A first edition of a very successful festival took place on the days of 12th and 13th of November, 2010 in Helsinki at the venue called Dante’s Highlight. It is a venue 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. But the most important ingredient for the success of the event was the crowd in my opinion. It totally rocked. Almost every band had at least 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 (didn’t notice any girls that fit the description) who took their shirts off. So it was hot. Band members enjoyed standing among the crowd and chatting with people or being present at the merchandise stand, so wherever you’d turn there’d only be happy faces and good mood. And beer of course.
On the first night, Friday, I landed in the Finnish capital about 8 in the evening so I couldn’t catch all the performers since my stomach was demanding its rights. So after a good Mexican dinner I headed to the venue with a friend and we came in time to see Malicious Death, a Finnish pioneer in the world of Death Metal as far 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 gust jumping on stage and performing part of the lyrics. No idea if he was a famous face on the Finnish metal scene and it was too fun to watch the singer to pay much attention to the new comer. Oh, and maybe it’s of anyone’s interest that on the white guitar in the show there was a sticker saying ‘I love anal’. If not of interest, ignore this detail.
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 cross hanging from his neck, while one of the guitarists wore a pentagram instead. It was as well an energic show with a lot of headbanging both from 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 can’t mention flows in their performance, but nothing that stood out in particular. So we took advantage of the nice tables with couches located to the sides of the stage and rested for a while.
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. Which 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 skills and passion. Vocals get a plus from my side, I just enjoyed his style, while the drummer was incredibly tight and didn’t give a rest to any piece of his battery, especially the snare. In fewer words, their music was catchy, despite the total lack of 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 like lovely people and I feel very glad to have 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 let’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. But the very entertaining part of their show was the singer. It is a metal fronted band – and a young one as far as I heard, formed about 2 years ago and with pretty young members as well – and 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. Just that this time the music is 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 few of their songs and watching the crazy guitar riffs that cannot miss 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. And a thing worth mentioning about the 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 – which used to be a church back in the ages.
Finally, time to see a wonder I discovered few weeks prior to the festival – Seventh Wonder. It is a band from Sweden, formed in 2010, playing progressive metal (which might head towards power 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 it’s a pity that they lose such a skilled musician. Yet, there’s still huge amount of skill left in the band. I don’t even know whom to start with. I was warned by my friend before the show that I’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 the bassist fingers ran along the 6 chords, plucking, slapping, or tapping them and it’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 didn’t play a big role in the music, yet the bass has a special role in the sound of this band and I recommend you listen to their songs in order to try to see what I mean. The drums didn’t get any rest at all and even if they don’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, voice that is 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, ‘Tears for a father’, from their ‘Mercy Falls’ 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 it’s the brainchild of Dan Swanö and his brother Dag, and if these names are not familiar to you, especially Dan’s, I recommend you spend some of the time you waste online to search for them and see why one might feel like it worths the effort to travel and see them live. Especially since it’s the band’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 isn’t any fancy show or anything. But when the crowd heard the first chords from Nightfall overture, it went mad and it was obvious we’re in for a great treat. The smiles and surprised expressions were combined on the musician’s faces who didn’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 wouldn’t have had time to play all those songs and it was clear that the crowd would have needed each and everyone of them. A cherry on the evening’s cake was to hear Dan growl for few minutes. Actually his voice, despite the fact that he doesn’t sing much live lately, is still as incredible as we know it, even if maybe not at its fullest. 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 didn’t fully satisfy everyone, the people screamed for a comeback which brought two very big surprises, for me at least. 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 Swanö took of his shirt, played the guitar with his teeth and started throwing it in the air a little. And 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 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.
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 overcome 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: http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=9CD2A54A33D0700B