The Tuska Open Air Festival has carved its name as one of the most important metal festivals amongst all other metal festivals in Europe. The media, label staff and PR -people travel all over the world to attend and feel and see the metal culture in Finland. All in all, 28,000 metal maniacs made a visit to a sold-out Tuska during three days. That’s excellent, as Tuska will be turning 20-years old next year, therefore it can be expected we’ll see something really unique as well as some bigger bands in 2017.
The line-up of the festival was mostly ignored the normal radio friendly audience whereas the die-hard metal freaks arrived at the Tuska Open Air Festival. Ghost, Avantasia, the domestic metal export Children Of Bodom and a number of other interesting names, like old thrash metal veterans Testament and Anthrax had to be witnessed of course. The Finnish Metal-Rules.com team was present the whole time and managed to catch several interesting bands during the 3 long days of pure metal madness.
by Marko Syrjala, Arto Lehtinen, Petri Da Costa
Cattle Decapitation had the pretty unpleasant task of being the opening band of the whole festival. Fortunately, the band didn’t have to play in front of an empty area as a nice amount of people had arrived to see them. The aggro-sounding grinding death metal was quite an odd way of kicking the day off, but Cattle Decapitation pulled off their set brutally well even though the band would have worked better at other stages for sure. However the audience thanked them and even arranged a nice looking running circle pit.
It’s true that many fans have already completely forgotten the monster band Lordi in Finland. The band was at the top of their career when they won the Eurovision song contest in 2006 as the first Finnish artist to win, ever. Although the band’s popularity is not the same anymore but they’ve still pursued their career. The band has played numerous gigs around the world and they’ve continued to release albums every few years. In the autumn of 2016 the band will release its eighth studio album, called THEATERROR VS. DEMONARCHY MONSTEREOPHONIC. I was a little skeptical about how the Tuska audience would react to Lordi, whose music and image is quite different compared to other festival performers, but my fears proved to be wrong. In fact, Lordi’s gig was really well attended. Perhaps they had more people in the audience than any other band during the whole of Friday.
The band’s stage show is still splendid-looking, and there was plenty to see. The stage construction resembled something like a medieval monster castle and looked really great. The band itself were dressed in their famous monster masks and costumes. One can only imagine how hot it was to perform on stage with those outfits when it was more than +30 degrees during the show. Tons of bombs and pyro was fired during the show and seemed to work as the audience was looking like spellbound at times. Oh, and the music part. The band played it safe and played all their best known hit songs. Songs like “Would You Love A Monsterman?”, “Devil Is a Loser” and especially the Eurovision song “Hard Rock Hallelujah” are winners because those are damn good and catchy pop metal songs. In fact, the whole set was based solely on the band’s first three albums and the reason for that was the fact that the band was now celebrated its big breakthrough album THE AROCKALYPSE’s 10 -year anniversary. The set list might not have pleased everyone but I think it was very wise thing to do. The band was now kind of “re-presented” to the public; to the people who didn’t even know that the band still existed. This was a sort of “comeback” for the band and I honestly hope that at least a part of the big crowd will continue support the band in the future as well.
The two man band Mantar did a set of their own in the indoor venue. Despite unexpected technical problems occurring time to time the guys pulled through without paying that attention to the distorted sound. Vocalist/guitarist Hanno’s skinny body was sweating in the hot venue. Hanno’s role on the stage is to conquer the audience with an intensive performance. Mantar sounded sludge, heavy, and a bit fuzzy due to the sounds and echoes, but that didn’t appeal to everyone. However Mantar have improved their name and reputation more and more during the past few years.
Cain’s Offering, being the current power metal outfit led by a former Sonata Arctica guitarist, could be said and described as a kind of super group, as Stratovarius’ vocalist and keyboardist are both involved in the band’s line-up. Obviously Cain’s Offering’s gig at Tuska was highly anticipated and appreciated as the tent stage was packed because the band plays gigs quite rarely. Vocalist Kotipelto is a decent powerhouse for doing the band’s material. Cain’s Offering is a bit more progressive, not sporting the full power forceful ahead style as Stratovarius does in several songs. Perhaps the band sounded a bit monotonous & stuffy because the sounds in the tent didn’t offer the best quality. However Cain’s Offering will be seen in clubs later in this year.
Trash veterans Testament appeared at Tuska Open Air once again after a year’s gap. In recent years the band has been a regular visitor to Finland. If I remember correctly, the band has played in Finland festivals for five consecutive summers, which is probably already some kind of record(?). This time the band did not have a new album to promote. The long-awaited BROTHERHOOD OF THE SNAKE won’t be published until October, so this time the band played a purely “best of” set. “Over the Wall” opened the show in style, and it was onto “Rise Up” from the previous DARK ROOTS OF EARTH album and the old classic “The Preacher”. Unlike many of the bands of similar age, Testament also trusts its new material, not only the classics. Their two recent albums were present with 4 songs. Also, two songs were played from the 1999 masterpiece THE GATHERING. Those tracks, “D.N.R” and “3 Days in Darkness”, were the highlights of the show for me. Although Testament has been seen here many times over the years, the band’s power has not disappeared. Charismatic vocalist Chuck Billy is a compelling persona on stage, and he leads his troops with style. Guitarist Alex Skolnick, in turn, is still able to surprise with his excellent guitar playing skills. The band’s rhythm section has undergone changes in recent years. The current assembly consists of former Death colleagues, drummer Gene Hoglan and bassist Steve DiGiorgio. They’re probably the best and tightest rhythm section this band, or any metal band, has ever had. Testament’s show was professional and enjoyable but it was also a routine performance with no surprises. Once the new album is out, I really hope that the band returns to Helsinki and then play a full indoor show. They could then play a longer set including the new album songs and also some rarities and obscure material.
Kverlertak have got a boost for their rising career from their strong back-up marketing and promotion team. The Norwegian post rock or whatever metal combo seems to visit every godamn bloody festival around Europe. Kverlertak’s singer usually sports an owl on his head, but this time the owl got replaced by an eccentric mask. The band was definitely vital and energetic on the stage, as a real post rock combo is supposed to act. It would have looked extremely pathetic if the Kverlertak guys had stood in one spot growing roots through the whole gig. However, Kverlertak’s brutal post rock is definitely compelling because of the rhythms and above all aggressive performance.
Behemoth’s debut gig at Tuska back in 2003 was the ultimate brutal and apocalyptic sight, which got carved into the memories of several death metal freaks at that time. Behemoth have developed their stage manners, improved their sound more and more with a bombastic, dynamic approach. The playing was sharp as hell and clock-tight. The whole stage performance, in terms of moving and sharing the vocals has been well-trained and planned. The bombastic gig Poland’s public enemy #1 was impressive and proved Behemoth is one hell of a brutal and barbaric live sounding band.
If somebody doesn’t know, Avantasia is the brain child of Tobias Sammet, who is also known as lead vocalist of power metal band Edguy. The sound and the concept of Avantasia is huge and with this project Sammet can fulfil his ambitious musical visions that would otherwise be almost impossible to implement. Avantasia was the headliner on Friday. The band’s albums and tours always feature several well known special guests and this tour made no exceptions. The show started with the latest GHOSTLIGHTS album opening track ”Mystery of a Blood Red Rose”. The song got a pretty good reception and Tobias was clearly excited to have received enthusiastic feedback.
The second song was “Invoke the Machine” and it also featured the evening’s first special guest, Pretty Maids vocalist Ronnie Atkins. Next, it was time to invite the evening’s most anticipated guest on stage. Former Helloween and current Unisonic / Place Vendome etc. vocalist Michael Kiske last visited Finland in 1993 and many long term fans of his were eager to see their hero on stage again.The man now looks very different from the Helloween years, but most importantly, his voice is still close to perfect. Kiske and Sammet’s singing, along with the songs “Ghost Lights” and “Avantasia” and these two songs represented power metal at its best.
Magnum singer Bob Catley was next in line. He sang a beautiful interpretation of “The Great Mystery” before Norway‘s “lion mane” Jorn Lande took the stage and sang “Scarecrow” and “Promised Land”. Lande has often been accused of a lack of stage charisma, which is maybe true, but the man’s voice is handsome. The evening’s last special guest was Mr.Big vocalist Eric Martin. With Tobias he sang the song “Dying For An Angel”, which is one of Avantasia’s biggest hits. Eric is not Klaus Meine, who sang the album version, but he did a great job and “Dying For An Angel” was definitely one of the highlights of the show. Amanda Somerville and Herbie Langhans made a strong background vocal combo throughout the show, but both also got their turn to sing in front of the band. In particular, “Farewell” by Somerville, which she sang together with Kiske, was really beautiful to listen to.
It can’t be denied that Avantasia’s show was very professional and entertaining. The stage structure, backdrop and the lights looked great. A lot of things did happen on stage all the time and changing singers helped to keep the show interesting from beginning to end. Tobias was an elegant host through the show and the guest vocalists were superb. The backing band, fronted by guitarist Sascha Paeth, was really good. However, I am not sure whether the festival conditions are the right place for such a concert, which is actually more like rock opera than a normal concert? Don’t get me wrong, the show was still very good, but it’d be pretty nice to see this again in a decent indoor arena, for example, in the old Helsinki Ice Hall.
WITH THE DEAD
When Cathedral ceased to exist, Lee Dorrian didn’t rest on his laurels, he just kept going by forming a new band. With The Dead is definitely heavy as tons of bricks. The band’s material could be compared to the early days of Cathedral. With The Dead’s gig at Roadburn was like the drop of a sledgehammer on the head as it sounded such intensively heavy and raw. As for the Tuska gig, even though With The Dead played at the tent stage, they didn’t for obvious reason reach the same intensive heavier doom feeling. However the band sounded incredibly heavy with their nearly funeral doom stuff, but they need to have the right surrounding environment to have the same sledgehammer feeling.
Primordial have established a loyal fanbase which has been growing year after year. The Irish pagan metallers are basically a leading live band because of frontman A.A. Nemtheanga’s strong and character role on stage. His way of controlling and making the audience go wild is absolutely astonishing and admirable. Primordial didn’t let down at all, instead they always offer an unforgettable performance by delivering a number of their classic songs such as “Where Greater Men Have Fallen”, “Empire Falls”, and so on. Primordial is always tremendously great on stage.
Tsjuder unleashed a hellish black metal invasion at Steelfest a few years ago. The whole performance was nothing but ultimate raging passion throughout the whole gig. As for the Tuska show, the band’s outburst of barbaric Norwegian raw black metal cut down to the bone. Even though the band’s performance didn’t have the most passionate fury, the three-piece stormed with true Norwergian black metal spirit.
The German technical death metal band was not only playing for the first time in Tuska, but also in Finland. What could have been a triumphant debut in Finland became just, ironically, a one note show. There’s no denying that the whole band has terrific musical ability and they have interesting songs, but what was sorely lacking from this show was the extra energy or uniqueness to stand out in a sea of bands. Obscura’s new record, AKROASIS, was the main focus of the band’s set list, which included songs like “Ode to the Sun”, “Sermon of the Seven Suns”, “The Monist” and the title track. The gig could have been better if it would have been in a club, but somehow among all these other bands playing, Obscura had an unfortunately forgettable gig overall.
Lord Vicar seems to have undergone some line-up changes. The longtime bass player has left ranks and has been replaced by the former Reverand Bizarre bassist Albert Witchfinder. Lord Vicar’s doomy metal roared around in the indoor venue. The four piece’s epicus doomicus metallicus got spread all around in the packed venue. Lord Vicar is the essential lord doom outfit for sure.
Thunderstone’s new album definitely testified that the band is alive and well. Therefore the six year absence of the real Thunderstone vocalist has increased the hunger and passion for the band to show they are still ready to rock. Before show time the bassist was rushed to hospital and the Tracedown guy was drafted to take over the spot. He had to learn all the songs six hours before the show. He had one hell of a show to pull through. However Thunderstone came and conquered by doing a real powerful metal-filled gig.
Havok had some unexpected problems with flights and were forced to switch slots with Lord Vicar. However the audience was aware of the change and had arrived to see Havok in the indoor venue. Havok, being an old school thrash metal patrol of a new generation, arranged a real headbanging party and the crowd was entirely nuts. Even some technical problems didn’t prevent them from thrashing with an intensive grip. Even though the band has undergone some line-up changes, vocalist David Sanchez is the sole original member of the band) and keeps the thrash flag waving for Havok.
One of this year’s most anticipated performers were American thrashers Anthrax. The band visited Finland in late 2015, together with Slayer, but a lot has happened since then. The band released a new album titled FOR ALL KINGS in April, so at least the set list would certainly be different to the last time. The band’s gig started the new album “intro” “Impaled” followed by the actual album opening track “You Gotta Believe”. Although the new album material was well received, things definitely became better when the band played the classics. “Caught In A Mosh,” “Madhouse” and “Indians” now sounded just as brilliant as ever. Unfortunately, the band’s playing time was very short. The gig lasted a total of only 60 minutes and in that time the band could play only 10 songs. The new album was present with three songs, and in particular “Breathing Lightning” sounded just great. It was clearly a future classic for the coming years.
Otherwise, the set list was very familiar and a little too safe. I do not understand that, when the band has only a 10-song set to play, why on earth would they have to include two cover songs? “Got the Time” and “Antisocial” are of course well-known songs and Anthrax has made them very successful cover versions, but still … Maybe those could have been replaced with any of the following: “Medusa,” “In My World,” “Be All, End All”, or even anything from the band’s John Bush era? The band sounded really good and tight. Joey Belladonna’s singing just keeps getting better as he ages and Scott Ian is still the star of the stage. Bassist Frank Bello is just as crazy and energetic on stage than ever before and shows that the band’s latest addition, guitarist Jon Donais, enjoys being on stage more than in the past tours. As of last year, and the band’s previous Tuska gig two years ago, replacement drummer Jon Dette was again sitting behind the kit. Don’t get me wrong. Jon Dette is a very good drummer and a nice guy, but … because Charlie Benante was again absent, it raises questions about whether the man is drummer of Anthrax anymore or not? But whatever, Anthrax was still perhaps the best band of the whole festival. CAUGHT IN A MOSH!!
Ghost have become incredibly huge during the last 5-6 years. The Swedish mask-fronted outfit made their debut visit to Tuska back in 2011 by playing at a small tent stage. Years have passed and in 2016 Ghost is big enough to conclude the second day as the headliner. The whole area was totally crowded by thousands of people having entered to watch Ghost’s eerie ghost-show. When the eerie sounding intro started the dark thunder clouds started rolling in over Helsinki. When the sky got darker, the lights and show for Ghost became more visually better. Frontman Papa Emeritus had his famous pope clothes, but switched to the more King Diamond/black metal corpsepaint lookalike style. Ghost sports occult oriented themes with an obvious sense of humor. That appeals to the big mainstream audience well and especially the music was close to the power-pop-rock approach. Papa Emeritus didn’t communicate that much with the audience in the beginning of the Ghost era, instead playing a more grim looking pope. Nowadays his way of communicating with the audience has become more down-to-earth and easy going. Obviously the back-up of the Ghost line-up has undergone line-up changes as the other members turned out to have trained stage acting. All in all Ghost’s show and performance was extremely enjoyable and entertaining. Not everyone appreciates Ghost, but they seem to be getting bigger and bigger for sure.
Myrkur has got truly mixed reactions and feedback amongst the die hard black metal maniacs. Frankly that ain’t a big surprise when taking a glance at Myrkur’s background and how it got kick started. Leaving those aspects in the background, Myrkur’s show definitely sounded tempting and fascinating. The front lady started the gig with melodic piano playing followed by songs off from the M album. Front lady Amalie Bruun’s grim sounding black metal vocal style sounded…well eerie, and her pure singing was kind of vivid and ethereal. She used the double microphones for different vocals. Why? Well obviously there has to be some kind of effects mixed to the second mic to have the eerie sounding growling. Despite getting Myrkur a lot of attention, it didn’t sound that obnoxious at all. Instead it was quite pleasant to follow.
It had been 4 years since their last time in Tuska and this time around Hatebreed was playing in the main stage, but unfortunately the weather was terrible and just like always, there weren’t many people in attendence on this last day of Tuska. The heavy rain started to pour just before the band hit the stage and due to the fact the stage was slippery, the band, except for frontman Jamey Jasta, was motionless during the entire set. Speaking about their set, there weren’t any surprises: some songs from their latest record, “A.D.” and “Looking Down the Barrel of Today” indeed sounded good live; but their usual ones like “Live for This”, “Destroy Everything”, “I Will Be Heard” sounded a bit like they were on automatic mode. Maybe this was the main issue with this Hatebreed gig: it didn’t have the freshness of seeing them in a festival in Finland like 9 or 7 years ago, or the energy of their 2012 Tuska performance. In the end it was just another gig, not bad but not great.
The thrash power trio Nervosa had the distinct honour of being the first Brazilian band to ever play in Tuska, which is surprising given that it’s been almost 20 years of the festival and it took this long for them to have a Brazilian band on stage. Although they are still a “new” band, Nervosa has been gathering some good buzz about them and this gig in Tuska just showed that this band can go even further. It was a relentless and heavy gig from start to finish, concentrating mainly on their second album AGONY, with tracks like “Intolerance Means War”, “Failed System” and “Guerra Santa” being the stand outs during the gig. They finished their set with “Into the Moshpit”, which cemented this gig as one of the good surprises during this year’s Tuska.
Morbid Vömit is the incarnation of the older style of death metal. Despite the eccentric name, the songs sound extremely lethal and brutal. Morbid Vömit’s Tuska gig didn’t cause any hesitation regarding their skills to create the vicious sounding deadly stuff. The four piece proved to be in an sharp and well trained mode and didn’t leave any speculation. The vocalist knows how to make the audience go beserk.
Gojira’s new album MAGMA has received good reviews amongst the fans. Even though Gojira is labeled as a death metal outfit, when watching and listening to their show at Tuska, Gojira have created the style and approach of their own. They have drifted away from the death metal style and ventured more into the groove metal approach. Gojira truly sounded heavily groovy and a bit boring in the long run. Obviously the Frenchmen had appeal to the Tuska audience.
CHILDREN OF BODOM
Children Of Bodom is either disliked or liked, depending on who is asked. However the field was once again crowded when Finland’s biggest metal export hit the stage. The band kicked the gig off with “Follow the Reaper” and was followed by “In Your Face”. The former Turisas accordionist Nett Skog made a visit as a special guest by playing “Lake Bodom” from the debut album. All in all, Bodom appeared to be in a good fit. Guitarist candidate Daniel Freyberg, formerly of Norther, turned out to be a more activate and energy-filled player. The band offered a brutal set of the most vicious and worshipped COB tunes. The rest of the songs in the set were cover ones, including “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” by CCR, “Somebody Put Something in My Drink” by Ramones, and “Ghost Riders in the Sky” by Stan Jones. The most surprising was to have a number of diehard COB fans asked to join the band at the stage. It was called The Drunken Chorus. Of course it was fun and entertaining, but a little bit dumbass idea, definitely truly expected idea from a band like COB.