When I entered the Tavastia Club in downtown Helsinki, I immediately noticed what appeared to be a mother-daughter duo watching the main act. During a brief chat, they confirmed that yes, they were mother and daughter, and were curious as to what I was doing in Finland. When I said that I wanted to do a PhD on gender in Finnish heavy metal, the daughter looked puzzled: ‘But there isn’t a gender issue in Finland….’
Traditionally known as the land of a thousand lakes, Finland is rapidly becoming equally well-known as a heavy metal music hub. Finnish metal music in particular is recognized as a phenomenon both within and beyond the global metal music community. Given the rising interest in Finnish heavy metal, then, the ways in which it is interpreted as male-dominated by many outside the scene, and the assumedly gender-neutral character of the music by scene participants in Finland, are ripe for analysis.
That’s why I study are women, and to some extent, other genders, are conceptualised and represented in Finnish heavy metal music lyrics. Currently, this PhD thesis focuses mainly on Finnish heavy metal music lyrics. These lyrics, combined with several interviews, prove that Finland too has a gender issue in metal music and culture. My PhD is rooted in intersectional feminism (a term developed by Kimberlé Crenshaw), which reveals how an individual’s social identities can overlap, which can then lead to compounding experiences of discrimination.
My thesis also features excerpts from an interview with the lyricist for Amorphis, Pekka Kainulainen, done specifically for this project. In it, I argue that in terms of depictions of motherhood, Finnish heavy metal lyrics are very similar to how mothers are depicted in other cultures under patriarchy: either as monstrosities who are the cause of the world’s misfortune (see ‘Shaman’, by Amorphis), or, instead, source of a love so strong that it defeats death itself (‘Her Alone’, by Amorphis). This good mother/bad mother dichotomy was discussed in-depth in my first book, and will be applied in the context of Finnish heavy metal music lyrics here. Additionally, this Amorphis example can also be viewed as a rebuttal to the comment I heard in the Tavastia Club: gender is an issue in Finland, just as gender is an issue in all countries under patriarchy.
This thesis, at times, has been more stressful than cancer treatment, while, at the same time, being one of the main reasons (outside of family and friends) that I didn’t want cancer to kill me. My goal was to stay alive, so that I could see the completion of this work. This thesis is the culmination of a lifelong passion for heavy metal music.
Songs to keep in your ear (besides those mentioned in the text)
Mokoma, ‘Sydänjuuret’ (2010)
Swallow the Sun, ‘With You Came the Whole of the World’s Tears’ (2015)
Nightwish, ‘The Poet and the Pendulum’ (2007)
Amanda also discusses a portion of her research method in an article for the Metal Music Studies journal, titled ‘Nameless, but not blameless: Motherhood in Finnish heavy metal music.’ You can find it here.