Photo Credit: Krista Sainio

Blind Channel and Rock Band From Hell are keeping it surreal at Stockholm’s Nalen, 23.4.2024

Author Stefanie Nysand - 10.5.2024

In September 2023, when Blind Channel announced the dates for their biggest headline tour through Europe and the UK to date for spring 2024, the choice of the venue in Sweden’s capital Stockholm caused some surprise, as the “Nalen Klubb” can only hold 300 people. Not to mention the small and very low stage. How is the Finnish nu-metal sextet supposed to fit on this stage? What is even more confusing is the fact that since the tour dates were announced, tonight’s concert has been consistently advertised on the website of “Nalen” and on social media platforms like Facebook with two dates: 23 April 2024 and, for some reason, 23 February 2024. This misleading information was only corrected over half a year later, about three weeks before the concert, at least on the website of “Nalen”, but not on all social media channels. The fact that the concert takes place on a Tuesday or that there is an age limit of 18 hardly explains why the already small club area of “Nalen” is anything but sold out tonight. It’s not even bad marketing, but faulty marketing.

Another thing that becomes clear tonight: Although Sweden has one of the highest concentrations of rock and metal bands per capita in the world, in the country itself, these genres are less-than-fashionable at the moment. The days when there was a wide range of rock and metal clubs in Stockholm are long gone, and alternative open-air festivals are also few and far between in Scandinavia’s largest country. Accordingly, it is unsurprising that tonight’s audience seems to be more international. One hears a lot of Finnish, but also German, and there are also Icelanders in the crowd. However, we are very aware that we are in Sweden, not least thanks to the nationwide “väskförbud” [“ban of bags”] which still applies. Due to the increased risk of terror attacks in Sweden, one is no longer allowed to bring bags to bigger events, though “Nalen” is quite generous, allowing one small handbag per person. Storing larger luggage in the paid cloakroom is not an option, as the authorities do not consider the cloakroom of “Nalen” to be suitable for this (jackets and the like are ok, though). While the security measure is understandable, in practice, it may be a stress factor that could deter some potential visitors from attending an event in the first place.

The first surprise when Blind Channel‘s tour support Rock Band From Hell enters the stage is the fact that the band is a trio and not – as expected – a quartet. They used to be a quartet, but since around the turn of the year 2022 / 2023, bassist Mikko Saravuoma has been literally out of the picture. No further details are known. Like Blind Channel, the first act on stage tonight hails from the Finnish city of Oulu. The set starts with the current single “MIA“, and unlike most of the songs in the setlist, “MIA” is not taken from their debut album “Music For Late Night Activities” which was released just seven months ago, on 1 September 2023. Overall, Rock Band From Hell is a relatively new band, but you can’t tell that from their stage performance. Quite the contrary: There are hardly any transitions between the songs like “Lucky Loser“, “Fed Up“, “Never Wanna See You Again“, “Sex Is On Fire“, “Why Don’t You Die” and “Cloud9“, and Jani Tillman (vocals & guitar) and Jere Siivikko (guitar) are very outgoing and engaging with the audience, barely standing still. If you didn’t know that Rock Band From Hell was a band from Finland, you wouldn’t guess. This is also due to the music, which sounds a lot like North American feel-good punk pop in the style of Sum 41 and Blink-182. As Jani Tillman and Jere Siivikko tell us at the end of the evening, they rather count Green Day among their musical influences, though.

It is in the nature of things that drummers are not quite as mobile on stage as singers and string instrumentalists, but Rock Band From Hell have also taken that into account, and so drummer Mikko Nykänen gets the opportunity to play a drum solo to “Freestyler” by their fellow countrymen Bomfunk MC’s. All in all, a very entertaining performance.

Originally, a third band was scheduled to perform between Rock Band From Hell and Blind Channel, namely Ghøstkid, but ten days before the start of the “Exit Emotions European Tour 2024”, Blind Channel announced that Ghøstkid could not make it to the last four gigs of the tour, which includes the third-to-last stop in Stockholm tonight. No further details are known, except that Ghøstkid were also unable to perform in the Italian city of Milan a week ago. Also in this case, the last-minute cancellation was only communicated by Blind Channel (“Unfortunately Ghostkid is not able to perform tonight in Alcatraz”).

While waiting for the headliner to hit the stage, the audience is treated to Blind Channel‘s own “radio station”, “Radio EXIT”, instead of the usual canned music. The radio programme with host “Violent Bob” – a wordplay on Blind Channel‘s self-coined genre “Violent Pop”, amongst other things – is both creative and entertaining. When Linkin Park‘s “One Step Closer” is played on “Radio EXIT”, some concert visitors start rocking like there’s no tomorrow, but it isn’t until Blind Channel enter the stage amid loud cheers from the crowd and start their set with “DEADZONE” that the surreal experience begins. First things first: Yes, Joel Hokka (vocals), Niko Moilanen (vocals), Joonas Porko (guitar), Olli Matela (bass), Tommi Lalli (drums), Aleksi Kaunisvesi (a.k.a. Alex Mattson; samples, percussion & DJ) and their equipment do fit on the small stage, and the musicians can even move, which they do very extensively, with Niko Moilanen acting as the animator of the audience.

The setlist covers all twelve tracks from the current fifth studio album “Exit Emotions” which was released on 1 March 2024 and gave this tour its name. So, basically, it’s the way it should be. The songs which are already strong on record are even stronger when performed live, such as “WHERE’S THE EXIT” and “FLATLINE“. The female part of the anti-suicide anthem “DIE ANOTHER DAY“, which is originally sung by the English singer-songwriter RØRY, is performed by Joonas Porko. However, it is the performance for “PHOBIA” that is particularly impressive tonight. Just as the Finns regularly release one banger after another as a single, one hit follows the other live, with almost no transitions. This leaves room for older singles like “Over My Dead Body” and “Died Enough For You“, but cannot prevent newer singles like “Don’t Fix Me” from being skipped. A classic case of “too many hits, too little time”.

Blind Channel make no secret of the fact that they want to be “the biggest band in the world” and “in the same pyrotechnic league as Rammstein” one day. In other words: They see themselves as a band that, in the long run, will play in the big arenas rather than in small clubs. And they are partly already there. In four days, for example, they will play the biggest headline show of their career so far at the 15,000-seat Nokia Arena in the Finnish city of Tampere. Their ambition is anything but unfounded, because one quickly realises: Blind Channel are a band that belongs on the stages of arenas and stadiums. The show is so intense and energetic that you sometimes think that the small “Nalen Klubb” is going to burst at any moment, due to the pressure. It is all the more a privilege to be able to experience this big band in such an intimate setting tonight, even if the reason for it, namely the faulty marketing, is unfortunate. If it wasn’t for that, there would have been more than the 200 or so visitors present. The club would probably have been sold out quickly, and the gig might have been moved to a bigger venue, for instance to the “Stora Salen” of “Nalen” which can accommodate 600 people. Just in March 2023, Blind Channel played a well-attended show at “Fryshuset” which has a capacity of 800.

Despite a jam-packed setlist, there are also some surprises, such as a solo rap performance by Niko Moilanen and a cover version of System Of A Down‘s “B.Y.O.B.” where the vocals are shared between Joel Hokka and Aleksi Kaunisvesi. The set is concluded with “Dark Side“, their breakthrough hit with which Blind Channel finished in a glorious sixth place at the Eurovision Song Contest 2021. It seems like a lifetime ago and, unfortunately, it took me just as long to finally catch a show of the “Backstreet Boys of the metal scene”. What might have started as an insult by haters has become the adopted moniker of the band. They even kick it up a notch by having Backstreet Boys‘ “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” played while saying goodbye to the crowd. Yes, you can be ambitious without taking yourself too seriously.

Tonight’s show is the third-to-last show of this tour, which began on 21 March 2024 in the German city of Oberhausen and will end with the aforementioned arena show in Tampere on 27 April 2024. After that, Blind Channel will fly directly to the US, embarking on another month-long tour, followed by festival shows in the summer and a joint UK tour with Lacuna Coil in October 2024. It certainly is a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll, and Finland in particular has a history of great rock and metal bands who, on the verge of something bigger, fell apart instead of realising their full potential, due to substance abuse problems and / or conflicts within the band. If Blind Channel are smart enough to avoid these pitfalls, then I don’t see what would stop them from actually becoming one of the biggest nu-metal acts in the future. Truckloads of pyrotechnics and “flying kisses from Wembley” included.

A photo gallery with additional pictures of the event can be found here.