The story of Finnish heavy music

The heavier, the better!

The story of Finnish heavy music

Long hair, black clothes, distorted guitar and a heavy beat: the basis of Finnish heavy metal music is a common feature in Finland. With the most heavy metal bands per capita in the world, how has heavy metal music grown from non-existent to the genre synonymous with the little nation? 

Music has been a very important part of Finnish culture since the birth of the nation. Regional folk songs told the story of Finnish history, national music strengthened national identity during wartime and punk music helped people rebel against the elite.

All possible genres have been popular over time, but one particular genre still shapes the country. That, of course, is heavy metal music . This loud and distorted hard rock music, with roaring guitars and double bass drums, strongly represents the feelings of the emotionally reserved nation.

The roots of heavy metal music

The first heavy metal band in Finland is commonly believed to be Sargofagus , who burst onto the scene in the early 1980s, soon followed by many more similar bands, like Airdash  and Stone .

At this time, they were not particularly popular, mainly due to other music genres - like punk - captivating the nation. However, they laid the groundwork for the beginning of a heavy metal wave that hit Finland in the mid-1990s’.

Birth of the new wave

The big recession at the beginning of 1990 left the people of Finland feeling frustrated and angry. They needed a new music genre to vent their anger and frustration through, and they turned to heavy metal music.

Groups like Amorphis started expressing their darker feelings through heavier music. Lyrics talked about suicide, lost loves and ruined lives, and the soundscape was dark and gloomy as well. Heavy metal music in Finland took off.

The golden era

Towards the end of the 1990s and the start of the 2000s, the popularity of heavy metal music spread abroad. Several Finnish heavy metal bands become internationally successful and sold millions of records all around the world.

Children of Bodom played melodic death metal and were known for their fast beats and amazing guitar virtuosity. They toured all around Europe and even made it to the Billboard charts in the USA. Despite being the most popular band of the 2000s, they are still going today.

HIM - playing their own genre of heavy metal known as love metal - have sold nearly 9 million records worldwide. Apocalyptica, the cello quartet who combine classical cellos and heavy metal music, have sold over 4 million albums.

The most internationally commercially successful Finnish heavy metal band is Nightwish. Their combination of opera style singing with a strong female voice creates very cinematic heavy metal music which is loved by both old and new fans of the genre.

Eurovision winner

In 2006 Finland did something that no-one would ever have imagined: they sent a monster heavy metal band called Lordi to the Eurovision song contest. The band, dressed up as monsters, shocked and entertained Europeans so much that they became the first Finnish group to win Eurovision.

Heavy metal music today

Since 2010, other genres - such as rap and pop - have started to grow in popularity in Finland, but this hasn’t meant the end of heavy metal. The popular bands from the 90s are still up and running and new underground bands are forming. Heavy metal music is just lying in wait for its new wave. Check out what is going on in the heavy metal scene in Finland today here.

Why is it so popular?

No one can really pin down why heavy metal music became and remains so popular in Finland (and worldwide). Some people think it’s due to the long and dark Finnish winter. It could be because it’s enjoyed by all ages - as well as adult/millennial metal bands, there are also metal bands aimed at children. Hevisaurus, for example, have recently dominated the kids heavy music scene, producing heavy metal musicals, a film and several albums - or perhaps it is simply because it makes people happier!

While we might not be able to explain its popularity, what is for sure is that Finnish heavy metal music continues to conquer the world. If you have the chance to see any of the famous bands live, or to go to a heavy metal festival, such as Tuska, in the home of heavy metal music, don’t let it pass you by.

Further reading

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