By Michael Osborn
BBC News entertainment reporter
Thirty-seven countries are lining up for this year's Eurovision Song Contest in Athens on 20 May.
The 50-year-old musical event throws up a few surprises and a little controversy every year.
An intimidating hard rock band, a multi-national pop group and the return of a former winner are among this year's ones to watch.
FINLAND - LORDI
For their 40th attempt to win the Eurovision Song Contest, the Finnish people have chosen metal act Lordi to represent them in Athens.
The five-piece will perform Hard Rock Hallelujah clad in gruesome costumes and monstrous masks.
They refuse to appear in public out of costume, while their grotesque make-up takes three hours to apply.
The band are so protective of their rock alter-egos, their real names remain a secret.
Finland's Lordi proclaim the coming of the "Arockalypse" with their song
They are known as Amen the unstoppable mummy, Enary the manipulative valkyrie, Kalma the biker-zombie and Kita the alien manbeast.
Kita has the "combined strengths of all the beasts known to man", while he and the others are led by Lordi (The Lord).
With lyrics such as "wings on my back, I got horns on my head, my fangs are sharp and my eyes are red, not quite an angel or the one that fell, now choose to join us or go straight to hell," Finland's choice has prompted some marginal controversy.
Lordi's "Day of Rockoning" will be in the Eurovision semi-final on 18 May, where they hope to attract enough votes to propel them into the grand final.
In 2005, Norway entered a glam rock act to make a splash at the contest - they qualified for the final where they finished ninth.
ICELAND - SILVIA NIGHT
Iceland's singer Silvia Night is a fictional character played by actress Agusta Eva Erlensdottir.
With her extravagant costumes and ebullient attitude, Night is the star of a popular Icelandic television show who believes she is a supremely talented star of stage, screen and music.
In her song Congratulations Iceland, Night declares her amazing abilities will herald the country's first Eurovision win.
Her performance includes a telephone conversation with God - she's his favourite person in the world - and implores listeners to vote for her.
The stage show at the Icelandic national contest - in which Night secured 70% of the votes - also featured two male attendants stripping to their underpants.
Iceland has a favourable draw in the semi-final, but whether the rest of Europe will be in on the joke remains to be seen.
SWITZERLAND - SIX4ONE
In 2004, Switzerland suffered the humiliation of coming last in the Eurovision semi-final with the dreaded "nul points".
The Alpine country, which won in 1956 and 1988, looked beyond its own talent to claw back some song contest pride.
six4one and all for Switzerland
They recruited Estonian band Vanilla Ninja to sing edgy rock song Cool Vibes, and finished a respectable eighth in Kiev last year.
Multi-national "super-group" six4one will represent Switzerland in Athens, comprising singers from Israel, Sweden, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Malta, Germany and the home nation.
Their ode to peace and harmony, If We All Give A Little, is the 18th Eurovision entry written by veteran songwriter Ralf Siegel, whose 1982 song for Germany won the contest.
Some Eurovision pundits have dismissed six4one as a ploy to pick up votes from at least five countries - but that alone would not be enough to bring victory to Switzerland.
GERMANY - TEXAS LIGHTNING
Texas Lightning are aiming to scoop Germany's second win
After finishing last in the 2005 final and winning only one Eurovision crown in the contest's 50-year history, an unexpected package has emerged from Germany this year.
Texas Lightning are a country and western fivesome, and the first such act to try their luck at the song contest.
Their song No No Never was written and will be sung by Australian Jane Comerford - who is also a ukulele player.
Her four fellow musicians in the band go by the names of Ringofire, The Flame, Fastfinger and Friendly.
SWEDEN - CAROLA
Carola first appeared at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1983
In 1991, Carola won the Eurovision Song Contest for Sweden, beating France by the narrowest of margins.
Fifteen years after her victory, the singer is attempting to win Eurovision twice, a feat only attained by Ireland's Johnny Logan.
Carola won Sweden's highly competitive national final by a comfortable margin with her rousing anthem Invincible.
But some critics have said her effort act is a little dated and she first has to get through the qualifying round after Sweden finished 19th in Kiev last year.
ARMENIA - ANDRE
The Eurovision family grows larger this year with the inclusion of Armenia in the contest for the first time.
Andre has twice won best male singer at Armenia's music awards
The former Soviet republic, which has land borders with Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia and lies close to southern Russia, is taking its first Eurovision campaign very seriously.
One of the country's best-known singers, Andre, will be the first performer on stage in the semi-final on 18 May.
Armenia's official Eurovision website is urging its sizeable communities living abroad to vote for their song and land them a place in the grand final.
The semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest takes place on 18 May and will be screened on BBC Three at 2000 BST. The grand final, on 20 May, will be shown on BBC One from 2000 BST.