If you asked me as a Finnish metalhead to name some of the top names in Finnish metal, one of the very first names to come to mind alongside giant international successes such as HIM and Nightwish would be Stam1na. The band's albums sell well in Finland, they frequently play sold out shows here, both the fans and the (metal) critics love them... Basically for a metal band they are doing quite damn well. But despite their success in their native country of Finland, not many outside this country's borders have heard of them. And well I think it's time that metalheads around the world got to know this amazing band just a little bit better.


But if Stam1na are indeed so great, why has their success for the most part been only in Finland? Well there are two reasons I can think of. One of them is the fact that the band sings in Finnish - a language that not a lot of people know internationally. While the band started out doing material in English, by the time their self-titled debut album came out, they had switched to Finnish, and to date only one song on their studio albums - Nomad from their fifth album Nocebo - has been sung in English. Then again singing in a foreign language hasn't stopped a band like Rammstein from coming out of their native country of Germany and becoming an international success with their brand of German-sung sexually explicit industrial metal. So why couldn't a band singing in Finnish make it if they had the chops musically? Wel,l I would argue they could, which brings me to the other, in my opinion greater reason, why Stam1na haven't made it big internationally. It's because they haven't tried.


Stam1na has barely ever played gigs outside the borders of Finland, and their albums are hard to get in other countries. So a lack of promotion I would argue is the main reason why Stam1na haven't made it big internationally - not a lack of talent. But now in a time when the band's fifth album Nocebo has been released in the US, the band's latest album SLK is set to be released in Europe and Japan, and the band have just returned from succesfully playing live in Japan, I think this is as good a time as any to spread the gospel of Stam1na's brand of metal to the masses.


So alright, what kind of metal do Stam1na specialize in? Well, the thing about Stam1na is that their music, at least in my opinion, is not easy to equate with just one specific genre. The band just play metal, plain and simple. But if I had to think subgenres, the one that immediately comes to mind to describe Stam1na's brand of metal is thrash. The fast riffs, the aggression and the mostly shouted vocals that are often equated with thrash are all found in Stam1na. But some have also claimed the band possess elements of genres like death metal and progressive metal, and with their latest album SLK people have gone as far as saying they hear black metal influences on some songs, and I would agree. The first single Panzerfaust definitely has some ominious keyboards that echo symphonic black metal in sound, and the backing vocals provided by Spektaakkeli aka Spellgoth of Turmion Kätilöt - another great Finnish metal band who specialize in a more industrial sound - are very reminiscent of black metal. And the album's closing title track in terms of riffs and drum patterns definitely sounds to have a bit of a black metal vibe, even though according to the band that wasn't intentional and their aim isn't to be black metal by any means.


What really sets Stam1na apart for me anyway though is that while they are by no means a very commercial band and they play the kind of metal that in the mainstream rarely makes it, their music still somehow manages to be very melodic and very accessible without ever compromising the sheer aggressiveness and heaviness of their sound. The band's songs are catchy and have big hooks and catchy melodies, but they're not pop by any means. They're fast, loud and aggressive, and more often than not more shouted than sung. And a balance like that is hard to achieve in my opinion. A band can be heavy and have some more melodic tracks that make it, but rarely can a band write songs that you can sing along to and mosh to in the pit at the same time. But Stam1na manage this perfectly, and have done so for six albums straight now.


Speaking of those albums, if I am to recommend this band to people who've never heard of them before, I suppose I have to lead them in the right direction. Which songs are the essential ones, which albums should you listen to first, and so on. Well, a good place to start in my humble opinion is the band's fifth album Nocebo, which they did with American producer Joe Barresi, making it the band's best produced and most versatile album to date. It was a classic case of a band not changing their sound or selling out, but instead taking what they had already done and taking it that one step further, expanding on the concept and showcasing new kinds of songs that still fit in with what the band was doing before. For people who don't want to jump head first into the band's heaviest and most aggessive material and want something more accessible to start off with, Nocebo is a good place to start.


Another good album to start with in that regard is the band's latest album SLK. While I would argue the album has some of the band's heaviest and most extreme material in the form of songs like Panzerfaust and SLK which I already mentioned, it also has some of the band's most melodic songs to date. Such are for example songs like Kalmankansa, Usko Pois and the album's second single Dynamo which did surprisingly well charting alongside pop and rap hits on the Finnish charts earlier this year.


While Nocebo is a good contender for my favorite Stam1na album, the album that just might actually beat it for me is the band's second album Uudet Kymmenen Käskyä. The album, much like the band's self-titled debut, is raw and loud thrash-influenced metal, but taken one step further than on the debut by being both more aggressive and having superior song writing compared to the first album. That's not to say the debut doesn't have its fair share of classic Stam1na songs though - one need only take a listen to songs like Kadonneet Kolme Sanaa, Paha Arkkitehti and Peto Rakasti Sinua. But Uudet Kymmenen Käskyä is everything a classic metal album should be, in my humble opinion - not one track of filler, a few more mellow songs among the sonic assault of the other songs to balance things out, and every song is still instantly catchy and makes you want to bang your head and go absolutely insane.


If it's heavy you want however, the album to go to might be the third album Raja which I'd argue is the band's heaviest album to date. The ultimate classic though and the album that both critics and fans alike seem to have deemed the crown jewel of the band's repertoire in many ways is the band's fourth album Viimeinen Atlantis. The album features songs many of which have more or less become popular live staples, and is at the same time both one of the band's most melodic but also most aggressive albums to date. If Nocebo streamlined Stam1na a bit making them more accessible, Viimeinen Atlantis is about as melodic as the band can get while still sticking to their most thrash material.


What really caught people's attention about the album though was its lyrical content - Viimeinen Atlantis is something of a concept album dealing with global warming, consumer culture and ecological disasters. Stam1na's lyrics in general in fact are what I would call one of the band's strengths. Most of Stam1na's lyrics are written by the band's lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Antti "Hyrde" Hyyrynen who is easily one of my favorite lyricists of all time. Many of Stam1na's albums, much like Viimeinen Atlantis, center around a theme of sorts. For example, Nocebo relies heavily on imagery and themes leaning towards medicine, whereas SLK deals with all the different endpoints one faces in life, including - but not limited to - death. Those who don't understand Finnish will sadly miss all the clever wordplay and double meanings in the band's lyrics, but most if not all their songs have been translated to English online so even though certain elements get lost in translation the basic content of the lyrics is still readily available for those who don't speak or read Finnish.


Finally a key element that makes up the band's image and personality is their sense of humor. While metal is generally a very dark and somber genre of music and Stam1na too writes songs about fairly serious and dark subject matters, the band members don't take themselves too seriously and have fun doing what they do. One need only take a look at the music videos for songs like Lääke off the album Raja or Pakkolasku (my favorite Stam1na song) off the album Viimeinen Atlantis to see the band has a sense of humor about what they do. This also translates to their live performances. Not only do they joke around on stage, the band has often made a habit of making the themes of their tours less than serious. For example, on one of their most recent summer tours the stage was adorned with inflatable pool toys while the band wore grass skirts, whereas on another tour the band had bales of hay on stage while the band themselves were wearing overalls looking like farmers. Not exactly dark and serious despite playing heavy and aggressive songs about death, insanity and ecological disasters wiping out the human race.


So if you read this and became intrigued by Stam1na, I urge you to check them out. Basically if you're a metalhead, I doubt you'll be disappointed. Trust me, checking this band out will be more than worth your time.



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(Review done by Markus)

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