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Alamaailman Vasarat [Finland]

Alamaailman Vasarat

ARTIST: Alamaailman Vasarat

COUNTRY: Finland

GENRE: World Music, Jazz, Rock, Heavy Metal, Folk, Blues, Klezmer, Tango, Cabaret, Classical, Avant-Garde, Alternative, Fusion, Experimental

ABOUT: Alamaailman Vasarat (‘The Hammers of the Underworld’) are an unusual phenomenon not only in their home country of Finland, but around the globe.

In their music you can find traces of tango, klezmer, jazz, psychobilly, cabaret, circus music, new age, progressive avant-garde and the heaviest of heavy metal. It is fairly typical to hear the band sail between creepy ‘Christmas-songs-for-the-poor’-type melancholic Finnish melodies to hot desert mirages of Ancient Persia just to engage an up-tempo Klezmer-wedding when you least expect it!

Whatever the mood or style, the main elements of all Alamaailman Vasarat compositions are a strong visual image and powerful melodic content, preparing the listener for an unforgettable musical journey to places yet explored, strangely distant but at the same time curiously familiar. True world music.

The band have even released an iPhone game called HammerBlast where fans can listen to live tracks from the DVD while shooting away the band’s musical instruments in an action- packed blast’em up game.

MORE ABOUT: Alamaailman Vasarat (“The Hammers of the Underworld”) is an unusual phenomenon not only in their home country Finland, but around the globe! In the Alamaailman Vasarat music you can find traces of tango, klezmer, jazz, psychobilly, cabaret, circus music, new age, progressive avant-garde and heaviest of heavy metal.

It is fairly typical to hear the band sail between creepy “Christmas-songs-for-the-poor”-type melancholic Finnish melodies to hot desert mirages of Ancient Persia just to engage an up-tempo Klezmer-wedding when you least expect it!

Whatever the mood or style, the main elements in all Alamaailman Vasarat compositions are a strong visual image and powerful melodic content, preparing the listener for an unforgettable musical journey to places yet explored, strangely distant but at the same time curiously familiar. True world music!

Alamaailman Vasarat was founded in 1997 by Jarno “Stakula” Sarkula and drummer Teemu Hänninen. Stakula had just bought a soprano sax – a reason enough to start a new band! After a few months of experimenting the line-up was already primed for live action, but has never stopped evolving.

Split between six members, the band’s weaponry consists of various saxes & clarinets, trombone, tuba, two cellos with multi-effects, pump organ, grand piano, drums & percussion. The most recent addition is truly a rare beauty – special contrabass saxophone called Stakula’s Tubax, already a favorite of the audience!

In 2000, the debut album “Vasaraasia” entered the World Music Chart Europe Top-20 at the seventh position. In 2003, the second album “Käärmelautakunta” portrayed a mature band with refined sound and evolved compositions. In 2005 saw the release of a collaboration album “Kinaporin Kalifaatti” with Finnish singer Tuomari Nurmio. It received five stars all over and was awarded with a highly sought-after TEOSTO PRIZE by Finnish Composers’ Copyright Society.

The fourth album “Maahan” was released March 2007 in Europe and Japan. Getting back to their beloved instrumental form, the band once again proved its unique ability to blend wide variety of styles into pure and distinctive Alamaailman Vasarat mix, a perfect example of true Vasaraasian sound.

The next album Huuro Kolkko combined wide-scale world music elements with progressive concept. This musical story of a Finnish explorer in the early 1900′s is really the band’s most memorable and timeless masterpiece. Recorded in Italy during late 2008, the album was released April 2009 in Finland, Central Europe and later in Japan by famous indie label P-Vine. It climbed to World Music Chart Europe Top 10 and was raved in all reviews!

Early May 2010, the biggest Alamaailman Vasarat masterpiece was released – a mammoth live DVD “Haudasta lomilla”. With five hours of live stuff, music videos, short films and animations, this massive release jumped 1st on Finland Music DVD Top 10 right away. The release of this DVD marks the end of an era for the band and also acts as a perfect companion for studio albums.

Just to make it more interesting, in August 2010 the band released an iPhone game called HammerBlast! In this special release, the fans will be able to listen several live tracks from the DVD with a stand-alone music player while shooting away our musical instruments in an action- packed blast’em up game!

Alamaailman Vasarat have also done film music; most recently for an animated movie Elukka (“The Animal”) which was awarded for best music score at French film festival Premiers Plans 2006. The band’s music has also been used in numerous theater, short films and art projects plays during the years around the world.

Starting as early as 2000, Alamaailman Vasarat have constantly performed outside Finland, spreading the word of Finnish instrumental music and leaving many mouths open in the process. Such is the intensity and performance power of this act that many bands refuse to go on stage after the crazy Finns, realizing there is nothing more to offer!

During the years venues have varied from big time world music festivals to huge progressive rock gatherings, never forgetting intense rock clubs and creepy jazz dives. The band has played in Portugal (Festival Músicas do Mundo), Netherlands (Stranger Than Paranoia), Germany (TFF Rudolstadt), Sweden (Urkult Folk Festival) – Japan (Pit Inn, Tokyo), USA (NEARfest, Trenton) and in all major festivals of Finland such as Ruisrock, Provinssirock and Ilosaarirock.

The summer of 2008 the band was all over: Mission Folk Music Festival in Canada, massive Sziget in Hungary, Bardentreffen in Germany, Festival Musicas do Mar in Portugal and Ethnomechanica in St. Peterburg. Year 2009 took the band from Midnight Sun Festival in Sodankylä, Finland to legendary Roskilde Festival in Denmark, back to Sines, Portugal and finally to Duo Music Exchange in Tokyo, Japan and Festival Internacional de Puebla, Mexico.

In 2010 the band was in M.A.D.E. Festival, Sweden and legendary big time rock festival Colours of Ostrava, to name a few. In 2011, the band started up with visit to Portugal’s Gouveia Art Rock and headed almost straight after to Tokyo for two gigs, sharing the stage with Värttinä. September 2011 will see band on it’s first tour in France and blow up the WOMEX expo in October! Gigs for 2012 include the legendary Fusion Festival in Germany, Kaustinen in Finland and several others.

For countless occasions, Alamaailman Vasarat have proved that old wood and brass can really beat the shizz out of any modern day instruments. But do not mistake the band to be just a master of Wall of Sound – it is just as important to play Silent. According to loyal fans across the globe, the most breath-taking moments are in fact those creepiest seconds when the band plays so quiet and so petite you can almost hear the dead moaning six feet under. And when the distorted cellos kick in once again…

The next album, titled “Valta” is now ready and was released in early May 2012 in Scandinavia and later in the summer in Central Europe. This release is aimed perfectly for the band’s 15-year anniversary. New material is highly intensive and thematic, fully flavoured with the band’s unique sound and ability to blend styles in new and surprising ways. New lineup has much to do with the full sound and new ideas – late 2010 Santeri Saksala joined the ranks as the new drummer with highly musical and huge sound. Brass metal is now commanded by Jarkko Niemelä with trumpets and alto horns. The new album VALTA truly marks the start of a new era for the band! Be ready to witness some hot brass and burning wood to light up all the stages of the world in the years to come!

LINE-UP:
Stakula saxophones, clarinets, Tubax, weird woodwinds
Jarkko Niemelä trumpet, alto horn
Miikka Huttunen pump organ, grand piano, melodica
Marko Manninen cello, copperfish theremin
Tuukka Helminen cello
Santeri Saksala drums, percussion

SELECTED PRESS REVIEWS:
“Astonishing Finnish band Alamaailman Vasarat thrills at Kings Place.

Finnish band Alamaailman Vasarat came to Kings Place for an astonishing, breathtakingly original set of music veering between any number of genres. It’s a sound at once raw and tight, terrifying and ecstatic. Look them up.

It is very difficult to describe the astonishing music of Finnish band Alamaailman Vasarat (“The Hammers of the Underworld”) that was on display last Saturday, 2 November, at Kings Place. It references a huge range of musical genres – from rock to blues to heavy metal to klezmer to cabaret to folk to classical to avant-garde – and yet, in the end, it is practically a genre unto itself. By this I mean that everything in it feels completely organic and coherent. It’s not a pastiche and nothing is in quotation marks; it’s all part of the same stew that collectively forms their utterly unique, completely convincing sound. When they leap suddenly and without warning from heavy metal riffs to distorted Jewish wedding music, it always, somehow, feels like exactly the right thing.

Even the instrumental line-up defies any easy genre categorization. The keyboard/piano (Miikka Huttune) and drums (Santeri Saksala) point in a rock direction, but rather than a guitar or bass, two amplified cellos (Marko Manninen and Tuukka Helminen) fill out the rhythm section. When they play driving riffs in parallel fifths with distortion, the cellos sound uncannily like a heavy metal electric guitar; but then a minute later they may be playing Bach-like arpeggios, or soaring through achingly beautiful romantic melodies. Riding on top of all of this are trumpeter Jarkko Niemelä and saxophonist and band-leader Jarno “Stakula” Sarkula. Stakula spends much of his time on soprano saxophone, often doubling the trumpet on wildly careening blues or klezmer or demented circus melodies. But every now and again he switches to the monstrous contrabass saxophone, playing dark, deep lines that out-bass and out-metal even the distorted cellos.

It’s a sound at once raw and tight, terrifying and ecstatic. The band plays with an impressive mixture of wild abandon and pinpoint precision, flawlessly executing the complicated arrangements and sudden tempo and character shifts. I’ve heard plenty of ensembles that are that tight, fewer that are that wild and impassioned, but rarely if ever have I heard the combination of both at such a high level.

Formally, you never know where a tune is going to go. Sometimes, the same material will repeat again and again, building inexorably to a blistering climax; sometimes, just when you think you’re getting the hang of it, it takes a left turn in a direction you never would have anticipated. After over an hour of their tunes, nothing had become remotely predictable or stale.

At some point, attempts at verbal description of this band become pointless. Explaining why and how this music works so well is as elusive as attempting to assign it a genre. Suffice it to say that ever since the concert, I have been obsessively watching their YouTube videos and sending links to everyone I know who I think might possibly be interested – not typical post-review behavior, mind you. Those videos don’t do justice to the electric intensity of hearing them live, but certainly they do more than my feeble attempts at prose description.” (Jonathan Russell, One Stop Arts) (5 stars)

“Slumber takes you, and as time passes, you slip into a vivid dream. You are at a heavy metal concert, and thrill to the first deep and doom-laden, viscerally crunching chords. Then you realize that what you thought were guitarists have morphed into cellists, and as the tempo shifts into double time a saxophone adds a frenetic melody. As you look around you find that you are actually sitting outside a cafe in Eastern Europe, and what started as a metal band is now playing klezmer. Some villagers are dancing – somehow it doesn’t strike you as odd that they are dancing the tango, or that evocative middle eastern melodies drop in and out of the tune. You glimpse palm trees, and then hear a jazz ensemble playing somewhere behind you as a marching brass band passes in front, with heavy metal riffs returning to punctuate their melody. But as you turn to watch, you are sitting in the corner of a deserted café in which the pianist is playing his way plaintively towards closing time. In your dream all of this makes sense; the transitions are not jarring but part of an oddly continuous dream logic in which you are in constant movement toward a destination that is ever on the tip of your tongue, yet each passing location is oddly right and vivid.

Such is the experience of listening to an album by Finnish band Alamaailman Vasarat (which translates as “Hammers of the Underworld”). Alamaailman Vasarat create hugely entertaining instrumental music that draws from a bewildering variety of world music genres and fuses them within a progressive-rock-like inclination towards ever-shifting rhythms and bombastic flourishes.

(…) All of this might suggest something chaotically thrown together for the sake of parody or novelty value, but that is not the case. True, Alamaailman Vasarat always sound as if they are having great fun, and I find the protean surprises of their carnivalesque compositions repeatedly bringing a smile to my face. It’s the kind of music that makes one want to keep turning to a companion and saying “did you hear what they just did?” It’s also the kind of music that compels visiting friends to ask what is playing. And yet the music is always tight and coherent, not just a random throwing together of disparate elements. Everything is superbly played, and the sheer pleasure of a good tune carries the listener across many a transition. Amid all the twists and turns, great hooks, infectious rhythms, strong composition and good musicianship carry the day.

If you are new to the band, I recommend you take a listen and find out what you’ve been missing.” (David Smith, Music is Good)

SELECTED DISCOGRAPHY:

– “Valta” (Laskeuma Records, 2012)
– “Songs From Vasaraasia” (compilation CD/DVD, P-Vine, 2011)
– “Hammerblast” (iPhone game, Stakula Games, 2010)
– “Haudasta Lomilla” (DVD, Laskeuma Records, 2010)
– “Huuro Kolkko” (Laskeuma Records, 2009)
– “Maahan” (Laskeuma Records, 2007)
– “Kinaporin Kalifaatti” (Tuomari Nurmio & Alamaailman Vasarat) (Johanna Kustannus, 2005)
– “Käärmelautakunta” (Laskeuma Records, 2003)
– “Vasaraasia” (Laskeuma Records, 2000)

RECENT CONCERTS:
– London International Festival of Exploratory Music (LIFEM), London, UK
– Roskilde Festival, Roskilde, Denmark
– Kolbrand Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark
– Colours of Ostrava, Czech Republic
– Sziget Festival, Budapest, Hungary
– TFF Rudolstadt, Germany
– Bardentreffen, Germany
– Dunya Festival, Rotterdam, Netherlands
– Stranger Than Paranoia, Tilburg, Netherlands
– M.A.D.E. Festival, Sweden
– Urkult Folk Festival, Näsåker, Sweden
– Festival Músicas do Mundo, Sines, Portugal
– Festival Musicas do Mar, Povoa de Varzim, Portugal
– Gouveia Art Rock, Portugal
– WOMEX, Sevilla, Spain
– Mission Folk Music Festival, Canada
– NEARfest, Trenton, USA
– Festival Internacional de Puebla, Puebla, Mexico
– Asahi Art Square, Tokyo, Japan
– Pit Inn, Tokyo, Japan
– Duo Music Exchange, Tokyo, Japan
– Ethnomechanica, St. Peterburg, Russia
– Ikra Club, Moscow, Russia
– Riksscenen, Oslo, Norway
– Rock in Opposition, Carmaux, France
– Kaustinen Folk Music Festival, Kaustinen, Finland
– Maailmantango Festival, Tampere, Finland
– Midnight Sun Festival, Sodankylä, Finland
– Ruisrock Festival, Finland
– Provinssirock Festival, Finland
– Ilosaarirock Festival, Finland

SELECTED VIDEOS:

SOUNDCLOUD:

Alamaailman Vasarat


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