Tuska Festival 2015 Part III: Suvilahti, Helsinki FI

tuska festival 2015 poster

Warmen, or “Children Of Bodom keyboard player Janne (Wirman) & friends”, was the early showstarter for Sunday. With a vast array of lightning fast melodic hooks and catchy choruses delivered by a super star group of singers (namely Alexi Laiho, Pasi Rantanen and Jonna Geagea), what’s there not to like on a sunny Sunday afternoon?

Fans at Tuska Festival,

Fans at Tuska Festival,

 

The second full album theme show of the weekend was delivered by Stratovarius, who played their Visions album in its entirety. Honestly, especially in the case of Visions, if you’re not a die hard fan of the band that’s doing something like this, it’s hard to justify having the filler tracks on the set that they’d never play otherwise. It seems like shows like this would be better suited for a club environment.

Alice Cooper, photo by Timo Asoaho

Alice Cooper, photo by Timo Asoaho

Alice Cooper’s bombastic show saw all his famous, over the top rock and roll antics taken to the max. The slot was well chosen, as some people were showing some members in attendance were showing some wear and tear from the weekend. It was nothing short of a real snake, apparently borrowed from Mr. Lordi, a guillotine, and what have you to keep people’s spirits up before the day at the office tomorrow creeping closer and closer. Alice closed his set with local living legend Michael Monroe of Hanoi Rocks fame to join his friend Alice for ‘School’s Out’ to close the weekend.

The festival reported seeing 25,000 visitors during the weekend. It’s pretty difficult to pinpoint what it precisely is that gives Tuska its loyal following and good reputation from some other European festivals, but yet again plenty of Tuska first timers I had the pleasure of sharing beers with swore to come back next year – and mainly for the occasion, only secondly for the bands.

WORDS BY LH

PHOTOS COURTESY OF TUSKA FESTIVAL/Timo Asoaho/Aku Axel Muukka

Tuska Festival 2015 Part II: Suvilahti, Helsinki FI

tuska festival 2015 poster

Tuska is so centrally located in Helsinki that there’s no room for parking unless you’re looking to leave your bike in the bicycle park. Still, already by 1:45PM on Saturday when Bloodbath was starting their set, the festival area was getting quickly filled with an unusually high concentration of corpse paint wearing festivalgoers, most staying in the nearby hotels since the festival doesn’t offer a camping area either.

Abbath, photo by Aku Axel Muukka

And not really just for Bloodbath, but Abbath’s world premier show under his own namesake must explain the unusually high spike in face paint sales in Helsinki this week. For more info and full video of Abbath’s show, follow this link:

A clear oddbird for the day was Atomirotta, a Finnish act that would be best described as a mixture of rap, jazz and funk. Not exactly what you’d expect on the second main stage between Abbath and Einherjer. The booking, apparently result of a lost bet, was a testimony of the quirky & fun attitude of the team behind the festival that consistently shows through how the festival keeps being organized year after year. Very professional, yet always tongue-in-cheek.

The small club stage in the Kellohalli hall has always been notorious for its challenging acoustics. This year at least Sotajumala (Finnish for “War God”), which on paper seems like a very difficult band to mix with their speed limit defying death metal, managed to come crystal clear and produce a fantastic sound and a highly energetic show.

In Flames, Aku Axel Muukka

In Flames, Aku Axel Muukka

Saturday closed with In Flames, who had tuned their set not to just push their new album, but to really get the crowd going, opening with ‘Only for the Weak’. Singer Anders Friden made a joke how he’s been in Finland for already several hours, and hasn’t yet had a Lonkero, a popular local long drink mixed out of gin and grapefruit juice. Miraculously, despite all alcohol consumption strictly being prohibited to designated bar areas, an unopened Lonkero was thrown on stage somewhere from the depths of the crowd just seconds later.

Whispered, a melodic metal band with Japanese influences, took the stage at On The Rocks just an hour later. Opening with ‘Hold the Sword’, the band relies on a lot of backing tracks due to their symphonic sound, but also their mad skills with their instruments. Another highlight by this underrated band’s set was ‘Sakura Omen’, their newest piece that takes the band’s music to even further depths into a mystical soundworld.

Fans at Tuska Festival,

Fans at Tuska Festival,

Fast forward to Virgin Oil – another club just a few blocks away – where Amoral was kicking off their first show as a six piece, since the band’s longtime singer Niko Kalliojärvi returned the band doubling the vocal count of the band. Ari, the band’s more recent singer, and Niko would take turns taking stabs at older and newer Amoral material. Perhaps it was Niko’s more active stage presence, but this time old school seemed to have the upper hand on the new school.

To close the night at Virgin, Euge Valovirta’s (Shining SWE) All-Stars band came on playing cover songs with various singers joining them on stage, some more dressed than the others, which went perfectly well with the post 1AM showtime of a long and hazy weekend.

 

WORDS BY LH

PHOTOS COURTESY OF TUSKA FESTIVAL/Timo Asoaho/Aku Axel Muukka

 

Tuska Festival 2015 Part I: Suvilahti, Helsinki FI

tuska festival 2015 poster

 

Contrary to every possible weather forecast promising rain, Tuska Festival 2015 in Suvilahti, Helsinki was held during a scorching hot weekend of festivities. So hot, that the debut of the Finnish Sauna tent at the Tuska Libre bar area seemed a bit uncalled for.

Fans a Tuska Festival, photo by Tuska Festival

Fans a Tuska Festival, photo by Tuska Festival

Do people come to festivals like Tuska for the bands or just for the occasion? It seemed like this would be put to the test with some of the least star power of the lineups from Tuska the last few years, but with an increased amount of investments in the food stands and other attractions. The biggest worries of not enough people showing up faded quite quickly. Already by the time of Ghost Brigade, still during office hours, the area was getting filled up fast. A quick math exercise at the bar would set the course for the weekend – large, 1L beers would come off quite a bit cheaper than the smaller cans only third of the size – a dangerous realization a lot of people seemed to be making while queuing up on their first cold ones at the bar area fittingly named “Heavy Drinker’s Corner”. Ghost Brigade’s “Elämä on tulta” is an impressive track that when delivered with the band’s fierce intensity would get people on the right mood.

Fans headbanging, by Tuska Festival

Fans headbanging, by Tuska Festival

Lamb of God tore open one of the biggest pits of Tuska’s 18 year history, perhaps only second to Slayer in 2008. Hence it was questionable if Sabaton’s headliner slot – despite all their excessive and impressive pyrotechnics, and their drumset set up atop a gigantic tank – was really in place. The Helsinki crowd was certainly more hungry for Lamb of God after their 2013 cancellation due to vocalist Randy Blythe’s unexpected imprisonment in Czech Republic, whereas Sabaton is a more common visitor to Finland.

Lamb of God played two tracks from their upcoming album VII: Sturm und Drang, namely ‘512’ and ‘Still Echoes’, which seem to be continuing their well known sound that truthfully hasn’t changed much apart from Randy Blythe’s expanded use of various vocal techniques. LOG was as active on stage as ever, but Randy’s voice seemed a bit worn out – a small detail that didn’t take away from the intensity of the show. While Sabaton’s performance seemed more polished and rehearsed, LOG’s was just pure murder with no fancy extra toppings. The band dedicated the track ‘Ruin’ to their Finnish friends from Children Of Bodom, and ‘Now You’ve Got Something to Die For’ in particular to Roope Latvala, who’s departure from the Finnish melometal band was announced a month ago.

Sabaton, by Aku Axel Muukka

Sabaton, by Aku Axel Muukka

Sabaton, by Aku Axel Muukka

Sabaton, by Aku Axel Muukka

 

The bands at Tuska need to stop their shows already at 10pm, but the festival has also its official afterparty club gigs at various Helsinki venues, and there’s plenty of competing events trying to grab their share of the long haired crowd, too. Good advice is just to follow the buzzing crowd into the decadent Helsinki night.

 

WORDS BY LH

PHOTOS COURTESY OF TUSKA FESTIVAL/Timo Asoaho/Aku Axel Muukka

FESTIVAL PREVIEW: Tuska Open Air

tuska festival 2015 poster

The 18th edition of Tuska Open Air continues the legacy of one of the most iconic metal festivals on the planet. Held in Suvilahti, Helsinki, Finland, the festival boasts 2 large main stages, and a third club stage for shorter sets by up-and-coming acts.

Friday’s main attractions are the headliners Sabaton, and Lamb of God’s first Tuska appearance, making up for the band’s cancellation in 2013 due to singer Randy Blythe’s imprisonment in Czech Republic. On Saturday and Sunday all eyes will be on headliners In Flames and Alice Cooper, while domestic legends Amorphis and Stratovarius will play special theme shows to celebrate their classic albums Tales from the Thousand Lakes and Visions by playing them in their entirety. Opeth, Exodus and altogether more than 50 acts will play the festival and its official afterparty clubs in the Helsinki clubs Tavastia, Virgin Oil Co. and On The Rocks.

Tuska also continues its series of experiments with new concepts like Black Dining, a specialty restaurant for those with a darker taste, and Play Tuska – a contest that brings a rising German band to play the Club Stage on Friday.

 

Tuska Open Air online

Tuska Open Air on Facebook

Tuska Open Air on Twitter

Tuska Open Air on Instagram

Tuska Open Air on YouTube

 

 

Never Ending Journey: Jan Rechberger of Amorphis

Amorphis. Photo Credit: Ville Juurikkala

Amorphis. Photo Credit: Ville Juurikkala

With many bands out in the world of metal today playing full albums on a live setting, it was only a matter of time for Tales from the Thousand Lakes (Relapse) to be played by death metal legends, Amorphis. We were lucky enough to speak to drummer, Jan Rechberger, at Maryland Deathfest this year to understand why is now the right time.

“Well we had the idea because of the anniversary, it was pretty clear to us to play the whole album because it is considered a classic in the scene. It seemed like a good idea to play it in between the process of writing a new album. We’ve been playing a few shows, 1 tour through Germany and Switzerland along with a lot of festivals this summer, like here in Maryland. It’s been going really nice, only a few shows yet, maybe 12 or so but so far it’s been real good. Meeting a lot of nice people and getting good feedback from the audience, it’s been a blast.”

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Prior to the classic Tales record, Amorphis was known for a more traditional death metal sound but then they revolutionized death metal by evolving the sound to one of the pioneering folk metal sounds popular today. Jan reminded us that musical directions just kind of happen naturally.

“It’s a long process basically. We were basically metal heads at the time before Tales and just listening to metal really. After that we started listening to progressive music like progressive music in general and getting into bands like Pink Floyd, and Jethro Tull, and all those classic bands and we had a keyboard player so that probably changed the game a whole lot. It just started to happen when we jammed out playing our influences and coming up with a unique package. Like most things in music, these things happen accidentally at the end of the day. So it’s really a mix of our influences through the years and it’s a never ending journey really with more to come.”

Kalevala is a Finnish national epic poem of which Tales is heavily based upon. During the writing process of Tales, Kalevala strongly resonated within their creative minds. Over two decades later, is this story still as meaningful to them as it was back then?

“It does, but it’s something we learn in school as kids. It’s a huge thing in Finland, it’s like a national treasure in a way. And back then no metal band used it. Some Finish jazz bands did but it was mostly instrumental anyways and a lot of Finish composers used it as an influence. It’s been a major influence for artists in Finland. A lot of nice stories and unique stuff. I guess it was right after recording Karelian (Editor’s Note: The Karelin Isthmus- for Relapse Records) that I had the idea of maybe using Kalevala on maybe the next album and we did! We’ve been using it on new material too since Eclipse is basically based on Kalevala stories and characters. The new one and Circle are not straight from Kalevala but influenced strongly by it in some ways. I find it to be an original thing for us and feels natural for us to use as it’s something we already have. There were times where we didn’t use Kalevala in our music as we had other lyrical influences at the time on different subjects. I find it fits in our music well.”

Nowadays, folk and pagan metal as some call it is quite popular in the metal world and flourishing quite well. Many of these bands have cited Amorphis as a major influence to their sound and it is clearly heard in their own work. We were wondering if this comes off to Jan as a band “ripping off” the Amorphis sound and got a response after a few seconds of laughter that shows what kind of legacy they have created.

“Sometimes, but I do not see it as a rip off but more of a compliment. Like if I were to do hip hop or some other kind of music and some hip hop guy sampled my music I would be honored! Mainly because we were influenced by a lot of other bands. So if some younger bands take influences from us, I see that we actually created something that matters somehow. But yes, as you said, there’s been some bands like Ensiferum and bands like them that are friends with us in the first place and how we are a big influence on them. There’s lots of bands that remind me of our older stuff, but I find it to be cool. So I encourage the younger bands to keep doing what they like.”

TIM LEDIN

Maryland Deathfest 13 Part IV: Various Venues, Baltimore Maryland

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Unfortunately, all great things must come to an end, but there was still a solid day of heavy metal left to enjoy! Once again my cohorts and I found solace (and assistance to hangovers for some) in our now traditional diner for breakfast. Having been up late the night before, and an early start over at Edison, we did not get to the lots until right before Goatsnake hit the stage.

Goatsnake, by Hillarie Jason Photography Primordial, by Hillarie Jason Photography

 

Sunday may have been the hottest, temperature wise, of the festival and it hit most of the festival goers early. Next to the far end stage at the Edison Lot was a shaded area with picnic tables, many filled with metal heads with their faces on the table top. I held my head up while enjoying Goatsnake from afar and then got a few songs in from Primordial. Right in the middle of the Irish Black Metal band’s set, I did have to leave for a short while as I had an interview with Amorphis outside of downtown Baltimore. Fast forward a few hours and it finally hit me… I was exhausted, gained quite a nasty cough from one of the thousands in attendance, and was incredibly hungry/borderline dehydrated. Now at this point, feel free to point and laugh at your screens, but I went back to the hotel room, chugged some water, inhaled a fruit cup as well as a small sandwich, then took a power nap. Yes, at the young age of twenty-five, I took a nap on the final day of Maryland Deathfest. However, now energized, I nearly sprinted back to the Edison Lot to catch some sets by Demilich and Neurosis.

Neurosis, by Hillarie Jason Photography Neurosis, by Hillarie Jason Photography Fans at MDF, by Hillarie Jason Photography Amorphis, by Hillarie Jason Photography

 

After coming down off of a journey like performance by Neurosis, I made my way over to the far stage to catch what would be one of the greatest sets all weekend, Amorphis performing Tales from the Thousand Lakes album in its entirety. The piano introduction of the album hit while the crowd went into hysterics as each member made their way to the stage. Track by track they played, right through to the end of the Tales masterpiece of an album. Having caught my second wind thanks to my power nap, I was able to get through these last few Edison Lot bands before the Lot was closed until next year. After a quick rest and a short chat with Dave Edwardson from Neurosis, my roommate and I ventured once more over to Rams Head Live to watch the mysterious, yet terrifying, Portal. I had to pinch myself a few times to comprehend what I was watching as, yes shame on me, I had never heard a single story about this band, all of which were masked and performed with stage names. Playing under dim red lights for the whole set with strange videos playing behind them, the Australian five piece brought the crowd into a trance like state. One of my friends in attendance actually described the experience as uncomfortable, but awesome at the same time. Portal did not show any signs of slowing down as curfew came and went. The house lights came on, the PA was shut off, but they just kept on playing until the final note. Then, just like that, MDF was officially over. We all walked back in disbelief of the live stage show that Portal had to offer, yet also the fact that this crazy pilgrimage had come to an end.

Portal, by Hillarie Jason Photography Portal, by Hillarie Jason Photography

 

The drive home the following day was bittersweet. I was bummed that the festival was over for the next year, but on the other hand I was happy to get home and return to the usual daily life I typically live. Maryland Deathfest was my first show outside of the New England area and it was everything I dreamt of and more. I urge every person who is reading this to find time and money to make this journey, this pilgrimage, to really understand how big of a festival MDF really is. Now the only thing left is to ponder what bands will be signed on for next year.

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WORDS BY TIM LEDIN

PHOTOS BY HILLARIE JASON PHOTOGRAPHY