Dec 172010

Finland Tribute Week started on a lark, and then took on a life of its own. One week of Finnish metal turned into two weeks, and it could easily continue for many more days. But all good things must come to an end. Among other things, this good year for metal is coming to an end, and you know what that means: Year-end lists. We have some for you, beginning on Monday.

Looking back on Finland Tribute Week: Finland has produced a rich variety of metal, and we’ve done our weak-minded best to provide a sense of that. We’ve covered an array of melodic death metal, funeral doom, black metal, humppa metal, folk/pagan metal, battle metal, cello metal, monster metal, and more. Undoubtedly, we will have fucked up in the eyes of many of you by neglecting bands we should have written about. That’s to be expected: “Disappointing” is our middle name (one of many).

We’ve been scratching our pointy heads about what to do in this final post — our last chance before this series ends to highlight Finnish metal bands. We’ve been holding on to one well-known band that’s a favorite of your three NCS co-founders — Swallow the Sun. So,we’ll lead with that. Then we’ll move on to another band we didn’t know about before starting this series, but that many of you have recommended to us: Fall of the Leafe.

And then we’ll finn-ish off this series by doing what we’ve tried to do consistently since the beginning of NCS — tell you about bands you may never have heard of that hit our sweet spot, including promising bands just getting their start. The ones we’ve picked, somewhat randomly, for this wrap-up are Depressed Mode, Nation Despair, and -1 World. Lots of music to cover. Therefore, we will have few words (yeah, we know that will come as a shock). We will let the music speak for itself — after the jump. Continue reading »

Dec 162010

We’re down to our last two posts in this Finland Tribute “Week” series. Today, for the sake of completeness, we’re betraying the title and thematic focus of this site. Of the three bands we’re writing about today, only one — Apocalyptica — is a band whose music is on our personal playlists, and none of them fits our definition of extreme. But in terms of global appeal, they’re certainly among the most popular quasi-metal acts to come out of Finland in the last decade. So, we’re paying respect to them through this post. While gritting our teeth. For the sake of completeness.


Apocalyptica started in 1993 when four classically trained cellists at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki started playing Metallica songs on their cellos. They released a debut album in 1996 (Plays Metallica by Four Cellos), consisting entirely of Metallica covers. Their second album, Inquisition Symphony (1998) included more Metallica covers, plus songs by Faith No More, Sepultura, and Pantera. As fun as it was to hear metal songs covered by cellists, many people (including us) thought this would be a one-and-done novelty act.

We couldn’t have been more wrong. The third album (Cult, 2000) included mainly original songs, and the fourth one (Reflections, 2003) was nothing but original tunes and included drums along with the cellos (with Slayer’s Dave Lombardo providing the drum tracks). Guest vocalists began to appear on the band’s albums, which led to even greater heights of sky-rocketing popularity. Now, with nine albums in their discography (including a couple of “best of” releases), the band has sold over three million records worldwide and has played somewhere in the vicinity of 1,000 concerts in 50 countries. Some novelty act.

We’ve seen Apocalyptica in concert twice, and their shows are massively entertaining. The live productions are slick, but these dudes work their butts off on stage, and the fun they have while playing is irresistibly infectious. And yes, a lot of their music legitimately qualifies as metal, despite the hard-rock feel of most of those songs with guest vocalists. (more after the jump . . .) Continue reading »

Dec 142010

We’ve learned a thing or two about Finnish metal in the course of writing this series. For example, we learned about two home-grown bands who were especially influential in the progression of metal in Finland, even though they are no longer active: Sentenced and Stone. Those are two of the bands we’re focusing on today. (In other words, it’s time for all Finnish metal nerds to geek out.) The third is a somewhat more recent player in the scene that your NCS co-authors really, really like: Omnium Gatherum. (We are not geeks — at least not all the time.)


Sentenced released their debut album in 1991. In the decade and a half, or thereabouts, that followed, the band produced seven more albums before announcing in 2005 that The Funeral Album would be their last. They played their final show on October 1, 2005, in Oulu, and the concert was filmed and later released on DVD under the title Buried Alive.

Guitarist and founding member Miika Tenkula died less than three years later, his premature death brought on by a congenital heart condition. The surviving members of Sentenced have continued their careers in other bands, including Poisonblack, KYPCK, and The Man-Eating Tree.

Particularly in their earlier years, Sentenced played an important role in the creation of melodic death metal, paving the way for bands like Children of Bodom by conjoining death-metal aggression with irresistible melodic (and often melancholy) passages. And yet, many people would say (and have said) that their 1995 album Amok is the band’s crowning achievement, and it’s debatable whether “melodic death metal” is a fitting label for it.

(more after the jump . . .)

Continue reading »

Dec 132010

There’s no unifying theme to today’s installment in our Finland Tribute Week series — just a line-up of bands that need to be mentioned if we’re to do even half-assed justice to Finnish metal, all three of which are expected to release new albums in 2011. So, without further introductory verbiage, here we go:


Norther, a band often compared (rightly or wrongly) to Children of Bodom, originally started in 1996 as a death-metal band under the name Requiem, then changed their name to Decayed, and then in 2000, after significant line-up changes, to Norther.

From 1996 to 2009, the band was fronted by Petri Lindroos — who has also been the vocalist/guitarist for Ensiferum since 2004. In 2009, he was replaced as Norther’s vocalist by Aleksi Sihvonen — who is also the vocalist for Medicated and former vocalist for the now-defunct Imperanon (whose guitarist Teemu Mäntysaari is now a member of Wintersun). The band also includes bass-player Jukka Koskinen, who is also a member of Wintersun (as is Jari Mäenpää, who used to be a vocalist/guitarist with Ensiferum) and also now plays for Amberian Dawn, as does Norther’s drummer Heikki Saari.

Are you following this? Are we clear? Apparently, the Finns play musical chairs, too.

Norther has produced five albums to date, the last of which was a 2008 release called N. The band has recorded a new album, to be called Circle Regenerated, for an early 2011 release on Century Media Records.  They’ve released a digital single from that album, which features Sihvonen’s vocals and the guitar playing of Daniel Freyberg (Naildown, Source of Demise), who joined the band this year. The single is called “Break Myself Away”, and after the jump we’ll show you how to download it for free, plus we’ll have some older Norther music for you, too. Continue reading »

Dec 122010

If you’ve been keeping count, we’ve done Finland Tribute Week posts for 10 days in a row (including today) — and that’s not counting the two posts about Amorphis and Before the Dawn that started this tribute rolling before we decided to formalize it with a name. Either way, whether it’s been 10 days or 12, we’ve moved beyond the normal dictionary definition of “week”, at least if you live on Earth. There’s just too much awesome Finnish metal that we feel compelled to write about — and we’re still not done.

We’re not quite sure how much longer we’ll roll with this. We’re not even sure what day it is. But based on what we’ve got up our sleeves at the moment, it will last about three more days (interspersed with a couple of guest contributions). Even then, we’re positive we’ll have left out bands that are near and dear to the hearts of many of you.

Yes, Finland’s a small country, but it’s still a fucking country, and there’s just no way we can do complete justice to all the metal it’s producing, even if we continued this series into the New Year. Plus, lots of things have been happening in the wider world of metal while we’ve been tunnel-visioned with Finland, and we need to get back to that wider world.

But not today. Today, we’re going to play our MISCELLANY game with Finnish metal. As regular readers know, in our usual MISCELLANY posts, I randomly pick bands I’ve never heard before, I listen to a song (or two) of their music, and I make a log of the journey for this site — usually not knowing in advance what the music will sound like or whether it will be appealing or disappointing.

For this Finnish edition of MISCELLANY, I’ve randomly picked five — yes, five — bands from the list of reader suggestions we’ve gotten since this Tribute began. These are bands whose music I’d never heard before. In fact, these are bands whose names I’d never heard before: Ikuinen Kaamos, Hateform, Flame, Crystalic, and Cause For Effect.

And, sure enough, the music tends to validate our hypothesis that there’s some mutating substance in the Finnish water supply that turns a high percentage of Finnish children into hot-shit musicians, because this was one wild ride, from start to finn-ish. (for reactions to the music, and the tracks I heard, read on after the jump . . .) Continue reading »

Dec 112010

There will be running and galloping, the drawing of swords, a rain of arrows. There will be battle axes and torches at night, the cleaving of bone, the wailing of women. There will be longboats on the rivers, blood will be spilled, heroes will be made. There will be kilts and animal skins and war paint. There will be victory songs and anthems to the ancestors. And they will all fucking rock.

Yesterday our installment in this series highlighted two bands that had varying degrees of folk-metal influence in their sound. Today, we’re wading deeper into Finnish folk-metal waters — but not just any kind of folk metal. It’s folk metal with lots of fucking swords.


Ensiferum is the Latin word for “sword-bearer”. The band was founded in 1995, and since their formation, Ensiferum have released four full-length albums, one EP, one compilation, three singles, and three demo albums. We’re not familiar with the full discography, but we know and like the last two albums — Victory Songs (2007) and From Afar (2009). We also got the chance to see them play in Seattle, and they’re even better live than on disc — they know how to whip a crowd into a frenzied, frothing mass of motion.

Ensiferum take the speedy, flashy mix of keyboard- and guitar-driven Finnish melodeath popularized by Children of Bodom and color it with folkish melodies and lyrical themes that speak of legends and myths and heroes with swords. They feature a mix of harsh and clean vocals, epic Viking chants, and fast-as-shit riffing and rhythms.  (more after the jump, including a shitload of music and some exciting tour news . . .) Continue reading »

Dec 102010

Let’s pause for a moment and take stock of what we’ve done with this tribute series so far:  We’ve covered a pretty wide range of melodic death-metal bands, both globally known names and newcomers. We’ve featured some purveyors of funeral doom. We’ve written about some of the biggest names in Finnish black metal. What are we still missing?

HUMPPA METAL! Yes, in response to overwhelming popular demand, today we’re shining the spotlight on two bands who have incorporated traditional Finnish humppa into their metal in quite different ways. You could also think of this post as a dip into the waters of Finnish folk-metal, though in our opinion that isn’t really a fair characterization of one of these bands.

What, you may ask is humppa? Let’s see what The Font Of All Human Knowledge has to say on the subject:

Humppa is a type of music from Finland. It is related to jazz and very fast foxtrot, played two beats to a bar (2/4 or 2/2). Typical speed is about 220 to 260 beats per minute. Humppa is also the name of a few social dances danced to humppa music. All dances involve bounce that follows the strong bass of the music. . . . The name humppa was invented by Antero Alpola for a radio show in the 1950s. He picked it up from German Oktoberfest where the locals used the word to describe the playing of the band. The band probably used a tuba, as the sound of tuba on the first beat is like hump, the second beat coming as a pa. (The related German style is known as oompah.)

As far as we can tell from afar, humppa isn’t the sort of music that many people in Finland buy for their listening pleasure. Instead, it’s music that people dance to, and it’s played in dance halls in cities large and small. As we’ll see, it has also been incorporated into metal by two bands whose fame has spread well beyond their home country — Finntroll and Korpiklaani.  (more after the jump, including tracks to hear . . .) Continue reading »

Dec 092010

Surely, when it comes to metal, the Finns make a mis-step every now and then. But it doesn’t seem to happen very often. Fuck, even the festivals are awesome.

Take the TUSKA open air festival, for example. The 2011 edition is scheduled to take place on July 22-24, 2011 in Helsinki. Yesterday, the festival organizers released an initial list of the bands that are confirmed so far. Take a peep at this:


Yeah, that’s exactly what I said when I saw it: Holy Shit.  (more after the jump . . .) Continue reading »

Dec 092010

What, did you think we would forget about black metal? No way. How could we put together a tribute to extreme metal from Finland and not (fearfully) bow our horned heads in obeisance to the music of the beast? We just needed a little time to summon up the courage before wading out into that smoking, seething, sulfurous pool that is Finnish black metal.

As regular readers know, we wouldn’t call ourselves black-metal experts. As fans of the genre, we’re relative latecomers, and we’re still discovering bands — not only new ones but also historical icons. But from what we’ve learned in our ongoing education, Finland has definitely made its mark. You know the mark we’re talking about (it begins with a 6 and ends in a 6 and, uh, it has a 6 in the middle).

Today, we’re featuring three long-running bands who seem to be among the best known within kvlt circles (Horna, Beherit, and Impaled Nazarene :)) — even we had heard of them before and even knew some of their music — plus another (Sargeist) who may not be quite so well-known but are very capable of impaling your head on a musical spike. And in a last-minute update, we’ve just got to say something about Behexen.

Once again, we’re indebted to our commenters for their suggestions, and particularly to Johan Huldtgren (Obitus) for bringing Sargeist (and Behexen) to our attention. We know Johan is really waiting for the humppa music, but he’s gonna have to wait a bit longer. Patience, bro. For now, dear unclean readers, inscribe a pentagram on your forehead with fetus blood and listen to what we’ve dug out of the maggot-ridden crypt — it’s quite a varied spectrum of what Finnish black metal has to offer, and the music is awesome.   (after the jump . . .) Continue reading »

Dec 082010

Insomnium, like Children of Bodom, is another one of those bands that just can’t be omitted in a feature on Finnish metal — at least not any feature we’re in charge of writing. They draw together strands of melodic death metal, progressive metal, and doom, and weave them into music that’s heavy, epic, beautiful, and sometimes haunting. When people talk about a distinctively Finnish brand of melodic metal, this band, along with Amorphis, are likely the first two bands they’re thinking of.

Insomnium have given us four studio albums to date, with another one due for release next year — their first after signing in August with Century Media (home of other Finnish ass-kickers like Finntroll and Turisas).

We liked Insomnium’s last album, 2009’s Across the Dark, but our favorite remains Above the Weeping World.  That album was our introduction to Insomnium, and it’s still the Insomnium music we go back to, over and again. It’s weighted more heavily on the melodeath side of the scales than Across the Dark, with more un-clean singing, and that may explain our personal preference for it.

After the jump, we’ve got  Insomnium music and videos for your entertainment — including a special single that the band released in September, featuring guest vocals by Dark Tranquillity‘s Mikael Stanne. Continue reading »