Every year for the last 6 years, the Tampere island Viikinsaari has been taken over by the metal festival SaariHelvetti (or “The Island of Hell”). This year, it’ll be the 7th time the festival takes up shop on the island and the 3th time they spend a total of 2 days there with some of the best bands Finland (and beyond) has to offer. After getting to enjoy last year’s edition as one of the very few festivals that actually took place within Finland, or in the world for that matter, we didn’t want to miss out on another round of this. Much like last year, the line-up consists of only Finnish bands, despite them trying to get at least a couple of foreign bands to the island. It’s a pity it didn’t work out, but looking at the impressive list of bands, there won’t be anything to complain about, really. Here is what happened the first day:
A couple of days before the event was supposed to start, the organization of SaariHelvetti had to announce extra measures to be able to still hold the festival in a safe manner. Everyone had to wear a mask at all time and keep their distance to people not familiar to you, with the risk of being thrown off the island if you didn’t comply. While there were many people not happy about that and we saw a stream of tickets being sold, the people who actually showed up didn’t give a damn and just wanted to enjoy some good music live. A necessary move by the organization that should’ve been taken way earlier than this if you ask us. Good weather, quality music, seeing friends we hadn’t seen in ages, a couple of drinks,… what more could you want?
The band who had the pleasure to kick off the festivities properly, was Shereign. A group of musicians who got together to make a tough mix of emotion, hard rock and modern heavy metal and which you could call somewhat of a supergroup with (former) members of Fear of Domination, Black Light Discipline,… In the foreseeable future, this will be the band with whom we’ll see Sara Strömer on a stage from now on after announcing her leaving FoD. Besides playing the first show of the festival, this was actually also Shereign‘s first ever live show. And going on what we got to see here, we’re already looking forward to catch them live again as soon as possible! The performance probably could’ve been tighter and I would be surprised if everything went according to plan, but the pure joy that every member clearly had on stage made us not notice such a thing for one moment. And the quite sizeable crowd already gathered in front of the stage this early went wild! Including a bunch of stuffed toys being thrown at Sara! With all of them being seasoned live musicians, they know how to behave and entertain, and the music they made is highly catchy and kicks ass live. This is promising!
Up next, a heavy metal party on the main stage! Finland’s most dangerous metal band is here and you better be ready! Tyrantti is always in the mood to set the stage on fire with their classic sounding metal songs that are catchy as hell. Nahka-Sami runs around on the stage like a madman with matching maniacal facial expressions and Henkka bangs out one solo after the other during which you can read his passion for playing on his face from miles away, while Paha-Tapio bangs his drums like his life depends on it. These guys know how to throw a heavy metal party and with their latest album ‘Orjaplaneetta‘, they got a ton more material to rile up the crowd! Horns were thrown in the air, beer was consumed fluently and the 45 min of stage time for the “most dangerous heavy metal band of Finland” was over in a flash!
I Revolt (****)
At this point of time, the up-and-coming metal/rock outfit Detset was supposed to take over the stage. Sadly, due to COVID, they had to cancel and we got a whole other beast filling in… All the way from Helsinki, I Revolt came, saw and demolished the place. Another Finnish band that has been gaining a lot of attention with their kickass riff-driven modern blend of melodeath and metalcore. And those who hadn’t heard of these guys yet before, will not forget about them after their show at SaariHelvetti! Not only were songs like ‘Leeches‘ and ‘Spit or Swallow‘ absolute bangers that easily get stuck in your head, they brought an extremely convincing cover of Slipknot‘s ‘(sic)’. So much so that it took me a while to realize it was a cover… These guys are going hard and I can see them rampaging through stages all over the world in no time once they are able to!
It’s been a while since Finland’s favorite trolls have graced a stage! And it’s been even longer since I last caught Finntroll live. This was one of the shows I had been looking forward to the most and they did not disappoint one bit! After their very positively received new album ‘Vredesvävd‘ and seeing this show, I can confidently say that they are back! Vreth seemed in a different realm while he was barking out the lyrics and you could catch him regularly dancing and moving in ways that made you think he was on something. And the other guys simply nailed the music and seemed to be quite happy and relaxed to be in front of their fans again. One of THE shows of the weekend for me personally and I believe it was the same for many there. I promise I won’t wait as long anymore to see you again live, I didn’t realize how hard I’ve missed you!
Spiritus Mortis (***)
Spiritus Mortis was a very pleasant surprise. Even though they’ve been around for decades and carry the honorary title of “the first Finnish band to play doom metal”, their music hadn’t been on my radar before. Both original bassist Teemu and guitarist Jussi are still going strong and were playing with clear passion for their music, shouting and singing along to the lyrics even when there were no backing vocals to provide. Add to that guitarist Kari, who really got lost in his many guitar solos, peering from under the edges of his sunglasses to the strings. Relatively new vocalist Kimmo really complemented the outfit, with a passionate and emotive performance, at times seemingly truly contemplating some deep (and possibly sad) thoughts, fittingly enough with the doomy music. But that didn’t hold him back from regularly fooling around, having fun with his colleagues, pulling faces and connecting with the fans in front of them. A really solid and enjoyable show that probably would’ve been even more impressive if they weren’t cooking in full sunlight. If they come in my neighborhood to play at an indoors venue, I might go have a look how they set the atmosphere there…
Swallow the Sun (****)
Swallow the Sun is one of those Finnish bands that always is a pleasant sight to behold. The passion and sheer talent of these bunch of people seems boundless and a show from these masters of doom and gloom easily strikes a chord with many adoring music fans. While it might not have been the perfect timing or setting for a band like this (playing in broad daylight), they way they used the stage lighting, they managed to set the mood perfectly. Master of ceremony and well-known gloomster Mikko was wearing a rather tongue-in-cheek bright pink shirt with a unicorn and the text “pessimisti” (yes, you guessed right, it’s Finnish for “pessimist”), singing and growling his lines, hiding under a deep hood and sunglasses for the rest. Besides it being a great show as always, it was also a good moment to catch them live still, as this was probably one of the last shows featuring the talented and enigmatic Jaani Peuhu on keyboards and backing vocals, since just recently the band announced that he would be moving on to other projects. These guys really never disappoint and we can’t wait to hear their upcoming new album ‘Moonflowers‘ and catch them live again!
One Morning Left (*****)
After all that doom & gloom, the partying metalcore dudes from One Morning Left were definitely quite a change of pace, but a very welcome one! We’ve been enjoying their shows several times before and knew that we were in for quite the party. And with the release of their latest album ‘Hyperactive‘ that showed a decent shot of 80s sound infused into their already extremely catchy brand of metalcore (find the album review here), we expected even more of a bang. And a bang we got! As soon as they kicked off, the energy went through the roof and was infecting every single person in the vicinity of their catchy tunes. This was literally a show where dancing, moshing or anything in between was not a rare sight and most appropriate. The singles from their latest release like ‘Ruby Dragon‘, ‘Neon Highway‘, ‘Creatvres‘ and ‘Sinners are Winners‘ all hit hard and got plenty of people singing along in a fraction of time. Throw in between a couple of One Morning Left classics like ‘Heavy Metal Finland‘ and ‘Reetu Inda House‘ and the stage is set for success. We had to miss out on their signature rendition of Michael Jackson‘s ‘Beat It‘ because of an issue in the crowd, but luckily we still got a nice finish with their already legendary ‘You’re Dead! Let’s Disco!‘, that created a pretty decent circle pit. Fuck, I love these guys! Gimme more!
Headliner of the day was none less than the top of the Finnish melodeath scene: Insomnium! Release after release they’ve knocked out some bangers of melancholic melodic death metal tracks you can’t find anywhere else than in Finland. Most recently, they brought an EP of 4 on brand tracks of which they brought a couple live during this set with ‘The Conjurer‘ and ‘The Reticent‘. Overall, the setlist had a really nice and balanced mix of newer work like ‘Heart Like a Grave‘ and ‘Valediction‘ together with older classics like ‘The Killjoy‘ and fan favorites like ‘Shadows of the Dying Sun‘ and ‘While We Sleep‘. It was interesting to see them live for the first time with Jani Liimatainen on guitars and clean vocals instead of Ville Friman, but he absolutely killed it and it was a true delight to see these legends grace the stage again!
For those who weren’t satisfied yet, Nicole were all too happy to add an extra booster shot of hard-hitting melodeath/groove metal that absolutely destroyed! They’ve been around for almost a quarter of a century and a quite popular act within Finland. But somehow I hadn’t heard of these guys before. And after seeing the impressive set they blasted into the night, I urgently need to add them to my playlists! Every single member threw themselves into their performance with every fiber of their bodies getting people to stick around on the island for a bit longer. For a novice as me, the setlist they had put together was the perfect introduction with songs from as good as every album they’ve released up to this point, including even a track they’ve never played live before. Is that a possible new album coming in the nearby future? Wouldn’t complain about that one bit! What a show!
For more pics of the first day, go check it out here!