Heavy metal bands belong to Kuusamo in the same way as snow belongs to winter. The 1980s were the golden age of heavy rock in Kuusamo: Zero Nine played into the charts first, followed immediately by A.R.G short for Ancient Rotten Graveguards. Foretaste was already got already in 1981, when the Homanen Group from Kuusamo played in the final competition of the Rock-king contest organized by the Suosikki magazine. The composition of Homanen Group consists of Pekka Homanen (guitar), Ensio Karjalainen (vocals), Pekka Wendelin (drums), Mikko Karjalainen (bass) and Keijo Murtovaara (organ). It is worth noting that Zero Nine played as the event’s house band.
The 1980’s of heavy rock
Zero Nine’s career is Finnish heavy rock history. Founded in 1978 in Kuusamo, the greatest popularity of the band came at the end of the 1980s. The production of the legendary band includes nine albums and twenty singles.
– ‘’White Lines is perhaps our most important, but Intrique is perhaps our best album’’ commented the band’s singer Kepa Salmirinne in 2004.
In 1980, Zero Nine came to the attention of the whole nation when they won the Levyraati, a Finnish musical competition tv program, with their song Down the Line.
The 1980s were the band’s glory days. At that time, Zero Nine released six albums, one of which was led by Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gillian. The decade’s hard work exhausted the band members, and in the 1990s they took a small break. When the income came from elsewhere, it was not necessary to perform music, but to do it according to one’s own desire.
– ‘’Simply making a record is also not interesting in any case, because it has to include the emotional scale.’’ Salmirinne commented under the band’s eighth album release.
The band’s latest album IX was released on September 9, 2009. The occasional gigs still continue, even though there has been a couple of years of silence in between. When talking about gigs, we can’t fail to mention that Zero Nine toured the Nordics in 1996 as AC/DC’s warm-up band.
When Zero Nine won the Levyraati in 1980, the band had broken up with the departure of Veli-Sakari ”Sika” Kukkonen. The membership quickly reorganized after the victory, and there have been no changes since then.
A lot has happened to the band that has been play a long time. While waving his hair, Salmirinne has managed to get Drumsticks up his nose. The stage structures have sometimes failed the singer, and AC/DC’s singer has gone unrecognized.
Homanen Groupin Ensio Karjalainen ja Pekka Homanen on stage autumn 1981.
Zero Nine at their best in the beginning of 1980’s
Zero Nine composition
Martti ”Mara” Mäntyniemi – guitar
Jari ”Jarski” Jaakkola – bass
Matti ”Iro” Murtola – keyboards
Timo ”Iso-T” Käsmä – guitar
Mikko ”Dexta” Korpela – drums
Keijo ”Kepa” Salmirinne – vocals
Esa ”Elmo” Harju – bass until the 2000s
Brother Sakari ”Sika” Kukkonen – drums 1978-80
Visions, Scenes and Dreams (1982)
Blank Verse (1982)
White Lines (1985)
Voodoo You (1988)
N.E. Files (2004)
After Zero Nine, fame was achieved by A.R.G. aka Ancient Rotten Graveguards: A trash metal band founded in Kuusamo in 1985. The band’s albums say ”Porometalli” (reindeer metal) in reference to their home in the North, although the band’s genre is clearly thrash metal. A.R.G. is undoubtedly one of the pioneers of the Finnish thrash metal genre.
When A.R.G played their first gigs in 1988, the pitting of the south against the north was fierce. A.R.G. had just won the Northern Finland band competition, thanks to that they were able to record the Aggressive Confessor single and rushed to Stone-bands territory in Helsinki.
– The audience shouted for the reindeer to get on stage. Back then it was very necessary to label everything. ‘’We decided that we are reindeer metal then. It stayed in life for some reason,’’ guitarist Jari Kelloniemi, who founded the band with drummer Pasi Takkula, has told afterwards. The composition was stabilized a couple of years later, when bass singer Tepa Karjalainen and guitarist Vesa Säkkinen joined the band.
A.R.G. released their first album Entrance in 1989. The album made the band famous all over Finland, and A.R.G. got to do tours around the country and perform at big festivals. The band recorded yet another album, One World Without the End (1991).
The rise of metal music and its subgenres began to decline after the beginning of the 1990s, as grunge and alternative music became more mainstream, and the popularity and activities of A.R.G. also began to wane. After a few crew changes and demos, the band’s activities waned and ended in the mid-1990s. In the spring of 2011, A.R.G. was reassembled. In 2015, the third album Redemption from Refaim was released. In 1991, the band received the Kuusamo municipality’s cultural award.
A.R.G. 1992. Lithendahls studio, official promotion picture. From left Vesa Säkkinen, Tapani Kokko, Tepa Karjalainen ja Jari Kelloniemi.
Tenho ”Tepa” Kareen – vocals, bass
Vesa Säkkinen – guitar
Jari Kelloniemi – guitar
Timo Hanhijoki – drums (2011–)
Aku Raaska – song (1987)
Pasi Takkula – drums (1987–1991)
Tapani Kokko – drums (1991–1994)
Jarkko Poussu – bass (1993–1994)
Albums and EPs
Back to Life (1990)
One World Without the End (1991)
Redemption from Refaim (2015)
Author: Ulla Ingalsuo-Laaksonen, MSSc
Translations: Sami Mourujärvi, UAS