Tuska Open Air Festival 2019
June 28-30, 2019, Suvilahti, Helsinki, Finland – PHOTO GALLERY HERE
There’s life in the old dog yet! In recent years Rock / Heavy Metal clubs and events – incl Tuska – had attendance and resulting financial problems, but these times seem to be over: New record in its 22nd year with 43.000 people in 3 days, fantastic weather (not to hot, no rain) and no incidents even though this festival takes place in the heart of the city (unlike other Metal events this size, usually far out in the middle of nowhere …)
Several major changes – including the entrance via REDI shopping center / Metro station Kalasatama – had probably less impact than the K 18 label – which means no longer under-age Metalheads allowed. One of the reasons was the tiny percentage of minors at this event, reportedly less than 100 at Tuska 2018. This means, no longer fenced bar areas, adults could freely move with their alcoholic drinks. Journalists noticed the downside quickly – it was much more difficult to get from A to B to all these crowds everywhere. And the club stage remained a gamble – in case you managed to get in you probably could not get out any more… Three stages, 46 bands and additional presentations, an Expo, Sauna etc – journalists as well as regular customers had to set priorities and make choices.
As I miscalculated transport and security check times on FRIDAY, I only got to see the last few songs of Medeia warming up a pretty full tent for things to come. Many more people should be arriving a bit later.
Arion opened the main stage with errr definitely very safe and photographer-friendly yet not quite impressive pyro effects. Maybe having the great music and the likeable musicians on stage speak for itself would have been better.
Many of their grooving Epic Power Metal Songs (Seven, The Last Sacrifice, Out of the Ashes) are as catchy as Pop songs, hence this band has their major break through overdue. Their colleagues with a similar sound have managed to get there already: Battle Beast. Yet I did not see much of their show due to the scheduled interview with Alien Weaponry.
While the Doom duo Goatburner and the Finnish cult-Thrash band Pahan Ikoni go for the brutal, the solo album of Marko Hietala (Tarot, Nightwish) has a certain campfire atmosphere, very melodic and catchy, with Finnish lyrics. Marko apologized for that to the international Tuska audience, yet such a brilliant singer could use the telephone book for lyrics and I won’t mind. Then after the interview I barely managed to catch the virile Punk/Thrasher Power Trip and then preferred the great Epic Metal show of Brymir (who welcomed their Japanese fan club too – see PHOTO GALLERY HERE. In this context the identical pyro show Arion used had much more impressive effect.
The reason why afterwards I could not catch more Anthrax than “Antisocial” and “Indians” and no photos at all has been explained already (hence check out the snapshots taken by Sander) – I was not amused but I had seen them at Tuska already and I assume it was not their last performance in Helsinki. Had I suspected that the solo gig of Anneke von Giersbergen should induce claustrophobia attacks (I left after one song – Sander made it to the front and took some photos), I would have stayed at the Cult of Luna show in the tent – fantastic brutal Post Metal sound, great show!
The same – fantastic show – can be said about the next act on the main stage. I would have enjoyed to see more of Dimmu Borgir – I heard later they even played my fave “Mourning Palace” – but I really wanted to make sure I get to see the next act at the club stage. Which meant to ditch half of the set of those Norwegians, and the full show of Swallow The Sun .
Otherwise it would not been possible to watch the Alien Weaponry show in full length – actually the first band to do so. Of all the others that day I caught maybe 3 songs as I was mainly focused on taking the photos. And indeed, those teenage guys from New Zealand drew a huge crowd – right at the stage wings there was enough space and no danger to end up in a mosh pit. Unfortunately the view to the stage wasn’t that great …
On the other hand, from this spot I could watch how the crowd went insane basically throughout the gig. They even tried a Wall of Death – but there simply was no room for it! Surely those rhythms and the texts delivered in Maori Haka style (like the brand new song Ahi Kā) have this primal appeal, you cannot help it, you have to move, to rock along. For some reason their songs with English lyrics don’t have the same hypnotizing effect. Moreover, those guys really know how to inspire an audience! Yes, that was fine, hope to see such a gig again soon!
As I heard later, people said that this gig was one of the best of the whole festival. Well, what I can say is: before this show I felt drained, exhausted, hungry and thirsty as I had run around making photos all day with hardly anything to eat… and after the show I felt like 180 % energized wearing a huge smile on my face…
However, the award for “best show of this day” definitely goes to the headliner Amorphis – first, it’s their music as such. Secondly, the massive show on the main stage. Thirdly, the special show performing the whole “Queen of Time” album – and lastly, guest singer Anneke appearing even twice, the second time co-performing “Her Alone”, a song you rarely hear being played live. Gooseflesh-inducing, fantastic, sensational – it does not matter how often you have seen this band live already, they are always HELL YEAH! A great finale of a great but exhausting first festival day.
The SATURDAY saw some improvement of problems that the audience had noticed – and social-media savvy organizers reacted quickly. As the huge merchandise lines had produced a certain bottleneck effect near the main stage, the merch access was moved to the other side – and you could notice the positive result immediately. There were more WCs, waste bins and additional security & bar personnel. The 15.000 people on this day spread more evenly on the area and it was easier to move – well, at least until the headliner was due. And although the photo pits were much bigger this year – THANKS!, this day saw multiplied photographers, hence it was a push & shove like every year. Anyway, for the coming festival days I had made the resolution to take it easier, sit down in between, actually watch bands, have food & drink when needed and rather skip a photo opportunity.
The Industrial Metal flea circus Fear of Domination and the Glam Rock’n’Roll circus Wake up Frankie woke the spirits of people present, and so did the Thrashers Lost Society. Those guys celebrated the fact that they had finally made it to the Tuska main stage – and induced the biggest mosh pit of the entire festival, as I was told. Cannot prove it, I rather keep a safe distance to those. The Suomi Pop / Rock of Maj Karma contrasted with the Black Metal performed by Mustan Kuun Lapset, before Stam1na drew the masses to the main stage.
I noticed here that even Mexican fans can perfectly sing along with the lyrics to “Viisi laukausta päähän” ?? Stam1na offered a special gig, too, having a guest singer Anna Eriksson for “Gaian Lapsi”.
High octane flea circus plus some acrobatics were offered by Kvelertak in the tent. I missed the owl mask, instead those Norwegians went even crazier than ever before. A stage dive first to the photo pit, then to the audience? Phew, in this case I appreciated to be pushed to the fringes – and from there I had a nice angle to take some snap shots (see the PHOTO GALLERY ). Kvelertak proved once again that they are a lot of fun – one of my faves I gladly re-visit!
After so much action I didn’t feel like Sick Of It All hard core – moreover, the club stage was much closer, I explained already why this was important in such a huge crowd. Therefore rather chilling with the likeable Austrians / Italians / French Visions of Atlantis (photographed by Sander) and their epic symphonic Metal with a high degree of instant appeal. You could never have guessed they actually performed their Tuska premiere with an “emergency equipment” as theirs had got lost in transit. Kudos and a big thanks in the name of the STALKER crew to Warkings and Wake Up Frankie for helping out fellow musicians in need!
And although Delain in the tent surely were once again ear and eye candy (see Sander’s photos), I decided to skip the hassle for just one or two of their songs and preferred to hang out in the club building, waiting for the next act De Lirium’s Order. I had attended their great acoustic show already – but this full electro version of their new album “Singularity” was absolutely delightful! Amazing how those guys managed to perform such a complex Technical Death Metal material live on stage!
Unfortunately I could not follow the whole show as the main stage presented Opeth. Complex and still very entertaining (including announcements and little stories), a best-of setlist – still a pretty short one due to the length of the songs: Sorceress, Ghost of Perdition, The Devil’s Orchard, Cusp of Eternity, In My Time of Need, The Drapery Falls, Deliverance.
When the Metal-Veterans Loudness were on, I could not even get among the first 5 rows OUTSIDE the club stage, hence could not even hear anything (Sander had more luck, see his snapshots) … therefore I decided to watch Heilung a bit.
(No photographers were allowed into the pit, but Sander managed to take some snapshots from the audience.) And wow, that was an experience. Is it a band or a collective of prehistoric shamans, performing a ritual on merely acoustic instruments (at least that’s what it sounds like) and voices? Fantastic – but I could not watch much of them as I decided to be near the main stage way before the headliner was due.
SLAYER. No compromises. No mercy. No pauses or announcements (well, despite one introducing a song, I think it was Payback… ) Captivating. Amazing light and pyro show. Amazing best-of program – incl. South of Heaven, which I had hoped for, one of my faves – and the very last gig they will ever play in Finland, on their farewell tour. Finally, the musicians enjoyed the cheers of the massive crowd for minutes, silently, obviously moved (did Tom suppress some tears?) In any case a very emotional moment for Tom Araya, his final word (also on Video): “Thank you. I’ll miss you guys, good night and good bye”.
We’ll miss you too, Slayer.
My poor feet …. maybe this is why it’s called Tuska (pain, agony) … after those two previous days, the SUNDAY felt like easy-going, starting later and ending sooner, less bands – and “empty” in comparison, as there were “only” 13.000 people …
People who arrived early to catch the ear candy material of Leverage might have been wondering whether K-18 means “18 months”: a lot of very very under-aged metal heads had come for the special event “Pikku-Tuska” (little Tuska) dedicated to the Metal newcomers aged 0–10. The program included crafts, face painting, free beverages and snacks, plus the show of Hevisaurus, which about 500 mini-metallers and their parents truly appreciated. Hevisaurus are simply a lot of fun for kids and adults, and they have a lot of real good songs (there’s also a German version, check out Heavysaurus)!
There was much more rough Metalcore-stuff delivered by I Revolt on the Club stage before the Punk-Rockers Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes surprised with a killer Rock sound and a performance style off the main stage – in the middle of the audience. They even introduced the concept of exclusive all-female mosh pits.
Soon the girls dominated the stages as well – first the Goth Metallers Dark Sarah, then the tough Jinjer from Ukraine with their Death&Prog&Core Metal – WOOOOW! In between there was the gig of the Prog-Trio Palehorse, before a force of nature named Halestorm rocked the tent stage to the ground. Lzzy Hale, admitting to being totally nuts, a born performer – channeling Joan Jett with her new look, is alone capable of blowing off the roof, but there is her whole band too providing a solid back ground – WOW, what to say. The first and hopefully not the last Tuska show of this band, and they should be on the main stage next time.
Mentioning WOW – this might describe the Behemoth show best, too. They seemed to intend a competition with Slayer with their fierce fire and pyro show, or at least tried to compete with the headliner of this day… Despite keeping a distance, it felt like my face is melting off, plus the camera – hence I fled the scene earlier and preferred to watch the rest of the gig from a safe distance. And obviously Sander preferred to be further away too …
Basically I feel sorry for every band performing as headliner after Slayer, especially after this special gig. Plus, there were so many potential headliners performing on this day.
There might be different opinions based on different musical tastes, whether Halestorm or Behemoth – or the actual headlining band The Hellacopters had the biggest appeal on this day. Well, it’s a fact that The Hellacopters as Rock’n’Roll veterans had a huge package of old and new hits to impress the Tuska audience, and they didn’t need long to turn the Tuska area into a huge party zone.
Therefore also day 3 and Tuska 2019 as such ended on a high note – and we’ll definitely back next year: TUSKA 26.-28.6.2020.
More photos in the PHOTO GALLERY