As the nights grow colder and darker, a foggy light shines in Helsinki in mid-October. The second edition of Blow Up Festival took place on October 14 and 15 at Korjaamo. And for those who are familiar with Blow Up That Gramophone know that you’re always in for a treat with their events. This weekend was no different. During two evenings, a bunch of the most interesting dark, doomy, occult underground acts gathered to unleash their soundwaves over a receptive audience.
The venue Korjaamo added to the atmosphere: The cultural center is located in an old tram hall so the stage area is flanked by old iconic tram wagons on both sides. One thing that I had forgotten about Korjaamo though is that it is always warm in there, and it can get quite stuffy. But when getting there on Friday, the warmth was welcome as the cold autumn night already held promises of first snow.
Au-Dessus from Lithuania commenced the weekends shenanigans, and to the sounds of the first song suddenly people seemed to swarm towards the stage from all places, resulting in a quite decent crowd for the first band of the night. The mood was set right away as the hooded figures entered on stage. Dark and intense the music droned, black silhouettes swayed back and forth to both sides of the stage, vocalist Mantas unleashed his voice that ranged from suffering to anger. The black and white graphics on the screen, their flickering and rustling, painted a visual image to the sound world Au-Dessus created on stage. It was a thunderstorm in the harsh mountains of doom, when suddenly some melody, some groove snuck in before another blackened salvo rumbled through Korjaamo.
Au-Dessus (Photo by Jarmo Siira)
Bastard Noise came with the warning to wear your earplugs, which was not a joke. I hadn’t been sure what to expect from such an act on stage, I only knew that it was going to be interesting for sure. Eric Wood took the audience on a roller coaster ride through an apocalyptic haunted house where you never knew what or who is lurking around the next sound corner. It whirred, crackled, screamed. It challenged you to open up your mind and find a way into this soundscape, to open yourself up to what most definitely was not easy-listening.
After this, Atomikylä almost seemed like a pop band playing catchy tunes, but only almost. It got even more crowded than it already was when people rushed to towards the stage as silhouettes doused in green light appeared. The groovy, straightforward and at the same time playfully weird sound captured the audience as well as the band who seemed to play themselves into a frenzy. The intensity kept growing, the underlying heartbeat picked up speed.
It felt like a tsunami coming towards you, slow from a distance but as it gets closer and louder, it is too late – you’re being swept off your feet. The band seemed to be a living and breathing organism, ebbing back and forth as one. The vibe transferred to the crowd who clapped, shouted and whistled. And, like all of the so called Wastement bands, Atomikylä are masters in using different volume levels to make their music incredibly dynamic, just like Oranssi Pazuzu who were the night’s headliners.
From that maelstrom to the lands of heavy doom rock on wings of Lucifer where the audience was greeted with instant vibe, the smell of the incents setting the mood. After the previous acts of the night Lucifer were a groovy breath of melodic, dark occult air with vocalist Johanna Sadonis evoking mesmerized smiles on many a faces, her voice full of obscure warmth. Throughout the set also the band seemed to warm up more, the energy rising. Songs like Total Eclipse cast a heavy, somber veil over the crowd only to be pierced by the bright energy of the band’s performance during the faster parts.
Lucifer (Photo by Jarmo Siira)
Last but certainly not least that night were Oranssi Pazuzu, and everyone gathered in front of the stage again once the intro started playing. The atmosphere took hold immediately, the stage being bathed in purple, then blue light, a singular silhouette appearing, framed by light shining from behind before the rest of the band appeared in a similar manner. A strobe light and hair whirlwind exploded, and the music gripped you tight. From drowning in a foggy see of red with droning sound walls to blue green lights and underwater cave sounds it was powerful, delicate and mighty all at the same time, and the crowd loved it.
Oranssi Pazuzu (Photo by Jarmo Siira)
The second evening started with a special collaboration: Albinö Rhino and Morbid Evils teamed up for a split live experience. It seemed that many festival goers began the evening slowly somewhere else before heading to Korjaamo, so the crowd was not massive yet. But also those already on site were in for a slow, downtuned and trippy start into the night. As we followed the rhinos further down the rabbit hole, things got darker and heavier, and more people found their way to these depths where a path lead towards the muddy fields of Morbid Evils after a short intersection. The vibe kept on flowing, and while the evening did not pick up speed musically, it certainly did mood wise.
Skepticism then took the audience from the colorful, dark psychedelia to a black and white world that almost looked like an old movie. The cold white light removed almost all color from the bands faces, and was as crisp as the shirts of their suits and tailcoats. Only the orange Orange amps broke up that picture. The floor was already vibrating when they started playing, and people had gathered in front of the stage for this funeral procession. A fog of raw melancholy and despair surrounded the festival goers and embraced them tenderly, slowly. So much so that The Departed almost seemed like an up-tempo number at times.
Skepticism (Photo by Jarmo Siira)
Lord Vicar were up next, and brought a totally different vibe to the evening. The place was packed and clearly many had waited to see the band for one last time with bass player Sami Hynninen. Except for Lucifer the night before, Lord Vicar were also the first band that actively interacted with the audience, both guitarist Kimi Kärki and vocalist Christus talking. For the first song the volume on vocals was a bit too low it seemed, but that was corrected quickly and the full groove was able to unfold itself. Not only sound and pace were quite a contrast to Skepticism, but also the color world was a different one: The stage submerged in red and purple light. With The Last of the Templars things got a bit lower and heavier, and with the new song The Green Man things slowed and quieted down a bit before exploding again. Of course, the stage was colored green with the backdrop showing projections of a psychedelic green forest for that song.
The evening was on a roll, and it got even more crowded as everyone seemed to wait for Conan. Once the British cavemen got on stage they were greeted by whistles and fists in the air, and instant head banging ensued. The groove of the festival continued. Almost every song like for example Thunderhoof was greeted by another wave of cheers, the intensity of the dual vocals piercing the night; an eerie, intense combination of Jon Davis urgent higher pitched screams and Chris Fielding shouting with a primal vibe. The music seemed to just get everyone, and Korjaamo erupted into a hairy, moshing ball of doomed musical happiness. There was even one dude stage diving towards the end of the show.
Conan (Photo by Jarmo Siira)
This was a tough act to follow for Swedish Monolord and some people left after Conan, having spent their last bits of energy on them. But they missed out as Monolord really gave it their all on their first show in Finland. They had barely stepped on stage before they exploded and floored the audience with their intense energy. At first parts of the audience seemed slightly tired, full of a night of impressions, but the trio kept going full force and slowly but surely the head nodding and vibing along traveled from the first audience rows towards the back. Mika Häkki was wielding his bass around in a sort of insane dance, and it felt like a constant flow of fiery energy burst from that stage that left you standing there almost confused because your body and mind could barely handle it. What an end to two exhilarating evenings!
Monolord (Photo by Jarmo Siira)
Read the Finnish version of this report on Imperiumi.
Check out the full gallery by Jarmo Siira here.