The 17th annual Tuska Open Air Metal Festival kicked off at the Suvilahti industrial site again on the 27th of July, 2014. There were some promising new names on the roster, as well as some old-school metal favorites to top off the nights. Musicalypse got there bright and early on Friday to see who was going to steal the show in 2014! Check out the full gallery here!
Our first stop early on Friday afternoon was ENSIFERUM on the Radio Rock main stage. ENSIFERUM is generally a fairly solid bet as a band. They can pull a decent crowd, even as one of the first bands to play on the first day (at 14:45). However, I personally have grown a little tired of their live shows. In their defense, they’ve been playing quite a few local gigs since their last album came out in 2012, so you can’t expect too much in these cases, but nevertheless they have been getting a bit repetitive. Fortunately, this is excusable in a festival. There you might be bringing in an entirely new crowd, so it’s only those local people who go to every single show who might get this feeling. As a band, they were still playing wonderfully and their set was actually one of the best I’ve heard, mixing some of their best new songs in with some of their best older ones. If I really do have one complaint about their shows, it’s how bored keyboardist Emmi Silvennoinen looks on stage. She never smiles, and all of her movements seemed forced. She never really acts like she truly wants to be there. It’s quite a shame, for such a lovely and talented keyboardist, so we were hoping that she isn’t losing the passion for what she’s doing.
After ENSKA finished up, we headed over to the merch booth to see what was up for grabs this year. Unfortunately, due to limited space, you don’t get much from bands other than shirts or flags, but the Tuska 2014 merch was a bit more diverse, with two selections of hats to pick from, badges to sew onto your clothing, tote bags, sweaters, and of course, T-shirts.
POISONBLACK started up right next to the merch booth on the Inferno Stage, so we wandered out through the crowd as they gathered to listen from the bar area. The drink prices were a euro cheaper than last year but the bottle return fee was a euro less than in 2013 as well. POISONBLACK did keep our ears piqued as we grabbed some ciders. Vocalist Ville Laihiala was sounding just as sharp as he did back in the day with SENTENCED, and while I haven’t actively listened to them much, I found that a lot of the songs they were playing sounded pretty good.
One of the bands that we were looking most forward to was CHILDREN OF BODOM. As one of Finland’s most shred-heavy bands with not one, but two amazing guitarists, they always manage to pull a big crowd. The pit was intense and I may have taken a few too many skulls and fists to my head just being amongst the crowd. Their playing was superb (they are sort of known in our circles for being hit-or-miss in their live shows), and it’s nice to see them giving it their all. Word on the street is that Alexi Laiho has been sobering up of late; maybe that has something to do with it. The stage was also adorned with two old trucks and a car, and there were some people grilling in the back of one of the trucks. After a few songs (and the photographers had left the pit) one of the grill masters came up front and offered some meat to the people who could reach. We managed to have a bite of pork steak that a kind Samaritan shared with us. COB was perhaps my highlight of the weekend, or at very least my highlight of Friday. You just can’t go wrong with heavy music and furious fretwork.
Around 19:40, we made our first trip to the indoor Club Stage where big-haired glam rockers SANTA CRUZ were strutting their stuff. This was a band that I had heard good things about but never experienced for myself before, and I was pleasantly impressed with them. Their performance is less (pick an adjective: gross, hilarious, crazy, etc) than STEEL PANTHER, and their music is less cheesy than our other hair metal favorites, RECKLESS LOVE, so they were fun to watch and definitely worth checking out. Singer Arttu “Archie Cruz” Kuosmanen full of smiles, and the whole band was full of that spandex-powered energy (the drummer even sang a few of the high parts). It’s nice to see these young guys keeping the older music styles alive. We’re hoping to catch a club show of theirs in the future, next time they’re playing locally.
The night finished off with symphonic black metallers DIMMU BORGIR taking the main stage. Dressed in their corpse paint and black leather and studs, they were looking dark but acting pretty friendly. Shagrath’s crazy voice dominated the airspace, and he announced that DIMMU BORGIR had recently passed their 20th anniversary as a band, but had not yet celebrated it, so they were hoping to do so at Tuska. I have to say, “Progenies of the Great Apocalypse” sounded even more epic coming from a huge open air stage. You’d think that a gig like that might be spoiled by the Finnish summer when the light doesn’t fade much, but it wasn’t really much of a problem, though in all honesty, they are probably one of those bands that benefits from a big indoor setting. We also noticed a couple guys dressed all in white for the occasion, specifically to poke fun at the usual DIMMU crowd who never wear anything other than black and more black. Though I don’t know DIMMU BORGIR very well, it did sound like a pretty solid performance and we enjoyed the whole thing.
Day two started even earlier at 13:45 when WE CAME AS ROMANS showed up for their second-ever show in Finland, kicking off the main stage on Saturday. They had a small but very enthusiastic crowd show up right from the start. We hadn’t seen them since we did an interview with David Stephens (the growling vocalist) before their first show in Nosturi back in January 2012. This is a melodic metalcore band that has a fairly decent sound and a lot of their music has very positive messages in it, but I wasn’t really overly impressed with the second (clean) vocalist, Kyle Pavone. His sound and stage presence reminded me too much of “the dreamy sensitive one” from a boy band, which I didn’t really find fit in overly well with the heavier growls. A lot of the switching between clean and heavy vocals was a bit jarring. The style seems a bit more suited for teenagers and young metalcore fans, neither of which I am anymore. I do see the appeal for a sound that’s a bit like a heavier version of LOSTPROPHETS, but it’s not really for me, perhaps. In the end, I’d probably prefer the band without the clean vocalist, as Stephens is capable of singing clean as well, but if they catered to me, there wouldn’t be anyone for the young girls to swoon over, so I guess I’ll just have to suck it up.
LOST SOCIETY was next on our list, so we hit the bar and got a place to watch for their loud Jyväskylä thrash metal. This is a band I knew next-to-nothing about, but they seem to be getting a lot of attention in the heavy music scene lately. They were the first big crowd-puller of the day, and had the first impressive pit of the day as well. It was a bit surprising how many people showed up already before 15:00, but perhaps it was their loud and heavy music, or the shredding guitar solos that did the trick. They were a very solid performance. Agreeing with Lene and what she said during South Park Festival, I couldn’t say if they have the X-factor to make them sweep the nation, but there is definitely a metric ton of potential wrapped up in their music. It was also kind of cool that a few of them were wearing ANTHRAX shirts, since, you know, ANTHRAX was headlining later that evening.
Another one that we were really looking forward to was STONE. This is another band on the list of Finnish bands I know of, but hadn’t listened to before. You may imagine my surprise to see Mr. Roope Latvala, who I recognized from CHILDREN OF BODOM the prior day; I had no idea that he was in STONE as well. They were heavy as hell, which also came as a surprise to one who had falsely assumed they were more on the rock side than metal. This was a great band, especially for the older fellows in the crowd who want to feel the sweet nostalgia of being a young rocker again. The crowd was a fantastic mix of young and old and Roope Latvala continued to play the guitar like he was born with it. “Reached Out” got a wild crowd response of people shouting along to, “Fuck off and die!” Janne Joutsenniemi (vocals) has one of those true gritty oldschool thrash voices and he was still as loud as ever. They had a big circle pit with Kermit the Frog right in the midst of everything, though this fellow’s Kermit hat found its way onto another head by the end. Though I’m not big on the thrash, this was pretty tight music all across the board and I would definitely recommend anyone who likes the old stuff to catch them live if you get the opportunity.
TURMION KÄTILÖT brought us one step closer to the end of the night. This was another check off the list of bands I’ve been meaning to see but haven’t gotten around to it. Last year they were the Saturday night afterparty headliner at The Circus that we missed, but this year they adorned the Inferno Stage. Rumor stated that this was a bit of a shock-value band, and with a name that translates to “midwives of destruction,” surely there had to be something going on. We were not let down from our spot in the bar, as the show was nothing less than manly men screaming and headbanging. It was a great set where people jumped and grinded on each other and had a fuckin’ great time. And I’m pretty sure someone on the stage was in one of those old-timey two-piece men’s bathing suits.
BRING ME THE HORIZON wasn’t on our list, but we managed to catch their set nevertheless. I’ve never really known exactly what to think about a band who took their name from a line from Pirates of the Caribbean. They were a big crowd-pleaser though and managed to surprise me with how heavy they could be. They seemed like one of those bands that you either like or don’t like, but it was a fun show if you’re into the music. The pit looked like a blast and they had easy music to sing along to if you knew the words. They made an attempt at the wall of death, but it couldn’t begin to touch what happens in heavier bands. They seemed like a good time but we figured that you really had to like their music to get the most of the show. They aren’t one of those bands that you can truly appreciate live without being a fan, I would guess.
In spite of being the Saturday night headliner, we didn’t pay much attention to ANTHRAX. Tuska was fairly thrash-heavy this year and not being our favorite genre, we weren’t so interested in it. I did remember “Got the Time” from way back when, and it was definitely one of the big hits of the night. Without much to say about them, I will say that they were pretty standard ’90s heavy thrash, and they are definitely one of those old bands who keeps it going.
Our favorite for Saturday was not from the festival itself, but rather the afterparty in the basement of On the Rocks. The lower level was packed to the brim with enthusiastic fans, both old and new alike. THUNDERSTONE played at the hideous hour of 01:00 and after touring the town for a while, we showed up to see the new line-up in their second official show. The guys played a gig the prior Tuesday in Blackpool, Järvenpää, and we had made the trip up to see what was up and had been very impressed. The small crowd in the small town had, however, been a bummer and I was particularly excited to see them with a real crowd. And they nailed it. Pasi Rantanen was back on vocals and coupled with slaying their old tracks, he brought so much more to the songs from “Dirt Metal” (the one album he hadn’t been on). I’m reasonably sure that they introduced bassist Titus Hjelm as Mervi Tapola (you’ll have to look that up to get the joke), but in all honesty, I had had more than my share of beers at that point and my understanding of Finnish wasn’t at its prime. This was also the first time we saw crowdsurfers in such a small venue. The keyboards were unreal and we were fully expecting Jukka Karinen’s fingers to combust from the speed with which he tickled those ivories. “Roots of Anger” was pure heavy excellence and the vocals were as tight as you can hope for. “Dirt Metal,” as mentioned, was a great improvement on the days of Rick Altzi, and “Until We Touch the Burning Sun” made its way onto my playlists after its discovery at this show.
This was also one of the few nights when the sound quality down in the basement was actually quite good. We have some vague memories of Jari Mäenpää (WINTERSUN, ex-ENSIFERUM) jumping up on stage at some point to give someone a kiss. In fact, that show brought out a wide selection of local rockers in the way only legends like Pasi Rantanen and Nino Laurenne (guitars) can. It’s also worth mentioning that the new drummer, Atte Palokangas, was absolutely adorable, with big smiles, flawless playing, and a shit-ton of style. This was easily one of the best performances of the weekend, and an utterly mind-blowing “return” gig for a new line-up.
Sunday, unfortunately, marked the end of the nice weather and good vibes from the festival. The misty/rainy day brought a particular gloom that tends to drain a lot of the energy from the concert-goers. Many spent the day hidden in the beer tents or at the club stage.
On our way into Suvilahti to watch Insomnium start the day, we caught the end of POWERWOLF’s show. At the time, the singer was shouting, “We are here because we are all obsessed with heavy metal,” and then they started some symphonic ambient music that managed to hold us in place for a moment. They were interrupted a bit by INSOMNIUM’s sound check, which was unfortunate, but their music surprised us and the general consensus was that it might be worth a further listening.
INSOMNIUM was our true intent for early Sunday afternoon though, and they are undoubtedly one of those bands that can’t be ruined by foul weather (SWALLOW THE SUN and KATATONIA are also on that list). The bass-heavy quaking and rumbling permeated straight into the ground and made it feel as though you were in the middle of a thunder storm. They are also a band that just looks glorious on stage. Everyone in the frontline has beautiful hair and they always manage to get their headbanging in synch. While their recent clean vocals still can’t touch the quality of Jules Näveri (PROFANE OMEN) from the “Across the Dark” album, but they have improved in the last few years quite a lot on that front. They have the perfect balance of relaxed and heavy in their performances, and have been, since our discovery of them, one of our favorite Finnish bands for this reason and more.
One of the most prominent stands this year was the Coca Cola station, which we stopped by briefly after INSOMNIUM finished. Not only were they giving out small cans of Coke to anyone who stopped by, but they were also personalizing the cans with your names. While this was a nice little souvenir, it was a shame that some of the staff there wouldn’t allow nicknames.
Our interest had also been piqued by ORPHANED LAND. They followed INSOMNIUM with a mix of their new gentler and old heavier tracks. Word going around camp was that the singer, Kobi Farhi, was not impressed that he had to wear shoes on stage due to the weather, because (we were told) that he usually goes without. Their stage presence was tame, if not a bit uninteresting, but the music was unique and relatively fun to hear. Farhi mentioned at some point that people think he looks like Jesus, but he isn’t. “If I was, I would make the rain stop. Stop rain! …See?” As you might guess, the rain didn’t let up, so he presumed that we were convinced.
SATYRICON was, alas, the last band we caught any songs from on Sunday. Impressed that a fair-sized crowd had stuck around for the last few bands in spite of the weather, vocalist Satyr did his utmost to keep everyone’s mind off the chill in the air. In spite of black metal not appealing to me at all, I can’t deny that these guys do seem to be the epitome of the Norwegian metal sound. For as much of their set as we caught, it was quite a good show. The fog on stage was only made better by the mist and rain, and I’m sure that the crowd was keeping warm as they enjoyed the music, moving around, headbanging, and so on.
Sadly, the gloom and cold of Sunday couldn’t keep us out until the end of the night, particularly when the headliner wasn’t a familiar band. As such, we didn’t manage to see EMPEROR. The crowd had thinned notably over the day and only the most hardcore fans stayed long enough to see them through.
To add one last bit of praise to this year’s festival, we should mention that the band overlap was very well timed. We were able to go and see every band we wanted and more without having to rush between stages, or abandon half of one gig so we could catch another. In fact, we saw even more bands than we intended to, which was fantastic.
Tuska 2014 was a year for the black and thrash metal fans more than anyone else. While the band selection was ample, there was very little in the way of power metal this year, perhaps making up for lost heaviness in 2013. Regardless of your taste, the massive crowd, piles of empty beer cans, and sun-roasted and rain-soaked fans speak louder than words. Once again, in 2014 Tuska was the place to be!
Written by Bear Wiseman
Photos by Mika Ringman