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In my opinion Finnish Metal Expo cannot get bigger than this year, just because of the limited location capacity. An extensive program, many participants and a huge crowd definitely turned this basically business event in a winterly Metal Festival. And besides the musical program on the main stage there were many more reasons for the average fan to drop by: Just looking around you could discover Metal stars all over the place, for example Finntroll guitarist Routa helping out at a Merchandise stand, and Lordi´s Awa sat at an instrument retailer stand and gave a signing session. Or you could grab them at numerous so-called clinics. Many Finnish Metal bands had their own stands, this time also Swallow The Sun. But I really don´t quite get the point of (girlie) underwear with band logos... how to promote your favorite band with it??... errr... (KW)
Thursday 15 Feb 2007
International Metal Meeting (IMM)
This year the annual meeting of Metal business took place in the legendary Finnvox Studios in Helsinki. As 95 % of all participants lived in the same hotel in the inner city, they were transported from there with shuttle buses at 18:00 and 19:00 o´clock. Yet some happy reunion parties had already began earlier in the hotel pub. Our first welcome consisted of Finnish beer and sandwiches before we received an entertaining tour through the studio with an about 50 year old history.
After that it was time for a presentation by Mike Gitter, A&R for Roadrunner Records USA, that basically dealt with the promotion of non-American bands in the USA and what it means to be on tour there. As examples he mentioned bands like Cradle Of Filth and his new favorite Dragonforce (still it hurt to hear Dragonforce mentioned in the same sentence with Sepultura and Slayer...) He certainly was right that a band should either be friends with Jackass-Bam or appear at festivals like Ozzfest, needs videos targeting the US market and be on tour extensively, but still the success factor only works for bands of certain status (unless they are friends with Bam).
Some of the present managers and promoters really felt delighted about statements like “first you have to play in halls for 900 or 1200 people” and already planned to book flights for their bands right away, Mark Owens (Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles) put their feet back on the ground in the following discussion round. He told some stories that are much more likely for bands unknown in the USA and added some kind warnings illustrated with examples.
After the break the focus was on Russia, and Natalie Dybaylo, Rosenfield Records, offered some insight in the scene there. About 22:30 o´clock a bus transported slightly tipsy Metalbizz people, entertained by spontaneous Karaoke shows via bus microphone, to the Leverage / Tarot concert afterparty in Tavastia Club. Later this evening there was a strange peeing incident, involving a VIP lounge and a German A&R person confusing it with a WC. Well, always those Germans... (SA)
Friday 16 Feb 2007
Finnish Metal Expo (FME) Day 1
At 17:00 o´clock doors opened, and as expected FME 2007 sold out again with its maximum capacity of 2.500 people – although this year´s line-up was not really attractive – nearly on Friday, and completely on Saturday. And this year more than 50 exhibitors were present, many more than in previous years. Record labels, instrument makers, clothes and accessories were squeezed into three rows per hall.
Battlelore Punctually at 18:00 o´clock Battlelore started, and the Finns had indeed improved since the last time I have seen them on tour with Atrocity (perhaps you remember the story “In the Dollhouse with Atrocity and Battlelore” with both bands in a strip club in Hamburg), therefore I was really excited. They rocked the cable factory with real good sound and their own style that sounds like a crazy mixture of many different genres. The only annoying thing were those parts where singer Tomi Mykkänen tried clean vocals in one or two songs. That did not work out, he should leave those endeavours to his gifted colleague Kaisa Jouhki. The Tolkien theme for their stage costumes still works fine but is no longer central part of their show. Go ahead! Unfortunately it was over after 30 Minutes, because in order to squeeze more bands into the show they could not play longer. (SA)
Misery Inc. This young band from Myrskylä had replaced almost half of the line up after releasing their debut album, and I have not heard much from them ever since. I still remembered the old Misery Inc. sound that was like tame average Finnish Gothic Metal. But something had happened, the band had shed off their Gothic influences almost completely and offers much harder stuff nowadays. And they became more distinctive – not bad. (SA)
Moonsorrow Moonsorrow is a band I am always looking forward to see because live the guys are still slightly better than on the album – almost every time. Unfortunately this time the sound was bad, it took effort to listen, and the vocals were hardly audible. The drums too loud, a sound wall from the other instruments, my ears were buzzing, so after four songs and slight headache I gave up. What a pity! (SA)
Finnish Metal Awards There are awards for every crap (e.g. a Grammy for best Polka Album), therefore it is not so unusual to give awards for Metal achievements. For the second time it happened at the FME (yet before that Finnish Metal media have already awarded Metal musicians, the ed.). But who expected glory and glamour would have been disappointed. No red carpet, no video screens, no top models – just Finnish simplicity. The nominees were presented briefly, and then the winners are allowed to pick their documents and say “thank you”. That’s it! The nominees were almost all the people big in Finnish Metal business, like Amorphis, with nominations in five out of six categories the most promising candidates, Children of Bodom, HIM, Marco Hietala and Kai Hahto. Voting happened via internet, and here are the winners:
Band of the year: Children of Bodom, who knocked out HIM and Amorphis and received immense audience cheers. Profane Omen are now officially Best Finnish Newcomers and Mokoma were awarded for Best Albumcover for the album “Kuoleman laulukunnaat”. They wondered where they will put the document. Kai Hahto could take the Best Musician award back home, he actually - out of foresight - entered stage already when the nominees were announced but still had to wait a few moments until he was declared the winner. Best Singer, naturally, was Marco Hietala, who also had a little more time for a speech. The major award for the Album of the Year was given also to Mokoma, who became the big winners of this evening. And Amorphis had to leave empty-handed. (KG)
Suburban Tribe It is always a pleasure to watch this band because singer Ville Tuomi has such energy on stage, you just cannot help watching - and dancing. His dreadlocks fly, he dances wildly – pure passion. You can only hope that the roadcrew is well-paid, because they have a lot to do: Putting microphone stands back in place, pulling Ville from the pit back on stage and so on. It is quite a miracle that this man never gets seriously hurt, because just falling backwards is one of his trademarks. Musically they offered all their classics, e. g. “While The World Awaits”, which is the Finnish title track for the local “Big Brother” series. A new song was presented, too, the Peter Gabriel cover “Shock The Monkey”, which will be part of the upcoming Best-of album. That band is always worth seeing! (KG)
Dragonforce Usually I am not a Power Metal fan but I had to check out these guys. What I heard from them promised a lot of fun and entertainment! And indeed, this was the case for about one hour. On stage there was another podium where every band member could show off his skills and have his hair flowing heroically in a ventilator blow. What a great view! All six members exploded with energy and joy and simply had a great time, as well as the audience that sang along every chorus. During super fast guitar duels between Herman Li and Sam Totman, who also pushed each other from the podium, singer ZP Theart relaxed on the boxes before he put on his “Jesus Christ Pose” again and sing the next chorus. Conclusion: the whole act was such an “over the top” show it felt ingenious. (KG)
The first FME night continued in a new and very popular club in Helsinki center named Inferno. And without bar curfew many people would have partied there much longer...
An extensive FME program led to many events happening at the same time, therefore it was impossible for a single person to see it all. Characteristically for the sideshows this year were many program changes and some disappointments...
Clinics Prospective musicians also had a chance to participate at so-called guitar- and drum clinics, basically public lessons where musicians revealed some tricks. And also here not everything worked out as planned. Sami Yli-Sirniö had a gig with Kreator, in his stead Kristian Wahlström, die only Finnish music academic for Metal Guitar, gave several useful tips. However, the biggest crowd gathered on Saturday during the drum clinic with .. I really didn´t know that there are soooo many drummers in Finland...
Godsplague This band had already quite an amount of audience, and I suppose their guest, Wintersun drummer Kai Hahto – who later received the Best Musician award – was not the only reason. But this should just give an example of inhumane conditions to be endured in this room later... Unfortunately the Godsplague show featured indeed nothing but Pantera covers (e. g. “Broken”, “This Love”), just something for fans.
Children Of Bodom A real disappointment for the many – mostly very very young - Bodom fans who squeezed into the way-too-small room to see a session with Alexi Laiho and Roope Latvala. Roope didn´t show up, and Alexi still suffered from an injury. Therefore the whole event turned into an improvised talk show with the Finnish Idols-judge Jone Nikula.
Timo Kotipelto The following day many fans of Timo Kotipelto might have felt a little bit put off, too. No doubt these are all top musicians who played as „M. Kaakkuriniemi Super Show“ a series of solo performances and sort of Jazz-Funk-Hardrock Jam sessions. Who endured this could indeed see Timo on stage for a very short time...
Swallow the Sun Again it was way too full and too hot, although security allegedly even stopped many more people from getting in – despite that all, this gig saved my day. Cannot help it, I´m a fan since I´ve seen them live on stage for the first time, and their charm works even better now. First class melancholic Doom/Death Metal, brilliant despite the conditions. The guys had to sweat as hard as their fans, only frontman Mikko seemed to feel a bit cold... A great show, but way too short, only four songs fitted into their half-hour-playtime: The title track and “Don't Fall Asleep” from their new CD “Hope” and two songs from their excellent debut album: „Out Of This Gloomy Light“ and „Swallow “. (KW)
Saturday 17 Feb 2007
Finnish Metal Expo (FME) Day 2
Turmion Kätilöt Tired and hangoverish an astonishingly big crowd gathered at 15:00 at the main stage to check out the probably most peculiar Finnish act. Not only in Finland Turmion Kätilöt (the midwives of doom) are known for their disgusting, bloody S&M shows, therefore it was a clever move to have this exciting act play first that day. Their texts and their vocals are often compared with Rammstein. But those crazy Goths are something special. The two frontmen MC Raaka Pee (weird names...) and Spellgoth did not exaggerate their show, perhaps because of this early hour, and just had hot sparks raining down on Spellgoth. This band actually had a chance – despite Finnish lyrics - to attract much more attention abroad with their mixture of NIN, Rammstein and Death Metal. In Finland they already reached the Top 10. I would not mind. (|SA)
Cyan Velvet Project This is indeed gender crossover: A guy in a cute mini dress, a rather boyish girl... but as soon as Samuel and Maria started singing, the dirty smile was wiped off my face. No Nightwish or Within Temptation, these vocalists better be compared with Slipknot, Rammstein or Pain. Heavy Industrial Metal, both singers manage inhuman growls and clean vocals, yet Maria sometimes was not really convincing performing the latter. And their stage show still needs some work, they seemed to anxious and a bit stiff. But basically a very positive surprise. (KW)
April The same can be said from this act who improved since Tuska festival and just released their debut album at Spinefarm. Brutal sound, clearly inspired by Swedish bands like Soilwork or In Flames, featuring an excellent singer: Hakim Hietikko really can sing but also growls like an animal. In comparison with the previous band April offered almost too much stage show. Musically they did not just push the speed buttons but also offered appealing melodies, yet in my opinion the songs sound a bit too similar. And also April had sound problems, clean vocals could sometimes hardly be heard. But still a band you should keep an eye (and ear) on. (KW)
Insomnium In the early evening program this band definitely drew the biggest crowd, almost doubling April´s audience. And also in terms of enthusiasm this quartet plus guest musician Swallow The Sun keyboarder Aleksi Munter reached the top rank. But unfortunately right after the atmospheric intro the keys were far too loud whereas guitars could hardly be heard. The sound got better, though, therefore “Drawn To Black “ or “Devoid Of Caring” raised interest in the third Insomnium album “Above The Weeping World”. The Finns play a sort of Black/Melodic Death Metal crossover, very appealing but only new for me, because the band has been around already for about ten years... (KW)
Tacere Actually I had heard much more about than from this band, so I felt curious. After this intro that suited a horror movie I was surprised to hear rather straight Metal/Powermetal. The vocal duo Karri and Helena provided excellent voices yet sometimes failed to be in harmony. Somehow I liked their material – featured on their debut „Deep Tears Of Tragedy“ - best when the focus was on melancholic pathos. Not bad but it could not really convince me. (KW)
Before The Dawn Who likes the old style of In Flames should remember this band. Tuomas Saukkonen´s voice is powerful and variable and sounds exciting. Initially just Tuomas´ solo project, Before The Dawn has become a real band with a future perspective; they released their new single at FME. (SA)
Amon Amarth These Vikings almost had the hall burst with people. With real good sound and a lot of energy the Swedes played a series of evergreens. How they managed to gain some more weight despite their X-mas-tour remains their secret. When singer Johan Hegg, probably taught by the only Finn in the line-up Olavi Mikkonen, spoke also a few words Finnish he won the audience over. This was definitely the shortest half hour of all. (SA)
Brother Firetribe Basically this act fulfils all boyband definition criteria, because they make huge numbers of adolescent girls screeching and fighting for a front position at signing sessions. The other Finnish band that fits also visually into this category, by the way, is Children Of Bodom... Yet both bands perform a sound that cannot be compared with any Backstreet Boy, Brother Firetribe featuring Nightwish-guitarist Emmpu Vuorinen in their line-up sound like a perfect and on stage very cheerful 80´s revival. (KW)
Rytmihäiriö Insiders called them a Finnish Hardcore legend but the guys had with their set at one o´clock in the morning the worst conditions. Only a handful of fans still remained and tried their best to cheer to the band, even formed a moshpit. This band truly kicked ass, mercilessly like a force of nature, and ignoring the rather discouraging view they gave 120 percent, simply adorable!
Who still remained upright after that had a chance to sing Heavy Karaoke until three o´clock in the morning, but then Finnish Metal Expo 2007 definitely closed down... it was nice, CU next year!