Ruisrock, the longest-running Finnish Rock Festival was held for the first time in 1970. Next year the festival will be celebrating its' 40th anniversary, but whether next year's event will top this year's we'll see. The record-breaking attendance number of 92000 people during the three days this year will be hard to beat. I have a feeling that it might happen though, because there'll be some big names on tour next summer and Ruisrock will probably snatch a few of them to their line-up.
For the last few years, the first day of Ruisrock has been more or less dedicated to more metallic sounds, and this year was no different. After picking up our passes from a hotel in downtown Turku, we headed to the beautiful Ruissalo. There was a continuous stream of people walking towards the festival area, and some of them seemed to be in a very "festive mood" indeed. I'm sure that some of the party'ers never saw a single band that day. To each their own I guess, I hope they had fun anyway.
The first band we heard was STONE, who were playing on the stage closest to the gate. The band has a bit of a legendary status here in Finland, them being the pioneers of Finnish Thrash. They even made some waves abroad, signing an international deal with Mechanic Records and getting some rave reviews. Nowadays some of the band members are more known for their other bands, namely Sub-Urban Tribe and Children Of Bodom, and probably that fact didn't do any harm to the attendance number of their gig. From what I could gather, they played their thrash with enthusiasm and energy. Not that I really paid much attention to them, as Thrash Metal and me just don't mix....
Swedish DEAD BY APRIL have a nice buzz surrounding them. Their MySpace page has been visited over a million times, and their debut album released in May went straight to number two on the Swedish album chart. The songs on their aforementioned MySpace page didn't sound too bad, so they were the first band marked as "one to check out" on my list. Now, having seen them live I can understand why they probably got a few record label execs very excited - they are a very marketable band with crossover potential. They're young and good-looking in a suitably dangerous way with all their tattoos and mohawks, and their music combines elements of metal and hardcore to pop hooks. It's not an unique concept but I haven't heard anyone do it so extremely - some of their songs have verses with brutal riffs and screamy vocals, yet the choruses are more along the lines of The Rasmus. Actually, some of the melodic stuff goes almost into the boyband territory!
I quite liked the band's melodic moments, yet grew tired of the constant screaming quite fast. I hope that they do too... The band did have a decent stage presence with vocalist/screamer Jimmie and vocalist/guitarist Pontus leading the pack. The most outrageous performer on stage wasn't a band member at all - it was the weird naked camera man who appeared on stage halfway through the set!
Another Swedish band was next on the agenda, a goth/death/industrial/glam hybrid called DEATHSTARS. Having only heard a few songs by them, I wasn't sure what to expect. All I knew was that they'd be a rather visual band. and indeed they were. All dressed in black and all pale as ghosts, not to mention ready and willing to throw all kinds of traditional rock'n roll shapes. Vocalist Whiplasher Bernadotte looked like a gothic Michael Jackson, while the guitarist duo of Nightmare Industries (!) and Cat (?) had memorized the handbook of Rock'n Roll posing. In contrast to the more "glammy" guitarists, bass player Skinny was a more of a unhealthy, rock-zombie like figure with his dreadlocks. He also did the growling when needed.
The band's music was okay, very much like the 69 Eyes but with more industrial and metal elements. The "Helsinki Vampires" do have better hooks and more memorable songs though. Vocalist Whiplasher's style of introducing the songs was pretty cool, pure deadpan comedy. He played with the old Finland vs. Sweden rivalry, saying that the best thing about Finland is the fact that it's really close to Russia... The crowd didn't know what to make of it, so some cheered, some booed. And how do you introduce a slower song? "Boys, keep your girlfriends warm...Girls, take my phonenumber". Or something to that effect - forgive me if I didn't get it word by word.
Despite their unquestionable musical abilities, the music of CHILDREN OF BODOM has never appealed to me. I had never seen them live before, so given this opportunity, I thought I'd give 'em a go. But no, they didn't win me over, and the three songs we were allowed to take photos were more than enough of Bodom for me. I don't know, maybe with a different singer some of their songs would be ok, but I just can't handle Alexi Laiho's cookie monster vocals. Anyway, we did get a few good photos of them, so enjoy.
Straight from the photopit of the COB gig we ran to the other stage, where the english gentlemen of THE WILDHEARTS were about to start their show. They were introduced by Michael Monroe, the frontman of Hanoi Rocks and a Finnish rock icon. I haven't really followed the band's career, but they were pretty good, presenting us a good set of no-frills rock with some catchy choruses, well played and well sung. Vocalist/guitarist Ginger entertained the audience and seemed genuinely happy about the reception they got.
Even though I haven't really followed the band's career and don't have any albums by them, many of the songs sounded familiar. That was more than I expected, I was sure that I'd only recognize their biggest hit "I Wanna Go Where The People Go"! The band previewed a new song too, an uptempo rocker called "Jackson Whites" which promises good things for their next album "Chutzpah!", to be released in August.
Michael Monroe joined the band for a energetic rendition of MC5's "Kick Out The Jams", and managed to do his traditional "Ruisrock stage-climbing stunt" during the three minutes he was on stage. He really is one of a kind character, and the Finnish rock scene would be a lot more boring without him.
The DISTURBED have done good business in Finland, with their latest album "Indestructible" spending about 20 weeks in the Finnish Top 40. It was no surprise that their set was one of the most popular ones of the festival. Their radio hits "Land Of Confusion", "Stricken", "Inside The Fire" and "Indestructible" turned the Ruissalo beach into a big sing-along party, and even the regular album cuts seemed to be known by many.
I quite liked the band's set, even though some of the songs sounded a bit samey, partly thanks to aggressive vocals of David Draiman. He has a good, strong voice but he spiced up his vocals with the additional "Ah!'s" after several words. Well, I guessah it's his trademarkah!.
Visually the band's show was pretty uneventful, expect for the "intro", during which Draiman was wheeled to the stage in a straightjacket and a Hannibal Lecter-like mask. A dramatic opening, but after that the band relied on their songs only. Nothing wrong with that, since they do have a bunch of strong tunes.
Meaning of Life
Land of Confusion
Hell / Shout 2000 / Criminal / Deify
Inside the Fire
Ten Thousand Fists
Down With The Sickness
SLIPKNOT's set was anything but uneventful. They're one of the most visual bands around, looking like a freak show with those masks and revolving drumsets and whatsits. Our photographer Mira took photos of them from the photopit, and she came away from there with bewildered look on her face, saying that there was something going on in every corner of the stage, and she had to be really alert not to miss a lot of it. Her captures of the Slipknot Experience are below for you to see.
I was watching the show from afar, and if it hadn't been for the screen, I wouldn't have seen much anything at all. I did hear the music, and that really didn't appeal to me. The first few tracks sounded really chaotic to my ears, and only the band's early hit "Wait And Bleed" sounded like a real "song" with a structure and notion of melody in it. Ater a while, my ears had taken enough of battering and we decided to start heading home. I believe it was the band's recent hit "Sulfur" which stood out as another decent song among the rest of the songs we heard. On our way out, we stopped for a while to watch the band's great light show, which looked really cool even from outside of the festival area. Then it was goodbye and goodnight, and we had nice nightly bicycle ride ahead of us... which resulted in a colourful, cd-sized bruise for Mira, as she had a little accident.
Wait and Bleed
Before I Forget
The Blister Exists
Spit It Out