Celebrating the darkest season – Melancholy Mass Festival at Olympia, Tampere 25.11.2023

Author Ossi Kumpula - 2.12.2023

The second edition of Melancholy Mass-festival landed last weekend in Helsinki and Tampere. Last year’s doomy bacchanal turned out to be a very successful affair, and this year was no different, for both venues in Tampere and Helsinki were sold out in advance. The five bands delivering the melancholy mass this year were, in order of appearance, Voidfallen, Assemble the Chariots, Vorna, and Oceans and Septicflesh.

Voidfallen, who hail from Helsinki, laid solid groundwork for the entire evening by beginning their set at 18.45 p.m. as scheduled. I was not at all familiar with this band beforehand, and Voidfallen provided a pleasant surprise by delivering some thirty minutes worth of riff-laden melancholy that you could literally feel in your insides, as the bass guitar was delightfully prominent in the mix. Voidfallen, formed in 2019, released their debut album two years ago. Besides that, the band treated the audience to some as of yet unreleased material, which sounded every bit as potent as their earlier work. Voidfallen’s music communicated a sense of menacing melancholy, and the atmosphere was soaked up by an impressively sizeable host, considering that the evening was still very early. All members of the five-piece group wore masks, which was visually intriguing but also a bit gimmicky. Upon concluding their set, Voidfallen were treated to resounding “we want more”-chants, proving the effectiveness of their charm.

The melancholy was dialed to more symphonic frequencies as Assemble the Chariots took to the stage after Voidfallen. Compared to the opening act, Assemble the Chariots was somewhat more in your face, as vocalist Onni Holmström performed close to the edge of the stage, aggressively seeking contact with the audience. It took some time for the crowd to warm up, but once it did, the first moshpits of the evening were a fact. As the crowded floor of the venue teemed with celebrating metalheads, Holmström made the poignant observation that metal festivals as a concept need not be limited to the summer season only. Curiously enough, Assemble the Chariots has not released a debut lp despite being formed in 2008. Nevertheless their numerous EPs and singles, latest of which being “Galactic Order“, make for enjoyable material to headbang to, be that at home or at a concert.

Last saturday’s mass reached peak melancholy at the arrival of Vorna. This local sextet was warmly received on their home turf, and their set turned out to be a communal celebration of ethereal folk metal with hues of pagan- and black metal. If the mood threatened to grow too jovial at times, vocalist Vesa Salovaara jokingly reminded the gathered devouts of the name of the event, and everyone played along. Unlike the previous two bands, Vorna actually had a keyboard player to deliver the keyboard parts, which I noted approvingly. The atmosphere during Vorna’s show was such that at no point did I feel the need to even glance at my phone, which says a lot in itself.

The performance of and Oceans marked the beginning of the end for the night, as they were the second last band to play. Even though the intro contained bits and pieces of their industrial metal style of 2001-2002, I did not get my hopes up, for I’d not heard the group play a single song from that era in any of the concerts I’d been to. Thus I was almost overjoyed when the band began their set with a song representing “Cypher” from 2002. True to the song’s stylistic demands, keyboardist Antti Simonen performed in front of the stage with a keytar. And Oceans honored the era of their electronic industrial sound with one other song, “Tears Have No Name“, performed towards the end of their set. Hearing these songs live meant the world to me, for it was precisely the albums “A.M.G.O.D.” and “Cypher” that got me into this band way back in the day. The lion’s share of the set was devoted to “As in Gardens, So in Tombs”, released in January of this year. The audience appeared appreciative enough, though oddly there were no moshpits, even though the music of and Oceans is certainly suited for such rowdiness.

The only overseas band to play at this year’s Melancholy Mass-festival was none other than Septicflesh. These Greek masters of symphonic death metal have been operating since the early nineties, so the audience was treated to a closing act who very much knew what they were doing. Even though all the evening’s performers got their fair share of love from the crowd, it was obvious from the get-go of Septicflesh’s set that this was the band the mass attendants were the most hungry for. From the opening beats of “Portrait of a Headless Man” to the closing notes of “Dark Art” the audience lived and breathed Septicflesh to their hearts’ content, fueled by the frequent encouragements of bassist-vocalist Spiros Antoniou. Despite the long evening, the crowd had enough gas in the tank to power through the twelve-song set of Septicflesh without a dull moment anywhere in between.

It was well past midnight by the time the concert-goers got to begin their long and arduous queuing to the cloakroom and out of the venue. A few days after the event’s conclusion, the organizers announced a follow-up for next year, so it looks like Melancholy Mass is well on its way to becoming a staple in the Finnish metal festival scene of the winter season.

Pictures: Kai Lukander