Mixing movie and video game scores with ominous electronic sounds, synthwave seems to have been a hot topic for some time now – conceived in the mid 2000s, but not receiving wider recognition until with the brilliant crime flick Drive‘s soundtrack, synthwave has formed a kind of bond between the ones listening to metal and electronic music. The most prominent figures of the genre’s heavier side, Perturbator and Carpenter Brut from France, have both visited Finland before, performing to sold-out crowds in Vallila’s Ääniwalli, so Black Mass Finland apparently decided to hit it big by bringing these two synthwave giants back for a joint show. If one didn’t have anything planned for the Easter holidays, hitting the ticket stores would have been a good idea – there were still some leftover tickets available for both Good Friday’s Nosturi and Saturday’s Pakkahuone dates only a few days before.
Due to the size of the lineup, the Nosturi event started off already at 18:30. I had had a pretty long night the Thursday prior, resulting in completely missing the first band, the drone/black metal hybrid, Sink. I only made it right after the second-upper, King Satan. Considering the early hour, the semi-fresh industrial group, led by King Aleister Satan from Saturnian Mist, had a decent-sized crowd viewing their show in Nosturi’s lobby – the entrance had been moved to the bar’s terrace. The feeling I got from King Satan was extremely confused, as I couldn’t get a hang of the thing they were trying to accomplish. The backing tracks felt like they were stolen from Turmion Kätilöt’s leftover pile, and at times the sound in the lobby was so messed up that it was pretty hard to tell the live guitar or keyboards apart from the backing track. The band will release their debut album next month, and the excerpted song, ”Sex Magick”, delivered a steep contrast to the rest of their set – the keyboardist, Kate Boss, bounced around and sang with a high-pitched voice, almost reminiscent of a female anime character. Judging by their output on the internet, King Satan seems to have their tongues firmly against their cheeks, so it’s possible that I just didn’t ‘get’ this at all – I guess I’ll have to try again in Nummirock, but based on tonight I’ll have to give them thumbs down.
And, as Monty Python puts it, now for something completely different, as the Tampere-based psych rock group, Laserdrift, took the stage. It’s always nice to attend a show you don’t have a clue about beforehand, since you might be pleasantly surprised, and Laserdrift definitely delivered. Their first song, starting off a bit slow, expanded brilliantly towards its end, and the band didn’t hold the tempo or the volume back for the remainder of the show. The guys had dressed up in matching, obscenely 70s-looking patterned shirts, and for some reason I got a strong Eric Clapton vibe from their singer, Sami. Laserdrift didn’t get to play too many songs in the 30-minute set they had, so I definitely have to try it again in the future. A great show, even with the sound feeding back at times!
Let’s stick in Tampere: before Carpenter Brut, the one-man psychedelic black metal act of one Jose Rossi – Abyssion – was playing downstairs. After Laserdrift’s show, Abyssion’s raw black metal didn’t manage to convince me – the riffs, while being decent, were a bit simple for my taste, and I didn’t get a hang of Rossi’s bellowing singing style. Of course, I wasn’t familiar with their material beforehand, which probably would’ve helped. Some fans of the band seemed to be present, so I decided to leave the situation to the experts and head upstairs to find a good spot to witness Carpenter Brut.
I have to admit that, since I missed the Ääniwalli show a while back, I would’ve assumed that this would be a more traditional electronic music show, but no… as I got upstairs, the stage was set up with a drum set, a keyboard station, and a guitar. The band took the stage at 21:30, and the next hour went by in a flash. The big picture was clearly thought through – hilarious B-movie excerpts with Carpenter Brut logos spliced in were projected on the back screen, the lights were top notch, and the sound was excellent throughout. The drummer’s set included electronic drum pads with ‘real’ cymbals, not being as audible at times as they should’ve been, but I don’t think that anyone noticed. Comprised mostly of Brut’s first three EP’s, the setlist was played almost continuously from start to finish, and the audience was on fire for the whole time. For a moment it seemed that the band wasn’t coming back after the final song, but eventually they returned to play their ‘biggest’ hit, the Michael Sembello cover, “Maniac”, even including a lyric video – as if everyone didn’t know the lyrics! All-in-all, even with the seriously high expectations, Carpenter Brut was a surprisingly awesome live act. A special bonus goes out to the, “This preview has been rated TV for Titties and Violence” disclaimer in the backing videos!
It was time to return downstairs for a moment, as the last band in the lobby stage was the Helsinki-based rock-strangeness, K-X-P. The band’s material leans toward the repetition of simple themes and a large range of dynamics. Apparently the band’s drummer changes a lot depending on the situation, but the vocalist/keyboardist was pretty distinctive. The man empathized greatly in his playing, using his microphone sparingly. A sudden wave of fatigue, having struck in the end of Carpenter Brut, prevented me from enjoying the show in full, but K-X-P was still excellent – I’ll have to do a re-run the next time they have a show in town.
As I made it back upstairs, the fatigue had grown to such levels that for the first time in a long while, I had to order something non-alcoholic. I managed to glance at the stage for a moment, which contained a nice number of props – the light spots that were beside the stage during Carpenter Brut were set up in the back, and the center area contained a metallic stall for the DJ table and a few keyboards. At midnight, the light tech lit the stage up to its full extent, as Perturbator’s intro tape began playing. James Kent got on stage, kicked off the set with “Neo Tokyo”, and the fatigue disappeared almost instantly! The additional lighting delivered a huge amount of power to the show as the light tech was working full time, and the packed venue cheered for Perturbator at least as much as they had for Carpenter Brut. Kent played some of his parts live with the keyboards, but naturally this wasn’t as visually appealing as Carpenter Brut’s whole-band live. The setlist contained tracks mostly from the two latest Perturbator albums, but a few older tracks, ”Technoir” and ”Sexualizer”, were squeezed in, along with the latest single, “Tactical Precision Disarray”, from last December. The main set ended with “She Moves Like a Knife”, after which Kent returned to start “Welcome Back”, the intro track of Dangerous Days, expectedly followed by the titular “Perturbator’s Theme.” The show finished almost anticlimactically, as Kent only bowed to the audience and walked off stage, and the lights were turned on instantly afterwards. It was time to go home.
If the evening had progressed nicely so far, at its end I almost felt bad for Nosturi’s crew – I’ve never seen so many empty and trampled beer cans across the upstairs floor, easily reflected on the drunk faces of people going downstairs; people don’t litter like this at sold-out metal shows. The coatroom location change caused a pretty bad jam in the staircase, and making one’s way down took an almost frustratingly long time. Apparently the situation wasn’t that much better earlier on, as people were only making their way in, which is a shame, since the downstairs stage functions a lot better in the lobby than in the bar. As a whole, the evening was still a success, and people expressed their thanks for the large variety of bands on the Facebook event page quickly afterwards. Synthwave works even better live, so if you missed this event, make sure to attend next time!