Sauna Open Air made a victorious return to the Finnish map after being gone for years. The festival used to host several big names like Judas Priest, Megadeth, Slayer etc between 2004-2013. Unfortunately, the economic issues resulted that the previous organizers of the festival ended up to the bankrupt, until recently when a new festival promoter obtained the rights and re-launched the festival. The two-day festival was a celebration of the old school heavy metal and hard rock of the 80’s when W.A.S.P, Whitesnake and Europe headlined the event. The domestic bands have always had a strong representation at the festival, so they did now. Several more modern Finnish bands such as Battle Beast, Sonata Arctica rocked loud and hard. Metal-Rules.Com visited the fest to feel the classic rock experience.
The Nightwish bassist, Marko Hietala, launched the band of his own, carrying his own name, earlier this year. His solo album titled MUSTAN SYDAMEN ROVIO has received nothing, but positive feedback and responds both in the media and amongst the die-hard Marko Hietala fans. The album has all the elements that attract and appeal especially to the Finnish rock audience because of the Finnish melancholic and dismal soundtrack as well as worldview. What about the live show? Listening to this type of slow and melancholic songs in a row for the next 60 minutes live was quite distressing and occasionally boring. However, his voice sounded amazing and pure gold. Despite listening to the material live was boring, but the lyrics and above all Hietala’s way of interpreting the Finnish mentality tended to be fascinating and has the aspects of the pure reality check. The people enjoyed Marko Hietala’s music and performance.
The long-time Danish rockers D-A-D have always had the solid and loyal following in Finland during the past 30 years. For a reason or another D-A-D kicked the set off 15 – 20 minutes late resulting that 60 minutes set got shorted to a 40-45 minute set. How unprofessional in away. But despite the shortened playing time, the Danish four-piece offered a nice set of the pure rocking stuff. The set consisted of the most known D-A-D songs and their biggest hit “Sleeping My Day Away” concluded the gig. Their hit song of the 90’s “EmptyHead” would have been a nice addition to the set. Anyway D-A-D sounded splendid and knew how to entertain the festival crowd. The vocalist Jespen Binzer performed without the guitar in order to have better contact with the audience and was able to live up to the songs. The bassist Stig Pederssen’s eccentric and weird looking moves and playing approach were hilarious. To be honest, D-A-D did a nice, but short set. By the way, are D-A-D allowed to use their original name Disneyland After Dark again ?! Interesting…
Santa Cruz went through a real insane turmoil period a few years back. The singer got kicked out or other members left or.. – frankly what the real deal behind all these stories, apparently no-one knows the exact truth or reason. However, Santa Cruz, led by Archie, made a return with the renewed line-up to the limelight. The old Santa Cruz was known for the energic and kick-ass live shows, therefore seeing Santa Cruz II caused a more contradictory feeling. The 60 minutes mostly consisted of songs which are going to be released on the forthcoming album KATHARSIS. The audience was unaware of these songs and politely applauded and responded when the frontman asked the people to raise their hands. These new songs had the more modern hard rock approach and the metalcore references here and there. To be honest the band still has a long way to reach for the same caliber and dynamic feeling in their live performances as Santa Cruz had with the former members. The band kind of sounded quite sloppy. Where was the energy, where was the intensive performing and playing and dynamics ?! Of course, the revamped line-up has a lot of potentials, that has to be burst out. So back to a rehearsal chamber to sweat on the playing and to have and get the mandatory and needed tightness back for live performances with the new members.
Amorphis had the special set at the Tuska Open Air fest by playing the entire QUEEN OF TIME album and of course, had some special guests. As for their appearance at Sauna Open Air, that was a more basic festival performance with a varied setlist. However the first two opening songs; “Bee” and “The Golden Elk”, were off from the latest QUEEN OF TIME album. Basically the set list consisted of the material from the era of Tomi Joutsen. Apart from “Against The Widow” taken from their breakthrough album TUONELA. Basically it was quite a logical choice to combine the setlist from these albums sung by Tomi Joutsen. Besides these albums and songs are without any doubts superior and spellbounding masterpieces indeed. The band sounded splendid and did an amazing job on the songs. Even though the band has occasionally been criticized for being inactivate on the stage, it would be ridiculous to see them run around the stage. Their performance and playing just created and brought the dignity to the songs and the music of Amorphis
W.A.S.P. came and conquered Finland with the massive shock show for the first time in 1984. Since then Finland has been the important market area for W.A.S.P., even though there has been some quiet periods in the 90’s. The band’s line-up has undergone changes more than enough, but that hasn’t had an impact on the success of W.A.S.P.. Actually the current W.A.S.P. axeman Doug Blair lives in Finland, therefore the legendary four-piece had got a lot of media attention, which partly brought the interest and new fans for W.A.S.P. When the legendary shock metallers kicked the set off, the whole area was nicely crowded. The opening song “On Your Knees” and immediately was continued by “Inside The Electric Circus” were the first ones to please the old school metal and hard rock fans. Even though the setlist consisted of eleven songs featuring a few medley ones, it was based on the classic stuff. However the songs off from the CRIMSON IDOL album had the major part on the set. “Wild Child” and the mandatory, extended, “I Wanna Be Somebody” with the shouting etc concluded the set. Both Doug Blair and Mike Duda kept the intensive live performance up during the whole time, moving and running to from side-to-side on the stage. Whereas Mr. Lawless more or less moved between the drum- and micstand. As for Blackie Lawless’ voice, it sounded as Blackie usually sounds ; raw, raspy and on the other hand maliciously great. His voice had all these recognizable trademarks in his sounds. The new drummer from Brazil, Aquiles Priester, (Ex-Angra, Primal Fear, Hangar, Blackwelder) made his behind the drum kit and hit precisely every note. W.A.S.P’s set was quite expected, not offering any big surprises. The set had been built for a festival gig to please the audience. Perhaps they may offer some special ones on gigs of their own in the future.
Brother Firetribe is known for being a side band of the Nightwish guitarist Emppu Vuorinen. Obviously the Nightwish guy has stepped aside for a reason or another as a new guy had been recruited to fill up the empty shoes. Their performance was quite flexible and relaxed. Maybe it was too relaxed as the tightness and intensiveness in the performing and playing were quite sloppy.
Does anyone remember a band called Skinred ? Hailing from Wales, Skinred combines dozens of styles into the one metaphoric expression. Compared to other bands of the fest, Skinred was quite a odd and eccentric choice. Obviously there had to be some kind of deal done, that’s why they did two shows along with Whitesnake and Europe in Finland. The small group of the people had gathered nearby the stage area to follow Skinred. The band had the eccentric hybrid approach of various music styles. From the rap, reggae to the fusion metal. The middle aged rock audience seemed to not be that interested in Skinred as the people went to eat or have some beer and were sitting on the grass. Skinred did their best by encouraging the crowd, mostly following their performance, to raise hand and jump. The frontman turned out to be quite out spoken by trying to be a bit provocative in his saying. Skinned was at the entirely wrong festival. Sorry!
BATTLE BEAST had a hectic schedule with all kinds of hassles when arriving at the Sauna Open Festival from European festivals ; cancelled and changed flights. They however made it and put one heck of a show. The frontlady Noora Louhimo is kind of dominating personality commanding and encouraging the audience to jump up and down and pump their fists in the air. Battle Beast’s set had a tongue-in-cheek moment, when the band arranged the Battle Beast kind of exercise session on the stage. The gig turned a little bit emotional, when the Noora dedicated “I Wish” to someone close to her, who had recently passed away. Some tears were falling on her cheek in the end of the song. Battle Beast’s gig was a full of catchy and sing-along songs with the speedy and even funny actions by the whole band. Songs like “Straight To The Heart”, “No More Hollywood Endings” etc made the audience jump wildly and sing high and loud.
SONATA ARCTICA has maintained the success on a constant level since when their debut album ECLIPTICA came out in 1999. The Northern metal squad has shifted more and more into the traditional hard rock/AOR approach away from the dynamic power metal genre. The set included both the old and new stuff. For instance “Fullmoon” was a mandatory one on their set as well as “Tallujah”. Whereas “A Little Less Understanding” had been taken from the forthcoming TALVIYÖ album. The band relied on their stage charisma. Above all the vocalist Tony Kakko’s way of communicating with the audience with the praising and encouraging words was heartfelt and warm. As far as his voice is concerned, it sounded as if his voice has become lower, because he was able to sing more on the upper register in the past. Elias Viljanen’s guitar playing should be checked out by every guitar player there. His work and playing was a phenomenal. The bassplayer turned out to be an insane headbanger. All in all Sonata Arctica offered quite a solid and predictable performance. Therefore the band attracted to the rock crowd, willing to hear catchy melodic tunes.
Europe has always had a strong following and a loyal fanbase years after years and decades after decades in Finland. It was a rousing feeling to realize, when thousands of people had arrived on time to see Europe at the Sauna Open Air. The band’s latest effort WALK THE EARTH was an excellent slab of the Deep Purple sounding with blues-oriented, hard rock. The album title song opened the 60 minute set and was followed by another pick-up “Siege” from the latest album. The big hits of their 80’s era kind of woke the audience up, when “Rock The Night” was blasted out. These songs were known better than the newer material, even though the newest material sounded brilliant and is to be honest even better than the ones from their hair rock era. “Scream Of Anger” and “Wasted Time” presented the oldest material from the mid 80’s in the set. Frankly it would have been fabulous to hear “Seven Door Hotel”. Joey Tempest has always been an utterly great frontman. His way of moving and acting at the stage were reminiscent of David Coverdale’s moves and styles. He gave the kudos to David Coverdale for being a inspiration for his performance. Europe’s gig was like a timemachine, returning to the golden era of the rock. Both John Norum and John Leven handled their playing task and appeared not to be that active, leaving room for Tempest. The five piece offered a hard as iron show for the festival crowd. A wild guess ; which song concluded the set ?
Finally Whitesnake. Even though David Coverdale has been rocking for ages, but he has the endless passion to perform and play the old Whitesnake evergreen ones. David Coverdale was impressed and happy about the reaction and the respond of the audience. As he thanked the crowd for the great hospitality several times. The legendary Snakes were in the real perky mood and sounded fabulous rocking splendid. The set consisted of both the old stuff and of course picked up from the latest FLESH AND BLOOD album. Coverdale’s voice sounded kind of too raspy and even rough, the band backed-up several high-pitch parts. Even though Coverdale has rolled and rocked with Whitesnake for several decades, he won’t throw the towel in for years. He appeared to be good shape and not aged at all. Welcome back!
What about the next year ?! What will Sauna Open Air offer in 2020 ?! Hopefully they will book more classic names ; Queensryche, Doro/Warlock, King Diamond, Loudness and perhaps some cult, yet classic bands like Demon or even Pretty Maids. Do the Finnish mainstream rock/metal audience recognize those bands ?! Absolutely as the middle age for the festival crowd was between 40-60 and they want to hear the songs and see their idols from their own teenage years.