What I Know About Finns – PART II: Metal rules!

Countless lines are still being written on this! I won’t make any grand intro, but begin with bringing to your attention a magnificent work that every metalhead/rocker must know of – the ‘Promised Land of Heavy Metal‘ documentary (watch trailer here). It’s a successful work and there are plenty of replay requests to the Finnish tv. As you probably guessed, it deals with our beloved country that we’re dealing here with. It’s the story of Finnish metal, involving not only artists of the scene and their fans, but also psychologists, priests and even the President of Finland. How can that be possible? Well, perhaps that every Finn must be aware of the metal culture they have there. It’s hard to miss it, as there are so many long-haired people dressed in black and so many rock bars in Helsinki, in very popular areas. Luckily, the general attitude is not guided by prejudice and close-mindedness.

It’s been a while since everybody is talking about how “metal became mainstream in Finland“. Most of us are shocked to hear this. ‘Metal’ and ‘mainstream’ don’t go well together, do they? Metal is by definition the music that stands against the mainstream. Then, what exactly is this phenomenon? First, I think it’s only a sort of mainstream. Not any band of any genre can get an impressive number of listeners. Not everybody will enjoy growls or other form of aggressive singing. However, more and more bands have made it to the album and single charts, often topping the international pop stars. Metal tunes pop out from radio stations and you hear them while passing to the supermarket. Crazy festivals take place in every notable city during summer and so on. Not to mention the huge number of bands that are known beyond the boundaries!

Kamppi, Helsinki: Finnish metalhead gone shopping. Notice the subtle humor - the Christmas-themed bag ūüôā

If metal became mainstream over there, it may be because of these: 1) already having a strong base; 2) the open mind and the understanding of everyone else. It can’t become mainstream from misconceptions. We’re not all born knowing what metal is. Most people of the planet don’t even know what it sounds like. Hearing Metallica on MTV can’t be enough. They don’t even want to know more. Therefore, they build misconceptions and stay away. Or they hear of the black metal atrocities and put the evil stigmata on the entire genre.

Now, what makes a Finn be so metal? In a determinist tradition, most say that it’s the weather. Moving onto the cultural level, we are reminded that Finns have this special way to be, that they care about their myths and ancestral traditions, they are deep and in contact with nature. Add the honesty, the love for the deeper thoughts and knowledge, the existential turmoil and gloomy inner atmosphere. Add the tormented history, with its unbelievable ‘Winter War‘. It’s the most fertile territory for the metal philosophy. Deep and sad, melancholic yet strong and straightforward…
But metal also means strength, determination and endurance. Just what Finns have proven during the past centuries! Foreign domination tried hard to oppress their spirit, but the ancient traits remained strong and now have emerged with incredible energy in the heavy scene. The result is a widespread frenzy and a feeling of identity.

Crowd at TUSKA metal festival 2009, Helsinki

Two of the best appreciated bands in Finland (as well as abroad) are ENSIFERUM and AMORPHIS. Both get their lyric themes from battles, distant heroic times and from the national epic Kalevala. While the youth usually tends to stay away from tradition, dusty books and consider folklore as too out-of-date, many of the Finns are now fallen under the spell of their own myths and heritage.

How about the metal masses ( metallimessu)? The Washington times , Austria’s Heraldsun or this Russian website prove that this had been in the news all over the world. Not to mention the tv programes I’ve seen myself! Yes, Finns praise the Lord with heavy music. To them, music alone is beyond the idea of good and evil. Music is human, made from and for humans’ feelings. Even if it’s heavy, it still falls in the same category. At first sight it may seem as a trick to atract teenagers to church, but in fact it only gathers those who have love for God, as well as for metal. And they show to the rest that it’s possible.

Metal seems to overcome any false principle in Finland!


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