The dark and cold fall in Helsinki doesn’t necessarily inspire you to laugh and smile, which is why BlowUp is a perfect solution to get deeper to embrace that hopeless mood. The underground festival BlowUp focuses primarily on psychedelic, avant-garde, noise & doom metal and with the amazing line-up, I couldn’t resist attending the event. Unfortunately, I could only take part in the last day of BlowUp, but I knew I would still be up for something special.
Have you ever wondered how it feels like when your child is intoxicated for the first time? The first band of Blowup’s Saturday lineup NYKYPOST certainly has thought about this. The duo combines spoken word poetic performance with synth-driven music as a supportive element. In addition to the two band members, NYKYPOST’s minimal setup consisted only of one burning incense stick next to a release of an old Finnish humor magazine Pahkasika. I think their set worked really well, and I hope to hear more about them in the future.
Next performance meant it was time to head to the main stage at Tram Hall, where LUSTMORD were to give us an impressive audiovisual experience. Brian Williams focused on his laptop without letting anything distract him from working. The dark, ambient music filled the venue with a rumble from the deep bass. The visual effects supported the experience for example by taking us through mystical smoke figures, fire and nebula. It was a pretty hypnotic experience and required me to collect my thoughts for a minute after it was over.
The third show of the evening was brought by doom metal band AHAB. With German precision, AHAB played the heavy riffs and gave us something to nod our heads to. I was especially impressed by the contrast Daniel Droste’s low growling voice and the beautiful clean vocals, which both sounded really good. The whole band didn’t give much room for any improvements and took the role of the main stage band as it should be done.
Up next was one of my personally most anticipated ones, LANA DEL RABIES. You have probably heard that gigs should deliver the feeling of danger and unexpectedness? That is exactly what LANA DEL RABIES managed to do. Possibly for the first time in my life during a gig, I felt unsure and almost startled about what was going to happen next, when she was shouting on the stage and reaching her hand somewhere towards my direction. Not only did she know how to take her space on stage, LANA DEL RABIES effortlessly joined the floor with the audience and definitely raised the experience of the average gig to something quite else. The electronic music sounded almost like a soundtrack to a short horror film, but at the end of the gig she also showed us fragility – which in contrast to everything else managed to touch me. LANA DEL RABIES is an act I will keep following and hopefully will get a chance to see how the project evolves with time.
Due to the schedule, I was only able to inspect EYEHATEGOD for a little while, but I wish I would have had more time with the band. Apparently they were performing at Blowup two days in a row, Friday and Saturday. Based on the level of energy and aggressiveness you really couldn’t have been able to tell, but in his speech, Mike Williams claimed that the audience was maybe just a bit quieter than the one yesterday. Anyway, it was a treat for those who had the chance to enjoy EYEHATEGOD.
Because of the overlapping with the schedule, I had really high hopes for the next band LLNN. As a hint, I can tell you that I wasn’t even slightly disappointed. The Danes delivered an intense and crazy energy. Christian Bonnesen’s vocals were just ferocious, and wherever you laid your eyes, on the stage the guys were giving their everything. LLNN describes their music as dark, post-apocalyptic hardcore and I could very well imagine the soundtrack of collapsing civilization be something similar to this. They have released three albums in five years, and are probably on their way to bring the apocalypse on bigger stages.
And if the previous band delivered the apocalypse, DRAGGED INTO SUNLIGHT felt literally like they were dragging you away from the sunlight. I would guess somewhere very dark, probably with eternal flames. The band is known for playing with their backs to the audience and filling the stage with smoke, making the illusion of something unhuman even stronger. DRAGGED INTO SUNLIGHT’s black metal, grindcore or whatever you want to call it sounded very dark and chaotic, and definitely brought something to remember for extreme metal fans.
It was time for one of the biggest attractions of Blowup for me, the rising industrial band HIDE. “Could someone turn off the lights please?” asked Seth Ser to make it calm before the storm. And a storm it was, as HIDE brought back the danger which I talked about earlier. They cleverly used flashing lights to hide Seth in the darkness from time to time, making us able to just guess what would be happening next. The screaming vocals and crushing performance kept everyone on their toes, I wouldn’t be surprised even if someone got a bit uncomfortable. HIDE isn’t there to please us but to provoke us and make us listen. This reminds me of the old days of MARILYN MANSON, and HIDE’s aesthetics also remind me of his older performances (you can have a look at his gigs from 1996). One downside I have to mention is that 30 minutes of the brutality felt way too short. I’m looking forward to experiencing more minutes of HIDE.
The last band of the whole Blowup was Finnish noise-rock band CHESTBURSTER. I’m going to admit that at this point I was feeling the intensity of a long day filled with many acts, and couldn’t 100% concentrate on their gig. Nevertheless, the band wasn’t tired and was ready to end the festivals in a proper manner. Especially the lead singer’s guitar playing managed to amaze me, and I couldn’t help but wonder how long it’s been since I’ve practiced guitar myself. Fortunately, the rest of the audience wasn’t as tired as I was, and CHESTBURSTER received the attention they deserved.
To summarize: Korjaamo as a venue worked really well for Blowup, and other practicalities of the festival were good as well. The line-up of Blowup was one of the most interesting ones I’ve ever seen, and I can guarantee this wasn’t the last time I’m taking part in the event. As a reminder for myself and as a tip for others, go ahead and take part in all three days. You (and I) won’t be disappointed.
Photos and article by Lassi Saarinen