Tuska Open Air
Another year with a Tuska, we can not get enough of this amazing festival. A few interesting changes were made this year, the second stage in a tent for example. Came in handy for as well some shadow as shelter for the Sunday rain.
Opening the 2016 Tuska Open Air Metal Festival was the ever-graceful Cattle Decapitation, who we know since 1996 as one of the ultimate death grind bands of the United States. Travis Ryan, their substantiated singer, entered stage right as if forgetting that it was a quaint sunny weekend afternoon and went straight into stage persona. Casually rolling his eyes into the back of his head, he turned our light ‘n’ bright Friday into exactly what Tuska 2016 wanted it to be – a fucking metal festival. Using his voice as an almost percussive instrument that you can’t necessarily appreciate on studio recordings, I was blown away. The almost delicate details of the guitar solos stood out savagely between the howls, double kicks and gruelling grinding of the main stage in the band’s true manner.
Considering this was their first time all the way from San Diego in California to Finland, their performance proved their visit was long overdue.
Frosttide was opening the small stage indoors. Our little favourite stage always shows us interesting acts that are becoming the mainstage bands at some day, or not but that’s what we help you with in case you did not make it in time to judge yourself. Frosttide is on the rise, about a year ago they released a second full length album and it shows in their music that they have a good idea of an international sound. A melodic touch is golden for the guys and they seems to have some fans along today. Yet, their show is not always carrying out as much energy as comes with their sound. If they could bring that in, they will grow fast.
Dutch Delain was on for an early set. A band we got used to see on their own soil, but now abroad they need to convince a different crowd. Seems like a mainly international crowd is on the frontrows rather than a Finnish crowd but when the tent fills up there is many to see them.
A released EP called “Lunar Prelude” is one of the many things they have done recently and an announced full length, a 10 year celebration and some live release are ahead of them as well. The band knows how to play the crowd, but in a bit critical note you could say that they have little variation in what we see. But for a new crowd Delain is doing well today. They are energetic enough, play their melodic songs with passion and so their show convinces many.
Whorion at the clubstage was an interesting to watch, The band released their debut album only a while ago and makes Symphonic Death Metal. The band has a certain brutality in that is a bit ballsy, you got to like that when you fall into that right away and what is most fascinating in this band is probably the bassist, who has an interesting technique to play and do this with a certain flair an attitude that makes one watch it more careful than one would usually do. A unique thing to add for the band, making them stand out on this day.
Swallow the Sun is starting something special today. They released an album that is a in three parts and Tuska gave the band an opportunity to bring that alive with three!! sets at Tuska. One for each day. Today is the first one. But to understand the impact of this show it must be told that the band lost one of their friends, Aleah (Trees of Eterny) in a battle against cancer. She was also the partner of Juha (guitarist of the band) and did some vocals for Swallow the Sun albums. To make it complete, it would have been her birthday today so there is a heavy load on the shoulders of the band. As you can understand, the doom will never sound so much more from the heart as right now.
To our surprise we see a second mic stand in the middle of the Mainstage when the show is about to start and soon we learn why, the band took vocalist Jaani Peuhu along to perform these songs. An excellent choice we would say as the songs sound much complete like this. It seemed that the entire Tuska audience had come to see the band, not many roaming around anymore and after listening for a while the band captivated many of them. A show that touched deep, a show was heavy thick loaden, but bravely came alive and were one of the highlights of the day!
Complete with their Lebanon flag on set, I was skeptical about these guys as they came onto the Inferno stage. Politics is fun and everything, but when you tell your audience that your religion is the best one, I’m the kind of person that gets a little turned off. Except I was wrong. Blaakyum were interactive with their audience, played some mean guitar solos and had no qualms about the fact that they weren’t just there to play good music, but were also there to spread a message of their history and awareness.
As a perfect crossover between thrash and heavy metal, their political influences inform their lyrics, preachings and even their musical instruments on set. The more they played, the more the band as a whole made sense to me and their music was not a separate entity from their social outreach. Vocalist and rhythm guitarist Bassem Deaibess even stated in the introduction to one of their songs; “Before our country got fucked by religion and politics, we had culture; I’d like to bring some of that culture back… And mix it with a little bit of metal!” Can’t argue with that!
Cain’s Offering is drawing quite a crowd. Mastermind Timo Kotipelto is of course a name in Finland and Cain’s Offering is growing a lot. Their first album got out in 2009 but after that they kept their new grown fans waiting for 6 full years to come with a new one, so it is safe to say that band is not really one you might run into too often. But with a 2015 release in the pocket they have plenty to perform. The Melodic Power Metal that these guys made falls well, the song “More Than Friends” standing out to us most for its intense feel.
The show itself is here and there a bit static but we appreciate that the guys let the music be leading and not their show take over from them as we saw other bands in this genre do recently. It’s just that… you never really know when to hear from these guys again. So better enjoy it now and so we did.
I can happily admit that I already loved Mantar before seeing them play live for the first time here at Tuska’s Inferno stage, but I will also be honest and say that they were nothing like what I expected to experience. Sounding much more doom-y on record, the two-piece’s stage performance was one much more akin to punk extravagances. While they do fly the flag for a black/doom/punk metal duo labelling, nothing can prepare you for these two taking over a stage.
The crazy and grating vocals of Hanno coming from his skinny energetic body frame are far more hard hitting when you’re there live, never mind the ferocious enthusiasm of drummer (and backing vocalist) Erinc who smashed his way through a drum stick within minutes of first coming on stage. It’s not often that you see a band of two at Tuska, but with these guys present you’re left wanting nothing. I loved every second of their crazy and altogether unique blasting.
Well, you can almost guess what I’m going to write here. Lordi are stage performers, almost before musicians, and you can bet your bottom dollar that they performed for their native Finland. I’d like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that, being from Ireland, the first time most of my surrounding non-metal friends heard of Lordi was at the infamous Eurovision song contest. At least this time I would be able to tell these people how Lordi actually are – including kissing dead zombie cheerleaders erotically and burning off the crowd’s eyebrows with incessant fire pumping from the front of the stage.
Before I got distracted in wondering how much space those outfits take up on their tour bus and how bad they must smell, I actually got scared as I saw genuine anger from Mr. Lordi himself at needing keys turned down in his in-ears. Man I would hate to be the engineer behind that mistake… He is the front man of the most genuinely intimidating pop-metal band that I’ve ever come across – but don’t tell him I said that. And yes, they did play Hard Rock Hallelujah!!
Bendover: As for these guys, I am sorry but I just did not have any fun at this Inferno slot. Visually leaving a mass of fun to be desired, I actually grew a little bored and I wasn’t the only one; even some of my fellow photographers left early. Maybe they got an unfortunate slot having kicked off in the middle of Lordi and Kvelertak, but the crowd was small and the enthusiasm was dire.
Hailing from Espoo, I did kind of like the gradual progression of heaviness to their set, but I never warmed to them except for the song The One On My Shoulder which was the high point of their performance in my opinion. I will say that I enjoy listening to them with a pair of headphones and their heavy metal appeal is quite good, but when it comes to seeing them live, I might not be jumping over the fence for them again.
Kvelertak were a band that I was told I’d both love and hate from several different sources, but when they kicked off at the Helsinki stage I have to admit that I didn’t hear much. There was a lot of noise, a lot of stage antics, then a bit of melody, a signature glowing green mask, and a few more stage antics. You can’t deny these Norwegians of their powerful stage presence and fun that they obviously have when being the centre of attention, plus a crowd grew in front of them quicker than I’d seen at Tuska in a long time.
I challenge you to put this band in a box; they are so very varied and you can basically choose their genre from a pick ‘n’ mix. The fans erupted for the entirety of 1985 which was a typical amalgamation of their screaming heavy-metal-meets-alternative-pop-rock-drama, and the elaborate light show certainly helped things along. This is the kind of band that I like to call a ‘Tuska curve-ball’, and while I might not have loved them, they still went down a treat.
They are weird, they are Japanese… And hide behind the furry face of a wolf. Man With A Mission is a band that won’t be liked by everyone. Is it Metal? Is It pop? Hiphop? Experimental Disco Metal is what came in mind mostly. Some dancing here and there, combined with guitars and a dj providing some beats. A drummer to join that… Good, the whole is quite interesting to see but it seems too much of a cry for attention. The guys could easily do this music without the façade and still get an audience. Choreographing their audience at the end of their set they kind of give the idea this band is mainly liked by the younger ones. It’s very much put together and thought-off. No spontaneous actions and giving the idea that it is all for the commerce rather than the music. A bit disappointing.
As if it’s not already cool seeing the Testament boys on stage (including the cuddly teddy bear that is Chuck Billy), Gene Hoglan playing with the band in all his epic fury was an honour as always to see. Such made this ONE of Tuska’s (if not THE) thrash metal band highlights. With the song Rise Up literally getting the festival crowd to rise up off the ground, the band got the full reception of their incredibly large Finnish following.
With trusty devil horns in the air, Billy instructed the fans on one side of the their onlookers to “kill all the other fuckers” on the other side which got me giddy and excited for that good old-fashioned Testament savagery. I wholeheartedly look down on those who skipped this legendary band, you can’t beat history in the making, respect your elders! Native Blood was probably my choice of the action and the only negative is that they ended too soon. Testament – it’s always a pleasure!
A Black Metal pleasure, the Polish Behemoth is kind of a guaranteed success. With them in the house you will get a good show, they never disappoint and that has been proven at Tuska once again. People watching them from outside the tent even shows that there is no doubt about this status in Finland either. The last years the band has focused on some small releases and while waiting on something new some compilations came by. Opening with “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” the band got a lot of attention.
Some fire details, some show… It is an exciting story in the collection of Behemoth as the band has a style, but varies with it to keep that interesting. Although the set of this show was focused to promote these songs of the latest releases mainly the band closed their set with an encore that brought some Behemoth classics to the tent. It seems like Behemoth does not have to put in a lot of effort for people to pick it up, but the simply never cease to do so. Winners for sure!
While some bands are more fun to listen to via Spotify and then lose their lustre on stage, Beast in Black did the exact opposite. I would go to see these guys any day of the week and I honestly had so much fun watching them do their thing! “Out On The Streets” was absolutely brilliant and the unfaltering vocals were a very welcome sound when so many other bands of their proposed octave range fail when it comes to performing live.
Unfortunately for the band that were winning my previously unsure affection, they had two guitar strings break during their performance at the Inferno stage which interrupted their flow and had the sizable crowd waiting a few minutes between two songs. Yes, they still claimed to complete their set list, but it broke the moment and these are the times you differentiate between a good guitar tech side of stage that preempts these problems.
Avantasia was closing the day. The mainstage was well decorated and gives space to the line up filled with Metal heroes to join Avantasia in this show. The album of Avantasia “Ghostlights” came out in January and this tour is to support that. A special show, as you don’t get to see all of them together every day. Amanda Sommerville has an interesting role in it. Her voice is not always on the foreground but is embracing pretty much all of them males that are entering stage.
Michael Kiske of Helloween is one of the people who are welcomed wildly here in Finland. He duets with Tobias of Avantasia very well, the two of them seem to have an enormous amount of fun doing this. Jorn Lande and Ronnie Atkins are also giving act the presence.
It is clear that this act is well thought of. The whole puts together in a great way although sometimes it is just a pity to see a vocalist for only so little time. An unique experience for the fans!
The day was over by this show, but two more days are ahead and much to enjoy!
Reviewed and photographed by Aoife DT:
Cattle Decapitation, Blaakyum, Mantar, Lordi, Bendover, Kvelertak, Testament, Beast in Black
Reviewed and photographed by Sabine van Gameren:
Frosttide, Delain, Whorion, Swallow The Sun, Cain’s Offering, Man With A Mission, Behemoth, Avantasia
Link to day 2
Link to day 3