We’re here a little earlier than yesterday for what is going to be coined Love Metal Saturday, as Tuska Open Air Metal Festival says farewell to local heroes HIM.
The opening act today is Lik. Saturday’s 1.45pm start is so relaxed that when they come on there’s next to nobody there. There’s a steady trickle of people arriving throughout though and it soon fills up. Today is a sellout so I’m expecting huge crowds. Lik only have a thirty minute time slot so the singer says hello but adds they’d rather play than talk with so little time, so play they do, including Murder, Hate, Death, Kill and new song Left to Die, which sounds very like Dismember. Endless Oceans of Blood is a solid addition to their set. The wind has dropped today, although the temperature has too, but a bonus is that the main stage screens have been raised to their full height after yesterday’s safety concerns. Lik’s Swedish death metal is definitely a great way to get them shaking again.
Avatarium are hiding away from the early afternoon brightness in the Väkevä tent. Their brand of melodic doom is entrancing. Only the second female lead vocalist of the weekend, Jennie-Ann Smith is spellbinding to watch. They open with Into the Fire in front of a decent sized crowd, including one guy shouting, “I love you!” They premiere some new songs from new album Hurricanes and Halos, including latest single The Starless Sleep, which has a really sixties, Blues Pills kind of vibe. It’s their first time in Helsinki and they tell the crowd they’ve been glad for the chance to visit their beautiful city. Other highlights in their set included A Kiss (From the end of the World), which is very Sabbath-y, and their eponymous anthem. For their first show in the country they’ve most certainly won over new fans.
Seeing Impaled Nazarene on the main stage is a sight to behold. At home, extreme bands would be playing the small club stages but in their homeland there is a large crowd gathered for their fix of extremity. The band have certainly made the effort to look the part. The singer has 666 emblazoned on his forehead and blood pouring from his mouth as he intones, “Hail Satan.” Hail indeed. About half way through the set bassist Mikael whips off his mask to reveal that his face is painted almost the same. It’s a performance rammed tight with a black metal punk no holds barred approach that delights many but sends others to the bar.
Over on the Inferno stage, Paara are entertaining a good sized crowd with a twin vocal performance, one male and one female voice, at times joined by the guitarist to give them even more guttural oomph. Unfortunately the Inferno schedule clashes with bands playing on the other two stages so we rarely get to see a full set in the darkened shell. Paara have the hall rammed and it is like a sweatbox compared to the bitter chill blowing across the main arena.
According to Steve, Mokoma played the main stage previously at Tuska and today they are in the more intimate surroundings of the Väkevä tent. Impaled Nazarene’s sudden silence over on the main stage is filled by the crowd chanting Mokoma’s name over and over. As they come on stage to Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone from Top Gun people start spilling over the edges of the now packed and pulsating tent. Honestly, as they sing and converse with the crowd in Finnish I haven’t a clue what’s going on but they are full of beans and the crowd are caught in the moment. This intimacy really suits the show and their manic leader Marko Annala is a crazed centre of attention. Mokoma are thrash but there are elements of all sorts of music drawn into their songs. Bizarrely there is a reggae breakdown in one of the more obtuse moments. A band that fans of energetic, upbeat metal should check out. We are definitely woken from the mid-weekend festival slump with frenzied Finnish fun and frolics. Thanks Mokoma.
Timo Rautiainen and Trio Niskalaukaus come on stage next, having just reunited after a long break. Again I’ve no idea what’s being said but the crowd is laughing along with them and singing along too. Their brand of mid tempo marching music is more rock than metal but totally enjoyable. TRATN have been invited back as they are one of the bands who played regularly at the early Tuska festivals at Kaisaniemi park and it’s great to see that while celebrating their 20th anniversary, the festival organisers did not forget the contributions of these musicians in their legacy.
A quick trip over to the Inferno stage sees us catch some of the set from Sleep of Monsters. The Helsinki locals play a brand of melancholic gothic metal in the vein of fellow Finns Charon. With orchestral choral vocals and three female backing singers they have a pretty full stage but it does add a lot to their performance. We didn’t catch much of their show but they’ve piqued our interest.
Back into Väkevä, local thrash-heads Lost Society are about to take to the stage. Having previously seen these young lads on tour with Exodus, their galloping riffs are just what the doctor ordered. The tent is packed yet again for one of Steve’s bands of the weekend. They’re very energetic, running around all over the place playing their brand of party thrash. The first circle pits of the day match the breakneck speed of the songs. I am the Antidote has a slower, stompy feel, but mostly the band are standing on risers or the front of stage monitors, bouncing. As I leave the tent to make for Soilwork on the main stage I can hear singer Samy leading the audience on a Finnish version of Happy Birthday to Tuska. Lost Society are a band that is very much destined for larger stages. Pure quality today in Suvilahti.
When Soilwork returned to the stage after a lengthy enough break there was much rejoicing among fans of Swedish melodic death. As the first spots of rain fall on this weekend of many Finnish bands it’s a nice change to hear them introduced as, “our friends from Sweden.” Final solution is a highlight of their set, with singer Bjorn commenting on the tropical climate (it’s absolutely freezing.) Bjorn Strid is one of the best in the business and encourages the runners in the circle pit to give themselves a round of applause before slowing things down with Death in General from latest album The Ride Majestic. Other highlights are Bastard Chain and Stabbing the Drama. The beaming smile of Sylvain Coudret throughout their set as he shreds for his life really exemplifies the enjoyment that is energising Soilwork.
British doom legends Electric Wizard are in Suvilahti tonight and most of the people from the main arena have drifted over in anticipation of the wall of sludge. The twin power of the riffs from Liz Buckingham and Jus Osborn are truly magnificent. With Black Sabbath now at an end the world of doom metal is safe in the hands of Electric Wizard. Sludge-laden riffs abound but unfortunately we’re back to Mayhem territory and for parts of the opening number the band is at best silhouetted and at worst totally invisible. The dry ice eventually clears intermittently but mostly I find myself watching the horror movie imagery they’re playing on the screens. Black Mass is the highlight of their set.
Increasingly grey clouds have been gathering all day and while pyro testing for Amorphis is going on on the main stage the rain finally begins to fall in earnest. Ponchos come out of rucksacks and the dustiness of the arena starts to calm as the rain turns everything damp. At least the people waiting at the front are staying warm from the pyrotechnics firing up every now and again. Amorphis is one of Steve’s favourite bands so he’s more than ready to get into the pit and start shooting. Two years ago Amorphis celebrated ‘Tales’ at Tuska but tonight their set is very much focused on the here and now.
Songs from Under the Red Cloud are featured prominently in the set. With their Eastern influences and Tomi Joutsen’s sublime mix of clean vocals and growls, Amorphis are one of the greatest Finnish metal bands of all time. Santeri Kallio’s almost medieval melodies melt into the guitar tones from Esa and Tomi. The crowd is singing along with every word and it feels that if it was any other year (without HIM’s farewell) Amorphis would have been headliners. Highlights include Silver Bride, Against Windows, My Kantele and Death of a King.
The last trip to Väkevä today sees us just in time for the arrival of Triptykon and arguably the most important creative mind in extreme metal, Tom G Warrior. His blackened eyes serve to exemplify the pain and emotion that cascades forth with the music. The microphone stands are designed to look like inverted crosses, and the tent is packed right to the edges to see opening song Procreation of the Wicked. Tom tells the crowd he last played Tuska eleven years ago with Celtic Frost and he’s so lazy that he’s going to play some of the same songs. That said, since Steve last saw them at Bloodstock he thinks they’ve grown a lot heavier. Highlights were Ain Elohim and Circle of the Tyrants, with an almost punky edge to it. Overall a blistering set from one of the masters and as Tom himself says, ‘UGH!’
When HIM resurfaced from a quiet period earlier this year to announce their farewell, hearts and heartagrams were broken across the globe. With the UK shows all sold out this is possibly this reviewers last chance to see the troubadours of love metal. The Everly Brothers’ Bye Bye Love plays over the PA as a very tongue in cheek intro. The front row is heaving with excitement as the band amble onto the stage. Mige, Linde and Ville are all smiles and waving to people they recognise in the audience. They kick off with a crushing Buried Alive By Love which sends the hordes into overdrive as they scream the chorus. Ville stands centre stage between the floor monitors, swathed in brilliant blue light that matches the giant metal Heartagram in the background. He’s always been a reluctant centre of attention but to his fans he’s an icon like no other and tonight he seems genuinely happy to be sharing one final dance with a large number of the crowd. Speaking of dancing, as we walk around the arena during the set people are embracing and waltzing in sporadic bursts wherever we wander, be it the drinking area or the portaloos. Tonight’s setlist must have been impossible to choose for a band with so many crowd pleasers but the songs they have chosen are a testament to how many hits they actually have. It’s singalong heaven with my favourite song Resurrection but that’s only capped off with The Sacrament, Heartache Every Moment and more. How deep Ville’s voice goes at times -It’s All Tears (Drown In This Love) – is staggering. It’s no wonder he fronted a Type O Negative cover band many years ago. Linde is unstoppable tonight as his riffs on Stigmata Diaboli and Your Sweet 666 enforce how heavy HIM can be and show it’s not always love and butterflies at His Infernal Majesty’s kingdom. They knock out their stalwart covers Wicked Game and Rebel Yell which are devoured by the fans. Burton and Kosmo keep the melody flowing from the back on what is turning out to be an unforgettable night at Tuska. Hands are raised to clap along with Right Here In My Arms by what is confirmed as the biggest one day crowd the festival has seen in its twenty years.
Closing with When Love And Death Embrace, Ville says “Kiitos”, drops the mic behind him and walks off as the band finish the song. No encore, no glory, no personal ingratiation; a singer singing his words and leaving us with his heart. It’s been emotional and as the fireworks light the evening sky there are many wiping tears from their cheeks.
Day review by Karen. HIM review by Steve.