A live gig on a Sunday night might look unusual or like it’s not the easiest to attend, but a live gig in Helsinki on a Sunday night while the ice hockey world championship final match is going on, and Finland is playing, is for sure a completely different story. Spoiler: Finland won. There were not many people at On the Rocks on May 29th, 2022, to see MARIANAS REST, VORNA, and HARAKIRI FOR THE SKY in the very beginning, but after a while… full house. Check out our photo gallery here.
The first band in the running order was MARIANAS REST, who should be quite familiar to our readers at this point. While we’ve seen them quite a few times, to be honest, every gig is a world apart; there are bands that one just never gets bored of. Their elegant yet straightforward approach on stage did not go unnoticed, not even this time: the 6-piece started playing at 19:30 as scheduled, and their set lasted approximately 40 minutes. “Fata Morgana,” the title track from their most recent album, worked as a perfect opener in order to warm up the environment. Although the place was not really full, the audience gradually involved themselves in that vortex of melancholy, letting the music speak for itself. The energetic vibes the band members were spreading had an impact on the people off stage as well: we got closer and closer, as if we wanted to show that “we’re in this together.”
Singer Jaakko Mäntymaa does have a peculiar singing style and a distinctive voiceprint, and his gestural expressiveness plays a big role as well: none of his gestures were casual, but at the same time, the whole performance felt very spontaneous and genuine.
The second band, VORNA, went on stage at 20:30. Much like the previous band, this is not the first time the 6-piece from Tampere has been mentioned on this webzine (and most likely will not be the last), therefore we are quite aware of how immersive their live shows can be. The unique blend of death-doom, black metal, and folkish elements does really impress listeners every time, as we noticed, and the friendly and jovial attitude of singer Vesa Salovaara, along with his undisputedly great skills as a performer, did leave a mark this time as well. The 9-track setlist was mostly about their latest album “Sateet palata saavat,” and some of the songs were played in the very same track order, which is a choice I always find interesting and winning, since it kind of adds some depth to a flow the listeners are already familiar with. As usual, the band chose “Kauas” as a closing tune;the audience was singing along and a weird yet beautiful sense of unity filled the room. However, it was almost time for the headliners to step on stage, and we were still processing the insane amount of emotion the first two bands had just delivered…
The Austrian post-black metal band HARAKIRI FOR THE SKY took the stage at 23:00, as scheduled. As a long-time supporter, and being that I have not seen them play for quite a while, I was really impatient for this gig to happen. Their tunes are, on average, quite long (around 7 minutes each), so this 8-track setlist was a nice surprise.
One crucial feature they have as a band is the intensity of the emotions they are able to convey, both through lyrics and music. A live performance makes things even more violent, in a good way: it’s a cathartic experience, where pure rage, sadness, hopelessness, and sweet, sweet melancholy are the protagonists. Opening tune “Sing for the Damage We’ve Done,” from their latest release “Mære,” immediately gave a pretty good idea of what they were capable of: guitarist M.S.‘s personal touch, along with singer’s J.J.‘s expressiveness are absolutely impossible to forget. They usually move a lot on stage, from one side to another, and session members Marrok on guitar and bassist Radek did not hesitate to join the ritual, while Mischa on drums spared no effort in performing some excellent drum patterns.
The frontman did not miss the chance to get on his knees while delivering powerful lyrics about gut-wrenching personal struggles: it seemed like he was feeling every single word and performed those songs in such an open and honest way, it kind of caught me off-guard. Every band has some sort of vision of the world: this band’s view is utterly dark, melancholic, and deeply sad, on a different, more realistic, and concrete level. This creates a special bond with the audience, which becomes even more evident in a live setting. The monotonic style of the singer is, in my opinion, a strong point, since it highlights the storytelling-related features of his role. The passionate and painful vibe in his vocals really did create a magic alchemy with his bandmates, and with the audience as well, as if he was carrying our burden while sharing his own sorrow with each one of us.
They left the stage at some point, but came back after a few seconds. The sound of rain in the background suggested to us that the following tune was “Calling the Rain,” from their third album “III: Trauma”; the guitar melody, as lullaby-like as it can be, makes this tune one of their best ever, along with the heaviness of the drumming, giving their signature sound as a result. J.J. raised his middle finger while shouting, “Fuck this life!” and the audience reacted accordingly.
The closing tune was a cover version of PLACEBO’s “Song to Say Goodbye,” a smart choice if you ask us, not only due to its title: a good cover should have a good balance between the original song’s vibe and the personal sound of the band who’s performing it. Mission accomplished. We left the venue and were immediately surrounded by party vibes: Finland had scored the winning goal while HARAKIRI FOR THE SKY was still playing their closing song. It was such an intense live gig and we do hope they will be back quite soon.
- Sing for the Damage we’ve done
- Burning from both Ends
- Us Against December Skies
- Fire, Walk with Me
- Calling the Rain
- Song to say Goodbye (Placebo cover)
Written by Licia Mapelli
Photos by Mirko Luparelli