GALLERY: 18.5.2024 Steelfest XII – Day 3 @ Villatehdas, Hyvinkää

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The last day of Steelfest on May 18th, 2024, was almost equally as heavy as the previous, but with one extra band crammed into the schedule, making a total of 15 in 11.5 hours. In front of the earlycomers who ventured into the festival area was LICHT DES URTEILS, starting this final live marathon of the weekend. The Tampere-based combo, led by SACRIFICIUM CARMEN‘s drummer, worked nicely as a prequel to this very busy day, setting up the mood with their Finnish-rooted black metal.

TORSOFUCK is always an experience. Unlike at Finnish Death Metal Maniacs where the show was clashing with the need to head to the next train to Helsinki, this time it was easy to watch the full set. Performing as a duo, and with the excited crowd chanting “Mikko! Mikko!” in between the songs, there is much of DEVOURMENT and the likes in their music, which is definitely what one needed this time of the day. Best show for the earlier Saturday for sure.

Not to be confused with the homonymous thrash metal band from Kuopio, MARRAS carried the audience back to some more traditional melodic black metal so beloved by much of the Steelfest crowd. By now, there was already a sizable audience attending the show, and at least some of it seemed to be quite into the gig. We already saw earlier bass player Hella perform with DÉLÉTÈRE, and now there was another chance to get her to stick her bright red tongue at you during THORNSPAWN. With her and drummer Blackthorn forming the core of the band, this was another interesting gig, one of those positive surprises when you don’t yet know what to expect from a band. Ah, the beauty of going to a festival.

Canadian IFERNACH, whose frontman also performed with DÉLÉTÈRE, was perhaps not as engaging, but somehow picturesque still in the Native American vibe that Finian exuded with his stage look (and of course reflects the lyrics from the band itself). But it was with SARKRISTA that things today really began to take off. With a completely changed lineup compared to their last appearance on these festival grounds—not even that long ago—Revenant‘s band was as powerful as always, hitting you like a tank on the battlefield. Then probably the most exotic—location-wise—of the bands in this year’s lineup, DIOCLETIAN (also a fitting prelude to BLASPHEMY later in the night) kept the crowd going with their powerful blasts of energy and a set that included a preview from the upcoming “Inexorable Nexus,” among many much older songs from their debut full-length “Doom Cult,” which took almost half of the setlist. Their convincing show allowed the fans to head towards BARATHRUM on a high note.

BARATHRUM does not need an introduction, and when Janne Sova is in good spirits like today, you are certainly in for an entertaining show. This was absolutely the case, and it transformed the area into a bit of a party while people were singing along with the band’s classics from “Legions of Perkele” and “Okkult,” while the song “Death By Steel” was making its live debut. This band is always a guarantee of good fun.

At the same time, WHITE DEATH is becoming a guarantee that “something weird is definitely about to happen.” This colorful band hailing from Lappeenranta delighted us last time with a little live crucifixion during the show. This time around the cross was still there, but with a big lamb hanging from it while being butchered bit by bit (while not for the weak of stomach, somewhat that made me hungry). The decorations included also two naked ladies religiously standing still in a crucified pose on both sides in the back of the stage, but that definitely didn’t grab as much attention as the antics of the vocalist or the bits of meat being thrown around at the audience. It appears some people got injured and didn’t take it so well either (at least they didn’t get feces on them like in a famous BIZARRE UPROAR gig…). Oh yes, there was also music being played, which is actually pretty good stuff. It’s just hard to focus much on that when there is so much going on both on and off the stage.

With a much more somber and typical ritualistic approach, ACHERONTAS faced the audience on the outdoor stage as finally, the shadow began to offer some relief from the heat. While not anymore in the sun, this kind of show would have greatly benefitted from the darkness, but still the band is always a welcome addition to any event, and they did not fail to deliver this time either. Yet another familiar name for the veterans of Steelfest, DENIAL OF GOD was next inside. This time without their decorative tombstones and such around the stage, these pale Danes brought the audience into their world of horror and darkness for a set that somehow clashed in atmosphere with the much more uplifting DØDHEIMSGARD a few moments later.

The Norwegian band is a really weird beast, and Vicotnik was particularly happy and smiling the entire time while jumping around like a happy hobo in dirty clothes, throwing and smearing green dust on everyone’s face, including his bandmates. Other times he was busy laying down or rolling or simply falling face down on the stage, inebriated by his own music. A well-balanced set and a must-see performance gave a total thumbs up to their show, which made up completely for the unfortunate cancellation of the previous edition.

The hour was now a little over 22:00, so you guessed it: it was again time for HORNA. The last of this triad of shows focused on the third decade of existence of this staple of Finnish black metal, was also a testament to how strong is the current lineup of the band and how Spellgoth can literally draw in the crowd with his frontman skills. It was also much easier to see since the lights and smoke on stage during the gig were in perfect harmony and completely fitting with the band’s show, not a random mishmash of intermittent bright backlights with tons of smoke all over the place. This made it the most visually pleasing show of the three, and honestly, if all the bands had this kind of atmosphere on stage, it would have added so much to so many of the shows. It’s really hard to say which one of the three sets was the best as they all had their reasons to exist, and each of them carried different feelings, so in the end, it all worked quite well, despite—or thanks to—the hard work from the band who had to play the entire weekend. It simply would not have been the same to have a longer single set with three vocalists.

BLASPHEMY cranked up the volume for the final performance of the weekend on the outdoor stage. I hope the neighbors appreciated some war metal blasted to their windows; if not, they just had to accept it. While the vocalist looked a bit spent—or at least skinnier—and not unlike KRODA‘s the previous night was mostly hanging towards the back of the stage, the band was as powerful as ever, raw and intense. Much to the appreciation of the fans who eventually started a moshpit.

All of a sudden, it was already time for the last band, but what a last band! There could have hardly been a better choice than MYSTICUM to conclude this wild three-day ride by having your ears assaulted and eyes blinded by their amazing live setup. The band marched onto the still quite big crowd with decisions throughout their set, sparing no one and conquering the hall in a heartbeat. Their show is always an overwhelming experience to the senses but leaves you ecstatic every single time. The only downside was that at that point, fatigue was starting to take hold, and we had to sit down for most of the set.

This year’s Steelfest felt like a celebration of the “best of” from the earlier editions, featuring some of the most prominent bands that alternated on stage through the previous years, with some surprises and new additions in between. Clearly, it’s a winning formula and it attracts big crowds every year. While there could still be room to be more daring, especially now that the festival has such a strong reputation worldwide, it hardly gets tiring to see some really good bands in succession one after the other. Glad that there is no fourth day anymore after the 10th-anniversary edition (that felt overkill), while the schedule is still very packed, it is not impossible to catch glimpses and bits of everything, especially since there are no overlaps between the shows. Once again, the festival proved why it has been running for now quite many years and why it is considered one if not the biggest extreme metal events at these latitudes nowadays. Eager to see what the organizers will be offering next edition, the countdown has already begun. As people write (I think) in social media: “100% recommend!”

LICHT DES URTEILS

TORSOFUCK

MARRAS

THORNSPAWN

IFERNACH

SARKRISTA

DIOCLETIAN

BARATHRUM

WHITE DEATH

ACHERONTAS

DENIAL OF GOD

DØDHEIMSGARD

HORNA

BLASPHEMY

MYSTICUM