The COVID-19 pandemic waning, my partner and I decided to go to the Hellsinki Industrial Festival 2022, only three weeks before it would start.
There is a good youth hostel near to the venue, but we decided that if we would spend the money for a last-minute plane ticket, we could also pay a little more to have a bit more luxury, like our own bathroom.
We flew in on the 2nd of November, one day before the festival started, so we could have some time to explore Helsinki before. Last time we were there was to go and watch Waltari's 'Yeah Yeah Die Die'-death metal symphony in the opera house in 1995. F*ck, is it THAT long ago?
DAY 1 - Thursday
The Helsinki Industrial Festival 2022 kicked off with what the organisation calls a pre-club in the cozy 300 capacity music club Kuudes Linja, a stiff walk from our hotel, at 20:00 in the evening of November the 3rd. With three very different bands on the agenda, it had the ingredients for a very interesting evening.
At the entrance of this club, and the bigger venue for the next 2 days, there is a cloak room. Finns are used to leaving their coats at a cloak room. In winter, last time, we saw them even bring a separate pair of shoes. The 3.50 EUR fee for the cloak room and the 2 EUR fee if you need to get something from your stuff in the cloak room well, that's how it was communicated, I don't know if that was really enforced) is totally acceptable in Finland. The cloak room is mandatory, I understood. We took it. Showing our tickets, we got nice professional cloth wristbands for the full festival.
We arrived just in time to witness Helsinki-based Jacques Saph's darkwave/punk solo project Carnal Machinery kick off the evening; bringing the crowd in a good mood.
I didn't know Jessi Frey before seeing her and her band. Somehow I also missed Velcra, her previous band, during all those years ... Shame on me.
Jessi Frey's set was very diverse, also stemming from them playing quite a few Velcra songs as well. 'My Law' is a ferocious cracker! And 'Can't Stop Fighting' and 'Test Animals' are very good earworms. Only having heard them once live, I am sure these were in the set, since I did a search on Velcra. There were more.
This is a band I really want to see again after getting to know their music, and Velcra's more deep songs first. The great metal cover of Skold vs KFMDM's 'Bloodsport' – also featured on their last album – was a point of reference for me, but listen to a song like 'Future Hackers' by her self-titled new band and you'll understand why I – and you – should check this band out.
Unfortunately, the sound engineer decided to mix the pre-recorded support vocal tracks in louder than Jessi's live vocals. This killed some of the live atmosphere and the power of her performance.
For my taste, some of the songs could do with a little bit of guitar-lead seasoning. The guitarist did play a short impromptu lead during the performance, showing that he has the skill. De gustibus desputandum, I guess. Jessi probably doesn't agree with me.
Third up was the second one-man band of the evening: Jamie Blacker's Electronic Substance Abuse from the UK, aka ESA. Frankly I don't like the ESA abbreviation, because for me ESA means European Space Agency. He got the whole club dancing to his harsh electronic stomping. His performance and the accompagnying visuals impressed me greatly. It's like being sledgehammered into submitting to the beat. I felt great, even though the subject matter of his songs is not always a reason to!
DAY 2 - Friday
We visited the Mall Of Tripla, marketed as the largest shopping center in the Nordics, which also serves as Pasila station, not too far from our hotel, where we bought a nice handmade cap from the last Finnish hatmaker, and walked around in the area between the hotel and the mall. Not a part of Helsinki most tourists would go and visit.
What struck us was the large amnount of cheap lunch restaurants – an 11,5 EUR all-you-can-eat buffet! – with free tap water and tea/coffee. Having had a big breakfast at 9:00 we didn't go for one of them, but it's good to know that there are a lot of these cheap lunch restaurants – some opening as early as 10:00 but also closing very early in the afternoon – with great healthy food. Or at least, it looks great.
Day 2 and 3 of the festival were held in the also closeby Ääniwalli, a 1000 capacity industrial complex on a hill in Helsinki's Vallila district. Ääniwalli is divided into two concert areas and an outside yard/terrace (fleece blankets are available). This means there are two stages: a smaller Club Stage and the larger Main Stage, both in a separate hall and both with their own bar. Not everyone can fit in the Club Stage hence, but it was never too crowded there. It's also the only area where there are some places to sit apart, except from a few seats outside just next to the Club mainly used by smokers.
A very positive point about this festival is that you can see all the bands in their entirety. There is no overlap. The Club stage performance starts when the Main Stage performance stops and vice versa.
There was a common merch booth for all bands in the Main hall. In front of that there were tables for timed meet-and-greets with the bands. Each band had a meet and greet slot. No exceptions. Many of them were just in the audience, though.
Day two Kicked off on the Club Stage with another one-man band, Div Mod from Austria, bringing 8-bit electronic dance beats with gameboy sounds; live controlled through ... a gameboy. Not really my cup of tea musically, though geekly professional. I think it is a cool idea. It did work as a warm-upper.
Greece's Siva Six were the first ones on the Main Stage. They did a decent performance, but the vocals were somewhat weaker than I would have expected. I had hoped for Siva Six to be a band to grow on me during the festival. Unfortunately, it didn't.
Back to the Club Stage for King Satan from Tampere (FI). I didn't like their album 'I Want You To Worship Satan', and unfortunately this live performance strengthened my conviction that King Satan is a band I will steer clear off. I really can't get into what I, and my partner agrees, experience as kiddy metal with horrible synth lines running identical (why?) alongside uninspired guitar riffs. And the fact that to boot the mix was not really good, didn't help convincing me of anything positive to say about them. Maybe their on-stage looks. I'll give them that. Sorry King Satan, but you didn't find a fan in me. I tried. I really tried.
Next up on the Main stage were Freakangel from Estonia. Freakangel were one of the main reasons why I decided to go to the festival in the first place. They turned out to be everything I expected them to be. Wow, what an impressive band! They had played the Hellsinki Industrial Festival in 2018 already. Frontman Dmitry Darling looked very cool in his dress and mirror sunglasses. I really, really want to see them again. I agree with Juha Virtanen, the organiser of the HIF, that Freakangel is a highly underrated band that doesn't get enough attention. And they have a new hardcore fan in my partner.
From Freakangel, it was on to Mechanical Vein (UK) with their furious blend of drum and bass, dub-step, industrial and metal riffs. Most eye-catching was the midi-controller built into, and hence disguised as, a bass guitar with glow-in-the-dark strings. On-stage co-operations with Biomechanimal, ESA and Moris Blak brought some extra spice to the set. There was some movement in the audience, but less than I would have expected given the effort the band was putting into their performance.
Then it was Faderhead's turn to get the audience in motion in the Main Stage hall. And the German duo from Hamburg did exactly that. Definitely, yours truly was on row two. The choice of songs from the repertoire was perfect for me. My favourite Faderhead song 'Houston' was the penultimate song and made me go wild, even wearing my over one kg per foot New Rocks! Knowing what it is about now is an added benefit.
Last band for the evening in the Club was System Noire, a dark electronic band from Hannover, Germany. To me, this fusion of uptempo electronic beats, distorted vocals and high pitched synthesizers becomes tiring after a while, even when the songs are decent and brought with conviction. OK. But not wow.
The band to close off the second day of the festival was Belgium's world-touring EBM band Suicide Commando; more electronic beats and distorted vocals. Johan Van Roy and his two comrades set the house on fire and kiitos'ed the audience a lot!
After the live performances, a party started, but we were too tired to stay for the Club Infektio afterparty. Next time, we should remember to walk less in the days before the festival.
DAY3 - Saturday
After waking up quite late and having breakfast just in time, we decided to just stay in the hotel, relax and read until we had to go eat and then head for the festival. The 20k+ steps – including the jumping around – of the 2 previous days were taking their toll. And it was a holiday after all, wasn't it?
Opener on Saturday was Matt Hart. Stomping industrial beats, gruff distorted grinding vocals and similar live guitars. A very good opener of the festival's 3rd day.
Another big reason for me to come to Helsinki was Ruoska. And judging from the meet and greet line after the concert, I wasn't the only one. Their last full album 'Rabies' dates back to 2008. In 2021 and 2022, they released one song each year. Opening with 'Veriura' immediatly put the audience into the right mood! They played a good, but somewhat short set, even changing what they had planned to do for a very fast song, if I got the gist of what happened well (my Finnish is non-existant, remember). The set also felt way too short, because in between songs Ruoska were taking a minute to sit hudled around their drummer discussing god knows what ... Those moments reminded me of how Rammstein takes several minutes between songs to don different fireworks gear. The concert would have had much more impact with less of that. Another thing disturbing me, was that Ruoska's singer had a mask on during the meet and greet pictures. It could have been me in that outfit, posing as Ruoska's singer, so to speak. Strange. I was and am definitely hungry for more.
Jan Laustroer aka Antibody is a rising star in the genre: dark ominous electronic gothic dance music without vocals except on a collaboration with Matt Hart as guest vocalist on 'I Don't Understand', also live. He played his first ever show on Resistanz 2022 – he will be on the bill of 2023 as well – and later in November 2022, he will be on at Dark Dance Treffen. He is supporting Nachtmahr here and there at their shows these days. Again a one-man band, indeed keeping HIF's budget in check. Jan was really having a great time during his set. His smile couldn't be bigger. And the audience loved it as well. Kudos to Jan for wearing a white shirt in an all-black venue, and for being an active festival-goer as well as an artist.
Nextup: Agonoize, aggrotech from Germany's capital. Beats, distorted vocals and repetitive melodic synth lines. Not bad for a couple of songs standing in the audience near the stage, but after a while it was time for a beer and sitting down in the bar area waiting for ...
Finland's Nestruction. They play pixel metal: metal versions of soundtracks of retro video games. So no vocals, but beats, guitars and synthesizers. I don't have to tell you what accompanying visuals they use on their LED screen, do I?
Nestruction were possibly the most virtuoso musicians playing HIF 2022 but their pixel metal after a while becomes one constant guitar/keyboard lead. This can get a lot on the ears, especially when you are or were not familiar with the actual retro games. I did like the joke about the (not) broken LED screen. That was nicely done.
Gothminister had to play without their bassist because of COVID. We had seen Gothminister two times before, once in Belgium and once in Germany. This time was good, again, but the mix favoured the 'supporting' tracks (even for the drums) again with a lot of low frequencies, which took away the 'live' feeling for me.
They played quite a few new songs off their recently released album 'Pandemonium'. With 'Demons' Gothminister had a number 1 in the German Alternative Charts at that moment. With hindsight, I should have listened to the album more attentively before seeing them live. Ah well, there are only 24 hours in a day.
Moris Blak from Boston (MA, USA ) was up then, complete with the hoody and the black mask with the red logo. He brings violent industrial bass techno. For me, it's a bit too much like club techno at times. There were people that specifically came for his set in the audience, they loved it. He's a reference in the genre.
And, the headliner of day three and closing the festival was Centhron: harsh electro/EBM from Germany. They were quite energetic on stage and their music and distorted vocals were like a flat roller. We were totally done even before they played their last song. This night also, we wouldn't make the Club Infektio afterparty, that was clear.
On Day three, it seemed as if about 40% of the audience were different people from the day before. The audience being a bit more inclined toward metal. Understandable, with Ruoska and Gothminister on the bill.
We were just in time to still have breakfast in The Folks Hotel Konepaja. This is the hotel nearest to the venue, just a few 100 meters walk. We got a very good deal there, booking through their own website. As said, it is more expensive than the youth hostel – and provides more luxury and privacy – but we weren't the only festivalgoers staying in the hotel.
Afterthat, we went to the Hakaniemi Sunday market with a lot of local produce, and we had a stroll around the harbour and cathedral area before picking up our luggage and going to the airport to fly out of Helsinki, to be back home at midnight.
OVERALL - logistics
Our choice of hotel suited us very well. It was very near to the venue, which is good when you have to come back to it tired, late at night. It also has a great Finnish style restaurant called Weeruska less than 200 meters from it, which allowed us to walk to the restaurant and then go to the venue without loosing too much time on transport. We went to Weeruska on Friday and Saturday. Both times we had a very nice dinner.
Mind you, Helsinki's public transport is very well organised. Next time I will use the HSL app on my phone more. This time, I used it to find the best route, but not to buy tickets yet.
If you consider going, book your flights earlier in advance. It will be much cheaper than our last-minute decision.
There is no food at the venue. I expected a food truck or so, but there wasn't one. Make sure you ate well before going in. We did, fortunately.
It's Finland. Beer is expensive. 9.5 EUR for a decent beer is what you pay. Which means I spent as much money as I would spend in Belgium but drank less than half. Either my liver or my wallet were happy, you decide.
As a foreigner I like the timing of the festival a lot. Having the opportunity to travel back home on Sunday without having to rush or wake up too early, added up to a real holiday feeling.
OVERALL – the festival itself
Alas, the two bands I wanted to buy a shirt from – a man can't have enough t-shirts, can he? – didn't bring any merchandise. Nothing the organisation could do anything about, of course. But I was a bit disappointed.
Don't go to this festival if you want to hook up with random new people. It turned out to be near impossible to start a conversation with someone. I only exchanged a few sentences here and there, mainly about me looking like a viking, but it was limited due to me absolutely not understanding a word of the Finnish language.
The most important of remarks is that the overall mixing of live voices and instruments is an attention point. The sound level was also quite high. Maybe Finns are talking even more during performances than Belgians? Don't ever go to this festival without good ear protection. You DO need good earplugs if you want your ears to survive the relentless onslaught. This is actually true for all festivals these days, isn't it?
The place never felt too full. Whether it was filled to capacity I doubt, but it must have been not very far off.
All 3 stages used had good video backwalls and many bands had visuals. The main stage had some extra decoration. Simple but effective.
Some bands for HIF 2023 were announced: Nachtmahr (AT), V2A (GB), Pretty Addicted (GB) , Protectorate (FI) and Nano Infect (IT). You could already buy a ticket for next year at 45 EUR.
The announcement was written in alcohol marker on a piece of A4 paper taped to the table of the merch booth in both venues. I doubt whether everyone saw it, though.
On Day 2 and 3 there were poi acts with fire and light at the start . I have the feeling they got a little bit lost to most of the audience.
The audience was very diverse. Outfitwise there were ultra goths, mohawked punks, pierced metalheads, scaresly clad clubbers, spiked industrial rockers, dreadlocked hippies, preppie nerds with old jumpers and non-matching trousers, and a fairly old guy with a grey beard and long blonde hair in a pony tail. Whatever. Everyone was welcome and no discrimination was tolerated. That's how I want it!
HIF 2022 was a well organised, very nice experience even when I didn't really meet any new people, apart from a few short chats with Jan Laustroer (Antibody) and a very short talk with Juha Virtanen (the organiser) and a nice girl at the entrance. The salient feature of this festival is that you can see all bands.
I would seriously consider to go back next year or thereafter if the bill is right!
Main Stage, Poi Act & Ruoska: Steven Redant
Antibody: Jukka Kohonen
All other pictures: Riku Forsman - Samael Creative