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Finnish Metal You Don't Know...Should Know...And Will


The next wave: Catamenia, Amberian Dawn, Dark The Suns, Before The Dawn & Kiaus

by Mark Gromen

Pick up a metal publication anywhere on the planet and undoubtedly some Finnish act will be featured prominently. The music is virtually mainstream in that European country and as such, not only dominates the international scene, there’s tons of homegrown acts most outside Suomi haven’t heard (yet). None of these bands are truly “new,” all having at least a pair of full-length releases to their name, and in the case of Catmenia, eight since ’98! Events like the annual Finnish Metal Expo (rechristened Helsinki Metal Meeting) help introduce the talent to visiting media players, but European festivals have made these bands accessible to tens of thousands beyond the Scandinavian peninsula.

None have signed a contract with the hierarchy of multi-national independent metal labels. In fact, Catamenia is the lone signee outside of Finland (Massacre Records), although Kiaus is part of the Spinefarm powerhouse. Likewise, none are represented (yet?) by the King Foo management team, the juggernaut responsible for the likes of Nightwish, COB, Amorphis and Sonata Arctica, to mention just a few jewels in their vault. In other words, thus far, these five bands are “going it alone,” rather by design or ignorance, avoiding the stepping stones that countless others have used to launch international success. Is that the reason they remain unknown/underappreciated? That’s too simple an answer. So let’s look at each individually and give you, the discerning listener, a primer on some new prospects to consider.

AMBERIAN DAWN

Formed from the remnants of known outfits (Virtuocity/Atheme One), this classically trained, soprano fronted sextet could be the native successor to Tarja Turunen-era Nightwish, but they’re not merely copying what has come before. Sophomore effort, The Clouds of Northland Thunder (due domestically May 13), ramps up the stakes with a more intense guitar driven affair. The band has ventured to London, toured Europe extensively supporting Epica and is set to appear at the Female Voices (Belgium) and Sweden Rock festivals in ‘09. (AmberianDawn.com)

BEFORE THE DAWN

Few international acts adroitly mix heaviness and infectious rhythms like the recent output from Before The Dawn. Around since ’99 and previously releasing a trio of discs for Spain’s Locomotive Records (’03-’06), it wasn’t until Finnish upstart label Stay Heavy began to show and interest and actually promote the band that they took flight. Tuomas Saukkonen plays guitar and offers death vocals, while bassist Lars Eikind injects a clean voice more akin to rock or alternative leanings. Somehow it all works, majestically! Investigation must begin with Deadlight, especially ‘Faithless’, their cover of Placebo’s ‘The Bitter End’ and ‘Deadsong’, which gamers might recognize from the RPG Call Of Duty 4. (BeforeTheDawn.com)

CATAMENIA

While Locomotive USA released some of the back catalog over the last few years, these “old-timers” (especially when compared to some of the others herein) remain a mystery. In days of yore, Catamenia was lumped into the “black metal” category and while the vocals were often of the sinister, gremlin variety, the speedy keyboard enhanced melodies were actually closer to the more accurate, if somewhat demeaning generalization as Children Of Bodom’s older brother. A listen to later albums like Winternight Tragedies and Location: Cold bears this out, although the brand new VIII: The Time Unchained sees the Finns virtually dropping keyboards altogether and opting for more clean/accessible vocals. Just about every disc includes at least one tune in the native tongue and a unique cover version, be it WASP, Satyricon or Faith No More. (Catamenia.net)

DARK THE SUNS

Not to be confused with Dark Suns, these Finns originated in ’05 as a one-man band/solo outlet for guitarist Mikko Ojala, who doubles on vocals (whispers/death vox), backed by female voices from the bassist and keyboardist. Signed to Firebox in ’06, In Darkness Comes Beauty debuted a year later. Hypnotic mix of goth tinged atmospheric death, ala Tiamat circa their best period (i.e. Clouds/Wildhoney), relying heavily on piano. All Ends In Silence is a moodier affair, gloriously depressive and mournful with bigger swings in dynamics, but neither album should be missed. (DarkTheSuns.com)

KIUAS

Named for the heated sauna stone that produces steam when water is thrown on it, Kiuas are difficult to pin down, embracing elements of power/traditional styles, with hints of thrash and newer metalcore (even down to beards, dreads and shaved heads) breakdowns. The key to their sound is the remarkably tuneful singing of Ilja Jalkanen, who alternates between soaring clean anthems and a gruffer approach. Around since 2000, although only taking off after the ’05 release of their Spinefarm debut, The Spirit Of Ukko (the lord of Finnish mythology), the first Kiuas gig was in Japan! Current effort, New Dark Age is the first widely available outside Suomi, but that hasn’t prevented the rest of Europe picking up on the band. ’08 was filled with live dates, including a week in the UK and a month-long tour of the continent, supporting Firewind. Their North American debut will be at Chicago Powerfest in May. Expect to see/hear more Internet “chatter” after that. (Kiuas.net)

 
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