Heart of Steel: Concert Reviews

Tuska Open Air Festival 2003

July 11-13, 2003 / Helsinki, Finland

Text and pictures by the
Finnish Metal-Rules.com team


Day One - Friday, July 11th

When heading to the Kaisaniemi Park, I was hoping to arrive at the festival area in time. But much to my surprise waiting nearby the festival area was an incredibly huge (without lying a bit) 600 metres long line of metalheads circling around several blocks and buildings! Despite the long line of metalheads, mostly dressed in black colors (huh, hardly any surprise… we were in Finland, remember!), it luckily moved with a pretty solid speed and people got into the festival area quite quickly. Lucky me, there was only a relatively short line of people in front of the press/V.I.P. accreditation tent, so I didn´t get stuck in the line for a long time. After getting the needed passes it was about time to enter to check out some of the first bands of the day. As for some technical facts concerning the festival area, it had been expanded from the previous year rather drastically as well as the third tent stage had been added to the festival area.

 

Rotten Sound

Time to open the festival with Rotten Sound´s totally uber-grinding set on the Sue stage. Four guys entirely covered by red paint unleashed one hell of a terrorizing and mind-blowing experience of a brutal cacophonic noise. The delivery lasted around 40-45 minutes with the band having, metaphorically speaking, somewhat an uncompromising and merciless grip on their audience. The band's red painted faces and blood-covered shirts have created an ineffaceable recognizable trademark of which the Rotten Sound camp is known for on stage. The vocalist's restless and hyperactive stage performance by having a real butcher's look in his face and other guys hateful and violent playing only proved Rotten Sound was worth checking out as always. Surprisingly, they also played a Carcass classic song "Reek of Putrefaction" which reached some new interesting heights in the hairy hands of these relentless Finnish flesh grinders. If you are after war, then the name of this war will be Rotten Sound. What a fuckin´ incredible and entertaining band onstage. Simply stunning set from them…

Reverend Bizarre

When Rotten Sound was terrorizing their devoted audience, at the other side of the festival area, the Finnish doomsters Reverend Bizarre were giving a lesson in real Doom Metal on the HELL-sinki Stage. 

Any wild jumping and running around the stage from one side to another side and other visual tricks can't be expected from this trio from our ex-capital Turku. If you haven´t heard of them before, I can only say kinda in a tiny nutshell that the band plays a slow, pretty simple sounding, ´70s style Doom stuff, heavily influenced by Saint Vitus and of course Black Sabbath. Even if Doom Metal bands mostly turn out to be a bit boring to follow in a live situation generally speaking, Reverend Bizarre's Vitus / Sabbath combination definitely appeared to be a refreshing choice and a nice exception on the bill of the Tuska festival 2003. Reverend Bizarre both sounded and looked good onstage and the crowd's response towards them was warm and awarding in a positive way. 

If you need true Doom Metal, as a guiding hint for all Doom Metal freaks I warmly recommend all of you to check out the band's debut album In the Rectory of the Bizarre Reverend. True Doom Metal in the 2nd Millennium A.D. just couldn´t sound any better, believe me.



Amorphis

Amorphis are well known for having quite a controversial stage appearance as they just get on stage and go thru the set without any big surprises. There´s hardly any drastic movements going on onstage when they perform their songs. Instead of a constant headbanging and ´a sporty´ performance, Amorphis mainly focus on the powerful meaning of their musical delivery - that being a more logical option for them anyway. It was, however, a bit funny to notice while a local TV crew were shooting Amorphis' set, the guys took a more tighter attitude and appeared to be more excited about the playing in front of metal attendance than let´s say, a week ago at another, unnamed Finnish summer festival where the Amorphis dudes obviously tried to grow new roots on the stage. Anyhow, Amorphis' set at the Tuska Festival consisted of a surprising wide range of material even from their very earliest albums to their latest albums. As a very cool surprise, "Grails Mysteries" from their debut album The Karelian Isthmus was heard and host of other tunes from the second album Tales from the Thousand Lakes as well ("Drowned Maid", "In the Beginning" and "Black Winter Day" concluding their set). Of course newer tunes from the band´s freshest album titled Far Away from the Sun were naturally there as a part of their set, too, basically songs like "Evil Inside" and "Killing Goodness" being the ones that I remember clearly them playing during their set. All in all Amorphis did a solid set with an improved stage performance after all. They did some really good and out of ordinary choices for their set this time which was a definite plus from them.

Set list:
· Killing Goodness
· Evil Inside
· Alone
· Divinity
· Against Widows
· Grail´s Mysteries
· In the Beginning
· My Kantele
· Day of Your Beliefs
· Summers End
· Drowned Maid
· Black Winter Day



 

The Haunted

The Haunted´s performance at Tuska 2003 was, as always, full of untamed energy and sheer aggression and simply without breaks. It was just plain thrashing madness from start to finish! Their audience obviously seemed to enjoy them a hell of a lot if all the raised fists in the air, all the furious headbanging and stuff were any proof. The tent was extremely tightly crowded and there even were lots of people outside of the tent witnessing The Haunted's energetic and loud set. Without a question it looked like these Swedish thrashers seemingly enjoy to play at festivals and Tuska 2003 made no exception for them. The band played songs from all their studio albums; "Hollow Ground", "Shithead", "D.O.A." and "Bury Your Head" were the ones that made the biggest impression on me. The band´s vocalist was flattering the Tuska audience constantly, speaking to them with his 2nd native language Finnish all the time and telling how fuckin´ great it´s to be in Finland again and play to all you crazy fucks out there!! How sweet...!! Anyways, The Haunted enjoyed their nearly 1-hour set at Tuska and the crowd's feelings for them was mutual, do doubts of that.







Thyrane

The northern Black Metallurgists had taken a more industrial-oriented on their latest album titled "Hypnotic". These northern Black Metal heroes gig was going on at the same time when the Swedish thrashers were causing a maelstrom reaction at other stage on the festival area. The band´s industrial-tinged Black Metal caused a lot of positive reactions in the audience even if I wasn´t too keen on checking them out in the first place. But the guys´ performance on the stage had lots of energy and they looked quite convincing there while spreading their blasphemous assaults all around their audience. The band basically covered all their 3 studio albums and the crowd supported them a great way during the whole set. Thyrane have a lot of a captivating charisma onstage and they are much more an entertaining band live-wise than many other bands representing their genre musically nowadays.

 



Stratovarius

After a year and half "break", Stratovarius returned in fine form earlier this year with their new album "Elements Pt. 1". The band toured across the Europe and rest of the world since then, and now they return back to the Tuska festival after a two year absence. "Eagleheart", the opening track from the new album, started the set. It was followed with a series of older ´best of Strato´ songs like "Hunting High And Low", "Black Diamond" and "S.O.S". Musically, the highlight for the show was a massive "Soul of a Vagabond" that turned out just great this time live-wise.

Stratovarius' show included some pyro and effects. The band's drummer Jörg Michaels drumming was as impressive as ever. In the end of the set "The Goose Heads" (two guys with goose masks on) jumped onto the stage and everybody was having a jolly good laugh because of this unexpected trick. Heavy Metal isn't meant for serious people only, eh?

Well…what has changed in two years? In one word… nothing. Musically, Stratovarius was by far the tightest band on the bill (Marko´s opinion - Luxi notes!), but something, however, was missing from their performance. To be dead-honest, they were actually a little boring to watch. Maybe their break wasn't as long as needed?





Sentenced

The highly appreciated Swedish ´gloomsters´ Opeth cancelled all Finnish dates and reaction amongst the Finnish metalheads was naturally indescribably disappointed. Many expected to see them at Tuska this year, but unfortunately that was not to happen. Finding an equally suitable replacement was definitely almost 'mission impossible'.....but wait, fortunately the ´northernmost suicide metallers´, Sentenced, took the opportunity and they were booked to the bill of Tuska festival 2003 at almost in a last minute.

Last year Sentenced suffered from some technical problems on the big main stage as well as a lack of their most passionate stage appearance. This year everything seemed to click for them when Sentenced hit the smaller stage inside the big concert tent. The band appeared to be in a damn good strike, delivering a brilliant set of their suicidal songs. The atmosphere definitely rose up to another level as the intensity of the gig was amazing. It is obvious that smaller stages seem to suit Sentenced better than bigger stages. They are better able to catch more vibe and feeling for sheer live aggression in a smaller venue. In general, the whole atmosphere was closer, warmer and more intense. It was also marked by their fans as the crowd went totally crazy for most of the time when Sentenced performed onstage. As a man, I also feel an urgent need to spit out that it was nice to notice that there were so many good looking girls in the crowd, obviously filling up their minds with dreams of the band's illuminate and gorgeous front man, Ville Laihiala. Lucky man…

As for the set list, our admired ´suiciders´ went thru pretty much a mandatory set by covering a whole bunch of their immortal classic tunes like "Noose", "Bleed", "Cross My Heart and Hope to Die", "Brief is the Light", "Broken", "The Suicider", "Sun Won't Shine", "Luxury of a Grave", "Farewell", "Neverlasting", "Nepenthe" and "No One There". Sentenced really delivered their goods in a memorable style at Tuska festival 2003.







Thunderstone

I saw these somewhat new Power Metal messiahs live at Wacken 2002 for the very 1st time. At that time I was relatively surprised with how ready and mature they were, even visually, onstage. The band can be placed to the top elite of Power Metal acts nowadays. Their set at Tuska festival again proved just that, and even more actually. The audience enjoyed their set as much as the musicians in Thunderstone surely enjoyed the crowd´s enthusiastic and honestly warm reaction towards them. Thunderstone was in a fine shape onstage, performing a decent Power Metal assault. The proved to be a band that felt very comfortable playing live and this resulted in lots of positive reactions amongst the Tuska crowd. The band's set ended with an encore of Dio's "Rainbow in the Dark", so let´s just say it was a wise and happy ending for their convincing performance at Tuska 2003. I honestly was in relatively high spirits after their gig when I left the area…

Type O Negative

Getting Type O Negative to conclude the first day was a real godsend for the whole Tuska 2003 festival. It goes without saying that many chicks find Peter Steele's strong charisma definitely appealing, sexy, erotic, etc. Whereas I guess it´s safe to say at least that it´s Type O´s musical ingredients that appeal more to the masculine metal crowd. Well, hopefully anyway… Also as some stonecold facts speak for themselves, the newest Type O Negative album titled Life Is Killing Me has kept its position on the national Top Ten chart several weeks in a row, so it wasn't basically a surprise to see why the first day was sold out faster than any other days. The Tuska festival was also the final day of the massive European Tour for Type O Negative. After their set at Tuska, the band will be taking a small break in order to continue touring in the States.

As for the gig itself, Type O Negative definitely shared the opinions of the crowd for and against. Peter Steele in wake of other guys had dressed up to the green surgery clothes on purpose to express their opinions of doctors' irresponsible and indifferent attitude towards patients nowadays. Mr. Steele has bitterly and very openly criticized the methods as well as attitudes of doctors in interviews when particularly his parents fell ill and got to hospital. Unfortunately the gig was somewhat a boring event to follow all in all as I honestly have to say it almost appeared to be one kind of jamming session for Steele to find suitable bass sounds and Steele's a bit hilarious ´fashion trick´ to taste some red wine between the songs every once in a while. Oddly he even seemed to forget to do some tracks entirely. Maybe he was more into getting drunk onstage than playing a decent set for their fans, I don´t know? Even if the set didn´t do much for me, it however had its moments as well as surprises. One of the most pleasant ´surprises´ was a rather unexpected choice from the Type O camp was when the band played "I Know You're Fucking Someone Else". After all Type O´s Tuska set basically consisted of well-known and familiar Type O tunes like: "Christian Woman", "Wolfmoon" and "Black #1" concluding the band's unfortunately somewhat lifeless set. I think one of the weirdest choices from them songwise was not to include their biggest hit "My Girlfriend's Girlfriend" in their set list even though it had been marked to the original set list? I was just wondering whether Mr. Steele somehow underestimated Finnish Type O Negative fans for some strange reason, who knows.

As the Tuska festival was the final day for the band's European tour, Steele obviously wanted to share some of his ´Rock Star´ ego with the loyal audience by smashing his bass against the stage. The Finnish audience got the ultimate chance to fight for Steele´s totally wrecked bass that was thrown into the wild crowd by one of the band´s roadie dudes.









Night Clubs

Necromancer

After Tuska closed its doors for the first day (Friday), a mass of festival people started aiming to two clubs that were supposed to work out as some sort of ´after show arenas´ for the hungriest metal boys and girls. The Finnish Metal-Rules.com team naturally belonged to a group of the hungriest ones and headed its way to the famous Tavastia Club to testify a few both upcoming and old Finnish Metal bands. Blake was booked to the bill for the Friday evening at Tavastia which I honestly wanted to miss on purpose - and then the reunited Speed/Thrash Metal pioneers and super heroes from the golden age of the 80's, Finland´s own answer to Slayer, Necromancer. Seeing Necromancer after 12 long years onstage at Tavastia Club was a really nostalgic and spectacular event for me personally. In the end of the ´80s, the band was in its most striking and sharpest shape, making shitloads of metal thrashing maniacs crazy by their very Slayer-tinged Speed/Thrash Metal, including me - and here they were at Tavastia Club, having been training for this particular event for weeks in advance. The guys had declared that this was going to be the only chance to see them live ´coz they had no intention to come back to the stages ever again. So, I already knew that I was in the right place in the very right time…

 

When the guys walked to the stage, they seemed to be as thrilled about their gig as many of us both new - and old-school thrashers in the crowd. They had been blessed by only about 30 glorious minutes of time to bring us back to the times when ´speed merchants´ and thrash bangers´ ruled some of the most memorable times in the ´80s; when there was a unity thing amongst the Metal bands in the (underground) Metal scene and everyone seemed to talk about the same things with the very same language. I mean, those ´nostalgic times…´.

 

 

Anyway, there was definitely something special to be sensed from the air when more than 10 years aged, now men in Necromancer walked to the stage. A brief introduction for ´newbies´ was done by the band´s vocalist Anssi ´Ana´ Autio who they were exactly and where they came from - and "Intruder" started to cut the air as sharp and as effective way, just like 10 years ago. Wow, I was absolutely in awe, probably more than ever before today, seeing my all-time favorite Finnish Speed/Thrash Metal act playing live in the very front of me after a decade of silence. Sure, the guys looked older with their short and ´stylish´ hair cuts, with their (eh?) ´a bit´ round bellies, without their worn-out Slayer/Anthrax teeshirts, ripped black jeans and so on, but the attitude was still perfectly there when they started churning out some of the immortal Necromancer classic songs in the air. I have to say they played their circa 30-minute set through amazingly well and tightly, like they could have never quitted playing Necromancer stuff in the first place. A few tiny technical problems occurred during their killer set, especially during the encore song when the guys played the evergreen Necromancer classic song "Malicious Death". The band´s second guitarist Juha Mattila lost the sound of his guitar completely right in the very beginning of the song and the problem was fixed not until in the later half of the song. Oh well, that was supposed to happen, I guess, but it did not ruin my night as far as the band´s very nostalgic show was concerned. It was absolutely fantastic to witness them playing live again after so many years. Too bad it may have been their only gig for now as the guys told me that there won´t be any other Necromancer gigs after this. But never say never…

Set list:

· Intruder
· Downfall
· Violence Show
· Dead Lights
· Days of Fury
· Liquid Sky
· Malicious Death

A ´Metal´ band (I guess?) named Godsplague played after Necromancer…or so I was told, but I had to head back home as I was pretty damn exhausted and dead-tired after the first day at Tuska festival due to a Godless virus infection that caused a pretty awful flu in me. So good night Godsplague! Maybe next time…

- Day Two - Saturday, July 12th -