About twenty years ago I spent roughly 24 hours in Finland. Thanks to jet lag, I spent around fourteen of those hours sleeping. What time I did manage to spend conscious, I remember it being quite enjoyable. I mostly remember blondes and a total lack of any sunset.
I also have a poser-ish affinity for European metal bands, many of which hail from the Scandinavian region. I was therefore thrilled to learn that, according to a probably less-than-scientifically rigorous study, Finland has the most metal bands per capita of any country in the world.
It might be worth taking a look at the country, tucked away as it is so tidily up there, kind of out of the way. As it turns out (and I sort of already knew this, but damn), the Finns are kind of, well, epic bad-asses.
First off, the Finns didn’t half-ass their prehistory. According to Wikipedia, “prehistoric Finland” persisted all the way up to 1150 CE. While the Normans were conquering England and the Western Roman Empire was celebrating its seventh century of no longer existing, Finland was doing its own thing in such a bad-ass way, no one even bothered to write it down (which is what I assume “prehistoric” means.) People have actually lived there for at least ten thousand years, but as for what was going on before 1150, I guess we just shouldn’t worry our pretty little heads about it.
From 1150 until 1809, Finland was ruled by the Swedes, who as we all know, can slay dragons with the sheer power of rock.Sweden and Russia fought a war, apparently over Finland, between 1808 and 1809, which Russia won. Finland became a “Grand Duchy” under the rule of the Tsar. That lasted about a century, until the Finns told Russia to piss off near the end of World War I, when Russia really had bigger things to worry about anyway. Finland fought a civil warbetween communists and not-communists, which the not-communists won. Here’s where it gets interesting.
World War II
Historians generally consider Finland’s involvement in World War II to consist of three separate wars between 1939 and 1945. The Winter War has always fascinated me, because it is such a demonstration of sheer badassery and stupidity all rolled into one.
The Soviet Union, apparently not liking the fact that they had a nice view of Finland from Leningrad, decided to invade Finland. They launched an attack on November 30, 1939. November. Winter. Finland. This would be funny if not for the fact that many, many people died because Stalin was a jackass. Stalin had already gutted his military leadership through purges, and then he sent them into a literally frozen north against an enemy that lived in said frozen north. Finland technically lost the war, but it looked like this:
You might think that, after such an ordeal, the Finns would be happy to just sit back and ride out the rest of the war having proved themselves and their BAMF creds, right? You must not be Finnish, because they decided instead to invade the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941. You are probably picturing hordes of angry Finns streaming out of Finland on the backs of dragons, raining fire down on Russian cities. (You also might not be picturing that if you are not as weird as me.) They didn’t actually do that, of course. They used tanks, but some particularly bad-ass motherfuckers invaded the Soviet Union on skis:
Now yes, they were supported in this war (called the Continuation War) by Nazi Germany (presumably because the enemy of my enemy is my friend), and they technically lost the war when the Soviets drove them most of the way back into Finland in 1944. Once they had a peace treaty with the Soviets, they turned around and fought the Germans in the Lapland War of 1944-45 in order to force them out of Finnish territory. The Germans retreated all the way to Norway. About that same time, they surrendered entirely.
Long story short, do not mess with Finland.
Other interesting stuff
The language has a lot of vowels.
I want to visit Kizhi Island some day, because it has beautiful architecture and it sort of looks like a scene from a video game.
This map indicates that Finland has the largest number of metal bands per 100,000 people of any country in the world. This is based on population statistics from the CIA and The Metal Archives, a seemingly comprehensive guide to worldwide metal music. According to the site, Finland has 2,833 metal bands. Angola, by comparison, has two.
At this point, my overall lack of knowledge of Finnish metal in particular will become clear. I am of course familiar with Nightwish, often considered a pioneering band in the field, managing to both rock and create amusingly-incoherent lyrics:
I know enough about Nightwish to have strongly-held opinions about the relative decline of the band’s music since Tarja Turunen left the band.Finland also, however, gave us bands like Lordi. While I appreciate puns like “rockening” and “arockalypse,” and I am always down for zombie cheerleaders, they just seem like they are trying too hard.
I invite you to sample to face-melting metal of Finland. If their history is any guide, they have earned the right to rock.