Text by Maila-Kaarina
The first day of the biggest metal festival of Finland came out and all those who attended had to be ready for something really big: 34 bands, 8 hours a day from 2-4 of July. Do you think it´s easy? Well, I say it´s not! Specially under a boiling sun and average temperature of 28 degrees Celsius which means a lot when talking about Finland and its very dry air. But I am not complaining, opposite! This is exactly the kind of tough days all metalheads would love to have.
But now let´s talk about rock because this is why I´m here for!
The 2 first bands of the day were Barren Earth on the Sue Stage and The Arson Project on the Inferno Stage, since I had to choose one and Barren Earth really caught my attention, I apologize to The Arson Project ´s folks but I could´t watch their performance.
BARREN EARTH – 13:45, Sue Stage
Barren Earth was my starting choice and they got on stage punctually at 13:45 giving me absolute no remorse for choosing them. Since the gates were opened at 13:00 and it was Friday, I really thought they would play for almost nobody. I was quite surprised to see the opposite, the entire venue wasn´t yet crowded but many people ran to see Barren Earth and every minute they seemed to get the attention of more and more people. It is a very good band playing progressive death metal with some folk influences (nothing exaggerated) and some psychedelic moments where the atmosphere of the songs may recall even Pink Floyd. Another very interesting thing about this Finnish band is that the line-up is formed by former members of very important bands such as bass player Oli-Pekka Laine (Amorphis) and guitarist Sami Yli-Sirniö (Kreator), Janne Petillä (guitar) and Marko Tarvonen (drums), both coming from Moonsorrow, vocalist Mikko Kotamäki from Swallow the Sun and keyboard player Kasper Måterson, who also makes good clean vocals.
Mikko sings guttural and clean and has a very powerful voice, songs are full of punch gathering very heavy moments with melancholic and atmospheric keyboards. Barren Earth was able to really set me up and connect all the audience to the right mood of Tuska. Everybody who watched them surely enjoyed a very professional, well played and heavy concert. In my opinion, together with Insomnium (review coming soon), Barren Earth is one of the big promises of the Finnish metal to achieve worldwide recognition.
Check them out!
TESTAMENT – 14:30, Radio Rock Stage
At 14:23, almost 10 minutes before the scheduled time for the concert, the audience was already screaming TESTAMENT, TESTAMENT, excited waiting for the kings of thrash to set fire in Kaisaniemi park. And they did it! At 14:31 Paul Bostaph was the first to get on stage saluting the audience pointing the drumsticks to the air and getting loads of loud screaming. Then Eric Peterson, Greg Christian, Alex Skolnick and Chuck Billy came starting what I considered the best concert of the entire festival among the 20 concerts I saw at Tuska Open Air.
”More than Meets the Eye” from their most recent album The Formation of Damnation (2008) opened the concert followed by the classics ”The Preacher” and ”The New Order”, both from The New Order album (1988). Then it was time for ”The Persecuted Won´t Forget” also from The Formation of Damnation and another classic from the same 1988 album introduced by Chuck Billy: ”You guys have to show us that you have improved since the last time we were here, you have to show us that you Practice what you Preach!”, next song to be played. One curiosity is that in the band´s bio it´s written that The Formation of Damnation can be considered as The New Order´s young sibling but even sharped and heavier. Listening to this beginning of concert mixing songs of these two albums you can assure it, they complete each other perfectly.
Testament was able to make us forget the strong sun frying our backs and heads in front of the main stage showing a great performance full of presence and charisma coming from all members who didn´t stop moving any moment. Eric Peterson and Chuck Billy are responsible for Testament´s legacy since without them everything would have been over when Greg, Louie and Alex left the band years ago, and now, more than 20 years later, it´s great to see them together again with almost the original line-up – only the drummer Louie Clemente didn´t come back and with all my respect to Louie´s work, I am not crazy to complain since Paul Bostaph is JUST one of the best drummers of the world (and this is not only my personal opinion). Eric Peterson´s guitar is pure pressure and Alex Skolnick is just not able to play average, he´s always much more than anybody can expect with his different way of playing, particular guitar timbre and wonderful solos abusing of jazz scales without losing the essence of thrash metal. Greg Christian cannot be left behind in these comments since his fast fingers and great slap suit Paul´s double kick perfectly.
Some more songs? ”Over the Wall”, ”Henchmen Ride”, ”Disciples of the Watch”, ”Into the Pit”, offered by Chuck to ”the guy with the pink hat”, actually mentioned by Mr. Billy at least 3 times during the concert, almost becoming a Tuska Celebrity. D.N.R (Do not Resuscitate) and the last piece of this amazing concert, The Formation of Damnation bringing the biggest moshpit I´ve ever seen started by Chuck with words that for a moment made me a little scared (I forgot for some seconds that I am in Finland and here these things work because people usually understand the meaning of the word LIMIT).
Chuck divided the audience in two and said to the right side: ”I want these guys over here to kill those guys over there!” – pointing to the left side – ”And those guys over here to kill those guys over there!” – pointing to the right side. ”Wait!” everybody obeyed and at this moment I kept my camera, pen and notebook in my purse and was sure that I wouldn´t be able to escape from that moshpit even if I wanted, it was to late to run… Paul Bostaph started the drumming and Chuck said the words: ”NOW KILL, KILL, KILL, KILL”. The moshpit started and many, really many people got in it but to my surprise, nobody pushed those who wanted to stay out. My scared face changed to smiling in a blink and this was a very special moment bringing back some of the best memories of my life, and if I weren´t wearing high-hill boots I would have gotten in that moshpit with no lack of doubt forgetting that my teens were over many years ago…
Just to finish, I started my journalistic career in a Testament´s concert during the reunion tour in Brazil, in 2006. I´ve been a fan since 1989 and they never ever disappointed me.
Hail Gods of thrash!
INSOMNIUM – 15:30, Sue Stage
After Testament´s perfect concert I was so excited that I thought of having a break, drinking something and resting for 45 minutes in the press area just thinking about the best moments and maybe starting to write my review before Tarot´s concert. These are those moments when giving the wrong step and braking your face are so easy to happen…but it´s good that it didn´t this time. Photographer Jussi Ratilainen had already told me about Insomnium and made really curious about the guys so when I met him backstage we just headed for Sue Stage to check the boys out. Missing this concert would have been really something to regret. The band is very professional and surely deserves to be heard and known by every metal fan in the world. One more band to get into my hall of ”Finnish metal pride”.
The band was formed in 1997 and the lineup counts on Niilo Sevänen (vocals/bass), Ville Freeman (guitars), Ville Vänni (guitars) and Markus Hirvonen (drums). Insomnium music shows us the scent of the melodic Scandinavian death metal spiced with some old school doom metal influences and also some thrash metal, which for me is really a plus since most of the bands of this style nowadays spice their music only with Gothic and epic stuff not leaving space for something rawer. I feel a lot of difference when watching bands who are proud to be influenced by the old school styles and are able to still sound new and unique, there is more passion in the way they play and we can feel the music much deeper. It was a pity that their concert lasted only 45 minutes ´cause everybody was really into it and surely willing for more.
Niilo has a powerful voice and looks quite wild on stage with all his headbanging, actually the entire band has a great stage presence and made most of the audience headbang and scream. The guitars are played with a lot of punch and personality and we can feel the influences of Paradise Lost (Shades of God, Icon and Draconian Times, no new stuff), My Dying Bride, Dark Tranquility but also something of Metallica from the Black Album era, and I don´t know if I´m crazy or what, but something of Iron Maiden also came to my mind although there is nothing related to Maiden on their music.
So, after Insomnium´s concert I was really delighted and almost sure that the first day of Tuska Open Air would bring me the best sequence of concerts of all days, even though that was just the beginning.
TAROT – 16:15, Radio Rock Stage
Resting? Who said this word? I-M-P-O-S-S-I-B-L-E! Right after Insomnium I just headed for the main stage (Radio Rock) to watch my 4th show of the day, 6th of the festival – as mentioned, Sue Stage and Inferno Stage played simultaneously.
Precisely at 16:15 Tarot got on stage and I was really curious to see them alive. Hietala brothers´metal band (yes, Nightwish´s Marcu Hietala and his brother Zachary) I´d say is one of the most competent in Finland and maybe, among those that have already a good place in the mainstream, one of the best of the moment. Best of the moment sounds quite weird when the subject is Tarot, a band that has been around since the early 80´s having Marcu Hietala (voice/bass), Zachary Hietala (guitar) and Pecu Cinnari (drums) together since then and 6 albums released. But music business is never something fair and achieving a place in the sun is always hard. Although the band has never been unknown in Finland and had quite good moments in Japan (they have albums released only there), only now the doors of the world are really opened to this great band. Besides Marcu on vocals, Tarot counts on another lead singer, Tommi Salmela, who also plays the sampler. This vocal sharing makes the music even richer since Marcu´s and Tommi´s voices suit perfectly and both have a great vocal range.
Tommi has a very good singing style and his voice reminds me very different stuff and hard to put together such as Bruce Dickinson, Ozzy Osbourne (Bark at the Moon mainly) and some real rock n´roll stuff as Lynyrd Skynyrd. Difficult to understand? Well, you have to check it out…
Marcu Hietala is always that great guy everybody feels like having a beer with. As a big fan of his playing and singing – actually I prefer Nightwish a thousand times now because he sings more (oops, maybe I´ve just lost some readers but I´m not a big Tarja ”owl” Turunen ´s fan, sorry) – is very nice to watch him doing his thing as the leader of his band. He sings A LOT and his charisma in undeniable.
Tarot songs are definitely metal in the European, most precisely Scandinavian, way of doing it but the hard rock influences are very strong, specially if we think of bands like Deep Purple (Coverdale era), Journey and Survivor. But don´t think the band is old fashioned, NO WAY! Important to mention the presence of the keyboard player Janne Tolsa (that Korg CX3 is something I really envy), great musician. Tarot did a very special performance at Tuska Open Air, opening the concert with ”Sleep in the Dark”, followed by their biggest hit ”I Walk Forever” and a big surprise, a choir led by the crazy conductor Mika Ryhänen, who uses a whip instead of a baton. This choir got second place on the TV show ”Clash of the Choirs” in Finland, and Marcu was their leader in the competition. They were part of the concert for around 6 songs and made a big difference to the performance. ”Satan is Dead”, ”Crows Fly Black”, ”Tides”, ”Calling Down the Rain” – one of the best moments of the concert and I don´t know if it was coincidence or not, but exactly in this song the bouncers started to sprinkle water in the audience, exactly as if it were raining since it was very hot and sunny – ”Hell Knows”, ”Pyre of the Gods”, ”Rider of the Last Day” and ”Traitor” were the pearls of this very good set list and excellent show. Tarot rules!
PAIN – 17:45, Sue Stage
One more band in the row, the Swedish Industrial Metal band which is actually one more project of the talented workaholic musician and producer Peter Tägtgren (Hypocrisy), the man who never sleeps, and if he does, he is probably able to split himself in two. Peter is that kind of person who is always doing several things simultaneously and only at Tuska, we could see him on stage with Pain and Hypocrisy, his main project and excellent melodic death metal band.
One very interesting thing is that Pain sounds very different from all things we are used to seeing coming from Tägtgren. It isn´t so heavy as his usual projects more backed to death and black metal and grind core. Pain has even something of pop and is a band you can easily listen to on rock radios and sing along the songs, the music is not actually underground although it´s very deep with lyrics that you should pay attention and think about. Peter Tägtgren knows the formula and never gets lost, he chooses the path, builds the way and will not walk unnoticeable, one of the big names in which concerns to music in our era who will surely leave a very big mark in rock history. Pain sounds great and is not at all a cliche band.
They played on Sue Stage right after Tarot, at 17:15, and the tent was so crowded that I could barely watch the band (my height doesn´t help much in these situations) but of course I could listen and stayed there during the entire concert trying to get a piece of look. ”Supersonic Bitch” was the first song followed by Dancing With the Dead, one of my favorites, written by Peter after the experience of having his heartbeats stopped for a couple of minutes during the same name album production. ”Zombie Slam” came next and is also a very good song in which the atmosphere reminds me a mix o punk rock with Sisters of Mercy, full of very different vocal styles. Actually this is a big plus in which concerns to Pain´s songs. There is a vast range of vocal styles from Guttural to more melodic, more punk, more Gothic, none of the songs sound the same. ”Walking on Glass”, ”It´s Only Them”, ”End of the Line”, ”I´m Going In”, ”Monkey Business”, ”On and On”, ”Don´t Care”, and of course the encore, ´cause nobody wanted them to leave the stage: ”Same old Song”, one of the moment´s radio hit in Finland and most played video clips in the music TV channel, ”Shut Your Mouth”, and pity, the end…
Pain´s concert at Tuska Open Air really left me with that ”I want more taste” in my mouth and this is a guy I really have to meet and talk someday.
The entire band that played with Peter deserves all congrats, excellent musicians who made everybody have fun and get wasted in the music.
Check them out and feel the pain!
DEVIN TOWNSEND – ZILTOID THE OMNISCIENT – 20:30, Radio Rock Stage
Last band of the day, one of the projects of the Canadian musician and music producer Devin Townsend, bringing a debut concert to Finland, performing songs of the conceptual album Ziltoid the Omniscient with the entire story on video during the show.
Devin got known in music world in 1993 when he toured and recorded the vocals on Steve Vai´s album Sex & Religion. With Ziltoid the Omniscient, he brings the audience an incredible show full of interaction and a very funny and intelligent story. Ziltoid is a 4th dimensional alien who has come to Earth to beam messages in the shape of videos and music. Ziltoid can bend time but to do it he requires the perfect fuel: the finest black coffee beans that can be found only in Planet Earth. It´s a great concert and this interaction audience/video/Devin is quite of an experience. It isn´t a concert for headbanging or screaming, it´s a performance to be watched and enjoyed. Townsend is a very charismatic guy and performs full of body expression and eye contact. His voice is powerful and he also has a great voice range doing several vocal styles without losing the tone even once.
To know more about Ziltoid the Omniscient you can check out his MySpace profile but really, watch the videos, they are great and funny. I recommend.
The second day of Tuska Open Air was also the hottest of the last 50 years in Finland. All day long the sun was shining and the temperature was over 30 degrees Celsius, so watching the concerts placed on Sue Stage and Inferno Stage was quite hard (Inferno stage mainly).
The first band of the day started at 13:45 at Sue Stage and it was the Finnish metal band Blake, inspired by the 70´s style riff tradition, showing some blues and progressive roots in spite of the modern and post 90´s style which can be much more felt here. I didn´t watch the concert but got quite curious after listening to very good comments coming from the audience, and although their style doesn´t catch me that much, they seem to have done a great concert. If you are interested in checking them out, the homepage address is http://blake.fi . I also missed the death metal band Sotajumala (http://www.sotajumala.com/) and Torure Killer (http://torturekiller.com/), this one I actually tried to watch but Inferno Stage was like a real hell on fire. The temperature under the tent was probably over 40 degrees Celsius and there was quite a lot of people, I just couldn´t handle it.
HYPOCRISY – Radio Rock Stage,15:50
Time to watch my first concert and really begin to enjoy one more true metal day with the Swedish death metal band HYPOCRISY, the main project of Peter Tägtgren, before mentioned on the day one review part II with the band PAIN (http://www.hardblast.com/resenha/tuskad2.asp).
Hypocrisy is formed by Peter on guitar and vocals, Mikael Hedlund on bass and Horgh on drums. Its master mind Tägtgren, who lived many years in Florida, was inspired by the best in the style: (bands like Morbid Angel, Deicide, Death and Obituary). Well, if you think of Hypocrisy also as being the main project of the man in charge for producing some of the best bands in the world in which concerns to death and black metal, such as CHILDREN OF BODOM, DIMMU BORGIR, THERION, CELTIC FROST, DARK FUNERAL, DESTRUCTION and IMMORTAL, you would probably agree that words mean nothing here. YOU HAVE TO WATCH AND LISTEN TO UNDERSTAND and I promise! Enjoy it!
Hypocrisy is at the moment the best death metal band in my opinion and they did an excellent concert at Tuska Open Air. My mistake here? Not to follow the set list as I should have. To be really honest I haven´t been a Hypocrisy fan for a long time, I got curious about them after reading Peter´s bio, which I was studying for an interview he was supposed to give me at Finnish metal expo in February of this year (which unfortunately didn´t happen due to technical problems before their concert FXXX!), but as far as I remember, Hypocrisy played some great stuff as “Pleasure of Molestation”, “Fire in the Sky”, “Let the knife do the talking”, a love song according to Peter´s words (NOT!), Warpath, Eraser, most of the songs of the album Catch 22 and Penetralia. It was a perfect start and a great concert.
Check more about Hypocrisy: http://www.hypocrisy.tv/
CROWBAR – 16:15, Sue Stage
Just THE BEST concert of the day and one of the top 5 in the entire Tuska Open Air for me. Showing what they were there for, frontman Kirk Windstein gave the order: “Hey Finland, I´m 45 and have been doing it for 25 years so, can you scream a little bit louder ´cause I can´t hear you very well?”
Of course everybody obeyed this metal veteran from New Orleans and his band formed by Steve Gibb, also on guitar, Pat Bruders, bass, and Tomy Bucklet, drums, a bunch of guys who know exactly what it means to play heavy and loud. They kick ass absolutely!
Crowbar is one of those bands I consider a big inequity for never being well known all over the world. They´ve been around for over 20 years, have 8 records released, one DVD and a long list of concerts all over the world. The only pity here is not to see them on mainstream charts.
Their music is a combination of heavy styles with a lot o thrash metal and hardcore influence and in this concert they dedicated songs to Peter Steele, Type o Negative vocalist who passed away at the beginning of this year, and of course, to our forever metal god Dio (R.I.P.). The concert lasted 45 minutes and all of us in the audience asked for and wanted more but unfortunately it wasn´t possible due to the festival tight schedule. It was impossible for me to follow the set list since I was really packed in the crowd and didn´t have how to take a note. Couldn´t find it on the net either, sorry…
Check them out and promote their work!
Next concert, Devin Townsend Project, the only artist to perform in two days of Tuska but with different concerts, on the first day with Ziltoid the Omniscient (http://www.hardblast.com/resenha/tuskad2.asp ) and on the second day playing a varied set list of his career. The concert was ok but I don´t have much to add here.
SURVIVORS ZERO – 18:00, Sue Stage
Finnish modern death metal band Survivors Zero was my next choice and once more a good one. Although I´ve heard a lot about them, a quite popular band in the scene, I hadn´t heard them before and enjoyed quite much. Vocalist Tommi Virranta screams very well and the guitars of Sami Jämsen and Janni Luttinen are full of power. My highlight here, though, goes to the drummer Seppo Tarvainen who kicks that double kick in a way that I was paying attention more to him that anyone or anything else during the entire concert. Excellent! Bass player Tapio Wilska also did an excellent job and Survivors Zero deserves the attention given. One more Finnish band to kick ass in the world of metal.
Check them out:
KAMELOT – 18:45, Radio Rock Stage
Ok, now it´s time to lose some readers and start to have some people hating me, of course among 12 headliners there would be one or two that I just CAN´T say good things about for several reasons…
I am not taking my personal taste in consideration here and this is really how I work whenever I write about a band: impartially, but dear reader, this one was not good, not at all, and I mean Kamelot.
I was deeply disappointed since Kamelot has an admirable work, very good line-up formed by top musicians and for many years in summer festivals has been a band I have only read good things about. I apologize here but however Roy Khan was extremely kind with the audience and sang very well, for me the concert was slow, with no punch, no emotion, and totally feelingless. Bad is not a fair word for a band counting besides Roy on Thomas Youngblood, lead guitar, Sean Tibbets, bass, Casey Grillo on drums and Oliver Palotai on the keyboards but that black heavy outfit under that 32 degrees Celsius sun cool the band´s feeling off. Nothing to say…
OVERKILL – 19:45, Sue Stage
Remorse, repent and sadness are the words that should permeate these next lines. I MISSED OVERKILL!!!! And if you already hate me for saying those words about Kamelot, now you should just torture me before killing. Overkill has been around since 1985, playing the real and truth thrash metal which I so deeply love. I had the opportunity of being 10 meters away from them, watching the concert in the front row and what happened? I just didn´t see them.
After watching Kamelot my back started aching so bad that I had to sit for a while. End of story…please hit me!
And if by any chance you don´t know what I´m talking about, check them out!
NEVERMORE – 20:45, Radio Rock Stage
Last band of the evening, another one I was really expecting: NEVERMORE.
Warrel Dane is one of my idols not only for his voice but for all work he´s done in the name of heavy metal since the 80´s with Sanctuary, then with Nevermore and his solo career, which I consider even better than the bands. Very good composer and lyricist, together with Jeff Loomis, a real guitar hero, Jim Sheppard on bass and Van Williams on drums he is the leader of this great band. Important to mention the presence of another guitarist, Attila Vörös, from Hungary, who is touring with the band this year.
But ok, I said before that I know how to be impartial and put my personal taste aside while writing a review, so here I am ensuring my words talking about this band I love: the concert was feelingless and quite disappointing. Most of the words I wrote about Kamelot would be suitable here and not even god nor the devil know how hard it is for me to say that.
Photos by Jussi Ratilainen