In 2016, The Damager Agency decided to host a festival in both Helsinki (Finland) and Bergen (Norway) to showcase both established electronic metal/metalcore bands, as well as to bring some up-and-coming bands into the spotlight. With an impressive six bands playing each day, this festival promised to offer a variety of interesting music to all sorts of metal and pop fans alike. On September 9th and 10th, 2016, Musicalypse sent our troops, both veterans and trainees, down to Nosturi to check out what EDGE:Nordic had to offer!
Atte: I got to Nosturi about 10 minutes before the showtime of the first act, Assemble the Chariots. The Helsinki-based extreme metal group was probably the only band on the first evening that I actually wanted to see after scrutinizing the line-up solely on technical prowess, and were easily one of the most talented as well. There was a bit of a hold-up at the door, since the doorman didn’t seem to have a separate press list on hand and had to confirm the situation through his radio. When I got to the cloakroom, Assemble the Chariots had just begun their 30-minute set.
I jumped up the stairs to the stage floor, arriving about halfway through the Chariots’ first song. The venue was practically empty at the time, with maybe thirty or forty people in the front row, while the bar area was almost deserted. The first thing I noticed was the absence of the band’s second guitarist, Niklas Turunen, reducing the band to a four-piece. Even with Turunen missing, the band nicely filled the room with their high-speed metal, relying heavily on orchestrations in their overall sound. The show didn’t go through flawlessly, as vocalist Kristo Sundström apparently got confused with the setlist and started singing a different song than the rest of the band in the beginning of the third track on their set, clearly knocking him off balance for a second. He quickly apologized for his hiccup and let the band finish the verse, caught up on the bridge, and apologized a second time during the chorus.
The half an hour went by quickly, and for the most part the show was great. The guitarist Kevin Apostol’s subtle head-nodding when playing somehow reminded me of Sound Explosion Band’s bassist, Kari Hulkkonen. Sundström’s vocals were immensely powerful, while the drummer, Sami Mäntylä, kept the package together nicely. On the minus side, the stage sound was pretty raw, and the drums could have used a lot more volume; most of the time the bass drums were almost inaudible, eating up the impact of the music that relies on fast drum patterns. I don’t know if there was something wrong with Sundström’s in-ear monitors as well, because he constantly had to plug them in his ears and then take them out, as if he couldn’t hear himself either way. And considering Assemble the Chariots’ early showtime, the venue being pretty empty didn’t actually come as a surprise, but it was still disappointing. Assemble the Chariots pulled off a decent performance that should have been seen by more people.
Atte: The second band, Atlas, took the stage after a 15-minute intermission. The band, hailing from Nokia, was totally unknown to me beforehand, but I cannot say that I got too much out of their 30-minute performance. Atlas’ music is something between djent and metalcore, but while their songs weren’t that bad, the delivery suffered from technical difficulties, as it felt as though both their guitarists constantly had to go and check their amps and pedal-boards. During the first song the second guitar was mute for a good while. The band had some kind of a backing track for the bass guitars, but the track could have had a lot more volume to it, as Atlas’ songs sounded, at times, really thin without a strong bottom end. Time to go bassist-shopping, guys!
Don’t get me wrong – despite the problems, the band’s show was decent. The vocalist, Patrik Nuorteva, couldn’t keep still for a second and spent a fair amount of time in the photo pit with his microphone, though I have to say that I found his habit of bashing his microphone with his hand utterly unenjoyable; with all the hiccups with the guitarists’ gear, every time I heard the popping noise from the microphone, I thought that something had broken down for real. Speaking of guitarists, both Tuomas Kurikka and Aleksi Viinikka played their parts without a hitch, and the drummer, Aku Karjalainen, had a really nice touch in his playing and was something I could have watched for a longer period of time.
Atte: The third act of the evening by far the most confusing for me: Funeral for the Masses, hailing from Oulu, played a hefty 30-minute set, but I couldn’t figure out what it was that prevented me from getting the hang of their music. I hadn’t heard any of FFtM’s songs before, and actually missed their performance at this year’s Nummirock, but somehow the element of surprise still wasn’t present for me. The band’s songs weren’t in any way bad, ranging style-wise from death metal to metalcore and thrash; FFtM had a lot going on in their output, and the band is clearly full of talented musicians. At times, I felt that maybe the band tried to be too much at the same time, preventing them from going 100% forward – as a death metal fan, I found the most death-ish parts of their songs to be the most enjoyable. On the other hand, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of good stage sound with music like FFtM, as the band was the second one during the evening with almost inaudible bass drums, which ate away a big chunk of the impact. In the end, FFtM clearly are determined to put on a good show and I have to give extra points for the band’s visual appearance: everyone was dressed in similar uniforms with the creative FFtM logo on the chest. Good design right there!
Bear: Blind Channel marked the halfway point of the night, giving us yet another violent pop gig. The kicked things off with “Unforgiving” from their upcoming release, Revolutions. That must be a fairly well-known song now, as it’s been out for a while, but it’s a good place to kick things off, especially if they’re still keeping some secrets for their upcoming album release gig on October 1st. “Hold on to Hopeless” was up next, and I was surprised to find even some of the more hardcore-looking members of the crowd moshing and dancing away. Of course, the most enthusiastic fans were the BC Squad (the band’s street team) who had been in the front row from the get-go, but that is to be expected. BC kept the set going with more sneak peaks from their debut, with “My Revolution” and “Pitfall”. The latter is a bit more of a chill live song, and the bass was so loud I could feel it at the back of the venue – looks like the sound crew wasn’t afraid to crank it up anymore. “Bullet (With Your Name on It)” made its live debut in this show, which I was pretty happy about – it’s hard to pick favorites of their upcoming release, but this is a pretty catchy song and translates very well into their live performance. “Deja FU” had a nice slow-sung intro, and “Enemy for Me” got pretty much the whole floor jumping, as well as a three-man circle pit. “Darker than Black” got another huge cheer and a mini-mosh pit (five people this time), and they closed out their set with the usual cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Don’t”, with its hard rock classics intro. I’d prefer if they’d swap that out for “Darker than Black” or “Deja FU”, just because I think it’s an inferior song and it’s best to lure the crowd back with your own material. Overall, great set – they’re not yet getting creative with the album material in their live shows yet (apart from the intros), but they had some of the best energy of the night. Even though they can be a bit tentative in their stage interaction with each other (trying not to knock each other over and whatnot), they still put on a really lively and energetic performance that will likely just get better and better every time we see them.
Bear: Next up was One Morning Left. It’s hard to explain what it’s like to watch this band, and bear with me because I had never heard of them before. I rather enjoyed some of their music, while other songs genuinely confused me. Or I would even go so far as to say many parts of most songs were enjoyable, and then took turns towards the straight-up weird. They played some sort of a remix of the Ghostbusters theme, which was bizarre and incomprehensible, while the song that followed was a pretty decent slice of metalcore. Likewise for “Kings and Queens,” which I had found on Spotify prior to the gig and hoped to hear. There were a ton of catchy beats in there, mixed in occasionally awkwardly and occasionally to good effect with some heavy bits. Their singers were all over the place, from growls to melodic boy-band style singing, all the way up to goofy full-on falsetto. As far as drummers go, Niko Hyttinen was a one-man show of his own, and I could’ve been perfectly entertained watching him wailing away and making crazy faces without the rest of it. They had a couple of scantily-clad ladies on the stage dancing with them for a few songs, and just in case the stage wasn’t crowded enough, they had a special guest singer (I didn’t catch who he was but he sang at least in the first song) who donned a pig costume and joined the girls on stage. Mika “Miksu” Lahti (vocals) was not afraid to get down into the photopit in one song, to both sing and just… make weird noises. Leevi Luoto (clean vocals, guitar), on the other hand, was one of those guys that you can’t tell if he’s drunk or just ‘like that’ on stage. Then there were water guns… it just got weirder and weirder as the set went on. You certainly couldn’t say that the crowd didn’t appreciate it though, as there was more moshing and jumping around more during this set than all the prior sets combined.
Bear: At 23:29, the curtains opened one more time to an electronic voice introducing the last band of the night, We Butter the Bread with Butter. Considering the band is German, we were rather interested in the fact that this prerecorded intro was in Finnish, telling the crowd that if someone didn’t have a beer, they should do something about it immediately. When the show got going, the first thought to pass through my mind was… why is the bass player the only one with corpse paint? I had only heard a few songs from this band before, so the first song surprised me with its heaviness. The crowd had largely vanished between the end of the last set and the beginning of WBtBwB’s, but evidently they had all just gone for a drink or smoke, because the floor filled back up once the first song was over. The crowd gave the band some encouragement when they took a moment to introduce themselves, shouting “wunderbar!” much to Paul Bartzsch’s (vocals) amusement. The band asked who might like some older songs, and I’m fairly certain every hand on the floor went up, and was quickly followed by arms in the air clapping and jumping, and a moshpit shortly afterward. The crowd proved to be very responsive, squatting down on the floor on command, putting their hands in the air to clap, and then all jumping up at once. The set seemed to offer a bit of everything, from the more electronic-based stuff, to some songs songs that, as Bartzsch said, were for the headbangers in the crowd. I can’t say I know this band at all, nor that it’s even a style that I listen to, but I feel like I can appreciate it after this show and I think I actually liked it better live. However, they still have the weirdest band name I’ve ever heard.
So that was it for the first night of this metalcore-infused little festival. It was time for some sleep afterwards, because there was another big day to come!
Atte: The second day of EDGE:Nordic kicked off at the same time as Friday, with the first band, Æther, starting their set at 18:30 sharp. Æther was formed back in 2014, but this was their first live performance. The previous evening had been horrifyingly quiet for the first three bands, and once I got up to the band area, today was no different, if not even worse – there was a total of eight people in the front of the stage, with an equal number in the bar. Just before starting their first song, the drummer, Rainer “Raikku” Tuomikanto, ironically shouted out to the other guys that “it’s nice to get a good rehearsal space for a change!” This wasn’t completely unjustified, as the band played through their 30 minute set of four songs to maybe the most scarce audience I’ve ever seen in Nosturi.
A word on Æther’s music: excellent stuff! Tuomikanto is one of the most prominent drummers in our country, and with his experience and Iiro Illman on guitar (also having featured in plenty of metal acts through the years), I wouldn’t have expected anything else. Æther’s guitar work reminded me a lot of The Ocean, while some polyrhythmic parts were almost Tesseract-ish in style. The band themselves define their style as groove metal – as someone who resents Pantera, I feel that this is almost an understatement. The band’s bassist, Samuli Pekkarinen, had a brilliant groove in his playing, and it’s always nice to see someone playing bass in a metal band without using a pick. The only setback was the singer Saku Poikonen’s voice. While nailing his growling parts, he had considerable difficulties keeping in tune during clean vocal parts – maybe he couldn’t hear himself over the band because of bad monitoring. Nevertheless, Æther’s performance was great and left a craving for more. Apart from the 30 second teaser video the band has on YouTube, no songs have yet been released, so the band is definitely worth a check-out when they do more shows!
Atte: As John Cleese puts it: and now for something completely different. After a 15 minute intermission, Horror Dance Squad climbed on Nosturi’s stage. Hailing from Tallinn, Estonia, the band have already performed in Wacken Open Air after winning this year’s Estonia Wacken Metal Battle competition, but this was the first time they were performing in Finland. Equipped with two vocalists, Horror Dance Squad pulled off a really energetic 30 minutes of modern metal, and the small audience didn’t slow them down one bit; after their first song, Ian Karell threw his mic around his shoulders and shouted without amplification to the audience that he liked the intimate feeling, easily reaching everyone in the quiet Nosturi. Their last song, “Elevate,” was meant to speak about treating each other well, and the band gave a big thank you to the few who showed up to see them, as well as Toni Törrönen [The Damager] for bringing them over for the show. I cannot say that I’m musically intrigued by this style of metal, but Horror Dance Squad was a great band to watch: the gained experience clearly showed in the band’s performance, and it’s easy to believe that they picked up a few new fans. Both bands of the evening so far could have benefited a lot from larger audiences, but what can you do?
Atte: Next band up was Khroma, an alternative metal band from Helsinki, and – let’s say it up front – the only band in the evening’s line-up that I’ve listened to before the event. Their debut album, Collapse from 2014, was a brilliant mix of metal and electronic ambient themes, and this year’s Stasis carried on the concept with a bit more straightforward approach. Khroma has done numerous Europe tours, so once again I anticipated a quality live performance. The first thing that has to be said aloud, is that it was downright criminal to allow the band play for only 30 minutes, as only six songs were heard. The stage speeches were kept to a minimum as well. The debut album was featured with two tracks, “Collapse” and “The Martyr Acts,” while Stasis’ picks were “A Simple Lie,” “Brace Yourself,” “The Push,” and “Machinal”. The last time I saw Khroma perform, they had three guitarists on stage, but this time only one, resulting in their sound being bit lighter than usual – not that one can actually describe the band’s sound as light in any way. Also this wasn’t an easy show for a photographer to shoot, as the band separated themselves from the audience by not using front spotlights at all. The vocalist, Riku Rinta-Seppälä, also performed with his curly hair covering his face most of the time. Once again, Khroma delivered a killer performance, thanking the (still awfully small) audience for showing up.
Bear: Ember Falls was up next, and I’m please to say that I’m starting to slowly get more and more familiar with their songs, which is no mean task considering they’ve only released one song. They got things started with “Cost of Doing Business,” and followed it up with “Falling Rain.” The crowd was still largely missing for the first two songs, but a not-too-slow trickle started to bring people up from the ground level. These guys were the first overtly electronic/melodic band of the day, which I appreciated. It was a good time to take a break from the metalcore for a while. Thomas Grove (vocals) promised a bit of new and old, before they got into “End of Fear” – the only song left from Mekanism [the band’s original line-up/name] on their setlist. “Freedom” is their token slow song, which I’m growing rather fond of, which has a nice keyboard-assisted guitar solo. Grove followed it up by asking the crowd if they are familiar with Amaranthe, and then discussed their upcoming debut album and how they recently met with Jake Lundberg, who helped out with the production, if I understood correctly. “COE” was up next, which has a strong electronic sound and similar high energy to their single, and I can imagine it becoming a fan-favorite at live shows to come. “Rising Tide” managed to get hands clapping and up in the air. As per usual, they closed things out with “Shut Down with Me,” the aforementioned single, and though I enjoyed the set, I can’t say it was their best performance of the year, as it had a couple minor sound bugs here and there (guitars cutting out, raspy sound quality on Calu’s (vocals, guitar) mic, etc). However, it was still a a good show and a nice change-up in sound from the rest of the bands – a perfect refresher before the last two bands.
Bear: It was a little bit past their start time when Adept took the stage, with the full crowd finally making its appearance, chanting “Adept, Adept” over and over. I was actually fairly impressed with their music considering I’d never heard them before, and I often have a hard time enjoying music I don’t know. They were one of the heavier bands of the day, yet they had some nice backing tracks in some songs that created a decent balance between the heavy and gentle. Vocalist Robert Ljung claimed that Nosturi is one of his favorite venues in Europe, as there are always a lot of drunk Finns, before dedicating the song “Secrets” to the guys from Eskimo Callboy. It was nice to see that there were enough people for a proper moshpit at this point of the night. Ljung also mentioned that after this show, Jerry Repo, who supposedly lives in Finland, is leaving the band (apparently to drink more), and he was asked to say something in Finnish, to which he said, “Nähdään myöhemmin, alligaattori,” [see you later, alligator] in a rather thick Swedish accent. The next song had every hand in the air and every foot off the ground, jumping around. This might’ve also been the first time in ages that I’ve seen any sort of wall of death at Nosturi. Ljung claimed he would be at his favorite bar in Finland after the show, the only one he hasn’t been kicked out of/banned from: Bäkkäri. No points for taste, but I’d have been interested to know if they could actually be found there after the show. He then asked for the biggest circle pit of the night, which he was given. “Sound the Alarm” is apparently about heartbreak, which also proved to be a good song to jump all over to. Overall, these guys had a lot of energy and a pretty overall great connection with the crowd.
Bear: Skrillex played as an intro track to introduce Eskimo Callboy, which I daresay we were not expecting. This was followed by another musical/industrial intro track to welcome an impressive six people to the stage. These guys have two active vocalists at all times – Sebastian “Sushi” Biesler and Kevin Ratajczak – and I was fairly impressed with their ability not to trip all over each other all the time. It was likewise interesting to see how frequently they sang together – far more often than most bands with dual-vocalists. Their music was the energetic kick in the pants that was well-needed after five other bands had been on stage already and the hour was growing late. There were a lot of aspects to their music that I liked, such as the blending of heavy and gentle sounds. It was only recently brought to my attention that these guys had never played in Finland before, so it was nice to see a very enthusiastic crowd yet again, with lots of energy leftover after Adept’s set. Their second song had a lot of fun electronic sound and pretty insane party energy and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tapping along with the music most of the time. “We are the Mess” got a huge scream from the crowd after the band announced it and the crowd became a rolling ocean of jumping and moshing – the band seemed very impressed by the response they were getting. While I wouldn’t call these guys exactly the same in sound, I slowly got the feeling that they would be a perfect opening band for Turmion Kätilöt – we’ve seen them a ton of times this summer and there is a very similar energy that comes from both of these bands. Interesting coincidence that they both have two vocals-exclusive band members, no? They weren’t lying when they said it would be a good party, before prepping the crowd for a wall of death, and even declared “Party at the Horror House” to be a drinking song, and one of the vocalists nearly got himself sucked into the crowd when he crawled on the barrier. I had played these guys a few times on Spotify before the festival and found myself only partially engaged, though after seeing them live, I certainly think I wouldn’t mind watching them again sometime. Bring them back for a summer festival perhaps, Finland?
And with the conclusion of their set, EDGE:Nordic was also over. While I can’t say for sure, it seems that metal isn’t totally dead yet. It’s the young people who are experimenting that tend to get into metalcore and industrial -style bands like this, and it was a shame to see so few people in the crowd for the starting bands on both days, though it was at least encouraging that the latter half of both days showed that there’s still some love left for this kind of music somewhere. It was really sad to notice that this little festival received almost no attention from any of the local medias. While they did their utmost to promote themselves, bigger magazines like Rumba/Inferno and Imperiumi did next to nothing to get the word out and none of them came as medias to check it out. If we are worried about metal slowly dying out in this country, these are exactly the type of festivals we need to get people interested in new music. However, if we don’t get the word out, the decline may be inevitable. We’d strongly encourage music lovers to get out and check out some new live music more often – festivals like Edge:Nordic can really be a blast if you like trying new things.
And don’t forget! If you can find yourselves in any of our photos on Facebook, be sure to tag yourselves, like the photo and Musicalypse, and share the photo – you could win a prize pack of photos from the gig!
Text: Bear W., Atte Valtonen | Photos: Eliza Rask