Sauna Open Air, 09.- 11. June 2011, Tampere, Finland

Summertime and Sauna go hand in hand; The Sauna of traditional kind of course but also this Open Air one - a metal festival in Tampere. It's the start of the festival season in Finland and definitely the one festival that should appeal to many of our readers. The emphasis is on classic metal and hard rock bands, but there's room for more modern metal sounds and up'n coming acts too.

This year's line-up was the most "retro" so far, featuring a lot of artists who were on the top of their career back in the eighties. Some fans were obviously a bit disappointed that there weren't too many extreme metal bands, but considering that the festival broke its' attendance records with 26000 tickets sold, the organizers made the right choice by concentrating on traditional metal. There's always TUSKA for those who are after something more aggressive and extreme.


The festivities began on Thursday, 9th of June. Having booked our hotel as early as in December, we were able to get ourself a room from Hotel Cumulus, the closest one to the site. A mere five minutes' walk to the gates was definitely a plus, since we were enjoying a full-on heatwave with 30+ celsius degrees. Indeed, the weather was perfect for the three days - I hear that SwedenRock, held in Sweden at the same time, had to take its' share of rain and chilly weather.

The Thursday line-up consisted of Moonsorrow, Helloween, Omnium Gatherum and Ozzy Osbourne. Moonsorrow and Omnium didn't interest us in the slightest, but Helloween and Ozzy did, so those were on the agenda. The German metal legends HELLOWEEN were a huge favourite of mine back in the late eighties, during the era of the first two "Keeper Of The Seven Keys"-albums. Since then my interest in them has dwindled, to the extent that I haven't even heard their latest album "7 Sinners". Now, only twentysome years after my initial Helloweenmania I was about to see them live... Better late than never, right?

The new album's first video/single "Are You Metal" was chosen as the opening track. When I first heard it and saw the video, I wasn't really impressed and I still don't like it, but it worked as a "crowd participation" with it's question-answer chorus: "Are You Metal?" - "Heavy Metal!". Well, Helloween were never a band that took themselves too seriously. The next couple of tracks were classics from the Keeper-era, "Eagle Fly Free" and "March Of Time", both showcasing Andy Deris' gritty yet soaring vocals and again there was some "crowd participation" during the latter. "Where The Sinners Go" from the new album sounded good, as did "I'm Alive", another Keeper-track.

Helloween are known for their 15-minute metal epics, but instead of playing one of them, they had arranged a medley that consisted of three epics crammed into 15 minutes: "Keeper of the Seven Keys", "The King for a 1000 Years" and "Halloween". That quarter of an hour featured a couple of verses and choruses of each and a lot of instrumental parts - pure earcandy for the diehard fans I suppose, but I must admit that I was looking forward to the shorter songs. And goddamn it, that's what we got - the rest of the set couldn't really have been better: "Steel Tormentor", one of the highlights of latter albums and three of the biggest hits from the Keepers: "Future World", "I Want Out" and "Dr. Stein".


Are You Metal?
Eagle Fly Free
March of Time
Where the Sinners Go
I'm Alive
Keeper of the Seven Keys / The King for a 1000 Years / Halloween
Steel Tormentor
Future World
I Want Out
Dr. Stein

Miscallaneous observations: there are two of the members of the band's most well-known line-up in the band these days, guitarist Michael Weikath and bassist Grosskopf. However, guitarist Sascha Gerstner has been in the band for 9 years, vocalist Andi Deris since 1994 and even the latest member, drummer Dani Löble since 2005, so the current line-up has been together for longer than the "classic one". The band has been around since the early eighties but there definitely seems to be some life left in it, their performance was excellent and they had fun on stage. Especially Weikath is a real goofball, pulling all kinds of ridiculous poses. The "new" guitarist Gerstner had bit "NikkiSixxish" look that set him apart of the more casually dressed other band members, butof course that didn't affect the band's musical unity.

Fastforward an hour, and it was time for the "Prince Of Darkness" or "the Dad In The Osbournes", which ever one like to choose. Yep, OZZY OSBOURNE. Having been a bit disappointed in his last year's Ruisrock performance, I wasn't expecting a lot. I'm glad to say that Ozzy was truly "in the zone" and his gig was far superior to the last year's one.

Ozzy's entrance to the stage took our photographer Mira by surprise: "I thought that it was some young girlie who bounced to the stage, with natural curls flowing....". Well, Ozzy is hardly a young girlie, but he had the energy of one when he took the stage. He seemed genuinely happy to be there and genuinely affected by the great response. Then the hits started rollin' - "I Don't Know", "Suicide Solution", "Bark At The Moon", "Shot In The Dark"... in between the hits we got a rarely played ballad "Goodbye To Romance" which sounded really good.

Ozzy's Black Sabbath years were highlighted with "Rat Salad", "Iron Man" and "Fairies Wear Boots" played back to back, and of course the inevitable encore "Paranoid". During the Sabbath-set guitarist Gus G. and drummer Tommy Clufetos got their solo spots, which weren't particulary exciting. I must say that Clufetos proved that some drummers don't play, they HIT the drums, he really put a lot of effort into his skin-bashing. Pretty cool to watch such a drummer.

The main set ended with a fine rendition of "Crazy Train", while the encore section included the aforementioned "Paranoid" and "Mama I'm Coming Home", a ballad that got a great reception.

I Don't Know
Suicide Solution
Mr. Crowley
Goodbye to Romance
Bark at the Moon
Road to Nowhere
Shot in the Dark
Rat Salad (+ solos)
Iron Man
Fairies Wear Boots
I Don't Want to Change the World
Crazy Train
Mama, I'm Coming Home

Miscallaneous observations: notice the lack of newer material in the setlist? Nothing from his latest album, in fact nothing from any album released after 1991... but who's complaining? I could've traded those solo spots and those more obscure Sabbath tracks to vintage Ozzy originals, but what the hell, this was a good show as it was.

Final verdict for Thursday: I've always been more fond of Helloween than Ozzy, so maybe I enjoyed their set more, but both were very good. Let's say... four birch sauna whisks out of five?


I fully intended to go and see TURISAS who were about to play at 14:45, but our plans changed and we were on the site a few hours later, just in time to catch a few songs from Anthrax frontman JOEY BELLADONNA's set. I've never been much on an Anthrax fan, but granted, Belladonna gathered a respectable crowd to watch him on the second stage and people were going nuts over Anthrax classics like "Madhouse" and "Indians". Belladonna is a good vocalist, but the Anthrax material leaves me completely cold. Apparently back in the day he got the job in Anthrax by singing a couple of Journey tunes in the audition, I can only imagine how jaws would've dropped if he would have led his band into "Don't Stop Believin'" at Sauna. Instead he chose to do a couple of tributes to Ronnie James Dio, namely "Heaven And Hell" and "Man On The Silver Mountain".

The artist I was most looking forward to seeing on Friday was DORO, the German Metal Queen. Even though her recent material has been less than stellar, I had a feeling that she could put together a good live setlist. The blonde bombshell didn't disappoint, she and her band went through a set that leaned heavily on the eighties' Warlock material, with only a couple of latter day tracks.

Doro put a lot of effort into working the crowd, and her hard work was rewarded nicely. She really is one of the most energetic performers I've seen, banging her head like possessed and looking positively radiant and unpretentious. She doesn't just sing metal, I have a feeling that she also lives and breathes metal!

The highlights of Doro's set for me were the killer metal anthems "All We Are" and "True As Steel", but I also enjoyed the ballad "Für Immer". The new song "We Are The Metalheads" could very well become one of the staples of Doro's set, it has a rather catchy chorus with some similarities to "All We Are"...

Earthshaker Rock
I Rule The Ruins
Burning The Witches
Running From The Devil
Night Of The Warlock
Metal Racer
Für Immer
True As Steel
We Are The Metalheads
All We Are

Miscallaneous observations: one would think that the German accent would disappear after years spent abroad and years spent singing in English, but no, Doro's still got it, especially when she talks. You can take a girl out of Germany but not Germany out of a girl. Nothing wrong with that, I think that the accent is a part of her charm. And charming she was, she even got the host Tuomas Saukkonen under her spell. He introduced Doro rather vividly, telling us that she is one hot mama he'd gladly... take to a Sauna.

Next up on the second stage were the DIO DISCIPLES. As the heavy metal community is still mourning for the loss of the great Ronnie James Dio, the remaining band members of Dio decided to carry the torch. To front the band they invited not one but two fine singers, Tim "Ripper" Owens (ex-Judas Priest, Iced Earth) and Toby Jepson (ex-Little Angels, Gun). With more than enough of classic material to choose from, they had a rather easy task to put together a setlist featuring nothing but classics. Or maybe it wasn't that easy after all, a dozen songs isn't that much. A classic or a few of them had to be left out...

Tim "Ripper" Owens is no stranger to stepping into the big shoes of an iconic vocalist, as he replaced Rob Halford in Judas Priest back in the nineties. In Dio Disciples, the whole scenario is a bit different, as it's more like a celebration of the great man's life and work than Owens taking the place of Dio. Having said that, to touch these classic songs one will have to be able to do them justice, the fans wouldn't have it any other way. The first few lines of "Stand Up And Shout" were enough to convince anyone that Owens is a man up to the task. His vocals were outstanding, very DIO-like and true to the originals. A while later Mr. Jepson took over the mike, and belted out the next couple of songs. Just by listening to his work on the old Little Angels albums, the pairing of Dio and Jepson might sound a bit unlikely, but he delivered some stunning vocals too. The band itself consisted of 3 out of the 5 members of the last DIO line up, them being Graig Goldy (gt), Scott Warren (kbs) and Simon Wright (drs). Rudy Sarzo wasn't present, James Lomenzo (ex-White Lion, Megadeth) played the bass instead.

Stand Up and Shout (lead vocals: Tim "Ripper" Owens)
Holy Diver (lead vocals: Tim "Ripper" Owens)
Don't Talk to Strangers (lead vocals: Tim "Ripper" Owens)
Egypt (The Chains Are On) (lead vocals: Toby Jepson)
King of Rock and Roll (lead vocals: Toby Jepson)
Catch the Rainbow / Stargazer (lead vocals: Tim "Ripper" Owens & Toby Jepson)
Neon Knights (vocal: Tim "Ripper" Owens)
The Last in Line (lead vocals: Tim "Ripper" Owens & Toby Jepson)
Long Live Rock 'n' Roll (lead vocals: Toby Jepson)
Man on the Silver Mountain (lead vocals: Tim "Ripper" Owens)
Heaven and Hell (lead vocals: Tim "Ripper" Owens & Toby Jepson)
Rainbow in the Dark (lead vocals: Tim "Ripper" Owens)

Miscallaneous observations: "Man On The Silver Mountain" and "Heaven And Hell" got their second airings on the same day - Belladonna also peformed them.

The headliners of Friday were the legendary British rockers SAXON. A lot of people were all excited of the prospect of seeing them, but I didn't share their enthusiasm. Sure, the band has a lot of material that I like, but unfortunately most of my favourite Saxon tracks are from their most melodic era, the late eighties. I believe that the band doesn't hold their late eighties' albums in high esteem, so it was unlikely that their setlist would include many of my favourites.

Unsuprisingly, the Saxon set concentrated on their early material and the new stuff. Kind of funny - they played a lot of the early eighties material (1980 - 1984) and newer songs (2007 - 2011), ignoring no less than 23 years in between... what we got was traditional "meat and potatoes" metal, competently played and sung, with lots of choruses based on repeating the song title. Saxon actually reminded me of last year's Sauna visitors ANVIL, who had even more simplistic and basic songs, but vocalist/guitarist Lipps' pure exhilarated joy of playing made up for them. The Saxon guys didn't look uncomfortable on stage either, but somehow I felt that something was missing. The level on intensity did rise a bit when Doro made a cameo appearance during "Denim And Leather".

The crowd seemed to love them, giving equally enthusiastic response to both old and new tracks. Therefore I'd have to say that their show in Sauna was a success, just not my cup of tea.

Hammer of the Gods
Heavy Metal Thunder
Never Surrender
Motorcycle Man
Back in '79
Atila the Hun
Demon Sweeney Todd
Call to Arms
Dallas 1 PM
Denim and Leather (feat. Doro Pesch)
Princess of the Night
Wheels of Steel
747 (Strangers in the Night)

Final verdict for Friday: Three birch sauna whisks out of five. Doro was my favourite of the day.



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.

Get Started
I Don't Believe In Love
A Dead Man's Words
Hit the Black
NM 156
Screaming In Digital
Walk In The Shadows
Silent Lucidity
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.

Teutonic Terror
Bucketful of Hate
Metal Heart
Losers and Winners
Princess of the Dawn
Aiming High
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.

Rapid Fire
Metal Gods
Heading Out to the Highway
Judas Rising
Victim of Changes
Never Satisfied
Diamonds & Rust
Dawn of Creation
Night Crawler
Turbo Lover
Beyond the Realms of Death
The Sentinel
Blood Red Skies
The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)
Breaking the Law
The Hellion
Electric Eye
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
(c) 2011 RockUnited.Com