28.6.2024 Tuska Festival – DAY 1 @ Suvilahti, Helsinki

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Last year, Tuska Festival offered such a haunting cavalcade of metal madness that I thought it would be nearly impossible to go one louder. At first glance, when the line-ups for this year’s festival were officially announced – the headliners, PENDULUM, BRING ME THE HORIZON, and PARKWAY DRIVE, in particular – I must admit that I wasn’t exactly convinced that these choices were going to be the winning combination. I mean, c’mon – EDM and metalcore?! Now, having barely recovered from the three days of metal mayhem at Suvilahti, I ought to scold myself – Tuska 2024 was a blast, once again! Plus, no other music festival has brought me to tears not only once but thrice (for a number of reasons that I shall elaborate further in this festival report). So, without further ado, let’s get on with it.

I arrived early at Suvilahti on Friday, June 28th, 2024. It was going to be a hot day, so I decided to have a beer while waiting for the gates to open. There was a dude playing music through a small portable PA system outside the Shopping Center Redi and when I walked past him, he aired such a banger that I had to chat him up. The metal DJ turned out to be the rapper, Luyeye ”Viki” Konssi [editor: better known as Seksikäs-Suklaa] of LÄHIÖBOTOX. They had just played at PROVINSSI 2024 the day before and during our little chat I was let in on a “secret” – their new album is in the making! Konssi sounded very convincing when he promised me that the upcoming outing would be even more kick-ass than their debut! (The song that caught my attention was one by FIT FOR AN AUTOPSY, by the way, and they are coming to Helsinki in December, so jot that down, my friends.) What a good start for Tuska 2024!

German industrialists, LORD OF THE LOST, kicked off the festival with a banging onslaught of Gothic glam on the main stage. If my memory serves me right, it was their 2019 single “Loreley” that first caught my ears back in the day and, then, I wasn’t really sure what to make of this band. The impression I got was something like the metal version of the 1980s synth-poppers, DEAD OR ALIVE. So, I wrote the band off as some sort of a twisted German humor act. It was not until their brilliant 2020 EP “Swan Songs III” that I couldn’t help but realize that this bunch wasn’t joking around. Their Tuska 2024 performance further proved this by offering us a dark and melodramatic set of diabolically catchy industrial metal. Among the highlights were “Loreley,” which I have grown to be rather fond of by now, and “Drag Me To Hell.” Finally, they wrapped up the show with a cover rendition of KÄÄRIJÄ‘s blockbuster hit “Cha Cha Cha.” I must say that this industrialized version beat the original hands down. Kudos to you, my freaky German friends!

It was pretty obvious that the acts scheduled for the Radio City stage and the Open Air II stage were targeted at rather different metal demographics. So, for the average festival goer, it probably did not make much difference that the shows were set to start at the same time. I mean, it was highly unlikely for, say, metalcore youngsters to feel left out if they missed a set of old-school death metal. For insufferable “anything goes” music nerds like me, to be forced to choose between the vintage-sounding black metal of I AM THE NIGHT and the nu metal of ANNISOKAY, next, was a bit of a tough call. So, I tried to catch a little bit of both. First, I treated myself to the cold and desolate blizzard of black metal inside the Radio City tent. Boasting musicians from pedigree acts such as INSOMNIUM, OMNIUM GATHERUM, and HORIZON IGNITED, it did not come as a surprise that I AM THE NIGHT delivered up to specs right off the bat. Vocalist Okko Solanterä was particularly impressive with his growls and croaks that fit seamlessly into the band’s 1990s-tinted high-precision black-metal conduct that nicely echoed EMPEROR‘s classic sound here and there. Halfway into their set, with a heavy heart, I decided to head for the Open Air II stage to catch a bit of that nu metal, too. The Open Air II stage grew significantly in comparison to last year. We were told that it was now the size of last year’s main stage and indeed, the stage was a lot higher, had bigger bands, and drew larger crowds.

Officially, it seems, German metal act ANNISOKAY is often regarded as a post-hardcore or even metalcore band but, as their choice of a cover song suggested at Tuska 2024, I would rather label them modern nu metal. Sure, the harsh vocals might hint at metalcore but, at least for me, the music resonated quite strongly with the air of those late-1990s nu-metal acts that weren’t afraid to flirt with the occasional pop hooks. The band’s line-up seems to have gone through a lot of changes in recent years but you really couldn’t tell by their ultra-tight performance. I wasn’t familiar with their music, so the LINKIN PARK cover, “One Step Closer,” was the only song that I recognized – and it was an absolutely brilliant version! This bunch proved to be yet another band that I must check out in-depth later. Fortunately, the band name would be easy to remember even without my festival notes – it was, obviously, a sly reference to Michael Jackson‘s megahit “Smooth Criminal.” They even released an EP titled “Annie Are You Okay?” in 2015 with hardcore covers of Jackson‘s blockbusters such as “Beat It,” “Thriller,” “Scream,” and “They Don’t Care About Us.” I will probably have to check it out, too. Their signature sound of 2024 – nu metal with breakdowns and harsh vocals that resonated with an almost deathcore-ish edge – sure sounded pristine!

Next up, the Scottish pirate-metal act ALESTORM performed on the main stage. I had no idea what “pirate metal” even stood for but I sure as hell expected neither the giant rubber ducks on stage nor guys dressed in green kilts blasting folksy metal with keytars and all, singing about alcohol. So, if this was some sort of tongue-in-cheek humor of the Scottish variety, what made it even more confusing was the fact that the band executed their uptempo beer-themed metal with singalong sea shanty choruses ultra-tightly. The band also invited hurdy-gurdy star, Patti Gurdy to the stage for a few songs. She wasn’t as crazy as the rest of the lads, but she sure was having fun. So far, these crazy Scotts were absolutely the most entertaining act at Tuska 2024! Cheers! (Or, as we would say in Finland, “Kippis!”) On a side note, I was delighted to see that the inflatable green dino (“Pittipaavo”) from last year had resurrected from beyond the grave in the pit area – it paired rather nicely with the band’s giant rubber duck theme. Hopefully, this year, the creature will not face an untimely demise in the pit like last time.

Then, it was time to shoot for the Radio City stage again. Hailing from Moldova, INFECTED RAIN was one of the most anticipated acts in this year’s Tuska serving, at least for me, and, judging by the size of the crowd that the band had pulled to the venue, I wasn’t the only one looking forward to witnessing this band’s live performance. The band has often been compared to JINJER, probably because vocalist Lena Scissorhands has such an impressive range, in terms of both clean and harsh vocals, and the band’s style, although having been dubbed metalcore sometimes, is way more diverse than that, just like it is with their Ukrainian kindred spirits. Two years ago, JINJER exploded in this very same venue and ended up playing on the main stage the next year. INFECTED RAIN did exactly the same – they practically demolished the packed-to-the-full venue with their high-octane show! So, I reckon they will be playing on the main stage next time. The set was such a knock-out that I kind of “forgot” to jot down any song titles – you simply cannot make notes when the music is punching you to the face like a ton of bricks. The band’s music has been depicted as a journey through an array of intense emotions – and that was exactly what it was! Pardon my French but this band’s performance was simply fucking brilliant!

Infected Rain by Marco Manzi Photography

While INFECTED RAIN seemed like a good choice, our photographer just couldn’t resist the melodic death metal tunes of BLOODRED HOURGLASS. An impressive number of people shared the same sentiment, making this one of their largest audiences at a festival in Finland. No wonder, as the band is always a safe bet, consistently on point, and highly entertaining to watch live. The synchronized headbanging of the Silvonen brothers is always a sight to behold. During the first few songs, there was a heartwarming moment when guitarist Lauri Silvonen gazed over the crowd and spontaneously started smiling at the number of people enjoying their music. The setlist focused mostly on their latest offerings, “How’s the Heart?” and “Your Highness,” with bangers like “Drag Me the Rain” and “Veritas” getting the crowd going. An obvious guest attending the show was Pittipaavo once again. We were happy to see that he survived the show! (LT)

INFECTED RAIN was such a body blow that it was a bit difficult to reorient myself to the riff maelstrom of the thrash legend, Kerry King, playing on the main stage, next. Even though I’m now officially old as shit, I never made it to see SLAYER in the band’s prime. I guess listening to King‘s solo material would count as the next best thing. Vocalist Mark Osegueda even sported a similar hairstyle to that of Tom Araya. Yes, King‘s solo material sounded rather SLAYER-like, so it was kind of befitting that he treated us to a couple of SLAYER songs, with “Raining Blood” sending the biggest chills up my spine. However, I chose to leave a bit early in order to catch a little bit of KRYPTA at the indoor KVLT stage. I wasn’t familiar with the band but the short profile text that I read via the Tuska app painted a picture of a band that I definitely should not miss entirely. I could barely squeeze inside the venue but I managed to catch the last song in their set – and it was bloody well worth it! Their music has been dubbed a cross between the Finnish singer-songwriter Freeman, who was famous in the 1970s, and BLUE ÖYSTER CULT – that is, occult rock with a good pinch of Slavic melancholy. Judging by that one song alone, I really need to check this band out! When I stepped inside the venue, I was greeted with that same delicate, sepia-filtered sound that I grew up with, as a kid in the late 1970s – yeah, I’m really THAT old! It was a sound I later returned to, through those cherished Love Records albums, during my adolescent years in the early 1990s. Yeah, I’m an incurable nostalgic for this kind of shit. KRYPTA‘s debut album “Outo laakso” went straight onto my To-Do list.

Speaking of nostalgia, the Tuska Festival has had a habit of serving nothing short of haunting musical trips down the memory lane for each of the three times that I have attended the event since 2022. Yeah, I’m such a Tuska newbie despite the fact that I’m old as shit. Can you believe it?! This time the honor fell to SUBURBAN TRIBE performing at the Radio City stage. I had not seen the band in 28 years. Yes, that’s right – twenty-fucking-eight years! (Feeling old yet?) Well, the band had called it quits in 2011 but, still… As it happened, this year marked some sort of a comeback for the band, as well, at least in terms of live performances at five festivals. Since 1996, the band’s lineup had changed also with the addition of second guitarist Euge Valovirta. Do I even need to say how hyped up I was about this show? From start to finish, it was a massive, continuous eargasm, all the way. The band really seemed to enjoy playing together after all these years and, as a bonus treat, their original vocalist Jouni Markkanen joined the band for a couple of songs –“Sunflower” and “First Spring Day.” Then, as if the show had not already been stunning enough, the band ended the set with their biggest bangers – “Into the Blue,” “Frozen Ashes,” and “Silent Rain.” I only had two words to describe this performance – “Fuck, yes!”

Our photographer decided to split her time between SUBURBAN TRIBE and the Italian power metal act ELVENKING, who were playing on the Open Air II stage. Having seen neither of the bands before, she was curious about both of them. After about four songs of SUBURBAN TRIBE, she headed to ELVENKING, where “Draugen’s Maelstrom” was the first song she was able to watch, and it couldn’t have been a better start to the show for her. Due to the band’s song length, she was even able to photograph one song! Overall, it looked like the audience was having a lot of fun with the energetic blend of power metal. It was only a shame that SUBURBAN TRIBE was playing simultaneously because, despite the place still being packed, even more people could have joined the party! Nevertheless, ELVENKING played a very solid set with a lot of bangers, most of which came from “The Pagan Manifesto.” (LT)

Next up on the main stage, Norwegian black-metal monolith DIMMU BORGIR offered us the finest selection of symphonic darkness. In retrospect, judging by the chats that I had with a select few other Tuska attendees, this band should have been the headliner of Friday. With all due respect, with these Norwegians throwing in a setlist comprised of their biggest bangers, PENDULUM didn’t have a chance. As the set ended with “Progenies of the Great Apocalypse” and “Mourning Palace,” the change of mood from VSOP black metal to EDM was a bit too much, I think. I mean, I like both bands but DIMMU BORGIR‘s performance was way more of headliner quality, hands down. It was so dark and beautiful that the only proper thing to listen to after it would have been silence.

Before the electronic finale of Friday, ZEAL & ARDOR offered us a hearty serving of avant-garde black metal on the Radio City stage. Apparently, the band’s primus motor, Manuel Gagneux, must have interpreted black metal to stand for African-American spirituals conveyed with a wall of distortion or something. If IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT was the band to make me go, “What is this? I can’t even…” at Tuska 2023, now the honor fell to this bunch. I was familiar with a couple of their songs but, still, these black-metal slave songs completely blew my mind. Of course, some of the songs spoke to me better than others but, overall, I would definitely go and see this act again if given the chance. There was something rather endearing in this unique combination of styles, with the songs, “Blood in the River,” “Death to the Holy,” and “Devil Is Fine” standing out rather spectacularly.

Alright, then. The choice of a headliner for Friday sure seemed to stir things up before and after the show. Yeah, I had had my doubts, too, because – let’s be honest, here – as much as I like the band’s biggest bangers, in my opinion, PENDULUM would have been a more appropriate choice for a techno rave. Yeah, yeah, these Australians weren’t the first electronic outfit to flirt rather openly with rock or metal – back in the day, I’d seen LAB-4 and THE PRODIGY both pull off a show that packed more punch than your average metal band. So, perhaps a little bit cautiously, I thought, “What the hell, let’s give this Australian bunch a chance.” After all, their back catalog does host bangers such as “Witchcraft,” “The Island,” and “Tarantula.” Okay, the band played these bangers, but…

Even though I was wearing my high-end ear-plugs (a leftover from my active years behind a keyboard rig in a dubious number of bands), the bass frequencies were mixed so in-your-face that it was hard to make out what the vocalist, Rob Swire, was singing at times. It felt almost as though the band was trying a bit too hard to fit in a metal setting. I mean, I used to go to techno raves when I was younger and there was even a time when I wouldn’t have gone to the rave unless it boasted 160 BPM hard-NRG or hard trance that was played REALLY loud. So, I don’t mind feeling the bass frequencies in the marrow of my bones. Still, in this sort of festival setting, it would have been nice to hear the melodies and vocals, too. So, halfway into the set, I thought, “Sorry, dudes, I’m outta here.” So, I missed some of their best bangers, sure – or not; I’m not entirely convinced that I would have enjoyed listening exclusively to the bass frequencies of these songs. I would definitely go and see PENDULUM in a club setting in the future, don’t get me wrong. That said, I might still think twice about catching them at some festival if this bass policy is anything to go by. Perhaps it works for raver kids who are completely sorted out of their heads on disco biscuits but for us elderly metalheads (still going strong) in their early 50s, it’s a no-go. Sorry. I still love the band, though.

Our photographer, being about two decades younger, had a somewhat different opinion. She thought the show was pretty rad. Despite having gathered a few blisters throughout the day because of the scorching sun, she was able to dance the night away during some of the songs she’s known since she was a teenager. She also enjoyed the band’s appreciation for Finland and their dedication of a song to the late Alexi Laiho. While arguably this performance would have been better in an indoor setting—as it was at Graspop Metal Meeting, where the band played on an indoor stage—that didn’t take away from the band’s incredible production. (LT)

So, for the sorry-ass metal geriatric, me, DIMMU was the true headliner of Friday. The most emotional experience of this first day at Tuska 2024, however, for us Finnish gen-Xers at least, was SUBURBAN TRIBE. Anyway, I’m sure this Friday was something to remember for everyone at the Tuska Festival. Like a fine wine, this festival just keeps getting better, year after year. Everything goes smoothly and the program has a little bit of everything for everyone, something old and something new, something unexpected and something blue, or black, to be more precise. So, for the third time in a row, my verdict for the first leg of this 3-day Tuska experience could not be anything but 10/10.

Written by Jani Lehtinen
Photos by Laureline Tilkin