It’s that time of the year again: The Finnish festival summer gets kicked off properly with the black metal festival Steelfest! The gathering of the wolves of the underground is easily a yearly homecoming for anyone who has a love for the extreme and obscure. And as always, the lineup is massive with an impressive list of 46 bands filled with cult bands, legends of the underground scene, and exclusive and rare performances.
After last year’s extended anniversary edition, they decided to permanently add an extra day to what used to be a 2-day celebration of the underground. After a first day of great shows, we got back to the festival ground early to catch as many bands as we could. Sadly we missed out on Rienaus, Gaurithoth and Ritualization because we simply couldn’t get there that early, but luckily there was more than enough to fulfill our need for extreme and underground music…
First act of day two we saw after arriving to the unholy grounds of Hyvinkää was ”Grim Ancient Black Metal” band Gravespawn. Providing howling synths and screams, the first European show of this band was an almost perfect start to our day. The sounds were excellent with this group, and vocalist Reaver delivered gloomy vocals preaching from his soap box behind synths. This band is highly recommended to go check out if you ever have the chance! Afterward we got to hear that their guest guitarist ended up dislocating her shoulder during the show, but still continued the show before getting proper care. What a dedication, respect!
If you were looking for some nasty, filthy music, you came to the right place when the German black/thrash metal outfit Tsatthoggua took the stage. Performing in latex masks and all kinds of BDSM gear in the blasting sun must’ve been exhausting, but it didn’t slow this band down. They absolutely crushed their set and definitely didn’t leave anyone cold.
Worm Of Sin
I drive my Dogs (to Thule)
Heirs Of Fire
Time for some more raw black metal delivered by Finnish pagan black metal artists, Ymir. With absolute howling vocals that will almost literally pierce through your ears, this band delivered a quite fittingly chilling experience during the quite hot festival day. With the striking appearance of vocalist Corvus in all white clothes, and a band that is basically a collection of musicians linked to some of the most prominent bands of the Finnish black metal scene like Tyranny, True Black Dawn, Baptism, Horna, Korgonthurus,… this was really a show that many will remember well.
One of the most anticipated acts of the day was the black/thrash metal outfit Sex Messiah from Japan. Performing as a duo, this band gave exactly what you would’ve expected, bone chilling screams and wails, and nasty riffs from Moenos, filled with insane blast beats from Abaddrums Doom Grinder. Looking at the crowd reaction, this was for many the highlight of the day. It’s after all not all that common to see this kind of band from the land of rising sun performing in Finland.
The second Columbian act of the festival, Infernal took the stage performing a very straight forward black metal sound from their home country. The same as with the other Columbian act of the festival Utuk Xul this black metal act also expressed their gratitude many times to have the chance to play so far away from home in Finland. You could really see their enthusiasm from their stage presence and sound.
Back on the outdoors stage, one of the few death metal acts of this year’s Steelfest took over the stage. The first ever European show of the Canadian melodic death metal band Grenadier in the soaring sun was definitely quite a bit different from anything else we had seen so far. While most of the band seemed quite static or almost somewhat timid during the performance, vocalist A.S. was very much ready for a fight straight from the start with regular shadowboxing, and drummer J.W. brought a very passionate style of playing behind the drumkit. An interesting band that didn’t fully captivate us, but was still a solid bit in between all the cold and grim black metal.
Back to the inside stage for some more solemn and serious business with the Finnish depressive black metal outfit Totalselfhatred. The doomy and gloomy vibe of this band is quite the experience, with these talented musicians bringing their music with pure passion and absolute intensity. Compared to most bands we had seen up to this point, there were not a lot that matched this kind of intense atmosphere of desperation and grimness. Just looking at the guitarists/vocalists who screamed and wailed about pain, hopelessness and depression, with the expression on their faces telling a big part of the story.
Time for another Colombian act on the Steelfest stages. Witchtrap came to thrash the black metal crowd with their old school speed metal sound. And they did so with dedication and no remorse. “No bullshit, just old school speed metal” was what vocalist Burning Axe Ripper told us to expect, and we got nothing more and nothing less. The crowd went wild on the high velocity riffs and songs, and the guys of Witchtrap clearly appreciated the enthusiasm greatly. This was the perfect pause from unrelenting frostbitten extreme metal, if you could call this whirlwind of a band a pause. One of the bands of the weekend, for sure!
Ride For Revenge
Ride For Revenge was another of those kinda rare sights to see and clearly, looking at the size of the crowd, highly anticipated. Combining slow and repetitive, almost trance inducing riffs with ferocious black metal, this band makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Not only listening to them, but also watching vocalist Harald Mentor, who seems like he would come in and beat someone with pleasure mid-song but at the same time be walking around as if he knew something funny we were oblivious to. A great performance with a top-notch sound once again, making the bodies in front of them absolutely tremble from the deep bass and icy riffs being spewed at us through the speakers.
The day was slowly turning towards a chilling evening, perfect spot for Kalmankantaja to take the outside stage. As one of the replacement acts for the bands that had to cancel last minute, they are a very welcome and familiar sight on the Steelfest stages. This nature and occult inspired black metal band is always a delight to hear live, and actually for once was a black metal band that had a more fitting setting in the evening sun than indoors. With vocalist Tyrant gazing at the clouds while the band was playing atmospheric riffs, worshiping nature set a very nice mood for the whole gig. These Hyvinkää locals were a great addition to our day, and we’re looking forward to catching them live again as soon as we can.
Now it was time for one of the biggest black metal legends in the whole festival lineup, the almighty Norwegian powerhouse, Gehenna. Playing a set of old school songs like ‘Midwinter Forest’ and ‘Unearthly Loose Palace’ to cater the old black metal fans in the back rows besides the more recent stuff from albums like ‘WW’ and ‘Unravel’, seemingly was well received by the entire audience. Gehenna shows that they still absolutely got it even after 30 years. The ferocious performance made us wonder and hope that after about a decade of no new music, they could find it within themselves to hit us with some killer new black metal from this institution.
Unearthly Loose Palace
Death to Them All
Steelfest XI officially brought the Finnish black metal legends Behexen back to the stage after a long hiatus from performing live. And what better place could they have been put than the headline spot on the outside stage of this brilliant 2nd festival day. If you want to talk about a band that plays with a relentless, almost feverish grim attitude, this is the one. As soon as they started, the occult black metal hit us in the face like a wrecking ball, pummeling us with harsh and cold riffs till the very end. An exemplary performance that was everything a showcasing of Finnish black metal should be.
Time for the very last band of the night and another legendary black metal band in their own right; Carpathian Forest! This band is always wild to see live, because you pretty much never know what to expect from the crazy antics of frontman Nattefrost. Straight from the gate this prolific black metal frontman made it clear to the audience that ”we are not your typical black metal band, we are punk rockers, ugh! ”. That pretty much sums up Carpathian Forest in my books, and the crowd ate it up like sweet cakes, going absolutely wild to tracks like ‘Black Shining Leather’, ‘Sadomasochistic’ or their take on The Cure‘s ‘A Forest’ or Turbonegro‘s ‘All My Friends Are Dead’. Always a fun band to see live, and this time also like I mentioned with other bands, the sound was of high quality comparing to the lackluster mix the last time this band visited Steelfest. Great performance to wrap up day two of the festival.