On Thursday, June 23 a band called Maailmanlopun Metsästäjät was scheduled to play at On The Rocks at 10 p.m. Who was this band? The font used on the event image looked very familiar, and new pictures of rehearsals of a band believed long dead had surfaced. Then some new shows were announced. Ajattara were to play the first gig since the split-up in 2012 at Nummirock during the midsummer weekend.Which was the weekend following Thursday, June 23. The evidence was growing – Ajattara were going to play a (not so) secret gig at On The Rocks. And this was something I couldn’t miss.
Ajattara hold a very special place in my metal heart as I discovered them when I was visiting Helsinki for my first Tuska Metal Open Air in 2002, and a friend who I had met there told me I had to check out this band. And he was right - life was better after seeing and hearing this powerful, morbid music for the first time. (I also owe discovering Swallow The Sun to this friend as he kept on sending me the good stuff from the North that no one had heard about outside Finland yet.)
Ajattara at Tuska Metal Open Air 2002.
The intense music and its the rhythm combined with the Finnish lyrics captivated me completely. Plus, no one really knew about Ajattara outside of Finland, and as everyone knows, it is hella trve to wear a shirt of an unknown band. This lead to the next time that Ajattara brought me closer to Finland. At Party San Open Air in Germany I was approached by a guy asking if I knew Ajattara as I had cut the logo from a shirt and made a patch for my jacket. Turns out, he was at the festival with a group of Finns. Over the years we kept in touch through MySpace (those were the days!) and when I moved to Helsinki years later these guys were the only people I knew in town, and essential in getting to know many other great people that are good friends to this day – and I blame it all (or at least partly) on Ajattara!
But back to the present. Photographer Eija Mäkivuoti and I met up at On The Rocks, enjoying a few drinks before the scheduled playtime with the happy knowledge that no work awaited the next day. One could tell something was up, as people clad in black, dressed up and with the air of anticipation around them were swarmed towards On The Rocks. By 10.10 p.m. the space in front of the stage was crowded and people were eagerly awaiting what was to come, the cheerful background music a weird contrast to the black metal thunderstorm that was expected.
Ajattara (Photo by Eija Mäkivuoti)
Finally, the guys got on stage and Ruoja welcomed the cheering audience to the Ajattara band practice with a big grin. Both the band and the audience were head banging from the get go, and once Ruoja started singing the sound got fuller and it was clear: Ajattara were back and it was as if they had never left! The energy was passing between the crowd and the band, and a pleasant shiver ran down my spine. If felt like coming home to a long lost, obscure, raw and powerful embrace.
Each song was greeted by and thanked for by a huge applause, especially classics like Antakaa elää to which people even sang along. It was obvious, the band had been dearly missed. And judging by the intense performance, Ruoja’s wide smile and banter with the audience, Ajattara were happy to be back on stage as well.
From Verivalta to Ilkitie, there was no stopping them nor the audience – this must have been the best band practice I ever attended. The energy dropped a bit towards the middle of the gig but the set was tight and picked up again very fast with e.g. Säälin koira. All four front stage guys were shouting the choruses which added extra oomph! to songs like Saatana palvoo meitä.
It was one of these great but all to rare occasions when anticipation, hope and expectation become reality. At some point the backing track got cut off but hey, it was a practice session after all. (Correction 27.9.16: My bad, it wasn't the backing track as Ajattara don't use backing tracks, the interruption stemmed from issues with the computer and the click tracks.) The only bad thing about this evening was that the gig was too good to even go to the bar to get a new drink. But after Naaras and Kunnes Taivas Meidät Erottaa it had to come to an end, time to quench our thirst. And as there seems to be much more where that came for I am sure I won’t have to wait several years again to see Ajattara play an official gig.