweeps off feet like a battle in the frozen North its ever so spiteful with it. In a word, “wow!” This was totally worth witnessing.

This is just the 1st half though and without even a pause to wipe brows and gather breath the gentle tinkling refrain of ‘The Gale’ blows in to whip us off into a greatest hits set. The rousing roars are replicated on and off stage as the audience bellow along in appreciation and the guitars melodically take us off on further journeys. I take a vantage on the balcony upstairs to witness it all from above as ‘Mortal Share’ drags us off into a whiplashing shred of divine harmony. You totally know that a band have owned it when you see clapping hands from the front to the back of the venue and there’s even some crowd surfers going over the top to the most frantic parts here. There’s stacks of crowd pleasers to take in here as well from the choppy rifferama of ‘While We Sleep’ to the glistening frail majesty of ‘The Promethean Song.’  There’s no room to breathe between the gaps both in songs or crowd but by the time it ends there’s little in the way of sorrow weighing us down and it can only be concluded that Insomnium totally conquered London tonight. Next time they are gonna need an even bigger boat.

(Pete Woods review and photos)