Picking the best metal bands from Finland was an arduous task, but ranking them was even a more difficult challenge. There will be those who will wonder where a band is, or why their favorite band is ranked in the position they are, but that’s how all lists are. Variety is the name of the game with this list, as all genres are represented, from doom to folk to death, and even a little folk on the side.
Arguably the most successful band to come out of Finland, Nightwish rose to the top of the symphonic power metal genre with their 1997 debut album Angels Fall First. Vocalist Tarja Turunen has one of the best voices in metal, and the band supported her with a solid blend of heavy riffing and soothing melodies. The band has gone through changes over the years, but has always stuck to their roots, and has a consistent discography to show for it. Putting Nightwish as the top choice may irk some people, but there is no denying the influence they had on metal.
Recommended Album: Angels Fall First (1997)
2. Children Of Bodom
Straddling the fine line between death and power metal, Children Of Bodom has always marched to the beat of their own drum, no matter the negative opinions from die-hard metal fans. The band specializes in quick bursts of metal with a strong keyboard presence. It also helps to have a guitarist as talented as Alexi Laiho in the band’s ranks; his speedy and wild soloing is one of the defining traits of Children Of Bodom.
Recommended Album: Follow The Reaper (2001)
Who knew that cellos could be brutal? Well, Apocalyptica proved us all wrong. Starting out as a Metallica tribute band, the trio began to compose their own original material, which was as strong as the covers they performed. The band took a classical instrument and made it as heavy as it could possibly sound. Working alongside musicians like Dave Lombardo and Corey Taylor, Apocalyptica has gone to critical and commercial success. Their 2007 album Worlds Collide included single “I’m Not Jesus,” featuring Taylor on vocals, which got considerable radio airplay.
Recommended Album: Inquisition Symphony (1998)
In their 15-plus year career, Sentenced provided metal fans with a satisfying number of quality albums, ranging from death to gothic metal. Guitarist Miika Tenkula was the driving force behind the band, with his guitar work and early vocal work standing out. Albums such as 1995’s Amok and 1996’s Down dazzled listeners with a death metal sound that always had a hint of melody behind it. Sentenced would disband in 2005, their 2006 live album Buried Alive being the last thing they ever released. Sadly, Tenkula passed away in early February 2009.
Recommended Album: Down (1996)
Ever since their formation in 1984, Stratovarius has become a popular band amongst power metal fans. In the early days, vocalist/guitarist Timo Tolkki was the driving force, with his Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Megadeth influences shining through. The band started out as a darker entity, but lightened up a bit over the years. However, the band has been able to maintain a loyal fan base with their devotion to melodic power metal. They didn’t invent the genre, but they sure as hell perfected it.
Recommended Album: Dreamspace (1994)
The ultimate folk metal party band, Korpiklaani is the perfect band to toast a frosty beverage to. The band never takes themselves seriously, whether its vocalist Jonne Järvelä’s ridiculous deer-antler microphone setup at live shows, or the use of an accordion in much of their sound. The band doesn’t lyrically stray too far from the drinking and folk mythology, but Korpiklaani has always entertained metal fans with their fast-paced, catchy and infectious melodies.
Recommended Album: Tales Along This Road (2006)
7. Sonata Arctica
Yet again, another power metal band on the Top Ten list; Finland seems to constantly churn out bands in this genre. Sonata Arctica doesn’t do anything different from most power metal bands, but has kept releasing quality material, gaining the respect of fans of the genre. Some say they sound similar to Stratovarius, and that may be true, but I always considered Sonata Arctica to be on the same level of Stratovarius, and not just mimicking their sound.Recommended Album: Reckoning Night (2004)
8. Swallow The Sun
With 2003’s The Morning Never Came, death/doom metal band Swallow The Sun began their slow rise in the underground metal scene. Pacing is the name of the game here; Swallow The Sun goes for atmosphere above all else. Aleksi Munter’s work on the keys is tasteful and elegant, while vocalist Mikko Kotamäki has some of the best harsh/clean vocals in the business. This band hasn’t gotten enough credit in my eyes, and it’s about high time they make a name for themselves.
Recommended Album: Hope (2007)
9. Reverend Bizarre
The name says it all, to be honest. The band was one of the premier acts in the Finnish doom metal scene. Reverend Bizarre released three albums that are considered modern classics in the genre. The band specialized in long, epic numbers, with distorted guitars, fuzzy bass, and pounding drum work. Their lyrics ranged from occultism to lost love. Reverend Bizarre broke up in 2007, but not before releasing their magnum opus, the two-disc III: So Long Suckers.
Recommended Album: III: So Long Suckers (2007)
10. Shape Of Despair
This funeral doom metal band has lately become one of my favorite bands, with fantastic instrumental interplay and dueling harsh/clean vocals from Pasi and Natalie Koskinen. The addition of a violinist is a nice touch, and one that is used to build up atmosphere and a dark mood. Like most funeral doom metal bands, Shape Of Despair takes their sweet time; however, the band keeps things interesting the whole time, whether it’s a melancholy keyboard section or a brutal guitar riff guaranteed to blow some speakers up.Recommended Album: Angels Of Distress (2001)
11. Honorable Mention
Bands that just missed the cut include Amorphis, Beherit, Ensiferum, Finntroll, Impaled Nazarene, Insomnium, Moonsorrow, Wintersun and many others.