TUSKA OPEN AIR FESTIVAL Helsinki, Finland 30.6-2.7.2006
Running for the ninth time in row yearly since 1998, Tuska Open Air Festival has seen various bands on its stages and stayed open-minded to various kind of performers from the metal genre. From its first year on the festival has been assisting even the smallest bands on their careers, and the metal fans have witnessed lots of band line-ups and along with it the earliest steps of some musicians, from bands such as HIM, Nightwish, Ensiferum and so on. This year the festival presented again a wild category of bands on its three stages, from the crushing Swedes Arch Enemy to happier melodies played by German Freedom Call, who replaced Dragonforce.
Having almost been sold out this year and drawing in over 33 000 music fans, the festival was still held in the same place as last year close to the railway station, in the big park of Kaisaniemi. The festival was scheduled for earlier weekend this year than usual, but the festival area was still full as usual. The weather stayed very hot all through the festival, so the first row fans were hosed with water to cool them down. We preferred to stay dry, at least from outside that is. The festival had its share of celebrity fans too, and once again one of them was the big metal fan and ice-hockey player Jere Lehtinen, along with HIM-members, and even people outside of metal music business, for instance finnish tv-weather reporter Pekka Pouta and Tomi Metsäketo, who's made a fine career singing his entertaining serenades and opera. Before actually kicking off with the Tuska festival, you had to go to a Metal Mass...that's right, it was held a day earlier before Tuska's first day, in the church of Temppeliaukio, which happened to draw metal fans in like flies. Among the normal church hymns, the mass also included metal hymns and introduced vocalists such as Taage Laiho from Kilpi/Altaria. More information (in finnish) and mp3 clips can be found from: www.metallimessu.com
After the days first act, Finnish Impaled Nazarene, had played their crushingly violent set through on the main Radio City stage with nice audience provoking comments, FREEDOM CALL took the Inferno Stage inside a small tent. The Germans turned out to be quite popular, as the tent was very full and people singing along to their songs from start to finish. The band last visited Finland only a few months ago, but their fans were pleased to see them again. This wasn't as good a performance as last seen in Nosturi, the band suffered from technical problems, along with vocal problems from Chris Bay. Since the keys weren't heard either, the band lost a lot from its catchy and melodic side, and the addition in keys for this tour, Eero Kaukomies, had a frustrating part in the show, but he still kept smiling through the show. Even with such ordeals, hardly anyone stayed cold towards this energetic, shining and smiling band. The tent was filled with raised hands on many songs and whi le doing "Warriors Of Light", the band decided to fill in some "We Will Rock You" in between, and that worked well. After the uplifting "Freedom Call", the band only did one more song, opening the song with words from Chris, asking the crowd to "Wish us luck for the championship", concerning the ongoing FIFA football championships. "Hymn To The Brave" was a good conclusion to the set and the band bowed to their fans for a while in the end. Well, Germany didn't win the World Cup, but maybe next time.
Setlist: Warriors, We Are One, Hero Nation, Hunting High And Low, Metal Invasion, Tears Of Taragon, Mother Earth, Warriors Of Light, Land Of Light, Freedom Call, Encore: Hymn To The Brave
UK's ANATHEMA, who are visiting Finland again this December at the HellDone-festival along with HIM, gave the metal audience something very different from Freedom Call. Playing a brilliant and hypnotic, almost a sleepy show, along with beautiful guest vocals from Lee Douglas, their cover of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" fitted well in the bands set. Being a bit motionless live band, there wasn't much to see really, but Anathema's music is very capturing, giving their fans an emotionfilled show. Not as metal as they used to be, but Anathema works in mysterious, yet deep ways. Plain soulfood for fans.
Setlist: Shroud Of False, Fragile Dreams, Empty, Lost Control, Closer, Judgement, Panic, A Natural Disaster, Sleepless, A Dying Wish, Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd)
The synthetic generation performers DEATHSTARS, those newgoth rebellions of mechanic metal, were one of the most waited bands of the day, putting aside the show from the melodic, euphoristical and easy metal band Sub-Urban Tribe, who were playing on Inferno stage at the same time. Embrazed by a futuristic image that might scare the living rats out of the elderly and young, this was exactly the feature in Deathstars that made metal fans take the path towards the Sue stage, the second tent in the festival area. When the band took the stage, the magic was gone though. The make-up was there, but the guys had stripped down their most drastic clothes, looking quite the normal rockers, only wearing some black lipstick and what else. The band played alright though, sounding exactly the mix of what they're compared to, The Kovenant and The Sisters Of Mercy and so on. The tent wasn't providing the best sounds though, so even if Deathstars have some cool gothsongs to bounce to, like "Cyanide" which they played here, the sounds drew the attention elsewhere from the dark mood hovering in the tent. I walked out having my pump still beating normally. What a shame, but it was a great attempt for some scares.
Friday saw a really motley crew on the main stage, and among Impaled Nazarene, Anathema and The Sisters Of Mercy, it presented the Finnish melodic power metallers SONATA ARCTICA. Wherever RockUnited may roam, Sonata Arctica is never far away. It was ten years ago, that a bunch of young and shy guys put a band together and through their catchy melodies and touching lyrics they only gained more and more fanbase. Finding the right essence for more professional shows demanded loads of live play from the guys though. Tuska saw Sonata conquer the Radio City stage with quite new elements, one of them being the blazing pyros, that also made the show more louder. Of course being Sonata, some humorous jokes weren't avoided and one of the themes this time was about Finnish traditional food made of liver. If you didn't get hungry, you could sing instead of eating, as the question from Tony was, whether their fans could sing and what songs did they know. From all the band members, sing er Tony Kakko has grown most with stage charisma, which was never a problem for their keysman Henrik Klingenberg, who's mostly just out of control on stage. Eventhough the band suffered from at least Tony's microphone problems, the show was still full of energy, very entertaining and the band succeeded having their crowd do some sing alongs. Strangely only two songs were heard from their latest "Reckoning Night", which gave another gold disc for the band, from selling so darn well in Finland. Congratulations, guys. Picking the gold disc was a good ending for the show.
Setlist: Black Sheep, Victoria's Secret, Blinded No More, Full Moon, 8th Commandment, Broken, My Land, Tallulah, Don't Say A Word, The Cage, Vodka-singalong with Smoke On The Water-riff
Two brutal bands shared stagetime, so the fans of the death metal genre split into two camps in the evening. WINTERSUN is a brilliant live band, which again gathered a full audience, but instead I squeezed in the Inferno stage tent for some bits of ARCH ENEMY. Fronted by beautiful female vocalist Angela Gossow, evidently it's not only the brutality that interests the metal fans, but it sure got brutal in the tent! Angela only got to sing for a while, when the tent started bursting of people giving various bodily performances, mostly just beating their fists in the air though. The tent got so sweaty, noisy and hostile, that a break was needed. Seeing the band was hard anyway, but once again it was proven, that Angela is one piece of vocal work!
Another UK-band in Tuska this year was THE SISTERS OF MERCY, who were booked as the Friday main band. The old gothic fans have anxiously waited to see them live, and the band was playing in Finland for the first time ever. Strangely the main band didn't attract as many metal fans as other bands on main stage, and Tuska was emptying bit by bit while they were playing. Not surprising really, when the show consisted of poor song selection, a lazy performance from the drum machine-filled band, the stage filled with smoke and singer Andrew Eldritch mumbling in his mike while smoking cigarrette and appearing absent on stage with his empty gaze. On top of that he was performing in an ice-hockey shirt and this way made their fans look cheap in their great goth costumes they had so devotedly dressed into. The band lacks respect towards their fans giving such a boring show, but one reason for this certain laziness must have been the fact, that this was their last show of the ongoing tour, and they must've been a bit tired after all. Some hits were at least heard in the end of the set, so it wasn't a total disaster, but based on this performance, the band doesn't really sell themselves and seeing them a second time seems quite the risk.
Setlist: Crash And Burn, Ribbons, Doctor Jeep/Detonation Boulevard, Still, Flood 1, Will I Dream, Dominion/Mother Russia, Summer, Giving Ground, Alice, Anaconda, Something Fast, We Are The Same Susanne, This Corrosion, Lucretia My Reflection, encore; Top Nite Out, Vision Thing, Temple Of Love
The morning opened up with a blast, as Finnish Stam1na, Pain Confessor, April, Diablo, Norther and The Scourger were the first bands on the three stages, and neither of the acts didn't let their fans get away that easily. But AMORPHIS was the first band of the day, that has grown fanbase around the world since early 90's. The band first started out as pure death metal band, and now with their new vocalist Tomi Joutsen, have gained even more fanbase and range to their music. Their Tuska show once again proved, that the band is still as powerful live as they were back in their death metal days, only Joutsen's vocals give new excitement to the bands sound nowadays and his appearance more action on stage. The band performed on the main stage to a big crowd in the afternoon, and showed they weren't born yesterday, as the bands performance was easygoing and strong. The band seemed slightly lazier than in Finnish Metal Expo earlier this year, but nonetheless the bands many hits w orked for the crowd. The band mostly concentrates on the newest songs these days, but also has a tradition of including one or two songs from their death metal era to their set to please older fans.
Setlist: Leaves Scar, Alone, Against Widows, In The Beginning, Divinity, Under a Soil and Black Stone, Perkele (The God Of Fire), The Smoke, My Kantele, House Of Sleep
Swedish OPETH are also popular in Finland. There's always been certain amount of that healthy neighbourly competition between these two countries and joking from side to another, and Opeth took advantage of that. The energetic singer-guitarist Mikael Åkerfeldt was on roll on Saturday with his speaches, one of them was a bunch of questions to the audience, which got each answer right. The band introduced a new drummer, Martin Axenrot, and his work with Opeth was seamingless. The set was satisfying to their fans, eventhough Opeth's heavily thrusting and complex melodies didn't work all that well in the sunny weather, but the crowd was noisy anyway. The bands long songs require your full attention though, so focusing on the show was hard in the long run. Had it been their own show, they would've gotten more attention.
Setlist: The Grand Conjuration, The Amen Corner, White Cluster, Closure, Leper Affinity, Deliverance, Ghost of Perdition
Another first-timer in Finland was Dutch symphonic metallers EPICA, who's music mixes death metal to symphonic, epic songs sung with opera style. The band filled the Sue stage-tent well, and those who weren't familiar with the band at all, were pretty convinced after Epica's set. The band first kicked off with some vocal problems from their singer Simone Simons, who warmed up after a while. Epica has to use background tapes, and those massive choirs are heard from there. Still the band sounded very bombastic and dynamic, though the tent made them sound a bit messy. When the first grunts were heard, most of the doubtful metalheads started gathering to the tent. They weren't let down either. Epica played Death's "Crystal Mountain" for them, which was heavy enough. The bands live outpour was quite serious, though it contained enough action to keep the show interesting. Their male fans probably couldn't get their eyes off of Simone's agile character, and she was doing a good performance too. The band was yelled back on stage with loud noise, so their first show in Finland seemed to be a success.
Setlist: Hunab K´u, Dance Of Fate, Sensorium, Cry For The Moon, Mother Of Light, Crystal Mountain (Death), Quietus, Consign To Oblivion
The last act of the day was VENOM, those early black metal pioneers from UK. The old fans were waiting for the show in ecstasy, and as the hellishly dark intro tape started running, it sent chills down peoples spines. A great intro, that made the Venom fans screaming manicly, but the band had trouble during the first songs. "Black Metal" was heard first, but it didn't get far, when the band had to continue with just two members, as they had trouble with the guitar. Singer Cronos' vocals weren't in the best shape either, but the band still after all the misfortunes kept playing with a terrific attitude. As guitarist Hickey went back on stage, the trio still didn't sound too convincing, as the guitar sound was shredding ears and the vocals still didn't come out clearly, but their act was cool enough. The show was either a joke or the event of the day, depending on the listener. It doesn't need much to make a joke out of a metal band, and Venom already looks quite the joke in their exaggerating metal outfits and their rubbery facial expressions. Venom aren't as dark anymore as in their early days, and as convincing as most black metal bands today. They're more thrash metal nowadays, but any which way, even if you never wasn't a fan of Venom, this was a show worth seeing.
Setlist: Black Metal, Welcome To Hell, Bloodlust, In Nomine Satanas, Antichrist, 1000 Days Of Sodom, Sacrifice, Countess Bathory, Don't Burn The Witch, Burn In Hell, Warhead, Metal Black, Witching Hour
We spent most of Sunday at the Brother Firetribe-videoshoot (the story is found here; Making Of "One Single Breath"-video), so only one band was seen in Tuska then. There was time to check out the Finnish metal pioneers TAROT, who've gained more success through their singer Marco Hietala, who is admired in both of his bands. The other one is of course Nightwish, which is very different from Tarot's traditional metal. If Tarot isn't exactly your choice of metal, then you should at least hear that legendary Marco-talk. Most of the songs were introduced humoristically, and Marco even asked the crowd whether they wanted five morons to play for them. The fans had a blast of course, and the band played as usual a very powerful set, that included special songs. Both Marco and Tommi "Tuple" Salmela (on keys also) were taking care of the singing duties, and Tuple did "Back In The Fire" by himself, apart from his usual solo singing in "Veteran Of The Psychic Wars". "Descendants Of Power" sent hellos from Marco to his kids, who were supposedly eating ice-scream by their grandparents at the time. After some more classics, the set was concluded with more humour; "who rules here?" was the question for the crowd, and so they ended with "I Rule", the very heavy and brilliantly kicking track off their album "Suffer Our Pleasures". Their latest is on stores soon, called "Crows Fly Black". I guess the answer to one of Marco's question is from all their fans; Yes, we the meatheads (?), do wanna live forever!
Setlist: Crawlspace, Wings Of Darkness, Back In The Fire, Do You Wanna Live Forever, Angels Of Pain, You, Veteran Of The Psychic Wars (Blue Öyster Cult), Pyre Of Gods, Descendants Of Power, Lady Deceiver, Rider Of The Last Day, I Rule
After Tarot wrapped up, there was still Timo Rautiainen, Burst from Sweden and Celtic Frost from Switzerland to go. The latter was welcomed with great enthusiasm, we heard, and no wonder, Celtic Frost played a great set in Sweden Rock this year. But we had more work elsewhere, so we left the metal fans boiling under the hot sun. We instead went back to Nosturi to cool down, at least for a while. This year's Tuska didn't offer the most brilliant bands, but legends did raise curiosity. So even when Venom and Sisters Of Mercy didn't play the best shows of their careers, you're still a few more experiences richer. It doesn't always have to be right on the money to be fun. And besides, Tuska has the most nicest people around, both its fans and its workers. Yet another great party behind, see you there next year!
TUSKA EVENING CLUBS
were held at Tavastia, Nosturi and Gloria and the bandlists were endless. If you didn't get enough of metal in Tuska, the bands you still had chance of seeing afterwards the festival was over each day, were; 45 Degree Woman, Entwine, Before The Dawn, Manitou, Face Down, Northern Discipline, Rebelhead, Korpiklaani, Silentium, Enochian Crescent, Scorched Earth Tactics, To/Die/For, Shamrain, Saralee, Plastic Tears, Blake, Humanground, myGrain, Steep, Godsplague, Stoner Kings, United Underworld, Insomnium, Kiuas, Enter My Silence, Omnium Gatherum, Amoral, Horricane, coverband Sten playing Stone, the legendary speedmetal band from Finland, which included members from for instance Sub-Urban Tribe and Children Of Bodom. Enough metal for you?
Report by Satu Reunanen, satu [at] rockunited.com