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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Finnish Heavy Metal Scene Between 1975-1989 - How Did It Evolve?


Ah Finland, the promised land of heavy metal, reindeers, snow, alcohol, Vikings (oh wait that was Norway), and homeland of real Santa Claus.. well part of that is true. Finland nowadays is known to be pretty “metallic” country in terms of music – “metal” (bare in mind it’s a broad term) is almost our mainstream music genre now. We have Lordi who won Eurovision contest few years ago, HIM which is quite known outside Finland, and several other artists that makes us old school heavy metallers see more or less red when hearing the artist names.. jokingly of course because everyone is entitled to own taste.

We also have many other bands that are less likely going to cause 80’s heavy metal fan see red than the mainstream ones, but they won’t most likely be causing screams of the joy either including:  Stratovarius, Children of Bodom, Sonata Arctica, Norther, Nightwish.. well actually Finland has much more bands that fit this category, and they’re not actually all that bad.

Then there’s few of the true 80’s rooted classic heavymetal bands that are still alive, or belong into the “new oldschool heavymetal wave”, but you can count those bands together with less than fingers of two hands: Tarot, Zero Nine, OZ, Gobra, Sarcofagus (just touring).. and well yes actually Stratovarius debuted in late 80’s, but I never count them to the true 80’s bands, matter of taste perhaps – as they’re borderline case. Hmm, and perhaps few of the newer ones like for example: Armour (classic heavy), and Devastracktor (classic thrash). I feel that finnish scene has always been more supportive to doom and death – and early 90’s extreme metal styles --  than 80’s heavy. That’s not to say though that Finland wouldn’t produce anything enjoyable for example on doom metal field. Just look at Cardinal’s Folly, pure kickass doom metal rooted to it’s forefathers yet having their own sound.

So is Finland real heavy metal country – the promised land of heavymetal -- as many of folks living here use to claim? Depends how you look at it. Looking the scene today with wearing “extreme metal”  or “gothic rock” eyeglasses, it may well look so. Finland has always been more the home of “extreme” metal (some rooted to 80’s and majority not) and goth rock. But in the eyes of classic 80’s heavymetal the sound tied to the roots of it – for me at least it’s clear NO. Not today and it wasn’t the case in the 80’s either. In fact, if we’re looking Finland as the producer of real 80’s rooted heavymetal in any era from early 80’s to today, we’re far behind the big ones like England, United States, Germany in productivity.. even our neighbors Sweden, who in all respect did have quite impressive classic heavymetal scene in 80’s, and are now coming out with strong “new wave of old school heavymetal” scene including bands like Portrait, Ghost, Enforcer,  Helvetet’s Port, InSolitude, and many many more..

Early heavymetal wave never reached Finland so well than many so called other big “heavymetal countries”.  In fact it was not until the 90’s when the genre became popular in finnish mainstream – leading with bands like Stratovarius, Amorphis, and Sentenced, who influenced several more “metal” bands to form in the mid-late 90’s. Before this the metal movement was very underground despite couple of bigger names, and the underground scene wasn’t too big either. Kimmo Kuusniemi, the former of one of Finland’s first heavymetal band’s Sarcofagus that existed early as late 70’s even said in his document that “Finland was not ready for heavymetal in the early 80’s”. Finland was probably more ready at times of the late era thrash wave, and times when death- and black metal were running strong in the 90’s.  Finland had bunch of early classic heavymetal bands that are worth of checking out (read later in this article), but generally there was just a small amount of heavymetal releases coming out in Finland all until late 80’s – perhaps 1988 or 1989. Small amount compared to Sweden or Germany and many others at least. It was already late 80’s until the underground heavymetal scene came bigger along with extreme metal demo tape explosion, but not one of the mainstream genres, which would happen only in later 90’s. For example Sweden had roughly two times as much heavymetal records released in the 80’s than Finland (according to database). Hell, and that’s nothing (quantity-wise speaking!) compared to british N.W.O.B.H.M scene from 1979-1986.

But the purpose of this post is not to underestimate old school heavymetal scene in Finland though, and I know that some people today who are into it, are some of the most passionate classic heavymetal fans around. The modern metal and newborn wave of old school heavy metal is the other thing, but the meaning of this article is to take a look into the finnish 80’s heavy metal scene and present most of the bands from this era, which may be unknown to several of the readers. There’s much articles about the fabulous N.W.O.B.H.M (The New Wave of British Heavy Metal) and thrash metal scene for example, but not much about the bands in Finland is written in the era ranging from late 70’s to the late 80’s.

This is the reason why I’m writing this article, to present real classic old school finnish heavymetal bands from a moderately small country.From a country that – even though didn’t have heavymetal scene even close to as big as for example in England, Sweden, or Germany – does have some pretty damn fine gems to discover for any 80’s heavy metal maniac. A country which 80’s heavymetal scene often does not get much recognition by international heavymetal fans, other than on the part of few most known bands. Bare in mind that all of the earliest bands may not be viewed as heavymetal by todays standards, but many of these borderline cases of hard rock and early heavymetal helped the genre to evolve -- and thus deserve to be mentioned. It's always matter where you draw the line and opinions do vary, but the influence cannot be denied. This article is copyrighted by


Part of this may be speculation, but I feel that Finland’s heavymetal scene did not get such a big kickstart than for example in England, because in late 70’s we had strong ties to our own national music-scene, and Finland is a bit “out of reach” from big heavymetal countries where the music was born (largely in England and United States and eventually countries next to them). Heavier rock music in pre-heavymetal era in Finland had strong ties to traditional finnish rock (“suomirock”) scene, which has always been very mainstream genre in Finland and still is running strong. Bands in that category weren’t really that heavy compared to british rock. That means Finland didn’t have many heavier side of rock bands to show example and lead the way into “extreme music” era of heavymetal…  at least not many. Heaviest ones were more of a rock’n roll bands like Hurriganes, Sleepy Sleepers (more punk’ish) and Kirka (well, not heavy at all, who later on tried singing heavymetal shortly also) all who were formed in between 1969-1974. Of course Hanoi Rocks (glam rock’n roll - great band of it’s style!) was one of the heavier rock bands coming out of Finland, that is known overseas also. Perhaps also punk rock artist Maukka Perusjätkä with his effort "Säpinää" (1979), and one of finnish punk pioneers Pelle Miljoona in last half of the 70's were ones supporting Finland's musical style into heavier upcoming genres. But in general there wasn’t just strong enough heavier rock and punk tradition available in Finland to support heavymetal wave in, not at least in very large scale. This of course is just my own humble view of things.

 (Popular finnish rock'n roll band Hurriganes)

Similarly in the late 70’s on the places where heavymetal was born (again mostly United States and England) there was long traditions of blues rock and psychedelic rock, as well as punk movement involved in late 70’s, which helped heavymetal genre eventually take it’s real shape. Bands like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Steppenwolf.. even Alice Cooper helped the scene to take it’s form and turn it into what we now call “heavy metal”. Eventually the scene was coming out perhaps most strongly in England as N.W.O.B.H.M-movement (1979) – a style born out of classic rock and punk rock. And many smaller countries followed the trend coming out with new heavymetal bands, and discovering new heavymetal sub-genres such as thrash metal in United States few years later (1983-1984). Finland just adapted heavymetal influences from overseas into finnish rock-culture with slower pace than Sweden, France, Belgium, Germany for example – seeing moderate increase in heavymetal albums released per year as late as in 1988-1989. Perhaps Kuusniemi’s comment “Finland was not ready for heavymetal in early 80’s” seems partly correct statement after all. Perhaps finnish rock scene in late 70’s-early 80’s just contained such a different sound than what was coming out from England and United States, that the new heavymetal wave didn’t fit in that well? There’s no denying though that traditional finnish rock and punk influences would also be heard in sound of several early finnish heavymetal bands.

(Angel Witch in 1980, one of the NWOBHM pioneers - british early heavymetal influence didn't reach Finland's scene by great extent)


This may come to as surprise for some, but the earliest finnish bands classified as “heavy metal” aren’t from early 80’s but actually dating back to late 70’s. Formed in the same era when first N.W.O.B.H.M bands came out, like Angel Witch and Def Leppard were in 1977. Though not much was going on until 1980 in Finland regarding full-length releases, the few bands were there practicing and touring. Yet the the finnish heavymetal scene was very small within the “early years” of 1976-1983. Only around bands actually released at least a demo or single within that period (at least known by and myself).
One major thing was that there doesn’t seem to have been any record companies at this period in Finland who actually knew how to promote this kind of music. Bands mostly had to settle to very small record companies, who might have not known anything about heavy metal, or released albums as independent pressings.  Finland was not considered the hottest spot of the new heavymetal brand in the outside world, thus it may have been hard to get signed by big record company outside Finland. Oz as for one managed to do this though signing with Combat Records (USA, holding the bands like Helstar, Savatage, Agent Steel, Megadeth..) but more about that later.

1975-1977 - The first four bands (Hard Rock Sallinen, Sarcofagus, OZ, Ironcross)

Between the years of 1975-1978 there’s no single known releases of any finnish heavy metal band, but the early comers started to take their form. First heavymetal band ever to see the light of the day in Finland could as well be called “Hard Rock Sallinen” formed in 1975, in moderately small city of Kauhava near western coast of Finland led by Seppo Sallinen, but it's hard to choose which of the early bands crown as the first true heavymetal band. Problematic thing is where to draw the line since the band is rather lightwave in heavy- and hard rock field, unlike to say, few other bands coming out within next two years. Sallinen's more heavy approach took place in early 80's. The band borderlines hard rock (early) and light wave early heavy metal (1982-), but considering the era band is definitely worth mention in heavymetal article. The next year in 1976 second finnish heavymetal band was formed in Turku called “Ironcross” starting out incluenced by bands like Deep Purple, with slightly more punk’ish sound – but later on after mid 80’s wandering into American style hard rock/glam rock territory with fancy outfits.


The genre then expanded with two more bands forming in 1977 called “OZ” in Nakkila southwestern Finland, and “Sarcofagus (also known as Kimmo Kuusniemi Band)” formed in Finland’s capitol city Helsinki at south coast. While OZ was known to be pure honest heavy metal with bit over-the-top-dramatic vocals, Sarcofagus presented more doomy sound influenced perhaps 70’s Black Sabbath and perhaps.. some psychedelic rock bands? Kuusniemi with his band Sarcofagus had in my opinion the heaviest sound of these early finnish heavymetal bands, with that rather dark, doomy sound, containing lots of “acid” (keyboards). I should also mention that at some point this period three obscure bands were formed, but none of them ever released full-length release: Arson (around 1980), Metal Griffin (around 1980), and Noitawaimo (pre-1980), who’s drummer Kari “Case” Laihonen later on joined to Ironcross (1981-1982).

The year 1978 saw creation of fifth band called “Zero Nine”, which was formed in Kuusamo city, on far northeastern border of Finland – not the most common birthplace for finnish heavymetal band. Zero Nine later became one of the better known finnish heavymetal bands overseas. The band played more accessible heavymetal with hard rock vibe, or hard rock with heavymetal vibe – depends of the viewer – sound crossing somewhere between American and british hard rock.  Fans of Scorpions, Def Leppard, and Deep Purple should enjoy this one. Talented band that should not be passed, if you’re not scared of bit more “mainstream” sound.

1979 - First official finnish heavy metal release (Sarcofagus)

While the year 1978 was pretty blank in events of heavymetal in Finland other than formation of Zero Nine, the year later in 1979 first finnish heavymetal single was released. Sarcofagus released their single “Go To Hell/All Those  Lies” of which All Those Lies wasn’t featured in upcoming albums at all. This single featured more hard rocking sound than their full-length debut would, but still with weird doomy and dark vibe.  The same year band “Riff Raff” was formed in Oulu, one of the larger cities of Finland in mid-north region. The band came out with impressive sound mixing late 70’s Judas Priest and early Accept, later on turning with bit heavier direction.

In 1980 Sarcofagus would come out in all it’s glory, with two full-length releases put out within the same year. First with the release of “Cycle of Life” and then with “Envoy of Death”. Both great albums, seeing big improvement compared to the debut single on department of production, singing, and guitar work. Very authentic melodies with doomy guitar sound, gloomy melodies, and keyboards full of acid especially in latter one – like a mind trip to hell. Early Black Sabbath fans and fans of heavier psychedelic rock of the 70’s should love this. Quite impressive and heavy stuff for 1980.

(Sarcofagus - Envoy of Death - 1980)

The year  1980 also saw three “single” releases from three bands, that were first officially released material coming out form each band. First one was Hard Rock Sallinen with single “Lets Make Love/Solong My Friend” (yeah they were bit too hippy at the time), with rather hard rocking and mellow single than actual pure heavymetal. The guitar sound and leads were biting though, but lyrically quite uninspiring attempt. Yet one could hear that these guys were quite talented players. Secondly, obscure band called Noitawaimo also set one small single release out called “Keep Pushing”. Third single this year was released by Zero Nine called “Down The Line/Suzanne” followed by “I’m Gonna Try/In The Drizzlin’ Rain” single year later in 1981, preceding their first full length debut. 

Year 1981 saw no other releases than the single from Zero Nine and in the years 1979-1981 it was pretty much Sarcofagus carrying finnish heavymetal flame with two great full-length albums released, with Zero  Nine releasing the two singles and Hard Rock Sallinen one that was not so much heavymetal in style, but rather hard rock.  At this period until 1981 heavy metal hadn’t really landed in Finland for good, or one could make this assumption as there was no much going on in that field of the genre. In elsewhere, England, N.W.O.B.H.M genre was growing wild and fast with probably over hundred bands this far (Malc MacMillan’s book presents over 400, or was it 500 N.W.O.B.H.M bands within period of 1979-1986), and Sweden was just about to get started with bands like Heavy Load, E.F.Band, Jonah Quizz, Overdrive, Silver Mountain, Gotham City.. well the list goes on..

1982 – A Productive year in finnish heavymetal

But then year 1982 was quite productive for finnish heavymetal, in fact, it was the best of the early years, “the top of the mountain”. Material did vary in quality but at least Finland produced some early heavymetal with some respectable releases that year, although none might not top Sarcofagus’ “Envoy of Death”. Hard Rock Sallinen came out with “Heavy Metal Symphony” – and as the name tells – this time the album is bit more geared towards early heavymetal though still rather lighter one of the bands around the genre at this time. Influences from new british heavymetal wave can be heard, mixed with 70’s hard rock. Zero Nine released two albums, first “Visions, Scenes, And Dreams” bordering heavy rock and heavymetal with obvious Deep Purple influences, especially on the part of keyboard usage. But there’s nothing wrong with 70’s influenced heavy rock / heavymetal hybrid – in fact – Zero Nine executed the album well enough to impress Ian Gillian of Deep Purple. Later on in 1982 Zero Nine had released second album same year called “Blank Verse” which was recorded in England with Ian Gillian being another of the albums producers. Two quality Purple-influenced hard rock albums.

(Riff Raff - Robot Stud - 1982)

But Zero Nine was not only band coming out with two quality albums the same year. Riff Raff also released two albums in 1982, first album “No Law ‘n Order” being bit more mellow hard rock album with british influence in it. Imagine mellower version or Raven (UK) or tone down TANK (UK) a notch with bit more hard rock in it. Riff Raff decided to turn things a notch heavier with second album “Robot Stud”, which saw more sharp Priest- and Accept-like rhythm guitars kick in, and production values saw big improvement. The singer even sounds bit like Udo here. Good stuff. Kimmo Kuusniemi of Sarcofagus had some legal issues with the bandname, and thus released their new album in 1982 under band name of "Moottorilinnut" (=“Motorbirds”) and this time vocals were sung in finnish unlike before. Another good release by the band although doesn’t quite match the previous doomier releases sung in English. Finnish popular singer Kirka was guest starring vocals in that album for a couple of songs. Ironcross finally came out with their debut “Bloodhounds” and it wasn’t quite as great as expected. Decent album with some biting guitar riffs but is plagued by certain sloppiness, especially on singer part. They would come out stronger with follow-up “Steel Warrior” later on. After the recordings of “Bloodhounds”, the original guitarist Kimmo Vanne was kicked out of the band, dying in alcohol and drugs year later (R.I.P). OZ also set out their debut in 1982, but it was quite lame effort compared to what they would release next. The debut “Heavy Metal Heroes” was mellow effort compared to later works of OZ, lacking the punch and powerful riffs, and the great dark and dramatic heavymetal melodies we’d hear in future. Luckily this didn’t stay as their first and last release. The year 1982 also saw “minors” Arson releasing their N.W.O.B.H.M influenced surprisingly fine single “Dirty Woman/Can’t Explain” and Metal Griffin releasing single “overdosed/fly fast live last”. Both independent releases, but there seems not to be much information about these. On top of these events, a Maiden/Dio influenced heavy/powermetal band called “Purgatory” was formed in Kuopio that existed between 1982-1984 and would then change their name into what we now know as “Tarot”.

1983 – Early masters disband (Hard Rock Sallinen, Riff Raff, Sarcofagus)

To me the “early heavymetal years” ends in 1983.. right about when Slayer releases “Show No Mercy” and Metallica their “Kill’em All”. Beginning of the thrash metal wave (yeah I love it too!) and perhaps the last great year for N.W.O.B.H.M. genre. This is why I’m closing this chapter with year 1983. In Finland that year meant, that heavymetal still hadn’t quite reached the young enthusiastic guitar players, it was all yet still to come. There was no new bands breaking into the finnish heavymetal scene yet -- instead the amount of bands seemed to remain quite fixed between 1980-1983. It was like no bands cared to jump into the wagon. Early heavymetal wave overseas didn’t reach Finland very effectively. Sarcofagus had used their creative energy and disbanded that year, as did Hard Rock Sallinen. Both of the original finnish heavymetal pioneers. Riff Raff came out with decently good and this time heavier album “Give the Dead Man Some Water”, leaning towards something like heavy early-mid 80’s german heavymetal sound with barbaric heaviness in their sound – almost as dirty and rough as Sinner’s (GER) Danger Zone (well not quite a match) would be year later, and certainly bit dirtier than Accept was at the time. And while things were musically looking fine, this also remained band’s last album release and they also disbanded. Funny thing about the album cover was that it was considered too violent in Finland at the time, which caused finnish rock magazine Soundi to write bad review about it focusing almost fully only on the cover without single word about the music itself.

(Riff Riff - Give The Dead Man Some Water - this wcover as considered too violent in finnish media at 1983)

In addition to Riff Raff’s release, another pretty rough sounding and quite brilliant release came out from OZ. Band had struggled with their debut album few years earlier, and did right decision to let guitarist Elo and bassist Vajavaara go -- and  replaced them with two new guitarists alias Speedy Foxx and Spooky Wolff (ex-Noitawaimo) and bassist Jukka Homi (now Lewis).  The band relocated to Sweden in 1983 -- rumored rumored to have moved because their heavy music was not understood in their original homeland Finland. The cult album that came out same year was called “Fire In The Brain” (1983) – an album which cover art (along with upcoming “Turn The Cross Upside Down”) was rumored to be designed by Bathory’s Quorthon, but I have no confirmation of this. Luckily they managed to top their lackluster debut by far and set the standards for OZ’s heavier trademark sound for few more albums to come. Dark Scandinavian heavymetal at it’s best in with strong N.W.O.B.H.M influence. The album was also released in North-America and Japan. Ironcross was still rehearsing and writing for their upcoming album “Steel Warrior”, and Zero Nine released single “Much too Young (to rock’n roll)”.

(OZ - Fire In The Brain - 1983)

The only newcomers to finnish heavymetal scene at the time were “Gobra” from Vihanti a city of only 3000+ inhabitants in middle-northern Finland. They were jamming cover songs mostly in the early 80’s and soon started working with their own material. Gobra played their first gig under the name “MEG” (soon changed to “Flimzy Haze”, which was constantly misspelled by gig-arrangers and therefore, shortly after to “Gobra”) at Alpua Youth Club (1983) with four own songs and cover songs from bands like Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden, Blue Öyster Cult, Saxon, Def Leppard. The band soon after entered Haga Waga Studio, Kempele to make first demos. It would be until late 80’s before  Gobra really got things running, yet never really breaking through. The second band coming to the scene in 1983 was thrash/crossover combo (exceptional) W.D.M. from Pietarsaari with 20,000 population in western coast of Finland. Notable band  releasing three EP’s later on of raw and energetic punky hardcore. Finnish thrashmetal minors “Mayhem” from Hormajärvi is also claimed to be formed this year, but they only recorded c-cassette demo in 1989 (6 years after formation!), so there’s not much to tell about them.

First wave of finnish heavymetal had remained quite small in scale containing about ten bands, and success of the british heavymetal wave had not succeeded to influence Finland the way one would had perhaps hoped. “Suomirock” (finnish traditional rock) was still ruling the land with no much space to heavymetal. After the first bands raised, early 80’s musician generation had failed to raise interest between years 1980-1983 to create new bands starting to play heavymetal (in exception of Gobra and W.D.M.). Scene seemed dying now, but had given few great records out nevertheless to enjoy and discover. Finnish heavymetal outbreak” was still several years ahead (first time minor in late 80’s, and second time major in late 90’s), when heavymetal/metal would become popular in Finland, and while scene seemed quite dead at this point.. it would turn out slightly better later in the 80’s at least quantity-wise speaking.

After all there was still quality bands to be formed in middle- and late-80’s who would release quality albums. While Zero Nine and OZ would continue running strong out of original finnish heavymetal bands, new names like Stone, Tarot, Airdash, Loud Crowd, A.R.G would soon follow with several of non-mentioned obscure bands..


From this period on I’m going to cheat a bit and not present every each released demo and EP separately. The point to list them earlier was to bring up every early finnish heavymetal release – and find out the so called “originators” of the scene. On this point the early wave of finnish heavymetal had been born, and I’m gonna focus on more important releases of bands, rather than list every single and demo. While Early wave of finnish heavymetal was mixture of 70’s hard rock and british new wave of heavy metal mostly, the middle era would start seeing first influences from mid-80’s thrash metal movement started by the bands such as American trio Metallica (“Kill’em All" album in 1983), Slayer (“Show No Mercy” in 1983), and Exodus (several demos 1982-1984 and finally full length “Bonded by Blood” in 1985) not forgetting the rest – as well as one of the forefathers of all extreme metal, british Venom (“Welcome to Hell” at in 1981). Years of 1984-1986 would still be a “transformation phase” between classic and extreme styles, after which the thrash wave would hit finnish heavymetal scene between 1987-1989 for good (and death would follow later) – well – especially the underground demo scene. This outbreak would be influenced by “Middle 80’s era” speed/thrash band called “Stone” enjoying respectable success in Finland, who would become one of the finnish thrash forefathers. Their main guitarist Roope Latvala would over decade later play in finnish metal band Children Of Bodom,  and drummer Pekka Kasari would join in the ranks of known prog/death/doom combo Amorphis.

The “Middle Era” of 1984-1986 would still be moderately silent era in terms of releases, but numerous of new bands would already start to form in Finland within the era and start working on new material. Somehow it seemed that in the 80’s finnish heavymetal was evolving more into blend of extreme heavymetal styles like thrash, hardcore, and speed (and death in last years of the decade) – alongside with few flashy hard rock outfits, but Finland seemed never to be really influenced much by hard biting yet melodic US metal bands like Jag Panzer, Crimson Glory, Savatage or british N.W.O.B.H.M acts such as Iron Maiden and Angel Witch – or more theatrical outfits like Mercyful Fate. Closest that finnish sound would get to the “pure classic honest 80’s traditional heavymetal” would probably be the releases by “OZ”, or  “Tarot” which was born at this era of which and had major influences from Dio and Maiden, but with their own unique touch. Many finnish heavymetal bands until now had featured that hard rock influence throughout their music, which may make them sound bit more “commercial” on heavymetal, but yet remain quality – bands such as Zero Nine, Gobra, and Ironcross (who would turn more commercial over the years) for example. With Sarcofagus being the exceptional non-commercial and authentic doomy heavymetal band that truly should have had more influence to the scene than it did before disbanding.

1984 – formation of O.S.S.Y & Shock Tilt, and their bizarre tales

The year 1984 would see formation of melodic heavy rock outfit O.S.S.Y, which probably deserves to be mentioned here being one of the heavier 80’s rock outfits in Finland – though not really pure heavymetal. O.S.S.Y had certainly traditional finnish rock vibe in it’s sound and they also sung in finnish. The guitarist-singer Tero Eeronen would later on form a model office “Nordic Models” and abuse the female models sexually over the years – being sentenced to jail for 12,5years in 2011 for three major rapes, nine rapes, prostitution, and sixteen sexual abuse cases. End of story for O.S.S.Y who had recently made comeback. Melodic power metal band Stratovarius was also formed in 1984, although it would take them five more years to come out with full-length release and eventually raise to the fame in fields of melodic metal.


Another mention worthy heavy rock outfit called Shock Tilt was also formed in Vaasa 1984, approaching also the hard rocking edge of the sound, but being more bottom heavy than O.S.S.Y with bombastic drums, melodic vocals and ripping guitarworks. Bordering very heavy AOR and melodic heavymetal with rather American sound. Even though the band’s origins were in Vaasa,  western coast of Finland where ¼ of population speaks Swedish, only guitarist Hannu Rajala had finnish name, so the rest of the band was most likely "finn-swedes". The band would release one EP year later in 1985 called “Night Fight”, tour with Motörhead at some point, and eventually move from west coast Finland to Sweden in 1987 where bizarre events would take place. While moving in Stockholm, Sweden, a man called Anders Calrsson represented himself as a recruitable successful band manager who had important contacts to record big record companies in Europe, and was hired by the band. After arriving to Stockholm, Carlsson then said that he wanted to take Rajala for Germany to present him for important people. The rest of the band was bit suspicious but didn’t deny. Rajala disappeared along the trip – only to be found later on from river in middle-Sweden murdered chopped to pieces with very brutal way of killing. There's documentary and news items about this, but unfortunately mostly in finnish (for you non-finnish anyway). Later on the so-called manager Carlsson was found guilty for the murder of Hannu Rajala and sentenced to prison. It was revealed that Calrsson had nothing to do with manager business, but was instead sexually deranged psychopath and criminal who had put ads in magazines offering made-up jobs for several young men before, while trying to lure them to him, drug them, abuse them and then kill -- unfortunately Rajala was first one he succeeded with. Another victim had survived previously with some stab wounds, after waking up as drugged and fighting his way out, but Rajala wasn't as lucky. Shock Tilt made one more single few years later called “Heaven Calls” (1989), but has not released albums ever since.

(Shock Tilt debut Fright Night LP from 1985 is now moderately valuable item)

1984 – album releases

Other few notable formations, year 1984 also saw few notable album releases in Finland. Zero Nine released two singles and then their third album “Headline” continuing successful hard rock/heavy metal career in the veins previous album of “Blank Verse”, being bit mainstream of a side but certainly quality. The album featured the hit “Walk Away”, which on the hard rock side still bites today. Ironcross managed to sign a deal with record company Finnlevy one of the major labels in Finland at the time, and released their new album in 1984 under that label. The album was called “Steel Warrior” and featured more heavymetal influenced sound than hard rocking Zero Nine’s “Headline”. Sharp biting guitar tone combined with rock’n roll attitude made the title track of “Steel Warrior” very enjoyable piece of music – although the album doesn’t quite survive the whole 70minutes of it so well. Nevertheless it’s a record with some fine moments – until the band would ridicule themselves couple of years later with fancy outfits and flashy mainstream approach.

(Iron Cross - Steel Warrior - 1984)

Perhaps the most important band of the 1984 was OZ, who came out with one EP and later in the same year with one full-length. EP was called “Turn the Cross Upside Down” with one fresh track (title track) and two from “Fire In The Brain” album. Title track was not featured in any compilations or albums, thus making this EP worth getting. The EP caused confusion among the band members, for it’s royalty check returned with sum of 666. After this the bassist alias Jay C. Blade quit writing satanic lyrics for OZ. Bands third full-length release “III Warning” (1984) came out later same year with less satanic lyrical content, but sticking to the same musical N.W.O.B.H.M influences than before. While the album might not be quite as good as “Fire in The Brain”, it was still a winner with tracks like “III Warning” and “Total Metal”. Album suffered bit worse production values, because the producer and band had different vision about the sound. OZ was invited to be warm-up band for Venom in their American tour later the same year, but it failed to happen due record-company and American manager having some problems. The same year minors Witch Hunt (later on changed to “Crom”) would release their first demo “’84 Demo” consisting of six tracks. It’s worth bringing up since it featured more epic heavymetal sound than perhaps any other finnish band ever had –combine something like Virtue (UK) and Heavy Load (SWE) – just not quite reaching the same level. The band would release a year later a single “Earth Queen/Eyes of Fire”  (1985) under name Crom, featuring same pretty good obscure pure heavymetal. But thrash metal wave had yet to reach Finland…

1985 – the first finnish thrash metal band is born (Stone)

It wasn’t until 1985 when first signs of thrash metal reaching Finland took a place. Band called W.D.M released two EP’s “Democracy” and “Tomorrow’s Gone” and while categorized as thrash metal/crossover by, these early releases were rather punk done in humorous way – so I would not call them trash metal forefathers in Finland. Though they did put one more serious sounding EP out couple years later being many times more thrash-tastic. However the big name comes here:  Stone – true forefather of finnish speed and thrash metal movement was formed in Kerava 1985, southern Finland near Helsinki.  Janne Joutsenniemi (bass & vocals) and Roope Latvala (guitar) had been playing together several years before in their teen ages. They started out as playing heavymetal, but at this period of time transformed their style into more extreme metal of speed/thrash combination, since the thrash was “spreading like disease” in America and Germany (Kreator, Sodom, Destruction etc.). They started playing as many gigs they could, being young at the time, mostly in youth clubs – with first demo soon to follow. Other thrash metal outfits “Vendetta” (Helsinki), “Maple Cross” (Jääli, Kiiminki) and “Faff-Bey” (Oulu) were also formed during 1985. The former being more speed/punk influenced thrash while the latter two try to capture darker chaotic thrash sound.

(Very early Stone picture -- not certain of the year)

1985 – Zero Nine hits it’s pinnacle moment and Tarot is born

So other than extreme metal field, Zero Nine continued moving on their successful hard rock/heavy career releasing their most appraised album up to date called “White Lines” (1985) after three singles in the same year. The album is considered as pinnacle of their career by most, and is their most perfected work up to date. Worth checking out for all Deep Purple, Whitesnake, Scorpions fans. The other releases coming out would be already mentioned heavy/hard rock EP from Shock Tilt called “Fright-Night”, Gobra’s unmemorable 2-track EP “The Tryout”, the fine “Earth Queen” single from Crom, and hard rock single called “Täydellinen Tyydyttäjä/Brutus” from O.S.S.Y. At this point in 1985 when Finland was already starting to turn towards extreme metal generally speaking,  surprisingly new classic heavymetal band, the respectable “Tarot” was formed in Kuopio near middle-Finland. Actually to be honest Tarot had already existed few a couple of years under name “Purgatory”, but when nearing the recording contract with the record label, they demanded name change for the band which led Purgatory to swap the name into Tarot. This means they (Tarot) weren’t total strangers for heavymetal in 1985, they had already record deal settled for themselves. The band was originally formed by Hietala brothers, of which bassist/singer Marco later on became known as being involved in bands like Nightwish and Northern Kings. Tarot would release single in 1986 leading into full-length release in the same year called “Spell ofIron” – a successful heavy/powermetal offerering with Dio/Maiden influenced soaring vocals and melodic yet ripping guitar riffs. Same fashion would continue with highly rated bit more matured, polished and refined follow-up "Follow Me Into Madness" released two years later in 1988. Tarot would continue releasing albums through the 90’s and new millennium up to today. The band would become one of most important finnish heavymetal names in the 80’s along with OZ, Sarcofagus, and Stone.

(Perhaps pinnacle moment of Zero Nine - Never Stop Runnin' - 1985)

1986-1989 - Ironcross goes down

While Tarot were about to raise to the glory, it was another band’s end of tale closing in. Ironcross were frustrated after making pretty good album few years earlier but not selling well and thus getting kicked out by the label. The original drummer had just departed from the band also due “musical differences”. The guys had realized that mid 80’s big hair/glam scene in America especially in L.A was growing big, so they decided to change musical style and stage costumes from original denim’n leather into flashy glam style comparable to something like Mötley Crüe. Ironcross then started rehearsing hard and going to the gym. On top of it all they started calling their music “tough rock” and invented new stage names such as Tyrone “Gona” Tougher, Jon Steeler, Case Roberts, Buddy McShulcz, and Jimmy Hammer. While finnish audience was probably not ready for this, record company EMI Finland signed the band in 1986, and they went to record their new album “Too Hot To Rock” with one of the worst album covers ever and rock glitché lyrics. Surprisingly finnish music television MTV gave them air-time with song “Too Hot To Rock” in 1986 and finnish national television YLE in 1987 for song “Fight for Strangers”. They even held pompous announcement party for “Too Hot To Rock”-album in Café Metropol Helsinki with rolls Royce, and top models..something pretty over-the-top in Finland from such a flashy and not-that-well-known band. Despite of it all “Too Hot to Rock” didn’t sell that well, and it had been too expensive album to make – and got pretty bad reviews and reception. In 1987 Ironcross tried to conquer USA visiting for example to Roxy, LA and Cat Club NY, and appeared in Manhattan Cable TV. Success is bit unknown. They returned to Finland and made 6-track promo cassette for US record companies in 1988, and single called “Immoral Love/Eye for An Eye” and did a gig with Tarot in 1989. Nothing really seemed to pull them up though. After short time Gona turned into jehova’s witness (religion) leaving music scene, and moved into USA leaving the band. The new manager tried to change their name into “Dillinger” and bring them back up but in the end of the decade it was over for Ironcross.

(One of the worst covers in heavymetal history - though it has competition)

1986-1989 - rest of the non-extreme heavymetal bands

IronCross's other hard rocking country mates Gobra however, who had failed to break through, continued to put out material and eventually get to make their first full-length “The First at Last” (1990) – and they have continued to put out an album time to time ever since. Zero Nine still continued putting out pretty good albums of it’s style despite already passing career’s pinnacle moment. They’d release “Intrigue” in 1986 and open up for English traditional rock festival Monsters Of Rock the same year playing with bands like Def Leppard, Ozzy, and Scorpions.  The next album “Voodoo You” would come out in 1988 being their last full-length of the 80’s but eventually continuing their career through the 90’s. OZ would release their last album of the 80’s called “DecibelStorm” in 1986 and continue with the same path they left us with “III Warning” – another solid heavymetal album. They’d split in the early 90’s after one more release “Roll The Dice” that failed quite impress like the previous efforts, with really bad production plaguing vocals. The well known melodic heavy metal band Stratovarius finally gets to release their debut album "Fright Night" after five years from formation featuring their brand high speed melodic heavymetal with flying leads and lots of shredding, with moderate amount of keyboards added in. At this time guitarist Timo Tolkki would handle singing duties, and it would not be until 1994 when Kotipelto would take over vocals leading Stratovarius into mainstream success. The rock outfit O.S.S.Y would release single “Helsinki/Se Kuuluu Elämään” in 1986 and finally getting full-length release “TanssityttöBarbara” in 1987 along with the single of the same name. Somewhat fun hard rock album to listen to, while often more traditional finnish rock influenced releases were somewhat lighter, this album has quite much kick taking that into consideration.  Something comparable to O.S.S.Y would be one-hit-hard-rock-wonder Stud, who released only one 2-track single in 1986 called “Mä haluun Elää/Viimeinen Yö” with music video also set out. The band disappeared right after this event. Mentionable are also late-comers all-female-band Santa Lucia playing power metal, and power/speed combo Loud Crowd. Santa Lucia was formed rather late in 1987 since thrash metal was already taking over. The ladies debuted with first single in 1988 called “Miljoona Ruusua/Pyhä Yö”, following with two more single and full-length in 1990 called “ArkistaHysteriaa”, which is interesting album to peek into being one of the only all-female powermetal bands with rather unique chaotic approach to the sound. Vocals might not please everyone though. Loud Crowd was formed in Viiala 1986 and they put up three fine singles with one pretty good full-length album called “Guardians” in 1988 before disbanding. The release featured energetic and melodic Scandinavian heavy/power metal attack with slight US metal influences and is definitely note worthy late effort. 

(Loud Crowd - Guardians - Run Til' You're Free - 1988)

The classic eighties heavy metal, which never really had taken the pace during first half of the eighties in Finland, was now already fading away while other genres pushed in. Few very obscure underground releases of the genre in the last years of the decade would feature acts such as minors Black Angel with their only and decent single "Seventh Seal" (1988) containing grittiness found in middle eighties german heayvmetal bands,  along the same lines goes Hellion Noise with their only single "Devil's Daughter" with more polished sound and more N.W.O.B.H.M-like lead melodies, and WildChild with more bluesy and rock'n rollish approach and Purple influenced keyboards in their (most likely) only release "Rock With Me/Ridin' In The Night" single.. surprisingly fine little release! The most unknown of them all, Harlot, would release their only material in 1989, surprisingly well produced a demo tape called "Shadows of The Black" with aggressive yet melodic heavymetal - sounding something like US metal with melodic thrash and speed metal influences. But the same time thrash and death wave was breaking through..

1986-1989 - the thrash wave finally kicks in led by Stone debut

It was around year 1986 when finnish thrash wave started conquering the leader’s title from heavy and hard rock genres in Finland pushing those genres on background eventually leading into other extreme metal genres as well.  The finnish thrash metal wave was driven forward by bands such as Stone, who released their first demotape this year and another year after (1987), eventually leading into record deal with finnish Megamania label, who would also acquire A.R.G. (Ancient Rotten Graveguards) to their thrash metal band ranks soon afterwards – to my knowledge it happened through a possibility to make a single after winning North Finland band competition in Oulu 1988. A.R.G.'s fine dark, aggressive, and violent thrash metal debut "Entrance" would follow in 1989. On the part of Stone this would lead them to release single and full-length album in 1988 "Self-titled" with cult hits like "Get Stoned" and second album "No Anaesthesia" year later in 1989 – pure speed/thrash perfection with technical and melodic guitarwork mixed into ripping bay area thrash. If there’s one thrash metal band from Finland deserving to be mentioned next to the bands like Destruction, Testament, Death Angel and so on.. it would definitely be STONE! Other than Stone, another early speed/trash band Vendetta released their decent 4-track EP “Search in Darkness” before splitting up. Damage from Kuopio released their first 5-track EP “Damage” before releasing their only obscure full-length album “The Immortal Death” in 1987 featuring another very early finnish speed/thrash combo in addition to Vendetta and Stone. Damage also split up after the record. A.O.D. (Altars of Destruction) also was one of the earlier finnish short-living thrash bands putting out first demo in 1988 and only EP called "Painful Awakening" in 1989 before disbanding, quality band. Faff-Bey and Hellhole released their thrash influenced early demos in 1986.

(Stone - No Anaesthesia! - 1989)

Things seemed bright for extreme heavymetal fans, because ever since 1986 the thrash metal scene grew. In fact, between 1988-1989 majority of all releases were either thrash or death by far, with no much foot for traditional heavymetal. Only the bands like Santa Lucia and Loud Crowd made quick stop into the genre, with Tarot, Zero Nine, OZ, Stratovarius (who debuted in 1989 with “Fright Night” by the way) lasting bit longer. The extreme metal genre soon exploded and expanded, especially the underground movement of it. There were tons of thrash demos for example released in last two years of the 80’s compared to anything before. While Vendetta, Damage, and A.O.D. lived short life, along the finnish speed/thrash pioneers Stone and thrash pioneers A.R.G raised also other early finnish quality thrash bands Airdash, who worked as a warm-up band for Anthrax, Suicidal Tendencies, and Kreator. Airdash debuted in 1988 with “Thank God It’sMonday” containing fine Anthrax-esque thrash metal worth checking out. Bit more known was also humorous yet full-blooded thrash act Prestige who had time to release “Attack Against Gnomes” LP in 1989 and few full-lengths in the next decade also with quite polished sound. The classy power/thrash band Statue would release their first release ever "I Don't Mind" EP (1989) and year later one of the a-tier releases full-lenght "A Statue Comes to Life" (1990)  with more of an american sound influence -- imagine late eighties Exodus with more melodic vocals and power metal influences. Couple of more decently fine b-tier thrash acts (in my opinion) would also debut in late eighties in addition to Stone, A.O.D., A.R.G., Airdash, Statue, and Prestige: National Napalm Syndicate released their first full-length "Self-Titled" album also in 1989 featuring pretty tight and rough thrash in veins of perhaps german bands, but with rather bit weak singer that bothered quality. German thrash influenced releases would also be decent Charged's speedy debut "In Vice" (1989), which would remain their only release with somewhat generic but enjoyable thrash, and Mengele's (later known as Wengele) less refined and very aggressive 3-track thrash/speed EP "Senseless Extermination" (1989), while Dethrone would feature bit more matured bay-area influenced sound with the debut "Let The Day Begin" (1989) with strong gang-shouted backing vocals - being perhaps best of the four. Some interesting late "80’s demo bands" who didn’t put out full-length release in the limits of the decade, but the demos might be worth hunting down included death/thrash outfits Lycantrophy, Protected Illusion, and Sacred Crucifix – speed/thrash outfit Necromancer – and thrash metal bands Maple Cross, Mental Agony, Tetragon..

The end of the decade also featured birth of Sentenced and Beherit in 1989 who would influence 90's scene hugely. Sentenced started out as death metal band eventually changing into melodeath band in 1994 and becoming hugely popular in Finland afterwards, while Beherit was quite authentic and damn heavy death metal band, who later on switched into dark ambient style in the next decade. Spiritus Mortis should be mentioned as perhaps inventor of finnish doom metal, formed in 1987 under name of Rigor Mortis, but they had to change the name due United States already had thrash metal band called Rigor Mortis. Spiritus Mortis would have undeniable influence over upcoming finnish doom metal bands like Reverend Bizarre.

(Early Sentenced demo When Death Joins Us - song Shadows of The Past - 1990)

And that’s pretty much how the decade ended. Metal started to become bit more familiar in the last years of 80’s in Finland and thrash wave kicked in few years before death wave would do. Classic heavymetal was pretty much hanging there last half of 80's with only few bands and no new names coming up. But the late 90’s would totally revive finnish metal genre, although perhaps – not quite as 80’s old school fanatic would wish. Through half of the 80's the finnish heavymetal scene had been rather small with just bunch of bands playing heavymetal, and even majority of those playing hard rock edge, with couple of exceptions like Sarcofagus and OZ. The scene had been within small circle all the way until the end of 80's, when Finland would go crazy on extreme metal! Hope you enjoyed reading this mess and found a band or two which you may have liked and now know previously. Apologizes for non-perfect English and any important events I may have forgotten. Now I’d wish for one cold beer.
Cheers! \,,/

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