It’s day two of Tuska Open Air Metal Festival 2016 already and it is the hottest day of the weekend so far. I cannot wait to see some more top quality bands throughout the day at this fantastic site. Looking forward to Primordial, Obscura, Anthrax, Havok and Ghost in particular.
Brymir: Previously unknown to me Brymir prove to be a nice surprise to open day two of Tuska. The adrenaline and atmosphere of this Finnish project is just what is needed to get us all going again. I have to mention the Lapland flag that holds a special position atop the drummer’s kit. The crowd singing along to the chorus from For Those who Died is one of their set highlights for me. Brymir’s mix of clean and unclean singing is balanced really well during The Black Hammer which also has epic intro music, and The Rain during which the bassist gestures up to the sky as if to invoke the elements, no chance of that pal! (it is another incredibly hot day again today).
With the Dead: Slow, slow, bass, reverb, sound! Doooooooooom. Lee Dorrian’s onstage persona reacts instinctively to the music. You can tell by his performance that this is the style of music that is the lifeblood flowing in his veins. While Cathedral is now laid to rest, the true strength of WTD evokes the power of Forest and Ethereal while keeping the foundation funereal and simple. Opening with Crown of Burning Stars this band lay a doomy foundation in the smoky confines of the tent. Highlights of the set are Living with the Dead and I am your Virus.
Primordial: There is a huge buzz around the main stage for Primordial and lead singer A.A. Nemtheanga wastes no time in greeting the clapping crowd and getting them fired up. He bellows, “Tuska. Are you with us?” and the fans reciprocate tenfold. The Irish heathens are on top form today and relish the early slot in the searing heat. Alan is the consummate frontman who holds the crowds attention from his entrance to exit. This leaves the rest of the Primordial guys to lay down a soundscape rich with power and intrigue. Highlights are As Rome Burns (during which the crowd go mental for the “sing to the slaves” chant), Coffin Ships and Babel’s Tower. Classified and categorised by many, Primordial plough their own unique furrow and remain bloodied yet unbowed (sic). This is a colossal performance in Suomi.
Circle: These guys are a bit of a discovery for me and what a discovery! I walk into the Inferno Stage not quite sure what I’m witnessing but intrigued by the jazzy, blues sounds sailing towards me from the back of the room. There is a real “practiced improvisation” feel to what these guys do on stage, relaxed and yet extremely tight. At one point the vocalist is picked up by the bassist and placed near the edge of the stage, he then pretends to execute the vocalist with his bass, imaginative! I am assuming it has some connection to the song but as all the lyrics and chat in-between songs are in Finnish I have no way of knowing what is going on, which is actually quite refreshing. These “theatrical/performance” elements mixed with the eclectic mix of genres and sounds is both visually and mentally stimulating. Each song is beautifully written and each member is a competent musician who is able to pull off atmospheric harmonies and yet each track is laced with heaviness at the same time. The use of smoke and strobe on the stage just adds that little bit to give the overall set an otherworldly experience. A definite highlight of the festival for me.
Tsjuder: An intro track with war sirens and bombing sounds plays as the band enter in full corpse paint (Actually, today seems to be corpse paint Saturday). Fast, dynamic, aggressive Norwegian Black Metal is delivered in spades here to another engaged crowd. The drummer in particular is absolutely incredible and the three members work really well on stage together through all the fast and slower elements of each track. Their brand of black metal is intense and frenetic and they make quite an unholy racket for a three piece. They are Evil incarnate.
Turmion Kätilöt: A party has already started outside the main stage in preparation for these guys. I have heard that they are essentially the Finnish equivalent of Rammstein. Their set is extremely good fun if you like dancing around like an idiot for a while with huge metallic balloon balls being punched across the crowd, mixed with enough pryo to blast you to the moon. Turmion Kätilöt prove to be a great crowd pleaser with their industrial histrionics but they’re not a serious contender for band of the weekend.
Omnium Gatherum: Time for some Finnish melodic death metal! I really love the originality of this group; it is emotive and atmospheric but extremely heavy at the same time with ripping guitar solos.
Their sound is getting a bit lost every now and then here at the far right of the stage but I can see the chemistry of the band who are getting a great reaction from the crowd. There isn’t one head in the tent which isn’t nodding or head banging along to the groove they are delivering. Melody is key in their songs, and gives the brutal sections much more emphasis. Really enjoyed these guys and will be checking out their back catalogue when I get home.
Obscura: Time for some Obscura, I’m really looking forward to this after witnessing their show in Graspop.
The skill and musicianship from this band is incredible, it does unfortunately mean that they don’t move very much around the stage and can be a bit stagnant on a bigger stage. They do however relax into it nearer to the end of their set. They are nonetheless incredible to watch (in a purely musical, professional way of course…) Solos, tapping, harmonies are all insane to watch live and I become mesmerised by drummer Sebastian, who can play three different tempos with his various limbs at the same time. Highlights for me are Sermon of the Seven Sons, Ode to the Sun and Incarnated. It’s fantastic to see their self confessed “complex noisy shit” (quoting Steffen) only a few days after Graspop and for their very first show in Finland.
Anthrax: As expected pretty much the whole festival is waiting for the return of the NYC thrashers and the combined talents on the stage are quick to give them what they want. While Joey and Scott in particular are great on stage and engage with the crowd, Frank Bello seems to be the living embodiment of pure joy. He is as enthusiastic as he was 35 years ago and turns back the clock a little on Got the Time. Highlights of the show are You Gotta Believe, Madhouse, Evil Twin and Indians (during which it actually started raining like a motherfucker). Finishing with Joey singing along to Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll, I think their performance here is better than when I saw them at Graspop a few days before as with a smaller crowd they really made a bigger impact. I noticed that Charlie wasn’t playing with them at this show, not sure why?
Stam1na: The Helsinki Stage tent is absolutely packed for local heros Stam1na and the band seem chuffed with the welcome they receive when they come onto the stage. Decked in orange boiler suits, their heavy, high octane performance is matched by their pyro display which almost melts the marquee overhead. They create an amazing atmosphere in the tent, even though I don’t know any of their stuff or hear it very well being shoved at the side of the stage I had to mention them.
Havok: So excited for these guys I can’t even explain. This is Havok’s last day of their latest tour and only their second time playing in Helsinki. They open with Point of no Return, following that with another favourite of mine, From the Cradle to the Grave, which is met with flying hair and heads everywhere. David then calls for a “blender of death” because walls of death are all introduced by frontmen/women telling the crowd to kill each other and they don’t want anyone getting hurt, well said. Shortly after this unfortunately he managed to snap his guitar head off, but as it is “only stuff” he just borrowed another one to finish the set with Give me Liberty or Give me Death. The band come back out at the end and shake hands with members of the crowd (including me!) Fantastic.
Ghost: I’m not sure what to expect from Ghost as I couldn’t enjoy the whole of their set at Graspop, but my colleague Steve has been raving all week in the lead up to this show. The main arena is packed even though it is starting to rain. Word comes through that the arena is sold out for tonight’s main event. After a lengthy intro the nameless Ghouls assume their positions and open with Spirit. The arrival of the Perverted Pontiff, Papa Emeritus III is greeted with a joyous roar. I am absolutely blown away by the power and passion pouring from the stage by Papa Emeritus with his wonderful hand gestures and attire. The rain is pouring down halfway through the set but all that does is add extra atmosphere to the set as we run under the beer tents to protect our note pads and cameras but the congregation aren’t going anywhere. Every word and utterance is accepted and hailed.
Highlights of the set for me are Stand by Him, He Is, Mummy Dust, Ritual and the bizarrely introduced (a full explanation on the joys of the female orgasm) Monstrance Clock. This is (possibly) Ghost’s first ever festival headline slot, and they embrace the challenge proving that they are one band on the current scene that have the chops to take their accessible satanism to the next level.
As the set closes, we walk back to the city for the after party bathed in an infernal sunset that casts an eerie glow across the arena.
Photos by Down The Barrel Photography[flickrapi user=”planet mosh” get=”photoset” id=”72157670122002842″ size=”z” count=”100″]