Image © HB 2006
Interview and Photos
Image © Bullroser Records 2008
Image © HB 2006
(28 December 2006, updated 01 November 2008) Something totally different for awhile, something seen here never before.
HB is a Finnish gospel band founded in 2002. For those readers who are being introduced to the name for first time, HB stands for "Holy Bible." However, the band leave the HB name open for individual interpretation. The band is fronted by the stunning soprano Johanna Aaltonen. The lineup is completed by Antti Niskala (guitar), Samuel Mäki-Kerttula (drums), Tuomas Mäki-Kerttula (bass), Janne Karhunen (guitar) and Eeva Asikainen (piano). Although the band have recorded only in their native language at the time of this review, their English language release of Enne was finally released as Frozen Inside in 2008.
In their first album Uskon Puolesta (On Behalf of Faith) (2003), the band was still searching for and exploring their own style. The style has now evolved with the new album leaning more towards heavier sounds. The new music is also influenced by movie soundtracks. Listeners will certainly find striking similarities with Nightwish, Within Temptation, Epica and After Forever, that is, metal-edged rock fronted by soprano vocalists. Our interview with Johanna and Antti provides further background on the artists.
In the spring of 2006 HB self-released their second album Enne (Omen) (HB (Finland) no catalog number, 2006) to great critical acclaim. The album is performed entirely in the band's native tongue. Clearly the album will strengthen HB's position in the Finnish "gospelheaven." Heavy guitar sounds, big orchestral strings and choral voices are the key elements of HB today in their new album. All tracks were composed and written by Antti Niskala and they make the album rare and exeptional, music lifting it up to top of Finnish gospel music. It is just a pity that they only sing in Finnish. Finnish language is not the easiest of world's languages to understand. Regardless of your own origin, you will identify Jesus and God in the original lyrics of HB. Believe or not, these guys are pure Christian rock and glory.
The Enne album actually demonstrates a range of the band's musical styles and demonstrates the artists' versatility. Although fueled by the dynamic metal edges popularised by Nightwish with powerful soprano vocals and choirs atop the crisp instrumental arrangements, the band equally play a couple of sombering ballads. We especially enjoyed the gentle "Intro" that opens the ten-track 47-minute collection because it disguised some of what would emerge beyond it but still provided a small hint that modern and heavy Scandinavian would emerge as the album developed. Johanna has a tremendous voice with a wide range and the power demanded to soar above the rich guitar-based arrangements.
The album's tracks include: "Herralle Kiitos" (Thanks to the Lord), "Hanki Elämä" (Get Life), "Uskon Siemen" (Seed of Faith), "Valvokaa" (Stay Awake), "Tie" (Road), "Yksin Armosta" (About Mercy), "Kunnia" (Glory), "Ratkaisu" (Solution), "Jeesus on Herra" (Jesus is the Lord). Although the titles are Christian, don't be fooled; this is a stunning and modern Scandinavian-influenced metal-edged rock album fronted by soprano vocals.
HB is touring Finland with an ever increasing number of gigs. The weekly performances are mainly arranged by religious communities or various societies, however the band is touring in schools as well. Their new music requires a massive back line and nowadays the band is equipped accordingly. HB delivers message which is straight forward. The lyrics and speech during gigs stop audience to listen in front of God. HB is making an exeption among all the gospel bands you may know. Their gigs have shown; either you like them or you don’t. There is no compromise with this band's
style. HB is definitely a must listen to Musical Discoveries audience.--Mauri Osterholm in Helsinki Finland and Russ Elliot in New York