Like last year, Helsinki was once again the heart of the (Finnish) metal world for a long weekend. Metal bands and fans from near and far came to the heavy capital of Finland to see tons of great bands at Kaisaniemenpuisto [Kaisaniemi Park] in the center of the city. Tuska Open Air festival couldn’t be in a more convenient location – right behind the central railway station. There’s public transport from everywhere, lots of hotels, and even more importantly, tons of (metal) bars close by where you could grab a beer before the festival gates opened, or where you could continue partying ’til early morning after the official festival part was over. [ed 2021: we’re still looking for the gallery for this festival; check back soon!]
For those who had already started partying on Thursday evening at the infamous warm-up party, the first day of the festival started fairly early. I, for my part, had spend Thursday evening at the relatively new club Virgin Oil Co. to watch MUSTAN KUUN LAPSET, DARK FILTH FRATERNITY, CAUSE FOR EFFECT (who were probably the band that played the most during the whole festival), and SWALLOW THE SUN. Excluding CFE, it was quite a dark and doomy package and a great start into the long Hel city weekend.
Enough with the pre-party though – it was finally Friday and time for the “real” festival! At around 14:30, the gates to the festival opened and the huge metal party in the center of Helsinki was about to kick off. After the weather had been pretty bad the day before, the weather gods obviously had to show that they were metalheads too – sunshine and mild weather made this first day perfect. When quite a lot people were still waiting at the entrance (yes, it was sold out once again, as this festival is becoming more and more popular), HATESPHERE from Denmark were already kicking some asses with their death/thrash mixture on the main stage. Those guys for sure know how to warm up their audience with quite a captivating stage presence and lots of fun. Great opener!
From then on, you could see photographers as well as all the other festival visitors running between the two smaller stages and the main stage. There was either one band playing on the main stage or two bands at the same time on the two smaller stages. The first band to play on one of the smaller stages, the Sue Stage – located on the left side of the main stage – was MOONSORROW. Those who were in need of some more brutal stuff just jumped to the other side to catch SCENT OF FLESH. Regardless of whether you’re more into pagan metal or brutal death metal, this was a great start on the smaller stages as well. And the guitarist of SOF had the most interesting guitar that I saw over the whole weekend, for sure!
Next was something completely different: time for some crazy happy power metal on the main stage. You may or may not like them, but DRAGONFORCE simply did a great job of entertaining the audience. All this damned fast riffing, permanent good mood, grinning, and posing was getting a bit too much for me, but judging from the really huge crowd in front of the main stage, they have quite a solid fanbase here. Like I said, like them or not, they aren’t afraid of making fools of themselves and jumping around wearing the weirdest clothes that’d probably win you the first prize at a bad taste party. Entertainment was the main goal and that was achieved with ease. Regardless of whether they played “Fury of the Storm” or “Heart of a Dragon,” those songs hit the spot.
What was a difficult decision for some was easy for me: the Dutch band IMPERIA played on one stage and Swedish KATATONIA on the other. So I headed over to see KATATONIA, who played a simply wonderful gig that started with “Ghost of the Sun” and was followed by the amazing “My Twin.” “Teargas” and “Soil’s Song” really got the audience going and you could almost forget that it was a nice, bright, sunny day. Their captivating melodies created a lot of feeling and atmosphere.
Time flies when you’re having fun, and it was already time for one of the bigger acts on the main stage. The reunited IMMORTAL had emerged on stage, celebrating black metal for the eagerly awaiting fans. Granted, all this evil corpse paint and posing looked simply funny in the bright sunlight, but IMMORTAL still knew how to get the audience going. The Norwegian pandas started with “The Sun No Longer Rises” and I guess they had hoped the same, at least for the duration of their gig. But all of Abbath‘s “fuck the sun” swearing did not help – the sun kept on burning down. Maybe it was intending to create a hellish feel? To help make an even more metal atmosphere, the vocalist even did some fire-breathing during “Sons of Northern Darkness.” This quite convincing concert (even for someone who isn’t a fan of black metal) ended with “At the Heart of Winter.”
Neither the audience nor myself had an easy time deciding between TURISAS‘ “battle metal” or the Finnish classic, MAJ KARMA. I went to see the first half of the warriors with warpaint. It was a great show as always, with posing, beer, and horns up. It was a pity, however, that the guys could only play on the small stage. The tent was bursting at its seams and one thing is for sure – next time they will play on the main stage! When arriving at the other stage, I watched the second half of MAJ KARMA‘s gig. I had never heard of this band, but I guess they’re not really well known outside Finland. No wonder, as all the songs were presented in Finnish. So what were they like? It was a weird mixture of clean vocals, RAMMSTEIN-like guitar riffs from time to time, combined with a broad range of styles, from softer rock to metal. The quite diverse mix turned out to be pretty catchy and I was hooked within two songs. They were definitely worth checking out.
It’s easy for a whole day to go by in the blink of an eye when you’re having a good time, so I was quite surprised when I realized that it was already time for the headliner of day one: CHILDREN OF BODOM. There’s no need to mention that the place in front of the main stage was packed now. It seems as if nearly everybody had been waiting for them. So after the infamous “They’re coming to take me away…” intro, Mr. Laiho and the other “children” started kicking asses with “Hate Me” and “Needled 24/7.” No rest for the wicked – this was a gig without any chance to take a break and rest.
It was a great day so far and for those who hadn’t gotten enough, there were quite a lot of opportunities for even more bands, more drinks, more parties, and more great people waiting at the afterparties all over the city.
After the interesting and quite exhausting first day of the festival, day two started after a short night. Thanks to a moderate time for the beginning of this day, the festival area was fairly full when MISERY INDEX were destroying the main stage as the first up – like the day before, a kickass band was opening the festival. Great choice once again! I had seen them one week earlier in Germany where they had to play in front of a rather small crowd due to heavy rain, but here they were lucky – the sun was shining. I’m pretty sure that they managed to break through some of the hangovers from the night before.
It was then time for the most difficult decision of the day – PROFANE OMEN or BEFORE THE DAWN?! I didn’t want to miss either of them, so it was over to PROFANE OMEN to catch the first half of their gig. What can I say, it was a huge party from the first song on, with a hyperactive frontman on stage and an audience that was going crazy on the other side. If you don’t know this band yet and like bands like AMORAL or KILL THE ROMANCE, you should check them out ASAP.
So much fun on one stage made it a bit difficult to leave, but what can you do when two great bands are playing at the same time? When I arrived at the other stage, there were even more people than at PROFANE OMEN‘s show and they were all screaming and singing along like crazy, which made BEFORE THE DAWN‘s vocalist, Tuomas Saukkonen, grin like crazy. No wonder… they had a setlist that nobody could complain about – wonderful songs and the combination of grunts and clean vocals sung by Lars Eikind were a great mix. Their setlist contained a nice blend of old and of course new stuff from their album, “Deadlight.”
The party continued and soon it was time for some dancing and serious headbanging with Mr. Tägtgren and his band PAIN. Some might dislike it and call it techno metal, others simply like it because of the driving beats and rhythm. They started with “Same Old Song” and “Zombie Slam” from their latest album, but it didn’t actually matter whether they played old or new stuff, the crowd went off the rails. Great gig, thumbs up! After that, I simply had to take a small rest and as a result, missed THUNDERSTONE and INSOMNIUM. Judging from what I heard later on from some friends, they were two great gigs once again.
All right, up for some oldschool music anyone? The legendary W.A.S.P. stepped onto the main stage and this music worked just as well as the brutal death metal or the industrial and melodic stuff that came before. Finnish people seem to be more open to different genres and styles, even when there’s such a drastic change in a short time. I had heard some “horror” stories before, that W.A.S.P. were pretty boring live, while others told me that they played a great show. So either the people who said they are boring were lying or I had good luck. The show was great, the audience’s mood got better from song to song, and especially during “Wild Child” and “I Wanna Be Somebody,” nearly everybody around me was singing along and having a great time.
Would the next bands be able to keep up this great mood? Yes, yes they would! It was time for the first-ever LEGION OF THE DAMNED gig in Finland! Judging by the really, really huge crowd in front of the small stage, people had been eagerly awaiting this gig. Just like at the German shows, songs like “Malevolent Rapture” and “Son of the Jackal” were simply perfect live songs. You could see that people had been waiting for them, as they went nuts right from the beginning. There was a lot of long, flying hair on stage, and pretty much the same in the audience, and suddenly the tent stage seemed way too small. There was nothing to complain about here!
And now for something completely different. It was time for ISIS on the main stage. I have to say that I had huge doubts about whether this complex and rather calm music (compared to all the other bands) would work, but it did! Wonderful, breathtaking, and magical are the three words I have to describe this gig. There’s nothing more to add. The audience listened and enjoyed “Wrist of Kings,” “Dulcinea,” and “Backlift,” amongst others. I was really amazed how well they switched from kickass thrash metal to intensive progressive stuff.
The music style changed again and I headed over to the Sue stage to catch the 45 DEGREE WOMAN gig. Strange name, strange music? Well, maybe, but I’d say you can easily get into this groovy stuff and quickly, no less. In addition to that, they had a nice stage setup with a huge backdrop screen and a drummer that was sitting on the side instead of somewhere in the back, so everybody could see him playing. After a while, the band name seemed to match the temperatures in the tent. That’s the metal version of the Finnish sauna!
Time seems to run faster during festivals, and I was a bit amazed that EMPEROR, who were now playing on the main stage, were already the last band of day two. This gig was one of those magical concert moments that was pretty captivating and had a somewhat special atmosphere, even during the daytime. Emperor might have been away for quite a while, but now they’re back and the audience loved it! Frontman Ihsahn got more and more talkative during the gig, announcing “Inno a Satana,” “I am Black Wizards,” and “Thus Spake the Nightspirit.” Wonderful, simply wonderful. This gig made me look even more forward to their upcoming gig at Wacken about a month later.
The end of day two. Really? No! Why waste your time with sleeping when there are after-parties with even more bands waiting for you? Thus we headed over to Nosturi to see AJATTARA, SHADE EMPIRE, and DEATHCHAIN.
It would be wrong to say “at long last,” as time had passed in what felt like a heartbeat, but it was already the third and (unfortunately) last day of the festival. Everybody was trying call forth the last of their energy. Luckily the weather god had decided to be merciful once again and the weather was simply wonderful – nearly too idyllic for a metal festival. The first band onstage for me was MERCENARY. This was the first gig for the Danish proggies in Finland and I didn’t know what to expect. But, when seeing a huge crowd in front of the Sue stage, not only was I pretty amazed, but the band was flabbergasted too! The crowd was huge and they were also singing along to “My World is Ending” and “Soul Decision” as if there was no tomorrow. It’s a sure thing that they’ll return again after such a successful gig, especially when knowing that one of the youngest newcomer bands of 2007, STURM UND DRANG, was playing at the same time on the other stage.
Onto another obviously pretty famous band here in Finland! I know how popular they are in Germany, but I was surprised to see how big a crowd power metal kings BLIND GUARDIAN pulled in at this festival. They started with “This Will Never End” and set a great mood; the audience sang along to all their songs. Naturally, the most obvious of these was “The Bard’s Song.” They aren’t exactly my cup of tea, but it was nevertheless a good gig.
NAILDOWN playing after them didn’t have nearly as easy a time getting an audience in front of the little Inferno stage, since FINNTROLL were playing on the Sue stage. Seeing this tent so damned packed, I was wondering why these guys didn’t get a slot on the main stage. People simply went crazy, no matter which song the trolls played. At the end, when the first notes of “Trollhammaren” sounded, the audience went ballistic and you could see people dancing around. This was something I hadn’t seen in Germany before.
Like the days before, there was no rest for the wicked. There were tons of good bands playing, so it was close to impossible to get any rest. After the FINNTROLL gig I had to rush over to the main stage again to see MOONSPELL. Their singer is surely one of the most charismatic vocalists I know, so it was easy for him to convince the audience to get into it. Besides MERCENART, they definitely played one of the best gigs of the third day!
“Oh my god, what is that? Am I still at a metal festival or did I just enter a boy band concert?” That was the question I asked myself on entering the photopit when D’ESPAIRS RAY started. I had never heard that much screaming and shrieking when a metal/rock band came on stage. I set the earplugs deeper into my ears and that certainly helped. It seems as if that band is the Japanese answer to HIM or NEGATIVE. Whether you like this music or not, they had a good stage presence, but depending on where you were standing you couldn’t hear that much of the music anyways, thanks to the screaming girls. Since that was a bit too much, I decided to head over to VADER‘s gig to enjoy the rest of their death metal dominion. VADER destroyed everything and everyone, just like LEGION OF THE DAMNED did the day before. A wonderful, brutal gig! Everybody who didn’t already torture their necks during the set surely came out sore after they played “Raining Blood” as an encore.
I didn’t want to believe it but the next band, STRATOVARIUS, was the LAST band of the festival. I was already feeling a bit sad because the last 3 days had gone by so quickly. Since I was a bit tired, I decided to watch this gig from afar. There were lots of pyrotechnics and the audience enjoyed it. It was a perfect ending to a once again perfect festival!
To sum it up: the organizers definitely know how to make a line-up with a great variety of bands and perfect organization. No wonder that even the weather god decided to be nice and send some sunshine!
Report & photos by Cornelia Wickel
Finnish female fronted hard rock band Lost Division released No God single & music video from their upcoming album!
MIKA IKONEN: ”Minun-albumi esittelee erilaisen puolen minusta ihmisenä ja lakunkirjoittajana” – julkaisu pe 7.5.2021