Monday. 27.05.2024

Finland maintains the ‘European metal king’ crown

The Finnish band Lordi, during a show at Hyvinkää Airfield. Photo: © Henri Juvonen /

Finnish metal talents have been flourishing, and the country continues to reign supreme in this genre of music.

A 2012 map created by a Reddit user showed that Finland leads Europe in terms of metal bands per capita as the country boasts some 53 metal bands per 100,000 residents.

That number created a big buzz among the metal audience around the world and put the spotlight on Finland right away. It helped revamp the image of this Nordic country in the international arena. Finland was unofficially regarded as the mother of metal music, the world capital of heavy metal and other titles along those lines.

Now after 7 years, I was interested in crunching the numbers again to see if Finland still holds the distinctiveness. And I was not surprised at all when I looked at the final result: yes, Finland is still the king of metal in Europe.

Besides, Finland’s footing in this arena has continued to be stronger over the years. The country now has some 70 bands per 100,000 people, outnumbering all other European nations like before. Indeed, Finland appears to be the invincible metal monarch, with its position getting more and more powerful in the metal empire, both locally and globally.

Nordic countries top the ranking

Its nearest competitors are Sweden and Iceland, coming in second and third on the index respectively. Sweden, who ruled Finland for some 600 years, has 45.5 metal bands per 100,000 people. The number of metal bands in Iceland is a little more than half of that in Finland. Both the United Kingdom and Spain were found to have 7.8 bands per 100,000 people.  

All in all, the Nordic region has maintained its predominance in the heavy metal scene. Greece (18.8 bands) is the only country that has narrowly outshined Denmark (17.3 bands) to secure its position among the top 5 countries on the index.

Click on the graphic to enlargeHeavy Metal bands Europe by Encyclopaedia Metallum and The World Bank

Chart: Mahmudul Islam  Source: Encyclopaedia Metallum, The World Bank

Another interesting observation is that Germany boasts the highest number of metal bands among all European countries, but has a mere 13.2 bands per 100,000 people. Even countries like Malta, Estonia and Slovenia have higher positions than Germany on the index.

To create the index, I used the World Bank’s population figures. I collected the number of bands in different countries from Encyclopaedia Metallum, which keeps a record of both active and non-active metal bands of a given country.

2006, an important milestone

In terms of popularity and omnipresence, the metal scene in Finland was still pretty small in the eighties and nineties compared to other countries during that period.

It was in the beginning of the 21st century when metal music in Finland began to take off and gradually became ubiquitous in the domestic market. Bands like Nightwish, Insomnium, HIM, Apocalyptica and Children of Bodom have had considerable success outside the borders of Finland. One of the main reasons is that they sing in English, which helps them reach a much wider audience than the bands singing only in Finnish.    

The year 2006 was a defining year for Finnish metal in the European region. That year, Lordi, a Finnish metal band, sealed the win at the 51st Eurovision contest with their song ‘Hard Rock Hallelujah’. It was Finland’s first win in Eurovision. The BBC wrote after the victory: “Finnish monsters rock Eurovision”

The Finnish heavy metal band Lordi, Eurovision winners in 2006. Video: © Eurovision Song Contest.

It was indeed a surprise win for Lordi because Eurovision is a show that is typically characterised by the rendition of pop music and ballads.

The way Lordi members dressed at the contest –a combination of masks and armours that was quite creepy– attracted widespread attention. There were enthusiastic members of the audience waving Finnish flags to display their support.

Even the band itself was surprised at the win, describing it as weird. "This was a victory for open-mindedness. The result would open the doors for a wider range of musical styles at Eurovision in the future," said Tomi Petteri Putaansuu, the band’s lead vocalist.  

It was Lordi’s remarkable Eurovision victory that actually paved the way for Finnish metal to become more mainstream, subsequently sparking a wider interest globally.

There are people who think metal is synonymous with a high degree of noise and hence, not euphonious. But for Finns, metal is something that has undeniable cultural prominence in the society.

Metal has emerged as a big part of the Finnish music scene, and interest in this genre continues to grow in this Nordic land.

Finland maintains the ‘European metal king’ crown