The last day of Sauna, and the busiest one for us. First around noon we had an interview with the great Geoff Tate of Queensrÿche, then I had decided to check out the first two bands of the day, Anthriel and Battle Beast, maybe some of Tarot's set too.
As Mira wanted to go and explore Tampere a bit, I assumed the role of a photographer for these acts too.
Athrie... Atria... Antril...ANTHRIEL may not have the best band name in the world, but they sure can play their instruments. And sing. They play progressive metal with all the usual trimmings, awesome musicianship and complex songs. I must say that for a non-proghead their music sounded ok, but none of the songs really left a lasting impression. I'm sure that they got themselves quite a few new fans though, as the size of the crowd multiplied during their set, and the people seemed to nod their head in approval.
The band had a rather well-known singer on stage with them, Jarkko Ahola of Teräsbetoni fame. As I understand, he isn't actually a member of Anthriel, he was merely filling in at Sauna. He did a great job vocally and being a seasoned pro, he brought in some additional stage presence. The other guys in the "frontline", namely Klaus Wirzenius (bass) and Timo Niemistö (guitar) were quite lively performers too, not your average prog professors staring at their instruments! Anthriel are definitely a band to keep an eye on, if they can add a little more accessibility to their music they'll make a fan out of me too.
I had heard a lot of good things about BATTLE BEAST, so I made it my business to check out their set now that I had the chance. The band released their debut album a few months ago, and have recieved rave reviews and even some airplay on the rock radio here. Battle Beast play traditional metal in the vein of Accept, Judas Priest etc, so they were definitely in the right company at Sauna this year. What makes them a bit different is their lead singer Nitte Valo, who is a real dynamite shouter. She can really belt out gritty metal like Udo or Rob Halford in their prime! What's more, virtually every track of theirs is a potential metal hit with a strong chorus!
Battle Beast's performance was highly professional and entertaining, and a special mention must be given to the background vocals, which were really convincing, Hammerfall-style choirs. With a few important festival dates in the gig schedule, I have a feeling that by the end of this summer Battle Beast has won over quite a few new fans for themselves, and we'll be hearing a lot more of them. RockUnited.Com will be checking out their progress and quest for world domination again in late July, when they are performing at Unaja Open Air.
TAROT played next on the big stage, and I briefly checked out some of their songs. Their setlist was based on their first album "The Spell Of Iron", which is actually their latest album as well, as they re-recorded the whole thing with new arrangements and called it "The Spell Of Iron MMXI". Marco Hietala introduced the band as "the last remaining dinosaurs in Finland", and then proceed to play a nostalgic set of classic Tarot songs. Thanks to the updated arrangements, the songs had a bit of a modern edge to them, so it wasn't as retro as some of the other sets of the festival.
The next band on our list was the one I was looking forward to seeing the most - QUEENSRŸCHE. Okay, I haven't really cared for their recent output (why do I feel like I'm repeating myself?), but they've responsible for a bonafide classic in the form of "Operation: Mindcrime" and "Empire" is another winner too. Naturally I was hoping to hear a lot of songs from those two albums, but I was also curious to hear some new stuff.
Over the years, the band hasn't gone through a lot of line-up changes, only the second guitarist slot originally occupied by Chris DeGarmo has been rather difficult to fill. Parker Lundgren, the latest guitarist and the third one after DeGarmo has been in the band since 2009. Being a lot younger than the other members, he has brought some youthful energy into the band and proved himself as a skilled player and a good backing vocalist too. Vocalist Geoff Tate was the star of the show though, showing a bit of theatrical flair in his performance. His vocals were really good, whether he can still hit all the high notes is debatable but somehow there's a lot of character and depth in his voice when he sings in a lower register.
The aptly named "Get Started" started the set. It's from the new album "Dedicated To Chaos", and even though not a lot of people knew it, it got a good reception. A wise move to kick off with a new song - a surprise attack? "Damaged" from "Promised Land" went by without making any kind of impact on me, which is something I can't say for "I Don't Believe In Love", one of my all-time favourite songs. To hear it live was a Big Moment for me, even though Tate didn't seem to want to sing the chorus himself, instead he tried to get everyone to sing along... and succeeded in it quite well.
The next few songs were more or less unfamiliar for me, and I'm afraid none of the became my favourites. "A Dead Man's Words" is worth mentioning for the fact that Tate played a saxophone solo, not a thing you're likely to hear on a metal festival.
The second half of the setlist didn't leave a lot to be desired, as the band played a nice selection of classic tracks: "Walk In The Shadows", my favourite track from "Rage For Order", three hits from "Empire" and their first MTV hit "Eyes Of A Stranger". A rather fine ending for the set.
I Don't Believe In Love
A Dead Man's Words
Hit the Black
Screaming In Digital
Walk In The Shadows
Jet City Woman
Eyes Of A Stranger
"Teutonic Terror" was on the menu next, and I'm talking about ACCEPT of course. Earlier this year the band released their acclaimed comeback album "Blood Of The Nations" with the new singer Mark Tornillo. Their decision to continue under the Accept name without the original vocalist Udo Dirkschneider caused a lot of controversy, but once people got to hear the album, the pro-Udo party lost a lot of members. The bitter "ACCEPT ISN'T ACCEPT WITHOUT UDO"-jihadists were nowhere to be seen, when the four-piece Accept conquered the stage. Four-piece because Herman Frank had an accident on stage during the band's show in Houston a while ago, he broke four ribs and injured his leg.
The band kicked off the show with two tracks from their latest album, and if the audience reaction was anything to go by, a reasonably big part of the crowd had purchased or at least downloaded "Blood Of The Nations". Having warmed up the crowd, Accept just shifted gears and went into overdrive with seriously acceptable list of their eighties' hits; "Breaker", "Metal Heart", "Princess Of The Dawn"... and the crowd raised their fists and banged their heads as if their life depended on it. Mark Tornillo ruled the stage with confidence and Wolf Hoffman played those "evergreen" riffs one after another. Accept being normally a two-guitar band, he got a little bit of help from a roadie who played some rhythm guitar every now and then. The familiar guitar solos with classical themes were eagerly sung along by the crowd. All in all, I think that Accept were THE band that got the best reception of the whole festival, even though Priest might have gathered more people to watch them.
Bucketful of Hate
Losers and Winners
Princess of the Dawn
Up to the Limit
Fast as a Shark
Balls to the Wall
Swedish rockers SPARZANZA had the honour of being the last band on the second stage. I didn't really know any of their songs, but it didn't matter, as some of their songs were rather "instant" hits, like the standout of the setlist "Temple Of The Red-Eyed Pigs". The band put a lot of effort into their performance, and they also had the first "cheerleader" I've seen on a rock gig! I believe it was a member of the band's crew who filmed a lot of the band's set, but he also rose to the barricade between the audience and the stage and tried his best to get the people to raise their fists and yell... not that it was necessarily, people seemed to be into the band's set. Pretty good stuff indeed. We didn't watch the whole set as Mira had to be near the big stage well in advance to get her Judas Priest photo sticker and instructions.
JUDAS PRIEST were the headliners of Saturday, and indeed they drew more than 10.000 people to watch their show. They had an elaborate stage set, risers, a big videoscreen and am impressive array of lights. Not to mention the motorcycle. The set was hidden behind a curtain, which built up the excitement among the fans. A true Heavy Metal show was about to take place...
The band had promised to play a long set with songs from their all albums, and I believe they did just that. Especially on the first half of the show they played a few rather unknown songs, but of course the immortal metal anthems such as "Breaking The Law", "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" and "Turbo Lover" were played a bit later in the set. Me being more of a casual Priest listener, I really didn't warm up to the show until they started playing those tracks that I actually knew... "Heading Out to the Highway" and "Diamonds And Rust" sounded good though, and Rob Halford's Metal Fashion parade added a lot of entertainment value. Mr. Metal God has a lot of leather jackets!
New guitarist Richie Faulkner had to jump into the big boots of K.K. Downing, but he did it effortlessly. A less confident guitarist might have stayed away from the limelight but not Faulkner, he ran around the stage, made contact with audience and most importantly, played really well. It didn't hurt that he looked a lot like young K.K. in his mirror shades and leather gear.
Rob Halford, the grand ol' man of Metal wasn't quite as lively as young Faulkner, but that is understandable as he was wearing really heavy jackets full of metal studs and whatnot. I wasn't totally in awe of his vocal performance either, but all things considered, he did just fine. After all, the conditions on stage must have been very sauna-like, and the band played for more than two hours.
Heading Out to the Highway
Victim of Changes
Diamonds & Rust
Dawn of Creation
Beyond the Realms of Death
Blood Red Skies
The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)
Breaking the Law
Hell Bent for Leather
You've Got Another Thing Comin'
Living After Midnight
Miscallaneous observations: as we found a rather good spot to watch the show from the side of the area, it was interesting to observe the crowd. The popularity of a song could be determined of the "raised fist" ratio - the diehards in the front of the stage had their fists in the air for the whole show, but only the well-known songs got a similar reaction from standing a little bit further back or in the bar area. During "Breaking The Law" the whole field was a sea of fists...
Final verdict for Saturday: Four birch sauna whisks out of five. Solid performances all around, great weather, nice athmosphere... a thoroughly enjoyable day of metal! Hmm... should I book the hotel for next year already?
Review by Kimmo Toivonen
Photos by Mira Suutari-Toivonen
Additional photos by Kimmo Toivonen
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