Lordi, Lordi. Last year a Finnish thrash metal band in latex monster suits stole the Eurovision show. These strange rock beasts are now a worldwide hit. As we gird our loins for another year of Euro boom bang-a-bang, Karen Fricker asks whether Lordi wil
THEY were among the most unlikely victors in the Eurovision Song Contest’s 51-year history. And yet winning the 2006 contest has turned the Finnishmonster band Lordi into international stars. Previously known only in heavy metal circles and in their native Finland, Lordi’s fourth album, The Arockalypse, has charted in countries across Europe and in Japan. On the back of their Eurovision win, they scored a lucrative series of promotions including Lordi-branded cola, boiled sweets and credit cards; and played live at the MTV European Music Awards. A square has been renamed in Lordi’s honour in the Lapland city of Rovaniemi; a Lordi-themed postage stamp will be issued soon in Finland and the group is soon to star in its first film, called Dark Floors.
Most importantly – and uniquely, for a recent Eurovision act – Lordi have cracked the American music scene: they make their US debut at the Bamboozle Festival in New Jersey tomorrow , and will play more than 20 dates alongside Ozzy Osbourne as part of his touring Ozzfest later in the summer.
The key to Lordi’s success, undoubtedly, is their uniqueness: they are the first heavy metal act towin a contest historically dominated by traditional pop (though most music experts agree that Lordi’s sound is on the lite side of the metal spectrum), and their highly theatrical stage schtick – head-to-toe monster costumes, latex masks, and pyrotechnics – inevitably grabbed audiences’ attention.
While the members of Lordi appear to have been as surprised as everyone else by their victory in Athens last May – their lead singer, Tomi Putaansuu, has called winning “an unexpected strike of luck” – they responded quickly and cannily to their win. “There was a huge well of interest in Lordi, and they milked it for all its was worth,” says Keith Mills, webmaster of the Irish Eurovision fansite All Kinds of Everything (www.keithm.utvinternet. com). “They didn’t want to be in a Eurovision ghetto – they used the contest to break through.”
That breakthrough now includes highprofile new management, in the form of Bill Aucoin of New York-based Aucoin Globe, who steered KISS to the heights of head-banger fame and fortune in the 1970s.
“In general, I haven’t been watching Eurovision lately because I find it a little dull, but a friend told me I should watch last year to check out this group,” Aucoin recounts. “I couldn’t believe how much attention they were getting, and it was like KISS – people either loved or hated them.”
Discovering in Putaansuu a kindred spirit – the singer is president of the Finland branch of the KISS fan club – Aucoin called the band to congratulate them soon after their Eurovision win, and found that they were looking for new management. “My business partner and I flew over and went on tour with them – we slept in the tour bus, which we haven’t done in 25 years. The relationship between them and the audience was really great; they had real fans and a rock’n’roll sensibility. To me it was very real.”
Had it been up to him, Aucoin says, he would not have let the band sign so many promotional contracts so quickly: “Everyone was saying that this wouldn’t come around again, and that they had to grab it. People used to wonder how long KISS would stay together – I said they would go for as long as they want, and I say the same of Lordi.”
Surprisingly, given the relative lightness of their sound and the fact that they used the pop-oriented Eurovision Song Contest as their springboard to world fame, even metal fans celebrate Lordi’s success, according to Paul Branagan, editor of Kerrang! magazine. “People have a lot of time for them because they are clearly metal fans themselves – they are in on
the fact that metal celebrates ridiculousness,” says Branagan.
Blessedly, no act is directly copying Lordi for the 2007 contest, though there is a distinct increase in rock-styled songs, and reference to the underworld in the Swiss entry, Chief among those who celebrate Lordi’s success must be the Eurovision organisers: the group’s headline-grabbing win has brought new credibility to the contest, particularly among younger audiences. “Every so often, Eurovision needs a kick up its pants to remind itself it’s relevant,” says Mills. Hard Rock Hallelujah, indeed.
Vampires are Alive.