Keep of Kalessin, Avantasia, Nightwish, Northern Kings, Lordi and Apocalyptica…what one thing do these bands all have in common?
The Eurovision Song Contest.Yes, these acts have all participated in a Eurovision show in some way. Be it, the staggeringly impressive half time show of Apocalyptica at the Helsinki Final in 2007 or windmilling on stage to win a quarter of a million votes from Norway (I’m looking admirably at you, Keep of Kalessin.) Eurovision and Metal is a match made gleefully in hell, especially since Lordi rocked the boat with their monstrous win for Finland.
Any self-respecting metalhead will recall the seminal moment that the frontman of Lordi descended like a bat out of Helsinki onto the stage of the Eurovision Finals in 2006. The band captivated millions of viewers with their grotesque costumes and the glamtastic anthem ‘Hard Rock Hallelujah.’Providing a much-needed breath of fresh air, Lordi won the contest with a record breaking 292 points. But they weren’t the first Finnish metal superstars to gun for a Eurovision win.
Symphonic metal heroes Nightwish competed to represent Finland in 2000 with the song Sleeping Sun. Interestingly, the band placed first in the televote, however the jury overruled them, and picked Nina Astrom to represent Finland instead.
In the same year, comedy industrial metal outfit Knorkator competed to represent Germany with a song entitled I’m Turning Into a Pig. Despite their wacky onstage antics, the band were not successful in their bid to represent Germany, but they did manage to gather lots of attention. The headline of national German newspaper BILD read “who let these lunatics on TV?!” after Knorkators performance.
Fast Forward to the Post-Lordi years, and 2008 sees folk metallers Terasbetoni sailing through to represent Finland in the finals. Their stomping performance featured drummers wielding giant maces and axes, however it was not enough to win the hearts of the audience. Terasbetoni received a lowly 35 points, placing 22nd out of 25.
But if one thing was slowly becoming clear, it’s that metal is very much welcome as a legitimate songwriting style within the Eurovision Song Contest. During the national Finnish final in 2009, the half time entertainment was none other than metal covers supergroup Northern Kings. The footage of Marco Hietala et al. dressed to the nines, headbanging on a Top Of The Pops-esque stage to A-Ha’ Take On Mehas to be seen to be believed.
In 2010, Keep of Kalessin placed third in the national Norwegian final performing the epic anthem ‘Dragon Tower,’ which interestingly, is a song the band themselves did not write. After winning a quarter of a million votes in 2010, their Eurovision triumph didn’t end there.
Keep of Kalessin returned to the Eurovision Norwegian finals stage in 2011, to perform The Divine Land – the bands original song, but they did it with a twist. They blasted out this extremely heavy number alongside 2007’s Eurovision winner Alexander Rybak – who absolutely shreds it on the violin. This unlikely pairing is arguably the best Eurovision footage you will ever see:
Continuing from there, we see Norwegian black metallers Gromth team up with operatic singer Emil Solli-Tangen and compete to represent Norway in the 2013 semi-finals. The band were unfortunately beaten by songstress Margaret Berger, yet the somber nocturne they created remains a musically impressive feat even now.
When boundless metal enthusiast Tobias Sammett announced he was competing to represent Germany with Avantasia in the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest, I was only surprised he hadn’t done it sooner. With his stupendous talent for writing hooks and his grandiose performance skills, he seemed the perfect fit for the pomp of Eurovision. However, Avantasia placed third in the contest to represent Germany meaning he sadly never got to grace the stage of the Eurovision Finals.
What’s next? Well, this year we have AWS– a band from Hungary representing their country with a catchy hard rock banger that is reminiscent of Bring Me The Horizon. Hopefully we will witness them tearing it up against the inevitable mix of ballads and pop tunes on the Eurovision Finals stage.
Will we ever see another big win for a metal band in Eurovision? Who knows. But the competitions willingness to accept metal as a legitimate form of popular music is so, SO commendable. The Eurovision Song Contest isn’t afraid to give hard rock a huge mainstream platform that transmits to millions of viewers, and frankly, that is amazing, given the negative response screamed vocals or distorted guitars often get. Undoubtedly, we will be raising the horns and tuning in to watch on Saturday 12thMay.