It’s been two and a half decades since monster-themed Finnish hard-rock band Lordi formed. And while the group might not have set the United States on fire, Lordi is big news in Europe. Early albums like Get Heavy and The Monsterican Dream earned the band a healthy following within the Euro-metal community and rave reviews in publications like the British Kerrang!.
Lordi wormed its way into the mainstream consciousness when it competed in, and won, the Eurovision Song Contest in 2006 with the song “Hard Rock Hallelujah.” It was both the first Finnish band and the first hard-rock band to do so. That competition was started with the best of intentions in 1956, with different Euro nations competing against each other with a song that was considered representative and appropriate — but it became something of a joke long before Lordi entered. The show is preferred viewing for grandmothers, so the idea of seeing these crazy Finns decked out in gory prosthetics was a joy. That they won is a miracle.
Those prosthetics are key to the Lordi experience, evoking a family-friendly version of Gwar. Frontman Mr. Lordi (that's Tomi Petteri Putaansuu's monster name) came up with the concept, and every time a new musician joins the ranks, Mr. Lordi creates a new monster character and designs the costume.
“I do all the costumes, makeup, masks and shit,” Mr. Lordi says. “There have unfortunately been too many lineup changes over the years. The characters that are still the same have to be recognizable, so I can’t really change the costumes or the masks too much.”
While the evolution of the aesthetic has to be limited, the scope of the music is less so. Early Lordi records were very simplistic — hard-rock anthems with big riffs and catchy choruses. Think Kiss with an even crazier look. But like Kiss, Mr. Lordi has allowed the music to get more progressive as the musicians improved and he became more skilled as a songwriter. The new record, Monstereophonic, is Lordi’s Music From “The Elder.”
“It’s hard to say myself, because I think I’m way too close to the whole thing to analyze it,” says Mr. Lordi. “I just do whatever I feel like doing when it comes to writing. But many people have actually said that we have evolved. If that’s a good or bad thing depends on the person listening. There can only be one AC/DC that can do one song and keep on going with that one song. I’m saying that with respect and positivity. That’s the only band that can do that.”
Mr. Lordi is the only remaining original member of Lordi, though guitarist Amen has been with the band since 1996. The frontman and artist says that the current lineup is the most stable that he has had.
“I always hope this is the final lineup and we don’t have to change anybody else anymore,” he says. “But then again, life happens. But right now and for the past five years, there’s been no tension between the members, which is the first time ever in the history of this band. We’re pieces of the puzzle and fit really well. The chemistry is really good.”
The one perk of having a rotating member is the opportunity to get creative with a whole new costume. Mr. Lordi says that he speaks at length with an incoming member and gets an idea of what they would like, and their personality type, before getting to work.
“You can’t force somebody to be a character that he or she doesn’t want to be,” he says. “It needs to be alter-ego. I’m not trying to make it sound too philosophical, because it’s really not. You just have to talk it through with the member before you start to create the character. The funny thing with Hella, our keyboard player, was that when I asked her what kind of monsters do you like, she said vampires. And I said, ‘No vampires in this band. That’s too lame.’ Then she mentioned a doll, and I already had that in mind. Sometimes it’s really quick like that.”
When talking about the aforementioned, frankly ludicrous Eurovision experience, Mr. Lordi is pragmatic, pleased that his band basically received a ton of free publicity and were thrust into the mainstream public’s eye while they sat drinking tea and watching TV from their comfy sofas.
“What the whole Eurovision thing brought us was the media exposure that you cannot buy with money,” he says. “It didn’t change my life at all, but it did open up opportunities and windows for things to happen. Especially in Europe. Overnight we became known, even with mainstream people who are not following the heavy-metal or hard-rock scenes. The coverage that we had was something that no record label could ever spend money to get. Spend millions of dollars on a marketing campaign and you still couldn’t be sure that you’d get the awareness level that we got from that.”
The new album, Monstereophonic, has Lordi trying something slightly new: splitting the record in half. The first half is filled with classic Lordi metal anthems, while the second is a concept called "Demonarchy," which comprises six-minute-plus songs. Not surprisingly, fans have taken to it.
“The response has been really good,” says Mr. Lordi. “There are some fans that whine about this and that, but that’s always the case. ‘It doesn’t sound like your first album.’ Well, it’s our eighth album, so it’s not supposed to. There are some people who were confused with the whole split-album thing, two different styles. We want to experiment with something. We did something that we’d never done before. A little bit more complex song structures, more progressive modern metal. Ninety-five percent of people really were positively surprised and happy about it.”
On February 11, Lordi plays the Bluebird Theater. It’s been eight years since the band toured the United States, and Mr. Lordi can’t remember anything about previous shows in the Rocky Mountains. He can guarantee that the bandmembers will put on a solid show this time, even if they weren't able to bring their full production with them.
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“We could only bring a few drops of the bucket of the show that we have back in Europe,” says Mr. Lordi. “We always try to put on a good show. There’s something from each album. Some songs that we haven’t played in a long time.
"What you’ll get is five musicians dressed as monsters playing awesome rock and roll. If that isn’t enough for you, then we can’t help."
Lordi plays with Spiral Cell at 8 p.m. on Saturday, February 11, at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 East Colfax Avenue, Denver, 303-377-1666.