(As I did last year, I invited fireangel — one of the two people behind the Night Elves web site and a walking encyclopedia on Finnish metal — to contribute a year-end list, and once again she graciously agreed. As you’ll see, her list is different from any we’ve published so far in our year-end Listmania series.)
My guilty habit, to which I easily admit, is: I like listening to cover songs or “metalized” versions of great pop music. You might have noticed from some choices in last year’s post, but the true extent of the situation is much more extreme. This habit collides with something that Finnish musicians seem to be world class at: taking a song, adding metal, adding sometimes several vocalists at once, rearranging the whole structure upside down, and ta-dah!: Awesome music. Of course I`m aware that people in warmer climates of the world are possibly capable of that, too. I, however, mainly tune in to Finnish Metal, because it just happens to be my favourite.
What I like especially is the wonderful opportunity to hear the variety of someone’s singing, outside of their usual band setting. Additionally, the arrangements and the metal treatment very often improve the song, in my opinion. An example could be A-HA’s 1980s hit “Take On Me”. A lot of the typical 80s songwriting is top-notch, but I just prefer metal to pop music; so, having a combination of the catchy melody and lots of guitar takes the song much further.
On the other hand, of course, the vocal style someone has and the band this singer usually is in will already influence the direction of the cover song, so it is somewhat an extension of the catalogue – more songs from my favourite artists. Of course, this might work the other way around, too: most often, the vocalists are performing songs which might have influenced them in the past – songs by their own favourite artists.
Not only vocalists are in different settings here; for example at the Northern Kings concerts, there was Wintersun’s Kai Hahto behind the drumset. In many Raskasta Joulua line-ups, Erkki Silvennoinen (De Lirium’s Order, Ex-Amoral) is playing bass; also there is guitarist Tuomas Wäinölä, who played for Kotipelto, amongst others. One of the main musicians who you might see in many of these videos (on the right side of the stage, seen from the viewer’s perspective) is guitarist Erkka Korhonen, the musical director for Northern Kings, Raskasta Joulua, and several other projects.
Overall, it could be said that cover songs are a subject which is being handled by the artists in this post with a lot of dedication, skill, and definitely with great enjoyment, too.
For me there is an added benefit, which is learning about all kinds of Classic Rock and Traditional Metal, because those were not the artists I usually listened to, but the covers got me interested in checking out some other styles.
Identical to the post of 2011, this one was written by one of the Night Elves but reflects both our favourites in this field.
Northern Kings are a project band composed of several musicians and four vocalists for the purpose of covering pop hits in metal versions. Those vocalists are JP Leppäluoto (Charon, Harmaja), Marco Hietala (Tarot, Nightwish), Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica), and J Ahola (Teräsbetoni, Ahola). I will add here that these people also take part in other cover projects, some of which are mentioned later on in this article.
NORTHERN KINGS – A View To A Kill
NORTHERN KINGS – J AHOLA – Hello
I did not think I would ever listen to Lionel Richie, but it turns out even that song had great songwriting, if arranged properly and of course Ahola-ized.
NORTHERN KINGS – JP LEPPÄLUOTO – Brothers In Arms
This performance is certainly one of my favourites:
NORTHERN KINGS – Take On Me
AMORAL – Dig Up Her Bones
Amoral covered The Misfits and some nice people from the Amoral fanbase created this animated South Park-style video for it:
Regarding the following three examples, these are some more acoustic-y versions, where I think that the vocals truly shine.
J AHOLA – Who Wants To Live Forever
ARI KOIVUNEN – Catch The Rainbow
Ari Koivunen is the vocalist of Amoral, but he also published two solo albums before joining them. His versatility both with clean and growled vocals is outstanding. Admittedly, I find all of the vocalists mentioned in this article quite outstanding, and they all show how widespread a repertoire they can master, but Ari Koivunen basically can sing everything.
J AHOLA – Always On My Mind
This song I remember as one of the great hymns of the 80s, in the Pet Shop Boys’ version, but it is in fact a song from early 1970, also performed by Elvis Presley.
ARI KOIVUNEN – Rock’n Roll
The Led Zeppelin cover in the next video is performed with the “house band” of this particular venue, which features Klaus Wirzenius of Anthriel and Manzana at the bass.
ANTONY PARVIAINEN TRIO – The Evil That Men Do
Antony Parviainen is the former vocalist of the now disbanded Machine Men, who had some quite noticeable Iron Maiden influences. So I chose his cover of a familiar Iron Maiden track:
ANTONY PARVIAINEN TRIO – Autiotalo
Here, Antony covers “Autiotalo”, a song by the Finnish band Dingo, who were especially famous in the 1980s but are still active (again) nowadays. [Their original version of this song can be found via this link.]
HYSTERIA – w/ ARI KOIVUNEN – Livin’ On A Prayer
Hyesteria, as the name suggests, is something of a comic version of a cover band, not just playing the music but also reliving the “style” of the 1980s, so you get the full experience. They regularly have guest vocalists, too.
HYSTERIA w/ J AHOLA – Heaven And Hell
HYSTERIA w/ ARI KOIVUNEN – Love Ain’t No Stranger
CYNTAX TERROR – Pokerface
This band features Mygrain’s vocalist Tommy (who recently joined Damnation Plan, too). They offer an electro-metal version of Lady Gaga’s “Pokerface”.
COVERSLAVES w/ J AHOLA (at Maidenfest Finland) – Run To The Hills
As you can see, in Finland, cover bands are almost as widely found as metal bands. The Coverslaves are an Iron Maiden cover band founded in 2006, but the Maidenfest Finland started only in 2011. At their concerts they are joined by guest vocalists, such as J Ahola in this case.
SAPATTIVUOSI – Pelon Lait (Neon Knights)
Sapattivuosi means “Sabbath Year” in Finnish, and they are a long-running Black Sabbath cover band. They actually perform the songs in Finnish, so they excel at the additional task of translating the lyrics into a language from a completely different family and still making it work. Some time ago they recruited Marco Hietala as their front man. “Pelon Lait” was released as a single with this official video:
OCTOBER RUST – Love You To Death
Under the name “October Rust” you will find a band consisting of vocalist JP Leppäluoto, guitarists Lauri Porra and Tuomas Wäinölä, keyboarder Vili Ollila, and Apocalyptica drummer Mikko Sirén. I don’t know about everyone in this band, but at least I read several times that JP Leppäluoto was a big fan of Type O Negative; it definitely influenced the first steps of his band Charon; you can hear that in the demos and also in the debut album.
OCTOBER RUST – Everything Dies
OCTOBER RUST – Black No 1 (Little Miss Scare-All)
Anyways, back to more Dio covers, since we surely did not cover this topic extensively enough yet. Some of my favourites from the Ronnie James Dio Memorial Gala in Helsinki were:
RJD MEMORIAL GALA Helsinki – ARI KOIVUNEN – Don’t Talk To Strangers
Please note Janne Parviainen from Ensiferum at the drums for this evening, and guest guitarist Ben Varon from Amoral.
RJD MEMORIAL GALA Helsinki – ASIM SEARAH – Die Young
Asim Searah was the vocalist of The Nibiruan and is now in Damnation Plan (who have a new album on the way).
RJD MEMORIAL GALA Helsinki – J AHOLA – Holy Diver
A special subcategory of this subject is Metal Christmas.
For sure this has been done without “institutionalized” bands for many years, but maybe somewhat known is the project “Raskas Joulo / Raskata Joulua”, which gathers musicians and vocalists from plenty of Finnish bands, and which tours each year in a varying line-up. Additionally, they released two albums and an EP so far. Also there is Christmas Singing at many rock venues and bars throughout the country.
I really like the concept that the metal culture takes an established celebration and puts its own spin on it.
LARS EIKIND – Walking In The Air
You might remember outstanding vocalist Lars Eikind from his (former) bands such as Before the Dawn or Winds; in the following video he performs “Walking In The Air”, a title especially known because of the Nightwish version of it, but since Lars is so awesome, of course he has no problems with this, either.
RASKASTA JOULUA – ARI KOIVUNEN – Me käymme joulun viettohon
RASKASTA JOULUA – MARCO HIETALA – Varpunen jouluaamuna
RASKASTA JOULUA – J AHOLA – Mielenrauhaa
RASKASTA JOULUA – JP LEPPÄLUOTO & ILJA JALKKANEN – Joululaulu
Ilja Jalkkanen was Kiuas’s vocalist until recently, so maybe some readers might know him from that band.
RASKASTA JOULUA – J AHOLA – Ilouutinen
As you can gather from the video, this was one of the final songs of the concert, where all the vocalists came back on stage.
NORTHERN KINGS / RASKASTA JOULUA – Ave Maria
This is a special twist within the special twist. The four vocalists of Northern Kings are also often part of Raskata Joulua (see above). So in this particular concert, they crossed both bands to have Northern Kings sing Christmas Songs.
NORTHERN KINGS / RASKASTA JOULUA – Heinillä härkien kaukalon & We Don’t Need Another Hero
Metal is fun!