The summer is arriving and with it the summer festivals come along. The festival that kicks this off in Finland is Steelfest Open Air in Hyvinkää, a small city North of Helsinki. They offer a selection of high quality underground and obscure extreme metal bands for a limited amount of people. We had the luck to be welcomed at this highly interesting event to melt away in the sun with our black outfit…
When we arrived (a bit late) on the second day of Steelfest, the Finnish atmospheric black metal band Kalmankantaja (***) was just about to finish up their set on the indoor stage. The part we heard and saw of them, impressed us with a more doomy style of black metal. The local band reminded us of others like for instance Burzum and the likes, which is musically never a bad thing. And clearly they were quite popular, the amount of people that showed up this early on Saturday for the very first band was surprising to us. Definitely music I’m going to look into further, I’d advise you to check them out too!
Compared to the first band on the indoor stage, the first outdoor stage band was quite a bit more straightforward and less complex. Finnish Front (***) delivers a heavy, fast and harsh mix of blackened death and thrash metal. For a band this young, they definitely took the stage by force and thundered us straight into banging our heads and raising our fists!
Lord Sargofagian brought his solo black metal project Baptism (***1/2) to the grounds of Steelfest, supported by some of his friends and colleagues as live band. What we got was well-crafted classic Finnish black metal played by some of the bigger names of the scene. We saw TG (guitars) and the brothers sg.7 (guitars, also known as Spellgoth) and LRH (drums) from Trollheim’s Grott and bassist Syphon on stage to play a great and intense set dominated by Lord Sargofagian himself on vocals. If you don’t know them yet, definitely worth the listen.
When I saw the name Anal Blasphemy (**) on the bill, I immediately had the feeling that there wouldn’t be much subtleness coming with this band. And oh how right I was… at first it seemed like a not too special standard black metal gig with a vocalist dressed with some elements of priest clothes. But at a certain point the, let’s call him, prop master took of the cloaks off some figures, revealing 2 girls in basically lingerie and corpsepaint. Nothing too bad up to that point, and as sort of suspected the girls were getting a bit more naked every song. That they went topless wasn’t really a huge surprise, that they went all the way, bare-ass, naked was a bit more surprising. But for me the biggest disappointment and annoyance was when they decided to bring some papers with Islamic symbols on stage to get smudged by blood and torn up, rubbing what looked like pieces of raw meat all over the girls and afterwards throwing it towards us and the “blowjob” of a cross the singer held at his crotch. I get it that you want to be all about blasphemy and such, but to me the whole show just seemed tasteless and cheap. Not my cup of tea really.
What did blow us away soon after, was the wall of sound that greeted us when entering the indoor stage. Responsible for this was the American FIN (****). The Chicago-based black metal outfit filled the room with their melodic and in a way beautiful extreme music. What was even more impressing to me, was that the massive sound was created by just 2!!! people: M.K. on vocals and guitar and D.F.K. on drums. This was clearly a case of “less is more”. Somehow they managed to put down a certain atmosphere with their music that enchanted me and took me away for the time they played, which is to me a sign of damn quality stuff. We’ll be hearing much of these guys I assure you!
The next 3 bands brought us a variety of quality underground music. Swedish Cut Up (***) delivered on solid death metal in the blazing sun on the outside stage, the godfathers of funeral doom Skepticism (***) had a whole different “ritual” with a lot of white light, roses and a shitload of sadness and contemplation and UK-based Lvcifyre (***1/2) portrayed the fires of hell in the still blistering sun with their mix of black and death metal.
The last band of the weekend hailing from Finland was Behexen (***) on the indoor stage. We got a rather straightforward and typical Finnish black metal served up, bringing the left hand path to us on stage. Much like Nightbringer the day before, you could feel that this philosophy and ideology is something real for vocalist Hoath and this companions. Traditional Finnish black metal with here and there some more death metal vocals that looks and sounds like pure evil… sign me up any time!
One of the biggest surprises for me was the show that the Dutch death metal band Sinister (****) put down. It was old school, it was groovy, it was heavy and headbang-inducing… They easily convinced the crowd that gathered up at the outdoor stage to move along to the blistering set. Singer Aad and his friends were a highly energetic bunch, constantly trying to rile the people in front of them up. Considering all the changes the band went through during their long existence, this is one hell of a solid band that kicks ass any time!
There was clearly a “Benelux” moment going at this time of the day, cause up next were the Belgian black metal legends Enthroned (****). They’ve been around since the early nineties and despite there not being a single original member left, they’re rock-solid. Vocalist Nornagest first came on the stage alone to “bless” the stage for the evil ritual that was about to take place. When the rest of the band jumped on stage, they started to blast us away. Besides, Nornagest is a damn impressive figure who turns the freak up a notch when his eyes turn up to show solid white as if he’s possessed by the devil himself. And I have to mention drummer Menthor, who gave his third performance of the weekend (after Nightbringer and Lvcifyre), what a relentless and persistent beast of a drummer!
The headliner of the outdoor stage was most likely the most looked forward to band of the weekend. The area in front of the stage was cramped with people that wanted to see the Polish black metal outfit Mgła (*****). That the band is somewhat a “big thing” in the black metal scene was pretty damn clear here. And with right and reason… they came on stage all dressed in exactly the same clothes and a black mask hiding their identities. The unity created by this just gives the music and atmosphere that extra touch. The music itself is a wall of sound containing every possible form of darkness and misanthropy you can think off that envelops you and takes you off into a magical dark world. An absolute top act of the underground scene!
Closing down this year’s edition of Steelfest was the legendary Norwegian black metal band Carpathian Forest (****1/2). They had a bit of a tacky decor with some mannequin dolls placed around the stage and maybe some of the show could be put under that category too. But damn, how they managed to start a party with their groovy black metal. Some would say that they’re one of the first who brought substance to the term black’n’roll by mixing in some punk, rock and thrash metal. Founder and vocalist Nattefrost looked like a goblin that came out of the forest to have some fun with tons of dark humor. And he looked pleased with what he saw in front of him… What a blast to end this great festival!
For more pictures of day 2 of Steelfest go see our photo coverage here.