It seems the biggest and harshest parts of the coronavirus pandemic are behind us at last, which means that festival season will go forward in Finland. The first festival we attended this summer was Rockfest at the Hyvinkää Airport, featuring fantastic headliners like NIGHTWISH, SCORPIONS, and none other than the legendary IRON MAIDEN to cap off the weekend. The final day was June 4th, 2022, with IRON MAIDEN in the headlining slot.
And thus the final festival day was upon us. With sore feet but slightly warmer bones, we hoped the weather would hold out for the final day of the festival, and luckily there was only a bit of flash rain earlier on in the day, which ended right as the last of us were arriving. Since the final festival day was on a Saturday, the organization had planned the first show already at 14:30. Sore muscles or not, we made sure to arrive this time by the start of the first band, Norwegian heavy metal act KVELERTAK, a must-see every time they’re around! In my opinion, a band like KVELERTAK deserves to be playing a bit later in the evening, however, I understand why they were meant to open up the main stage; they just totally go crazy during their shows. As the band released their latest album, “Splid,” during the pandemic, a large chunk of the setlist naturally was devoted to that album – hey we’re not complaining! Thus, they started off with “Rogaland,” an excellent opener to their energetic show. A huge part of KVELERTAK‘s magic on stage is singer Ivar Nikolaisen, who is seemingly always in a good mood, especially in Finland (due to his Finnish roots). His insurmountable energy is probably one of the reasons why there was a good turnout for the show, despite the early slot. He also joked about having COVID after his show in Finland and warned the audience they might get monkeypox after this performance – let’s hope he didn’t jinx us all! The highlight of the show was definitely when they started playing “Blodtørst,” which always includes a lot of shouting and fists up in the audience. The band rounded out the set with their self-named track, “Kvelertak.”
Next up on the schedule were two Finnish bands: progressive metal newcomers STONED STATUES and the ’70s glam rock-inspired KISSA. While STONED STATUES is a pretty new name to the scene, the band has already managed to book slots for some noteworthy festivals around Finland, including Knotfest. It was our first time checking them out and we were not surprised that they delivered a solid show. The band dedicated their setlist to their recently released self-titled debut effort, which made for a dynamic performance. Even though the band only consists of three band members and singer Jenna Kosunen is often tied behind a mic with her bass, they proved that you don’t need a lot of band members to dominate the stage. With an energetic performance and great, progressive songs, it’s no wonder this band has already won over the hearts of many organizers.
Originally, Canadian hard rock duo CLEOPATRICK was supposed to play on the red stage, however, due to losing their personal belongings and musical equipment while traveling (thanks WestJet!), the band was forced to cancel their appearance at Rockfest. A replacement was found in the ’70s-inspired glam rock act, KISSA. We hadn’t heard of the band beforehand, however, by looking at some of their promo material and music videos, we knew that we had to witness this quirky outfit with our own eyes! Their show involved lots of glam, glitter, spandex, and mullets, and we’re glad to say that, despite the lyrics being completely in Finnish, we enjoyed their show to the max.
Swedish garage rock act THE HIVES was a band that we were all looking forward to. We had never seen the band live yet, but always heard positive stories about them. Thus, it was no surprise that this turned out to be one of the best shows of the whole weekend. Their fun and dynamic, yet short songs provided not only a positive atmosphere to the crowd but also frequent comic relief. Singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist clearly tried to practice Finnish, but soon ran out of words during his speeches and always delivered a hilarious note, which often had us chuckling hard – it’s impossible not to love this band even if you’re not a fan of their music. Additionally, it was bloody chaos on stage, with multiple band members jumping up and down energetically and Almqvist hopping on and off the stage to greet the audience. If there would be an award going to the most stylish band, it’d also probably be THE HIVES, as they were dressed in matching black and white-patterned suits!
Next up on the secondary stage was ME AND THAT MAN, known best perhaps as the side project of Nergal (BEHEMOTH). In a large step away from what we normally see of the artist, in this new group, Nergal has no face paint and can be seen, of all things… smiling! Looking sleek, dressed in all black and hats, the band’s music has influences coming from country, blues, and folk music alike, with each song feeling like a slight surprise compared to the last. Nergal‘s vocals were deep, warm, and created a beautiful sound that worked wonderfully with the accompanying instruments. In a rather stark contrast to BEHEMOTH‘s growls, here, the vocals incited an intense emotional response, uplifting the performance as a whole. The show featured notable tracks like opener “Black Hearse Cadillac”; the studio version of the track features the late Hank von Hell (TURBONEGRO), making for a nice tribute to the artist who passed away in 2021. Following shortly after the lunacy of THE HIVES, ME AND THAT MAN offered a soothing moment to relax and sway, replenishing oneself for the rest of the day.
For those who still had energy to burn, Finnish punk act NYRKKITAPPELU played at the same time in the tent stage. The distance between hearing this stage and ME AND THAT MAN on the secondary stage was about 2 meters, meaning the crossover of sounds was again pretty harsh. The band put on a pretty strong performance, working hard to show the audience who they were and why they belonged at this festival. The band’s songs, in Finnish, have names about day-to-day things, like hating your bandmate or getting two cheap beers from the Lidl grocery store, and while we didn’t know their songs beforehand, there were certainly interesting to check out, even if the music wasn’t for us.
BIFFY CLYRO was one of those bands that we had all collectively heard about, yet none of us could have said what kind of band they were. A bunch of shirtless guys, many tattooed heavily, took the stage to play some melodic rock, straight out of Scotland. The band had released “The Myth of the Happily Ever After” in 2021, so their set featured new songs like opener “DumDum,” new single “A Hunger in Your Haunt,” and “Unknown Male 01,” as well as set closer “Slurpy Slurpy Sleep Sleep.” They had a good attitude and did their job wel; while not a standout band of the weekend for us, they offered a bit of upbeat positivity to the afternoon.
Another one of those bands that struck our curiosity for having known their name for ages, yet knowing next to nothing about them, was Swedish doom metal band CANDLEMASS. These guys run around 60 years of age, yet they proved that the grey in their hair is just the color of metal. Their set started with something that felt like gritty boss monster music before a scream kicked things into overdrive and a thick (or should I say thicc) stonery low-end groove set in. While the music is a little moody for the general day-to-day and their sound would have been properly atmospheric in the moody rain on Thursday, their set was worth stopping by and swaying to for an hour, if your feet could manage it. Of note, the band released a new album, “The Door to Doom,” in February 2019, just before the pandemic hit, yet the setlist was mainly made up of older material like the popular “Nightfall” (1987) album, such as “The Well of Souls,” “Bewitched,” and “Samarithan.” We would’ve liked to stay for their full set, but it’s important to find the right place when you’re going to see IRON MAIDEN…
If there is one band that gets people acting crazy, it’s IRON MAIDEN. From the moment we arrived at the festival area, shouts calling out the band’s name could be heard every few minutes if one kept their ears open. We were curious what kind of show this would be, as the original Rockfest booking for IRON MAIDEN was during the Legacy of the Beast Tour, but since then, the band has released “Senjutsu“… would it still be the Legacy tour, or would be we onto “Senjutsu” material by now? It turned out… both! If IRON MAIDEN are known for one thing, it’s great music and a great stage production. The first three songs showed off a fantastic Japanese stage set, so once the “Doctor Doctor” intro was done, we heard three new songs: “Senjutsu,” “Stratego,” and “The Writing on the Wall,” the latter of the three being one of the highlights of the show, as a popular new track amongst all of us. Bruce Dickinson rocked an appropriate top-knot, having grown his hair out post-cancer, and while his voice isn’t what it once was, he really rocked the shit out of the material they performed. Strong and proud, the new songs sounded just as comfortable as their old material, and guitarists Dave Murray and Adrian Smith immediately proved that they can both still solo like crazy, while Janick Gers pranced about, as showy as ever. It’s hard to miss the presence of Steve Harris, foot up on the amp and staring around, and it seemed to be the day before Nicko McBrain‘s birthday, so the drummer had some cause to celebrate.
Once the three new songs were done, the band stuck to classic material for the rest of the show, as per the Legacy tour. Interestingly – or perhaps cleverly, as these guys are also up in their 60s by now – they played a lot of their best songs, but there were very few high-energy tracks beyond the closers like “Iron Maiden,” “Run to the Hills,” and “Aces High.” Most of the other classics were a bit more melodic but a bit slower, like “Revelations,” “Sign of the Cross,” “Fear of the Dark,” and multi-tempoed “Hallowed Be Thy Name.” Unsurprisingly, the band were pretty on point, putting their full energy into performing a great show, and the crowd was unsurprisingly packed to capacity.
Bruce Dickinson gets more and more costumes with every performance, from tattered black robes to cloaks and masquerade masks, to prisoners’ garb… you name it, he had it. As well, the Eddies only get better and better. The samurai Eddie during the first three songs was the main stage Eddie and looked absolutely magnificent, while the massive Icarus during “The Flight of Icarus” was amazing. Of course, the big demonic Eddie during the last songs was also pretty unbelievable. There were also a few other hits like “The Trooper” and “Blood Brothers” (the dedicated fan song), making for a pretty good set of their biggest hits, with a hint of something new. A tip of the hat to everyone on stage, as they were really doing a great job the entire time. Truly, IRON MAIDEN have been around the block a few times… so many times that it seems they could do it with their eyes closed and their hands tied behind their backs.
Of note, there was a message on the screen with a “RIP Ashley Groom”; for those who wondered who he was, he was part of the crew as a carpenter and regular Eddie performer. We offer our sincerest condolences.
IRON MAIDEN pulls one hell of a crowd, so it’s a good thing that AMORPHIS still had a slot afterwards, to keep everyone entertained as they slowly made their way out of the festival area. These guys have been working hard dropping fabulous albums over the recent years, namely “Under the Red Cloud,” “Queen of Time,” and most recently, “Halo,” which came out earlier this year. The new album was well-represented with songs like “Northwards,” “On the Dark Waters,” “The Moon,” but the whole set included a strong and varied selection of their best songs, like “Death of a King,” “Black Winter’s Day,” “The Bee,” “Amongst Stars,” and of course, festival closer “House of Sleep.” AMORPHIS are consistently excellent live performers, so if this was your first time seeing them, you were likely impressed, while if you’ve seen them before, they surely upheld their reputation as one of Finland’s strongest live acts.
And thus, Rockfest 2022 came to a close, leaving us feeling sore, exhausted, and like our festival season was just kicked off pretty heavily. Stay tuned for our festival afterthoughts and gallery, and we’ll see you at the next festivals!
Written by Bear W. & Laureline T.
Photos by Laureline T.