In a spring season, bountiful of concerts of all kinds, once again there was only to choose where to go on Friday, March 24th, 2023, with at least six or seven noteworthy shows happening in different locations around the greater Helsinki area. We chose to head downtown to On the Rocks for a night of extreme music brought to us by BELPHEGOR, KAMPFAR (playing their first-ever show in Finland), HIDEOUS DIVINITY, and LEACH. This was the first date of four Finnish shows – the rest being in Turku, Tampere, and Oulu – as well as the last leg of The Devil’s European Aufmarsch Tour, resulting in the night being sold out before the doors opened.
The Swedish band LEACH performed for the early crowd, feeling very much out of place with their metalcore look and feel. The band was also a bit crammed into a small space in the front of the stage, including their drummer, so there was not much room to move around. Regardless, they had the opportunity to present their material in the short set at their disposal (which even started earlier than scheduled); maybe this was not the most appropriate audience, but they still put in a solid effort to warm up those who were already present.
A much warmer welcome was given to HIDEOUS DIVINITY. These Italians, carried by the enthusiasm of their frontman, Enrico “H.” Di Lorenzo, had a much easier time involving the growing number of fans in the venue, and delivered a tight show with their technical death metal, including some of their new material. Towards the end, the vocalist jumped off the stage, singing amongst the audience and started a small circle pit. Way to warm up the atmosphere!
It was about time for KAMPFAR to set foot on Finnish soil, even if they did so as supporting act (we sure hope to seem them at a festival or on their own tour in the future), and without their drummer, who had to leave the tour all of a sudden. Somehow they pulled it off by having the drummers from BELPHEGOR and HIDEOUS DIVINITY step in for half the show each – kudos to them both for learning how to play these songs on short notice – in order to keep going for the rest of the tour. The set was focused on the band’s last decade (from “Djevelmakt” to the most recent “Til Klovers Takt”), and included many of the gimmicks we are used from the band: Dolk throwing white (baking) powder at the audience, waving a flag during “Urkraft” (which was followed by a small break, during which they changed drummers), Dolk gradually losing his jacket and ALFAHANNE shirt, and of course the bass player and guitarist were teasing the fans in the front rows throughout the show. There was no fire involved though, as is often the case with club gigs in Finland. It had been several years since the last time I saw KAMPFAR live – some time after “Mare,” I believe – but the band have preserved their energy and maintained those strengths that makes them a powerful live act. The cohesion between the guys on stage and their skills as performers are all still intact, which is a big relief.
After a fairly long changeover, in which the crew placed various props on the stage, including carcasses, bones, and relatively stinky pieces of meat (the smell was covered by a heavy dose of incense, which was equally annoying to breathe), BELPHEGOR came on stage, welcomed by the cheers of the surprisingly young audience – at least in the front; something I hadn’t noticed much until this time in the evening. I had forgotten how BEHEMOTH-like the Austrian band sounds, especially when you have songs such as “Baphomet,” “The Devil’s Son,” or “Lucifer Incestus,” and maybe that’s part of the appeal to the younger generations of metalheads. In any case, the show was unsurprisingly pretty much what you would expect it to be if you have seen the band before, nothing overly exceptional but well-executed black/death metal with an emphasis on Satan, death, and a lot of extra embellishments on the stage to set the proper atmosphere (including a nice looking goat skull brought in at a later stage by singer/guitarist Helmuth). Obviously it works, because a lot of people had been going quite wild during the gig, whereas we found it to be much nicer to stand a bit apart and watch from the sidelines, especially when the venue was this full.
So the evening went by rather quickly and soon it was already time for most to queue for their jackets and disperse in the rain, heading to the next thing – depending on your age group and energy levels, probably either home or somewhere involving alcohol. But if the following three Finnish shows have about the same intensity, I think the fans will be in for a treat.