Metal Capital Of The World
Finland = Metal
Finnish metal started getting recognition around the world since early 90's. History of Finnish metal goes even further but before 90's everything remained mostly inside Finland.
Welcome to Finland - Metal Capital Of The World
From local clubs to international venues
Finnish bands had to work very hard to gain success outside of Finland. The first few bands that tried their wings outside of Finland were Havana Black in late 80's and Stone. Both bands held very different styles as Havana Black was purely hard rock and Stone was closer to thrash metal. But they both aimed on the same market, North America. USA to be precise. If they would have known back then what many Finnish metal bands discovered later, they might have considered another market area because USA was and still is extremely difficult territory to break in.
But there was one band that had shown earlier already that it is possible to break internationally and their approach was different. They became famous first in UK and Japan and only after that they entered North American market. This band was of course Hanoi Rocks. Band that has been influence to many known international mega bands such as Guns N' Roses, Skid Row and Foo Fighters just to name a few. Many have said that it was indeed Hanoi Rocks that paved the way to other Finnish bands to succeed later around the world.
Hanoi Rocks could have been one of the greatest but December 8th 1984 changed everything. The band (except Michael Monroe who was recuperating from his fractured ankle) were partying with Mötley Crue at their lead singer Vince Neil's house. Party came to a stop as they noticed they ran out of beer so Vince Neil and Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle, both drunk, decided to go and get more. On the way back, they crashed into another car. Razzle was rushed to the hospital and was pronounced dead 7:12pm.
Hanoi Rocks came to an end on June 17th 1985 when vocalist Michael Monroe left the band. They made a return on 2001, released 3 albums but eventually Monroe and McCoy decided to put Hanoi Rocks to sleep in 2009.
Finnish metal as a token of quality
So with road somewhat paved it was time for Finnish metal bands to do the final breakthrough. And also discover new market areas to take Finnish metal. Stratovarius that was originally found in 1982 by drummer Tuomo Lassila was quietly laying down the ground work and in 1993 they did their first small tour to Japan supporting their Dreamspace album and in just few more years Stratovarius would be one of the biggest metal bands in Latin America. Although at that time Stratovarius wasn't 100% Finnish (swedish keyboard player Jens Johansson and german drummer Jörg Michael) they were seen fully as a Finnish band. And rightfully so since 98% of all Stratovarius music was written by guitarist Timo Tolkki and although he wasn't a founding member he is considered as one.
Stratovarius golden era line-up (from left): Jari Kainulainen, Timo Kotipelto, Timo Tolkki, Jens Johansson, Jörg Michael
The road that was paved by the likes of Hanoi Rocks and Stratovarius it seemed the world was ready for the Finnish metal invasion. And that invasion was led by bands like Nightwish, HIM, Children of Bodom, Apocalyptica, Amorphis, Sonata Arctica, Sentenced and the list could go on and on. In fact this invasion was so strong and powerful that Finnish metal became a token of quality on it's own. If a band came from Finland they had to be good. That was the quality of Finnish metal back then.
Finnish metal at the dawn of new millennium
At the dawn of new millennium world was facing fears like Y2K but there was no fear in the eyes of Finnish metal bands that kept spreading around the world. Dare we even say that the first 5 years of 2000 carved Finland to the stone of what countries consistently produced quality music and there we were with the likes of Germany, UK and USA. To general public it seemed like new bands kept popping up from out of nowhere. But reality was that most of these bands had done their "garage" years already and now they were able to ride the wave of Finland = Quality so of course it was easier to be heard and reach new territories.
In retrospect one could say those were the most fruitful years. At least to Finnish bands. You could actually make a living of doing what you loved the most. We didn't have streaming services and people were actually still getting their music by buying the physical product. But clouds were gathering on the horizon, not only for Finnish bands but bands in general and music industry as we all knew was going to change completely.
Nightwish, Children of Bodom and HIM gained huge success worldwide between 2000 - 2005
Golden years of Finnish metal 2000 - 2005
As said earlier, years 2000 - 2005 were most likely the biggest ones for the Finnish metal. And they were especially big ones for Nightwish, Children of Bodom and HIM. During those 5 years Nightwish enlisted Marco Hietala as their new bass player and male vocalist, released their chart-topping album Once and fired Tarja Turunen. The dismissal of Tarja Turunen was a nationwide event in Finland and when she held a press conference regarding the matter, it was shown on Finnish national television.
HIM kept on growing internationally and they were in high demand in countries like Germany, Austria and UK and ended up playing in US for the first time. On this time span they released albums like Razorblade Romance, Deep Shadows and Brilliant Highlights, Love Metal and Dark Light, which became their most successful album. It charted in sixteen countries and HIM was voted "Band of the Year" by the readers of Metal Hammer magazine in 2005.
Children of Bodom had their breakthrough closer to 2005 and it was due to hard work and endless touring in North America. This established them a very strong following in the US. On this time span they released Follow the Reaper, Hate Crew Deathroll and Are You Dead Yet?.
Naming an era according to one band in Finnish metal history sounds crazy but it is hard to avoid it. Finnish monster metallers Lordi did what no other Finnish band or artist had succeeded earlier and that was to win the Eurovision Song Contest for Finland with their song "Hard Rock Hallelujah" on May 20th 2006.
This created a Lordi hype in Finland unlike anything we had seen before. And Finland's history in Eurovision Song Contest was sad to say the least. Since 1961 Finland has participated 53 times. 9 times we were dead last, 8 times we failed to qualify to finals and before Lordi's victory our best achievement was 6th place in 1973. But everyone can imagine just what this victory did for Finland and our already founded reputation as the Land of Metal?
Ok one could say it went even a bit too far considering the whole nation of Finland all of a sudden turned into metal heads. From children to elderly all loving Finnish metal but of course only metal they knew was Lordi and only song they knew from Lordi was "Hard Rock Hallelujah". Even Matti Vanhanen, the Prime Minister of Finland at the time was showing devil horn-gestures. Maybe some of those things were a bit too much.
But there is a lot thank Lordi for and it proved that Finnish metal does great regardless where you use it. Even the almighty Eurovision Song Contest noticed this. And of course that victory gave a huge boost to Lordi worldwide. But what people don't always realize is that even Lordi had already done their "garage" days and by no means were they a new band. What was a brand new band to majority was in fact founded already in 1992. However it took a decade for them to get their debut album "Get Heavy" out which was in 2002. Metal fans in Finland knew Lordi through their earlier releases but world found Lordi only through the Eurovision Song Contest victory in 2006.
Present day and the future of Finnish metal
Of course at the moment while writing this we are facing a second year of Covid-19, people have suffered around the world. People have learned to do work remotely but music industry has gone through very rough times. Covid-19 and restrictions it brought has prevented musicians from practising their profession. Well not just musicians but the whole industry altogether. Streaming platforms are getting more and more ground in the market while physical product sales is getting less and less. And this would be alright if the artists would be compensated properly through the streaming services but the whole revenue sharing is more of a joke. Someone is getting rich and it ain't the artists.
To be honest I am not worried about the future of Finnish metal. I know as long as there are musicians willing and able to make music we will have tons of kick ass bands from this country. However what I am worried about is the music industry in general. And how it affects the very people who create that music. You need to have a solid following to be able to keep yourself as a professional musician which means doing it full time. There has been countless bands in Finland alone who dropped their bands simply cause they couldn't make ends meet.
There is no going back to how things were 20+ years ago because technology advances and music industry needs to adapt. But a simple question remains, how is it possible that the ones who create the music are the ones getting paid the least through streaming services? Spotify alone has over 356 million monthly active users, including 158 million paying subscribers. And that is just Spotify. A lot of money is going somewhere other than the artists. I believe if there was a streaming platform that shared a proper revenue sharing to artists, people would be willing to pay more from it. But the way things are now only one thing is for certain, music is a dying art.
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