Pre-Christian religion is all the rage in metal these days, and the second of two high-profile "Pagan" tours is rolling into town, along with Thor, Hecate, and various henges, stony or otherwise. Pagan Fest 2009 is headlined by the Finnish folk-metal outfit Korpiklaani, a group that puts the polka back into heavy music's thrashing "polka beats," levying a relentless kick-snare attack with traditional Finnish melodies. Unlike many of their folk-metal brethren, the band was folk first and metal second, making the transition from obscure bar band to globe-trotting headbanger coalition by adding distorted guitars to its ancient hoedowns.
Irish black metal outfit Primordial is in direct support, mixing orthodox razor-wire riffing with jaunty, Emerald-isle rhythms and an epic feel. Finns Moonsorrow hew similar sounds, coupling frostbitten guitars to the thematic roots in Finnish folklore that give them their pagan bona fides.
Pirates are apparently honorary pagans these days: Alestorm played the Pagan Knights tour back in March, and New Jersey buccaneer-thrashers Swashbuckle round out the Fest bill with some plundering aplomb. Versed in all the freebooting lingo and boasting a number of mizzenmast-ready guitar licks, the trio is readying a new album that is sure to go triple-putf8um on the Spanish Main.
Montreal's Blackguard is the odd band out its tinkling keyboards occasionally flirt with folky scales, but they've also got a decidedly post-pagan symphonic thing going on. Thankfully, they like drinking stuff out of old-timey mugs, so they'll fit right in with everyone else. So will anyone who likes rock-worship, of either kind. Praise Odin!
PAGAN FEST 2009
With Korpiklaani, Primordial, Moonsorrow, Swashbuckle and Blackguard
Sat/16, 6 p.m., $30
375 11th St., SF