TUSKA OPEN AIR 2014
Suvilahti, Helsinki, Finland
June 27-29, 2014
Review by Arto Lehtinen, Marko Syrjala
Pics by Arto Lehtinen, Marko Syrjala
The Tuska Open Air Festival is definitely a real metal festival institution amongst all other metal festivals in Europe. This Sivulahti area almost located in the heart of Helsinki, only a few kilometers away from the downtown of Helsinki, is a perfect place for the metallic onslaught during the weekend. The line-up of 2014 looked once again amazing. Anthrax and of course the legion of the Norwegian (former) black metal artists such as Satyricon, both Emperor and Dimmu Borgir as headliners. Of course a few cult metal bands like Metal Church, Stone could be witnessed. The festival was an utter success although the event wasn’t sold out. All in all 24000 people visited Tuska during three days.
Metal-Rules.com was present to check out a lot of bands and enjoy the sun and rain.
The annual Tuska Open Air festival was kicked off by the domestic battle-folk-larping metal squad Ensiferum on the main stage. The audience had arrived to witness the men in leather skirts on time and there was a nice package of people in the area. Ensiferum didn’t let fans down as they offered guaranteed Finnish-pagan metal for a passionate crowd. The set covered several tunes picked up from their last five albums, such “Iron, From Afar, Pohjola” etc.
PHIL H. ANSELMO AND THE ILLEGALS
Phil Anselmo is, of course, best known from his longtime stint as the Pantera front man. But he’s been a hard-working man in many other bands and projects as well. Down is probably the most successful of those but there are also such bands as Superjoint Ritual, Viking Crown and Arson Anthem among many others. Last year he released his first ever solo album under the name Philip H. Anselmo & the Illegals and now the band made its debut show in Finland at the Tuska festival. On paper, Phil Anselmo was one of the most exciting performers for this year’s festival. But unfortunately, his performance was far from great or even good. It was hardly even acceptable to be honest. Those who have witnessed him with Pantera back in the day were not pleased to see the current condition of once great Phil Anselmo.
But let’s take things one by one before going there. First of all, the material of his solo album isn’t that great to be honest. It’s really unmemorable, boring and irrelevant stuff. Fortunately, the band played a lot of stuff from Phil’s other bands as well and that saved the show a lot. Secondly, the band wasn’t too great either. They were okay but they sounded and looked just like any other band playing in the cellar without any identity. And last but not least, Phil himself… God only knows what has happened to him but the fact is that he just looks horrible nowadays. And it was not just the looks, his voice is completely different compared to the old days. Although it was great to hear many Pantera classics finally played live again, the fact is that his current voice didn’t do justice to those tracks. Especially “New Level” sounded … just horrible. This show left everyone with a lot of questions…the main one was – is this really the current condition of Anselmo, or was this just a bad evening and things would be different on next show?
PoisonBlack feat. the former Sentenced frontman started the nice melodic hard rocking set under the burning sun. PoisonBlack have ridden a long journey to reach the current success. Poisonblack sounded as hard as a rock.
Battle Beast was on the club stage, cmon now!!! What a weird choice for a band like Battle Beast. BB kicked the asses of the audience on the main stage last year and now they had been placed at the indoor venue on the third stage. No no no – their success hasn’t dropped, slowed down, or decreased, instead it has increased a tremendous lot! The venue was totally packed, moving around was totally impossible. Battle Beast is a high energy live band with an ultimate dominating front lady commanding the audience to go beserk and eat from her hand. The set was a pure BB from beginning to end. They did the mandatory and obvious choices ala Black Ninja, Enter The Metal World. Nice gig in a packed venue.
CHILDREN OF BODOM
Although Children Of Bodom have been on a long and wild ride since 1997, the five piece seems to have the never ending support amongst Finnish metalers. The stage had a special treatment with wrecks of massive old school looking cars placed on both sides of the stage. Then the separate bar desk with a fuckload of different and delicious looking alcohol drinks. Finally the young thrash kids of Lost Society barbequed all kinds of meats and sausages during the Bodom set. As for Bodom’s set, well it is like a well oiled metal machine. But on the other hand, the band relies on the traditional approach like Wildchild’s hilarious speeches and obvious setlist. The setlist consists of such songs as “Halo Of Blood, Scream For Silence, Bodom Beach Terror, Are You Dead Yet?”. The audience could have been a way more intensive and brutal.
The British death metal heroes Carcass returned to Finland again just 7 months after their previous visit when they played in the Cable Factory in Helsinki with Hell and Amon Amarth. That show was sold out, but many fans were a bit disappointed when Carcass only had 45 minute set there. Well, things were not better when the band had exactly the same playing time outdoors, but what can you do… The band opened with HEARTWORK classic “Buried Dreams” followed by another oldie “Incarnated Solvent Abuse”. The set list included songs from all their albums, with the exception of SWANSONG, and it was very well built set including all the classics but also enough newer material. And yes, the band and their classics do sound really good after all these years. They sounds sharp as a razor and although half of the band line-up has changed since the “heydays” you can’t really hear the difference. What’s also great is that the material from the new SURGICAL STEEL doesn’t lose and inch for the older stuff. It’s just as strong as the older stuff and it’s fun to realize that you can’t hear a big difference between the songs written 25 years ago compared to the new stuff. That was a positive comment by the way! The men might look older, especially bassist Jeff Walker now looks that he’s been living a hard life, but it doesn’t matter as this is Carcass we are talking about. Long live!
When Dimmu Borgir was confirmed to headline the opening day of Tuska, it was kind of a two-sided- feeling. Dimmu Borgir have visited Tuska before with their bombastic horror metal approach, which turned out to to be rather boring. Anyway, the band recently turned to 20 years old and kind of reach towards the dinosaur status when seen from the young generation, but for the Tuska gig the band played the DeathCult Armageddon album as a whole. Of course, the expectations weren’t that high, but the Dimmu’s handled the job in a totally professional way. Time to time it was quite exhausting and numbing to listen to the same kind of the symphonic horror stuff. Besides the DeathCult Armageddon stuff, the setlist included other songs from other bands fortunately. The whole symphonic show was concluded by the obvious choice “Mourning Palace”. Dimmu Borgir sounded as they were supposed to sound.
Tuska 2014 – SATURDAY
The Young thrashers Lost Society carry the torch with pride and passion in a world where most thrashers are getting old and play a bit on their nostalgia. Lost Society’s restless and wild performance was a total outburst of the young age of the guys, the nonstop headbanging and raging on the stage. Lost Society are out of control in every way. They encouraged people to cause a ballistic reaction on the ground, causing tremendous clouds of ashes covering the total area. Lost Society proved to be in a dangerous strike and thrashing shape.
The legendary Finnish thrash metal band Stone has finished its career for, who knows, how many times, but here they were again. The bands last studio album EMOTIONAL PLAYGROUND was released in 1991 but it does not seem to have bothered the generous audience. On the contrary, they had come to enjoy the nostalgia and that’s what they got. The band opened with a pair of classic debut album tracks. “Get Stoned” and “Real Delusion”. Both just kicked ass big time, and as expected, a mosh pit formed in the audience right from the start. Next it was time to calm down a bit when the band headed into “Back to the Stone Age” which presents the bands more progressive side. The set list was basically the same what the band has been playing for years. It’s strongly built upon Stone’s debut album, which was now present with 7 tracks, and there are some selected tracks from the rest of the albums. I was going to say that there were no surprises but actually there was one. “Brain Damage”, again from the debut album, was now played for the very first time since the 80’s, at least that’s what vocalist Janne Joutsenniemi told us on stage. I do not remember hearing that song live before, even though I have seen plenty of these Stone gigs during the years, so he was probably right there. Well there’s not much to say here because Stone was once again brilliant. The bands playing is nothing short of crushingly efficient, their performance is energetic and there are no weak songs in their catalog. Stone is the best metal band coming from Finland, ever, period. (And Janne’s bass is the ugliest ever). See you on next year again!
The Swedish thrashers Altair as well visited Jalometalli by making a debut show here. At that time the Swedes were a bit lost on the big stage. Instead for the Tuska slot, the Swedish thrashers had improved a lot. The five-piece whipped loud and hard on the smaller stage even though the second guitarist was struggling. It was obvious the small stage created a lethal thrashing metallic onslaught and gave the suitable atmosphere. The 30 minute set of the pure aggression was the blast from the beginning to the end.
Metal Church is one of those classic 80’s metal bands who have never made it to Finland during their “heydays”. The band’s history in brief goes something like this. The band was formed in 1980 by guitarist Kurt Vanderhoof and they released the classic self-titled debut in 1984 which was followed by THE DARK in 1986. Both are today recognized as classic metal albums, and they have inspired thousands of metal bands around the world, including Metallica and much more. Since the 80’s the band has gone through numerous line-up changes. At one point they did tour and record without any original members in the band but nonetheless they have always survived although they’ve have had several “hiatus” years during the voyage. Today, Metal Church consists of Vanderhoof, long time vocalist Ronny Munroe, bassist Steve Munroe, drummer Jeff Plate, and guitarist Rick van Zant. The band released its 10’Th studio album titled GENERATION NOTHING in 2013 and now they finally are here. Metal Church opened the show with THE DARK classics “Ton of Bricks” and “Start the Fire” which was really smart because that album is probably the best known album by the band in Finland. The sound was really powerful and vocalist Munroe surprised me positively because those tracks, originally sung by David Wayne (R.I.P.) are not the easiest ones to handle. As expected, the newer album tracks seemed to be totally unknown for the audience. It’s a pity because especially “A Light in the Dark” sounded really good but… what can you do. Buy and listen those fuckin’ albums people! “Fake Healer” was a great song in the set list. It’s from the period when Vanderhood wasn’t in the band. BLESSING IN DISGUISE is a brilliant album and was now present with “Fake Healer” and another gem “Badlands”. The band closed their set with three songs from the METAL CHURCH album. And yes those truly are great songs… “Gods of Wrath”, “Beyond the Black” and finally “Metal Church” what more a Metal Church fan could ask?
The show was over and it’s time to do some analysis… There’s no doubt that the band sounded great. Munroe is a great vocalist and he handled stuff from the bands different periods close to perfect. Vanderhoof was just himself. Truly an expressionless but stylish guy with great playing skills. Drummer Jeff Plate also needs a special mention here. The man did a brilliant job behind his kit and he surely got some extra kick when he noticed a few guys in the front row wearing Savatage shirts screaming his name. Altogether this was a great heavy metal concert with no extra gimmicks. A strong band with strong material but there’s one thing I need to complain about…and that’s the fact that the band only had time to play 9 songs! That’s wrong for the band and for the fans! We need to get this band soon back to Finland and for a full show, right?
Beastmilk got massive hype during the time when the band’s debut album saw the light of day. The four piece occult rockers pulled in a massive crowd. The interesting factor to pay attention to is the frontman’s way to communicate in English. Obviously the veil of the mystique and occult themes and based phrases wouldn’t work in our basic mother language as they definitely need an English metaphor. However, Beastmilk’s hypnotical and mesmerizing sound was capturing and spellbounding for sure. Beastmilk will hit the road with InSolitude and catch their occult rock mesmerizers.
The German beer thrashers have visited Finland quite often. Last year was Tankard’s debut and this was just their second visit to Jalometalli Festival. Tankard hit the stage like a zombie attack and unleashed a pure beer chemical invasion. Gerre ran all around the stage and seemed to be having extreme fun. The Finnish alcohol law got shit from Tankard for obvious reasons. Even though Tankard sports with the beer image, but the band itself on the stage is as enjoyable as the cold German beer at metal gigs. As for the set containing songs picked up from several albums. During A Girl Called Cerveza Gerre picked up the pr lady representing Nuclear Blast etc, carrying her all around the stage – and that was hilarious indeed. Tankard still has a sense of humor left and are passionate about their thrash.
Well, whoever claims listening to metal can’t seriously say they have never heard about Anthrax. At least after they were a part of the BIG 4 thing, a massive tour a few years ago which included four of the biggest names of thrash metal. People might have different opinions about which bands actually are the big four of thrash metal but Anthrax definitely is one of those. The band has a long history originally forming in New York in 1981. During the 80’s they put out such a classic albums as SPREADING THE DISEASE, PERSISTENCE OF TIME, and especially, AMONG THE LIVING which truly is one of the best albums ever released in its genre. As is typical, the band has gone though many personnel changes during the years. Band members have gone and come back but currently the band includes four out of five of its “classic” era line up. Guitarist Scott “NOT” Ian, bassist Frank Bello, vocalist Joey Belladonna and drummer Frankie Benante are left from that certain line-up and the band is completed by new guitarist Jon Donais who joined the bands ranks in last year. But there are no days in Anthrax world without surprises. Benante was forced to go into hand/shoulder operation earlier this year and he was forced to sit out from the current European tour. He was now temporary replaced by Jon Dette (Iced Earth, Slayer, Testament) who’s been doing similar replacements for Charlie, and many others, during the past as well. At first I was a bit worried how this would work as Benante has always been the driving force behind the band. But all prejudices were soon removed when the band opened up with “Among the Living”.
Right from the beginning, the band sounded just phenomenal. In fact you hardly even recognized who was playing behind the kit, or then it wasn’t just a matter because the band grooved and kicked ass. “Caught in a Mosh”, “Got the Time”, “Indians”… the list goes on. Classic after classic, a band playing in ecstasy, what more you can you ask? I’m so glad that Belladonna is back in the band. He truly is the one and only front man of Anthrax and he’s just irreplaceable. It’s not only because his vocals, but his stage charisma and over all performing is just what Anthrax is about. Period. Frankie Bello is another important character on stage. Although years go by, it doesn’t seem to stop Frankie from being hyper energetic. Once and for all, he’s a brilliant performer. And there’s the one and only Scott Ian. The man behind the whole Anthrax thing. His beard might be gray now but we were still able to see him doing his famous “NOT” walk through the songs. Lots of energy and attitude, that’s Scott as it’s always been. Jon Donais is a new guy in the game. He’s a bit younger than the rest of the guys and he was clearly willing to give room for his older colleagues but there was nothing wrong with his playing. And last but not least there’s Jon Dette. The man who’s been filling in almost everybody you can imagine, starting from Dave Lombardo. Yeah, there’s a guy who’s 100% professional and tonight he did a perfect job with Anthrax. It was like he’s always been behind the kit and I’m sure that most of the audience did not even notice the difference.
Anthrax was brilliant, they were loud and energetic, and they proved that they’re definitely one of the best, if not the best, metal band in the world. The band is about to finish a new album. Hopefully the band will then finally return Finland to play a full show of their own because it’s been 8 years already. See you then and thank you!!
Tuska Open Air 2014 SUNDAY
The German wolf metallers visited Finland for the first time earlier this year, playing in front of only a handful people. Being the opening band of the third day, the German face painted wolf metallers pulled a small, but enthusiastic crowd even though the weather was truly awful. The shit was pouring down from the heavens the whole watery day, but that didn’t bother the six piece. The frontman kept spirits up and the hyperactive keyboardist didn’t stay behind the keyboard battery, instead running to encourage the audience to cheer up. Powerwolf’s energetic show in the heavy rain and front of small audience was great.
“If I were Jesus, I would stop the rain -stop- you see, it didn’t work” stated the frontman of Orphaned Land Kobi Farhi when explaining the Jesus Christ reminiscent. Obviously the rainy weather kind of flattened the oriental atmosphere with the metal of the holy land. Orphaned Land have glided a bit more from the traditional metal approach and added a more progressive spirit and oriental elements more and more to the approach. Orphaned Land sounded a bit pale on the stage due to the lousy weather and the musicians had to focus on playing while it was raining tremendously. The Israeli metal messengers proved to be excellent at 70,000 tons of Metal last January.
Out of Taiwan, Chtonic were catapult to success and Diesear obviously tries to follow the same path paved by Chtonic. Diesear’s debut show at Tuska pulled a nice crowd because of the heavy rain outside. Diesear’s stuff could be described a mix of melodic black metal with technical death meta. The playing was tight and extremely controlled by the young looking and skilled musicians. This band gotta be checked out better as their set impressed at least one of the Metal-Rules.com staff members.
First of all, I’m not a huge fan of Satyricon fan and I hardly know more than handful of their songs, but it still felt bad when the band was forced to play their set during a terribly heavy rain. Because of that there wasn’t too many faces in the crowd but the band didn’t let it affect them and they just did their best on stage. A gritty song opened their show with “Now Diabolical” followed by THE AGE OF NERO album track “Black Crow on a Tombstone”. The set list was strongly built upon the bands last four albums which are also the bands most successful albums. That was just fine for me because I’m not a huge fan their early stuff. The only track presenting the first three albums was “Mother North” from their third 1996 album NEMESIS DIVINA. It is difficult to say much more about this gig because I spent most of it in the beer tent side because of the raging rain. Better luck with the weather next time guys!
Neurosis visited Tuska a few years back and on the main stage. At that time the sun literally burnt the whole ground black. Instead, now the rain, as stated earlier, turned the ground into one big pool of mud. The wind had taken the side cover down and the surface of the stage was definitely slippery. The band had been pushed to the farest part of the stage, seeing them was quite challenging. Frankly Neurosis was extremely boring from the beginning to end. Without any light show and visual things the show looked quite dull, besides the rainy day brought its own difficulties.
Emperor made their debut show celebrating the 20th anniversary at Sweden Rock a few weeks earlier before Tuska. The Tuska show was the third one in a row. Emperor came and conquered the Tuska festival with intensive playing and performance. If the show at Sweden Rock was some kind of warm-up for the whole Summer eclipse extravaganza, then Norwegians literally and easily blew the whole place away in Hellsinki. The set was without doubts the expected and the well known in advance as it definitely consisted of the material from the groundbreaking album IN THE NIGHTSIDE ECLIPSE. Emperor was dominating and sounded as tight, bombastic, spectacular as the Norwegian mountains in the night-side of Helsinki. The Norwegians must have spent countless hours in the rehearsals creating finding the vicious razor sharp tunes to the old classic songs. Is this a once-in-lifetime event to see Emperor on stage? Hardly. It is quite sure these black metal uncrowned emperors will return.
Tuska Open Air was an utter success with regard to the amount of people attending the three day event. The weather turned out to be sunny and rainy, but that didn’t prevent the audience from enjoying the metallic storm in different formats. Tuska will return next year with a new ace of spades in the sleeve for having a majestic awesome line-up. Metal-Rules.com is thankful for this great event and is looking forward to next year!