A first edition of a very successful festival took place on the days of 12th and 13th of November, 2010 in Helsinki at a venue called Danteâ€™s Highlight. It is a place that regularly hosts smaller sized concerts, having a capacity of about 650 people (including top floor/balcony), as far as I understood. Plus, downstairs there is a separate bar that opens before the venue hours and where eventually you can grab some food or maybe some of the drinks that are not available at the venue. However, I think the most important ingredient for the success of the event was the crowd. It totally rocked. Almost every band had at least a few enthusiasts in front of the stage, while the headliners had half of the audience singing along and screaming their name. The second night had half of the guys (didnâ€™t notice any girls that fit the description) taking their shirts off. So, it was hot. Band members enjoyed standing among the crowd and chatting with people or hanging around the merchandise stand, so wherever youâ€™d turn thereâ€™d only be happy faces and good mood. And beer, of course.
On the first night, Friday, I landed in the Finnish capital around 8 in the evening, and I couldnâ€™t catch all the performers because my stomach was demanding some attention. So, after a good Mexican dinner I headed to the venue with a friend and we came just in time to see Malicious Death, Finnish pioneers in the world of Thrash Metal, as I was told. For me they represented the beginning of a crazy weekend, since their thrash music was well supported by an insane show from the vocalist and his dreadlocks. Half naked, with his belly full of tattoos, he ran all over the stage most of the times, stopping to either throw himself on the floor, sing along the guitarist or the bassist, unzip his pants and show his manhood to the fans in front, go a bit further back and show us his ass, you know, regular concert gestures. All of these while he displayed his decent growling skills. I remember noticing some cool guitar riffs at times and for several songs there was a guest jumping on stage and performing part of the lyrics. I have no idea if he was a famous face on the Finnish metal scene, but it was fun to watch the singer pay a lot of attention to the new comer.
After the entertaining gig ended, we were served a decent portion of Heavy Metal with mean dark nuances by the Swedes from Portrait. Before hearing the songs, you could be quite convinced of their style, considering the amount of leather and metal worn by each of the band members. The singer had a huge upside down cross hanging from his neck, while one of the guitarists wore a pentagram. It was as well an energetic show with a lot of headbanging from both the band and the crowd, but the metal they are playing tends to have the problem of all songs sounding the same after a while. I canâ€™t didn't notice flaws in their performance, but nothing that stood out either, so we took advantage of the nice tables with couches located to the sides of the stage and rested for a while. Oh, maybe itâ€™s of anyoneâ€™s interest that on the white guitar in the show there was a sticker saying â€˜I love analâ€™. If not of interest, ignore this detail.
The closing act of the night was another band from Sweden, Grand Magus. It was another reprise of heavy metal taking you back in time to the sounds of Maiden or Accept, but maintaining its genuine feeling at the same time. This was exactly the reason for which I enjoyed their heavy metal much more than the previous band. It was also much cooler to get such an entertaining music from only three people who managed their instruments with a lot of skill and passion. Vocals get a plus from me, I enjoyed his style a lot, while the drummer was incredibly tight and didnâ€™t give a rest to any piece of his battery, especially the snare. Their music was catchy, despite the total lack of a stage show, and I still feel a tad sorry we left before the end, but, in order to survive another night of concerts, I really had to.
Saturday had an excellent start for me at noon, when I had an interview with some of the guys from Nightingale and, later on at 7PM, one with the ones from Seventh Wonder. All of them seemed to be lovely people, and I feel very glad I had the chance to meet them. I also want to say a big thanks to the organisers for arranging them. You will get to read the interviews soon I hope, but until then letâ€™s go on with more words about the event.
First band on the stage was Battle Beast. Some more heavy metal, in its purest form (think AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas priest), with lyrics that were around steel, metal, power, battles, etc. The most entertaining piece of their show was the singer. It is a female fronted band â€“ and a young one as far as I heard, formed about 2 years ago and with pretty young members as well — but the vocalist would make many of the men in the genre feel quite ashamed. She is capable of really great pieces, high, long, low, all very very powerful while she is also a good front woman. Too bad the space in front of the stage remained mainly empty for the whole gig, but she got the people clapping and cheering no matter where they were standing. After seeing their performance I understand why they won the Battle of the Bands for Wacken (2011, I think) and altogether the band could probably make a great career as a WoManowar replica.
Moving along to the second Heavy Metal band of the night, also from Finland, Merging Flare. This time, the music was more melodic and more on the power side of things, a la Gamma Ray or Stratovarius if you want some comparisons that crossed my mind. Clean, simple show on stage to support their music, and they slowly attracted the crowd that kept on coming at the venue. After enjoying a few of their songs and watching the crazy guitar riffs that cannot be absent from a power metal act, I ran downstairs to grab some food and to my surprise the place was booked for a private party where people wore funny very old styled clothes. A thing worth mentioning about the place downstairs is that you cannot really hear the concerts from upstairs, despite the fact that the sound in the venue is really decent for concerts. It must have something to do with the overall architecture of the building â€“ which used to be a church back in the day.
Finally, time to see a wonder I discovered a few weeks prior to the festival â€“ Seventh Wonder. It is a band from Sweden, formed in 2000, playing progressive metal (which might head towards power metal at times), while raising the bar that defines the modern term of progressive metal. Unfortunately, this was the last one for their drummer (unless you count the release party of their new album in December) so itâ€™s a pity that they lose such a skilled musician. Yet, thereâ€™s still huge amount of skill left in the band. I donâ€™t even know whom to start with. I was warned by my friend before the show that Iâ€™d be amazed by the bass performance of Andreas Blomqvist, and I admit I was and I probably spent most of the shows staring at how his fingers ran along the 6 chords, plucking, slapping, or tapping them and itâ€™s one of the few times that I notice such a melody created by the bass itself. And the solos, mmm.
Not that the guitars or the keyboards didnâ€™t play a big role in the music, but the bass has a special role in the sound of this band and I recommend you listen to their songs in order to see what I mean. The drums didnâ€™t get any rest at all either, and even if they donâ€™t get a chance to stand out too much, there were incredible nice fills all over the songs and quick fascinating rhythm changes. The whole perfect progressive picture is completed by the voice of Tommy Karevik, very melodic, soft, yet full of energy and passion, able to transmit a bunch of emotions throughout the melodies. The most touching moment of the show was the short ballad, â€˜Tears for a fatherâ€™, from their â€˜Mercy Fallsâ€™ album, a song that really made me cry. I also got goosebumps from hearing the crowd singing along with the band from the very first song. And we got the honor to hear a new song, Wiseman, for the very first time live as their encore, and I am sure everyone in the audience really appreciated that.
Last on stage were the Swedes from Nightingale, which was the main act that made me book tickets to this event. It is a band that has been around since 1995 and itâ€™s the brainchild of Dan SwanÃ¶ and his brother Dag, and if these names are not familiar to you, especially Danâ€™s, I recommend you spend some of the time you waste online to search for them and see why one might feel like it's worth the effort to travel and see them live, especially since itâ€™s the bandâ€™s second concert this year and nobody knows when a future one might take place. They came on stage dressed with the most common jeans and tshirts, so it was obvious there isnâ€™t any fancy show or anything. But when the crowd heard the first chords from Nightfall overture, it went mad and it was obvious weâ€™re in for a great treat. The smiles and surprised expressions were combined on the musicianâ€™s faces who didnâ€™t expect such a warm reaction and they stayed there for the rest of the night. The setlist was full of hits, and the band even made a medley of songs, since they wouldnâ€™t have had time to play all those songs and it was clear that the crowd wanted each and everyone of them. A cherry on the eveningâ€™s cake was to hear Dan growl for a few minutes. Actually his voice, despite the fact that he doesnâ€™t sing much live lately, is still as incredible as I remembered it, even if maybe not at its highest. His upside down guitar playing is funny to watch, while the other musicians in the band show their years of experience with a very relaxed style that results in lovely familiar riffs and melodies.
Since the initial playlist didnâ€™t fully satisfy everyone, the people screamed for an encore which brought two very big surprises, for me at least. The first one was a Swedish folk song, “Piska Mig Med Lagom Mycket Gummi”, which can be translated as “Whip me with a fair amount of rubber”, and which contains a fair amount of silliness apparently, since everyone in the band was making funny faces and gestures. Towards its end, Dag SwanÃ¶ took of his shirt, played the guitar with his teeth and started throwing it in the air a little. The surprise of the evening was the Edge of Sanity ending song, “Black Tears”, a song that came when more or less everyone lost hope for hearing more Edge of Sanity materials. It was incredibly nice of the band to perform that one, and they were rewarded by an incredibly awesome audience. For me, it was lovely to be among the Finnish crowd for these concerts. A playlist of the show: Nightfall Overture Raincheck on my Demise Hideaway Fields of life Trial and Error Eternal Scarred for life Shadowland Serenade Alonely Nightingale medley (featuring The game, Gypsy Eyes, A lesson in evil, Eye for an eye, Falling, etc) Glory Days Deep inside of nowhere Revival Stalingrad Edge of Sanity Medley Steal the moonfor you/Shadowman Encore: Piska meg meg med lagom mycket gummi Losing myself (Edge of Sanity) Black tears (Edge of Sanity)
I feel really sad that the festival ended, yet really grateful for the chance to attend it, with the biggest thanks going (as even as possible) to the friends who took me there or joined me there, the organisers who put everything together and the artists who did an excellent job for us. I really hope the outcome of the event was at least as expected, and we will be able to witness new editions of Helvation festival in Helsinki.
I have again taken plenty of videos, all available in this playlist.
By Andrea Chirulescu