Metal is for everyone
Beer52's Bryce Kitcher straps on his Flying-V to learn more about Finland's enduring love of heavy metal
Monday 28 October 2019
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Helsinki x Tallinn
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My name is Bryce, and I bloody love metal music. It’s always been there for me, from humble beginnings as a child listening to Metallica, to a fully-grown adult branching out into bands whose lyrics I don’t even understand; half of the time because they’re not in my language, half of the time because they’re uttered in a guttural growl… and sometimes both! Metal is ever-present in my life, but it’s more than just music, it can actually come in handy.
For example, jump on a treadmill and stick on, oh, I don’t know, Katy Perry? Sure, you’ll maybe have a good jog, break a light sweat, but you won’t go home fulfilled that you’ve broken any land speed records.
Now, switch to Dragonforce’s “Through the Fire and Flames” - hey presto, YOU CAN NOW RUN 100MPH*. The intense combination of Herman Li’s anomalously speedy guitar riffs and Dave Mackintosh’s banging drums is enough to put a spark into anyone’s workout.
* information lacking verification
Metal isn’t all about fist-clenching and work-out boosting, though. In quite the contrast to the gym analogy, studies have confirmed that metal is also the perfect genre to chill out to. A study by the University of Queensland in Australia in 2015 has shown that metal music makes you calmer, not angrier as some would assume. So not only does it boost your workouts, but you can also meditate to it (probably).
It truly is a transcendental genre of music. And where does a high percentage of the world’s metal music come from? Just look at the theme of the mag: it’s Finland.
Here’s a fun fact: did you know that Finland has the highest ratio of people-to-metal-bands out of any country in the world?
That’s not just a stat I pulled out of my jet-black Ibanez, it’s true. As per Encyclopedia Metallum’s research to find the most metal country in the world, Finland was deemed as the winner, with 53.5 metal bands per 100,000 people. That means that, if you live in Finland, there’s a pretty decent chance you’ve crossed paths with many of metal’s finest, just by living your normal day-to-day. The taxi driver who picked you up from Helsinki airport? Their band’s metal EP is playing from their radio. The grocery store worker who scans your bread? They’re mad for the metal. The lovely little grandmother knitting a sweater for an extra cold Finnish winter? You’d best believe she’s knitting in time with some complex prog-metal.
It’s something that’s not too surprising when you think about just how many widely-known metal bands originate from this frosty land. Finland by no means have invented metal, after all (the answer to that can range anywhere from The Beatles, to Steppenwolf, to Iron Maiden, depending on who you ask), but they are undeniably highly influential in giving the world some of it’s most talked about metal bands.
Here’s an example that will fit in well with a time-honoured tradition in British culture… ever heard of Lordi?
How about that band who won Eurovision wearing those outrageous costumes?
Yeah, still probably not specific enough…
… how about the METAL BAND who WON EUROVISION dressed as BLOODY MONSTERS?!?
That’s Lordi. They’re bloody excellent, and excellently Finnish. Long before people were confusing them for a Kiwi pop-singer, Lordi were dominating the world’s metal scene from their hometown of Rovaniemi. 37.5% of households in Britain watched them win the prestigious competition in 2006, and since then Lordi have been helping propel Finland into metal playlists all over the world, with help from hugely popular bands like Turisas, Nightwish and HIM.
Many say it all started with Children of Bodom (best not look into that name), though. In 1997, the Espoo-based death metal band released their critically acclaimed debut album Something Wild, featuring lead single Deadnight Warrior of which’s video depicted the band playing their song outside in the Finnish snow, with temperatures reaching as low as minus fifteen degrees celsius. The album rocketed to the very top of the Finnish music charts and paved the way for many of the bands already mentioned in this article.
The rise of Bodom and the Finnish metal scene has prompted people all over the world to learn as much as they can about the nation itself. Bodom themselves appeal to the mass-market by writing their lyrics in English, but there are many Finnish bands who have become popular by simply singing in their native tongue. In fact, 97% of students at the University of Vienna said in 2013 that they are taking Finnish language classes as a means to better appreciate their favourite bands, which is nothing short of marvellous dedication. Another “tick” in the box of metal: it’s also very educational.
Now, onto my favourite style of metal. Finland is regarded as a country who helped popularise the beloved sub-genre “folk-metal,” which fuses folk instruments like accordions, hurdy-gurdys and violins into the unfamiliar surroundings of drop-C tunings and pumping double-bass pedals.
With the folk fusion comes folk-styled lyrical influences meaning that, quite often, bands will sing about the love for fermented beverages! One of the most popular folk-metal bands Korpiklaani - meaning “The Backwoods Clan” in English - celebrated their love of our favourite beverage earlier this year. “Beer Beer” (feat. Scotland’s own Christopher Bowes from Alestorm) is an anthem that’ll make your head bop, and the lyrics are nothing short of a work of art:
I want beer
from beer I get really drunk.
I need more beer
so much I pass out.”
Yes, there are plenty of Finnish bands who will lead their fans to yell ancient war cries and throw themselves at each other in the name of metal. However, metal isn’t just for those of us large enough and brave enough to enter the feared “wall of death” slam-dance seen at many metal gigs. The band Hevisaurus prove this by catering their style of metal specifically to Finnish children. They complete their act by performing all shows dressed as friendly power-metal-loving dinosaurs (get it? Heavy Saurus?) and honestly, there are few things more bizarrely wholesome. The video to their timeless classic “Juranoid” is something to be seen, believe me.
Anyway, if that doesn’t prove that metal is for everyone, I don’t know what does. So my advice is to raise a glass in one hand, a “devil horns” hand gesture in the other, and treat yourself to some calming, motivating, educational Finnish metal.
It’ll make the enjoyment of this month’s box far more authentic!
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