Theme Thursday – Why is Finland So Metal
Posted by RiffRaff
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!!!!