(One of the best things about operating NCS is the chance to make connections with metal-lovers from around the world. Because of our frequent focus on Finnish metal, I’ve made a connection with “fireangel“, one of the two creators of a very informative and entertaining Finland-based blog called Night Elves. I invited fireangel to write a post for our year-end Listmania, and here it is.)
Islander kindly invited me to share my favourites of 2011, knowing full well that my taste oscillates between “No Clean Singing“ and more often its mirror image, “No! Clean Singing!”, as it was so nicely put in the 2-Year-Anniversary-post, and that my suggestions would make a better fit with “Exceptions To The Rule” than the NCS Rule itself. Nevertheless, he thought he could live with that, so maybe you can, too. Even though this post is written by one person, it includes the musical favourites of both Night Elves.
I selected some songs that work as my personal pick-me-up for plenty of situations – feeling tired, sleepless, moody, etc – and can convert me into a decent citizen, at least for a limited time.
In order to test the boundaries even more, this post also includes songs that are not necessarily from 2011, but I listened to them on quite heavy rotation in this year.
MyGrain – “Of Immortal Aeons”
MyGrain is a band I listened to first when they were still a “demo-band”, and now they have three albums out, so I’d call that a success both for the band and for my band-watching, too. Their second video, “Trapped In An Hourglass” from the self-titled album, has been featured on NCS already, so I’ll direct your eyes and ears to the other video-release.
Insomnium – “Weather The Storm” (feat. Mikael Stanne)
Preceding Insomnium’s new album One For Sorrow, the 2011 single “Weather The Storm” (which is available on an album-digipak, too) served as confirmation of the band’s ongoing highest quality that would continue with the new release as well. The lyrics, written by Ville Friman, are quite reassuring and lead us to a sunny outlook for 2012.
“Through demise and disaster
Past the flames of the end
Rise above ever stronger
Disown the past for the present”
Turisas – “End Of An Empire”
Also very eclectic and inspirational is “End Of An Empire” from Turisas’ Stand Up And Fight. Turisas carved out their niche with compositions that feature, besides metal of course, elements of jazz, folk, prog, and opera. This is by far not any random folk metal band; this is quite a lot more. Their albums have very well thought-through concepts, both lyric- and music-wise, and they are especially enjoyable if you listen to them from start to finish.
“End Of An Empire” seems to be the counterpart to “Miklagard Overture” from the second release (The Varangian Way) — that was also a multi-part, multi-choir, multi-orchestra, and multi-everything epic piece.
Since I could not find any live- or official video for the track, here instead is “Miklagard Overture”.
Battle Beast – “Show Me How To Die”
Battle Beast play very classic heavy metal, but they are not just reheating old 80′s power metal songs. In addition to great musicianship, the most memorable feature of Battle Beast is their vocalist Nitte Valo. “Show Me How To Die” is a perfect wake-up song from 2011′s album Steel.
Jarkko or J. Ahola has a career both in various bands (Teräsbetoni, AHOLA, Northern Kings, Raskas Joulu) and as a solo singer. To me he is one of the most outstanding vocalists, ever, and listening to him singing makes me feel better.
One of his recent projects was a “Queen Anniversary” concert, where the songs were rearranged for two military orchestras, so it was not purely a classical arrangement but rather somewhere between Big Band and Jazz. Of course, there have been zillions of Queen covers. Nevertheless, to me these are extraordinary.
Additionally, here is an example of Jarkko with his bandmates from Teräsbetoni: The track, “Mies” (=”Man”), is from 2010′s Maailma tarvitsee sankareita (=”The World Needs Heroes”) – Metal Heroes that is.
Routasielu is one of several bands ruled by self-titled (and very appropriatly titled) One Man Army Tuomas Saukkonen; in the video below you can hear him on growl-vocals while clean singing is taken care of by Mikko Heikkilä.
Other bands in which Tuomas is a member include Before The Dawn and Black Sun Aeon. Whichever band you choose, the compositions and performances deliver melancholy and energy at the same time.
Stam1na – “Rikkipää”
So that we do not go all Gothic Prog here (with lots of Clean Singing!), I’ll throw in some Thrash Metal. Stam1na have a huge following in Finland; they were founded in 1996 and nowadays they are one of the biggest and best-selling metal acts. What I like about them is the mix of excellent musicianship, very obscure humour, and outspokenness regarding the protection of nature – in a very unpreaching way, I might add. Stam1na released a whole album on the topic (Viimeinen Atlantis, 2010).
Their video for “Rikkipää” was originally censored by Youtube; not because of violence, gore and anti-catholicism, but because of some temporarily undressed men.
One of my summer-of-2011-hits was also an older track of theirs, “Kadonneet kolme sanaa”; the band then consisted of three instead of five musicians but had an equal impact.
Charon are featured in this list not only because they are one of my favourite bands but also because, unfortunately, they disbanded in 2011. I do like to say goodbye with style (as in, “in an NCS blog post”). Even though the band had not been active much in the years before disbanding, their charisma alone kept (and will keep) a huge fanbase going.
Sole Remedy – “Burden”
This track is not part of the list for improving my mind. It is instead a memory of Sole Remedy’s guitarist Mikko Laine — featured on the left side of the stage in the following video — who this year passed away shortly after the concert pictured in the video, due to an accident (in which no-one else from the band was involved, just for clarification).
Sole Remedy (also previously featured at NCS) like to emphasize that the last day of his life was happy: He played a great concert and spend a good time with his friends. Still, it’s tough to realize that the last day of one’s life can be at any time. I hope that Mikko is playing lots of metal-riffs in heaven, and I also wish everything good to Sole Remedy, who hopefully will continue with their band.
In Mourning – “For You To Know”
Freshly signed to Spinefarm to release their third album next year, In Mourning from Sweden are certainly in my “Best Of”- list for 2011, because I saw them live, which delivered a one-year-supply of adrenaline, so that should carry me over until next autumn.
Profane Omen – “Wastehead”
2011 also marks the ten-year anniversary of my listening to Profane Omen.
“Wastehead” is from the freshly released Destroy! album and has been featured on NCS previously, too, coincidently because I suggested it (thanks, Islander!). In 2001, PO were a demo-band, and in 2007 were voted “Newcomer Of The Year” at the Finnish Metal Awards, after releasing their debut in that year.
I’m not sure what took people six years, but you can convince yourself of the high quality even in early demos — for example, through the track “Load Of Lead”, featured below. Meanwhile, I look at my collection of several original Profane Omen demos which I bought at the time of their publishing and feel pretty happy.
Profane Omen – “Load Of Lead”
Raskas Joulu – Ari Koivunen – Sylvian Joululaulu
Finnish metalfolk also celebrate Christmas, just in their own way. That means metalized versions of Christmas songs, played in rock clubs, of course. Each year a busload of different vocalists take part; this video below is with Amoral’s singer Ari Koivunen. Guitar solo by Tuomas Wäinölä.