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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
WORDS BY PÅL LYSTRUP
PHOTOS BY TJ FOWLER