It’s an earlier kick-off today at the Tuska Open Air Festival and even though the heavens opened and spilled their disapproval over Helsinki a few hours before the gates opened, it has cleared up and another pleasant day in the concrete cauldron is assured. First up, death metal “open-door supergroup” Bloodbath have braved the light of day. Messrs Renske, Eriksson, Nyström, Axenrot and Holmes ascend to the Radio Rock Stage with each member lavishly smeared in claret. Nick Holmes of Paradise Lost who has really rediscovered his love of death metal in the last few years is decked in aviator sunglasses (borrowed from Mikael Åkerfeldt according to Holmes) and a long parochial-like butchering coat. He has lost none of his dour humour and before ‘Breeding Death’ he asks the audience “What’s the area where no one is standing? Is it sacred ground? It is where Satan is buried?” The crowd today is very sizeable compared to yesterday and it’s clear that they were up early to catch this performance. The early start does not go unnoticed by Holmes who admits to nursing a hangover. It doesnt stop him from vocally summoning the demons of hell. ‘Cancer of the Soul’ is greeted by an appreciative roar. ‘Eaten’ is introduced as being “a massive hit in eastern Europe in the 90’s even though it was written in 2004”. After one of the eaten, Nick gently adlibs the words “chew my bollocks”. Absolutely hilarious. The crowd are warmed up and happily engage in the dance of death. During what is described as “the last time you will see Bloodbath in the daylight”, they give the gathering crowd a proper wake up call and delight the hoards with their deathly discord. Bloodbath could easily have been much higher on the bill today.
Bombus kick the day off on the Inferno stage. The Gothenburg natives 2013’s The Poet and the Parrot. Frontman Matte enquires “Did you see Bloodbath? Was it good? Of course it was. Right answer” Their Motorhead/Entombed riffs are a cracking blend although the punters see only mildly entertained. The exception being the front row who are headbanging as if their lives depended on it and obviously not as hungover as some of those a little further back. Bombus are a really solid outfit who entertain in the shade. They play old song ‘Biblical’ which is an awesome slab of epicness. All said, they don’t let up for their performance and justify their inclusion at this quality metal festival.
Ne Obliviscaris were an unknown quantity to myself until they were announced for this festival and for Bloodstock in the UK. What follows is one of the surprises of the entire weekend. In the searing sunshine, lead rough vocalist stands ominously statuesque, as the band proceed to amaze with their progressive manifestations. Clean singer and violinist, Tim is the friendly face of the band and carries all the MC duties, informing us that they arrived a few days early and got to see the sights before Tuska. “We love your city. We love playing for you”. The soaring violin playing, the harsh and clean vocal mix, the blastbeat drumming, the bass arpeggios and the twin lead melodies all intertwine to give Tuska one of the most intriguing performances of the weekend. Highlights are ‘Painters of the Tempest’ and the almighty ‘Devour Me Colossus’.
Viking metal stalwarts, Einherjer are a power trio that is made up of two guitarists and a drummer. When there is no bassists the riffs have to be solid, chunky and plentiful and Einherjer have riffs in spades. There are fantastic twin lead melodies and they engage the crowd admirably even getting a chant along from the gathered metal hoardes. Their style is steeped in the classic sounding Norwegian metal. Their stage presence is huge and both guitarists throw massive shapes throughout the performance as if playing to a crowd of thousands. This is heart on sleeve music backed by true belief in their purpose. I’ll be checking out Einherjer again.
Japan’s Loudness are part of heavy metal history and go straight for the jugular from the offset with a quartet of tunes from ‘Thunder From The East’. ‘Crazy Nights’, ‘Like Hell’, ‘Heavy Chains’ and the ‘We Could Be Together’. Frontman Minoru Niihara is genuinely delighted to be here and covers every inch of the stage pointing and beckoning at members of the audience. “We travelled here yesterday to play for you and we are still dizzy (jetlagged). It is very awesome to play for you Finland”. Dreadlocked guitarist Akira Takasaki is scintillating on every single track. He takes to the centre stage for each solo and delivers with the precision of a surgeon’s blade. Bassist and third original band member Masayoshi Yamashita is content to rumble in front of his Marshall stack with an ever present grin on his face. They close with the ever young ‘S.D.I.’ and may have won themselves a new base of fans with the younger attendees. Well done to Tuska for booking these legends and letting Finland feel the thunder that is Loudness.
It was said to me by a fellow photographer that every year Tuska throw in a band that is a curveball to the line up and this year the award goes to Atomirotta. The Finns rap in their native tongue and as far as a metal meeting goes, it was like eating chocolate covered pizza. My obvious dislike aside, there were a few people who seemed to enjoy their music.
Celebrating classic albums are ten a penny these days and bands are performing the album in their entirety that aren’t exactly benchmark albums. Thankfully when Amorphis released ‘Tales From The Thousand Lakes’ back in 1994 it was a statement in a genre that had become swamped with mediocrity. The backdrop with the giant eagle in the moonlight is unveiled and the crowd cheer their approval. What follows is just over an hour of sheer musical delight. Tomi Joutsen (celebrating his decade in Amorphis), covers both the light and dark vocals with aplomb. The beautiful melodies that proliferate throughout the set that is heavier in the live setting than it ever was on album. Opening with a pyro-blasting ‘Into Hiding’ and a wonderful ‘The Castaway’, it is clear that the massive audience is here to see their homeland heroes. Amorphis are a big deal, and rightly so, in Suomi. The bellowing approval on the introduction of ‘Black Winter Day’ is deafening and the trip through the remaining tracks of TFTTL is one of the more memorable experiences I’ve had at a show in years. Tomi removes his giant Thor’s Hammer for the encore. An absolutely face melting ‘Vulgar Necrolatry’ followed by the eastern influenced ‘Better Unborn’ is like the icing on the proverbial cake this evening. They close with the ever endearing ‘My Kantale’ and there can be no denying the power of Amorphis and their affinity with their culture. Esa, Tomi K, Jan, Santeri, Niclas, and Tomi J are clearly elated with the response and to have been here to witness this celebration of their heritage in Finland has been special. Amorphis’ set is a contender for highlight of the entire festival.
In utter contrast to the sun drenched main stage the aptly named Inferno stage is filled with an ever growing cloud of smoke and darkness. It can only mean one thing; Abbath are about to make their world stage debut at Tuska. When the demise of Immortal broke earlier this year and the announcement that ABBATH would rise from the ashes at Tuska, all eyes have been turned to Finland this weekend to see would this be a glorious rebirth. New Song ‘Fenrir Hunts’ is greeted with a pretty hellish response even though Abbath himself admits “Great to be back in Tuska and still fuck up”. Even under the painted veil, the humour of the man is entertaining. The shadow cast from the Inferno stage appropriately covers the crowd and serves to enhance the black metal aura of the occasion. Almost all the main man’s stage moves are lifted from Gene Simmons’ Rules of Rocking the Stage and it is what separates Abbath himself from many of his contemporaries. He mocks the crowd, pretending not to hear them, he shouts his name to beckon the response, he toys and encourages adoration today and asks “Are you immortal? (cheer) Do you want to hear some Immortal? (bigger cheer) “This is One By One” (deafening roar). Seeing as he is joined in the band by King, it is no surprise that material from the pairs ‘I’ album is aired. Creature, the masked beast beats the living hell out of the skins and would scare Fenrir himself. ‘Tyrants’ is one of the highlights, as is seeing the immortal (sic) fire breathing antic during a hellish Hoardes To War/Withstand The Fall Of Time finale. This performance tonight is more than a glorious rebirth, it is call to the Universe to worship at the altar of Abbath. The man himself delivers what has to be quote of the entire weekend as he proclaims “Fuck The Sun”. Simply magestic.
Saturday headliners In Flames have always stuck to their guns. They were progenitors of the Gothenburg sound and rather than stay in the comfort zone, they have constantly evolved and challenged people’s perception of melodic death metal. Anders Fridén is a charismatic front man and he mounts the centre riser swathed in the evening sun with a grin of mischief on his face.
Opening with ‘Only For The Weak’ it is clear that this is going to be off the hook. “I hear crowdsurfing is banned at Tuska. Well, if everyone started doing it, they couldn’t kick you all out, could they?”, he smirks. “Get up in the air, these guys are here to catch you and help you”. The audience duly responds for the rest of the evening. Still on the touring cycle for last year’s Siren Charms and it’s slower song ‘With Eyes Wide Open’ that is an emotive highlight as the crowd sing along with the “Time and time again” hook. Fridén laughs as he informs us that he’s been in Finland for 5 hours and hasnt had a Cool Grape Long Drink. He extols the virtue of said drink and declares it the “Nectar of Finland”. Someone from the crowd passes him a can which he proceeds to sample with a cheshire cat grin. Björn Gelotte also joins in the imbibing festivities. After the mini beverage break they return to the setlist and proceed to bash us with ‘Delight and Angers’ (which gets one of the loudest sing alongs of the day), an awesome ‘Drifter’ and ‘The Chosen Pessimist’. The band are clearly enjoying the occasion and the crowd are definitely up for it. Jokes about “Another hit song” and “more disco for you metal heads” and “One Direction” abound and all add to the experience that is In Flames and the relationship they have with their audience.
Seeing the capped Fridén crouched over on the riser, pouring his heart into every lyric is a treat. He jumps down to the front row and takes selfies with fans while singing and dodging surfers. Penultimate song of the night is the furious ‘Take This Life’ and before the finale the singer rates the audience six out of five “Let’s go party Finland”. This is by far the best that I have ever seen In Flames on stage. ‘My Sweet Shadow’ closes the second day of Tuska Open Air and sends the natives away to the after parties in the city centre, fully sated.
Photos by Steve Dempsey of Down The Barrel Photography[flickrapi user=”planet mosh” get=”photoset” id=”72157652898143883″ size=”z” count=”100″]