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Finnish Metal Meeting 2006 - An escape from the bloody cold
‘Hey Siem, you can go and study abroad in the third academic year!!’ ‘Wow, that’s great, which universities are open for applications?’ ‘Well, take a look, almost every country in Europe’. I looked for different courses, countries and cultures, keeping in mind that I wanted to visit a place that would be both totally new to me and also a place where I could do the things I love the most. Finland it was, in the fine city of Helsinki.
We all know that it’s a great country for heavy metal, but tell me, how many Finnish bands do you know? Ok, we have the famous acts like Stratovarius, Sonata Arctica and Nightwish but do you know what the Finns are listening to. Do you know which Finnish metal band is the most popular, between the huge number of acts? At least I didn’t and my o my, how I was looking forward towards the ‘Finnish Metal Meeting 2006’, a two-day event with a great insight in the Finnish metal kitchen.
 
Friday 17th of February
Off course, when trying to get warmed by the music, one must first suffer the bloody cold in Helsinki. The line was huge so I missed the first act of the day, called Ajattara. Right after I entered the Cable Factory, I decided to take a fast look throughout the venue. 


The whole happening was like a typical expo, with everything you’d expect when considering the theme of heavy metal. There were lots of record companies promoting themselves, a few upcoming Finnish bands, and some record stores. Besides that, music gear was presented; guitars, basses, drums and all the electronic things were showed as if they were the most valuable pieces on earth. There were three stages, the main stage in the big hall, a little stage for acoustic sessions and brief performances and a third stage in the ‘eating hall’ where ‘metal karaoke’ was demonstrated. I’ll come back to that later. After this first look I went for my first ‘real’ gig.
 
Verjnuarmu
Damn, the first band was already a huge revelation. I would describe them as ‘ghost metal’ with some mystical influences presented by the keyboard. It immediately reminded me of Marilyn Manson, because of the great sense for appearance and I think a comparison is not to be excluded, but it would not acknowledge the credits this band deserves. The songs were great with a good sense for recognizing the melodies. I had no idea what they sang about, since the lyrics were in Finnish. I’ve met a guy who told me that the band is influenced by their domestic region ‘Savo’ and the city of Kuopio in particular. 



They also created personalities with a whole story around them. But since the dialect is being considered as ‘funny’ by the other Finns, the number of fans has not been expanding so fast (yet). In my opinion, Verjnuarmu is a band young with the capabilities of becoming a very, very big act. They simply have everything, great songs, an impressive live performance and a good record label behind them. Well, that label was actually not that good, since I couldn’t find a single place in the whole venue to buy their cd. But in the end, if there is one band that should be able to cross their Finnish borders, I think they would well qualify.
 
I was shocked, if this was only the first act, I was about to become totally flabbergasted this weekend. I bought myself a coffee, tried to watch the acoustic Nightwish session, but it was too crowded. So I headed for the cd shops, bought some disks and went of for the next band.
 
 
Pain Confessor
I hate to say it, but I was actually satisfied to see this band, being a typical band in 2006. Although their stage performance was pretty good, I could not notice some specific characteristics. 



It was descent heavy metal with these mystical keyboards, combined in a metalcore package, but nothing special. I enjoyed the band grabbing their chance to perform for this crowd, but that was all. Afterwards, I chatted with some Finnish girls until it was already time for the next act.
 
Swallow the Sun
Off course I was making notes during the event, and the first thing I thought when these guys entered the stage was: ‘What the hell is their problem?’ You know the word introvert? This band takes that to a whole new level. I think I did not see the singer moving for ten minutes, the music is pretty slow and contains keyboards. I stayed listening only three songs to the groovy metal and went to a different stage.
 
Because there would be a demonstration of metal karaoke. This is a whole new phenomenon to me and it has two possibilities, you can either sing or play guitar of which the information is showed on a tv screen, with the music playing through the speakers. Very, very, very nice and funny. Most of the songs are from Iron Maiden since they have both easy chords structures and difficult lead guitars, but I believe that there were also some other songs. When it was over, I went back to the main stage, where Swallow the Sun had just ended and made place for the next event.
 
Finnish Metal Awards
To be honest, I still have no idea what happened there. I know some bands won something, but since the only words I recognized were ‘Kiitos’ (thank you) and ‘anus’, which I must have interpreted wrong, I was pretty bored. 



Nightwish won something, and ‘Miss Inferno 2006’ was standing like a statue of wax to present the prices. I believe Sentenced had won three awards.That’s all
 
I made an additional walk through the venue and I stopped to see a very special gig. It was a band; I don’t know their name, with only two members, a drummer on a very crappy drum kit and a bass player. 



Off course, it was just fun but still, it made a clear statement that heavy metal doesn’t need to be that complex or too demanding. Just some idiots playing an instruments and off we go. Great experience.
 
Afterwards I went to the balcony because there was also a karaoke set but with vocals only. Believe me or not, it was a great party and I believe I can understand why. The ‘true’ metal fans love the songs from the 70s and 80s but those bands do not perform at most of the festivals these days and a single ticket is very expensive. However, with this karaoke system, you can have a ‘live setting’ in which every song is available for performance. Everybody knows the lyrics and was extremely happy and even these introvert Finns started to talk openly to me. I’ve screamed with the lyrics of ‘Fear of the Dark’ by Iron Maiden, grunted Korn’s ‘Blind’ and shouted ‘Enter Sandman’ from Metallica. My personal version of ‘Holy Dive’ was a success for the crowd, but for me…..ow, it is time for the next band at the main stage.
 
Evergrey
The only band of the first day that I was familiar with on the forehand. And whether you like them or not, they’re great on stage. I start to like them more and more every time I see them live. At first, the crowd was a little bit shy, but when ‘Blinded’ was played everybody seemed to get loose. 



Front man Tom knows how to make people enthusiastic (he was actually the only person who used the word ‘fuck that day) and the Finns seem to like him. The set was pretty predictable but that didn’t bother me after a few Finnish bears. Off course they played ‘Recreation Day’ and my personal favorite ‘Touch of Blessing’ in a tremendous form. I really do not understand why ‘The Masterplan’ is everyone’s favorite but at least it was a great aftermath for a good show.
I really didn’t want to miss the beginning of the last act, since they seemed to be promising so I during the stage building I went to the balcony to watch some more karaoke. Yeah, I love that stuff. It was funny, really funny and the Finns in general are not such bad singers, but there are a few.
 
Then the last act, it was, huh, that’s not Terasbetoni like mentioned in the program but it’s Kotipelto. Fuck!!! I really had to go after the two incredible songs, performed in front of just a few people (it was almost one o’ clock) otherwise I wouldn’t have got at my apartment. I took some pictures, grabbed my jacket and went off.

 
The first day of the meeting made clear that metal in Finland is actually a mainstream scene. There are whole families going to concerts and daddy buys Anthrax cd’s for his 6-year old daughter. 14-year old kids carry their plastic bags with all the free stuff they can possibly gather, including flyers, posters and competition tickets, more flyers and more posters.
The trend at this meeting was that the accent lies strongly on the new acts. They get a lot of promotion whereas the oldies are present in the form of their best albums in the farthest corner of the record stores. That’s ok, but it makes it a very modern expo, with all the crappy merchandise like clocks, wallets and even wine coolers from your favorite bands.
The promotion is well, ehm, promoted but the information I could get was very limited. Most of the time, people only knew about the stuff they sold, but nothing more. That’s ok, but I wanted to know a little bit more about some bands, like Verjnuarmu. A nice result of this was the fact that because there are so many unknown bands, they are very accessible and you can ask them almost any time, when having a merchandise stand off course.
A final mark for the first day is about something that is general in Finland; the prices for the food and drinks. You can get half a liter of beer for five euros, a slice of pizza for four euros and stamped potatoes with meat for seven (vegetarians anyone?)
 
Oh, I almost forget. There was this promotion stand for a festival in Finland. I thought it was a great name and I hereby declare the ‘Sauna Open Air Festival’ as the best festival name ever. Congratulations on behalf of Metalrage.com!!
 
 
Saturday 18th of February
I was so tired. I was so freaking tired. I lost my key to my apartment the first night and I had to wait a while outside for almost three hours before the help service recognized my address in the computer. So, I got in bed pretty late and I felt terrible because of the cold. As a result, I said to myself that it was ok to skip the first couple of bands, since the expo started at two today. Unfortunately, I thus missed Waltari, Winterborn and Bloodpit. When I entered, the next band was already playing.
 
Naildown
I suppose I wasn’t the only one who skipped the first bands, since the venue was way emptier than yesterday. However, this band was actually quite ok, combining thrash and heavy metal with a nice attitude on stage. Unfortunately I saw only one and a half song before they left. Pity.
 
A quick look around the venue taught me that there were no changes at the expo, except that the acoustic sessions didn’t take place but drum clinics were given. I managed to shake hands with Tomas Haake who was on his way to a signing session and told me that Meshuggah is currently working on new material with the biggest touring plans so far. This was probably the best news of the whole weekend, so with a very good mood I took my way to the main stage once again.
 
SinKing
Where Verjnuarmu was the revelation of the Friday, SinKing overwhelmed me on Saturday with their metalcore songs. The guys all seemed to be pretty young and they reminded me of Agnostic Front at first sight, because of their strong live performance and lots of contact with the crowd. I really enjoyed their performance and it was actually the first time I saw a pretty good moshpit in Finland. 



‘That’s no coincidence’, I thought, so after the show I went off to their promotion stand and talked to the bass player Erno Hyvättinen to have a mini interview. He told me that they won the band contest last year, but there was no real profit like recording time or something like that. So, the single I got was recorded due to personal effort of the band members. He could agree with the fact that metal is mainstream in Finland and that they are trying to distinguish themselves by coming up with a great live show, something I could only agree with. Right now, there is enough material for a full-length album, which will be released during spring hopefully. However, since they have to do everything their selves, nothing is certain but since the attention towards the band is growing, there is good hope. About the touring information, there is very little certain, since it is hard for Finnish bands to cross the borders, but they’ve already played in Estonia and have a lot of aspirations to tour their asses off. As we talked, I sensed a pure excitement and I could see that everyone who’s involved in the band really believes in SinKing. One thing is clear to me: from all the (young and relatively small) bands I’ve seen this weekend, SinKing made the most impression to work their asses off to accomplish their musical goals. And from my opinion, it could sure be possible to make it in Europe.
 
ANJ
On of the three foreign bands this weekend is ANJ. 



The young band comes from Russia and although I appreciated their efforts and the young bass player (my god, how old is he) their nu-metalish songs couldn’t please me that much. The singer made a nervous impression so I was pretty fast done with this band.
 
As I was making notes in the corner of the balcony, I got in contact with a guy from Finland (yeah, duh) and we started to talk about metal in Finland. It was a really interesting conversation, a real eye-opener. He told me about my mysterious heroes of Verjnuarmu, as I mentioned before and some other interesting Finnish musicians such as Timo Rautiainen. Then I asked what the most popular Finnish metal band in Finland is, since there seem to be so many different ones. Well, take a guess, what would you think is the biggest?
Mine were, in this order:
-         Nigthwish?              No
-         Stratovarius?          Nope
-         Sonata Arctica?       Nope
-         Amorphis?               Come on.
-         Children of Bodom?   Nooho
It wasn’t Diablo, Fintroll, Sinamore or Silentium either. The most popular band in Finland is Mokoma. He described it as trash-heavy with melodies but without a keyboard. I asked if Annihilator would be a good comparison but that wasn’t it. He suggested to buy their ‘Kurimus’ album from 2003 which I eventually did. (with the rooster as the artwork) I had never heard of them, bought their cd and since I don’t expect most of the readers at Metalrage to know them as well, I’ll review the record whether it is three years old or not. Buy the way, the lyrics are in Finnish. Besides that, the ‘regular’ bands like Metallica W.A.S.P. AC/DC, Iron Maiden etc are very popular and every metal Finnish metal fan knows their material, just like everwhere I guess. Unfortunately, the conversation was interrupted due to the call of both the bladder and the upcoming act at the main stage.
 
45 Degree Woman
A lot of media attention was given to this band, since there were a lot of photographers at the front stage area and the promotion stand was pretty big. Well, maybe the attention is a little too much ‘cause the music is nothing special. 



The band makes heavy rock with a Chris Cornell-like vocalist. Unfortunately the raw characteristics are not present and the songs are little bit too easy. Also, the band has already got a really specified stage setting, which results in role-playing: every member is just standing on his place without moving from his spot and they do not seem to enjoy their performance. The singer does not make one mistake but he only looks straight forward into the nothing and the crowd seemed to be pleased with their disappearance from the stage, since they got the lousiest applause of the weekend. Take a look of the basics of performing guys!
 
Afterwards, haha, it started again: heavy metaaaaaal karaoke. I bought myself a beer while people sang ‘Sad but true’ and ‘What if I had an Angel’. I take a good look around and surprised as I was, the venue was now totally filled, even more than the day before. How could that be?? Kadengedadang!! The next band started.
 
Amorphis
If there was one band that you just couldn’t miss some information about, it was Amorphis. I believe they have a new record ‘Eclipse’ coming up which was promoted as hell during the weekend. For those of you who do not know ‘m, I would describe the band as ‘monkey-stepwise metal’, the type which makes you stamp your feed to the rhythms. I think it was a wise decision to let them play at this time, since most of the kids would have gone home afterwards (at eleven) and they’re well-known.



I must say, the show really, really impressed me and the reaction of the crowd was bigger than ever, with everyone raising their fist in the air (which is very typical in visiting concerts her, actually) and great songs. This band shows how important it is to have a good front man, since he’s in most cases the face of the band. For Amorphis, this leads to a good interaction with the crowd, a great sound and some tremendous guitar playing. I’m not that familiar with their work so I cannot give you information about the set list, but according to the crowd’s reaction, they played their all-time favorites. Considering the whole, namely stage performance, crowd interaction, visual aspects and sound, this was the best performance of the weekend.
 
I began to start feel really tired, since I had a tough night before and I decided to take it easy this time. Because the time schedule could not be followed that strict, it means that I could not see U.D.O. live. For me that’s not a big shame, I have never been a big Accept or U.D.O. fan, so nothing to worry about. There was still some time to check out a band that, according to the program, should be the rulers of the folk metal scene. We’ll, I was prepared.
 
Ensiferum
Indeed, the music is really ok, with their melodic but mystical tunes and naked upper bodies on stage. The crowd seemed to love the guys but after two songs I started to feel bored. I can name a lot of bands that would do a lot better, especially in song writing, so after twenty minutes I left the building, leaving the Vikings and their people behind, doing their job pretty good.
 
 
Finland and metal. Like I said, metal is mainstream and thus there are a lot of different bands, different styles and singing in Finnish is not an exception. As a result of that, everyone listens to metal so there is no real idea of ‘rebellions’ like I’m a little bit used to. This could explain why the fans are a little bit decent compared to the Dutch, whom I’m familiar with. Everybody just shuts up when the band is playing, expect for some ‘hey heys’ and after every songs there is a decent applause, the way it should be, in their opinion.  
I do think that the Finns are a little bit more open to different styles, especially the older generation. Where I come from, the older generation seems to ‘dislike’ new (nu-metal) bands and the young do not appreciate the oldies that much. Here it’s different, in my opinion more fair. New and old don't go hand in hand but the acceptance is better.
For me, it was a great opportunity to learn a specific part of the music business in the country I’m living in for a while. Loaded with tons of information, some new musical material but mostly an enrichment of experience, I got home, sat down on my couch and opened a Heineken. I know, it’s not the greatest brand ever, but hey;. Finland may have a well developed metal scene, their beer tastes like shit. At least we beat ‘m with that.
 
 
Details Written on Sunday Feb 19th, 2006
Writer @CarpeSiem

Tags: #Finnish Metal Meeting 2006