A yearly tradition for this writer and GRIMM, is our attendance at one of the longest running metal festivals in THE country of metal: Finland. Tuska Open Air Festival has been going strong for over 2 decades now and it seems that they’re not planning to take it easy any time soon. With an incredibly strong line-up this edition and a couple of major changes to the organisation, we were eagerly awaiting that last weekend of June…
Let’s start of on a bit of a note with mixed feelings. Some of the changes really added to the overall experience, like the fact that the new entrance was really close to where the metro brought us. But in our opinion some of the changes also took the experience sort of down. When the band playing on the main stage was any bit popular, it became quite the task to get through the gathered crowd. Since the drink zones were gone and the main stage was in a different angle than before, there was no way around that crowd other than straight through.
Getting food and drinks was at times a bit tricky, but still somewhat doable. It was a crowded event after all. But the merch stand was simply ridiculous. Usually we try to support the festival and at least a few bands that really impressed us by buying us a shirt. This edition was the first year in 4 visits that we never managed to get anywhere near a shirt. The line was throughout the whole weekend incredibly long and despite putting more structure in the system, it seemed to work the other way around from how it was supposed to be.
But onwards to the music, because that’s why we’re here, isn’t it? We missed the first three bands of the day, but all three of them are definitely worth checking out since they’re all Finnish bands that are quickly rising up the ranks: Medeia, Balance Breach and Arion!
The first band we actually got to, was the relatively recently formed duo Goatburner. Consisting out of Keijo Niinimaa (ROTTEN SOUND, MORBID EVILS, AGE OF WOE) on guitar and vocals and Jaakko Forsman (RATFACE, SKULMAGOT) on drums, the noise coming out of these guys is unmistakably brutal. They blasted over the crowd gathered in front of the smaller stage and intended to blow everything to smithereens. For me personally, there was not enough finesse to the music and the show started to get a bit boring and stale after a while. But I’m sure a lot of people there thoroughly enjoyed it!
Marko Hietala (***)
On the tent stage, we caught up with Marko Hietala. Or better known as the bassist and second vocalist of Nightwish. He recently released an album under his own name on which he did his own thing. Marko seemed extremely relaxed on stage with the band members he gathered around him and was really enjoying himself. The music wasn’t anything too special, but in combination with the talented and rather entertaining musicians on stage, it was a very pleasant show to see.
We skipped on seeing the Finnish death/thrash outfit Pahan Ikoni for our date with Riley, vocalist of Power Trip, for an interview to be found on the site soon.
Battle Beast (***1/2)
On the main stage, a Finnish band that has been conquering hearts all over the world for a while now… Battle Beast doesn’t need much of an introduction anymore and despite not necessarily being my favorite genre, they absolutely killed it on stage. Frontwoman Noora Louhimo is quite the impressive sight to behold and both her and the rest of the band backing her brought an energy I hadn’t seen at Tuska yet today. Killer!
Sadly, I had to skip on most of Wheel‘s performance due to having a talk with the guys of Alien Weaponry. I shortly dropped by to see that the awesome Finnish proggers gathered quite the crowd in front of them. Great things are in store for this band!
Power Trip (****1/2)
Ever since they caught my attention and my seeing them live for the first time a bit over a year ago, I was looking forward to the next time I could catch them. And there it was, Power Trip was in the house! This time around, the crowd was absolutely ready for it. The angry crossover blend of thrash metal and hardcore punk tore a new hole in the tent and the whole band blew over the field like a goddamn hurricane! These Texans don’t know how to sit still and kick ass every single time I see them…
Next on the main stage was yet another thrash metal outfit if you hadn’t had enough with Power Trip earlier on. I’m talking about the thrash metal legends Anthrax who came to show that they are still here to stay. It’s rather impressive of some of the original members of this band to still be as energetic and enthusiastic as if they were still spring chickens! Vocalist Joey Belladonna with his crazy antics, bassist Frank Bello with his over the top expressive facial expressions and of course guitarist Scott Ian who was bursting with passion for their music. Still completely on top of their game after all these years!
Catching Anthrax on the main stage sadly meant that we had to miss out on Brymir, who filled the small stage to a ridiculous degree. People were standing outside at the entrance trying to see even the tiniest bit of the show.
Cult of Luna (****)
When getting back to the tent stage, I was rather impressed by the set-up for the next band. A whole bunch of sails hanging in the back layered over each other and 2(!) drum kits… here was Cult of Luna about to set up shop and drown us in atmospheric sorrow. The post-metal of these Swedish guys is quite the sight to behold and envelops you into a mesmerizing musical adventure. Maybe I would have preferred to see this band in a darker room and a more intimate setting, but this was a very pleasant first meeting for me!
Anneke Van Giersbergen (***1/2)
Back to the small stage, where quite some people had gathered up again. A lone microphone stand and an acoustic guitar, that’s all Anneke Van Giersbergen needed to quiet the room. That and her extremely charming smile and presence of course. I don’t think anyone is immune to such a friendly personality and incredible talent. A special intimate acoustic show by Anneke is what we got and despite it being on a slightly smaller stage than last time, she managed to recreate a lovely relaxed vibe as if we were all friends chilling with some good music playing.
Dimmu Borgir (***1/2)
Still full daylight, the Norwegian symphonic black metal legends of Dimmu Borgir took over the main stage. A black metal act in the full sun is always a little bit risky, but Dimmu Borgir proved that it is possible. I have to say though, at times they sound more symphonic than sounding like an actual black metal band. But their show at Tuska was absolutely great, they know how to bring the theatrics to the stage and the music was performed great. These Northern lords of darkness shined brightly here and we hope to see them in the region again rather sooner than later!
Alien Weaponry (*****)
Last band on the small stage of this Friday was one of the most promising rising metal bands of the past few years. Alien Weaponry from New Zealand consists of 2 brothers and their friend with not a single one being twenty years old yet, and bring a damn impressive sound. Think of the old Sepultura sound with touches of melodic proggy Leprous-like stuff with Maori language more often than not used and you get a groove metal gig that kicks ass! Traditionally starting with Henry performing a haka behind his drum kit and both Ethan and Lewis halfway showing up riling up the crowd with tongues out until they kick off hard with ‘PC Bro’. Alien Weaponry has the passion and energy to make even the most stubborn metalhead all excited. If these guys continue the way they’ve been making music and holding themselves in the world, they might very well be one of the future big bands in metal!
In the tent, Swallow the Sun closed the day there with their doomy metal landscape. I didn’t want to miss out on seeing more of Alien Weaponry though, so I let their show pass me by this time.
As the closer of the main stage on Friday, the locals of Amorphis were chosen. For the occasion, they decided to play their latest release ‘Queen of Time‘ from start to finish. If there’s one thing you don’t have to teach this band, his how to put down a solid performance. Frontman Tomi Joutsen was his passionate self as usual and backed by stellar musicians, this was a gig to treasure. Throw on top of that little extras they added, like the mythical looking character showing up during ‘Daughter of Hate‘, waving a huge flag around. Or Anneke Van Giersbergen who then came to perform her guest appearance in the song ‘Amongst Stars‘ like originally on the record. After finishing the full album, they treated us still on a handful of Amorphis classics with a second appearance by Anneke during ‘Her Alone‘. A great finish to an eventful first day…
For more pictures, go check out our photo coverage of day 1 here: