It’s the final day of Tuska Open Air Metal Festival and the sun has finally broken through the clouds as we descend to the concrete arena one more time to go toe to toe with some of the finest metal acts on the planet. The gates open quite late and there’s only five minutes to dash to the stage before the first band begins. Kicking things off today with a thirty minute set is Where’s My Bible?. This band from Heinola won their slot at Tuska in a battle of the bands much like Bloodstock’s Metal 2 The Masses. It’s great to see new bands get such a chance and the guys are savouring every second. With the gates having just opened they don’t have the biggest crowd of the day but they play with as much enthusiasm and effort as if they are headlining.
Speaking of BOA, this year’s Thursday night headliner Battle Beast get things pumping in the marquee. A lot of people have arrived now and are happy to get into the tent to get some shade on the first and only sunny day of the festival. They open with Straight to the Heart. Frontwoman Noora Louhimo is a star who looks and sounds like an extreme Bonnie Tyler. She grabs the audience by the proverbials and doesn’t let go until they are chanting along in blissful submission. In no time she has the crowd waving their arms in the air and shouting hallelujah to the gods of heavy metal. Their set is so good that the crowd spills into the arena as more and more people come to see what all the fuss is about. Black Ninja, Touch in the Night and King for a Day are highlights and Battle Beast end up being one of the best acts of the weekend. They are indeed the Bastard Sons (and daughter) of Odin.
Last year Mickey Rooney lookalike Udo Dirkschneider announced he was stopping playing Accept songs after his current tour. That time hasn’t arrived just yet so today on the main stage he gives us a masterclass with a full set of Accept anthems. His voice is synonymous with classic sounding heavy metal and he’s lost none of the snarl and rasp of his early days. Launching straight into a killer set with Living for Tonight, Midnight Mover and Princess of the Dawn, they get the crowd involved from the start and the two guitarists and bassist enjoy themselves with some ZZ Top style synchronised moves. There’s a lot of singing along and chanting with Son of a Bitch and Metal Heart before everyone takes things up a notch with a rousing rendition of Balls to the Wall. How long Udo will continue these special “Back To The Roots” shows is unknown but while audiences are baying for more, it is very hard to see him stopping. This is a cracking trip down memory lane and the Tuska faithful agree.
After Baroness were involved in an horrific bus crash a few years ago many feared that we may not see them on the stage again. John Dyer Baizley is back and today they play a sonically pleasing collection. One of very few American bands over the weekend they’re introduced as, “our friends from Georgia.” The twin vocal of Baizley and Gina Gleason works really well along with their twin lead trade-offs. The tent is packed again and roaring their approval. Futuristic keyboard noises give way to thumping guitars on the Mastodon-esque Morningstar and a catchy Shock Me. Their songs are full of thoughtful, meandering sections interspersed with big, loud guitars and raw, emotional vocals. Baizley tells the crowd his last memory of playing Tuska is in 2012 just before their accident, and thanks them for that good memory. My highlight of their set is If I Have to Wake Up (Would you stop the Rain?). On this showing, Baroness are one of my top bands of the festival.
Up next is a Finnish double header across two stages beginning with Apocalyptica. Twenty one years after they released Apocalyptica plays Metallica by Four Cellos they’re at Tuska to bring the classical to the metal world. Opening with Enter Sandman, Master of Puppets and For Whom the Bell Tolls they obviously want to make an impression by bringing out the big guns. I’m just not sure I get what they’re doing. To me it’s a weird kind of tribute act and quite out of place. By this point the band are cooking in the boiling Helsinki sun which is hitting them right in the face. Nothing Else Matters is nice as a piece of music, quite suiting the style they’re going for. Apocalyptica are all classically trained musicians who went to school in Helsinki and soon have the crowd headbanging along with them, then singing along on Seek and Destroy. It’s on the instrumental Orion that it really clicks into place as Cliff Burton’s writing was grounded in classical music. Clearly I’m in the minority as everyone in front of the stage seems to be enjoying the show but talking to people around me the general feeling is that indoors is where Apocalyptica mesmerise their audience. Obviously they’re extremely talented musicians with a stage presence to match, it’s just not for me.
Closing the evening in the Väkevä stage is Sonata Arctica. The final Finnish band of the weekend have filled the marquee to bursting point. It’s strange that the main stage headliner isn’t Finnish after so many Finnish bands over the weekend but that honour goes to Mastodon. Sonata Arctica see the tent rapidly filling as Apocalyptica finish their set a few minutes early, giving everyone time to head across the arena. It’s crazy power metal at it’s best with highlights including Full Moon and a rampaging Misplaced. Lead singer Tony Kakko takes time during some songs to sit with his legs dangling off the stage while singing directly and pointing to individuals in the front rows. Sonata Arctica are an endearing band and its hard not to love their contagious enthusiasm. Henrik makes a few forays to the front of stage with his keytar and Pasi Kauppinen pulls some of the best bass faces of the weekend. The EMP team are there to throw beachballs into the crowd to keep the party atmosphere going. The onstage explosions and pyro scare the life out of me a few times. Life is a great moment as singer Tony thanks the crowd for, “keeping live music alive.” As we leave the tent many wonder if Sonata Arctica should have been the headliners tonight.
Last year I watched Mastodon headline Saturday night at Bloodstock. They hid on stage in almost complete darkness, giving the lighting engineer the easiest shift of his life. I was almost lulled to sleep by their set that night and the lack of energy from them so I’m hoping for more tonight. With the sun directly opposite, the stage is awash in bright golden light and the giant backdrop of the new album cover is so vibrant it could be a Tango advert. There’s no hiding tonight(the headliners begin at 7.40 on Sunday), it’s maximum exposure so the Tuska 20th anniversary headliners have got to bring their A-game. The crowd assembled is smaller than for HIM by some way but it is equally keen, chanting for the band just as the photographers make their way into the pit. Baroness are right in front of me patiently waiting to watch their countrymen. As they do, they start by just getting their heads down and playing, but with a renewed vigour I didn’t see last year. This could almost be a different band. After Black Tongue they tell the crowd they appreciate being invited back to Finland. Ancient Kingdom and Ember City are early highlights in a massive eighteen track setlist. The band is a lot more chatty this time around, after not speaking a word to the BOA crowd until after the set had completed. Troy and Brent both address the crowd at different times. The guitar complexity from Brent and Bill on Bladecatcher dazzles brighter than the glowing orb in the sky. Brann Dailor shows himself to be the best melodic singer in the band, while simultaneously performing some pretty complex drum work. The crowd is loving every minute of this mammoth performance.
Mastodon are completely different from the other two headliners, Sabaton and HIM. If every bassist was as animated as Troy Sanders, the world would be a better place. While laying an overly technical low end throughout the show, he bends and moves like a circus contortionist. At the end of the show Brann steps from behind the kit and thanks the crowd, saying it’s a beautiful place, country and people. The crowd chant back, Mas-to-don, Mas-to-don. It’s rare to see Mastodon do an encore and the rest of the band have already left the stage but the reaction of the crowd moves Brann to call them back on stage for a thumping Blood and Thunder. Rumours of the appearance of the White Whale in Helsinki harbour abound. Mastodon may have enjoyed the sunshine, or they may have been reinvigorated by their new album Emperor of the Sand but either way they are a completely different band tonight and totally immense. A captivating conclusion to three days of joyous Pain!!!!
For the PlanetMosh team, this has been our third year at Tuska and once again it did not disappoint. It was very special to be able to be at Suvilahti to celebrate the 2oth anniversary of a very unique festival in the land of the thousand lakes. Kiitos.
Photos by Down The Barrel Photography[flickrapi user=”planet mosh” get=”photoset” id=”72157685925463186″ size=”z” count=”100″]