1.6.2024 Sleep of Monsters @ On the Rocks, Helsinki

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There is a certain, unbearable, very specific kind of grief that comes when a band splits up forever: we feel grateful for the music they have delivered throughout the years, but we also feel deprived of something we value and care about. In some cases, music can be a very powerful means of self-knowledge and self-acceptance. The band itself feels like a firm point we can always count on in that weird, mysterious relationship between a band and its audience.

SLEEP OF MONSTERS played their farewell concert on June 1st, 2024, at On the Rocks, Helsinki, and we could not miss such an event. We looked at the setlist, which was on the stage floor before the concert started: “Funeral of Monsters,” part 1 and part 2. That said a lot about the band’s attitude and self-awareness of how much that live show would impact their audience and themselves as individuals. But first things first.

The venue was packed with people, and a DJ set made the wait a bit easier, as there was a slight delay. The band members took the stage at 21:30: the 10-piece seemed to be more than ready to deliver an outstanding performance. “Black Blacker than Black,” taken from their most recent album “ΓΓΓ” worked as a perfect opening tune due to its heavy rock-goth vibe. Guitarists Sami Hassinen and Uula Korhonen were at opposite sides of the stage, drummer Pätkä Rantala was placed on the right side, and the three choristers were at the center, behind the frontman, Ike Vil. Jarkko Hassinen played bass and backing vocals, Petri Infinite was on baritone guitar, and Janne Immonen was on keyboards and provided backing vocals. At the end of the first song, Ike thanked us and announced that there were two different sets happening that night, and we were understandably eager to see what the band had in store for us. The following two songs were “Abomination Street” and “Through a Mirror Darkly,” both from their acclaimed debut album “Produces Reason,” which was released a decade ago via Svart Records. These older tunes gave a clear idea about how the band has evolved as an entity, and we cannot help but praise their commitment to putting passion into their journey since day one. On a side note: we have seen the band play quite a few times, the first one was in 2017, and we have been completely blown away by the quality of their offering since then, so it was also interesting to us to see how the audience reacted to the older songs as well.

“The Singer,” from the latest album, followed. Ike took a well-deserved sip of beer and impressed us with his signature charismatic style, paired with an impeccable vocal performance. Many people were singing along to that hypnotic chorus, and we were living that special moment to the fullest, trying to chase away the thought that it was their very last show… a bittersweet feeling was approaching, and we believe it was shared among the people on and off the stage.

On “Foreign Armies East,” chorister Riina Rinkinen came to the center of the stage next to Ike, and they delighted our ears with a very intense duet. Hanna, Tarja, and Jarkko provided some backing vocals, and Uula’s guitar solo was the icing on the cake. Then it was Tarja’s turn to come to the center of the stage: she joined Ike for a duet on “Golden Bough,” whose old-fashioned vibe was enhanced by their movie-like moves. The hand-clapping part at the end, along with a call-and-response with the audience, made it one of the highlights of the night. “Our Dark Mother” saw Sami leaning on Petri at some point, in a sweet and quite iconic “bromance” moment that paired perfectly with the atmosphere. It felt like we were part of that ritual, as witnesses of their journey. The first set was coming to a close, as “Melinoe” was the last tune before a break. Ike left the stage, and the choristers delivered a chant infused with a mystical vibe. Riina’s main vocals gave us goosebumps, and even though we were genuinely enjoying the moment to the fullest, we had an intrusive thought at the back of our heads that SLEEP OF MONSTERS will be truly missed.

The break lasted 15 minutes, then Janne came to the stage and started playing an eerie yet classy piano intro that eventually morphed into “Land of Nod.” He was joined by Ike’s passionate chant, then by the choristers, dressed in white, like the other musicians who took the stage, one by one. “Mother of Phantoms” followed, which saw Hanna at the center of the stage and Janne on a 12-string guitar, while Sami was sitting on a stool and playing a bouzouki, a Greek string instrument. The Mediterranean, distinctive flamenco-like vibe of the tune filled the room, and it made us smile, as we are well aware of Ike’s soft spot for Mediterranean cultures and history. In the second part of the tune, Janne went back on keys and Sami took his guitar again, then “Poison King” followed, and a projection as a backdrop enhanced its dramatic mood. Petri went closer to Sami, whose energetic attitude on stage left us speechless. Ike thanked the audience before they started playing “Beyond the Fields We Know”: the tune is incredibly intense and catchy, and we also noticed that many people were getting emotional… Understandably, in our humble opinion. “Cobwebs of Your Mind” and “Our Savage God,” both taken from their debut album, were next in line, a full-fledged walk down memory lane for them, as well as for their long-time supporters. That walk went on until the end of the concert, as the following songs were also taken from “Produces Reason.”

A funny anecdote was that a guy in the audience meowed exactly when a cat was mentioned in “Murder She Wrote,” proving that knowing the lyrics by heart can be useful, sometimes! Hanna joined Ike once again for the incredibly powerful duet part of the song. Everyone in the audience joined their chant, and Ike and Hanna eventually hugged each other, making all of us more emotional than we would ever expect. On “I Am the Night Color Me Black” their first bassist Mäihä joined them, and Jarkko took the acoustic guitar. Sami’s reaction was priceless: he leaned his head on Mäihä’s shoulder and was visibly touched by his presence. We can only imagine how many memories these people have shared, and how bittersweet such an event has been from their perspective, but we can feel their strong bond.

“Nihil Nihil Nihil” was an honorable conclusion for an outstanding gig: we could definitely feel the love their audience had for them, and it was mutual. Ike introduced the band members one by one and delivered a speech, Mäihä was playing bass on that song, too, and we gladly took part in that joyful, emotional, magical moment. Ike was surrounded by the choristers, who sang their solo parts, Uula was leaning on Petri’s back, and then the chant faded as the lights went out. They hugged each other and bowed, overwhelmed by our unconditional love. SLEEP OF MONSTERS will be missed, but we are deeply grateful for the incredible gift they gave to the world. We do feel touched and honored to be part of their journey.

Written by Licia Mapelli
Photos by Mirko L.


Setlist

  1. Black Blacker than Black
  2. Abomination Street
  3. Through a Mirror Darkly
  4. The Singer
  5. Foreign Armies East
  6. Golden Bough
  7. Our Dark Mother
  8. Melinoe
  9. Land of Nod
  10. Mother of Phantoms
  11. Poison King
  12. Beyond the Fields we Know
  13. Cobwebs of your Mind
  14. Our Savage God
  15. Murder She Wrote
  16. I am the Night Color Me Black
  17. Nihil Nihil Nihil