The Roots of Extremity and Evilness: Tribute to 90s Finnish Extreme Metal
All interviews conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: January 27, 2019
Finland is not only known as the land of thousands of saunas, lakes and drunken, drowned dorks but also for its vast and highly prolific Metal scene. The early nineties was an especially important period when Finland took its place on the global metal map with its fruitful and unique Death Metal scene. Many young and relentless Finnish musicians started slowly but surely emulating what the "big boys" in the sandbox were doing, resulting in a strong, exciting scene that had its own distinctive sound. It was far doomier, darker, grim and haunting—very different from everything else that was bubbling under the surface in the extreme underground Metal scene in the late eighties/early nineties.
The Metal Crypt thought it was about time to ask some musicians in Finland and elsewhere how they saw and experienced the extreme Finnish underground Metal scene back in the days when they first became familiar with hidden, sonically terrorizing gems such as Abhorrence, Beherit, Sacred Crucifix, Demigod, Impaled Nazarene, Funebre, Demilich, Convulse, Phlegethon, Disgrace, and so many others.
Luxi: When did you first become aware of Finland's extreme underground Metal scene and what were some of the first bands you heard?
Leila Abdul-Rauf (VASTUM): Probably when Vastum first began in 2009. Dan and Kyle were into a lot of Finnish bands and turned me on to Convulse, Rippikoulu, Demigod, Slugathor, etc. At the time I knew Beherit and Amorphis and that was about it so they really expanded my knowledge. Convulse and Slugathor were huge influences on Vastum and the riffs we were writing when we started the band.
Matt Medeiros (KALOPSIA): I came late to the party. I didn't start listening to Death Metal until '95, and I didn't discover the European underground bands until a few years later. Roy Fox from Necroharmonic loaned me some tapes and I started digging around online. Scouring used CD bins and distros at shows, I was able to discover a lot of stuff. The notable bands that I found were Funebre and the mighty Demilich, with Nick from Evoken introducing me to Abhorrence after I joined Funebrarum.
Ilkka Laaksonen (GOD DISEASE): It must have been in the early 2000s. I guess I was around 14 years old at that time or something. A friend of mine came over to my place to play some football manager game on PlayStation and he brought a pirate copy of Amorphis' Tales from the Thousand Lakes with him and he was like "you have to listen to this, it is so damn great!" Because it was a pirate copy, the songs were in the wrong order and the first song I ever heard was "Black Winter Day". Of course, back then I did not realize that there was anything unique about the underground in Finland. It took some more time for me to understand that Finland had this unique Death Metal thing and it took Rippikoulu's Musta Seremonia (some reissue) for me to finally understand and to really awaken the flame in me. From there on, I started to really dig into the Finnish and worldwide Death Metal underground. The journey still continues.
Kat Shevil (UNCOFFINED): I first started to become aware of the Finnish underground/extreme Metal scene in the early 90s via zines and tape trading. Metal Hammer over here did a feature around 1992 about the Finnish scene and included the likes of Impaled Nazarene (with a pic of Mika fire breathing), Belial, etc.—and that REALLY captured my 15/16-year-old imagination! I got hold of Belial's Wisdom of Darkness soon after in one of my first ever tape trades and then got Impaled Nazarene live recordings on tape from Oulu, Riihimäki, etc., which sounded SO EVIL to my teenage self!! Those recordings were the first time I heard the Finnish language being spoken, too! Mika Luttinen shouting and screaming in Finnish was quite an ear opener to my teenage self!
It was a very exciting time for a kid in the early 90s who was still at school and first discovering the likes of Belial, Demigod, Funebre, Xysma, Impaled Nazarene, Abhorrence, Amorphis, Sentenced, Disgrace, Beherit, Black Crucifixion, etc. from this strange and mysterious country called Finland in the far north! Those bands were among the first Finnish bands I discovered.
Jukka Kolehmainen (ABHORRENCE): I was mostly interested in the results, not so much being involved myself, so I got tapes from my mates, thanks to their enthusiasm and tape trading efforts. I mostly got in touch with the people involved through attending events, going to gigs and playing on stage myself.
Damiano Fedeli (NIHILO): Well, since I was too young then I didn't come across the scene back then, but had my first experiences in early 2000.
The killer stuff from Abhorrence, Purtenance, Demigod, Demilich and Convulse all had a huge impact on me and some still does.
Archfiend Devilpig (EMBRACE OF THORNS): It probably has to be Impaled Nazarene back in the mid-90s. The split Necropolis put out featuring Beherit and Archgoat was also a big deal for me. Beherit, in general, sounded totally off the hinges and were mystifying in their uniqueness. Other blind purchases included the Diaboli's debut and demos by Barathrum, Morningstar, and Thy Serpent. You know that everything was bound to happen in record stores or via zines back in the day. My older Black Metal buddies were pretty much responsible for propagating all the cool bands they could so I had to catch up...
As for Finnish Death Metal, this came into the picture a bit later as soon as I started tape trading.
Jake Himelfarb (CALCEMIA): I only started getting into underground Death Metal around 2011–2012 or so. I was already somewhat acquainted with Amorphis but only the releases before and up to Elegy. I didn't know many other bands from that scene. One day, scavenging for bands, as I always do, I encountered this weird band, Demilich. Their music was kind of off-putting to me at first, but it was also kind of addictive. Then I found out that they offered their entire discography on their website for free downloads. SCORE!
Soon I was looking for more and more bands. I particularly gravitated to Adramelech, Demigod, Abhorrence, Convulse, Funebre, Purtenance, Mordicus, Lubricant, Cartilage, Xysma, Depravity, and Messiah Paratroops. I also recently really got into Vomiturition.
Justin De Tore (INNUMERABLE FORMS): I had listened to Amorphis in the mid-90s, but had only heard their second and third album at that time. I didn't get my first taste of the Finnish underground until the fall of 2002. I was asked to play session drums for Funebrarum's Dormant Hallucination EP and Daryl sent me a mixtape made up of classic demos to listen to for inspiration. One of the demos on the mixtape was Demigod's Unholy Domain. I was immediately hooked and delved into the Finnish DM-scene pretty heavily. My favorites were, of course, Demigod, Abhorrence/Amorphis, Belial, Sentenced, and Disgrace.
Thomas Pioli (THEVETAT/CEREMONIUM): I think it was '91 when I started tape trading. I would score demos from way back. I have demos of Abhorrence, Funebre, Demigod. They are killer!
Kena Strömsholm (FESTERDAY): I remember putting my mind into the more extreme side of Finnish Metal back in 1988 when I started my own fanzine. Tape trading and viva voce was the name of the game back in those days and getting hold of rehearsal tapes was pure gold. After a short while, the mags started to infiltrate my brain more and more with Death Metal from Finland. But the first Finnish bands that I was personally in contact with were Xysma, Sacred Crucifix, Mordicus, Beherit, Disgrace, Funebre, Desecrator, Archgoat, Abhorrence, etc.
Juha Ahlfors (KORPSESOTURI): I would say I got in touch with the scene maybe in 1990 or 1991 when I met some guys who were playing drums and guitars. They introduced me their "band" and said that they needed a bass guitar player. Haha - I didn't know anything about playing any instruments even though I had been listening to early Death Metal bands already for several years. During that time there were band cellars in most of the youth clubhouses run by the city of Helsinki. So, we went there and there was everything available. That's another story but there was a lot of the same kind of people; youngsters interested in learning to growl, play Death Metal and go see each other's' bands. There were a lot of gigs around Helsinki in youth clubhouses and for example at Lepakko, Helsinki. Oh man, there were so many cool bands that should be mentioned like Sentenced, Abhorrence, and so on. Maybe the best ones in the demo stage were Kaamos and Congestion. I still have a bunch of demo cassettes somewhere in storage! The 90s was a cool time to have a brainless youth because there were a lot of similar guys around. We went to see bands, played gigs with our own bands and most of all, had a lot of friends. I have to confess that I do not remember everything since there was quite a lot of alcohol involved that time, haha!
Mika Hankaniemi (SUPREME HAVOC): Well, a few of the very first findings for me personally were such names as Xysma, Disgrace, Astaroth, Anguish, Funebre, Sentenced, etc.
Blasphemic Vomitor (INSULTERS): To be honest, my first contact (I guess) was through the internet. I surely discovered Demilich through the net. A bit later, friends from Zaragoza gave us some fanzines, where I discovered a whole new underground Metal scene in Finland, which was darker and more putrid than I was used to. It was fucking great! Later on, I organized a gig for Lie in Ruins in my hometown ... what an outstanding night it was!
Isto Jänönen (MORDICUS/VAINAJA): If you count Thrash as extreme underground Metal, it surely began with bands hailing from this genre, before Death Metal arrived. I remember seeing some local Thrash Metal bands from Helsinki and others from the distant corners of Finland, like Joensuu. Most of them were underground bands, but some of them already had records out on small labels. As Thrash Metal became more mainstream in Finland, I was already into Death Metal, which was still underground and sounded much fresher and damn heavy compared to Thrash. My first findings in the Death Metal scene in Finland were Xysma and Phlegethon. The Phlegethon fellows I knew distantly since they were studying at the same school as me, and I knew that they had a band. In Joensuu, there was quite a vivid underground scene due to some local tape traders that also organized gigs. The first Death Metal gig I saw was in a local youth house, which was called Mäntylän Monari. I cannot remember all of the bands that played there. I only remember Xysma and Phlegethon, and they both played great gigs. I was amazed by the scene's overall vibrance, especially the skills of Phlegethon, whom I had not really heard before the gig. There were some other band members there, for example, some guys from Amorphis, saying that they just had this new band, but they did not have a demo recorded yet. This was probably 1990 or early 1991, I cannot remember. I also remember that Xysma played some covers of The Doors, which was very surprising but sounded still great among the set of their Grindcore songs.
These events were also about corresponding with bands, exchanging flyers and demos, etc. That way you connected with other members of the scene, even though everyone lived far away from each other.
Rami Jämsä (CONVULSE): We started out with our Death Metal band Convulse in the early 1990s. Pretty soon I noticed through xeroxed fanzines that we actually had a very active underground scene here in Finland, with lots of zines, bands, tape traders and so. I got plenty of band flyers from all over the world and it helped Convulse get some name recognition in the underground scene. It was our own internet before the actual internet.
Luxi: How would you describe the extreme Metal scene in Finland? What made it so special to your ears?
Leila Abdul-Rauf (VASTUM): RAW, EVIL, memorable riffs, (often) lo-fi production.
Matt Medeiros (KALOPSIA): Two words; Dark and weird. Abhorrence, Demigod, and Funebre were all so monstrously heavy and dark. The vocals were so menacing and powerful. Demilich stands as a genre unto themselves, being weirdly technical, atonal and jarring, while still being incredibly brutal and catchy. No other scene was producing such sounds at the time. It was a huge influence on Funebrarum. We covered "Caught in a Vortex" by Abhorrence, but were considering "Reincarnation" by Demigod as well. That dark influence is a huge part of Ruinous as well.
Alex Awn (TEMPLE OF VOID): Whenever I see the words "Finnish Death Metal" I think of two words; "unique" and "quality". I can't think of another country that has such an incredible output of high-quality bands. It's insane. For such a sparsely populated country, they put out such immensely powerful and uniquely talented bands on a regular basis. It's hard to think of bands from Finland that suck. It's like they're born with their own demented musical visions from the day they exit the womb. Maybe it's the isolation? There's nothing much else to do. Maybe it's the government subsidies making it easier and more accessible to practice? Who knows. Whatever it is, it works. There's something about Finnish Death Metal that transcends the norm. It's never generic. There's a feeling. A vibe. Something you can't put into words. It's challenging. It's abrasive. It's hard. It's cold. It's dark. It's eerie. It's awesome!
Ilkka Laaksonen (GOD DISEASE): Small but devoted. There is a certain thing in all Finnish people. We all have a built-in sadness. It results in awesome music and art.
Kat Shevil (UNCOFFINED): Dark, morbid, mysterious, obscure, unique, quirky... That's more than a few words but whatever!
All of those elements made Finnish Death Metal and Black Metal so special. There was a certain quirkiness to some bands and a certain groove and bounce as well, what I call the "Finnish Bounce", haha! Xysma, Amorphis, Demilich, Disgrace are a few bands that come to mind and who all have that. Then you had the really dark, evil and more obscure bands like Belial, Beherit, Black Crucifixion, Demigod, etc. that just oozed pure unholy blackness!
Another element a lot of Finnish bands had in common back then as they were so memorable and knew how to write great hooks even when being very technical. Just listen to Sentenced's North from Here. It is so dark and very technical, but it is full of awesome catchy hooks that embed themselves into your skull like an aural axe.
Jukka Kolehmainen (ABHORRENCE): Quaint. Very friendly, but also fiercely competitive, in that nobody wanted to sound like anyone else and it was a source of pride to sound original. It was also quite small, so local bands new every other band and usually most of the relevant bands from other Finnish cities as well.
Damiano Fedeli (NIHILO): By far a darker approach as well as forward-thinking mentality to a certain extent.
Archfiend Devilpig (EMBRACE OF THORNS): Paradoxically, it seemed quite diverse and introverted at the same time. Guys like Mika Luttinen (Impaled Nazarene) and Holocausto Nuclear Vengeance (Beherit) played a big role in spreading the word and in making heads turn towards the Finnish north. I always thought that the Finnish bands were following a mysterious, atavistic gut instinct and didn't give a fuck about the scene or fads of yesteryear. The scene in Norway was a different thing as it started imploding after the mid-90s.
When it comes to Death Metal, the Finnish bands with Abhorrence, Depravity, Funebre, Unholy, Putrid/God Forsaken, Sentenced, Demigod, Convulse, Demilich coming to mind at the top of the pile, they all had a somber atmosphere that remains unparalleled even today. Plus, no band sounded alike, at least that's what I think in hindsight.
Jake Himelfarb (CALCEMIA): The early 90s scene out there seems like it was really diverse, but almost every band was creative and had top-notch riffs.
Justin De Tore (INNUMERABLE FORMS): Darker, more atmospheric than a lot of their counterparts. Doomy, interesting and disgusting vocals, unique riffs... More negative, overall. I like a lot of Death Metal from a lot of different places, but Finland has always held the crown.
Thomas Pioli (THEVETAT/CEREMONIUM): Extreme. Extremely rotten and cold. Some days it was exciting to pick up a zine, look through pages and decide who you would write to. Others it was a mail day filled with goodies. I know the Metal scene in large quantity. I like to reminisce about the early days. Takes me through devoured viscera, the metal scene, live shows, the correspondence. It's funny I got mail to do all the time.
Here is a little anecdote. Demigod's Slumber of Sullen Eyes. One of my favorites. I was doing Ceremonium around this time and headed toward our demo, too. I thought hell yeah, this fleshed peach human who gazes beyond oblivion. I get in touch with Rob Smits, this guy who did the grim artwork. From there we used stuff he did for us over the years. And the eternity is ablaze.
Kena Strömsholm (FESTERDAY): I think the versatile style laid the groundwork in the late 80s. Finns had a different sound even if the major influences presumably came from pretty much all the corners of the world. Still, from the very first tunes, you could say, "hey, this is Finnish". It was, of course, easy to draw parallels saying this is influenced by the UK stuff, this by the US and so on, but Finns added their own salt to the soup and made it original. In a few well-selected words ... well ... garnished and mashed brutality.
Juha Ahlfors (KORPSESOTURI): Strong and alive. It is hard to explain but during that time everyone involved was living that life with full energy—long hair, black clothes (I still like black mostly, haha) and a friendly atmosphere in all of the gigs! Ears and your backbone gave you the feeling what it was all about—oh man those mosh pits and stage diving! Damn, I miss that!
Mika Hankaniemi (SUPREME HAVOC): Very unique. Strong and friendly, but still underground.
Blasphemic Vomitor (INSULTERS): Putrid and relentless darkness!!! I think that the underground bands in Finland sound darker than any other DM bands on the planet. I've never been to Finland, I don't know if it's the weather or the booze they drink but they definitely have their own way of interpreting the Metal of death.
Isto Jänönen (MORDICUS/VAINAJA): Gloomy, heterogeneous and individualistic. Finland was far away from everything else back then, so maybe it produced its own sound, that is something that some other people from outside of Finland have invented later, calling it so-called Finnish Death Metal sound. I do not know, we were just doing our own things, and also the sound of Finnish bands was really varied. It was not the kind of thing compared to Swedish Death Metal or Florida Death Metal, that both had more uniform, "polished" sound.
Rami Jämsä (CONVULSE): It's hard to compare it to other countries, but I did also notice that all the attention we got in Finland, was not only positive. It was very hard for some people to accept that before we were called Convulse, we played Speed/Thrash Metal under the S.D.S. name. The success that we gained with Convulse later on, somehow seemed to irritate some so-called "scene police" at that time.
Luxi: Finland was not only known for its strong Death Metal and Grindcore scene in the 90s, but it also produced a remarkable number of extreme Metal bands that did not have much to do with Death Metal, like Impaled Nazarene, Beherit, Belial, Mythos, Barathrum, Archgoat, bands that went down to their own path. What are your thoughts on some of these evilness-oozing groups?
Leila Abdul-Rauf (VASTUM): I suppose most of these bands started out more Black Metal and evolved from there.
Matt Medeiros (KALOPSIA): The first time I heard Impaled Nazarene was on Tol Cormpt Norz Norz Norz. Saw the cover, read the track listing and said, "I don't know what this is but it looks awesome." Then I listened to it when I got home. It was just dripping with evil atmosphere. Eerie by Barathrum is a super dark album. I wish it got a remaster. The songs are great but it's not as crushing as it should be. Finnish bands seem to be united by that vibe of darkness and evil.
Alex Awn (TEMPLE OF VOID): Barathrum's Anno Aspera blew me away when I first heard it ten years ago. I think Paul Delaney form Black Anvil turned me on to it if my foggy memory is correct. It's got this dirty, almost illicit feel to it. Like something you shouldn't be allowed to listen to. It's heavy. It's mysterious. But it's also fucking catchy as hell! They weren't afraid to write hooks and have memorable bloody songs.
Ilkka Laaksonen (GOD DISEASE): I have never really gotten into any of those bands. Archgoat is great, but I rarely listen to their stuff. Early Barathrum is something I really like but I have never really followed their career or listened to them much either. Same goes for Impaled Nazarene and Beherit. Cool stuff but not cool enough for me.
Kat Shevil (UNCOFFINED): Bands like Beherit, Mythos, Barathrum, Black Crucifixion, Belial, and Unholy definitely stepped beyond the boundaries of Death Metal and basic Black Metal for that matter and took their respective music, sounds and images to different levels and to different musical realms but it still sounded all incredibly dark and cold and Finnish to my ears!
Belial were such a mysterious musical entity to me (and no doubt many others back then). I rarely saw interviews with them back then and Impaled Nazarene just oozed pure punked-up evil and darkness and seemed almost dangerous and quite unhinged in their earlier days. Unholy had this weird Black/Doom Metal hybrid going on but with corpse paint and their shamanism-influenced lyrics were something totally different. They added a different edge to the usual "Hail Satan" and "Fuck Jesus Christ" lyrics, and they also had the depressive melancholic vibe too which is just so atmospheric and dark. Black Crucifixion, again VERY mysterious in their earlier days, they brought in an occult meets Gothic Avant Garde vibe to the scene. Barathrum and Beherit were just bestial and malevolent sounding. All of those bands were unique in their own way too and sounded nothing like their Swedish and Norwegian peers.
Then you had even more obscure gems like Unburied and their Veil of Damnation demo which was a great crushing slab of unholy Black/Doom hybrid, slow crawling evil Metal which crushes you like an ancient fallen headstone!
Jukka Kolehmainen (ABHORRENCE): I wasn't really interested in Black Metal bands then and even now I'm very picky with them, but as far as I was concerned, they were just another branch in the extreme music scene. From the mid 80s on there were always different styles on the stage, from Punk to Hardcore, Speed Metal to Thrash and even Hard/Glam Rock on occasion, so it was not uncommon to have Thrash with Death and blackened Metal at the same event.
Damiano Fedeli (NIHILO): I also really like the Finnish Black Metal scene that spawned some of the most important bands you already quoted. I became more and more into that sound with years passing by and still consider some to be the best ever in the scene.
Archfiend Devilpig (EMBRACE OF THORNS): All the bands you just mentioned plus Black Crucifixion, were/are some of the most mystical and evil bands ever. Impaled Nazarene and Beherit are for me the pioneering bands and will have my utmost respect as long as I live. Other stuff like, Archgoat, Belial, Thy serpent and Mythos were/are also great quality acts, whose material I shall cherish forever.
Jake Himelfarb (CALCEMIA): Beherit, Belial and Archgoat are all awesome bands. Archgoat is super heavy live. I recently had an LP of Belial's Wisdom of Darkness. I traded that LP recently to a guy who I think will spin it more than me. Most of the guys in Calcemia are also fans of Rotten Sound and such. I also really like some of the Doom bands from that era, like Unholy, Thergothon or Skepticism.
Justin De Tore (INNUMERABLE FORMS): Well I would argue that Belial was very much a Death Metal band—at least up to Never Again, despite the whole "blackened" moniker. As a matter of fact, I think Belial and Demigod (especially on the full-length) took the best of the Black Metal sound and incorporated into their sound. I love the early impaled Nazarene releases, and of course Beherit. Finland has a gift for delivering ugliness.
Thomas Pioli (THEVETAT/CEREMONIUM): Maybe I know about half those bands. The second wave it seems. We thrived by Metal stores in the 90s. During weekends, some around studio time, I don't recollect, we hit them. Those bins were worth the commute. I like Belial's Wisdom of Darkness, Adramelech's Psychostasia and Amorphis' Privilege of Evil. With them, you recognize the distinctiveness, strong production, no compromise! We would show up at rehearsal, throw demos around. Friends, bandmates. Like hey—can I borrow this. Sure! Swap for this.
Kena Strömsholm (FESTERDAY): Black Metal was the dark side of this flipped coin, but that doesn't mean it was a downside or the opposite of what was to come. Some went deeper than six feet, some buried themselves in their own dust. Back in the 80s/early 90s genres were mashed together and bands from different genres played a lot of gigs together. We played gigs with Punk, Pop, Reggae bands and all worked out just fine. Nowadays people are up on wrong terms, know shit about how things were meant to be and how things should be. Or, maybe back in those early days, some marketing manager got the bright idea of how cross-marketing really works ... hmmm... Black Metal was really close to my heart, especially during the first and second wave. I'm still surfing that wave, but 90% of the soul of that Black Metal died a long time ago. I think the same goes with Death Metal. Instead of its original name, it should be called "Dead Metal" instead. Well well, this is an eternal loop of questions, people will find more gold in in Klondike before they find darkness and death in today's Black and Death Metal. Seems like cross-marketing has become more of a cross-dressing era; sort of riff-raff in an endless rat race.
P.S. First Finn to use "its" the correct way, hail!
Juha Ahlfors (KORPSESOTURI): Yeah, well, of those bands Impaled Nazarene was easily my favorite! Mr. Luttinen really knew how to mess up the stages and get shit out of the audience! Gotta say that I cannot remember the rest of those bands so well—maybe I've been a bit too drunk in their gigs back then, haha!
Mika Hankaniemi (SUPREME HAVOC): A good bunch! Back in the day, Teemu Hautaniemi from Mythos was our drummer for some time. We (Supreme Havoc) always listen to some Beherit when we're on the road.
Blasphemic Vomitor (INSULTERS): It's difficult for me to explain this in English, so I am just going to say that I consider Death Metal, Grindcore, Black Metal, etc. as the same underground scene. It is all about evil underground Metal, so I don't make a big difference between bands within extreme sounding genres. All these are great bands that you mentioned, even if I was disappointed about the musical direction that Beherit took later on, with all those synths and stuff.
Isto Jänönen (MORDICUS/VAINAJA): I remember meeting the guys from Impaled Nazarene at the Giants of Rock Festival back in 1992. They had on corpse paints and big crosses upside down around their necks. They were really drunk, but so were we. What I got from them was their debut demo tape, and it surely was something different, sounding like some sort of extreme Thrash Metal but much more evil. Back at that time, the Norwegian Black Metal scene had barely started and Finland at the same time, had already established its own Black Metal scene. But, also in this genre, all the bands sounded different. Beherit were surely very different sounding—let's say, from Impaled Nazarene, or from Barathrum. So, it was the same sort of thing as with Death Metal: every band built up their own concept and sound rather than copying others. I think it was kind of the Finnish way of individual thinking or something.
Rami Jämsä (CONVULSE): I remember liking a lot of Beherit's attitude at the beginning of the 90s. But then again, to be honest, I have never been so keen on Black Metal musically. I mean, I haven't followed this part of the underground scene so actively ever.
Luxi: Many Finnish bands, especially Death Metal bands, changed their sound drastically after one or two albums, most often adopting more Rock elements. What's your guess as to why did they say "goodbye" to their Death Metal roots?
Leila Abdul-Rauf (VASTUM): I don't know, maybe they got bored with doing the same thing after a while. If your tastes go beyond one genre of music and you don't have other projects to explore these ideas, then your one project will become your single vehicle for experimenting with other sounds. I feel fortunate to have 6–7 projects of all different genres.
Matt Medeiros (KALOPSIA): I would guess they ran out of ideas or got bored. Extreme Metal is high-work, low-reward. The important thing is that they made these classic releases.
Alex Awn (TEMPLE OF VOID): This is a question and phenomenon that plagues more than just Finland. I think any time you have people innovating in a scene who are young, then you're bound to have changes to the music like this. When you're young and you've got blinders on, you're only focused on one style of music. You're crazy about it. It's your life's blood. That's important. But you start getting a bit older and start branching out. At some point, you change from having a myopic view of music to having this huge fucking thirst for all kinds of music. I think as people start expanding their horizons and looking beyond their noses, they start to want to incorporate what they listen to into their original music. So it takes this pure form of Death Metal or whatever and it starts to mix and migrate from its origin. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. It's natural. However, this isn't something that you'll likely see with bands who are made up of older people. When you're in your thirties, you probably have it figured out. You know who you are and you're comfortable separating your different musical niches. You don't feel compelled to mix them all together. It's easier to segregate. So I think ironically a lot of older musicians can compartmentalize and create more pure forms of Death Metal just like the myopic youngsters. So I think you see this cycle of young musicians playing pure Death Metal, then branching out and sometimes fucking it up with outside influences, and then eventually coming back to pure Death Metal again.
Ilkka Laaksonen (GOD DISEASE): Well, they say they that Death Metal basically died in late 90s and I can imagine that bands like Amorphis and Sentenced wanted to pursue their Rock 'n' Roll dreams and changed their style. Possibly even something called growing up and developing talent has been a factor. I'm not much of a fan of those later era releases of either of the bands.
Kat Shevil (UNCOFFINED): Maybe Finns are more open and daring when it comes to experimentation?! It is interesting to see the different paths bands such as Amorphis, Sentenced, Xysma, Disgrace, and Convulse went on later in their respective careers and discographies. For some bands, it worked better and was more successful than others!
Jukka Kolehmainen (ABHORRENCE): To sum it up with just a few words, growing up. You find other interesting musical genres to add to your variety, you began working so you have more money to put into equipment, so now you can start combining these new elements. To me this is a very natural progression in anything, to churn out the same thing is numbing in the long run.
Damiano Fedeli (NIHILO): Maybe some were just too late and the whole scene went downwards after the mid-nineties. Some didn't have stable line-ups or just wanted to gain more fans/fame, who really knows.
Archfiend Devilpig (EMBRACE OF THORNS): It's the "Xysma effect" as I say—and while in some cases not lamentable, it sure as hell deprived some bands of their true potential, I guess. Maybe the fact that Amorphis had success while throwing in some psychedelic Rock elements contributed to the change of bands like Convulse for example, or maybe this would happen anyway.
On another note, lots of bands not only the Finnish, opted for a more rocking sound after Grunge and Alternative took the scene by storm. Take bands like Entombed, Pungent Stench or Gorefest, for example, thus Death 'n' Roll was born. It was the sign of those times that were not exactly doing Death Metal any favors at that point.
Jake Himelfarb (CALCEMIA): I honestly haven't ever really thought about that. Maybe it was something like Death Metal's reaction to Grunge, Pantera, and Stoner Metal bands like Sleep and Cathedral? I wasn't alive then, and I definitely wasn't anywhere near the European continent, so my guess is really just a guess.
Justin De Tore (INNUMERABLE FORMS): I can't say for certain, but it seems like the scene really started changing around 93–94 and maybe these bands were just getting tired of playing Death Metal. Personal tastes and desires change, and perhaps they felt like their sound had run its course. I don't hold a grudge against a band like Disgrace, for example, because they started playing Rock music. Maybe they just wanted to play different types of shows to a different audience. I would consider it more of a sell out if these bands continued playing Death Metal when their hearts were not in it.
Thomas Pioli (THEVETAT/CEREMONIUM): Yeah, those were dark days, not the heaviest. Friggin' absurd. How can this Death Metal band play Jim Morrison stuff? That was a very weird choice! Crap!
Kena Strömsholm (FESTERDAY): Death Metal was dying like Thrash did before it. In 1993 the scene was pretty much dead already. Why? When you grow as a musician you tend to try out new more advanced playing gimmicks—and of course, the world influence had a big impact. When grunge hit the ceiling, bands jumped on the trend wagon and went with the flow. Some just made the best decisions by calling it a day, some continued with sad efforts adding what was fashionable at that time. Eventually, I guess they all found their roots, one way or the other. This same pattern has been a repetition, decades before this and decades after this, so nothing new there. All shit floats up in 10-year cycles.
Juha Ahlfors (KORPSESOTURI): This is a good question. I just have no idea. Maybe they wanted to get into the business and make their music accessible for the record buyers. Not a clue—I've been into Death Metal since the late 80s and still am. Also, it was quite obvious that there were large record labels coming to Finland also, which were choosing the bands and style of music that would be sold around the planet. During the nineties, it was quite disappointing that some of those bands used to play low and brutal changed their sounds to lighter and lighter in a way.
Mika Hankaniemi (SUPREME HAVOC): Dunno about the other bands but one of my previous bands, God Forsaken, started to get more influences from bands like Kyuss, Danzig, Trouble and of course Black Sabbath.
Blasphemic Vomitor (INSULTERS): You should ask them as I don't have any fucking idea. Maybe they grew old and got bored and wanted to try out new things? On the other hand, I think it was a global process that was going on back then, some bands changing their sound slightly/drastically to something else. Look at Carcass, for example. Well, perhaps they wanted to sound a bit different regarding what they did to their sound back in those days, but then again, bands like Entombed or Gorefest went a similar way.
Anyways, all that gave us a lesson; enjoy your time now by supporting new Metal bands and new albums from them because you never know whether this or that band will ever record again.
Isto Jänönen (MORDICUS/VAINAJA): As mentioned earlier, I think it was all about the search for their own sound. Every band wanted to sound different from each other, trying to find their own concept of Death Metal. To be inside the boundaries of a strict Death Metal genre felt limiting for many, I guess. Of course, when you started an extreme sounding Metal band in the late 80s, or at the beginning of the nineties, you already sounded different from everything else because that sound was considered so underground. But when Death Metal started to get more popular and band members matured from their teenage times, Death Metal did not sound so individualistic anymore. Somehow, some bands started looking for a new sound. As Xysma was there already as one of the first bands to play Grindcore and Death Metal in Finland, they matured sooner and implemented Rock elements into their songs, which can be heard on their first album as well. That was just their way of distinguishing their sound from the others, so they basically invented this whole Death Rock thing, which Entombed copied in their own way. But not all the bands went toward this direction, however. Amorphis and Sentenced added traditional Heavy Metal into their sounds. I am quite sure that at the start they did not do this to be more famous, just saw the same thing as everyone else that Death Metal in its own, was a very limiting genre and got boring soon. The same thing happened also with Mordicus, we chose to add Hardcore into Death Metal, and that way transferred into almost a metalcore band, way before the whole word even existed.
So, in my opinion, it was all about trying to do something different, not to follow trends—and at the same, inventing new musical styles—something that is really hard to do nowadays anymore since everything is already done. At the beginning of the nineties, it was still possible to make some kind of new music, and that was probably the main reason for this Rock music element in the Finnish underground sound back in those days. Of course, Rock music was nothing new, but like in every new genre that has ever been invented, it has roots in something old that is combined with something new. And new genres always start from the underground.
Rami Jämsä (CONVULSE): For us, it was a part of a natural progress. When you find the 70s Rock and Progressive music, develop as a musician and grow up as a person, it does have an influence on your musical output.
Luxi: Which is the most unique sounding Finnish Metal release, either a demo or vinyl/CD, from the period of the late eighties to mid-nineties era and why?
Leila Abdul-Rauf (VASTUM): This is tough! Perhaps Rippikoulu, the Musta Seremonia demo.
Matt Medeiros (KALOPSIA): Nespithe, hands down. Demilich is a singularly unique band. The demos are heavier, and I wish the album sounded as good as the demos, but you can't deny those songs. The encrypted lyrics and song titles. The vocals. The constantly shifting time signatures. Demilich is a band, and Nespithe is a record, that took me years to finally appreciate. My respect for Antti Boman just grows every year. The dude is an absolute genius with an otherworldly sense of musicality. The only reason they aren't more influential in general is because what they do is really complex. They have the technicality, catchiness, and darkness that really no other band has combined.
I LOVE Abhorrence. I LOVE Demigod. But if I could only listen to one Finnish record for the rest of my life, it would have to be Demilich's Nespithe.
Ilkka Laaksonen (GOD DISEASE): I imagine many would say Abhorrence's demos and Convulse's World Without God to be the most important releases, but for me Amorphis' Tales from the Thousand Lakes and Rippikoulu's Musta Seremonia are the most essential releases from those 90s bands and all because they were the gateway to a darker music and underground for me.
Kat Shevil (UNCOFFINED): I think Belial's Never Again is such a unique sounding album and has all of those Finnish elements I mentioned before, it's dark, it's obscure, it's mysterious, it's quirky, it has a groove. To me, it encompasses that whole Finnish sound plus the vocals are great and so unique sounding, he just sounds absolutely fucking possessed!!! They mix up memorable hooks with PURE FINNISH DARKNESS! That is my choice, nothing else sounded quite like it! Bonus points for the blasphemous album cover!
It is such a diverse and multi-faceted album with a wide range of influences running throughout its duration, a bit of an oddity but that is essentially what makes it so unique, especially for its time!
Jukka Kolehmainen (ABHORRENCE): Out of my personal favorites, I'd possibly name Xysma, due to their wild change from Carcass worship to original Grindcore to groovy Rock and finally almost Pop like music, so I can't really name just one release. I just recently got to hear Lubricant properly, via their Swallow This—compilation, and they're quickly one of my favorites as far as unique sound and personal touch go, maybe that would be my name to drop here.
Damiano Fedeli (NIHILO): Damn, that's hard. On a demo status, I would say I would pick up probably Purtenance Avulsion. Dark, obscure, fast but also slowly crawling into your skin.
Album-wise, I would have to choose Demilich. This is still quite a unique sound, only touched recently by a young Canadian band. This was so far ahead of its time and could still match everything that is going to be released nowadays.
Archfiend Devilpig (EMBRACE OF THORNS): If I have to pick only one, then I shall never get over the Tol Cormpt ... album by Impaled Nazarene. I shall never forget how vicious, savage and pure evil sounded when I first listened to it. It was as shocking and the same effect as when I first encountered To Mega Therion by Celtic Frost or I.N.R.I. by Sarcófago. A close second is Drawing Down the Moon by Beherit and its unparalleled shamanic/satanic and trance-inducing atmosphere.
Jake Himelfarb (CALCEMIA): If you're talking about unique, I would either say Selected Works by Paraxism or From the Shadows by Unholy. Paraxism just has that weird Death 'n' Roll vibe, but then is throwing all these odd off-kilter grooves and keyboard lines. I'm not saying it's the best record ever, I'm not saying everyone will like it, but damn it, there's nothing like it! As for Unholy, I've heard they were taking a lot of psychedelics, and if so, it REALLY shows. Water gives a fucking sigh, man.
As for pure, unfiltered Death Metal, I feel like Messiah Paratroops' The Past EP or Nespithe by Demilich would take the cake. It feels very thrashy and reminds me of Sepultura's Beneath the Remains and Voîvod's Killing Technology in particular. It's got lots of tritone laden chords, but then vocalist growl patterns that feel like Max Cavalera gone guttural. The leads remind me of something that Andreas Kisser would do, too.
As with Nespithe, there's a lot to cover. They've got these very precise rhythms that very few other bands seemed to do. It feels like it's influenced by the vocabulary of Bolt Thrower and Crematory, but then played with an "accent" as it was. The jazzy rhythms were amplified, the vocals became beyond putrid and molten, the drums accentuated every part with its snare patterns. And there are these super wide intervals everywhere that break up the predictability of what could have been a chromatic riff.
Justin De Tore (INNUMERABLE FORMS): I would say any of the Demilich demos, and even the full-length. What an eccentric band! Twisted sounding riffs and bizarre vocals. I doubt anything sounded like that at the time. Despite it being so unique, you can tell right away that it's Finnish. That's the beauty of it. I was lucky enough to see them in a small bar in Boston in 2006. Everyone there knew they were witnessing something special.
Thomas Pioli (THEVETAT/CEREMONIUM): Wow, that's tough. I'm gonna say Demigod's Unholy Domain demo. That instrumental track is epic, let that itself be a CD!!!
Kena Strömsholm (FESTERDAY): The first names that galloped into my head after reading your question were the debut demos of Mordicus and Coprophilia. They never really got that deserved attention, but both had this intestinal odor, which gave rotting flesh the pleasure it deserves.
Juha Ahlfors (KORPSESOTURI): Well, as mentioned earlier Impaled Nazarene was one of my favorites even it's not exactly Death Metal—more like Black Death maybe. I was really into their Ugra-Karma album from 1993 (just checked the release date to be sure about it, haha!). It was so brutal and aggressive, which I really loved. It got into my veins and crushed my balls! If we talk more like Death Metal albums, Mordicus' demos were fucking awesome! They sounded so unique in their own way and I would say that they really knew how to write awesome Death Metal songs! A funny thing around Mordicus was that I became friends with Isto (guitarist of Mordicus) in 2006 when we started to play in the same Death Metal band, haha. In the first place, it took me some time to connect him to Mordicus as I have quite a bad memory for names.
Mika Hankaniemi (SUPREME HAVOC): Xysma's debut album Yeah. Just listen to it and you'll know why.
Blasphemic Vomitor (INSULTERS): I was totally addicted back in the day when I first discovered Abhorrence's 1990 EP and Beherit's second album, Drawing Down the Moon. I think that is obvious. Just listen to them and prepare for death. I'll say that I am always freaking out every time when I hear new Death Metal bands from Finland because they are so great—just like such bands as Krypts or Galvanizer. They are both totally killer acts in my opinion!!
Isto Jänönen (MORDICUS/VAINAJA): In my books this is definitely Xysma's Yeah album. It still has its roots both in Death Metal and Grindcore, but mixes that musical combo with the Black Sabbath style, Stoner Rock. The album was recorded at the Sunlight Studios, and it has a very good production, and sounds very different from any other Finnish extreme Metal albums of that time, but still does not sound like any Swedish Death Metal album at all—not to mention how Janitor's vocals are very unique on that one. After their debut, they went almost a full-on Garage Rock band, but still kept the same vocal style on their follow-up album (titled First & Magical), which was maybe even more unique sounding. But I personally like the songs much better on their debut. And as the album title says, who on earth would name a Death Metal album as Yeah? So, looking at the album title alone, it has to be unique and original even without hearing it, right?
Rami Jämsä (CONVULSE): The whole Kingston Wall catalog actually, but especially their III Tri-logy album.
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