If you’re looking for an unconventional feel-good movie to watch this summer, then I’d definitely recommend Heavy Trip. This Finnish comedy about an upcoming amateur black metal band has been hailed as the Scandi version of the cult film This is Spinal Tap by critics. Even if you’re not the biggest metalhead, the bizarre adventures of this ambitious metal quartet will rock your socks off!
It’s not just any black metal though, it’s:
Symphonic Post-Apocalyptic Reindeer-Grinding Christ-Abusing Extreme War Pagan Fennoscandian metal”
Okay yeah, the music might sound as extreme as the invented genre the band members classify their music under. But then again, their music doesn’t appear in the film that much. So unless you think Guns N’ Roses is already too wild for you, this affectionate film might even appeal to non Symphonic Post-Apocalyptic Reindeer-Grinding Christ-Abusing Extreme War Pagan Fennoscandian metal fans.
Heavy Trip tells about the struggles of the ‘upcoming’ metal band with the catchy name Impaled Rektum. Despite their bad-ass (hee hee) band name, their members aren’t the evil Satan-worshippers you might imagine them to be. Witness the brainstorming session about their new band name. When one of them suggests ‘Foetal Death’ he’s immediately being reprimanded by the others with the words: “Let’s not get little children involved”.
In fact, at heart they’re just regular dudes, sort of, who in essence experience the same life insecurities as you and I.
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Meet the band
When he’s not grunting in the microphone, vocalist Turo works as a nurse in a care home. He might have long hair and look intimidating to some, but he’s actually painfully shy. His main challenge in life is to collect enough courage to ask the town’s florist out for a date. And try to shrug off the abuse he gets from the local troublemakers. Because while metal is such a popular music genre throughout Scandinavia, it’s not in the band’s small hometown. The locals treat Turo as if he were ‘the only metal dude in town’.
Bassist Pasi is probably the most stereotypical black metal persona in the band and has the whole look with the leather costume and black and white make-up going for him. He’s extremely dedicated to the metal genre and even in his daily life as a music librarian he tries to convert the ‘Beliebers’ who visit the library. His knowledge of the metal genre is non-exhaustive, as he demonstrates when he’s able to recognise the band names and song titles just from the opening guitar riff in one of the most memorable scenes of the film. (I guessed Pantera’s Walk as well though so that’s 1 point for me there!)
Then we also have drummer Jynkyy who has a tendency of dying, and resurrecting.
Finally there’s guitarist Lotvonen, who works in the family reindeer slaughtering business. For 12 years the band has been rehearsing in his parents’ basement. This is also the only place they’ve ever played. In their entire existence they’ve never played in front of an audience. And that has absolutely nothing to do with their musical skills, but rather with their inability to come up with original music. That’s why they’ve only been playing covers during their long existence. That is until…
The plot of Heavy Trip
Feeling fed up with solely playing covers in someone’s basement, the band decide they have to step up their game. They need to come up with a strong identity, a powerful band name to match and, most crucially, original music no other band has ever performed before.
An impossible mission you say?
Not when you find inspiration in the unusual sound created whilst grinding reindeer. (Aha, hence the genre name!)
Once they have the unusual reindeer-grinding backing track, the drums, guitar and bass riffs and vocals all fall in place immediately. They record their demo in one session, just in time for the fortuitous visit of a Norwegian black metal festival promotor, who just happens to swing by to purchase some reindeer blood. As one does.
I won’t spoil anything else that follows, but trust me when I say it will make you laugh. (And that’s an understatement.) I will reveal it includes a kidnapping, a real case of body snatching, an almost real terrorist attack and the commandeering of a Viking ship. Sounds pretty epic, right?
Reasons why you will love this film
There might not have been a greater juxtaposition than ‘black metal’ and ‘comedy’. I mean, the most common associations with this heavy music genre are Satanism, murder and Nazism. Not the most obvious subjects for a light comedy, right?
Because the slightly awkward demeanour of the band members couldn’t be further from this stereotypical image.
Although I’m personally very much a metalhead (or ‘mental bitch’ as one drunk guy once charmingly called me when he tried to say ‘metal bitch, also very charming), I can’t say I’m the biggest black metal fan. Yet despite this, I could very much relate to the four protagonists of Heavy Trip. And, I think you will too.
Because, even though just the thought of black metal riffs and shrieking vocals might make your ears bleed, Heavy Trip touches on very basic human issues we all deal with at a certain point in our life. From being accepted by society, to struggling with your career options, feeling insecure about love, being hurt by friends, to experiencing pressure from peers and family to be successful in life.
While the general plot development isn’t particularly original, it’s highly entertaining to see how the story unfolds. And it unfolds in ways you would have never imagined! It takes a while before the action gets going, but once it’s on, there’s no turning back.
It’s interesting the directors chose characters rooted in a subculture that’s usually associated with cults and murders, and presented them as vulnerable human beings. As 1) a girl 2) of colour and 3) a (former) metalhead, I’m used to prejudice towards anyone who’s into heavy metal. It might not have been the directors’ goal to offer insight in the people behind the tough appearance, but I applaud the result.
However, even if you don’t manage to identify yourself with the sympathetic band members, Heavy Trip will even induce a few great laughs from any non-metal head!
Heavy Trip the film gets 7 horns!
Can’t wait to see it for yourself now?
You can view Heavy Trip on digital platforms in the UK from Monday 5 August 2019.