Hard Metal Island "SaariHelvetti"

Text by Mikko Reinikka, photos by Carolin Büttner, English translation Sini Kaukonen

On the first weekend of August, the biggest names in metal music and the most devoted fans gather together on Viikinsaari Island, Tampere. In five years, SaariHelvetti Festival has become the most important rock event of the genre in Finland.

Performing on the main stage, the Finnish band Turmion Kätilöt

Viikinsaari is well suited for rock events

Finnish Silverline Ltd (Suomen Hopealinjat Oy) operates lake cruises on Lake Pyhäjärvi and Lake Näsijärvi in Tampere, and is in charge of the restaurant services on Viikinsaari Island. Silverline wanted to create a summer event that would fit well into the scenic setting of Viikinsaari. The event would bring customers to both the island's restaurant and the cruise ships. Rowan Rafferty, a promoter at booking agency Nem Agency teamed up with Silverline to plan a suitable summer event. They created a festival called SaariBlues (”IslandBlues”), which takes place in the beginning of June, and brings together front-line Finnish blues bands and friends of blues music to enjoy the atmosphere of early summer. This summer, performing in the event were Pepe Ahlqvist H.A.R.P., Pauli Hanhiniemi MAD, Honey B. Family, Iron Country Sisters and Lady Sings the Blues, among others.

- Viikinsaari is a great place for a music event, the audience is brought to the island on ships, there are high-quality restaurant services on the island, and the event stays conveniently compact, says Rowan Rafferty. - The people coming to the concert are like-minded, and the atmosphere stays relaxed.

Based on the positive experience gained from SaariBlues, Rowan Rafferty started to think about  other events that could be organized on Viikinsaari Island. This was the start of heavy metal music event SaariHelvetti (”IslandHell”), which has become a two-day event in the five years it has been organized. 2,500 tickets are sold for those two days, and the performers are some of the biggest international stars of the genre. Top names include Turmion Kätilöt, Korpiklaani, and Turisas.

Tatiana Shmailyuk, vocalist of the Ukranian metalcore band Jinjer
Carach Angren is a symphonic black metal band from the Netherlands
Nem Agency promoter Rowan Rafferty brings SaariHelvetti and SaariBlues to Viikinsaari

- SaariHelvetti has become Finland's most important metal music event, rejoices Rowan Rafferty. - There are hardly any other comparable events organized in Finland.

This year, SaariHelvetti held a band competition that 2,200 bands signed up for. Six of them went to the finals, and the winner performed in SaariHelvetti Festival.

The audience get into the music

Friends of metal music are a jovial audience. There have been no disturbances on Viikinsaari Island, the fans have behaved in a civilized manner even though some of them wear wild masks and costumes. Getting into the music and roleplaying are an integral part of the genre. There is a cozy atmosphere on Viikinsaari Island, and the audience enjoy the event.

High-quality food

- High-quality restaurant services are also an essential part of the audience's enjoyment, says Rowan Rafferty.

In addition to Viikinsaari Island's own restaurant, there are also vendors selling good street food on the island during the festival. They sell flamed salmon, hand-made artisan sausages, high-quality chicken doner kebabs etc.

- Friends of metal music appreciate good food, Rowan Rafferty points out. - These days, the food sold at festivals has to be tasty, good quality and versatile.

Not only the 2,500-strong audience, but also the band members, technicians and dozens of festival officials need to be fed on Viikinsaari Island during the two-day festival.

An atmospheric boat ride

Silverline boats to Viikinsaari Island leave from Laukontori Harbor. The boat trip takes less than 30 minutes. On account of the festival being a two-day event this year, a new route was introduced from Härmälä Camping Area straight to Viikinsaari Island. Those who were staying at the camping site could take a boat straight back there after the concert, if they didn't wish to continue their evening in the city centre.

It is also possible to buy one-day tickets to SaariHelvetti Festival. Last year, all the tickets were sold out.