Festivals / EventsLive

Tuska 2016: Ghost of win, Ghosts of Loss

9000 fans it should be on this day… While Cattle Decapitation unleashed their Melodic Death opening the main stage, I preferred to check out Frosttide on Inferno Club Stage. (Almost all the photos you see below are actually Flickr-galleries, just move the mouse across – or visit our FLICKR page )

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Nice to see that word got around about the quality of those Power / Symphonic Metallers, because despite the early hour the club was quite full. Which made a good -yet short – show even better! (KW)

I’ve long since given up hope for female guitarists to ever become more than a tiny minority at metal festivals – they are far more common at blues and indie events, but our genre has been lagging behind in this respect. The outlook is improving, though, at least as far as Tuska is concerned. The last guitar player I witnessed there in 2015 was the awesome Nita Strauss, and the first one I saw when arriving this year was Merel Bechtold of Delain. I hadn’t been in a hurry to catch their show because I’m no big fan of symphonic metal, but the one song I managed to hear before they finished made me regret my tardiness. Surprisingly good actually.
I also saw a tiny bit of Whorion‘s set, but they weren’t even finished yet when I had to run to the other end of the venue for my main act of the day, Swallow The Sun. Did I just say of the day? Make that of the festival, and with three very different shows at that.
(photos of all three shows: just click on image – the ed.)
The band had agreed to play their massive triple album Songs From The North in its entirety, one part per festival day. Part I on Friday was performed on the main stage outdoors, but the dazzling sunshine did hardly distract from the grief and tragedy wrought in every note. The day would have been the 40th birthday of singer Aleah Stanbridge – Juha Raivio’s partner and almost the seventh member of Swallow The Sun – who had recently passed away. The duet of her playback voice with Mikko’s live vocals in “Heartstrings Shattering” was the most poignant moment of the concert, which was a deeply emotional tribute from the first song to the last. (TS)

Because of the temperatures and the threat of water-poisoning I enjoyed my first beer while Delain were still playing. And thanks to the physical consequences I ended up at the club stage when Blaakyum played, and I had to stay until the very end.
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WOW, I haven’t heard anything like that in a long time – brutal Thrash mixed with Middle East folk – hence melodic, tough, original and catchy at the same time. So brilliant I asked the band right afterwards for an interview (coming soon here). (KW)

Cain’s Offering – that voice sounds familiar, and yes indeed, a new project starring Timo Kotipelto and luring quite a big crowd into the Helsinki stage tent.

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Lordi offered a mega-show, quite as expected, I could have taken hundreds of photos just of them… there was something happening all the time, different constumes, flames, explosions – and once again there were several real young fans enjoying this spectacle. And if you are not inspired to sing along with Monsterman or Hard Rock Hallelujah – celebrated as patriotic highlight with Finland-hats and pink confetti – must be deaf…

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Kvelertak I had enjoyed before at Nosturi and therefore knew what to expect, but still – what a gig, this ear candy Death’n Roll from Norway hit the bull’s eye, and a packed tent went ecstatic. Awesome atmosphere, cheers and the guys had been hyped at their signing sessions before – their faces too small for their smiles – hence their joy captivated the crowd in an instant. One of the best shows of this festival! (KW)

The cutest band of the festival came from Japan – not Babymetal, mind you, but Man With A Mission. I don’t know how these guys look offstage, but as a smiling wolfpack they were simply adorable. I got so carried away watching and photographing them that I hardly paid attention to their music, but at any rate it was good enough to make me stay throughout the gig. Kawaii!
I have seen Behemoth at Tuska twice before, and both times they had been impressive, but the new tent stage was an even more suitable environment. In particular given the circumstance that they were playing their latest album The Satanist in full, a properly dark atmosphere and appropriate lighting were basically a must. All elements added up perfectly (okay, the sound was a bit muddy, but that wasn’t the band’s fault) and ritual master Nergal commanded the ceremony with intensity and grace. And black as it may be, his gospel appears to have a good deal more humanity in it than Poland’s infamous catholic church. (TS)

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Testament – always a guarantee for a great gig, and Chuck Billy is always up for some mischief. And when they kick it off with Over the Wall, what you can expect are mega-moshpit und wall of death going on. Classics like Practise what You Preach or Disciples of the Watch were played, yet not my all time fave Burnt Offerings, unfortunately…

Your feet hurt as you have been running around and standing most of the day, you are tired and basically just want to go home… but then this band Avantasia starts playing, and forgotten are all discomforts. You just have to sing and dance and cheer along…
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Jorn Lande! Eric Martin! Ronnie Atkins! Michael Kiske! Bob Catley! Amanda Somerville! Herbie Langhans! And of course the mastermind himself, Tobias Sammet, who did not talk too much this time. But it was great he gave credit to sound man Achim Köhler in between, naming him Mr. Simsalabim, and giving the whole band a chance to shine (sorry, I did not take notes of the names…). And because I saw even average Finnish Metal dudes in the beer zone singing along heartily, I am convinced that after this very first Avantasia show in Finland ever, it will not be the last… Great headliner of day 1!

Day 2 should be sold out with 11000 visitors, which became obvious pretty early. Yet not as early as the first show of this day with Brymir who had deserved a bigger audience; moreover, their singer is not as grim in person as on their promo photos. Great Pagan Metal had young fans in the back and on the wheelchair ramp raise their fists high. And it wa so hot already so that the band prompted a rain dance. Well, maybe they shouldn’t have …
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While With The Dead flooded the Helsinki Stage in the tent with their Doom, I explored the area – check out the gallery HERE – a nice outline of the whole area with 3 stages and a small venue named ”Solmusali” for more intimate events like interviews and acoustic shows. Black Dining was back, there was a new Prosecco & Champaign Bar, a Whisky bar where also cocktails were offered and a green spot with a Sauna tent – plus the best idea ever, mobile bars to relieve the queuing in the bar areas a bit.

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Primordial drew a massive audience, and no wonder, such hypnotic intense songs plus dramatic vocals should not be missed. Songs like Coffin Ships or Empire Falls induced goose flesh even in the heat … Singer AA Nemtheanga unleashed his entire Finnish vocabulary onto the public (Saatana Perkele Vittu) – basically only kippis (cheers) was still missing, especially when he mentioned that “the Irish and the Finnish have something in common” … and indeed, people drank a lot – of water, I guess I had 2 l just during this show … (KW)

No Tuska without a healthy dose of Norwegian darkness, and this year Tsjuder had the honor of continuing the tradition. For me it was the first time to see them live, and my curiosity soon turned to delight. No bullshit from this massive-sounding trio and no extravaganza, just purebred black metal. Again a show that justified the existence of the tent, and I’m already looking forward to seeing them again in their native country next month. (TS)
Crimson Sun

While Turmion Kätilöt entertained the crowd with classics like Teurastaja, I visited the Scott Ian Interview, one of these intimate events at Solmusali with limited access.

Topics like Brexit and Trump could not be avoided, but then Petri Eskelinen focused his questions toward the decades of this band in the music biz (it will be 35 years sharp on July 18). Scott Ian proved to be a talkative and likeable entertainer. Especially when he talked about Anthrax as his baby (You need to forget your own ego and take care of the baby) and that there’s still this inner teenager who shits his pants just thinking about they are going to play with Iron Maiden …

Omnium Gatherum are one of my favorite domestic acts, although their latest album doesn’t rank as high in my personal charts than its two predecessors. Live they are as good as ever, ever-smiling singer Jukka is an excellent frontman and the instrumentalists led by guitar genius Markus “Van Hala” Vanhala are no less of a joy to watch. After last year’s special double gig at Virgin Oil Co where the band played its two best albums in full, this one was just more of a routine show, but in case of OG even “average” is a quality seal.


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Swallow the Sun’s second gig was the most exclusive part of the weekend, staged in a room otherwise used for lectures and the like. Its seats were alotted to a hundred lucky sweepstake winners, a lot more people would have liked to get in and I felt a bit bad for them, but the intimacy totally matched the occasion. Songs From The North pt. II is mostly acoustic and so was the gig. Lighting was sparse and during the quietest parts you could have heard a pin drop. For the instrumental 66°50’N, 28°40’E, Mikko himself sat down on the floor among the journalists and listened to the band play on. One of the most special hours in the entire history of Tuska, straight to the heart. (TS)

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Thunderstone live are always a pleasure, and when drummer Atte smiles, the sun rises. Which would not have been necessary on this day actually… It was only way into the show when I realised that there had been an extremely short notice replacement of Titus Hjelm who got sick: Tuomas Yli-Jaskari (Tracedawn) handled the bass so perfectly, I didn’t notice any mistakes – great job! And please check the photo gallery, I managed to catch Atte’s drum stick trick!
Unfortunately I could not enjoy the full gig and hits like The Path, 10.000 Ways or Through the Pain,
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Lord Vicar played earlier than originally planned, and I wanted to get a few snapshots of those Doomsters featuring a Reverend Bizarre-heavy Line-Up.

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When bands are mentioned that are always fun to watch, Anthrax definitely belongs to those. What an earth was in Bass player Frank Bello’s breakfast? His high-strung-high-energy show alone would be enough for a whole band, but then there are also Scott Ian and Joey Belladonna, and classics like Caught in a Mosh, Madhouse, Indians, Among the Living… unfortunately the weather turned pretty Antisocial, pouring rain I could not even get my raincoat out – so I had to run. OK I am waterproof but my camera isn’t …


What I heard from Austrian Tuska veterans later (greetings to Vienna), people who got soaking wet dried themselves in the moshpits of Stam1na in the tent and Havok (photo Tina Solda) in the Club. (KW)
Back in the late eighties, early nineties I thought I was the only teenager who adored Grace Slick, but last year at Tuska, Blues Pills made me suspect that maybe I wasn’t the only one after all, and Jess and The Ancient Ones rather confirmed that suspicion. I still have a weakness for all things remotely psychedelic, and the sixties-tinged hardrock offered by Jess & Co. was a smooth and mellow vehicle for transporting me back from Swallow The Sun’s acoustic enchantment to the delights of the electric guitar. (TS)

The main act of the evening were Ghost from Sweden, whom so far I had only seen as a warm-up act for bigger bands. The Tuska show was notably larger in all theatrical aspects, a rather different kind of ritual than Behemoth’s the night before although of course both bands draw heavily on church imagery. The setting was further dramatized by the pitch-black clouds that soon begun to amass around the stage, at which point I decided to grab my bike and ride home before the downpour started, but my friends who stayed until the end and got properly soaked assured me it was totally worth it. (TS)

Day 3 began with this bundle of joy Block Buster from Kuopio who once again proved their talent and skills – and who could resist such party sound created by Metal / Hardrock / Rock’n’Roll elements, comparable with AC/DC? Even the most hangover-ish Tuska visitor has to feel the itch for dance moves… Well, they had deserved more people as the first band of the day, but I bet they won some new fans here.
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And as it turned out they still had the best weather conditions, as the pouring rain which started right after they finished their set would not stop in quite a while (and still 8000 people showed up on this day). Thus I enjoyed a band I consider another sensational surprise at this festival – a woman both Enya and Arch-Enemy-Angela – “Archenya”? More from my colleague (KW).

One of the most anticipated acts for me this weekend was Myrkur, although I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. She’s been getting her share of disrespect from certain members of the Trve Kvlt faction who claim her to be Relapse’s puppet and whatnot, but I suspect common male chauvinism at work here rather than any serious musical arguments. I for one was highly pleased with what I heard and how it was presented, not to mention its originality.
At least I’m not aware of anyone else doing this kind of ethereal black metal and being equipped with such an excellent voice to boot. And yeah, she’ also capable of fierce black metal screeches, going from angel to demon in the wink of an eye. The first and last song, in contrast, were rather serene piano pieces, the latter accompanied by heavy rain drumming on the tent roof. Which otherwise sucked, but in this very moment fit the mood excellently.


Another band I had never seen before and greatly looked forward to were Nervosa from Brazil, a trash metal power trio that would take no prisoners. They were in Finland for the first time and called it a dream come true, which judging from how much they seemed to enjoy themselves on stage was hardly exaggerated. Singer/bassist Fernanda was responsible for most of the stage show, but drummer Pitchu and shred queen Prika (who also delivered some mean deep growls) were likewise far from static. They played on the indoor club stage, and the house was absolutely packed. The most exciting surprise of the festival, welcome back anytime! (TS)

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Diablo delivered the right sound to cheer up a partly totally rain-soaked crowd, and they even had a special welcome for their German fans. Yet otherwise their announcements were kept in Finnish language. Does not matter, the important message, namely their Metal-Rock´n´Roll kicked asses and dancing-shoes. (KW)

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The third Swallow The Sun gig was not only the heaviest of the three but arguably the heaviest they have ever played – Songs Of The North pt III is darker, doomier and more despairing than anything the band has recorded before. Optically the show was closer to a “normal” STS gig than the other two, though That is, not much was to see of the band members, which for these three shows got some assistance from Jaani Peuhu on backing vocals and Juho Räihä, who relieved Juha Raivio from his duties on several songs on each day. Given how much pain Juha has been gone through lately, this solution was absolutely understandable, and I’m only grateful that he agreed to do these very special shows in the first place.

Katatonia are a band I used to like a lot in the early 2000s but then gradually lost interest in, admittedly I haven’t even listened to their latest album. Luckily for me, a good part of their Tuska set consisted of material from my favorite period, such as “July” and “In The White”. And to be fair, the newer stuff is not bad, “Dead Letters” for example worked quite well for me. I just couldn’t summon enough excitement anymore after several more interesting bands…. (TS)

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As I had seen Children Of Bodom at Nummirock a week before, I cannot add much more. Once again a great gig, and “the new dude” on guitar Daniel Freyberg (Naildown) fits nicely into those kids from Espoo. There was a slight adjustment to the setlist (no Everytime I Die or Needled 24/7 fehlten), but then they had Netta Skog on accordion joining them for some songs. And there was a Pyro show but no fireworks… And once again key-man Janne proved his strange sense of humour, when he picked up drumsticks Jaska had lost and returned them to him in a loving manner – and all that in the middle of a song. They had a bar-decoration before, maybe they should try some cooking plates next, so that Janne could fry some eggs or crepes when playing keyboard seems too boring? 😉 What to say, a great final act for another great Tuska Festival! (KW)

The anniversary Tuska – the 20th – will take place 30.6.-2.7.2017 – more info at the festival website .


Tina Solda

tina@stalker-magazine.rocks - concert and festival reports, photos, interviews - - - Favorite genres: I don't care much about genres, but on a grossly generalized level I like melancholic death, unconventional black, melodic doom, dramatic folk and smart pagan metal (main regions: Iceland, Finland & Norway) - - - Other interests: guitar, books, beer, movies, cats.