Celebrating the Gothic side of rock and metal, German dark rock masters Lord of the Lost returned to Helsinki for an intimate club gig at On the Rocks on February 25th, 2017. While promoting their 2016 album, Empyrean, this was to be their seventh outing in Finland. To sweeten the deal, they had booked established local industrial melodic death metallers, Fear of Domination. Both bands are known for putting on flashy and extravagant shows with fairly similar aesthetics, so their fanbases should mix with relative ease.
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Since my background is more metal-oriented, I was most looking forward to seeing Fear of Domination, whom I had seen once before in that same venue on April 8th, 2016. Their songs are largely rooted in melodic death metal riffs and growling vocals with added flavors of Goth and industrial music. Contrary to Finnish tradition, in anticipation for the show, the crowd had assembled on the dance floor instead of at the bar. The crowd consisted of a seemingly even 50/50 split of men and women, almost all of whom were in the 18-35 range.
Fear of Domination started their set a fashionable 15 minutes late to the thunderous sound of young ladies’ screams. Their stage-attire was note-worthy as usual – the leather-clad crew sported their signature corpse paint with splotches of UV face-paint which lit up on stage in bright neon colors. It gave off the impression that these were Goth versions of the lost boys from Peter Pan if they found a few cans of paint. To allow for mobility, keyboardist Lasse Raelahti had a keytar, which is an unusual sight among metal bands and never fails to get a chuckle out of yours truly.
Kicking off their set, they had a few upbeat hits such as “Paperdoll” to warm up the crowd. It didn’t take long until special guest vocalist Sara Strömmer took the stage to the tune of “II.” The song itself was a rare subversion of the band’s formula with a primary emphasis on clean vocals presented in Finnish. This one rubbed me in all the wrong ways as the chorus sounded more like schlager than metal or even rock.
No matter what she was singing, however, Strömmer herself was consistently a vision. A vocal coach by trade, she was on point at all times and always seemed to know exactly what she wanted out of her performance. “Needle” came near the end of the set as a highlight; since the female vocals in the song already had a strong melody to them, she took every opportunity to jazz it up and make it her own. If by then everyone wasn’t convinced that she was a real find, they were afterwards. It was fortunate then that she stayed for the remainder of the set. Her charisma and chemistry with lead vocalist Saku Solin truly elevated the whole show.
Solin was his usual crazy, pro-active self. Like any true metal vocalist he sang with his whole body and couldn’t keep his hands still for an instant. Solin has never been afraid of going all out and a good example of this was “Organ Grinder” – as the song began, he requested that the ladies in the front make their way forward and suddenly he was walking around the dance floor. He spent the whole song singing and waltzing with the fans. Strömmer joined him for a dance at the end of the song, leaving the crowd dumbstruck and with huge grins on their faces. Such displays of genuine cuteness are admittedly seldom seen but at the time it felt most welcome.
For the finale, they did the obvious fan favorites, “Fear of Domination” and “Pandemonium.” The crowd had been moshing and/or swaying throughout the set but for these they actually raised some fists and sang along. As a whole, the set was tightly packed, since they only had 45 minutes. I have no doubt that they would’ve gotten an even bigger response with a longer set or if they’d had a warm-up before them; but as it was, it was a great and memorable performance from a band headed for greatness.
By the time Lord of the Lost took the stage, the place had filled up nicely; the dance floor was a veritable sauna from the writhing masses. The band – looking a lot younger than I had expected from the promo pics – began with “The Love of God”, which got those masses moving in earnest. Lord of the Lost being used to much bigger venues and larger acclaim, was visibly disappointed by the club’s ability (or lack thereof) to sing along. The crowd did get better at participation later on, so I’m chalking that up to common Finnish shyness.
The band’s overall demeanor on stage was obviously more tailored to larger venues. They even exited the stage mid-set to allow for a drum solo, to return accompanied by a backing track. I’ve also never seen a band take a picture from the stage of such a humble venue. Singer Chris Harms played rhythm guitar on half the songs, and they had a crew-member walk on and off stage to accommodate their needs for each song. I took note that on the wall just left of the stage, he had written printed-out instructions (very German). Said crew-member also had to fix the cymbals during some of the first songs, after which it was admittedly gratifying to see drummer Tobias Mertens let loose.
The stage wasn’t outfitted with any backdrops or banners, however, the lighting was rigged to perfectly accent the nuances of the music. It never went all the way to full strobe-lights but it was consistently fast-paced. That being said, the actual sound was very full, with more of an emphasis on the rock and metal aspects. For instance, Harms screamed and growled a lot more than on the albums. It felt to me as if the band got more metal as they got more excited, which in turn got the crowd more excited.
Though right off the bat they played surefire hits, such as “Fists up in the Air” and “Drag Me to Hell”, it was the more ballad-like songs, “Dry the Rain” and “Blood for Blood”, that seemed to get the biggest reaction from the fans. Looking back, the whole set was filled to the brim with hits. Every song seemed to start with a classic melody. Songs like “La Bomba”, “Full Metal Whore”, and “Black Lolita” made for excellent party tracks. The true highlight of the show was the finale, “Raining Stars”, to which the band insisted the crowd sing along.
For the group’s rabid fanbase, the night was a dream come true. After the gig, they held a meet & greet and even a full afterparty at Bar Bäkkäri nearby. For me, it was much better than I had expected. Though the big-fish-in-a-small-pond antics of Lord of the Lost were a bit distracting, they did deliver a great show. The two bands worked together gorgeously and were well worth the price of admission. I did end up feeling as if these bands would feel more at home at say Tavastia or Nosturi. Hopefully they’ll bear that in mind when they decide to come for that eighth visit.
Photos: Miia Collander