The annual and traditional Finnish metal festival Tuska Open Air is here again. In all, 43 000 people visited the Tuska festival for three days. That was an amazing attendance record in the long history of the Tuska Festival. One of the reasons for that record was the last show by the thrash metal veterans Slayer on the Finnish soil. People wanted to witness for one and last time Kerry King and Tom Araya on the stage.
Another thing was that the festival grounds were reconstructed, and all the weird folds and unnecessary fences had been removed. People were able to wander around with their drinks in their hands in the festival area. That, however, meant that under-aged kids were not allowed to have access to the festival. The metal gods had blessed the event with beautiful and sunny weather, and the bands were great once again. As usual, Metal-Rules.Com visited the Tuska Festival, and here is our brief article.
Goat burner, a two-man band, run by the growler of Rotten Sound with the drummer of the Finnish HC punk band Ratface, hit the indoor stage right at 3.00 pm. Goatburner’s debut gig happened at the Helsinki Deathfest in August 2018. The stuff of Goatburner could be described as a hybrid mix of the sludge that meets deadly metal with a few punkish elements. Goatburner crushed the audience by doing the 30 minutes of the brutal-sounding sonic noise.
Marko (Marco) Hietala is a kind of metal legend in Finland. He has made a long career, at first with Tarot and later with Nightwish, one of the most successful Finnish bands in the world. The other credits include working for such groups as Sinergy (with Alexi Laiho) and Northern Kings. Hietala is also a member of the mega-successful “Raskasta Joulua” team. It’s an annual Christmas tour, which is usually sold out months in advance, and the list goes on. I’m sure that almost everyone in Finland knows who Marko Hietala is. However, in May of 2019, Hietala released the first solo album, MUSTAN SYDÄMEN ROVIO. The album is really different compared to anything he has released before. Not only it’s a Finnish language album, but also the songs are very different. They’re mostly not metal at all. Of course, certain elements make the album recognizable, like Hietala’s unique voice, but other than that, I must commit that the album was confusing, to say at least. So, when Marko Hietala and the band took over the stage, I wasn’t sure what to expect. “Tähti, Hiekka ja Varjo” opened the show, followed by “Kuolleiden Jumalten Poika,” and “Isäni Ääni,” the first single of the album. It was interesting to follow people’s reactions, and with one word, it was expectant. I’m sure that many people were expecting to hear at least some old stuff mixed with the new material, but the band made no exceptions. In fact, the whole MUSTAN SYDÄMEN ROVIO was performed but in a slightly different order to the album. This show is tough to judge because the band, which consists of top-quality studio musicians, sounded fresh and energetic throughout the show. Also, Hietala’s vocals were on top form, but still… Listening to the whole solo album in a row was a bit boring experience. This show could have been much more interesting if the band had spiced it a little bit, like playing a couple of Tarot classics as an encore, etc. Now this performance was only average at its best.
Battle Beast is one of these newer generation groups in Finland, which have slowly grown into a serious band, not only in Finland but also in Europe and other territories. The group was initially formed in Helsinki in 2005, and to date, Battle Beast has released five albums, including NO MORE HOLLYWOOD ENDINGS (2019). I have seen the band live a couple of times during the years, starting from the early days, but it seems that now after oft-discussed lineup changes, the band has finally found the right formula. The lead vocalist Noora Louhimo is the absolute star of the stage. She has a powerful voice, tons of charisma and brings a huge amount of energy to the show. The boys in the band are also energetic but a bit invisible behind Noora’s stage persona. The band’s song material is quite strong after five albums. Of course, the highlights were the radio singles “King for A Day,” “Eden,” and the oldie “Black Ninja.” No material was included from the band’s first album, STEEL, but it may not fit that well with the newer material anymore, so that’s understandable. All in all, Battle Beast offered us a highly entertaining and energetic show with no breaks or fillers, so they were a more than welcome addition to the Tuska lineup this year.
Power Trip, the Texas-based crossover thrash squad, visited Helsinki a couple of times earlier and established a solid following. The tent was packed by thousands of people, who arranged one hell of a dusty circle pit. The singer of Power Trip, Riley Gale, literally whipped the audience up to go nuts. Obviously, the Texas crossover thrashers were blown away by the reaction and the band’s response at Tuska. Power Trip was aggressive and brutal, definitely fueled by the insane response.
Anthrax has been a regular visitor in Finland, especially in the Tuska Festival in recent years. This was the band’s third show in Tuska in six years, and within that period, they have also performed twice in Helsinki Ice Hall and once in Oulu. But there’s an old saying, where smoke, there’s a fire. The band would have never played this many shows without demand, and it seems that this band has a massive following in Finland. So, when the band took the stage, surprisingly early at 06:30, the field was packed. After the “Number of The Beast” intro, Charlie Benante walked behind his kit, and Scott Ian, Frankie Bello, and Joe Donais opened the show with an instrumental version of Pantera’s “Cowboys from Hell.” The shortened version lasted until Bello started to play the famous bass riff of “Caught in a Mosh.” Joey Belladonna ran on stage, started singing, and the whole band was firing on all five cylinders. Although the boys in the band are not that young anymore, the group’s energy level is still at the highest level. Bello jumps around like he was possessed, and Scott Ian has his show on the right side on stage. “Got The Time” and “Madhouse” were played next, and the atmosphere just got better. During “I Am the Law,” Scott commanded the audience to make a massive “wall of death,” and the crowd obeyed. It was an old-school metal moment at its best. The year 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the STATE OF EUPHORIA album, so the band had now added the album track “Now It’s Dark” into the set. For me, it was a great variation to the set, but it seemed that the majority of the crowd didn’t recognize it. What a shame… Something similar was in the air when the band played “In the End,” the only song in the set from the band’s new era. However, things went “back to normal” with the old classics “AIR,” “Antisocial,” and “Indians,” which was the last song.
The show was over, and it was time to sum it up. It was a really short set, only 60 minutes and nine songs. And no surprises on the setlist. Except for “Now It’s Dark,” all these songs have been heard on every Anthrax show within the past six years. The band played and performed extremely energetically. Belladonna sang like an angel. It was great to see Charlie Benante behind the kit in Helsinki again; the last time happened fourteen years ago. However, if and when the band returns to Finland next time, it’s time to refresh the setlist. Although Anthrax was great as always, they’re repeating themselves way too much. I have an idea! How about leaving all AMONG THE LIVING songs off for a change and replacing those with the other stuff?
Caught in a Mosh (with Cowboys from Hell intro)
Got the Time (Joe Jackson cover)
I Am the Law
Now It’s Dark
In the End
Antisocial (Trust cover)
Indians (with Cowboys from Hell outdo)
Dime Borgir’s latest opus EONIAN received a mixed response from the crowd, and some people liked it, and some people disliked it. Despite whatever people wanted or not, their Tuska set consisted of four songs picked up from the EONIAN album. Of course, the well-known songs of other records such as “The Chosen Legacy” and “Progenies of the Great Apocalypse” were part of the set. Frankly, “Council Of Wolves And Snakes” off from EONIAN sounded like a pure, eerie hymn taken out of some horror movie. That song brought a chilly feeling throughout a body. Dimmu Borgir’s gig had been scheduled in the daytime; therefore, playing under the burning hot sun didn’t justice to the band’s blackish horror elements. It would be about time to have an indoor gig as some time has passed since the previous one in Finland. Visually and soundwise, the band would be awesome in an indoor venue.
SWALLOW THE SUN
Swallow The Sun hit the tent stage and brought the darkest and saddest elements during the whole weekend. The caravan of the sadness and the sorrow had undergone a few needed line-up changes, but their most recent output, WHEN A SHADOW IS FORCED INTO THE LIGHT, definitely stands for the STS at its best for sure. The band’s live performance and dismal music sounded more than splendid, and without any doubt, quite melancholic. STS’s material appealed to the Tuska crowd well, who smoothly enjoyed and lived up to their depressive music. The band’s stage presence was restrained and harmonic, which created a fine atmosphere for the STS gig. Of course, the lights brought another atmospheric aspect for the gig of Swallow the Sun.
Amorphis had got the massive honor to headline the opening day. The purpose was to cover the entire new album QUEEN OF TIME from beginning to the end and some other songs added to the setlist. It was quite a logical choice to perform the whole album as QUEEN OF TIME has received a tremendous much of praises and enormously appreciated reviews in the press and media. In order, the 90-minute long set was kicked off by “The Bee” and was followed by every song from QUEEN OF TIME. The vocalist Tomi Joutsen’s voice has a wide range of capacity from the brutal death metal grunt to the more melodic and harmonic vocals. He didn’t have any problems or struggles with his voice when doing different vocals. Even though some people still find Amorphous utterly boring, the whole band was definitely in fine form when it comes to playing and being on the stage. Amorphis offered a couple of pleasant surprises on the set. Annette Von Giersbergen made a couple of special visits by doing a duet with Tomi Joutsen, “Amongst The Star,” and “Her Alone” in the encore. The long-time lyricist of Amorphis, Pekka Kainulainen, appeared as dressed in some snowman costume during “Daughter Of Hate.” The whole gig was concluded by the more old-school Amorphous song “Black Winter Day” from the second album, TALES FROM THE THOUSAND LAKES, which opened the doors for Amorphis to have more attention outside of Finland. Amorphis have always been one of the most important metal exports coming from Finland. It was amazing to see how the band has succeeded in increasing the following and the fanbase. Amorphis will be celebrating its 30 anniversary the next year, and there has been no end in sight for Amorphis for a long time.
Message in the Amber
Daughter of Hate
The Golden Elk
Heart of the Giant
Grain of Sand
Amongst Stars (with Anneke van Giersbergen)
Pyres on the Coast
The Four Wise Ones
Her Alone (with Anneke van Giersbergen)
Black Winter Day
Lost Society has been more like a house band for Tuska for years. The Finnish thrashers have gained a solid following and established their name on the metal map. The band was, as usual, reckless and wild on the stage. The frontman Sammy Elbana was one kind of Energizer Bunny running all over the stage, climbing the structures of the stage and, of course, encouraging the people to go insane in the pit. Lost Society brought vital performance as nearly neck-breaking headbanging and truly intensive playing.
On the other hand, the band should stick to playing more strictly and harder, not hassling the audience all the time. Take a lesson from older thrash bands as to how they do that. Lost Society thrashed by playing several songs from all the albums and a cover song by Rage Against The Machine “Guerrilla Radio.”
There are bands named War that and this, but Warkings was an entirely unknown entity until the editor-in-chief recommended that we check it out at Tuska. The four-piece power metal being on the Austrian label, Napalm Records, is an international group. However, the frontman is from Sirenia, and obviously, the drummer is from Visions Of Atlantis. The band had dressed up to the gladiator type of customs and had some eccentric masks. As for the music, the material sounded good, but some stereotypical power metal elements a little bit. Warkings’s purpose is not to reinvent the wheel but to recycle good and melodic power metal riffs. That’s why they have succeeded as the crowd enjoyed their show.
SICK OF IT ALL
It was a little bit interesting to note Sick of It All had been placed at the main stage in the first place. They would have worked out better at the tent stage as Power Trip did. The NY HC veterans came and conquered. The frontman Lou Koller was a relentless powerhouse, and the whole band was jumping and running all around the stage. Even though the band had played in Finland before, when Lou Koller asked how many people this was the first-ever Sick Of It All gig, 90 % of the audience raised their hand. That surprised the band, and Lou Koller stated, “wow, that’s the whole country.” If the band was restless and wild on the stage, so was the audience. The insane-looking circle-pit was going on all the time, and finally, a crushing wall-of-death was witnessed.
After a four-year break, the Japanese Metal veterans Loudness returned to Tuska. It seems that someone in the festival organization is a massive fan of the band since this gig was a one-off show in Europe, with no additional shows in this continental. Unlike last time, when Loudness was playing on the main stage, they were not put into a more intimate and better environment for the band, Kattilahalli. The venue was packet when guitarist Akira Takasaki appeared and opened the show with the band’s most legendary song, “Crazy Nights.” The strong 80’s vibe continued with another two THUNDER IN THE EAST tracks. “Like Hell” and “Heavy Chains” rocked, and it briefly felt that the band had invented the time machine, which now brings the audience back to the mid-’80s when Loudness was on the top of its game. Unfortunately, the party didn’t last long, because next, the band played five new songs in a row. “Soul on Fire” is a decent old-school hard rock song, but the rest of the new songs sounded like a mix of nu-metal, pop, and some really heavy stuff. Nothing like the old-school Loudness that people came to see and listen to. Things got better at the end when the band closed the show with “S.D.I” and two DISILLUSION album tracks, “Crazy Doctor” and “Esper,” but the damage was already done. In a way, I understand that the band wants to play and promote its new stuff, but in a festival like this, the set should be built more upon the classics, the songs everyone knows. However, the band sounded great, and Akira Takasaki proved that he’s still a fantastic guitar player. He’s a true old-school guitar hero at his best, and he also looks like that. Vocalist Minoru Niihara might now be a short-haired guy and looked much older now, but he still sang great with his unique style. Bassist Masayoshi Yamashita concentrated juts playing and stayed most of the set in the background behind the power duo, but it was surprising that the band’s longtime drummer Masayuki Suzuki was not behind the kit. There was no announcement made in advance, but later on, I heard that he had suffered some health issues for a long time already. Power to him! Overall, Loudness offered the fans a nice nostalgia trip, which could have been better, but I’m sure that most fans were happy about this.
Soul on Fire
I’m Still Alive
The Sun Will Rise Again
The Netherlands is known for many female-fronted metal and rock bands. Delain’s singer Charlotte Wessels stands for that genre and has a huge legion of fans worldwide. That could be seen at the Tuska festival as well when the band arrived at the stage and received an overwhelmingly warm response from the festival audience. Charlotte’s turned out to be an energetic singer with strong charisma. Her performance was full of passion and devotion. The set was based equally on the material from MOONBATHERS, and WE ARE OTHERS. Of course, songs had been picked up from the debut album LUCIDITY, THE HUMAN CONTRADICTIONS. Judging by the audience’s reaction, it isn’t any surprise the band will be returning to Finland later this year.
Healing has some sort of massive hype as they are everywhere at the moment. Obviously, the ongoing pagan/folk/ambient combination seems to have reached the mainstream audience and metal festivals. Heilung was one of the waited bands among the Tuska audience. The whole Heilung clan had dressed up in different kinds of clothes and customs of shamans, eccentric gnomes, and ancient warriors. The entire spectacle was breathtaking. This kind of folk/pagan approach has gotten more and more popular during the last few years. The reputation and the fame of these acts have spread like wildfire. Thousands of people packed the whole tent and the surrounding area. Of course, Heilung’s spectacle with all small details in terms of clothes and warriors with pikes was an outstanding experience for the Tuska crowd.
It’s been eleven years since Slayer last time performed in Tuska. In 2008, the classic line-up of Tom Araya, Kerry King, Jeff Hanneman, and Dave Lombardo played a show which is still something to remember all these years later. As every metalhead knows, the band has undergone several changes since then, but they’ve managed to keep the group going. Last year Slayer announced that they were going to retire, but before that, there would be one more tour, which would be their last. The band played a sold-out show last December in Helsinki, but fortunately, they came back one more time. Being on the farewell festival run, Slayer had finally got the perfect timing and slot to say goodbye to the Finnish crowd. They were playing at midnight in the darkened Tuska festival landscape created the ideal environment for the massive lights and all the pyro. The thrash kings swarmed songs one by one with a brutal assault for 90 minutes. Of course, the setlist had been built to cover the best Slayer tunes such as “War Ensemble,” “South of Heaven,” and ”Reign in Blood.” Surprisingly, one only song was included from the latest studio effort REPENTLESS. Compared to the previous tour, the setlist was identical to last year’s show in Helsinki Ice Hall.
However, I was a little disappointed that the furious “Dittohead” had been dropped and replaced with “Gemini.” Slayer sounded tight and splendid, and the Finnish crowd answered. There was a huge mosh pit in the audience throughout the whole set. Gary Holt’s playing is tight and precise whereas, Kerry King was mostly in his spot, focusing on playing and banging his head through the set. Tom Araya seemed to as he has got younger and looked to be in excellent shape. When the show was over, Araya returned alone on stage and just watched the audience without saying a word. The moment lasted like five minutes, and it was emotional and the perfect way to say thanks and goodbye from Slayer to the fans. Anyway, Slayer was still a vital and savage band. The world will be a much duller place once the thrash metal legends soon put their axes to rest. Thank you, Slayer!
Evil Has No Boundaries
World Painted Blood
Born of Fire
Seasons in the Abyss
South of Heaven
Dead Skin Mask
Angel of Death
How many bands are known from Ukraine ?! Well, of course, Nokturnal Mortem. And Jinjer, being the most significant metal export from Ukraine for sure. Jinjer has toured all around the globe by doing tours of their own and being an opening act for several bands. But before going any further, some people may wonder what kind of stuff they are doing. Well, the name of the game is metalcore, of course. Whatsoever Jinjer proved to be one hell of a tight live act. Above all, the band’s front lady Tatiana Shmailyuk turned out to be a real powerhouse type of stage performer. She moved and acted relentlessly at the stage during the whole gig, leaving other band members more in the static roles. Jinjer seemed to have the fanbase in Finland as the frontline went nuts for Tatiana’s raging and aggressive performance. Jinjer was energic, aggressive, and hungry on the stage.
Behemoth made the first visit to Tuska back in 2003 by playing at the small tent stage. The band came like a storm and conquered us all. The Polish death/black mongers have increased the fan base and followed a tremendous lot since those days. That could be witnessed during their slot at Tuska when thousands and thousands of people had gathered to follow Behemoth’s black mass at the main stage. The frontman Nergal’s charisma and presence were so dominating and conquering that people didn’t lose interest at all. Behemoth’s show was a more theatrical black mass; pyros, occultism references and symbols, Aleister Crowley’s faces. Above all, the pentagram created by pyros and inverted crossed by smoke machines looked huge, even daylight. Behemoth has put a lot of effort into pretentious show elements. The band had different kinds of dresses, which were reminiscents of an evil bishop. However, all those things and elements had been well planned and carried out. The music was a priority for the show. The 60-minute set consisted of “Wolves Of Siberia,” which started the whole mass and was followed by “Daimonos” off from EVANGELION and “We Are The Next 1000 Years”.
All in all, thirteen songs were on the set. The oldest songs were from the SATANICA album. Behemoth’s gigs and shows are always a breathtaking and magical experience. Behemoth never let the intensity down and started joking around. That was what Behemoth presented at Tuska at its finest form of their art.
Wolves of Siberia
Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer
Of Fire and the Void
God = Dog
Decade of Therion
Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel
Chant for Eschaton 2000
We Are the Next 1000 Years
Hailstorm, led by Lzzy Hale, has brought the new and vital life on the quite dried-up rock map. The band, especially front lady Lzzy, has gained success step by step and become one of the most important female-fronted rock bands in this era. Halestorm’s gig was absolutely one of the most waited ones at Tuska. When Lzzy stepped at the stage, she and her band received a warm welcome from the audience. Her a little bit raspy-sounding voice was delightful to listen to. Her way of singing and capturing the audience at the same time was phenomenal. Her stage presence and charisma were so magical and strong that the crowd was entirely up to the band’s performance. If Lzzy was the star of the band, of course, other band members brought their own input into the gig. Especially the drummer’s passionate playing was amazing to follow. Both the guitarist and the bassist handled their task with professionalism. The set was kicked off by “Killing Ourselves to Live,” coming from the band’s latest album, VICIOUS. The 60-minute set was concluded by the well-known song “I Miss The Misery.”
The Swedish rockers Hellacopters returned from its eight-year hiatus in 2016. Since then, the band has played regularly, but rarely, mainly at European festivals. The reunited version of the group features the original members; vocalist/guitarist Nicke Andersson, guitarist Dregen, drummer Robert Eriksson, keyboardist Anders Lindström (who joined in 1999), and the touring bassist Dolf DeBorst who’s been playing with the band since 2018. I’m sure that many people were surprised when they first heard that the Hellacopters would be the last band on this year Tuska. A band known as a garage/action rock band would be a “headliner” of the festival like Tuska, where most groups are from very different and much heavier genres. Well, the band didn’t let that bother them, and they kicked off the show with “Hopeless Case with A Kid Denial,” followed by “Alright Already Now,” and the crowd-pleaser “Carry Me Home.” The dynamic duo of Andersson and Dregen worked great together on stage.
Dregen’s everlasting energy was still on the highest level, and Nicke made his usual moves, sometimes on his knees and playing his heart out. The setlist was a good cross-section of songs from the band’s whole career, including all the hit songs (“Soulseller,” “By the Grace of God,” “Toys and Flavors,” etc.), some early stuff (“Gotta Get Some Action) Now!”, “Born Broke”), and true rarities like “Long Gone Losers” plus “My Mephistophelean Creed.” It’s easy to say that Hellacopters offered us what was expected, a good and sweaty rock ‘n roll show with no gimmicks or unnecessary bullshit. The band definitely had a lot of fans in the audience, but if you compared the size of the crowd to any other bigger bands in Tuska, not to even mention Slayer and co., it was easy to see that the stage and the timing were wrong for a band like Hellacopters. The band didn’t care. They just did what they do best, but I can’t help thinking that putting this band last on the bill was an ingenious way to clear the area slowly, in the long term, and avoid all congestions on exit gates. Maybe this was a planned soft ending for the heavy weekend.