We here in Edmonton are intimate with the endless bleakness of a northern winter. The darkness. The cold and isolation. The death of colour and light.
Our friends in Finland, who live even further north than we do, know the pain well. The arduous, cruel winters have long influenced the music in the Nordic countries. It is perhaps because of the grimness of those frosty hibernations that Finland has more heavy-metal bands per capita than anywhere else in the world—twice as many as metal-mad fellow Scandinavians Sweden and Norway.
Indeed, nowhere else in the world is heavy metal—power metal, death metal, folk metal, viking metal, symphonic metal, speed metal, black metal—with its lyrics focusing on emotional anguish and misery, more popular than Finland. Imagine a country where Slayer would knock Taylor Swift off the pop charts.
Niilo Sevänen, bass player and singer for Finnish melodic-death-metal band Insomnium, lives in Kotka, a city nearly 800 km further north than Edmonton.
“We’ve been No 2 in the charts playing death metal. Metal is mainstream here,” says Sevänen, relaxing at home before he goes to bed.
Sevänen holds the prestigious job of Director of Culture for Kotka, responsible for the “whole cultural life of the city.” Part of his job, along with working with museums and libraries, is organizing the annual Kotka Maritime Festival, an event that attracts up to 200 000 people and is one of the biggest cultural events in the country. The fact that he also has a career as an internationally renowned metal musician doesn’t raise eyebrows.
Insomnium recently released its sixth studio album Shadows Of The Dying Sun, born, says its press release, “out of the melancholy, sorrow and dreariness of long winter nights.” Sounds about right.
Sevänen says the album is an evolution of the band’s dark, melodic sound. He credits a big part of the growth to new guitarist Markus Vanhala.
“He plays some awesome solos and is a really skilled guitarist, and that’s something we really hadn’t had before,” Sevänen says. “He brings a new dimension to the band and to the music. And that’s a big change—maybe the biggest change in the history of the band.”
Insomnium has never toured through big chunks of western Canada, including Edmonton. But as hockey fans, Sevänen says he and his bandmates have watched the Oilers, Flames and Jets play on TV and are excited to visit the cities.
Maybe it’s the climate, but he says the band has always felt at home in our northern land.
“Canada is one of the best places to tour. The audiences are really amazing and we’ve got a really good following,” Sevänen says. “It almost feels like Finland, but everything is bigger. There’s a big difference between USA and Canada. The USA is exotic and different—the people seem different—but Canada feels like home.”
Mon, Jan 19 (7 pm)
With Dark Tranquility
Starlite Room, $33.50 – $70