6.8.2021 – Day 1 – Saarihelvetti @ Viikinsaari, Tampere

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With a wave of the Delta coronavirus variant hitting Finland, there was no certainty that 2021’s SaariHelvetti festival at Viikinsaari in Tampere would go forth. However, with new regulations coming out on August 9th, NEM Agency was able to tighten up the rules for the 2-day event and provide the live-starved metalheads of Finland an opportunity to rock the fuck out a bit and let loose some of that pent-up COVID-19 energy, while still being safe. While the main event took place on August 6-7th, 2021, some of us headed out to the island already on August 5th to see APOCALYPTICA and their guests. Check out the day 1 gallery here and read the report from day 2 tomorrow.

Do y’all remember people? Actual, in-the-flesh people just hanging around, having a good time, and not being overly concerned about proximity to other people? Feels like a lifetime ago, but there we were in SaariHelvetti, doing pretty much just that. Also copious amounts of questionable humor, alcohol, and nicotine in any and all its forms. I’ve got to be honest, it’s wild how damn much we’ve missed all of that.

The first boats to Viikinsaari left from Laukontori after noon and if you wanted to get out there early, the harbor is always a nice place to relax and get a bite to eat (though the annoying old fellow “busking” with a music box didn’t seem to appreciate the presence of all the metalheads). The boats had a lot of space outdoors and limited capacity, running back and forth all day to allow more social distancing.

The festival area was set up more or less the same way it always has been, with the pig roast as the main food of the area, but with sausage stands, teriyaki chicken pitas, burgers, and a few other options, including some vegetarian and gluten-free, as well as the indoor buffet for VIP guests. The main addition was a tent providing sanitation gear, such as masks and hand sanitizers.

The first band we wanted to check out on the small stage was SHEREIGN, who released their first single back in the end of 2020 and their latest only a week or so prior to the festival. Knowing their vocalist Sara Strömmer and drummer Miikki Kunttu already from FEAR OF DOMINATION, part of the big news of the festival was that Strömmer had recently announced her departure from FOD, in part due to being pregnant. With this in mind and knowing how pregnancy can reorganize your insides, she still put on one hell of a show from the first moment, as stuffed animals flew at the stage from the crowd. They played their three singles, as well as some thus-far unheard material, helping us get amped up for their eventual first release. This was the band’s first and only show before Sara‘s maternity leave starts, so it was a great chance to see a little piece of history for these guys! We’re certainly on the edge of our seats for more from them! (BW)

TYRANTTI was somewhat on the must-see list and they really did not disappoint. It’s very refreshing to have these no-nonsense and tongue-in-cheek bands perform, since they’re fun to watch and reminisce about. As the first anecdote of the report, TYRANTTI‘s “Tulipyörä” was the song a friend’s bachelor party ended on, when he vanquished his nemesis by stabbing him and he fell into the lake. It was fairly epic and reserved this group as a nice niche in my heart as a cheesy, fun band. And that’s just what they are – fun and cheesy – in the best possible way. (KU)

I REVOLT… I, uh, honestly have no recollection of this band. My notes say something along the lines of “sounds kinda like Slipknot, but with less people” and that doesn’t really help. Listening to them after the festival, their sound isn’t really all that similar, but you can hear why some of the wires got crossed every now and again. But even after listening to them after the fact, it doesn’t help that all of this just blends into the million different-yet-similar modern metal bands, so there is a reason why none of this stuck around in my brain. That said, they seemed to pull a decent crowd. (KU)

FINNTROLL are starting to have a reputation as a not-so-often-anymore band, but part of that might be blamed on the pandemic, as they’ve at least always made sure to grace the stages with their sweat on a pretty regular basis. They arguably took too long to release Vredesvävd,” but made up for it by debuting a few of its better songs, like “Att Döda Med En Sten,” arguably the album’s best track “Ylaren,” “Ormfolk,” and “Mask,” at the first possible opportunity – SaariHelvetti. It’s pretty much impossible to avoid having fun at a FINNTROLL show unless, for some reason, there is something wrong with your ears and you don’t like their music. If you don’t have a lot of good memories made in the presence of the trolls… you’re doing it wrong? (BW)

Hey, this is a blast from the not-so-distant past. Back during Svartfest II, SPIRITUS MORTIS was the second performer of that particular evening. Back then I was hopeful for some more action on their parts and they did deliver now a few years later, including notable tracks like “Robe of Ectoplasm” and “Holiday in the Cemetery” in the set. Even if our memories were of a more slow-paced and somber band, this time the music was a bit more fast-paced and while not upbeat, more energetic. (KU)

SWALLOW THE SUN is still good, but here is a non-controversial take: doom metal does not work in brightly lit surroundings. Top-notch band, great music, beautiful atmosphere completely wasted with a bright, sunny day. Ironically they should’ve played on the next day, because the weather would’ve worked to their advantage. (KU)

ONE MORNING LEFT is metalcore. As a controversial subject among metalheads, Kalle had to fully tap out of saying anything about these guys because we’re not here to drop shit just because we don’t personally like something (as fun as that can be). Since I’m a little warmer to the genre, I’ll say this: someone had referenced Sara Strömmer as the only female performer at the festival, yet one of my friends was sure that wasn’t the case, because there was a woman screaming during ONE MORNING LEFT‘s set. The voice she had heard belongs to none other than Leevi Luoto, one of the guitarists, who puts most high-pitched wailing to shame and may be considered dangerous to dogs. If you were in need of an kick in the aural pants or had some energy to let out, this was the place to do it, because they have a new album to show off. (BW)

INSOMNIUM, the reliable Finnish workhorse of metal festivals, is once again just that. Reliably entertaining, catchy, and unique enough, INSOMNIUM are very much themselves. If you’ve seen a gig from them, you’ve seen this one, but that’s not really a bad thing. We all have our routines and rituals, and if you can’t trust in your workhorse and their setlist of fan favorites, who can you trust? (KU)

NICOLE. Really? I was and still am a bit confused about this particular choice to close out the smaller stage on the first night, but this is once again mostly a matter of personal taste and a tiny bit of curiosity. Maybe it’s because they just came out with a new record? Some kind of revival project? Well, whatever the case, NICOLE finished the first evening and it was… a fair bit better than I expected. It’s just so baffling when you have a band that has the profile of a lower mid-tier band that gets to play the latest slot of the festival on the first day. Regardless of all that, I did enjoy them a fair bit more than I expected, as I said. If they’d switch places with like, SWALLOW THE SUN I’d probably be better disposed towards them. (KU)

The first day thus wrapped up, it was time to head to the ferry and beautiful Tampere, having partaken in, frankly, illegal amounts of cigarettes and booze and with another day to go, it was the wisest choice to just head straight to bed and collect myself for another day to come. What stood out most though, perhaps more than even the particulars of any of the bands, was just how great it was to participate in a slice of real life, to be able to see people and attend an event again, while we could.

Written by Kalle U. & Bear W.
Photos by Miia Collander
Cover photo by Juho Jokimies