Tuska 2014 review (Updated with Tuska 2015 preview)

The last weekend of June Finnish metalheads and many of their international fellows gathered together again in Helsinki for the 17th edition of the Tuska festival. From a local’s viewpoint it seems like more foreign people make it over every year. That’s of course only a good thing – the more, the merrier in this case when the festival site has not been anywhere near sold out the last few years. This year there were no major adjustments with the festival area so for example the 3 stages were at the same locations as last year. The main stage (Radio Rock Stage) is faced opposite of the second outdoor stage (Inferno Stage) in the middle of the festival area. These two stages basically have a band playing one stage at a time non-stop. Then there was the third stage indoors at an industrial hall called the Club Stage. The sound at the Club Stage had been improved with some acoustical treatments and possibly some equipment changes as well. This was certainly a welcome addition due to the sound being pretty crappy at times during previous years.

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Tuska crowd
Photo: Tini Lorey

Tuska Day 1

The festival started with Ensiferum doing their folky metal thing on the main stage. Despite them being the first band to play a decent amount of crowd had already made it there for the party. A good energetic show by the men (and the keyboard girl) in leather. Sunny weather too, so this was certainly a nice way to begin the festivities!

It’s probably safe to say that most of Tuska crowd is missing Sentenced. Even if there’d be demand for Sentenced-sort of music gotta give respect to the old Sentenced singer Ville Laihiala. He is clearly doing his own thing instead of having his band Poisonblack sound like a clone of his former band. Poisonblack is certainly more straightforward rock style without many twists but with a good amount of catchy hooks. Here Ville also plays the guitar while doing a good job with the vocals as usual. Much to my surprise there was only one song played from the latest album Lyijy and the rest of the set were older tunes. Perhaps not the most exciting show ever, but their melodic heavy/hard rock worked especially well as background music for the first beers of the day.

By this point I was already anxiously looking forward to the next act, Phil Anselmo & The Illegals. I had previously checked out the debut album and had been majorly disappointed with it, but was still hoping live the material would work better. Sadly the same happened with the live show. Phil didn’t have his best day vocalwise and the band just wasn’t as tight as I had hoped. Well, I can only hope that it was a bad day for Phil so that he hasn’t completely lost his once great voice. I’m really still wondering how did they manage to mess up the Pantera classics (like A New Level, Primal Concrete Sledge and Domination) so badly that you could hardly recognize the songs. In addition to songs from the debut album and the Pantera songs they did a few numbers from Phil’s other bands like Superjoint Ritual and Down. Next up on main stage it was time for a BBQ party! Children of Bodom have previously had weird stuff as stage props (cars and such, which they had this time too), but having a grill and actually using it during the show is totally unheard of. They even had the Lost Society dudes up there eating and sharing sausages and serving alcohol as the official BBQ guests of honour. The band had also invited some fans on stage on some comfy-looking couches. The Bodom Beach Barbeque guys had chosen a nice setlist with really good variety between old and new stuff. Good to have old songs like “Towards Dead End” and “Lake Bodom” back in the set! One of the better Bodom shows I have gotten to witness with lots of energy and the guys enjoying themselves on stage.

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Children of Bodom
Photo: Tini Lorey

Having only seen Carcass once before (at Tuska ‘08), I was really excited to catch the legendary UK guys live again. They released a really strong comeback album last year and are still touring for it. Strong is also a good word to describe the extremely tight playing of these guys. Songs from all their albums but Swansong were executed flawlessly and a good bit of British humour was involved in the stage banter between the songs. It was also wonderful to notice how much fun these guys still have playing live and enjoying every bit of it. Wish they would have had a longer set than this 55 min slot allowed them to perform!

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Carcass
Photo: Tini Lorey

Closing the day on the main stage was Dimmu Borgir. Tuska was one of the carefully chosen festivals to get the full Death Cult Armageddon performance. “Death Cult Armageddon” just happens to be the only album I really like from these guys so it was quite the blessing to have that one performed fully. As one could expect the show was really epic and grandiose with all those symphonic elements in the music. Seeing a show like this gives a feeling that it’s like a rather heavy Hollywood movie soundtrack being played live. This includes their theatrical appearance being completely dressed up in fancy “metal” outfits. In a way I would say the show was even a bit too epic with all the background tapes they had to use to reach the big majestic sound. However that’s what you can expect from a Dimmu Borgir show nowadays and surely all fans of the band must have been happy with the show. I did mostly enjoy the Death Cult Armageddon part of the set but by the time that ended I had gotten enough of the symphonic theater. In any case this was definitely a good choice from the organizers to have as the Friday headliner!

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Dimmu Borgir
Photo: Tini Lorey

Day 2

After recovering from a very enjoyable Friday I was all eager for some more good times. Just like last year Lost Society kicked off our Tuska Saturday. Having a band to play pretty much the same time slot twice in a row is rare, but it only makes sense in this case. These young thrashers are just so much fun to look at and their energy washes off the hangover one might have after the first day of partying hard. They can easily claim the “most stage movement” award for this year’s fest! An even mixture of songs from both of their albums was played, with my personal highlight being “KILL (Those Who Oppose Me)” with its hyper-energetic live attitude.

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Lost Society
Photo: Tini Lorey

Why stop with thrash since it started the day so well. Up on main stage were the real forefathers of Finnish thrash, Stone. They have not released an album since the early 90’s but they keep doing a couple of concerts every year still. They still can deliver the goods, so for us fans them keeping the band alive is naturally a great thing. Janne Joutsenniemi’s vocals sound as unique as ever and all the younger thrashers can still look up to Roope and Markku doing some awesome work with their guitars. While this may not have been the most energetic Stone show ever, it was a really a solid set nevertheless. Keep on doing those live shows guys!

Then it was.. disco time! Yup.. the kings of Finnish Disco Metal, Turmion Kätilöt, are one amusing act. This time they actually had clothes on (something that’s not always guaranteed). Their songs and on-stage humour was on the usual twisted level. Seems like the twistedness works great for them since they easily had one of the biggest crowds on the Inferno Stage and many were partying like there’s no tomorrow.

The next two acts made a lot of old school metalheads really happy. First up was Metal Church rocking the main stage. Ronny Munroe had a really strong vocal delivery throughout the set consisting of songs from later Ronny-fronted era and their early albums with different vocalists too. Somehow it seems that Metal Church has always been a bit underappreciated or unknown for the general metal crowd in Finland – with this show they sure did their part well trying to get some more attention here.

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEER! No, I’m not saying it was or wasn’t the time to go to the beer area now but it was beer metal o’clock, Tankard style. Although due to the strict Finnish alcohol laws there may not have been as much drinking going on as at a standard Tankard show. Maybe next time they should be booked to play at the beer tent instead? Especially the first few audience rows and the moshpit area seemed to be having a fantastic time with the German thrashers even without the beer flowing. Good energy from the band throughout the show. Special props to the singer for having such an adorable beer belly!

Amoral has been around in the Finnish metal scene for a long time with a good following so it was perhaps a bit surprising they were playing the Club Stage indoors. Surely one of the biggest Club Stage crowds of this year’s Tuska had gathered there to check it out. The new album “Fallen Leaves & Dead Sparrows” was a positive surprise to me and Ari Koivunen’s vocals on the album were really much better than I had previously heard from him. As a fan of the album it was great that the first four songs of the set were from it and the band pulled them off great live as well. More than halfway through the show I started to wonder if they would play any older material at all. Right after that they announced they have a special guest, their old vocalist Niko Kalliojärvi joining on stage! Now this was a bit of a special treat for Tuska people. Together the singers gave a really powerful sound going through a medley of songs from the “Wound Creations” album and then ending the set with “Leave You Dead Behind” from “Reptile Tide”. I’m sure the crowd would have loved to hear more songs with Niko too! (Editor’s note / update April 2015: People will actually get to hear more Niko and Ari together because Niko re-joined the band as a guitarist and vocalist.)

Then it was time to check out the band who replaced Devil You Know on the last minute due to a cancellation. I had never been able to get into Shining (Sweden) and had hoped the live show would help me understand their black metal this. Unfortunately it didn’t really do the trick but I’m glad many of their fans got to see them.

There really isn’t a better way to end a thrash-filled Tuska day than having Anthrax to do it! From the first second of the show Joey Belladonna’s energy was out of this world and his signature vocals sounded as good as ever. Scott Ian can be really proud his band is in such an awesome shape after all these years still. Big respect to their sound guy too for a really big but clear sound during the whole show. Personally I pretty much got all my old school Anthrax faves played such as “Indians”, “I Am The Law”, “Among The Living” and of course the concert-ender “Antisocial”. Also the AC/DC cover “T.N.T.” Anthrax had released on a recent covers EP was played - and being quite a rock anthem it was of course a big crowd-pleaser. Seriously, what a fantastic way to end the day!

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Anthrax
Photo: Tini Lorey

Day 3

Still alive and kicking after two days of Tuska fun it was time for the last day of the festival. Unlike last year’s “Melodic Metal Sunday” there was no theme to be found for Sunday this year. Sunday offered us many things between power metal (Powerwolf starting the day) and black metal (Emperor ending the day).

Unfortunately it was raining all day so that certainly took some of the energy away from the day. That also probably caused the day to have a bit smaller crowds than the other days. Thankfully the rainy day happened to be the shortest festival day though, as Tuska always has less acts playing on Sunday compared to the other days. Our crew got to the Tuska site when Powerwolf was already doing the last part of their set. A power wetal band with masks on was an interesting sight. The masks gave the show a bit more theatrical aspect which actually seemed to work with the music. Can’t say I am much into power metal these days but after seeing the last couple of songs from this energetic show I was hoping I had caught a few more songs of it.

Insomnium released one of the best albums of 2013 with “Shadows of the Dying Sun” and thus it was well-deserved they got to play the main stage at Tuska. About half of the new album was played mixed together with a few of older gems. It’s no wonder the band has been playing a lot even in the States lately, they are just so good these days. During the set it was rather windy and perhaps it was the wind causing the live sound to not be that good this time around. When going closer to the stage the sound was fine though and made the show a lot more enjoyable.

Finally Orphaned Land got to play Finland when they got up on the Inferno Stage. Their career spans for over 20 years and yet it took this long to have them play here. The band was obviously happy to finally be able to do it too. Their mixture of oriental and progressive metal sounds quite unique compared to many other bands these days. If there’s something to criticize about the Orphaned Land set it’d be the use of so many backup tapes to cover the varied instrumentation they have on their songs – perhaps using a dedicated live keyboardist could help some with this. That small nitpicking aside it was wonderful having them here and I’m already looking forward to seeing them again one day. From what I heard from several people afterwards they got a bunch of new fans by performing at Tuska, good job!

For most bands it wasn’t really an optimal weather today due to all the rain falling down. However next up was Satyricon. Now for these guys the rainy weather worked great. It seemed like their grim music made the rain pour down even more. In their case this was only giving the band more energy to play and it gave the crowd even more special feeling to the concert. Really a tight set by the Norwegians and I don’t see how any fan of the band could have been disappointed with it. After Satyricon I checked if Neurosis would work for me this time but it just sounded so dull and monotonous I rather continued being social with friends before the festival area gets closed in a couple of hours.

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Satyricon
Photo: Tini Lorey

It had been previously announced that Emperor would bring their special 20th anniversary In The Nightshade Eclipse show to Tuska. Already this announcement made a lot of people ecstatic and I believe not many of them were disappointed when the Sunday headliner finally started. Clearly these guys had really put a lot of work into making the special show sound as perfect as possible as their playing was really spot-on. The main part of the show, the ”In The Nightside Eclipse” album, really sounded a hundred times better now with the live sounds than the 20 year old studio recording ever did. Hope they captured the sound of these concerts for a possible live release at some point. By this time of the evening on a gray, rainy day it had gotten dark enough for the lightshow to look impressive too. Generally at Tuska you don’t really get to enjoy the light spectacles that much since it’s always so bright outside in the middle of the Finnish summer - even when the headliners play starting 8.30pm or so. After the whole album was played the band did an encore of “Ancient Queen”, “Wrath of the Tyrant” and a really good rendition of the classic Bathory song “A Fine Day to Die”. So with Emperor ending their set we were once again done with a really successful Tuska in all regards. See you next year!

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Emperor
Photo: Tini Lorey
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Tuska 2015 logo
Photo: Tuska

Tuska 2015 Preview

So it’s April 2015 and the Tuska organization has just finalized the lineup for this year. The festival takes place again on the last weekend of June (26th to 28th). Time to start making necessary arrangements for you all to be there! Also the Tuska website at www.tuska-festival.fi has been updated to a fresh new look. If it’s the very first time you’re planning your Tuska visit here’s a direct link to the Information page in English: http://www.tuska-festival.fi/en/info

Here is the final lineup for each day this year:

Friday 26.6. SABATON, LAMB OF GOD, ARCHITECTS, EXODUS, KROKODIL, BLUES PILLS, GHOST BRIGADE, ALFAHANNE, ENFORCER, FORESEEN, DEATH TOLL 80K, APINA, MANALA COMEDY PRESENTS: ROBERT PETTERSSON

Saturday 27.6.IN FLAMES, ABBATH, AMORPHIS, LOUDNESS, NE OBLIVISCARIS, BLOODBATH, EINHERJER, BOMBUS, SOTAJUMALA, ATOMIROTTA, MORBID EVILS, TRYER, RED MOON ARCHITECT, ADAMANTRA, SHIRAZ LANE, SPAWN FROM DECEIT, DARKSIDE OF THE MIME

Sunday 28.6. ALICE COOPER, OPETH, STRATOVARIUS, MOKOMA, THE SIRENS, WARMEN, DR. LIVING DEAD!, AT THE HOLLOW, KYLMÄ SOTA, MORS SUBITA, MORTUS, CREPUSCULAR, ETERNAL DUSK, GREY, YVAEH, BLAST, MYSTIC TRIANGLE, METAL, MANALA COMEDY PRESENTS: ROBERT PETTERSSON

So this is really varied lineup with stuff from lots of subgenres of metal. Should have something for everyone! Once again the Club stage will be offering shows by many up and coming bands. Here’s a small wrapup about some of the possible highlights of the 2015 lineup:

  • Alice Cooper: Oh come on, this guy needs no introduction! Rather bold and surprising move from the Tuska organization to get him as the festival headliner closing Sunday. However most likely it will turn out to be an excellent move since Mr. Cooper is really defying the limits of age by still sounding so excellent and always bringing a big live spectacle to the stage!
  • Abbath: Last big name to be confirmed to Tuska. This won’t be just any performance but a world premiere by Abbath’s new live solo all-star lineup! In addition to his solo stuff prepare for many Immortal classics to be played.
  • Amorphis: One of the best Finnish metal albums ever “Tales From The 1000 Lakes” being played fully for the first time ever this summer. Do NOT miss this.
  • Atomirotta: If Alice Cooper was a bold booking for Tuska, then Atomirotta is an extremely bold one! Totally weird hybrid of rock and rap with Finnish lyrics. If you happen to be a very open-minded Finn and want some happy summer music then you should give them a chance – others, well, you have been forewarned.
  • Exodus: Steve Souza is back on vocals and it’s time to see if they can top their last Tuska show back in 2011. The material from the new album last year should kick some major ass live.
  • Ghost Brigade: If you haven’t heard the latest Ghost Brigade album “One With The Storm” do yourself a favour and check it out immediadely, one of the best albums of 2014! Their live show manages to capture the gloomy atmosphere of their studio albums so what’s there not to like?
  • Lamb of God: They had to cancel Tuska three years ago due to Randy Blythe being arrested only a day before the show. Now they are back with a vengeance and those events three years ago have made them appreciate live performances more than ever.
  • Loudness: It’s not all about being extremely heavy. These Japanese heavy metal/hard rock pioneers who have been around since 1981 are going to bring lots of joy to the festival with their setlist from their really vast discography.
  • Ne Obliviscaris: This just might be the first time for a violin to be played at Tuska. If that doesn’t sound progressive enough you can be sure their mixture of extreme/progressive metal is complex enough to satisfy at least the prog metal crowd.
  • Mors Subita: These melodic death metal guys from Oulu have been around for a while, but only released their second ass-kicking full length early 2015. If they are anywhere as good live this will be one of the concerts you don’t want to miss.
  • Opeth: They brought growling vocals back to their live show! How about Deliverance, please?
  • Stratovarius: Amorphis is not the only band playing a real classic Finnish metal album at Tuska this year. For many power metal fans Visions is easily the best of their career and now they do the whole thing live.
  • The Sirens: The lack of female vocals in this year’s lineup is easy to notice. But at least the most-expected female act this year has three brilliant ladies on stage: Anneke van Giersbergen, Liv Kristine and Kari Rueslåtten are guaranteed to give you the chills! Early reports from their tour say The Gathering fans should be happy with the setlist.
  • Warmen: Not many have seen The Wirman brothers play live together. Who knows what kinda all-star singers we’re gonna have this time? Pasi Rantanen is confimed at least.. perhaps Kotipelto and Laiho will join as they are at Tuska anyway?

The following official Tuska pre- and afterparty clubs have also been announced to take place at venues and bars downtown Helsinki:

TAVASTIA

Thu 25.6.2015: Preparty club with Turmion Kätilöt (+ support)

VIRGIN OIL CO.

Fri 26.6.2015: Profane Omen, Callisto, Carnalation

Sat 27.6.2015: Euge Valovirta All-Stars, Amoral, Essence (DK)

ON THE ROCKS

Fri 26.6.2015: Whorion, Magenta Harvest, Black .44., Metalrockdisco

Sat 27.6.2015: Fear of Domination, Bloodred Hourglass, Whispered, Metalrockdisco

SEMIFINAL

Friday 26.6.2015: Mighty Scoop serves Kyuss soup

Review & Preview by Aki M. / All photos copyrighted to Tini Lorey