Tuska 2016 review (Updated with Tuska 2017 preview)

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Tuska 2016 Logo
Photo: Tuska

Another year, another Tuska! This year was the 19th edition so next year should be a big 20th anniversary party for the fest. The festival site had seen one major change to earlier years at the Suvilahti location: the second stage was now a huge tent with capacity for about 5000 people. This worked out great especially for bands with a good light show since you could now actually see the lightshow properly due to not being altered to direct sunlight at all. The other bigger change to the festival was that the shows continued until midnight on Friday and Saturday instead of the earlier 10pm curfew. Yet another addition was the the inclusion of the Solmusali stage where the public interviews of the metal legends Scott Ian of Anthrax and Alex Skolnick of Testament took place. This is also where the acoustic show by Swallow The Sun took place on Sunday.

Tuska Day 1: Friday

Friday's Tuska antics started early at 2pm with Cattle Decapitation taking over the main stage. They on a killer death metal show with really high energy on stage. An excellent kick-off for the crazy weekend to come! Next up on the Inferno stage were Delain. Despite some female-fronted bands being big in Finland Delain had actually never gotten to play in front of a Finnish crowd before. From the first song on it was obvious there was a demand for their live shows here. It wasn't just the crowd being happy since the singer, Charlotte Wessels, and her accompanying group looked very satisfied to be up there throughout the concert. A show like this should help them to get to play club shows in Finland too.

Swallow The Sun, who were up to play main stage bathing in the afternoon sun, had played Tuska and a ton of club shows in Finland before. Still they were to do something unique in Tuska 2016 by being booked to play there every single day of the three day festival. Friday they were to perform the first part of their three part album “Songs from the the North” from 2015. I have to say their gloomy, dark material would have worked much better at the tent since somehow it's hard to get into the slow groove of Swallow the Sun while bathing in sunlight. But of course this didn't make the music any worse so all in all it was still a thoroughly enjoyable set by the guys and I am glad I got to see it since it ended up being the only Swallow the Sun I catched out of the three.

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Swallow The Sun
Photo: Tini Lorey

The Eurovision rockers Lordi won the Eurovision title exactly 10 years ago and were at Tuska to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the Arockalypse album. Let's just say that it was entertaining music to enjoy fun times with friends at the beer area. Special points for all the pyros! Then it was time to catch the Norwegian punky rock metal act Kvelertak, who have also impressed Tuska crowds before with their raw stage energy. My hopes were high to enjoy their craziness again, but this time the sound inside the rather full Inferno tent was too much for my ears. Despite having earplugs on and trying out a couple of different spots it was hard to distinguish the instruments from each other from the wall of sound.

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Photo: Tini Lorey

Testament is playing Tuska every 2 or 3 years. One might ask why? They simply are such a tight live act and still keep releasing quality thrash albums every couple of years! By now it's clear that I never get tired of seeing them live with Chuck Billy always having the time of his life up there and Mr. Alex Skolnick doing a great job with the guitar. The songs from “The Dark Roots of Earth” sounded sweet live and actually kicked some more ass than they do on the album. Of course they also played most of the classic tunes such as “The Preacher”, “Practice What You Preach” (a personal favorite of mine) and “Disciples of the Watch”. Surely they will be back in Tuska again in a couple of years and I for one will be happy to welcome them back!

Melodic metal has been big in Finland ever since Stratovarius got on a big rise in the late 90s. Tobias Sammett has been getting worldwide success with his Avantasia metal opera from the early 2000s on but still Avantasia had never gotten as far north to play as Helsinki is. This year the stars had finally aligned properly and the Tuska management crew had gotten their offer accepted for Avantasia to perform. In addition to Mr. Sammet the amazing all-star singer lineup included Michael Kiske, Bob Catley, Jorn Lande, Ronnie Atkins and Eric Martin. Tobias was being the brilliant frontman he can and all the singers were really in a good form. It was especially awesome to see Michael Kiske having a good time on stage since at some point it had seemed we might never get to witness him live playing metal music. Without going more into the details of the set I will just say that if you're a lover of this sort of melodic metal then do yourself a huge favour and catch this lineup live while you still can! It's definitely even worth traveling some for. While having a jolly good time with Avantasia entertaining us for a full two hour set it was time to realize that it's midnight and it's time to head out of the festival site for some more good times with friends, and eventually get a few hours of sleep before the party starts on Saturday!

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Photo: Tini Lorey

Tuska Day 2: Saturday

Good morning Tuska Saturday! Well, at least it surely still felt like a morning anyway when the doors opened at 1:00pm. Our Tuska crew did a surprisingly good job to be there 1:45pm when Brymir kicked off the Saturday show at very sunny and warm conditions. From the last time I had seen them they certainly sounded more experienced and tighter live this time around. A good amount of people had already showed up to see their very short yet successful 30 minute main stage performance.

Next act on main stage was a very exciting one and one I truly looked forward to, Primordial from Ireland. One of the reasons for this excitement was naturally their super intense frontman A.A. Nemtheanga. This Irish gentleman knows how to capture a crowd with his captivating stage antics and style of singing which truly is sort of a combination of singing and storytelling. All it took was the first song “Where Greater Men Have Fallen” and the band had both me and the crowd in the palms of their hands. The awesomeness continued the duration of their one hour setlist including songs from their last four albums.

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Photo: Tini Lorey

It was time for some more social activities for me, but during all that I did manage to get glimpses of Norwegian black metallers of Tsjuder doing a nice job at the tent and of course the Finnish party metal disco band Turmion Kätilöt making main stage people dance and laugh in a way which only Turmion Kätilöt can. Next whole set to watch was Omnium Gatherum. Their latest album “Grey Heavens” was a really solid early 2016 release and the band played tight live versions of the very melodic pieces such as “Frontiers”, “The Pit” and “Skyline” from it.

Usually Tuska has a couple of technical metal bands playing. This year the tech metal honour was mostly handled by Obscura and Gojira. The aforementioned German band Obscura got a rather surprising (to me, anyway) spot playing an early 55 minute set on the main stage on Saturday. Lucky for me since I had been an Obscura fan for years and never got to see them before. The set wasn't really aimed for older fans though as they cruised through pretty much the whole Akroasis released earlier in the year, and then late in the set played two older songs, “Incarnated” and “Centric Flow” from the 2009 album Cosmogenesis. Despite some rather recent lineup changes the band was supertight and truly made sure fans of technical metal thoroughly enjoyed their show. After intensively concentrating on the technicality of Obscura it seemed somehow hard to get into the show Thunderstone put up after them. Pasi Rantanen sounded as great as ever yet somehow the flow of such straightforward heavy metal didn't work for me after Obscura. Really happy that the Thunderstone guys are back in business though, and I will make sure to catch them soon on a club show.

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Photo: Tini Lorey

As often as Testament plays Tuska it feels like Stam1na does it even more often! Anyone who has ever seen their show should understand why: They sound fantastic and always give all the energy they have on stage! The tent stage was overly full of people partying to their music like there's no tomorrow. Already when Stam1na was on the weather had gotten very dark and rainy during the last couple of hours. It seemed like a lot of people had already left by the time Ghost started their Saturday headliner set. There was however still a lot of people to see Ghost starting their set with the weather bringing in quite a dramatic, haunting extra effect to the show. Having had seen them a few months ago doing a club show in Helsinki I knew they were gonna deliver a great set. The set seemed to start exactly the same starting with “Spirit”, “From the Pinnacle to the Pit”, “Stand by Him” and so on. Papa Emeritus was keeping the crowd in his control but personally I wasn't feeling comfortable enough to stay for more than a few songs when the clothes were 99% wet and opted to head out for a bit of afterpartying nearby in Kallio and then get some good rest for Sunday.

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Photo: Tini Lorey

Tuska Day 3: Sunday

After two full length Tuska days it was time to wake up and move our tired asses to Suviniemi for day three. Much appreciation for the Tuska organization for making Sunday last only until 9pm since some of us not-so lucky people have work on Monday mornings. Much to my surprise our crew made it there again for the first act of the day. The Kuopio-based Block Buster got the honour to be the wakeup band of Sunday. To be honest at least I personally could have used a more intense wakeup band than Block Buster doing their sort of standard hard rock style of music. They did have a good energy on though, thumbs up for their energy and excitement!

The much hyped Danish one woman black metal band Myrkur was amusing to witness with her live act including a bass player, an additional guitar player and a drummer. All the screeching noises were however a bit too much for my tired ears after a few songs but the rest of the crowd seemed to be more tuned in to her music staying more enchanted for the whole concert. I chose to go in to the indoor hall stage for the first time during this Tuska. Saw a a couple of very intensely played crossover thrash songs by the Kirkkonummi boys Nuclear Omnicide there followed by the well-done old school death metal of the Mörbid Vomit set. Hanging out and sitting down for a while indoors was a most excellent way to gather some energy for the next band at the tent stage, Diablo. Diablo have been doing their brand of melodic yet hard-hitting metal with the frontman Rainer Nygård's trademark vocal style since the late 90s. Solid show by the guys but I may have been a tad too excited about the next band to be able to enjoy the Diablo show fully.

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Photo: Tini Lorey

The moment I had been waiting for months was about to start. The brilliant French technical yet melodic metal minds of Gojira had just a couple of weeks ago put out their latest album Magma. By the time of this show it was clear to me it was going to be one of the favorite albums of the year. Seeing how many people had gotten there to witness them live it was obvious plenty of others had enjoyed the album as well. Once you manage to get into the hypnotic rhythms of Gojira you might find your body grooving to the beats during the whole show, happened to me and many others from the first second on at this show! This killer show simply was the personal musical highlight of Tuska 2016 for sure.

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Photo: Tini Lorey

After Gojira it was nice to calm down a bit to the wonderful sounds of Katatonia at the tent. These guys have gotten so much better live during the last few years than they were earlier. It was nice to see that the the new drummer most definitely is a good fit for the band. They had a really well thought setlist too concentrating on songs from the last four albums - including as many as four songs from the fantastic older release “The Great Cold Distance”.

By the time the Sunday headliner Children of Bodom there had been tens of shows happening already so a few songs of their set would be a perfect closing of the festival. They started with the title song off my personal album of theirs “Follow the Reaper” - hard to beat that start of the show! Then they played some newer songs until we got to see a real gem of a performance with Netta Skog (ex-Turisas fame) on accordion for the song “Lake Bodom”. She is always a blast to see live and this case was no different. Our crew was anxious to get to relax some after the festival and having just seen everyone having great times on stage it was a really fitting end for the festival. Thanks a bunch to everyone involved in organizing the festival and as always everyone having attending it and having a great mood all festival - see you all next year for the 20th anniversary party!

The official Tuska 2016 “Aftermovie” can be watched here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUxjOsRM05o

Tuska 2017 Preview

Tuska 2017 will be the 20th anniversary of the festival and will be held between Friday June the 30th and the 2nd of July. 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.

This year there will also be an official Tuska Heatseeker pre-party at Tavastia and Semifinal with the Japanese band Man With a Mission headlining and the Finnish bands Arion and Psychework supporting. In addition to those three bands there will be a competition held of which the winner gets to play as the fourth band of the pre-party.

The actual lineup for the festival looks like this (as of 7th of May, there may be a few additions later still):

Friday 30th of June: Sabaton, Devin Townsend Project, Suicidal Tendencies, Mayhem, Wintersun, Insomnium, Brujeria, Anneke Van Giersbergen’s Vuur, Rotten Sound, Brother Firetribe, Barathrum, Baptism, Trap Them, Kohti Tuhoa, Ratface, Pekko Käppi & KHHL

Saturday 1st of July: HIM, Amorphis, Timo Rautiainen & Trio Niskalaukaus, Mokoma, Triptykon, Soilwork, Electric Wizard, Impaled Nazarene, Lost Society, Avatarium, Demonztrator, Fear Of Domination, Mind Riot, Sleep Of Monsters, Throes Of Dawn, Paara, Alabama Kush

Sunday 2nd of July: Mastodon, Apocalyptica plays Metallica by four cellos, Sonata Arctica, Dirkschneider, Baroness, Battle Beast, Jimsonweed, Oranssi Pazuzu, The Raven Age.

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Tuska 2017
Photo: Tuska

Here's a few recommendations about bands to check out:

  • Devin Townsend Project: Devin, One of the nicest and funniest guys on Earth, will surely make a very entertaining show with his own trademark style of progressive metal. Joining him on stage will be the lovely Anneke van Giersbergen.
  • Suicidal Tendencies: These legends of crossover thrash have been going suicidal since 1980 and are still releasing quality albums. “World Gone Mad” last year was a cool release and you can always be sure there will be some killer musicianship on stage and of course the legendary Mike Muir handling the lead vocals with his own amusing style.
  • Wintersun: The Wintersun live lineup has seen some changes recently when Jari Mäenpää announced he will stop playing guitar live and concentrate only on vocals. Since then they hired Asim Searah as their second guitarist so the Tuska show will be a great opportunity to see how the lineup works live. They are also releasing a new album in July so this will probably be a great opportunity to hear a couple of new songs live for the first time too!
  • Anneke van Giersbergen's Vuur: Other than the lineup featuring many musicians Anneke has worked with earlier not much is known about Vuur yet. They have been recently recording their debut album and will actually play Tuska even before the album is out some time in the fall. Anneke is always such a pleasure to see and hear on stage that it would be stupid to miss this for anyone who is into female-fronted bands at all.
  • Barathrum: Barathrum are back with their 2017 album “Fanatiko” and the fanatic Demonos Sova will lead his group to an intense show of their black/doom metal music. It has been ages since the last Barathrum show in Tuska so about time it happens again.
  • Triptykon: Tom Gabriel Warrior with his group may have not released a new album “Melana Chasmata” in 2014 but are still a very welcome addition to the festival lineup. Their brand of dark progressive metal is amazing to witness live and it can be expected to end up being the fave show of all weekend for many! With some good luck we might hear a preview of a new song or two since they are working on one.
  • Avatarium: Another band to really look forward to. This doomy group with crystal clear female vocals will be a real treat to see live! They are releasing their new album “Hurricanes and Halos” in late May so it's a good idea to properly check out the album before their first ever show in Finland takes place at Tuska.
  • Electric Wizard: Maybe the heaviest show of the weekend? Expect to hear shitloads of colossal doomy riffs, lots of feedback, buzzes and noises!
  • Sleep of Monsters: Led by Ike Vil (ex-Babylon Whores) Sleep of Monsters will bring in elements of 70s prog rock, folkish occult rock and heavy metal to create a unique atmosphere for the show. “Poison Garden” by Sleep of Monsters surprised many and ended up on many top album lists of the year. It will be great to see those songs performed live.
  • HIM: This year will be the last chance to see HIM live since they have decided to call it quits after this farewell tour. One would assume they would try to do their best shows ever to end things in a positive note, we shall see on the first of July how that works out!
  • Mastodon: “Emperor of Sands” was just released in March and is a really fantastic album by the Americans. Their musicianship is top-notch and at least judging from the album their vocals have gotten better over the last couple of years. They are headlining Sunday and will very likely prove to be deserving of that spot!
  • Apocalyptica: Really, it has been 20 years since the debut Apocalyptica album? Well, I guess it must have been since they are already doing this 20 year anniversary show of their debut “Apocalyptica plays Metallica by four cellos”. Cellos and headbanging, enough said.

In addition to the main festival lineup the official afterparty club shows have also been announced! Both of these club shows take place at Virgin Oil Co in downtown Helsinki. After party tickets are only 10€ in advance and 12€ from the venue before the show (or 10€ from the venue with the Tuska wristband).

Friday 30th of June: Barren Earth, Vorna, Mørket

Saturday 1st of July: Blind Channel, Tryer, Delta Enigma

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