The Finnish musical collective HiSQ, standing for Hi Status Qualified, led by singer Bablo and famed crossword puzzle creator Erkki Vuokila. The band has no permanent vocalist and their selection of singer Marko Hietala for their new single “Flesh and Blood” is a reflection of Bablo’s faith in Hietala’s talents. The song resonated with Hietala’s personal story and struggles in such a way that HiSQ immediately understood his suitability for the track runs deeper than most. Hietala is capable of internalizing the song’s message in a way other vocalists aren’t.

The core of HiSQ’s musical identity is the trio nucleus of Hietala’s vocals, Mikko Mäkinen’s piano, and Peter Engberg’s guitar. The collective doesn’t stop there, however. Marko “Bablo” Junnilainen and Erkki Vuokila are responsible for the idea while Vuokila also is responsible for the song’s lyrical content and music. Junnilainen handles label-related matters for the band as well. The collective’s “back line” of creative individuals includes Makinen responsible for production, Janne Oinas handling mixing duties, while Arto Pöllänen and Markku Mäkelä steer videos and cover art, respectively.

It may seem unduly cluttered to some. Listening to even seconds of “Flesh and Blood”, however, lays any such fears to rest. Mäkinen’s pianos pairs well with Hietala’s voice and the production places them on equal footing. The graceful, even eloquent, touches of acoustic guitar that Emgberg threads throughout the piece have an orchestral bent rather than attempting to lead the way. It makes “Flesh and Blood” a much more fulfilling musical experience. The collective makes a shrewd decision limiting the song’s running time rather than over-extending its welcome with listeners.

Hietala’s voice reminds me a little of David Byron, the great Uriah Heep lead vocalist, and fully invests itself in this moment. The inspiration of coupling this singer with the material proves to be a masterstroke for the track as he establishes an obvious empathy with the lyrics from the outset. The clear and concise writing driving the piece doesn’t rely on histrionics or clichéd lines for depicting the singer’s plight. It’s forthright and poetic in the right way.

There is such a strong concept underlying everything that HiSQ does it may seem surprising that their music resounds with such clarity and depth. Moreover, the collective traffics in recognizable emotions that cut across culture and drives towards the heart of human experience. We cannot have too much of this sort of music in times such as these. The lyrics and choice of Hietala as singer arose out of a specific set of circumstances, but virtually anyone can relate to the song’s sentiments.

The collaborative nature of HiSQ succeeds wildly. The concept of the auteur, a single artistic center for all creative activity in a project, has led us down roads better untraveled such as diminishing the innate and inherent importance of collaboration, especially in music. HiSQ’s “Flesh and Blood” reaffirms this. We can expect more great work from this musical collective in the future and “Flesh and Blood” makes for an excellent introduction to their considerable talents. 

Garth Thomas

The music of HISQ has been heard all over the world in partnership with the radio plugging services offered by Musik and Film Radio Promotions Division.  Learn more