Timo and his Trio Niskalaukaus (“Neckshot”), along with their soulmates Viikate (Scythe), perform Finnish metal … cult ethno metal might be a good term to use. Unlike Viikate, who incorporate depressing vignettes of rural Finnishness and folk melodies into doom metal, Trio Niskalaukaus incorporates “northern melodies into a guitar wall of sound.” You would hear Rautiainen’s vocal style on tango albums, in Suomi Rock such as Eppu Normaali, on folk and children’s albums. The major themes on these two albums are global environmental disaster and tragic personal disasters.
Lopunajan Merkit means something like “Signs of the End.” On the other hand, as with much foreign language music, it may be bliss not to understand. For starters, “Venajan Orvot” is a portrait of “Russian Orphans,” using the term loosely. “Rekkamies” contains the thoughts of a divorced trucker hauling nuclear waste and prohibited by law to even stop for a break. In the becoming world of Lopunajan Merkit there are no more winters in Finland, the sun always shines. It is likely that the Far North is the only place where it is still cool enough to live … until sea level rises to flood everything.
Taanan kaunis aurinko
Taanan on hyva paiva
Today a beautiful sun
Burns the liars
Today is a good day
The last one.
As with tango, the Finnish is fairly simple and distinct and anyone with the liner notes can at least catch the words. In contrast to his threatening looks, Rautiainen has a lovely warm, smooth voice, and it is always a pleasure to listen; as well, Finnish is such a beautiful language. What is more potent than the alliteration of “kaikessa rauhassa kalojen kanssa” of “Rakkemies”? “In echoes in peace with the fish,” or something like that…
Neckshot cites influences from Neil Young and Black Sabbath. Actually more of a hard rock album, the accompaniments in Lopunajan Merkit are analogous to a constant barrage of “Layla” and “Eight Miles High,” a lot of magnificent hooks with some modern metal mixed in. They are always tremendously forceful arrangements, even the last, quiet tune, which is forceful in its own way.
The second full-length album Itku Pitkasta Ilosta (“All Joy Turns To Grief”) is darker and more metal-like, with more bass and less chimey guitar, and less fun for the folk-oriented listener. The themes are similar, however. The first song, “Rajaton Rakkaus,” is about a man who breaks up with an Estonian woman and tries to hang himself, but he cannot tie the knot in the rope. One track I particularly like is “Kuusikymmentakaksi” (“52”): “Sina elat kuolemanpelossa. Se on varma.” or “You live in a death game. It is certain.” The “Se on varma” is repetitive and strident … certainly a reminder of the vulture hanging over the head of “aging boomers.”
Rautiainen’s works include a compilation album in German, but are among a body of Finnish recording that is little known in America. As one Finnish reviewer alludes, if you are not Finnish, you will not understand the recordings. In my experience, however, it is relatively easy to at least imagine “becoming a Finn” because there is so little competition! Is this music folk? Not any less so than singer/songwriters who set their songs to pop arrangements, or for instance, Fairport’s “Red Tide.” A redundant proof is the final “unplugged” song on Lopunajan Merkit, “Hapean Lavistama,” is about a boy who commits suicide because everyone teases him. “Hand burnt by cold iron …” The acoustic guitar mimics a kantele; the song is a folk lullaby.