Tuska Festival 2016: Day Three – Helsinki, Finland

Tuska Festival 2016 poster ghostcultmag

Day 3

Myrkur, by TJ Fowler Photography

Myrkur, by TJ Fowler Photography

Myrkur has generated lots of attention, and seemingly Amalie Bruun, primus motor, has received threats to her life for being a female musician doing the post black metal thing. It seems to be the ultimate blasphemy to certain individuals, that probably haven’t been there from the inception of the scene nor have they understood the rebellious primary foundation of the initial scene, where most of the legendary figures embrace both musical diversity and experimentation. I must admit to first seeing it as yet another cash-cow of everything that is black metal, like most things these days, it seems. However, with the release of her début album, M (Relapse), she won me over. Therefore I really wanted to catch her full set, as this would be my first exposure to her music in a live setting. Sadly, we didn’t manage to be at the festival site until Myrkur were in the middle of their set. Yet, even from afar, in between all the bustle from festival-goers elsewhere on the site, her angelic voice penetrated and created a welcoming atmosphere.

Gojira, by TJ Fowler Photography

Gojira, by TJ Fowler Photography

Gojira were simply incredible! It’s not the band I have played the most, although I became a fan around From Mars To Sirius (Roadrunner). But as a live band they are simply amazing! The level of musicianship, the songs’ ability to balance brutality and catchiness… It’s simply one of the best live bands in the metal genre these days, just like Behemoth. Both bands are able to create this energy that just makes the audience feed from it for the entire time the show lasts. With a set consisting of twelve songs, and with a good variation of songs from all their five albums, the show had a little for everyone of their fans. But maybe the most spectacular about the show was seeing them perform ‘Stranded’ live for the first time. That song manages to take some minor details and create an enormously catchy extreme metal song.

Tuska Festival 2016, by TJ Fowler Photography

Tuska Festival 2016, by TJ Fowler Photography

The mood was entirely different as we entered the tent stage again to catch Swedish gloomsters Katatonia. The band used to struggle live, but has since the mid 2000’s also become a live band worth catching. Their new album, The Fall Of Hearts (Peaceville) is really good, and it was nice to get to hear a couple of songs from it. The only negative aspect of the show was really that it didn’t last long enough, and that they neglected their back catalogue somewhat. Then again, they played ‘Nephilim’, and ‘In The White’, two personal favourites of mine, and two songs I never had expected for them to play. And of course the band played the hits, and by saying that, I am thinking of ‘My Twin’, and ‘July’.

Children Of Bodom, by TJ Fowler Photography

Children Of Bodom, by TJ Fowler Photography

Finishing off the Tuska experience: Children Of Bodom. Actually they seem to be more about calling themselves The Children of Bodom Hate Crew these days, which makes Alexi Laiho slightly come across as an emo boy at 37 years of age with mascara and nailpolish and an attempt at the teenage rebellion thing going with his image. Musically on the other hand the band are rock solid, and if you enjoy seeing keyboards tilted forwards to show off solo skills or you enjoy endless solos more reminding of power metal than extreme metal, I’m sure this would be the show for you. I, as you might have figured out, think Children Of Bodom are a bit too cheesy to my taste. I enjoyed my sixth serving of muiku immensely more than this last Tuska headliner.
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WORDS BY PÅL LYSTRUP

PHOTOS BY TJ FOWLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Tuska Festival 2016: Day Two – Helsinki, Finland

Tuska Festival 2016 poster ghostcultmag

 

Saturday was hot, and very very bright, and somehow the head had felt better. With a yearning for some sunglasses, it was time to get to the main stage and catch Primordial’s set. The band where one would think it was a solo performance with some backing musicians, but it has always seemed like nobody minds Alan Nemtheanga stealing the spotlight. Seven songs with what one can only assume is filled with the struggle of Irishmen and dissatisfaction with modern times – of course without any countering solution, but at least in ‘Bloodied Yet Unbowed’ what seems to be a defense and rationalization of black-and-white thinking.. But it’s good fun! And who were we to ever expect intellectualism or deeper psychological self-awareness from extreme metal, and to most of us I expect the intellect to seek out food for thought elsewhere.

 

Primordial, by TJ Fowler Photography

Primordial, by TJ Fowler Photography

Next up was Tsjuder, the festival alibi for true Norwegian black metal, anti-life anti-human, so on and so forth. Right from the start no energy was saved as the band kicked off their set with ‘The Daemon Throne’ and ‘Slakt’. What from afar looked as a tent crammed to the brim with people actually turned out to be a half empty in the front towards the stage. Apart from the disappointment in terms of turnout, it didn’t seem to have any effect on the band, who kept the audience on their toes throughout their entire set. In terms of putting on a proper show the trio may have fallen short though, compared to other bands. Not that primitive black metal was ever about putting on a show – or so they would probably claim –, but three guys in makeup on a large stage lacks a little in terms of the visual aspects.

 

,Anthrax, by TJ Fowler Photography

,Anthrax, by TJ Fowler Photography

Back at the main stage Anthrax was about to prove that age is no limit to putting on a good show. As someone said: “I’m amazed at how they still have all that energy and jump and run around on stage as if they were still teenagers”. Indeed this was true, the band were on fire! Yet, it was somewhat special to have crossover thrash metal legends on stage for ten songs, when one fifth were actually covers. Then again, their own songs included ‘Indians’, ‘Caught In A Mosh’, ‘Madhouse’, and they did finish it all off with ‘Among The Living’. As this for some reason was my first time experiencing the band live, I can’t say anything else than that I would sure like to be able to experience it again sometime. On our way to catch Anthrax we were also able to visit the smaller Inferno stage at the other side of the festival area. On stage Jess And The Ancient ones were seemingly pulling of a great gig, but staying at the smaller club scene was not an option when Anthrax were set to perform, as much as the Finnish band recently released a great album.

 

Ghost, by TJ Fowler Photography

Ghost, by TJ Fowler Photography

 

Ghost, by TJ Fowler Photography

Ghost, by TJ Fowler Photography

Finishing off the second day of the festival were none other than Ghost, the band that have grown to mega size over the course of just three albums. The melodic rock had people come from all sorts of places to catch the band live, at least judging from the people I was able to talk to before, during, and after the show. Where the first album was a bit more on the hard rock side of things the music has also taken a turn towards the more poppy. And there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just that love songs about the devil seems a bit far out there, and almost completely surreal. The lyrics could just as easily have been about the more worldly concepts of love, but I guess the satanic stuff makes it a little more mysterious, or something like that. I think it’s starting to become slightly cartoonish by now. That the weather turned full on Marvel with thunder and lightning as they finished off their set only seemed even more fitting.
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WORDS BY PÅL LYSTRUP

PHOTOS BY TJ FOWLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Tuska Festival 2016: Day One – Helsinki, Finland

Tuska Festival 2016 poster ghostcultmag

This was my second time in Finland, the first stay having taken place as recently as during last December. Back then I experienced Finland, all the way from Helsinki to Jyväskylä, as mostly pitch black or artificially lit up. The contrast to a hot and sunbathed Helsinki was immense. Was this what the city looked like in proper lighting? Was this even the same city? The architecture seemed typical Scandinavian, the people and concepts quite alike those I was used to at home, in Bergen, Norway. However, during the first hour after we stepped off the boat from Stockholm I had Muiku, a Finnish dish, basically consisting of small fishes that were fried, salted and served with garlic sauce. I was sold! This delicious genocidal maritime creation set the tone for the stay at Tuska. It might have looked like a bunch of sardines crammed together, and one might imagine it to be an experience easily forgotten, even one had wanted to forget. However, muiku, like the Tuska festival isn’t easily forgotten, and I have a feeling that the festival will see me again, probably with a tray of these delights of the sea in hand.

Cattle Decapitation, by TJ Fowler

Cattle Decapitation, by TJ Fowler Photography

Tuska was one smoothly run festival, everything organized and probably streamlined over the course of the years since its inception back in 1998. From picking up our passes, to buying beer in time for opening act Cattle Decapitation, it all proceeded with smiles and an air of general politeness. The audience turnout for the band of American grindcore purveyors was even much better than anticipated, and as ‘Manufactured Extinct’ aired from the massive speakers in the front, it seemed that all was set for a proper open air experience. Somehow, even though the band aren’t about theatrics or any dark overlord, Cattle Decapitation seemed a little off in sunlight. I don’t know what it is, but somehow sunlight seems to take that aggressive edge off the music, and it’s usually the only real drawback to these outdoor summer festivals that start early in the day.

Lordi, by TJ Fowler Photography

Lordi, by TJ Fowler Photography

On our way to catch Kvelertak we made time to catch some twenty minutes of Lordi. The band looks like something left over from the He-Man franchise in terms of the way over-the-top costumes and stage props. As for the music it’s pretty dumbed down heavy metal, probably catering to the fans of catchy tunes and sing along choruses. It’s easy to see how it gets a following, although for the ones among us that prefer our metal a little more extreme, it falls short of being all that impressive. Of the Norwegian eclectic ensemble of Kvelertak there was something else to be said. They were impressive in both sound and in how the minimalist approach they had seemed to get a huge crowd at the Helsinki stage (second largest stage, in a tent) going, fist pumping and headbanging, and even, from the looks of it, singing along to their Norwegian lyrics. Especially the songs off the new album seemed to get on well with the audience, and maybe especially so ‘1985’ and ‘Bersekr’. It’s pretty obvious that this is not the last Tuska sees of Kvelertak, at least not judging from the response.

Testament, by TJ Fowler Photography

Testament, by TJ Fowler Photography

The wait to see Behemoth perform the entirety of their The Satanist (Metal Blade) was shortened considerably by how the veterans in Testament made time a negligible concept during the hour they played the Radio Rock main stage. Twelve songs in total, and all the classics from starter ‘Over The Wall’ to ‘The Formation Of Damnation’ that rounded up their set and gave us five minutes to get to the tent stage and some real damnation. But first it was all about stocking up on beverages at the beer tent, and grabbing yet another serving of those lovely small fishes, muikku. It’ s like a good version of french fries, though it’s fish. Topped with garlic dressing it becomes the junk food of the gods – or beer swinging Norwegians. It must be said that the prizes for beer were almost as high as back in Norway. Granted it was probably 2EUR less than back home … And hey, I forget, there was also a 1 Euro return to be had if you handed in your empty can. I think I at some point paid 11 Euros for a bottle of Brooklyn lager. Now that is madness, and not just on my own behalf. According to my sources it will also be possible to enjoy alcoholic beverages outside the specific fenced off sections from next year, due to new Finnish laws. That means it won’t be necessary pretending to drink soda from paper cups anymore. Anyways, the partying was mostly in the parking lot outside the festival area. Everyone sat down on the lawns in the sun, played music from portable stereos, and from the looks of it most were in the good festival mood, were we all share the fun with each other. I can’t say that I saw a single fight or argument during the entire stay at Tuska.

Behemoth, by TJ Fowler Photography

Behemoth, by TJ Fowler Photography

At five to nine Behemoth took to the stage, led by mastermind Nergal. Flanked by bass player Orion and second guitarist Seth, and backed by drummer extraordinaire Inferno, Nergal commenced the task of delivering the audience a run-through of their last album, back to front. In other words the band did all of The Satanist, even the closing track, the bombastic ‘O Father, O Satan, O Sun!’. What separates Behemoth from many other bands is the professionalism, be it both in choreography, playing, and in general showmanship, be it Nergal’s communicatiopn with the audience or the stage props and pyrotechnics. They don’t just offer a concert, they offer an entire package, and ever since I saw them in the early 2000’s they have just kept getting better and better at this. Behemoth blew us all away, again, and even threw in three extra songs as an encore; ‘Ov Fire And The Void’, ‘Conquer All’, and the classic ‘Chant For Eschaton 2000’, from what has always been my favourite album, the ferocious Satanica.

Behemoth, by TJ Fowler Photography

Behemoth, by TJ Fowler Photography

As we tried gathering ourselves after being utterly blown away by Behemoth’s performance, we caught some songs from Avantasia. It seemed as if the crowd in front of the main stage were having a blast, but as this was just as little my cup of tea as Lordi, we choose to move on and into the night. Because when in Finland you do as the Finns do, which seemingly means partying till you eat table plants and fall off chairs, after everyone has helped emptying the entire tax-free liquor cache.

Avantasia, by TJ Fowler Photography

Avantasia, by TJ Fowler Photography

 

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WORDS BY PÅL LYSTRUP

PHOTOS BY TJ FOWLER

Blastfest: Day 2- Bergen, NO

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The second day of the festival had us all relocate to the bigger venue at USF Verftet, placed right on the waterside, which makes for a really good and picturesque setting for a metal festival. In a somewhat smart move, the organizers had put Taake up as the opening act of the day. This probably had more people showing up than what is usual as early as 6PM. The band showcasing a new drummer, and Hoest also having adopted a new stage persona in recent times, made this somewhat fresh, even to us locals. He has gone from the more antisocial approach to the more introverted and mysterious approach of the hooded character based heavily on the skull figure that has been part of Taake for the last ten years or so. When thinking about it, he has taken the part he played in Helheim’s ‘Dualitet og Ulver’ video and made it part of the Taake show. As usual he also has great fun doing the misheard lyrics thing, where he both says different stuff than on record, but also changes the lyrics completely at some points. So one gets an extra treat if one listens closely – and is fluent enough in Norwegian. After having churned out ‘Bjoergvin IV’, ‘Doedkvad I’, and ‘Umenneske’, Hoest laconically states some humorous, although somewhat sarcastic stuff in Norwegian, before they continue with ‘Norbundet’, Hoest being able to chug down an entire bottle of red wine during their somewhat short set.

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Right after Taake it’s time for fellow Bergensian band Sahg, playing in the smaller venue upstairs. They do indeed play in front of a much smaller audience, but the some three hundred people present are served a fireworks of musicianship, good songs and stage presence. Frontman Olav even cockily stating: “I will do this in Norwegian, but the lyrics will be in English, so you can all sing along, like you planned to.” And we are presented with all the hits: ‘Firechild’, ‘Godless Faith’, ‘Pyromancer’ etc.

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Going from these two great performances and into Tiamat was actually a bit disappointing. To point that out; I love Tiamat, but seeing them on such a big stage, this apathetic … It was extremely disappointing in terms of atmosphere. Sure, it got better when they played the classics like ‘Sleeping Beauty’, ‘Cain’ and ‘Whatever That Hurts’, but this is nothing like the performance they put on in Oslo during Inferno some years back. Maybe it was simply too early and too bright lighting in the venue for this?

 

After the slow interlude that was Tiamat, I ran upstairs to catch some of Exumer. They were quite brilliantly summed up by one of my friends: “This is like the works team version of Slayer.” And that really seems sufficient when it comes to Exumer.

 

Marduk never gets boring, right? Well, they are the epitome of generic black metal at times, and this time they were even late on stage. Let that be said, their old material is actually somewhat more entertaining, before they seemed to have grown satisfied with recording material of a fixed template. They do an OK performance, and one can enjoy songs like ‘Christraping Black Metal’, ‘Burn My Coffin’ and ‘Materialized In Stone’, but it never gets to be awfully exciting, at least not to spoiled Norwegians.

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The late onstage appearance of Marduk also made me miss almost all of Ragnarok, that I only caught thanking the audience before going off stage.

 

Well, at least the next band up was the mighty Triptykon, fronted by living legend Tom G Warrior of Celtic Frost fame. Seeing as the band starts off with ‘Procreation Of The Wicked’, it really can’t go wrong, can it now? Well, since they play all the Celtic Frost classics as if they were funeral doom, they indeed can. ‘Circle Of The Tyrants’ is epic stuff, but not at a halting tempo. Triptykon needs to understand that Celtic Frost and Triptykon are different things, and that the old Celtic Frost material is supposed to be up-tempo.

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At least it helps to walk upstairs and catch an actual doom band,a band that is supposed to play at a doomy tempo. Swallow The Sun have arrived all the way from Finland to play thirty five minutes of epic and gloomy doom. However, as they found out, things don’t always turn out the way one wants them to. The airline Norwegian managed to lose their equipment somehow, so they were forced to borrow instruments from other bands. This didn’t affect their performance at all, and they did a mighty fine job., if I’m to say so.

 

The main headliner this Friday was Hypocrisy, actually playing their first show in Bergen ever, which seems even more amazing considering the fact that they have a Norwegian drummer in their ranks, Horgh (Immortal), and have had him in the fold for ages now. As with Triptykon, the sound seems a bit low in volume, and it never really turns into the mighty onslaught one would imagine a band such as Hypocrisy would be able to put on. At least I had my first ever experience of ‘Roswell 47’ in a live setting, which surely counts for something.

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Something quite the opposite is to be said of Anaal Nathrakh that were headlining the small stage, the Studio stage. They did of course have the festivals crappiest sound, hands down. It was almost completely indecipherable actually. Yet, somehow they managed to pull off one of the better performances. There were people pulled on stage, some girl with dreads crowd surfing through most of their set, and a crazy moshpit going on. Dave Hunt, their vocalist, was also funny and misanthropic as usual, and it helps having songs like ‘Do Not Speak’, ‘Forging Towards The Sunset’ and ‘Between Shit And Piss We Are Born’ in any set list.

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Words: Pål Lystrup

Photos: StiPa Photography

Blastfest: Day One – Bergen Norway

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The first year of Blastfest marked the beginning of a somewhat risky adventure, at least for mainman and festival promoter, Yngve “Bolt” Christiansen, a guy you might already know as front man of the Norwegian death metal band Blood Red Throne. He gave everything to get this up and going, and to secure Bergen a replacement for the much missed Hole In The Sky Festival, that unfortunately called it the day back in 2011, after twelve years of catering to Bergen’s metal needs. OK, so we did get Beyond The Gates already the year after, but they had downsized and focused on “underground” acts like Nocturnal Breed, MGLA, Nifelheim, Aeternus and the likes of them. So the gap, the segment of in between bands like these and Slayer, was really not catered to in terms of a festival. Up stepped Yngve, risking both his car and his apartment in the process. Yngve is a guy who thinks in what psychologist Kahneman has coined “System 1” thinking; he is indeed fast, instinctive and emotional, praise Satan for that!

I arrived just as the very first band of the festival played the last minutes of their set, thus Tantara was missed, except for that one single song, a couple of minutes of pure thrash metal. However, that was not the case with Finnish black metallers Woland, recently signed on Indie recordings. The two bands would preferably have switched places though, because Woland were a generic black metal trio, most memorable for their vocalist not just taking off his shirt, but also for him doing Fabio poses. Being remembered for poses is hardly krieg, right?

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The next band on stage was Lakei, which is Norwegian for ‘footman’. They set the bar a lot higher with their perfectly executed take on the sludgier and groovier form of metal. They’re also a local band, and really stick out in a scene mostly made up of extreme metal acts, in a city maybe most famous for black metal bands like Gorgoroth, Taake, Enslaved, Immortal and Burzum. Next up was the German thrashers of Fatal Embrace, and boy was this fatality! The lead guitarist seemed to have picked up his playing skills mainly through viewing the Abbath guitar lessons on YouTube over and over, which needless to say made for a subpar performance. And when the vocalist boastfully declared “We destroy this house tonight – this is ‘Another rotten lie’ “, I simply couldn’t help but giggle a little to myself. Said vocalist, as pointed out by some other attendees, could probably do good from a little cardio excercise too, since his face became all red already halfway into the first song. There was a lot of heavy breathing, and very little musical material of interest to be heard from Fatal Embrace.

Fellow Germans, Der Weg Einer Freiheit, were the next band on stage, and boy were they something else. Perfectly executed black metal, good sound and a lot of people left looking to buy their music in the wake of their performance. Sadly they didn’t seem to have brought anything for sale. Although, one must question what black metal has evolved into in later years, when you have a band looking as if they just came from a seminar in C++ programming, even wearing some beach loafers on stage. The aesthetical aspect seems to be more and more neglected, which might very well work out on an album, not so much so in a live setting.

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Koldbrann on the other hand; they adhere to the old school black metal aesthetics, full corpse paint and all. That being said, the vocalist had an eerily similar style to that of Batman sidekick Robin. He still came across as far more dominant and commandeering than the vocalists earlier in the evening, and the band churned out really good versions of songs like ‘Drammen’, ‘Totalt Sjelelig Bankerott’, ‘Djevelens Treskeverk’, and finished off beautifully with their cover of ‘Russian Vodka’. Then came Myrkskog, for the first time ever gracing Bergen with their presence, and with Nils “Dominator” Fjellstöm behind the kit for the occasion. And speaking of this guy; what the fuck does he do to manage to play at such infernal speeds!? The same goes for some of the guitarwork of Sechtdamon (which you might know from Morbid Angel by now). Boy can these guys play! They raced through songs like ‘Discipline Misanthropy’, ‘A Poignant Scenario Of Horror’, ‘Domain Of The Superior’, ‘Deathmachine’ and ‘Utter Human Murder’, all flawlessly executed. However a chaotic sound production probably made sure one had to know the material beforehand to really enjoy the show. The last band before headliner Shining were the veterans of Aura Noir. And one thing is always certain about this band, and that is the certainty of getting a superb performance. Blastfest got a run-through of a set filled with classics, like ‘Blood Unity’, ‘Sons Of Hades’, ‘Mirage’, ‘Released Damnation’, ‘Condor’, ‘Black Metal Jaw’ and ‘Hell’s Fire’. Sadly the band had to walk off stage before they were through with their set, but we all know that might happen at a festival. So there was no ‘Conqueror’, sadly enough. Also, at some point during their set they had to play with only one bass drum, which Apollyon referred to as “just like at the circus”. Speaking of circus … the final headlining act this first night was Sweden’s Shining. Seemingly people implicitly agree with me on the fact that Aura Noir should have been headlining, because the crowd was much thinner during the main headliner this night. we got the usual stuff, like spitting blood and drinking whiskey and whatnot, and the usual suicidal lullabies. And they are somewhat lullabies these days, as it feels more and more like the band has outplayed its role, at least to those having already passed through their teenage angst phase.

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Words: Pål Lystrup

Photos: StiPa Photography