12.8.2022 Dark River Festival – Day 2 @ Honkalan Hiihtostadion, Kotka

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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 Friday evening including artists like WHERE’S MY BIBLESEPTICFLESH, and HYPOCRISY.

Day 2 promised scorching weather and delivered rather quickly, as it was blazing when we arrived. We arrived in plenty of time to see WHERE’S MY BIBLE, whose name you may recognize as the winner of the Come to Latin America contest that’s been running this year. I personally saw a bit of their set when working at Saarihelvetti last weekend, and it was really impressive and I enjoyed it a lot (I say this as someone who doesn’t enjoy anything more extreme than MOONSORROW). As such, I made sure to watch their full set this time around and it was absolutely worth it. There’s just something about vocalist Jussi Matilainen‘s look that really works for me: bloody corpse paint, long hippy dredlocks, and a dapper-as-fuck handlebar mustache. Add a gloomy hood and a variety of different screeches and wails… I admit it, I’m sold. Call me when it’s album time! There was a lot of guitar feedback in their songs, which we weren’t sure was intentional, but otherwise, look out Latin America, because this will be one hell of a good show!

WOLFHEART was first up on the main stage and we were immediately blown a few steps back by the relentless drum machine that is Joonas Kauppinen as they got going. Vocalist and band leader Tuomas Saukkonen is always a strong stage presence and performer, resulting in about half of a really good set, before the amps randomly cut out. With 20 minutes left to play, that was surely a bummer, but luckily they didn’t lose the rest of their set, but were just delayed a bit while they got the sound working again. They finished the rest of their set strongly, so luckily for us, these guys are professionals.

Another band that we had recently seen at Saarihelvetti was DETSET, who released their debut album, “Vermeil,” this year. The band seemed to have more energy than they knew what to do with on stage. We did catch “Every Murder Has a Father,” the one song we know from their debut, which sounded great live. We’re not hugely familiar with their material, but it seems like they’ve got something good going on, from what we’ve been seeing this summer. Good that they’ve been signed to Out of Line Music; we’ll definitely be going back to give the album a few more spins.

Check out our recent interview with the band here.

Another new face for me was BETRAYING THE MARTYRS, but we were very quickly impressed by the French (and Portuguese) artists, their wild energy, furiously djenty bass, and new-as-of-2021 vocalist Rui Martins‘ stage charisma. He mentioned that he was working double duty because the bands’ keyboardist/second vocalist Victor Guillet, was awaiting the birth of a baby. He performed really well, especially as the band’s new blood, and we really enjoyed the way he amped up the crowd and got people making circle pits and walls of death. The band played some new material from this year’s EP, “Silver Lining.”

KAUNIS KUOLEMATON put on one of the days doomier and gloomier sets of the day, which is always entertaining to see in the extremely bright sun. We know their singer, Olli “Saakeli” Suvanto, from END OF AEON back in the day, so it was nice to get a chance to hear him growling for the first time in what felt like forever. The moody music may have been better suited for the shit weather of Saarihelvetti, but we enjoyed ourselves nevertheless.

If there’s any band that puts up a great show in extreme metal, it’s the Greek symphonic death metal act SEPTICFLESH. The band recently released “Modern Primitive” and we were absolutely delighted to see them added to the Dark River Festival lineup. Judging by their previous festival experiences, the show promised to be a good balance between old and new. We’re always in a good mood when these guys are playing because, despite playing a rather grim type of music, frontman Seth Siro Anton has great stage energy, addressing the audience as his friends, and thus creating a welcoming atmosphere. We got a nice mix of songs, with the highlights being “Portrait of a Headless Man,” “Neuromancer,” “The Vampire From Nazareth,” and “Communion.”

SHADE EMPIRE were among the handful of bands this summer who have still had to cancel because of the coronavirus, so the Kotka locals (and DRF regulars) of MARIANAS REST stepped in to replace them. These guys have played a few festivals this summer already, so their new album, Fata Morgana,” is still getting good live representation and the crowd was big and enthusiastic – clearly a fan favorite.

It was nice to see ENSIFERUM one last time this summer, as Thalassic has been a really popular release and the live performances of the new material have been really solid. The band was full of smiles and good vibes, so we happily rocked out to “Run, Women, Victory,” “Run from the Crushing Tide,” and “Andromeda,” while classics like “Token of Time,” “Twilight Tavern,” “Lai Lai Hei,” and “Iron” are all easy crowd pleasers. It was a shame that, even though we were right up front, when Pekka Montin came out to sing for “Run From the Crushing Tide,” the sound was so unbalanced that we couldn’t hear him at all. At some point, someone in the crowd threw a Santa hat on stage, which Pete Lindroos wore for a track or two. Ultimately, an excellent party to enjoy for the end of festival season!

A fresh and new name for us was found in the British progsters of MONUMENTS. I remember hearing really good things about these guys from some prog-loving friends, and the band absolutely delivered. Their newest release, “In Stasis,” wasn’t quite as well-represented as we may have guessed, as there were only a few new songs in the set, like “Cardinal Red,” “False Providence,” and “Makeshift Harmony,” though that may relate to the general long length of their songs, as there weren’t that many songs in their set in general. The evening light suited their mood well, as well as their lights, and we really enjoyed the set.

The evening ended with the Swedish melodic death metal act HYPOCRISY. These guys recently released their new album, “Worship,” which made us excited to see what the setlist had in store for us. We heard that there was some miscommunication between the organization and the band about the actual starting point of the show, which is also probably why HYPOCRISY started playing a little bit later than planned, which actually wasn’t a huge disaster because MONUMENTS‘ show went a little over time, and they started out when everyone made it from the smaller stage to the main stage. AC/DC‘s “Runaway Train” started blasting loudly from as an intro, after which Asim Searah introduced the band to the audience. When the band came on stage, it was a nice surprise to see Sebastian Tägtgren behind the drums, instead of Henrik Axelsson, who has joined their tour as a session member.

Starting with title track “Worship,” the set got a great kick-off with lots of atmospheric lighting and smoke filling up the stage. Every HYPOCRISY show is paired with synchronized headbanging between the members. The setlist turned out to be a nice mix of songs coming from different eras of the band. We were extremely delighted though that there were also additions from the latest album. One of the absolute highlights was to hear “Chemical Whore” live for the first time, a bit of a slower track that was placed nicely in between more intense tracks, providing a really good flow to the show. Other highlights of the show were naturally, “Eraser,” “Children of the Gray,” and “Roswell 47.” Given the fact that Sebastian was drumming for the occasion, it would have been great to see them playing “Dead World,” a song he wrote together with Peter. If there’s one downside to their set, it’s that from where we were standing, the sound was not quite there, as the vocals were a bit buried in the mix. Despite that minor setback, it was a great set of Swedish melodic death metal!

Thus concluded day 2/the first official day of Dark River Festival, but there was still one more day to enjoy, so we scurried off to our lodgings to rest up for the final day.

Text by Bear Wiseman
Photos by Laureline Tilkin