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JJ's Bizarre Blog #27 - Northern Comfort by the Thousand Lakes


Hyvää päivää! Hope you enjoyed the latest trip we went on and hope you’re ready, because now it’s time to come back down to Earth and go on a different journey. I noticed that it’s been a while since I did a country focused blog and that Sweden entry has been sitting quite lonely in that category. Perhaps it was my own hubris in thinking how much research is really necessary to capture an entire nation’s music in one blog, were it not by chance that I already have everything I need. But, this is a new year and a new era for the Bizarre One and I don’t step away from a challenge. So today, I will finally make another country focused blog as we return to the North and go slightly to the East. It’s time I introduce you to the music of one very special country for me, the Nordic legends, Finland!


Firstly, if you aren’t aware, allow me to paint you a picture of what a place Finland is and why I chose them. The way I see it, Finland sings of lives heavily defined by the rich and beautiful land they live on. Being so far north, the country is obviously very cold and beyond the Arctic Circle you also have the phenomenon of the polar night, where the sun doesn’t rise for several months at a time. The landscape is forested and dotted by countless lakes, hot springs and marshy swamps, giving Finland the moniker of “Land of the Thousand Lakes”. Combine this atmosphere of general darkness and dampness with unquestionable natural beauty and unique phenomena like Aurora Borealis and you have a slightly heavy yet magical place that is perfect for creativity, especially of the darker, moodier variety. Finland is also a place where music is held in high regard and musical education in schools is taken more seriously than most other nations. All of this and the influence of their western neighbour Sweden makes Finland one of the most musically rich lands in the world. So, let’s explore that together! Hop in the sleigh, let’s go!




Finland is an ancient nation, so trying to explore the entire history of their music would be futile, but focusing on contemporary popular music, they’ve had considerable input with not insignificant international success. Perhaps because the Finnish language sounds so oddly cool, many songs in it have found global recognition, despite the listeners likely having no clue what’s being said. Notable movements include the Iskelmä genre, a German schlager-esque folk sound with a distinctly Finnish melancholic twist to it. Also, plenty of participants on various musical TV shows have gone on to have massive careers, proving that they are much more than on-screen showmen. The Finns have a history of doing really well in song contests as you’ll soon learn.


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In many ways, the Finns have also managed to stealthily infiltrate the global musical zeitgeist. For example, did you know that Bomfunk MC’s are from Finland? You know, the “waka-maka-fow” guys? Well, they are! With their sound, you’d think they’re from New Jersey or something, but no. They’re just the most popular nugget from the bountiful Finnish underground hip-hop scene.


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Also, you know that one song? The one everyone always wants the name of? That elusive trinket? Well, the man behind it, Darude, is Finnish also. Turns out we had to look beyond the Arctic Circle for the answer to our mystery.


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And while Sweden blessed (or cursed) the world with Caramelldansen, Finland birthed Ievan Polkka, an ancient folk song in an obscure dialect that somehow became a hit with the internet anime community in the early 2000s. The web truly works in strange ways. But there you have it, to round out the world meme legacy of Finland.




Now, having gone through all of that, you know why I’m here. I know why I’m here. There is one thing that Finnish music is most notorious for and it’s that this land is known as “the most metal country on Earth”! They have the highest number of metal bands per capita in the world by a significant margin and there’s probably no other nation where metal culture is so integrated with everyday life. So, let’s explore!




Of course, to lay the groundwork, Finland has had a strong rock scene for decades and they have consistently proven themselves a force to be reckoned with on the global stage. They would be the bedrock for all things to come.


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When it comes to classic hard rock/heavy metal, no band has made more of a mark on the world stage than the monsters from Lordi! Known for their comedic horror-themed lyrics and elaborate stage costumes, made by frontmonster Mr. Lordi himself, they were catapulted to stardom when they won the Eurovision Song contest in 2007, the first and till this day only metal band to do so. This was appreciated so much by the Finns that a town square in Rovaniemi is named after them and they would also set the world record for the largest singalong in the main square of Helsinki! Far from a one hit wonder, these beasts have crafted a mighty and loyal fanbase worldwide and continue to shake the stages all over the globe with some of the most phenomenal live shows ever witnessed. 


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Beyond the rock and classic metal scene, Finland would be known for being a breeding ground for the birth of many new genres, chief among them being power metal, one of the most astronomically popular in the entire metal sphere. While the Germans are the true originators of the genre courtesy of Helloween, Finnish masters Stratovarius would emerge at almost the same time and they would kickstart a craze that would take over the world. To this day, the fantastical tales of epic quests, dragons, fairy tales and love that can be found in power metal are a certified hit and Finnish power metal remains some of the most coveted with countless bands over the years achieving legendary status. 


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I mean, bar maybe Rammstein, the iconic Nightwish are probably the most successful band ever to come from continental Europe! With their mix of power metal, glorious symphonic elements, an emotional gothic sound and epic soprano vocals, Nightwish have become an institution in all of metal.


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From fantasy to folklore, one of the most notable genres to definitively be born in Finland is of course folk metal! I’ve spoken of this numerous times but I’ll gladly do it again - folk metal’s combination of metal sensibilities with folk music instrumentation and lyrics is a killer combination and it would be the Finns that were the ones that made this genre a reality. Whether the melodeath epics of Ensiferum, the folk shanties of the former folk group Korpiklaani, the dark boreal anthems of Finntroll or the powerful symphonies of Turisas, Finnish folk metal is and always will be the gold standard.


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Folk, power and extreme metal would culminate in the epic masterpieces of Wintersun, a distinctly northern band that would capture the atmosphere of Finland perfectly in lengthy ambitious compositions that are equal parts dark, heavy and melancholic as well as epic, enthralling and beautiful. Or if you want something similar, but much darker and with a more primal pagan feel, try the mysterious masters from Moonsorrow instead.


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I mean, the Finns are so good at making folk metal that they even perfect the folk metal sound for cultures other than their own, exemplified no better than the immortal warriors from Whispered. Despite being very Finnish indeed, they were inspired by Japanese folk music, ancient folklore and tales of samurai and created a unique sound that fused God-tier melodic death metal and classic European folk/symphonic sounds with authentic Japanese folk music to create an enveloping experience like no other. Japan themselves have yet to produce a folk metal band to top them. And even if they somehow did, the honour of True Finnish Samurai Metal will live forever!


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If Finland isn’t busy creating subgenres, they are out there taking existing genres and perfecting them to never before seen heights. Such as their death and black metal scenes, which came much later than a lot of other European nations, but Finnish bands nonetheless formed their own unique flavour and immediately stood out among the rest.


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There’s no better example of this perfecting of genres than melodic death metal though. Sweden may have created it, but Finland mastered it. Also unlike the almost pop-like sentiment and catchy choruses of their western neighbours, the Finns managed to retain the death metal elements much better without ever compromising on their beautiful melodies or overall catchiness. Finnish melodeath is this flawless blend of heavy and melodic, of darkness and hope, it is truly the perfect atmosphere. Not to mention their impeccable instrumentation and phenomenal vocals. 


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For decades now, they have been blessing us with countless amazing bands that represent the pinnacle of melodic death metal. To this day, new bands keep springing forth and bringing new and fresh ideas to the style, whilst retaining that iconic Finnish sound.


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And I just have to dedicate a special segment to perhaps the most iconic Finnish melodic death metal band, the one responsible for me getting into heavy music - the virtuosos from Children of Bodom. If you’re curious, they’re named after a lake, because of course they are. Led by the brilliant Alexi Laiho, known for his blindingly fast and unbelievably sophisticated guitar playing, as well as his trademark high pitched scream, CoB blend the fast, epic and melodic elements of power metal with the heaviness, darkness and dense atmosphere of death and black metal, creating an incredibly engaging experience. Their sound is driven mainly by the soaring guitar work and master Janne Wirman’s incredible keyboards, creating a grand symphonic experience that sounds like nothing else, within Finland or beyond. Alexi sadly left us far too soon and his genius will truly never be replicated. 


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Outside of melodeath, gothic metal is another genre that grew highly when it reached so far north. The cold weather and beautiful nature are the perfect muse to write dark and melancholic love poems after all and over the years, many Finns have blessed us with some of the best artists the genre has ever seen. Chief among them have to be HIM, who have become a global phenomenon and continue to excite the hearts of countless people the world over with their unique flavour of romance.


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But to really drive the darkness home, doom metal is where it’s at. When the sun doesn’t visit you for months, it’s normal to fall into a more macabre state of mind, so it’s no surprise that doom metal, the slowest and darkest of all subgenres, has boomed in popularity and explored new grounds. One notable act are the enchanting Skepticism, who pioneered a submovement called funeral doom, which slows the music to an absolute crawl and tries to build the most dense atmosphere of impenetrable darkness ever. It’s incredibly captivating.


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And so, to this day, one genre or another, Finland keeps blessing us with amazing music, especially in the metal scene. Any genre, any style, any vibe, they got you covered. The awesome Blind Channel also kept up the tradition from Lordi and represented Finland in Eurovision again, finding great success, albeit without ultimately winning.


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Finland seems determined to perfect every genre of metal and have a metal song for every occasion (but mostly for the melancholic ones). I mean, just look at the vast and varied musical score such as Ultrakill, one of the greatest games of the last decade, made entirely by one madman named Hakita, soundtrack included. It seems that making phenomenal music is just in these guys’ blood.


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Or how about the unique sounding party animals Turmion Kätilöt. Imagine if Rammstein and Children of Bodom had an offspring thet grew up on Nine Inch Nails and early 2000s trance and techno. That’s what they’re like. They create an absolutely amazing industrial metal sound with a definitively Finnish vibe to it.


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Suomi even pioneered a unique genre called cello metal/cello rock, led by the brilliant Apocalyptica. Essentially, they began by covering metal songs on cello, but soon evolved into creating their own compositions, with a sound that is truly unlike anything out there.


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For God’s sake, they even have things like Hevisaurus - a band that dresses like dinosaurs and makes children’s songs about eating your vegetables so you can find zombies and demons. Yes, really. And they’re awesome! Usually you’d expect children’s music to be very low effort and simplistic, but they are damn epic! Seriously, they did not have to go this hard but they did anyway. And that really is the Finnish way, as these people seem incapable of making anything below stellar.


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Before we conclude this journey, I would like to dedicate this final section to a personal favourite of mine, a band I have dubbed “the Bards of Finland” - Amorphis! I have spoken about them many times, I even have a whole blog dedicated just to them, so I’ll keep it brief. Amorphis are a one-of-a-kind band that defies all genre definition, blending elements from everything imaginable into their sound, still creating songs that are definitively theirs. The mastery of their songwriting is unmatched. Combine this with their lyrics based on the Kalevala epic of Finnish history and folklore and you have arguably the most Finnish band to ever exist. The most fitting closer to this epic journey of ours.


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And so, I think I’ve proven to you the musical prowess of this frigid northern land and how they are one of the capitals of the heavy metal world. It’s amazing how this relatively small nation has been able to leave such a significant imprint on the musical world. The Finns hold music in very high regard and this is shown in the consistently high quality of their output. Their specific geography and weather also begets a certain vibe and that’s most likely why they’ve been able to capture the darker and more melancholic aspects of life better than most. Finland holds a special place in my heart as a lot of my favourite artists from childhood until today have been from there and their amazing nature and culture has put them at the top of my bucket list of countries to visit. They are so much more than the home of Santa Claus and the land of saunas. I hope that with this blog entry, I have inspired you to feel this way too. Kiitos and see you again soon!




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