Tuska Open Air is the biggest metal festival in the Nordic region and it’s organized by Finnish Metal Events. On its 20th birthday, this year 2017, it is also celebrating a record high in ticket sales, with 37 000 festival visitors during the weekend.
The festival is a 3-day open air metal marathon, but we start off already at Thursday, hitting the legendary Tavastia club downtown Helsinki, for the Tuska Heatseeker preliminary gig. The venue is relatively full of people, and the upper floor is closed for this event. I arrive just in time for Arion, and find people very excited about the Psychework gig, a metalband from Jyväskylä, that has just ended.
Arion 4,5/5 (40min)
Arion is a solid power metal group from the Tuska hometown Helsinki, and tonight playing at Tavastia, Tuska Heatseeker 2017, it doesn’t fail to deliver. As the first song “Out of the Ashes” kicks in, it’s immediately clear that the singer Lassi Vääränen is up to the task and handles the demanding vocal parts with apparent ease. The strong tight vocal sound pairs up very well with the songs, and the occasional complementary vocals from the backing track add even more punch to the vocal ownage, making the package sound even more professional.
The general sound is unfortunately very off balance, and the acoustic sound of the drums seems to hide most of the mix, especially the guitars seem to be almost nonexistent. This problem is luckily somewhat fixed during the gig, and one can hear at least a little bit of every instrument in the center of the crowd.
The set continues with “I Am the Storm“ and “Lost”, as the bassist Gege Velinov’s hair looks epic due to a wind machine, and the crowd seems to be enjoying themselves a lot, nodding their heads in a tranquil manner and smiling, raising hands every now and then to clap along. Maybe everyone is saving their neck muscles for the three upcoming days of Tuska. The lighting gives a good addition to the atmosphere, supporting the mood changes in the songs.
While mostly concentrated on playing the songs rather than frantic moshing, the band shows good chemistry between the members and provides the expected tongue in cheek humor, demonstrated for one by the guitarist Iivo Kaipainen as he flips the birds left and right at the bridge of “Seven“. Proceeding to play amazing solos at “You’re My Melody” and “Last of Us“, filled with intricate phrasing, graceful vibrato and lethal technical prowess, it’s obvious that the man doesn’t merely consist of pure self-irony, but is truly a force to be reckoned with. Actually, every musician in this band seems to be at the same level of deadly accuracy.
The audience is more and more involved towards the end of the gig, and then the band shifts yet another gear by finishing with the two singles from 2016, “At the Break of Dawn“ and “Unforgivable”. Overall the show leaves one baffled about the precision of execution: the whole band is playing incredibly tightly, and the songs come out as if they came straight from the record. If you like power metal, this is a group that won’t let you down!
- Out of the Ashes
- I Am the Storm
- You’re My Melody
- Last of Us
- At the Break of Dawn
Man With A Mission 5/5 (60min + encore)
Well, I’ll be damned: furries at Tavastia?!! And one in the audience too?! Are they bears? No, wolves! The audience raises their hands in the air in a furryesque fashion, like beasts in anticipation of a rampage, as the quintet of fur and fang trots forth to greet them, reinforced with a masked multi-instrumentalist, to make up a sinisterly silly six-piece squad, set to slaughter. And that they do, starting off with the song “evils fall”.
The band’s music is a strange amalgamation of dance pop, hard rock, nu metal and punk, with the occasional bow towards more epic metal music, and it’s ridden with abrupt mood swings and peculiar melody lines, that somehow work very nicely to accomplish a variety of musical storylines. This is definitely Japanese, even though most of the song parts and arrangements sound somehow more western in their own right, in comparison to how your average obscure band from the Land of the Rising Sun would write them.
There’s a funny animalic vibe in the band’s energetic stage performance, and the audience seems to get a hang of it too. In the air, there’s a sense of a party and the next song “When My Devil Rises” manages to remove some restraint from the neck muscle departments’ rationing policy. I cannot help but smile as the song comes to its end.
The audience then starts clapping to the drum beat as the singer Tokyo Tanaka hypes the upcoming Tuska festival. Then he counts in for a song raising his middle finger in the air, and wild punkish prancing ensues as “Take What U Want” kicks in. Then the non-wolven member of the masked maniacs grabs a guitar to play a hero metal double guitar solo with the guitarist-rapper Jean-Ken Johnny, and in the end the audience is amused by the bassist Kamikaze Boy’s attempt to eat his instrument, and raises the furry hand gestures furiously in the air.
The next song, “database”, brings Limp Bizkit to mind in a good way, and gets the biggest audience response so far, as the band instigates the crowd at the bridge in their very own unique style. The atmosphere persists during “Give it Away“, which is musically absorbing mix of epic chords and “wo-oo wo-oo” repetitions. People seem to be really happy to see and hear the band live, and the singer thanks them in a copious manner. But this is still just the beginning as “Dead End in Tokyo” brings the jamming-along to a whole new level. The song sounds momentarily surprisingly lot like Rammstein, even though the vocal choices are literally from a different world.
The crowd starts clapping to the bass drum beat from the singers cue, and the band disappears leaving the drummer Spear Rib to communicate with the audience by the means of a drum solo. Soon DJ Santa Monica crashes in to challenge the drum solo by scratching vinyls, and the battle fuses up to be a drum and scratch jam. The audience seems excited, which is much said about a rhythm section solo spot. After a while the two vanish to the backstage and it is time for an anime video break. The video might give some answers to the looming inescapable questions, such as: why are the furries rocking out? Because they were created by Dr. Jimi Hendrix to fight evil with their superhuman abilities, that’s why!
Then the drumming and scratching continues as if it never had stopped, and the rest of band returns to the stage to throw a short jam, after which the singer returns, the audience raises their furry-hands, and the intro for “Get Off of My Way” explodes into action. The band goes on to play an unlikely nu metal cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit“ and the front section of the crowd goes nuts. After “Raise your flag” the mood is resonating finality: the band surely knows how to pull the strings. The singer showcases his language skills by saying “thank you”, “wolf” and “you are awesome” in Finnish. Then he wishes everyone to have a pleasant Tuska and good evening, and announces that there are two more songs left. They turn out to be “Seven Deadly Sins” and “FLY AGAIN“, and the band heads for the exit as the bassist is again trying to devour his bass, this time wolf-eyes lit in yellow glow.
The audience is cheering for an encore persistently, and finally the singer emerges from the shadows, to thank everyone and chat casually to the mic. Then they play the two-song encore that starts with “Dog Days“ and ends in a synchronized jump at the end of “Emotions”. I enjoyed this very much.
- evils fall
- When My Devil Rises
- Take What U Want
- Give it Away
- Dead End in Tokyo
- Get Off of My Way
- Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana cover)
- Raise your flag
- Seven Deadly Sins
- FLY AGAIN
- Dog Days
Written by Arti Waine