23.7.2022 Smackbound & Mustasch @ Tavastia, Helsinki

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If there was ever an odd pairing of bands to go check out on a Saturday evening, it’s Finnish SMACKBOUND and Swedish MUSTASCH, with the former being quite widely-spread genre-wise, and the latter being more straightforward. These two paired up on July 23rd, 2022, at Tavastia in Helsinki, and also marked SMACKBOUND‘s first live club show under this band name!

The lights went dark at 19:00 sharp and an ambient intro with a voiceover done by vocalist Netta Laurenne introduced the musicians to the stage. Guests filtered in swiftly as the band started up, cheering as Netta came out to start things off with “Run.” She immediately took command of the stage, belting out the words, as we were impressed – though not surprised – to hear Rolf Pilve‘s drumwork sounding exceptional.

“Date with the Devil” and “Close to Sober” followed, with Netta crouching at the front of the stage for the latter, getting personal with the crowd to add character and passion to the emotionally-charged track. The chorus synths (by Vili Itäpelto) really kick the drama up and the song grips icily into your chest. After this, Netta took a moment to say hello to the now rather sizeable crowd.

The intro to “Those Who Burn” really added some extra thrill to the air in a live setting and it’s still almost disconcerting to see Netta looking so pretty and put-together while sounding so utterly gritty – it’s a wonderous thing to behold. This was followed by the blasting of “Troublemaker,” which got the crowd clapping and cheering, and then Netta introduced one of the most beloved songs from their “20/20” album, “The Game.” If “Close to Sober” is emotionally charged, this one cuts way, way deeper. The band had undeniably huge grins on their face as they took a moment to let Netta‘s voice drive the words home on its own. If you weren’t already captivated by then, Teemu Mäntysaari‘s guitarwork should have had you mesmerized. After this, they reminded everyone why “Wall of Silence” is so great, and then Netta introduced her band members and herself.

They fulfilled all of our hopes and desires by playing their two most kickass empowerment anthems next, wrapping up the show with “Hey Motherfuckers” and “Drive It Like You Stole It.” Both songs were packed with ferocity, passion, and a desire to kick people in the asses to be the best they can be. This was a pretty rambunctious way to wrap up the set and the crowd reacted accordingly! What a great show and we hope to hear more new music from them soon.

Now, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how to describe MUSTASCH‘s sound, but perhaps straightforward hard rock/heavy metal with a dash of quirky stoner might get close, but we confess to not being familiar with much of their music. The stage changeover to their set was 45 minutes long, but we were surprised that the venue decided to start blasting music (“Mummy Dust” by GHOST) at 20:20 at such a volume that we thought the show was starting. Unfortunately, it was followed by another obnoxiously loud song that meant the show was not starting, but rather, it seemed as though conversation was no longer allowed. The venue was pretty tight packed at this point, despite the fairly steep cost of tickets (40€), with the age range of attendees seeming to be fairly varied, but largely steering towards the older end of the spectrum.

The actual show got started to a strangely church-y track, introducing the band to the stage. Without delay, they rocked straight into a pretty shredding track, “Destroyer Paranoia.” Vocalist Ralf Gyllenhammer‘s chops (both musically and facially) were great to finally see live, after hearing about them for so many years. Also, the use of “stoner” as a genre descriptor became evident as we heard their droning bass.

Ralf liked to shout a little bit at the crowd, which somehow suited their sound and style performance-wise. Furthermore, that grit in his voice was really strong, especially when backed up by relentlessly pounding drums. Even if the songs weren’t fast-blasting, a lot of power was roaring through thanks to the hefty low driving push.

Ralf roared some more at the crowd before even more catchy and half-danceable/half-rockable music blasted from their amps, “Dogwash,” and also showed himself off to be a rough but friendly frontman, pointing out at the crowd and really engaging with them. He also mentioned that people in Helsinki always give him one specific drink: Jaloviina – which he also claimed was the name of the song, but this was a lie, as the song was actually called “Down in Black.” After the song, he seemed to be suggesting that people should buy him some jallu.

The band were pretty content to wander casually and shred, knowing that the main power was coming from their songs, not any showiness; this kind of music doesn’t need fancy production or backing tracks, but rather, hard leather and fists in the air. Ralf also shouted random swears at the crowd in Finnish, getting a chuckle, as he seemed to be getting progressively further into his cups.

The audience grew more and more enthusiastic, even though after ten or so songs, the level of Ralf‘s intoxication got a little out of control and the performance started to get sloppy. Indeed, they hardly seemed to notice, as they got more and more willing to scream and cheer along. We were surprised that they didn’t play one of their most popular songs, “Ransacker,” from their 2019 release, though they did play tracks like “Speed Metal,” “Parasite,” “Barrage,” and their cover of Hasse Andersson‘s “Änglahund.” The set wrapped up then with “Black City” and “Double Nature.”

Ultimately, SMACKBOUND did not disappoint us our first time seeing them in a club, while MUSTASCH proved to be a surprisingly charismatic and fun band, even if they could have stood to keep the drinking a bit more under control for the sake of the show. There’s plenty of time to get shitfaced after. Here’s hoping we’ll be able to make it to see them in their surprisingly early* slot at Rock in the City next weekend.

Smackbound Setlist

  1. Run
  2. Date with the Devil
  3. Close to Sober
  4. Those Who Burn
  5. Troublemaker
  6. The Game
  7. Wall of Silence
  8. Hey, Motherfuckers
  9. Drive it Like You Stole It

Mustasch Setlist

  1. Destroyer Paranoia
  2. Libertà
  3. Dog Wash
  4. Down in Black
  5. Deep in the Woods
  6. Speed Metal
  7. Mine
  8. Parasite
  9. Lawbreaker
  10. drum solo
  11. Heresy Blasphemy
  12. Bring Me Everyone
  13. Barrage
  14. Morning Star
  15. I Hunt Alone
  16. Änglahund (Hasse Andersson cover)
  17. Black City
  18. Double nature
    Go to Hell (outro)

*we heard that the early slot was because they have another festival elsewhere later that same day

Photos by Laureline Tilkin