…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. Aside 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 material 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.
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!
The festival this year was a bit different than last. To begin, entering the festival was much less chaotic and took less time, although the first band still started quite early. The outdoor stage was much better than last year and both stages were adorned with large screens on either side. They were not so visible on the outdoor stage until the sun set, and they seemed a bit redundant on the indoor stage since you could basically see the stage from wherever you were standing, but at times they served their purpose. Both days had their ups and downs, and a balanced blend of various genres, and sounds ranging from more atmospheric Norwegian black metal to raw American death metal.
I had no expectations for the first band, Disciples of the Void, and was only able to catch the end of their set, but from what I was able to witness, although there wasn’t so much of an audience, they were able to really fill the outdoor space with atmosphere and a powerful full sound.
Advent Sorrow was one of the bands I was looking forward to seeing, however, the sound on the indoor stage really hindered their performance. This was the case for many of the bands. The acoustics on the indoor stage were not great for most of the bands sound (though it did work for some). Advent Sorrow did have really great energy and power in their stage presence, and seemed to have really good interaction with each other, though it was hard to tell because they were cloaked in smoke most of the time. To me, the performance would not have been as memorable if I had not been interested in the music beforehand. I would definitely like to see them again in a better venue.
Myrkskog was one of the few bands who’s aesthetic was not hindered by the bright outdoor stage. They had a tight performance and solid stage presence and engaged well with the crowd, which didn’t come too easily for many bands, specially with a smaller audience.
Trollheims Grott began with a blaring siren intro that captured the attention of probably everyone in the festival, inside and out. Though they were one of the best bands on the indoor stage, I personally thought their performance in Helsinki earlier in the year was better, they seemed a bit off kilter compared the the show at Nosturi. That being said, the hall was pretty full for such an early time slot, and the lighting and sound worked well for them, creating a powerful presence and what felt like the true beginning of the festival.
There was some delay before Arkhon Infaustus (almost fifteen minutes, which one might not think too much of but here at Steelfest, deviations from the schedule were not taken lightly as the bands played back to back by the minute from doors open to doors close). I’m not entire sure what the problem was, they lost their instruments? Something something, I’m not sure but their performance was not as memorable either way.
Though Antimateria didn’t impress me with their stage presence, their sound made up for it. They had a deep full sound that got to your core. They definitely seemed to be a crowd favorite, not to mention the sound of the indoor stage worked in their favor, however it felt like I was watching a different band when I was watching from the back of the venue as opposed to closer to the stage, almost like they were meant to be experienced from afar, rather than up close.
Evil did not seem to be a crowd favorite. Not one of my favorites either, specially with those ski masks, I couldn’t help thinking compared to Cohol last year and Mgła coming the next day, they looked a bit ridiculous. And what added to the “what the fuck” factor was that they seemed to be speaking to the crowd in another language (Portuguese?) .
Monarque, however, was pleasantly surprising. Another band I had no previous expectations of, but it felt like they were the first band where something was actually happening on stage, an actual performance. The indoor stage sound kept up for them, and they all around put on a great show. It was possibly my favorite thus far into the festival.
There was a lot of hype surrounding Seigneur Voland, since it was their first time playing in Finland, and they did a special 20th anniversary show. Their sound was decent, possibly would have been better on the indoor stage, since they were one of the more atmospheric bands that played outdoors, but I couldn’t get over the way the vocalist held himself on stage. Rigid and almost self conscious, almost reminiscent of an angry cat, and I couldn’t get past it. The rest of the band also didn’t seem too comfortable on stage. The crowd during their set, however, seemed to be the most boisterous, so maybe I was just missing something about them.
Vargrav had a lot going on. Their intro was probably the longest intro of the festival, and the first time I had seen two synth/keyboard players in a black metal band, and were also the first band to bring some kind of set on stage so far (and inverted iron cross on either side of the stage). They had a good performance but I think their sound was hindered by the indoor stage acoustics. I would like to see them again in a different venue.
Everything came together for Belphegor. They put on the best performance of the day in my opinion. They had great presence, energy, and interacted with each other and the crowd. The sound was spot on, and since the sun had set, the twilit outside stage along with the lighting and incense, provided the perfect atmosphere for their show. I had seen them years before and didn’t remember their show being so great. Would definitely want to see them again.
The guys of Trollheims Grott seemed to have better energy and overall be more into it during Horna. They had the hall packed, and the crowd was totally into the show. They commanded the attention of everyone watching, although again, the acoustics of the indoor stage hindered their sound. Spellgoth’s speeches between songs also took me off guard a bit, I didn’t remember him doing that during previous shows and wondered what others thought of it.
Immolation brought a different mood to the lineup. That raw American death metal vibe that added a welcome twist to the more European black metal streak that was running through out the day. They put on a decent show, though not one of my personal favorites, they seemed to really capture the crowd and were well received.
The night ended with Mysticum. Another band that didn’t quite fit in sound wise with the rest of the bands of the day yet somehow were just what the lineup needed. A perfect band to end the first day, somewhat reminiscent of Mortiis the previous year though possibly not as “out there” compared to the rest of the lineup.
The lineup of day 2 was all around more appealing, for me and many others it seemed. I’m not sure what the actual numbers were but it seemed there were much more people at the festival on Saturday. The earlier bands on Saturday also felt a lot more professional than Friday, like they had their shit together more and knew how to command the stage and the audience with their performance and sound.
My Day 2 started with …And Oceans. Surprised they were on so early, I was under the impression they were one of the more anticipated bands of the festival. They played the outdoor stage, and despite the direct sunlight and the early time slot, they definitely pulled it off. Kena’s yellow face paint was luminescent in the bright mid day sun, but the vibe of the entire set was perfect to start off the second day of Steelfest. They drew in a much larger crowd at that hour than the previous day and had a special guest appearance by Spellgoth, dawning a lovely black and white dress. Although they brought the definite comedic element to the festival, their set was no laughing matter, solid performance and great show all around.
Délétère had potential, their set and sound didn’t work so well for me but it felt like maybe on another day in another place they could have been great. Possibly the curse of the indoor acoustics, possibly the excess of smoke, either way, they didn’t stick out to me. Maybe the weak point of the day.
Aeternus was another band I felt should have been on later, but I guess there aren’t enough good time slots available with so many headliner-level bands. Their presence and sound filled the whole venue, everyone was at the outside stage. Great energy and interaction with each other, the audience, as well as us the photographers. They were one of the bands that made me feel like Saturday bands had their shit together more than many of the Friday bands.
Totalselfhatred was another band I was looking forward to, being familiar with their music and live performance. Unfortunately, they had bad technical difficulties for most of the beginning of their set. Due to the tight schedule of the festival, I wasn’t able to stay around to see if things got better for them towards the end of their set which sucked because I know they put on a really good show. Despite the technical difficulties, they powered through as much as they could and the audience was still supportive.
Grave Miasma was another band well suited for the outdoor stage. They filled the whole venue with power and a solid raw sound. Their presence filled the whole stage and they delivered a show full of non-stop energy and metal.
The next act was possibly my favorite show of the entire festival. Gaahls Wyrd. They were definitely the best band on the indoor stage. The wonky acoustics worked for their atmospheric melancholic vibe, and they had zero technical difficulties. Their performance was smooth, flawless and enthralled the crowd (and myself) more than any other band. They played some older material from Gorgoroth, God Seed and Trelldom, as well as stuff from the forthcoming Gaahls Wyrd album. It made me even more eager to hear the new album (which would release a week later). Though they were lacking incense, the heat of the indoor stage made the show almost a spiritual experience with the haunting reverb on the vocals during the Gaahls Wyrd songs. I could not get their show out of my head, and was so excited to hear they would be back in Finland later in the year with Mayhem because their set definitely left me wanting more.
I was so captivated by Gaahls Wyrd (and because I needed to eat at some point), I missed Deiphago, so Kroda was next up. The opposite of Antimateria, Kroda was more interesting up close. They had a lot of little details that contributed to the unique and intriguing aesthetic of their performance. They brought the first ritual type experience of the festival, and dawned some interesting yet fitting attire/costume. It seemed they brought one of the biggest crowds to the indoor stage, almost headliner-size. The crowd also seemed the most eager and engaged with Kroda, chanting for the band through out the show. Sound wise, I think they could have been better, the indoor acoustics didn’t work for them and I thought they were a little too loud.
Einherjer was another band I was anticipating, and they definitely delivered. They seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves on stage, and their own mood filtered into the crowd. They brought a lighter, more heavy metal vibe to the crowd, which, like Immolation on Friday, was a welcome change. It seemed they too were a bit louder than the previous bands… maybe it was just that time of the day to get a little louder.
I was not expecting the performance Naglfar provided. I don’t know what I was expecting, but their show definitely seemed different from what their music implied their live show to be. I wasn’t unimpressed but they weren’t one of the most memorable acts for me.
I was pleasantly surprised by Asphyx. They also provided an energy different to most of the bands. Their energy and all around vibe was infectious, and commanded the crowd in the best way possible.
Odium was different than I expected, but not in a necessarily good or bad way. Their set seemed a bit scattered and in-cohesive but it worked at times. They had more than average amount of members (including, again, two synth/keyboardists)and yet the stage didn’t feel crowded. Though their sound and music seemed a bit sporadic, their presence was pretty well put-together and smooth. They were definitely hindered by the sound on the indoor stage though.
Much like Immolation the previous day, Vital Remains brought that iconic American sound that was absent through out the rest of the day. You could tell it was their first time in Finland, and to me their stage presence and energy screamed American. The crowd loved it though, and it was obvious many of the fans had been wanting to see this band in Finland for a while.
Everything about Nargaroth was spot on… except the sound. Their show lived up to my expectation 110%, except the fact that the sound on the indoor stage totally fucked them over. I wish they had been on the outdoor stage. Their stage set up included pigs heads speared to the tops of inverted crosses, dripping blood. Their energy was raw and fit the mood of their music perfectly. It was tangible through out the crowd.
Mgła brought the biggest crowd of the entire festival, and that was not a surprise at all. They were the band I was most looking forward to hands down, and they too, did not fail. They played the outdoor stage, but honed in the atmosphere so you felt as if it was an intimate club setting. Even with their faceless, simplistic presence, their sound was anything but. Though the lighting and smoke were perfect and complimented their unique sound, the bright screens on either side were a bit of a distraction. That said, the entire audience was still engulfed in the blue murk of their set.
Although Mgła, seemed to have the biggest draw, Marduk was the big headliner. Playing an exclusive “Panzer Division Marduk” 20 year anniversary set, they closed the festival with a most fitting show. They were the only band that seemed too big for the indoor stage, sound and energy wise. Their energy fed into the crowd and doubled in size half way through the set. I think it was safe to say it was a perfect and satiating end to yet another great Steelfest.
It’s almost that time of year again, Finnish metal festival season will be opened, once again, by the most anticipated underground black/death/obscure metal festival in Finland: Steelfest! Located in the heart of Hyvinkää, this year the festival has included an official camping area for those who would rather not be confined to the walls of a stuffy hotel. They also posted on Facebook that a few gracious locals who are attending the festival are offering a couch (or dark corner) to sleep in for those coming from far away.
This festival has really become a globally known legend. Based on a poll posted on social media, people are hailing from over forty different countries, not including the bands, to experience such an epic event here in the cold, dark (but hopefully not too cold or dark during the festival) north.
The festival will begin with a sold out Pre-party at Crafters the Thursday before the festival at 20:00 featuring Havukruunu & Kalmankantaja.
As for the lineup – Seigneur Voland (Fra) not only will be performing for the first time in Finland but will perform an excluive 20th anniversary show based on material from 1999-2019).
Marduk (Swe) will also be performing a 20th anniversary show to celebrate “Panzer Division Marduk”’s 20 year existance. This performance will only happen once, it cannot be missed!
Vital Remains (US) will also have their debut appearance in Finland!
We will also get a double shot of Mr.Spellgoth himself with appearances by both Horna and Trollheims Grott.
Along side these legendary performances, the lineup includes: