They have 2.5m retractable latex Satan wings, sing hits like Chainsaw Buffet and blow up slabs of smoking meat on stage. So members of the band Lordi expected a reaction when it beat a crooner of love ballads to represent Finland at the Eurovision song contest in Athens, Greece, the competition that launched Abba and Celine Dion.
But the heavy-metal monster band did not imagine a national identity crisis.
First, Finnish religious leaders warned that the Freddy Krueger lookalikes could inspire Satanic worship. Then critics called for President Tarja Halonen to use her constitutional powers to veto the band and nominate a traditional Finnish folk singer instead. Rumors even circulated that Lordi members were agents sent by Russian President Vladimir Putin to destabilize Finland ahead of a Russian coup -- an explanation for why they refused to take off their freakish masks in public.
The fury also spread in Greece, winner of last year's Eurovision and therefore the host of this year's contest, where an anti-Lordi movement called "Hellenes" urged the Finnish government "to say `no' to this evil group." One young Finn calling himself "Suomi" ("Finland" in Finnish) wrote to a newspaper Web log saying, "If Lordi wins Eurovision, I am leaving the country."
The lead singer, Lordi -- a former film student who goes by his real name, Tomi Putaansuu, when not wielding a blood-spurting electric chain saw -- is philosophical about the uproar.
The affair, Putaansuu says, has exposed the insecurity of a young country whose peculiar language is spoken by only 6 million people worldwide and whose sense of identity has been dented by being part of the Swedish kingdom and the Russian empire until gaining independence in 1917. Most Finns, he adds, would rather be known for Santa Claus than heavily made-up monster mutants.
"In Finland, we have no Eiffel Tower, few real famous artists, it is freezing cold and we suffer from low self-esteem," said Putaansuu, who, as Lordi, has horns protruding from his forehead and sports black fingernails 15cm long.
As he stuck out his tongue menacingly, his red demon eyes glaring, Lordi was surrounded by Kita, an alien-man-beast predator who plays flame-spitting drums inside a cage; Awa, a blood-splattered ghost who howls back-up vocals; Ox, a zombie bull who plays bass; and Amen, a mummy in a rubber loincloth who plays guitar.
Dragging on a cigarette, Putaansuu added, "Finns nearly choked on their cereal when they realized we were the face Finland would be showing to the world."
Often derided as a showcase of kitsch, Eurovision is one of the most watched television programs in the world. It pits pop groups from all over Europe and the Middle East against one another, with the winner decided by popular vote by more than 600 million viewers.
Not everyone in this Nordic country of 5 million views the monster squad as un-Finnish. Some Finns say Lordi is right at home and that the band's use of flaming dragon-encrusted swords and exploding baby dolls expresses the warrior spirit of the Vikings.
Alex Nieminen, a Finnish ad executive, says the band harks back to the Hakkapeliittas, the legendary Finnish cavalry unit that fought as part of the Swedish army in the 17th century. He argues that the slasher film wannabes embody Finnish self-assertion after decades of isolation.
"Lordi represents a rebellion by Finns who are saying, `Hey we are not all the Nokia-wielding people the government would like you to think we are,'" Nieminen said.
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big