28-06-2019 Tuska festival

Location: Suvilahti, Helsinki (Finland)
By: Aoife Towell and Sabine van Gameren

Tuska did some radical changes this year, the entry moved to another side, the layout was somewhat different. It was only 18+ except for the sunday where there was a kids program introduced. Not all worked out well persé but Tuska proved a fast learning organization by making some improvements on day 2 after learning how things worked out on day 1. Most important, the line up was interesting enough to bring over 43.000 people to the festival.

Medeia is opening the festival. It has been many years since we saw the band in Tuska, but we were lucky enough to see them in the Danish Dark Mental festival just a bit over a month ago so we knew what to expect. Also, it is why we told all our friends to be early. This energetic piece of melodic Death is simply a pleasure to watch.

Here in Tuska it took them a bit more time to connect to the audience, there is some more distance and therefore one will take a bit but eventually the audience gets the hang of it. The album “Xenosis” seem to have landed well with the Finnish audience and we see some movement going on. Even though they were opening they were ending up in our top 5 of shows during Tuska. Says it all we would say.

Modern Metal formation Balance Breach was the first to appear in the clubstage. The band is formed in Mikkeli in 2008 and the now they made it to Tuska. The guys are charismatic as well as energetic. Frontman Aleksi is playful and has no problems in playing his audience, drawing in their attention.

They released a single this year which is called “Hypocrite” which gives a good summarize of what the band is about. If we could find a thing for the guys to improve on it is in channeling the energy a bit more in the music, to make it go deeper, there does not always have to be that much show, simply the music to impress could do. Also, the more raw vocals are coming out much better than the cleaner notes. Perhaps this could be a point to evaluate. To either grow on these or to choose for their strengths.

Flying the flag for the main stage’s symphonic metal entry, Arion grace the stage opening with No One Stands In My Way to the sun-laden early risers of Tuska. Known for their performance in Finland’s Eurovision Song Contest in 2013 with their first song Lost, they bring that cheerful cheesiness to their game on stage, complete with perfectly preened hair blowing in the breeze, hands clapping in the air rhythmically and  the powerful pipes of Lassi Vääränen. Looking ecstatic throughout their time spent towering over the crowd, the young Finns belted out their set which included You’re My Melody, Unforgivable and the final hard-hitting At The Break Of Dawn.

Then it was time to look at a remarkable duo to appear on stage. The duo Kaos and Spider are having guitar, vocals and drums to perform their Death Metal and perhaps at first that seems a somewhat minimalistic approach but the guys are surprisingly shaping it up in a vehement collection of tracks that are sometimes quite dark, but other more focused on the tempo to give its impression. For a performance the whole appears to be quite static, maybe not something one need to see a lenghty show of, but for a set here in the clubstage the guys are doing fine.

A dominant focal point in Finnish metal, Marko Hietala has finally taken the leap and launched his solo endeavor Mustan Sydämen Rovio. With his history firmly praised in his work with Nightwish, Tarot and Northern Kings to name a few, it’s time to see what the refined knowledge of the 53 year old will present the world with next.

Let me tell you, he lived up to his legendary promise. The set was widely varied, offering slow symphonies, raucous riffs and even some folky balladry that rounded his breed of metal up perfectly. Not to mention, through the whole experience, he looked like he was having the time of his life and relished in the crowd’s interaction. After greeting and conversing with them in Finnish, he welcomed those who had travelled from abroad and promised an imminent translation of his work to English! Clearly Marko has his own style, but I was positively surprised by his creative compositions and look forward to seeing more of his adventures in metal.

Pahan Ikoni played their Thrash. Last year they were part of the Tuska Torstai competition and this year they were on the bill. Nice way to get noticed, must have left an impression back then. They recently released a single called “Henki Hengestä” and seem ready to make an impression.

Their performance started maybe a bit timid, but after the first song the guys seem to be on an upgoing line with the energy and they had some fans along in the venue to cheer for them which certainly helps. Unfortunately we were not able to watch the full set, but we are looking forward to the next time the guys cross our path.

It would have been impossible – and sinful – to not have seen Battle Beast at Tuska. Their deliciously vulgar and fun methods are attention-demanding and never disappoint. Horn-donning, sparkling pyro and over-the-top freakiness is on the menu today, performing Black Ninja, Bastard Son Of Odin, No More Hollywood Endings and closing with Beyond The Burning Skies; finishing on a literal high note.
The vocals emitting from Noora Louhimo range from sweet and melodic to operatic to worthy of the horns on her head. Battle Beast offered pure indulgence in the world of powerful, dramatic and energy-fueling metal. 

Wheel is the kind of band that just seem to be there at some point and everyone knows of them. Yet the guys have been around since 2005, having English and Finnish members onboard. The formation makes prog and with this buzz going on they were high on our list to see. They did not disappoint. Hooded and armed up they entered the stage and start their set with a scent of mystery surrounding them. Also equiped with their full length debut album that came out this februari they are having plenty of ammo to give to their audience.

The calmth they can start their songs with and then build to a higher tension, but not without the guidance of the tender voice of frontman James. A pleasant lead, giving you the feeling to trust them to take you along and dig deep into their sound. A true gem, this performance. Maybe surrounded by a lot more heavier acts here today, but one that lived up to expectation and even exceeded it.

Texan crossover thrash punkers Power Trip exploded on to the Helsinki stage unapologetically, with a carnivorous insatiability for speed and intensity. The crowd needed no encouragement as Riley Gale told them to keep it moving, and I’d wager that it was the dustiest the tent got all weekend, as dirt was kicked up and swirled around maniacally.

Crucifixation was met with approving growls, when Gale noticed a seagull circling the roof of the tent, unable to find the exit and escape the madness. He exclaimed that this was different to any show they’d done before, because how often do you get a seagull circle-pitting along with the fans?! Hornet’s Nest followed and their set continued with such pace that they were able to fit an extra song in at the end. “Now spin it like a Texas tornado” was all the crowd needed to hear to wrap up the burst of rebellious energy with the glorious violence it deserved. 

Who does not know Anthrax? When Slayer is on their farewell tour, Megadeth brought down by troatcancer and Metallica being severly mocked on since ‘Lulu’ it is Anthrax that seem to come out strongest. Still around and as energetic as ever before the guys enter the stage. We can’t recall having seen any terrible shows by these guys and they did not give us that here at Tuska either.

Giving us Iron Maiden as an intro, the guys are also having some covers on their setlist today. But songs like Caught In A Mosh are simply warming the Tuska audience, obviously giving people a reason to start that moshing. In the middle of a guitarsolo frontman Belladonna quicky ties his shoelaces, because him being so energetic on stage can be risky when not properly tied. Shows the easiness with how he does it. The guys were not headlining here today, but could easily have done so. A proper show of them Thrash veterans.

If you’d been living under a rock and unaware of the almighty Anneke Van Giersbergen, you could be forgiven for wandering past the hall and wondering who the hell is singing Songbird by Fleetwood Mac… Anneke’s sweet and mesmerizing voice translates across all genres that she explores, exemplified by her presence with the Vuur at Tuska’s second stage last year. This time however, she performed a solo acoustic set of covers, and she was assigned to the smaller indoor stage on her lonesome. Honestly I think that might have been an oversight, as the hall was claustrophobic with the amount of onlookers. It does however clearly justify Anneke’s somewhat outside-the-box set list, in terms of Tuska anyway.

The crowd speaks for itself; there is nothing but respect for Anneke and her place in the metal community. Above the mayhem of the crowd, her undeniable voice floated and awed, covering My Mother Said, Wish You Were Here, I Want To Know What Love Is and, my personal favorite, In-Ah!; her masterpiece with Devin Townsend, who she affably called a “fucking genius”. Anneke is the definition of one-of-a-kind, and this beautifully simple yet powerful set showcased that perfectly. 

Norwegian Black Metal formation Dimmu Borgir were long time ‘the’ picture an unmetalhead would find when googling Black Metal. The band appeared to have a lot of young fans as their music has that melodic edge that makes it approachable. The band grew a lot through the years and seem to have reached a wider range of audience nowadays.

The album ‘Eonian’ that got out last year surely showed a band that has a confident feel over their sound and that the band evolved in their show also came quite clear here at Tuska today. The guys seem to enjoy their presence there today and although their latest release gets a lot of attention, they also played tracks that got them much attention before. “Gateways” and “Mourning Palace” are played which pleases the audience well. Good to see this show, the guys done well.

New Zealand formation Alien Weaponry has brought some rumour through the audience. The band makes Thrash but does this in their mothertongue Te Reo Maori. This is something that makes the guys unique, but if the quality would not be there it would mean nothing.

The guys have some chanting from the audience on their hands even before they reach the stage. The favor is returned and they come out. Energetic songs played with vigorious enthusiasm makes this band instantly pleasant to watch. The guitars are giving you some strong riffs, and combined with a steady backing by their drummer the guys are flowing through their set too soon.

We are the lucky ones that will see these guys a bit more this summer, because you never know when such a band returns as they are literally from the other side of the world. Hopefully the Tuska audience will get some more of them as well as they certainly made an impression here today.

The spectacle of Swallow The Sun is one to behold, and their performance at Tuska did not disappoint. Opening with the awesome When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light, their set was a seamless display of dark moodiness, ambient lighting and engrossing doom. Their signature stoicism still somehow exudes energy and I would honestly say that this was their best show that I’ve seen.

Their encapsulating air is undeniably masterful, as they create an atmosphere akin only to them using not only their music as a tool, but their sheer presence. Upon The Water, Stone Wings and Emerald Forest And The Blackbird left mouths hanging open, and they closed their self-made cave of darkness with Swallow – to the attendees’ delight. 

Amorphis

Amorphis is headlining and playing for an home audience is always a pleasure. Sure it is for us as well as Amorphis is a hard working band that tours a lot and never really disappoints. At first it raised a question when seeing them headline as one year they are put on an early timeslot and then suddenly headlining when it becomes convient is met with a questionmark.

But then you need not to fear. The guys have released the album “Queen of Time” last year and this album is to be played completely. This also includes the feature with Anneke, who happened to be there at the festival as well. So, an unique experience here at Tuska.
Closing the first day of Tuska, which had some issues and a whole lot of queues, but was sold out and a success when looking at the line up. Not really much bands to be critical about, so certainly leaving the day with a good feeling.

Review of day 2
Review of day 3

Links:

Tuska website