5.-6.8.2006, Korso, Vantaa, Finnland
Even ducks in Finland are all about metal (elks are clearly out of the competition!). Those birdies rock big time and do it on the scale good enough to outrun most other Finnish metal festivals! Both, territory-wise and bands´ selection, Ankka was like if five Tuskas were run at once and all at the same place… Actually, a few places joined into one, as there were a couple of sport stadiums, crystal-blue-lake with breathtaking scenery and cute duck families, forested hills and other less populated hills – which are surely beautiful for any eager tourist, but for a tipsy metal enthusiast the area is too much potential of getting lost and falling asleep in the nearest bush instead of finding the way to the right stage on time. Even for a perfectly sober listener catching each band´s performance at one of the three stages was a challenge, since stages were located significantly distant from one another, artists were scheduled to start, when a parallel act was still on at another stage, so you´ve either missed most bands´ beginning/end or you would´ve stayed at one single stage the whole day, but have seen at least something completely from start to finish.
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To simplify this problem, yet to give the festival even more pompous look of an enormous event of at least national importance, there were large screens near each stage, broadcasting what was going on at another stage at the same time – impressive setup of a World Cup, no less. Some visitors gave up the try to keep up with the festival schedule and spent the day either by watching/participating in the new national Finnish sport called ´Hevikaraoke´ (sadly available for over 18 years old only), or simply hanging around in the bars or at a sumo-wrestling ring (just by looking at those stuffed Asian costumes I almost got a heat-stroke). There was something for each taste (food too! Endless stalls of every possible cuisine), only too bad that everything seemed to be happening at once and everywhere: very crowded, very busy, very hot – two days fulltime festival fun will take a whole week of your holiday to recover afterwards and catch your breath back – don´t mess with the Finnish poultry!
Jackass´s older brother, Jess Margera´s band kicked off with popular these days (read: “mainstream”) alt-metal, which on the whole, went down quite well, considering the band´s debut on Finnish grounds. Must say that the debut was extremely well-prepared for, as the band obviously isn´t a novelty to a European ear and many people came in various “fuCKYou” merchandise. The Americans had an annoying trick to please their self-esteem by playing Celine Dion or Cher clips between their own songs and asking the audience, which artist they prefer to hear, resulting in intense screams “C-K-Y” all the time, so “Camp Kill Yourself” did their most possible to stay remembered for a while… No surprise of course that the younger brother and most unstoppable Finland´s megafan Bam was constantly in sight both on and off the stages, being another annoying element of the act.
One band, who in my opinion is least compatible with pyrotechnics, now have also picked up the habit from fellows in Lordi to reinforce every upbeat song with explosives and fires and that is in already hellishly boiling August afternoon! So this is what it takes to melt the ice of shy Finns from the North… Sonata Arctica is impossible not to like, in spite of all infamous jokes about power metal, as those guys are always so relaxed, cheerful, taking themselves not so seriously and just loving to be up there, playing their hearts out, surely there was not one indifferent person in the audience at that act!
Even though the new album was quite a success, most songs in the set were older (“My Land”, “Fullmoon”, “Tallulah”, “Victoria´s Secret”) and in frequent moments of microphone failure, the audience gladly sung the lines fluently along. Very mobile singer, Tony Kakko, skillfully maneuvering between fireworks and explosives, didn´t leave anyone unnoticed, and was sprinting the stage to reach every corner and everyone in the enormous audience. His funny faces in breaks between some even funnier lyrics made this whole act so joyous and sweetly-innocent, as if playing with little kids and not on a huge metal festival – very charming and loveable! The front row fans were also not deprived of good sense of humor either, displaying their thoroughly made banner: “Sonata Arctica *heart* do you remember us? We are not eagerly stupid people!”
MIRROR OF MADNESS
So we all like longhaired metal-men and if they can handle a guitar and some heavy riffs – wuh, hot stuff! And if they are´t men yet and still can do heavy – just pure cuteness!!! So here is your new Finnish phenomenon, just when you´ve thought this country has done everything there´s possible within metal field, Finland strikes again! This time a Norther-tribute band consisting of four not even teenagers yet, but young boys barely taller than their guitars! Even sweeter that the band played in total of ten minutes, but left the audience smiling so lovely, making endless “aw-aw-aw” noises at every growling, screaming, even headbanging those metal kiddies did so seriously and realistically to the original band – Norther has now some serious competition to worry about.
Iggy Pop reincarnated in Finnish glam = Hanoi Rocks. The classics of Scandinavian pink fur, daring hats and colorful glitter had their audience driven to the maximum. Flexible Michael Monroe was dancing, jumping, and running, rolling himself on the stage, sticking microphone and water bottles in his already tight pants, making dramatic faces, playing various instruments and among all this, still singing the whole time! Who needs alcohol when there´re those energizing and wild rockers make you want to go nuts even if all you´ve drunk was cold “Evian”…
The good surprise (and many Lauri Ylönen fans´ disappointment) of the day was replacement of the Rasmus with Amorphis, who gladly stepped on stage on such short notice, which by no means had any influence on band´s absolutely incredible performance – professional as it can be, as always, even though frontman Tomi´s usual trademark mike was missing. Nonetheless, the set was played at its greatest, every song any headbanger´s heaven, growling so magnificent especially at the scale of this huge festival. Given the merciless weather, Ankka could´ve easily been compared to a safari at the peak of the season, and if so, Amorphis´ Tomi was an indisputable Lion King of it all!
The one band that I could´ve happily worn my mother´s favorite ´70s colorful dress and some plastic jewelry – that was one funky-groovy act going on with Danko!!! Small stage, yet impressive crowd and incredibly energetic and impatient to rock three Canadians were irresistible! Feet demanded dancing and hands reached upwards to clap, I surprisingly descovered I knew a dance I´ve never thought I´m capable of… much re-energized and extra-electrified new songs ”Baby Hates Me”, “Sleep Is The Enemy” along with older “Forget My Name”, “Sticky Situation” – me and Austin Powers could´ve grooved to it so nicely together…
Recent surgery didn´t put off Danko at all, his new eye patch made the singer look even sexier and not at all copying Johnny Depp´s famous character, as many musicians seem to be doing now – Danko rocked! 70´s funk mixed with hardrock and warm sun – excellent picnic party, rrrrr baby!
Opeth is Opeth and so is beyond any criticism. Off the stage they can have all the drug problems and whatever, but once on stage the Swedes play you the whole festival worth and no wonder, Finland unconditionally loves this band. By the musicians´ look you´d never guess all the depth of their doom, but look at the beautifully decorated stage in black candles, close your eyes and give in to their darkness… “What language should we speak?”, asked the singer. “Swedish? No? Finnish!?!” Ok and carried on with more beautifully touching metal. Next question was trickier: “Which country rocks more, Sweden or Finland?” The answer never came…
“In the shadows”, where “Destination is darkness” and “Funeral song” is the only soundtrack, roams the crowman Lauri… only this time he gave the feathers up for a simple black beanie and huge sunglasses, which didn´t come off during the whole 70 minutes – perhaps traveling stress from the previous day and delayed flight left too bigger damage on Lauri´s sensitive face… Over the past years of this band´s risen fame, Lauri´s picked some very distinctive hip-hopper-bouncing-walking manner and singing in a way not many do even in heavier genres, so intensely bending in half, making him look a lot more dramatic and pretentious, as opposed to the ´cool dude´ image the crowman was apparently going for. The setlist was any teenager´s dream, new album and all the older classics were there (“Broken”, “The Shot”, “Falling”, “In My Life”, “Guilty”, “1st Day Of My Life”, the above mentioned titles and some others), so although delivered a day later than expected, the performance was generously compensated with quality the Rasmus listeners couldn´t ask for more, if only for the trademark feathers perhaps…
A very unusual act among common heavy metal at a Finnish metal festival – native Irish red-haired tunes and suddenly Ankka discovered the vibe of Irish dancing, only for some reason this was not as successful in practice and after some songs, the crowd expressed itself quite clear with a finger gesture what they´ve thought of this artist. Maybe if it would´ve been arranged with some heavy riffs and growling, it would´ve satisfied the Finnish ear, but pure Irish folk didn´t pass unfortunately. Although the band itself had great fun on stage, danced and played so harmonically together, in my view, gave a good feel of what this style is all about.
This must be what tight leather pants do to a skinny Viking. The lyrics are in Finnish, which if you don´t understand, must sound like: “Oh my tight-tight pants!!! They´re so f*ckin´ tight and leather, that force me sing in this near-to-soprano voice!!!” So if glass bottles were allowed on the festival area, they surely would´ve exploded at once when this Finnish Manowar-double took off.
Although the new album was much criticized of not being even remotely connected to the band´s supposedly metal style, none of it seemed to bother the fans, especially the female part of it… Very headbangable tunes, piercing vocals, excited men – the Viking fun was complete with screaming girls, displaying their wishes to be the bands´ “orjatar” (´female slave´ in Finnish) – so maybe tight leather isn´t such bad idea after all…
No headliner, yet the most serious act of the festival – demanded your by and large undivided attention and respect, as well as their very strict orders on photography and filming, so this was the only artist who wasn´t broadcasted live on the screens across the festival area. Too bad, as for once, there was something different going on stage which actually would´ve been captivating to watch closer in greater detail. The musicians had put a lot of thought into their stage image, all in pure black with tasteful makeup and additional accessories (the guitarist was grinning the whole time to display steal teeth Marilyn Manson could´ve been jealous of!) Although very aggressively handled, Ministry conveyed their message across very persuasively. “Fuck Bush” said the guitarist´s t-shirt and “Vote Republican” was the one of the singer, but not only the look suggested this band´s strong political believes. Almost every piece they played had inserts of famous leaders´ and dictators´ speeches, as well as fragments of war marshes and other such relevant alarming sounds. To create an even tenser atmosphere and really switch the audience´s minds off from a nice summer afternoon to historical and global matters, the band run their own video show on the screen, which was an interchanging sequence of disturbing war scenery, casualties´ treatment, infamous criminals and serial killers, Jewish scripts, racism-inspired accidents, trashed ghettos, maps of war strategies… No surprise when Ministry started off with already fully packed audience, but during their set even more people were driven to the stage to witness this performance.
Ministry was mainly about the music, as the soundtrack to all the imagery, then much lyrical content – I´m even wondering if anyone could´ve actually followed the lyrics when so much else was thrown at the audience at the same time. The singer was in act during the whole hour, yet barely said anything to the people, instead was hyperactively gesturing like all world´s known leaders put together – music was his speech and video illustrations were the exact words: the message was impossible to miss.
If I didn´t know this band´s trademark, I´d guess that the entire Finnish navy had free tickets to Ankka – this is how many people in sailor caps were around. The Norwegian party rockers were long awaited and extremely well received, so much electricity between the band and their fans, could´ve easily executed ten fat murderers!
“Have you got any money?” asked the singer, as if he was in urge to borrow some. Ok, no money… “Are you at least horny?” was the next inquiry. “Oh, yes?! Really?” So there we go, what do you do when you´re broke and horny?! Turbonegro knows the answer and gladly shared it with ecstatic crowd – “Sell your body to the night!” is the Turbojugend´s way! Next thing we´ve established (with talkative Hank Von Helvete´s obvious hints and rest of the band´s vivid gestures) that half the band is at least gay and has serious alcohol problems, but hey, nothing can Turbonegro do to prevent Finland from absolutely adoring those crazy punkers, and so the party went on – “City Of Satan” and “Get It On” were ones among all favorites on the set.
CHILDREN OF BODOM
So during the two days in Korso there were two individual events: one was Ankkarock and on Sunday night there was a COB concert of its own – no other artist I recall seeing on such large public grounds has pulled as much audience as those (melodic) death-metallers from Espoo! Headliner with the capital ´H´.
Spooky lake Bodom´s scenery was effectively replaced with an abandoned old cars´ cemetery, where of course Alexi Laiho was the ruler of all that is metal! Very impressive stage setup with gasoline cisterns, even a car with unfriendly passengers in face-masks, running flashy logo at the background, left alone all the regular these days explosives and fireworks, so if there were such people among the audience who didn´t like this band, they had at least a great spectacle to watch.
´Wildchild´ Alexi just loved being part of this extraordinary setup, even though he shared with the audience that he´s in a lot of suffering and can barely stay upright, nonetheless, he drowned the pain in his terrific guitar skills and transferred all the more fierceness into all the hits (“Lake Bodom”, “Needled 24/7”, “Sixpounder”, “Hate Me”, “Follow the Reaper”, “Are You Dead Yet?”) In his obviously sick condition I´d expect the Bodom kids to rush through the set and leave as soon as possible, but instead the pale, yet still cheerful and talkative Alexi was so ´close´ with the audience, honoring the audience in every possible way, so with all the right can be said, Ankka belonged to the Children alone! And if this was unwell Laiho, then just what is healthy Laiho capable of?!…
Summary: If you´re mourning for missed Tuska, and Provinsii was too far, then think Ankka as your metal cure of the Finnish summer! Except some artists, which were clearly out of the line of traditional heavy/alternative style Finland attracts tourists for; the festival was an excellent package of great entertainment, beautiful countryside sights and worthy bands to witness live. Only note that unless you are going to Ankka for pure hanging out purposes, to just enjoy a sunny day out, I suggest you arrive within some good hour before the band you´re actually going for starts, since the area is really massive and it will take you time to coordinate yourself and find your way around. And even if you´ll do, there´s still no guarantee you won´t end up in the bush at the end of it, as on the way back we´ve spotted many pairs of feet sticking up in the air in the thick bushes along the road and further into the nearby woods…
Those who still had the energy to stay up, watch a beautiful firework show right after the last act, as well as classic hot air balloons colored the skies afterwards to farewell the last big festival of the summer.
All text illustrations as interactive gallery: