Tuska 2015 review (Updated with Tuska 2016 preview)

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Tuska 2015 logo
Photo: Tuska

Helsinki, late June, lots of long-haired people dressed in black.. that’s right, it can only mean one thing: Tuska time! Three days of metal in a rather relaxed atmosphere, three stages, total of 42 bands performing and around 10 000 metalheads per day having a great time. Hard to go wrong with that recipe, huh? Once again this year offered a wide range of different subgenres of metal plus a couple of amusing non-metal acts, of which you can read more about a bit later on. This year the major improvement in the festival arrangements was the food options. At previous Tuskas one could only dream about getting a tasty snack during the day. There were some delicious falafels, decent Asian food and a good selection of other options even including actual a la carte menus at the Black Dining indoor restaurant. As an interesting new thing to offer there was also the free sauna at the festival area. It was a military grade tent with a good amount of heat in where one could relax properly in the middle of all the festival craziness.

Tuska Day 1: Friday

A year had passed again since the metalheads were let into having their Tuska fun on the Suvilahti grounds in Helsinki. My festival excitement was getting high just seeing all the happy people outside the festival site just hanging out by the entrance or queuing up a little to get in. The doors opened at 2pm on Friday and for me the first interesting band to play was Ghost Brigade on the second stage shortly after.

Such bleak music on a perfectly sunny weather might not always work but Ghost Brigade really managed to play an intense 45min set. They started with “Wretched Blues”, the great opener of their latest (and sadly possibly last) album “IV: One with the Storm”. With their usual style of just playing the songs and skipping the between-the-songs banter they managed to fit the 10 minute song minute “Electra Complex” in the set. This was such a nice surprise and a definite personal highlight of the set. They ended the set with the Finnish sung crowd pleaser tune “Elämä on tulta”.

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Ghost Brigade
Photo: Tini Lorey

Before Blues Pills had been announced to play this year not many would have guessed it was going to happen. However lots of metal people are actually into them and their female-fronted bluesy heavy rock has quite a bit of crossover appeal. I’d call it good move by the festival organizers. They probably made quite a few new fans with their show. The frontwoman Elin Larsson really rocked and put on a fabulous display of soaring vocals. I also give my respect to the guitarist for the soulful playing. The drummer really proved it’s possible to get a really good groove going on even with an extremely simple drum kit.

Three years ago Lamb of God had to cancel their Tuska show due to the singer Randy Blythe getting arrested a couple of days before (and thankfully eventually was not found guilty for the manslaughter he was accused of). For many this was the most-waited set of the day. The Americans sure kicked it off with a lot of energy. The energy quickly moved to the audience with massive circle pits, wall of deaths and a whole lot of headbanging going on throughout the concert. Having never been the biggest fan of the band I enjoyed the energy a lot but the songs started to sound a bit too similar to each other. Therefore after a few songs I opted to go look for some friends I hadn’t managed to see at this Tuska yet.

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Lamb of God
Photo: Tini Lorey

Right after Lamb of God more heavy stuff was coming up on the second stage! The thrash legends played a well-balanced set of the best songs from their latest output “Blood In, Blood Out” and some 80s classic songs from Bonded by Blood and Fabulous Disaster. Steve “Zetro” Souza had re-joined Exodus for the second time in 2014 and it was a pleasure to see him in action. He handled the vocals smoothly (if one can say that about the vocals in a thrash band). This year’s edition of the festival didn’t have a whole lot of thrash metal and Exodus did a great job to represent the genre.

Sabaton managed to get a headlining spot with their recent rise to be one of the most popular bands in the whole European metal scene. One might argue about the quality of their music but it’s hard to not admit them being one of the most entertaining live acts these days. What’s not to like? All of the non-drumming members are running around the stage clearly having a good time, lots of jokes thrown around between the songs by the singer Joakim, the drumkit is placed inside an epic size tank, there are pyrotechnics etc.. a lot of positive things for sure. They also know how to get the Finns rocking by playing the songs they have about Finnish war heroism. Aside from the few technical issues in the beginning of the set was fluently executed. What’s most important is that it helped a big part of the audience leave the festival with a smile on their face - therefore it was more than a fitting end to day one!

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Sabaton
Photo: Tini Lorey

Tuska Day 2: Saturday

As usual for Tuska the sun started shining moments before the doors opened on Saturday. With Bloodbath and Ne Obliviscaris playing already around 2 and 3pm my hopes were high for this being one of the most impressive beginnings for a Tuska day in a long time.

Bloodbath started it all playing the main stage. Even if they were playing really early the area was filling up nicely. Ever since Nick Holmes (of Paradise Lost) had been announced to be the vocalist of Bloodbath many had been wondering if he can actually perform all the growling vocals live. I was one of the doubters but from the first notes I was all sold that he is a great fit for the band. He may not be the most active frontman ever but the vocal outcome was enough to impress the crowd. The rest of the band was really tight too playing their brand of Swedish death metal. Cutting bullshit between the songs to minimal they managed to play 12 songs on their 50 minute set, good job!

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Bloodbath
Photo: Tini Lorey

Huge thanks for the Tuska organizers for being brave and giving such unknown progressive outfit as Ne Obliviscaris the sort of slot I believe they deserve. A 60 minute set on the main stage for these Australian guys was more than I ever could have expected when they were first announced to play Tuska. The most differentiating thing between Ne Obliviscaris and other progressive death metal bands must be having a violin as lead instrument. They have two singers from which Xenyor does the growling and Tim Charles the lead vocals. In addition to singing Tim also handles the violin. Their music isn’t exactly easy to get into with the songs being really long and very progressive kind. It tells a lot about the song lengths and the progressive nature of their music that they only played 5 songs on the one hour set. It was just awesome to see how big of a crowd such unknown and progressive band had and how people appreciated their extremely impressive set! One of my all-time fave Tuska performances for sure. With such a success there should be a lot of hope to get them back to Helsinki to play a headlining club concert when they go on an European headlining tour next time.

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Ne Obliviscaris
Photo: Tini Lorey

Next up was one of the most classic Finnish metal albums, Amorphis’ “Tales from the Thousand Lakes”, being performed all the way from the atmospheric intro “Thousand Lakes” until the hypnotic album closer “Magic and Mayhem”. This truly is a special album and the way it was performed with the Amorphis lineup nowadays did good justice to the original. If I had one thing to nitpick about it would have been even better had Ville Tuomi joined to do the clean vocals as he did them on the album. However it was an added bonus that the former Amorphis singer, current guitarist Tomi Koivusaari did some growls in a few songs. It must have been quite a while since he had done that last time. After finishing the album they graced the audience with playing more old school stuff by ending the set with “Vulgar Necrolatry”, “Better Unborn”, “My Kantele” and “Folk of the North”. Quite a way to use a 65 minute festival set!

One of the most surprising bookings ever for the festival was about to perform. Atomirotta consists of a keyboardist/sampler guy, a vocalist and a guitar player. They play sort of a mixture of rock and rap but sometimes it’s also bluesy and sometimes reggaeish, and so on. In any case they are quite a potpourri of different genres and it was rather confusing to see actual rapping going on at Tuska. Most of the true metal people probably had a lot against them but those with more open taste in music checking out their show got to see an entertaining show. When playing rock and metal festival I’d suggest them to have a live drummer to give the show some more rocking edge.

Abbath! Abbath! The man is a legend alright? This was quite a special occasion due to the show being his first ever as solo artist. The setlist was mostly Immortal songs because his debut solo album wasn’t finished yet. Hence it made sense to concentrate on the songs people would actually be familiar with. For some reason the sound wasn’t exactly good unlike most of the other shows at the fest. For someone not familiar enough with the Immortal songs Abbath’s legendary stage antics weren’t enough to keep me watching the show for long.

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Abbath
Photo: Tini Lorey

Having checked the expected setlist for the Saturday headliner In Flames I had no need to actually see them perform. It was basically only going to be songs from the last 10 years therefore having them as background music only would do just fine. Having fun times with friends at the beer area with a few looks towards the stage every now and then turned out to be a good idea. They played all of two songs from Clayman and everything else was newer material I never gathered much interested for. What really matters from a bigger perspective is that a good chunk of the Tuska crowd seemed to be really into the In Flames show. There was more crowdsurfing happening than usually at Tuska and the circle pits gathered a good turnout too.

All in all it was a great day and at the end of the day I was still extremely satisfied especially about the Ne Obliviscaris show. Was already really looking forward to Sunday with a lot of acts I wanted to see!

Tuska Day 3: Sunday

Much to my surprise most of our Tuska crew had recovered from the first two days to make it to the area to witness the very first band of the day: Mors Subita. For this up and coming band it must have been their career highlight so far to get to play Tuska, and they even made it to the main stage! This turned out to be a quality move from the organizers because these guys put on a sharp, energetic show with their melodic death metal.

Next up was a band who plays a concert or two every few years, Warmen. The name comes from the names of the brothers Antti Wirman and Janne “Warman” Wirman, mainly known as the keyboardist of Children of Bodom. Despite the few live shows Warmen already have 5 albums out. Similar to their studio albums the live performance also consisted of both original and cover songs with a selection of some Finnish rock and metal singers joining the players on stage. On this show it was Pasi Rantanen (of Thunderstone fame), Jonna Geagea (mostly known in Finland from her late 90s pop group Nylon Boat) and as the biggest surprise Alexi Laiho (without a guitar!). A fun set with everyone clearly having fun on stage especially during the cover numbers, which for many were the highlights of the set. My personal faves were Journey’s “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) by Pasi Rantanen and the set ender “Somebody’s Watching Me” (original by Rockwell) with all three joining in for the vocals.

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Warmen
Photo: Tini Lorey

The only show I managed to witness this weekend indoors on the 3rd stage was a Finnish group called At The Hollow. They were definitely an oddball choice for a metal festival as their music doesn’t have a whole lot to do with metal or at times not even hard/heavy rock. Very unique music with the band comprising of a guitarist taking also care of the rather high-pitched vocals, a percussionist and a contrabassist who plays the contrabass most of the time with a bow. Their music is at the same time haunting, melancholic yet light and beautiful. I was in awe how well it all worked out. Looking at the faces of other people leaving the hall after the show I wasn’t the only one enjoying their half an hour set a lot.

There weren’t many female fronted bands on this year’s lineup. Having The Sirens in there was a delight due to getting not one but three wonderful ladies on stage. Anneke Van Giersbergen, Liv Kristine and Kari Rueslåtten performed a really versatile set with the singers doing some songs by themselves and a few with all three sharing the vocal duties. They were performing songs from their respective solo careers, current and previous bands such as The Gathering, Theater of Tragedy and The Third and the Mortal. As the set closer they also did a yet unreleased song actually written for The Sirens, which sounded rather promising. Both the band and the singers did a really solid job but somehow the crowd didn’t get quite as enthusiastic with the show as probably was hoped. One might blame the setlist for this because so many covers from different bands were played and there probably weren’t many crowd members who were familiar with all of the songs. Special mention to Anneke for being as loveable as ever and giving me the goosebumps - especially during the two The Gathering songs being played, “Saturnine” and “Strange Machines”.

Having seen Opeth play at outdoor festivals several times before I wasn’t all that excited about it beforehand, but somehow this time they managed to impress me quite a bit even at a festival show. It did help that the setlist included such three true classic Opeth epics “The Drapery Falls”, “The Grand Conjuration” and “Deliverance”, and only three of the newer more progressive rock style songs. Mikael sounded pretty good and the band played as tight as ever. Typical to an Opeth show in Finland Mikael was making the usual fun about the Finns. At least this time around he didn’t do all the talking in Swedes just to annoy the Finns!

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Tuska crowd
Photo: Tini Lorey

The festival was soon getting to the very last performances. Up next was one of the classic Euro power metal albums, Visions by Stratovarius, to be played fully through. Before the show I was looking forward to it, but when they kicked in with Forever Free I somehow didn’t just get into it the way I had hoped. As talented musicians as the current lineup has I felt like something was missing. Perhaps it was just me realizing that Timo Kotipelto and Jens Johansson were the only members left from the album released back in 1997. Also the fact that they were playing the album in a really random order was not what I had expected - it felt just as wrong as listening to any classic album on shuffle, certainly not my thing! In any case the hit songs “Kiss of Judas”, played second in the set, and “Black Diamond” as the show closer made me happy enough to have seen this show. They had only been given time to perform all the songs from the album so no extra tunes for these boys.

As the grand finale approached I sadly found myself getting more and more tired from three days of partying. Therefore I opted to sit down for the final act, Alice Cooper, and just enjoy the show taking it easy. He was really putting on a great show playing all the classics one would expect him to play and bringing some fun show elements on stage with the guillotine and all. It’s truly amazing how he is still in such a good shape and sounds vocally powerful too. In addition to his own songs he played a fantastic cover potpourri of “Break on Through (to the Other Side)” (by The Doors), “Revolution” (Beatles), “Foxy Lady” (Jimi Hendrix) and “My Generation” (The Who). His band was also totally on fire and especially Nita Strauss, the lead guitarist, managed to both look fabulous and sound most excellent! For the encore Alice welcomed Michael Monroe to join in for singing School’s Out igniting the crowd to party their hearts out with the last bits of energy everyone had left. Certainly a perfect ending for the festival! After wandering out of the festival area we ended going to have a nice after-Tuska dinner nearby with a very international bunch of festival-goers, a really nice ending for the weekend. See you all at Tuska 2016!

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Alice Cooper
Photo: Tini Lorey

Tuska 2016 preview

The Tuska organization has just released the final daily lineup for Tuska 2016, please see below. This year the festival takes place on the first weekend of July (1st to 3rd). If you’re new to Tuska a lot of useful practical information about the festival can be found from http://www.tuska-festival.fi in Finnish and English.

Friday 1st of July: Avantasia, Testament, Behemoth, Kvelertak, Swallow The Sun, Cain’s Offering, Lordi, Delain, Cattle Decapitation, Mantar, Beast In Black, Bendover, Man With A Mission, Whorion, Blaakyum, Frosttide

Saturday 2nd of July: Ghost, Anthrax, Stam1na, Turmion Kätilöt, Primordial, With The Dead, Obscura, Havok, Tsjuder, Thunderstone, Circle, Jess and the Ancient Ones, Lord Vicar, Omnium Gatherum, Brymir, Crimson Sun, Mørket, Fuck-Ushima, Embreach, Swallow The Sun

Sunday 3rd of July: Children Of Bodom, Katatonia, Hatebreed, Gojira, Diablo, Myrkur, Nervosa, Mörbid Vomit, Block Buster, Nuclear Omnicide, Swallow The Sun

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Tuska 2016
Photo: Tuska

Here are a few comments about the lineup and some hints which performances should not be missed at Tuska 2016.

  • Ghost: Papa Emeritus and his party of ghouls released one of best albums last year with Meliora. Proven to be a great live act so you don’t want to miss their live rituals at Tuska!
  • Avantasia: Headlining Friday there’s a quite all-star lineup which has already played a lot of big sold out shows earlier this year making the group even tighter live. In addition to the Avantasia mastermind one can expect to see vocalists such as Jorn Lande, Michael Kiske, Eric Martin, Ronnie Atkins and Amanda Somerville behind the microphone. This will be quite a metal opera for sure!
  • Children of Bodom: Last time they played Tuska it was a metal BBQ party on stage. Who’s gonna guess what sort of a theme they’ll bring this time? Rumours are saying they have something special in plans for Tuska, so all CoB fans better not miss this show. Going to be interesting to see how Daniel Freyberg is doing in guitars replacing Roope.
  • Testament: There’s a good reason these guys play Tuska every three years or so: they always deliver some of the biggest pits and one of the tightest thrash shows! Since they are going to release a new album this year still we might get some sneak peeks of the album being played live too.
  • Behemoth: The Polish black metal legends are bringing their “The Satanist” theme show to Tuska. Not for the faint-hearted for sure!
  • Katatonia: New album, new lineup - should be interesting to see. Maybe the new guys are bringing the band some more live energy? We’ll have to wait and see how their melancholy works in the sunshine this year.
  • Anthrax: Their show tearing up Tuska in 2014 got them a well-deserved re-invitation to the festival only two years later. Anyone who was there at that show should not be surprised by that!
  • Stam1na: Their new album Elokuutio is one of the strongest Finnish metal albums from the last few years and these guys are one of the most entertaining live acts, ever. ‘nuff said!
  • Kvelertak: These punky rock’n’roll metallers are back with a new album. Kvelertak knows exactly how to rock the stage and captivate the crowd with their punky sound and attitude.
  • Turmion Kätilöt: Did someone say party? Yup, when Turmion Kätilöt get on the stage one might be thinking “WTF?” for a while until realizing their odd mixture of disco, techno and metal are making your booty move like never before.
  • Gojira: The groovy progressive death metal guys from France release their new album Magma two weeks before Tuska. This amazing live band will hypnotize you with rhythms and their extremely tight playing. If you’re at Tuska, you’ll want to see this!
  • Myrkur: From the artist website: “Envisioned and realized by classically-trained multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Amalie Bruun, MYRKUR combined the rawness of second-wave black metal bands like Ulver and Darkthrone with a natural, ethereal sonic beauty. MYRKUR introduced a wholly unique perspective on the genre of black metal, one that immediately put her on the map and caught the attention of listeners and publications worldwide.” - Should you want to witness a pretty girl doing unique black metal live, check the schedule for the time when Myrkur goes on stage.
  • Delain: Delain will carry the torch of female-fronted melodic metal bands at this year’s festival. Watching their rather symphonic show will be a good pause to relax some between the rougher bands.
  • Primordial: Alan Averill is one of the most powerful singers one can both see and hear live. His performance and the band’s brand of rather melodic black metal with celtic influences makes them one of the must-see shows.
  • Obscura: These German technical death metallers are challenging Gojira for the most virtuosistic technical craziness going on at Tuska this year. With already 4 albums out on their career they should have a really strong setlist to perform on their first ever visit to Finland.
  • Circle: This year’s clear oddball in the Tuska lineup. It’s not metal, but it might still kick your ass really hard. Who knows what they’re gonna play since they have released like 30 album on their 22 year psychedelic career?

In addition to the main festival lineup the official afterparty club shows have also been announced! The following club shows take place at these venues and bars downtown Helsinki. An official pre-party club will be announced later still.

VIRGIN OIL CO

Friday 1.7. MEDEIA + support to be announced Saturday 2.7. EMBER FALLS, ONE MORNING LEFT, FEAR OF DOMINATION

BAR BÄKKÄRI

Friday 1.7. BLOODRED HOURGLASS, CIRCLE OF CONTEMPT + DJ H138 Saturday 2.7. LIMELIGHT SHOWDOWN, TOXICROSE (SWE) + DJ H138 Sunday 3.7. EVIL DRIVE, ARION + DJ H138

Tickets for the afterparty clubs are 10€ per entrance or if you have the Tuska wristband then only 5€ each.

Review & Preview by Aki M. / All photos (except the Tuska logos) copyrighted to Tini Lorey