This was my second year at the Finnish Tuska metal festival, and it strongly reinforced the feeling that I should join this festival rather often, as it simply is an awesome experience. From the moment you go to pick up your wristbands until you say the final goodbye to the festival grounds, it all happens with so much politeness and friendliness that it feels out of this world. It was quite surreal that most of the guards around the area would smile at you. And even more, they would stand close to the moshpits area and help people stand up in case of small accidents. I only saw one dude being a bit forcefully carried away from the crowd, given some intense instructions and then all ended with laughter. No wonder that makes the crowd relaxed as well.
Some other positive aspects include the size of the festival (somewhere around 26.000 people for the three days) which makes it really easy to relocate and move around; the fact that you are allowed with non alcoholic drinks in the area, since it gets pretty warm during the festival days and there is also a trailer transformed in a tiny supermarket where you can actually buy bottles of water, juice, sandwiches, etc. There's, of course, a warm food area as well, but it's really great for those with low finances to avoid starving for the three days. There's several areas where you get drinking water to refill your bottles (I can't describe how nice it is of the organisers to do so, rather than exploiting the people's thirst) and you get free small Cola Zero cans at any time. A somewhat small disadvantage is represented by the fact that alcoholic beverages are sold in two areas, a bit further away from the stages, hence reducing the amount of crowd in front of the stage at certain concerts. I noticed it's hard to convince a Finn to put down his beer and go in front, as long as they have beer and can hear/see well from way back, in the beer garden. But the advantage of this system is that the festival is open to all ages and it's fantastic to see both the teenagers enthusiasm and the little kids enjoying metal music from the shoulders of their parents.
After an evening with a mini festival in Oslo (5 bands at the Fire Walk with Me event), I somehow managed to wake up at 5, catch the bus to the airport, the flight to Helsinki, be picked up at the airport by two lovely Finns (friends of my two lovely hosts) and we miraculously made it in time for the first band on the main stage, Exodus. A big help in getting there in time was the fact that the festival area is so close to public transportation that you don't need to walk too much to get in/out. But let's start talking music. The pure Californian thrash metal was all I needed to wake up and feel that I'm in for a good weekend. Rob Dukes & co knew how to demand the crowd to unleash some chaos, while being very intense on stage themselves. The show brought for me a moment of personal glory, as I captured a nice picture of the vocalist in the air. Yea, the day was totally good.
As soon as Exodus ended their show, a quick run to the Inferno stage (the one in a tent) to see SuidAkrA for the first time. I also heard SuidAkrA for the first time, and I admit I enjoyed the small bit I saw. It was a relaxed and friendly death metal with a lot of folk beats that added a lot to the melodies. The reason I didn't watch much of their show was that I wanted to catch Barren Earth on the second main stage, where actually Animals as Leaders were supposed to play, but due the fact they missed their flight, Barren Earth stepped in on a short notice. I discovered them last year at a show prior to Tuska, and eagerly waited for their 2012 release, The Devil's resolve, which continued the idea of their first release with cool death metal saturated with progressive melodic elements. Barren Earth is made up of members from bands including Kreator, Amorphis, Moonsorrow, and Swallow The Sun, and they managed quite elegantly to avoid sounding like any of the mentioned ones, yet still delivering quality music. The stage energy can only be received from the guitar and bass players, as both the keyboardist and the vocalist would hardly be seen moving. One can live with that when the voice sounds as good as Mikko KotamÃ¤ki's.
The main stage was brought back to life by a lot of good mood and power metal from Tobias Sammet and his musicians from Edguy. I used the occasion to meet some old friends, and when Edguy ended I went back to the tent for a short glimpse at the Lock Up project, with members from At the Gates, Napalm Death or ex Cradle of Filth. Exactly like SuidAkra before, it was a surprisingly relaxed feeling on stage, despite the intensity of the grind rhythms, but I guess that's how you tell the stage experience of each band member, experience that makes it comfortable for them to play no matter the project. Back to the Hellsinki Rock Shop stage (second stage), it was time for my first encounter with the stoner/doom legends Saint Vitus. And while there is still a lot of intensity in the performance (honestly, ruined a lot of by the daylight; it's really a concert for indoor, dark places), I understand why some people believe it's a miracle that they're still out there and performing after the long years of abuses. The bass player seemed about to melt in the sun, but the other guys held on and built up an atmosphere as dark as it can be at five PM in a city as North as Helsinki, where the sun still shines as if it had been about noon. A fun moment in the concert was when the St. Vitus folks tried to convince the Exodus singer (I believe) to come on stage, yet the guy ran back pretty fast.
Knowing I'd see the Americans soon in Oslo in a more appropriate setting, I moved away from the sun pretty quick and ended up at the smallest of stages, Musamaailma Club Stage, located inside one of the buildings in the area where Tuska is organised. It is a stage way smaller than all others, with worse lighting and where it gets really hot, but, being the place where a lot of more underground beginners perform, it is the right place to get pleasantly surprised. Oddland, winners of Suomi Metal Star contest 2012, delivered their progressive metal for about thirty minutes and convinced me to try to hear their sound in better conditions. I remember liking some beautiful vocal parts and intense deep riffs. From the tent back to the main stage to photograph Trivium for a song or two and then get as far away from the stage as possible and eventually recall that eating is one of the daily needed activities. That's how we discovered a place serving delicious noodles and springrolls, and ended up quite well stuffed after a while.
All in good time for catching Arcturus on the tent's Inferno stage and admire the crazy combinations within each of their melodies or laugh quite hard at the silly acting of vocalist ICS Vortex. I call their style some sort of spatial metal since I personally haven't heard anything alike, so I consider them pretty unique and highly recommend their shows to everyone. Each band member seems to have the time of their life being on stage so you probably end up loving their performance after few minutes of watching. Unfortunately, fifteen minutes after the Norwegians started, Hatebreed was scheduled on the second stage. I loved them so much at Graspop, so I ran fast to photograph some of the Hatebreed performance and try to get a glimpse at the madness in front of the stage. Yet, it didn't seem as intense as Graspop (now this is an example when the smaller crowd is a disadvantage), so I moved back to watch Arcturus. It was pretty funny seeing people getting out of the tent and trying to move like Vortex. It's impossible for me to describe how he does it, you just need to go and see for yourself.
I believe I had used all my concert energy at Arcturus, hence, when Megadeth started their set on the main stage, I could hardly keep the camera up to photograph them. Instead I spent some time looking at how Mustaine plays guitar or Ellefson bass and I must admit, despite the fact that I'm not keen on some of the main man's declarations, hence not finding any connection to their music, they are skilled musicians and are able to deliver very well built compositions. Once I came to an agreement with myself about this aspect, I went to meet my friends to one of the beer gardens to decide the curse of the night. From there I heard a sad statement from Mustaine saying that this was the last concert of the tour and once they go back home, some of the band members go straight to hospitals. I wish all the best to anyone going through such a bad situation.
The night ended for me with a Moonsorrow concert as a Tuska 'afterparty', held at a very cool Helsinki club called Virgin Oil. You should pass by the place if you ever find yourself in the Finnish capital. Support bands were Gaf and Ghould Patrol, and I had a great time cheering for these two bands, even if I didn't understand a word of what they were talking between songs. But the good mood on stage was enough to make their concerts very enjoyable. The place got really packed during Moonsorrow though. They seem very loved and it was almost impossible to see anything on stage from all the raised arms and tall Finns around me. Or simply, because I'm too short.
When I felt like I was about to lose my breath, I went to search for a cab and try to enjoy some hours of sleep after the long first day at Tuska.