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PHOTO REPORT: SAARIHELVETTI 2021


Photo report: Saarihelvetti – July 6-7, 2021 in Tampere, Finland

Photography by Serena Solomon

How amazing it was to be back at a festival! Saarihelvetti, once again, provided us with a much welcome break from isolation and gigless existence as it did last summer. Aside from the bands, and seeing old friends, the crowd was the highlight. They brought the proper festival atmosphere.

In previous years, when bigger festivals like Nummirock and Tuska happened regularly, Saarihelvetti had a different kind of feel, it was a bit more of a “local” happening, without the craziness and hype the bigger festivals brought. But these past few years, when gigs and festivals have been scarce, that energy and mood exploded all over Viikinsaari and Laukontori in Tampere. “Festival Life” was everywhere , in every form, from the extreme industrial goth fashion to the goofiest costumes one would never expect to see at a metal festival (not to mention the creativity of “masks” were impeccable!). From stuffed animals to corpse paint, from hazmat suites to animal onzies, it was hard not to be distracted by the crowd when watching the gigs!

But I digress, the music. Ah, live – fucking – music! Pits, blasting drums, headbanging, singing, dancing, etc. Life itself. Shereign , Swallow the Sun, Ember Falls and Vorna were my “highly anticipating” bands, while Finntroll, Tyrantti and Satan’s Fall were also unexpected highlights.

I had been getting to Shereign as they released singles over the summer and was really looking forward to seeing Sara perform this new music style, their “best gig so far!” as the joke goes since it was the first and only gig (at least for a while, due to Sara’s pregnancy). On that note, one of the cutest things that happened at the festival (aside from at least one proposal on Saturday) was someone throwing a bunch of stuffed animal toys on stage during Shereign (presumably for Sara’s tiny human-to-be).

I didn’t have much expectations for Tyrantti but their show was very memorable. They were a perfect fit to open the festival on the main stage and warm the audience up… remind us what live music is about and get everyone back in the mood for the atmosphere we crave every summer.

Also, I had seen Finntroll many times before so I felt I knew what to expect and haven’t familiarized myself with their newest albu myet, but I had forgotten how fun their gigs are to watch and photography although they did seem to have a bit of the gigless corona stiffness, it wore off after a while and was easy to get back into the swing and conga-line of the music!

Swallow the Sun, well, what can I say. I can’t seem to go a year without seeing them, they’re like air. Just the beginning of their gig was breathtaking. They used “Sininen Uni” as an intro. It took hold and calmed the audience down for the more melancholic set of the day, and as the song faded in ghostly distortion, and the first notes of “The Giant” began, chills shot down my spine and I was almost paralyzed for a good portion of the song. Ok, disclaimer, this band means a lot to me so yes, lots of emotions and larger than life feels…. but anyway. Aside from that, As soon as Mikko walked out I had to chuckle as his pink shirt with a unicorn and “pessimisti” in bubble letters took a sardonic poke at the melancholy and intense emotions I was overcome with… but they are just too damn good. They could all be dressed as pink unicorns and they would still be able pull off the doom and gloom they are known and loved for. I had to noticed how raw Juha’s performance was, in his movement, in his face, he seemed completely present whether he wanted to be or not and it made my heart ache in every way.

I had seen Ember Falls for the first time at this same festival in 2016 and looked forward to their bright red aesthetic and dancey industrial vibe, but holy crap were they more than I expected! They seemed to have matured so much since the last time I saw them but still maintain the vibe I was looking forward to. I think they are one of the more underrated bands in that genre and hope they get more exposure! Looking forward to seeing them again soon!

Satan’s Fall was also a pleasant surprise, I’m not so into their style of music but the gig was much welcome in the Saarihelvetti lineup. A bit different vibe than the other bands but it tied the day together nicely.

And then there was Vorna, the best act on the second stage, unsurprisingly (and as unbiased as I can be). They are always a crowd favorite and you can never fail to see in the fans how much their music means to them. This year, in place of the blazing sun of last summer, came clouds and rain… but it only enhanced the beauty in their melancholy and made the gig even more special and unforgettable. The rain did not deter the audience for a moment, they stayed getting drenched to watch the gig, and it made for an incredibly epic show !

Although the bands seemed a bit stiff to start due to lack of gigging, ultimately you could tell most were enjoying hitting the stage again . As enjoyable as the festival was, they were still able to maintain a strict hold on mask wearing and safe distances when possible, providing sanitizer and face masks to everyone and keeping the boats as limited as possible. My only complaint was that there was no dry place for media to tend their work/gear as all the indoor/covered areas were open to the public and mediated with restrictive occupancies and we were not allowed in the VIP or back stage areas with only media passes. Hopefully next year we won’t need such restrictions but if we do, just a thought to the organizers, otherwise 666/10 would recommend! See you next year!

DAY 1: Shereign, Tyrantti, I Revolt, Finntroll, Spiritus Mortis, Swallow the Sun, Insomnium

SHEREIGN

TYRANTTI

I REVOLT

FINNTROLL

SPIRITUS MORTIS

SWALLOW THE SUN

INSOMNIUM

DAY 2: Silver Bullet, Rytmihäiriö, Ember Falls, Lähiöbotox, Satan’s Fall, Lost Society, Vorna, Diablo, Atlas, Mokoma

SILVER BULLET

RYTMIHÄIRIÖ


EMBER FALLS

LÄHIÖBOTOX

SATAN’S FALL

LOST SOCIETY

VORNA

DIABLO

ATLAS

MOKOMA

FESTIVAL LIFE AND TAMPERE BURLESQUE

PHOTO REPORT: SWALLOW THE SUN


To celebrate twenty years of existence, Swallow the Sun are doing “20 Years of Gloom, Beauty and Despair” tour. In Finland, their tour consisted of a two set evening. The first set, playing the second album of the Songs from the North trilogy called “Beauty” in its entirety acoustically and accompanied by a string quartet. The second set was somewhat “by request” from the fans. In December, the band asked across social media, for fans to vote for one song from each album they would want to hear live. The setlist did consist of some songs that haven’t been played in a long time, but also surprisingly, a few songs they had been playing live often, and as recent as their last tour. They will continue the tour to North America in April, and I wonder if and how they might tweak the setlist.

I had seen the show in Turku, on the second day of the tour, just as an attendee. The venue was a lot more intimate than the one in Helsinki, and you could tell the band was still getting the hang of the arrangements for the acoustic set (as well as some of the songs from the second set) which also added to the intimacy, in a way.  Not only was the band seemingly more at ease, and comfortable with the show in Helsinki, the string quartet also seemed more confident and able to get into the music more. Although I could tell the difference a few more shows made in the confidence and smoothness of the gig, both nights were equally amazing and unforgettable.

During the first set, the stage was alight with warm bulbs hung and places around the stage. There wasn’t much extra stage lighting so the ambiance was dark and almost ethereal. The guys were dressed up a bit, classy jackets and hats, only Juha had his hood up but it barely covered his face. It was a very unique experience for all attendees, no matter how well you knew the bands music, but it was extra special, and quite emotional, for fans who have been following the band for many years or have a deeper appreciation for the band and their music. I noticed those warm lightbulbs gleaming in many teary eyes and wet faces. The audience was completely enthralled in the charming, intimate gloom of “Beauty“.

The second set was no less unique of an experience than the first, specially the songs that haven’t been played often. I won’t list them here, (although the setlist is searchable elsewhere), but the energy during a few of the songs was so raw and tangible I found myself taking a deep breath after they ended, as if I had forgotten to breathe for a while. I have seen Swallow the Sun quite a few times in the past few years and the air of this evening held something different than the others. The guys all seemed to be into the music on a different level than ever before. The addition of Jaani’s vocals to a few of the older songs gave me chills. Juho and Matti’s energy and interaction with the crowd, Mikko and Juha’s more stoic presence, and Jaani and Juuso’s smooth vibes all concocted a beautiful, geniuine atmosphere that no photo or video could capture (speaking of which, it seemed they were recording the show for something, there were cameras and extra microphones around the stage and in the audience… what is to come?) but that being said, here are a few photos from the evening.

First Set


Second Set


Dates for upcoming North American tour:
stsnm

 

PHOTO REPORT: ALCEST, BIRDS IN ROW & KÆLAN MIKLA


Alcest, Birds in Row and Kælan Mikla played a sold out show at Tavastia in Helsinki on February 18, 2020. The intensity was solid through all three bands in very unique ways. Although Kælan Mikla suffered some show stopping technical difficulties, they put on a positively unforgettable show. Their dreamy and somewhat eerie aesthetic (including incense and glow wands) and chill but intense vibes set a unique atmosphere to start the show. Birds in Row shattered that with a full volume hardcore set that left me wondering how the light bulbs they used in their decor didn’t shatter. It was a very drastic switch genre wise and energy wise, but Alcest pulled it all together. They had a balanced mix of both chill, dreamy and crazy energy. The band seemed real present at the gig, into their music and connecting flawlessly with the audience. Although the gig was sold out, they made it seem like a much more intimate show, connecting everyone. They played mostly songs from the new album Spiritual Instinct but snuck in a few classics. Although they left me extremely content, I cannot wait to see them again at John Smith Festival.

Here are some photos from the evening:

Kælan Mikla –

Birds in Row –

Alcest –

INTERVIEW: …AND OCEANS


…And Oceans recently underwent some major changes. From their initial resurfacing after over a decade, to signing with Seasons of Mist, a drastic lineup change, and the release of their fifth studio album Cosmic World Mother, 202 is going to be a very interesting and active year for them.

So what’s going on at the …And Oceans camp right now? Timo Kontio (guitarist), talks about the process that follows the completion of the album. Now they’re focusing on securing gigs and tours both in Finland and abroad, and about to start shooting the video for their second single off the album. DSC_1842 copy rAside from waiting for Cosmic World Mother to be released (May 8, 2020), they have actually even began writing new material, and although Kontio mentions they don’t feel rushed or in a hurry to write another album he says “…we don’t want too much time between albums now, we’re getting older.” Specially since the last album Cypher came out in 2002.

On the subject of the departure of their vocalist Kena “Kenny” Strömsholm, Kontio mentioned they had already been demoing the songs before the decision came to part ways with him, so they were in a bit of a rush to finalize the songs. Luckily, Mathias Lillmåns was able to step in and help complete the album quickly. Lillmåns says that since the songs were pretty much already constructed, the only thing he had to do was write the lyrics and come up with the concept and that luckily he had enough free time to work on …And Oceans DSC_0203 copy rzmaterial since he was having a break from his other bands (specifically Finntroll who are set to release a new album this year as well after a bit of a long silence). “Half of the lyrics are written while I’m traveling, in airplanes and trains, I have the best inspiration in trains for some reason…”. He states although he was very familiar with the themes of previous lyrics, he went in a completely opposite direction, and although tentative to give concrete examples of the lyrics and themes he hints,“I’m not gonna go too deep into it, people should think for themselves, but the album is kind of about energy and how energy changes”. Kontio also mentions that the album artwork will provide a really good visual representation of each song individually and the concept of the lyrical theme.

Lillmåns has quite a long history with the …And Oceans. Since he is from the same town as Kontio and their other guitarist Teemu Saari, he has known the band and been a fan since the 90s. “We come from a small city, and there aren’t that many bands, specially metal bands, that have made an impact on the metal scene [from there] except And Oceans, and of course, as a black metal fan when I was younger, if there’s a good black metal band from your hometown, of course you’ll get into them and want to support and promote them.”

Lillmåns’s main band Finntroll, is also set to release a new album after a long silence (not as long as …And Oceans but still a significant seven years in the realm of album releases). He says at the moment there wasn’t much schedule conflict between the bands, with writing and gigs and whatnot, but later in the Autumn, he had to strategically plan the tours for the two bands so it would work. When it was just Finntroll and his smaller bands it was easier to work the smaller bands around Finntroll’s schedule, but now its a bit more challenging. “But”, he says ” I think also with Finntroll we’ll try to take it a bit easier now, between 2010 and 2015 we did so much touring, and we’re not that young anymore so we don’t really want to be on tour 180 days of the year… Although I will be 180 days anyway now between And Oceans and Finntroll… But it will be fun because I’ve been friends with AO for a long time so it will be like just traveling with old friends.” Along with taking on …And Oceans, Lillmåns also took Kena’s place in their other band Festerday. Kontio mentioned that they are also working on new material and have a few shows planned.

DSC_1902 copy rz

When asked what they were listening to at the moment, Lillmåns basically said he has so much music around him on a daily basis between practicing and writing …And Oceans and Finntroll that in his spare time he prefers silence or TV or something other than music. Kontio tries to find new and interesting bands but is sticking to old classic black and death metal while also branching out to music like Queen and David Bowie.

With the recent closure of many well known venues in Finland, I was curious what their thoughts were on the live situation. Lillmåns replied, “Live music in Finland is going down, venues are closing and in Finland they don’t pay the bands to come play anymore, no gas money, or accommodations offered. If you go far from your home, you have to pay for accommodation and food and gas yourself. The band might be compensated a few drink tickets and maybe 50% of ticket sales. It’s kind of hopeless for small bands right now but of course bigger bands like Amorphis or something are doing good.”. Kontio adds that one thing herein Finland is also that this system of not getting paid still works to some extent because the smaller bands are willing to settle for those circumstances. “It’s a strange situation,” he adds “for example, Festerday is a small band but somehow, some organizer from London is willing to pay our flight tickets and everything for us to come play a gig but here in Finland we wouldn’t even get gas money.”

As for planned live gigs, they mentioned there will be an album release tour, and dates will be announced soon both in Finland and abroad “Come to the gigs! Lets have a beer!” Lillmåns exclaimed.

The band was recently added to the Turku Saatanalle (March 6 & 7 in Turku, Finland) lineup, to replace Sickness, and promise more live dates to come soon! Stay tunned!

TSVII

PHOTO REPORT: TALVIHELVETTI 2020


Photo report: Talvihelvetti – January 10, 2020 in Tampere, Finland –
Lord of the Lost, Torchia, Fear of Domination, Vorna, Insomnium and Machinae Supremacy.

This one day festival took place in Tampere, Finland during the darkest days of Winter. Bands included both foreign and local acts, as well as a diverse array of genres. Lord of the Lost, hailing from Germany, opened the night on the main stage, while Machinae Supremacy from Sweden closed the night on the small stage. Other bands ranged from Melodic Death Metal, Industrial Metal, and Thrash. Fear of Domination had a quick lineup change due to illness which also prevented them from continuing on to Seinäjoki, where most of the other bands continued on Saturday for a second night of mid-winter madness.

Here are some photos from the evening –

LORD OF THE LOST –


TORCHIA-

 

FEAR OF DOMINATION –


VORNA –

 

INSOMNIUM –

MACHINAE SUPREMACY –

Photography by Serena Solomon

PHOTO REPORT: MARDUK, ATTIC & UNLIGHT


Marduk, Attic and Unlight took over Apollo in Turku, Finland on December 16, 2019. While Marduk and Unlight delivered a pretty straight forward black metal show, full of power and rawness, filling the venue with an uncommon atmosphere, Attic were a bit different. One of the most unique metal performances I’ve seen at Apollo, complete with a ritual type alter, and candleabra’s alight with (surprisingly) real flame. Though their aesthetic is pure black metal, their sound is largely heavy metal influences, which didnt peak my interest much when checking them out before hand but live, completely changed my mind. Here are some photos…

UNLIGHT-

ATTIC –

MARDUK-