Helsinki, New Year Eve 2007/08. Finally we`re back again! For the hotels and bars a blessing and curse in one, because - abiding by a since the late 90s existing tradition - the craziest HIM-fans gather in the Finnish capital city Helsinki every year around new years eve, in order to at least once in a lifetime join the crowd at one of the legendary Tavastia-gigs – a point of honor! But since the international HIM-pilgrims, once arrived in Helsinki, already have lost a lot of their buying power, you will find the most popular local bars totally full, but the glasses on the tables are mostly filled with water! So much for the curse.
However, in the end it seems to be profitable for everybody involved, because Helldone festival in the notorious live-clubs Tavastia and Semifinal and formed around the annual Silvester presence of the headliners HIM is taking place for the third time. Known for the special, familiar atmosphere and valued as a meeting point for old and new friends, this festival is a very attractive alternative to the classic party at home. Here fans from Russia, all over Scandinavia and Europe, the USA, Mexico and even Australia join together to celebrate the New Year with their favorite band. A lot of people already make their appointments for next year, same time, same place. So if you don`t have plans for Silvester 2008/09 already, Helldone festival is definitely worth a thought! (KD)
Helldone, day 1, Dec 29, 2007 – Cold beer and hot “heart boys”
The Black League The openers of Helldone this year were the rockers of The Black League. Those guys don´t have to learn anything about Rock any more. Their lyrics mostly deal with the sins of this life and were appreciated also by the Tavastia crowd. Although this band did not quite fit into the rest of the line-up, The Black League and front man / ex-Sentenced singer Taneli Jarva fired up the still quite small audience. Songs like "Bunker King" and a bottle of Whisky were part of the act, as well as Cowboy hat and –boots. In this case it wasn´t about "Cold Woman And Warm Beer", but exactly the other way round. Unfortunately their set was short and focused on the most recent album. (SM)
Swallow The Sun It´s impossible that those guys from Jyväskylä perform a bad gig, and also this time the band convinced the crowd, playing a mixture of old and new hits – e.g. Hope, Descending Winters, Out Of This Gloomy Light, Don´t Fall Asleep, These Hours Of Despair, Swallow – flawlessly and with full power. Still this show could not quite live up to the one with Amorphis at Nosturi (check STALKER review href="http://www.stalker.cd/index.php?lang=1&content=22&kat=stalker_special&id=113&&lang=2">
here). Difficult to pinpoint the reason, perhaps the audience was a bit too lethargic, the band a bit too nervous, or the faces of keyboarder Aleksi a bit too fierce? (See photo below). Still those Finnish gods of Doom surely found some new followers among those at the festival who heard and saw Swallow The Sun for the very first time. (KW)
Kings of Fools The name of this band doesn´t sound too promising, but this Folk Rock band, founded 2004, doesn´t take it too seriously and provides some acoustic fun and cosy campfire feeling. Those who did not know the songs had no problem singing along, the lyrics are catchy and the singers Apassi and Sleepy, supported by Basser Bandit and Bon, the band´s own bartender, invited to sing along. The lyrics are partly funny, partly emotional and just stay in your mind. They captured the crowd at once and created a cheerful atmosphere. Songs like “Enemy“ or “Hobo“ are to be loved at once, the band and the music left a very good likeable impression. Kings of Fools provided a Helldone memory of a different kind, thank you! (KD)
This Mannhai transparent could fool you as it was the only thing you managed to spot on the Semifinal stage, the band playing there, however, was Snipedrive, performing an Alternative style that reminded a bit of Alice In Chains and excited their fans. For me it was too full (impossible to get to the front for photos), too loud, too hot and the music not quite my thing. Therefore I did not attempt to catch a glimpse of the Semifinal headliners – Mannhai – later. Next time, guys... (KW)
Mokoma Their massive aggressive Thrash sound with Finnish lyrics devided less opinions but nationalities. Mokoma mainly appealed to their fellow Finns who stayed inside and cheered to the band. Those who did not speak this language – or did not like Thrash Metal too much – preferred to hang out at the bar and followed the show via monitor. Still Mokoma is worth seeing, if only for the unique droll styling of front man Marko; those guys never rested and fired up their crowd. (KW)
Von Hertzen Brothers As everybody expected, the first Helldone evening finishes with a highlight. The headliners of that day are another promising Finnish band. The international audience must have heard from the guys already, because the band faced great interest. Kie, Mikko and Jonne, they actually are brothers in real life, do psychedelic hard rock with a lot of keyboard and powerful bass and guitars. I try to describe the sound: Audioslave, Incubus, a little Nirvana, even with a notion of Pink Floyd. But totally independent, though. Singer Kie convinces with his casual, likeable charisma, a clear performance and a voice that reminds you of Chris Cornell. The band transports a such positive energy that seems to attract everybody`s legs and hearts tonight.
The “jack of hearts” (or “heart boys”, as their last names could be translated) mostly did songs from their 2006 released album "Approach", there under the single releases "In your Arms", "Let thy Will be Done" and "Kiss a Wish". With "Freedom Fighter" and "In the End" they introduced two brand-new songs that at once have been well received in the audience. A band with great potential Finland has many a reason to be proud of. Assure yourself and go to one of their concerts at the next opportunity, you won`t regret it for sure! (KD)
Helldone, day 2, Dec 30, 2007 - A Trip to Cthulhu
Ajattara Somehow I had mixed up the schedule and came a bit too late to Tavastia, seeing just the last third of Ajattara´s energetic show. Pasi Koskinen presented himself once again as charismatic front man with rustic attitude, the sound of the band mixes powerful Black/Death Metal with a touch of Finnish Folklore – plus a good reputation as live band, no wonder they are among the most popular acts in their home country and always attract huge crowds. Also this time there were much more people than on the previous day. (KW)
Blake The same impression – unfortunately – from this Finnish act, as it was difficult not to suffer from claustrophobic fits when entering the Semifinal... Blake did not hesitate to entertain their lively audience with powerful dirty Rock´n´Roll and songs like Dryland, Tools, Outsider und Demon´s Eye, until the headliner of this day gave his Helsinki / Finland debut on the main stage. (KW)
Fields Of The Nephilim God bless Ville Valo, because he picked the bands this year personally, and somehow managed to get those Gothic legends back on a stage after all those years of hiding… Fields Of The Nephilim have always been overshadowed by the – more commercial – Sisters Of Mercy since their very beginnings in the mid 80s. Wrongly, as the exceptional vocalist Carl McCoy and his guys had definitely much more influence on generations of Goth/Doom and even Death Metal bands… despite their refusal of business demands. No interviews, cryptic home-page, practically no merchandise, a single or a best-of CD once in a decade, and the last gig on the European continent was in 2000 or so, at M`era Luna festival, and despite of bright sunlight and summer heat it gave you the creeps… (on the British island they actually played in May 2007, after many years, ONE gig...)
This time the band tried to be as invisible as possible, even for those right in front of them: Impenetrable fog, dusty Western movie outfit and minimalist lighting – as if the young „remolded“ band around mastermind McCoy had appeared right from another dimension. As if Cthulhu had spit out the most sinister of its demons.
The massive sound wall was sometimes a bit too massive, still clear and perfect as if from a CD. Whenever the receding mist allowed to catch a glimpse below the Cowboy hat, you got the impression that Carl had not changed at all, he seemed untouched by time, still looking exactly like on those 80s Fields-photos; slim, mysterious and still an exceptional singer who gives you growls from hell as well as dark “Goth” vocals or clean voice – obviously a lot of singers have learned from him…
Compared with Carl even Swallow The Sun´s Mikko appears to be a highly communicative chatterbox: Totally focused on his performance, hiding behind his hat and just muttering a "thank you" when they left stage for the first time, and then again after the encores… Yet he didn´t have to fire up the crowd, neither verbally nor with gestures, because the audience went nuts from the very first second he had entered stage, and his charisma kept the crowd breathless until the last accord faded. Moreover, their choice of classics and more recent songs was indeed a treat: Shiva, Straight To The Light, Penetrate, Dawnrazor, For Her Light, Last Exit For The Lost, Moonchild – the latter songs have not lost their appeal in all those years. It took a while until the band reacted to the fervid “encore” shouts, but then I almost jumped off the balcony: Psychonaut!!! No wonder the entire Tavastia turned ecstatic, too... after that they played "Mourning Sun", the title track from the „new“ album (2006) – and then unfortunately it was over, 90 minutes had flown by. Let´s just hope it doesn´t take another 7 years until we can see this band live again! (KW)
PS: That DJ, who played this horrible Swing-versions-of-Metal-classics CD right afterwards, giving you the equivalent of a cold shower outside at -20 degrees, should avoid to meet me in a dark alley…
Helldone, day 3, Dec 31, 2007 – Hell breaks loose
The Skreppers Let the party begin! The next act seems to be predestinated for this job, I`m talking about the psychobilly band The Skreppers. It appears that this formation unites the whole Finnish music culture from Humppa and Tangoking to Rock`n`Roll and Glam to a stirring party experience. The jokers set off a mixture of Turbonegro, Sisters of Mercy and Elvis with a splash of punk that even manages to move lazy Finnish listeners. Everywhere around you can see dancing asses, pure joy.
The head of the band, Hiili Hiilesmaa – many of you listen, the music producer is jointly responsible for a lot of good stuff coming from Finland (HIM, 69EYES, or also Moonspell) – and his crew are pure entertainment! With their new album "Stilettos" in their baggage everything should be alright, you`d think. Unfortunately the sound system was a little bit overstrained by the concentrated bass power, what lead to a uncomfortable drumming noise that repressed the vocals and partly gave us quite a hard time listening. Anyhow, The Skreppers did their duty and definitely entertained us. Just think about long-lasting catchy songs like "Simsala Bimsala" or "Rock Dicktator", hahaha! Finnish humor. (KD)
HIM The tension rises. The moment everybody who was sitting in front of Tavastias doors already at noon to get a place in the front row, has been waiting for longingly, draws nearer and nearer. The woman portrait that decorates the cover of the recent HIM-CD "Venus Doom" is looking at the crowd for quite a while already, when suddenly voices rise in the first rows and then in the whole crowd. Tavastia´s manager Juhani Merimaa enters the stage, as the tradition demands, to count down to the New Year together with the fans and to announce the longed-for first HIM concert of 2008: cheers and all the best for the New Year! – scarcely spoken, you already hear the first tones. The stage fills with smoke and HIM enter the scene! A satisfied, sober Ville wishes his sweethearts: "Hyvää uutta vuotta!" – happy new year. Now the last walls are falling, the band is celebrated from the first note. The reactions in the audience range from boundless adour over respectful enjoying to broken-hearted tears from both genders – a hormone cocktail beyond comparison!
No band member was missed out, the concert was characterized by long and intense breaks with heart and soul soli from every instrument. You could feel the almost supernatural pleasure, incited by the frenetically celebrating crowd, the musicians have whilst playing. The band visibly enjoyed playing the old songs again, along with their new album that escorted them throughout the whole year. No fan, which HIM album ever he may favor, had a reason to complain. The setlist had to offer something for everybody from "Wicked Game" to "Join Me", "Funeral of Hearts", "Soul on Fire", "Killing Loneliness" and of course new ones like "Bleed Well" and "Sleepwalking
The new songs passed the live test with the highest grades and let us look into a great HIM future. You can see that the band is very confident with their new material and they can look back on an artistically and commercially successful year 2007, including a Grammy nomination in the category "best boxed or special limited edition package" for "Venus Doom". Who may have had a few concerns about such a positive turn, has been reimbursed for drunken lyric mistakes, a totally exhausted Ville and concert experiences that had to suffer under these circumstances. After an unforgettable two-hour concert and an adequate encore, plus Ville shirtless, the band releases us with a heavy heart into Helsinki´s New Years night. Simply unbelievable..! (KD)
On New Years Day hell broke loose in HELLsinki – literally. Way before the Tavastia doors opened, fans had gathered to secure their places right in front of the stage. Right after Midnight it was time for HIM on stage. Singer Ville Valo – he could obviously ignore the smoking prohibition in Finnish clubs – and his band set it off with Passion's Killing Floor and fired up the crowd. Ville Valo was in a good mood (no wonder, he was allowed to do chain-smoking right on stage :-)) and entertained the audience with a couple of jokes (e.g. "I want you to f*** me" instead of "I want you to love me"; "baby, we're bleeding well in Hellsinki" instead of "baby we're bleeding well in hell"). Fans did not only throw plush animals on stage but also passports, and Ville even signed one of those. A real highlight was the 10-minute Sleepwalking Past Hope from the new album VENUS DOOM, and the band played the complete song. Guitar player Linde provided some exciting soli, e.g. during den die Sleepwalking Past Hope, and also Gas Lipstick had a gas with some drum action, throwing his sticks to fans in the crowd. The females in the audience received a special treat later, when the band returned on stage after some minutes, and finally Ville, without shirt (!), provoking a frantic sea of camera flashlights. (FK)
Katrin Dietl (KD), Franziska Konrad (FK), Sandy Mahrer (SM), Klaudia Weber (KW)