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MOKOMA @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 24.09.2016

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Mokoma at Tavastia, fall 2016.
Photos by Miia Collander.

BATTLELORE w/ KIVIMETSÄN DRUIDI & WHISPERED – GONG2, Turku, 23.9.2016

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Battlelore, one of Finland’s most under-appreciated local acts, released six albums between 2002-2011 before retreating, taking a hiatus of unspecified length. Some time ago, the band announced two live shows, one in Turku on September 23rd and the other in Helsinki on September 24th, for the first time in over 4 years. The Lappeenranta-based metal act has always been hugely popular in central Europe, but has, for some reason, eluded the Finnish audience, which has always seemed a bit odd to me considering the number of Finnish folk metal bands and their overall domestic success.

My old home town has produced a number of successful metal bands, of which I’ve always regarded Battlelore to be one of the best, so it was pretty self-explanatory to attend at least one of the two shows.

 

Arriving at the venue, GONG2 (previously Turku’s Klubi), I was running a bit late, but I still had some time to check the venue out nevertheless. Klubi used to be a shady live venue with dark wall paint and beer stains, but the place was renovated along with the name change. The walls were painted white and a bunch of black umbrellas were inserted to hang from the ceiling to dim the lighting. My local friends, who hadn’t been there for a while, commented that the space felt a lot bigger than before because of the paint job. Also, I can’t remember if this was the case with Klubi but the cloakroom was placed right next to the band area, which seemed to confuse some of the concert-goers.

After I steered away from the cloakroom and grabbed a beer, the first band of the evening, Whispered from Tampere, had already started their show. I’ve written about these guys a few times already, and nothing’s changed since the last time I saw them live: Whispered’s melodic death metal was as effective as ever. The band has been quite popular for a few years now, so it wasn’t a surprise that the venue was already quite packed – from what I heard from my friends, opening acts usually only attract a few dozen people. Whispered gave us a nice performance and created some spontaneous mosh pit action in the front of the stage, and it was pretty clear that people had come to see all three bands. The setlist was – due to the limited timeframe – mostly comprised of Whispered’s music video tracks, but the band managed to surprise me completely, as they finished off with the new album’s epic 11-minute closing track, “Bloodred Shores of Enoshima.” NOICE!

 

The evening’s second act, Kivimetsän Druidi, has been around since 2002. The band showed up on my radar in 2006 when they released the EP, Mustan Valtikan Aika, attracting considerable attention from folk metal fans and, along with the EP The New Chapter next year, landing them a record deal with Century Media in 2008. Being from Kouvola, which is less than 100 kilometers from Lappeenranta, enabled the band to perform relatively frequently in Lappeenranta at that time, but for some reason I haven’t seen a single one of their shows.

I can’t say that I’m too familiar with Kivimetsän Druidi’s material, but the show was great! The band relies heavily on the dynamics between the guitarist Joni Koskinen’s growls and vocalist Leeni-Maria Hovila’s classical voice, with lengthy experience clearly showing in both members’ performances. The bassist, Simo Lehtonen, puffed up the audience between songs, while the rest of the band concentrated on playing. A word on the band’s drummer, Atte Marttinen, though – impressive precision and strength right there! The setlist featured a few tracks from the band’s latest EP, The Lost Captains, and was concluded with (arguably) the band’s most well-known song, “Jäässä Varttunut,” off their debut album, Shadowheart.

 

Time for the main act! Kivimetsän Druidi had attracted a hefty audience, as the band space was almost full when Battlelore started their show. The group climbed on stage and kicked off with “Fangorn,” dating all the way back to their debut album from 2002, Where the Shadows Lie. Didn’t see that coming – I’ve only heard the song live in 2006, when Battlelore played at Imatra’s Rock to the River festival! The Last Alliance’s opener, “Third Immortal,” followed, before the harsh vocalist, Tomi Mykkänen, introduced the band in his thick Karelian accent.

The show continued on with the debut album’s “Khazad-Dûm pt. 1” and “Kärmessurma” from their latest effort, Doombound, and it was delightful to notice that Battlelore was still as vibrant live as they were before the hiatus. The band dropped hits one after another: “House of Heroes,” “Sons of Riddermark,” “We Are the Legions”… they even did “Moontower” and “The Star of High Hope,” the two last songs off The Last Alliance. Before the last song in the set, Mykkänen asked – maybe a bit shyly – to come to the T-shirt sales booth and say hello after the show. Battlelore concluded their main set with “Journey to Undying Lands” off Where the Shadows Lie and climbed off the stage only to instantly be cheered back. The band gave the audience the choice between Sword’s Song’s killer track, “Buccaneer’s Inn,” and Third Age of the Sun’s opener, “Storm of the Blades,” of which the audience (of course) cheered for “Buccaneer’s Inn.” Sadly, this was the last song of the evening, as Battlelore thanked the audience afterwards and went backstage.

Battlelore is a great band with a long history – the seven current members have been together since 2004 with loads of hit material, and it’s a shame that during their prime they didn’t receive the kind of promotion from their record label or media that they musically should have. Their concept is far richer than some of their domestic competitors with the lyrical themes based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings; Doombound even being a concept album based on Tolkien’s tale of Túrin Turambar, which in turn is based on Kullervo, a character from the Finnish national epic, Kalevala. Of course, Battlelore is not the only metal band to base all of part of their work on Tolkien, with Germany’s Blind Guardian and Austria’s Summoning to name a few, but there’s no denial of the brilliant work of Battlelore’s primus motor, guitarist Jyri Vahvanen. I sincerely hope that the band will continue on after this brief comeback.

 

As a whole, the night was a great success, as all three bands had great performances, the renovated venue worked nicely, and a pint of beer was moderately priced at €4.50. The stage was small and its lighting wasn’t as extravagant as one would’ve expected, but it served the audience just fine. As said, the bands had a T-shirt sales stand in the back corner of the band space, and hopefully sales were good. Maybe the only surprising thing about the evening was the absence of Battlelore’s third (and somewhat of a breakthrough) album, Third Age of the Sun, in the setlist – songs like “Gwaith-i-Mírdain” or “Touch of Green and Gold” would have been wonderful additions to the already great setlist.

Setlist:
1. Fangorn
2. Third Immortal
3. Khazad-Dûm pt. 1
4. Kärmessurma
5. House of Heroes
6. Olden Gods
7. Sons of Riddermark
8. Moontower
9. We are the Legions
10. The Star of High Hope
11. Last of the Lords
12. Journey to Undying Lands

Encore:
13. Buccaneer’s Inn

Text: Atte Valtonen | Ed: Amy Wiseman

(2016) Epica: The Holographic Principle

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Artist: Epica
Album: The Holographic Principle
Release: 30.09.2016
Label: Nuclear Blast

 

There can be no denying that Epica has a huge fanbase, nor that they deserve it. With their bombastic sound, strong vocalists, talented instrumentalists, and complex song construction, there is no wonder that these guys are as popular as they are. The Holographic Principle, the title of their latest album, relates to “… a property of string theories and a supposed property of quantum gravity that states that the description of a volume of space can be thought of as encoded on a lower-dimensional boundary to the region—preferably a light-like boundary like a gravitational horizon.” [Thanks, Wikipedia!] It seems that science is a popular theme in the metal scene these days, no?

Disclaimer: This album became available to me only a few short days before the release, so there was no time for me to do a proper, comprehensive review. However, Epica has always intrigued me without ever truly blowing my mind the way they have for many, many others, and in spite of not considering myself a big fan, I have always been very impressed by their songwriting and live performances, and they have been growing on me in the years since Design Your Universe (2009). I always give their new albums a few runs to see if anything sticks, and so I wanted to give this one a listen as well. However, with this in mind, I won’t be granting this album an ‘official’ score because I only had the chance to listen to it once and didn’t get a chance to let it grow on me. Don’t worry though – I have plenty to say.

 

1. Eidola
One thing I’ve always liked about Epica is their ability to write fantastic intro songs, if/when they choose to do so. “Eidola” is one of such songs, sounding like exactly the kind of kickass movie score that I want to hear in an intro. It starts off with that movie trailer note, repeating. You know, the ‘evil note’ that was overused in Inception? It lightens up to some light and pretty Gothic-type music with some haunting and creepy child-like vocals, and then builds up very nicely with the regular choir. That choir sounds very typically Epica. Off to a good start!

2. Edge of the Blade
The transition between “Eidola” and “Edge of the Blade” is unfortunately not particularly smooth. This is the one song I’d heard once or twice beforehand and it has one aspect of Epica songs that I don’t like, followed by pretty much everything I do like. That thing that I don’t like is that they do too much too soon. You’ve probably heard this song, and the thing I’m referring to is the extremely dynamic music coupled with epic choirs right off the bat. To me, this has always been overwhelming when it happens so immediately. If this song had followed a more gentle build-up, or had left the choirs to the end, I would give this song a full score, because I like everything else about it, including the strong performance by Mark Jansen on growls, and particularly Simon Simons, who I have always appreciated but not always found to be used to her potential, often overusing the operatics or under-using her regular vocals. When that choir returns after 4 minutes have passed, it’s in the perfect place and that would have been enough. I just wish it hadn’t been included at the beginning.

Check out the music video here:

3. A Phantasmic Parade
“A Phantasmic Parade” has… not exactly a tip-toeing intro, but however you would describe it, I like it. I wondered immediately if there was a guest vocalist harmonizing with Simons in this track, or if both voices belonged to the same person. I wasn’t able to learn more from the promotional material, so I guess I’ll have to wait to find out after the album is released. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a harmony that sounds like two different people (that are likely the same person) and I’m quite fascinated by it. This is a very strong, energetic song, and it’s unique. I like when Epica gets epic (bad joke not intended) and this song is impressing me without overwhelming me, even though there is a lot going on. It rides the edge of being too much without quite going over it.

4. Universal Death Squad
You’ve probably heard this one before, but I hadn’t. “Universal Death Squad” starts out with a beautiful, gentle string and piano intro that is extremely reminiscent to the Avatar: The Legend of Korra ending credits music (check it out here), but immediately picks up and gets heavy and twisted. There’s a definite Oriental influence in this song, which I like, but on this occasion I do think there’s a bit too much going on – it starts gentle and then kicks off just a bit too hard before finding its rhythm. I think the oldschool Epica fans will be okay with it though, because we’re also seeing the higher side of Simons’ vocals on this one. Someone is again harmonizing with Simons in this song, though on this occasion I’m fairly certain she’s doing her own backing vocals. Jansen again shows his strength as a vocalist – this is beauty and the beast singing at its finest. As well, nice soloing, whichever guitarist that was!

Lyric video here:

5. Divide and Conquer
“Divide and Conquer” as a nice build-up at the beginning, which sounds very movie/game score-y again, particularly with the shots fired and shouting voices in the beginning. I would love to see these guys contribute to a soundtrack someday, as they really know how to write this sort of adrenaline-rush instrumental music. It takes a totally different turn just after the 1 minute mark though, ceasing the score sound almost immediately and switching back to heavy metal, with Jansen and Simons trading vocals with ease. I might have kept the intro to this song separate as an interlude, because it feels quite different from the song itself. The mellow drum beat that accompanies the slower chorus might, in other scenarios, be considered dull, but in this setting it actually works well as a breather in yet another strong, dynamic, and energetic song. If there’s an eastern influence in this one, I’d associate it a bit with traditional Egyptian sounds, though I couldn’t say for sure. We also get one of those verbal collages of what sounds like news clips toward the end. With this one clocking in at over 7 minutes, it could be time for a breather any minute now…

6. Beyond the Matrix
Nope, not yet. “Beyond the Matrix” is certainly slower, but still very upbeat, again with the choirs opening the song. You know, when they do that, I think the reason it feels overwhelming to me is because every song feels like the climax of a dramatic arc. This song is no exception. Parts of it feel like the grand apex of a great story, or the epic finale of a stage show, and then blend fairly seamlessly into the rest of the song. This has a truly beautiful interlude nearly 4 minutes in, which is a welcome change of pace, and moves smoothly into a growling segment by Jansen and a very progressive bit of riffing. Very, very, very strong close to this one.

7. Once Upon a Nightmare
The violin parts and ominous without being creepy intro to “Once Upon a Nightmare” immediately appeal to me. The prolonged slow intro to this is perfect, giving me the break I needed. The gentle build up feels vaguely like it might have been written by Howard Shore and again gives the impression of score-writing mastery. The singing begins after 2 minutes and I’m again somewhat wishing the intro had been an instrumental interlude, though this one has far less of a stylistic change than “Divide and Conquer.” This track is the ballad that I had been waiting for, and ballads have always, in my opinion, been one of Epica’s strong suits. However, these guys can’t leave things simple, because this song too builds up to a grand and epic climax with choirs and guitars and I feel like I am seeing some heavenly light breaking through… something dark? Gloomy ruins, a devastating war… could be anything. Okay, this song is great, but these guys have had this entire album cranked up to full power for seven songs straight, and these are long songs, often well over 6 minutes in length. This song didn’t need to go power epic in the end, not that it suffers for it, but the album as a whole could’ve used a proper break at this point.

8. The Cosmic Algorithm
“The Cosmic Algorithm” has a bit of an oldschool Epica feel to me when it kicks off – heavy beat and operatic choirs, perhaps more so than any other song so far. It’s a good thing that Isaac Delahaye and Mark Jansen know their way around their instruments, because the guitars certainly keep things lively and from stagnating. Also, I’m not sure if it’s Coen Janssen or the whole group or who writes their orchestrations, but they held nothing back on this album. I’ll give some props to Ariën van Weesenbeek on drums for… well, I don’t know what the technical term is, but the fast runs. The drumming is immaculate. Fans of heavier or older Epica may like this one quite a lot.

9. Ascension – Dream State Armageddon
The next track has a rather creepy intro, reminding me of some sort of sci-fi horror music, interrupted by heavy drums and guitars. When the song officially blasts off, it becomes one of the heaviest and darkest things from Epica that has ever registered on my radar. Some of Jansen’s most brutal vocals on the album are heard in this track, reaching nearly into black metal sounds. Some three quarters of the way through it almost gets a hint of a haunted house vibe. Pretty diverse overall.

10. Dancing in a Hurricane
We get another all-new folk influence here, with a distinct Middle Eastern flavor. This song feels quite different to the rest of the album so far, as there’s still a lot going on, but it’s taking its time and not going overboard in the beginning. I actually really enjoy the music (I won’t try to label it for fear of sounding culturally ignorant), but this is definitely the wild card on the album and easily one of my immediate favorites. Of course, it is still an Epica song, so it continues building up and begins its apex nearly halfway through. I don’t have the lyrics, but I’m suspecting some form of political commentary in here. I don’t know if this song needs the full metal symphonics and operatics that it eventually turns into, as they all do, because I was appreciating this song for its originality and authentic eastern feel. This was one of the most original and folky things I’ve heard Epica do, but it ultimately becomes just like every other Epica song in the end. I’m undecided on how I feel about it, because it’s still probably one of my favorites on the album, and sounding like every other Epica song isn’t exactly an insult.

11. Tear Down Your Walls
“Tear Down Your Walls” at track eleven brings us near to the end, and this song immediately gets my attention by quickly heading into a marching beat, which I am notorious for loving. Yet another song that has a ton going on, we hear many different levels of Simons’ vocals. At this point, I’m running out of things to say without repeating myself. Nice track – very powerful. Let’s move on.

12. The Holographic Principle – A Profound Understanding of Reality
Monk chants or gospel choirs? Tough to be sure which the opening vocals to the title track are leaning towards. This is the album’s epic, in spite of the fact that you could call nearly every song on this album an epic. However, I suspect we’re going to get a more drawn out piece of art here, and the piano and strings do not disappoint. I might have stronger positive feelings for Epica if they didn’t use choirs so much. I mean, 4.5 minutes through this song, we already reach a point that musically feels like the finale and closing scene, but then we just move on to some solos and the song continues. More awesome score-type music, more hard-hitting heavy metal, more awesome symphonics… a straight-up prog part that goes full-on Dream Theater toward the end that I’m totally into, and then eventually closes out rather abruptly with zero fade-out. Epic indeed.

 

And so, like many Epica albums in the past, I enjoyed this album thoroughly on listening to it, but it’s so epic and vast and grand that I find myself, once again, feeling somewhat overwhelmed by it. I actually had a mild physical sense of anxiety throughout, though not in a bad way. It’s a crazy bombastic album and really strong on all fronts – vocally, instrumentally, everything. Truly, for a band called ‘Epica’, they are living up to the promises their name implies.

However, while every song manages to be extremely dynamic in its own way, with every song turned up to 11 or higher, the album as a whole doesn’t feel dynamic – it is consistently and unchangingly at 11. I’d love to see these guys turn it down to 8 or 9 sometime and instead of pumping everything into every song (“Martyr of the Free Word” from Design Your Universe is a good example of what I mean), put some things into one song and other things into another song. It seems like they have a formula with which they write their music – one that is tried and true. I would have been interested to know what themes the album covers lyrically, and as well, I’m curious which tracks they’ll pick for the live shows, though unfortunately I won’t be able to catch their upcoming Helsinki gig.

Overall, for the people who are into this sort of massive powerful super-music, I think you’ll likely be very happy with the album, and I would be doing the band a disservice if I awarded this anything lower than a 9/10, because the construction of every song is incredible. I mean, come on, I wrote that much after listening to it once? If I had reviewed this properly it would’ve been so long no one would have wanted to read it. That said, don’t put too much thought into my score because I only listened through once.

Tracklist:
1. Eidola
2. Edge of the Blade
3. A Phantasmic Parade
4. Universal Death Squad
5. Divide and Conquer
6. Beyond the Matrix
7. Once Upon a Nightmare
8. The Cosmic Algorithm
9. Ascension – Dream State Armageddon
10. Dancing in a Hurricane
11. Tear Down Your Walls
12. The Holographic Principle – A Profound Understanding of Reality

Text: Amy Wiseman | Photos: Epica The Holographic Principle promotional photos, 2016, by Tim Tronckoe

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE: Niko Moilanen & Joonas Porko (Blind Channel), 2016

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Blind Channel @ Nummirock 2016

Faster than the speed of light, Blind Channel is rising to the top! These clever young fellows from Oulu have proven themselves quite quickly to be smart song-writers and fantastic performers. With their debut album, Revolutions, and its release gig coming out in a few short days, we got both Niko Moilanen (vocals) and Joonas Porko (guitar) in here to give us the playlist of their lives!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
Niko: Linkin Park feat. Jay-Z – “Numb/Encore.” I remember this exact song because as a kid I listened to the radio a lot and this song was playing on every goddamn channel. I especially fell in love with the intro sample. It’s funny that I started listening to Linkin Park many years later.

Joonas: Dingo – “Autiotalo.” Dingo was maybe the most popular boy band in Finland back in the nineties. Somehow I ended up listening this song from the tape my parents owned. I remember I really loved that chorus, oh boy!

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
Niko: Five for Fighting – “World.” Five for Fighting was the first artist I remember fan-boying [over] and this was the song that got my attention. I think I heard the song on a TV show and looked it up.

Joonas: Celine Dion – “My Heart Will Go On.” Titanic is perhaps the best movie ever made. After the movie I immediately fell in love with this song (HA!) but I’m not ashamed of it because it’s still one of the best songs I know.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Niko: Kemmuru – “Kobehärkä.” In high school all my friends were rappers who wrote lines in Finnish and I produced beats for them so I kinda had to listen to Finnish rap music. I still like this particular song though.

Joonas: My Chemical Romance – “Welcome to the Black Parade.” This song was released when I was 12 or 13 years old but still that song reminds me of my high school years when I played this song with my friends. Waiting for their comeback 😉

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
Niko: Enter Shikari – “Arguing with Thermometers.” No doubt about it. The first time I heard this song I remember laughing at it and showing it to all my friends. I remember thinking, “No one can mix genres like that.” Then I slowly started to get into it. As of today, Enter Shikari is one of my all-time favorite bands.

Joonas: In Flames – “Swim.” This was the hardest question because I could have named many other songs and bands like Black Sabbath, Children of Bodom, Linkin Park etc. But when we talk about my final steps into metal music it was that catchy and melodic riff in this song that turned me into a metalhead.

Joonas Porko
Joonas Porko

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
Niko: Twenty One Pilots – “Heathens.” Talking about my favorite bands, this is the other one. I’ve been a fan of this duo for so many years now and I think this year they released their best song yet. It’s stuck in my head and I just love it.

Joonas: Hank Solo – “Söpö.” Well… this is a song from a talented Finnish pop-producer who just wanted to do “an extreme pop song.” It has almost every goddamn element you can add when you’re doing a mainstream pop song – and that’s confusing! I’m not really sure what I should think about this song but it has played repeatedly in my head for the whole week… catchy?

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Niko: Natasha Bedingfield – “Pocketful of Sunshine.” In high school I had a crush on Emma Stone. In a film called Easy A she’s jamming to this tune and it’s been my guilty pleasure jam ever since. The crush is far gone though. Trust me. I heard she’s dating Spiderman.

Joonas: Backstreet Boys – “I Want it That Way.” This is my all-time karaoke favorite. I’ve always told my friends that this is just a joke hahaha… BUT this song is just simply awesome!

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Niko: Paramore – Riot! My emo phase. Paramore was and still is a big deal for me.

Joonas: The Rasmus – Into. The best Finnish rock band ever. Period.

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Niko: Coldplay – “Everglow.” This song from Coldplay’s latest album has this beautiful piano and touching lyrics. Definitely the song to listen while drinking hot beverage. And crying.

Joonas: Coldplay – “A Sky Full of Stars.” Same band – different songs! This song is huge but somehow I also find it relaxing.

9. The Album to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Niko & Joonas: Blind Channel – Revolutions 😉 Let’s not get too specific. The album is gonna blow your mind.

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Niko: AC/DC – “Highway to Hell.” People should know where you are.

Joonas: Bob Marley – “No Woman No Cry.” I’m the kind of person who thinks that the worse thing in the world is if my friends and family have to grieve because of me. Of course death is the natural part of life but at my funeral I would like people to remember me of my positive way of life. Shit just got deep…!

 

2016.06.11 02 Blind Channel (10) @ South Park
Niko Moilanen

And, since we’re celebrating the release of their debut album next week, the boys collectively put together a playlist for you! Here are the songs they recommend:

1. Bring Me the Horizon – “Throne”
2. Linkin Park – “In the End”
3. Justin Bieber – “Sorry”
4. Twenty One Pilots – “Car Radio”
5. Bring Me the Horizon – “Avalanche”
6. Disco Ensemble – “Black Euro”
7. Ed Sheeran – “Nina”
8. Muse – “Psycho”
9. Backstreet Boys – “Everybody”
10. Ember Falls – “Shut Down With Me”

 

We have an interview with Niko and Joel from South Park 2016 over: here!

Check out any of our many live reviews of Blind Channel from South Park 2016, Nummirock 2016, Korso Rock 2016, or Edge Nordic 2016!

Here’s the music video from their recent single, “Deja FU”:

Or the music video for “Darker than Black”:

Revolutions will be released on October 1st, 2016, via an album release gig at Helsinki’s Virgin Oil Co.!

(2016) Sonata Arctica: The Ninth Hour

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Artist: Sonata Arctica
Album: The Ninth Hour
Release: 07.10.2016
Label: Nuclear Blast

 

When mentioned to a crowd, Sonata Arctica is liable to elicit a variety of reactions, but it’s hard to deny that they are an icon in the Finnish metal scene, regardless of your opinion. With Pariah’s Child (2014) already 2 years behind them and after a successful experiment with acoustic shows just this summer, it’s about time for some new material!

Be sure to check out our interview with Henrik (and Tony) over HERE.

(2016) Opeth: Sorceress

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Artist: Opeth
Album: Sorceress
Released: 30.09.2016
Label: Nuclear Blast

 

Opeth’s recent releases have been rather polarizing in the metal community. I had no problem at all with the stylistic change on Heritage (2011), and in fact I thought it was a logical move after Watershed (2008), which already was a clear step away from the traditional Opeth sound. However, while I still love Heritage, its follow-up, Pale Communion (2014), hasn’t aged as well, and I rarely feel the need to revisit it. Somehow PC felt a little safe after the adventurous and quirky Heritage, or at least about as safe as a non-death metal Opeth album can be.

Just two years after the previous album, Opeth delivers their 12th studio opus at the end of September. Since the album is rather varied musically, I feel the best way to review it is to give a track-by-track breakdown:

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Rainer “Raikku” Tuomikanto (Ajattara, Grave Pleasures, Æther, etc), 2016

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Ajattara, Nummirock 2016

If you’re looking for Finnish drummers with some experience, look no further than Rainer “Raikku” Tuomikanto. His past CV includes bands like Kiuas, and Shining, among others, while his current CV has him actively working with acts well-known and brand new alike, such as Ajattara, Causemos, and Æther. With a history like that, how could we not get the playlist of his life for you?

(2016) Insomnium: Winter’s Gate

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Artist: Insomnium
Album: Winter’s Gate
Release: 23.09.2016
Label: Century Media

 

These days, Insomnium is one of those bands that hardly needs to be introduced to metal audiences. Ever since their debut in 2002, this Finnish melodic death metal quad has made steady progress towards bigger stages, and now, by the time they are releasing their 7th full-length album, they are again taking one giant step forward, and not with just any old easy-listening melodeath record.

(2016) Blind Channel: Revolutions

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Artist: Blind Channel
Album: Revolutions
Released: 01.10.2016
Label: Ranka Kustannus

 

Blind Channel, in the span of a few months, has quickly become one of my favorite live acts. How painful is it then that they haven’t actually had an album for me to listen to all summer, especially when this music is perfect for sunny days (okay, we haven’t had many of those this summer, but still)? October 1st, 2016, is the official release date of Revolutions, but I can’t deny my excitement when I got my hands on an advance copy of the album so I could start enjoying it right away! I expected a few of these songs to be familiar from Spotify and their live shows, all of which suggested that this was going to be a great album.

SONATA ARCTICA – Tony & Henrik, Helsinki 2016

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Sonata Arctica is one of Finland’s biggest metal exports, which is understandable, considering they have their own unique and diverse sound. With their tenth studio album coming out (or ninth if you don’t include the remake of Ecliptica) in a few short months, we decided to take the opportunity to have a chat with Tony Kakko (vocals) and Henrik Klingenberg (keyboards) about their current style, returning themes, and the weird world of social media.

EDGE NORDIC FESTIVAL – Nosturi, Helsinki, 09-10.09.2016

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In 2016, The Damager Agency decided to host a festival in both Helsinki (Finland) and Bergen (Norway) to showcase both established electronic metal/metalcore bands, as well as to bring some up-and-coming bands into the spotlight. With an impressive six bands playing each day, this festival promised to offer a variety of interesting music to all sorts of metal and pop fans alike. On September 9th and 10th, 2016, Musicalypse sent our troops, both veterans and trainees, down to Nosturi to check out what EDGE:Nordic had to offer!

EDGE NORDIC: Backstage at Nosturi, 09-10.09.2016

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When Edge Nordic 2016 hit Helsinki, we had pretty much the run of Nosturi. While we were a bit busy watching the bands, we did poke our heads backstage from time to time and caught a few bands going about their business. So here are a few photos to give you an idea of what happens behind the scenes!

Photos by Eliza Rask.

ENSIFERUM @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 10.09.2016

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Ensiferum at Tavastia, 2016.
Photos by Miia Collander.

(2016) Kansas: The Prelude Implicit

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Artist: Kansas
Album: The Prelude Implicit
Released: 23.09.2016
Label: Inside Out

 

Kansas has never been a massive name in Finland, and I’ve only heard ”Carry On Wayward Son” on the radio once or twice. However, the band’s prog rock associations and seeing the documentary Miracles Out of Nowhere earlier this year convinced me to check their first five albums out. While the quality of these classic records is a little inconsistent to my ears, the band’s overall sound, with strong vocal harmonies, rocking songs, and creative use of violin is appealing. After the 1970s, Kansas’ popularity slowly declined, and the band hasn’t released new material since 2000. However, that changes with The Prelude Implicit, which is the first Kansas studio release to feature new members Ronnie Platt (lead vocals, keyboards), David Manion (keyboards), and Zak Rizvi (guitar).

EDGE NORDIC @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 09-10.09.2016

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Edge Nordic at Nosturi, 2016.
Photos by Eliza Rask & Janne Puronen. Photos by Miia Collander to be added later.

(2016) Psychework: The Dragon’s Year

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Artist: Psychework
Album: The Dragon’s Year
Released: 02.09.2016
Label: Ranka Kustannus

 

There has been a lot of excitement buzzing around about the new Psychework album, because it marks the official comeback of the much-beloved Antony Parviainen [ex-Machine Men, Raskasta Joulua], as well as J-V Hintikka [ex-Machine Men, Red Eleven]. I can’t say I’ve ever really listened to Machine Men, nor was I overly excited about Psychework based on the snippets and singles, but I nevertheless was curious to see what sort of album Parviainen’s experiences and inspirations would produce, particularly after hearing how much Lene enjoyed their debut live performance. September 2nd, 2016, marked the digital release, with the physical album out on September 9th, 2016.

 

To be perfectly honest, while I enjoy this sort of music well enough, it’s not something I would consider to be ‘my style’ of metal. However, on turning this album on, I was immediately surprised. “Hand on Heart” is a really good starter song and it seems illness has not stripped Parviainen of his ability to sing. It feels like classic heavy metal with a bit of a symphonic, perhaps even neoclassical twist, nicely mixing a bit of a heavy march with some proper melodies. With some church organ sounds and a nice solo, the song proves that Parviainen did indeed try to create some dramatic arcs in the music from the get-go.

“Bullet with My Name” was the second familiar song, as I believe it was the other track that was released early on as a teaser. While I find perhaps the vocal line to be a bit duller than its predecessor, the song makes up for it with its strong symphonics, perfect singalong part, and powerful dynamics otherwise. “Tide”, the shortest song on the album at just under 4 minutes, brings the energy up to a new level with its fun guitar solo intro and super catchy vocal lines. Every time I hear the song, I wonder if it’s some sort of nod to Tuomas Holopainen or Nightwish in general – ‘dark passion play’ is a rather specific phrase that is also the name of a Nightwish album. I’d be curious to know why Parviainen used it in particular. In all honesty, I find it a little distracting because of that. Apart from this, it’s a quite energetic song, showing a lower level of depth to Parviainen’s vocals and a lot of really delightful input from the keys and some more classic heavy metal guitar sound, such as the solo.

“Keep the Flame” feels somehow less like a song to me and more like I’m being sung a story. It’s got darkness in the beginning, but as the song’s dramatic arc continues, it reaches a hopeful, light point, somewhat akin to that feeling in certain movies where someone ascends to heaven. It doesn’t forget that it is a metal song though, and continues onward with a guitar solo. “Barricades Won’t Fall” is a textbook ballad with its lovely keyboard melodies and the wonderful inclusion of violin to accompany said keyboards. Parviainen’s voice is almost a tad harsh against the gentle instruments and maybe should’ve been turned down just a touch. However, when the full band kicks in, that’s where this song really begins to soar. There is a hint of ominousness in this song which creates several layers that leave you with a song that you’ll hear in different ways every time you listen to it. It closes again with the beautiful harmonizing between the piano and violin, and I have to say that this is one of my favorite tracks on the album.

Drums, drums in the deep! “Vale of Tears” is up next and feels particularly heavy in its place following “Barricades Won’t Fall.” Parviainen has often been compared to Bruce Dickinson [Iron Maiden], but it wasn’t until I heard this album that I really noticed it, and if you haven’t heard it yet, you certainly will in this track. I can hear many eras of Dickinson’s voice in Parviainen’s sound, though he’s far from a straight-up rip-off. He just has that same sort of sound and style. I’d go so far as to say that Parviainen is a bit more… nasal, perhaps? There is something that is clearly different between the two vocalists that I can’t place. However, what’s really interesting about this is that both of them have developed a bit of a strained sound in recent years that they didn’t have back in the day. This song has some of the catchiest riffs and best energy on the album.

The drama gets cranked up a notch when “Tear of the Phoenix” starts up. If you want a real stage-performance style song with some fierce dynamics, this is for you. Somehow songs like this seem to require strong keyboard melodies – have you ever heard a truly excellent epic song without keyboards? If so, I’d love to know what it is. We are also graced with a choir in this one, so we are getting drama in full force. And if you think of the songs individually with their dramatic arcs, you may find that the album itself seems to have one, with “Tear of the Phoenix” as the climax and “The Dragon’s Year” as the finale. The final track has a dark, beautiful keyboard intro and some of the heaviest double-kick on the album. Parviainen’s Dickinson-esque vocals truly show their power in this conclusion to the ‘story’ and the album leaves you with an overall satisfied feeling.

 

Overall opinions then. First off, if you were expecting this to be a revival of Machine Men, shame on you. If they were going to do what Machine Men did, they likely would have just called the band ‘Machine Men’ and continued where they left off. So if this is what you were hoping for, prepare to be disappointed.

Now, with that out of the way, I will confess that this album is pretty great. Strong salutes to Otto Närhi‘s [keyboards] presence throughout this album, as the keys added a lot to the otherwise classic heavy metal sound. As well, further props to Hintikka’s touch of classic metal that is ever-present in the guitar solos. Musically, this album is technically wonderful and beautifully constructed. You can feel how personal it is and the symphonics and dramatic arcs turn this into a unique and cleverly crafted piece. It isn’t without its flaws though, but my complaints are largely minor in nature (relating to lyrics or technicalities that come from being an English native), and are quite easily overlooked. I suspect that if you heard any of the teasers for this album and if you weren’t expecting Machine Men 2.0, you are going to be very satisfied with this as a whole.

I’ve had a very hard time scoring this, because I think it is a really good album, but it’s not my style. I’m going to give it 8/10, but if this style suits you, you might give it a higher score than that – even a potential full score; depends on your enthusiasm.

 

Track list:
1. Hand on Heart
2. Bullet with My Name
3. Tide
4. Keep the Flame
5. Barricades Won’t Fall
6. Vale of Tears
7. Tear of the Phoenix
8. The Dragon’s Year

Or listen along on Spotify!

Text: Amy Wiseman

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Olli “Saakeli” Suvanto (Kaunis Kuolematon, End of Aeon, Tomb of Finland), 2016

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You may recall that a while ago we received a playlist from Sara Strömmer of End of Aeon. Their male vocalist, Olli Suvanto, or Saakeli by his stage moniker, happens to be part of not one, but two rising Finnish metal acts: Kaunis Kuolematon and Tomb of Finland. With a wide range of styles from Kaunis Kuolematon’s heavy doom riffs and End of Aeon’s more ethereal sound to Tomb of Finland’s blackened death metal, we’re excited to present the playlist of his life!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
The first song I can recall was probably a song by Deep Purple. I really don’t know the track’s name, but it had really cool organ solo. Later on, I’ve grown to hate every synth solo in existence except for that one. Solos are for guitars, period. Sorry!

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
Oh, I remember when I discovered The Offspring. “The Meaning of Life” from the Ixnay on the Hombre really rocked, and KISS was something amazing as well. Not so long after that my cousin played some Emperor to me and the damage was done.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Definitely something from Cradle of Filth. Could be “Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids” from Cruelty and the Beast album, or “Thirteen Autumns and a Widow.” Still gives me the chills.

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
Emperor and Cradle of Filth share the position here. CoF was the main influence for me to start growling and/or composing music. I still get some weird vibes from that band! [Intense laughter] For now I’m focused on more atmospheric and heavier/electronic/classical music to get inspired. Swallow the Sun also may have kicked me towards the deep grave of doom where I stand with my bandmates.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
Every opening track on the Insomnium albums, and probably the entire Shadows of the Dying Sun by them. The new album by Kaunis Kuolematon, hopefully coming out later this year. Check our Facebook page for updates!

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Hmm. A hard question, because I cannot really see any point for music to be held in a higher or lower position, or maybe I really just don’t care. Maybe something I’ve made myself! Still, probably Anathema’s We’re Here Because We’re Here or U2.

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Emperor – Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk. I remember it as if it was yesterday when I was in the TopTen section of the (now bankrupt) Anttila department store, and asked the clerk for some good church burning music [intense laughter], and he sold me that album. I was probably 6 years old!

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Let’s turn that hot beverage into cold one, shall we? This is something that gives a nice mental image of a guy swallowed by couch cushions and depression simultaneously: “Into the Black Light” by Ghost Brigade.

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Really depends on my mood and the recent discoveries. Usually I torture myself with some of my own weird riffs and curl up on the couch and try to suffocate on cushions.

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
This is something I’ve shared only with my close ones.

 

Saakeli is currently working on the sophomore Kaunis Kuolematon album. Be sure to check out the band’s Facebook page for updates and studio diary videos!

End of Aeon LIVE w/ Distress of Ruin:
16.9.2016 Blackpool, Järvenpää
24.9.2016 Semifinal, Helsinki

Check out Kaunis Kuolematon’s “En Ole Mitään”:

End of Aeon – Through Infant Eyes:

Tomb of Finland – The Autumn Rain (Lyric video):

(2016) Interviews

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Interview shots, 2016!

EDGE NORDIC: Who is We Butter the Bread with Butter (WBTBWB)?

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Edge Nordic festival is coming up this September and we wanted to introduce you to a few of the bands that will be playing in Helsinki and/or Bergen! Next up is We Butter the Bread with Butter from Germany!

 

1. First off, tell us a bit about yourselves?
We are We Butter the Bread with Butter: Germany’s most modern metalcore band since Tokio Hotel. Deep lyrics meet funny metal riffs compared with a serious stage design, performed by four dudes straight outta Berlin. Everything everyone has ever waited for.

2. For anyone who hasn’t heard your music before, can tell us a little bit about your sound?
Our sound is something between ABBA and Rammstein. German journalists insinuate that we are playing famous nursery rhymes, but if you ask me, I’ve never heard of any nursery rhymes called „Exorzist“ or „Zombiebitch“. But of course we aren’t that serious. Modern metalcore is all about fun. If we could change the world with our music someday, we definitely would!

3. Have you ever played in Finland before? If so, what’s your best/worst memory there? If not, is there anything you’re interested in or excited about in playing there?
Yes, we played Tuska Festival and been there on tour with Caliban. We’re glad to come back!

Our worst experience was that the door of our nightliner froze and we couldn’t close it so we had to drive with an opened door through the night and everyone got sick for the rest of the tour. On the other hand, we had great shows in Finland with a powerful crowd and amazing atmosphere. Awesome landscape and courteous people.

We love to visit other countries and learn about them. Maybe Finland could be some kind of role model for other countries. Except beer prices!

4. How familiar are you with the other bands at Edge Nordic? Will you be seeing any bands you’ve never seen before, and if so, who are you most excited to see?
We are good friends with Eskimo Callboy and played many shows with them. Khroma have been very often to Germany and we’re glad to meet them again. Some of the other bands are known by name but we’re always excited to see new bands in other countries. Especially where metal is accepted by most of the people (and reindeer ;-p)

5. What do you think of this style of festival, with two locations in two countries?
We have never played the same festival in two different countries but it sounds like fun. If it is the same like „Rock am Ring“ and „Rock im Park“ in Germany, it will be a lot of fun for all of us. Crowd, crew, and bands!

6. Do you have any words for potential viewers about the upcoming shows?
Prepare yourself for fun and some great breakdowns. Our singer won’t shave until the show, so maybe you’ll see only some flying hair on stage.

We’re ready when you are! Perkele 🙂

 

For details from Nosturi, click HERE!
For details on Facebook (Helsinki), click HERE!
For details on Facebook (Bergen), click HERE!
For tickets to the Helsinki event, click HERE!
For tickets to the Bergen event, click HERE!

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Robert Leksis (Volymian), 2016

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Volymian, in case the name is new to you, formed in 2008, with the goal of performing “groovy, heavy rock music”  that would inspire good times, both at home and on stage! Its current incarnation released an album in the spring of 2016 via Maple Metal Records, and they also have three self-published EPs under their belt. This week’s playlist comes courtesy of their keyboardist, Robert Leksis!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
Probably some lullaby my mom used to sing to me but if we are talking about hit songs: Hanson – “MMMBop.” My sister was a huge Hanson fan and she always played these from a tape. Spice Girls – “Spice Up Your Life.” She also loved the Spice Girls (so did I)

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
I used to love these two songs when I was a kid: Fastball – “The Way” and Eiffel 65 – “Blue.” Nowadays it’s definitely Sonata Arctica – “White Pearl Black Oceans”

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Bullet For My Valentine – “Tears Don’t Fall”
In Flames – “Only for the Weak”
Linkin Park – “What I’ve Done”

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
Gee… There are so many songs from Sonata Arctica, Stratovarius, and COB that I could put here, but the best memories I get from these two: Children of Bodom – “Triple Corpse Hammerblow,” Stratovarius – “Eagleheart”

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
Bring Me the Horizon – “Happy Song”

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Gloria Gaynor – “I Will Survive”

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
The first album I was really excited to own was Darude – Sandstorm. I got it as a Christmas present! I bought Children of Bodom – Hatebreeder because of the song “Downfall.” I used to listen to it repeatedly.

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Stratovarius – “Elysium”

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Avenged Sevenfold – “Bat Country”

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Avenged Sevenfold – “Fiction”
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – “Lacrimosa”

 

Check out their debut album on Spotify!

Or have a look at the music video for “Line of Fire” over here:

AMORAL w/ HUMAVOID – On the Rocks, Helsinki, 01.09.2016 (English)

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A lot has happened in the course of Helsinki-based Amoral’s career. Their first three albums, Wound Creations (2004), Decrowning (2005), and Reptile Ride (2007), were rock-solid melodic death metal efforts with hit songs from start to finish, and with Reptile Ride, the band ascended to the front row of younger domestic metal bands. A shift in the musical style granted a large international fan base for Amoral, but – maybe a bit needlessly in retrospect – infuriated their older fans. In the year 2014 the attenders of Amoral’s gig at Tuska experienced something astounding, when the singer of those first three records, Niko Kalliojärvi, joined the band on stage for the set’s final songs. Last year, the band announced that Kalliojärvi had returned to the band as a second vocalist as well as a third guitarist. Amoral’s seventh album, In Sequence, released last spring, nodded musically toward the old times, but in the end of July, the band surprisingly decided to call it quits next year.

 

Amoral will play their last show in the Tavastia club on the 5th of January, 2017, but before that, the band announced that they will perform a bunch of special ‘old school’ gigs, playing songs exclusively from the first three albums. I used to listen to those records a lot 10 years ago, so it was pretty much a necessity to attend the first gig of the tour at On the Rocks. I admit that, along with others inclined to the older stuff, I also lost interest in Amoral after their fourth record, Show Your Colors, so beforehand it was especially nice to hear that the band’s line-up for the tour wouldn’t include Kalliojärvi’s still-active successor, Ari Koivunen.

I arrived at On the Rocks about 30 minutes before the first band on the evening, Kalliojärvi’s other act, Humavoid. Weekday events in Rocks have been horribly quiet lately, so it was pleasant to notice that the venue was already nicely crowded. As a band, Humavoid wasn’t that familiar to me beforehand, but they snatched the Album of the Week mention in Imperiumi.net last December with their EP, Glass, and their performance managed to surprise me completely with its variance and maturity. The band’s material could best be described as heavily djent-inclined modern metal, utilizing polyrhythmics, at times heavily dissonant piano melodies, and the contrasts of keyboardist-vocalist Suvimarja Halmetoja’s clean and guitarist-vocalist Kalliojärvi’s harsh vocals. Performance-wise, the bassist, Jan From, played his parts on his own corner of the stage, whereas Halmetoja and Kalliojärvi had considerable problems on staying on the stage at all; Kalliojärvi’s mic stand was in danger of falling to the audience numerous times as he moshed away and Halmetoja was so over the place that he collided with Kalliojärvi more than once. To explain, Halmetoja played a keytar instead of a traditional keyboard. Never have I seen that monstrosity of an instrument actually being an integral part of a live performance before – big ups!

Humavoid just released a video single, “Coma Horizon,” and judging from the shouts from the audience, quite a few attenders had already checked the video out. The band even wrapped the show with an immensely personalized Devin Townsend cover! All-in-all, the show was a really energetic and promising showcasing of Humavoid’s skills as players as well as composers, and the band had a decently-sized audience from start to finish. Even if their genre is not exactly your cup of tea, you should go check out Humavoid live – Niko Kalliojärvi is hilarious in his interval speeches!

Check out Humavoid’s latest single, ”Coma Horizon”:

Next up: the main monkey business. After a 15-minute load-out-and-in intermission, Amoral took the stage as a five-piece, welcomed with their usual intro tape. The band started off with “Nervasion” from Reptile Ride, and the next hour and a half was sheer melodeath awesomeness. Party like it’s 2007! It was as if the last 9 years hadn’t happened at all! Continuing on, the band delivered “Drug of Choice” from Decrowning and the Reptile Ride hit, “Mute,” with zero effort, even if surely none of these three songs have been played live in recent years. Kalliojärvi was visibly stoked at having the chance to perform the songs again after such a long time, while guitarist and primus motor, Ben Varon, and bassist, Pekka Johansson, both performed like real showmen. The (sort of) most recent member in the band, second guitarist, Masi Hukari, nailed his predecessor, Silver Ots’, solos nicely, even varying them at times. However, the biggest virtuoso in Amoral is still the man behind the drum kit; Finland’s own Gene Hoglan: Juhana Karlsson, who was as precise and hard-hitting as ever.

Amoral’s setlist was a brilliant mix of self-explanatory tracks and surprises, and as always when attending a show by one of your old favorite bands, it was way too short. For the first half of the set, the band visited their debut, Wound Creations, with “Distract” and “Other Flesh,” and they even played “Metamorphosis,” a song from their first demo and later on the Japanese version of the debut. The sophomore album, Decrowning, was the most-featured album with a total of five tracks: in addition to “Drug of Choice,” the set included “Lacrimal Gland,” a song almost never played live according to the band, as well as “Denial 101,” the personal favorite of yours truly, “Showdown,” and the closer song, “Bleeder.” Reptile Ride’s “Snake Skin Saddle” and the opener “Leave Your Dead Behind” were played, the latter also being the obvious final song on the set. The album’s instrumental track, “Apocalyptic Sci-Fi Fun,” was used as the outro tape.

Sadly, there were no encores; as an old fan of Amoral I would have loved to hear debut album tracks like “Silent Renewal,” “The Last Round,” or even “Nothing Daunted.” I also had kind of anticipated beforehand that Decrowning’s title track would have been in the set, and “Tiebreaker” would have been an awesome addition as well, but none of this really matters because “Other Flesh” was included; I once went to see Amoral in Kouvola’s Rytmi-Katti in 2007, where the song had to be left out because the substituting bassist, Erkki Silvennoinen, wasn’t familiar with the song…

As the night drew to a close and it was time to go home, I was conflicted for a reason. The show was awesome, and I don’t remember seeing the same kind of ecstasy – on stage as well as in the audience – at any Rocks gig in a long time, but it’s a total bummer that this show was something probably none of us can experience again. I don’t believe that the guys in the band feel any less bewildered: Kalliojärvi returning to Amoral was definitely a shot in the arm for the band, but apparently the timetables of the members of a six-piece band overlapped constantly, preventing Amoral from going full speed ahead. Still, I can’t help thinking that the promising new rise ended before it even got the chance.

Nevertheless, the decision has been made and at this point I would like to thank Amoral for producing three astounding melodic death metal records over the course of 2004-2007, as well as giving me the opportunity to, at least for a little while, feel 18 years old once again. I don’t think I can pass up on the farewell show in Tavastia next January!

 

Setlist (non-exact order):
1. Nervasion
2. Drug of Choice
3. Mute
4. Distract
5. Metamorphosis
6. Lacrimal Gland
7. Other Flesh
8. Snake Skin Saddle
9. Denial 101
10. Showdown
11. Bleeder
12. Leave Your Dead Behind
Apocalyptic Sci-fi Fun (outro)

Text: Atte Valtonen | Ed: Amy Wiseman

AMORAL w/ HUMAVOID – On the Rocks, Helsinki, 01.09.2016 (suomeksi)

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Helsinkiläisbändi Amoralin uralle on mahtunut juonenkäännettä juonenkäänteen perään. Amoralin ensimmäiset kolme levyä, Wound Creations (2004), Decrowning (2005) sekä Reptile Ride (2007) olivat väkivahvoja modernin death metalin kittikimaroita, ja Reptile Ride nostikin yhtyeen nuoren polven kotimaisten metalliorkesterien kärkikastiin. Musiikkityylin vaihtaminen kolmannen levyn jälkeen nosti yhtyeen tunnettuuden uudelle tasolle kansainvälisesti, mutta raivostutti – jälkeenpäin ehkä hieman tarpeettomasti – vanhat fanit. Vuonna 2014 bändin Tuskan-keikalla koettiin hienoja hetkiä, kun Amoralin nousukiitoaikojen vokalisti Niko Kalliojärvi nousi keikan lopussa lavalle viimeisten kappaleiden ajaksi. Viime vuonna Kalliojärven kerrottiin liittyneen takaisin bändiin toiseksi vokalistiksi ja kolmoskitaristiksi. Keväällä julkaistun seitsemännen levyn, In Sequencen, materiaali tuntui olevan taas kallellaan hieman enemmän alkuaikojen suuntaan, mutta heinäkuun lopussa Amoral ilmoitti yllättäen lopettavansa toimintansa ensi vuonna.

 

Amoral soittaa viimeisen keikkansa Tavastialla 5. tammikuuta 2017, mutta ennen sitä bändi ilmoitti soittavansa kourallisen ”vanhaa paskaa” –keikkoja, joilla tarjoillaan materiaalia kolmelta ensimmäiseltä levyltä. Amoralin kolme ekaa olivat allekirjoittaneella kovassa kulutuksessa kymmenisen vuotta sitten, joten keikkasarjan ensimmäiselle etapille On the Rocksissa oli pakko päästä paikalle. Myönnän muiden vanhan materiaalin ystävien tapaan kadottaneeni mielenkiinnon yhtyeen tekemisiin neloslevy Show Your Colorsin jälkeen, joten erityisesti ennakkoon ilahdutti tieto keikkakokoonpanon koostuvan Reptile Ride –aikaisesta Amoralista ilman Show Your Colorsilla mukaan hypännyttä Ari Koivusta.

Saavuin paikalle puolisen tuntia ennen illan lämmittelyaktia, Kalliojärven toista kokoonpanoa, Humavoidia. Jo hetkisen aikaa Rocksin arkikeikat ovat olleet kammottavan hiljaisia, mutta tällä kertaa oli mukava huomata, että jo puoli yhdeksältä paikalle oli saapunut mukavan kokoinen väkijoukko. Aiemmin vain nimenä tuttu Humavoid nappasi viime joulukuussa viikon levyn tittelin Imperiumissa Glass-EP:llään, ja Humavoidin 45-minuuttinen rykäisy yllättikin täysin monipuolisuudellaan ja kypsyydellään. Bändin materiaali on voimakkaasti djentiin kallellaan olevaa modernia metallia, jossa yhdistyvät polyrytmiikka, paikoitellen voimakkaastikin dissonoivat pianomelodiat sekä kiipparisti-vokalisti Suvimarja Halmetojan puhtaat sekä kitaristi-vokalisti Kalliojärven murisevat lauluäänet. Basisti Jan From soitti osuutensa omalla kulmallaan lavaa kohtuullisen rauhallisesti, toisin kuin Halmetoja ja Kalliojärvi, joilla kummallakin oli täysi työ pysyä lavan päällä; välillä Kalliojärven mikkiständi meinasi lentää yleisön sekaan miehen moshatessa, kun taas Halmetoja meinasi kaatua lavalla törmäillessään Kalliojärveen – hän nimittäin soitti synat keytarilla. En muista nähneeni keikkaa, jolla tuo soittimen irvikuvana yleisesti pidetty soitin olisi sopinut näin luontevasti lavalle. Pisteet!

Humavoid julkaisi 30.8 ”Coma Horizon” –nimisen singlen sekä musiikkivideon, ja yleisön huutelusta päätellen moni oli jo käynyt videon katsastamassakin. Setti rullasi mukavasti eteenpäin, ja vetivätpä loppuun vielä harvinaisen omankuuloisensa Devin Townsend -coverinkin! Kaiken kaikkiaan keikka oli Humavoidilta todella energinen ja lupaava näyttö yhtyeen soitto- ja varsinkin sävellystaidoista. Yhtye selkeästi kiinnosti yleisöäkin: jo keikan alkupuolella paikalle oli saapunut sankoin joukoin väkeä. Menkää ihmeessä katsomaan, jos ei muuten niin ainakin Kalliojärven hulvattomien välispiikkien vuoksi!

Katso Humavoidin uusin video ”Coma Horizon” tästä:

Ja sitten itse asiaan: vartin roudaustauon jälkeen viisimiehinen Amoral nousi lavalle tutun intronauhansa saattelemana. Reptile Ride –levyn kakkosraita ”Nervasion” pärähti käyntiin, ja seuraavat vajaat puolitoista tuntia olivat modernin melodödiksen juhlaa. Party like it’s 2007! Oli aivan kuin viimeistä vuotta ei olisi kulunut lainkaan – “Nervasionin” jälkeen soitetut ”Drug of Choice” Decrowningilta sekä Reptile Riden hitti ”Mute” lähtivät bändiltä edelleen täysin vaivattomasti, vaikka kaikkien kolmen kappaleen edellisestä live-esityksestä oli varmuudella useampi vuosi aikaa. Kalliojärvi oli mikrofonin varressa silminnähden haltioissaan päästessään esittämään vanhoja biisejä pitkän tauon jälkeen, ja kitaristi/primus motor Ben Varon sekä basisti Pekka Johansson esiintyivät molemmat tottunein showmiehen elkein. Bändin tavallaan tuorein jäsen, kakkoskitaristi Masi Hukari otelautataiteili edeltäjänsä Silver Otsin soolot taidokkaasti ja paikoitellen hienosti varioiden, mutta bändin suurin virtuoosi istui edelleen rumpusetin takana; Suomen oma Gene Hoglan, Juhana Karlsson, tuskin tekee Kummelin Musacornerin progemuusikoiden tapaan elämässäänkään virheitä, musiikissa niitä ei ainakaan esiintynyt ensimmäistäkään.

Keikan settilista oli loistava sekoitus itsestäänselvää sekä todellisia yllätyksiä, sekä kuten aina suosikkibändien keikoilla, aivan liian lyhyt. Keikan alkupuolella käytiin kääntymässä ensimmäisellä levyllä, Wound Creationsilla, ”Distractin” sekä ”Other Fleshin” muodossa, joiden välissä käytiin jopa ensimmäisellä demolla asti, kun tuskin kovin montaa kertaa ikinä soitettu, debyyttilevyn Japani-painokselle bonukseksi päätynyt ”Metamorphosis” päästettiin ilmoille. Kakkoslevy Decrowning oli eniten edustettuna, kun ”Drug of Choicen” lisäksi settiin olivat päätyneet bändin omien sanojensa mukaan tuskin ikinä livenä soitettu ”Lacrimal Gland”, ”Denial 101”, allekirjoittaneen ehdoton suosikki ”Showdown” sekä lopetusraita ”Bleeder”. Reptile Rideltä soitettiin ”Nervasionin” ja ”Muten” lisäksi ”Snake Skin Saddle” sekä avausraita ”Leave Your Dead Behind”, johon keikka myös itseoikeutetusti loppui. Reptile Riden instrumentaali ”Apocalyptic Sci-fi Fun” pääsi mukaan outronauhana.

Encorea ei herunut, mikä oli totta kai harmi; vanhana fanina olisin totta kai halunnut kuulla ensimmäiseltä levyltä esimerkiksi ”Silent Renewalin”, ”The Last Roundin” tai jopa ”Nothing Dauntedin”. Jollain tavalla olisin odottanut myös Decrowningin nimiraidan olevan mukana, ja ”Tiebreaker” olisi myös ollut loistava lisä settiin. Millään tällä ei silti oikeastaan ole mitään merkitystä, sillä ”Other Flesh” kuitenkin oli mukana – kävin katsomassa Amoralia vuonna 2007 Kouvolan Rytmi-Katissa, jossa biisi jäi soittamatta, koska tuonaikaisen basistin Erkki Silvennoisen korvannut tuuraaja ei vielä osannut sitä..

Kotiinlähdön koittaessa fiilis oli syystäkin ristiriitainen. Keikka oli loistava, enkä muista hetkiseen nähneeni millään Rocksin keikalla samanlaista hurmosta lavalla ja yleisössä, mutta samaan aikaan harmittaa, ettei tätä todennäköisesti ole enää ikinä mahdollista kokea uudestaan. Amoralin jäsenillä tuskin on yhtään sen seesteisempää: Niko Kalliojärven paluu bändiin oli selkeä piristysruiske, mutta ilmeisesti kuusijäsenisen yhtyeen jäsenten aikataulut olivat jatkuvasti niin päällekkäiset, ettei eteenpäin oltaisi voitu mennä täydellä teholla. Silti en voi ajattelematta, että lupaavan oloinen uusi nousu tyssää lopettamisen vuoksi lähtötelineisiin.

Päätös on kuitenkin tehty, minkä vuoksi tässä vaiheessa kiitän Amoralia siitä, että vuosina 2004-2007 Suomessa tehtiin kolme niin törkeän kovaa melodeath-levyä, sekä siitä, että sain olla tänä iltana taas hetkisen aikaa 18-vuotias. Eiköhän me vielä nähdä Tavastialla ensi tammikuussa!

Amoralin setti (todennäköisesti ei ihan järjestyksessä):
1. Nervasion
2. Drug of Choice
3. Mute
4. Distract
5. Metamorphosis
6. Lacrimal Gland
7. Other Flesh
8. Snake Skin Saddle
9. Denial 101
10. Showdown
11. Bleeder
12. Leave Your Dead Behind
Apocalyptic Sci-fi Fun (outro)

Teksti: Atte Valtonen | Ed: Ville Karttunen

EDGE NORDIC: Who is Æther?

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Edge Nordic festival is coming up this September and we wanted to introduce you to a few of the bands that will be playing in Helsinki and/or Bergen! Next up is Aether from Helsinki!

 

1. First off, tell us a bit about yourselves?
Put together in 2014. The name is Æther, written with the æ grapheme instead of an ‘a’ and an ‘e’. It is based on medieval science on light and gravity. It’s the ever-present field that connects all things, the non-physical force behind all physical phenomena.

2. For anyone who hasn’t heard your music before, can tell us a little bit about your sound?
Our sound is a smooth blend of polyrhythmics and Tarantino-style melody themes, modern meets noir so to speak.

3. Have you ever played in Finland before? If so, what’s your best/worst memory there? If not, is there anything you’re interested in or excited about in playing there?
No previous history playing in Finland with this band. We expect nothing.

4. How familiar are you with the other bands at Edge Nordic? Will you be seeing any bands you’ve never seen before, and if so, who are you most excited to see?
Not familiar with any of those bands, not particularly excited to see a certain band, although it will be interesting to see what kind of solutions other bands of the genre have incorporated in their sound.

5. What do you think of this style of festival, with two locations in two countries?
Things evolve, glad to see you on board!

6. Do you have any words for potential viewers about the upcoming shows?
Expect to see five uptight and awkward guys tuning their instruments… No, we aim for a combination of laid-back, melody-driven and partially rhythm-based groove with a smooth knit-together theme around it. Everything is still basically a rough diamond at this point, but as the band grows older, it’ll be a more solid performance with a clear, solid theme. But we’ve got nothing to prove, letting the music speak for itself.

 

For details from Nosturi, click HERE!
For details on Facebook (Helsinki), click HERE!
For details on Facebook (Bergen), click HERE!
For tickets to the Helsinki event, click HERE!
For tickets to the Bergen event, click HERE!

PSYCHEWORK – Antony Parviainen, Jyväskylä 2016

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The early 2000s introduced a plethora of excellent metal acts to the whole of Finland, including Suolahti-based Machine Men, who served their Iron Maiden -esque heavy metal with Gothic appearances and a rocking attitude for over a decade. A few years after they called it quits, two of the Machine Men returned to the scene of the crime together – guitarist J-V Hintikka, who had kept himself busy with a number of bands, and singer Antony Parviainen, who’s toured with the Raskasta joulua ensemble for quite a few winters. Along with musicians from bands such as Swallow the Sun, Trauma Field, and Beyond the Dream, these Finnish metal veterans brought a new musical endeavor, Psychework, into daylight in November 2015. Bold, symphonic, dark, and ambitious from the first snippets of songs, we predicted that this was a band that would sweep the melodic metal audience off their feet, and the first show of the year only confirmed those hunches.

Now, over half a year since their first gig, at the peak of releasing their debut album, The Dragon’s Year, Psychework is still a well-kept secret for the most part, so naturally we wanted to know more. Lene L. met frontman Antony Parviainen on August 3rd, 2016, to talk about what’s waiting for us between the album covers, how the band was formed, and what the years have changed in being a musician – or have they?

 

It’s a bright and sunny early August day in Jyväskylä, when we meet with singer Antony Parviainen at Lutakko club, so we decide to sit outside the venue for the interview while the rest of the band is rehearsing inside their practice space. Politely, he apologizes for being a couple minutes late, and answers my questions thoughtfully.

2016.08.03 02 Antony Parviainen (Psychework)So, you guys have had a couple gigs now, a couple coming up, and an album coming out in the beginning of September. What feelings come immediately to mind when you think about all of this?
Feelings that come to mind… well, of course regarding the album release, this has been in the works for quite some time now. The album’s been ready for a pretty long time and the songs have been ready for quite a while, so it’s maybe not a new album for us, per se. We have most of the songs for the second album done already – or well, whether or not they’ll be on the second album, I don’t know about that, but quantity-wise there’s that much done. But we’re anticipating it – it’s going to be great to see people’s reactions, what are they expecting, are they expecting anything, what kinds of stuff they’re expecting, and… well, those two songs we’ve released don’t entirely express what the whole album’s going to be like in the end.

As you mentioned, this has been a long time in the making – how have you managed to keep everything a secret, so as not to let any extra snippets of songs or other information leak onto the internet, like videos from gigs and so?
Well we’ve had only two gigs so far, the first here at Lutakko in January and one festival gig last month. There’s been surprisingly few of those around the web, really. And if someone has filmed something, they’ve come to ask me if it’s okay to put that up, and I’ve said that it’s not, that you can upload this and this song if you want to. But it’s great that people have been asking permission first.

I was there at your first show as well, and the reception from the audience there already was quite stunning, taking into account that you only had one song out at that time. Has the enthusiasm from people surprised you at any point?
Well yeah… Lutakko did surprise me and probably the whole band, when you don’t expect anything and you have done this for so damn long – this album and the songs, been practicing really long, there were hell of a lot of line-up changes – there were probably 2016.08.03 03 Antony Parviainen (Psychework)eight different bassists! And then we had to have a stand-in drummer for the first gig and that resulted in a hassle, like, “Oh hell no, now we have to start practicing these songs with a new drummer.” Those songs had been played for a light-year at the rehearsal space and from our own opinion they went quite okay, but then you had to start from zero again with a new guy. There have been some phases like this; the group’s been changing like socks, but it’s all right, the burn for doing things with the band is strong, so you do everything you can for it. And… right, to answer the question, yes, it did surprise me. I didn’t really expect anything special from it. My expectation was just that we could do it soundly from start to finish, and from my opinion – at least from band’s part – that expectation was fulfilled really well. But yeah, it was a nice surprise.

As you said, you’ve had quite a few line-up changes now already; how did you find all the pieces to this current puzzle?
Well, hmmm… like I mentioned earlier, there have been a lot of different guys we’ve had trying out for different instruments, and when it doesn’t quite work out, you have to look for a new one. And then when you come across a suitable one, they’ll stay in the band, showing with their actions that they’re worth keeping in the spot. So there, little by little, this current combination was found.

Some of you guys have other bands and projects besides Psychework – for instance, drummer Juuso Raatikainen plays in Swallow the Sun as well – so how do you divide time between them? Is Psychework the first priority?
For the rest of us it is. Of course it can’t be for Juuso; we’ve had two gigs and Swallow the Sun has had two thousand, so for his part, his priority is quite clear. But it’s worked so far and we’ll see how it’ll go in the future.

 

Building a sound for The Dragon’s Year

While we talk, Antony takes his time to answer, calm and reflective, with an additional friendly chuckle and smile now and then. It would be easy to think that he’s somewhat reserved, but at the same time he comes off frank and honest about how things were shaped, for both the first album and the band itself. He chooses his words carefully, but does not dodge shedding light on the very personal background for the lyrics on The Dragon’s Year.

2016.08.03 05 Antony Parviainen (Psychework)You’re responsible for the lyrics, but who has the main responsibility when it comes to composing? Does everyone contribute to the song-writing process?
For this album, the starting point for most songs was me writing the lyrics, or a text with a general idea, and then I did vocal melodies and strummed a melody with an acoustic guitar. Then I gave J-V [Hintikka, guitars] the draft I had grunted on my iPhone, which sounded extremely bad, but he managed to get the idea from there really well, and of course I explained what the song was about, that it needs this kind of feeling and so on. So J-V and I are responsible for all of the songs on the first album. Most of them were made like this, first with the text from me, but I think there are one or two songs that were started by J-V, based on riffs.

What kinds of things do you draw lyrical inspiration from?
On this first album they mainly deal with a kind of… dark phase in my life, one that took place a bit over 3 years ago. I had leukemia and it stems from there, that hospitalized life and how I’m struggling to return to the living. Most of it tells about that. It kind of just went like that. It wasn’t a plan that, ‘now I’ll write all my stories about this and then we’ll do an album,’ rather than that it was sort of… diary-like, trying to put that in to a lyrical form, whatever comes to mind.

What are the things that make a song a ‘Psychework’ song then? Is there anything like that yet?
Well, we’ve tried a bit to achieve a kind of theatricality there, that there’s a clear drama arc within the song, and some rumble, a good vocal melody, those kinds of things. Maybe… well, yeah, I guess it’s there. I can’t say it more precisely just yet. A little bit of theatricality and… color. Moods.

Are there some things – musically – you wouldn’t do, or directions you wouldn’t take?
I guess there’s a lot of directions [chuckles], but if we talk about heavy music style, rock style, leaving out all the rap and blues and that kind of stuff, and staying inside a more narrow area, I guess traditional 80’s style heavy rock is a thing we won’t go for. We probably wouldn’t start dishing out the sports news theme kind of synths and stuff like that.

2016.08.03 04 Antony Parviainen (Psychework)You mentioned the lyrical subjects, but does the album have a common thread musically?
We did strive for getting the drama arc for the whole album like that as well, in a way that at first it is more straightforward, showing a little bit in the beginning – in the first song – what kind of moods and themes there are going to be on this album, and it grows darker towards the end. There’s some quiet waters, a serene chapter in between, with some beautiful piano and cello tunes, and from there it gets more grim bit-by-bit, going very dark at the end.

What album, artist, or genre have you most recently gotten really excited about?
Like, really, properly excited? I’m quite omnivorous with music in that sense that if there’s a good melody, a good vocal melody, basically anything goes, but gotten really excited… Probably Kamelot and Evergrey, their latest albums.

 

“There’s always the same spark in it.”

It’s been roughly 20 years since Machine Men started out, so I was curious to hear how Antony views the changes that have happened since those days, both in making music and being a musician. In equal measures of passion, ambition, and fondness towards music, with a healthy dose of realism, he perks up while talking about what’s in it that makes him tick – it’s easy to see what an important part music plays in his life, something a lot of us can likely relate to.

2016.08.03 06 Antony Parviainen (Psychework)If we delve into the past a little bit, Machine Men has been buried for a few years now, and with them you had the chance to do your thing for over a decade at the time – how have things changed from the times you started out with Machine Men, generally in the music scene or for yourself?
Well, now we have loads of debt [laughs], day jobs, and so on, so it has changed quite fundamentally. Back then we still lived in mom’s and dad’s place, practiced every day; there wasn’t really anything else but the band, everything went by the band’s terms, the whole life, back then… it’s changed, of course, but not making music, the burning for it hasn’t remotely changed. But well… when you’re a younger lad and perhaps have more vigor and such, being more blue-eyed and a little dumber, even, things are quite different. At least inside your own head.

What about things with record companies and such – has working with them changed over the years?
Yeah, of course. The times are different – records aren’t selling as well, the record companies are having a hard time, and there’s a limit to everything. More difficult, that’s what it is.

Are there things that have stayed the same from those times as well?
It’s that burn for making music, and when you’re up there on stage, that feeling of succeeding there, something like that you don’t… the good feeling that you get on stage, that’s still the same, there’s no feeling like that anywhere else. You can’t get that from any other place. There’s always the same spark in it.

My next question would’ve been about what drives you forward as a musician, but that was already quite a good answer to that as well. Is there anything more to add?
Well yeah, the burn to make music and perform it, writing songs and writing stories, that’s the definite point and purpose of it all of course. And well, gigs are a big part of it, but naturally, in touring there are an awful lot of bad things too, ones that I don’t like at all, and for that I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with music, but… that burn, that’s the thing, that and believing in yourself – that some day I will get something more.

Is there something that was left to achieve with Machine Men that you’d like to do with Psychework now, or are there things that you’d like to achieve as a musician in general?
Well for instance, creating more diverse songs, building those moods and drama arcs more, writing better stories, and those kinds of things. That’s what I’ve been trying to start to do with this new band. Of course there was a lot left to achieve, but we did do a lot of things, albums, and a lot of good gigs with Machine Men as well, but musically it is perhaps more important that I do my own thing with this new band now.

What are you looking forward to with Psychework most, from the rest of the year after the album’s release?
What I look forward to is naturally a continuum, that there’s going to be 2016.08.03 07 Antony Parviainen (Psychework)another album, that we get a good drive going on there as a band, more gigs under our belt, and more confidence in that. That continuum fascinates me quite a lot – that is, to me this is not just a project like, ‘Let’s make this one album because I had things to say and see later what we’ll do’; this is certainly the main thing and we’ll do it with full force from the heart and the soul, like we did with Machine Men back in the day. This is only my second band in this lifetime, the second real band, and that’s why I haven’t bothered to set them up when there has been nothing more to give.

When you do something, you do it well, right?
Yeah, and one can do cover gigs in between, if there’s a hunger for gigs. But I like to set up these real bands only every 20 years, so maybe this is the last one then.

 

Interview, translation & photos: Lene L. | Ed: Amy Wiseman

EDGE NORDIC 2016: Timetable & Exclusive Photo Giveaway!

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If you follow Musicalypse at all, you might have noticed that we’ve been pretty excited about the Edge Nordic mini-festival at Nosturi that’s coming up on September 9th-10th. If you’re thinking about going, we have a little something special for you!

A handful of Musicalypse’ photographers are going to be lurking around Nosturi on both days, taking photos of both the show and the crowd. We’ll be putting these photos on Facebook – if you find yourself in one of our crowd shots, tag yourself, like the photo and Musicalypse, and share the photo, and we’ll put your name in a draw to win a print of each band playing at the festival, including the shot of you! We’ll even throw in a few choice shots from backstage as well.

As well, the timetable for the bands is now online – you can check it out above or have a look on the official website!

We hope to see you there, and remember – smile for the photographers!

– Musicalypse

TICKETS HERE!
More on Nosturi HERE!

Tuska crowd, 2016
Tuska crowd, 2016

AMORPHIS: AN EVENING WITH FRIENDS – Huvila-teltta (Helsingin Juhlaviikot), Helsinki, 27.08.2016

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Amorphis has been pretty much dominating the Finnish live music scene this whole summer. As August drew to a close, Helsinki celebrated the annual multi-arts festival, Helsingin Juhlaviikot (Helsinki Party-Weeks), and on the 27th of August, Amorphis took over the Huvila-teltta stage once more to offer something completely new: two 1-hour sets, with the second featuring Under the Red Cloud in its entirety. What’s more, they had advertised Anneke van Giersbergen as a special guest for the event. Musicalypse showed up early to grab Anneke and Esa Holopainen for a quick interview and then stuck around to catch the sold-out gig itself.

 

2016.08.27 Amorphis @ Huvila-teltta, Helsingin Juhlaviikot (9)

Amy: We’ve seen no shortage of Amorphis this summer, but what made this festival special was the length and content – the first set promised some classic Amorphis with a bit of improvisation, while the second set was a complete play-through of Under the Red Cloud. For me, this was the main draw, while Ville was also excited to hear what the first set would have in store.

First of all, the venue. Huvila-teltta (Huvila-tent) is, to my knowledge, set up exclusively for the Juhlaviikot events, and it was great. There was an open space for the crowd to stand if they wanted to, and an auditorium-like set of ascending seats for those who didn’t want to stand. As well, at the back there was more room for people to stand up, in case the front was too crowded. Everyone could see the stage, and the sound quality was fantastic. This was the first time in ages I didn’t wear earplugs – it was loud to be sure, but not so loud that it gave me tinnitus afterwards, and the overall sound quality was incredibly smooth and well-balanced throughout the show. I’m not certain if this had anything to do with the tent or what, but it was a breath of fresh air.

2016.08.27 Amorphis @ Huvila-teltta, Helsingin Juhlaviikot (7)Ville: The press release for the show had led me to believe the first set would be fully improvised – naïve, I know! – but “Enigma” was a good mood-setter and indication of what the first set would be like: familiar songs played with slightly different flavors and extra bits, courtesy of the guests. The biggest shocker of the night was already the second song, the title-track off Far from the Sun (2003), which was played for the first time in over 10 years. I never would’ve expected Amorphis to pull anything from that album out of the vault, given how unhappy the band members are with it. While FftS is easily the lowest point in Amorphis’ otherwise solid discography, the title-track is one of the few songs I like from that record, and it certainly gained new life with this performance.

The acoustic set continued with “Silent Waters,” which I didn’t recognize at first due to the more guitar-driven arrangement, and ended with “My Kantele,” which culminated in a great jouhikko [traditional Finnish bowed lyre] solo by Pekko Käppi. I’ve heard at least three different versions of “My Kantele” live, but never the fully acoustic one, so it was nice to finally experience it. These acoustic arrangements with extra instruments were so well done that it would’ve been pleasure to hear more of them, but I was just happy to hear any at all, as I’d missed out on the band’s concert hall tour 4 years earlier. Tomi Joutsen also admitted he doesn’t feel completely at home while performing unplugged, because it makes him feel naked.

2016.08.27 Amorphis @ Huvila-teltta, Helsingin Juhlaviikot (4)While saxophonist/flutist Sakari Kukko left the stage and Tomi Koivusaari and Esa Holopainen switched to electric guitars, Niclas Etelävuori played a heavily effected bass intro, which led to “Silver Bride.” After that, Kukko came back and it was time for a double punch of my personal favorite Amorphis songs, when “Sampo” and “Alone” were performed. This was a magical moment, because I hadn’t heard either song live in a while, and both were extended with instrumental bits that allowed Käppi and particularly Kukko to shine. “The Wanderer” was up next, and while it’s not a bad song, it felt like an underwhelming pick after the streak of greatness that had preceded it, especially because it was performed without any guests. Joutsen even mistakenly introduced it as the first single off the latest album, though he admitted he wasn’t totally sure, blaming years of headbanging for destroying his brain cells. However, the first set was wrapped up perfectly when Anneke van Giersbergen was introduced to a rapturous applause, joining Joutsen for a gorgeous duet on “Her Alone.” Their voices melded well together and I wish the band would’ve played one more song with her, or at least had her join in on “The Wanderer” already.

Amy: I have nothing to add – that pretty much covered it! The first set took an hour and then the crowd was given the opportunity to step out and get some fresh air, visit the toilet, or grab a drink or some food for the next hour. Juhlaviikot had offered a variety of tickets, several of which had a small meal included. Meals could also be bought without a ticket as well. The food was fairly expensive compared to most festivals with a price tag of 12,50€, and though the food was certainly fancier than you’ll get at say, Maailma Kylässä -festivaali (World Village festival), it still felt overpriced for what you were getting – I’d have been okay with paying 10€ for the plate of food. Regardless, I certainly appreciated the opportunity to eat and drink something, as we still had another hour and some to go.

2016.08.27 Amorphis @ Huvila-teltta, Helsingin Juhlaviikot (6)Ville: Meanwhile in the tent, Amorphis’ lyricist, Pekka Kainulainen, showed up on stage dressed up like a sort of shaman. Most of the audience seemed to be back already, though the actual music hadn’t continued yet, taking heed of Tomi Joutsen’s praise of Kainulainen’s poetry performance, which he said people wouldn’t want to miss out on. Kainulainen’s costume didn’t allow him to use a microphone, so his speech was pre-recorded. He read bits of his original Finnish poems, which the lyrics of Under the Red Cloud were based on – I recognized lines and verses from at least seven songs. It was cool to hear them recited in their original form by the man who wrote them, and the nature imagery on the screen was a beautiful companion.

Amy: And then it was time for Under the Red Cloud. As much as I enjoyed the first set, this was the set that really got me going. One small detail that’s worth mentioning immediately is that the had a different UtRC-themed image in the background for every song, many of which I saw on T-shirts in the crowd, though some of them were either new or just never-before-seen for myself.

The first three songs from UtRC are already familiar from their recent touring and plentiful summer shows, but “The Skull” was the first of several live debuts of the night. While still a good track, “The Skull” is not one of my favorites from the album and it’s quite understandable why it’s been left off the sets from the UtRC tour. However, in the context of the full album being played live, this track was now in exactly the right place and it was nice to get a chance to hear it at least this once.

2016.08.27 Amorphis @ Huvila-teltta, Helsingin Juhlaviikot (5)Of course, it’s clear by now that I love “Death of a King” with a near-unreasonable fervency, but I also began to appreciate “Sacrifice” a lot more as a fun live song, as this was the first time this summer I’ve really let myself go and rocked out properly at an Amorphis show. While the song is more of a ‘radio hit’, it’s got a good groove to dance to and great energy in a live context. By the time we hit “Dark Path” and “Enemy at the Gate,” I began to really appreciate how diverse Tomi Joutsen’s growls are for the first time. Of course he sings wonderfully with his clean vocals, but he has both the Alexi Laiho -style screamy growls, the standard death metal growls, as well as the black metal growls, and made very efficient use of all of them throughout the second set.

“Tree of Ages” and “White Night” were both played for the first time this night, and unlike with “The Skull,” these were two songs that I thought could have easily been included in the set, had they been so inclined, with the latter left out for obvious reasons. Tomi Joutsen mentioned that they had asked Aleah Stanbridge, who did the female vocals on the album, to join them on stage for this song, and she had agreed, but “fate decided otherwise,” as unfortunately, she has since passed away. As such, the screen in the back showed the first image that was not related to the UtRC album art style, but rather an image of her face as the song was dedicated to her memory. I confess that I wished that van Giersbergen had sang her parts, as I think she would have done a beautiful job of that song, but I also understand that Stanbridge has passed away only very recently, and perhaps they felt it was inappropriate to ‘replace’ her, so to speak, so soon. Whatever the reason, or whoever’s reason it was to leave the song be and play the backing track, I respect it, even if I would’ve liked to hear van Giersbergen’s take on the song.

The show then ended with Joutsen bringing van Giersbergen back for one more song: “House of Sleep.” This was perhaps my favorite version of the song I’ve ever heard, perhaps simply because van Giersbergen’s voice added something so new and fresh to a classic. And not only that, but Käppi and Kukko also returned for this song, adding another aspect of novelty into the mix. For what they suggested to have been very little time practicing together, they did a very nice job of tying the whole thing together and creating something fun and novel for the event.

2016.08.27 Amorphis @ Huvila-teltta, Helsingin Juhlaviikot (2)Ville: It’s no secret that I’m a fan of full album sets, and Under the Red Cloud was no exception in that regard. While I started to see some flaws in the previous two Amorphis albums after a year had passed since their release, UtRC still holds up extremely well, and hearing it performed front to back only strengthened the notion that it’s one of Amorphis’ greatest achievements. Songs like “Bad Blood” and “Death of a King” lifted the energy levels successfully just like at Pakkahuone and Monsters of Rock, and this time it was great to hear a venue full of people chanting “Death! Of! A king!” in one voice. The highlights, though, were the songs that I hadn’t heard live yet, especially “Dark Path,” during which Joutsen commanded everyone to headbang, and “White Night,” which was a moving tribute to Aleah Stanbridge. “House of Sleep” ended the night on a high note, with all the guests on stage again. Van Giersbergen harmonized beautifully with Joutsen on the chorus, and we can only hope she’ll work with the band again in the future.

 

2016.08.27 Amorphis @ Huvila-teltta, Helsingin Juhlaviikot (8)Amy: Ultimately, this show proved to be the best Amorphis show I’ve seen all summer. Everything was fun and fresh, even if it might’ve been a bit sloppy at times. I couldn’t say how many times I’ve heard metal music with a saxophone, but it worked! My only complaint would be that van Giersbergen was only present for two songs. She’s such a talented vocalist, so I’m sure they could’ve snuck her into a few more songs (not just referring to “White Night”), but alas, we can’t always have everything we want. I’ve got a few shows on my list of nominees for ‘gig of the year’, and I think I’ll be adding this to the list for one reason: prior to this show, I didn’t really consider myself a ‘fan’ of Amorphis per say, in spite of loving UtRC and liking many other songs, as well as having seen them live about a million times and enjoying it every time. This show made me go back and listen through their earlier albums with new appreciation and afterwards, I can say with confidence that I consider myself a fan of Amorphis.

Ville: How many Finnish metal bands could perform with a jouhikko and wind instruments and make it work? Amorphis is arguably the only group in this country that can successfully juggle between metal festivals and culture events like this. The atmosphere in the tent was unbelievably warm and joyous, and you could tell everyone in there was a fan. The reception clearly pushed the band to give everything ithey had, and Joutsen was evidently thrilled by the audience’s reaction. I wish the bass volume would’ve been turned down just a notch, and the sound was a little chaotic at a few points due to there being so many instruments playing at the same time, but 99% of the time the guests truly enhanced the concert. Hopefully the experience of playing slightly extended versions of songs in the first half will inspire the band members to jam and improvise a little more during conventional shows as well, because they certainly are capable of it. I find it hard to believe Amorphis could ever top this show, but I’m sure the band still has a trick or two up its sleeve…

 

Setlist 1:
1. Enigma
2. Far from the Sun
3. Silent Waters
4. My Kantele
5. Silver Bride
6. Sampo
7. Alone
8. The Wanderer
9. Her Alone (ft. Anneke van Giersbergen)

Setlist 2:
1. Under the Red Cloud
2. The Four Wise Ones
3. Bad Blood
4. The Skull
5. Death of a King
6. Sacrifice
7. Dark Path
8. Enemy at the Gates
9. Tree of Ages
10. White Night

Encore:
11. House of Sleep (ft. Anneke van Giersbergen)

2016.08.27 Amorphis @ Huvila-teltta, Helsingin Juhlaviikot (10)Text: Amy Wiseman, Ville Karttunen | Photos: Petri Anttila, kindly provided by Helsingin Juhlaviikot

ESA HOLOPAINEN & ANNEKE VAN GIERSBERGEN – Huvila-teltta (Helsingin Juhlaviikot), Helsinki, 27.08.2016

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With all of Amorphisshows this summer, we felt rather ashamed that we hadn’t done a single interview with them… ever. So when the ‘An Evening with Friends’ show was announced with Anneke van Giersbergen as a guest, we thought it was only fitting that we try and catch them together! Here is our interview from the Helsingin Juhlaviikot (Helsinki Party-Weeks) festival, featuring Esa Holopainen and Anneke van Giersbergen!

 

2016.08.27 Esa Holopainen & Anneke van Giersbergen @ Huvilateltta (5)First of all, how did the acoustic gig from a couple of days ago go?
Anneke: Very good. Actually, because I was here just like… a week ago [laughs]. Only a couple of months [ago] and when Jouni [Markkanen] said we can do a gig before the big Amorphis gig, I said, “Well yeah, but I’ve just been here and who’s going to come over?” Then it was sold out in a few days. I was so happy. It was really nice. Really, really, really friendly crowds, as always. And I had Esa join me, so it was super special.

Was that gig originally meant to be just you, or was Esa planning to play with you the whole time?
Anneke: It was kind of my gig, but then we said… Because we are going to play together today.

Esa: Why not?

Anneke: Yeah! [laughs]

So where did the idea for this special Under the Red Cloud show come from?
Esa: It actually came from the cultural people in Helsinki. Lauri Porra, one of the guys who’s a musician himself, he’s working there… he asked if Amorphis would be interested to do some kind of production here, and then we just started to think about what kind of production. We wanted to play the new album as a whole and then think about doing another set with guests. That was then, when Anneke was in Helsinki last time playing the show in Semifinal.

Anneke: Actually, yeah!

Esa: Then we talked about if she’d be interested.

Anneke: And of course I said yes within one second.

Esa: That was great! And then Sakari [Kukko] who is playing flute and saxophone, we’ve been working with him on many albums and he’s been touring with us with some acoustic stuff. And Pekko Käppi, we didn’t know him before. Well, we knew that he plays the jouhikko [traditional Finnish bowed lyre]. It’s a traditional Finnish instrument and it sounds super cool. We definitely wanted to include him. And we didn’t have any idea how it would work for Amorphis’ music, but now that we heard him playing… actually for the first time yesterday.

Anneke: Really?

Esa: Yeah! It sounded really nice.

Anneke: It sounded like he’s done it all the time. It’s great.

Esa: He’s got a little bit of a different approach to that instrument. It’s electric and he runs it through distorted pedals and whatever, so it sounds a bit modern. Like us! [laughter] Not!

2016.08.27 Esa Holopainen & Anneke van Giersbergen @ Huvilateltta (21)Well, you’ve basically answered my next question right there. Now Anneke, we did an interview with you before your last show at Semifinal, and at that point you mentioned that you are a big fan of Under the Red Cloud. How did you guys end up deciding to collaborate for this particular show?
Anneke: The thing is, I’m not even singing a song off that album, but we just came together, like Esa said, when we were at the gig and I asked Esa to come over and see the show as a friend, and so we went to dinner and we met with Jouni, the manager, and then probably they came up with the idea to ask me.

Esa: Yep.

Anneke: And usually that’s how it goes. You meet up and you always see each other everywhere and spontaneous stuff happens.

Esa: Yeah, that’s how it happened. Somehow it felt like, “Hey, why not?”

So you’re not singing the Under the Red Cloud songs tonight?
Anneke: Nope. But I love the album. I play it all the time.

It was one of Musicalypse’s collective favorite album of 2015.
Esa: Wow, really?

2016.08.27 Esa Holopainen & Anneke van Giersbergen @ Huvilateltta (11)Absolutely! And what is your [Esa] opinion on the album now that it’s been out for nearly a year and you’ve been rehearsing the whole thing for this show?
Esa: I still think it’s a kind of fresh album, even though we’ve played a lot of shows with it and we’re still going to do quite a lot of shows. We don’t have any plans for the next album for a year now or something. The tour still, in a way, continues. Yeah, what can I say? I really love to play the songs live and now it’s really nice that we have a chance to play a couple songs that we haven’t played before at this show. So probably some of those tracks we’ll take for the setlist, but it’s great. Great fun! I guess every musician knows that you have your old classics, and when you do those it’s like, ‘yeaah’… but then it’s more fun when you play the new stuff and see that people enjoy it.

You guys have been playing so many shows this summer – have you been using them as an opportunity to practice for this show, or have you been sticking with a set Under the Red Cloud -tour setlist?
Esa: Yeah, no. Usually what we do is… well, we don’t rehearse that much. If we go on tour or festivals we do a couple different sets and we add a bit. Now we had to rehearse for this show, those tracks that we haven’t played before and some of the older tracks we haven’t played for a long time.

What are your expectations for the improvised part of the show? Is it scary at all, or exciting…?
Esa: I think it’s both. You have to have a structure that you follow, but I think it’s always good if you have a little danger in the air [laughs] and you don’t know what’s going to happen. And when you improvise something or improvising happens, when it’s very natural, it moves very naturally to another part, then it’s great. But there’s also danger. You can collapse the whole song by improvising too much. Or if the other guys are not following what you do all the way.

It’ll be interesting if nothing else!
Esa: Yeah.

2016.08.27 Esa Holopainen & Anneke van Giersbergen @ Huvilateltta (17)Does this collaboration between you open the doors for a potential official album collaboration in the future?
Esa: Of course. [laughter]

Anneke: Well, we played together and it went really well, and usually when something is going well and it feels good, you say, “Let’s do something real together.” Now it was also a little bit spontaneous, and then we WhatsApped, “Can you do this song? Okay, can you do that song?” and then we rehearsed for 3 milliseconds, and we did the two songs. But when that goes well, it calls for ‘let’s do something serious.’ But you never know when it’s going to happen because it’s always busy. But I’d love to. At least play live together.

Esa: Sure, yeah!

Anneke: Because that’s also relatively easy. “Are you in town?” “Yes.” “Okay, then we’ll join each other.”

Esa: Yeah, I think probably when we’ll start to do the next album, we will call you. [laughter] You never know.

 

2016.08.27 Esa Holopainen & Anneke van Giersbergen @ Huvilateltta (6)Now, Elegy is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, but you guys are play a tour for the 10th anniversary of Eclipse instead. Was there any specific reason you picked Eclipse over Elegy?
Esa: Not really, no. We actually did Eclipse once in Savonlinna in the opera festival a couple years ago and it worked out really, really nicely. We thought about doing Elegy as well, but we might do that later. [laughs] But this time I think it felt right to do… we wanted to do Eclipse and include a few of the songs from Skyforger and Silent Waters that we haven’t played for a long time. To have a little bit more of a special set.

Have you seen much of an increase in your popularity in Europe – for example, in the number of people coming to shows – since you’ve toured with Nightwish?
Esa: I think it helps in some territories quite a lot, like I think we brought a few more people in the UK. Probably in the Germany area as well. I think overall it for sure was a good thing to do. It helps. But it’s hard to tell. I didn’t do a count. [laughs]

What was it like to open for Black Sabbath at Monsters of Rock?
Esa: That was great. It’s one of those little things you can be happy about when you retire someday. “Oh, I did that.”

Anneke: Tell your kids.

Esa: Yeah. It was a great experience. Of course, opening for bands like Black Sabbath and Metallica and Iron Maiden, it’s a task, because people usually go there to watch the main band. But it was great feedback and a great experience.

You guys have quite a list of classic metal bands that you’ve opened for now, which is pretty cool.
Esa: It’s a great personal thing to remember. I don’t know if it helps anything, but at least you can say, [goofy voice] “Hey, I opened for Black Sabbath!” [laughter] Pretty cool, huh?

Anneke: It’s pretty cool because you grow up with that stuff, you know?

Esa: That’s the thing probably. It’s more than just opening for the big names. Usually those guys are your personal heroes and the music that you grew up with.

Did you get to meet any of them backstage?
Esa: Sabbath guys, no. I met [James] Hetfield when we opened for Metallica. The Maiden guys we met briefly. Sabbath guys, no. They were too old. [laughter]

 

2016.08.27 Esa Holopainen & Anneke van Giersbergen @ Huvilateltta (26)For you, Anneke, are you and Kari Rueslåtten and Liv Kristine planning on doing any more shows together, or are The Sirens officially finished now?
Anneke: No, that project is all done now. We knew it was going to have a beginning and an end. We should’ve done the Nightwish festival [in Jämsä]. That should’ve been our last show together but that didn’t happen because of organizational reasons. But yeah, everybody’s going their own way. I myself, personally, feel that I have so many projects going on that it’s too much, and I’m working on an album and I want to commit myself totally to that, so everything else is now on the back-burner. So The Sirens are done. But I have great, great memories. I’m really fond of what we did.

What’s your favorite song off Transcendence?
Anneke: I’m not sure yet, because I just got the album and I downloaded it, because Devin sent it to me, and I didn’t hear everything properly yet. I played it a few times in the car and then you can’t really tell. Of course, I love, love, love everything he does, you know. There’s a few songs that I’m on that I’m really proud to be on, because they are really, really cool songs, but again he’s so melodic and he’s so honest and he’s so heavy at the same time. I love it. It’s a lot of good energy. So I’m over the moon and I’m going to sing a few of those songs at the festival… what’s it called… Prog Power USA! So I’m going to sing with Devin a couple of those for the first time. It’s going to be good!

Any chance you’ll be doing any shows on the Transcendence Tour?
Anneke: I don’t know. Maybe! Because he’s coming to Holland and it’s usually the same thing. “Are you in town?” Or not. Maybe I’ll just go watch. We never really make a big plan. Also, because I’m touring and doing everything. I’d love to do a tour with my band and Devin… I’ll sing for him whenever he wants. That would be smashing, really, to get our bands together.

I’m still waiting for the acoustic Anneke-Devin tour. That’s on my bucket list of things to see before I die.
Anneke: Yeah, me too! [laughter]

Well, thank you both so much for your time, and have a great show!
Esa: Thank you.

2016.08.27 Esa Holopainen & Anneke van Giersbergen @ Huvilateltta (24)Text: Amy Wiseman | Photos: Jana Blomqvist

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Devin Townsend (Devin Townsend Project, Ocean Machine, Casualties of Cool), 2016

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Devin Townsend is a man who needs no introduction. This Canadian heavy metal superhero has been around the block, singing with Steve Vai, setting new standards for heavy with Strapping Young Lad, taking progressive sounds to another level with Ocean Machine, imbuing country music with haunted sounds via Casualties of Cool, and teaching the world the importance of coffee with the help of Ziltoid the Omniscient! The Devin Townsend Project is releasing a new album, Transcendence, on September 2nd, so naturally we had to get a playlist from the man himself for the occasion! Here is the playlist of Devin Townsend’s life!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
I don’t know the name, but my mother had a steel music box that would play a classical piece. It was in a minor key and was haunting as it wound down…

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
“I’m Alright” by Kenny Loggins… there were many before, but that’s the one that got my blood pumping first I think =)

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
“Run Runaway” by Slade. That song blew my mind as an early teen.

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
If I am being honest, either Motörhead or Judas Priest. I think Metallica may have been equally as influential, but that came a bit later

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
“Baby Monkey (Going Backwards on a Pig)” by Parry Gripp

[Ed: we felt this required some explanation…]

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
I feel no guilt about my listening. Bring on the Eiffel 65 and Aqua!

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
The original motion picture soundtrack from Star Wars

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
“Exile” by Enya

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
“Backbone” by Gojira

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Happy Birthday!

2015.03.22 Dev gig JB (12)
DTP @ The Circus, 2015.03.22, image by Jana Blomqvist

EDGE NORDIC: Who is Eskimo Callboy?

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Edge Nordic festival is coming up this September and we wanted to introduce you to a few of the bands that will be playing in Helsinki and/or Bergen! First up is Eskimo Callboy from Germany!

 

1. First off, tell us a bit about yourselves?
Hey, we’re Eskimo Callboy from Germany. We’re a group of six and we all live in a town called Castrop-Rauxel which is located in the western part of Germany. We started this band in 2010, and since then enjoy the fuck out of any minute on tour!

2. For anyone who hasn’t heard your music before, can tell us a little bit about your sound?
That’s pretty hard to say since we don’t set limits to our songwriting. There are a lot of hard parts including screams and breakdowns, but we also like singalong choruses with a lot of electronic elements. I think we’re somewhere in between Behemoth and Backstreet Boys.

3. Have you ever played in Finland before? If so, what’s your best/worst memory there? If not, is there anything you’re interested in or excited about in playing there?
No, we’ve never played in Finland before. But that’s the exact reason we’re so excited for this festival. We love to travel new countries and meet new people.

So we’ve had these Russian tours before, and we drank as many different vodka brands as possible. But we know the vodka game is strong in Finland, too. So, there’s some precious liquids to examine.

Also, we love saunas! There’s nothing better than relaxing in a sauna with your boys after a hard day on tour. Maybe we can make that happen in Finland, since they’re popular for their saunas.

4. How familiar are you with the other bands at Edge Nordic? Will you be seeing any bands you’ve never seen before, and if so, who are you most excited to see?
Of course, we know the guys in WBTBWB. They’re from Germany too and we also took them with us on one of our former tours. Great guys. And we also know the guys in Adept from several festivals we played together. To me, this sounds like we already have a good party squad for a festival.

But we’re always pleased to meet new bands in general. I personally would like to check out Lacuna Coil’s show [ed: in Bergen]. Not my exact type of music, but some bands you just have to see when you get the chance to. No excuse.

5. What do you think of this style of festival, with two locations in two countries?
I think this is a great idea. We’ve played some festivals before with a good diversified line up. And then it happened many times that people from other countries wrote us messages like, “What a cool festival, wish I could be there”… and now it’s possible. For at least two countries. A lot of people that love music and festivals are willing to travel and accept long journeys to see their favorite bands. And [Edge Nordic] just made it a bit more comfortable for them. Good work!

6. Do you have any words for potential viewers about the upcoming shows?
I’m pretty sure, the people will have a great time at this festival. We can’t wait to play our show. One of the last summer festivals for us this year, and I’m sure we’re gonna take this chance to have a great party on stage again. So come see us live, even if you’ve never heard about us before.

 

For details from Nosturi, click HERE!
For details on Facebook (Helsinki), click HERE!
For details on Facebook (Bergen), click HERE!
For tickets to the Helsinki event, click HERE!
For tickets to the Bergen event, click HERE!

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Felipe Muñoz (Frosttide), 2016

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Frosttide promo photo 2015

Melodic folk metal act Frosttide has been around since 2009. Known for sharing the stage with other Finnish folk/Viking legends like Korpiklaani, Ensiferum, Turisas, and Wintersun, these guys are a worthy act if you’re into that Jari Mäenpää type of shred with that classic folk sound for which Finland is so well known. With two albums under their belt as of 2015, these guys are on our list of bands to keep an eye on. Here is the playlist of keyboardist Felipe Muñoz’ life!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
I would say Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.” My father used to play The Wall on the radio while we were driving through the desert in northern Chile. The atmosphere of the song is amazing and has one of my favorite guitar solos in it. Brings back great memories.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
Nightwish – “Ghost Love Score.” I did not listen much to the band in the early 2000s, but when I saw the performance of this song in the End of an Era DVD back in 2006, I became a fan. Since then Nightwish has been a huge influence musically. Love their work, especially that track!

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Children of Bodom – “You’re Better Off Dead.” Actually, the whole Hate Crew Deathroll album! Good times!

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
Sonata Arctica’s “Fullmoon.” I already listened to Metallica, Megadeth, and Iron Maiden back in the days, but when my brother gave me the album Ecliptica in 2001, I was completely sold! I did not know that keyboards could have such a big role in a metal band! This song got me into Finnish metal, playing keyboards, wanting move to Finland and to be in a metal band.

Felipe Muñoz Frosttide Promo Picture5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
Devin Townsend – “Failure.” Looking forward to the new album!

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Bon Jovi – their whole discography.

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Sonata Arctica – Songs of Silence Live in Tokyo, 2001. Was so excited to hear a live album from them. So I got it when it was released. I practiced playing along to this album so many times (I still do) that I ended up learning the entire setlist!

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Symphony X – “Paradise Lost.” Although Strapping Young Lad – “Shitstorm” is also a great tune to relax and enjoy my afternoon tea =)

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Deep Purple – “Burn”

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Sentenced – “End of the Road”

MACHINAE SUPREMACY UNLEASHED: The Story Behind Phantom Shadow

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From left to right: Jovi, Pearl, Edge, Skye, Soren, Agnes (below), Sara (above)

When I spoke to Robert Stjärnström and the guys from Machinae Supremacy last year, I had asked if they’ve ever told the actual story behind Phantom Shadow before. They had, but only once, and not in writing. We agreed to release the story together as a special feature and have been working on it slowly and surely ever since.

Before now, Musicalypse has shared a fan theory about the story, an album review with story teasers, but at last, on the 2-year anniversary of Phantom Shadow, we now have the full story briefly summarized and ready to be read!

 

STORY BACKGROUND
The story from Phantom Shadow was written back in the 2003-era by Robert Stjärnström and Daniel Öhrling (formerly Johansson), though the larger universe/setting was also created by Jonas Rörling (MaSu guitars). To be specific though, the story from Phantom Shadow was written before that larger universe was created and explored.

 

CHARACTERS
Before we introduce the story, here is the cast of Phantom Shadow, not all of whom appear on the album art.

Skye's cryochamber
Skye’s cryochamber

Ariana Skye: The main character. Skye underwent an experimental procedure by the Syndicate to make her extremely powerful, but lost part of her soul in the process and became a killing machine, too powerful and uncontrolled to be useful. At the start of the story, she awakens from a 10-year cryogenic sleep.
Soren Berg (aka the Bearded Man): An extremely intelligent, charismatic, and manipulative scientist; the head of a special projects unit at a Europol R&D facility that did some ventures into black ops, and Skye’s mentor.
Edge: If Skye was a prototype, Edge is the modern, perfected version. He is arrogant and believes he is working for the greater good. Unlike Skye’s raw, unhinged power, his is clean, focused, and contained.
Agnes: A small-scale investigator and activist that Skye has been sent to protect.
Jovi: A small-scale investigator and activist that Skye has been sent to protect.
Sara: One of three super-intelligent beings created and, due to their psychic powers, consequently forgotten by the Corporation (formerly the Syndicate). Sara appears to be about 9 years old and can invade the minds of others and alter their wishes, desires, and core beliefs.
Jake: One of three super-intelligent beings created and forgotten by the Corporation. Jake appears to be about 30 years old.
Ruben: One of three super-intelligent beings created and forgotten by the Corporation. Ruben appears to be about 80 years old.
Reyn: An underground street fighter and former activist.
Danika: Reyn’s younger sister.
Pearl: Pearl is part of the same R&D department as Soren, only from a separate line of research. She has been shadowing the heroes ever since Skye woke up, keeping an eye on them and reporting back to Soren. Though she does not have raw power like Skye or Edge, she is highly agile, seductive, and stealthy. She and Edge have a romance on the side, where they agree not to discuss their work since they are on opposite sides.
Phantoms: The technology used to create Skye and Edge was not without its kinks, nor was it used in moderation. Those who underwent the procedure were stripped of their humanity and made into fierce, feral killing machines, but with no capacity for control or reason – they are indiscriminate killing machines.

 

THE SOUL
The soul is, albeit debatable even among the scholars of this universe, the thing that is being manipulated to evoke the powers that Skye, Edge, the Dominion, and even the Phantoms possess. The view of the scientists who perfected the method and the technology is that before they were able to create such perfect specimens as Edge, the process actually damaged the soul (the “life force” as was the agreed-upon name of the energy they manipulated). In the case of the Phantoms, the soul was more or less destroyed completely.

 

BACKSTORY
Sara, Jack, and Ruben were created by the same people who turned Skye into a super soldier. While the experiments on Skye gave her super physical powers, another division was experimenting on mental powers. A year before Phantom Shadow, they succeed in creating three very powerful individuals, the Dominion. They are all different but extremely powerful: Sara, a little girl, Jack, a young man, and Ruben, an elderly man. Together, they rule from a sealed-off part of the Citadel known as the Hall of Shadows, and their creators don’t even know they exist anymore; anyone who sees them or speaks to them forgets about it immediately afterward. The Corporation that formed from the Syndicate after their creation believes that they are controlling most of Europe, but they do not see the hand that guides their actions.

 

PROLOGUE
Before Phantom Shadow starts, Soren Berg was the head of a special projects unit at a Europol R&D facility that did some ventures into black ops, and found Skye as a part of an opposing force. Skye is a super-soldier and borderline sociopath and after capturing her, Sorren manages to gain her trust and loyalty with his manipulative charisma. He has never encountered a super-soldier like her before, which makes him curious about her origin in this “Syndicate.” Instead of keeping her in a lab, he puts her in the field, but she’s volatile, unpredictable, and just a bit too violent/murderous, getting lost in it and killing too much. Soren’s superiors, a committee of ministers, order the project to be shut down: “all assets terminated.” He puts her into cryosleep, and the story begins.

 

THE SONGS
You know the backstory now, so let’s get into the songs themselves!

MaSu SE Skye Villain1. I Wasn’t Meant for the World I Left Behind
Ariana Skye was put to sleep by her mentor, Soren Berg. She put her trust in him, but wasn’t really certain if she’d ever wake up again.

2. The Villain of this Story
Skye wakes up alone in an abandoned factory after 10 years have passed, completely disoriented. Without Soren, she has “no cause,” and no idea why she is awake. “I kill, that’s all I know,” she thinks, as she now has no idea what to do… at first. She soon finds her clothes and a key, as well as a box with her name on it. Now she knows where to go: a safehouse in the same city located in a loft above an old fire station.

There she collects herself – showers, dyes her cryo-bleached white hair, watches the news, and catches up on the last 10 years that she’s missed. She soon finds a hidden weapons cache that was clearly left for her, as it was sealed with a code that she guesses on the first try. A trail of breadcrumbs seems to appear, but she soon notices someone at the door and she escapes via the balcony’s fire escape.

3. Perfect Dark
The two who have appeared at the loft, like Skye, don’t seem to be at home, looking around and investigating things, and like Skye, they had a key. Eventually they go to bed and Skye bides her time from across the street, looking on from outside. In the the middle of the night, SWAT-like special ops forces arrive and invade the fire station. Skye suspects that the young man and woman are important, so she annihilates the special forces in the excessively violent way that she does. Her purpose becomes clear to her: she is meant to look after these two – Jovi and Agnes. Soren brought them to the same place at the same time, and seeing how helpless they are compared to her, she knows that he must want her to look after them. As a guard, she is able to be herself (incredibly violent), but they see the carnage she caused and wonder who/what she is. She assures them that they are safe with her, because she is following orders (from Soren): “You have nothing to fear from me / I will never harm you / I will always do what He wants me to.” She says that she doesn’t need to come with them, but they have seen what she can do and would they prefer to go on alone and unprotected? They agree to let Skye join them.

*Interlude*
After the events of “Perfect Dark,” Jovi, Agnes, and Skye head off to look for Soren at an underground Europol facility. When they arrive, they find that all of the personnel have been massacred, with Joanna’s body amongst them, and emerge to find themselves surrounded by enemies. Here, Edge makes his first appearance. In a blaze of gunfire, Skye clears a path and they escape in the ensuing chaos. They manage to bring one thing with them from the facility: an AI component of the system there, known only as Deity. Before they disconnected Deity to bring it with them, it reveals that what was once the Syndicate is now a huge corporation: legal and respectable on the surface, but corrupt in the core… and they have just been awarded a contract to manage the entirety of the privatized European police force. Not only is a crime syndicate now masquerading as a real corporation, but they’re managing the police force – they are everywhere and above the law.

Agnes and Jovi are revealed to be activists – small-time investigators who have followed leads trying to expose this corruption. Strange things have been happening, like politicians changing their minds on key issues overnight. They aren’t sure why Soren wants to protect them – they’re not even sure if they’ve ever met him. They don’t know where to go, so they decide to follow one of their freshest leads, which takes them to the home of one of the politicians outside the city.

In the autumnal forest outside that house, as they’re leaving, Skye stops in her tracks and tells Jovi and Agnes to keep going, and Edge appears behind her. Edge calls them terrorists, saying that Skye killed a bunch of cops and is one of Europe’s most wanted. Her reaction is akin to, “I’m famous, how keen!” and they trade hateful, spite-filled words until they both feel they’re done talking. They have a showdown with guns and fists, and Edge underestimates her as he doesn’t know what she is – he’s too cocky during their battle and can’t overcome her power and raw, murderous, conscienceless edge. Skye shoots him in the head and the bullet knocks him out. Thinking he is dead, she follows the others.

4. Europa
During the battle, Agnes and Jovi had run through the forest back to the car. After Skye’s battle with Edge, shit has just gotten real for them – people are starting to die right in front of their eyes. Not only were they almost gunned down by a fleet of cops in the city, but they were followed. It has become evident that that 1) they will be pursued relentlessly, and 2) their protector is capable of anything.

Back at the house, the politician’s daughter goes to look at Edge’s lifeless body. She has her phone, calling the emergency hotline as she approaches him. He gets up and, startling her, takes the phone from her just as it connects. “What’s your emergency?” the operator asks. “I need a ride.” Of note, he had gotten lucky. He may be a super-soldier, but a shot to the head could still have killed him.

5. Throne of Games
A moment of backstory: Agnes explains to Skye that they have been recruiting their group of activists via gaming networks.

6. Meanwhile (in the Hall of Shadows)
Sara returns to the Hall of Shadows (the Citadel’s closed off area that Sara, Jake, and Ruben occupy) and contemplates what is happening. She is used to knowing almost everything through her contact with other people’s minds… “If she beat him, she must surely be powerful. But why have we never seen her before?” Sara is smart though, and realizes that perhaps Skye isn’t a new player, but perhaps from before her time.

7. Phantom Battle
The protagonists investigate a number of strange, energy-related occurrences at a power plant. They are beginning to realize that the corporation is building something. Sara is intrigued by this new player (Skye) and has lured them into an ambush. As they exit the plant, they are greeted by five or so phantoms. They all run, but Skye knows what the phantoms are – she has seen them before; they are the failed version of what she is. She taunts them to draw their attention and instructs the others to run. The phantoms are equally as powerful as Skye, albeit without focus, and she knows that they have no chance of escaping, but maybe she can give the others enough time. However, something strange happens – the phantoms behave as though they are following a single will. Phantoms are essentially mindless beasts… “So, who is in control? / Who could ever wield such a weapon?”

Jovi and Agnes run for their lives as Skye battles with the phantoms. They run into the street and the corporation’s enforcers open fire on them. They are separated on opposite sides of a road with gunfire pinning them in place. Agnes cries out from fear but looks at Jovi… he shakes his head, mouthing “don’t,” but she runs for it anyways. She is immediately gunned down and taken away.

Meanwhile, Skye is beaten within an inch of her life, but is thrown through a brick wall down onto an underpass and lands in the back of a flat bed truck and is carried away, half dead.

8. Captured (Sara’s Theme)
Agnes wakes up and finds herself alone, with Sara.

9. Renegades
Some time later, Jovi and Skye have regrouped and, feeling distressed at the loss of Agnes, decide to go find a former ally who used to be an activist like them – a street fighter named Reyn. Naturally, they find him in an underground fighting ring in an abandoned construction site, just as he is emerging victorious from a match. The referee holds up the arm of the victor and Jovi nods to Skye, who produces a wry grin. The ref asks who among them is man enough to challenge the champion, and Skye jumps in from the second floor of the construction area. At first, Reyn looks at her with disbelief, but he can tell by the look in her eye that she’s dead serious, so he raises his fists and accepts the challenge from a serious opponent.

On the side of the ring, Reyn’s little sister, Danika, is very apprehensive and then she spots Jovi on the far side, obviously recognizing him. Skye wins the fight, naturally, but Reyn is surprisingly good and holds his own for a good duration, even though he’s only a regular person. As he lays on the ring floor trying to get up, Danika gets in the ring with this pissy little punk bitch look like she’s gonna break Skye’s knees, but then Jovi intervenes, “You don’t want that kind of hurt.” When Reyn sees Jovi, he’s confused, until he realizes Jovi’s with Skye. “You… ugh… who is this bitch?” After Jovi explains what Skye is, Reyn complains that the fight wasn’t fair. Skye counters that there is no such thing.

Jovi explains to Reyn and Danika that things have changed since they were part of the group – back then it was child’s play, but now people are dying. It’s no longer about glory and adventure, it’s serious. Reyn had always been a fighter, but he got tired of the cause and taking everything so seriously, so he took off. But Agnes always meant a lot to him, so when he finds out that she was lost and no one has been able to recover her or her body, that settles it for him. He wants back in, and demands they do whatever it takes to find Agnes.

10. Beyond Good and Evil
This piece is told at the same time by Skye and Reyn. While Skye’s version is more literal – “I have been asleep for so long” – Reyn’s talks about how he had ignored what was going on and quit the cause. Both of them are top-notch fighters that don’t need weapons to dominate, brought back by former allies – Jovi for Reyn and Soren for Skye – and both of them have found some resolution to fight, some desire for meaning in their lives. They will show the world what they are made of!

11. The Second One
There aren’t too many secrets here; it’s rather straightforward, taking place after Reyn’s recruitment. Skye thrives on murder, but if she’s going to fight, she might as well fight for a worthwhile cause. She’s done with being a tool and has chosen a side for herself, and she’ll certainly get the blood she needs to satisfy her urges.

The main thing of note in this song is that Soren Berg finally makes his appearance. The last bit, “And now that you are here with me again / Where do we go? / I failed you, I lost one of them / I’m so so sorry / But you left me all alone…” is her talking to Soren, being sorry for failing him, but also being unhappy that she woke up alone and without him. This is the first seed of discontent in Skye and Soren’s relationship.

12. Redemption Was Never Really My Thing
This is, of course, the conversation between Skye and Soren.

13. The Bigger They Are (the Harder They Fall)
Soren has joined the story now for two reasons. The first is that he knows where Agnes is, and the second (which he does not share with the group) is that he knows how to defeat the Dominion. The group travels to the facility to rescue Agnes, unsure if she was even still alive, and then they see her… but no, she’s been altered: “They have turned you into what I [Skye] used to be / (No,) more a Phantom than the old me, really / And you have come to fight with me? / I wish this would not be / I wish it wasn’t up to me to end you…” It is telling about Skye’s personality and conscience that she is still willing to fight Agnes in that condition. However, she doesn’t get the chance, as Soren immediately shoots Agnes in the head.

Jovi runs to Agnes’ body in tears, and Skye looks at Soren. She realizes now that this was what Soren wanted to happen the whole time. Skye realizes the truth… Soren is no longer her wise mentor that she would do anything for. Soren’s men come in and recover Agnes’ body. Jovi is in a state of overwhelming distress and disbelief… maybe they’ll save her somehow? Some of them are obviously medics… and they take her away. Skye stands there, looking at Jovi. They’ve both lost something, but Skye’s loss was a different kind, something only she knows.

*Interlude*
At the private hospital where they have taken Agnes, Skye and Jovi are told that Agnes is brain-dead and there is nothing that can be done. Soren tells them to prepare the interface and Deity (remember that AI they recovered between “Perfect Dark” and “Europa”?). Skye just stands there, staring at him, as though seeing something that hadn’t been there before.

At this point, Soren explains to the others about the Dominion, and that he has a way to defeat them. He explains their origins and powers, though he has never seen them himself, just traces and the effects of their influence. When he realized that mind control was involved, he decided to disappear with some of his best people to find a way to defeat them. They can’t be faced directly – they’ll always see you coming and be able to stop you. This is what is behind the curtain of the Corporation that owns Europe: an unseen, unbeatable, near-omnipotent, and powerful force. But he knows how to beat them – with an AI. An AI is not a mind, so thus, the Dominion has no power over it.

14. Versus
Now that they have Agnes’ body, super-soldierized and taken at the time of death, they will give Deity a body and put an end to the Dominion. As the song begins, we see Skye’s perspective on this whole thing. She will fight because the enemy needs to be defeated, but she no longer feels morally inferior to Soren. His manipulation, she feels, is far more poisonous than her own warped sense of morals. Jovi and Skye were the distraction, the target, while he schemed in secret. While Skye hasn’t got much in the sense of a conscience, her understanding of things is simple and straightforward. It’s brutal, but not devious.

Soren, on the other hand, is proud of her… part of his plan was to put her in a place where she doesn’t need him anymore and he succeeded. She found her own purpose and guiding light and “grew up” in a sense.

The chorus then refers to the final fight, the assault on the Citadel and the Hall of Shadows. Deity’s mission is to find and eliminate Jack, Sara, and Ruben, while the others clear her way by taking on the enforcers and everyone else in the Citadel. Naturally, there are phantoms waiting.

At this point, Pearl is with them, as she was Soren’s right-hand-man (so to speak), keeping an eye on the group while he was away. Jack shows up and kills Soren, but since Deity is with him, she is able to avenge him by taking out Jack. Next they run into the very not-dead Edge. Pearl tells Deity, Skye, and Jovi to keep going – she’ll stay behind and take care of him. Edge and Pearl say a few words to each other across a hall, leap toward each other with killing intent, and then the scene cuts back to the others.

Skye, Jovi, and Deity soon encounter another group of phantoms. Skye, once again, steps in and tells Jovi and Deity to go on, and she’ll take care of them. It’s a similar occurrence as seen in “Phantom Battle” – she does what she can but she’s losing. That’s when Edge reappears. He sees Skye fighting with the phantoms and he seems to know now which side is good and which side is not, though we don’t know the outcome of his battle with Pearl. They win, but…

15. Mortal Wound (Skye’s Requiem)
Skye is mortally wounded.

*Interlude – The God Machine*
At this point it’s worth mentioning what exactly the God Machine is – that thing they knew the corporation was building back in “Phantom Battle.” The story checks in from the perspective of the Dominion from time to time, and one thing they are working towards is a new type of modification device that will take their powers beyond what anyone could imagine. They would be indistinguishable from gods, though the machine would destroy the Citadel and more in the process.

Now, the God Machine is on, like a big portal surrounded by morbid looking machinerypower surges, pillars and wires, and steel frame supports. Jovi and Deity find Sara at the machine. Deity leaps at Sara, who proves to be surprisingly quick for a little girl. Sara avoids her strikes and runs into another room, and as Deity follows she is surrounded by phantoms. She is thrown through the room and breaks a load-bearing wall, causing the doorway between the God Machine’s chamber and that area to crumble and get blocked by rubble. Deity, Sara, and whatever fate they share, are gone. Jovi runs back to find Skye but finds her dead on the floor, surrounded by dead phantoms. Edge is nowhere to be seen. The building is shaking, cracking, and starting to fall apart. Jovi is out of options. He returns to the God Machine…

16. Hubnester Rising
The God Machine can’t be stopped or turned off, and there’s no way Jovi will make it out in time. He believes that all of his friends are dead, and there are probably still enemies behind him if he was to choose to run for it. However, the portal is there, calling out to him… it wants someone to fulfill the purpose of its creation. Jovi realizes that he wants to know what awaits beyond. The phantoms are coming into the room, no longer controlled, just fierce and feral, but somewhat cautious because of the quakes and bits of the building collapsing around them. Seeing himself surrounded by enemies just solidifies his resolution (“Gather all who remain here / This will be an epic display…”). Jovi steps into the God Machine.

And in the background, Ruben stands, looking onward, with just a hint of a smile. Throughout the story, he’s been the old mind, the person who cares about the past, history, and other things, while Sara only cared about the future and Jack rarely had anything to say, letting his actions speak for him. Sara, a child, has no real past, so she didn’t care about it. Ruben has nothing but the past, and didn’t envision much of a future before he gained his powers. He never really cared about the power or the things the group wanted, at least not in the same way Sara and Jack had. He was thrown in with them because of the situation; they were together because of what was done to them, and the power they all shared, and not for any other reason. When things turned and a different outcome was emerging, and with no companions to drive him forward or spark his curiosity, he realized that he was okay to let it all go. He didn’t have the will to go on. Now we see him simply standing amidst the chaos, letting Jovi take his place – he’s okay with it. He’s ready to let his story end here.

From an outside perspective, we see the Citadel crack and beams of light burst out from it, as if cutting it into millions of pieces. The building explodes in a concussion of light and sound. From below, on the street, Sara is looking up at it… she’s bloodied and beaten, but there she is. We close in on her eyes as debris falls from the sky.

THE END!

 

ADDITIONAL TRACKS
Edge and Pearl” (Overworld, 2008)
As you may have figured out from the album art, Edge and Pearl have a romance going on, but they’re on opposite sides of the battle, with Edge being on the side of the corporation and Pearl being from Soren’s department. When they meet, it’s “only for tonight” – they agree not to talk about their work and just be with one another, but each secretly thinks that the other is a tool being used for evil. This song is largely inner monologue between the two characters, directed at one another.

“Nemesis” (Origin, 2002)
The connection between these two songs is largely musical in nature (like “Indiscriminate Murder is Counterproductive” and “The Second One”), but it also relates to Skye at the present time in the story, as well as Skye’s former self. The “single voice that vanished in the crowd” would be Skye before she had any powers. Now, murder and violence make her feel good and significant and powerful: “Be powerful, stand fast and proud.”

“Hubnester Inferno” (Fury, 2007)
This is a song about being so smart/knowing so much that all of the thoughts in your head won’t let you pretend that the world is okay. We’ve obviously referring to Jovi here, who has gained superhuman powers and intelligence, and it’s so powerful that he is ultimately overwhelmed. But… let’s not get into that, because this the prologue to the next story.

“Oki Kuma’s Adventure” (Redeemer, 2006)
Hubnester is referred to in this song, but “Oki Kuma’s Adventure” takes place about 1000 years after “Hubnester Rising” and this Hubnester is a ship named after Jovi. It does (in the Japanese part) reference Jovi’s later adventures, which is how the ship got its name. We won’t get into Oki Kuma though because that’s a story for another time and another album.

“Tempus Fugit” (Deus Ex Machina, 2004)
This song was originally written from the perspective of another unnamed character in the Phantom Shadow story, but the story as a whole ultimately changed since this song came out. So, while it is technically related, it is unspecified at the moment and may or may not get reworked into the universe.

 

BUT WAIT, WHO IS JOANNA?
The MaSu universe has a few more characters that we seem to be missing here. So who is Joanna?

Original draft of Skye & Joanna
Original draft of Skye & Joanna

We don’t really seem to know much about Joanna and she’s not on the album cover, but there have been some hints that suggest that she and Jovi knew each other. Since we now know that Joanna is dead by the beginning of Phantom Shadow, this means that she must have been around… before?

This whole story actually begins before Phantom Shadow starts, as you can tell from the backstory and prologue. This also explains why Soren was looking out for Jovi and Agnes. Soren and Joanna were the original characters in what I’ll just refer to as the prequel story. Joanna, Jovi, and Agnes broke into a warehouse that was under Soren’s control (the same warehouse that hosted Skye’s cryochamber). Soren erased Jovi and Agnes’ memories of this once they were captured, but soon realized that he was unable to do that with Joanna. She seemed to be immune to the process.

Joanna was a troubled teenager with a lot of skeletons in her closet, doomed to be unable to function in society but clearly with some unusual skills. Soren took her in and from that point started to keep an eye on Jovi and his friends as well, perhaps to keep them close or because they might be useful in the future…

Joanna proved to have singularly unique skills in terms of combat and perception. She was just an ordinary human of course, but fast, exact, and somehow it seemed as if her ghosts guided her in both combat and other tasks. For example, she might get bothered by something like a memory or hallucination that would cause her to act in a certain way, resulting in an inexplicable number of “coincidences” that helped her complete a mission or get out of a tough situation.

She was useless with firearms though, so as an experiment, Soren had her try out some melee weapons and a sword became one of her favorites. In a committee hearing with the Council of Ministers, he explained that this was no game. A stealth operative who doesn’t leave bullet casings or any hard evidence is a unique asset for certain operations. “Surely she must be outmatched by multiple foes with firearms,” they pressed, but Soren smiled and said that they don’t understand – if they could see how fast she was, and how precise her attacks were, they would not risk aiming a gun at her.

However, as you now know, Joanna is unfortunately killed in the attack on Soren’s facility that immediately precedes the awakening of Skye in the beginning of Phantom Shadow.

SO THEN WHO IS STEVE?
Haven’t I told you enough already? I think you’ll just have to wait and see…

 

All right, so at this point you’ve probably got some questions. What happened to Reyn and Danika? How did the Dominion take over? Why did Jovi and Agnes go to the safehouse and why were they attacked there?

There are a lot of unanswered questions, but remember – this was not the story, this was the story behind the album, not the story itself. If you really want to know the whole story… well, show your enthusiasm and interest and maybe, just maybe, someday it will become a real novel. Who knows?

 

Text: Amy Wiseman & Robert Stjärnström | Story & Images: Robert Stjärnström

THE LOCAL BAND – Nosturi, Helsinki, 17.8.2016

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The Local Band started in 2013 as a fun project that was supposed to last only for one gig. Instead, the group has now played a couple of times in Finland and at least once abroad (in Japan), and has released an EP as well. Now, on August 17th, 2016, the group performed to a sold out Nosturi, bringing some (mostly) 80’s glam to the darkening autumn nights.

 

2016.18.08 11 The Local Band @ NosturiThe first time I had heard of the Local Band, I couldn’t be more excited: four Finnish rock/metal musicians performing their favorite rock songs from the 80’s. I managed to see them live at Ruisrock 2014 and the gig was one of the most energetic I’ve seen. Thus I had high expectations towards the sold out night in Nosturi 2 years later.

Arriving at the venue around 30 minutes before the announced showtime, both of Nosturi’s floors were already packed. At first glance I spotted some kids with their parents, as well as teenagers and older folks in the audience. Usually a crowd like this might be seen at summer festivals, but now a smaller sample had gathered in Nosturi. I would suggest there were five kinds of people in the audience: fans of The 69 Eyes, Children of Bodom, Santa Cruz, Reckless Love – and finally those who just wanted to hear their favorite tunes from the 80’s.

2016.18.08 13 The Local Band @ NosturiTaking my place in the middle of the floor, I was soon surrounded by other viewers eagerly awaiting the beginning of the gig. And the audience had its share of waiting. I am one of those people who appreciate punctuality, but I’m also used to the fact that gigs tend to start 5 to 10 minutes late. In this case, however, my patience was tested since the band arrived on stage almost 30 minutes late and with no explanation.

In addition to the band being late, the arrangements in Nosturi were partly lacking. Because the band was using pyrotechnics (or fog cannons, since they can’t use fire indoors), the photo pit was not in use – a fact that our photographer, Eliza, found out only on arriving at the venue. A mention beforehand would have surely been nice. Also, this was my first time in a sold-out Nosturi. I didn’t check upstairs but at least the downstairs of the venue was super packed – even a bit too packed for my liking.

Once the guys finally appeared and started the gig, the crowd soon forgot the long wait and showed no sign of fatigue or irritation. The four founders, Olli Herman, Archie Cruz, Alexi Laiho, and Jussi69 were accompanied on stage by Johnny Cruz, who played both keyboards and bass during the gig.

2016.18.08 10 The Local Band @ NosturiStarting the gig with a Bon Jovi song, ”Lay Your Hands on Me” and ”Nightrain” from Guns N’ Roses, the band gave the evening an easygoing start. From time-to-time, the songs were maybe even too easygoing. I tried to find that same excitement and enthusiasm that I had in Ruisrock, but something just felt off. I had liked ”Sungalsses at Night” on the EP but I noticed it was way too slow for me when played live. It was not until Archie from Santa Cruz took the mic and the band performed ”Monkey Business” that I thought that maybe this gig was going somewhere after all.

I am not ashamed to admit that most of my enthusiasm towards the Local Band is thanks to Alexi Laiho presence in it. Laiho was also in charge of the most entertaining moments of the gig. Towards the end of the show, the Local Band performed a cover of The Veronicas’ ”Untouched”, which was also released on the band’s EP. The cover is just plain awesome and it was one of the few songs on the gig that actually had some rougher and heavier sound, mostly thanks to Laiho singing the majority of the lyrics. La-la-la-la!

2016.18.08 09 The Local Band @ NosturiIn a project like this, one cannot expect everything to go smoothly. I doubt that the band really had much time to practice the songs together. There were some mistakes here and there (even during my favorite, ”Untouched”), but most of the time the crowd probably didn’t even notice or at least couldn’t be bothered to care. However, I had higher expectations from a group formed by professionals. That’s why it bothered me that Olli Herman kept repeating that they are just a local band so mistakes are bound to happen and the group is just about having fun. There’s nothing wrong with having fun on stage, but knowing the (cover) songs you’re playing would be nice, especially when the audience has paid for it, and particularly when a group this popular has announced that they will do only one gig per year.

Despite my irritation, I’ll have to admit that for some parts of the show, this attitude of just having fun was actually, well… fun. One of the last songs played was Ozzy Osbourne’s ”Shot in the Dark”. Olli Herman announced that it was time to really fuck things up, and thus suddenly they had Alexi Laiho on bass. Looks like even one of the best guitarists in the world needs to sit down and really concentrate when given a different, albeit similar, instrument to play.

2016.18.08 05 The Local Band @ NosturiThe gig ended with two classics: ”Panama” from Van Halen, and as the encore, ”Livin’ on a Prayer” from Bon Jovi. Even though I enjoyed them both, I left the venue with mixed feelings. For the most part, I had enjoyed the gig and even forgotten about the somewhat irritating ”we’re bound to fuck up” -attitude. The energy I had experienced before had been there – from time-to-time. I could not help but wonder whether or not the band had really enjoyed performing. I took note that during the gig, Jussi69 was just sitting behind the drums during the whole set without really interacting with the audience. Olli Herman and Archie did their best to entertain the crowd between songs, whereas Laiho seemed to just enjoy the fact that for once he was not in charge of talking.

 

In summary, my expectations were higher regarding this gig, even though I did enjoy myself for the most part. Also, the audience seemed to be more enthusiastic than I was, so I cannot say that the evening was a complete letdown. I hope, however, that the next time the Local Band performs, it will be at a summer festival where there is sunshine, plenty of space, and the musicians on stage look like they are really having fun – and have practiced a little bit more.

 

Setlist:
1. Lay Your Hands on Me (Bon Jovi cover)
2. Nightrain (Guns N’ Roses cover)
3. Sunglasses at Night (Corey Hart cover)
4. Lay tt Down (Ratt cover)
5. Born to Be My Baby (Bon Jovi cover)
6. Monkey Business (Skid Row cover)
7. Out of the Darkness (Little Steven cover)
8. The Boys are Back in Town (Thin Lizzy cover)
9. Nothin’ but a Good Time (Poison cover)
10. Untouched (The Veronicas cover)
11. Wanted Dead or Alive (Bon Jovi cover)
12. Shot in the Dark (Ozzy Osbourne cover)
13. Panama (Van Halen cover)

Encore:
14. Livin’ on a Prayer (Bon Jovi cover)

Text: Essi Nummi | Photos: Eliza Rask | Ed: Amy Wiseman

THE LOCAL BAND @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 17.08.2016

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The Local Band at Nosturi, August 2016.
Photos by Eliza Rask.

SOTKAMON SYKE – Vuokatinhovi, Vuokatti, 13.08.2016

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After having such a good time at Sotkamon Syke last year, there was no question as to whether or not we’d be back in 2016, especially with a pretty nice looking collection of bands on the roster. The venue had changed and the festival was altered so that there were smaller warm-up bands on Friday and the festival itself on Saturday, as well as a much more rock/metal-oriented line-up, so the festival promised to offer a completely different experience than what we got in 2015. We headed to Vuokatinhovi on August 13th, 2016, to see what the updated Syke had to offer!

 

This has been a rather poor summer on the festival front, not due to the quality of the shows, but the weather. Since we were traveling on Friday, we didn’t catch the pre-party, and Saturday promised some great bands and a grey, wet day. We arrived at Vuokatinhovi at 16:30, a short while before Turmion Kätilöt took the stage, unfortunately missing Pit of Eternity. The new venue was smaller than last year’s Break Sokos Hotel parking lot, and I worried that the festival isn’t getting a lot of love, since it’s now at a smaller location with only one day of music. However, it offered several drink spots, merchandise, a coffee shop or two, and to our delight, indoor toilets and a restaurant, which are always well-appreciated.

Turmion Kätilöt
Turmion Kätilöt

First up was Turmion Kätilöt, who seem to be able to get the party going no matter what sort of environment you’re in. To my continued delight, they kicked things off with “Kirottujen karnevaalit,” which is a hard-hitting party song from last year’s Diskovibrator. The band, as per normal, kept the energy high and told their share of stories between sets; for example, they explained Bobby Undertaker’s interesting attire (a cosy-looking onesy) as a result of him not washing his stage clothing recently. This is the second time I’ve seen TK this summer and I’ve been consistently enjoying the experience. On this occasion, I started to notice how the vocalists have their own physical way of expressing themselves while singing. MC Raaka Pee has a sturdier presence that can be seen in, for example, his arm movements, while Spellgoth has some delightfully peculiar dance moves, like the strange moonwalking in “Jalopiina.” These guys are a great band to listen to when you want to start you night on a high point, so even though it might’ve seemed odd on paper, it was good that they got to take the stage before Shiraz Lane. In spite of their set being plagued by a few feedback issues that worsened towards the end, this is still a band that has good command of the stage and their material, and knows how to interact with the crowd and one another. No matter what your sense of humor is, they’ll likely get a laugh out of you at least once, whether it’s from Spellgoth mooning the crowd or them saying that the audience should tell their children to worship Satan. They did have to stop talking and finish their set though, and closed out with “Lataa ja varmista.” Overall, they were able to put on yet another great show this summer, in spite of the feedback issues.

Shiraz Lane
Shiraz Lane

Shiraz Lane was the next to take the stage, with their fresh take on hard rock. We caught them once at South Park already this summer and they are simply a joy to see on stage, even if their music isn’t up your alley. With their debut album now behind them, they again kicked things off with “Wake Up” and “Mama’s Boy,” neither of which I could complain about. This was their first time in Sotkamo and they really took over the stage. I particularly love vocalist Hannes Kett’s dance moves in “Story to Tell” – he’s somehow the perfect mix of Michael Jackson and Axl Rose, if you can imagine it. And to praise him some more, he wasn’t afraid at all to go out on the little walkway into the rain to get up close and personal with the crowd. Quite frankly, these guys are getting better and better every time I see them. I feel as though word hadn’t reached the north about Shiraz Lane just yet, as they had the smallest crowd of the four bands we watched, which is a shame because they probably had the best overall sound of the whole day and left us feeling seriously impressed. Naturally, they closed out with “Mental Slavery” with Kett in the faux straight-jacket, meaning they sandwiched their set again between some of their best songs, starting and ending on a high note!

2016.08.13 03 Sotkamon Syke Mättö
Syke Mättö

With the unfamiliar Radiopuhelimet playing next, we decided this was a good opportunity to go inside and see what Vuokatinhovi was offering. They had two menus, the first of which offered the Syke Mättö [stodge] – a board with an assortment of meats and salads, likely sponsored by the Amarillo restaurant from the Break Sokos Hotel. The second offered burgers, hot dogs, and some fried sausage and potatoes. We ordered the Mättö and were quite disappointed with the amount of food for the cost. The board for three that we ordered had enough food to be too much for one person, which meant that we were all given a rather measly portion of food. For the 9,90€ price tag, we felt fairly ripped off. It seemed as though the clerk was pushing it on other people in the queue as well, encouraging groups to get their food together on the board, which seemed like a shady way of giving less food to more people. However, the indoor area was a nice respite from the rain and if you were so inclined, between the sets on the outdoor stage, two bands were playing decent covers on the smaller indoor stage – Get Heavy doing some general hard rock/heavy metal covers up first, and Maiden Invasion playing some pretty decent Iron Maiden tracks later in the evening.

Turisas
Turisas

After a narrow miss with disaster when we had a camera malfunction (a big thanks to the bar and kitchen staff for helping us out), we headed outside to watch Turisas. This was their only Finnish show this year, which was made abundantly clear throughout vocalist Mathias Nygård’s speeches. To my immense delight, they started off the show with “March of the Varangian Guards” – one of my all-time favorites of theirs that only sometimes makes it into the set, and continued with “A Portage to the Unknown” and “To Holmgard and Beyond,” off one of my all-time favorite albums, The Varangian Way. I was just soaking up the performance and the sweet, sweet nostalgia of those old songs when they played “For Your Own Good.” I don’t hate that song by any means, but all of the songs off Turisas2013 tend to ruin my groove during their live shows. The uninspired riffs and rather neutral sound has the power to knock me right out of my high, which then builds up every time they play a good song, creating a rather unbalanced vibe overall. Also, why does Olli Vänskä (violin) disappear from stage so much? I wasn’t sure if he was feeling unwell or if he just sees no point in being on stage when he has so few parts in some songs. He has a great stage presence and he’s very enthusiastic, so I like seeing him there. He did come back for his parts in “As Torches Rise,” which is a song I can’t say if I’ve ever heard live before, so that was cool. Nygård seemed to be particularly chatty this night, perhaps unnecessarily so, and seemed to get progressively drunker on The Famous Grouse whisky throughout the gig. He encouraged the crowd to help them empty out their rehearsal space by buying up their drastically discounted hoodies, which was to my knowledge a success, as the next time we passed the merch booth, there were no more on display. Toward the end they played an interesting medley of “Sahti Waari,” “The Court of Jarisleif,” and “Rasputin” – the latter being a song I was again quite pleased to hear. By the end of their set, they seemed to have some time left over, so Nygård drank and chatted with the crowd to waste time before they closed things out with “Stand Up and Fight.” That was a questionable decision, as it was chilly and rainy and the crowd likely wouldn’t have minded if they had ended a few minutes early. They performed very well, as always, though the excessive chatting and mere existence of Turisas2013 tracks were, in my opinion, a hindrance to the overall feeling of their show. Nevertheless, I do still love to see these guys on stage and was glad to have been able to see them once this year.

Amorphis
Amorphis

It was completely dark by the time Amorphis took the stage, continuing their conquest of nearly every Finnish festival. Clearly all that live practice is paying off, as these guys look like they were born and belong on stage. They started strong with three songs from Under the Red Cloud – the title track, “Sacrifice,” and “Bad Blood.” They had an impressive 16-or-so song setlist with plenty of material from UtRC, which I am still not sick of. That number of songs allowed for a perfect blend of new and old, with a few classics like “On Rich and Poor” and “My Kantele” to appease the fans of the classics. Since all of the other bands had been quite chatty during their sets, we were quite relieved at how brief Tomi Joutsen (vocals) was keeping his speeches, limiting them to brief stories or simply announcing the next song. We also noted how humble Joutsen is when he speaks between songs – he seemed quite grateful to the crowd for their support and has a generally pleasing presence overall… strong but not obnoxious or egotistical. When we were taken back in time to the Tales from the Thousand Lakes -era, Tomi Koivusaari (guitars) joined Joutsen on vocals, which was a nice treat. “House of Sleep” made a comeback at this show, one that they’ve been leaving out from time to time on the UtRC Tour, and “Death of a King” continues to be a personal favorite. I wouldn’t mind hearing a few different songs from UtRC, such as “White Night,” but I’m not complaining. One might think they’re using these gigs to practice for their Helsingin Juhlatviikot performance, but to my knowledge, they’ve been playing more or less the same new songs consistently on this tour. If I have one complaint, it might be that – when Amorphis tours a new album, they don’t change up their set very often, so if you see them repeatedly, you’re not likely to get much of anything different each time. However, it’s fairly forgivable because they write great music and they know how to perform like professionals. Overall, this was another on this list of nice shows we’ve seen from them this summer!

Amorphis
Amorphis

And so, another Syke has passed us by. I personally like these smaller festivals that allow for a more intimate experience. While perhaps Break Sokos Hotel was bigger and had a more traditional festival feel, the smaller venue had the advantage of a respite from the rain and clean(er) toilets. While the food here was a disappointment at least in quantity, the band selection far made up for it. Every band we were able to watch was great in their own way, with Shiraz Lane being perhaps the surprise favorite of the night – though I’ve seen them a few times, Rob (our photographer) was really blown away by their set. The rain may have been a bummer, but as luck would have it, the Sotkamo area has plenty of saunas, so at least we were able to go back to our mökki [summer cottage] and relax afterwards.

So was it a good festival this year? Yes. Yes it was.

Text & photo editing: Amy Wiseman | Photos: Robert Stjärnström

SOTKAMON SYKE @ Vuokatinhovi, Vuokatti, 13.08.2016

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Amorphis

Sotkamon Syke in Vuokatti, 2016.
Photos by Robert Stjärnström; photo editing by Amy Wiseman.

Playlist of My Life: Mike Mills (Toehider), 2016

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For those of you who don’t know Mike Mills, for shame! He is the heart and soul behind Australian rock band, Toehider, as well as the voice of the Father in Ayreon’s The Theory of Everything, and Devin Townsend’s replacement as Rage in The Theater Equation! Not only that, but he did an Open Mike Night series on YouTube (see below) where he did acoustic covers. With such a cool collection of musical projects already behind him, we’re very excited to have the playlist of his life!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
Probably would have been a Sesame Street song, something like “I Love Trash” or “People in Your Neighbourhood”

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
Probably another Sesame Street song! “Chickens in the Trees.” Brilliant.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
“Catch the Rainbow” by Rainbow. My science teacher used to bring me all this amazing music from the 70s and 80s to listen to, and I remember just being in awe of the Rainbow: On Stage album, and that track in particular really stood out to me.

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
I guess like a lot of Aussie kids, it was AC/DC that really got me into heavier music. The Let There Be Rock album has such a buzzy, tape-saturated sound, I’d never heard anything like it before.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
“Can’t Stop the Feeling!” by Justin Timberlake. I love the chords in the bridge, and the bassline. Pure pop perfection!

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Ah, I don’t believe in “guilty pleasure.” I will never feel guilty or apologize for something I like! There’s so much amazing music, I believe there’s something of merit in everything. A balanced, steady diet of all different kinds of music, that’s the key to a healthy soul 🙂

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
An Aussie band called Icehouse, an album called Man of Colours. I *think* that was the first album I bought with my own money. I still have the cassette somewhere.

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Hmm, perhaps anything by Sophie Hutchings, she’s a really unique piano player from Sydney. Really dreamy, relaxing stuff.

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Can’t go wrong with old “Highway Star” or “Burn” from Deep Purple, or “Summer Song” by Joe Satriani, “Wheels of Fire” by Manowar. We have lots of driving hours in between towns in Australia, so Thick as a Brick in its entirety by Jethro Tull is great.

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
No song, just a recording I made of me banging on some wood yelling in a muffled voice, “Wait guys! GUYS! I’m not dead! Can someone let me out of here? It was just a flu, I’m better now.” My brother has already promised that if he outlives me, he’ll sneak a CD player or something in my coffin.

(2016) The Devin Townsend Project: Transcendence

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Artist: Devin Townsend Project
Album: Transcendence
Release: 09.09.2016
Label: Inside Out Music

 

Few things in the world these days get me more excited than a new release by Devin Townsend, who, in the span of about a year, went from being “that Canadian musician from SYL who doesn’t suck” to one of my top three favorite musicians of this era of my life (you know, because it changes). I had been under the impression that the symphony was going to be the next release, so when word of Transcendence came out I was both shocked and stoked. I mean, the symphony is still on it’s way, but we get another album while we wait!? HELL YES!

So what do I know about this album? Well, this was Dev’s first-ever attempt at loosening up and letting his band collaborate with him on the album. Make no mistake, he’s still the mastermind, but he let others help write and mix the album. A bold move for someone so set in his ways, but that’s something I’ve always liked about him – he’s always pushing his boundaries and trying new things. Transcendence, as such, promises to be an experience, if nothing else.

And, because a new Devin Townsend Project album is a big deal where I’m from (pick a place, I pretty much mean anywhere), I’ve brought in a more hardcore Devin Townsend expert to help me out – a fellow by the name of Mark Chumienski.

 

01. Truth
“Truth” starts things off and it’s very familiar, as it is a remake from Townsend’s Infinity album from 1998. It is very much the same, only updated into that modern Epicloud/Sky Blue sound. This is at least the third time he’s updated (covered?) one of his own songs, after “OM” from Christeen (+ Four Demos) and “Kingdom” from Physicist, though admittedly, we both expected him to cover “Namaste” if he was going to redo a song, especially considering the album’s artwork and name. He’s added some ethereal vocals at the end, which is excellent, but without the lyrics on hand, neither of us could figure out what is actually being sung (alas, the setbacks of the advanced promo). Anneke van Giersbergen is back again (hell yeah!) and sings the “hallejuah” part. All-in-all, it’s a nice to start to the album.

02. Stormbending
“Stormbending” continues the sort of ambient Sky Blue sound, along with some bits and pieces from Addicted and Epicloud as well. We had a bit of a conflicting opinion on this song. I think it’s pretty decent but doesn’t stand out much, though I really dig the guitar-work towards the end. Mark, on the other hand, said it grabbed his attention on the first play-through, though couldn’t really put a finger on what exactly it was that had caught his attention.

03. Failure
This song starts off with a guitar riff that sounds rather ‘non-Devy,’ so to speak, though it does give me a bit of a “Save Our Now” feeling nevertheless. Likely that’s some evidence from the input of the other band members. It’s also short-lived, as it sweeps into the first verse, where Mark started to get a reminiscent feeling of “Grace” [Epicloud], and though it took me a good long while to pick up on it, I agree. There is a riff used in this song that he’s used before in one of his older songs… damned if either of us can remember which song it’s from [ed: it might be “Planet of the Apes”]. He then goes into a very rare guitar solo that has an almost Peter Frampton kind of vibe to it. This could be considered a bit of a nostalgic track, sound-wise.

04. Secret Sciences
This track starts out normal enough and again, there is a distinct Addicted sound. Conversely to “Stormbending,” “Secret Sciences” was the first song that kind of caught my attention with the, “let it go” part in the chorus, which I really enjoy; however, Mark did not share my enthusiasm for this song, as about a minute into the song, it changes gears. I don’t disagree that the song comes across a bit disjointed at times, but perhaps I’m not familiar enough with Weird Al Yankovic’s voice to see Mark’s comparison to him when Dev is singing melodically. We’ll leave it up to you to decide if you agree.

05. Higher
“Higher” has perhaps the most mixed sound, starting out in a way that makes you expect a mellow ballad perhaps, and then after the first chorus just goes dark. There’s a very Deconstruction vibe in this song. It’s all over the place while also being a bit repetitive. The unfortunate part is that it’s one of the longer songs on the album, clocking in at just over 9½ minutes, so while I like the beginning and the part that starts at about the 3:25 point, the repetition of “higher” in many places keeps throwing the song off for me, ultimately making it something I can’t completely enjoy. I’d go so far as to say that this song sounds like maybe three good songs, one pretty-decent song, and one crappy song got into a violent accident and fused into one song that sadly suffers from the mess.

06. Stars
Here, the band does a better job of mixing the mellow sounds with the fast-paced, in a vast improvement over the last track. I get a bit of the same chill high energy you get from the ending tracks off Sky Blue (“Before We Die”) and Dark Matters (“Dimension Z”). We both agreed that this was one of the few songs to grab the listener’s attention on the first play-through. Dev is singing over both himself and at least one of the female vocalists at times, though I couldn’t say which of them is in there with him. Big bonus points to the vocal blending as such. This song definitely has the coherence and listen-ability that “Higher” lacked.

07. Transcendence
Reeeeeally smooth song transition from “Stars” into this one, so much so that you might not even notice that the song has changed, which is awesome. The first couple minutes are upbeat with some almost monk-like singing, with one of the ladies (who I suspect may possibly be Katrina Natale, as I don’t recognize the sound as Ché Aimee Dorval or Anneke van Giersbergen) in the backing vocals, though van Giersbergen also backs Townsend up again in the foreground here. This was one of the album highlights for Mark, and is definitely growing on me the more I listen to it.

08. Offer Your Light
After the almost 8-bit-esque style electronic intro, this is by far the fastest song on the album. Townsend is again accompanied by van Giersbergen in this one and it works very, very well. However, we both found that in spite of this, there’s nothing about this song that really stands out. Perhaps the issue with this song is exactly that it is so fast on an album that is otherwise pretty chill and progressive as a whole. Or maybe it’s because “Higher” is the low point and the album’s building back up. Or, maybe it’s just because it’s wedged between “Transcendence” and “From the Heart,” which are two slower songs? Either way, it’s a good tune, but perhaps it would be more at home on a different album.

09. From Your Heart
This seems like a very personal song from Townsend. Musically there’s nothing novel or exciting about it, but lyrically he sings about his choices, life in the band, and how this all affects his relationship with his wife, and it makes the song powerful and occasionally gives me goosebumps, even when I’m not paying full attention. It’s not a love song in the classic sense, nor an 80s-style power-ballad. This is the kind of love song you get from someone whose music is the exhaust pipe of his life experiences… an artist who uses music as a medium, rather than simply a musician. We’ve got van Giersbergen holding her awesome torch again, as well as Ché Aimee Dorval (at last!). If Dorval appears anywhere else on this album, we haven’t found her yet. The slow guitar outro is also really nice. I’ll go ahead and call this a rather beautiful song.

10. Transdermal Celebration (Ween cover)
The album closes up with, of all things, a cover of Ween’s “Transdermal Celebration,” which happens to be nearly 5 minutes longer than the original, so that was certainly intriguing in and of itself. And it’s cool, and epic, and kind of takes me somewhere into a progressive place in outer space. If you listen to the original, you can easily see why Townsend chose this. Ween, at least in this particular song, sounds very much like Townsend. It’s hard to put into words, but it translates well into the DTP style. It does turn out, however, that a fair bit of that extra length is the loooooong fade-out, and to my vague disappointment, there is no secret track. Overall, this song has some of the most overt energy of anything on the album, second only to “Offer Your Light,” which is a shame, though it does mean that the album ends on a high note.

 

Amy: So how did Townsend’s experiment with being less of a control freak pan out? Ultimately, I think it was wise for Townsend to release the album in September, because mellow, ambient music like this does not necessarily belong in summer. This album is great going into fall as things calm down and the weather starts to cool off a bit. It almost feels a bit soundtrack-y, as the vocals are frequently turned down to about the same level as the instruments, blending into them and not standing out prominently. If I’m being totally honest, I think the album is technically very good, but less interesting that other stuff Dev has done in the past… it runs almost a little closer to Casualties of Cool – which I only kind of enjoy in the right mood – than the metal side of his discography. For those of you expecting another high-energy DTP masterpiece (admittedly, I was one of them), I’m afraid that’s not what’s in store for you. There is no “Bad Devil” or “March of the Poozers” on Transcendence. It is a good album – it’s chill, relaxed, sweet, and it has its own place. Those of you who were disappointed in Sky Blue, thinking it was just released because the label wouldn’t release Dark Matters without another Epicloud might just find that Transcendence is the natural, improved progression from where Sky Blue left things off. However, if you liked Sky Blue, you might find Transcendence to have fewer stand-out songs by comparison. As well, Transcendence will not hit you in the face the same way Epicloud did, but will rather slide into your mind and settle there in the background.

Mark: What can I say about the whole album? I’ve been asking myself this for about a week. I’ve never had this hard of a time making my mind up about his albums. Far more often than not, I like the stuff he puts out. Even on his bad albums, I can find at least one song that I like – “Vampira,” “Universal Flame,” “Addicted,” and “Juular” to name a few. After several listens I started picking up on echoes of albums and songs past. If you’re a diehard you’ll hear them too. If you’re not a diehard fan… what the hell is wrong with you? My initial thought when hearing snippets/riffs from earlier work was, “Oh no. Don’t tell me he’s going to start treading familiar ground.” But then consider the album title… Transcendence. I would wager that he views this album as a culmination of everything he’s done in his career up to this point. Certainly at least the previous six albums, not counting Ziltoid or Casualties. And in that sense, the album really works. I think what he was trying to do with Sky Blue, he did here, but this time it works for me. Is this his best album? In my opinion, definitely not. If you loved Sky Blue, you might love this album. If you didn’t like Sky Blue, you’ll like a couple songs on this album on the first listen, and maybe a couple more songs on further listening. But if you’re one of the idiots that think Devin hasn’t done anything good since the days of SYL… why are you even reading this?

Final score? It’s not Townsend in his prime, but we can’t deny that there is some good work done here. We’ve agreed on an 8/10.

[09.09.2016] Edit: After considerably more time spent listening to this album, we both feel as though it has grown on us a great deal over time. I’ll personally up the score to an 8.5-9/10 at this point. -Amy

Setlist:
1. Truth
2. Stormbending
3. Failure
4. Secret Sciences
5. Higher
6. Stars
7. Transcendence
8. Offer Your Light
9. From the Heart
10. Transdermal Celebration (Ween cover)

Text: Amy Wiseman, Mark Chumienski | Photos: Devin Townsend Project Transcendence promotional photos, 2016

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE: MC Raaka Pee (Turmion Kätilöt), 2016

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If you’re a fan of Finnish industrial/disco metal, you need look no further than the shock-metal band Turmion Kätilöt. These guys have defined their genre, at least in the Finnish-speaking department, with their face paint, unpredictable performances, and clever lyrics. Today’s playlist comes from none other than MC Raaka Pee himself!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
Righeira: “Vamos ala Playa”

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
Bon Jovi: “You Gave Love a Bad Name”

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Prodigy: “Smack My Bitch Up”

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
The Kovenant

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
In the Night‘s Garden theme music

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
There is no such thing

2014.06.21 03 Turmion Kätilöt (09)7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Ramones: “Brain Drain”

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Jan Hammer: “Crockett’s Theme”

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Basic Element: “The Fiddle”

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
2 Times Terror: “Vielä Joskus” / Turmion Kätilöt: “Sinulle”

BLUES PILLS – André Kvarnström, 2016

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Photo from Tuska 2015 by Maija Lahtinen

Sweden-based psychedelic rockers Blues Pills popped into people’s consciousness with their self-titled debut in 2014. The album received positive reviews in the press for its 60s and 70s -influenced sound and was followed by heavy touring. With the follow-up, Lady in Gold, coming out tomorrow, Ville took the time to catch up with drummer André Kvarnström on the band’s new record, musical influences, and life on the road among other things.
[Disclaimer: some of the answers were cut short due to audio errors during the interview]

 

Your new album, Lady in Gold, is coming out on August 5th. Are there any new flavors or guest musicians like on the first album, or other special things?
This album is going to be a bit more soul inspired to begin with. For me personally, I got introduced to soul and psychedelia together, so that’s very interesting for me. And it’s more piano- and organ-based. And we also have a choir. A little bit like that.

What was the recording process like? When and where did you record it?
We started the recordings back in 2014 in October, and we recorded in Gothenburg at the same place where the first album was recorded, with the same producer, Don Alsterberg. The recording process was that we did a lot of shows, a lot of touring, so we maybe went to the studio and recorded for a couple of weeks and then after that we went off to tour, and then went right back into the studio. It was intense in some ways but we’re really proud of it.

How are your songs born? Do you get together and start jamming in the rehearsal place or do some of the band members bring in songs that they’ve started working on at home?
The difference maybe from how the songs are written on this album from the first album is that, on the first album the songs were already written. There were some earlier versions of our tracks that people could listen to, that turned into different studio versions on the first album, and this time almost every song was written in the studio with the band. Usually it’s been Zack [Anderson, bass] that brings a riff idea or a song idea or something and then we all, on this album, worked on it until it got finished. Then pretty much when a song is finished, we record it. Then we have different version of new songs or takes that we have done and we went back in to see if we wanted to change some stuff, and then we did and re-recorded it. So this time the songs were written in the studio.

The cover art is pretty cool, just like the first album, and it’s actually round like a vinyl record. Where did this idea come from?
The cover was done by the same artist who did the first one, Marijke Koger-Dunham. The specific painting is an old painting of hers that she did in the 60s, I think, and then we asked her for a cover to use on the album and we are really happy that she allowed us to use her work and that we can work very smoothly like her artwork and her style of making art.

It seems to fit into your music very well.
Yeah, exactly!

You guys do a really great job reproducing this authentic 70s sound – which bands or what things drew you into that style of music in the first place?
We all love and gain a lot of inspiration from the bands from the 60s and the 70s, but of course we are also listening to newer stuff as well. One way that got us linked to this style of music is maybe from our parents. Of course when you grow up, you exchange music with your friends, you maybe discover some new stuff and you go back and listen to what that band was inspired by and it leads you to other bands.

I’ve also discovered that looking through your favorite bands’ influences is a good way to find some interesting stuff.
Exactly! If you can find what inspired that band, then you can go deeper down to find different stuff.

This retro movement is pretty popular right now among young musicians and listeners. Why do you think it appeals to so many people?
I don’t know really. Maybe it’s the honesty or something. There’s something behind… why do you play this kind of music, you’re actually having people on stage playing instruments, and the way that people record, it’s like live. It has a different feeling from, for example, electronic music, where there are computers involved and stuff like that. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong to do that music of course, but in this kind of music there’s actual performances from a human being. Maybe people react and relate to that. Maybe it’s more to, let’s say electronic music… I mean, of course there are a lot of people that are interested in electronic music too and that can maybe influence them. I don’t really know why specifically, but there are a lot of good bands out there that play that style of music.

Those are some good points. How do you feel Blues Pills stands out compared to all these other bands that play this kind of vintage stuff?
Every band is different and brings different influences to their style of making different music. Maybe for this album, for the Lady in Gold album, apart from other bands, it’s maybe the soul elements or something. There aren’t maybe so many bands out there taking influences from soul artists and bands. Maybe?

Do you or your bandmates have any favorite bands or genres that might surprise your fans, or that they wouldn’t expect you to love? Like guilty pleasures, for example?
I don’t know actually. We are all pretty open-minded. It’s not like we are specifically into this 60s-70s style of music. It can be music from any year to any genre almost. So actually it’s hard to say.

You guys have toured quite a lot since the first album came out. Have you learned any valuable lessons during your time on the road?
I think we’ve been touring for the past 2 years. Of course we learned from each other. The way that we are traveling, not alone, we ourselves in the band, we also have other people traveling with us, like the tour manager and sound engineer and that kind of stuff, so I think that these past 2 years we all have learned a lot of things about [that]. I learned how to work as a group, as a team, which I think is really important.

You’re still quite a young band, but have you had any crazy encounters with fans yet? Have you received any interesting gifts, for example?
Yeah, maybe not such crazy things. Sometimes we get some chocolate or maybe a bottle of wine. I think we got some pastries and stuff that people have made themselves, which is flattering of course. Stuff like that.

That was all my questions. Thanks for your time. It was nice talking to you.
Thank you, take care!

Text: Ville Karttunen | Photo: Maija Lahtinen | Ed: Amy Wiseman

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Gemma Lawler (Dakesis), 2016

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When we mention Dakesis, you may not immediately know who we’re talking about, and that’s a shame. This group of English progressive power metallers have proven to be a worthy new band to check out and are a great live act. You may have even seen them in Finland or the UK recently with Thunderstone! Today we have the playlist of vocalist Gemma Lawler’s life for you!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
It would be something like WHAM! My mum was real big on 80’s pop.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
If I wanted to give a marginally cool answer, it would probably be something by Queen (I swore I was going to marry Freddie Mercury when I grew up!), but the very first was probably the B side on Kylie & Jason’s Especially for You called “All I Wanna Do is Make You Mine”; I wore that side of the vinyl completely out!

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Sublime – “Santeria.” I still play it on the first sunny day of spring every year and I’m right back there in nostalgia-land!

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
I lingered on the fringes of prog/power metal for a while, but it was Symphony X – “Smoke and Mirrors” that sealed the deal. Our bass player Amie had brought Twilight in Olympus over for a mutual friend to borrow but he didn’t much bite it… I heard that intro riff and was hooked forever!

2016.04.13 01 Dakesis (11) @ Tavastia

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
Thunderstone – “Through The Pain.” Annoyingly catchy!

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Andrew WK – “Party Hard” =D

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
I seriously nerded out with a much treasured copy of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite that I had begged my parents for.

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Agalloch’s The Mantle album or anything by Alcest.

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Motorhead – “Bomber” when you’re running late or Symphony X – “The Odyssey” when you’ve got hours to kill!

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Manowar – “Fight for Freedom.” I have it all planned out, Matt [Jones – Dakesis guitarist] is going to jump out in a loincloth and play the solo atop my coffin.

JOHN SMITH FESTIVAL – Peurunka, Laukaa, 22-24.07.2016

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A picturesque lake view, lush trees, and bushes filled with delicious red berries on a grassy green slope, with slightly sunny, tropically humid weather, and a spa. To most people this sounds like a perfect place for a yoga retreat but in Finland, we call it the perfect place to arrange a metal music festival! The first ever John Smith Rock Festival in Laukaa was one man’s dream to bring a rock festival to his home town and finally on July 22-24th, 2016, it came true. The list of bands in this festival brought together the hottest Finnish metal names, spiced with Amaranthe [Sweden], Sparzanza [Sweden], and Helloween [Germany]. The first two days were K18 and the last (free) day was a family day with only one band, Hevisaurus. So, let’s review what happened on that beautiful summer weekend in the middle of Finland when, amazingly, it did not rain at all!

 

Day 1:
We arrived just in time to see the first band, To/Die/For. With a glance around the area, we saw the crowd dressed in black gathering up and heading towards the music. Apparently most people did as we did and did not arrive until the first act, even though the gates had been open for some time already. Therefore To/Die/For suffered a bit, not having too many listeners but the band kicked the party off with power and people started to get into the festival mood! There was also some melancholy in the air as it was To/Die/For’s farewell gig, as the band’s 17-year career came to an end. Wishing all the best to the band members and waiting for future projects, you couldn’t have picked a more beautiful place for the last show!

2016-07-22 05 Amorphis @ John Smith
Amorphis

The Von Hertzen Brothers continued where To/Die/For had left, raising the festival spirit, and Kotiteollisuus set sounded better than they have in a long time. Maybe it was the Laukaa spirit that brought out the best in everyone? After the first three bands it was time for Amorphis to put on their show. Clearly this was a band that everyone had anticipated! The grassy slope in front the stage was packed full and the energy was high. This was my first experience at a gig where the fences could hardly contain the people in the crowd! I wouldn’t have expected to experience it in Laukaa, of all places! Amorphis pleased the audience with a bold combination of both old and new, and as the final song, “Black Winter’s Day,” started, people were ecstatic! The band was clearly happy with the warm welcome and promised to come back to Laukaa if John Smith happens next year again.

Stam1na
Stam1na

After Amorphis it was time for Stam1na. Stam1na, celebrating their 20-year anniversary this year, have become hugely popular in Finland and are known for their high energy, mosh pit -spinning shows. Having seen the band many times before and knowing that they are a band that simply can’t let you down, I still wondered how they could beat the frenzy that was Amorphis! Fans had reserved their spots by the fence long beforehand and the feeling in the audience just before the show was happy and ready to explode into raised fists and roaring pits. The band delivered the goods, playing songs from the new album, Elokuutio, along with some older productions, the pit spun, and the fans got their money’s worth from these guys! It was good and I was left with nothing but happiness after their set. But still, I had the feeling Amorphis had still won the day…

Amaranthe
Amaranthe

Amaranthe was the first foreign band at JS and had the crowd packed in to see them. By then, night had fallen and the stage’s lights lit the area beautifully. Although I’m not the biggest fan of the band and don’t know their songs, there was a great feeling in the audience and I enjoyed watching the show. The day ended with Sonata Arctica playing an acoustic set (which was a surprise) and there could not have been a more beautiful ending to a great day! The Sonata tracks sounded absolutely amazing acoustically and songs like “Tallulah” and “Tonight I Dance Alone” painted an ethereal picture, which fitted the soft, warm night perfectly. Expectations grew exponentially for the next day after I went over all that I had experienced already!

Sonata Arctica
Sonata Arctica

 

Day 2:
The day started quite early, or at least it felt like it (14:00), and people were clearly not yet in full festival spirits as the first band, Lost Society, started to play. Having Lost Society as the first band of the day instead of Red Eleven, which was the original plan, was a clever decision, as they are a band with enough energy to raise the dead! By the end of the gig, the crowd had mostly arrived and awoken with the aid of the band’s high-voltage energy. After Red Eleven’s set, folk metal band Korpiklaani got everyone into a nice drinking mood and The Francine had the crowd dancing, it was time for a small break before the second half of the day. And it was good to fuel up because the seven-band finale took energy to watch with no breaks in between, but it was absolutely worth it!

Turmion Kätilöt
Turmion Kätilöt

The first of the seven was Turmion Kätilöt. There’s something about this band that makes me move no matter how much my feet hurt! TK’s industrial metal performance did not leave anyone cold – the pit was spinning and the band’s jokes had people laughing. Actually, they were not all jokes – Spellgoth shared intimate and painful sounding details about his hemorrhoids, for instance, and I sure hope he’s feeling better now! “Hyvissä höyryissä” and “Pyhä maa” were on the setlist and singalongs were guaranteed as such!

By this point (18:00), the slope was full and even the heavy party-goers had woken up and found their way back to the area. The vocalist of Maj Karma, Herra Ylppö, was the only one during the whole festival who jumped off the stage and approached the audience. This would have been an even better idea if the microphone cord had been a bit longer…

Sparzanza
Sparzanza

Spanzanza was the first foreign band of the day and was again clearly highly anticipated, as the slope in front of the stage was packed. Spanzanza gave a strong performance and the crowd was visibly pleased with the show. The band seemed to be very happy to be at JS thanks to the enthusiastic welcome; also the spa accommodation seemed to be to their liking. Battle Beast continued the Finnish metal fest, giving me chills as the vocalist, Noora Louhimo, opened her vocal chords! What an amazing singer she is! Apart from some of their hit songs, I didn’t really know about the band before I saw them live in South Park festival in Tampere this summer, but now they look like another band I’m more than happy to pay for a ticket to see. Songs like “Black Ninja” and “Into the Heart of Danger” made many people, including me, sing along (which I rarely do)!

Helloween
Helloween

Helloween was the next monster of rock to perform. The show sounded almost identical to one I saw at South Park in Tampere last year. Andi Deris seemed very happy to be in Finland, although he wanted to share his worries about the horrible things happening in the world today, the same way he did last year when I saw them. So no surprises, but as strong and solid a performance as expected from a band that has decades of music behind them. As with all these high-caliber bands, the older classics like “Eagle Fly Free” and “I Want Out” were the ones that fired people up into singing along. It was a good hour-and-a-half-long show, but I was already eager to hear the next band.

After Helloween’s set there was nice firework display, which was a pleasant surprise. As we got to the other stage, the area was almost full – dedicated Mokoma fans had reserved their spots by the fence long beforehand, waiting with high anticipation yet again. The band stormed the stage and performed songs from the latest album, Elävien kirjoihin and of course, “Hei hei heinäkuu” has to be played in July. Nice singalongs and mosh pits were seen and good times were assured. The whole band gave 100% of themselves and it was quite clear why this band is so popular in Finland!

Stratovarius
Stratovarius

Then it was suddenly time for the last band, Stratovarius. Being the last band of the day (and the whole festival if you didn’t plan to see Hevisaurus on Sunday), the crowd was packed full to the last metalhead to see them. As day 1 had ended in soft, acoustic tunes with Sonata Arctica, day 2 ended with power! People gave their everything dancing and singing as Timo Kotipelto led the show. He even managed to film live footage onto Facebook from the stage. It was classic performance from the band and some the older members in the audience could sense the nostalgia. “Hunting High and Low” had people singing (re: shouting) their lungs out and once the show was over, those who could still speak wandered out of the area saying this was a festival worth the money invested.

 

The Festival Grounds and General Overview
The area had two stages, the John stage and yes, you guessed it, the Smith stage. The bigger John stage was located right next to the lake shore with an amazing view of the lake. The grassy slope in front of it for the audience was perfect to provide a clear view of the stage even when sitting down, and many people had picnic blankets with them to set up a base camp for the festival. The Smith stage higher up was more intimate, as you could get a bit closer to the bands there. The sets were scheduled in such a way that there was no overlap, so it was possible to see all the bands if you wanted. There was even a small eating (and drinking, of course) break in the middle of the both main days so that you really didn’t have to sacrifice any of the gigs! How cool is that? The restaurant area was quite small but adequate and the specialty food was ‘Rock Pig’ – the rare summer pig roasted whole on a spittle! The pig was delicious (yes, I’m a meat lover) but vegans were unfortunately completely left out of the menu. There were also VIP areas with their own catering, but to my view they were mostly empty.

The festival was arranged in the Peurunka spa area in Laukaa which, as mentioned before, was an excellent place for it in every sense except accommodation and transportation. The spa has a hotel which had sold out quite quickly. It is also pretty much the only hotel in the town so most people had to find hotels outside Laukaa, mainly in Jyväskylä, and it meant having to arrange transportation to and from the festival area. Besides the lack of vegan food, the lack of transportation was one small minus for the festival. But, points to the organizers as the number of buses to Jyväskylä was, to my understanding, increased on the second day due to the feedback from people.

Overall, there was a really positive feeling at the festival during the whole weekend. There were many local people in the audience smiling pleasantly as they had finally gotten a festival in their town. The artists seemed also to be in particularly positive moods, which probably had a great deal to do with the fact that the bands know each other so well and the long list of bands per day created a real gathering of musician friends in Laukaa. Also, the arrangements seemed to work very well for the artists. Many of the bands praised the organization on the stage and hoped that the event would return in the future. And so do I.

John Smith, you did well! It was a pleasure and I hope see you next year!

Stratovarius
Stratovarius

Text: Virpi S. | Photos: Miia Collander | Ed: Amy Wiseman

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Kai-Pekka Kangasmäki (Stam1na), 2016

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Trying to classify Stam1na’s music is one hell of a hard nut to crack. The longer way to describe it would start from a thrash metal root with the addition of progressive, heavy, and death influences, while the TL;DR variant would go along the lines of “it KICKS ass!” Add some humor to the mix and BAM! Stam1na comes to life. The guys released their seventh full length album, “Elokuutio,” in March 2016, with which they’ve shown that once again they haven’t lost their touch. Stam1na’s bassist, Kai-Pekka Kangasmäki, is next musician to share the playlist of his life.

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
I don’t actually remember it, but my big sister has sang to me “Pikkuveli” [little brother] by the Finnish band Noitalinna huraa! when I was a really small pooping machine. Now I’m a bit older pooping machine.
2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
I would probably have to say “Rekkamies” [truck driver]. My father drove a truck and I was maybe like 3 or 4 years old when I called from home to the local radio and asked that song to be played. To this day, I didn’t even know who was the artist that performed it, so I had to Google it and the G told me it was Matti Esko. Pretty bad-ass song, don’t you think?
3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Any song from Raised Fist’s Ignoring the Guidelines / Fuel or In Flames’s Colony / Clayman. Those were the days of the teenaged pooping machine… Swedish music and pimples.
4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
Children of Bodom’s “Deadnight Warrior” music video knocked me out and very soon after that I managed to get my first electric guitar (thanks, Grandma!), but I have to say that Offspring’s “Smash” got me into the music before CoB. I still love “Smash.” And CoB. And my Grandma.
5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
I don’t listen to the radio, so thankfully I’m not aware what’s going on with the (s)hit lists, but during these IIHF2016 games one particular song was in everywhere. And I don’t mean “Oh, Canada.” I don’t know what the song was, but it really went under my skin.
6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Do you mean like a “skeleton in a closet” kind of a song I wouldn’t like to admit? Lady Gaga – “Poker Face.” It’s a good song!
7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
I think it might have been Ehjä from the Finnish band Apulanta. I haven’t listen to the record in almost 20 years, but I remember when I bought it from Legendary Matti from the legendary record store “Levymusiikki” in legendary Lappeeranta. Good memories towards Levymusiikki [album music]. Not sure if the record is still good.
8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Every time I curl up on my couch for too long, my upper back and shoulders are trying to kill me and then it’s all about dancing with the painkillers… but if I want to really relax with music, I’d probably put on some Katie Melua or stuff like that.
9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
I usually put some Anal Thunder on if I can be the DJ on our tour bus. AT’s “Drink Myself to Death” is a brilliant song for example, but so is Vince Dicola’s “Training Montage” from Rocky IV. If those songs doesn’t lift up the spirit then you are probably deaf.
10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
This is easy: Louis Armstrong – “What a Wonderful World.”

JOHN SMITH FESTIVAL – Day 2 @ Peurunka, Laukaa, 23.07.2016

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First annual John Smith Festival in Laukaa, 2016.
Photos by Miia Collander.

JOHN SMITH FESTIVAL – Day 1 @ Peurunka, Laukaa, 22.07.2016

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First annual John Smith Festival in Laukaa, 2016.
Photos by Miia Collander.

KORSO ROCK FESTIVAL – Korso, Vantaa, 15-17.07.2016

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The existence of Korso Rock Festival only very recently made its way onto our radar, a mere handful of days before the event itself. With a rather unfamiliar line-up, we thought maybe we wouldn’t bother, but when Volymian, a promising new band from southern Finland, and Blind Channel, whom you know we’ve been kind of into lately turned up on the Friday roster, we figured it’d be worth our while to wander over and see if this festival was worth a few hours of our evening, or more!

 

I confess to having been pretty skeptical about this festival. These guys have a slogan that is essentially asking if Ankkarock (a festival once held in Korso) could be revived. First of all, I was confused by that because they’re not calling themselves Ankkarock, nor are they hosting the event in Ankkarock’s old location. As well, even though they boasted free entry, their own website didn’t have the line-up listed until a day or two before the festival itself, and if there was a timetable on the site, I never found it. Instead, you had to look on the Facebook event page (of which there were two, incidentally) in, of all places, the photo gallery. As such, I felt that no matter how cheap or free your tickets are, very few people will go to a festival if they don’t know the line-up.

With this in mind, the aforementioned bands still appealed to me enough to grab a new junior photographer and go have a peek, at least for that first day. The evening was dark and gloomy with a foreboding grey sky, but hey, it’s rained at every other festival I’ve attended this summer and it hasn’t killed me… yet!

 

We arrived in Korso with a bit of time to find the venue and have a look around. Okay, the venue was not hard to find, which is the first point in its favor. The festival was located hardly 100 m from the Korso train station, which was delightfully convenient. It didn’t offer much other than a place to get food and drinks, and a few places to sit, but there were two small stages to allow for smooth change-overs, one of which was hosting an unknown band called Damage Limit as I arrived. I didn’t get a chance to watch them, but from what I managed to hear, they didn’t seem too bad.

Volymian
Volymian

The festival area was quite small as a whole and not a lot of people were there. Volymian started their short, 40-minute set around 21:00, with a nice intro song that may be from a movie score or something (I approve). As they started playing, I briefly got the impression that the music was a lot more alternative in style than I had originally noticed on listening to their debut album, though Markku Kuikka’s vocals are still rather power metal-y. And while on the subject of Kuikka, he was sounding quite nice on this night. The mix was a bit jumbled in places, but if you wandered around the crowd, it didn’t take long to find a decent balance. The second song, “Damnation of Love,” was the first song of note, with a quite decent, if short, keyboard-guitar solo duel part. It turned out that this was the band’s second gig ever, so it was cool to see a handful of very enthusiastic fans in the small crowd. Kuikka is clearly the most experienced performer of the group (after all, the guy is in or has been in quite a few bands, Status Minor and The Ragged Saints to name a few), as he lacked the stiffness or nervousness the others had, which of course is natural if this was their second time on a stage. Fear not – they loosened up a bit towards the end and started to rock out a bit more. “Inside Out” had some pretty good energy and has a lot of potential as a live track, and I liked the heavy intro to “Under a Million Stars.” I might have even enjoyed the songs live a bit more than on the album. This is perhaps the ‘youngest’ band I’ve ever covered (experience-wise), and I think that if these guys keep at it, they’ve got some potential and could work very nicely in a club setting someday.

Setlist:
1. Breathe
2. Damnation of Love
3. Ring
4. Inside Out
5. Under a Million Stars
6. Maze of Madness
7. Indifferent
8. Line of Fire

 

Both bands we watched were on the main stage, though we heard a great deal of Bad Apples’ set on the second stage, a Guns N’ Roses cover band that had filled Elisa Järvelä’s empty timeslot, complete with cheesy wigs – one of the guys had the signature Slash look, top hat and all. Their music was quite good, though I’d be lying if I thought the singer did a good job of Axl Rose’s vocals. Though to be fair, Rose’s shoes aren’t the easiest to fill.

Blind Channel
Blind Channel

It was worth sticking around to see Blind Channel though! I’m not going to lie, these guys are quickly becoming one of my favorite live acts. This was a tiny festival with a tiny crowd, and there was only a handful of people (other than their group of huge fans who follow them everywhere), yet as their show progressed, people of all ages were drawn in (my favorite was a lady dancing in the crowd who had to be at least in her 80s). I suspect even passer-bys from the street might have come through the gates to see what was happening because their music has such great party energy. And they didn’t skimp on the effort – even in such a small-scale event, they gave it their all! “Unforgiving” got things off to a good start. It’s rare to see a band and a crowd jumping in such perfect synchronization. I also learned that during, I believe, “Hold on to Hopeless,” you should put your right hand (specifically) in the air, though I have yet to learn why (other than it just feels good to put a hand in the air). A song called “Bullet (With Your Name on It)” might be the perfect song to describe what exactly ‘violent pop’ is, because it is poppy, but it’s also very loud and heavy. You’ll have to hear it for yourself, but it’s a good tune! And I’m not gonna lie, probably half the reason I showed up to this festival was so I could hear “Deja FU” live (and yes, that’s Deja F-U!, not a typo of ‘deja vu’). It needs a little practice still, but with that in mind, it was still everything I hoped it would be – energetic, fun, and oh so easy to party to! Nico Moilanen just fucking NAILED the fast rapping part, which I found really impressive considering they haven’t been performing it for very long. Another song called “Enemy for Me” is great for letting out some anger, and of course, “Darker than Black” was a highlight. People young and old were dancing and ‘moshing’ (three people is not much of a pit, but at least they were doing their best) and you can’t blame them – it’s hard to stay still when listening to this music. Their encore was their cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Don’t,” which I am not ashamed to say is way better than the original. They closed out by throwing a couple shirts into the crowd and coming into the photo pit to have a little meet ‘n’ greet as “Backstreet’s Back” played. Apart from the setting (a gloomy night with mediocre lighting), it was a great (if short) show.

Blind Channel
Blind Channel

Seriously – I need an album from these guys so I can listen to this stuff at home. I need to listen to it at the gym. I need it for parties and to wake me up when I need to be up early. They sound like so many bands I like, yet the combination makes them so different at the same time. So lucky me, the boys announced that their album is coming out on October 1st, 2016, and there will be an album release party at Virgin Oil – so save the date! This is going to be a show you don’t want to miss!

Setlist:
1. Unforgiving
2. Hold on to Hopeless
3. Pitfall
4. Alcatraz
5. Bullet (With Your Name on It)
6. Deja FU
7. Enemy for Me
8. Darker Than Black

Encore:
9. Don’t (Ed Sheeran cover)

 

We had originally been quite undecided about whether or not we’d come back again over the rest of the weekend. Ikinä was tempting on Saturday, but not enough so to tempt me into skipping my sauna hour, but a windy yet warm Sunday was a perfect opportunity to peel my hindquarters off the couch to come see Crimson Sun again. I had only watched part of their show at Tuska, so this time I wanted to see the full set.

First of all, something seemed to have happened because they were meant to play at 17:00, but the rockabilly possibly-Hurriganes cover band, Road Runners, playing before them had started about 40 minutes late (I was told) and finished up at 16:50; since the main stage had already been taken down, Crimson Sun had to wait for the other band to clear the stage before setting up and doing their sound check. Naturally, that doesn’t happen in 10 minutes. There was no rush with sound limitations at that time of day though and they took the time to do things right.

Crimson Sun
Crimson Sun

To show up at 16:45 to see a band and end up waiting about an hour and a half was a bit discouraging, but as soon as these guys stepped on stage, I did not regret my decision to leave my house on this lazy Sunday. They got off to a great start with “The Storm” and even though the sound was again a bit sub-par, I was almost a bit glad that the keyboards were a bit louder because I was able to better appreciate how cool Miikka Hujanen’s sound is. I also really began to appreciate the grit in Sini Seppälä’s voice. She sings beautifully, but she has some harshness in there that adds another layer of depth to her vocals, and I love it. I’m always so impressed when small people have huge voices, and alongside that, she’s full of smiles and enthusiasm, making her a wonderful front all around.

Crimson Sun
Crimson Sun

I also like how their music occasionally reminds me of other music without sounding like a rip-off. “Eye of the Beholder,” for example, had what sounded to me like a bit of something I couldn’t place (possibly Scar Symmetry) with a hint of Soilwork – two sounds you wouldn’t necessarily expect to blend well, but do! Other highlights included “Portrait of a Ghost,” which has a great keyboard/guitar part, and the powerful closer, “Memories Burning.”

I saw many people walking by and pausing to listen, so I wondered if the removal of the main entrance (which had been by the aforementioned closed main stage) had prevented some people from coming in, since the new entrance was in the bar area. There weren’t very many people watching, but the performance didn’t remotely suffer from it as everyone on stage gave it a lot of energy, with Joni Junnila (guitar) and Jukka Jauhiainen (bass) rocking out and showing what that glorious hair can do. And their effort was rewarded. We weren’t the only ones to come out just to see them as there was a handful of people who were there singing along and cheering after every song.

Coming into this set, I was tired, cranky, hungry, and impatient from the long wait for Crimson Sun’s set to start, so it speaks worlds about their performance that I immediately forgot all of that and was completely absorbed in their music from start to finish. I have to say, if you enjoyed their album, you should really check out one of their gigs. Their music translates beautifully into a stage setting and completely comes to life. It will be worth your while!

Crimson Sun
Crimson Sun

Setlist:
1. The Storm
2. Eye of the Beholder
3. Clockwork Heart
4. Towards the Light
5. Awaken
6. The Herald
7. Portrait of a Ghost
8. Enter the Silence
9. The Spark
10. Memories Burning

 

So do I think Korso Rock can revive the Ankkarock spirit? Well, there is potential but they’re not there just yet. That said, the two days we spent there turned out to be surprisingly fun and totally worth our while. There was good music, good atmosphere, and good opportunities to see some bands that are on the rise! And Friday’s Radio City announcers were pleasant and seemed quite entertaining (though I confess I didn’t catch much of what they were saying in Finnish). While Sunday felt a bit disorganized and they need to generally get their lineup out there sooner, the three bands we watched were certainly worth checking out, so as a whole, the festival felt like a success. They had a decent overall turnout and at least we had fun, so who knows, we might just come back next year!

Text: Amy Wiseman | Photos: Miia Collander

KORSO ROCK FESTIVAL @ Korso, Vantaa, 15-17.07.2016

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Crimson Sun

Korso Rock Festival in Vantaa, 2016.
Photos by Miia Collander.

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Antti Pasonen (From Grotto), 2016

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From Grotto is a four piece, Helsinki-based psychedelic rock band, influenced by ambient, jazz, trance, funk, prog, and other genres. They released their first demo in late 2015 and have been playing a few gigs here and there since then, with more to come! This week we have the playlist of guitarist Antti Pasonen’s life!

More From Grotto over here!

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
Queen – “A Kind of Magic”; the sound of this song and album somehow strongly reminds me of my early childhood. My dad was and still is an enthusiastic music fan and I think Queen was quite often spinning on the player during those years.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
Leevi and the Leavings – “Elämä ikkunan takana.” As a child I had a portable CD-player, and Leevi’s Keskiviikko -collection album was my absolute favorite. It sounds quite depressing, but it’s not!

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Metallica – “Battery”; first steps into the world of metal music. Loved the aggression, and the speed!

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
Kingston Wall – II. This record introduced me to psychedelic rock, and is still quite a big influence. Best Finnish band e-v-e-r! (so far) 😉

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
Kaleidobolt – “Rocket to the Moon”; great stuff from Kaleidobolt’s first album released last year. I saw them the first time playing live few months ago and the show was intense!

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Paramore – “Misery Business”… heh! I can’t be very ashamed of anything I listen to. Though, somehow this still feels a bit nasty… can’t figure out why!

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Bomfunk MC’s – In Stereo; oh boy… “Freestyler”!

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Bo Hansson – “Första vandringen” and the rest of the album Sagan Om Ringen – a record sailing through the world of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Hansson went to a summer cottage located somewhere in the islands near Stockholm and spent the whole winter of 1970 there composing and recording this masterpiece. Strongly recommended if you like dreamy stuff!

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – “Crosstown Traffic”; My dear summertime car is not a rocket, but a steady ride. And funky as hell!

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Black Sabbath – “Planet Caravan.”

GEFLE METAL FESTIVAL @ Gasklockorna, Gävle, 15-16.07.2016

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Gefle Metal Festival, Gävle, 2016.
Photos by Cornelia Wickel.

(2016) Witherscape: The Northern Sanctuary (English)

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Artist: Witherscape
Album: The Northern Sanctuary
Released: 22.07.2016
Label: Century Media

 

Progressive death metal duo Witherscape’s debut album, The Inheritance (2013), was my introduction to the wonderful world of the multi-talented Dan Swanö, whose projects I’ve been following ever since then. After 3 years, he and partner in crime Ragnar Widerberg return with another concept album. The main character of The Northern Sanctuary is “the man in white,” who has bought the estate where the events of The Inheritance took place. He rents out rooms in the house to other people, but things start to go awry when the man is possessed by the evil entity haunting the place.

In the promo bio, Swanö name-checks “Dead for a Day,” “Astrid Falls,” and “The Math of the Myth” from the debut as the songs whose direction he wanted to explore further while adding in new elements. This comment isn’t baseless, as the melodicism of those songs has clearly paved the way for a lot of the material on The Northern Sanctuary, and the role of keyboards is stronger this time around. I don’t mind though, as the aforementioned three tunes were among my favorites from the debut.

The opening pair, “Wake of Infinity” and “In the Eyes of Idols,” sums up the Witherscape sound fairly well: besides tight riffing, haunting chords, and double bass drumming, there’s room for clean guitar bits, rocking solos, and sing-along choruses. “Rapture Ballet” starts off in a ‘Rush meets death metal’ style, reminiscent of Swanö’s solo album, Moontower (1998), before moving on to an Opeth-y triplet section. “The Examiner,” on the other hand, is a beautifully melancholic tune for the most part and has an anthemic chorus that is a guaranteed earworm. A special mention has got to be given to Swanö’s performance behind the mic – plenty of melodic death metal vocalists know how to growl like a demon and sing like an angel, but few of them handle raspy rock singing as skilfully as Swanö does.

“Marionette” is a Nightingale-sounding track, but the AOR synth strings in its chorus are contrasted by growling. The combination sounds tacky on paper, but it works brilliantly. The song concludes with a glorious solo that you can imagine Widerberg playing on a mountaintop while the sun is setting – simply epic! The heaviest song is the fast “Divinity,” which is followed by the slower “God of Ruin.” The ambitious 14-minute title-track is the album’s culmination point that includes both the prettiest and the heaviest parts of the album, as well as a short Gothic bit with whispered vocals in vein of Nightingale’s The Breathing Shadow (1995). Long songs can be risky – sometimes either too repetitive or chaotic – but Witherscape manages to craft an adventurous yet cohesive musical journey. “Vila i frid” is a piano outro that closes the album in a similar fashion as the title-track did on The Inheritance.

Although I’m a fan of melodies and there are no weak points on the album, I feel like it would benefit from having another aggressive and riff-oriented track, especially since Swanö’s growling voice is in such fine shape. That said, this is just a minor complaint, and it’s possible that the storyline simply doesn’t warrant more songs in that style – one of the downsides of listening to an advance promo is that you don’t get to read the lyrics. Either way, The Northern Sanctuary is a continuation of Dan Swanö’s creative renaissance and far from a sophomore slump for Witherscape. Hopefully the dynamic duo will extend the saga into a trilogy!

Rating: 8½/10, 4½ stars

Tracklist:
1. Wake of Infinity
2. In the Eyes of Idols
3. Rapture Ballet
4. The Examiner
5. Marionette
6. Divinity
7. God of Ruin
8. The Northern Sanctuary
9. Vila i frid

Text: Ville Karttunen | Ed: Amy Wiseman | Photos: Witherscape The Northern Sanctuary promotional photos, 2016

(2016) Witherscape: The Northern Sanctuary (suomeksi)

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Artisti: Witherscape
Albumi: The Northern Sanctuary
Julkaistu: 22.07.2016
Levy-yhtiö: Century Media

Progressiivisen death metal -duo Witherscapen debyyttialbumi The Inheritance (2013) oli ensikosketukseni monilahjakkuus Dan Swanön ihmeelliseen maailmaan, ja olen seurannut miehen projekteja siitä lähtien. Kolmen vuoden jälkeen hän ja rikoskumppani Ragnar Widerberg palaavat uuden konseptialbumin kera. The Northern Sanctuaryn päähenkilö on “the man in white”, joka on ostanut kartanon, joka toimi The Inheritancen tapahtumapaikkana. Hän vuokraa talon huoneita ulkopuolisille, mutta asiat alkavat mennä hullusti, kun mies joutuu paikassa asuvan pahan hengen riivaamaksi.

Promon mukana tulevassa biografiassa Swanö nimeää “Dead for a Dayn”, “Astrid Fallsin” ja “The Math of the Mythin” kappaleiksi debyytiltä, joiden tyyliä hän halusi jatkaa, tuoden samalla mukaan uusia elementtejä. Kommentti ei ole perätön, sillä kyseisten biisien melodisuus on selvästi viitoittanut tietä suurelle osalle The Northern Sanctuaryn materiaalista, ja koskettimien osuus on vahvempi tällä kertaa. Tämä ei haittaa minua, sillä edellämainitut rallit olivat suosikkejani esikoisella.

Avauskaksikko “Wake of Infinity” ja “In the Eyes of Idols” tiivistää Witherscapen tyylin hyvin: tiukan riffittelyn, aavemaisten sointujen ja tuplabasarien ohella löytyy tilaa säröttömälle kitaroinnille, rokkaaville sooloille ja yhteislaulukertosäkeille. “Rapture Ballet” yhdistelee aluksi Rushia death metaliin Swanön sooloalbumin Moontower (1998) hengessä ennen kuin siirrytään opethmaiseen trioliosioon. “The Examiner” on sen sijaan suurimmalta osin kauniin melankolinen kappale, jonka tarttuva kertosäe on takuuvarma korvamato. Swanön suoritus mikrofonin takana ansaitsee erikoismaininnan – lukuisat melodisen death metalin solistit osaavat ärjyä kuin demonit ja laulaa kuin enkelit, mutta harvat hoitavat raspisen rock-laulannan yhtä mallikkaasti kuin Swanö.

“Marionette” on nightingalemainen veto, mutta kertosäkeen AOR-syntikkajouset saavat vastapainokseen örinää. Yhdistelmä kuulostaa tökeröltä paperilla, mutta toimii hienosti. Biisi päättyy upeaan sooloon, jota Widerbergin voi kuvitella soittavan vuoren huipulla aurinkon laskiessa – eeppistä menoa! Raskain kappale on nopea “Divinity”, jota seuraa hitaampi “God of Ruin”. Kunnianhimoinen 14-minuuttinen nimiraita on albumin kulminaatiopiste, joka sisältää niin levyn kauneimmat kuin raskaimmat kohdat, sekä lyhyen goottimaisen kohdan, joka kuiskailuineen tuo mieleen Nightingale-albumin The Breathing Shadow (1995). Pitkät kappaleet voivat olla riskaabeleja – joko liian yksitoikkoisia tai kaoottisia – mutta Witherscape onnistuu luomaan uskaliaan mutta eheän musiikillisen matkan. “Vila i frid” on piano-outro, joka päättää levyn samaan tapaan kuin debyytin nimiraita.

Vaikka olen melodioiden ystävä, eikä levyllä ole heikkoja kohtia, mielestäni mukaan olisi mahtunut vielä yksi aggressiivinen ja riffivetoinen kappale, varsinkin kun Swanön murinat ovat sen verran kovia. Tämä on kuitenkin vain pieni kritiikin poikanen, ja on mahdollista että juoni ei kaivannut enempää sen tyylisiä kappaleita – yksi ennakkopromon kuuntelun varjopuolista on se, ettei pääse lukemaan sanoituksia. Joka tapauksessa The Northern Sanctuary jatkaa Dan Swanön luovaa renessanssia, eikä Witherscapen toinen tuleminen jää missään nimessä vaisuksi. Toivottavasti tämä dynaaminen duo täydentää tarinaa trilogiaksi!

Arvosana: 8½/10, 4½ tähteä

Kappalelista:
1. Wake of Infinity
2. In the Eyes of Idols
3. Rapture Ballet
4. The Examiner
5. Marionette
6. Divinity
7. God of Ruin
8. The Northern Sanctuary
9. Vila i frid

Teksti: Ville Karttunen | Kuvat: Witherscape The Northern Sanctuary promotional photos, 2016

KATATONIA – Niklas & Daniel, Tuska Open Air, 2016

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Following the release of their new album, The Fall of Hearts, Katatonia has been on the road playing some summer festivals to help get the word out. They stopped by Tuska Open Air for the first time since 2011, and before the show we were given a few moments to talk to Niklas Sandin [bass] and Daniel Moilanen [drums] about the new album and their time at the festival!

 

How is everything with Roger [Öjersson, guitar] and the band chemistry now that you’ve all played a few gigs together?
Niklas: I think it’s really good. He’s a perfect fit and a wonderful guitar player and he has wonderful weird humor as well, which fits with the rest of the gang. It was a perfect fit from the start.

2016.07.03 04 Tuska Katatonia interview 2A lot has been said about the progressive direction of The Fall of Hearts, but it’s also more guitar-driven as well. Was this intentional, or did it turn out that way naturally?
Daniel: I think it turned out that way, since they felt more free to create whatever they wanted. With Roger in the band, obviously there’s a lot more room for solos and leads. It’s more guitar-driven, but not intentionally.

Niklas: I think maybe in the past we would not have had a song beginning with guitar solo. I think that was quite shocking even for me. “Fucking hell, that’s a pretty long guitar solo opening a song. This is new!”

The bonus track “Vakaren” was sung in Swedish – what inspired you guys to have a song in your native language?
Daniel: I think that’s a question for Jonas. Also, I think he felt that with this album he could do it. I think he’s been [fiddling] with some stuff like that in the past, but I think he felt that this Katatonia album was a perfect fit for that song.

Niklas: Yeah, and it’s not the first time that there’s been an electronic song on an album and I think also it’s just one of those songs that fits more to have in Swedish than in English. The words transpire better. Like for the Finnish bands. There are so many bands just singing in Finnish because it works better that way. It makes more sense.

What are your personal favorite songs off the new album?
Niklas: I’m sticking with “Last Song Before the Fade.” I think that’s really, really nice and strong, and also one of the first that I heard in pre-production mode.

Daniel: For me it’s “Residual.” I think that was the first I heard. Also “Last Song.” It’s a strong track with good drumming.

Niklas: And of course the cover! [laughter]

Daniel: Yeah, the cover is great!

Niklas: Judas Priest!

Daniel: Exactly!

“Pale Flag” would be a really cool acoustic song to hear live – do you guys have any plans to do another acoustic tour in the future?
Daniel: Not plans, but we are not excluding it. We’re not turning it down.

Niklas: Yeah, exactly. I think there were already a few plans for doing something like that straight after the last one we did, where we recorded that Sanctitude live DVD, but after that I haven’t heard any concrete plans. Just a little bit of talking about it and of course it would be a cool idea to do it.

Some of your albums have been released quite a few years apart from each other. Is this a coincidence or do you think there is some magic in working over a great deal of time?
Niklas: I don’t know… I think all Katatonia albums are magic! [laughter]

Daniel: So do I.

Niklas: Even the bad ones. No, I’m just joking. Well, I think it’s just that this band is more about letting the music come to you than trying to push something out just to go on tour and keep the band rolling. It has to be faithful and true to the music, and not something you just write in order to get on the road. I know a couple of bands doing that. They are just like, “Okay, now we are going to write a record and it needs to be in this time.” Then they just do it and then they go on tour and then there’s three good songs on the album. Katatonia is always about delivering a whole record that’s true and that fans like.

I think it shows. At least what I can tell from your music, your albums are quite consistently good throughout. It’s not hard to listen to the whole thing. The album quality is consistent.
Niklas: [laughs] Yeah, I don’t think there are too many fillers.

A lot of bands are playing full albums at festivals lately. Did you guys at all consider doing The Great Cold Distance or was it just too soon after The Fall of Hearts came out to bother with it?
Niklas: I think that you should promote the new album more and now there’s the anniversary for The Great Cold Distance and of course you have to celebrate that as well and it’s a really good album and it makes sense to play it from front-to-back, but you can’t promote that while you’re promoting a new album. It makes it confusing and if we would go out and do live festivals just playing that, it would be a little bit weird for people that might want to hear some new stuff as well.

2016.07.03 04 Tuska Katatonia interview 3It might be a little bit early to ask this, but what can we expect in the sets from the upcoming club shows? Are you going to be playing mostly new stuff, a balance of everything, or just a couple favorite new tracks? Or do you have any idea at this point?
Daniel: We are not exactly sure what we are playing from the new album yet. We’re still trying stuff out. I think with ten albums there’s going to be a lot of old stuff as well. A good mixture, of course, but there’s going to be a lot of old surprises.

Niklas: We’re going to keep the setlist – like the roster of songs – bigger this time, so we can pick and choose a little bit from concert to concert. We’ve been a little bit lazy regarding that in the past, having two setlists that we have been balancing back and forth [between] while being on quite a long tour, but now we’re aiming to be more flexible and that makes it more fun for us to play live as well, because two setlists gets boring after 2 weeks and if you have another 5 weeks… well, that says it all. We want to keep it fresh for ourselves and for the fans. I think it’s more interesting that way.

That’s good – if people come to more than one show, they get something special every time.
Niklas: Exactly. It’s not going to be like seeing the same Friends rerun on TV for 5 weeks. That’s not too cool.

Daniel: But [the shows are] still fun!

Niklas: Still fun, yeah! It’s the amount of alcohol that decides. [laughter]

This is the oldschool question, so I’m not sure if either of you will know the answer to this because it’s from before your time, but in song 12 from Brave Murder Day, there’s a bird chirping in the last clean guitar part just over 6 minutes into the song. Do either of you know how that ended up in there?
Daniel: That’s some hardcore detailing! But… no. I could lie, but I’d prefer not to.

Niklas: We can make up some story about them recording in some really nice meadow with birds chirping. An early summer morning.

Daniel: Early summer. May.

Niklas: Let’s stick to that.

Daniel: Yep.

Is everyone in the band still finding enough time to work on their side projects and things like that?
Niklas: Well, there is some time to work on side projects. For example, I have Lik, which is a death metal project, just as the other boys have their slightly bigger Bloodbath band [laughter] on their hands, which they also find time for beside Katatonia. Of course, that’s a little bit more time consuming and has to fit with Martin Axenrot from Opeth, for example, and nowadays Nick Holmes from Paradise Lost. There is some time, but now it’s going to be focusing on Katatonia, promoting the new album, and playing as many shows as possible.

As we’re getting close to the end then, how do you guys like Tuska as a festival? How does it compare to the other places you’ve played?
Niklas: I think it’s great. It’s nice to see how it’s evolving into this bigger and better organization. Now actually I’ve walked around because I’ve been here since Friday, marinating myself before today’s gig. I walked around and checked out the whole festival area. There’s actually some pieces of grass where you can sit! Otherwise here in Suvilahti it’s all about concrete and nowhere to escape if it rains or if there’s a really burning sun. So now the second stage, the Helsinki stage, is quite a cool addition. I really like it. There’s nice people, and of course, I love the Finns!

Daniel: I haven’t played Tuska before, so this is my first time. This far I’m loving it!

Niklas: And 5 years since last time; it raised enough hunger to come back.

That’s all of my questions then – do you have any final comments to any readers?
Daniel: Buy the album, support the scene! [laughter]

Niklas: Yes, and nyt vasta alkaa maistumaan! [laughter]
[translation: “only now is it starting to taste good” though he means that he’s finally feeling like he wants to drink]

Thanks then, and have a great gig!

2016.07.03 04 Tuska Katatonia interview 4Text: Amy Wiseman | Photos: Eliza Rask

NUMMIROCK: Camping Special

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When talking about Nummirock, there’s one thing that’s evident right away: Nummirock’s campsite is an institution in itself. A mystical, fabled one to those who have never set a foot there, and something that makes the veteran Nummi-goer’s gaze glaze over while they babble on about the magical wonderland that is the campsite. It might seem even a bit over-glorified – is there really such a place, or is it all drunken hallucination? Yes, and, well… yes to that too.

2016.06.25 Festival extras (16) @ NummirockBut really, what is the essence of Nummirock camping? With visitors from Ireland to India, from Austria to Australia, and every part of Finland, you’d think there are as many opinions on this as there are Nummi campers. To commemorate the 30 years of Nummirock and the existence of this dear post-apocalyptic tent village, we decided to ask this and more from fellow campers in order to bring you a glimpse of what it’s all about (and to make the waiting-for-next-year a bit easier for us). Hop on to our camp safari!

A special thank you and a tip of hat goes to the Tykittelijämiehet group [Groovy Dudes] and Bönthöleiri [Liquor Camp], whom we had the opportunity to bother with our cameras during the weekend, and you can spot them in some places we don’t have photos of the wonderful people we’ve interviewed. And don’t forget to check out an epic video from 2014 at the end of the post!

 

2016.06.24 Festival extras (16) @ NummirockOur first victim here, Hannele, is a long-term Nummi-camper, with 2016 marking her 9th year in Nummirock. She and her campmates, along many others, also worked as volunteers in Nummi: earning your ticket by volunteering has been a long tradition in the Finnish festival scene, and Nummirock is no exception.

So, what makes you come back here every year?
Good atmosphere, friends, and good bands are a bonus. Stam1na, Turmion Kätilöt, Mokoma, and Bodom this year especially. Also Forever One on the first evening.

Does your camp have a name?
We are Leidileiri [Lady camp]. We’ve had only women here for quite a few years, but now we’ve had Aleksi here for some years as well.

Aleksi: I can also be a lady!

2016.06.24 Festival extras (09) @ NummirockDo you have any other theme here?
Eeva digs holes nearly every year, but I guess nothing else. We always have good and smart things [to talk about].

Why is Nummi worth coming to?
This is the best festival in Finland.

 

2016.06.25 Festival extras (12) @ NummirockWe met a few other active Nummi-goers, Jussi, Joni, and Jarmo hanging out in their camp early on Saturday eve, and dropped by for a quick chat. One could describe their camp as a somewhat traditional Nummi camp, with all the essentials – tents, grill, some chairs, and tarps to keep the rain away from the hangout area.

Does your camp have a name?
Jussi: We had quite a few suggestions for it, what was it-
Joni: There were actually quite a lot of suggestions.
Jussi: Like, Homo-leiri, as in short from words hyvä meno [good atmosphere, spirit, or action] but we didn’t find the other O from anywhere, it just appeared, and then there was Meno and Meinink Guaranteed –
Joni: And Mustic Berries.
Jussi: And Mustic Berries! Or was it Mysteriis Dom Mustic Berries, or Mustic Berries Dom Sathanas? And all kinds of stuff like that, but we’re still working on it, if we’d have a banner next year, as it’s our 8th here.

Well, the next question would’ve been, “How many times have you been to Nummi before,” but you just answered that, so 7 years this year. Is your camp always in the same place?
Jussi: Yeah, it is – late. As in wherever we can fit in when we arrive, which is late, so it’s every year in that same spot.
Joni: Well it’s in Nummi every year, so it’s in the same place.
Jussi: And on the forest side.

What’s the best thing in your camp?
Joni: Beer.
Jussi: Booze. No, Jaloviina, and actually Hot Headz habanero chips, and the shockingly low quality of jokes.
Joni: Shitty company is the best.
Jussi: Really, I wouldn’t go to any other camp 2016.06.25 Festival extras (11) @ Nummirockbecause there would probably be better company, that’d ruin the whole Nummi!

What’s the most essential thing in Nummi camping?
Both: Brotherhood… metal brotherhood [laughter].
Jussi: It’s the people who come to hug you while drunk because you have a black shirt, y’know. But yeah, it’s a really great atmosphere here because everyone’s friends with everyone. There’s no sense of community like this at any other festival.

 

2016.06.25 Festival extras (21) @ NummirockHeidi and Mikko have had one of the most memorable and likely one of the most photographed camps for a few years, with its cute little playhouse, zombie garden gnomes, post box, and a sign that wishes everyone “tedious, grim, cold, dark, and a very sad Christmas,” so of course we wanted to ask them some questions as well!

Does your camp have a name?
Heidi: It’s Hevonkuusi [the closest translation might be “buttfuck nowhere”].

I remember seeing you guys here for several years now; is your camp always in the same place?
Heidi: Yeah, approximately, pretty much.

How many times have you been to Nummi?
Heidi: This is my sixth year.
Mikko: Fifth for me.

2016.06.25 Festival extras (20) @ NummirockWhat’s the best thing in your camp?
Heidi: Playhouse! And the fact that there’s a real bed, too. No matter what’s raining from the sky, the playhouse surely will endure it better than a tent.

What’s the most essential thing in Nummi camping?
Mikko: I like this overall atmosphere; it’s good around here.
Heidi: Yeah, quite a laid-back atmosphere.
Mikko: You can walk to a camp and you’re instantly welcome.
Heidi: Yeah, everyone’s friends with each other.

 

2015.06.20 Camp decorations @ NummirockIf you’ve never been to Nummirock before, you’ve likely learned a thing or two already from this, and our previous Nummi reports. Oftentimes camps are built in approximately the same place as the last year(s) and you can learn to navigate the area by some of the traditional big camps fairly quickly – they usually have large banners with camp names on them and it’s easy to direct friends to your whereabouts with those. Decorating always helps you recognize the right 2016.06.25 Festival extras (30) @ Nummirockcamp too! And there’s no limit on the kind of decorations – from huge hockey player faces, band and country flags, pennant strings, empty beer cans and booze bottles, and all kinds of lights to life-size northern pike and skeleton decorations, you name it!

There’s also an eternal, albeit friendly, debate on whether the forest- or shore-side of the camping area is the right side to camp in. Of the Musicalypse staff, all of us are accustomed to the forest-side and likely would not change 2016.06.24 Festival extras (17) @ Nummirockour preference on the matter, but we do pay visits to our friends and acquaintances on yonder shore-side. We assume that picking either of the sides has mostly to do with tradition; when you come to Nummi for the first time, your more experienced friends are likely to tell you what part of the area you should come to, or take you and your tent as part of their camp. We rarely see people changing from one side to another – perhaps moving around the same area, though – so while our theory on this is still in the works, we strongly assume it has a lot to do with that.

 

2016.06.25 Festival extras (23) @ NummirockOther than elaborate camp structures, dressing up is another ongoing Nummi tradition. Lovely ladies Noora and Noora extend their camp theme further than just the camp itself, as they’ve dressed as nurses and give out traditional Finnish Christmas cookies to fellow Nummi-goers.

Does your camp have a name?
Festaripiparileiri [“Festival Cookie Camp”; pipari = gingerbread, also a slang word for pussy].

Is your camp always in the same place?
This is our second year in this same spot, and the third year of sharing pipari.

How many times have you been to Nummi?
Fourth for me, and third for my friend here.

What’s the best thing in your camp?
The best thing is that people come to visit us here, very frequently so.
[voice from the background] And we are very grateful!

What’s the most essential thing in Nummi camping?
The community spirit and that you can go to any camp here.

2016.06.25 Festival extras (24) @ NummirockNummirock is a place for sometimes extremely dark and bizarre humor, and one of the camps that has developed itself a somewhat legendary reputation in a short period of time is the Auschwitz camp. And now, before you hasten to judge, get offended, or fly a Neo-Nazi flag here, we assure you, despite its grim name, this camp is all contrary to its infamous namesake. With its high gates and other ambitious constructions, it looks impressive from afar, and we’ve heard rumors of them having fridges and other modern-world conveniences, and we’ve certainly heard their techno playlists. After wondering if the place was really as magnificent as we’ve been told, we decided to get some inside info from the founders of the camp, Janne and Matti, and to see for ourselves what the buzz was about.

2016.06.25 Festival extras (26) @ NummirockHow long ago did you get the idea to start this camp?
Matti: We built this thing 4 years ago for the first time, in 2013 – I don’t know what drunken idea it was, like “Hey, let’s dig a ginormous pit, and build a command tent there!” And then some foxholes to the side of the road. The idea has evolved a bit over the years; nowadays there’s inverted funnel systems and all. You can burn stuff when it’s cold – 2013 was warm but 2014 was fucking cold, so after that we decided we need some heating in the tent. We tried a kind of oven thing, but that backfired, as all the smoke just got inside of the tent and you couldn’t stay there – so it sort of worked, but not for the warming purpose. After that we tried this inverted funnel and it works way better. And then some dumb-nut decided that [they] could buy an aggregate, so we wired the place, and there’s a fridge and stuff now. We forgot the PA systems in two waves, so we called the last one who was arriving, if they could find at least something, and they found some real proper ones!2016.06.25 Festival extras (28) @ Nummirock

It surely sounds like they did! How many times have you guys been to Nummi now?
Matti: This is my fourth year.
Janne: Eleventh.

What’s the best thing in your camp, if you can pick just one thing?
Janne: It’s the best! The best in whole Nummirock, as you can see.

2016.06.25 Festival extras (27) @ NummirockWe’ve mostly gotten the same answer to this question from everyone, but what’s the most essential thing in Nummirock camping?
Janne: Eeehmmm… constructions.
Matti: Yeah, the way it stands out among other festivals is that you can build stuff and not be just like, “There’s a tent, I put a tarp on it, ain’t that nice?” You read in the news that, “Look at the best camping hacks in Provinssi!” and there’s a tent with a tarp on it. Are they for real?

After doing some rounds taking part in both the dance party and chilling by the campfire, as well as asking some of the same questions from the casual Auschwitz campers, we can’t but agree that the laid-back people in and visiting the camp, and the effort of building yourself likely the coolest headquarters around, surely makes this camp one of the best in Nummi.

 

2016.06.24 Festival extras (15) @ NummirockSo we’ve heard it from the returning members of the Nummi community, but how about the first-timers? We were glad to catch Veera, who was celebrating her first Nummijärvi juhannus this time, to ask how the weekend had been so far.

What got you to come here?
Mostly that a lot of friends were coming and that it’d be fun to go with them.

Are there any bands that interest you in particular?
I was probably most interested in seeing Ajattara, and Amorphis is also always fairly interesting, even though you see them at every festival. I’ll go to see Mokoma too, and Turmion Kätilöt was absolutely awesome, even though I haven’t listened them before.

2016.06.22 Festival extras (02) @ NummirockHas the festival met your expectations?
Pretty well – I didn’t have a lot of expectations, but this is pretty much what I had been promised.

What’s the “thing” in Nummi – why is it worth the visit?
This atmosphere in camping is cool – there’s a community spirit and you can go to talk with everyone. I will come back next year.

 

Along with companionship in general, midsummer is also commonly a celebration of love, be it between friends and family, significant others, newfound companions, or just anyone in general. We found two true Nummi lovebirds, Jani and Susanna: Jani had proposed Susanna on stage during the Sentenced cover band, Forever One’s, set!

2016.06.22 Festival extras (07) @ NummirockYou just got engaged on stage there – how did that happen?
Jani: My lady here said she doesn’t want a boring proposal, so I thought, “Well fuck, now that we’re in Nummi, let’s get rad for real then.” Thought I’d get things arranged so that I can get on stage to propose my lady. That’s how it took off.

So the arrangements were easy to make?
Jani: Surprisingly easy. Didn’t need to talk to people much. The guys from Forever One were really well on board with the thing.

How did you feel getting a proposal like this?
Susanna: Well, it was a positive shock, like, what’s going on here, and when Jani climbed there on stage I was like, “Oh hell no, here it is now.” Like I said out there, let’s not keep the audience in suspense, of course I’ll say yes. And it was absolutely awesome, wasn’t it?

It sure was, and we wish all the best to the happy couple, and everyone else who have found love, friends, and made some unforgettable memories like this in Nummirock over the years!

 

2016.06.25 Festival extras (07) @ Nummirock

 

 

Interviews: Lene L., Eliza Rask | Text & translations: Lene L. | Photos: Eliza Rask, Lene L. | Camping video: Eliza Rask | Ed: Amy Wiseman

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Joel Alex (Shiraz Lane), 2016

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Nothing warms the heart more than seeing the youth of today bringing back real rock n’ roll! We wouldn’t exactly call Shiraz Lane newcomers per say, as they’ve already done their fair share of touring, but with their debut album (and a damn fine album at that) released in 2016, they’re fresh on the scene and ready to take over the world! Here is the playlist of bassist Joel Alex’s life!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
The first one that really caught my attention and not being nonsense kids music would probably be “F-F-F-Falling” by The Rasmus

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
HIM – “Wings of a Butterfly”

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Skid Row’s “Youth Gone Wild” takes me back to great teenage-parties

2015.09.05 Shiraz Lane gig (12)4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
HIM and KISS without a doubt

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
“Could Have Been Me,” a great song by a great UK band called The Struts is on a daily repeat in my head

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Katy Perry

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
HIM – Dark Light

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
I could do that with one of the greatest songs on earth and that would be “Estranged” by Guns N’ Roses

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Journey – “Don’t Stop Believing,” always when coming back from longer gig trips

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Oh fuck… Queen’s “Who Wants to Live Forever” would be epic if we’d find Freddie to do it live

MONSTERS OF ROCK – Kaisaniemen puisto, Helsinki, 07.07.2016 (English)

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Last year the godfathers of metal, Black Sabbath, announced that their 2016 tour would be their last. In Finland, a mini-festival called Monsters of Rock was built around Sabbath’s final visit to Helsinki. Besides the main attraction itself and the farewell tour’s regular support band, Rival Sons, the Finnish fans got to check out Opeth and Amorphis live in Kaisaniemi. For me, the thought of seeing Black Sabbath for the first and last time was attractive in itself, but when two other great bands were announced for the event, even the slightest considerations of skipping the show vanished immediately.

You can listen to the setlists of all four bands here:

There were quite a lot of people waiting to get into the venue outside the gates before they were opened at 16:30. I was amused by the Christians who were preaching the word of Jesus in the nearby street – I don’t know whether they had picked the occasion because of the headliner band’s reputation or the big audience, but either way they were never going to be very successful at converting metalheads. After getting in, I visited both of the merch stands in the hopes of getting a copy of Black Sabbath’s The End CD, which was only available at the shows, but unfortunately only signed copies were left and they cost 90€. Luckily my disappointment didn’t last too long, as the fun was about to begin.

Amorphis
Amorphis

Amorphis is no stranger to opening for legends, having supported Metallica in 2012 and Iron Maiden in 2013. While the setlist offered nothing new for me and was just a condensed version of the one they played last year in Tampere, Amorphis made a bold and surprising move by squeezing in five songs from last year’s Under the Red Cloud and ignored Tales from the Thousand Lakes and Eclipse completely. The crowd didn’t seem to mind, as new songs like “Bad Blood” were received the best. However, the audience was still warming up and didn’t really participate in the chanting during “Death of a King.” This makes me doubt that even “House of Sleep” would’ve roused people into a huge sing-along, so maybe its omission was for the best. It was a pity that the wind affected the sound so much, leaving the rhythm guitar and keyboards almost inaudible at times and turning the double kicks in “The Four Wise Ones” into a muddy mess. Despite these little aural shortcomings, Amorphis played professionally and confidently as always, though Tomi Joutsen’s Black Sabbath T-shirt was an acknowledgement that they weren’t the festival’s main attraction. The only hint of nervousness could be detected in “Hopeless Days,” during which Joutsen sang the last two verses with the same lyrics – he made up for it by rocking his tambourine during the middle eight though. “My Kantele” was slightly anticlimactic as the closer without ending with the 2010 remake, but on the other hand, “Black Winter Day” might’ve been an inappropriate song to play on a July evening.

Rival Sons
Rival Sons

A little before Rival Sons hit the stage, it started raining – not heavily, but enough to make you want to put on your raincoat if you had one. However, the weather didn’t stop people from moving and clapping their hands to the Californian group’s Zeppelin-style brand of hard rock. I found the appearance of keyboardist Todd Örgen-Brooks a little amusing, because he looked like the long lost cousin of Kie von Hertzen who had joined ZZ Top. Unfortunately, despite his aggressive playing, the keyboards were the underdog in the mix, though the sound was clearer and more balanced than during Amorphis’ set. I was rather unfamiliar with Rival Sons’ material, having listened to just a few songs before the show, but I was positively surprised with the band’s energetic performance. The song “Torture” in the middle of the set won me over with its infectious groove and cool extended jamming. I’m curious to hear what a club show by these guys would sound like because their music really comes alive in concert.

Opeth
Opeth

The rain stopped – almost magically – at the end of Rival Sons’ set, so Opeth didn’t have to play in less-than-ideal weather. The Swedish proggers kicked off their set with two songs from the latest couple of albums before moving on to their death metal material. Opeth’s music was a great fit for the occasion, as the newer songs were quite 70s-influenced, while the old song picks were dissonant in the vein of Black Sabbath’s more evil tunes. Once again the sound was far from perfect: during the first two songs, Martin Mendez’s bass was unnecessarily loud and during the fast sections of “Heir Apparent,” the double bass drumming drowned everything else, just like with Amorphis. Mikael Åkerfeldt’s humor was more self-deprecating than at Opeth’s headlining shows, clearly due to the support band status – he joked that his band was “just another commercial break before the main feature.” An hour of Opeth is never enough, but the advantage of a short set was that the energy level remained high throughout – my ears may have been lying, but at least “The Grand Conjuration” and “Deliverance” didn’t sound as plodding as usual. Luckily Finnish fans won’t have to wait for a headlining gig for too long, as Åkerfeldt promised Opeth would return to Helsinki after the release of their upcoming album, Sorceress, to play at “the big hall,” the name of which he couldn’t remember.

Finally at 21:15, it was time for the band everyone had waited for. Black Sabbath’s show started with an intro video, the audio of which boomed massively even through our earplugs. After that, the legends made their entrance and started with their title song, arguably the first heavy metal song ever written. Ozzy Osbourne’s timing was slightly off when he started singing, but I was positively surprised at how well he managed to stay in key. When the song’s faster second half started, the pious and ritualistic atmosphere changed completely: the audience went wild and people in the first few rows started jumping, encouraged by Osbourne.

After the devilishly great start, things got psychedelic with “Fairies Wear Boots,” which was enhanced by trippy effects on the huge video screens. Unfortunately it also marked a change for the worse for Ozzy, who sang the song in a totally different key than the one his bandmates were playing in. His pitch problems continued with “After Forever,” but luckily he got back on track just in time for my favorite song, “Into the Void,” which the band absolutely nailed. How could anybody not headbang to Tony Iommi’s monster riffs on this classic? Ozzy handled the fast-paced vocals with grace, and the a cappella verses of “War Pigs” didn’t sound bad either, although I’d expected them to be challenging for him. “War Pigs” also gave the audience a chance to sing along, as did “Iron Man” later on in the set.

Ozzy made the audience of 20,000 people clap and wave their hands on numerous occasions during the night – whether you like his voice or not, you can’t deny that he’s an excellent frontman who knows how to wrap even the biggest crowd around his little finger. Geezer Butler had a short but sweet bass solo spot before launching into “N.I.B.,” and his instrument was the leading one on the rarely played “Hand of Doom” as well. A fellow spectator later pointed out that Butler had messed up at the end of “Dirty Women,” but I didn’t notice anything, probably because Tony Iommi was playing a solo at that point. Speaking of Iommi, his playing showed no signs of the cancer he’s been battling in recent years – he truly is the Iron Man! During the band introduction, Osbourne said Iommi’s name three times and he got the loudest applause, so his importance regarding the birth of heavy metal and status as the heart and soul of Black Sabbath wasn’t lost on anyone. The weak link of the line-up was drummer Tommy Clufetos, whose style I found too heavy-handed for 70s Sabbath. The man was a good player at the wrong gig because he simply lacks Bill Ward’s jazzy touch. His drum solo following the instrumental “Rat Salad” wasn’t particularly imaginative, but it served its purpose as a break for the founding members.

After the main set had come to an end with “Children of the Grave,” Ozzy had barely left the stage when he already asked the fans to scream for one more song. A few “Paranoid” (the equivalent of “Freebird” for Finnish concertgoers) shouts had already been heard before that, so it wasn’t hard to guess which song would be the encore. “Paranoid” was the correct way to end the show and made the crowd ecstatic, though by that point of the night Ozzy wasn’t in his best form anymore. The band left the stage while “Zeitgeist” from their (apparently) final studio album, 13 (2013), was playing. While the 14-song setlist was satisfying and I know songs from Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (1973) and Sabotage (1975) might’ve been too difficult for Ozzy to sing, it would’ve been nice to hear at least one cut from 13 actually played by the band in order to have the farewell album represented in the farewell set. I’m just nitpicking though, because Sabbath put on a great show – at no point did I think I was watching a bunch of washed-up musicians past their prime. If this truly is the last Black Sabbath tour, they’re stopping while they still can pull it off live.

During his last speech before Black Sabbath, MC Jone Nikula had blamed the festival visitors for not using their brains while lining up for the bar areas (or at least the one closest to the stage) and toilets. I can’t comment on these issues myself, as I had a half-liter water bottle and some chocolate with me and managed to control my bladder so that I didn’t need to visit those areas. However, I’d like to criticize the jerks who tried to push their way to the front during Black Sabbath’s set. I know this behavior tends to happen at concerts, but it’s especially annoying at big events like these and unfair to those who have waited for hours. If you don’t have the patience to listen to all the bands, then you should suck it up and settle for the spot you have, even if the view isn’t great.

All-in-all, I was very happy with the first Finnish edition of Monsters of Rock – the weather was fairly good and the number of bands and the set lengths left me satisfied. If the festival is held again next year and Ritchie Blackmore decides to play more rock shows, maybe Rainbow could be the headliner, as they were in Germany this summer?

Text: Ville Karttunen | Photos: Jana Blomqvist | Ed: Amy Wiseman

MONSTERS OF ROCK – Kaisaniemen puisto, Helsinki, 07.07.2016 (suomeksi)

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Viime vuonna metallin kummisedät, Black Sabbath, ilmoittivat vuoden 2016 kiertueensa jäävän yhtyeen viimeiseksi. Suomessa Sabbathin viimeisen Helsingin-vierailun ympärille rakennettiin Monsters of Rock -niminen festivaali. Pääesiintyjän ja jäähyväiskiertueen vakiolämmittelijä Rival Sonsin lisäksi suomalaisfanit pääsivät todistamaan Opethia ja Amorphista livenä Kaisaniemessä. Itselleni jo ajatus Black Sabbathin näkemisestä ensimmäisen ja viimeisen kerran oli houkutteleva, mutta kun kahden muunkin mahtavan bändin ilmoitettiin esiintyvän tapahtumassa, pienimmätkin ajatukset keikan skippaamisesta katosivat välittömästi.

Voit kuunnella kaikkien neljän bändin settilistat tästä:

Porttien ulkopuolella oli jo ennen niiden avaamista 16:30 paljon jonottajia. Oli huvittavaa nähdä Jeesuksen sanaa saarnanneita kristittyjä läheisellä kadulla – en tiedä, olivatko he valinneet ajankohdan pääesiintyjän maineen vuoksi vai yksinkertaisesti ison väkijoukon takia, mutta joka tapauksessa hevarit eivät olleet käännytettäviä helpoimmasta päästä. Alueelle päästyäni vierailin kummankin oheistuotekojun luona, toiveenani saada käsiini Black Sabbathin The End -CD, jota myytiin ainoastaan keikoilla, mutta valitettavasti jäljellä oli enää nimmaroituja levyjä, jotka maksoivat 90 €. Onneksi pettymykseni ei kestänyt kauaa, sillä hauskanpito oli juuri alkamassa.

Amorphis
Amorphis

Legendojen keikkojen avausbändinä soittaminen ei ole mitään uutta Amorphikselle, joka on esiintynyt vuonna 2012 Metallican ja vuonna 2013 Iron Maidenin lämmittelijänä. Vaikka bändin settilistassa ei ollut minulle mitään uutta, vaan kyseessä oli lyhennetty versio viimevuotisesta Tampereen-setistä, Amorphis teki rohkean ja yllättävän ratkaisun mahduttaessaan mukaan viisi kappaletta viime vuoden Under the Red Cloudilta ja jättäessään Tales from the Thousand Lakesin (1994) ja Eclipsen (2006) tyystin paitsioon. Yleisö ei näyttänyt kuitenkaan ottavan nokkiinsa, sillä uudet biisit kuten “Bad Blood” saivat lämpimimmän vastaanoton. Pientä kankeutta oli silti yhä ilmassa, sillä yleisö ei juurikaan lähtenyt mukaan “Death of a Kingin” huudatuksiin. Tämän vuoksi en usko, että edes “House of Sleep” olisi saanut aikaan suurta yhteislaulua, joten kenties sen jättäminen pois oli parhaaksi. Oli harmi, että tuuli vaikutti äänenlaatuun niin paljon, että rytmikitara ja kosketinsoittimet olivat välillä käytännössä äänettömiä ja “The Four Wise Onesin” tuplabasarit puuroutuivat. Näistä äänellisistä vastoinkäymisistä huolimatta Amorphis soitti ammattimaisesti ja varmasti kuten aina, vaikka Tomi Joutsenen Black Sabbath -paita oli muistutus siitä, kuka pääesiintyjä olikaan. Jännittämistä oli havaittavissa ainoastaan “Hopeless Daysissa”, jonka kaksi jälkimmäistä säkeistöä Joutsen lauloi samoilla sanoilla. Hän kuitenkin kompensoi pientä mokaansa rokkaamalla tambuuriininsa kera biisin väliosassa. “My Kantele” oli päätöskappaleena lievä antikliimaksi ilman vuoden 2010 uusioversion lopetusta, mutta toisaalta “Black Winter Day” olisi mahtanut olla sopimaton kappale heinäkuisena iltana.

Rival Sons
Rival Sons

Hieman ennen Rival Sonsin lavalle nousua alkoi sataa – ei kaatamalla, mutta sen verran että päälleen halusi laittaa sadetakin, jos sellainen oli. Sää ei kuitenkaan pysäyttänyt ihmisiä liikkumasta ja taputtamasta käsiään kalifornialaisryhmän Zeppelin-tyylisen hard rockin tahtiin. Kosketinsoittaja Todd Örgen-Brooksin olemus oli hieman huvittava, sillä mies oli kuin Kie von Hertzenin kadonnut serkku, joka oli liittynyt ZZ Topiin. Valitettavasti hänen raivokkaasta soitostaan huolimatta kosketinsoittimet olivat miksauksessa altavastaajana, vaikka muuten soundi olikin selkeämpi ja tasapainoisempi kuin Amorphiksella. Rival Sonsin materiaali oli minulle melko tuntematonta, sillä olin kuunnellut vain pari kappaletta ennen keikkaa, mutta bändi yllätti minut positiivisesti energisellä esityksellään. Setin puolivälissä kuultu “Torture” tempasi mukaansa tarttuvalla groovellaan ja siisteine pitkine jamitteluineen. Olisi mielenkiintoista kuulla klubikeikka näiltä hepuilta, sillä heidän musiikkinsa herää todella henkiin konsertissa.

Opeth
Opeth

Sade loppui lähes maagisesti juuri Rival Sonsin lopetellessa, joten Opethin ei tarvinnut soittaa ei-niin-ihanteellisessa säässä. Ruotsalaiset progeilijat potkaisivat settinsä käyntiin kahdella biisillä parilta uusimmalta levyltä ennen siirtymistä death metal -materiaalinsa pariin. Opethin musiikki sopi hyvin tapahtuman henkeen, koska uudemmat kappaleet olivat hyvin 70-luvun henkisiä, kun taas vanhemmat poiminnat riitasointuisia Black Sabbathin häijyimpien kappaleiden hengessä. Soundit olivat kuitenkin jälleen kaukana täydellisistä: ensimmäisten kahden biisin ajan Martin Mendezin basso oli tolkuttoman lujalla, ja “Heir Apparentin” nopeissa kohdissa tuplabasarit hautasivat alleen kaiken aivan kuten Amorphiksen aikana. Mikael Åkerfeldtin huumori oli tavallista itseironisempaa, selvästi lämppäristatuksen vuoksi – mies vitsaili bändinsä olevan vain yksi mainoskatko ennen pääesitystä. Tunti Opethia ei ole koskaan tarpeeksi, mutta lyhyen setin etuna oli se, että energiataso pysyi korkeana alusta loppuun – voi olla, että korvani valehtelivat, mutta ainakaan “The Grand Conjuration” ja “Deliverance” eivät kuulostaneet ihan yhtä laahaavilta kuin yleensä. Onneksi suomalaisfanien ei tarvitse odottaa bändin omaa keikkaa kovin pitkään, sillä Åkerfeldt lupasi, että Opeth palaa Helsinkin tulevan Sorceress -albuminsa julkaisun jälkeen soittamaan “isossa hallissa”, jonka nimeä hän ei muistanut.

21:15 koitti vihdoin aika bändille, jota kaikki olivat odottaneet. Black Sabbathin keikka alkoi introvideolla, jonka ääniraita jytisi massiivisesti korvatulppienkin läpi. Sen jälkeen legendat astuivat estradille ja aloittivat nimikkokappaleellaan, joka on kenties ensimmäinen koskaan kirjoitettu metallibiisi. Ozzy Osbournen ajoitus ei ollut ihan kohdillaan, kun hän aloitti laulamisen, mutta olin positiivisesti yllättynyt siitä, miten hyvin hän pysyi vireessä. Kun kappaleen nopeampi jälkipuolisko lähti käyntiin, harras ja rituaalinen tunnelma muuttui täysin: yleisö villiintyi ja eturiveissä alkoi Osbournen yllyttämänä pomppiminen.

Pirullisen hyvän aloituksen jälkeen meno äityi psykedeeliseksi “Fairies Wear Bootsilla”, jonka tunnelmaa vahvistivat värikkäät efektit isoilla ruuduilla. Valitettavasti Ozzyn suoritus heikkeni saman tien, ja mies lauloi kappaleen täysin eri sävellajissa kuin bändikaverinsa. Hänen vireongelmansa jatkuivat “After Foreverissa”, mutta onneksi hän palasi raiteilleen juuri sopivasti ennen suosikkibiisiäni “Into the Void”, jonka bändi soitti erittäin onnistuneesti. Kuinka kukaan voisi olla heiluttamatta päätään Tony Iommin hirmuriffien tahtiin tätä klassikkoa kuunnellessaan? Ozzy hoiti vikkelät lauluosuudet kunnialla, eivätkä “War Pigsin” a cappella -säkeistötkään olleet pahan kuuloisia, vaikka olin odottanut niiden olevan hänelle haastavia. “War Pigs” antoi yleisölle myös tilaisuuden laulaa mukana, kuten “Iron Man” hieman myöhemmin.

Ozzy sai 20 000 -päisen yleisön taputtamaan ja heiluttamaan käsiään lukuisia kertoja illan aikana – oli miehen äänestä sitten mitä mieltä tahansa, hän on erinomainen keulahahmo, joka saa kiedottua suurenkin yleisön pikkusormensa ympärille. Geezer Butler soitti lyhyen mutta tyylikkään bassosoolon ennen “N.I.B.:iä”, ja hänen instrumenttinsa oli kantavana elementtinä myös harvoin soitetussa “Hand of Doomissa”. Eräs toinen katsoja huomautti jälkeenpäin, että Butler sekosi “Dirty Womenin” lopussa, mutta itse en huomannut mitään, todennäköisesti siksi, että Tony Iommi soitti juuri sooloa. Iommista puheen ollen, hänen soitossaan ei ollut merkkiäkään viime vuosien syöpätaistelusta – hän on todellakin rautainen mies! Bändiesittelyn aikana Osbourne sanoi Iommin nimen kolmesti ja mies sai suurimmat aplodit, joten hänen merkityksensä metallimusiikin synnylle ja roolinsa Black Sabbathin sydämenä ja sieluna ei jäänyt epäselväksi kenellekään. Kokoonpanon heikoin lenkki oli Tommy Clufetos, jonka tyyli oli mielestäni liian kovakätinen 70-luvun Sabbathia varten. Mies on hyvä soittaja, mutta väärässä pestissä, koska häneltä puuttuu Bill Wardin jazzahtava ote. Hänen rumpusoolonsa instrumentaalibiisi “Rat Saladin” perässä ei ollut järin mielikuvituksellinen, mutta palveli tarkoitustaan taukona perustajajäsenille.

Pääsetin tultua päätökseensä “Children of the Graven” myötä Ozzy ei ehtinyt edes poistua lavalta, kun hän jo pyysi faneja huutamaan “one more song”. Pari “Paranoid”-huutoa oli jo kaikunut ilmoille, eikä ollut vaikea arvata, mikä kappale olisi encorena. “Paranoid” oli oikea lopetus keikalle, ja ihmiset olivat haltioissaan, vaikkei Ozzyn ääni ollut enää tuossa vaiheessa iltaa parhaassa kunnossa. Bändi lähti lavalta (ilmeisesti) viimeiseksi jäävältä studioalbumiltaan 13 (2013) tutun “Zeitgeist”-kappaleen soidessa. Vaikka 14:n biisin settilista olikin miellyttävä, ja Sabbath Bloody Sabbathin (1973) ja Sabotagen (1975) kappaleet olisivat saattaneet olla liian haastavia Ozzylle, olisi ollut mukava kuulla edes yksi biisi 13:lta bändin oikeasti soittamana, jotta jäähyväisalbumi olisi ollut edustettuna jäähyväissetissä. En halua kuitenkaan nipottaa, koska Sabbath soitti hienon keikan, eikä missään vaiheessa tuntunut siltä kuin olisin katsellut kulahtaneita vanhoja miehiä, joiden parhaat päivät olivat jo takanapäin. Jos tämä todella on Black Sabbathin viimeinen kiertue, bändi lopettaa osatessaan vielä soittaa kunnolla livenä.

Ennen viimeistä juontoaan ennen Black Sabbathia Jone Nikula syytti festarikävijöitä järjenkäytön puutteesta anniskelualueille (tai ainakin lavaa lähinnä olleelle) ja vessoihin jonottaessa. En osaa itse ottaa kantaa tähän asiaan, koska olin ottanut mukaan puolen litran vesipullon ja hieman suklaata, ja sain pidettyä rakkoni hallinnassa, joten kyseisillä alueilla ei tarvinnut vierailla. Haluaisin kuitenkin antaa kritiikkiä niille törpöille, jotka yrittivät rynniä eteenpäin Black Sabbathin setin aikana. Tiedän, että tätä tapahtuu yleensäkin keikoilla, mutta se on erityisen ärsyttävää tällaisissa isoissa tapahtumissa ja epäreilua niitä kohtaan, jotka ovat odottaneet paikalla tuntikausia. Jos kärsivällisyys ei riitä kuuntelemaan kaikkia bändejä, pitäisi tyytyä kohtaloonsa ja paikkaansa, vaikka näkymät eivät olisikaan niin hyvät.

Olin kaiken kaikkiaan hyvin tyytyväinen Suomen ensimmäiseen Monsters of Rockiin: sää oli melko hyvä ja bändien määrä sekä settien pituudet saivat olon kylläiseksi. Jos festivaali järjestetään jälleen ensi vuonna ja Ritchie Blackmore päättää jatkaa rock-keikkojen soittamista, kenties Rainbow voisi olla pääesiintyjänä kuten tänä kesänä Saksassa?

Teksti: Ville Karttunen | Kuvat: Jana Blomqvist | Ed: Lene L.

MONSTERS OF ROCK: AMORPHIS, RIVAL SONS, OPETH @ Kaisaniemenpuisto, Helsinki, 07.07.2016

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Monsters of Rock 2016 @ Kaisaniemenpuisto, Helsinki, ft. Amorphis, Rival Sons, and Opeth.
Unfortunately, only major medias were given permission to photograph Black Sabbath, so we do not have photos of them.
Photos by Jana Blomqvist.

CRIMSON SUN – Jukka/Joni/Sini, Tuska Open Air 2016

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Ever since MetalOrgy earlier this year, we’ve found ourselves growing more and more intrigued by Crimson Sun! This modern melodic metal group released a fantastic debut album, Towards the Light, to rave reviews, and has been swiftly gaining steam ever since! Thrilled by the opportunity to check them out at Tuska Open Air this year, we grabbed Jukka, Joni, and Sini to ask them a few questions about how things are going in the band!

 

I’m really glad that I got to talk to you guys after your gig, because it’s always more interesting to ask – how do you think the gig today went?
Sini: I enjoyed it and it was great to see that there was such a big crowd and I think the people liked it. They had their fists in the air.

Jukka: Usually if you play a gig [in a club], the changeover times are a bit… you have to do everything in a hurry, but today everything went perfectly thanks to the Tuska folks and everyone who made it happen. Also, 5 minutes before the show you could hear the echo from the hall because no one was there.

I came a little bit before you guys started because I got the start time wrong and I was thinking, “Wow, there’s no one here.” Then as soon as the show started, it was like a tidal wave of people washing in!
Joni: It went really well. We all enjoyed it.

Sini: It was one of our best gigs so far.

Jukka: Definitely.

Had any of you guys been to Tuska before?
Sini: A couple of times, yeah.

Jukka: I played a show last year with my other band, Red Moon Architect, and then I think we’ve been here once or twice just as civilians.

Joni: I went to my first Tuska when I was 15 years old in 2004, alone. I saw some frightening things and started growing long hair.

Who have been your favorite performances so far, if you’ve been watching them?
Jukka: I think yesterday we saw Behemoth and Avantasia. Those are the only two shows we’ve seen.

Sini: We came here a bit late, so we got to see only Behemoth and Avantasia, but I think Behemoth was great. I haven’t seen them before and I think the show was really great.

Jukka: A really visual show.

Have you guys done anything else in the festival area other than looking at the shows? Have you checked out anything else around here?
Joni: Drinking beer! [laughter]

Jukka: Probably that.

How’s the beer selection?
Jukka: Really good! And today it’s even better because it’s free!

Is there any show that you’re still looking forward to seeing?
Sini: Ghost!

Joni: Yeah, Ghost!

Jukka: There’s something weird about that band. I think I saw Ghost for the first time in Sonisphere Festival held in Kalasatama and I hadn’t heard it before and I was like, “What’s happening? There’s guys playing oldschool music and waving some scented basket.” I didn’t like it then, but I think everyone in the band listened to the Meliora album and they said that it was really good. But I remembered what I had seen at Sonisphere and I thought, “I’m not going to listen to it,” but 2 months ago I gave in and…

It grows on you like a parasite.
All: Yeah! [laughter]

Jukka: So yeah, Ghost, definitely. Also tomorrow, Katatonia and Gojira!

 

2016.07.03 04 Tuska Crimson Sun interview 2

You often hear about the struggle that up-and-coming bands go through – what’s entering the music scene been like for you guys, having been around for such a long time?
Jukka: I think we’ve been around for a decade. We just been making small demos and we have this, always when you’re 15 years old, you’re into power metal and you do that, but now we found Sini and the band grew a hell of a lot bigger. I think somehow we found the sound that we want to do, thanks to this girl here. [gestures to Sini]

You guys formed in 2001 – what’s the story so far? What has brought you to where you are with this current line-up?
Joni: We began as a Megadeth cover band with a male singer and two guitars. Then some members left the band and we thought that it would be cool to play with keyboards and some faster music, so a friend of ours came to play keyboards and then we began to do this power metal thing.

Jukka: A lot of member changes. Joni and I are probably the first two members of the band, and then we found Antti on the drums and then came Miikka and we found Sini. Funny story actually – I don’t know if luck had anything to do with it, but I was at a party held for my workplace and then we went to this karaoke bar and Sini was singing karaoke and I was like, “Fuck, that girl is really good at singing.” I went over with the power of ten pints of beer and gave her an email address and she replied and now we’ve played the best show of our lives so far!

Do you think you guys are currently in your strongest incarnation right now, or is there any element from the past that you wish you still had with you?
Joni: No, I don’t think so.

Jukka: No, I think we’re the strongest now.

Sini: And growing stronger!

Joni: This line-up brings the best of all individuals, so I think we’ve found our place.

As you said, you’ve been around for 10-15 years – how do you think your live performance has changed, other than the obvious style changes? How do you think being on stage has changed over the years?
Sini: I have been in the band for like 3 years now and my first show ever in a band was back in 2013, I think. If I compare to that and what I’m doing now, I think I’m becoming better all the time and I’m learning.

Jukka: You really learn… let’s say 5 years ago, 10 years ago, you used to focus on what you’re playing and you were a bit stressed out. You went to the show and you were a bit frightened of the live performance. Nowadays, when you have that kind of crowd in front of you, it gives you so much energy that you just take it all in and fucking explode!

Joni: It’s way more relaxed nowadays. You can see the playing is relaxed and you’re headbanging more and not focusing so much on the play, because you’re okay with it.

Jukka: Also, when you see some random folks singing the lyrics and getting really into it, that’s awesome.

Sini: It’s the best!

What was the process of making your debut album like? Did you write collectively or was there one mastermind?
Joni: Actually, Jukka and I just decided that now it’s time to make the debut album, so we began writing and composing things very intently.

Jukka: For the first time we felt that the band was ready, once we found Sini. Everything came into place. We dug up a few old songs that didn’t even make it the EP, so we redid a few of them and then we made new songs.

Joni: We wrote plenty of songs and then we worked together with our producer, Saku Moilanen, and then we went to his studio and arranged things even better.

Jukka: Yeah, it’s really good to have a producer to tell you what is shit and what is good. So it’s really important to have a good producer.

Are there any themes that you’re interested in lyrically? Are there any stories on the album?
Sini: It’s a fun fact that we all write lyrics in the band, so there are always different stories behind the songs. They’re not linked together because there are different writers behind them, but every song has its own story. It can be from our personal lives.

Joni: Miikka likes science, so he usually writes some lyrics about some scientific things.

Jukka: I don’t write a diary – I write songs.

2016.07.03 04 Tuska Crimson Sun interview 3

 

You have a music video for “Awaken” now, which seems to be footage from everywhere. Where was all the footage from and how did the video get made?
Jukka: We’ve been collecting footage I think for over a year. If we went to a show, we had a GoPro with us and filmed something and we’ve also filmed performances at clubs in festivals. Then just goofing around in the rehearsal space.

What are each of your best memories of being in a band so far?
Sini: I think it’s when we went to Gdansk, Poland. It was a holiday last August or September. It was just a holiday and I think it was good to just hang around with bandmates.

Jukka: Not involving music in the vacation.

No stress or deadlines.
Jukka: No, and you remember how… usually if you play in a band and everyone is a phenomenal musician and they blow galaxies up with their playing, but they’re douchebags, so then you don’t get along. It’s really important to get along with everyone. The whole thing really works.

Sini: The chemistry is really important.

Jukka: Really important.

Joni: Yeah, I think it’s important to be friends with each other rather than co-workers, because it shows in the live shows.

Jukka: I want to say that I think one of the best memories was right there, 2 hours ago. It feels unreal. It hasn’t settled in quite yet.

2016.07.03 04 Tuska Crimson Sun interview 4This one’s for Sini now – how has it been, being a girl in the metal scene? Do you ever have any issues with that?
Sini: I don’t have any problems with that, but I think sometimes I don’t know what to think about how everybody’s talking about “female-fronted metal”… it doesn’t matter if a singer is a male or female. Or someone might just not like metal bands if they have a girl as a singer, but I don’t care. We just do our thing and I think if the music is good, it doesn’t matter if the singer is a male or a female.

I think that’s probably the right attitude. So what can we expect from you guys in the next year or so? What’s on your plate?
Jukka: The second album is definitely on the plate. We’ve actually booked some time in the studio in September. We’re probably going to make a few demo songs and try to nail a bigger recording deal with those songs. Or then if no one likes it and we don’t get a bigger deal, we’re going to release an EP and then the full album a year from now.

Joni: New stuff, yeah. And hopefully new shows.

Awesome! What are your goals/what are you most excited for in the future?
Jukka: I don’t know if excited, but frightened about the second album. The first album was so good that it’s pretty hard to go into the studio again. Joni and I have this thing where you always have to top the last album.

Joni: Yeah, if you don’t have any better stuff then go home and make some better stuff, rather than going to the studio and recording some shit.

Jukka: The debut album had so many great reviews, so it set the bar really high. We have to top that.

Joni: We’ve got something new and I think it’s going to be good.

Jukka: 8-string guitars!

Joni: Yeah! Lower tuning, so probably a bit heavier.

Sini: That’s true! I have to say that I’m looking forward to gigs abroad, touring in Europe or something like that. I’m really excited if that day comes next year or the year after that!

Well, that’s all my questions! Do you have any last words for anyone who might be reading this?
Jukka: Thanks for reading this! [laughter]

Joni: Thanks to everybody who came to our show here in Tuska.

Jukka: And listens to our music and like our music… basically thanks to everyone. For half a year we’ve began to recognize that there are really some random guys liking our stuff and coming to chat with us and it’s really awesome to get feedback.

Sini: Stay tuned for new gigs and new stuff coming up!

Text: Amy Wiseman | Photos: Eliza Rask

TUSKA OPEN AIR – Suvilahti, Helsinki, 01-03.07.2016

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Juhannus (re: Nummirock) has come and gone, which means it’s high time for Tuska Open Air once again! In case you didn’t notice, we did a special feature this year about Helsinki’s best and biggest metal festival since this was officially our 10th year covering the event! Regardless of whether or not you like the bands, Tuska is an undeniably fun experience for people of all races, genders, ages, and the like! The festival hit Suvilahti this year on July 1-3th and we were excited to see a good number of these bands!

Here are the links to the galleries for Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, as well as the Festival Extras!

 

Pre-Festival

Tuska-Kiska
Tuska-Kiska

The Tuska-Kiska was back up this year, with plenty of meet ‘n’ greets, RadioRock interviews, and strange events to lure the crowd in. It was nice to see them selling some discounted leftover merchandise from the previous year, as you could snag a shirt or other bit of paraphernalia if you had missed out in 2015. We press couldn’t get our media wristbands, unfortunately, but the regular and VIP crowd could pick up their wristbands to save some time at the actual festival gates. The only event we actually caught at the kiosk was the Musta Jooga (black yoga), which was, at least as long as I stayed to watch, a disappointment. The crowd was big and eccentric, which was pretty cool, but from what I know of (Ashtanga) yoga, all these guys were doing was stretching in public. Either this was a different style of yoga from what I am used to, or they totally half-assed it. I vote next year they have a Black Crossfit session instead!

 

Day 1
2016.07.03 04 Tuska festival extras (49)As much as I like South Park, Tuska is by far the festival I look most forward to each year. This year was particularly busy as we decided to catch a couple of bands for interviews as well as simply covering more bands in general. We arrived at the Suvilahti gates fairly early and were pleased to see that the VIP/press line wasn’t too long and was moving fairly smoothly along. I’ll admit that things worked better a few years ago (2012 or 2013) when the medias had their own entrance off the main road to keep things extremely quick, but it’s not the end of the world.

We got our passes and wandered past Cattle Decapitation on the main stage, who are worlds away from a style I like, though our own Atte Valtonen is a fan and was happy with their show, barring the fact that the wind was blowing their sound around a bit. Instead, we decided to catch the first band on the indoor club stage – Frosttide! I’ve known about these guys for years but have never actually had the opportunity to catch one of their shows, which is a real shame. It was incredible to see how many people had showed up already to catch this Jyväskylä-based folk band. They are on the Mäenpää-era Ensiferum or maybe Wintersun’s original album spectrum of the folk scale, so I definitely see the appeal and understand why people came out of their houses already at 14:00 to be there. Though I haven’t quite gotten into these guys on my own, I was very impressed with some of the melodies I was hearing and though the club stage isn’t the most flattering venue, I left their show with the distinct impress that I should give them another listen sometime ASAP! And serious props for covering “One Night in Bangkok” and playing it live! Even though these guys don’t lean toward my favorite folk style, there’s a lot of skill and technique in their music and I’ll be keeping an eye open for their shows in the future!

Delain
Delain

One of the bands I was most excited about going into the festival opened up the Helsinki tent stage at 14:55: Delain. I find it hard to believe that this was their first-ever show in Finland because, to my knowledge, they have a rather strong following here. How they’ve never played a club here, even as an opening act, is totally beyond my comprehension. First of all, these guys look good on stage! Charlotte Wessels is an excellent front, with a nice amount of energy, and moves in a far less girlie manner than, say, Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation), yet less hardcore than Floor Jansen (Nightwish, Re-Vamp). She has her own style and she makes it work for her! I also discovered why exactly everyone is madly in love with Merel Bechtold (guitar). She is the cutest thing and she totally rocks! I was big into these guys a few years ago and then my interest in them faded. As of this show, it has completely returned because songs like “Suckerpunch” and “Army of Dolls” confirmed that I need to give their last couple of albums another chance! Unfortunately – and this was a bit of a running theme over the weekend – but the crowd still seemed to be a bit asleep still, because when they called for some jumping, they didn’t get as much of a response as I thought they deserved. Still, I hope these guys get back here on the tour for their upcoming album because I’m dying to see them in a club!

While we were watching Delain in the tent, Atte was in Kattilahalli (the club stage) checking out Whorion. He reported that the sound quality was still pretty weak, but that their set was great. What was even better was that there were clearly a lot of newcomers present amongst the many fans!

Swallow the Sun
Swallow the Sun

Next up on the main stage was the first of Swallow the Sun‘s three sets that spanned the weekend. While the ambience for the show was sub-par, considering the sun was shining and StS is clearly at their best on a cloudy or rainy day, I chilled and listened to their set from the burger point in the bigger bar area and enjoyed it immensely. I haven’t actually listened to Songs from the North at all, but like the last two bands, the show was enjoyable enough that I thought it might be a good idea to give it a try. I might have to wait for autumn though, in the company of a warm blanket and a hot beverage. It was a shame their set wasn’t during some of the rain on Saturday or Sunday because that would’ve made the picture perfect. Also, +10 points to them for having a custom Tuska Songs of the North gig shirt that I pretty much had to have. Anyone who’s a sucker for special edition merch like me knows what a treat it is to see stuff like that! And also – who was the other singer?

Cain's Offering
Cain’s Offering

Cain’s Offering was another big event, since this was their first-ever gig in Finland and third-ever gig in general (the other two taking place in Japan), which, like with Delain, I found extremely hard to believe. I think I’ve heard that Timo Kotipelto and Jami Liimatainen play acoustic gigs together with relative frequency, but I didn’t actually know that the band as a whole did not. It’s always a delight to see Jens Johansson (keyboards) performing, since that man is a legend, and I enjoy Kotipelto’s vocals a lot more with these guys than with Stratovarius for reasons unknown. As well, it’s lovely to see Liimatainen performing – he writes wonderful music (arguably better than the Sonata guys these days), but it’s particularly nice to get to see him rocking out with an electric guitar in hand. The mix, unfortunately, was pretty bad no matter where you were standing, but the fans didn’t seem to mind. For me, “A Night to Forget” was the highlight of that show – it’s great music with great lyrics. Kotipelto and Liimatainen have really great chemistry together on stage as well, with little shred moments that almost seem like a conversation – “So Jani, what’s going on over here?” “Well, my fingers seem to be out of control.” “And how are you dealing with this?” “I suspect that I’ll manage.”

Lordi
Lordi

One of the… let’s call it more “questionable” bands of the weekend, Lordi, was next up on the main stage. This was a band the crowd either seemed to love or hate, but with the awesome Arockalypse Tour castle props on stage and a red confetti canon, you can’t hate them too much. They’re so goofy and fun and their music may be a bit generic but it’s catchy and has a good groove. And, since I’ve been complaining a lot about the mix in some of the other gigs, it’s worth mentioning that their sound quality was glorious. Since I doubt I’d ever bother with these guys in a club, I was actually quite pleased to see their set. It included a few songs that they haven’t played in nearly 10 years, like “Pet the Destroyer” and “Rock the Hell Outta You,” and naturally closed out with “Hard Rock Hallelujah.” Their show might not have been for everyone, but I actually enjoyed myself quite a lot.

Many of my gang were hyped up to a Spinal Tap -level 11 for Kvelertak‘s show, but the response after the fact was actually quite varied. From the back of the tent, my little group was largely unimpressed with the stage performance and we bailed out after just a few songs to go get a drink. This may be because it’s an unfamiliar band to me, but the crowd was quite dead and I couldn’t see a pit at all. However, a few of my friends popped out after they wrapped things up and they looked like they had come out of a bear pit and had massive glowing smiles and claimed that it was epic in there, so perhaps we were just watching from the wrong place. I’ll have to take their word for it since they’re probably better judges than I am since they actually know the music, but for the casual observer, it was a bit dull. On the other hand, the music had some pretty awesome classic old-school hard rock riffs, which was a neat thing to hear in this heavy mosh-style music.

Testament
Testament

I admit that I don’t have much to say about Testament‘s show. It had some decent pits and good playing, but I don’t have much else to comment on it other than that. I do enjoy watching them perform though, I have to say. Their style is not for me so I don’t listen to it at home, but they put on a pretty good show and they’re a great festival band. As far as I could tell from my limited experience, they held the standard once again. Going on at the same time, I was told that I had missed out on a great performance by Man with a Mission, a group of Japanese guys in wolf masks who have a really bizarre origin story and play some high-energy party music that is liable to put a smile on your face. Maybe next time!

Having only recently heard of some of the Battle Beast drama, we decided to check out Anton Kabanen’s new band, Beast in Black. I have basically two things to say about these guys. The first is that they sound just like Battle Beast with a male vocalist, because that’s essentially what they are, and they almost exclusively played Battle Beast covers in their set. The second is that I liked their music and their sound far more than I like Battle Beast. I couldn’t exactly say why, but their show annoyed me far less than Battle Beast’s shows do. It was interesting and who knows what will happen with these guys in the future, but they were worth a moment’s watch before the allure of Behemoth took me away.

Behemoth
Behemoth

The Polish black metal legends ended the first night on the tent stage, playing a very satisfying show. Behemoth is one of the most visually incredible bands and they made the tent setting work for them with some epic pyros and lighting. Tuska was promised The Satanist Show, though as I don’t casually listen to these guys, I didn’t know what that meant. However, when they started their set with “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel,” and moved on to “Furor Divinus,” the first two tracks off 2014’s The Satanist, I started to wonder… Then they followed it up with “Messe Noir,” so my suspicions were confirmed: they were playing the album in its entirety! Their music isn’t necessarily up my alley so I can’t say much about the nuances of the set, but I always find myself enjoying their performances at festivals and it’s really hard to ignore them because they have such a commanding presence. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that they were called back for an encore twice at a festival of all places.

Closing out the night with an incredible 2-hour set (thank you, City of Helsinki, for allowing the bands to play until midnight!) was Avantasia, also playing their first-ever gig in Finland! Most fans had been expecting a mini-version of their show, so there was a lot of shock and awe when it soon became clear that we were getting a full Wacken-level performance! Mastermind Tobias Sammet had a full flock of amazing vocalists/guests with him, including Ronnie Atkins, Michael Kiske, Bob Catley, Jørn Lande, Eric Marten, Amanda Somerville, and Herbie Langhans. It’s one thing to hear a single great singer belting it out, but when you hear so many of them harmonizing together… it’s magic. I was particularly excited to see Lande, as he comes here in his guest slots so seldomly. I’m a huge fan of his voice and singing style and he did not disappoint live! Sammet professed his love for Helsinki and enthusiasm to bring Avantasia to these parts, as he spends a great deal of time here. I’m not the biggest fan of power metal, but I have to say that this was some seriously good stuff – even my more hardcore heavy metal friends stuck around and enjoyed themselves, which certainly says something. The backdrops/stage props were great, the lighting was phenomenal in the darkening sky, and the performance was extremely strong as a whole, with fantastic chemistry and interaction on stage. They showed a great deal of appreciation for the audience and Sammet said he had no idea what to expect bringing this project to Finland, but was amazed by the crowd’s response. The final track, “Sign of the Cross,” that featured all of the vocalists was totally epic and a perfect way to end the first night and leave us wanting more on Saturday!

Avantasia
Avantasia

 

Day 2

Crimson Sun
Crimson Sun

The second day promised more good weather (LIES!) and great music, and we started our day off in the club stage again with Crimson Sun – a band that I’ve known of and been looking forward to seeing live for a while now! These guys did not disappoint either. Though the stage mix was again quite poor, Sini Seppälä is a petite badass on stage with a strong voice and commanding presence. Their years of practice were evident too, as the guys did a great job of both playing and having a good time. It was truly a shame the mix wasn’t doing them justice – I’d love to see these guys in Nosturi, for example. They’ve got a great sound and I expect big things from these guys in the future!

Turmion Kätilöt
Turmion Kätilöt

It was hard to miss Turmion Kätilöt on the Radio Rock stage because there was an epic, loud party going on in the crowd, complete with EMP merch balls bouncing in the air. It’s impossible not to dance at a TK festival show – and the crowd was amply doing so! Their set was still heavy on the new material since this was part of the Diskovibratour, which was okay by me. I was told that their version of “Pimeyden morsian” was an updated 2016 version, though I can’t say I know the song or knew the difference. They played plenty of fan favorites alongside the new stuff, such as “Teurastaja” and “Tirehtööri,” and closed up with “Lataa ja varmista.”

We had to duck out to do an interview with Crimson Sun and largely missed Omnium Gatherum and Obscura, though we did already catch the former at both Tampere Metal Meeting and Nummirock, so perhaps you’ll forgive us.

Thunderstone
Thunderstone

We’re still not sick of seeing Thunderstone back on stage, and after the technical difficulties of South Park, I was really looking forward to seeing them in a proper live format. Unfortunately, the wonderful and charismatic Titus Hjelm had fallen drastically ill earlier in the day and couldn’t make it to the show. He was replaced by the Sonic Pump Studios intern, Tuomas Yli-Jäskäri (Tracedawn), who learned the bass lines as fast as possible to take his place in the show. We lost out on his ever-amusing stage banter, but such is life and we wish him a speedy recovery! Nevertheless, Thunderstone still managed to play a top-notch show without him, and I heard whispers that Pasi Rantanen may be the new Kotipelto when it comes to best power metal voice in Finland. I’d certainly give him my vote! They played the same set as before so we had no new surprises, but I’m not sick of the new tracks just yet. Atte Palokangas kept up his incredible visual flair behind the drum kit and Nino and Jukka undoubtedly kept up the high-quality solos that they’re known for. This was definitely a big improvement over South park and if Titus had been there, I bet it would’ve been their best show so far this year!

Jess and the Ancient Ones
Jess and the Ancient Ones

When 20:00 rolled in, we were forced to divide our time between Jess and the Ancient Ones and Anthrax, which was really quite a shame, but spent most of it in the Kattilahalli. We went first to the club stage and found a huge crowd present to check out this unique brand of resurrected psychedelic rock from Kuopio. I really dig their music, which a friend aptly likened to The Doors with a female vocalist. I can’t deny that I love how they’ve nailed that fantastic old 70s harpsichord sound. Vocalist Jess worked some serious magic over the crowd and their set was a nice change of pace for an otherwise heavy festival.

From what I heard from the others, Anthrax’s set was quite good and there was some crazy energy in the crowd. No one’s sick of them playing Tuska just yet, it seems! I was only able to catch the end of their set, but they looked like they were killing it up there.

Stam1na
Stam1na

A spontaneous on-and-off downpour decided to greet the unsuspecting crowd as Anthrax closed up shop and Stam1na‘s every-Finnish-festival-ever set began, so if you weren’t in the tent when the thrashers finished up, you were lucky if you got a spot in the tent/could see the stage at all). I had been enjoying the rain, so I was not so fortunate, and as such, can’t speak about the stage show other than that it seemed very lively and that they’re still rockin’ the orange. Their setlist was longer than South Park‘s but shorter than Nummi’s with no encore this time around, unfortunately, and was still strangely missing some classics like “Viisi laukausta päähään,” and the others Essi mentioned in the Nummi report. However, it’s nice that they’ve been changing the set at least a little bit so that it’s not a clone-gig every time you see them at a festival. They’re great performers, so it’d be a true shame if they let things get stale and it’s nice to see that they’re not slipping down that slope.

That left us with Ghost! I’m going to come right out and say that I have never really “gotten” Ghost. I like their music just fine, but I can’t say I have ever really understood why they’re such a big thing all of a sudden. Their music is more ambient and relaxing than something to hype me up and they need the right atmosphere for their gigs to be good – clubs and open air night shows are great but their visual show was super dull opening for Iron Maiden 3 years back in broad daylight. Besides, costumes and satanism aren’t anything new, right? They’re a good band, I just didn’t see how they got to magically be headlining after such a short time in the spotlight. Well, lesson learned. Maybe it was because of the epic downpour that plagued the crowd, but the near-complete cloud cover and moisture in the air made for the perfect gloom and likely helped to thicken their stage fog to create the most incredible, eerie atmosphere. Their music too seemed to have something more to it in this context, as I found myself both rocking out and dancing along without intending to. I didn’t think I’d care or enjoy this set, but it turned out to be nearly impossible for me to pry myself away to go check out the afterparty at Virgin Oil. Well done, Ghost, you proved your point!

Ghost
Ghost
Ember Falls
Ember Falls

So why did I bail on a perfectly excellent gig? I wanted another chance to see Ember Falls. I enjoyed their set at South Park so much that I decided to take the opportunity to see them again. First things first: a massive thumbs down to the organizers. I’m not sure if this was Tuska’s fault or Virgin Oil’s or whose, but why on earth would you schedule an afterparty to start 30 minutes before the festival ends in a venue that takes 20 minutes minimum to reach from the festival area? These guys got royally screwed because everyone was still watching Ghost when their show started, and by the time Ghost ended and people began arriving to the center, their set was pretty much done (and it probably excluded many fans from buying afterparty tickets, so it’s a lose-lose situation). To their credit though, even though there were probably fifty people at best in the venue, they still gave it their all and performed very energetically. They were plagued by Virgin Oil’s impossible-to-prevent sound quality problems (Thomas Grove on vocals and OneOfHaze on synth were tougher to make out than the others) but certainly didn’t suffer the way Arion and Entwine did last month. I’m getting more and more excited for their album because the songs they’ve been playing are really good… and I’m clearly not the only one who thinks so! There were a few hardcore fans up front rocking out during the show and one guy was even in a replica of Calu’s outfit with some black and red facepaint to show his support. There was a mini-mosh pit for a song called “End of Fear” and everyone that was standing went totally ballistic for “Shut Down with Me,” and you can’t blame them… though I confess that they’re still fine-tuning it as a live song and it had come out much better at South Park.

I had hoped to stick long enough to see Fear of Domination’s set, but the band in between, One Morning Left, didn’t interest me and I was straight-up exhausted. We had to be at Suvilahti bright and early the next day, so I decided to call it a night.

2016.07.03 04 Tuska festival extras (38)

 

Day 3

Hatebreed
Hatebreed

Time flies when you’re having a blast! We had to be at the festival area at a depressing 13:00 to do our interview with Niklas and Daniel of Katatonia, and fortunately the rain held off until we were done. We went to snooze a while in the VIP area but were promptly chased inside by the appearance of the predicted downpour and stayed inside to wait it out until about 16:00.

With that in mind, Hatebreed was our first stop of the day. I had a bit of a mixed reaction to their show. On one hand, the songs were full of energy and the crowd was quite receptive to it – there were clearly some hardcore fans out there that were excited to see them, though they weren’t getting too crazy yet… with the exception of a few who were jumping around in the rain puddles. However, the stage performance was surprisingly dull for a metalcore/thrash band. There was very little beyond a bit of headbanging and the guys weren’t moving around much on stage. That feels a bit wrong in a heavy set like this. Also, a minor note to Jamey Jasta – it’s pronounced “toosk-ah,” not “tusk-ah.” Otherwise their set was quite fine. They paid some tribute to Lemmy and expressed their appreciation to the crowd for braving the storm to come see them. They also celebrated one of their album’s anniversaries (I had assumed Supremacy, but a friend thought he heard Jasta mention a 12-year anniversary, so maybe it was The Rise of Brutality) by playing a few extra tracks from it. Fortunately the crowd’s energy grew throughout the show, making it an overall decent set and worth watching.

Diablo
Diablo

Next up was Diablo, which was far improved by watching from a closer distance this time around. They had some pretty decent tracks on a rather varied set, with a surprisingly large number of tracks from 2015’s Silvër Horizon, starting the gig off with “The Call” and “Isolation,” with hits like “Living Dead Superstar,” “Icaros,” and “The Preacher” being left to the dedicated fans who stuck it out until the end. Some friends who really love this band said it wasn’t their best show, suggesting that maybe Rainer Nygård was a bit out of tune. For me, not knowing the music, I can’t say I was overly engaged, but that might just be because I don’t know them very well.

Gojira
Gojira

Gojira was second last on the main stage, coming all the way over from France for the event. Like Diablo, I’m not familiar with them or their music, but they had some nice marching beats and a good, heavy vibe. They recently released an album, Magma, so in a 12-song or so set, I was surprised that they only played three new tracks. Overall I’d say it was pretty chill, not overly exciting per say, but worth listening to at very least from the bar area.

Katatonia
Katatonia

We neared the end when Katatonia closed out the tent stage for the weekend. I really love this band, especially live, but if you don’t know the music I can imagine that it’s hard to get into. They were perfect in the tent and the misty, rainy day only added to the right feeling (again, Swallow the Sun, you had to be indoors on Sunday…). They opened with “July” and only teased us with, I believe, three songs from The Fall of Hearts – “Serein,” “Serac,” and the one in particular I had been waiting for, “Old Hearts Fall,” which was pretty much everything I dreamed it would be! “My Twin” was sounding really fresh live, not a clone of its album version, reminding me that it’s been far too long since I’ve seen these guys. You wouldn’t think that a doom metal band could get you into a good party/dance mood, but Katatonia proves that preconception incorrect every time. I really enjoyed their set and can’t wait for their club show coming up in November!

The last notes of Katatonia’s set unfortunately meant that we were down to the last band of the event – it was time for Children of Bodom to close out the main stage. I can’t say I was overly hyped about this show on a personal level, admittedly thinking that Tuska could do better headliner-wise. However, my huge-Bodom-fan friend’s enthusiasm burned right through me and by the time they were on stage I was roaring and ready to go. The sky had cleared up, leaving a big muddy puddle right near the stage that became host to perhaps one of the wet ‘n’ wildest moshpits I’ve ever partaken in (and nearly a week later, my boots have still not dried out). I’ll just come out and say it – it was a perfect show. The playing was tight and energetic, that pit was glorious and fun, and the crowd was fucking crazy! Daniel Freyberg seems to have found his place with them and was shredding along with Laiho like he had always been there, even if he wasn’t so bold on stage as the others. Also, we got a guest appearance from a rather common guest star this summer, as Netta Skog (Ensiferum) joined them on stage for “Lake Bodom,” which is always a treat… even if I admittedly couldn’t hear her contribution over all the MOSHING happening all around me. The fireballs coming from stage just added more sweet, sweaty heat to the crowd, who made their best attempts to crowdsurf but were quickly shut down. They played a few new songs, like “Morrigan” (which I was stoked to hear), “I Hate,” and “I Worship Chaos,” and closed out the set with three covers: CCR, The Ramones, and Stan Jones, none of which are my favorite covers of theirs, but were fun nevertheless… particularly because they included a stage choir of familiar faces (I saw Ana and Joel from Shiraz Lane at least) and Skog came back once again! I confess that I’m not much of a Bodom enabler, but this was still an awesome finish to an incredible weekend! A tip of the hat and a round of applause to these guys!

Children of Bodom
Children of Bodom

 

The Festival Area
2016.07.03 04 Tuska festival extras (52)So now that you’ve heard about the bands, what about Suvilahti’s set-up? The main stage was, as per usual, totally great. I wasn’t sure about the decision to put a tent on the second stage, and the mix in there backs up my hesitation to celebrate it, though when the rain started you could let it slide thanks to the convenience. The club stage was the same as ever – mediocre sound quality but an otherwise decent place to watch the smaller gigs. I heard word of the fourth stage, Solmusali, though it was tucked away near the VIP in a forgettable location – it annoyed me a bit that the events on that stage were in such small print on the program because I forgot about them completely, and I would’ve liked to watch Swallow the Sun’s set on Saturday.

I didn’t manage to get a drink at the Tuska Libre cocktail bar, but the Viinitie/Cham Pain wine bar was a cool addition and an improvement over the weak-ass haunted house thing they had there last year, I think. The Luvil black clothing washing machine area seems comical, though perhaps someday I’ll bite my tongue when someone pukes on me, and it likely comes in handy while some people make use of the free sauna! (Suck it, 20€ for an hour at Tampere Metal Meeting!) The selection of drinks just gets bigger every year though, from the Valhalla (gross) stall, Jaloviina stall, Tuska Libre, moving drink carts, and regular bars, so you’re always liable to find something you want to drink!

2016.07.03 04 Tuska festival extras (13)I’m also not sure what the appeal to the VIP area is because the inside, while a nice respite from the rain, was poorly ventilated and hot, and offered nothing but shorter drink/food queues and pinball machines, while the outside was nothing but a nice place to sit (when it wasn’t raining) and decent bathroom. I hope the Black Dining (which I have yet to experience) vouchers and merch bags were worth it because otherwise it doesn’t seem worth the cost. You can’t even see any of the stages from the VIP area.

The food selection was quite good again. The burger joint in the bar area has tasty burgers, even if 10€ is perhaps a tad much – it’s a shame they’re only available in the bar area because anyone under 18 would need a guardian to fetch them dinner and the line-up was often pretty long there. The highlight restaurant of the event though was by far Fafa’s Smokehouse, which had absolutely amazing burgers, (pulled?) beef or pulled pork, or a meat plate, all of which were amazing and very filling. They cost a bit more but they kept you from needing anything else to eat for the rest of the festival. Of course, there was also the muikku (fried vendace) and questionable paellas too, if you wanted to save a few bucks.

Overall, I have faith that Eeka Mäkynen is doing a great job with Tuska and will continue to build it into an even more iconic event with more things to experience!

 

So, as always, our tenth time at Tuska was phenomenal, if not one of the best Tuska experiences yet! We had a decent selection of bands, many of whom were playing their first Finnish gigs, as well as some classics who shook off the dust and proved that they haven’t gotten stale. The festival area continues to grow and impress, more or less, and though there could still be some fine-tuning, all of the reasons that fans and bands alike love Tuska remain steady and as such, I’ll be happy to be back again next year! See you at the end of June 2017!

2016.07.03 04 Tuska festival extras (20)Text: Amy Wiseman | Photos: Eliza Rask
Tuska-Kiska photo: Amy Wiseman

TUSKA OPEN AIR – Day 3 @ Suvilahti, Helsinki, 03.07.2016

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Tuska Open Air Day 3 @ Suvilahti.
Photos by Eliza Rask.

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Joakim Jokela (SalmonSnake), 2016

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It’s hard to exactly pinpoint what SalmonSnake’s sound is, but “Some really funny fucked up shit” comes pretty close. Our next life playlist comes from this funky and strange band’s guitar player, Joakim Jokela. Here is the playlist of his life!

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
Queen – “Radio Gaga”

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
Queen – “Another One Bites the Dust”

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Dimmu Borgir – “Mourning Palace”

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
Camel – “Rgayader”

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
Dr. Dre – “The Next Episode”

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Rick Astley – “Never Gonna Give You Up”

SalmonSnake Joakim Jokela7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Rise and Curry from the Taximan

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
“Alone in Kyoto”

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Whitesnake – “Here I Go Again”

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Keiko Matsui – “Soul Quest”

TUSKA OPEN AIR – Day 2 @ Suvilahti, Helsinki, 02.07.2016

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Ghost

Tuska Open Air Day 2 @ Suvilahti.
Photos by Eliza Rask.

TUSKA OPEN AIR – Day 1 @ Suvilahti, Helsinki, 01.07.2016

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Avantasia

Tuska Open Air Day 1 at Suvilahti.
Photos by Eliza Rask.

TUSKA OPEN AIR – Festival Extras @ Suvilahti, Helsinki, 01-03.07.2016

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Tuska crowd, 2016

Crowd, etc, at Tuska Open Air 2016.
Photos by Eliza Rask.

ALCYONA SKY w/ SIMULACRUM – On the Rocks, Helsinki, 30.6.2016

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On the last day of June, the most peculiar combination of bands climbed on On the Rocks’ club stage, as Ben Varon’s (Amoral) grunge side project, Alcyona Sky, was paired up with the torchbearer of Finnish Dream Theater-ish prog, Simulacrum. As these two bands couldn’t really be musically further away from each other, I was wondering how many people would show up. Also, the date proposed a significant challenge, since Iron Maiden had had their show in Hämeenlinna only a day before, Tuska festival was to begin on the following day, as well as the Tuska Heatseeker event, featuring Lost Society, Shiraz Lane, and Santa Cruz, being held on the same day. At least the tickets were modestly priced at 8€, plus the usual 3€ coatroom fee. The weeknight gigs in On the Rocks have been awfully quiet lately, and sadly, this Thursday seemed no different at first – as I got in about 10 minutes to 22:00, only a handful of people had found their way to the downstairs club.

Simulacrum begun their set a few minutes past 22:00 with “Embrace the Animal Within” off their newer album, Sky Divided, released only last year. The first thing that struck me was that the singer, Niklas Broman, had an accompanying singer on stage. The band continued on with “Deep in the Trenches,” also from Sky Divided. At the end of the song, Broman introduced his accomplice as Erik Kraemer, the official second singer of Simulacrum. As the band put it in the words of Yngwie Malmsteen: more is more!

To show off the new talent, Broman left the stage and gave room for Kraemer to sing the following “Battle Within,” off their debut album, The Master and the Simulacrum, by himself. Kraemer pulled the song off nicely with his softer voice. The singers changed places for the heaviest song on Sky Divided, “The Abomination,” up next. Broman and Kraemer sung together the two final songs on the set, “Sky Divided” and “Enter Hyperion,” before giving way for Alcyona Sky. The band received a decent applause when compared to the number of attendees, albeit some of them having been their close firends.

Simulacrum is such a great band. I saw them live for the first time in 2010, when they were opening for Status Minor, and while clearly being young and bit shy, already at that time everyone in the band boasted incredible talent. Six years later, the talent is obviously still there, but the guys have also gained a tremendous amount of confidence. Niklas Broman is probably the only human being living in Turku (or Finland Proper in general) with a sense of humor, throwing hilarious interlude speeches containing everything from ironically emphasizing their own material to warning the audience not to catch an headache because “The Abomination” just is such a heavy song. Unfortunately, Broman didn’t come up with any new jokes about bassist Olli Hakala’s Chapman Stick this time. Bottom line: if you want your progressive metal on the more progressive side, go check this band out. There are not many metal acts in Finland with this much talent or courage to do things as pedantically.

 

After a short load-out-load-in period, the crowd had maybe doubled in size, but one still couldn’t speak of more than fifty people present. I got the notion that Alcyona Sky was ready to take the stage a bit late, since there seemed to be something wrong with the bass amp as well as the bassist’s pedal board – Helko, On the Rocks’ mixer, and some third guy fiddled around with flashlights a good 10 minutes before everything seemed to be in order.

On with the show: one could say that Alcyona Sky is a supergroup – besides the founding member and guitarist of Amoral, Ben Varon, the band consists of For the Imperium’s bassist, Jyri Helko, Ancara’s drummer, Rale Tiiainen, and Denigrate’s singer, Mikko Huvinen. The members’ experience showed in their stage presence, even when the band itself is fairly young. Huvinen played his acoustic guitar parts and sung the vocals almost phlegmatically, which provided a nice contrast to his strong presence, while Helko, after taking a little while to get warmed up, moved around and banged his long dreadlocks as if he were on a For the Imperium gig. At times, Tiiainen hit his drums so hard that I worried that he would break his drum heads. This didn’t happen, but on the second-to-last song, he actually managed to break his main crash cymbal stand in half, forcing him to continue with only the other crash. For some time I wondered why a keyboard was set up on stage with no one playing, but my questions were answered when Amoral’s other guitarist, Masi Hukari, climbed on stage to do the synth parts for “The Leap.”

Since the band hasn’t yet released any physical records, it’s hard to name most of the songs they played, but besides “The Leap,” the other song I had listened prior to the gig was the final song of the set, “Long Time Coming.” Although I don’t like grunge in normal conditions, I managed to enjoy Alcyona Sky’s set nevertheless; there’s something in Varon’s way to write songs that I’ve always liked, even if I haven’t been enjoying the latest Amoral albums as much as the first three. Maybe Alcyona Sky is something Varon should have booted up several years ago? After all, he has said in an interview that for the longest time he thought that everything he makes, he wants to release under Amoral’s name.

Although the combination of grunge and progressive metal was a bit odd, I still enjoyed my time with Simulacrum and Alcyona Sky. The admission certainly wasn’t expensive, so I can only imagine why people aren’t interested in live music, as the street bar of On the Rocks had a lot of customers enjoying their beers when I left the club. I guess it’s so much more familiar to chug down those 6½€ Karjala pints listening to those same fifty rock classics on the playlist. Hopefully someone got something out of Simulacrum’s set, as their audience was so scarce that one could almost call the show a paid rehearsal. On the positive side, the downstairs club still has the student discount in effect: 1½€ off the price of the tap beverages is probably the most generous discount that I’ve ever come across in a bar. It’s also great that these smaller gigs are even arranged these days. On the Rocks: don’t you go changin’ for nobody!

Text: Atte Valtonen | Ed: Amy Wiseman

IRON MAIDEN w/ GUESTS – Kantolan Tapahtumapuisto, Hämeenlinna, 29.06.2016

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To me, Iron Maiden is akin to a dear old ex-partner. Someone that I once loved very dearly and even after our passionate affair fizzled out, we remain extremely close friends. Iron Maiden was my first love in metal music and even though I hardly listen to them with the fervency I once did, I have this unyielding loyalty to them because they helped make me into who I am today. As such, even if their shows are a bit expensive or in a whole other city, I find the idea of not going to be… impossible to imagine. Their Book of Souls World Tour came through the Kantolan tapahtumapuisto (Kantola Event Park) in Hämeenlinna on June 29th, 2016, with guest bands The Raven Age, Stratovarius, Amon Amarth, and Sabaton, so I had to be there to see how the new material sounded live!

Listen along with the setlist if you like (complete other than The Raven Age’s set):

I hadn’t been to the Kantolan tapahtumapuisto before, so this was a new experience for me. We drove up early and managed to have a good look around once the gates opened. First of all, a few bars were set up outside the event area in the old buildings, which was pretty cool. If you didn’t want to head into the (one time entry only) area, you could sit outside and listen to the music from a distance with a cold one in hand. They also had a big Iron Maiden merch booth outside – couldn’t afford the price of admission? Not to worry, you can still get your hands on a shirt or flag, or whatever!

The event area itself is pretty huge. They had a massive food court, a huge bar, what I presumed to be a VIP area, a stand for wheelchair access, and so many toilets that you didn’t have to queue at all. There was plenty of grassy area to lay down and chill, and they had speakers in the back so you were sure to hear everything even if you weren’t up near the stage. And, to add one more level of coolness, they were selling The Trooper beer on tap!

 

2016.06.29 01 The Raven Age @ Kantolan Tapahtumapuisto
The Raven Age

The day started out with a band I hadn’t heard of before – The Raven Age. In support of their families, Iron Maiden once again brought their offspring on tour. This time around it was Steve Harris’ son, George Harris, playing guitar in this band. They had a bit of a traditional alternative metal sound (not unlike Five Finger Death Punch) and a pretty nice, if standard sound overall. They weren’t the most energetic band on stage, likely focusing more on playing well than showmanship, which is natural of a band of that stature at such a big event. The singer was very appreciative of the crowd, and gave one speech to get the crowd to put their hands up, but in good humor, said not to bother with lighters or cell phones because it wasn’t dark out, and introduced the song that I believe was called “Salem’s Fate.” Of all the Iron Maiden offspring bands I’ve seen (in this I include Lauren Harris and Steve Harris: British Lion), this band undoubtedly had the most potential.

 

Stratovarius
Stratovarius

Next up was good ol’ Stratovarius! If you know me, you know that I think this band is made up of a pile of talented people but doesn’t overly appeal to me all that much due to the supreme master of power metal vocals, Timo Kotipelto. This set seemed to be a best-of gig, likely to show off their strengths to the crowd who wasn’t present for their sake. They had a tough spot to fill, following the unfamiliar band but precluding the bigger bands, so it was perhaps to their favor to play the hits like “Eagleheart,” “Black Diamond,” and “Hunting High and Low,” even if that might be a bit boring for fans who see them regularly. Unfortunately, this was a big important gig and Mathias Kupiainen had some sound problems with his guitar that the sound techs were either unaware of or unable to correct. It was a nice set for casual listeners like myself certainly, especially with the inclusion of a nice little bass solo in “Hunting High and Low.”

 

Amon Amarth
Amon Amarth

Amon Amarth was the mid-day band and the only viking metal group in the line-up. I haven’t seen these guys since I lived in Canada thanks to what I consider excessively expensive ticket prices in these parts, so it was great to get a chance to see them for the first time in maybe 8 years. They started things off with “The Pursuit of Vikings” and “As Loke Falls” and I was admittedly a bit disappointed by their backdrop, until it dropped to reveal the Jomsviking artwork when they played “First Kill.” It then turned out that they had many backdrops that were revealed throughout their set, which was pretty cool for an opener. They were the first band I noticed actually making use of Maiden’s epic lighting set-up, though it was unfortunately completely wasted due to the afternoon sun. I was also a little disappointed that they didn’t have their current viking ship stage prop, but it’s understandable considering they weren’t headlining this gig and it’s probably a hassle to transport and set up. To vocalist Johan Hegg’s credit, I’ve never seen a Swedish person try to speak so much Finnish in a gig, so props to him! I was really glad to hear “Guardians of Asgaard,” but quite sad to see that they dropped “Valhalla Awaits Me” – I hope it’s still in their regular longer sets when they headline shows because it’s a great track. Of course, we did still get the traditional Amon Amarth drinking horn toast accompanied by “Raise Your Horns,” and man, have they upgraded to some cool elaborately carved drinking horns these days! Finally, as the music for the always excellent “Twilight of the Thunder God” began, Hegg appeared with a big fake warhammer, which was good for a laugh. Overall they played a nice, teenage nostalgia -inducing set, with a decent mix of hits and new stuff contained in a mere nine songs. I hope to see them come through Helsinki while they’re touring the new album someday soon!

 

Sabaton
Sabaton

Anyone sick of Sabaton yet? Yeah, us neither. Though I dare them to start a gig with something other than the de facto “Ghost Division” opener one of these days. Their set and stage performance, while always full of great energy and good music, is actually getting a little repetitive after so many successive views. How many Sabaton traditions did we see in one short gig? Joakim Brodén mentioning his goosebumps from the crowd’s enthusiasm and that he talks too much – check! The crowd chanting raucously to “Swedish Pagans” – check! At least two Finland-themed songs (this time “Soldier of Three Armies” and “Talvisota”) – check! Clap-clap-hey in “Carolus Rex” (sung in English) – check! Brodén getting his own guitar to help rock out in “Resist and Bite” – check! Basically, it was a standard show, from the set of hits to the matching white camo pants. I really enjoy Hannes van Dahl’s playing, though it was brought to my attention that he’s got a rather strange set-up: there were two bass drums, but instead of having a mic on both and kicking both with a pedal, only the right one had a mic and van Dahl used a double pedal. It was also a bit of a shame that they left their tank behind, likely for the same reason I suspected Amon Amarth left their Viking ship behind, though they did bring some of the mortars to keep up the atmosphere. The Swedish warriors were also the first to bring out the pyros for us to bring a little more kick into their show. It was noteworthy that they played the new release, “The Lost Battalion,” though perhaps they’re not comfortable with it enough yet because the stage energy took a nose-dive during that song. They got some laughs afterward when Chris Rörland asked if we wanted another new song and then began singing “Wind of Change” (Scorpions) and proved that he can’t whistle on command. They ended the set with “Primo Victoria,” though left out “Metal Crüe” this time around. It was an okay show, but there was certainly nothing new (other than the new song).