TUSKA OPEN AIR FESTIVAL Friday, June 29th, 2007


In case you didn't know, the word "tuska" means pain in English, thus the headline, Tuska was celebrating it's tenth year this past summer. Yep, it's been that long already, wonder where the time flies, but it sure flies when you're having fun. This year's Tuska was again fun as usual, the band lineup was as colourful as in earlier years, although mostly filled with heavier bands, which are more closer to the hearts of Finnish headbangers. The melodic side of the festival mostly fell on Saturday and Sunday with Stratovarius, Thunderstone, Sturm Und Drang and Brother Firetribe, the last two doing their Tuska debut, and the latter gaining both lots new fans and praising critics, while Sturm's show didn't go all too well.

ROCKUNITED could only make it to Tuska festival on Friday this year, so due to that and the organizing difficulties this years report is much more shorter from the earlier years. Friday started nicely, spending over an hour in the medialine, missing 35 minutes from the DragonForce set, so the festival didn't start off the best way.

This years Friday lineup included bands Hatesphere, Moonsorrow, Scent Of Flesh, Maj Karma, Imperia, Immortal, Katatonia, Turisas, Children Of Bodom and DragonForce, and I'll be rambling about these dragons most of the story. With such a lineup Friday was very much out of the ordinary RockUnited interest, but we stayed brave till the end.

The first band caught live was DRAGONFORCE, raving like the madmen they are on stage, high on whatever, and doing magical stuff no other band is capable of doing. These guys still haven't lost any power from their batteries, and they're one of the rare bands, that manage to keep their fans eyeballs stuck on stage through the show, not the least tiring their crowd with it, and raising mile wide grins on everyone's faces. Keyboardist Vadim Pruzhanov and guitarists Sam Totman and Herman "Shred" Li juggle around on stage with their instruments and roll around quite pointlessly, giving the crowd many tense and action packed moments. Anything can happen at their show, you just never know, but so far they're still going as crazy as ever. Vadim and the guys jump a lot at their shows, leaving David Lee Roth on second place with those, although these dragons can't spread their legs as wide open as Roth can. I wonder how they keep their jeans and the crotch intact...

Herman had some trouble with his mike, along with other technical difficulties, but who payed attention to those really, the live vibe hypnotized everyone to do their own stupid things and scream loudly along to anything. The Tuska crowd obviously liked the band a lot, since the sea of fists in the air was enourmous. The string triplets (with bassist Fred Leclercq) had fun doing their rowsolos, while Vadim swinged his keys from side to side, almost knocking them over. The band sounded compact and powerful, although this wasn't their best days. The band didn't seem to be too pleased of themselves either. Singer ZP Theart is also a great performer, who takes note what's happening among the crowd. This years Tuska was again pure sunshine and everyone was boiling in the sun, so ZP threw a few water bottles to the crowd for refreshment. The front rows do get their spills of water from hoses though, but beyond that it's always the worst. Being this sunny it was funny to hear ZP comment "you fuckers in Finland never see the sun", but Tuska seems to be blessed with that. We'll see about next year.

At some point Vadim played his keys with his teeth, like a real guitar hero he probably thought he was, after switching his keys to those terribly coloured portable ones, and more water was thrown in to the crowd. The members also switched instruments, which was another comical scene at the show. By now it was so hot, that ZP took off his shirt, and introduced the band in the middle of a song. The show only got crazier near the end, and while Herman lifted his guitar up above him, Sam felt the urge to stick his guitar up Herman's crotch, who didn't seem too bothered about the situation.

One of the most waited songs from their set was the good ol' "Valley Of The Damned", although songs such as "My Spirit Will Go On", "Fury Of The Storm" and "Storming The Burning Fields" also work well for the metal crowd. After the sweaty kangaroo wackorama the band bowed to the crowd, drummer Dave Mackintosh included, and made everyone scream for a short bit. The host of the festival, Jone Nikula, pleaded for big hand for the band afterwards, and the band got that. Not everyday a Finnish crowd raves this wildly to a band afterwards. DragonForce has, to quote them, been around the world three times on this tour, which seems unbelievable looking at their energy levels. Herman seemed a bit tired aftershow though, and meeting him in New York earlier this year the guy didn't even want to leave the tourbus. Surely such tough touring takes its toll, but live you can't tell if they're tired or not. The dragons are true performers and metal soldiers for sure, and the long tour the y've done shows in the record- and concert sales, so all the work has been worth snipping from sweet sleep.

TURISAS played at the same time with Katatonia, so I decided to check them out first. The band had played in UK's Download festival earlier, and Finland welcomed the band probably as noisily as UK, the noise was almost unbearable and the sea of hands filled the air already minutes before the band even got on stage. As soon as Turisas got on stage though, the small Inferno stage tent was filled with power hymns and battle drums, leading the crowd to a crazy party frenzy. This show was from beginning to end raw primitive power, which even bewitched those, who weren't into this type of music. The band had two drummers, a violinplayer and accordion, which brought a strong rustic atmosphere to the whole thing. This was evidently one of this years most inspiring shows at Tuska, and although I'm no fan of this kind of music, you can't help but get excited about the whole atmosphere witnessed here. On top of all this add a Boney M cover "Rasputin" in Turisas' style, and you'll bre ak your last defense walls and end up doing what the rest of the tent is doing, yoddling that crazy viking metal, while dancing with an imaginary viking beer mug in your hand.

The Swedes KATATONIA played at the bigger Sue Stage tent, and also filled the place. This tent celebrated in very different spheres from the Inferno tent, a very placid mood had settled among the crowd, who mostly enjoyed watching the band and cheering at the end of each song, although the band was gladly surprised by the loud screams that accompanied them on stage. Katatonia is not the most active bands on stage, and after taking part in the sweaty and very energetic Turisas show I knew I'd made a bad mistake, I should've first watched these Swedes and then go wake myself to those battle hymns. But Katatonia has their moments, their unearthly and haunting melodies are either inspirational or not, mostly I find them inspiring, although their melancholic music isn't meant for everyday use. Live Katatonia isn't as inspiring anymore though. Their singer Jonas Renkse performs the whole show through with his hair covering his eyes and, having picked the perfect name for themse lves and to exaggerate some, the band is quite catatonic, or at least lethargic, which of course suites the mood. Sometimes the band goes wild and moshes a bit, but mostly that excercise is performed by fans. A whiplash is hard to get at Katatonia show, unlike at DragonForce's.

The headliner of the day was our fave murder metal men, CHILDREN OF BODOM, who are still riding high on the waves of success, and still manage to play high level shows. Even a headliner didn't have a long stage time in Tuska, so COB played an hour and fifteen minutes, but with their profession created another unbelievably manic show, that didn't lack energy. The bands stage set included a bridge behind the drums, so the band was more free to run around and was visible to a wider crowd, where even Herman (DragonForce) and Anette (Nightwish) was seen. COB attracts all sorts of rock fans, and singer-guitarist Alexi Laiho is one of the reasons. Such a skillful guitarist and a talented performer hasn't won his various awards for nothing, but the rest of the band stands close to the same level. The second guitarist Roope Latvala makes a great pair with Laiho, both are as talented and wild on stage. Having seen so many Bodom shows already, their show was just repetition of the ol d though, but COB always has a strange way of waking the party animal in you. Tuska celebrated the band in full mode, so COB closed Friday brilliantly.

Tuska had once again put up a helluva party, and it was a shame not to be able to attend the whole festival, but even as great as Tuska always is, the festival still concentrates too strongly on the brutal bands. Even if USA is mostly showing the way in music business and what the whole world should be listening, Tuska organizers should have a head of their own. Not all cry after high testosterone metal, and following what's so cool in USA only kills the diversity in rock we in Europe have been so fortunate so far to enjoy. The teenagers follow what the media brings up front in their faces, so here's hoping we soon don't have to write the obituary for melodic metal, if every festival, magazine, radio and tv program decides to take a plunge into hard core metal. It all starts from small things, remember that. Keep melodies alive. Peace, love and hard rock.

Report by Satu Reunanen, satu [at] rockunited.com
Pictures by Kari Helenius, carda [at] metalphotos.com

(c) 2007 RockUnited.Com