In terms of being recognized as a major force in the world of extreme music, Finland can often be overshadowed by its Scandanavian neighbors Norway and Sweden. Although the Land of a Thousand Lakes has its fair share of metal stalwarts both past and present—Sentenced, Children of Bodom and Finntroll, to name a few—it’s fair to say that the good old USA hasn’t necessarily been exposed to the wide variety of tuneage that has bubbled up from its shores over the last few decades.
So the upcoming release of Barren Earth’s sophomore record—a group that includes current or former members of high-profile Finnish acts like Amorphis, Moonsorrow and Swallow the Sun—seemed like the perfect time to bring some of those gems to the surface. And who better to catch us up on what we’ve been missing out on over the years than BE bassist Olli-Pekka (“Oppu”) Laine (ex-Amorphis, Mannhai, Chaosbreed) and drummer Marko Tarvonen (Moonsorrow, Chaosbreed), whose selections we’ve neatly compiled into a Spotify playlist.
Stone—No Anaesthesia! (1989)
Stone’s self-titled debut was an important milestone for Finnish metal, and therefore for Finnish popular music in general. Stone didn’t break through overseas, but the band proved that it’s possible to write and play internationally relevant metal music in Finland too. Hanoi Rocks had had its 15 minutes as celebrated rock stars outside of Finland, but this was something different. With their long and greasy hair, ruptured jeans and zitted faces, Stone was something to identify with. They were all also extremely skilled musicians and had an incredible amount of talent in composing. The group’s second effort, No Anaesthesia!, was a highly anticipated release back in 1989. I remember cutting school the day it came out just to be among the first fortunate ones to touch its cover and to put the record on my turntable. Starting with an epic version of Jean Sibelius’ “Finlandia”, which was followed by a crushing thrash metal riff and bestial growl, it directly hit the nervous system of an anxious teenager. When discussing the true pioneers of Finnish metal, Stone is definitely the very first band to mention. (Oppu Laine)
Amorphis—The Karelian Isthmus (1992)
This is a true gem of Finnish death metal. In fact, I think it’s still the best death metal album from Finland. I used to listen to this almost every day when I was a teenager. I remember it was one of the first Finnish releases with better sound production. Back then, no studios or engineers had any expert knowledge of how to produce death metal. It was also among the very few death metal releases to include keyboards in those days. As a fanboy, I’m truly privileged to play with Oppu after 20 years after this album’s release. (Marko Tarvonen)
Waltari—Monk Punk (1991)
Talking about originality, Waltari is an absolute master of musical experimentation. In the spirit of the ‘90s, the band mixed any kind of metal and rap music, including on Monk Punk. But they were also excellent players and had loads of catchy tunes. And they still do. Waltari was also the first rock group since Hanoi Rocks to do serious tours outside of Finland. Torcha! was the group’s breakthrough album and was followed by another hit record, So Fine! Not necessarily the most extreme band in terms of brutality, but still worth of checking out, especially since some members of major metal acts like Kreator, Ensiferum and Children of Bodom have been, and still are, part of Waltari’s ongoing saga. (OL)
Impaled Nazarene—Tol Cormpt Norz Norz Norz (1993)
Together with Beherit, Impaled Nazarene was an originator of Finnish black metal. Or was it called sado metal back then? Nuclear metal? Nevertheless, these guys didn’t give a shit. Not even today! IN’s debut album must have been the sickest and most perverted album released back then. Just listen to the middle part of “Goat Perversion”. Their career has not been the easiest one, but they’re still around to wreak havoc. Respect. (MT)
Rotten Sound—Drain (1998)
The gods of grind! The drum work by Kaitsu [Kai Hahto] on this one is simply wicked and amazing. I remember my jaw dropped off when I first heard this album. I had heard stuff like Terrorizer and Napalm Death before, but Rotten Sound put grindcore on a totally new level with a crushing, Entombed-like guitar sound together with Kaitsu’s über-technical but groovy drumming. Classic stuff! (MT)
If those five selections weren’t enough, Oppu and Marko went above and beyond the call of duty to give us three more extreme albums from their home country that you should be sure to check out once you’ve cracked open another Karhu.
Xysma—First and Magical (1992)
After the speed metal era, it was time for another wave in the Finnish metal scene. Musical tastes rapidly changed to more extreme stuff and Xysma was the first representative of grind-ish death metal in Finland. In my opinion, they are responsible for the whole death ‘n roll genre, which was more successfully launched by Entombed a couple of years later. Xysma had already started to flirt with ‘70s rock on 1990’s Yeah…tambourines, clean vocals, hippie melodies and Black Sabbath influences. With First and Magical, they polished their style to its perfection and were a huge inspiration to every Finnish death metal band. Without Xysma, Finnish bands wouldn’t have experimented mixing different genres as bravely as they did. Xysma’s originality helped them to rise above the competition, and they did it with style! (OL)
Mana Mana—Totuus Palaa (1990)
Mana Mana operated in the late ‘80s, but because they weren’t “metal”, I didn’t pay any attention to them back in the day. But around 2003, I heard the song “Kuolla Elävänä” on the radio and got hooked immediately. Actually, if you compare that particular song to Paradise Lost’s “Gothic”, you’ll be surprised by their similarities. Mana Mana is probably the doomiest band all time in my book. The group’s lyrics, sung in Finnish, deal with death, insanity and sorrow, but not in a forced way like most doom metal acts write them. Mana Mana’s mastermind Jouni Mömmö sung plainly about his own experience. The guy was evidently haunted, and sadly took his own life by overdosing pills in 1991. (OL)
Beherit—Drawing Down The Moon (1993)
Beherit must have been the first black metal band from Finland. I remember I bought this album the day it was released, and when I got back home and put it on the stereo and was blown away by the evilness that was coming out of my speakers! Those brutal and wicked vocals together with that rude guitar sound made this the best black metal album. Ever. I love the primitive way Beherit wrote its songs. It makes them more ritualistic. Just listen to “The Gate Of Nanna”. I could repeat that mantra forever! (MT)
**Barren Earth’s new LP, The Devil’s Resolve, hits shelves on Tuesday. Be sure to pre-order a copy here!**
**Previous Decibrity playlists: