29.6.2024 Tuska Festival – DAY 2 @ Suvilahti, Helsinki

0
266

Considering how scorching the first day at Tuska 2024 had been, not to mention all the legwork it had required to see all those wonderful shows, I headed for Suvilahti in relatively good shape early on Saturday, June 29th, 2024 – my feet weren’t killing me and I had no sunburns. It must have been a good sign!

First up, hailing from Catalonia, Spain, ANKOR set things in motion at the Open Air II stage barely past lunchtime. In 2014, the band was chosen as the best newcomer band by the readers of the Spanish rock magazine, La Heavy, and their live show made it quite clear as to why. Right from the flamenco intro, you got the feeling that this band was going to be something different. Their style has been dubbed alternative metal but maybe the term is a bit too clichéd and vague to fully describe this band’s sun-dried mix of nu metal, metalcore, and pop hooks. Later, upon gathering some further info about the band, I was a bit surprised to find out that ANKOR was founded as long ago as in 2003! Vocalist Jessie Williams and the Greek drummer phenomenon, Eleni Nota, looked very young, at least from a distance – they must have been kids when they started [editor: Jessie Williams has been with ANKOR since 2014 and Eleni Nota joined the alternative metal squad in 2022]! Maybe that explained the high-energy performance they pulled at Tuska. I managed to do a little bit of homework before the show, so I recognized the single, “Darkbeat,” released last summer. Perhaps the band’s youthful energy was also to blame for the shameless stunt they ended their set with – a drum solo by Nota! I was told before the show that she was something like a drum sensation and, yes, she pulled this stunt off like a pro! My list of bands to check out in full after the festival weekend grew longer by one.

The first act on the main stage on Saturday was one of the very reasons I wanted to come to this festival this year, to begin with – the great Danes, VOLA. I saw them at Suvilahti two years ago and their performance was one of the absolute highlights of Tuska 2022. Since then, the band has released a couple of banging singles – “Paper Wolves” and “Break My Lying Tongue” – ahead of their upcoming album “Friend of a Phantom,” due out in November. We heard those, of course, among all the other beautiful gems. This band has such a solid catalog that whichever songs they choose to play, it will feel like a greatest hits compilation. This time, they started with “Alien Shivers” – one of their most haunting tracks! – and ended with “Straight Lines.” During the set, there even were attempts to get the circle pit going but, as you would guess, it proved a bit difficult to keep it going to quintuple meter – or during the ethereal beauty of “Ruby Pool.” I had been kindly warned off in advance that their show was going to be even more kick-ass than two years ago and, still, these proggy tricksters blew my mind – again. The band’s signature blend of THE BEACH BOYS vocal melodies and MESHUGGAH riffs is simply irresistible.

My original plan was to check out the Swedish alternative act, SOLENCE, at the Open Air II stage but just before their show kicked off, I was told by a very trusted friend of mine that the old-school death-metal juggernaut, DEVOURMENT, playing at the Radio City stage, was something I should not miss for the world. So, once again, I was forced to choose between two great acts. While walking toward the tent, I overheard SOLENCE dropping some nice electronica-tinted and unashamedly catchy alternative metal in the distance. Maybe next time… Our photographer was fortunate to catch at least part of their show, as she was feeling quite adventurous. It turned out to be quite the party. The band had upbeat, catchy songs, exuded a lot of energy, and jumped around a lot. During the first few songs, vocalist Markus Videsäter tripped over his ego riser, which didn’t seem to be very sturdy, and accidentally tossed his microphone into the photo pit. It actually looked quite painful, but the show must go on. Obviously, he didn’t really care and delivered a top-notch performance anyway. She didn’t know any of the songs, but the first one, titled “A Banger A Day Keeps the Doctor Away,” saved us at least another trip to the doctor’s office; we’ll gladly give them another chance if they ever head out to Finland again! (LT)

My friend was right. DEVOURMENT‘s code of conduct turned out to be exactly the kind of brutal, old-school death metal that we used to call “suolihevi” in Finnish as kids. Translated, that would stand for “intestinal heavy metal.” Peculiarly enough, almost as if to confirm this, the band played a song called “Self Disembowelment,” at some point. I checked out the song later only to realize that it had been released already in 1999. No wonder the band executed their twisted riff origamis with such high precision – this death-metal squad seemed to have been around since 1995 (when Finland beat Sweden in the ice-hockey championship final at Stockholm and won gold for the first time. Why did I bring this up? You will find out in my report of Day 3 soon enough). Of course, this was the type of music that would require either an acquired taste for the macabre or a rather questionable sense of humor – or both. Well, me? I’m just a silly fuck who has cultivated a weird affinity for all sorts of random music. Vocalist Ruben Rosas delivered guttural vocals of the type that I could barely stand listening to when I was still a 20-something music snob, though I did like the technical complexity of many a death-metal band at the time. Now, having matured with the years (lots of them, I assure you), I have learned to appreciate also these sorts of things. Yeah, I’m sure this style must have originated from some sort of inside joke that just got out of hand but who cares? It’s highly entertaining. Then, drummer Chris Andrews‘ performance was also something worth mentioning – simply phenomenal!

Next, I was once again faced with a dilemma whether I should check out the Finnish heavy-metal legends, TAROT, which I’d never seen on stage before, or try to squeeze myself inside the KVLT stage venue where the hyped-up up-and-coming melodic groove-metal bunch from Vantaa, Finland – SULFURIS – was about to start crushing everyone with style. Well, I tried to catch a little bit of both, as usual. First, I elbowed my way inside the fully packed sweatbox, the KVLT stage. The band has been praised for offering a fine blend of both modern and traditional metal in their songs – and they sure did exactly that! Their stage presence was pronouncedly energetic and, having been converted to heavy metal by IRON MAIDEN‘s gargantuan album classic “Powerslave” at the tender age of 10, in 1984, I was particularly delighted to spot some nice guitar duels that resonated with the thick air of those classic fretboard duels between Adrian Smith and Dave Murray. It was easy to see what the fuss about this band had been all about. So, when this squad is coming to your town, do yourself a big favor and check them out! However, I had to leave the venue a bit early to catch a few songs by TAROT on the main stage, as well. I must admit that I’ve never been a die-hard fan of this sort of power metal but Marco Hietala is such a Grand Magus when it comes to pulling off a captivating show – he played a brilliant solo gig last year at Tuska! – so I simply had to see these legends in action. I soon found myself enjoying songs such as “Warhead,” “Rider of the Last Day,” and the epic closer, “Crawlspace.” So, it was well worth it!

There was more of this sort on offer, next, at the Open Air II stage where SONATA ARCTICA was about to start blasting. However, I had seen them at Tuska 2022 and the band scheduled for the Radio City stage was one of those acts that I had marked in my calendar – KAUNIS KUOLEMATON from the South-Eastern fallows of Finland. Their style would be best described as a haunting cross between traditional Finnish schlagers from the 1960s and 1970s and brutal death-doom of the SWALLOW THE SUN variety. If you had seen me sporting the “Moonflowers” T-shirt the day before, you would have known that this was an easy call. The band delivered a slow-crushing, brutal, and hauntingly beautiful set of immersive, melodic doom in Finnish. KAUNIS KUOLEMATON has already left an indelible mark on the scene and for a bloody good reason, too! Songs like “Peilikuva” and “Paha Ihminen” sure packed a punch that left us breathless for a moment. There was something other-worldly, almost, to be listening to such grimly shaded doom in broad daylight – just like last year when SWALLOW THE SUN played at this very same venue. Both of these shows were something to forever cherish in my heart, let me tell you!

The doomy moods of KAUNIS KUOLEMATON didn’t quite match the upbeat day our photographer had, so she opted for some classic Finnish power metal instead. After the release of their latest album, “Clear Cold Beyond,” SONATA ARCTICA has been on a roll, which translated into a huge turnout in front of the Open Air II stage. While she couldn’t catch all of the set due to an overlapping interview schedule, the moments she saw from the band were really dynamic. It was a bit funny to see a backdrop featuring their wintry-themed album art while the sun was blazing over the stage, but the band’s set was as hot as the weather. They were able to play some new songs, but included Finnish karaoke classics like “Tallulah” and “FullMoon” in their set, giving everyone present the opportunity to sing along loudly. (LT)

At this point, my weary old bones were dying for a bit of rest. So, I decided to have a dinner break at the food vendors by the main stage. STAM1NA was up next and I could easily listen to them while munching away. For some reason, STAM1NA is the Finnish metal squad that I have seen the most over the years, although I suddenly realized that I had not seen them for something like 7 years! It has been a delight to see the band’s evolution from being almost like the little brother to the Finnish speed-metal legends, STONE, to an almost DevinTownsend-like giant force of nature. This time, they had spiced up their show with a couple of extra vocalists, too! The first thing I noticed was that the band had toned down their stage mayhem a bit. I mean, the last time that I saw them in action they looked like a bunch of toddlers on sugar high, running around the stage like speed freaks. Then again, songs such as “X” with some nice and mellow sections might not have worked so well with stage antics like that. From my seat, I couldn’t see what happened on the stage but I’m pretty sure that there was some mayhem, as well, at times, because there definitely was a lot of that in the pit area when the band geared up on their signature full-tilt metal boogie. What a great band!

Then, it was time to choose between two bands again. On the Radio City stage, Los Angeles-based experimental electronica act HEALTH would offer eclectic soundscapes resonating with the somewhat dystopian air of an imaginary soundtrack for the end of the world. On the Open Air II stage, Australian metalcore bunch MAKE THEM SUFFER was about to drop a selection of songs swirling somewhere between metalcore and deathcore. You guessed it – I tried to get the best of both worlds, checking the first half of HEALTH‘s set inside the tent and then dropping by the other stage.

HEALTH is probably best known for their contribution to the Max Payne 3 soundtrack and, after a few songs, their live show did have a certain video-game soundtrack vibe to it. At times, the music had quite an immersive feel. On the other hand, some of the songs didn’t feel like songs but rather like soundscapes or snippets from a movie soundtrack. So, I guess you either liked it or hated it. For me, this sort of aesthetic was intriguing, to say the least. One song came off almost like a homage to the MINISTRY classic “Jesus Built My Hotrod,” and the next thing I knew, I was treated to a somewhat PLACEBO-like indie-electronica. Before I headed for MAKE THEM SUFFER, I promised myself to check out this band in-depth later.

A disclaimer might be in order here, at this point: I’m not exactly a fanboy of metalcore, with only a couple of bands notwithstanding. That said, Tuska Festival seems to have a golden touch when it comes to choosing bands of this sort; there were a good few metalcore acts already on offer last year and they were rather brilliant! Of course, MAKE THEM SUFFER did roll out some of the usual metalcore tricks from the genre’s playbooks – bouncy breakdowns and screamo vocals and whatnot. What made these metal ruffians stand out was their keyboardist Alex Reade – her clean vocals, in particular. The nicely balanced the harsh screaming and deathcore grunting of the lead vocalist, Sean Harmanis. Her keyboards also layered the music with a nice, symphonic layer. The show was ultra-tight, as you would expect at a festival like this, and the crowd in the pit area pulled their A-game – metalcore fans sure were having a field day! For me, the band left a very good impression, so I had to add it to the ever-growing list of new bands that I need to check out in full later. One song, in particular, hit a home run – “Soul Decay,” I think it was called. Australian bands are a different breed, y’know… There are lots of bands that most of us Europeans have probably never heard of and when they finally come over, they blow our minds to smithereens – or, if we’re unlucky, it turns out that the band quit 10 years ago when you discover their music, like with bands such as MAMMAL, COG, or THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT, the last of which – lucky for us! – did a comeback a few years ago. Thus, in the case of MAKE THEM SUFFER, I felt happy to see them in action in their prime because you never know…

The last three acts on Saturday each delivered such a show that I shall forever cherish them in my heart. First, AMORPHIS played an all-killer-no-filler set that kind of broke my heart. The 12th of July would mark the 30th anniversary of their second studio album “Tales from the Thousand Lakes,” so it was pretty obvious that the band was going to play a song or two from that outing. The songs we heard were “The Castaway,” the titular instrumental from that album, “Thousand Lakes,” and THE Finnish metal classic, “Black Winter Day.” The band played on their home turf, in a way, so they were on fire, no questions about it! For me, it was quite peculiar to see them again after only two years – AMORPHIS played at Tuska 2022, too. The thing is, before 2022, I had last seen them at Ruisrock 1996! Regardless of all the nostalgic tremors of that show, this time their show hit harder – SO much harder. You see, my elderly dog passed away last November and the song that I chose for that sad occasion was “Amongst Stars” by AMORPHIS because of the lyrics: “Close your eyes now, give in to the night, soar above the stars, forget what’s behind…”

So, when the band played this song, I must admit that I’d never felt such a tidal wave of emotions wash over me at a concert. Okay, I didn’t cry like a baby, like I did when I heard this song on the radio in the winter, but a tear or two did roll down my cheek. Yet, I couldn’t help but smile, embracing the fond memories of my dear old doggo. Yeah, I know it’s kind of dumb to pick a song for such devastating feelings of loss, grief, heartbreak, or whatever but what can you do? Don’t we just love it when beautiful music tells us terrible things? Sure, I secretly wished that AMORPHIS would play this song – and I’m glad they did! It was also befitting, considering all this, that the band ended their set with “House of Sleep.” It was magical to hear 23,000 people sing along to the chorus. Shivers would have been a gross understatement to describe this moment. As an encore, we heard “The Bee,” too, but I think I had transcended the very fabric of time and space for a brief moment. Thank you, AMORPHIS, for breaking my heart – it was beautiful. I would do it again, anytime.

Somehow, I managed to pull myself together before RIVERSIDE started on the Radio City stage. For some reason, I had never seen these Polish proggers on stage before, so I was pretty hyped up! What I have liked about each of the three Tuska festivals that I have attended has been the rather liberal amount of progressive rock of all colors. RIVERSIDE‘s music is perhaps a bit more mellow than that of, say, HAKEN that played here last year but it sure packs an equal amount of punch in terms of both emotion and weird time signatures. The setlist was comprised of a balanced mix of the band’s old classics and songs from their latest album “ID.Entity” which came out last year, with “#Addicted” from the 2015 album, “Love, Fear and the Time Machine,” serving as the set’s opener. The band’s primus motor, Mariusz Duda, turned out to be an advocate of dry humor, too, as he introduced himself and the band with these words, “I’m sorry but there will be no screaming, nor growls, and I’m not going to say the word, Fuck.” No probs, dude, we didn’t mind. The show kicked ass just as much as a brutal death-metal squad’s performance would have, even without all the guttural vocals or profanities. I already knew what a phenomenal musician Duda was and, still, witnessing him drop those mind-bending quantum-prog basslines while singing like an angel made my jaw drop an inch. So, next time this band is coming to this neck of the woods, I have to be there!

At this point, I felt a bit at a loss for words. What could I possibly say about this magnificent cavalcade of bands on such a beautiful day in the middle of summery Helsinki? All I could bring myself to put into words was – what a day! And there was one more treat left…

I saw BRING ME THE HORIZON in 2016 when they played at Helsingin Jäähalli. It was a superb show! Their “That’s the Spirit” album came out in 2015 and, in my opinion, it still is the band’s most coherent offering to date. Yeah, I’m an old fart. Some of their new stuff does not speak to me at all. Then again, new songs such as “Mantra” and “Parasite Eve” are straight-up bangers. With this in mind, I must admit to having some doubts about these Britons qualifying as a true headliner for day 2 at Tuska 2024. They were good, sure, but were they good enough? Now, after the show, I guess I should slap myself across the face. Yeah, they weren’t only good, they were unbelievable!

Visually, the show was top-notch. Vocalist Oli Sykes sported a somewhat Clockwork-Orange-like attire with corpse paint and all. Dystopian cyber-imagery filled the video screens and the pyros were rather impressive. Yeah, headliner stuff, alright, but it wouldn’t mean shit if the band was not going to be in good shape, musically, right?

Well, what can I say in my defense? On Saturday night, a few minutes before the band’s showtime, I was so much younger and so much dumber. BRING ME THE HORIZON fucking killed me and, then, resurrected me to kill me some more. The first half of the set was comprised mostly of the newer stuff. In addition to those two bangers I mentioned above, we heard songs such as “Teardrops” from the 2020 outing, “Post Human: Survival Horror.” Well, it sounded quite good actually, I had to admit. (Feeling dumb, you old shit?) Next, the band played “Obey” and, a little bit later, “Kingslayer” from this album and the latter made the crowd go absolutely apeshit at Suvilahti. A banger, no doubt. If my memory serves me right, halfway or so into the set, the first song representing the older stuff was “Shadow Moses” from the album, “Sempiternal” (2013). So far, I had enjoyed the show. Yeah, even those new songs… Maybe this was just a telltale sign of me getting softer with age, or maybe the band simply had matured over the past 8 years into a genuine headliner.

Speaking of which, Sykes owned the stage. I mean, he wasn’t bad back in the day but, now, he moved across the stage as if he fucking owned it. For another banger from “Sempiternal,” Sykes welcomed a fan onto the stage and they sang the song, “Antivist,” as a duet. Later, he high-fived the front row and let those lucky fans take selfies with him while he kept singing like nothing to it. Yes, that’s the way to do it! At this point, I mentally bitch-slapped myself for not believing that this band could fill the headliner slot. After this duet, the rest of the set was pure ecstasy, with “Drown” and “Can You Feel My Heart” from “That’s the Spirit” serving as an epic ending. Then, of course, there would be an encore… When the band had left the stage, there was a text on the screens: “You want more of this shite?” British humor, I reckoned… Then, it continued: “You are all doomed.”

Yes, the band played yet another banger from “That’s the Spirit.” I couldn’t help but notice that Sykes‘ clean vocals had improved spectacularly since the last time. “Doomed” didn’t sound this fucking good in 2016! It’s always a delight to see such a giant leap in a band’s evolution from being simply good to being a world-class headliner! After “LosT” from the band’s latest album “Post Human: Nex Gen,” released just recently, they dropped one of their biggest songs, “Throne,” to bring this magnificent day to an epic closure. Thank you, BRING ME THE HORIZON – you crazy Brits! Thank you, Tuska 2024! What a day!

Written by Jani Lehtinen
Photos by Laureline Tilkin