Location: Suvilahti, Helsinki (Finland)
By: Sabine van Gameren& Aoife Towell
Tuska is a special event every year. Also this year there were many interesting acts on the bill, having Abbath’s world premiere, Amorphis’ special show and Alice Cooper who always has a great show.
Another year, another Tuska. I was happy to be back and looking forward to seeing the very first band of 2015, namely Death Toll 80k. There are some bands pre-Tuska that I research and some I don’t. Sometimes the element of surprise gauges a good immediate reaction, and sometimes I like to know what I’m in for.
Death Toll 80k being Finnish natives, I decided to keep my first taste of the festival untainted as I’m usually well impressed by the home-growns. Well, they entered the stage in complete silence to a completely silent crowd. One guy clapped. They didn’t seem to care either way. They picked up their instruments, expressionless and eyes focused on nothing. For one whole second, I even thought the singer was cute. Then he opened his mouth. Suddenly something was vomiting blood in my ears. I considered a language barrier, but then I realised he was just giving birth. I thought I heard a riff, but the guitar had somehow synced with the double kick. I thought I heard a break in song, but I think he just ran out of vocal chords. I thought there was a bird trapped inside, but it was just someone’s hair torn from their scalp.
Then in the midst of my vortex, after the bends and seizures subsided, I heard a human’s voice from far away say ‘kiitos’, and I woke up back in the Tuska club stage. It was in fact daylight still, I hadn’t died and the show was over. People around me were calmly vacating as if they hadn’t just been sodomised and lobotomised. I was confused and offended, and I loved every last fucking second of it.
Krokodil we were supposed to see earlier this year at the Buma Rocks conference, but unfortunately the guys had to cancel that show, so seeing them now was surely a must. The band makes a combi of Sludge and Progressive and do this since 2011. A debut album came out at the end of 2014 called “Nachash” and the guys are now here to play these songs.
What comes to notice is that the guys have not a lot more to say than the word ‘fuck’ fuck this is fucking fuck’. Time to fucking shut up and fucking play then, that’s what we fucking really wanted to hear! The guys do make an impression but it is clear that many are still a bit hold back on them. When they make the connection with Architect, playing the stage after them they win a little more sympathy and so they end their performance with a positive note.
Ghost Brigade is drawing the attention of the audience easily. By seeing how many people gathered for them at early time, you can see they are loved here. And all deserved. The guys serve us some Melodic Death/Doom and with way they bring the vocals they are standing out over the other names in this genre that also have their base in Finland. They have enough aggression in it to let it get you, but when the melodics are coming in, you are really on the ride. The songs are well composed and therefore it is not hard to like the guys, everything seem on their hands. Vocalist Manne throws his facial mimics into it to make the whole come alive even more. These guys are bringing a total package of sound, performance and entertainment. Certainly one of the highlights of the day.
Foreseen, with their self-expressed genre of Helsinki Crossover Savagery, were the second band to grace the club stage’s first day. The first half of the set I didn’t find very appealing – a lot of the actions and stage antics seemed a bit forced and annoying and although I didn’t mind their music, there was something about the band that was getting under my skin. As I took a step back, I observed them and the circle pit they had induced and found myself getting energized by their performance.
They were playing with an aggression that I have only ever seen in Finnish hardcore bands, yet they had thrown metal and thrash into the mix which brought it to a whole new level. As the set progressed, so did my opinion of them, and I found myself wanting to get back up to the barrier. They totally sucked me in. One fan got to jump off stage, and I even saw drummer Jori from Death Toll 80k letting loose in the pit. I’d definitely give these guys another chance.
British metal core band Architects took to the very bright main stage at about 16.30. The Tuska crowd stopped and observed behind their dedicated fans up front, but this didn’t seem to be enough for them. Vocalist Sam Carter commented that the observers acted more like they were watching cricket than at a metal concert, although with the sport only growing in Finland in recent years, I’m not sure the penny dropped.
A few sound problems to start off with, but overall the progressive group found their stride and got a vigorous circle pit going beneath them. I can’t say they were the most interesting band to watch, but I can say that their music is worth listening to. The all-vegan band members have made an extra effort to have distinctive sounds and methods applied to each album release which contributed greatly to a varied and differently paced setlist. In particular, Naysayer was the song I enjoyed the most, I’m just not sure how much they enjoyed themselves.
Alpina brings a bit of a fusion in the house. The band is giving us some groovy metal but like to serve is with HipHop vocals. And then you could of course expect it to turn to a nu-metal experience but that’s not quite it. Sometimes it is more likely to place them into a chart-like act, but on the other hand they can pick it up and become much more heavier. Themselves they simply call it Rapmetal. Easy as it is. It surely was an interesting show, a short timeslot for them only though but many seem to like the fact the guys are bringing something slightly different to Tuska stage.
Aeons Confer was the winner of the Play contest. Only German acts could compete. The guys are playing something they describe as ‘Modern Symphonic Dark Metal’ but is in reality not really something new under the sun. Some fans had traveled along which made the place come alive a bit but maybe playing here wasn’t the right time for something completely new and had they rather focused on songs that had proven themselves live already.
The performance is a bit dull also, they try to make it look very energetic, but hardly dare to move out of the starting formation which comes across as a bit forced. Good for them they got to play here, but they cannot live up to what other acts are presenting here today just yet.
A rainbow-coloured tambourine is not an instrument you would commonly expect to see on stage at Tuska, but then again, Blues Pills bassist Dorian has also confided in me that they themselves don’t know why they are invited to play the heavier festivals! Whatever the combination is, it works, and there was a sizeable eager crowd anticipating these hippie rockers to the second stage.
Most of the energy came from vocalist Elin Larsson, whose voice was on form and carried across the whole grounds. I have to say, I really enjoyed their bluesy psychedelic rock as a change to the festival’s tone, but having signed with Nuclear Blast you can see why their following is pulling them in a metal direction. With just one studio album to their name and as such a limited set, I was hoping for a bit more thought to be put into the arrangement as I don’t think ending on Devil Man was a great show stopper, but I have to stress that this band are really good, really liked and about to be really famous.
Enforcer from Sweden has no problems with making an impression at the club stage. They are fierce, they are energetic and people scanting their names way before their show has started. The Heavy metal guys have been active for over a decade, having their fourth album “From Beyond” out just a couple months ago. What speaks for them is their charismatic way of performing. There is interaction with the audience in so many different ways that they make you feel like they direct everyone personally and this is certainly a big part of why they have a fanatic fanbase cheering for them today. Musically they know to impress as well. Simply throwing in some riffs at the right time to shine and half the work is done. Good job from the Swedes!
Admittedly a band I was seriously looking forward to, Lamb of God walked on stage fully aware that they had had to previously cancel their last scheduled Tuska appearance in 2012 due to Blythe’s stint in custody. That fully behind him and his freedom firmly reinstated, here was a chance for them to wow the Finnish crowd chanting expectantly. With the simple instructions to pick people up and get fucked up, the set commenced and included the usual crackers such as Walk With Me In Hell, Now You’ve Got Something To Die for, Laid To Rest and Redneck.
We also got a taste of Still Echoes, a new track from their record due to be released in Europe next month.
Encouraging the biggest circle pit of the festival and urging the Finns to show them some ‘sisu’, the legends did not disappoint and there was a palpable sadness when they had to leave. Lamb of God were certainly one of the best parts of my festival experience.
The award for the band that spat on me the most definitely goes to Alfahanne, not to mention the beer throwing and fire directed to those (fortunate?) enough to be against the barrier of the stage. Besides a few sound problems, which was a growing trend in the Club Stage, the band kept their demeanour throughout which consisted of a moody, glum, serious and at times holier-than-thou effect – although I’m not sure ‘holy’ would be a word I could ever use in relation to the Swedish formation. Each track was named in both Swedish and English, and although the crowd was small, they were dedicated and just as intense as the boys themselves.
They kept the lighting down to a minimum at all times, emanating the dark ambience they were reaching for with their alfapocalyptic set. Aside from all the fuss and posing, I can safely say I liked their goth death metal vibe and they have a great balance to some core concepts of their genre ingredients. Intriguing would be the word, they certainly provided an experience.
Thrash metallers of Exodus are eager to play today. Started in 1979 the guys have quite a discography on their name to pull from but they have their main focus on their latest release. Though these are much in line of what we are used to from these guys the band is certainly pleasing their audience with playing the song “Piranha” from their ’85 debut album “Bonded By Blood”, an album that’s celebrating its 30th birthday already, which was enough reason to also add it’s title track to the setlist today, as well as ending the show with “Strike of the Beast”.
Exodus shows people what they have done, from their earliest years towards their most recent album, a travel through time that shows that no matter what new comes in, Exodus is always Exodus. A band with a confidential sound that after so many years is still relevant here today.
Sabaton’s headliner slot to round up the first day of Tuska 2015 was everything you’d expect from the Swedish power group. Who else could pull off a drum kit on top of a massive tank and smile as if it’s the most natural thing in the world? Following on from Lamb of God – who some believed should have been the headliners – the polished, matching and staged contrast between the two bands was palpable.
They entered the stage after the full track of Europe’s Countdown played through, donning their signature khakis. Of course they had their ‘bits’ to play up to the crowd, including the charismatic herculean Joakim Brodén attempting a guitar solo and playing the riff to Smoke On The Water. The fans lapped it up, singing along vivaciously and shocking the group with their response levels. Not to mention the fireworks, the pyrotechnics, the minefields… A few eyebrows were singed but the visuals did not disappoint. Sabaton were a truly great way to end day one and paved the way for a hungrier audience for day two.
Photo’s and reviewed by sabinevangameren.com are:
Krokodil, Ghost Brigade, Alpine, Aeons Confer, Enforcer and Exodus
Photo’s and reviewed by Aoife Towell are:
Death Toll 80K, Foreseen, Architects, Blues Pills, Lamb of God, Alfahanne, Sabaton