We had the chance to attend the third edition of SteelChaos, an extreme metal festival organized every year in November since 2017 in Helsinki. This festival works as the autumn counterpart to SteelFest, which is held during the spring in Hyvinkää, near the Finnish capital. Because of the great line-up of bands announced and since the legendary venue Nosturi is closing down soon, we had to be part of this. Tickets went sold over a month before the event, so it was clear that the festival has built a great reputation in only a few years. Once inside the venue, we noticed two stands with plenty of records and merch to purchase, and not only from the bands on the bill.
While the venue was getting full little by little, the first band to come to the stage were BLACK BEAST, a black metal quintet from Vantaa, Finland. The Finns were armed to the teeth with props and corpse paint, especially their vocalist Tuomas Karhumäki (a.k.a. Infernal Tormentor Necrocorpse von Demonblood) looked very intimidating after pouring a red drink on his face. Their set included songs mainly from their recently released LP “Nocturnal Bloodlust”, such as “Riding on Wings of Death”, “Words of Leviathan” and the catchy “Fist of the Devil”. Their musical style was very raw old-school black metal, with some thrash influences and loads of attitude. A great to start a long evening of Devil worship and blasphemy.
Next in line was the Polish black metal four-piece BLAZE OF PERDITION. Compared to the previous band, their sound was way more refined and included doom and gothic elements, creating a different kind of atmosphere. It reminded me of the classic EMPEROR records minus the keyboards. The mysterious-looking vocalist/bassist Sonneillon did a great job mixing throat-ripping growls and a deep clean voice with a strong stage presence, although we couldn’t see his face. The set focused on their latest album 2017’s “Conscious Darkness” with long tracks like “A Glimpse of God”, “Ashes Remains” and “Detachment Brings Serenity”. I was positively surprised by their performance, very precise and technical. Definitely one of the highlights of the first day.
When the local heroes BARATHRUM hit the stage, the venue was fully packed, and the level of excitement was increasing minute by minute. Based on the reaction by the crowd, it’s clear that the band has a legion of loyal fans who know their discography and even demand them to play their favorite songs. They have been active for almost thirty years so there was a lot to chose from, with fan-favorites like “Hellspawn”, “Warmetal” and “Witchmaster”. Their music style combined old-school black metal elements with doom influences and punk attitude. One funny detail is the fact that they perform with two bass players and one guitarist. During their energetic set, we got to see the first mosh-pits of the evening.
BEHEXEN is another five-piece black metal ensemble from Finland, with over two decades of existence and five LPs. Frontman Hoath Torog displayed all kinds of growls, going from Daffy Duck to Cookie Monster to Evil Gregorian Chant. Their live lineup included the female bass player Kristiina Lehto (a.k.a. Evisc), which was a nice surprise since everyone else on stage during that evening were only men. During their brutal and loud set, I noticed some sound issues that made it hard for me to distinguish the instruments from where I was standing. Nevertheless, I recognized some tracks such as “Wrathful Dragon Hau-Hra”, “The Wand of Shadows” and the neck-crushing “Death’s Black Light”. Time for a break before the main acts.
When DESTRUCTION appeared, all hell broke loose with an almost constant mosh-pit featuring classics such as “Mad Butcher”, “Total Desaster” and “Bestial Invasion”. The German Thrash Legends are one of the best live acts I’ve seen, and they never disappoint. One of the main attractions of their show was to see them as a four-piece: the addition of Damir Eskić as a shredder allows Mike to focus on his kick-ass riffs and gives more weight to their live performance. Schmier’s unique vocals were flawless also, especially when he delivers those high-pitched screams. Newcomer drummer Randy Black adds a lot of flavor to the recipe, especially in the songs from their latest release such as title-track “Born to Perish”, “Inspired by Death” and “Betrayal”. Probably the best show of the first evening.
By the time MGŁA came to the stage, it was close to 1 AM but everyone was still in the mood for some fine Polish black metal. The floor was packed and based on the number of people wearing their t-shirts, it was clear that many came especially to see them. With only four LPs, their popularity has grown exponentially with each release, becoming one of the leading underground black metal acts worldwide. The enigmatic four-piece from Krakow covered the best songs of their latest albums “Age of Excuse” and “Exercises in Futility”, in a mesmerizing show from the point of view of their musicianship and all the mysteriousness surrounding them. After seven hours of extreme metal, it was time to go home and rest a bit before the second part of SteelChaos.
Article and photos by David Araneda