Sunday 7th of June
: The multinational Kamelot had got a pretty early slot to perform at Sauna´s main stage (at 4:30PM), but that didn´t seem to bother the fans of them because half of the whole venue was packed by a relatively respectable amount of Kamelot fans. We can carefully talk about a few thousand fans of the band who had probably conquered their hangovers from the last night´s heavy drinking sessions, and finally faught their way to the festival area on late Saturday afternoon.
Kamelot, as it was expected in advance already, are perfect entertainers as far as their both live presence and music go. Khan, the band´s charismatic frontman and vocalist, could well be a movie actor due to his very dramatic and theatrical stage appearance that he has become known for over the years. His awesome voice added with the band´s overall tricky, symphonic-tinged, multi-layered power metal, provide a great and vast combination of different moods that a listener cannot escape anywhere. According to the large amount of people who had arrived either to see Kamelot (or for hangover beers to ease up their headaches a little bit, ha!), the band´s live show was definitely a good choice to escape a cruel reality at that afternoon.
Basically Kamelot´s set was built around their couple of latest albums, GHOST OPERA and THE BLACK HALO, which sort of was understandable. 5 songs off GHOST OPERA and 4 songs off THE BLACK HALO were heard – and only 2 songs off their KARMA album were played. In my opinion they could also have concentrated on bringing in some less played Kamelot songs from their older albums into their set – just for the sake of having more of this ´surprise!´ effect in their performance, but unfortunately that wasn´t meant to happen, not this time though.
Khan seemed to struggle with his voice a little bit here and there (don´t know why), but most of the time he was simply very impressive whenever he wanted to shine with his brilliant vocal performance brighter than the sun in the sky at that sunny day on Sunday 7th. Nevertheless it must be said that Kamelot did just a fine performance on the main stage. Ending their set to "March of Mephisto" wasn´t anything really that surprising, but it is still great to hear that song played each time.
: A new sort of sensation from Växjö area, Sweden, as far as a strongly 80s-tinged heavy metal and hård rock is concerned, is a band called Bullet that has put out a couple of albums, one EP and one single even. These 5 relentless fellows have already caused quite a lot of positive stir around them by their Priest-meets-Motörhead-meets-AC/DC-meets-Accept type of approach, so it was a good thing that the organizers of S.O.A. festival saw their opportunity in them, and finally ended up booking them to play at this year´s festival.
Oh man, when Bullet hit the stage, right off from the first song it can be said that they had truly earned their slot in the smaller stage. I was not familiar with this band before, so they really came behind from the trees to me really. But did they rule so much there onstage. Hell yeah, they did – and hundreds of people who came to witness their strength to the second stage, obviously mostly agreed with me Bullet was a real deal. Dag Hell Hofer (ha-ha, sorry couldn´t help laughing at his artist name. Sounds damn hilarious if you ask me) sounded like Bon Scott could have crawled out from his grave. His voice was very similar to Scott´s, even if at times there was also some Brian Johnson and Udo Dirkschneider in his gritty yet truly appealing vocal approach as well. In fact, the whole band seemed to be in flames, giving their best shot for the crowd so that everyone would have enjoyed their energetic performance. There was no way that this band fail when playing live. They were such a positive yet very surprising act at that night that did deliver their goods way better than even some other bigger names that were booked to play at the festival this year. If they just keep on working hard in the coming years – who actually knows, maybe they´ll get a chance to perform for wider audiences on main stages around the world – and eventually getting themselves signed to some more established and bigger record label some day. Wish them sincerely all the best in order that they could achieve some of these goals in the future. Check them out whenever they may come to your town for a gig. They are definitely worth seeing, believe me.
: The Finnish power metal messiahs, Stratovarius, are back in business again – along with their new album POLARIS, and a young and talented guitarist Matias Kupiainen who replaced Timo Tolkki in April 2009. Dark clouds had finally faded away around the Stratovarius camp, which can also be heard based on the refreshing songs on POLARIS.
All the positive energy and spirit that the band have carried with them since Matias joined the band and they got their new album recorded, was also nicely delivered through their live show at Sauna. The whole band seemed to be very vital and energetic onstage – and what was the most important thing in my opinion, they seemingly enjoyed performing together again, like it was their very 1st performance in front of a huge crowd.
The band naturally tried to offer a kind of ´the-best-of-Strato´ set to the festival audience, starting it off with the well-known hit song as "Hunting High and Low", that was a really good call from the band indeed. The crowd became instantly a big sea of metal signs and wild heads in some headbanging action, welcoming warmly the guys to the festival and simply proving the fans haven´t abandoned them due to some less successful and rewarding years that Stratovarius has gone through for the past 5-6 years or so. Now the band was full of that sparkling fire that used to be with them when they released such well received albums like VISIONS and DESTINY – only-God-knows how many years ago already. Naturally the songs off the band´s latest work, POLARIS, weren´t completely ignored either. The following three songs, "Higher We Go", "Winter Skies" and the album´s most progressive number, "Deep Unknown", were also heard – and they worked out live really well, I openly need confess that.
Timo Kotipelto was a real entertainer onstage, moving constantly there from one side to the other, while talking to the Strato -fans the best he could in between the songs. Matias´ performance as the band´s new guitarist, could not be ignored either. To put it simple: He was a real pro. His solos were amazing and incidentally there possibly couldn´t have been any better choice to fill Timo´s boots than Matias in my honest opinion. Jens behind his keys brought the needed fun aspect to Strato´s show. All of you already know what kind of guy he is, don´t you?
Stratovarius was definitely the festival´s one of the most positive surprises, and it´s somewhat easy to claim that one, but still a very remarkable line-up chance was a big part of that, I believe. They are definitely heading toward better times – no doubts, after struggling for so long already. Good for them.
: The Canadian ´Spinal Tap´, known as the mighty Canadian legends Thor too, had got their 1st live appearance in Finland during their over 30-year existence, and what would have been a better place for them to raise and bend some steel than at the Sauna Open Air Metal festival. There was 3 original members left from Thor´s ONLY THE STRONG album era in the line-up: John Mikl Thor on vocals, Steve Price on guitar and Mike Favata on drums, so it was awesome to see these three guys together, knowing that they could easily have gone their separate ways within all these past years.
Gladly they had not – and when the intro started coming from the stage, many of the band´s true Thor Finnish fans didn´t hesitate to show their excitement in front of their heroes by shouting Thor´s name from the top of their lungs.
Thor had added two relatively big-tittied, half-naked dancing girls to their live performance, giving something extra at least for the eyes of their male fans. On the other hand, Mr. Thor´s live character was an event in itself. The man was using a black battle armour, at least 5 or 6 different masks (including a mask of the "Predator" movie, starring the current governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger), a plastic battle-axe, a mace and so on. All the essential elements of a Thor show was there, ready to entertain a relatively bigoted Thor crowd for the next 45 minutes or so. And they surely did. Even if it was kinda hilarious yet amusing to watch this ´old man´ doing almost exactly the same show tricks like he has been doing when he was at his twenties (like crushing a pile of bars to pieces with his sledge hammer), there was no way one could not like Thor´s show at that night. It was a miniature spectacle for its own good, I must say – a spectacle of Thor´s might and power.
As far as the songs were concerned, the show itself was based around all the classic Thor songs, this including such tracks as "Lightning Strikes Again", "Let the Blood Run Red", "Knock ´em Down", "Thunder on the Thundra" and so on. Hearing all these songs for the first time in my life, played live by one and only true Thor, gave me some very good thrills through down my spine. Thor was, probably the most wanted and loved band at the festival, well, at least among all those fans who had loyally and determinedly been following them since the beginning up to this very day. They were lotsa fun to watch anyway, and I am hoping they could invade to these degrees of latitude soon again. Long live Thor.
: Undoubtedly the hardest working and most actively touring Finnish metal band nowadays is Nightwish. Since the band released their latest album, titled DARK PASSION PLAY in 2007, they have been touring the world more hectically than any other Finnish metal band – from China to Mexico to USA to Europe and so on, and the same round all over again once or twice at at least (please allow some exaggeration in here).
Nightwish´s slot as the main headlining act of Sunday, was absolutely well-deserved. Much like Stratovarius, Nightwish have put all their troubles and setbacks behind them, and enjoy playing live again, as it so clearly shone through from them on the stage. They seemed to be more self-assured and happier performers than for many months, obviously trusting the future of the band better again after solving some band related problems.
The pompous "Finlandia" hymn started off the Nightwish show, followed by "7 Days to the Wolves", while the massive pyrotechnics effects intensified the band´s strong yet somehow even so relaxed live performance. They seemed to have no problem to make an indelible impact on the audience, as people´s support toward them, was kinda incredible indeed. The whole venue was filled to maximum capacity of people – so tightly that it made moving from the place ´A´ to place ´B´, nearly impossible practically speaking. Naturally it made it all easier for Nightwish to play like true champions, knowing securely that all these people really enjoyed everything what they were doing on the stage.
Anette was flirting with the crowd the best she could, Marco was again the band´s typical wisecracker by his unique sense of humour. He even proved at that last night of Sauna that he can make jokes about himself, too. This time only he forgot the lyrics in the beginning of "The Islander" while singing, or better said, muttering the words for the song. He took the whole situation lightly without even feeling much guilty about it – and so did the whole band as well. That just proved how an uniform band Nightwish is these days, I guess. Anyway, since they had to start playing the song all over again, they also had to skip "Escapist" due to running out their scheduled playing time. Despite this minor episode Marco forgetting his lyrics in the first take of "The Islander", Nightwish proved clearly to be worth main headling act of the last day of the festival.
All in all, the S.O.A. festival this year was really successful and probably even fulfilled some of the wildest and craziest expectations the organization of the festival had set for it in advance. Mötley Crüe managed to break a new record on the books of the festival as far as the ticket selling for one day was concerned. Not even bad weather conditions – especially on Friday and Saturday (rain, wind, rain and even more both of those lousy elements) had a serious and damaging affect on the attendance. Nightwish on Sunday, on the 3rd and last day of the festival, was not far behind Crüe´s record either, I´d assume.
As it is, everything good does not last forever, but it can already be certain that we will see you all there at Sauna Open Air Metal festival next year again. In the meantime, cherish carefully your memories from this year´s festival and spread your love and heavy fuckin´ metal around to each other!
Last but not least, huge thanks go naturally out to the whole team of the festival for making S.O.A. in 2009 such a memorable and wonderful event for all the attendees.
Signing off now… for the next year: Keep it heavy & metal!!
Luxi & Niko (Metal-Rules.com)
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