Kathleen Gransalke, Jacek Walczak (Deathstars), Klaudia Weber
With the new name "Helsinki Metal Meeting" the former FME "Finnish Metal Expo" made it to another round in 2009. In previous years everything was focused on two days in the cable factory in Helsinki´s Ruohonlahti area, this time it was three days and 30 bands spread on 3 venues in different areas. Sounds complicated and stressful, and it was like that. Not only fans had the problem of making their pick, also journalists had even more extra release- or presentation parties to cope with in other locations. Apropos program- this time it seemed that bands and venues were chosen randomly as some choices were not quite comprehensible... but let´s start from the beginning:
Thursday, February 12, 2009 Already on Thursday this year´s festivities of the Helsinki Metal Meeting were rung in with live concerts outside of the expo area. In the new Dante´s Highlight club, which STALKER already introduced you to extensively, the Finnish deathsters of Amoral and Omnium Gatherum were on parade.
It´s the goal of every band to develop their style further but Amoral showed lots of courage when they announced that teen idol Ari Koivunen of all people would be their new front man in the end of last year. Their first single together “Year of the Sucker Punch” indicated that more horrible things might follow because on it “Heavy Ari” sounds as if he still hasn´t reached puberty. Surprisingly though live Mr. Koivunen grew some balls and released his inner growl beast and with experienced guys like the ones of Amoral as a support it might even work out with the “street credibility”. Not that bad! (KG)
At the Finnish Metal Awards the next day Omnium Gatherum were voted in the top 5 twice. The band´s latest outing “The Redshift” placed 5th in the “Record of the year” category and guitarist Markus Vanhala was voted 5th best “Musician of the year”. This already shows that those guys know their business. Personally, I think, their melodic death metal comes across far better live than on record, mainly thanks to the energetic performance of fronter Jukka Pelkonen. (KG)
Friday, February 13, 2009
Amorphis pre listening session, Darx Metal Bar When one of the top Finnish Metal exports announces a new release, they will definitely gain a lot of attention from foreign media. No wonder that hardly anybody outside the bandmembers themselves spoke any Finnish when Amorphis gave an impression of their upcoming album. Yet nobody there was really totally anxious; except for the band members maybe… Seriously, do you really know a BAD Amorphis album? RIGHT. So unless the guys had suddenly discovered their faible for Free Jazz, 80s Disco or Hip Hop, bad surprises were pretty unlikely in first place. I don´t want to give away too much, but ”Skyforger”, to be released in Finland May 27, 2009, will provide what you expect of Amorphis – and yet not quite. There´s perhaps more emphasis on epic, more of almost-Pop-choruses and still more rough Metal. And yes, the lyrics deal again with the Finnish Kalevala. Summing up, the Finnish hit factory Amorphis – as Britney would put it, ”did it again” and will soon deliver another piece best quality Finnish Metal. (KW)
Then at the cable factory the usual impression - 50 different stands, where labels, instrument makers, festivals, bands, media and merchandiser presented their latest products. At some stands you could discover familiar faces, e.g. "Papa" Wilska (Ex-Fintroll) or Elenium´s Lauri (check our photo gallery here!). A blacksmith - the guy from the Before The Dawn Video "Dying Sun", named Seppä Tervarauta - created hand-made band merchandise right there, and he would have gladly followed my spontaneous-ingenious "Instant Tattoo" idea, yet I wasn´t quite sure if I really want to spend the rest of my days with a bandlogo punched into my hand bones...
However, there were no audience-masses, also not at the autograph session of Tuomas Holopainen. At the best concert time the balcony near the main stage was pretty deserted, also regarding catering - pretty poor in comparison with previous years. The only good aspect for us girls - no queuing at bathrooms! (KW)
The Songwriting-Workshop, Zodiak Stage with Tuomas Saukkonen attracted many people, yet (quote) "more guys this time as it´s not about Before The Dawn" but about rough Old School Death Metal with and by Tuomas´ The Final Harvest band colleagues. He demonstrated how tracks like Pansserivaunu, Talvisota and Pharao are written via acoustic guitar (sounding pretty harmless) and only step by step take shape, adding E-guitar, bass, drums and vocals.
Or how a double bass drum beat gives the "pansserivaunu" = tank feeling. Quite entertaining was also the introduction and use of voices - .also Sotajumala´s Mynni as special guest - in the style of instruments. Or the martial vocabulary for the songwriting process, e.g. "loppusota" (last war) for the final part of a song. Unfortunately there was another clinic going on at the same time, Tuomas Wäinölä and Lauri Porra presented their skills on Musamaailma Stage, and really loud, which I sometimes found annoying. (KW)
As the first band of the FME 2009 Grendel delighted the still quite sparsely gathered crowd with their melodic metal including clean vocals and mean growls from front beast Mikko Virtanen. The songs are catchy as usual and with them the Finnish Metal Expo has officially started. (KG)
Pretty early Misery Index then entered the stage. But there were no signs of “misery” anywhere because the guys from Baltimore made the crowd happy first of all with their surprisingly good Finnish language skills and in addition to it with their brutal mix of death and grind. For me one of the new discoveries and “Traitors”, the latest album of the band, definitely has to be checked out. In this spirit, “Fucking Uskomatonta!” [unbelievable] (KG)
Grand Magus from Sweden impressed with powerful Doom / Old School Metal sound - this trio has much more input from Black Sabbath than from Gothenburg. The posing and the stage presentation remained pretty "retro", their groove was infective, and although their music wasn´t quite my favorite genre, they were a positive HMM surprise. (KW)
Finnish Metal Awards are based on fan voting via internet, and the only real surprise there might have been that Stam1na won in 4 categories: best band, album and cover-artwork, and Antti Hyyrynen was crowned best singer. They thanked their fans in their own special way...
The Musician of the year award went to Alexi Laiho, the Newcomer-Act Hateform and the demo-band FM2000 could take glass trophies home. But many wondered why on earth Stam1na, although the whole band was present, appeared live on stage only with Hyrde and Kaikka at a workshop on Saturday... (KW)
“Sa7urnus”, the fourth studio album from Blake, which was released in November last year, contains the quite catchy single “Spirit of Cain”. In contrast to the otherwise rather metallic disposition of Finnish bands Aaro Seppovaara and his men specialize more in 70s rock with a very bluesy tone which is also competently performed live. But somehow I still don´t quite feel it. (KG)
Chaosweaver were a bit of a consolation for all those who got no more tickets for Deathstars. Industrial Metal with a touch of the bizarre, musically they displayed some Rammstein/Manson influences, and the singer´s mask reminded of Slipknot or Hellraiser movies. The singer with his poses and gestures remained the center of the show, which became a bit one-dimensional after a couple of songs, as well as the music. But their act is definitely worth to be worked on. (KW)
Ensiferum fans were easy to spot in the crowd way before the gig, because of their make-up. It seemed that it was also just the hard-core fan community who stayed until the very end, as the audience lessened before and during the show. Although the band - again in their pretty Finnish flag "kilts" - rocked as if there was no tomorrow, more people felt attracted by those after shows at different locations in the inner city. But for everybody who stayed (and who could still stand) those Folk Metallers gave everything, and the fans returned the favor, cheering their heroes enthusiastically. But why were the Deathstars not booked to cable factory, as more people fit in there than into Tavastia club? (KW)
Deathstars, Tavastia Deathstars were definitely the highlight of this year´s FME for many. With the new album´s release, their new tour is taking off, so ladies, iron your uniforms and prepare! And this time it is serious stuff, the band actually plays live with their own new uniforms on! Not without their usual glam accessories or, as what is Whiplasher without feather boa and glitter?! Mostly with new songs, but as danceable as ever, the whole set went by with one breath! Whiplasher´s velvet vocals, serious and at the time time very ironic sounding, can not leave anyone indifferent. After the show only Skinny came into the audience, as the rest has retired, whilst the well-uniformed and cheerful bass player actively posed for photos and met the audience. 8/10 (Marina Sidyakina)
Saturday, February 14, 2009 No matter who was the opener that day, it was an awful job, as hardly anybody had arrived at the venue at this time yet. But the hall filled up during the show of Ancara , who cheered up the crowd with "Chasing Shadows", examples of their upcoming album and their Melodic Power Metal version of "Rebel Yell".
Before The Dawn had presented their new drummer, Agonizer´s Atte Palokangas already at the Dante´s gig; in comparison with the opener they had 3 x more audience. Sound and band still needed some warm-up, though, there was something missing... oh yes, Lars´ hilarious comments. After he announced a song "that rhymes with beer", the party finally got going. The new album was present with "Dying Sun" and "Exile",otherwise the program consisted of a "Best Of" previous CDs with "Faithless", that nicely rhyming "Disappear","The Black", "My Room" (this time the "full", not an acoustic version) and their Superhit "Deadsong".(KW)
Already with the Intro to Disconnected Profane Omen made the crowd scream, and after they had announced the “total fucking darkness” they release the storm over the FME. They offered a good mixture of old and of course new songs, therefore one can only be looking forward to the new album. “Inherit the Void” will be released March 4th. Beside, as usual, singer Jules Näveri went berserk on stage and impressed with his wide spectrum from clean to growling. Especially during the duet with Taneli Jarva he could show his skills. Also the crowd partied, so all in all a great gig. (Sabine Koch)
With Legion of the Damned from Holland the foreigners then took the reins at the Finnish Metal Expo. Apart from hair there was first not much to see of frontman Maurice Swinkels who reminded me therefore a bit of Cousin It from the Addams Family. Musically they had, however, more to offer – brutal, nasty, creepy death metal. Measured by the crowd reaction and the size and activity of the circle pit Legion of the Damned were rightfully one of the main acts at the FME. (KG)
The second main act Black Dahlia Murder followed right away. Their first ever performance in Finland was used to introduce new guitarist Ryan Knight who took over the axe from John Kempainen. But the center of attention is without a doubt frontman Trevor Strnad, whose vocals are simply unbelievable. The seemingly effortless switch from death metal growls to Cradle-of-Filth like shrieking already impressed me deeply on their latest record “Nocturnal” from 2007. Evil, brutal, haunting – what else can you want. The crowd didn´t need any more cheering on because the circle pit took up almost the whole hall during the entire gig anyway – mission accomplished. (KG)
With some journalist colleagues I had wondered about those incomprehensible program or venue choices, or the gig slots at HMM. And also here I wondered why such a great act like Andre Matos, who is also not seen that often in Scandinavia, plays at a time when most people choose to check out those other club gigs in town.... the Ex-Angra singer might not play my favorite genre, but he convinced me: a top-vocalist, charismatic, appealing, great songs - he did not deserve to see more and more people leaving. In my opinion it would have made more sense to switch the slots with Alestorm (who had played before this act), as such a "Party Metal" act fits in my opinion much better for rounding up an event like HMM. (KW)
Summary: Less people in cable factory this time, the official statistic indicates 6000 people on 3 days, including 6 additional concerts in 2 different venues. Stressful and "tattered" for everybody involved - and perhaps a bit too much? So how about the basic idea of a "meeting", like everybody coming together in one place? Well, something to be considered by organizers for next time...