We had the chance to attend the third edition of SteelChaos, an extreme metal festival organized every year in November since 2017 in Helsinki. This festival works as the autumn counterpart to SteelFest, which is held during the spring in Hyvinkää, near the Finnish capital. Because of the great line-up of bands announced and since the legendary venue Nosturi is closing down soon, we had to be part of this. Tickets went sold over a month before the event, so it was clear that the festival has built a great reputation in only a few years. Once inside the venue, we noticed two stands with plenty of records and merch to purchase, and not only from the bands on the bill.
The band in charge of opening the second evening has an interesting background: when you think about the Black Metal scene, New Zealand probably wouldn’t be anyone’s first choice. BARSHASKETH was founded in Wellington, New Zealand in 2007 but they have relocated to the UK with Andrew Campbell (a.k.a. Krigeist) as their only remaining founding member. Their energetic performance combined elements of Black and Doom Metal with very atmospheric segments and fierce vocals by their maniacal frontman. Along with more polished tracks from their newest LP “Barshasketh”, they also played some rawer, old material from their previous EP’s and splits such as the hypnotizing “Palingenesis”. A nice discovery for me personally, definitely worth to check them out if you haven’t.
In contrast with the first day of the festival where half of the bands were local, KRYPTS were the only Finnish act on Saturday, and they certainly did not disappoint. The four-piece, led by Antti Kotiranta, displayed some very dark and spooky sounds featuring elements of Doom and Death metal. Their slow-paced super-heavy tracks matched perfectly with their stony stage presence and dim light show. They kept the interaction with the audience to the minimum, and although they are not your average party band, they managed to keep the crowd hypnotized with songs like the visceral “Sinking Transient Waters”. Maybe this is not my favorite kind of music for a live performance, but it was an interesting show all-in-all.
The next act was the Belgium-based international Black Metal ensemble THE COMMITTEE. Their appearance reminded a lot of what we witness the previous night with MGŁA, keeping their identities secret behind some kind of ski masks. It’s hard to believe they can play such complex songs with their faces covered like that, but their performance was excellent from the technical point of view, especially their bassist Marc Abre – The Mediator, who played with a six-string bass. They mixed the best of their 2017’s album “Memorandum Occultus” with some of their earlier tracks, including the devastating “Flexible Facts – Weapons of Methodology and Duality” and the angry “Nor Our Revolution”. A very promising band with deep lyrics and great musicians.
Since Black Metal was so predominant throughout the festival, of course, Norway had to be present. The first representative of the promised land of Black Metal were the young NORDJEVEL, with only two albums but growing popularity since their formation in 2015. Their brutal one-hour set focused mostly on their latest release “Necrogenesis” with highlights such as the frantic “Sunset Glow”, “Devilry” and “Nazarene Necrophilia”. Their music style resembles some of the 90’s Norwegian Black Metal legends but incorporating some modern elements into their songwriting and production. The show was very entertaining, and it was also cool to hear some of their earlier stuff with lyrics in their native language such as “Djevelen i Nord” and “Det Rog Og Ror”.
ANCIENT was the second Norwegian act in the bill and what a show they delivered in their first visit to Finland. They played their classic 1994 full-length debut “Svartalvheim” in its entirety, recreating successfully an atmosphere of darkness and nostalgia for the golden era of Norwegian Black Metal. Zel’s scary appearance and ripping vocals combined with some great guitar work helped to set the mood for a frightening walk into a Nordic forest on a winter’s day, with highlights such as “Huldradans”, “Det Glemte Riket” and “Eerily Howling Winds”. Their theatrical performance also made them stand out from the other bands, adding some extra value to their show and becoming one of the most memorable moments of the festival.
But the best was yet to come. Although I’ve been a fan of SODOM for many years, I hadn’t had the chance to see them live previously. The stars finally aligned and what better to check them out with their new line-up, including classic guitarist Frank Blackfire. He was very emotional about joining the band again and dedicated the show to his father, who sadly passed away recently. The crowd went crazy with the fine selection of old-school Thrash anthems that the iconic German band performed, commanded by the good uncle Tom Angelripper, including classics like “Agent Orange”, “Nuclear Winter” and “Outbreak of Evil”. The mosh-pits went on and on from start to finish, with some people daring to go crowd-surfing. The cherry on top of the third edition of SteelChaos.
I have to say that SteelChaos 2019 was a complete success and I’m glad I could attend this time since it will be the last edition to take place in Nosturi. The level of the bands, the atmosphere, and the organization made it a great experience for any lover of extreme metal. It’s great to have this kind of festivals outside the summer season, since they are a great opportunity to discover new bands. Maybe I missed a bit more variety in the musical styles featured, for example, there wasn’t a lot for Death Metal fans. Some of the bands were clearly more interactive with the audience and were more invested in creating a memorable live experience, and those are the ones that I will definitely keep in mind for future reference.
Article and photos by David Araneda