HEAVY METAL PERSE – Pioneers of True Finnish Heavy Metal

On May 20, 2006, when the TV-zombies are injected with another tepid dose of Eurovision song contest bullshit, all righteous rockers gather under the ancient arches of Pub Rockstar’s (Tallinn, Tatari 7) in order to train their neck muscles for the summer highlight Hard Rock Laager 2006 metalfest. The kick-off party is headlined by the pioneers of true Finnish heavy metal with a memorable title Heavy Metal Perse. Mart Kalvet managed to extract some information regarding the band in the following interview with singer/guitarist Matias Palm.

Most of the news on your site have to do with HMP T-shirts. Do you sell more merch than you do your music? Have you met anyone who wears a HMP T-shirt just because of the cool band name? You also seem to have run out of a batch of shirts recently. Does that mean none will be available at the gig in Tallinn (please say no!)?

Hahah, no, our record sales are still way bigger compared to the T-shirts. We just order new shirts in relatively small batches and tend to inform people when there's something new to order. I am sure that there's people out there who just want the shirt just because of the words "Heavy Metal Perse" on it, but usually those who ordered the shirt, also wanted the record. Now we made some new shirts again at the beginning of the year and a few of them will definitely be brought to Tallinn too.

You claim – in a clever statement – to be the first true heavy metal band to sing entirely in Finnish. Who are the competitors to the throne – I mean, there must have been some pretty heavy Finnish groups in the past that used Finnish language, as well as some that have played heavy metal mostly in English but with some exceptions? Are there any successors (besides the rather amusing Teräsbetoni)?

Well, when we started out we actually were the only band playing this classic heavy metal (or true metal, whatever) with lyrics in Finnish. There were of course some heavy groups doing stuff in Finnish, like Timo Rautiainen & Trio Niskalaukaus or Mokoma or then some death or black metal bands but not one who did typical heavy/true metal and that was our aim – to take influences from bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest or Helloween, which hadn't certainly been done in Finnish before. Although Teräsbetoni came three years later than us, they were the first ones to brought the thing into a real success, I mean to the cognition of the media and everyone. Then there's one relatively new group called Kivimetsän Druidi and
they're playing some sort of fantasy metal with growling and female vocals combined. All in all there are just few bands in Finland who play typical heavy metal, I think. Then again those who do it in Finnish are even more rare.

You are listed as a member of four bands. Do you really have enough time for all of them? Please prioritize them.

Well, only three of my bands are doing gigs and keeping in mind that we only get a few gigs per year for each band, I definitely still have time for them all. Prioritizing isn't even necessary as I have a different job in every band. For example, I only write songs for HMP and it's the only band in which I play guitar too (excluding Kirwes which is a sort of a project anyway). Now Guardians Of Mankind being only a tribute band doesn't really demand that much work. Merging Flare is another band for which I sing and it's always been an important one for me as we've had it for several years already, just like HMP too.

Kasperi Heikkinen (Guardians Of Mankind) recently replaced Henjo Richter of Gamma Ray on guitar for a couple of shows, thus hopefully bringing more attenion to the rest of the Finnish heavy metal scene. Hypothetically, who would be the one person whom you would like to replace in a similar situation?

Heheh, well, since I'm a singer in a Gamma Ray tribute band, then what could be more rewarding than singing for Gamma Ray themselves ;). I don't know, I wouldn't mind playing a show with Running Wild either, hahah!

I can’t get around the band name issue... Why? How come? Who thought it up? Has the band met with any censorship attacks over the supposedly inappropriate and media-hostile name or do the Finns mostly take it as a joke?

Well, we needed a name and this was the best one we could think of. Our drummer Heikki was the one to come up with it and even I was against in the beginning but later I realized it was the one we needed, hahah! The writing form of the name leaves a lot to guesswork. I mean, you can understand it in different ways if you like. We haven't really run into any hostility regarding our band name, more like I think we're more known for the sake of it. I believe it's easy to take it as a joke but you have to see behind the name and through the whole concept of HMP. Besides, there's a shitload of bands in the world with names that don't make any sense.

You may not be aware that Finnish language sounds a bit funny to Estonians (as well as the Estonian language does to Finns, if reviews of Metsatöll albums are any indication). Yet even when stripped of these underlying connotations, your lyrics still seem a bit tongue-in-cheekish. Looking at some of the sleeve illustrations of your releases (especially “...Ja Ylitse Vihaisen Meren”) I can’t begin to imagine that you would actually tell me that you guys are dead serious when playing songs about the stuff of classical fantasy like magic swords and dwarven kings? Have any of you ever been involved in the fantasy roleplaying circles?

Hahaha, believe it or not, none of us is involved with any roleplaying stuff, or never was. The way I see it, is that by putting our stories into this fantasy world, we can express them in a much more interesting (or funny) way. And when I say “funny”, it doesn't necessarily have to mean some ridiculous humour stuff – trying to make people laugh on purpose.

But of course we have some humour in our music too. I mean, we're not one of those bands who wanna sing about the misery of the everyday life. There are many bands out there who put lots of humour into their music without being any stupid joke band. Helloween is one of them. But for some Finns it seems to be impossible to deal with our lyrics as we say the same stuff in Finnish. And that's what makes it sound so funny to some people.

The Finnish language isn't the easiest one when doing lyrics and I think that's another nice thing. We have to put more work to the lyrics to make them sound like ours. We want to keep that certain "tongue-in-cheek" spirit in our lyrics too, 'cause otherwise we'd easily end up being a cheesy Finnish version of Manowar or Rhapsody kind of stuff – lyrically. Many of our lyrics actually have a deeper meaning behind them when you forget that they happen in this fantasy world of ours. To me it's also important that you get into a nice mood by listening to our lyrics.

When can we expect a full-length album by HMP?

Hopefully soon, as we're gonna start recordings during this summer. We just still have lots of arrangement work with the songs to be done so it's not easy to estimate when the album will be out but I'm hoping we're done with the recordings by the autumn.

Both of the Finnish bands playing in Tallinn on May 20th come from Kajaani. The only thing I know about Kajaani is that one of my childhood favourites Euthanasia (with their enthralling UG-hardcore release “Ämpäri Päässä Pyörän Kumia Pumppaa”) hailed from there. Can you introuduce us to the Kajaani rock scene? What other well-known bands and/or musicians claim it their birthplace?

Now I must admit that there are not too many bands in Kajaani - atleast not well known. The scene there is very small and getting gigs has been a struggle. Only during the past couple of years it has started to get better. Now you can actually see some metal gigs in Kajaani too. Beside us and The Carnival, our own Merging Flare comes from Kajaani too and then there's Enormity who play some sort of death/thrash stuff and Black Kamel whose former singer is now the singer for a band called Misery Inc. Kasperi Heikkinen you already mentioned and he's the mastermind of Merging
Flare and he's also a member of Elenium – a progressive death metal band from the capital city region.

There are rumours about that you’re bringing along 30 Kajaani metalheads, have them blow up a viking ship and hold a realistic swordbattle as part of your show in Tallinn... Jokes aside, heavy metal is about more than just the music. What can we expect from your performance other than professional musicianship?

Well, at least I always try to have fun on stage and to get the audience have fun with us. It's not like we're trying to be the finest musicians of the metal world, but more like putting on an entertaining gig and getting the audience into a good mood. We haven't really done too many gigs yet but so far the reactions from the people have always been really good.

The Estonian metal scene is struggling to break through to the rest of the world and has quite understandably chosen to do so via Scandinavia, the obvious starting platform being Finland. Are you aware of the existence of our scene at all? Have you heard any Estonian bands? Your impressions?

I'm aware that there's a rising scene out there but to be honest, I haven't really heard many of the bands. I know some by their name and Metsatöll – who seem to be quite known in Finland – I heard already many years ago. Basically, it seems that most of the stuff from there is from genres I don't follow anyways so that's the biggest reason I'm not too familiar with the bands either.