Gig report: Suomi Feast | A celebration of Finnish metal
Finland remains a world power in heavy metal. The Nordic country is home to major acts like Nightwish, Children of Bodom and Amorphis, but there is much more to the Finnish metal scene. On Sunday 22nd May, Suomi Feast, a mini Finnish metal festival, took place in Shibuya, Tokyo with the five Finnish metal acts Insomnium, Whispered, Brymir, Dark Flood and Re-Armed. Roppongi Rocks’ Caroline Misokane was there.
With six acts on the bill, Suomi Feast kicked off already in the afternoon. Japanese melodic death metal band Ares entered the stage to warm up the crowd before the Finnish invasion. At the first note of Takeshi Higashimura‘s guitar, the venue went crazy. The show went fine with the crowd responding well to every request of clapping hands and banging heads. Although it wasn’t a long set, it was enough for these Kansai guys to show what they are made of. When they left the stage, I felt more than satisfied with the amazing sound and a will to see them again and again.
Next band to enter the stage was the Finnish extreme metal band Re-Armed. Coming from Kerava, the four guys were really excited being in Japan for the first time, promoting their latest album, “The Era of Precarity”. Between jumps and amazing guitar solos by Jussi Venäläinen, vocalist Jouni Matilainen gave us his all. By the third song, inflatable balls were thrown from the band to the fans and the show became a piece of fun interaction, with especially Matilainen engaging with the crowd. The extremity of Re-Armed’s songs allowed the audience to form the first circle pit of the night. It was somewhat small in size due to the limited space at the Duo Music Exchange venue. However, this was not a problem for such an excited crowd which wanted to be an active part of the show.
When the curtain fell for the third act of the evening, the guys in Dark Flood were already there while their epic intro was being played. With a powerful riff combined with the drums of Tuomas Jaatinen, “Misery is Music” opened up a long-awaited spectacle to the Japanese audience. Tero Piltonen has one of the strongest guttural voices in Finnish metal and his performance couldn’t be better. Combining his harsh screams with the soft yet powerful voices of Ville Ruumensaari and Kalle Ruumensaari, the trio gave Shibuya an unforgettable experience. Dark Flood is that kind of band that when on stage, they make you forget your name with the intensity of their performance. The greatest moment was during “Deadline”, which is a song where a perfect duet between Ville and Kalle makes the base for the aggressiveness of Tero. They finished their dark show with the track “Summer” and proved that 21 years of waiting was worth it for the Japanese fans.
Probably one of the most awaited bands of the night, Brymir made a triumphal beginning with their single “For Those Who Died”, a powerful heavy song starting with the screams of Viktor Gullischen. Now, the crowd, which had been warming up since the opening act Ares, showed what they are made of and the room was completely filled in heat, aggressiveness and passion for Finnish heavy music. This great band was welcomed by Japanese fans singing along and banging their heads. The band’s guitarist Joona Björkroth, who is also the guitarist of Battle Beast, was unable to be in Japan as he’s currently touring in the US with Battle Beast. He was temporarily replaced by Antti Nieminen (IA, Stormic) who, together with the band’s other guitarist Sean Haslam, stole the show with the most amazing guitar solos I’ve ever heard. With these guitarists striking performances, they caught the audience’s attention from the beginning to the end of the show. Brymir could not possibly leave Japan without playing their anthem “Ragnarök”, and when they did, the whole venue went to Finland in a typical Finnish feast with lots of fun, alcohol and good music. Expecting to come back as soon as they can, Brymir created a beautiful part of their history in Japan and surely are already missed.
When Whispered entered the stage.it was an important moment for the band who describe themselves as playing Samurai metal, and also for the Japanese fans who feel very honoured in seeing how the culture of their country has inspired and influenced Jouni Valjakka to create his music. With the strength of “Chi No Odori”, Whispered started a memorable show, showing their abilities with their instruments and the power of Jouni’s voice. Jouni tried to speak some words in Japanese, but as the time was very limited the band preferred to not talk too much and play as many songs as they could instead. For every song with a Japanese title, like “Sakura Omen” and “Keisei”, the crowd went delirious while Jouni and Mikko Mattila delighted themselves in strong solos and energetic riffs. Kai Palo is a guy who not only takes care of the four strings of his bass, but he’s also a guy who doesn’t want to see anyone dull while his band is playing, which means that he was clapping hands, banging his head all the time. And when he wasn’t, he was asking the audience to do that. The technical abilities of Whispered are among the best of Finnish bands, but these guys from Tampere show with every single note that they play, that a good band is not only about technique. It has to have power, glory, feeling and a lot of passion too. If you’ve checked them out once and didn’t like their sound, you should check them out live, because after that it is impossible to not say that Whispered is one of the best Finnish bands of all time.
The evening’s headliner Insomnium has a strong relationship with the Japanese audience. It has been two years since their last visit to Japan, but even if they had been here last month, people would still wait for them like it was their first ever time in the land of the rising sun. Their latest epic album, “Winter’s Gate”, released in 2016, has had a great response from all over the world. It is not hard to understand why when they hit the stage and open their set with “Winter’s Gate pt.1”. The album contains only one song divided into seven pieces and this evening they perform the entire album. As “Winter’s Gate” has its slow parts, we saw the Joensuu guys coming and going off the stage during the first hour of the set. After introducing guitarist Jani Liimatainen (Sonata Arctica, Cain’s Offering, Stratovarius, Paul Di’Anno) who is replacing Ville Friman on this tour, vocalist and bassist Niilo Sevänen took everyone back to “Above the Weeping World” with “The Gale”.
Jani and the other guitarist Markus Vanhala (Omnium Gatherum) gave an extra flavour to the night as they joke with each other all the time, trying to show who is the best guitar player and even playfully sabotaging for each other. Niilo is the best Finnish death metal singer there is and he can still surprise me with the quality of his vocals. When combined with the clean voice of Jani, it was almost impossible to keep my tears from falling down. Heaviness, energy, humour and plenty of feeling are words that best describe what happened in that moment. With lyrics full of sadness and darkness, Insomnium takes the listener on a trip into the depths of the human mind. The crowd got the opportunity to breathe a little after an intense gig, before the band came back to perform an encore. They revived two classics from the “Shadows of the Dying Sun” album, starting with “Primeval Dark” and then, after thanking and saluting the crowd, finishing the amazing show with “While They Sleep”, maybe one of their best songs ever.
The five Finnish bands gave Shibuya a musically extreme dark night and brought with them a little piece of the cold lands of Finland to Japan, proving once again that the two countries can make a perfect marriage, at least when it comes to heavy music.
Once again the Evoken de Valhall Production deserves to be congratulated for bringing to Japan bands that most of the other promoters have forgotten. It was a memorable night and I can only guess that, just like me, everyone who attended Suomi Feast already wants more.