Black Box Mikkeli is a festival curated and organized by the Finnish melodeath act on the rise Bloodred Hourglass. So when they invited us to go to the already third edition of the fest, and looking at the solid lineup, we didn’t hesitate to make the long trip to Mikkeli for the second day of the event that had a promising collection of bands with Lastout, I Am Your God, Balance Breach, Gaerea, Insomnium, and of course Bloodred Hourglass themselves as the crowning act!
First up, Tampere based Lastout, the ones who won the battle of the bands competition that took place earlier in the year. Looking at the fact that they beat a couple of really popular bands, and having checked out a couple of their tracks in advance, I was curious to see how these young guns would take the rather big stage at Black Box Mikkeli. And I have to say I was not in the least disappointed. While they lacked maybe a bit of stage presence, they did loosen up more the longer they played. And the music is a lot of fun with some really solid and headbang worthy riffing going on. The vocals of Asser are also very striking and gives them a rather unique sound. I do have to say that I’m more of a fan of the higher pitched vocals than the low ones, the latter came across a bit less sure and consistent maybe. But nothing that took away from enjoying the show all that much. A really promising band that we’ll be keeping an eye on for sure!
I Am Your God
Next was I Am Your God, the melodeath outfit that came down all the way from Rovaniami to kick some serious ass. They came on our radar back in 2020 when they released their debut album ‘The Resurrection’ to much praise. Not too surprising, with a sound and ferociousness that often reminded us of Children of Bodom and old school Bullet For My Valentine. They released the follow-up ‘SINister‘ earlier in the year, with which they stepped it up quite a bit. That, and the fact that I somehow always missed their shows, I was eager to experience what they’re all about when hitting the stage.
And we were not disappointed one bit. As soon as they hit the stage, the tasty riffs and big energy got everyone’s heads to bob along to the music and raise their fists. Especially the tracks that have a more heavy use of synths remind us live really much of a good Children of Bodom gig, but they’re so much more than that. All the guys are impressive talents that are able to bring their music near flawless live as well, and vocalist Julius blew our minds with not only stellar vocal delivery, but also the fact that he was able to consistently bring his lines while banging the shit out of this head. At times, you could be confused about who was actually singing, since he was throwing himself so hard into the headbanging that it was almost unimaginable that he was still doing the vocals at the same time.
This band continues to grow and thrive, it seems, and we see greatness for these guys still!
Up next, Mikkeli locals and one of the rising stars of the Finnish metalcore scene: Balance Breach! In the meantime, we’re quite familiar with these guys, and every time we see them, we know to expect a really solid gig with stellar songs. And especially with the tracks from their latest album ‘ABYSMAL’ added to the setlist, we were in for a killer show. A bunch of the tracks of that new album have the kind of sound you can imagine being played in a stadium, and that really comes to shine at a bigger event and stage like they had at Black Box Mikkeli. There were maybe a couple of tiny sound issues here and there, but all in all, yet again a great show by the Balance Breach guys!
The first time that Black Box Mikkeli is bringing in a band from outside Finland, and what a choice they made! The black metal sensation Gaerea was maybe a bit of a black sheep on the line-up, but for me personally one of the main reasons I went all the way to Mikkeli again this year. I’ve seen this masked group rage on a club stage and a big festival stage before, and it’s simply mind-blowing how intense every single show by Gaerea is. And their performance at Black Box Mikkeli was exactly that again. Bathed in red light and smoke, the mysterious figures that form the band strode on stage and conjured up a wall of sound that is at the same time oppressively harsh and mesmerizingly beautiful. And that intensity never slowed down one bit, even the couple of moments between tracks where their frontman shouted to the crowd how much they love Finland and their people matched the music and vibe of the show. And with a setlist that combined perfectly the music of their latest album ‘Mirage‘ and older work, it was yet again one of the best shows of 2023! I’ve seen them 3 times now, and they only continue to impress more and more. Can’t wait to see what the next chapter will bring for them!
Having seen the Finnish masters of melancholic and epic melodeath quite early on in the year at their release show, it was quite nice to get to see Insomnium again live. While I was a bit disappointed that the stage production was rather bare (I really liked those new stage elements that refer to their latest album ‘Anno 1696‘ like the mic stand with 2 hands tied together), but luckily that didn’t really take too much away from yet another stellar Insomnium show. You simply can’t go wrong with these guys anymore, and with a setlist build of both new tracks and older classics, their time slot seemed much shorter than it actually was, time really flew by while enjoying the sweet tunes of Insomnium!
Last but not least, the closer of the night and the whole 2-day event was of course Bloodred Hourglass. The first time they organized this festival, they used it as an elaborate way to celebrate their new release ‘Your Highness‘ back in 2021 with their biggest stage production yet. And this edition, they were able to repeat that trick since they had released their new album ‘How’s the Heart?’ only a week before Black Box Mikkeli. So we got the pleasure to enjoy the new album being played from start to finish live. Whenever a band does this, it’s always interesting, since it forces them to play songs they otherwise might not be so inclined to play live. A truly unique experience, in other words, maybe until there is an anniversary occasion for the album in like a decade or so. And since the new album was thoroughly enjoyed by me personally, it was great to be there. They stepped up the live show a bit as well this time around, with not only a bunch of smoke, but also regular use of pyro throughout the night to warm us all up. And with the title track ‘How’s the Heart?’, they wrapped up their set. Or did they?
Of course, they couldn’t let us go before they played some fan favorites and BRHG classics like ‘Waves of Black’, ‘Drag Me the Rain‘, ‘Veritas‘ and others. We’ve been saying it before, but after seeing the metal party that this night was, Bloodred Hourglass is most definitely one of the future big names of the Finnish scene. People will be picking up on them soon enough!
Of Course I Still Love You
In Lieu of Flowers
The Sun Still In Me
Song of Forgotten
The End We Start From
How’s the Heart?
Waves of Black
Drag Me the Rain
Nightmares Are Dreams Too
Where the Sinners Crawl
For the pictures, go here.