For the 21 years Tuska has been one of Finland’s biggest and most beloved metal festivals. Even though I have been living here for a while, it was the first time for me to take the plunge and attend Tuska Festival. Let’s see what my impressions were being a Tuska-virgin, but bear in mind that I have no means of comparing this edition to any of the last.
The four-piece CROWBAR kicked off the festival on the Radio Rock Stage. Suvilahti is filling up slowly, but steadily. With their sludge metal, it’s not a surprise that the band has managed to make an impression with their energetic performance. The band played around 10 songs. For me personally stuck out. Even though the band recently released an album, the setlist was quite balanced, we only got served one new song “I Am The Storm”, which the crowd seemed to like a lot. A kick-ass way to start off a festival.
Next up was HARD ACTION at the Inferno Stage. I mentioned I’m a Tuska newbie, my personal metal haven has been Graspop Metal Meeting in Belgium for many years. It was peculiar for me to hear that one of the stages at Tuska Festival is indoors. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. But it’s a nice break from the outside dusty grounds of Suvilahti. The Inferno Stage however, really suits with smaller, local bands. It’s a more intimate venue, that certainly feels very different from the overall festival experience.
Mind to tell you that it is extremely amazing that a festival like Tuska, offers the chance to younger bands to play at such a big festival. It’s not only a great thing for the bands, that shows the kind of support the organization behind Tuska Festival has towards the local scene, but also offers the opportunity for the audience to discover some new, fresh and yet talented bands from around Finland.
A band like HARD ACTION really worked well in the venue. With their oldskool traditional rock ‘n’ roll, they managed to convince and win over their audience. Because of the overlaps of the schedule, I had to hurry to the capture great moments for the next band. The couple of songs I did hear, where really powerful and I really liked the energy the band had on stage.
I had heard of TRIBULATION before and people have been recommending me their latest album “Down Below”. As busy as I am, I never really got to it. I realize that was a mistake. And how does one begin to describing their sound? Heavy metal with a pinch of goth rock and a tad of black metal. The atmosphere of their music brings me to a whole new level of enjoyment and their overall performance is somehow quite minimalistic but yet other-worldly. With the fairy-like movements of guitarist Jonathan Hultén and Adam Zaars, the show felt like ephemeral. When suddenly there were tunes from Twin Peaks, the missing piece of the puzzle was found. As mysterious as this new band was to me, they managed to convince me immediately. Count me in as a fan.
Next off on my very tight schedule were the winners of Tuska Torstai’s competition. An annual competition that is held between local bands to win a spot at playing at Tuska Festival. I have attended the last festival and the amount of hardcore, metalcore and death metal bands competing against each other was insane. It was therefore much to my surprise that this year KEOMA won. KEOMA is a progressive metal act. To prepare for Tuska, I had listened to their most recent material, which sounded like a very typical progressive metal band, with a fresh sound. I was however surprised by how much more aggressive and heavy they sound live. Hopefully the possibility to play at Tuska, will open up a bright future for these guys, because they have a nice and unique sound in the Finnish local scene. Their spot was a well-deserved prize. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for the whole show. But I’m sure I’ll catch these guys in the future.
TURMION KÄTILÖT is one of those bands that certainly will deliver a great show, no matter where, no matter how. When I saw them live for the first time at The Circus, there was less fireworks and fire, but nonetheless it was one of the most energetic performances I have seen during the fall and has stuck with me for a long time. I was happy to finally catch them at a festival. These guys have a certain je ne sais quoi about them and a laissez-faire attitude. But in this they have a lot of fun, proof of that is vocalist Saku Solin working with a flamethrower. There’s not one photo where the guy isn’t smiling while playing with fire. The band kicked off their show with “Verta ja Lihaa”, a powerfull and hot opener, literally, because the pyros caught me off guard. No surprise that the show was well received by the audience who chanted most of the songs with the band. A surely explosive performance that for me was cut way too short due to some planned interviews.
While having to do some interviews in a row, I managed to catch the two last songs of MANTAR at the Inferno Stage. The duo managed to surprise me with their interesting raw and heavy music. The lack of bass definitely isn’t a problem, these guys are not lacking any other musicians adding to their band. The energy of the both of them is something that is different to put a finger on. They are living so much in the moment that for me even though I only managed to witness two songs, every second, every moment was worth the while. Even though, I had an interview immediately after those two songs.
When I got back it was time for LEPROUS. Progressive metal, is something that grows on you. For me it has been flowing in my veins for years, as I grew up as a prog rock girl, the step was logical. There’s something about progressive metal that makes me feel like I have witnessed something striving for perfection, something that is so beautiful it makes me confused. LEPROUS had this effect on me. I almost didn’t want to part ways with the Norwegian act. Nevertheless, the band kicked off their show with “Bonneville”. They played around 10 tracks. With an almost full tent, they managed to captivate the audience properly and keep them engaged throughout the show.
THE CHARM THE FURY is hard to describe, the band used to be a full force metalcore act, but have now evolved to a groove metal band. But one thing is certain, their positive attitude makes it a very welcome show. The band from Amsterdam, knows how to draw attention to them, fronted by Caroline Westendorp. Her enthusiasm really got to the audience and her encouraging the crowd to start a circle pit, was very contagious. Even I almost felt like I wanted to start one. Even though the Inferno Stage is a bit smaller than the other stages, the band manages to dominate the whole stage. In honor of Vinnie Paul, the band even played a Pantera cover “A New Level”, which the audience also really enjoyed, but of course the highlight of the show was their most popular single of the latest album “The Sick, Dumb & Happy”, “Echoes”.
And then it was time for ARCH ENEMY. I had been looking forward to this performance, even though I have seen one week before Tuska already. Due to too much crowdsurfers, I wasn’t able to enjoy as much as I would have liked though. Luckily, a Finnish crowd knows how to behave. “The World Is Yours” meant a powerful start for Michael Ammot and co. Arch Enemy is a very popular band all around the world, even so their shows are still quite minimal, but every aspect of their show is thought out very well. Take for instance the lighting, as a photographer, it’s a pleasure to photograph a band like Arch Enemy. Alissa White-Gluz is a really enthusiastic performer who genuinely seems happy to be part of the Arch Enemy story. A lot of blast beats, heavy riffs, brutal vocals, circle pits later the show was over before we knew it. Highlights were “War Eternal”, “We Will Rise” and “Nemesis”. Even though most of the audience doesn’t have the right technique to grunt along with Alissa, it didn’t stop them from growling along and if you really can’t it’s quite easy to sing along with the catchy guitar melodies.
ARION is also hitting quite many festival stages around Finland. No surprise that they were also there to hit the Inferno Stage at Tuska Festival. Even though I saw the band already at Rockfest, due to some technical difficulties they had to cut their show short. Luckily, there seem to be little to no challenges to make their performance at Tuska Festival tricky and the audience was served with a more relaxed show because of it. It was a bit unfortunate however, that the band was scheduled during both Arch Enemy and Meshuggah, because even though the tent was quite packed, I’m sure there would have been a bigger crowd if they had gotten a better time slot. All-in-all the band played an energetic show. I have seen the band now in total of three times and I personally think that this was their best performance out of the three. And those fans who are waiting impatiently for the new album, got served with a new song “Punish You”. Being one of the only power metal bands present at Tuska Festival this year, the power metal enthusiast must have been pretty excited by their show.
The show however, was cut short for me because of MESHUGGAH. This was definitely one of my personal most anticipated shows of the summer. I have been a fan of the band since my early metal years, but have never managed to go to one of their shows. When I thought that their studio albums were quite representative, no such thing. Their music is even more explosive live. The rhythmic sections in their music, from drums to guitars, to even vocals, sure make even the most stiff people band their heads simultaneously to the music. A large circle pit started to form in the middle of the tent and I even witnessed a lonely crowdsurfer. While everyone seemed to be having a perfect time anyway, when the band announced the last song “Bleed”, the whole tent started shouting enthusiastically to the music. Their stage props were also really beautifully designed. Kudos to the artist who worked on the album art, it’s really as complex as the music, which makes it a perfect match. For me personally Meshuggah, was definitely one of the highlights of the day, this was also explained by a full tent.
The whole day for me was basically a lot of running around, at the end of Meshuggah I really started to feel it. I somehow finally understood why Tuska is called Tuska. The pain I felt out of a combination of being sick and just running around purposefully, hoping to see every band, made me so stressed out that I decided to chill out and relax and tackle the whole festival differently. During BODY COUNT ft. ICE T, I decided to just watch the show in its entirety. I had seen the exact same show the week beforehand, but it made it easy for me to form my opinion. In general the audience really appreciated Body Count. How do you make a cover song spectacular? Invite Dave Lombardo on stage and play a Slayer song with him, that’s what Body Count thought and what they executed. Lombardo was present at Tuska Festival because of his band Dead Cross. “Raining Blood” opened the show and Lombardo joined the band a bit later during the song playing drums for “Postmortem”. After which we got served 15 more songs. The show was clearly one of the highlights of the day, as the 12000 metalheads were gathered to watch the band play songs like “Bowels of the Devil”, “Body Count”, “There Goes the Neighborhood” and “Cop Killer”. After the latter, the end was near, but the band returned for 4 more songs, which one was a Suicidal Tendencies’ cover “Institutionalized”. The show ended with “This Is Why We Ride”. A song that marks the end of a nostalgic ride through memory lane, accompanied with jumping, headbanging and mosh pits.