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Finland's Heavy Metal Scene is (Head-) Banging

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There 53 metal bands per 100,000 people in Finland, the most of any country on the map. The music subculture started gaining more recognition after Lordi, a monster-masked metal five-piece band, won the Eurovision singing competition. Finland is renowned for many other heavy metal exports, including Nightwish, HIM, Insomnium, Children of Bodum, and Amorphis. Nightwish has sold more than eight million records worldwide, which is an impressive accomplishment for a genre not in the mainstream.

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Perhaps this divergence from the mainstream is part of the reason Finns are drawn to the genre. Finns are proud of what makes them different from other nations in heritage, nature, and culture. They even have a word for their self-identified character: Sisu, which loosely translates to grit, guts and bravery. It's also worth noting that metal music provides a voice to many emotions from passion and frustration to love and heartache. It is also a popular choice for karaoke, another favorite in Finland. Because Finn's tend to keep to themselves, music can provide a safe and healthy outlet for self-expression.

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The soft-spoken and reserved nature of Finns is why many are surprised to learn that the culture worships heavy metal (almost literally, in fact.) Since 2006, pastor Haka Kekalainen has regularly organized "metal mass" in churches around Finland. A singer, bassist, drummer, keyboardist and two guitarists, some of whom are nonbelievers, perform hymns with the lyrics unchanged in heavy metal style. The events bring a diverse audience, from regular church-goers that would not normally listen to metal to fans of heavy metal that would not normally attend church. In fact, 1,300 people flocked to the first at Helsinki's Temppeliaukio Church in Helsinki, Finland. "They couldn't all fit in the church," remembers Kekalainen. There have been about 100 metal masses since then, and it seems the holy head-banging won't stop any time soon.



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