If there’s a festival in Finland that we love to return to time and time again, it’s Dark River Festival in Kotka. Growing and improving year after year, there’s always something new to see and improvements made to make things run smoothly – you have to love a festival that takes feedback and listens! This year, we returned to Honkalan Hiihtostadion from August 11-13th, 2022, with the newly-added Thursday evening including artists like Asim Searah, MEDEIA, and OMNIUM GATHERUM.
We arrived to find that many of Thursday’s attendees seemed to be people who were camping, so the fellow directing traffic seemed flustered and confused as they were letting people in and exchanging wristbands. We were able to find our way inside nevertheless, with only minor trouble, but we did miss the beginning of the cover set by Asim Searah (ex-KIUAS, ex-WINTERSUN) because of the confusion. His set was right about what you’d expect, if you’ve seen him performing before – cheeky commentary that may or may not be funny based off how sensitive you are to non-PC jokes, interspersed with really great guitar-work and good singing (if he remembers the words). He played a pretty wide variety of material, covering bands like ABBA, METALLICA, DIO, SLIPKNOT, and NIGHTWISH. I was personally a bit surprised to find him on the main stage – in previous years, acoustic shows took place on a tent stage, so I had expected this to be a bit more of an intimate set in a tent, so seeing him alone on the main stage was a small surprise.
MEDEIA have been doing a 20th anniversary tour this summer, showing up at festivals like Saarihelvetti and Knotfest, along with this set at Dark River Festival. A hefty wall of sound opened their show, impressing us, as many smaller festivals tend not to get too loud – we seem to be far enough outside town that this is not an issue, as the amps were roaring and it was impossible to have a conversation between the sound booth and stage – bring your earplugs! Their mustachioed (goateed?) vocalist was all sorts of strange, with a lot of aggressive energy paired with intense one-on-ones with people in the crowd. The music tends not to do much for me on a daily basis, but in a live setting, it works really well and the audience was ready to mosh, forming some small pits a few times throughout.
The first night then wound up with OMNIUM GATHERUM, whom you probably should have heard of by now. We’ve caught these local melodeathers a few times this year already, at Tuska Festival and Saarihelvetti to name a few. As such, their setlist wasn’t a big surprise, playing tracks like “Paragon,” “Gods Go First,” “New Dynamic,” “Prime,” and more. The energy was really good and the performance was looking strong, but the lights were pretty disappointing. Jukka Pelkonen is ever an entertaining frontman and Markus Vanhala is always fun to watch shredding away. We enjoyed their set for a while but decided to head out early and save some energy to catch WHERE’S MY BIBLE first up on Friday!
The first day was a short and sweet warm-up and teaser to see what the festival area would be like in 2022 and how it has grown. We popped by Pallas – a local high-quality pizzeria – to enjoy their extremely excellent pizzas and enjoyed the ambiance of the food truck area before hitching a ride out for the night. Until tomorrow!