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. After a great (and somewhat exhausting) day of quality music and exciting shows, we geared up for another shot of Saarihelvetti on day 2:
Due to an exhausting first day and seemingly some issues with the boats to the island, we missed out on the shows of Silver Bullet, who won the band competition for the gig spot, and the drunken bums of Rytmihäiriö. By the time we arrived on the island, the sky had turned very grey, wind picked up quite a bit and the prediction of rain ended up being very true, starting to drip in the late afternoon and increasing throughout the rest of the day. While it clearly tempered the atmosphere at the festival somewhat, most visitors didn’t seem to care one bit and went nuts at many of the performances that day as well.
Ember Falls (***1/2)
If there was one band on the bill doing things their own way, it has to be Ember Falls. For the past decade, they’ve been working hard on their signature modern rock/metal sound infused with catchy pop and banging electronic music samples. Live they’re always been a damn riot and party. With a couple of fan favorites and some brand new singles, they started quite the party from early on! Now you may think with mentioning “pop” and “electronic music” that they’re rather on the softer side, but think again. Their music is filled with tasty riffs and kickass grooves and guitarist Calu provides some proper growls and screams, backing and highlighting the highly melodic vocals from Thomas Grove. Despite the rather grey and miserable weather that day, they infused the world with some color (red to be more specific) and brightness… Their sophomore full-length album can’t get here soon enough!
And the party very much continued with another band that is doing things very different in the often rather traditional Finnish metal scene. The mix of metal, hardcore and proper rap from Lähiöbotox is always a riot live and I could barely hold myself from bobbing on the grooves and beats at their show. Seksikäs-Suklaa showed up in bright orange coverall and what looked like a bullet vest while Dosdela showed up with a more understated suburban look. Right from the start they took over the stage and the crowd completely and ruled for the next hour or so. Backed by musicians that all were completely giving their all, the fun factor was high. Recognizing samples and melodies from well-known rap songs made it even more entertaining for me personally. Their lyrics are all Finnish, but even if you don’t understand shit of what they’re going on about, I recommend you to check their music out. You won’t regret it.
Satan’s Fall (*****)
Moving on to the next band… and the party went on regardless! Mind you, this time rather rooted in an old school sound and vibe, Satan’s Fall kicked some serious ass with their more traditional heavy metal sound. The vintage quality of epic heavy metal is something that has regained a lot of popularity recently and I dare to say that these guys are one of the most promising young guns in that scene. It was all there: tasty guitar solos, dual guitars, heaps of melody, whipping hair and absolutely epic vocals from mr. Miika Kokko. Talking about Miika, the way he moved, his stage presence and even looks, somehow made me wonder if Jack Black has a Finnish relative… Just look at him go and tell me he doesn’t remind you of a younger Finnish heavy metal version of him! Anyway, Satan’s Fall was for me most likely the discovery of the weekend and will get some heavy playtime at home! Check out the epicness of these guys out for yourself as soon as you can!
Lost Society (*****)
What a day, what a day! The weather was absolutely miserable and dreary, but you could somewhat forget this seeing that you got to go from one action packed show to the other. After getting just enough old school heavy metal servings from Satan’s Fall, on to the modern thrashers of Lost Society! These guys were almost single-handedly responsible for a resurgence of the Finnish thrash metal scene and have been the country’s favorites ever since. Every time I see them on a stage, they end up impressing me more and more. They are really growing into a band to be reckoned with and if they continue this path, they’re good on their way to become one of the top Finnish bands and headline material! Frontman and main vocalist Samy was his enigmatic self as usual and had the whole crowd in the palm of his hand eating from it eagerly. Talking about that crowd, it was probably as good as the biggest I’ve seen throughout this rainy day and every single one there was absolutely pumped up to the max. Together with the other guys, they raged through song after song from mostly their latest release ‘No Absolution’ like ‘Nonbeliever’, ‘Blood On Your Hands’ and ‘Deliver Me’. One of the absolute highlights of the show was the for Lost Society very unusual track ‘Into Eternity’, creating an atmosphere of togetherness that you could easily call emotional and uplifting and a really cool dual guitar solo moment between Samy and Arttu. And just to be sure that they went out with a bang, they wrapped up the set with the Lost Society classic ‘Riot’, starting up quite the moshpit, and the title track from their latest album ‘No Absolution’. What. A. Show.
By hanging out throughout the whole show of Lost Society and meeting up with a couple of people, we missed most of Vorna‘s set. But remembering how it was at last year’s SaariHelvetti, it was a show filled with melancholic and engaging metal tracks like only Finnish bands truly can create. And seeing somewhat from a distance, there was quite the crowd gathered in front of the stage, being totally there for a good dose of melancholy.
Time for another one of those highly respected metal bands within Finland on the mainstage! The melodic death metal outfit Diablo always stands guarantee for a hard-hitting show filled with their groovy take on the classic Gothenburg melodeath sound. With the past couple of releases they’ve always entered high up the Finnish music charts and you can see there are a whole lot of Finns that hold this band close to their heart. About the show itself there really isn’t all that much to say but that it’s a simple, straightforward and in your face type of metal gig where they mostly let the music speak for itself. The setlist itself was a nice grab from their collection of songs, being almost a bit of a “best of” with a couple of tracks featured from their latest 4 full-lengths in addition to their most recent singles ‘The Extinctionist’ and ‘Grace Under Pressure’. Again, the crowd didn’t seem to let up and remained strongly present despite the strong rainfall. It was quite noticeable however, that once Diablo rounded up their set, quite a chunk of the SaariHelvetti visitors decided they had enough despite some top bands coming up still later. I’d say they were one of the more popular bands this day besides Lost Society and well deserved so.
Last year, due to my own tardiness, I missed out on the “Northcore” Atlas show at SaariHelvetti 2020. While it was a pity that Mors Subita had to cancel due to quarantine measures, I was kind of happy to see that Atlas was the one to fill up the empty slot. Especially with their most recent singles released from the upcoming ‘UKKO‘ album, they really peaked my interest. For that album they’ve looked seemingly even stronger than before for inspiration in their country’s nature and old legends and completely overhauled their visual style from just some worn out-shirts and pants into something you could describe as battered and bruised soldiers/hunters, still including worn-out clothes but now featuring furs and what looks like winter coats. I truly appreciate all the effort they’ve put in their looks and music, something that really makes them stand out in the metalcore ranks. And the show itself definitely didn’t disappoint me one bit. The darkened sky and slight rain somehow felt as if it was an essential part of their performance and only highlighted the emotional and crunching out-pour of their metalcore tunes. Vocalist Patrik seems to really dig deep to bring out a heartfelt performance with regularly some beastly grunts and the rest of the band was throwing themselves at playing their music live at least as much. And those breakdowns… oh those breakdowns! Damn, this really tickled my metalcore bone at full force. There has been a sharp uprising of a solid metalcore scene in Finland and I dare to say that Atlas are one of the outfits at its forefront! Make sure you check their album ‘UKKO’ out in October!
For people who haven’t taken a deep dive in the Finnish metal scene, Mokoma might be a quite unknown player. But this is a band that has been worshiped by many Finnish metalheads for about a quarter of a century now. Their melancholic take on thrash metal is something special and live they’re always quite the sight to behold. Not too surprising to see them headlining a Finnish festival then of course. While a lot of their music has a serious note, these guys are known to not take themselves all too serious and to be a fun-loving bunch of people on stage, always ready for a joke or doing something silly on stage. Of which we immediately got a hint of with bassist Santtu doing somewhat of a silly dance on the 8-bit version of the popular Mokoma track ‘Hei hei heinäkuu’ they used as the intro to their show. Which progressed in the actual proper ‘Hei hei heinäkuu’ song live. Their setlist seemed to consist of as good as at least one track from every album since their switch to thrash metal back in the day and featured a healthy combination of fan favorites and old school classics. As usual the grey-bearded and silver-maned frontman Marko had the crowd enthralled with his stage performance and besides some quick jokes and banter, they mostly let the music and show do its thing and before we knew it, the hour long slot was filled and done. Always a pleasure to see these guys live and actually pretty cool to finally catch them at a headlining position.
For those who weren’t sick and tired of the rain and still wanted to get a proper dose of metal, the young guns of the up-and-coming power/symphonic outfit Arion had set up for one last show on the 2nd stage to wrap the weekend up. While these guys live are usually pretty cool to see and while they impressed me personally at their album release show a while back at Tavastia (see the report here), I had not a single dry spot to spare and decided to get ahead of the queues to get on the boat back to Tampere center. Until we meet again, “Island of Hell”, it was an honor to grace your grounds again.
For more pics of the second day of SaariHelvetti 2021, go check it out here.