Saarihelvetti 2022 was full of top notch music. A perfect omnium gatherum (yes it is a word! n. a collection of miscellaneous people or things. Merriam-Webster.com. 2022) of genres ranging from fresh new black metal to popish metal core to headlining raw industrial metal. Although the weather was epic as well (in a not so enjoyable way), festival goers were almost able to overlook the constant rain as they enjoyed the first restriction free Saarihelvetti in 3 years. Although the festival was able to slither between the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, there were still inevitable lineup changes and restrictions which made the festival a bit more difficult to navigate. This year we were finally free!
Friday kicked off on a more sombre note, with melodoom masterminds Marianas Rest and fresh new black metal from a few familiar names I Am The Night. The weather complied with the melancholic sounds with a grey, rainy afternoon but it did not hinder the crowd or the atmosphere. No question that Marianas Rest used the weather to their advantage, pulling the gloominess around them and fortifying the intensity of their melancholia.
I Am The Night performed their first live gig ever, and it was even better than anticipated. I heard someone say its hard to find worthy new black metal bands, but these guys hit the spot. It was also quite refreshing to see these musicians in a new light, playing music other than what most people know them from. Specifically Markus Vanhala (Insomnium/Omnium Gatherum), Okko Solanterä (Horizon Ignited) and Juuso Raatikainen (Swallow the Sun) , who was filling in for Waltteri Väyrynen (Paradise Lost/ex-Bodom After Midnight).
Party mode started up when Detset and Omnium Gatherum hit the stage (despite a late start, but who can blame them, since Vanhala had just barely exited the stage with I Am The Night. Probably took some time to get the corpse paint off and switch from Black Metal mode to Melodeath!).
Next up was Callisto, bringing the mood back down a touch but still an incredibly powerful and rich performance. In my opinion, the most underrated band of the festival. If you like melancholic, melodic, doomy music with a touch of grooviness, check these guys out!
Dead by April was one of the most anticipated bands of the festival. They had an energy and presence unlike any other, and the crowd was busting at the seems. Although there were ongoing technical difficulties, the band soldiered through and it may have even made the show even more special. The crowed was even more supportive and the band even more charismatic than usual! Mors Subita seemed to simply carry the intensity from Dead by April on to the next stage. The crowd and bands energy didnt waver one bit!
And of course, Saarihelvetti warriors Turmion Kätilöt to end the evening! There seemed to be a new depth to their stage presence that I couldn’t put my finger on. Their energy felt different than it had been in a long time, in the best way possible. And maybe this being my first time seeing their gig with the disco ball also added a special touch.
Saturday began with a powerful set from Where’s My Bible, who recently won the Come to Latin America competition! Medeia ripped open the main stage with a noteworthy 20 year anniversary gig. Although the Saarihelvetti crowd was still trickling onto the island, Medeia‘s energy caught the attention of most festival goers with their fiery energy.
Tryer kept the energy up… way up! I personally was blown away by how vibrant and electric their performance was. An unexpected explosion for early in the day.
Brymir brought the whole crowd to the edge. Their set started in rain and ended in sunshine, and at times a little of both. Somehow their set defined the mood of the entire festival, the freedom from restrictions, the epicness reflected in the island summer weather, the community of a small but much loved Finnish metal festival. The coming release of their next album also seemed to bring an exciting anticipation through out the crowd and band. I look forward to hearing it!
It had been quite a while since I saw Battlelore live. They honestly have gotten lost in my personal playlist, but their gig at Saarihelvetti reminded me what I’ve been missing. They know how to put on a captivating show from start to finish. Every member of the band had their moment to shine and seemed to be part of a cohesive energy. I was impressed and pleased to see they are still going strong.
In all honesty, Bloodred Hourglass was an unexpected favorite this year. They put on one of the most powerful and sincere shows I have seen from them. Of course, Brymir jumping on stage didn’t hurt, to watch the reactions of the guys as when they realized who was standing behind them was also some comic relief during the stoic epicness of their set.
Next up was my personal most anticipated band of the festival, Kuolemanlaakso. I had been a fan of the band for years, and been listening to their newest album on repeat. Not to mention a fan of a few of the members other bands and projects. The fact this was the only gig they will play for a while also made it incredibly special. The guys looked like they were truly enjoying themselves and the crowd mirrored their energy (not to mention the Twin Peaks intro striking a chord in my personal experience, bringing emotions to another level!). I only wish their sound mixing had been given as much love as the guys seemed to have on stage! I eagerly await more opportunities to see these guys again!
“It always rains during Moonsorrow“. At least in my Finnish festival experience. But it never hinders their show, and only brings their always ethereal lighting to another level. I could write a review for their gig without even seeing it, but would never miss the chance to see them. Their live show never wavers, always on point, and always driving the mood to the max.
Although I am not an active listener of Smackbound, they also surpassed my expectations. Their vocalist gave a surprisingly driving and powerful performance, and the visual aspect of the lights and the whole band’s stage presence turned heads. It was unfortunate I could not stay to watch the whole gig, but hopefully there will be more chances to see them again.
I don’t even know where to start with Combichrist‘s performance. I believe I am not alone in saying I was blown away. Despite the fact that it rained the hardest during their set, it was impressive beyond expectation and brought an energy to the festival that had been lacking in the few years when international acts were unable to attend. Even people who are not normally fans of their style of music were 100% into their set. I hope to see these guys more often at Finnish festivals, their energy is unique and ads a level of atmosphere that I personally have not often experienced at Finnish festivals.
It must have been hard to find an act worthy enough to follow Combichrist, but Vola was definitely a perfect choice. They took the atmosphere smoothly to the other end of the spectrum with an intensely soulful, melancholy yet energetic ending to Saarihelvetti 2022. In my years attending, I cant remember a larger crowd attending the second stage’s final act. Their sound and mood was entrancing and it seemed many were struggling taking their gaze away from the stage while making their way to the boats to exit the festival. I personally think they could have been a main stage act, with an earlier time slot, despite this schedule working quite well. Another first time experience for me this year, looking forward to another chance to see them live!
In all, it was great to be back to Saarihelvetti under normal conditions. The lineup this year had the perfect amount of diversity, the mood, was chill and warm despite the cold rain (shout out of thanks for the media tent! much appreciated!). I am personally so pleased Saarihelvetti and Nem have been able to keep this festival going non stop through all the recent bullshit. Stay strong and see you next year!