The fourth edition of the Helsinki Death Fest was arranged for the end of August. The organizers of the fest have succeeded in creating such an amazing underground fest in the early years. Therefore the fest of this year had got more interest and attention in the catacombs of the underground as the whole day-day event was totally sold out. The line-up consisted of bands from different countries such as Sadism from Chile, Funebrarum from The States. Of course, the domestic bands played a magnificent role in the event. DeathChain, having been on hiatus for years, returned with pure revenge and Demilich returned to the early days of the ’90s death metal. Here we go, here is a brief article of the fest.
Medicine Noose was an exceptional and kooky one in the line-up; the three-piece was more into the sludge doom metal approach than the brutal sounding death metal. Medicine Noose’s slow and deep sludge doom was basically a good way of welcoming the audience to the fest. Even though sludge elements were more than prominent, however, death metal influences popped up in the riff and sounds. Medicine Moose sounded slower and doomier than their country mates Mantar.
Disgusted Geist hailing from California hit the stage after Medicine Moose. It was kind of weird to see these foreigner bands started playing so early, even though the audience hasn’t yet arrived at the venue. The group offered a 30 minute set of doom/death metal at its finest. The growler seemed to be more active with the mic stand whereas other guys mostly stood by focusing on the playing. To be honest the whole group looked more a bunch of hipsters or loggers with short shorts, long beards, and a cap. This should be a doom/death metal, not any hipster party. Despite the dress code thing, the stuff of Disgusted Geist sounded truly splendid and doomy. Their debut album titled Reign of Enthrallment is a fine slap of the death/doom metal.
Butcher ABC hailing from Japan offered a more deadly goregrind sounding chaos. The band performed as a three-piece, but they have been a four-piece in the past. The bass player had the gas mask, to which a microphone had been fastened. That microphone in the gasmask has become a more trademark for Butcher ABC. Of course, he had some kind of bloody apron hanging in the front. The songs of Butcher ABC were raw, simple, and primitive. The old Carcass/Carnage influences can be pointed out in their live sound, which ain’t bad! As a matter of fact, they did the old Carnage tune “Crimes Against Humanity,” if not I’m not mistaken. The drummer deserved all the kudos because of his intense playing and tempo the entire time.
Phrenelith hailing from Denmark got onstage next. The four-piece’s death metal was based on both the groove and extreme fast riffs. The band didn’t arrange any extra show, just focusing on playing and headbanging. The material sounded brutal and technical.
The long deathrash giants DeathChain has spent several years on hiatus. Therefore returning to the stage definitely happened in the right place and a correct underground festival. A couple of members of DeathChain have been busy with Jess And The Ancient Ones during the past few years. The five-piece did a raw, uncompromising, and sadistic 60-minute set. The performance looked like the beast would have been released from a cage after years. The playing and performance was genuinely intensive and relentless. DeathChain hammered down each song with the ravenous and barbaric playing and performance. The reaction in the audience was quite insane, the brutal, and violent pits broke out several times.
The frontman of Funebrarum Daryl Khan is a real underground veteran and known for a dedicated passion for the old school Finnish death metal of the late ’80s and early ’90s. Funebrarum has drawn the influences from that era of the old school Finnish death metal. As for the gig, the five-piece didn’t slow or start sounding sloppy on the stage, just offering the real deadly, and above all, brutal set. Daryl Khan turned out to be a real reckless frontman, moving all around the tiny stage and kept viciously banging his head. The band sounded tight and brutal as expected. The current line-up had adopted the real tight sounding playing, as there was no weak part and moment in the set. Killer !!!
The next one was the Italian extreme death metal squad called Ekpyrosis. The debut album called Asphyxiating Devotion saw the light of day back in 2017 and is a real barbaric and raw outing. A must, to be obtained. Unfortunately, their playing time was early in the afternoon and the venue was still half empty. The audience missed a damn good live band. The Italian death patrol didn’t mind and did a really powerful and raw set. The four-piece appeared to have rehearsed a lot as the playing and the performance tight as hell.
Cumbeast offered a more humorist aspect at the fest. The singer’s bizarre sense of humor brought the lighter side of the extreme death metal. The three-piece Cumbeast’s fast and brutal grinding death metal fitted well with funny song titles such as “Cocktopus”, “Autobahn Brutality” etc. The singer’s funny shoes with the blazing neon lights proved the band doesn’t take themselves that seriously.
Cardiac Arrest was another US death metal at the fest. The band is a long-time death metal veteran as it started out in the late ’90s. The frontman Adam Scott has guided the band through these years by releasing several albums on underground labels. Cardiac Arrest’s more old school sounding death metal was catchy and vicious. Cardiac Arrest pays the tribute to the old school death metal bands in their sounds and songs. As for the setlist, it consisted of songs picked up from various albums such as “No Escape”, “Immoral and Absurd” and “Carnage Your Fate”. Getting albums of Cardiac Arrest could be a little bit hard as all of them have come out on underground labels. Old school death metal worshippers need to check out them.
Sadism brought the South American death metal vibe to the Helsinki Death Fest. The band has been around for about 30 years and released in all, eight albums. Getting a hold of them is quite challenging as labels seem not to have a proper distributor. But getting Sadism to Helsinki Death Fest was a real act of culture. The Chilean death metal veteran offered a mix of the old school metal meets the new school approach. The older material had more the South American primitive approach in the sounds. Whereas the newer material sounded more straight forward and razor-sharp. The whole band sounded tight, and above all, the singer’s voice was in a vicious mood and sounded perfectly deadly. Their performance had the South American metal spirit and passion.
Gorephilia went through a tragic period when the singer took his own life at the end of the last year. As a result, Gorephilia went on hiatus for some time. Obviously, the members started thinking of returning to the stage when having a great opportunity of performing at the Helsinki Death Fest. The whole space was packed when the opening riff roared out of speakers. The guitarist had taken over the vocalist role. He did a fantastic job under pressure and still in a singer’s place. In general, Gorephilia sounded extremely brutal, barbaric, and sadistic. The band must have spent some time in their rehearsal chamber to find a balance in the playing and being at the stage. Even though each band and an audience member had the emotional feelings, Gorephilia proved that they can carry the torch with the proud in the future.
UnderGang hailing from Denmark – Wow, this band came out of blue! The Danish death mongers managed to surprise with the quality old school death metal approach. The vocals were extremely deep growling reminding slightly of these US gore death metal in the early ’90s. The band seems to have gigged more or less a lot, as the performing was well coordinated and tight. Frankly, UnderGang was a real unexpected, and pleasant surprise and discovery indeed. This band should be checked out.
Demilich has been on the old school death metal trip since 1990. The band released a debut album back in NESPITHE 1993 and some so-called “newer” songs on a few compilation albums. Anyway, Demilich’s material still sounds fresh and to be honest timeless when compared to these several bands of nowadays, relying on the old school approach. Demilich’s old school death metal sounded splendid and crushing for sure. Obviously, because of complex song structure and different tone levels, the band had to tune guitars between every song. The Finnish death metal veteran went through the whole album, and the audience was pleased. It was funny to hear the crowd yelling at the singer “You are God – you are Satan! ” Confusing, isn’t it ?!
The fourth Helsinki Death Fest proved death metal is alive and well in the underground. It is amazing how the style of the death metal approach has remained basically the same. Even though death metal has gone up and down hills, the basic elements are still there like over 30 years when Autopsy, Morbid Angel were releasing the first tapes. Most of the crowd were not born, when for example “Thy Kingdom Come” came out. It is however the relief to see Death Metal has never vanished.