1.7.2022 Tuska Festival – Day 1 @ Suvilahti, Helsinki

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If Finland has one beloved city-bound festival, it’s Tuska Festival (or Tuska Open Air, as it was once known). As the biggest city-center metal festival in the country, Tuska always proves to be a good time, regardless of who is playing, simply because of the wonderful atmosphere and fantastic organization. However, this year they happened to have some interesting selections for the last bands on the main stage: KORN, MERCYFUL FATE, and DEFTONES, with KORN headlining the first day.

It’s been a few years since we’ve been able to attend Tuska Festival, so we were really excited to see what would be on-site this year. These guys tend to be pretty forward-thinking when it comes to designing their festival, with great acts and events becoming more common in recent years. The new layout tickled us nicely, though they did encounter a few hiccups with the new design, which we’ll discuss in our after-festival report.

The weekend opened up with already the first dilemma, as there was a choice between progressive metal act NUMENTO and Inferno stage hosting CHURCH OF THE DEAD. We ended up checking out a few minutes of each show, but admittedly we were sort of late so we didn’t get the full image of how their performances went. However, we were intrigued by both and hope to catch them around some time soon! (LT)

Folk metal act VERIKALPA was scheduled next at the TuskaKvlt indoor stage and with their performance, already revealed one of the perhaps only flaws of the festival. While the Kvlt stage is a great idea and addition to the festival, in general, the low capacity means that not a lot of fans actually can go see these festival gems. Considering there are also some bigger local bands scheduled there, like SHEREIGN, ONE MORNING LEFT, and HUMAVOID, it clearly meant if we were to catch another show there, we’d need to skip a fair bit of other bands. Nevertheless, the folk metal act had gathered quite an audience and naturally, it was a great party in the venue. (LT)

We were quite surprised to find that ELUVEITIE were the first act of the day on the main stage – a rather early slot for such an established band; perhaps they had somewhere else they needed to be fast afterwards, or maybe it was just that their newest album was already back in 2019. Otherwise, I can’t explain why they wouldn’t be in LOST SOCIETY or even BEAST IN BLACK‘s slots later on. It seemed the crowd didn’t mind showing up early though, as there were tons of people present, even if they weren’t awake enough to move much at that point. These guys put on a very lively show and it was nice to see how well the new members are fitting in. They played a lot of great material, with “Inis Mona” showing up early on and sounding nostalgic and fantastic, and “Call of the Mountain” and “A Rose for Epona” also standing out in the set. (BW)

Next, we had to hop over to see NORTHERN KINGS, who haven’t been on stage in about a decade, nor have they released any new music since “Lapponia” in 2010. However, they did boast Marko Hietala on vocals, whom we’ve been deeply missing since he left NIGHTWISH during the pandemic, as well as J-P Leppäluoto (ex-CHARON), Jarkko Ahola (TERÄSBETONI), and of course, Tony Kakko (SONATA ARCTICA). Only one of those guys is regularly active with a band, so seeing them together again for the first time in over a decade was a true delight. The beginning of the show almost acted as a re-introduction to Marko, as he came out after the Rocky “Training Montage” to sing the first verse himself, before the rest of the band came to join him. The crowd, naturally, was in an uproar and it became almost chaotic in the tent stage with everyone’s enthusiasm. Naturally, the set did allow everyone a solo song, such as J-P‘s dark and dank version of “Rebel Yell,” Jarkko‘s peacock-perfect “Hello,” and Tony‘s “Sledgehammer,” while Marko got to do “Don’t Stop Believing” towards the end. The performance was pretty fun overall, with all of them seeming pretty electrified on stage, and they closed out the set with a bombastic rendition of “We Don’t Need Another Hero,” though the set’s highlight was definitely the DURAN DURAN cover of “View to a Kill.” Maybe we’ll get lucky and they’ll record something new soon? (BW)

LOST SOCIETY didn’t get enough of festival life last summer it seems, continuing their domination of Finnish festival stages into this year as well. With the release of their latest album in 2020 during pandemic times, there’s no wonder. To absolutely no one’s surprise, they put on an extremely energetic performance, getting the weekend’s moshpits started, with the set still heavily in support of their new material from No Absolution(2020). Samy Elbanna gave a few speeches, including one that talked about, “Fuck war, fuck racism, fuck hate, we’re in this together.” “Into Eternity” didn’t have APOCALYPTICA to play with them (sadly) but still managed to be the most dramatic song in the set, while we’re always happen to hear songs like “Artificial,” “Nonbeliever,” and “Outcast (No Rest for the Sickest).” The show may have been disappointing for fans of their less-melodic/more-thrashy material (we were surprised they didn’t play “Antidote”), but the show closed out with “Stitches,” which meant there was at least a little something in there for the original fans. (BW)

Following this, we had to pick between local OMNIUM GATHERUM and French PERTURBATOR. Since we tend to have plenty of opportunities to see OMNIUM GATHERUM in general, we don’t get a lot of shows from PERTURBATOR, so we headed over to the tent stage to see what they’ve got going on these days. As was easy to imagine, they had spectacular stage ambience with wonderful lighting. Naturally, the moment songs like “Humans Are Such Easy Prey” came on, we were swept into the synthwave soundscapes that always remind me of boss battles from Nex Machina. The duo on stage moved around as much as they could, being rather locked into their instruments, yet they still encouraged the crowd as much as possible to get moving and dancing. (BW)

Our photographer opted for OMNIUM GATHERUM since they have a new member who joined their ranks only a few days ago: Nick Cordle [ex-ARCH ENEMY]. Considering the announcement was so recent, this was his first show as an official OG member, though he has been seen touring with the band in the past. Finnish melodic death metal is always a safe choice and with a nice turnout, the band played a diverse set, mostly focused on their latest album, Origin.” It was great to finally hear how these songs work live and to see the band playing with some new energy. The band also had some time for some other excellent live tracks, such as “Gods Go First” off “The Burning Cold.” They rounded out their set with “The Unknowing.” Since they were scheduled quite early on the festival, they unfortunately had a way too short slot, but thankfully we’re sure we’ll catch them soon enough again. (LT)

We then had another difficult choice, picking between BEAST IN BLACK on the main stage and SHEREIGN on the new TuskaKvlt Stage. This turned out to be no choice at all, because when half of our party arrived at the indoor stage, there was an unmanageably long queue to get inside. As mentioned, the new stage has an extremely limited capacity, so there was no opportunity for us to get inside to see the show. With deep disappointment, we left with our tails between our legs and strong hopes that they’ll be playing the club circuit soon. (BW)

Once upon a time, BEAST IN BLACK played their debut show at Tuska Festival. It’s been a long time since then, three albums later. The band was now rocking the main stage at a fairly decent slot in the early evening. They had a nice amount of playing time and thus were able to focus on playing as many songs as possible. Opening up with the energetic “Blade Runner” off their latest album, Dark Connection,” was a great way to kick off the show. Naturally, the band focused a little more on songs from said album, leaving out for instance the annoyingly catchy “Eternal Fire.” The biggest shock, however, was omitting “Crazy, Mad, Insane,” a song that usually is combined with something funny happening on stage. Altogether, the show was a classic BEAST IN BLACK performance, where vocalist Yannis Papadopoulos showcased his high talent, guitarist/songwriter Anton Kabanen ranged between looking serious as can be and grinning wildly, and drummer Atte Palokangas smiled all the way through the set, while the rest of the band showed us that they are able to swing their hips from left to right. The show ended much too soon with “Blind And Frozen” and “End of the World.” (LT)

As LOST SOCIETY says, there ain’t no rest for the sickest, so it was back to the main stage for ENSIFERUM. They have a freshish (thanks pandemic) album, Thalassic,” that we’ve been deeply enjoying, and are fresh off a tour with DARK TRANQUILLITY et. al., so they were clearly stage-prepped and ready to rock. They played more or less the same set we’ve been seeing at other festivals this summer, opening with “Seafarer’s Dream” and “Rum, Women, Victory,” going into “Token of Time,” spanning a few of their best-of hits, like “One More Magic Potion” and “From Afar” interspersed with new tracks, and generally lighting up the stage with their well-practiced presence. Markus Toivonen smiled his loopy smile the entire time, sometimes jumping in circles, while Sami Hinkka riled up the crowd, and Pekka Montin showed off his vocal pipes, with everything dressed up in fog blasts that occasionally had light effects. Ultimately, yet another satisfying show from these guys this summer! (BW)

While CARCASS played, we finally took some time to get food, though enjoyed their heavy and crushing set from afar. None of us know their material well, but they certainly had a SLAYER-like presence with their big sound. They opened with “Exhume to Consume” and “Buried Dreams,” with a lot of material from their 2021 release, “Torn Arteries,” included in the setlist. Perhaps the biggest highlight of their set was towards the end… as the moshpits began to die down, vocalist Jeff Walker said, “I guess you’re all waiting for Korn,” which certainly did its job to give us a laugh and kick those pits back into overdrive! (BW)

If there was, perhaps, a surprise highlight for me personally on Friday, it was the psychedelic set from POLYMOON on the Kvlt stage. Indeed, after the shenanigans of SHEREIGN, we made sure to get a spot inside for this set, as the band’s debut album last year, Caterpillars of Creation,” was fantastic and we had to see how they fared live. There was definitely some crowd interest, as people trickled in steadily as playtime approached. The screen on stage was decked out in a ’70s-style logo, and the band let loose a screechy, waily, stoner-y intro before the riffing began. The band’s singer was fabulously emotive, flamboyantly decked out in sparkly tassels (while the rest of the band were more muted-looking hippy fellows), and everyone was jamming and rocking out and having fun. This was no slow, boring, droning stoner music, but happy, upbeat, sway-along psychedelia. We’ll definitely have to try to check them out again as soon as possible! (BW)

Next, there was another tough choice between the dramatic and folky HEILUNG versus the campy and energetic NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA. Most of the audience opted for the pagan oddities of HEILUNG, to the point that the tent stage turned out not to be big enough for them (next stop main stage?), even if the ambience there works well for them. They started out their setlist with a prayer that happened mostly from backstage and the audience was encouraged to say it with them as the text appeared on the big screens next to the stage. After their ritual, they started playing. Even if you don’t know any songs of HEILUNG, they are still a fascinating and emotionally-charged band to check out; the ritualistic chanting nature of their sets is a fully different experience compared to what you get traditionally at a festival or a folk metal show. (LT)

Meanwhile the NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA were playing nearby on the Inferno stage. Fortunately, despite the stages being quite near one another, the sound design of the festival layout didn’t allow for much crossover when they played, meaning that NFO‘s set was not plagued by chanting from afar. The band have been making waves lately, and this short set was made up of only ten songs, so the band picked some of the best from each album, like “Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough,” “Gemini,” and “West Ruth Avenue.” Their whole deal just… works, from the outfits and the ’70s airline outfits, to the backing singers, to Björn Strid‘s clean vocals… yep, the whole thing just works and we love it! (BW)

Finally, we reached the end of the day and the 3-year-awaited headliner, KORN, who have also just released an impressively tight new album, proving that nu-metal isn’t quite dead yet. The excitement around the festival was clearly electric, with the most common sentiment floating around being, “I really can’t wait, I’ve never seen Korn before!” Well, same here, Tuska-goers! We hadn’t ever seen KORN before and what a surprisingly good show. For example, as someone who has never paid any attention to this band, we had no idea that vocalist Jonathan Davis could play the bagpipes, though it seems that we should have known this.

Immediately, they played some familiar material, with some of our favorite new tracks, like “Start the Healing” and “Worst Is on Its Way,” as well as familiar nostalgia tracks like “Got the Life” and “Freak on a Leash,” proving that their new material goes hand-in-hand with the old stuff, no sweat! Their show was quite long, rocking eleven songs in the main set, two of which featured hints of other songs – “One” by METALLICA in the outro of “Shoots and Ladders” and a bit of “We Will Rock You” by QUEEN in “Coming Undone.” Oh, they also had a full 5-song encore! The stage lighting was fabulous and the backdrop looked great, so overall, the set was pretty killer even if we didn’t know a lot of the material. It just goes to show that one shouldn’t turn their nose up at seeing a band live because you don’t listen to them – you may find yourself surprised!

Thus concludes the first day of Tuska Festival 2022! Stay tuned for more photos and our reports from the rest of the weekend!

Written by Bear W. & Laureline T.
Photos by Laureline Tilkin