Theme Thursday – Why is Finland So Metal

Over the past few years, when I catch wind of an awesome new band to check out, more often than not, I find out they are from Finland.  Stratovarius, Nightwish, Moonsorrow, Ensiferum, Insomnium, Finntroll, Children of Bodom, Ghost Brigade, Norther, Amorphis, Korpiklaani.   These aren’t little known bands, in the metal circle the mentioned bands have made quite a huge buzz and there’s many, many more creating tons of buzz and gaining international fame.  What is it about Finland that makes them so metal?  Hell, for every 4 people there’s 1 metal band, making it the country most dense with metal bands, and the vast majority of them top quality.  I was curious about why Finland is so metal, so I did a little digging around the web to try to find an answer to that question.  And here is my opinion on why Finland is the Promised Land of Heavy Metal.

The first thing that I noticed that many Finnish bands have in common is that many of their lyrics and themes often are based on their homelands mythology and folklore, in particular, there is much reference to the Finnish epic poem, the Kalevala.  The Kalevala recounts tales of the Finnish gods and the creation of the world much like the many stories of  Zeus, the Titans, and so on in Greek mythology, but with more of a Norse flair (makes sense given Finland’s location.  The Kalevala is also important for the Finns as was a major building point in their language which helped the separate themselves from Russia, from whom they would gain independence from.  So, with this book being a huge stepping stone in the country gaining their independence, lots of Finns feel a certain pride towards the poem.  That can be heard often in bands such as Turisas and Ensiferum who often sing about many of the battles that coursed though Finland through many centuries.  The songs may not always be about a battle against Russia, but they all stem from the pride that Finns felt when they won battles and gained independence.

Also, in the Kalevala, an instrument called the Kantele, which is like a cross between a harp and guitar, makes many appearances and is a major part to some of the stories within.  So from that, I can deduce that the Finns were always very musical people.  The sections of the Kalevala are also separated into sections referred to as runot, which is the Finnish word for songs.

Finland also seems to be a winter wonderland (I have yet to visit the country), and I feel that the natural beauty of the country has a profound effect on the way their minds work.  When you have natural beauty in front of you it is very hard not to be inspired in some form.  Mix the visual beauty and the penchant for music together you get an area that is very musically inspired.  In bands like Moonsorrow and Ghost Brigade you can really hear how the cold beauty of the landscapes have a deep effect on the music.

All the cold and dark the country gets also does have some negative effects on the mind also.  When someone is surrounded by cold and dark for long periods of time, it is only natural that some form of depression will start to set in.  And how do many Finns combat this depression, release the negative energy, and make themselves feel more positive?  Well I can’t think of one form of music more tailored to the release of the negative more than metal.  I fully support any country that backs heavy metal therapy like Finland does.

With the release of negative energy all the time, one might think that music from Finland would be filled with doom and gloom.  But, since there is constant release of the bad there is very little negative to focus on, so you will more often than not find positive minded lyrics in Finnish music and songs filled with pride.  Bands like Stratovarius and Insomnium do this very well with some of the most uplifting lyrics that can be found in the metal realm.  There is also lots of Finnish pride in the music, like the mentioned epic metal bands Ensiferum, Turisas, and Moonsorrow.  Taking the cake for Finnish pride and lyrics and songs that just make me a Happy Metal Guy™ is Korpiklaani.  Recently, The Arts Council of Häme Province decided to grant Korpiklaani with the Art Award 2011. According to the council they got the award because they have an international career and are sharing Finnish culture around the world.  How’s that for positive pride.  Other metal bands to win the award are H.I.M., Amorphis, and Ensiferum

Somehow bands like Korpiklaani are making waves in the world outside of their home country and they mainly sing in their native language.  Now, most of the non-English speaking/singing bands often put translations in their lyrics, but on thing I’ve noticed in my Finnish metal CDs is that along with the translations they also often include brief explanations of what in their culture the song is a reference to as to not alienate other cultures from their own.  I wish more non-English singing bands did this more often.

Also, like English, the Finnish language lends itself well to music with words that can be fit into many different styles of meters and timing.  So when I listen to music in Finnish being sung, I never hear a singer squeezing words and syllables in to make sense of his thought, unlike quite a few other languages do in heavy metal music.  On a side note, I could be totally wrong about all that.

So when you put all those reasons together you got yourself a heavy metal country.  So, there is why I think Heavy Metal is so damn popular in Finland.  What’s your guess why?  Do we have any Finnish fans that want to add their 2 cents?  I’d love to hear it.  Peace Love and Metal!!!!

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About RiffRaff

Just takin' it easy for all you sinners.

Posted on January 19, 2012, in Theme Thursday and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I think you’re pretty spot on for why Finland is so metal. I’ve been getting more into their sound recently due to my boyfriend’s influence. Part of the reason I really like it is the use of their mythology and history in their music. Nordic countries are good for that. That’s something I think “newer” countries such as America are missing. Somehow I don’t think writing songs about Paul Revere’s midnight ride or Westward expansion would be as metal as ancient battles against Russia.

    • Metalosophy…Your boyfriend sounds like a keeper and a good influence.

      I love the melodies that come out of Finland and the rest of Scandinavia. I would love to go to Helsinki; I have a great opportunity to do that while I live in England, but it’s expensive up there. I think their music is gaining ground in America. At least bands like Amon Amarth (Swedish) have a solid following Stateside.

      I bet a band could write a gruesome song about the Donner party and westward expansion. Nothing like cannibalism to find it’s way in metal lyrics. I think Skid Row covered Paul Revere with their song “Get The Fuck Out.” Just kidding! We surely do not have the history to compete for song fodder like Europe and Finnish folklore.

      Metal bands do very well on Finnish charts which highlights their acceptance of the genre. Personally, I don’t care if metal bands in America chart or not, but it seems more genuine in Finland that metal is so much more prominent of a genre. America tends to trend too much. One minute something is not, then it’s not.

      Another thing that is cool about Finland is that whenever you see a best “places for something” Finland is always on the list…for economy, education, cleanliness, etc… They are definitely doing something right up there to include music.

      Great theme. Someday I hope to get up there!

      Oh, I downloaded an iTunes app called “The Promised Land of Metal.” At least I am pretty sure that is the exact title. It’s all about Finland’s metal. The intro was cool, but I never got around to buying the rest of it to see the movie. One thing I did see was that even their President was interviewed and said they liked metal. Nothing cooler than that!

      • Good point on “place for something” and Finland. Do you think the fact that they love metal makes the people happier and in turn makes it “the best of something”.

        On the States using history and lore in metal, I think that would be an awesome and successful idea. One kind of band I have always wanted to hear is Native American Metal. Sing about Indian battles, the huge amount of lore they have, cowboys vs. Indians (actually there is “Run to the Hills” ;) ), but I’d love to hear it with traditional Native American Music(I have a large chunk of Native American blood in me, so it’s kind of a pride thing too). There are many Native American bands, but the ones I’ve heard are standard metal with lyrical themes of the injustice of having their land stolen from them. While that’s all fine and dandy, I’d like to hear more lore, chanting, traditions, and etc. If I had any songwriting and composition talent I’d already be on it, but that is not my strong point.

        There is American Folk Metal which does pull a lot from American Folk Music, check out Agalloch. It may not be the kind of folk metal you expect mainly because traditional American folk music is quite different than Finnish, but it’s still folk music influenced.

        And on a side note, Ensiferum did an amazing song about an American cowboy with the most wicked banjo solo ever in, more proof there is enough interesting stuff in American history to make killer metal out of. And I think Paul Revere would make an awesome subject for a power metal song(get Iced Earth on the horn).

  2. Thanks for good article. I couldn’t write better. The bands you mentioned is just small group of most well known bands abroad. I guess Korpiklaani is well known band which sings in Finnish. Check also Kotiteollisuus, Stam1na and Mokoma.

    • Thanks for stopping by dude! Ya, for the sake of staying brief I kept the shout out to a min, but damn does Finland have a lot of great metal. Stam1na is great and I am on my way to check out the other 2 you mentioned. Thanks for the heads up!

  3. I am a resident of Finland, born and raised, I have never really reflected too much about why metal is so huge up here but I think you make some very good points in this article! But what I mainly wanted to say in this comment is that the fact that Finland has so many great metal bands makes me super proud to be a native of Finland!

    Oh and if any of you haven’t heard the solo music of Nightwish original singer, Tarja Turunen, you should DEFINATELY check it out! She has done some really interesting expirimenting with her music, mixing metal with other genres (folk for example) in a way that atleast I have not heard at the same level before, and of course, her godess-like voice makes it that much better!

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