STEELFEST OPEN AIR 2014
16-17.05.2014 Hyvinkää, Finland
Once again summer, the most coveted time of year in the Nordic countries, is upon us. And what better way to open the season than another trip to Hyvinkää for what is rapidly becoming my favorite Black and Death Metal festival in the land, the ever drunken, ever entertaining, all mighty Steel Fest. Okay, so it is not that huge, but all in all this is a great festival and the best possible way to introduce the summer months, and I find that events like this are generally a better experience than your mega sized four or five day festival blowouts. The problem with large festivals is sensory overload, and there always seems to be two bands you want to see playing at the same time. This problem is easily solved in a more intimate setting such as Hyvinkää’s Steel Fest. With only two stages and the most carefully selected acts going you are sure to catch every band if you want and if not every band has something for you there will be at least ten or more which do. It was raining in Helsinki when we set out Friday morning, and hopes for clear skies were looking grim. Nevertheless we pushed onwards, towards freedom and glory. The kind of freedom and glory that only a three day, completely booze soaked journey with likeminded rebels can provide. Festivals for me have always been about a 60/40 split. Sixty percent of the motivation behind going is of course the music, because I will not spend my damn hard earned money on a festival if the music does not make it worth going. The other forty percent of my time once there is dedicated to the social aspect. The people. I love to walk around in a daze and say shit to strangers. Lucky for me Steel Fest is just the perfect setting. Finnish people spend most of their daily life acting so formal and reserved, or sitting alone somewhere that these events are excuses for them to cut loose. And cut loose they do. For a party dude like me it is the ultimate dream vacation. I imagine what I get out of a festival is what other sorts, conservative types and business men mostly, get out of an all inclusive cruise through the Bahamas or a guided tour of the Louvre. Fuck that. I want to get wild and bang my head. There are many different types of festivals out there, as said previously Steel Fest is of a smaller scale but what it lacks in size it makes up for in total all around quality of organization and experience. Opening this year’s ceremony was Finland’s own subterranean warriors of death Lantern. By this time the ominous grey skies that had threatened to deliver a mood drenching downpour all morning had finally relented and the stage was set for an almost perfect weekend. Hailing from Kuopio, a small city nestled in Finland’s majestic central lake district; these longhaired head banging apparitions embody every essential characteristic behind Finland’s trademark cult of metal and death. In an age when most death metal is obsessed with commercially contrived gore and the standard NYDM brand suck that has seemingly stifled most creativity within the genre Lantern storms out of the Finnish midlands with an enormous sound conjuring images of ancient wandering spirits, rot and satanic mirth. Lantern delivered a powerful set, conjuring the “Revenant” hordes and setting the mood for the remainder of this year’s heathen revelry. Following Lantern Baptism took to the indoor stage delivering a darkened and eerie set of true Finnish style, no frills satanic melancholy. The first thing I noticed was a marked improvement in sound quality at the indoor stage compared to last year’s festival, which made Baptism’s set all the more grim and depressive. The set itself was fantastic, as Lord Sargofagian has snared some of the best talent Finland’s black pool of metal has to offer, including members of the True Black Dawn, Deathchain, Horns and the mighty Dissection-esque Forgotten Horror. Baptism’s ceremony closed with The Prayer which featured yet another local legend in his own right, Mynni Luukkainen, as guest vocalist. It was here I was taken slightly aback when Mynni proved to us all that his talent as a vocalist extends far beyond the agonized screams and gut wrenching snarls of Sotajumala as he delivered The Prayer’s clean vocals with strong conviction and the utmost clarity. Being not such a fan of clean singing in black metal I must admit that it fit the mood and there could have been perhaps no better candidate to end this effective and succinct set. As I was to later discover surprise appearances were to be a re-occurring theme at this year’s Steel Fest Open Air, but I will come back to that. For now it suffices to say that the two opening acts were effective and obviously carefully chosen as early festival attendance seemed to be in a much higher volume than on last year’s first day. The third act of the day was Turkish metalers Raven Woods. Not knowing so much about the band myself other than they supposedly play a brand of blackend-death metal, which to me seems more suitable for Hot Topic and preteen mall rats than hordes of drunken blasphemers I decided to skip this set. What I can say about their sound, from what I heard at a distance, is that it is a little too metalcore for my ears and incorporates a little bit too much sweepy widdly wah on guitar. I do not hate on bands that experiment with various extra-genera elements all the time, but when I do it is because to put it simply in my ears it’s just not rocking. Call me old school. Most call me arrogant, most do; after all there comes a point of intoxication where I start to spout of my less than flattering opinions regarding such legends as Pantera, Slayer and King Diamond but still… Raven Woods was not going to do it for me on this day and the refreshments provided by my friends who made the trip to Hyvinkää from St. Petersburg, the Venice of the North, were more than calling my name. One of the great aspects of Steel Fest is the large array of people who travel from abroad to partake in the madness. Hordes of harry, leather clad, patched out, bearded maniacs from across the Nordic woodlands. Vodka drenched warriors from Russia and the Baltic states. Strange women who freely hand out “Austrian water,” whatever the fuck that is. As near as I could tell it was some sort of berry flavored vodka concoction. North Americans and our transequatorial brothers in arms, the South American maniacs who can really fucking party. The British boys from their gloomy isles, and of course the German and Dutch head bangers which pepper most summer festivals around the world I imagine. Everyone comes together at this festival, and the location is really suitable for the need. Hyvinkää is an otherwise boring place. There is some strange energy emanating from woods which surround the village, and the Lutheran pyramid in the city center feels strangely out of place in a largely atheist nation. Structures such as this are a whole different sort of evil, and the menacing presence of this Lutheran monolith has put me in a weird mood both years I have attended this festival. It forces one to drink in excess and I am not sure but I believe the Illuminati use Hyvinkää’s energy fields to channel the rift and travel through time. I know a bald guy called Karri who will back me up on this point, but that is a whole story unto itself. Really though, other than strange forces in the woods this place does not seem to have shit going on, and the pace of life is relaxed and slow. The surrounding forests are amazing though, and if you are lucky (drunk) enough to experience a 5 a.m. fire under a random bridge some local teenagers just might show up with wooden pallets in need of burning. It seems to me, after talking with the locals that they have come to expect “The Steel Fest,” each year and even if they are not stoked on our presence they are warm, welcoming and accommodating. But you know, we bring the metal and the tourist money follows. Enough about that, back to the shit of the matter, the reason we are all in attendance each year, the music. As said, Raven Wood’s was not getting me off, but the vodka sure was so like an idiot I stuck around outside the gates through Hautakammio’s set. I did feel a tinge of desire to rush inside and try to catch a few closing songs, but again Hautakammio (Finnish for grave chamber) is a band I am not entirely familiar with. Being a local Hyvinkää band formed only in 2012 they have yet to make a big impact on me, which is not to imply that they are not worth a listen. In fact what I really find respectable about the band is their raw and aggressive, and very Finnish in my ear approach to black metal. Especially in an age where more and more bands are abandoning spikes, chains, perversion and hate for a more esoteric robe laden approach to black metal, which in to me at least less resembles the sabbat and reminds more of a gathering of catholic monks. There is something to be said about this here. Robe metal as I have come to call it seems to be the new or at least growing standard and while there are some bands that do it well, for the most part it feels contrived. I do not dislike the obscurity and symbolic force a robe can provide, I simply do not want to see it become a fad, which all things indicate is in fact the case. When we are talking about black metal, which we most certainly are if we bring Hautakammio into the conversation then let’s get to the point that black metal should be nasty, it should sound nasty, it should be bloody, artists should show their faces as proud knights in Satan’s army. Do not get me wrong, I do respect the endeavor, creativity and sound that bands such as Inferno and MGLA achieve, even in their new robe wearing incarnations. My point is simply that I feel this particular trend, when taken to the point of exhaustion, threatens the strength of the face of black metal and runs the risk of further reducing the scene to a set of standardized, elitist, “kvlt” rules for people to adapt to and follow blindly. This is not the point of a movement which has its roots in pride, honor and tradition. Anyone can hide beneath the cloth and forfeit originality unto a standardized doctrine. That takes not guts, and brings not glory. Show your face. Stand proud in what you say. A wiser man than me once said in song “bring forth the symbol that they fear, offer up yourself in sacrifice, cower not as you approach the gallows, nor rue the wizard's footsteps in the night.” Bearing all this in mind I would say with some confidence that Hautakammio with their raw and unkempt aggression will likely work their way through the ranks and become another one of Finland’s respected black metal acts, and they will do it I hope without robes and standard formats. I will surely be attacking the next opportunity I have to see them play live. As the afternoon waned unto a bright summer night sky in southern Finland I tore myself away from my Russian counterparts and rushed inside the gates to catch the one of my most anticipated acts of the day, Maveth. Filling the fifth spot of the day on the outside stage Maveth was sure to deliver an eardrum bursting set of dark, murky death metal. As a live band Maveth never disappoints, with their massive sound and some of the most interesting, deeper and malicious vocals you have ever heard. This is a band which, also hailing from Kuopio originally (now Helsinki), brings fourth absolutely crushing, dissonant riffing with accompanied by a straightforward drum technique which accents the deep and conjuring bass lines perfectly. In a band with such a chaotic sound I feel that the bass is actually very important and key to achieving such a weighty mood of dark majesty. Their set opened with a brand new track The Call of the Lord I: The Adversary soon to be available on a fourth coming split with Greece’s Embrace of Thorns. The next thirty minutes consisted of the heaviest noise assault this first day of Steel Fest 2014 would see, including one of my favorites from their first full length “Coils of the Black Earth,” Hymn to Azael. In true Maveth fashion they closed with their 2010 debut crusher Of Serpent and Shadow. There was nothing about the set that sucked, my only complaint which I later offered up freely (along with some other opinions about the world) to anyone unfortunate enough to be within earshot of me was that the set could have and should have been longer. It is however understandable that a tight schedule is required to achieve a perfect balance between two stages, so it is no wonder they only had time for a five song set which in the end could not have been any better. Up next on the inside stage was Stockholm’s black metal warriors Valkyrja. After what had just happened outside though I needed a small break from the noise, and a beer with a friend. So unfortunately I would did not catch this set, but instead walked around the small entrance area looking at what various vendors had to offer . One curiously interesting feature this year was the presence of a true life old time blacksmith. For the low price (low is relative here but come on this guy fucking burns his flesh for a living) of eighty euros you could purchase extremely well made iron necklaces adorned with your favorite satanic, pagan and occult symbols. Also for sale were iron wrist bands, rings, nails, what looked to be hand cuffs and other cool metal shit, all forged in fire and made by hand right before your eyes. If that don’t get your metal juices flowing then maybe you should stick to lamer festivals and your Nightwish/Amorphis CD collection because Steel Fest is just too damn heavy for you. After checking out the vendors I decided that I most definitely did not want to miss the Norwegian black thrash attack Aura Noir. It was basically nine thirty in the evening when these seasoned thrashers hit the stage. This was the first chance I had to see Aura Noir live, and they came out with an intense thrashing energy to deliver a headbangingly solid 40 minute set. I even saw what I think was supposed to be some sort of mosh pit form, which is nice because in case you don’t know up here in the north people tend to stand stone still with arms crossed or flail about in a solo flurry of hair and fist pumps. I do not know why, unless it has to do with Nordic cultural concerns over safety and rule following which Finns take to the extreme, but here most people usually just don’t know how and don’t seem to care to mosh or circle pit. Thrashingly rocking as it was there was no way Aura Noir could compare with what was next to come, the all mighty Swedish servants of darkness, Nifelheim, but they were the perfect band to warm up the energy which exploded when Nifelheim hit the stage. Judging from the anxious crowd’s ongoing chants of “Nifelheim! Nifelheim! Nifelheim!” this was perhaps the most anticipated act of the night, and for good reason. The new line up backing the spiked out Swedish metal twins was totally fucking rocking, and obscurely enough features Tamas Buday of the classic Hungarian black metal act Tormentor. Amidst a sea of drunken metal heads and popper sniffing maniacs I found myself engulfed in the true frenzied and perverse insanity that is Nifelheim. This is the kind of metal I was referring to earlier, fast, sloppy, perverted, disgusting, perfect. Fronted by two deviant, balding brothers, Per and Erik Gustavsson, this band looks like they sound. Gnarly. Sporting more spikes than any other rock band in the known universe Nifelheim embodies everything one should love about the classic days of bestial black metal blasphemy. The set had a nice range of material including the classics Sodomizer and Storm of Satan’s Fire all the way up to their most recent release with Storm of the Reaper and even included a cover of Tormentor’s Tormentor. When all was said and done my head was spinning from the assault that had just reined fourth upon all Steel Fest goers. Or was it from the poppers? It is hard to say. What I do know is that 24 years has not slowed Nifelheim down at all. These guys still rock hard, and for my money are definitely worth watching again, or even traveling to see. I enjoyed the Nifelheim gig so much, and really the indoor stage had been so packed that I decided to take a beer break and just breathe some fresh air during Destroyer 666, who was up next on the outdoor stage. They were to be the final outdoor act of the evening, and it was nice just listening to K.K. and his ensemble of thrashing madmen from a distance. I feel like Destroyer 666 is one of those bands I have seen a number of times, and while every show has been great I was not missing anything I had not seen before. This is for sure one kick ass live band, and I would have perhaps gone up closer to see them if but for one odd little drawback. At this year’s festival there was a no beer zone extending back maybe 25 meters or so from the outdoor stage. The reason for this dry and thirsty realm still remains a mystery to me. Number one the festival is already an 18 and over event, which means beer drinking should, and could take place everywhere. I first thought it maybe had something to do with safety or trash control, but beer could be enjoyed at any proximity to the inside stage so that theory was proven wrong. It was finally agreed upon with one friend of mine that it must have something to do with some sort of new Finnish legislation we are not aware of. Finland has wacky laws regarding alcohol, like mixed drinks are limited to four centiliters of booze per drink and if a restaurant wants to have an outside terrace or beer garden there must be chairs, or immediate access to the entrance etc… You cannot just sell beer outside here and get away with it. You can however, according to a cop I once spoke with whilst having an illegal fire on the beach, break the law as long as you have fun doing it. Bearing that in mind, I did try to justify the smuggling of beer into the no beer zone to a security guard on the premise of it being in the name of fun. But alas, this was to no avail and therefore I was content to enjoy Destroyer 666 from a distant, yet more hydrated vantage point so to speak. By now it was nearing midnight, my tanks had been sufficiently refueled and fresh air adequately inhaled. I was losing the popper induced headache and preparing myself for the one long guitar riff that is Inquisition. It was not until I first saw Inquisition live in 2012 that I actually began to understand or respect the band. Prior to that time I could not get past Dagon’s voice, which I have found at times to be monotonous and boring. However, to see them live was a different experience and I realized that what he is capable of doing extends far beyond the monotone drone of his reptilian like recordings. I have since really come to appreciate the band. I was quite excited to catch the show this time around, especially with this being only the second opportunity I have had to witness a live Inquisition show and I actually knew what to expect now. Inquisition is for me is almost as much a visual experience as it is an audible one. Every aspect of this band from their album art, to the movements of Dagon on stage to their logo is meant to be experienced visually. One thing that sets Inquisition’s stage presence apart from their studio work is that you can actually see the face of the demon from which such a flat and emotionless voice emanates. I think this helps actually with the force of the message present in the music. Even now, after that 2012 show when I finally became a believer, I still have to find myself in the right mood to actually enjoy an album all the way through. I think that for the most part this is because to simply listen to an Inquisition album only gives you maybe 20 percent of what the band is. Sure, there is a lot of interesting riffing but the music in itself, for me is not enough without the stage antics, light show, energy between Dagon and Incubus and of course that crucial element of the audience. IA good or bad crowd can sometimes make or break a gig for me. And I must say that at Steel Fest 2014 the audience was one of the best I could have hoped to be a part of. Everyone really, really seemed to appreciate Inquisition’s performance at the festival and showed their utmost support during this final gig of the night. Of course, setting aside the huge respect I have for anyone who can achieve such a rich sound with only one guitar and a drummer Inquisition is still a band that is easy and perhaps necessary to poke some fun at. So as the night came to a close and the hotel after parties began you could hear drunken bastards mocking cries of “Brush, Brush” thundering down the hallway. Unmistakably referring to Inquisition’s Jesus hunting anthem, Crush the Jewish Profit. And crushed he was. This first day of Steel Fest 2014 was a huge success. I had seen six out of ten bands, enjoyed my adult beverages responsibly enough, met some new friends, got silly with old ones, hailed Lucifer and still made it to bed by 3 a.m. or so, ready to wake up fresh the next day and do it all over again. Day two of Steel Fest included two more bands than the first day, bringing the total festival line up to a sum of 22 bands. Not bad for a two day festival. The pace of activity seemed to me to be a little bit more relaxed on the second day and could have been due to a large amount of hangovered people in the same place at the same time, or that this day was actually sold out and so the festival area seemed a little more crowded than the day before leaving less room for free movement and silly high paced shenanigans. Saturday opened at two in the afternoon with Jyväskylä death metalers Apocryfal taking to the outside stage. There had been a slow start at the hotel however; as we all know trying to mobilize large groups of sluggishly hungover people is next to impossible. Unless food is involved. Breakfast was a virtual free for all, with everyone gunning for the same slimy, sloppy eggs and bull shit meatballs. Needless to say I finally made it into the venue just as Apocryfal came to a close. Which turned out to be not a moment too soon because I had been highly anticipating the day’s second act Alghazanth, another Finnish domestic, since I had first learned they were to be on this year’s festival roster. I first experienced this band with their 2008 release “Wreath of Thevetat” and while it is a little bit on the symphonic side the brake neck speed of tracks such as Moving Mountains and the agonizing vocals of Future Made Flesh sold me almost instantly on this band. I was surprised to find a very small audience in attendance. For me it is all the same, I enjoyed every second of the epic atmosphere constructed by Ekholm on the keys and the contrastingly heavy distortion of Thasmorg’s bass lines. The small crowd at least was composed of people who really wanted to see Alghazanth and therefore the gig had a good enough feeling to it. My only complaint is that the stage lights were turned up way too bright. Almost as if an opening band, with a small crowd does not deserve a great light show? The mood would have been ten times darker had the lighting been thought through a little better. Maybe the light tech was still hungover as well? I do not know, but I think that despite a bands turnout they are still entitled to a proper mood affected from lighting. A small detail, and in the end not much to critique but I feel it is worth a mention. At any rate I was satisfied enough with the bands performance, as they themselves delivered a pretty solid set of satanically symphonic revelry. So I decided to run over to the market across the street and allow myself a giant bottle of water and some afternoon ice cream. I was trying to work up my hunger into a frenzy before hitting the burrito stand I had been lustily eyeing all morning, and ice cream is always good if you are trying to work up a hunger. It gets things moving so to speak. I made it back just in time to hear Convulse wrapping up their set from the gate and so I immediately sought out some company and went inside to catch my second anticipated act of the day, the mighty Archgoat. From start to finish their set was tremendously thunderous. The bass sound was huge, but did not drown out the riffs which to me are of a very Finnish style. The bubbly gurgles of Lord Angelslayer’s powerful vocals had the effect of completely encasing the music and held this whole set in a neatly packaged balance of “Angelslaying Black Fucking Metal.” The goat theme was to continue as immediately after Archgoat, Goatmoon was to hit the outside stage and deliver a set not much different in energy from that of last year. One good thing about Goatmoon is the controversy, which as time wears on has become more of a novelty really, at least here in Finland. This is perhaps why they seem to be the go to band whenever a festival faces a cancellation. To put it simply, Goatmoon plays excellent, raw, hate filled and often punk inspired black metal which is entertaining as hell. Immediately upon hitting the stage BlackGoat spit blood everywhere, and on everyone. Antics such as this are really to be expected and it is something you just can’t get mad about but I will come back to this point. Another great thing about Goatmoon is that despite the evolution of the sound from the punky, raw black metal of “Death Before Dishonor” to the cleaner more epic style found on “Varjot”, no matter how many new splits and compilations they release, you can expect to always hear the classic raw sound of Goatmoon when you see them live. In the set this year were two of my favorites Alone and Kunnia, Armageddon. All in all it was your basic Goatmoon set, and there is nothing wrong with that. Having just seen the next act, Mustan Kuun Lapset a few weeks prior to Steel Fest I decided to wait around outside with friends and beer during their set. I was pretty excited to see the next band scheduled for the outside stage, Urfaust. Urfaust is another two piece which much like Inquisition also achieves a rich sound with only one guitar and a drummer. However unlike Inquisition Urfaust’s music stands strong on its own without the use of visual aids. At least for me. There is something very personal which comes through in the shrieks and cries of IX on stage, and while I do not speak Dutch the point comes through regardless. This was my fifth time to see Urfaust live and by no means have they lost any of the intrigue they held over me the first time. As said earlier, there are two points I need to revisit and now is that time. The first being guest appearances and the second being blood throwing stage antics. Both were to be had during this, unique performance. Urfaust is usually a straight to the point, let’s play our set and get fucking hammered while we do it sort of band. However, this time around the performance featured the appearance of a guest vocalist. A bloody, red robed, bearded demon who emerged from the depths of the back staged realm with the force of all hells legions. Or something to that effect. Somewhere between sliding around the stage in a bloody pagan style demonic rage and releasing some of the heaviest and sorrowful aspirations of the day this crimson blasphemer hurled a bottle of actual blood up into the air, emitting an arc of furious red glory across the aforementioned beer desert. Now here, during a guest appearance full of good old harmless blood soaked antics one audience member got really, really angry. Like he got really fucking angry. So naturally, being the sort of brutish fellow that cannot take fun as fun he reacted by throwing a foreign object on stage at Urfaust’s hooded beard monster. Needless to say security, also a bunch of brutish sort of fellows, was on this guys ass in twenty seconds flat. I do not know the fate of the crazy eyed fan, another blood spattered festival fatality I suppose, but I can say that people who react so quick and so aggressively generally have no place in a festival audience anyhow. To be fair the guy did have a white tee-shirt on, and it was now most likely ruined but that is a risk you take when you come to an event where one knows beforehand that a particular style of music is to be played. Usually this style of music involves a unique stage show, the use of fog, paint, props, iron spikes and yes BLOOD. Blood gets thrown around at so many gigs these days you should just expect it, and most certainly if you get some on you do not cry about it like an over grown hairy little girl on steroids. Laugh it off, wash it off, have a beer and shut the fuck up about it. The poor demon on stage just had it in his mouth and he is fine. He is not dying, and neither will you. So back to the band. Between the personal, massive and spacey sound of Urfaust, their guest mystery demon (who actually turns out to be a pretty skilled drummer in the Finnish circles) and the angry blood covered jock in the crowd I would dare to say that Urfaust had one of the absolute most entertaining sets of the entire festival. Good show boys! Good show indeed. As if that was not enough a once in a lifetime sort of event, or at least once in a career sort of event as things go, was to take place immediately after Urfaust. That was the first live show ever from Helsinki’s own Desolate Shrine. As a band you only get one first live show ever, and so you might as well do it right. Being only four years old and the brain child of a little known, multi talented musician known only as LL this band has, until now, eluded the light of day and remained submerged in the murky realms of the death metal underground. Consisting of only three core members, LL and two vocalists Desolate Shrine has perhaps simply not had the opportunity to play live until now. Whatever the case may be Steel Fest 2014 was the perfect showcase for the debut live show of one of Finland’s best misanthropic death metal acts to date. And the live session musicians assembled could not have been more carefully selected, especially when you consider the range of bands involved in making this gig come to life. The mood set during this gig was a constant mood of conflict, slow doomy riffs contrasting with fast and powerful bursts of fury, a cold blue fog conflicting with orange and green flashes illuminating the dark, the struggle and conflict between the two vocalists different styles, range and torment all came together perfectly in what is likely one of the most powerful debut gigs that Steel Fest, or any festival for that matter will ever behold. Being a band that does everything huge means that only five songs fit into their fifty minute time slot. Beginning with Crushing Darkness, a song which set the tone for the whole set, and ending with Funeral Chamber: Sacred Ceremonial Light this was one inconceivably dark performance, and perhaps the only one we will ever see from such a mysterious and subterranean cult of desolation and negativity. I was pretty damn satisfied with the way the last two gigs had gone, and for me the festival was largely wrapped up musically speaking. Of course I was in anticipation of Primordial, the festivals closing band, but I decided to not trouble myself with the three acts which were to follow Desolate Shrine and precede Primordial. So I found other forms of entertainment during the respective sets of Aeternus, Necrophobic and Vader. One thing I did almost immediately was to go and visit the burrito stand I had been staking out all day. Being that I come from Southern Arizona’s Sonoran Desert and have the gastro stamina of a cow I hold very, very high burrito standards. I was tipped off by a fellow Arizonan and great friend of mine earlier in the day that considering we are in Finland these were kick ass Baja style burritos and that I would not be disappointed. And low and behold he was right. The pollo was marinated just right, the spice was hot enough and the flavor was by any standard almost as close as it can be to the real thing. The tortilla sucked, but in Europe all tortillas suck. They are made with more flour than lard, and are too thick and chewy. I like the thin, light brown, see through tortillas of the American south west. Sonoran style is my favorite, but hey an expat seldom has the right to complain, and in this case no right at all. Chewy tortilla aside it was one kick ass burrito. But that is what I have noticed about Steel Fest, and Finnish festivals in general, the food is often pretty damn good and moderately priced for these types of events. In Finland where everything is expensive you have to admire the efforts of the Steel Fest team to keep everything as affordable as possible. Although things like beer were slightly more expensive than last year, you do get a two euro refund on each can so that reduces the price of every beer you buy after the first by two euro. Think about it like a party deposit. After I had thoroughly attacked my burrito I decided to also take down a box of muiku. I am a fat bastard trapped in a thin shapeless body. For those of you who are not of the north so to speak, muiku are these stupid little fish. They are so dumb you catch them by putting a mesh box in the water and they just get stuck there. After you have obtained this box full of fish you just pull them from the water and the whole damn thing the hot oil. You eat muiku like fish shaped potato wedges, bones and all, covered in garlic mayonase. Actually muiku is very tasty, and at Steel Fest they were made by a friendly little Asian lady who although she seemed very confused was also very helpful. Turns out however loads of beer and dumb little fish soaked in warm mayo creates quite a volatile mixture in the gastrointestinal tract. I shit my fucking brains out the next day. Lucky for me it was in the comfort of my own hotel, but had I needed to shit at Steel Fest the bathrooms provided are basically a step above standard festival condition. While only slightly better maintained there is no shortage of hand sanitizer, so feel free to wipe until the cows come home. Of all festivals I have been to Steel Fest may be the one where you can most comfortably take a dump. Not to mention the toilets are within a good earshot of the outdoor stage so throw up the horns, bang your head and blast off a steamy deuce. This one’s for the gods of rock n roll. I had been bouncing around drinking with various friends and strangers for three hours or so and it was time to face the truth. The madness would all soon be over. There was only one thing left to do, and that was to see this thing through and head one last time into the packed hall containing the indoor stage and check out Ireland’s crazed folk metalers Primordial. I had made it to the last band, which is farther than I made it last year, and it was quite an energy filled set. Against a background of icy blue light A.A. serenaded the crowd with tales of struggle with The Coffin Ships, and legends of a nation in decline with As Rome Burns. It was an absolutely great set, from what I actually remember. The amount of fog that filled the indoor stage during this performance had a strange effect, when coupled with the booze, of actually creating foggy memories. All I had the next morning was flashes of light and a recollection of a clear intensity in the eyes of these Irish minstrels. And so as Primodiral came to an end so did Steel Fest 2014, at least for me. I stopped by the official after party to check out yet another Kuopio based act, Hellboozer Union, but decided rather quickly to call in a night and head back from whence I came. That is hotel Rantasipi, which I must say was incredibly low priced at only 77 euro a night for two person room and free breakfast each morning. If you don’t know, for Finland that is damn cheap and totally worth it. The parties going on in the hotel are better than any official after party could ever be anyway, and they are free so there is also that. This is ultimately where my festival weekend ends. Back at the hotel me and two dudes, both named Eric, decided to take a walk out into the surrounding woodlands, post up under a bridge drinking beer and tending a small campfire for warmth. And so as a late spring sun rose to open the day, and beams of light poured through holes in the surrounding forest wall I felt something I do not feel very often and that is content. Content with the weekend that had just transpired, despite a few slight hiccups which were not directly festival related and thus not to be written about here everything went off as smoothly and as rocking as possible. I have said it before and I will say it again, Steel Fest is the perfect festival to open your summer festival season with. The lineup is consistently solid every year, the promoters and organizers do a fantastic job with having everything ready for you when you arrive, accommodation is cheap, and the experiences you can find there are priceless. No matter where you live if you find the opportunity next May then treat yourself, come to Hyvinkää stroll in the forest, catch things on fire, meet strange Finnish metal heads from the country side, drink some Jallu and bang your head. If you don’t have the chance, or the means then quit being a fucking bozo, get up and make it happen. From Steel Fest it is just a short ferry ride away to the next destination, Sweden’s Muskelrock and we are only young for so long so let’s all get drunk in Finland. Hei.
The official running order at this year’s festival was as follows:
Friday: 17:00 LANTERN (FIN), 17:40 BAPTISM (FIN), 18:30 RAVEN WOODS (TUR), 19:10 HAUTAKAMMIO (FIN), 19:50 MAVETH (FIN), 20:30 VALKYRJA (SWE), 21:20 AURA NOIR (NOR), 22:10 NIFELHEIM (SWE), 23:10 DESTRÖYER 666 (NED), 00:10 INQUISITION (USA)
Saturday: 14:00 APOCRYFAL (FIN), 14:40 ALGHAZANTH (FIN) ,15:20 CONVULSE (FIN), 16:10 ARCHGOAT (FIN), 17:00 GOATMOON (FIN), 17:40 MUSTAN KUUN LAPSET (FIN), 18:30 URFAUST (NED), 19:40 DESOLATE SHRINE (FIN), 20:40 AETERNUS (NOR), 21:40 NECROPHOBIC (SWE), 22:50 VADER (POL), 00:00 PRIMORDIAL (IRL)
Live report and all photographs by Joshua Irwin. All rights reserved