When you think of the Eurovision Song Contest what comes to mind? Hyperactive euro pop? Dancing Russian grannies? Men singing in higher octaves that can be heard by the human ear? More cheese than even Wallace and Gromit can get through? All probably fair assessments, but you almost certainly didn’t think about metal. However, there have been occasions when metal bands have snuck into the Eurovision line up, and times when they’ve even won.
The 2019 Eurovision Song Contest will be held in Israel after the country was successful in winning in 2018 with the song “Toy” by Netta. Despite their success last year, Israel is a rank outsider for taking victory for a second time in a row. The 2019 running of the competition doesn’t have any metal bands in its line up, so let’s take a look at the times they were there.
Lordi – Hard Rock Hallelujah
Lordi is a hard rock and heavy mental band from Finland that formed in 1992, with the band becoming well known in 2002 after releasing the single “Would You Love a Monsterman?” They have been recording and touring ever since with the band’s ninth album being released in May 2018. Lordi has had a number of lineup changes in its 26 years of existence, but Mr Lordi, the band’s lead singer, songwriter and costume maker, and the guitarist Amen are the two remaining original members.
Lordi won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2006 with the song “Hard Rock Hallelujah” before reaching the top of the Finnish singles chart and 25 in the UK’s “Top 40”. The song was not just the most popular that year, it was voted the country’s most popular Eurovision entry ever.
The following year, in 2007, Apocalyptica, a symphonic metal band from Finland played during the competition’s interval. Instead of a single song, the band selected a medley consisting of “Lie Burns!”, “Worlds Collide” and “Faraway” all without lyrics. As they played, a number of acrobatic acts took place on stage, starting with a man inside a giant bubble and followed by sword swallowing, a trapeze act and someone cycling on a tightrope.
Alexander Rybak – Keep of Kalessin
In 2009 Norwegian singer Alexander Rybak won Eurovision with a song called “Fairytale”, which was about as far from metal as is possible. However, he returned two years later to play in the interval of the Melodi Grand Prix, with metal band Keep of Kalessin (who had also entered in 2010) in one of the strangest collaborations in the history of Eurovision. The Melodi Grand Prix is an annual music competition held in Norway, with the winner going on to represent the country in Eurovision. The song titled “The Divine Land” featured the guitar and drum playing of Keep of Kalessin with the accompaniment of violin playing from Rybak.
Max Jason Mai
In 2012 Max Jason Mai entered Eurovision with his song “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” a sort of Bon Jovi-inspired metal ballad. Max Jason Mai took a strange career path, entering Czechia’s version of Pop Idol under his real name Miroslav Smajda but only managing to secure second place. He has also played in a number of other bands, including the hard rock group Terrapie, rock-jazz band Sivers and trash metal band Blackended. He then formed MAXJMAI in 2012 to enter the Eurovision Song Contest; he unfortunately only managed to get 22 points in the semi final, meaning he didn’t manage to make the grand final.
For a competition that is synonymous with cheesy europop, and songs and artists that generally are unable to find success outside of the competition, it is surprising that metal bands have featured so frequently in Eurovision. Whilst metal acts have sometimes only been included as part of the intervals, and sometimes scored badly, Lordi have managed to prove that there’s a place for metal in Eurovision. Whilst 2019 lacks any metal bands in the final, perhaps we can look forward to some more in the coming years.
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