Feb 012010

In today’s installment of our irregular featured called “That’s Metal” — But It’s Not Music, we’re focusing on two fiery European festivals, both of which we stumbled on at Boston.com.

First up: Up Helly Aa

This festival celebrates the influence of the Scandinavian vikings in the Shetland Islands of Scotland, marking the end of the yule season. The event culminates with up to 1,000 “guizers” (men dressed up as Vikings) throwing flaming torches into a Viking longship. Seems that this theme has been used at the festival since 1870. Of course it has. How can you improve on perfection?

This burning-the-Viking-galley event happens all over Shetland, but it’s only in Lerwick (situs of the photos from the January 26 installment that we’re featuring in this post) where the galley isn’t sent seaward. Everywhere else, the flaming galley goes into the sea, in an echo of actual Viking sea burials.

So, why do we think this is metal?  Well, first off, it’s called Up Helly Aa. That just sounds metal, particularly if you imagine screaming it at the top of your lungs while carrying a torch and jammin’ on some Amon Amarth.

And besides, can’t you just imagine how this thing got started?  “Hey dude! It’s the end of the fucking holidays. We need to have a special blowout!  I know! Let’s drink a few tankards of mead, dress up like fucking Vikings, and go set some shit on fire!”  Now that’s metal, isn’t it?

Now, don’t stop here. There’s more fiery craziness on display after the jump . . . Continue reading »