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Helsinki Metal Meeting 2011

A couple of years ago, the annual Finnish Metal Expo was for the first time marketed as an expanded format, dubbed Helsinki Metal Meeting and including various club gigs in addition to the Expo itself. This year there were no additional gigs on Friday and Saturday, but the opening event at Virgin Oil Co. on Thursday night offered an attractive billing in its own right. [TS]

Interactive photo gallery at the end of the text!

were not from another planet but they were from Sweden. However, the sound was quite terrestrial and stuck out with very well matching guitars, bass and drums. Johannes Eckerström’s vocals were very original.

He somehow combined growling and screeching. Not everyone in the audience liked that. But for me, all stress that piled up during the week was screamed out through his voice. And I would have really liked a sip of the stuff in the fuel can, which the frontman used to lubricate his voice between the songs. By the way, the songs got better and better over the gig. (GK)

The Swedes were followed by Verenpisara, who were returning from an almost five-year hiatus. Their line-up had changed slightly, since original bassist Niclas Etelävuori had quit some time ago.

© Tina Solda
His replacement was Toni “Atoni” Laroma, whom I had last seen in late 2006 on that same stage, together with the same lead guitarist and drummer but in a different band, namely Ajattara. That gig had been a catastrophe of epic proportions, and all members except singer Ruoja had left the band immediately afterwards. In comparison to this memory, the Verenpisara show bordered on perfection. In reality, as was to be expected after such a long break, there were a few audible mistakes; at least “Syntyminen” didn´t start quite according to plan. However, I don´t think it bothered any fan in the audience because it simply felt great to have Verenpisara back. With fresh material to boot; three out of nine songs (“Kohtalon määräämä”, “Suunta” and “Kuinka usein”) were from the brand new album, excellent live material all of them. And just when we just thought the last song – “Aamunodottaja” – was over, came the best part of it in the form of a climactic three-minute guitar solo. Let it be stated once and for all that Tomi Koivusaari´s resemblance to David Gilmour does not end with his looks.
Setlist: Sinun tyyneytesi vie voiton kaikesta / Nuoli / Kohtalon määräämä / Suunta / Syntyminen / Irtileikattu / Kuinka usein / Arvetkin kauneuspilkuiksi /Aamunodottaja [TS]

© Tina Solda.
Before the Dawn
Finally after half a year hiatus, Before the Dawn were back on stage. They started into the gig with “The First Snow” and “Winter Within” from the new album “Deathstar Rising”. They also played some very old songs such as “My Darkness”, “Scar” and “Away”, but also some songs from the 2007 and 2008 albums. Another highlight was the title track from the actual album. The dancefloor filled up immediately, the tables were empty and everybody in best mood. The drummer (Atte Palokangas) gave all his power, twirled his sticks and made the beat for all these guys in the audience who used this gig as training session for the next world championship in air guitar playing. BTD could only leave the stage after playing “Deadsong” as encore. (GK)
Setlist: The First Snow / Winter Within / The Black / My Darkness / Scar / Away / Disappear / Deathstar / Monsters / Wrath / Dying Sun / Encore: Deadsong

Friday, February 18, 2011
The basic layout of Kaapelitehdas was the same as last year, and most exhibitors were back in their familiar places. The number of visitors, however, seemed to have dropped quite a bit from last year´s figure, which might be partly attributable to the simplified ticket policy. Whereas in previous years it had been possible to buy cheap tickets for the general Expo area (fair stands, clinics and bar) areas without access to the main stage, this year there had been only the more expensive full-access version. I was told by several people at Virgin Oil Co. the night before that they were skipping the main event this year for this very reason, and presumably they were not the only ones.

© Tina Solda.
The most original stand this year had been set up by Kypck, who in addition to a table laden with Soviet-inspired artefacts (including Sami Lopakka´s famous Kalashnikov guitar and J.T. Ylä-Rautio´s one-string bass) had brought a huge old motorcycle of presumably Russian origin. The bigger signing sessions were again staged at the EMP stand, but some artists could be met at their respective labels´ stands. Century Media for example offered a meet & greet session with Triptykon, who appeared much less gloomy off stage than during their show later on.

© Tina Solda.
Fooling around on cool guitars is always a must at the FME; this year I spent quite some time at the new Modulen Music Group stand butchering Verenpisara riffs on an aptly colored red-and-black Mayones with, yes indeed, blood red strings.

© Tina Solda.
Conspicuous in its absence, on the other hand, was Musamaailma. From what I heard, they´ve been too busy this year with preparations for the soon-to-be-opened warehouse outlet, but I hope they´ll be back at the FME 2012 with a stand and particularly with their entertaining clinics. This time around, the clinic stage was used for the band contest on Saturday – more on that later – while on Friday it was hosted by F-Musiikki, who were obviously short of ideas about what to do with it. Apart from one performance by Radar, which I missed, the stage was occupied only by two guitarists taking turns or performing together (plus rhythm section).

© Tina Solda.
While the technical proficiency of Mr. Crab and Mr. Fastfinger is undeniably impressive, their faster-than-thou “Ultimate Guitar” jam session was plain boring. Sorry, but I just don´t care how many notes can be squeezed into a second if they don´t form a recognizable melody… [TS]

I arrived a little bit late to the Deathchain gig. However, I immediately found myself in a completely different atmosphere compared to bright sunshine outside, which was created by very gloomy Black/Trash Metal. Unfortunately also the photos drowned in fog and murk. Beside me just a handful of people had arrived yet. But the first row raised their fists and in the second row all the headbangers were ready to get started.

played a very surprising mixture of Rap Metal with Reggae elements. At first the knees were brought into a relaxed condition and with the refrain the neck muscles came into action. The gig was very entertaining. But again, only few people were present yet. Therefore frontman Binski used this situation to climb over the barrier in order to get into contact with the audience. Also after the show, fans could hug him and make photos with him.

The Swiss Melodic Death Metal band Dreamshade got powerfully of the right foot. The setlist comprised songs like “Miles Away” and “Wide Awake” from the current album “What Silence Hides”. But again it was obvious that mainly only fans were present at this early evening at the cable factory. However, especially the fans were heated up by frontman Iko so that the group in front of the stage started to move. (GK)

Of Friday´s domestic bands, the one I was
most eager to check out was MyGrain . I haven´t paid much attention to them in the past, but the new album sounds pretty complete, with many facets to it and never dull. Neither was their live set.

The stage setup brought to mind Swallow The Sun, because apart from the drummer, everyone including keyboardist Eve was positioned in the front row. The keyboards cut through nicely – which is not always the case at Kaapelitehdas – and added defining nuances to the massive onslaught. Variety is also an essential characteristic of singer Tommy, whose clean range seems to encompass almost three octaves, not to mention his mean growl. Of the five songs MyGrain played, “Trapped In An Hourglass” was arguably the best demonstration of his skills and also featured some of the set´s finest guitar work, but unfortunately it was already the last song. Wouldn´t have minded listening to more of this stuff.
Setlist: Into The Parallel Universe / Dust, Devils And Cosmic Storms / Of Immortal Aeons / ? / Trapped In An Hourglass [TS]

For The Imperium
played sound guitar-based rock. The guitarists gripped energetically into the chords and twirled over the stage. The rather small audience kept waiting and – me included – probably tried to get an impression. But the band could not ignite a spark. Songs with growled chants were quite okay, but some more melodic ones appeared out of tune. (GK)

The coming summer will mark my tenth time at Tuska, but in all those years few if any bands there have left me as deeply awestruck as Celtic Frost did in 2006. That was the first and last time I saw them live, since they disbanded not too long afterwards.

© Tina Solda
Now Tom G. Warrior was finally back in Helsinki with his new band Triptykon, so it goes without saying that they were Friday´s main act for me. And I got what I had come for, a one-hour unholy mass celebrated by the High Priest of hypnotic darkness and bombastic minimalism in all his might. Surprisingly, there were only two songs from Triptykon´s 2010 debut, namely “Goetia” and “The Prolonging”. The song that had grabbed me most back in 2006, “Synagoga Satanae” was still in the set and almost as intense as back then, but the other half of the set went back to the eighties with two tracks from the Morbid Tales/Emperor´s Return era and even a Hellhammer song, “Messiah”. Timeless.
Setlist: Crucifixus [intro] / Procreation (Of The Wicked) / Goetia / Circle of the Tyrants / Messiah / Synagoga Satanae / The Prolonging

Trying to impress me after Triptykon would have been a tough job for almost any band, but one that was definitely not up to it was Symfonia. Being of German and Italian descent, a love of power metal should presumably be in my blood, but fortunately I´ve been spared this genetic defect.

© Tina Solda
Or wait, when I first heard Stratovarius´ “Episode” back in 1996, I briefly thought it was kind of cool. But the effect wore off very quickly, and since everything else I heard from this band after that sounded pretty much the same, I developed a serious allergy to their stuff before long. Suffice it to say that Timo Tolkki´s new band didn´t sound any different to me either, so after watching them for three songs, I retreated to the safety of the bar at the other end of the building. I later heard that Tolkki smashed his guitar at the end of the show, which made me all the happier not to have been there to witness the scene. Deliberately wrecking a perfectly fine instrument wasn´t even cool when Jimi Hendrix did it back in the day, sorry. [TS]

were much anticipated by a large audience which started to run hot with chanting the band´s name. Joakim Brodén thanked all the Finnish fans already at the beginning. Sabaton are currently on world tour but they will come again to Finland during the summer for the Ruisrock festival. It was obvious that this show was dedicated to the Finnish fans. After a few songs a Finnish flag was exposed on the stage and also the Sabaton-banner appeared within the Finnish flag.

The show was really hot. Literally. Flamethrower accompanied the stammering beats and fans shouting Hei-Hei. For this reason taking photos directly in front of the stage was impossible. Nevertheless, we found a way to capture the great mood also visually! (GK)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Turmion Kätilöt
Besides this early hour amazingly many metal fans found their ways to the cable factory on Saturday afternoon. And they were rewarded with a very good concert. “Verta ja lihaa” belongs to the standard program. But also the new single “Ihmisixsixsix” was on the playlist. The atmosphere was great right from the beginning. The show as well but – unfortunately – reasonably for this time. Especially Spellgoth wore way to many clothes in my opinion and only dropped his jacked after few songs. However, this way we could spend all our attention to the very impressive and bloody make-up by MC Raaka Pee and Co.

When the Swedes entered the stage, way less audience was present. Nevertheless, Corroded played really good guitar rock, which was underlined by Jens Westin’s strong voice. After the second song he thought that it would but already time for beer, but instead he intoned “Time and Again”. Also songs from the current album “Exit to Transfer” were played, for example “Forget About Me”. But you should not forget these guys. And to everybody who missed them: you really missed out something.(GK)

As mentioned before, on Saturday the clinic stage was dedicated to a band contest, hosted by Century Media who would offer a recording contract to the winner. As my little notebook was running out of pages, I visited a downtown bookstore before heading over to Kaapelitehdas, but my misconception that there was a direct subterranean connection from that shop to the nearest metro station led me right into a prolonged odyssey through the miraculous underworld of our beloved capital. I ultimately ended up on a train all right (albeit from a different stop than the one I had envisioned) and reached my goal, but not until two out of four contestants had finished their sets.

© Tina Solda
The third was Avathar (no relation to Thursday´s opener), who looked like an unfinished copy of Turisas or Battlelore but turned out a very pleasant surprise. Their musical versatility and the interplay between male and female vocals was a good notch above the typical orcs vs. elf type LARP metal I admittedly expected, and the jurors´ commments after the short set were very positive.

© Tina Solda
Much more so, in fact, than for Oddland, the final contestant, who were rightfully said to be technically brilliant – let me add that the frontman´s vocal prowess matched the quartet´s instrumental skills – but somehow sterile and not very exciting to watch (their unbecoming outfits significantly contributed to this impression). The songs were packed with cool progressive hooks and melodies, but not quite a coherent whole yet to my ears. However, Century Media possibly recognized a diamond in the raw, because Oddland ended up winning the contest and the contract. Congrats!

© Tina Solda
Meanwhile on the main stage, The Man-Eating Tree were starting their set. Their debut album has been out for a few months already, but I had only very recently found the vinyl edition I had been waiting for. So I wasn´t very familiar with the songs yet, but my positive impression of them was strongly corroborated by this gig. Tuomas Tuominen was fighting the flu with some hot drink from a thermos bottle and said that the doctor had ordered him not to speak between songs, but his vocal performance didn´t seem much affected. The setlist included one non-album track, “Vultures”, which is apparently available as a so-called digital single but also supposed to be on the next album. Unfortunately MET only played for half an hour, finishing with a pretty heavy version of “Amended”. But with the singer being sick, a full-length set might not have been a smart endeavor anyway.
Setlist: Lathing a New Man / Out of the Wind / Vultures / Instead of Sand and Stone / Of Birth for Passing / Amended

Next, it was time for the Sakara Awards (which officially still go by the moniker Finnish Metal Awards), but shockingly enough, the label missed out in one of the categories they were eligible for – best instrumentalist – and it doesn´t look like they are going to sign the newcomer or the demo act of the year anytime soon either. Epic Fail!

Anyway, here´s the winners for 2010: Best…
…album:1. Stam1na – Viimeinen Atlantis 2. Mokoma – Sydänjuuret 3. Black Sun Aeon – Routa
…band: 1. Stam1na 2. Mokoma 3. Before The Dawn
…newcomer: 1. Barren Earth 2. Pressure Points 3. The Man-Eating Tree
…album artwork: 1. Mokoma – Sydänjuuret 2. Stam1na – Viimeinen Atlantis 3. Black Sun Aeon – Routa

© Tina Solda
…instrumentalist: 1. Tuomas Saukkonen 2. Pekka Olkkonen 3. Alexi Laiho
…vocalist: 1. Antti Hyyrynen 2. Marko Annala 3. Tomi Joutsen
…demo act: 1. Frosttide 2. Bob Malmström 3. Disease Of The Nation

If the awards ceremony was – apart from the historic moment of known teetotaller Tuomas Saukkonen taking a victory gulp from a bottle of beer – a rather boring affair, the next band definitely wasn´t. I don´t particularly care for 1980s mainstream metal and the music of Battle Beast is consequently not really my cup of tea, but you just gotta love Nitte Valo for her powerhouse voice and take-no-prisoners stage personality.

© Tina Solda
“Enter The Metal World” proved that she is also capable of a more tender delivery, but fast and furious is what this warrior queen is best at. The tight set ended with “Show Me How To Die”, but contrary to this title, the band is bursting with vitality and didn´t win the Wacken Metal Battle 2010 for nothing.
Setlist: Justice And Metal / The Band of the Hawk / Armageddon Clan / Cyberspace / Enter the Metal World / Victory / Show Me How To Die [TS]

© Tina Solda
The Norwegians immediately started to heat up. They played at least twenty minutes without any interrupting spiel. The show was very wild. Already after two songs frontman Erlend Hjelvik got rid of his T-Shirt. But probably it was still too hot on the stage. Therefore he just jumped into the press ditch, climbed over the barrier and continued his show in the audience. The mood there was also close to the boiling point.

© Tina Solda
Accept were one of the headliners this evening and they were simply awesome on the guitars and base. And also the rasping voice of Mark Tonillo convinced me. This was rock music with great physical exertion so that it was just fun to photograph them. Also the fans played with most physical exertion. They were new every word in each song, even when such extremely old songs such as “Restless and Wild” were played. And I’m sure, half of them would be capable to easily replace one the guitarists, the bassist or the drummer … just in case.
Setlist: Teutonic Terror / Bucket Full Of Hate / Starlight / Breaker / New World Comin’ / Restless and Wild / Son of a Bitch / Metal Heart / Neon Nights / Bulletproof / The Abyss / Aiming High / Princess of the Dawn / Up to the Limit / Burning / Fast as a Shark / Pandemic / Balls to the Wall (GK)

© Tina Solda
Remembering last year´s endless wait for a cab upon leaving the venue at the same time as everyone else, I hadn´t planned to stay until the very end this time. All the more so since it was just as cold as a year ago, somewhere around -18°C. However, reliable sources told me that Ghost were not to be missed. With no idea what to expect from this new Swedish band, I went to check them out, and already the intro convinced me that staying would be worthwhile. If Triptykon last night evoked ecclesiastical associations, these guys had actually made a concept of the theme and came on stage dressed as a bishop and a group of hooded monks. There was no black metal involved, though; their inspiration rather seemed to be drawn from the likes of Blue Öyster Cult. In the beginning I was slightly put off by the playback parts but all in all the show was quite fascinating – a solemn ceremony to conclude another hectic but happy Expo weekend.
Setlist: Con Clavio Con Dio / Elizabeth / Death Knell / Satan Prayer / Stand By Him / Prime Mover / Ritual [TS]

text & photos: Grit Kabiersch, Tina Solda

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Tina Solda - concert and festival reports, photos, interviews - - - Favorite genres: I don't care much about genres, but on a grossly generalized level I like melancholic death, unconventional black, melodic doom, dramatic folk and smart pagan metal (main regions: Iceland, Finland & Norway) - - - Other interests: guitar, books, beer, movies, cats.