It’s hard to describe how or why I ended up reaching a place where I had to admit to myself that I was completely and utterly hooked on Finnish folk metal. I suspect it was a gradual awakening. First it was by encountering the folksy metal and rock music of bands like Scotland’s Alestorm and Ukraine’s Los Colorados. I suspect that Eurovision also had a bit to answer for in opening my Aussie eyes to the wonder of Europeans in elaborate costumes performing outlandish songs.
And then, one glorious day, I stumbled across the glorious sounds of Finland’s Ensiferum. I don’t know quite how to describe them – battle metal seems to be the term I hear most often. And when I saw them perform live in concert in March 2013 in Melbourne there were a lot of people in Viking costumes. One guy looked like he’d stepped straight of a Scandinavian fairy tale, all tall and blonde and dressed in what my untrained eye could only guess was some sort of traditional Northern European folk outfit – not the sort of guy one would normally encounter in Melbourne, Australia.
‘Lai Lai Hei’ was one of the first Ensiferum songs I heard that I absolutely loved. Of course, to be able to sing along means needing to get a bit of a grip of Finnish. Somehow the other concert goers on the night had it worked out – similar to the other Rammstein fans singing fluent German when I saw them (in 2001 and 2011) – but for this English-speaking Aussie, lyrics like “Hän katsoi maan reunalta tähteä putoavaa / Nyt kauniit kasvot neitosen peittää karu maa”* aren’t the easiest to get my head around. That doesn’t stop me from trying to sing along, of course.
*Lyrics from www.metrolyrics.com