Kold Reso Kult (KRK) blackened the autumn again with their 2-days Black Flames of Blasphemy festival that took place in Helsinki for the second time around on 7th and 8th October 2011. KRK has been behind the production of many black metal concerts and festivals in Finland in the last few years and usually one could only report good things so expectations were high for this weekend as well.
The festival took place at the same location as 2009 but since the place had changed from Dante’s Highlight to DOM. The building is an old church so it is definitely a suitable setting for a black metal festival. Ticket prices had gone up from 38€ to 58€ for a two day ticket and from 22€ to 35€ for a one day ticket in pre-sales and from 25€ to 40€ for one day tickets at the door. In 2009 two day tickets were only available in pre-sales but this year they could also be bought at the door for 65€. Those prices might have been one reason why the festival was not sold out as it was two years ago where the two day tickets were out of stock already months before the event and the place had been filled to its full capacity of 650 people. But then again, you got added value for the higher prices with a bigger roster of 16 instead of 9 bands prolonging the festival days with the doors opening 6 p.m. and the last band taking stage 1.30 a.m. both days.
DOM is situated in the center of Helsinki, just a stone’s throw away from the Kamppi shopping center and Metro station and only a little bit further away from the central railway station so it is easy to get there by public transportation as well as it is easily reached from various hotels close by where the out of town and international visitors are usually staying. And of course most of the center’s metal bars are not far away so it is no problem to get from/to them before or after the festival as Finnish metal heads like to build up their concert and festival evenings from a few pre-drinks at some ones home, then some beers at a cheap(er) bar in the Kallio district up to some more expensive drinks at one of the metal bars at the center before heading to the actual main event. And then after the last (interesting) band why not go to another bar or maybe to someone’s after party in a private home or hotel room.
After walking up the stairs to DOM’s entrance the first thing you see is the wardrobe where you have to pay an entrance fee in addition to what you paid for the ticket. That is one of the particularities of Finland that no matter to what bar or venue you go to you have this service a.k.a. wardrobe fee that is to be paid even if you don’t leave your jacket. DOM’s fee ranges among the higher ones with 2,70€ but there is no way around it – don’t even try to argue with the staff or the security about it, just accept it as part of Finland’s bar culture. After entering you find yourself on the ground or first floor where two bars as well as the stage are located. Overall, DOM has three floors and all of them have bars but the one on the ground floor is the largest one and also a smaller 2nd bar can be found. There are seating areas just opposite to the stage as well as on both sides with high bar tables and chairs which is nice because you can also watch a band over the heads of the crowd while sitting down. The downside is that the free area in front of the stage is not so big and gets crowded quite quickly and the ways to the bars, the exit and so on usually are jammed especially since the smoking area is next to the entrance door so a lot of moving back and forth is going on. The smoking area is actually one of the aspects at DOM that is not very practical as it is just a small area outside on the stairs so it is usually very crowded and the likeliness of stumbling and falling due to the stairs is high. But if you get annoyed by the crowded ground floor it is no problem, you can go upstairs to the 2nd floor/ the gallery from where you can see the stage well and enjoy the shows away from the crowd. If you need a break and maybe a snack you can go to the cellar bar where they serve food but no live music. The snacks are your basic bar food ranging from Tapas to Wok and warm sandwiches with prices between 2€ for tapas up to 8€ for the Wok dishes. Depending on the amount of people you should calculate some time because the dishes are prepared individually so no huge wok pan with the noodles sitting for hours. The kitchen is open until 3 a.m.
But now about the festival itself. On Friday there were no black flames but definitely some black clouds over Helsinki brought by an autumn storm that set the right atmosphere for a weekend filled with black metal. The first known name of the evening that had been opened by Sign of Evil from Italy and Phlegein from Finland were Satanic Warmaster. The area in front of the stage was packed and the crowd greeted the band like the live band veterans they are in Finland so it was a good way to get the evening started. Especially their classics such as “Carelian Satanist Madness” got the people going with everybody chanting along. The other big crowd pleaser was a cover of Venom’s Black Metal so the mood for the evening was set. Overall, their show was nothing new but the people still seemed to like it.
After that the crowd almost instantly disappeared off to more important business such as more drinks, a smoke or to check out the two merchandise booths but it seemed that most guys at least had some urgent business to get over with so the lines to the men’s toilet were the longest I’ve ever seen at Dante’s Highlight or DOM. Black metal concerts are definitely a good place to be female in that regard. But here’s a tip for those who don’t want to wait: DOM has toilets on the 2nd floor as well where there are never any lines-the same goes for the upstairs bar by the way. If everyone knew that maybe I’d have been spared the view of guys stumbling out of the women’s toilet downstairs.
So when Sodomizer from Brazil entered the stage there was only a handful of people paying attention to them. I am not sure whether that was the reason why their show seemed so uninspired or whether because of their uninspired show the people stayed away but the result was the same – no crowd, no atmosphere, nothing memorable but them looking kind of lost on the stage. But on the positive side one had the time to notice the attempted black metallization of DOM with their bar slogans (each bar has a slogan written over it) being changed from the classic lines to “All you need is Satan” and “Girls just want to have (anal) sex” – that one maybe rather an expression of hope that a statement.
Next the first really positive surprise of the evening proceeded on stage: Mortuary Drape brought some of Italian flair for drama and atmosphere along with them. Huge candle holders with tons of candles were lit to both sides of the stage and were accentuating the inverted crosses with the pigs’ heads and the gas masks that were part of the stage decoration for both days. Then the band entered the stage in purple robes inspired by the vestments of the catholic church, standing with their backs to the audience, creating suspense that only got relieved when singer Wildness Perversion finally entered the chancel and the mass began. Mortuary Drape definitely was the highlight of the night as the large audience and their long playtime showed – and every minute was worth it.
The crowd was visibly thinner when the next band with the interesting name of One head, One tail got on stage. But maybe the more correct name would have been one head, Two eyes because singer Luctus underlined the band’s performance with a facial expression one can only call crazy eyes which also was the most innovative part of the Norwegian’s set. Next on stage was a band from another neighbor country: Pseudogod from Russia. At first the performance seemed ok but nothing that special but over time the monotonous deep growls of singer I.S.K.H. developed a hypnotic quality so that even though it was not the gig of the evening, the performance and the music enchanted you over time.
The last band of the evening was Revenge from Canada who already had played at the first edition of the Black Flames of Blasphemy two years ago. For the late hour the crowd and the mood were still quite good although one could tell that most of the energy had been spent for the evening and people were slowly getting tired and more drunk. Revenge were a good final band for the day that had generally felt more like a warm-up for Saturday which is to say it was a good evening but apart from a few exceptions the real highlight was still to come.
The 2nd day started on a Scandinavian note with Valkyria from Sweden setting off the evening, followed by Finnish Kadotus, Mare from Norway and then Anal Blasphemy from Finland again. Due to nursing a slight hangover Finnish style at a pre-party and then spending time queuing to get a pint in DOM’s cellar bar, yours truly did not make it to see all of those bands. And here is now also the time and place to mention two aspects of DOM that add some minus points to an otherwise well organized festival and place: The only place where you can get beer from the tab is the cellar bar so there is always a long queue of people opting for the more acceptably priced half liter of beer for 6,50€ instead a 0.33 bottle for 5€. DOM is really not the cheapest place for drinks and ciders also range 6,40€ for a 0.33 bottle to 7€ for a pint from the tab – which is pricy even for Helsinki’s center. But one positive thing to say in comparison to Dante’s Highlight that had generally been cheaper is that they didn’t make higher special prices for the festival as Dante’s Highlight had done two years ago. But DOM preys on the fact that the beer line in the cellar bar is so long that if you don’t want to miss a band you go and buy your drink at one of the upstairs bars where you have to get the more expensive bottle options. But at least a glass of tab water is free everywhere and they offer a larger than usual selection of beers, ciders and cocktails. The second negative point is that the music played between bands has been as loud as the live shows themselves so it is really difficult to have a conversation without shouting which is not much fun since a festival is usually an occasion to meet friends from all over and socialize as well.
This socializing at the risk of losing your voice due to the necessary shouting then also provided the most talked about performance so far: The naked only corpse paint wearing woman on stage with Anal Blasphemy – so the guys also had something to look at since girls usually are spoiled at (black) metal festivals with most of the bands and audiences being male. Maniac Butcher from the Czech Republic then put an end to the succession of Scandinavian bands and also seemed to be the band that managed to get most people to finally head to DOM from all the pre-parties and bars.
Those who had not already been there for Maniac Butcher definitely were arriving in time to see the probably most waited for show of the festival: Rotting Christ from Greece playing a 75 minutes long Old School show and with that having the longest set of the night. You could almost taste the anticipation in the air before the show when the probably largest crowd of the weekend was excitedly gathering in front of the stage – it was time to just let loose and enjoy yourself, the music and the festival atmosphere. From the first notes on hair was flying both on and offstage, the energy was amazing and contagious and lasted for the whole set – some bands just don’t need corpse paint, skulls and bones to have stage presence although yours truly usually can’t get enough of those things. The band and the audience were cheering each other on and it was just a delight to see a band having so much fun playing and interacting with the crowd. Mika Luttinen from Impaled Nazarene added some Finnish flair when he joined Sakis on stage for one song but after that it was all Hellenistic sounds in Hel(l)sinki again. Soaked in sweat and showing off non-true smiles the crowd only slowly dispersed after the last song.
But wait, it was not over yet and with Behexen another known and long awaited band entered the candle lit stage, all but singer Torog clad in black robes ready for another ritual. The audience had gotten a bit smaller which was no surprise with Behexen being the 2nd last band of the two days but despite that one could clearly see that for many Behexen was too important of a gig to already leave as their shows are not that frequent – some people even only came to see them that day. It was definitely worth sticking around and their fast black metal definitely woke those up whose eyes were getting heavy with sleep.
Last but definitely not least were Goatpenis from Brazil and for the late hour (it was 1:30 a.m. by now) a surprisingly large crowd was still around when they started and they were obviously excited to see the band. The Brazilians who wore face hoods played a very tight set and ended the festival with a bang.
Overall, it was a very well organized festival at a slightly overpriced location with lots of known bands delivering great shows and some good surprises that make one hungry for a Black Flames of Blasphemy part III.
Nina Ratavaara, Photos: Eija Mäkivuoti