Festivals / EventsLive

Dark River Festival 2021: Bigger than ever

August 13-14, 2021, Kotka, Finland

GALLERY Day 1: Rytmihäiriö, Vorna, Kiuas, MyGrain, Kalmah, Marianas Rest, Finntroll, Damnation Plan, Evergrey

GALLERY Day 2: Horizon Ignited, Arion, Atlas, Mors Subita, Trve Cvlt Clvb, Swallow The Sun, One Morning Left, Lost Society, One Desire, Moonspell

As mentioned in the Smugglerrok review, a series of Covid-related cancellations and postponements left few Finnish festivals to actually take place, and these few naturally managed reaching the “sold out” bar early – here it was 4000 people in total. Unlike in Turku, I met a lot of people I hadn’t seen in 2.5 years at almost every corner. No wonder, Kotka can be reached in a less than 2 hours drive from Helsinki and therefore this event is especially attractive for Hellcity metalheads.

This time, the established precautions – as last year – this time included a pocket ashtray, great idea – and the festival’s own disinfectant as merch 🙂

Although so many were already fully vaccinated, the Finns dutifully adhered to mask and distance rules. That’s why there were no reported cases from those mass music events – the sporting events in Finland, however, had generated more of a problem…

The weather gods must be metal fans, too, because conditions were almost ideal during the whole weekend – sunny and warm, but not too hot – a single rain shower of not even 5 minutes on the first day caused an additional “light show”.

The forecast was wrong for day 2, luckily it only poured in the morning, then cleared up as if especially for the festival and remained another beautiful perfect day.
(We realised how bad it could have been the following day, getting soaked on the way to the bus only after 5min – despite rain coats…)

Not only radiation from the sky – sunshine and roses on stage too: so many musicians visibly overjoyed to be in front of an audience again (see Mors Subita for example here) and to feel all the affection and support of the fans.

Admittedly I “got lost” at first, because this time the new, more massive main stage was located where in the previous year a mini tent hosted solo artists at the beer area.

What had been the main stage for years turned out to be the second stage this time; and also the food zone had been relocated, which had offered the opportunity to make it a bit bigger. Great idea which worked brilliantly.

For many long-time fans who still knew the festival as a few-hundred-family event, this was already “too much”. And in my opinion, this 2021 mark should remain the maximum capacity with about 2000 people per day – a still quite comfortable and manageable size with minimum queuing.

Once again, I’ll ditch grandiose remarks about individual band performances and rather share a few impressions…

such as this ingenious solution for being able to place audience right behind the mixing tent.


With a spectrum ranging from rock-pop/goth-pop to metalcore, doom and thrash to folk and progressive metal, there was definitely something for everyone.

And no need to mention that all the gigs were great, all the bands giving everything and being celebrated enthusiastically by a live-performance-hungry audience. Naturally, the special reunion show of Kiuas, exclusively for this festival, and the most eagerly awaited bands (according to audience polls) Finntroll and Swallow the Sun received an especially warm welcome. One of the fan questions regarding the latter was also answered – yes, “Saint Juha” (Raivio) actually appeared in the flesh on stage 😉


What I noticed was for example Vorna’s drum kit design, and later the antics of the One Morning Left drummer – this band probably delivered the funniest festival gimmick ever: at the end of their gig, a fan was invited on stage for a flute solo (!!!!) (see this video, ca. at 1:45 min )


Although Finntroll’s stage outfit is actually unique and difficult to top, Mariana’s rest stood out too – contact lenses or tattooed eyeballs?


The absolute festival highlight for most visitors was naturally the performance of Portuguese Moonspell. Some of the female fans, however, were a bit shocked by Fernando’s new hairstyle… It seems there have been last-minute uncertainties and difficulties with the trip to Finland, actually until shortly before their scheduled gig – which I could gather from the regular MC announcements on that day (“yes, they’re here, they’re on their way”)….



My personal festival highlight was nevertheless Evergrey, whose brilliant songs I was finally able to see live (and for the first time).




And finally, my big thanks (again) to the organisers who, despite all the difficulties, did not throw in the towel, and all the volunteers whose tireless efforts make such festivals possible at all. Thanks are also due to the disciplined audience, and let’s hope we will be seeing you all again in 2022!

Klaudia Weber

reckless and merciless dictator, so KNEEL! In other words, editor-in-chief, translator, website and ad admin, "Jane of all trades" - - - addicted to books (everything between Lord Of The Rings & quantum physics) and music, mainly Metal made in Finland. Furthermore, there's painting, drawing, movies, theater... so you can expect some variety on this website too. MA Master of Arts, English and American studies & Media communication = completed two full studies parallel within 5 years; very proud of my achievement - a bit later in life thanks to a scholarship - as a working class girl in a highlyconservative-romancatholic nation...