It is difficult to overstate the role that underground metal pioneer Ari Honkonen aka “Arska” has had on the Finnish scene. Since the late 1980s, Arska has immersed himself in music, constantly expanding his reach into virtually every style and sub-genre of extreme metal, including his defining role in such venerated bands as Morningstar, Minotauri, and Heathen Hoof. Arguably the most enduring aspect of his musical trajectory has been his role in creating and shaping the sound of a particular strand of Finnish Viking/Pagan metal. Arska’s initial foray into the genre was Perkele. The name refers to the Finnish thunder god—regarded as the devil among many early Christians—but simultaneously evokes a shared national identity inasmuch as it is also a commonplace curse word among Finns. After recording a rehearsal demo in 1994 called “Saatanalliset himot,” Arska entered the studio the following year to record the “Pohjola” demo with the assistance of a couple session musicians on drums and keyboards. The four songs on the demo evoke folkish ancestral rites with a sound that is epic but concise and tightly composed, built around punkish yet melodic instrumentation with Arska’s baritone vocals ringing out triumphantly in the mix. Although Perkele later veered into more goth-rock territory on subsequent releases, Arska briefly launched another project called IRONBIRD intended as a continuation of the style captured on “Pohjola.” A demo released in 1999 contained reworked versions of several of the Perkele tracks, but IRONBIRD quickly went dormant as Arska focused his attention on his other bands. The “Pohjola” demo was not forgotten, however, and the seeds planted with that recording would later flourish as Arska reinvigorated the Finnish Pagan metal sound. By the mid-2000s, the Hakkapeliitta Rock movement had begun as a handful of Finnish bands (Kalevalan Viikingit, Kareliaani, Arska & Hakkapeliitat, Kalevan Soturit, etc.) coalesced around Arska and began exploring nationalistic and patriotic styles of metal and punk that drew upon the legacy of Viking metal with a distinctly Finnish approach. In 2013, Arska reanimated the IRONBIRD project for an EP followed by a full-length release the next year. To accompany the first vinyl edition of the classic “Pohjola” demo, Arska elected to include two IRONBIRD tracks from 1999, as well as four newly recorded songs to bring the release full circle, reflecting the progression of the sound that Arska began with Perkele in the mid 1990s.
- J. Campbell
released August 31, 2019
Tracks 1-4 (Side "Old Era"): Perkele (1995)
Tracks 5-6: Ironbird (Perkele Mk II, 1999)
Tracks 7-10 (Side "New Era"): Ironbird (Perkele Mk II, 2018)