Rock To The River festival
After a nice sleep in and breakfast I had every intention of catching Battlelore because I missed them at Wacken, but instead decided to spend some time absorbing my surrounds. I walked around the lake, getting my feet wet, but didn’t go for a swim because the water was just a little chilly for my liking and the weather not really that warm for someone from Australia.
Instead of going straight to the festival, a local gave me a lift into the town centre where I had a well-needed hot meal, the end of which was timed perfectly with the local town “show”—the opening of the dam walls to once again let freely flow the rapids for 20 minutes that also makes Imatra famous.
Other than the water released the next biggest export out of Imatra is the young power metal band TWILIGHTNING. I’m ashamed to admit this band somehow (how is it possible considering they are Finnish?), somehow by-passed my power metal radar. Young, the band members are, but this band is far from new having two full length CDs out and have recently released an EP called Bedlam.
TWILIGHTNING have sold 10,000 CDs in Japan, have toured there twice, headlined the second time with The 69 Eyes, supporting them—a band with 10 years more experience in the business.
The young talent coming out of this country makes me sick. Singer Heikki Pyhi, is being hailed the next big male metal singer by Finland’s metal elite. In the first couple of songs I heard timbres of Tobias Sammet (Edguy), but as he warmed into the set, I heard a voice with the potential to live on like David Coverdale, Bruce Dickinson or Jeff Scott Soto.
And the band? A tight, melodic, powerful band, whose song arrangements, harmonies, coupled with the singer’s voice and microphone twirling techniques had me walk away describing them as EDGUY meets WHITESNAKE. Although, I think Heikki’s stage techniques reminded me of David Lee Roth, David Coverdale and Tobias Sammet, maybe just seeing WHITESNAKE at Wacken Open Air could have clouded my hearing somewhat. As this was the first time I heard TWILIGHTNING, I’m not able to provide you with any of the songs they performed. But, if you’re a fan of bands like EDGUY, MACHINE MEN, GAMMA RAY etc and haven’t heard of TWILIGHTNING, I suggest you check them out.
The second day was far from lonely as I waited for the bands I wanted to see. It seemed the word had spread that I was a visitor from Australia and people were curious to find out what the crazy chick was doing so far from home.
Is there anywhere I won’t travel to see SONATA ARCTICA? After years of wishing, it finally came true. I was seeing them play a headlining set.
People keep asking me why I love this band so much and the only way I can explain it is their speed coupled with melody make for brilliant songs and Tony Kakko’s extraordinary phrasing ability. SONATA ARCTICA haven’t played much this summer festival season and haven’t done many shows in Finland either, so the general consensus at the festival was to expect a decent turnout of fans from around Finland and there were a lot of SONATA ARCTICA T-shirts to be seen.
The night was their’s. A full stage set, pyrotechnics that almost welded the contact lenses to my eyeballs while I was taking photos. As SONATA ARCTICA were promoting a new release they played a killer set list highlighting great songs from all their albums: Black Sheep; Victoria’s Secret; Blinded No More; Full Moon (with a small interlude of White Pearl, Black Ocean—I think); 8th Commandment; Sing in Silence; The End of This Chapter; Abandoned, Pleased Brainwashed, Exploited; Broken; Kingdom for a Heart (with a short Dana interlude); My Land; Tallulah; and a medley during which I’m sure they did Shamandalie because I had to retreat outside the range of the lighting to collect myself because it reminded me of someone I’d lost at Christmas.
They returned to the stage for the encore to perform Don’t Say a Word and The Cage and the vodka song sung to the melody of Hava Nagila mixed with Smoke on the Water—quite appropriate considering the amount of pyrotechnics and the river right beside us. Once again SONATA ARCTICA put on a fantastic show. I was hoping for a sneak preview into the new album but it wasn’t to be.
Tony Kakko’s humour was on display with him mimicking other members of the band, playing air guitar alongside Jani during a solo and general clowning around—something to do with his choice of trousers for the evening?
I felt exhilarated after seeing SONATA ARCTICA again and was glad I was invited to a bar by some locals for post festival drinks because I don’t think I could have gone to sleep. The next day I was going over the set list and listening to the tracks on my iPod when it hit me how full of darkness and anguish Tony’s lyrics are—or do we just read into lyrics what we’re experiencing?
Before leaving, an amazing intro track sounded from the stage introducing the last band TWISTED SILENCE. This music was epic, bombastic and like something from a symphonic movie soundtrack like Lord of the Rings that I probably should have known. I had to investigate. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there as the band consisting of 8 members including 2 female backing vocalists failed to deliver or just live up the expectations I’d managed to develop while listening to the intro music. What’s the point of so many people on stage if it doesn’t add to the value of the music?
I was doubly surprised and disappointed when I found out (now let me try and get this musical inbreeding right) the singer and guitarist/keyboardist—Peter James Goodman and Tuomas Seppälä, former members of Virtuosity are the force behind ATHEME ONE (listen to some samples here) whose 4-track demo CD hasn’t left my CD stacker since I returned to Australia.
So was the trip to the outer limits of the world worth it to see TAROT and SONATA ARCTICA? Definitely. If you’re ever in Europe for a summer festival and one of your favourite bands isn’t on bill, don’t despair. Check out their website closer to date and make a detour to one of the tiny festivals in a remote town if they’re playing—you won’t regret it. You too could end up walking through the town streets in the company of your favourite band members or meet someone who makes your holiday unforgettable.
A big THANK YOU to the people who made me feel welcome and to the organisers of ROCK TO THE RIVER.