Helldone Festival in Helsinki, Finland~Review and Photos

Over New Year’s Eve 2012, I was given a rare opportunity with the support of the Official HIM Street Team to go to Helsinki, Finland with photo passes to cover my all time favorite band, HIM along with support acts for a four day festival in the land of ice and snow.

After what seemed to be a long, excruciating two year break, HIM returned to the stage where they started their career nearly 20 years ago in their hometown of Helsinki, Finland. The Helldone Festival has become somewhat of a tradition in the world of HIM with fans coming from as far as New Zealand to revel in all things HIM for four nights over New Year’s Eve at Helsinki’s legendary venue, Tavastia Klubbi.

Before the festivities kicked off, HIM played a smaller, more local venue in the city of Turku as an eleventh hour added show intended to be a warm up for the band’s upcoming tour de force in Helsinki. By some accounts, the Turku gig was the best of the lot.

It is no secret by now that the 2012 installment of Helldone started out a bit rough, with a self admitted nervous Ville Valo struggling on stage during the first and second nights of the festival. Set lists that started with twenty songs in Turku dwindled down as the nights wore on with everyone comparing notes as to which songs were cut and what tracks remained. After such a long break and mounting expectations from fans and critics alike, it’s no wonder Valo got a little rattled and handled it the way most rock stars do.

By the third night, the tech crew erected plexiglass around Gas’ drum kit, affectionately known as The Gas Chamber. It was clear from the first two shows that the drums were bleeding into Valo’s microphone making it very hard to hear himself sing. Missing timing and straining to sing louder over what he could barely hear was difficult to watch and many fans were vocal in their disappointment. The problem seemed corrected when the chamber went up with the third and fourth shows being what fans expected. Even though there was much talk of these gigs deciding the future of the band, in the end HIM did not disappoint and it became obvious to acknowledge that the band and the man are only human.

The New Year’s Eve show was what everyone had been waiting for. Valo, HIM and the goodwill of patient, dedicated fans prevailed and this fan and reviewer had a bit of a sentimental moment herself during their epic ten minute track, Sleepwalking Past Hope.

With the new album Tears On Tape tentatively dropping in the Spring, fans will have something fresh to feast on while they come down off of their Helldone high. But in the meantime, there are plenty of bands that played at Helldone 2012 that are worthy of further exploration such as Face Of God and Jericho Fuzz. Both bands I thoroughly enjoyed as great live bands. Each with a totally different vibe, but engaging and interesting. Long time Helldone support, The Skreppers who played all four nights were so much fun to watch, I felt like I was at a New York punk show. You can’t really go wrong with guys wearing high heels and a rubenesque burlesque show with flair and attitude. It was great to get my old school hardcore metal on with Final Assault while everyone was looking around at each other like HIM had lost their minds booking them, I found myself happily headbanging along. Their stage presence reminded me of home and the metal showcases I’ve come to frequent. Sleep Of Monsters was the last support band on New Year’s Eve and had so many members of the band that there was very little room on stage to move with a keyboardist, a drummer (former HIM drummer Patka Rantala), three guitarists, a lead vocalist and three backing vocalists. They had an interesting sound and concept and somehow I couldn’t help think that it felt very Finnish and maybe I just wasn’t getting it….but they were definitely intriguing. Their music was tight and the overall vibe of the band was very epic on some deep level I’ll have to investigate in the future.

Not to be forgotten amidst all the bands and their glory was the Helsinki Vampire Club that went on downstairs at Semifinal for three of the four nights with DJ Jyrki 69 of the Helsinki rock band The 69 Eyes spinning some of the best rock and roll and dance music I’ve ever heard for three consecutive nights. Fist pumping concert goers got their party on in between sets and finished out each night sweating out their adrenaline on the dance floor. A good time was had by all and international friendships were formed.

In the eyes of the most dedicated HIM fans, Helldone was a great success of bands getting together to make music during a celebratory time of the year. Pure rock and roll with plenty of the by-product of that scene firmly intact. It’s a tradition that never intended to be one and only HIM knows the future of Helldone. I would definitely attend Helldone again and I look forward to seeing how it evolves or if its creators continue the festival at all after this past year’s mixed reception. The fans, as fickle as they can be, will undoubtedly be there cheering them on with new fans being made every day the moment they get infected with the inexplicable and beautiful mystery that is HIM.

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ALL photos taken from Helldone including HIM and support acts are housed in the PHOTO GALLERY of HeartagramTeams.com. JOIN to promote and support HIM!
Review and Photos by Alex Savage
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