11.5.2018 High School Dropouts & Fear of Domination @ Nosturi, Helsinki (Musicalypse Archive)


In spite of being around for over a decade, FEAR OF DOMINATION has been on the rise and on our radar a lot in the last 2 years or so. With the addition of Sara Strömmer to the lineup and a lot of great material appearing in their discography of late, Metanoia was an anticipated release for us. Though we varied in opinions on it, scoring it between 7-9/10, it seemed as though the release show would be an event to see, as they were intending to play the album in its entirety, along with some classic material.

I arrived at Nosturi rather earlier than expected, in the midst of HIGH SCHOOL DROPOUTS‘ set. What I immediately gathered was that this was a cover band of ’90s punk hits from bands like the OFFSPRING, BLINK 182, SUM 41, etc. Though the crowd was mostly in the bar, those up front were giving the band all their energy and attention. The singer, Rowan Rafferty, even jumped down into the crowd to encourage a circle pit. Later on he had the crowd repeat, “la la, meow meow, woof woof,” then comically failed to mimic an elephant, before getting the crowd to sing the beginning notes of “Self Esteem” by the OFFSPRING. The half set or so I caught was surprisingly fum and very nostalgic to my early teenage years. The music was great and Rafferty‘s voice really suited the songs, thus making the overall feel surprisingly enjoyable. Also worth mentioning, the bearded guitarists had a sort of bro cuddle moment that was endearingly cute. They ended the set with GREEN DAY‘s “Basket Case,” and I’d say the crowd seemed well warmed for FEAR OF DOMINATION.

Just after 23:00, the headliners took the stage. They had a nicely dramatic entrance, with Sara Strömmer and Saku Solin appearing last, silhouetted in red light, holding hands in the air. They started the set with no less than the entirety of the “Metanoia” album, and from the first notes these guys were turned on. The floor seemed to fill instantly when they started “Dance with the Devil,” which is a great, fun live track.

Solin welcomed everyone to their party before they played “Obsession.” I really have to say that the addition of Strömmer really made this band for me. It shows best in songs like “Obsession,” where the notes of her clean vocals make all the difference between a good song and a great song. In “Face of Pain,” her voice straight-up gave me chills.

It was three songs in when I paid close enough attention to the stage to realize that this band has two drummers (or rather, as their Facebook page states, a drummer and a percussionist/stage monkey) and how in the hell did I not know that!? In spite of having seven people on stage, it didn’t feel cramped and they all seemed smoothly aware of the space, traversing one another with ease. “Sick and Beautiful” was, as expected, one of the highlights of the night, and I am hoping that stays on their setlists, as it’s one of my favorite songs of the year so far. “Shame” was almost eerie, really shaking up the energy and allowing for a breather. There was no hesitation when they went into “Lie,” a song that has grown on me greatly, particularly that awesome, “don’t search for me / I don’t want to be found line.”

Regarding their stage attire, I have no idea if these guys have always had the red in their face paint, but it was a nice detail, to have a glow-in the dark paint that matched Jan-Erik Kari‘s guitar, the straps on near everyone’s instruments, and what appeared to be glow sticks woven in Strömmer‘s hair. Percussionist/stage monkey Miikki Kunttu popped out to urge on the crowd before “We Dominate,” a born party hit if I’ve ever heard one. Certainly it got everyone in Nosturi moving. “The Last Call” was purely epic, though there was an odd moment during the slower part where I’m not sure exactly what happened, but Strömmer had to pause a second to get things back in sync. “Mindshifter” included Solin at maybe his best sound (unobjectively), and man there is just something about the way their voices work together that is pure magic.

They closed out the album part of the set with the strange and delightful “Ruin,” with Solin sitting center stage for his deep vocal parts. Unfortunately, some really bad bass reverb kind of ruined (pun not intended) what should have been a much better moment. Solin popped down into the photo pit to stand on the barrier with the crowd, while Kunttu came up front with a snare drum for a while. This track sneakily transitioned into “Primordial,” which kicked the energy back up into overdrive.

Kunttu took a flying leap into the crowd in “Adrenaline” (or the following song), as the band went backwards through their discography. Solin thanked the crowd again before “El Toro”; this song featured some unusual mic-cupping by the vocalists, alongside the obvious gorgeous harmonization that has really brought this song to a new level from the studio version. “Who’s had a good evening tonight?” Solin asked after the stage went dark but for a black light that lit up everyone’s paint. “II” that followed was a treat, as it was the only song of the night sung in Finnish. The continued with “Legion” before going into the final track pre-encore, “Paperdoll.” I didn’t know this song beforehand, but it was a cool track with a ton of energy that got every fist in the air. Solin thanked everyone again as the party came to a thunderous end. The crowd then cheered for more for a minute or so before Kunttu returned to get them to shout louder. We then heard a conversation between Solin and Strömmer backstage, which seemed to be (jokingly) about whether they should continue because Strömmer wanted to take a piss.

The final songs of the night were “Pandemonium” and, of course, “Fear of Domination” from their first release. At one point, Kunttu did another stage dive, which had a somewhat unfortunate end – the crowd caught him, safe and sound, but then seemed instantly bored of holding him, and he just sort of vanished into the crowd, like quicksand. The band then, once the final notes had fade, took their obligatory photo with the crowd before saying good night. The skirt-like part of Solin‘s outfit ripped free, so he threw it into the crowd, wishing whoever caught it “Hyvää joulua” [Merry Christmas], and they ended the night with, “Hyvää joulua, Nosturi!” as the photo was taken.

I had hemmed and hawed about whether I wanted to go to a show on this particular evening, and I am not sorry that I chose to go out and experience FEAR OF DOMINATION in a club for the first time. This group is not only extremely talented, but they have a great, energetic, friendly, affectionate feeling on stage and you just can’t help but party to their lively music. I’m only sorry at this point that I’ve only really gotten into them after seeing them at Tuska 2017, so it seems I have a bit of catching up to do with this band!


1. Dance with the Devil
2. Obsession
3. Face of Pain
4. Sick and Beautiful
5. Shame
6. Lie
7. We Dominate
8. The Last Call
9. Mindshifter
10. Ruin
11. Primordial
12. Adrenaline
13. El Toro
14. II
15. Legion
16. Paperdoll
17. Pandemonium (encore)
18. Fear of Domination (encore)

Written by Bear Wiseman
Musicalypse, 2018
OV: 2753