Okay, according to some sources, Finland is the promised land of Heavy Metal. Finland is also the home of Santa Claus (yes, it's official!). Now, if you were to combine these two facts, what could you come up with? Perhaps Christmas songs played in a metallic style, sung by some of the finest metal vocalists in the country? That's roughly the idea of "Raskasta Joulua" ("Heavy Christmas") project, which was celebrating it's fifth anniversary in December 2009. It all started in 2004 when guitarist Erkka Korhonen assembled the cast of the first album (titled "Raskasta Joulua") to spend some of their summer days recording Christmas songs. Closer to the main event, he put together a touring band and took the project on the road. First year it was three concerts, but after that the show has gone from strength to strength, culminating in the mostly sold out tour of 2009. Not to mention the second album "Raskaampaa Joulua" (="Heavier Christmas"), released in 2006.

On a cold winter's night (16 December 2009, -15 celsius degrees or thereabouts) the tour rolled into Turku, and the town welcomed them with open arms. Or vallets, as the tickets were selling like crazy. The pre-sale figures were bigger than the whole turnout last year, and I wouldn't be surprised if the gig was eventually sold out. The success of the show became freezingly obvious at the door of the venue, where we had to queue to get in.

I've seen a few well-attended gigs at Klubi, but this might have been the most packed one. Mira hasn't usually had any trouble to get to the first row with her camera, but this time she didn't even feel like trying to go closer, so we decided to stay in the slightly less crowded part of the room. The athmosphere of the gig felt slightly different to normal rock shows, perhaps most of the people there were hoping to find a bit of Christmas Spirit instead of looking forward to a night of headbanging?

The "Raskasta Joulua" singer line-up in Turku consisted of Marco Hietala (Nightwish, Tarot, Northern Kings), Tommi Salmela (Tarot) and JP Leppäluoto (Charon, Northern Kings). The lead vocal parts were divided quite equally to the three singers, with Leppäluoto concetrating on taking care of the songs that required lower register. The band played a lot of solos and one instrumental song, which came as a bit of a surpise as I thought the night would have been dominated by the vocalists. I guess they needed a break... credit where credit's due - the instrumental was quite entertaining with the duel of the axemen and other tomfoolery. A hugely talented band.

It isn't hard to say which one of the vocalists impressed me the most - Marco Hietala proved once again that he is in a league of his own. He's a versatile vocalist with immense range, control and power. The fact that he looks like the evil brother of Santa Claus creates a bizarre contrast when he sings softly in a higher register, uncannily sounding like a young girl... yes, that is a compliment. Not a lot of vocalists can sing like that convincingly.

JP Leppäluoto's somewhat Ville Valo-like stage presence added another dimension to the gig, and I liked his vocals as well. Tommi "Tuple" Salmela's songs were a bit of hit and miss, some of them sounded really forced while others seemed to suit his voice just fine, like "Ilouutinen", possibly my favourite song of the evening.

I won't go into much detail about the songs, as I decided to skip taking notes and just enjoyed the Christmas Spirit. There were probably a couple which didn't really work for me as these arrangements, but mostly they were far superior to the "normal versions". The audience was very much into it, singing along those evergreen melodies. Okay, a couple of guys decided to have a loud 15-minute debate about the virtues of true metal or something like that somewhere behind me, so I guess they weren't too interested. Thankfully the band was louder, and the rest of us only had to endure their yapping between the songs.



Erkka Korhonen - Guitars & backing vocals, musical director
Tuomas Wäinölä - Guitars
Mirka Rantanen - Drums
Erkki Silvennoinen - Bass
Vili Ollila - Keyboards


Marco Hietala
Tommi "Tuple" Salmela
JP Leppäluoto

VOCALISTS featured on other dates:

Jarkko Ahola
Ari Koivunen
Ilja Jalkanen
Antony Parviainen


Review by Kimmo Toivonen
Photos by Mira Suutari-Toivonen
09 January 2010
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