“Suomi Finland Perkele” – The secret behind the worldwide success of Finnish metal music

(Collage Finntastic/PHOTOS: Laurali Failla) Tero Tolkki is grown up with Finnish rock and metal music. In an inspiring interview we are talking about the history of Finnish metal music and about his recent projects like his website Metal from Finland and his web shop Finland Forever.
(Collage Finntastic/PHOTOS: Laurali Failla) Tero Tolkki is grown up with Finnish rock and metal music. In an inspiring interview we are talking about the history of Finnish metal music and about his recent projects like his website Metal from Finland and his web shop Finland Forever.

There are so many great metal bands coming from Finland. But why is Finland so popular especially for that music genre? And what are the roots of Finnish metal music? I met Tero Tolkki, music journalist and founder of the websites “Metal from Finland” and “Nordic Metal”. He also runs his “Finland Forever” web shop with product desings related to Finland and metal music. He knows the Finnish metal scene quite well and has also grown up with this kind of music. In an inspiring interview he is talking about his love for metal music, the roots of Finnish metal and how he discovered his love for music in general.

My love for Finnish metal started with the band Tarot – Interview with Finnish metal journalist Tero Tolkki

Finntastic:
Moikka Tero, you are the founder of “Metal from Finland” and „Nordic Metal“. As a Finnish music journalist, specialized in metal music, you know the Finnish metal scene quite well. What was your first contact with metal music?

Tero Tolkki:
I think it all started in 1978, thanks to my elder brother Timo. He is five years older than me. Those days he started collecting albums on vinyl and bought some music equipment with the money he gained from his first summer job. I think the first metal music I listened to was a live album with the title “On stage by a British hard rock band called Rainbow. We were sitting in my brother’s room and listening to this mesmerizing music and guitar playing of Ritchie Blackmore. That’s how it actually all started, but I must admit that when I became older, music doesn’t need to be necessarily metal or hard rock anymore. The music needs to be good. Basically, it doesn’t matter if it’s metal, pop or rock. The only genre I do not like is rap.

Finntastic:
And which was the first Finnish metal band you have ever listened to?

Tero Tolkki:
I would say this must have been Tarot in the Mid-80s when they released their debut album “Spell of Iron”. I remember that I had this boombox which I kept with me, even when I went to school. I was listening to that Tarot music all the time. It was also for the first time, I got acquainted with Marko Hietala, who, as we all know, became extremely popular with Nightwish later on. I would love to say that the first Finnish band I have ever got in touch with was my brother’s band Stratovarius, but they were just small at that time. But since my brother Timo Tolkki became a part of Stratovarius in 1984 and when they released their first album “Fright Night” in 1989, I was basically some kind of married to Stratovarius from that point on until 2005. (smiling)

Tero Tolkki
(PHOTO: (c) Laurali Failla) The first Finnish metal band Tero get in touch with in his youth was the Finnish metal band Tarot.

Finntastic:
And which was your first live metal concert?

Tero Tolkki:
Let me think about it…If I remember it right, it must have been KISS in Helsinki Ice Hall 1988. I remember that my mum drove me and some of my friends to Helsinki Ice Hall. We were quite young boys. And she said: “Enjoy the concert” and later she was there for picking us up. The concert has been amazing. They are still not wearing these masks and it was Eric Carr playing the drums.

Finntastic:
Sounds like you have a really cool mum.

Tero Tolkki:
Yes, I have. She has always supported us with anything that we wanted to do and felt in our hearts. Of course, metal music has been in our family very strong. I cannot remember that my mum has ever said to me, “Put that music down!”, when I was living at home. She knew how much music meant to me. You can be betrayed by people, life can go downhill, but music never betrays you.

And music has always been a life line to my brother too. He has composed and still is creating wonderful and beautiful music. I didn’t have that musical gift, I have always been just a consumer of music. I discovered my purpose later, when the internet came. I love writing about music, creating websites and doing different types of projects. That’s what I have been making for the last 25 years now. It’s so much fun! But metal music, or rather music in general, has been my first love, and it will always be my greatest love. (smiling)

Tero Tolkki - perkele-from-finland T-shirt (c) Laurali Failla
(PHOTO: Laurali Failla) For his web shop “Finland Forever” Tero Tolkki is creating designs related to Finland and Finnish metal music.

Finntastic:
The Finland Forever Shop is another big love of yours! In your shop there are also some shirts with this “Perkele” expression on it. What does the word mean to you? And how is it related to Finnish metal music?

Tero Tolkki:
Yeah, that’s true! I would say this “Perkele thing” is such a Finnish thing. It couldn’t get more Finnish than that. There exists a Finnish saying named “Suomi Finland Perkele. And as far as I know, it was used first by a Finnish metal band called Impaled Nazarene. I think they also released an album with the same name. Finland Forever was actually one of my biggest dreams, because it allows me to create designs that are somehow related to Finland and Finnish metal. With the shop and designs I also want to break the boundaries with the word Perkele.

It’s not only a Finnish swearword. It could mean anything from that to the devil. And what many people also do not know, its roots go back very deep into Kalevala, the Finnish mythology. The Finnish version of the thunder god Thor was called Ukko Ylijumala and one of his nick names was “Ukko the Baltic Perkele”. For that reason, “Perkele” is more an empowering word for me, maybe a bit similar to Finnish Sisu metaphor.


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(VIDEO: Tero Tolkki/Finland Forever)  In this video, Tero Tolkki  is explaning the meaning behind the word “Perkele”.

Finntastic:
Interesting, I didn’t know that. And what can we expect from your website “Metal from Finland”? Is it some kind of dedication to your favourite music?

Tero Tolkki:
Yes, I would say so. It already started ten years ago, but I have actually re-released it in Mid-April 2021. The site has been extremely popular. We had covered nearly the entire world except Africa. But then there came a period when there wasn’t so much new metal music from Finland anymore. Basically, we had such big bands as Nightwish, Children of Bodom, Amorphis or Korpiklaani, but you need more than that to run a website. That’s why I closed it back in the days.

But now, time has changed again. Finland now produces so many new metal bands. That’s why I was reaching out to contact metal musicians and bands again in order to introduce them to my “Metal from Finland website”. Most of them already know about it. And they were all very excited that the website will be re-released and wanted to share their latest information with me. Now, I have so much good content for my “Metal from Finland” website. Maybe you like to check it out!

Metal from Finland
(Screenshot: Finntastic) On Tero Tolkki’s website “Metal from Finland” people will found interesting articles and news about Finnish metal music.

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(VIDEO: Tero Tolkki/Metal From Finland)  Nowadays Finland is called as “land of heavy metal”. So for Tero Tolkki it was the perfect time to make a relaunch of the website “Metal from Finland.

Finntastic:
And what can we expect from your website “Nordic Metal”?

Tero Tolkki:
The website “Nordic Metal” is another child of mine. I wanted to expand my horizon, after taking a break with the “Metal from Finland” website. It should be some kind of “Metal from Finland”, but on a Scandinavian level. I have always loved metal bands from Sweden, Norway and Denmark, and we included metal from Iceland as well. Many of the Nordic countries have developed an incredibly number of good metal bands. The Finnish musicians, they took part in the website, giving me information. And I was hoping that the same would work on a Scandinavian level. Unfortunately, somehow “Nordic Metal” was not understood as it was. I mean, the website is really good, and I have no intention of shutting it down. We have a quite good database of bands there, but I will now focus again on “Metal from Finland” and the “Finland Forever”.

Finntastic:
What’s your favourite metal genre or metal band from Finland? And what do you like about metal music in general?

Tero Tolkki:
The genre thing is actually a topic I try to avoid. It’s always restricting, and you are giving up the possibility of discovering something new and great. However, when I hear a good power metal or melodic metal band, there is always something magical going on. I would say 80 per cent of the music I listen to is Finnish metal. But there is one band, and I do have to apologize to all the Finnish bands, that has completely touched my heart, and this is a Swedish band called Amon Amarth.

Two years ago, I had the chance to see them live for the first time at Helsinki Ice Hall. The support acts such as Hypocrisy and Arch Enemy were great. But I cannot explain the emotions that ran through me when Amon Amarth entered the stage. My favourite person of the band is Johann Hegg, the vocalist. He still looks like a reincarnation of a viking. I have been following him a lot through social media. On his Instagram Channel, which he runs together with his wife, he is talking about nature, mindfulness and about how yoga could help you to relax. There you see a completely different side of him, in contrast to this strong viking person on stage and his energetic growls. I like that. And I must say that Germany is one of the biggest countries of metal for me, besides Finland!

Nordic Metal Net
(Screenshot: Finntastic) The website “Nordic Metal” is a band database, where metal fans can check out many different metal bands from the Scandinavian countries, including Finland.

Finntastic:
Really? I didn’t know that we have so many metal bands in Germany too.

Tero Tolkki:
There are many good metal bands from Germany such as Kreator, Rage or Halloween. I saw Halloween live in 1988, at this Finnish festival called “Giants of Rock”, when they released their album “Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1”. It was the Line-Up when their drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg was still alive. I followed the band until now throughout their whole career. When Kai Hansen and Michael Kiske left, everyone thought this would be the end of the band. But they continued with a new vocalist and guitar player and stayed very successful. It is a bit similar to Stratovarius.

Everyone thought it would be the end when my brother Timo left the band in 2008 because he has written 98 per cent of all the songs. But against all odds they continued and have been quite popular, thanks to their new guitar player, Matias Kupiainen. He is not only an amazing guitar player, but also an exceptional composer, even though his music is more leading into progressive metal. The best part was the band did not even try to make the same music as Timo did. The “Polaris” album was the first one they released after my brother left the band. And I would say that, since then, they have released several good albums. This always proves: Nobody is irreplaceable.

Finntastic:
That’s true! What interview with a Finnish metal band or musician in the past was a highlight in your career and has influenced you also as a metal journalist?

Tero Tolkki:
I must say that was when I interviewed Marko Hietala at the Tuska Festival in 2011. He was playing there with Tarot. I knew Marko already, but talking to him is always such a pleasure. I mean, he is a funny person with a warm heart, always considered as such a professional. To me doing this particular interview was also very special because it was Tarot and as I just said, as a little boy I was walking with the boombox on my shoulders listing to their first album from a cassette. Now I had the chance to interview one of the band members of Tarot, and I was sitting next to Marko Hietala at a trailer in the backstage area of Tuska Festival. It was wonderful! I think that was the most special one I have done.

Finntastic:
So it was also a shock for you when you heard, that Marko left Nightwish ?

Tero Tolkki:
I do not know what really happened, but I think he just got tired of that kind of music business. The music industry has turned all upside down in the last years. Digital platforms like Spotify or YouTube are doing great, but the musicians are not paid appropriately. And because of that pandemic, there are many musicians struggling out there. And at the same time, music labels gain a lot of money with the digital platforms. I don’t really understand. But I think, when it comes to money, greed is always present.

I hope there will be a new balance in the future. And I think it has also been one reason, why many famous bands quit, also they have been extremely popular. But naturally saying to quit and then making a reunion is sometimes also some kind of a marketing strategy. But I think that when a band quits, they should do it like Sentenced did. They made their last album, called it “The Funeral” album and said “We are done”. I think it’s not honest to make any kind of reunion years later and in the case of Sentenced this also wouldn’t work out, because Miika Tenkula, the main songwriter and guitar player, has already passed away many years ago.


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(VIDEO: Tero Tolkki) Tero Tolkki interviewt Marko Hietala (former Nightwish  bass player and singer) 2011 at Tuska Festival in Helsinki, when Marko played there with his band Tarot.

Finntastic:
You have already interviewed a large number of metal bands from the North. Is there any metal band or musician in the metal scene of Finland or Scandinavia you haven’t interviewed yet, but you would love to interview?

Tero Tolkki:
If I could make a wish, I would love to interview Tuomas Holopainen from Nightwish. He is perhaps one of the most interesting interview partners I could have. I would love to know what is going on in his creative mind. In my opinion, he is a brilliant composer, even if I am not the biggest fan of their latest album “Human.:II:Nature”. But he has done great music in the past. I still find myself listening to albums like “Century Child” and “Once”. So yeah, Tuomas Holopainen would be the one I would love to interview!

Finntastic:
How would you explain the worldwide success of Finnish metal music?

Tero Tolkki:
I have asked that myself to many metal musicians from Finland, and most of them said it’s because Finland is how it is. We have our seasons, which are quite harsh, especially the winter time. We have much darkness and coldness in winter and that gives Finnish musicians time to practise and to create good music. And that’s also the reason why there is so much melancholic stuff coming from Finland. It’s quite difficult to be joyful when you have, for example only four hours of daylight in winter. You have to do something to light up your mind, and so you take an instrument and start playing.

Moreover, the career as a musician is highly respected in our country. What is really interesting, there has been a huge trend in South America for Finnish metal bands in the past. I think the reason why Finland has become so popular worldwide is because we Finns have found some perfect link between the music and how Finland is as a country. When you have such amazing music in combination with the beauty of the sceneries, I think it’s just a perfect combination.

Finntastic:
What are the roots of the Finnish metal scene? Are there bands who could be seen as some kind of pioneer of Finnish metal music? And why would you say the 80s were a very important decade in the history of Finnish metal?

Tero Tolkki:
I would say the 80s are the birth years of Finnish metal music. The first Finnish metal band was, in my opinion, a band called Sargofagus. Then there were bands such as Prestige, Stone and Airdash…then came Tarot and a bit later my brother’s band Stratovarius. Speed and trash metal were extremely popular at that time. But the biggest break-through for metal music were the 90s when bands like Nightwish, Sonata Arctica and Amorphis got started.

Amorphis is one of those bands which is still very popular. And their latest album “Queen of time” is amazing. I love that they are always creating something new. The lyrics are very strong and mostly inspired by the Kalevala. Finally, Finnish metal history itself is a lot depending on who you are asking. I can only relate to my own experiences. But I think the pioneers of Finnish metal were these bands I mentioned. Of course, there have been many more.

Finntastic:
Would you say the Finnish metal scene and the audience also changed, compared to the 80s?

Tero Tolkki:
I think back in the 80s when we were teenagers, our consumption of music was different. Nowadays it’s so easy to check new bands and find new music. There is YouTube and all the other digital platforms. But back in the days, it was not mainly about liking it or not. When you got something new, you listened to it. I think nowadays lots of bands don’t get that chance because people can pass them so easily.

All you need to do is listen to the wrong song and you think “Oh no, this bands sucks”. And then there is such an overflow of information, the same is with music. You have to find out for yourself what kind of music you like to hear. And that’s where we want to contribute with our website “Metal from Finland”. We’re not gonna have any band database, but we will have a lot of news of the Finnish metal scene, album reviews, and we will tag the genres, so people can find their music and maybe discover something new.

Kaunis Kuolematon
(PHOTO: Mari Salmenhaara) the Finnish metal band Kaunis Kuolematon from Hamina released their new album “Syttyköön Toinen Aurinko” in November 2020.

Finntastic:
How would you describe the Finnish metal scene today? Which metal genre or metal bands are the most popular right now?

Tero Tolkki:
Ten years ago, there were lots of bands, that were imitating certain types of genres, for instance, that Children of Bodom type of metal with fast paced, good guitar solos. Nowadays I see that Melodic Metal and especially Melodic Death Metal is extremely popular in Finland. I think it’s also so popular because, it’s a genre where you can include everything. You don’t need to have a growling vocalist. You need melodic elements. You need to have the harshness because you can’t be called death metal if you don’t. But it can still be beautiful.

We have incredibly good Melodic Death metal bands, but in my opinion, Insomnium has perfected this genre. Moreover, there is a really good band called Kaunis Kuolematon, who released their new album “Syttyköön Toinen Aurinko” at the end of last year. They are not as popular as Insomnium right now, but I think there is even much more melodic death metal in their songs than in the music of Insomnium. It’s crazy.

Finntastic:
My Finland story started with HIM, who definitely contributed to the worldwide success of Finnish metal. Metalheads often say „Love Metal“ is not real metal. Would you agree? And do you have an idea why the band split off in 2017 although they said month before they were working on a new album?

Tero Tolkki:
There are lots of genres you can put music in. But Love Metal and the heartagram of HIM as well was mostly a marketing thing. And we all should remember that the first album of HIM is actually very far from easy listening. It’s a pretty rough album. I don’t really know what happened with the band when they informed their fans that they decided to quit. But I think it doesn’t come as a surprise. It was also amazing what popularity they had in the USA. No other Finnish band has ever just come even close. But finally, they were not able to give their music something new and exciting.

Ville also mentioned that in one of the last band interviews. I think they came to the point, where they had become so successful, that it disturbed their creational process. At that point you are not creating new music, you are starting to think, what the record label and the fans expect to hear. Personally, I think it was a good decision to quit at that point. And after all, you still have the music. It will last forever. Listen to your favourite HIM song when you are sad, and you will feel better. That is the power of music. But honestly, I would really like to know why Ville Valo has decided to sing now as “Ville Valo and Agents”, which is totally not metal. But I think his voice works very well in that kind of music.

Digitall Versatile Doom HIM
(PHOTO: Finntastic) My Finland blog started with Ville Valo and Love Metal from Finland. HIM became popular in Europa but also in the Unites States as one of the first Finnish metal bands. Furthermore, their success contributed to the success of rock and metal music from Finland. 

Finntastic:
How did you experience the corona crises? And how would you say Corona has affected the Finnish metal scene in general?

Tero Tolkki:
I guess, the last couple of months have been challenging for everyone. Personally, I am more like an introvert and working from home has been quite efficient for me. I planned to go to Tuska Festival in 2020 in order to see my favourite band, Amon Amarth and FaIth No More. But then everything has been cancelled due to Corona. It’s extremely sad to see what Covid has done to the music industry and the whole area of art worldwide. I just heard in the news that people of the Finnish music industry and many Finnish musicians are suffering from depression due to Corona. 

can only hope that all these people will manage it through this time and that we can find a way back into normal soon. The vaccination has started all over the world, but for instance in Finland, we are not doing great with that. They calculated, if they vaccinate people with this pace, we will reach that herd immunity of 70 percent of the population at the end of September. We are all hoping because the last summer was already cancelled that this summer would be better. But I think we are not going to have the chance to visit any concert this year. But I know that, when this damn situation is over, hopefully in summer 2022, this will be the biggest party ever.

Finntastic:
What about financial help for artists? Is there any support by the government for musicians in the Corona crisis?

Tero Tolkki:
Yeah, there are some Corona support programs for musicians and artists because the Finnish social system is a very functional one. But many artists and people who work in that field are freelancers. They receive certain benefits, but it’s not much, and the situation is really sad and difficult. I have interviewed many Finnish bands and musicians in the last month and many of them said: “What else is there?” you know…

This shows, how hard the situation is for them. And as I just mentioned, they do not gain much profit from all these streaming platforms and online business, except maybe really famous bands. In general, these incomes due to the digital platforms will not really compensating the whole income loss because of the Corona crisis at all.

Finntastic:
How will the Finnish metal scene change in the future? Is there a development you can see?

Tero Tolkki:
I just hope that Finnish metal bands are not going to start making happy music when the pandemic is over…(laughing) But seriously, I don’t see any big changes. We have a huge number of different types of metal bands right now. If you take, for instance, Anton Kabanen from Beast in Black. He is a big fan of a music genre called italo disco and integrates parts of this kind of electronic music in his songs. When you listen to Beast in Black songs, you can hear it.

Music always develops, and so does the Finnish metal scene in general. I think melodic death metal will continue to be popular in the near future. Unfortunately, music is not released in physical format anymore as it was 15 years ago. I personally miss the days of the old vinyls. But it’s nice that there are so many music labels in Finland now, focusing a lot on releasing the music of smaller bands and music of high quality. And I am quite close with all of them, so I got all the latest information of the Finnish metal scene. And with my website “Metal from Finland” I will do my best to share this information with all the Finnish metal loving people around the world.

Finntastic:
And finally, do you have some book or film tips for Finnish metal for us?

Tero Tolkki:
Yeah, there is this book “Rotting Ways To Misery: History Of Finnish Death Metal” about the history of Finnish death metal scene of the mid 80s and the early 90s. And then, of course, there is this documentary called “A Heavy Metal Civilization”. I had the privilege to see the documentary in advance because the two girls who made this great film asked me to give them feedback to their documentary, before it would be released in public. It was a pleasure for me to contribute a bit to the film. They did a really good job. I don’t think there are so many books about metal from Finland in general published right now, but I would suggest books about Finnish metal bands and musicians.

There is one book, I absolutely have to read, and this is the book “Chaos, Control & Guitar” about the former Children of Bodom front man Alexi Laiho. It was such a tragedy what happened to him. Nobody should die at the age of 41. It was also a pity because he was such an incredibly talented guitar player. I believe that in his own way, he stayed true to himself till the very end. In fact you couldn’t live such a rock’n’roll life he did, you know, if you want to be a popular musician or band today. Many metal bands and musicians, I interviewed, said, if you want to be popular, you have to take care of yourself, so that there will be no cancellation of concerts, because that’s the main income you have, besides the merchandise stuff. Most of all, you want to make a good live show and music for your true fans.

Finntastic:
Thanks for the great interview and the insight into the history of Finnish metal. I wish you good luck with your website “Metal from Finland”, and I am already curious to discover new Finnish metal bands. I will also check out your Finland designs at “Finland Forever”!

Tero Tolkki:
Thanks a lot too for the interview. Great to hear that so many of your readers are interested in Finnish metal. It was a pleasure to talk to you too! Let’s stay in contact and keep sharing news of the Finnish metal scene!


About Tero Tolkki

Metal from Finland Youtube Channel
(Screenshot: Finntastic) Tero Tolkki’s website “Metal from Finland” provides intervies, CD reviews and lates news about Finnish metal music.

Tero Tolkki is a music journalist from Klaukkala, Southern Finland, specialized in metal music and the younger brother of Timo Tolkki, the former songwriter and guitarist of Stratovarius . Over the years Tero Tolkki has interviewed a large number of rising metal bands, but also famous metal bands from Finland and Scandinavia. There is hardly any metal band of the North left, he has not met in person and almost any metal concert or festival he has not attended.

On his Website „Metal from Finland “, which he relaunched in Mid-April 2021, metal fans from all over the world will find many interesting band interviews, CD reviews and also the latest news about the Finnish metal scene. Moreover, his Website “Nordic Metal Net” is an amazing band database of the Northern metal scene and perfect to check out metal music from Northern Europe. Tero Tolkki is also one of the moderators of the Facebook-Group “Metal from Finland”

And he has some nice online shop related to Finland called “Finland Forever”, where you can buy a lot of cool merchandises like shirts, caps, coffee mugs and other stuff related to Finland and metal music. 

Metal from Finland Facebook Group
(Screenshot: Finntastic) The Facebook Group “Finnish Metal” is one of the best places for metal fans in Facebook to talk about Finnish metal.

More articles about Finnish metal on Finntastic


Film about Finnish metal music

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