Metal for Kids: The war of dinosaurs
Once upon a time in Finland, somebody had a brilliant idea – which is modern music for children, or better: Rock/Heavy Metal for very very young fans. Surely also Metal-parents are overjoyed that there´s a less nerve-racking alternative to Smurfs and Snappy the crocodile. For example cute dinosaurs named Muffi Puffi, Milli Pilli, Komppi Momppi and Riffi Raffi. Why those exist in duplicate and why it´s a bit „huffy-gruffy“ with those „twins“ Hevisaurus and SauruXet, you can read here…
However, those acts mentioned are not the only ones in this new and rapidly expanding genre, which became very popular in the Metal-nation Finland. It´s difficult to evaluate who came up with this idea first …
Whether inventor or “just” pioneers, the Finnish musicians Jaakko Halttunen and Marko Skou already started in 2000 with „target group oriented Rock music“. Both worked in a Kindergarten back then and were less than impressed with the catalogue of children songs and re-worked Motörhead´s Killed By Death to „Kilpailu“ (contest) and presented it at a nursery party. The positive response encouraged them to continue children-friendly adaptations of Heavy classics (e.g. Iron Maiden, Judas Priest). In 2004 they founded a real „Metal-for-kids“ band:
Moottörin Jyrinä (www.moottorinjyrina.com).
Eventually they started writing their own Power-Metal-oriented songs with discretely educational lyrics and began playing live shows. It took some years, though, until the „Motor-Thunder“ debut CD came out. Recently their second CD “Metallimyrski” (Metal-Storm) was released, and their first video about the topic „those stupid adults“ – who are always grumpy when they come home from work and seemed to have forgotten how to play and have fun: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBtoNgxxpes
The author of this article felt tempted to introduce this band to her Finnish-illiterate Metal- friends – because “on aika mennä nukkumaan” (“It´s time to go to sleep“) is such a catchy Metal song where only the lyrics reveal that it´s for kids … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2EBZzF0bOE (btw: the EP “Nupit Luoteeseen” features that song in the German version “Schlafenszeit”).
Their label VL-Musiikki has more bands like this, e.g. the rather Punk-Rock based Jytäjyrsijät (“cereal eaters”) founded in 2007, who sport rats as their band mascots on the CD cover, the musicians play live, just like Mottörin Jyrinä, as „themselves“. Their lyrics usually deal with food and eating habits („Ketchup sandwich“) – moreover, they seem to be obsessed with edibles, just look at their Myspace-friends: www.myspace.com/jytajyrsijat.
Less Rock-inspired are Vokki-Myyrät (something like “humming moles“) who rather focus on traditional bandsman style and instrumentation and breathe new (modern) life into passed-down Finnish children songs (www.vokki.com).
The sky high rocketing (Finnish) market leaders of this new genre “Metal for Kids” became Hevisaurus, founded in 2008, where all musicians wear dinosaur costumes – and therefore the line-up can be changed. The band history begins about 65 Mio years ago, when Herra Hevisaurus (Tyrannosaurus Rex, vocals), Milli Pilli (Triceratops, keyboard), Komppi Momppi (Apatosaurus, drums), Riffi Raffi (Dragon, guitar), Muffi Puffi (Stegosaurus, bass) were frozen in a magic mountain and finally re-awakened in 2009 by a thunderbolt. Their lyrics deal with dinosaurs, fairy tale characters, superheroes or annoying homework. The concept includes top-guest musicians in studio (e.g. Apocalyptica, Children Of Bodom, Stratovarius, Sonata Arctica, Finntroll or HIM) and live they take care that the maximum noise level is 85 decibel.
After their live debut in Sept 2009 the saurs made a deal with Sony BMG, released their first album shortly afterwards and performed a children musical in Helsinki´s Peacock theater. Their second CD “Hirmuliskojen Yö” (The night of the horrible lizards) shot up to Finnish top charts instantly and became the second-best selling record of 2010, only Pop-Diva Jenni Vartiainen sold some more CDs than Hevisaurus. They also received an Emmi (= Finnish music award), and concerts are always hopelessly sold out (review here). Their latest album “Räyh!” seems to continue this success story. www.hevisaurus.com
But when money (a lot of!!) is coming in, conflicts are due as well. Ilkka Mattila, Helsingin Sanomat, reported about this tragic-comical dinosaur war on August 8, 2011 in detail;
a summary of it: Originally the Metal musicians Mirka Rantanen, Nino Laurenne (Thunderstone) and producer Pasi Heikkilä (e.g. Ari Koivunen) developed this „Heavy-band for kids, dressed as dinosaurs“ concept. Rantanen (also acting as drummer Komppi Momppi) and Laurenne are also part of the company Helsinki Pump Production, who offered Hevisaurus to various record companies. They made a deal with Sony Music about release and marketing, the rights for the name stayed with Helsinki Pump. When the second CD took off, Rantanen – as main songwriter and concept designer – expected some better shares in a new contract, yet did not want to give up the rights on Hevisaurus. Hence he had a fall-out with Helsinki Pump, who made a new contract with Sony – so the conflict zone moved over to label grounds. The label preferred to continue with a new team, Laurenne and Heikkilä plus Olavi Tikka and Lordi´s Tomi Putaansuu. Rantanen won over the Hevisaurus-live staff and created the „twin“ SauruXet, where the singer´s name was changed to Herra Saurus.
Sony went to court and had the original costumes confiscated from Rantanen … as their contract was with Helsinki Pump Productions who also own the brand Hevisaurus. On the other hand they don´t have a problem with interpreting Hevisaurus as franchise, where different versions can exist at the same time, or SauruXet as Cover-Band. Rantanen rather sees himself as inventor and creator of the Hevisaurus idea and therefore owner of the rights – which he doesn´t want to give away. The quarrel might continue for months or even 2 years, although – thus the remark of the HS article author – neither the kids nor the parents care too much about who is really inside those costumes.
The story from Rantanen´s view can be read in more detail (in English language) here
SauruXet have also recently released their debut album „Saurusplaneetta“ (Dinosaur-Planet) via Leka Prod./Playground Music, and by going straight to Nr 2 in the charts, they are at least equally successful as their „twin band“. SauruXet base their back story – as tiny audioplay – on „dinosaurs in space“, and the music remains on the grounds of Power Metal with fairy tale oriented lyrics. The singer – Herra Saurus – has a slightly higher and clearer voice than Herra Hevisaurus, which – at least for my ears – is the only remarkable difference. www.sauruxet.com
The dinosaur war is restricted to lawyer´s offices for now. Only occasionally the conflict is visible between the acts directly – and seems a bit childish, too. You can see, for example, the expression “Räyh!” (something like „Helter-Skelter!“) on SauruXet-concert posters, and it´s also used as title of the new Hevisaurus album…
How do the little fans react to this split? Will SauruXet- and Hevisaurus-Fans react a la “East Coast vs. West Coast Rapper” and rage war in Kindergarden, throw dummies or Lego pieces at each other, are scooter-waterpistol drive-by-shootings about to happen?
photo taken at Hevisaurus-show by Kimmo Rantala
What I could witness as target group reactions (Elviira 4, sister Hertta 19 months): no matter which band was played, the excitement is the same – well, when the groove was mid-tempo Power Metal. Although in Elviira´s opinion Herra Hevisaurus has the better voice, she could not name any band as „better“ when asked. And Hertta cannot really speak yet… but also she seemed to enjoy both bands equally.
Therefore let´s try to focus on the positive aspect. More supply, more variety, less lowering threat of a monopole ( ONE band, ONE label) and endless repetition of the same idea, the same music. The target group and their parents have more often the chance to visit a show, which might keep the ticket prices at bay. The demand is still rising, so it seems, and Finnish Metal-for-children bands should consider a way to cross Finnish boundaries – or better, language.
There are first steps taken, as mentioned above, and there are similar acts popping up, e.g. German Randale. A marketing campaign combined with live-shows at crucial summer festivals abroad (e.g. Wacken) could unleash a new wave of (Finnish) Metal-für-Kids on international scale. Don´t forget, it´s still the parents who buy the CD – and those are surely impressed by „lullabies a la Europe“ and rocking dinosaurs…
(UPDATE: In the meantime the legal battle has been settled, Hevisaurus won, Sauruxet no longer exist, the ed.)