JOHN SMITH FESTIVAL – Day 1 @ Peurunka, Laukaa, 21.07.2017

Day 1 of John Smith Festival in Laukaa, 2017.
Photos by Lene L.
Stay tuned for the other days, as well as the full festival report.

(2017) Shaman’s Harvest: Red Hands Black Deeds

Artist: Shaman’s Harvest
Album: Red Hands Black Deeds
Release: 28.07.2017
Label: Mascot Label Group

 

This album showed up in the mail a few weeks ago, and has been sitting on my desk ever since. I’ve never heard of the band, had no idea what genre they were, and no idea when the album was coming out. It got buried in a pile of things, as my computer does not have a disc drive; I tend to build up a stack of albums before firing up my ancient and abysmally slow older computer for the sole purpose of ripping CDs. And so, a few days ago, when I finally ripped my latest pile, I threw the album on. Usually these unfamiliar albums get nothing more than one listen, and then if it doesn’t catch my attention, it goes back into the pile and never resurfaces. So it already says something, since I’m writing right now. As it turned out, I had a few days before the release day still, and so I thought it was worth a review.

So who and what are Shaman’s Harvest? They’re an alternative rock band from Missouri, USA, formed by Matt Fisher (bass), Nathan “Drake” Hunt (vocals), and Josh Hamler (rhythm guitar) all the way back in 1996. They’ve cycled though a handful of lead guitarists and a plethora of drummers before arriving at their current lineup back in 2015, and this is their first album since 2014.

 

As for the album itself, what can I say? I was very impressed. I listen to very little alternative music these days, which is intentional but also somewhat a shame. My familiarity with alternative rock is entirely linked to the 90s – bands like The Tea Party, Moist, Bush (X), Alice in Chains, No Doubt, and Garbage were never passions, but always bands that I very much enjoyed in my youth, in my pre-pop and post-country era.

Red Hands Black Deeds has a very nice collection of songs that remind me about what’s great about alternative music. The title track is only 2:13 long, with a slow build-up, functioning largely as an atmospheric intro track, marching along with little backing music and focusing on the droning vocals, with a bit of simple guitar adding emphasis in the background. There are some elements of country in Hunt’s vocals, which I appreciate, as it makes it sound a bit western.

They speed things up immediately with “Broken Ones”, a song that sounds like it was designed to be a single. The song makes interesting use of layered vocals and grungy guitars, metaphorically referencing Icarus flying too close to the sun. You can imagine my amusement when I found out that the day before I first listened to the album, this had been released:

Okay, it’s not necessarily a single, but it was the first release. The song does feel like an obvious single though, sounding a bit like a generic alternative song, and while not by any means a bad song, it’s definitely my least favorite. The lyrics might be a bit political too, which I can’t deny that I enjoy. If you want something more my speed though, try the first official actual single, “The Come Up”, which has nice riffing and a really catchy tune, while coming across as less aggressive and generic than the previous track. Plus, it has a nice solo. At this point, it became evident that there is also a female vocalist in the backing vocals, though I can’t say I could find out who she was. This is a nice, positive response to depression, as opposed to a lot of the negative stuff in out there these days.

The first ballad of the album follows in “A Longer View”, which again shows off the gentler side of alternative, with softer vocals without any distortion like in the previous track, but still plenty of power and dynamics as it builds up towards the end. “Soul Crusher” immediately brings in a more funky rhythm, showing stylistic variety, and Hunt is not afraid to try some different singing styles – in this one it’s a nice execution of some rapidly-sung lines.

The band then takes a more country-style turn with “Off the Tracks” and starts up with a good old stompin’ beat, that then almost switches to a punk rhythm in the chorus. The guitarists are not afraid to make bountiful use of the whammy bar either. Lyrically, this one sounds a little dirty, from what I can gather, wink wink.

If this hasn’t been enough stylistic experimentation, “Long Way Home” feels a bit bluesy in style, slow in speed with no drums or bass in the beginning, before turning things up in the chorus. I wish I knew more technical terms to describe the styles used in this song, but let’s just say that there are a few familiar sounds and they put them together nicely. Also, there’s a little bit of 70s-style keyboard floating in the background here as well.

A slow, ambient intro precedes “The Devil in Our Wake”, building up into a surprisingly heavy guitar line (with a bit of shred mixed in here and there) and some strong, deep vocals. It then goes full alternative in the chorus and reminds me of everything I loved about alternative back in the 90s without sounding too obvious. This is definitely another personal favorite, and I’m missing the word to describe the vocal style Hunt uses this, but I really love it. On my first listen-through I found myself dancing along in my chair before I even realized I was doing it. That’s the sign of a good song right there.

The bass is featured in the intro to the interestingly-titled “Blood Trophies”, with some gentle chords to accompany them until Hunt comes in. This mid-tempo track has some funky riffs and a subtle warbling effect on the vocals in the verses. There are hints of The Eagles -style classic rock and even stoner rock riffing in this. Sharp, repeated notes open up “So Long”, taking it in yet another direction, including yet another catchy chorus that’s begging for a singalong during live shows.

“Tusk and Bone” is another slower track, guitar-driven with some mildly warbling vocals, which takes the album’s speed down a level as it heads towards the end. The acoustic guitar is particularly nice, with damping and tapping interspersed throughout, and there’s a hint of country in the vocals. It’s a bit reminiscent in feel of “I See Fire” by Ed Sheeran, if that song kicked up later on – the song has a very passionate solo towards the end that builds things up to an excellent climax before the vocals take it to fade out. Another soft, atmospheric piece, “Scavengers”, which again has that wild west feel to it (similar to the vibe in the opener) then acts as the closer, making the album feel like one cohesive unit.

Oh, but don’t forget to listen to the song at the end of the album, which I have gone ahead and entitled “Hookers and Blow”, which is straight-up country and pretty hilarious. I missed it twice because I was so enthusiastically restarting the album when the last song faded out, but on the third time I found it and had a good laugh.

 

So indeed, Red Hands Black Deeds turned out to be a very pleasant surprise! The vocals and guitarwork particularly shine on this very diverse piece, with enjoyable riffing and a variety of singing styles. They have no shortage of genre inspirations and aren’t afraid to blend them – they take some risks with it, but I can’t say that I think they fail in any of their efforts. You can easily rock out to and/or dance along with most of the songs on the album. The only real failing for me was the first release, as it was the most ‘standard’ song, with nothing new or interesting in it, feeling like every other alternative song ever. However, honestly, I can’t say if I’ve ever really been ‘into’ an alternative album before, so this might be a first for me, and that certainly says something! Well done!

Rating: 9.5/10, 5 stars

Tracklist:
1. Red Hands Black Deeds
2. Broken Ones
3. The Come Up
4. A Longer View
5. Soul Crusher
6. Off the Tracks
7. Long Way Home
8. The Devil in Our Wake
9. Blood Trophies
10. So Long
11. Tusk and Bone
12. Scavengers

(1992) Dream Theater: Images and Words

Artist: Dream Theater
Album: Images and Words
Released: 07.07.1992
Label: Atco

 

Progressive metal legends Dream Theater are out on the road this year, celebrating the 25th anniversary of their best-selling and most popular album, Images and Words (1992). Yours truly got the chance to see the show at the Ice Hall in Helsinki back in February, which was great, but now that the studio album itself has actually reached the 25-year mark, it’s time to have a look at it in this retrospective review, which is based on my previous blog post from 2015.

Listen on Spotify:

 

After Dream Theater’s debut album, When Dream and Day Unite (1989), didn’t exactly set the world on fire, the band was in limbo for a while, writing new material, auditioning singers, and looking for a new record label. Finally in 1991, a tape arrived from Canada and a gentleman called Kevin LaBrie (who would go by the name James LaBrie from then on to avoid confusion with keyboardist Kevin Moore) was chosen as the new vocalist. Soon after that, the band had a deal with Atco Records on their hands. Images and Words was released in 1992 at the height of the grunge boom, yet surprisingly enough, the opening track, “Pull Me Under”, became a hit on the radio and MTV. The album itself received acclaim and sold well, going gold in the US.

The aforementioned hit single, “Pull Me Under”, is a great opener and – despite its 8-minute length – an accessible gateway track that sums up what Dream Theater’s music is about without getting too crazy for the average listener. It includes all the facets of the Dream Theater sound: high-pitched vocals, heavy and rhythmic riffing, and flashy solos and drum fills, but also atmospheric clean guitars and a catchy chorus. “Another Day” is an 80s-style power ballad with a saxophone solo by guest performer Jay Beckenstein (who was in Spyro Gyra, right?). It may sound a little dated now, but the melodies and John Petrucci’s solo are beautiful, and so are the lyrics about his father’s battle with cancer. The inclusion of saxophone also proves that DT weren’t afraid of fusing unusual elements into their sound, which is something they sadly don’t do as much anymore. John Myung’s funky bass and LaBrie’s almost rap-like delivery in the first verse of “Take the Time” are another example of this bold genre blending. The rest of the tune is more typical prog metal, full of time signature changes and intricate instrumentation, but the instrumental section is fun and compelling, not pointless noodling. The sing-along chorus, Kevin Moore’s brilliant keyboard solo, and the slightly Queen-sounding glorious ending top it all off – man, what a song!

“Surrounded” is another ballad, but it’s more upbeat and synth-driven than “Another Day.” Moore’s beautiful playing and spiritual lyrics combined with LaBrie’s lively vocals make this song one of my all-time favorites in the DT discography. “Metropolis Pt. 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper” is arguably the most pretentious song title of all time, but according to Petrucci it was a joke and there were no plans for a sequel, at least until the song became a fan-favorite and the fans started asking when they would release Part 2 (they did it 7 years later, but that’s another story). “Metropolis” is famous for its crazy instrumental section, and while it’s not one of my favorite songs, I understand its popularity as the musicianship is incredible. By the way, “Metropolis” is one of the playable songs in the Rock Band 4 video game (“Pull Me Under” was available in Guitar Hero World Tour), so if there are still fans of plastic instruments around, they might want to try their hand at it.

“Under a Glass Moon” is the heaviest song on the album with dissonant keyboards, punchy riffage, and thunderous drums by Mike Portnoy, but also has plenty of those Alex Lifeson -influenced guitar arpeggios and chords that I love. The centerpiece of the song is Petrucci’s solo, which can be found on numerous ‘top x guitar solos’ lists and involves numerous different techniques. “Wait for Sleep” is a total change of pace, including only piano, synth strings, and vocals. You’d think that a 2½-minute piano ballad is the most simple song out there, but even this Moore-penned beautiful little tune includes some time signature shifting that makes it challenging to play. Despite this slight complexity, “Wait for Sleep” is a touching song about mourning the loss of a loved one and searching for answers. “Learning to Live” is the longest song on the album at its 11½-minute length, yet less chaotic than “Metropolis”, which is why it’s aged better for me. LaBrie’s famous F#5 note in the middle of the song, followed by Petrucci’s melodic solo is pure heaven – not even the hilarious goat edition can destroy its magic! Myung’s prominent basslines and thoughtful lyrics, as well as the brilliant “Wait for Sleep” reprise and one of the most tastefully executed and epic fade-out outros I’ve heard, are also moments worth mentioning – a top 5 Dream Theater song for sure.

 

While its successor, the dark and introspective Awake (1994), is the pinnacle of Dream Theater’s career to me, Images and Words is also a perfect album in my books. Time may not have been kind to the production, but it’s hard to imagine the record without those synth sounds and the triggered drums that Mike Portnoy hates. They’re part of the album’s charm, and it’s amazing that a release as layered and polished as this became so big in the grunge era. However, the success was definitely deserved, as the band had worked their asses off for years. All the little musical details are well-thought-out, and you can hear that the album was written carefully over a long period of time and not just pushed out over a couple of weeks. Although bands like Queensrÿche and Fates Warning had made quality prog metal before, and Dream Theater had one album under their belt already, Images and Words was the real revolution and defined the genre as we know it today. When I hear the words “progressive metal,” this is the first album that pops into my mind – take that as you will!

Rating: 10/10, 5 stars

Track list:
1. Pull Me Under
2. Another Day
3. Take the Time
4. Surrounded
5. Metropolis – part. 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper
6. Under a Glass Moon
7. Wait for Sleep
8. Learning to Live

LEPROUS – Einar Solberg, 2017

The Norwegian prog masterminds Leprous are in full swing on tour and promoting their upcoming album, Malina. Hot off the heels of their appearance in Ilosaarirock, vocalist and synth player Einar Solberg was kind enough to extend us a phone call.

 

Hello?
Hello! You’ll never guess where I am!

I have no idea, dude…
I’m in a water park near Helsinki. All of Leprous is here, actually. What was it called…

Serena?
Yeah, that’s the one! [laughter]

I never thought of you guys as the waterpark-type.
You’d be surprised. I mean, we write melancholic music but we’re not that melancholic in our daily lives. The other guys are in the water right now.

I see, I’ll try not to keep you then.
No, I planned for this, it’s fine.

You guys just played Ilosaarirock. How did that go?
Really really nice! It’s a nice festival, very well organized. The staff was super nice and the location was just beautiful. It’s really nice for us to play something other than a metal or prog festival. This was something different. It was really cool.

So that’s what, two shows in Finland already this year?
Three! And we’re gonna do three more later.

Oh yeah, that’s right you did two with Devin and Between the Buried and Me before this. That was February.
Exactly!

I saw you in Helsinki – that show was amazing. The atmosphere in there was just electric!
Oh, thank you. Helsinki is one of our cult cities! Just following on Spotify, I think Helsinki has like the most streams of us, for some reason. We have a following there, that’s very nice.

Definitely. Seeing you live, your performances are always absolutely impeccable – you never miss a beat! And considering that it’s practically impossible to tap along to anything you do, so everyone’s mostly standing there in stunned silence.
Yeah, some of the songs are really rough time signatures live, but others are a bit more straightforward. We love the mix between simplicity and complexity – mellow and aggressive. Yeah, we’re a pretty dynamic band.

I would say so. You seem to always be on-key. I’m starting to notice a pattern of synth and/or piano players being very consistently on-key singers.
Maybe [laughs]. Maybe because, like guitars can more easily go out of tune. With the piano it’s something I’ve put a lot of work into; just finding the right balance. Sometimes I’ve been thinking that I’ve been singing perfectly in tune but then I listen to it afterwards and it’s not! Sometimes it’s just that I’ve been singing too loud. I think now I’ve found the right level – that it’s a little bit lower but not so low that I’d strain my voice. You know, people who generally sing in tune can always do that if they have all the proper conditions for it. Know what I mean?

Yeah, I know exactly! As a singer myself I’ve noticed you don’t always have to hear yourself. As long as you can hear at least some of the musical cues that can tell you where you’re supposed to be.
Yeah, exactly. And it helps us a lot that we’ve started using our own in-ear monitors. If you look closely, you can see that I have an iPad on stage. That’s my mixer, so I don’t need a monitor-technician.

Right, because it gives you direct control!
Yeah, and it gives you a lot of confidence for even those bad days. You know, how singers – almost all singers I know – are not confident [laughs].

No argument here. Before I get to the new album, I have to ask about Ihsahn. You know, a lot of us know you guys through him, as you guys are credited as his backing band. Besides that though, do you have any further involvement with him?
Nothing except that he’s, well, family to me! I’m also doing some shows with Emperor this summer and last year I did some Ihsahn shows. We still have a working relationship, mostly as friends helping each-other out a bit. On a regular basis, however, we do not work together.

Right, but it does to the listener seem like you guys have a lot of the same ways of thinking. So much so that I’m almost surprised you don’t literally work on the Ihsahn albums.
I have to disagree with you a bit there. I don’t think we have that similar of a sound these days. There are similarities, yes. But he’s more interested in that gritty, dark sound. Much more distorted guitars and that growl… We have kind of matured more into prog. We’re a bit more atmospheric with more alternative rock sounds while he’s still much more extreme metal. The thinking and how the compositions are made are also very different; I know that from playing in both of those bands.

There is a bit of the same, some integration. There are moments, like “Foe” from the album Coal. That sounds a lot like what Ihsahn was doing at the time. Aside from a few incidents like that, I think his latest album and ours are very different.

Getting into that upcoming album, Malina. I’ve been listening to it for a bit now and I’m really into it. It’s a bit of a departure from The Congregation. I’d say if The Congregation was prog metal then Malina would be more prog rock, wouldn’t you say?
Yeah, the sound has more elements from indie rock, but just sound-wise not composition-wise. The guitar sound especially is very clean. It’s a big change from The Congregation, where the sound was just kind of tight. This one is more open, more organic. It sounds more like we’re a band playing together.

Was that a conscious decision?
It didn’t start like that! We started with a vision of perfecting what we started with The Congregation. But then gradually we started to think it was the wrong direction. Eventually we just started following the vibe and gradually moved towards that open, atmospheric sound. There are some songs that could fit more on the last one, like “Captive” – it has that rhythm. Mostly it’s very different, though. The first thing on that album is “Bonneville”…

Yeah, the first time I heard that, in that first 15 seconds before your vocals started, I was sure they’d sent me the wrong link!
[Laughs] Great! It’s good we surprised you.

Yeah, there are some really outside-the-box sounds on that album. Especially on “Mirage.”
Yeah, the sound is something else. In terms of time signatures, it’s definitely the most prog. The chorus does have some very Leprous-vibes. In a way, I think it’s the safest song for the Leprous fans that have been with us for the earlier stuff.

Hey, in “The Last Milestone”, are those real strings?
That’s a cello, actually. It’s a real cello that’s been layered. All the strings on the album were played with a real cello. There are no samples or anything. It’s a fantastic cellist from Canada. We saw him there and we flew him over. We thought we needed him immediately for the new album. I’d already written some sting-arrangements, so we got him.

That song is very solemn, even for you guys. How did that come about?
I made it as a string composition at first, with the thought that I’d develop it into something more. It was one of the hardest songs I’d ever written. The lyrics are super personal, very sad; so much so that I don’t want to talk about it. It was very difficult to record because it was very emotional for me. So, I realized it had to be pure and clean – it was the way it was meant to be.

That song has been very intriguing to many people. Like “is this Leprous?” To me, music is music – it’s not genres. It’s different moods and atmospheres. Imagine the spectrum of human emotion; it would be weird to just play some of them, if you understand what I mean?

I hear you. You guys have a few albums now and it’s good that you’re changing them up. It’s not like some bands that shall remain nameless who have like 14 or so albums that are exactly the same
Yes exactly! For us it has always been a natural change. We’re always listening to the previous album and thinking what do we want to do different this time. For me, each piece has its own identity, and if it loses that identity, I don’t see the point in releasing it. It’s important for us to create an atmosphere for each album that we won’t do again on other albums.

So I’ve been meaning to ask you guys – last year you came out with Live at Rockefeller Music Hall and it has a nifty little feature titled “13 Years Earlier”…
[Laughs] I was sure nobody noticed it was there.

Now, I recognize you, but how much of Leprous is in that?
Tor [Oddmund Shurke]! Me and Tor are the only ones who have been there from the beginning.

Is that still Leprous, though?
Yeah, that wasn’t even the beginning. We started 2 years earlier. We started out as a local youth band, called Leprous.

Cool, there were elements of Leprous there. It wasn’t quite the well-oiled machine you are now…
Definitely not, yeah! We had the attitude but that was pretty much it. We kind of started with too high ambitions, considering what we could do at the time. But in a way, it was good for us to push ourselves like that. If you dare to challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone, you gradually get somewhere.

Agreed. So you are coming back to Finland later this year?
Yeah, to Helsinki, Tampere, and Jyväskylä. That’s the venue everybody’s been talking about; I’m looking forward to it. This will be the first time we’re doing a proper headlining tour in Finland. It’s gonna be cool.

Great, we will be looking forward to those shows and also the new album, Malina, out on August 25th. I’ll let you get back to your swim!
Thanks, but we’re really just waiting to get to the airport; we already checked out. But it’s been really nice talking to you!

And you as well. We will see you in Helsinki then, cheers!
Bye!

DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT (DTP) – Devin Townsend, Tuska Open Air, 2017

"The horns broke." "[laughs] Yeah, about 20 years ago!"

The Devin Townsend Project brought their Transcendence Tour through Finland back in February, but alas, he was only doing two interviews per show and we were too late to the game to be one of those interviewers. Fortunately for us, he did have a little spare time at Tuska Open Air though, so we whipped up a few questions (and trust me, in 10 minutes, a few is all you need) to ask while he was around for the festival.

 

So Transcendence has been out for nearly a year now and you’ve done some touring for it – how are you feeling about the album at this point, now that it’s been out and getting familiar?
It’s okay. I mean, it’s been so many records now that I don’t necessarily think of one over the other at all. It’s like a thing that I did last year that was accurate, so… hurray.

Especially with the band collaboration and all, do you think that went well? Will you keep doing it?
Yeah, for sure. I think a lot of what makes this whole thing work is that you get a bunch of people together in this fundamentally chaotic environment – which this is – and then you try and work your way through the social engineering of it all, and it’s really challenging, right? My role in this has become inadvertently… I have to lead it and that involves a lot of talking to everybody and trying to get everybody else to talk to each other and it’s a healthy situation, but I think with that sort of constant influx of learning to communicate, that sort of collaboration, artistically, is just inevitable.

You’ve spoken about needing to have a reaction to a song before it makes it onto an album. I’m curious then, do you have any examples you’re willing to share of reactions you had to songs on Transcedence?
Transcendence, yeah. The song “From the Heart”, I was in a yoga class. A yin-yoga class. The last move, they were playing that song, basically. It was written by [??] and then it was redone by a husband and wife team, and they were playing that during the last [pose]… and it’s like stretching is really hard for me in general, so that pose when you have to put the block on your back and you’re lying up, it was like… a lot of things were released, in a weird way. It was painful and there was a lot of release to it, and I remember thinking, “God, I’ve got to figure out who this is, because I just want to hear it again.” I asked the person at the front desk and they gave me the information, and I found it, and I was like, “I’d like to try doing that.” So we contacted the [??] Foundation in Australia, I think it is, and we said, “Here’s the song, here’s what I’m doing with it, would you allow us to redo it?” and he said, “Yes,” so there’s a real tangible example of that.

I was curious, because you did the Ween cover on the album, and I know you don’t like to loan your voice to other people’s work, so how do you feel about covers; I’m also curious about how you ended up doing the Frank Sinatra “New York, New York” cover (because it’s amazing)?
Well, I mean… thank you. The “New York, New York” thing was something that, I think in hindsight, I wouldn’t have done again because I didn’t know the guy. I get asked so often and I predicate my involvement with people on my relationships with them, and without a relationship with them it seems like such a farce, which in a lot of ways, it was for me, and I’ve taken the piss out of it as a result. But it’s cool.

Ween’s a little different because it’s a cover tune. I didn’t get asked to do it. It’s just, I remember when I first heard that song, I remember thinking, “Wow, that’s probably one of the best songs I’ve ever heard,” and I don’t think that the version I did is anywhere near as cool as the one they did, but the statement of it meant a lot to me in the scope of the record, because it takes the control away from it again. It’s like ending it with something that you didn’t write… it’s healthy for that process.

That’s really interesting. I remember listening to the album and seeing the cover, and then I thought, “Okay, I have to listen to the original,” and I did, and I thought, “That sounds a bit like a DTP song, but in a different style,” so it was a really cool bit of movement there.
Thanks!

I’ve heard you talking about firsts and how there are fewer and fewer of them as life goes on, so I’m curious if you’ve had any firsts recently and what excites you still, if there aren’t so many firsts left in life?
I think you’re excited by what you choose to be excited about, in a way. Well, to answer that, I think the easiest way to say it is, the things I get excited about are less and less novel and so that’s really convenient, because I can be really excited about a cup of coffee now in ways that [it] would’ve taken heavy experiences for me to be excited about when I was younger. So the long and short of it is, I’m happy and I think that I’m not as reliant on firsts to get a kick now.

That’s an interesting take on it. You don’t need a first of something to still be excited by it anymore.
Yeah, it’s great! And the more subtle it gets, the better it gets too. It can go one of two ways, but the fact that I’m interested in subtlety makes it interesting because any one of those firsts contains a lot of subtlety that you haven’t explored, right?

Fair enough. Do you ever feel as though you can get away with anything? Like recording an hour of…
Farts?

Yeah, exactly, and sell it?
Musically, I could, but I think the thing I can’t get away with is twofold: one would be doing things for reasons other than authentically being compelled to do it, because I think the audience would pick up on it; and number two, I think accountability is a big thing for me. I think, when it comes to what sounds I create or what style of music, sure, I can get away with whatever, but in terms of life, I can’t get away with shit! Like nothing, because it’s so public now. Everything I do, is like…

Everyone is watching, all the time.
All the time! You have a drink or you have a piece of chicken or whatever, and you’re going to have people up your ass for the next 2 months, right [laughter]? You can’t get away with anything. But it’s okay.

You’re doing the Ocean Machine show in Bulgaria in September – was the only reason you or whoever chose Bulgaria because the orchestras are cheaper there, or were there any other reasons?
I think that’s a significant part of it, but I think it’s also convenient, because the venue’s amazing and they’ve done a lot of shows there, so there are not a lot of places that we could (1) afford, and (2) they’d know how to handle a situation like that. So for me, it doesn’t matter why, it’s just as long as I can do it and get cannons, I’m good.

Well, we’ll be there, so we’re looking forward to it!
Awesome!

I think this is a good place to stop then – have a great gig today and we’ll see you again next time!
Thanks!

Photos: Jana Blomqvist

VUUR – Anneke van Giersbergen, Tuska Open Air, 2017

With Vuur’s upcoming debut approaching us slowly on the horizon, we’ve been dying for any chance we can get to learn more about the album and the sound, and with “London” now released to the public and their set at Tuska Open Air behind us, that anticipation has only grown. As such, we managed to grab 10 minutes with the mastermind herself at the aforementioned festival, where we learned more about the music and its creation, as well as how one vital piece of Vuur news had completely escaped our notice!

 

Welcome back yet again! How are you feeling about how everything is progressing with Vuur and the new album?
Thanks! I’m very excited, because the album turned out super good, if I can say so myself. Not because of me, but because of the band and the production and producer and everything. The songwriting went well. We wrote together also with Esa Holopainen from Amorphis, so we had some really cool people working on this. I’m ecstatic! It’s done, it’s finished, so we are focusing on the shows and the whole album release, which is going to be after the summer.

You’ve said that the upcoming album is loosely based on the places you’ve been and now the first song is “London” – can you tell a little bit about your experiences in London and how they relate to the words and the music?
There’s 11 songs and there’s 11 cities on the album. Sometimes I see… because we travel a lot, and every time you’re back in a country or city, you feel the same, like, “Oh yeah, this is what it feels like when I’m here.” When I was here last year, it felt the same. It’s strange, because you [spend] a year away, but every place has a certain energy. So that’s what I’m writing about. Also, some cities I see, as a person or entity, I write more stories about it, and some cities like London, there’s actually been stuff going on that I write about, like something in history. There’s a few songs about during or after the second world war, so there are multiple inspirations, really.

I’m interested in the vocal dynamics on the upcoming album between you and Marcela…
Actually, Marcela left the band.

Did she?
Yeah, you were not informed [laughs].

And she left before the recordings and everything, so she won’t be on the album?
No. That’s news for you!

So it seems! Rather, then, what happened?
She left when we were recording the album. We did the whole pre-production and everything and when we were recording it, it started before… she was kind of doubting whether she wanted to be a second vocalist in a band, because as you know, she is a frontwoman to her band and with a solo project as well. Apart from when we were doing The Gentle Storm, I did the album with Arjen [Lucassen; Ayreon] and she was not on it – she was there live – and then I wanted the whole band to do Vuur. Then the energy changed from being, like, helping us out with the backing vocals to being in a band as a member, and I think she felt that it was too much in the background for her. Which I understand and agree with, and I would say the same thing, but we do miss her because, as you know, she’s wonderful. But I think she made a good decision and now she has the freedom to do everything she wants for herself.

That makes perfect sense. You participated in our Tuska Special Feature last year and you said that you’ve been here with so many other bands, and you were hoping to get to come here with your new band, and now here you are already!
Yes, I did it! The thing is, our album is not out yet, and usually the festivals only want a band – usually – when the have a record out. I asked Jouni [Markkanen], the big man of this festival, to give me a chance, and the festival was booked now half a year in advance, so we had no music for him, and I said to him, “I’ve been here with Devin, and with The Sirens, and everything. I love this festival and I want to play here,” and he gave me a chance without listening to one of our songs, because he trusts me and the music and he trusts that it’s going to be fitting to this festival. So he gave me a chance, which is grand of him because he can have any band he wants, because this is a fantastic festival. So I’m happy-happy to play here on my own.

That’s really exciting! Also, last time we spoke you were planning to see the Devin Townsend Project’s Transcendence Tour in the Netherlands – did you end up going, and did you end up performing or just watching?
Yeah, I did! I sang two shows with Devin.

Perfect, how’d it go?
Great! I was also in a period when I didn’t play that much because I was in the studio and I was in the middle of everything, so to be on the stage, and with Devin no less, it was fantastic.

Are you going to stay around Tuska to see any of the other bands performing?
I have my gig, and then I have a solo acoustic gig, and then I have the Devin gig, so actually I’m kind of all over the place myself, but if I do have time, I’d like to check out what’s going on.

You said you were really enjoying Mastodon’s latest album – will you be able to see their set on Sunday or will you have to leave before then?
We have to leave tomorrow really early, but I saw Mastodon in Holland 2-3 days ago and they were on fire! They are great! So they’re here this weekend? Fantastic!

Then my last question is, we’ve been noticing on Instagram that a lot of the female vocalists have a really cool fellowship, you’re always so supportive of each other, commenting and chatting on each other’s posts, and we had asked Cristina Scabbia about this and how she felt about it and she was very enthusiastic, and then we asked her if she would consider doing a female-fronted vocalist collaboration someday, and she thought it would be cool. So I was curious what your thoughts on all that might be?
Are you forming a band [laughter]? Of course it’s great, because they are all really great vocalists. We did that a little bit with The Sirens, but I also kind of see happening that all that we did in the female-fronted scene, so all the collaboration and mixing up, maybe it’s time for something new, you know what I mean? Because now in this scene there are some really cool female vocalists who have the growling and the screaming thing going on, and also they can sing very well. I like that it’s moving around now. So you have the female festivals and so on, and they are all collaborating, and I think it’s been done. We did it with The Sirens, and I feel that chapter, for me, is kind of closed. But I’m never saying never, because the chances to sing with someone like her is of course would be great. But I’m focusing on Vuur.

Fair enough! Thanks again for taking the time to chat with us once again, and best of luck with your set at the festival!
Thanks!

TUSKA OPEN AIR: 20th Anniversary – Suvilahti, Helsinki, 06.30-07.02.2017

The end of June has come and gone, which means that another one of our favorite festivals has come and gone with it. Tuska Open Air celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, from June 30th to July 2nd, and with a decent line-up present for the celebration, it was only natural for us to be back once more.

If you missed it last year, we did a special feature on Tuska Open Air, and considering Tuska is celebrating their own special occasion this year, you might like to check it out HERE!

Click for the galleries from Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and the Festival Extras!
Head HERE for our interview with Anneke van Giersbergen.
Or try HERE tomorrow for our interview with Devin Townsend.

 

Day 1: Friday

Huora, Tuska 2017

We showed up bright and early on Friday in order to sneak in a quick interview with Anneke van Giersbergen before her first Finnish show with Vuur. The first band we watched, however, was Huora. Fronted by the totally adorable and badass Anni Lötjönen, these thrashy punk rockers impressed me with their pleasant melodies and strong stage presence, in spite of their style being one that I usually avoid. I didn’t stay too long, but anyone into 80s thrash might want to check these guys out. Or perhaps you already have, as they had a very impressive crowd for Kattilahalli so early on day 1.

Brother Firetribe, Tuska 2017

Next on our list was, of course, Brother Firetribe. This style of AOR was huge back in the 80s, but I can’t say that I was ever into it. However, I can’t deny that Brother Firetribe is a total blast to see live and their music is really fun. It’s exactly the sort of thing you want to see in the summer – perky, sunny music, and people on stage who are clearly having an awesome time. One of the new tracks, “Indelible Heroes”, proved to be even better live than on the album, as were, perhaps, most of the songs. I couldn’t help dancing to their music, and I found myself disappointed that so few people in their ample crowd were doing the same.

Vuur, Tuska 2017

One of the bands I was most excited to hear was Anneke van Giersbergen‘s newest project, Vuur. I love this lady and her incredible voice, though I can’t say I’ve ever been able to get into any of her solo stuff. However, with the release of “London” not too long ago as the first single and sample of Vuur’s sound and style, I had high hopes for their music; and Vuur did not disappoint! Immediately grasping my attention with a solid marching beat, they proved to be very fun and energetic on stage, with excellent live chemistry. They are probably one of the heaviest bands in which van Giersbergen is an official member, and musically they piqued my attention with ease. And of course, the vocals were incredible. Van Giersbergen is, as always, a very sweet and charming frontman (frontwoman?) and won the crowd over effortlessly. “London” was a blast to hear live, but I can’t say that it was even the best song they played. I am very enthusiastic to hear the album, now more than ever! I am not the only one, it seems – her crowd was massive, equally huge on the bar side and sober side. The music did a great job of emphasizing her vocal style and all of the feedback I heard was overwhelmingly positive.

Wintersun, Tuska 2017

Wintersun was already getting going as Vuur’s show ended on the tent stage, and so we hurried over to catch the beginning of their set. I was bummed out that our interview with Devin Townsend crossed over with Wintersun’s show, as I was hoping to catch some tracks from The Forest Seasons live. They started their set off with “Awaken from the Dark Slumber (Spring)”, but I have to say, I have trouble getting into live Wintersun songs when I don’t know them. That said, in the end it wasn’t too big a deal that I missed the first half of their set. I’ve never been a big fan of their eponymous album, so by the time I was able to get out to watch again, they were just starting “Sons of Winter and Stars” from Time I, and followed it with “Time”, which are the two songs on their set I knew and liked best. Of note, this was the first gig I’ve seen with Asim Searah replacing Jari Mäenpää on guitars – I’m not a fan of Searah following some of his performances with Kiuas a few years back; however, Searah performed Mäenpää’s parts admirably, and while it was quite visually odd to see Mäenpää without a guitar, his vocals were top notch and I can understand why he opted to focus on them on stage. If you saw this show, it’s likely that you’re eagerly awaiting the release of The Forest Seasons so you can familiarize yourself with the material!

At this point, it was time to check out the food stands. Tuska really upped their game with the quality this year, bringing a variety of burger places, vegetarian and Indian options, ice cream and hot dogs, as well as a booth called “Healthy Shit”, which I found pretty entertaining. We visited the Fafa’s Smokery each day over the weekend (not to be confused with the Fafa’s falafel joint), for their pulled pork, beef, and chicken burgers, all of which were sublime, though the other smoked and/or pulled meat place was also awesome. We then popped by the booth of a security group, where you could spin a wheel and win some prizes, all seemingly involved in making sure you never lose your keys, such as those balls that you put on your keys when boating so you don’t lose them if they fall in the water, or a keychain that ensures you that if you lose your keys, they’ll be returned. They were a fun bunch with a nice concept, so we hope you had a chance to stop by and check it out.

At this point I’ll also mention that I was very disappointed with the bar this year – while the traditional 1L Karhu and tall Koff beers were standard price, they dropped the Garage long drink and Crowmoor ciders down to the 0.33L cans, but only dropped the price by a little, meaning you have to spend a lot more money on a lot less booze. There was a lot of bad blood in the bar area about this, as not everyone out there likes beer, and making us pay more is not appreciated. On the other hand, props to the vast selection of other things to drink – they’re all quite expensive and again, you won’t get as much for your buck as you will with a beer, but if you don’t want the same old Koff-Karhu-Crowmoor-Garage, there are other options, like Jallu long drinks (I heard they were excellent) and what I believe was the famous Napue gin and tonic.

Suicidal Tendencies, Tuska 2017

We got back into the swing of things a bit with Suicidal Tendencies. This is one of those bands that’s never managed to get my attention, so we watched from the bar. While musically I can’t say much personally, my friends insisted that these guys were on point and doing great. Visually, they had a ton of energy and I’m quite sure that if you were looking forward to their set, you wouldn’t have been disappointed. They had perky, energetic, heavy music, with a hint of funk now and then. For their last song, they invited a whole ton of people onto the stage – I’m not sure what that was, but they filled it up with a wild, cheering crowd. Perhaps they were celebrating Tuska’s anniversary?

Insomnium, Tuska 2017

Insomnium was next up in the tent stage, and I was surprised to find out that they’re still playing Winter’s Gate in its entirety, especially in festival scenarios. Ultimately, I think that was really cool – people who’ve traveled to Finland or who might not’ve been able to see the full song/album in its entirety live got an opportunity on this day. Having seen it once already, at first I thought, “Oh no, this again,” but after listening for a very short time, I found myself once more enthralled and entranced by that vivid and magical song, it’s cold and brutal soundscapes, and the wonderful performances of all the guys on stage. It reminded me that I should definitely listen to that album more often, because it is truly a masterpiece. Once you start listening, it feels nearly impossible to stop. Also, I need to mention that the solos in that song are absolutely fantastic, and Niilo Sevänen’s vocals were on point! They closed out their set afterwards with a few of their hits, ending with “While We Sleep” and I left the show feeling a renewed appreciation for Insomnium.

Devin Townsend Project, Tuska 2017

Of course, if you’ve read any of my other reviews, you’ll know that the band I was most looking forward to – possibly over the whole weekend – was the Devin Townsend Project. I had promised a friend, who was seeing Dev for the first time, that it would be like watching an episode of Rick and Morty – lots of penis/balls jokes combined with awkward nerdiness; and of course, Devin Townsend delivered: “Are you ready to suck it?” he shouted as he took the stage, then said we look more like, “the nibbling types.” They kicked off their set with “Rejoice”, which I can now say I’ve heard with Anneke van Giersbergen on vocals live – something I’ve been dying for, and of course you can’t have these two at a festival together without her making a few cameos. Of course, Townsend talked of “tales of love, nerdiness, and penis jokes” in his speeches, and also asked if we wanted to hear something beautiful before “Stormbending” from the latest album and went straight into “Failure” without a break in between. “My name is Devin. I’ve been married for 27 years, kids, the whole works. Here’s a song about it,” he said, before “Deadhead.” The set was a little bit laid-back for a festival, but the collection of tracks were good, so no complaints there. Van Giersbergen returned again for “Supercrush” and “Kingdom”, always looking either super happy or like she can’t keep a straight face around Townsend. Townsend, of course, encouraged some guy to whip out his balls, before saying that he and Van Giersbergen would sing a slow song together, though he didn’t bring an acoustic guitar, which was rude of him. “I need you to sing so loud that this guy won’t show you his balls!” he shouted before they got into “Ih-Ah”; Townsend then paused a ways through, disappointed in the crowd’s lack of engagement, saying he had hoped it would become a Scorpions moment where everyone would come together to sing two words that mean nothing and sound like donkey noises, but was now enraged because it didn’t work and he failed to gain the validation he so desperately requires, and demanded a death metal growl instead, before continuing to sing in weird yet totally successful falsetto. “Grab convention by the pendulous sack!” he said, before ending the show with “Higher”; this is my least favorite song from Transcendence, but I do think it worked a lot better live and with a few helping notes from van Giersbergen to start it off. Overall, again, everyone was thrilled with this set and it was by far my favorite of the night, and in hindsight, the entire weekend.

Over on the tent stage, Mayhem was up next, but I’ll let Vincent tell you about their set, as black metal isn’t really my thing…

Mayhem, Tuska 2017

Vincent: “Mayhem had come that night to celebrate their 1994 album De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, one of the absolute staples of the black metal genre. They had the album cover as a backdrop, the dark blue-tinned castle fit absolutely perfectly with the blue lights and the excessive use of fog machines. The band even wore cloaks of black and (most of them) had corpse paint on. The atmosphere could not have been more perfect. The first song was, appropriately enough, “Funeral Fog”, as it was on the record, but they seemed to have a lot of trouble getting the tempo right. Everyone seemed to be on a different time. The vocals should have started quite quickly but could not be heard through the noise. Halfway through the song, however, the vocals came out and the audience cheered in wonder. Soon after that, the band began to play at the same pace. Up until that point, I had considered moving to a different location, but clearly that was not the crucial factor. It was evidently not something that was in their control and it only lasted half a song, so we can’t exactly crucify them for it.

Following that was “Freezing Moon.” The slow and trudging parts worked best in a live environment and the crowd was captivated. Some of the faster songs like “Pagan Fears” and “From the Dark Past” even inspired mosh pits. As usual, however, the black metal pits were modest at best, with most people preferring to keep their personal space. They played the album in it’s entirety, which was a treat to fans (like myself) for sure. A piece of black metal history was re-animated that night, and I’m glad to have witnessed it.”

Sabaton, Tuska 2017

Lastly, the night was closed out by a clear Tuska favorite, Sabaton. These guys have headlined Tuska quite a few times, even as recently as 2015 and 2012. They kicked things off at dusk with the traditional “Ghost Division”, and proceeded to play a high-energy, hard-hitting set. As far as Sabaton shows go, this was nothing too shocking – they played the collection of old standards, such as “Art of War”, “Swedish Pagans”, “Gott mit uns” (in Swedish), and “Carolus Rex”, as well as the standard three Finland songs, “White Death”, the newer “Soldier of 3 Armies”, and in the encore, “Talvisota.” The biggest event, perhaps, was that they played “Screaming Eagles” for the first time ever in Finland. I don’t even think they played it at Provinssi the day before, which really made it a special event for the long-time fans. “Shiroyama” remains a guilty pleasure for me, and I can’t deny dancing to it (while hating myself a bit) in the encore. All-in-all, Sabaton is just a great live band – they’ve got big energy, they put on a big show, big screens, big explosions, and really, that’s what you need from a festival headliner. These guys have got performance down to an art at this point, and I’ll never be sorry to see these beasts on the roster!

Sabaton, Tuska 2017

 

Day 2: Saturday

We decided to take it a bit easier on Saturday, as Friday had been so fantastic. Word on the street was that Lik put on a pretty awesome show early in the day in Kattilahalli, and Mokoma upheld their usual standard of festival excellence as per usual.

Timo Rautiainen & Trio Niskalautaus, Tuska 2017

We showed up in time to get a tour of the festival area from Eeka Mäkynen and Heta Hyttinen, the CEO and one of the announcers (respectively). They brought us to the backstage where we could see the stage from the side during Timo Rautiainen & Trio Niskalaukaus‘ performance, before moving on to see more of the festival area, where we learned about some of the inside jokes they play on each other behind the scenes. We popped by the tent sauna and met Timo Martikainen, the local sauna expert, who received some very enthusiastic praise from our host, before we headed over to the dining hall to see what the Black Dining was all about, and learned about the new things Tuska tries to incorporate each year. We closed out the tour in the VIP bar, where they showed us some artwork by a local metal smith done just for the 20th anniversary event.

Soilwork, Tuska 2017

After the tour was over, our next stop was to see Soilwork on the main stage. I’ve never had an issue with the way these guys perform, but the main concern always relates to the sound quality of their shows. The last time I saw them at Tuska in 2013 was a pure disaster – the sound was all over the place and was, as I recall, freakishly and even painfully loud for a festival, even with earplugs in. On this occasion, I won’t say that the sound was perfect, but it was a big improvement over the last time, and I’ll have to assume that it was better than the rough quality of their last show here with Kreator in the winter. Björn “Speed” Strid was, as always, a very warm and pleasant frontman, greeting the crowd enthusiastically with a “How the fuck are you guys doing?” and expressing that he’s enjoying the cooler weather in Finland, far preferring it to the 35 degrees they were recently experiencing at Hellfest in France. The set was pretty balanced as well, with some new stuff, but a lot of classics as well, ending, of course, with “Stabbing the Drama”, if I recall correctly.

Fear of Domination, Tuska 2017

The tent stage hosted stoner rock band Electric Wizard next, but before trying them out, we had to sneak back into Kattilahalli to check out Fear of Domination. The others have been raving about these guys for a while, so they were on the top of my list of bands to try out on Saturday, and I was clearly not alone – Kattilahalli ended up filled to capacity and beyond, to the point that there were people way outside the venue, trying and failing to get in. These guys definitely deserved a bigger stage, what with their crazy attire and glow paint, as well as their fun, energetic music and straight-up cool stage presence making them shoe-ins for a better slot in the future! On stage with them was guest vocalist Sara Strömmer, whom you might know from other bands in the past such as Crimfall and End of Aeon, and who, in a shockingly cool turn of events was no longer a guest musician by the end of the set! It was a memorable and perhaps even emotional moment, but Strömmer and FoD are clearly a match made in heaven as they worked perfectly together live and I can say with certainty that they are going to be a band to watch out for!

As for Electric Wizard… well, that’s not really my thing. While those on drugs may appreciate the repetition of a riff for many, many minutes, I find this type of music to be almost painfully dull. The riffs may have been nice, and the performing may have been all right, but I just can’t listen to this stuff that drags on and on with seemingly no end in sight.

Amorphis, Tuska 2017

Amorphis took the main stage next though, and they’ve been nothing short of a delight to watch live ever since the release of Under the Red Cloud. Every show has been fun, and I mean every show (and we have seen A LOT of Amorphis in the last year and a half). When they started their set up with “Under the Red Cloud” and “Sacrifice”, which are both good live tracks, though the sound was warbly and going all over the place in the former. This got fixed by the end of the first song, fortunately, and they continued with a surprisingly varied set, considering they’re still touring the same album. I was pretty happy to hear “The Smoke”, which… I could be wrong but I think that’s been absent from their set for a while. I also can’t recall if/when was the last time I’ve heard “Into Hiding” live, so that was a nice treat. “Death of a King” remains a live favorite, and one that I hope remains indefinitely on their setlist. Like many others over the weekend, they congratulated Tuska on their 20th anniversary, having been one of the most frequent bands to play at the festival. On the whole, I don’t have much left to say about these guys that I haven’t said in the last few reports – they’re a great live band and if you haven’t seen them yet, there’s no excuse.

Triptykon, Tuska 2017

Back so soon, having been at last year’s South Park, was Triptykon on the tent stage. Since I’m not a black metal fan, but had appreciated them last year, I made sure to get a drink in the tent-side bar so I could keep an ear on the show. Much in the same vein, it wasn’t something I would call myself a fan of, but I very much enjoyed the lights, the ambience, and the amiable stage presence. Oh, and also, my girl crush on Vanja Slajh continues – she’s so cool! The music didn’t even grate on me the way Electric Wizard had, and though it didn’t get my full attention, I enjoyed what I heard for the most part.

HIM, Tuska 2017

And then it was time for the main event, perhaps of the whole weekend: HIM. These guys recently announced their impending retirement, and so this year’s festival Saturday was sold out by people eagerly hoping for the change to see them one last time. Myself, I’ve never actually seen HIM live before, having passed or missed out on the few opportunities to hear them play since I’ve lived in Finland. And you should’ve seen that crowd, oh man! Everyone loves, or at very least appreciates these guys in some way – the people in front of the stage were from all walks of life: young and old, male, female, punk, Goth, black metal, or street clothes, you name it, someone was there representing! And with that in mind then, I have to say that the show was a total disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, they played all the hits, including the one song I had hoped to hear – their cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” – and they sounded phenomenal while doing it. But the reason the set was a disappointment was more related to the performance itself. At one point I looked up at the screen and Burton Puurtinen (keyboards) looked like he was so bored that he was ready to blow his brains out. I’m talking exasperated eye-rolling and the whole works. Mige Paananen (bass) was putting in a reasonable effort, but Ville Valo (vocals) and Linde Lindström (guitar) were more or less the living dead; every movement screamed, “We’re doing this because we have to, not because we want to,” and while Valo’s smiles seemed genuinely appreciative, he looked like a man who’s ready to say “fuck it” and be done with music forever. As such, after a few songs we abandoned the crowd and headed back to the bar, where the show became far more enjoyable – the music sounded great and as I said, all the favorites came out, even including another cover of Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell”, but I have to say that I was able to enjoy myself so much more without watching them half-assedly slogging around the stage. The best part of their set, visually, was the fireworks that ripped up the sky in the end – now that was worth turning your head for!

HIM, Tuska 2017

 

Day 3: Sunday

Battle Beast, Provinssi 2017, photo by Feng Deng

And so the last day had finally arrived. After having taken my time on Saturday, I made an effort to try to be in town in time to catch at least part of Battle Beast‘s set, but the local transit disagreed with me and did its utmost to prevent my arrival. This was a shame for two reasons: (A) I’ve always kind of hated Battle Beast, until recently I’ve had to admit they’ve been growing on me and I’ve wanted to see them at a festival to give them another chance; and (B) I really like “King for a Day” and wanted to hear it. Much to my chagrin, their set ended 4 minutes early, which meant that “King for a Day” was playing as I was just reaching Suvilahti, and ended literally the second I dropped my backpack at the coach check. The last song, “Beyond the Burning Skies”, was not one that I was familiar with, but the show they put on was definitely lively and fun, and while I don’t like it when Noora Louhimo (vocals) does that angry scream-talking thing that she does, that woman has got some pipes on her when she sings! As someone who’s not into Baroness or Mastodon, this might have actually been the best performance (visually, at least) of the day, even though I only saw one song.

Dirkschneider was the first band we caught on the main stage. If you don’t know him, he was the original singer for Accept, whom we saw opening for Sabaton earlier this year. If you like your sweet, sweet 80s metal, you probably would’ve loved this set. Along with his solo material, Dirkschneider played some Accept classics like “London Leatherboys” (my favorite), as well as “Metal Heart” and “Balls to the Wall.” I have to say, after this show, I really can’t understand why people have a problem with Mark Tornillo (Accept’s current vocalist), because he and Dirkschneider sound pretty much the exact same. It seems age has not held this guy up, because he brought us back a few decades with full force. I don’t know anything about Dirkschneider’s own music, but it was a fun set and worth showing up for.

Baroness wasn’t for me, so again, I’ll let Vincent give you some thoughts on their set:
Vincent: “Baroness came on stage, beginning their set with “Kerosene” from the album Purple, and I immediately noticed the lighting was entirely purple. Sure enough, the second song was “March to the Sea” from Yellow and Green and yes, the lighting turned yellow. Despite their modest appearance, the band was full of spunk and had everything to prove. They used two-and-three-part harmonies with the two guitarists and bass player to the point of absolute perfection. Did I mention the new lead guitarist? Gina Gleason may have seemed like a Kristen Stewart clone at first glance, but she was a veritable metal goddess on stage. She not only provided some of the best guitar-licks of the night but also expertly complimented the two male singers with her vocals. She even growled later on in the set. A friend of mine literally showed me the chills he got. Her performance elevated the whole show.

For the remainder of the gig, the lighting continued to correspond with the albums from whence the songs had come (the well-known ones being color-themed). Baizley’s banter between songs was very polite and to the point, which fit with their Georgia (“the please and thank you state”) background. Some of their lyrics have always perplexed me. They speak of gasoline and milk and chlorine and wine. These things I wouldn’t mix but if that’s what these guys have been consuming, it would explain some of these rhythm choices. Speaking of prog-metal, I spotted at least three members of Mastodon in the audience. Having seen this show, it would hardly be a stretch to imagine them fans, if not friends.”

Apocalyptica, Tuska 2017

One of the ‘events’ of the weekend was another special performance by Apocalyptica, who have been celebrating the anniversary of Plays Metallica by Four Cellos. Before the band hit the stage, there were two things of note: the first was that there were four spots for cellists, and the second was the crazy-looking drum kit. When the guys took the stage, again, we noticed two things – Mikko Sirén did not take his throne, but none other than Antero “Mr. Cool” Manninen took the fourth cello spot. If you don’t know the name, he was the original fourth cellist on their aforementioned debut album, so it was really cool that they got him for this tour; I had assumed this might be the case, but wasn’t sure as I had decided not to see their club show. Much as his name would suggest, Manninen does not have the same stage antics of the other three, but he did look pretty damn cool sitting there in his sunglasses (looking a little bit like Vash the Stampede), shredding like it was nothing. Of course, as this was a Metallica cover show but there were no vocals (with the exception of the chorus of “Seek and Destroy”), the crowd was given the task of singing. Sirén joined forces after “Master of Puppets”, and we got to hear the cool percussion attachments in “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, which made a really awesome and industrial effect; I confess I liked it better than the original (full disclosure: I’m not a big Metallica fan). I have to say though, that I was a little disappointed that they didn’t actually play the entire Plays Metallica album. I thought that was the whole kind of point and purpose of these anniversary tours, and I was all hyped up to hear “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” and that happened to be one of the ones they left out. It was a great set, but… that did leave me feeling kind of let down.

And suddenly, we were at the last band to play on Sunday. Before I get into this, I have to say that Sunday just blew past. I don’t think it’s correct to say that Sunday was boring, but Sunday was… even the high energy bands didn’t mask the fact that it went by really quickly and energy-wise felt kind of limp. I mean, the best set of the day, arguably, was by Battle Beast, and they’re a band I’m not even sure if I like. Okay, if you’re a fan of Baroness and Mastodon, I bet you really enjoyed Sunday, but those bands aren’t my style and without a good for-everyone headliner, the whole day felt kind of slow in energy, fast in execution, and anticlimactic.

Sonata Arctica, Tuska 2017

So why didn’t Sonata Arctica make this feel better, being good high-energy performers? They played a pretty tight set and they performed very well, so what was it? The answer is, simply, the setlist. As a fan of mid-era Sonata, and my friend who is a fan of the old era, we were both disappointed in the songs they played, as it was nearly exclusively all the new generic hits, and frankly, very few of their actually good songs. Okay, sure, “Fullmoon” is a fun track and always gets people moving, but really, the combination of “Closer to an Animal”, “The Wolves Die Young”, and “I Have a Right” in the first four was really disappointing. I still don’t understand why Finns get moist and/or slow dance when “Tallulah” plays, and while some people love “Black Sheep”, I’ve never counted myself among them (although getting all the EMP balls into the crowd for it helped). The highlight of the set was by far “Misplaced”, which they haven’t played for a while, and after that, all that was left was “Life”, which is kind of a guilty pleasure song at best considering its awful lyrics, and “Don’t Say a Word” with the “Vodka” outro, which, like “Fullmoon”, is a Sonata live staple that we’ve all heard a million times. So even though the show itself was great and full of sparks and stage effects (as much as they could manage on the tent stage), it just didn’t deliver in the way I might have hoped.

And so all we were left with was Mastodon, and while I promised my friends I’d give it a chance, I can’t say I had the energy left to listen to the whole let. Here’s what Vincent had to say:
Vincent: “At this point, the audience had had time to recover form Apocalyptica’s stunning live renditions of “Battery” and “Orion”, and Mastodon were poised to begin. Their first song was met with immediate praise as it was the opening track of their new album, Emperor of the Sands, “The Sultan’s Curse.” The song was a fantastic mix of everything we all loved about the band to begin with. It was heavy, proggy, and kinda catchy as well. The new album cover adorned the stage in a way the lighting could scarcely compliment.

The set went up and down their discography to find the gems. Some of the newer ones, such as “Ancient Kingdom”, “Ember City”, and “Black Tongue” were interspersed with more classic tracks such as “Divinations”, “Mother Puncher”, and “Megalodon” in a way that seemed fair. Many surely came for the new album and they were no doubt satisfied without alienating the old audience.

The band itself had two lead vocalists at first glance but even the bass player and drummer got full vocal solos at times. If KISS could be described as a band full of Ringo Starrs, then Mastodon were Michael Åkerfelds… the lot. The big screens had trouble keeping up with whom was singing, but to their credit, it would have taken more than a casual fan to nail it. The sound-guy, however, had it down pat. Never was the sound of any lesser quality than that of the records themselves.

The gig ended in an encore, wherein they played the classic “Blood and Thunder.” It was beyond a doubt a perfect performance. The sound was exemplary, the playing impeccable, the set inspired. Though not quite yet legendary, these guys proved they are well on their way to becoming such. For me it was the perfect end to my tenth Tuska.”

Mastodon, Tuska 2017

 

With that, Tuska’s 20th anniversary year was over. Overall, it was a great weekend, as it always is, though it’s a shame that it peaked on Friday. It seems Finns the country over were torn between Guns N’ Roses at Kantolan Tapahtumapuisto and HIM on Saturday, but they got their fair share of the business, as the crowds were admirable for all three days – even for the early time slots (which in the past have had weak crowds even on the main stage) and at the Kattilahalli club stage!

Ups and downs? Well, as I mentioned, the bands, particularly early on in the day, brought in crowds, even around 14:00 in the afternoon, which is impressive, as I’ve seen Ensiferum play at 15:00 in the past with shockingly few people present. Some said that the line-up was shit this year; I’ll say that there wasn’t much that was shocking, per se, or maybe creative in the schedule, but that didn’t stop it from being a good selection. Moreover, the food selection was fantastic, and the food court was in a nice location, as was the associated bar with the sauna and green space. Also, props for the ever-improving drink selection, though seriously – do not fuck over the cider/lonkero drinkers next year, please! And, considering that Suvilahti had some construction going on this summer, they still made admirable use of the space given.

In the end, I hope that they put a little more effort into giving Sunday some more oomph next year; I’d even go so far as to say that they should’ve had HIM’s show on Sunday to make more of a thing of it (like they did last year), so it feels like less of a wind-down day, but alas, such was not the case in 2017. Either way, I’m sure that I’ll be ready to rock n’ roll again next year when it’s time for Tuska once more! Thanks again to the organizers, the bands, and of course, the festival-goers. Cheers, and see you in 2018!

Text: Amy W., Vincent Parkkonen | Photos: Jana Blomqvist

(2017) Wintersun: The Forest Seasons

Artist: Wintersun
Album: The Forest Seasons
Release: 21.07.2017
Label: Nuclear Blast Records

 

And so the climax of Wintersun’s controversy is finally upon us! For those of you who are late to the party, Wintersun has been spending their fair share of time in the news due to vocalist/guitarist Jari Mäenpää‘s insistence that he can’t finish the long-awaited followup to Time I without having his own serecording studio. After what seemed like eternal negotiations with Nuclear Blast, these Finnish folk metallers were able to launch an IndieGoGo campaign, with the proceeds going toward this studio. The crowdfunding campaign ran throughout the month of March this year, and on April 1st, completed at a whopping 464,330€, which was 285% of what they had hoped to raise. What did the funders get in return for their contribution? The Forest Seasons.

I’ve had my reservations about what The Forest Seasons might be like – will it be true to Wintersun’s sound, or will it be a half-assed attempt to gather cash for the studio so they can finish the album they really want to make? If they can’t make Time II without a studio, will this be any better? Well, some of my fears were assuaged by bassist Jukka Koskinen in an interview from earlier this year, and so I awaited the new album with an open mind, hoping for the best.

 

The album is, in recent Wintersun fashion, a mere four tracks, but four extremely long tracks at that, each clocking in at 12+ minutes in length and corresponding to a season of the year. On my first encounter with “Awaken from the Dark Slumber (Spring)”, I felt as though this album might nicely bridge the gap between their self-titled debut (2004) and Time I (2012) – the track is clearly less complex than the latter album, but has a bit more of the heavy feel of the original guitar-driven Wintersun album. It has a slow burn, and perhaps feels a tad repetitive at times, but it picks up very nicely; I suppose I can see the relation to spring – it starts out murky and dark, but picks up and gets better as time goes on. Not what I’d have expected or even hoped for when thinking of spring, but not a bad representation either.

“The Forest that Weeps (Summer)” isn’t quite as bright and sunny as you’d expect of a song relating to that particular season (unless that’s the gloomy Finnish perspective?). The glorious Wintersun-style chants are back as well, standing strong in this track. While Time I was notably lacking in any guitar solos, “The Forest that Weeps (Summer)” features a long guitar-driven segment or two (or more); I wouldn’t call them solos exactly, but the highly emphasized riff-work does bring some of that old flavor back into the mix, and it sounds ever so ‘Mäenpää.’

If you really want to hear a solo though, and a long one at that, you’ll have to wait for “Eternal Darkness (Autumn)”, which provides a great deal of shred while balanced with an almost Castlevania-esque background. As well, if you’ve missed those monkey blasts from Wintersun (I have not, personally), never fear, “Eternal Darkness (Autumn)” has brought them back. On the whole, this is a pretty dark and ominous song – not the way I personally see autumn. The cold echoes around the 9:30 mark feel like the depths of winter, not the chill of autumn. However, the aforementioned guitar parts do work very nicely. The one near 11:00 could have lasted longer, in my opinion. The song ends quite abruptly, without any form of transition into its follower, sadly. Fans of their first album will likely appreciate this song more than I did.

The album comes to its full climax in “Loneliness (Winter)” though, with the only track that truly suits its theme, at least by my standards. This songs reminds me of a cloudless, cool winter’s night after a fresh snow, with its twinkling sounds and slow pacing. The vocals, both harsh and clean, work to create a gorgeous ambience, and in particular, I love the blending of mid-range and lower growls – something I’ve never really noticed a band do before, but sounds phenomenal in execution. This is perhaps also the most reminiscent in style to Time I, so for those who long for more of that album’s feeling, you’ll hopefully get it in this one – I know I did!

 

On the whole? This album feels a bit weirdly dark to be about the seasons, as I consider seasons to be rather varied in mood, while the album isn’t (again, unless that’s the Finnish cynicism showing through, or they’re just trying to be way too metal). For example, I don’t see spring as a dark and grungy time, but light and hopeful; for an example, try this YouTube video of “Celtic Dream” by Ron Hardiman. “Summer” again too feels too dark, and I think the biggest energy and clearest sound should be coming through in summer, unless you want to go the Kiuas route, like in their “Summer’s End.” “Autumn” was all wrong, as I find autumn relaxing and mellow, yet powerful, like a Type O Negative song. Winter, on the other hand, I think they got exactly right. So thematically, I’m not really on board, though I won’t fault an album too much for not fitting my own specific ideas about a concept that could be taken in many ways.

Musically, however, you can’t turn your head up at this one. They cover a lot of ground with this, perfectly blending the styles they’re most known for. The vocals are excellent throughout, shining through particularly in the final track, which is by far the high point on the album, at least by my standards. And the guitarwork is great – I’m glad to see a bigger focus on it for a change of pace. If I can compel myself to ignore the thematic issues, which may or may not be personal to me alone, I rather like the album. You’ll find out soon in our festival report that I had trouble getting into the new material at Tuska, but I can comfortably say that I’m looking forward to their club show at the end of the summer now that the music is more familiar to me.

Rating: 8.5/10, 4 stars
[ed: some have been commenting that the rating is too high for the review – most of my complaints about the album relate entirely to personal feelings towards what seasons ‘sound like’, and my own distaste towards monkey blasts and thrashier metal; those who worry less about the ‘feeling’ and like thrashier metal (like Wintersun’s first album) will likely enjoy this album more than I, and I wanted to rating to reflect that]

Tracklist:
1. Awaken from the Dark Slumber (Spring)
2. The Forest that Weeps (Summer)
3. Eternal Darkness (Autumn)
4. Loneliness (Winter)

NEUROSIS w/ DARK BUDDHA RISING – Tavastia, Helsinki, 04.07.2017

Just when I thought I had a few days to recover after Tuska Open Air, I had to go see yet another great band. Titans of a genre I could only hesitantly shorten as post-hardore atmospheric sludge, Neurosis came to do a club show at Tavastia in Helsinki on July 4th, 2017. Having performed at Tuska twice in the last 10 years, it seemed a fitting epilogue. Opening for them was Laitila-bred Dark Buddha Rising, brandishing their own brand of psychedelic sludge/doom metal. A veritable banquet of gloom was no doubt in store.

 

The reason the club show by Neurosis seemed appealing to me is that, even though they have played in Finland in the past and I have seen them two or three times, those were all festivals such as Tuska and Ruisrock. Even though their genre may be difficult to place, their sound definitely doesn’t benefit from blue skies and a warm summer breeze; they are best enjoyed under the cover of darkness.

 

From the minute the doors opened, the place filled up at a constant rate, right up until the first band started playing. I heard from the coat check that they had sold 500 tickets in advance; clearly the audience was hungry for both bands. The atmosphere was absolutely tailor-made for the night. Even the playlist was a perfect selection of music in which the crowd might be interested. Groups like Trees of Eternity, Conan, or Avatarium; generally slow, low, and depressing. Tavastia has hosted audiences like this before and the event was organized by Blow Up the Gramophone, whom you may recognize for their annual Blow Up Festivals, which celebrate gloom and doom in their many forms.

Starting off the night was the one and only opening act, Dark Buddha Rising. I wasn’t a big fan of them – I’d heard some of their stuff and I liked them, but didn’t think they were all that special. Yet here they were, facing a full house. The lights went pitch black. It was complete darkness, absolute silence. As the band walked on stage, a gut churning, droning hum began to sound. The drummer counted the band in. To my surprise they laid down a fat psychedelic jam. It was the perfect mix of prog and gloom. The low-end of the sound was overwhelming. Every hair, every follicle on my body shook and resonated with it. Most of that seemed to come out of this infernal noise box the synth player, J. Saarivuori (also known from Hexvessel), possessed.

Then the lead vocalist ascended. The band was back-lit and their appearances were very much shrouded in darkness; therefore, it was difficult to ascertain who the singer was. I heard they had a new one and based on the voice and overall demeanor I’d guess it’s a woman. I couldn’t find who it was because every site insists that it was their current singer is M. Neuman, a man. Assuming it was him, he did a thousand times better than he did on Inversum, their last release. The vocals were interesting, diverse, and powerful. He also spent half the show on his knees, as if pleasing the dark lord. It was awesome either way.

The audience, myself included, was so stunned that they didn’t even flinch during the performance. Everyone simply stood there in awe. Just when I thought I’d be in for another mediocre opening act, they gave us this fantastic show. It only lasted 30 minutes, leaving us all wanting more, but it was spectacularly bloodcurdling nonetheless.

 

Neurosis themselves were up next. They also began in pitch-black. They came up one by one as the intro tape to “Lost”, from the classic Enemy of the Sun played. The existential recording really set the mood. Played in their current style, with their current line up, it was a spectacular way to open. They followed soon after with “A Shadow Memory” from the new album, Fires Within Fires. It was a good song to showcase the true weirdness of the group: slow and contemplative crossed with pure hardcore brutality.

Directly after that, they played a classic from Through Silver in Blood, namely “Locust Star.” It was all the right kinds of weird. It uses some bizarre effects, which synth player Noah Landis decided to recreate live. He not only handled the keyboards, but he also had a laptop open at all times, presumably controlling both the backing-tracks and the band’s own click-track. His set-up also included a box with inwardly protruding prongs. He hit said prongs rhythmically to produce whatever sound the song needed at the time. From a purely technical stance I can see how it should be some two steps too much effort, but in the moment I felt all the more appreciative of their craft when I saw them do these things as live as they possibly could. It was also downright mind-boggling to watch Landis merely gesture these effects into being.

They went on to play a few of these backtrack-heavy songs like “Takeahnase” to enforce their prowess in the field, but continued to focus on songs from the new album, such as “Fire is the End Lesson”, “Broken Ground”, and “Bending Light.” In between songs, they dimmed the lights to build atmosphere; this would not have been possible at an open air festival. It did leave the band in an awkward position wherein they needed to use flashlights just to find their various guitar pedals and wires, etc. They also played as loud as loud could be. I was wearing my best earplugs and at times I felt like I wasn’t wearing any at all.

Neurosis had three vocalists, as usual. The two lead vocalists were guitar players Scott Kelly and Steve von Till, with backing vocals (exclusively low growls) from bass player Dave Edwardson. Kelly and von Till demonstrated their prowess in hardcore screaming and yelling that night, but fans of theirs will know they can do so much more. Near the end of the set we got to witness a fun moment in which Kelly was having feedback issues with his mic and he knocked it over in rage, never letting it hinder his guitarwork. The poor technicians rushed over in a panic whilst Kelly just jammed with the rest of the band like nothing had ever happened. It was hilarious.

 

Neurosis were once again the masters of their craft. They walked the line between artsy and heavy… and stuck the landing. The performance was, from a practical standpoint, perfect. On the other hand, I can’t forget that first time I saw them, in Tuska ’09. Not only did they play more of my favorites like “The Sun that Never Sets” and “Through Silver in Blood”, of which the latter was complete with extra tribal percussion by Kelly and von Till. On that show, Kelly and von Till also voluntarily knocked down mic stands all the time and even smashed the mics on their foreheads leaving visible marks. I can’t endorse artists to actively harm themselves, but it did display a sort of passion that was lacking in this performance.

Also, Tavastia seemed a small venue for them but fortunately they had the foresight to adjust ticket prices to a whopping €52 at the door. This had me a bit worried about how successful the night would be, but the enthusiasm of the fans proved me wrong yet again. Never bet against the fans, they are the ones who make this scene. Dark Buddha Rising also showed me they were a force to reckon with. They did, however, only play for 30 minutes and Neurosis for a meager 1h 20 min. Overall, it was a great night, but for the casual fan it was easily overpriced. Perhaps if next time they took a risk at say, The Circus, they could bring the price down a bit. I would recommend seeing the bands themselves and I personally will surely check them both out next time they are in town.

TUSKA OPEN AIR – Festival Extras @ Suvilahti, Helsinki, 30.06-02.07.2017

Tuska Open Air crowd and festival area, Suvilahti 2017.
Photos by Jana Blomqvist.
Check out the galleries from day 1 HERE, day 2 HERE, and day 3 HERE.
Or read the full festival report HERE!

TUSKA OPEN AIR – Day 3 @ Suvilahti, Helsinki, 02.07.2017

Tuska Open Air Sunday @ Suvilahti, Helsinki, 2017.
Photos: Jana Blomqvist
Photos of Dirkschneider & Baroness to be added later.
Read the festival report HERE!
Check out the photos from day 1 HERE and day 2 HERE, and the Festival Extras HERE!

 

TUSKA OPEN AIR – Day 2 @ Suvilahti, Helsinki, 01.07.2017

Tuska Open Air Saturday @ Suvilahti, Helsinki, 2017.
Photos: Jana Blomqvist
More photos of Triptykon to be added later.
Read the festival report HERE!
Check out the photos from day 1 HERE, day 3 HERE, as well as the Festival Extras HERE!

TUSKA OPEN AIR – Day 1 @ Suvilahti, Helsinki, 30.06.2017

Tuska Open Air Friday @ Suvilahti, Helsinki, 2017.
Photos: Jana Blomqvist
Read the festival report HERE!
Check out photos from day 2 HERE and day 3 HERE, as well as the Festival Extras HERE!

TUSKA HEATSEEKER: MAN WITH A MISSION w/ PSYCHEWORK & ARION – Tavastia, Helsinki, 29.06.2017

Last year, Tuska Live decided to arrange a pre-party before the actual festival, and in 2017, they decided to keep on with the tradition. This year, on Thursday June 29th, 2017, the day before the festival, Tavastia welcomed Finnish bands Psychework and Arion, and Japanese Man with a Mission to get the audience ready for the next 3 days at Tuska Open Air.

Unfortunately I wouldn’t be able to attend the festival itself this year, so I was more than happy to hear that Heatseeker was arranged again, and that it had interesting bands performing.

Check out the full gallery HERE!

 

As the doors opened,  I could soon tell which of the bands had the most fans present: wherever I turned my head I’d see at least one person with a Man with a Mission shirt on them. This time around I had done my homework and listened to the band’s material beforehand, so I knew what the fuss was all about. But what I eventually experienced – well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The evening’s first act on stage was Psychework, a metal band founded by Antony Parviainen and J-V Hintikka in 2012. The band’s whole existence is quite an impressive story, since the inspiration behind the band and it’s music was Parviainen’s ordeal facing leukemia. The inspiration can be heard in Psychework’s debut album, The Dragon’s Year (2016). Thus, I was thrilled to hear what the songs would sound like live.

Psychework had a 30 minute slot, which meant that they had time to play a mere five songs. Luckily, they were good ones. The set started with the slower “Tear of the Phoenix”, which was my favorite song from their album. After that, the band picked up the speed with “Tide”, “Bullet With My Name”, and “Hand on Heart” – the latter of which was the favorite live track from this set of at least a few in our party.

As the set ended with the title track, “The Dragon’s Year”, at least two things were certain. First, Parviainen has an amazing voice and style of performing. Second, hearing these songs live made me reconsider my first impression of Psychework. Based on just listening to the album, I hadn’t been that convinced by the music. The album was alright, but I felt it was missing something. During Psychework’s gig, it turned out the thing the songs were missing was the live factor. The songs had so much more depth and strength when performed live. Needless to say, I’m very eager to see Psychework again in the future.

Setlist:
1. Tear of the Phoenix
2. Tide
3. Bullet With My Name
4. Hand on Heart
5. The Dragon’s Year

 

Next up on stage was Arion, whose newest single, “Unforgivable”, was released last year – which at this point starts to feel like it was ages ago. Luckily the band has published some updates on their social media about the progress of the recordings of their second album. Hopefully we’ll about a release date in the near future.

So, material from Last of Us was to be expected – and maybe in a way it was great to witness what was probably one of the last gigs before the band would really start playing their newer songs (once the new album is out, of course). And the songs from their debut are in no way bad, so I was ready to bare with my thirst for newer material and enjoy the evening. As well, a few of us have only seen these guys at Virgin Oil Co. with Dark Sarah in February and Entwine in last year’s May, both of which were sadly disappointing because of VOC’s notoriously bad sound, and thus, the excitement to see these guys in a good venue was palpable.

Arion started their set with “Out of the Ashes” and “I am the Storm”, which gave the gig a nice kickstart. It was also great to note that the little traits of stiffness and nervousness had disappeared, and the band looked relaxed and comfortable on stage.

As I stated in the beginning, there was no doubt about why the majority of the audience was at Tavastia that night – meaning that like Psychework, Arion had to make a real effort to get proper reactions from the crowd, but they handled it with relative comfort and ease, and Iivo Kaipainen did his utmost to impress us with his fantastic shredding on the guitar.

After playing older material like “You’re My Melody” and staff favorite “Last of Us”, Arion ended their set with the new singles “At the Break of Dawn” and the aforementioned “Unforgivable.” I’ve probably said this before, and I will say it again: I really, really hope I get to hear “At the Break of Dawn” live with Elize Ryd. Until then, I’ll settle for the playback.

Setlist:
1. Out of the Ashes
2. I Am the Storm
3. Lost
4. Seven
5. You’re My Melody
6. Last of Us
7. At the Break of Dawn
8. Unforgivable

Before getting familiar with Man with a Mission, my knowledge of Japanese music was mainly limited to whatever song was playing as the opening theme in Naruto. After looking up Man with a Mission from Spotify and listening to their EP, Dead End in Tokyo, I got fond of them, and quickly.

As the band wearing (fake) wolf heads came on stage, Tavastia was packed. Once Man with a Mission begun their set with “Evils Fall” and “When My Devil Rises”, the party was immediately on. Man with a Mission had performed last year in Kattilahalli at Tuska, so they already knew how to get the festival crowd going.

These guys are an interesting mix of rock, rap, and electronic music – and probably have traits of other genres as well. Amy called them “The Offspring meets Beastie Boys.” Whatever their genre is, all I can say is that for me, the mix works. In the beginning of the gig I was like any observer – just checking out the band on stage and the crowd around me, and smiling when I saw everyone having fun and from time to time raising their hands and making their hands look like claws (you know, like wolves… or something). But as songs like “Give it Away”, “Raise Your Flag”, and “Seven Deadly Sins” came, I found my self dancing along with the rest of the crowd. Still got some way to go before I’m ready to show my claws though.

Instead of just playing their own songs, Man with a Mission had a couple of aces up their sleeves. Around the middle of their set, the band left the stage and on the screen at the back of the stage, a film started rolling. The film told the band’s story – drawn in anime style, of course. It is hard to describe the video, but let’s just say that Jimi Hendrix and being frozen in Antarctica played a big part of it.

In addition to having a short movie about how Man with a Mission came to be, they also played Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Performing cover songs when you’ve got plenty of your own material always feels a bit odd, but in some cases, like this, it was a nice addition to the gig.

As the gig ended with encore songs “Dog Days” and “Emotions”, I couldn’t help but feel awe for what I had just experienced. Even though I’ve seen several good, even amazing gigs in my life, it is rare for me to be this surprised by a new acquaintance. And even though Psychework and Arion had delivered solid gigs earlier on that evening, nothing compared to the headliner. I left Tavastia with a happy grin on my face and Man with a Mission’s tunes playing in my head. Now all that’s left is to practice my claw-moves so that I’ll be ready for the next time Man with a Mission comes back to Finland.

Setlist:
1. Evils Fall
2. When My Devil Rises
3. Take What U Want
4. Database
5. Give it Away
6. Dead End in Tokyo
7. Get Off of My Way
8. Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana cover)
9. Raise Your Flag
10. Seven Deadly Sins
11. Fly Again

Encore:
12. Dog Days
13. Emotions

Text: Essi Nummi, Amy W. | Photos: Lene L.

TUSKA HEATSEEKER: MAN WITH A MISSION w/ PSYCHEWORK & ARION @ Tavastia, Helsinki, 29.06.2017

Man With A Mission with Psychework and Arion at Tavastia, Helsinki 2017.
Photos by Lene L.
Full gig report HERE!

PROVINSSI @ Törnävänsaari, Seinäjoki, 29.06.2017

Friday at Provinssi, 2017.
Photos by Feng Deng.

NUMMIROCK – Nummijärvi, Kauhajoki, 21-24.06.2017

With midsummer looming at the end of June, it was that time of the year again – the time to pack our tents and sleeping bags, cameras and notebooks, and enough food and beverages to last at least 4 days by the shores of Nummijärvi! Once again, we had the best of times in Nummirock 2017, and as usual, we have brought you a plethora of stories in the form of a festival report. See for yourself what Lene, Essi, Hiski, Eliza, and Janne have got for you this time!

Click the links for the galleries from days 1 & 2, day 3, day 4, and the Festival Extras!

 

Wednesday – Day 1
For the second year in a row, Nummirock started as early as Wednesday, and some of our crew arrived early enough to set up our camps and begin the extended midsummer weekend with some good music. You may call it overachieving, as we set out to see two of the three bands on Wednesday evening already, but as you will soon learn, it was well worth it. The theme for the evening was ‘something old, something new’, as we started out with doom metallers Kaunis Kuolematon, and a while later went to check out a veteran in death metal, Shade Empire.

Kaunis Kuolematon

Lene: Kaunis Kuolematon is a band I didn’t know much about before the gig – genre aside – and one I definitely needed to check out after the festival. The tent was already packed as we walked in, with a group of extra-psyched fans at the front, and as it turned out, for good reason. It’s easy to say that I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard (it wasn’t so easy to see the stage, being a vertically challenged person) – I wasn’t really expecting anything, even though I had heard the band getting plenty of praise from our reporters and general audience. I immediately loved both singers’ voices and I have to give kudos to the sound guy for pulling off such good sound in a tent. All-in-all, judging by that gig alone, I think Kaunis Kuolematon is the most interesting doom-ish band I’ve had the opportunity to stumble upon in a while – I actually had a hard time finding out why I hadn’t listened to them before. While mostly playing by the genre’s standards, they sounded quite fresh, and I’d warmly recommend checking them out in case you’re like me and fashionably late to this party.

Lene: Next up, we went for the ‘something old’ part of the evening, in more than one sense. Kuopio-based Shade Empire has been around since 1999, and I was a casual listener of their stuff some 7-8 years ago – as in, casual enough that I couldn’t name a song if I heard it now – so it was about time to catch up and finally see them live. The only real question I had afterwards was, why did I ever stop listening to them in the first place? They play perfectly decent melodic and dark death metal with a nice groove, and I have no real complaints on the live performance front either. This time it was also a good idea to venture inside the tent, as the atmosphere was crazy good, with a proper pit where the space allowed it. The sound was still somewhat okay for the tent stage, but at some point we started to wonder if the drums had been turned up a fair bit after we had arrived – the rhythm section seemed to overwhelm the rest, even at the edges of the tent. Nevertheless, Shade Empire certainly made me want to reacquaint myself with them, and left me giddy for their new release, Poetry of the Ill-Minded. On that positive note, we wandered back to the campsite, waiting for Thursday to dawn with more bands and shenanigans.

 

Thursday – Day 2
On the second day, we took it a little easier, checking out three bands in total. For some of us, Thursday was kickstarted by Psychework’s melodic metal by the windy lakeshore…

Psychework

Lene: As a nice contrast to the freezing wind from the lake, Psychework dosed us up with appropriately wild energy. It had been almost a year and a half since the first time I (or anyone) saw these guys live, and if they had played it a bit safe back then, there wasn’t the slightest trace of tentativeness in their performance this time. Singer Antony Parviainen took the small but eager audience with a firm grip right from the start, which is nothing out of the ordinary, but the sheer amount of enthusiasm he showed is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. The whole band seemed to have a great time on stage, and judging by one show alone, they look like they have found a steady feel-good line-up after some changes in their ranks. Setlist-wise, the crowd braving the cold were treated with a previously unreleased song, “Reflection Unknown”; not the first and likely not the last Psychework song that has made me long to see a proper pit at their gig one day. Here’s hoping we’ll get to hear the track on the upcoming album, and that we don’t have to wait for the pit much longer! It could just be me, but a little running around would probably have made the shore’s climate more bearable. But, to sum it up, Psychework was an enjoyable start for our second day, and only left us wondering if it’s difficult to mosh against the wind (it looked rather effortless, but who knows?).

Nicole

Lene: When we got back to the shore-side later to check out Nicole, it was still positively freezing, but at least some lovely sunshine graced us with its presence. And, lucky for the crowd packed in front of the Kaaos stage, it was warmer with company, especially if it consists largely of a wild circle pit. The show was bit of a special one, for a few reasons – it was the first time the band had played in 1.5 years, ending a small hiatus before their 20th anniversary tour this fall, but it was also the last show bassist Jonne Soidinaho would play with Nicole. Things didn’t get too sentimental though, which naturally suits the stout Southern Ostrobothnian people; let’s play this gig here, have a bit of a pit, say thanks and farewell, and we’re good eh? We had quite a good time, as the show rolled smoothly from start to finish without distractions and only a few shenanigans – mainly, someone from the front row climbing up and planting a sticker on guitarist-singer Ilkka Laitala’s instrument right at the start of “Kaaos”, jumping back, and everyone continuing like nothing just happened. To be fair, there’s unfortunately little to say about a solid, no-nonsense set like Nicole’s, though: it happens, it’s nice to see and hear, it’s delightfully uncomplicated, and sometimes you just need a good fix of straightforward metal, served in a straightforward manner.

For the last band we picked on Thursday, we went with a trustworthy folk favorite, Ensiferum.

Lene: To be honest, I haven’t been too excited to see Ensiferum for a few years, but the last slot on the Inferno stage on Nummi Thursday seems to hold some special magic. The feeling catches you easily, when you see dozens of warpaint-clad faces in the audience while the sun starts to sink down as much as it can before rising up again. The band started off with “From Afar”, and if that already didn’t get the audience excited, “Token of Time” at the very latest had everyone going nuts! The setlist was peppered with older favorites, along with songs from One Man Army, and while I’m not the biggest fan of the latest album, the choice of songs was no excuse to not have a great time. And how could you not, with “Stone Cold Metal”, “Ahti”, “In My Sword I Trust”, and “One More Magic Potion”, one after another? Also, it could be so that, with all good or great bands, you need a break from their shows every now and then to appreciate them more, and at that point in time, it suited me quite alright. And by the looks of it, Nummirock is always ready for a good old folk party by the lake. With boisterous singing and dancing to “Lai Lai Hei”, we took one more stroll by the shore before calling it a night.

 

Friday – Day 3
Essi: For some, Friday already marked the third day of Nummirock whereas some were just arriving to the festival. I confess that I was one of those latecomers who hadn’t been able to sort their business out so that they could’ve arrived earlier. Then again, I had a good night’s sleep in a proper bed, so who’s the real winner here? …Obviously, anyone who came to Nummirock earlier than me.

Whether it was one’s first, second, or third day of pure awesomeness at Nummijärvi, Friday meant that it was finally time to see the first band on Nummirock’s main stage. The first one up was Finnish Battle Beast, who was last seen at Nummirock in 2015 (playing in the exact same slot).

Battle Beast

Essi: Well, let’s just admit straight away that Battle Beast is not quite my cup of tea. I can’t really put my finger on it – maybe it’s the genre, the small splash of theatricality, or something else – but I just won’t find myself giving their albums a spin. That said, I do still enjoy seeing them live, thanks to their energy and attitude on stage – the band stays true to themselves and are clearly on a mission to entertain their audience. And… following the audience’s reactions and enjoying the atmosphere was exactly what I had planned to do throughout the gig. Battle Beast seemed to be the perfect start for Friday: the audience was abundant, considering most Nummi-goers were probably suffering from a hangover from the previous night, and were ready to have fun with the band. People got to warm up their necks and vocal cords with songs like “Straight to the Heart”, “Black Ninja”, and “Far From Heaven.” The emphasis was unsurprisingly on their newest album, Bringer of Pain, which was released last February. To sum it up, Battle Beast gave my Nummirock a fairly good start – still not a fan but neither am I a hater.

Jinjer

Essi: Next up on our list was Ukraine-based Jinjer. When I heard ‘Ukraine’ and ‘metal band’ in the same sentence, I couldn’t quite believe my ears at first. All the more the reason to head to the Inferno stage to see what all the fuss was about. I soon noticed that I was probably the only one at Nummirock that hadn’t heard about Jinjer before. As the band started playing, the crowd grew, and I soon realized the audience had pretty much doubled during the first three songs.

Jinjer went straight to my ‘top five gigs at this year’s Nummirock’ list. I loved their energy, and even more, I loved the vocal range of their singer, Tatiana Shmaylyuk. Women who can growl are still a rareish sight in the metal scene, so in that way, Jinjer was a fresh breeze in the otherwise male-dominated setting of Nummirock. Jinjer really got the crowd excited – and creative. At one point, instead of a moshpit, some of the crowd decided to sit down on the land and start rowing, because why not?

Jinjer

I wasn’t the only one who felt love in the air during the gig. Closer to the end of Jinjer’s set, the stage was briefly taken by a gentleman who told a story about his first date with his girlfriend and how they listened to Jinjer during that date. As you can guess, after telling this story, he popped the question and after cheering, the audience went quiet so the guy on stage could hear his girlfriend’s answer. Because Nummirock is a magical wonderland, the answer was obviously yes. Thus, a new engagement was formed, and after the crowd’s cheers, the band could go on and finish their set. Jinjer is returning to Finland in October with Arch Enemy, so if you missed the band at Nummirock, there’s a new chance right around the corner to check them out.

Swallow the Sun

Lene: While wandering back toward the main stage, we decided that it’s a given that Swallow the Sun’s visual side doesn’t meet its full potential in bright daylight, but at this point it’s almost a tradition to see them at Nummirock in the middle of the day, whilst basking in the sun. And, ironically enough, their set may have been the sunniest hour-and-some during this midsummer. But hey, who are we to complain? Armed with ice cream from the food stalls, we took a seat by the main stage and enjoyed the view. The set was kicked off with “Rooms and Shadows” from Songs from the North I, followed by two tracks from New Moon. The next piece, “Heartstrings Shattering”, was spoken with a heartfelt nod towards the late Aleah Stanbridge of Trees of Eternity, and her voice was later heard in “Labyrinth of London” as well. With an extensive repertoire like Swallow the Sun’s, there’s always something left off the set that you’d like to hear live, but Nummi Friday’s set was indeed a nicely built one; personally, I won’t get tired of hearing “Out of this Gloomy Light” and “Don’t Fall Asleep”, and I can’t recall the last time I have even heard “Psychopath’s Lair” live. And while Swallow the Sun’s shows rarely offer you something completely outside their familiar patterns, I will admit that I was more than delighted to catch them after some time (and would have happily gone to spend some quality moshing time with the front row during “Swallow”, if I hadn’t been occupied by ice cream).

S-tool

Lene: On our next musical pit stop by the Inferno stage, the new endeavor of some of the scene’s veterans, S-tool, gave us one of the most memorable shows from this year’s Nummi, and not exactly of their own volition. Due to technical difficulties, the show was cut short before the halfway point, as the sound disappeared entirely. The band and tech crew tried to locate and fix the problem for a good while, with little to no luck – at one point, something seemed to be getting through, and the band returned to the stage, but it was in vain, as the problems continued, and the audience gradually took off. On a more positive note, some devoted fans stayed to hang out, and drummer Aksu Hanttu proved to be the man of the hour, as he stayed behind his kit after realizing his mic was still working and started to chit-chat with the audience, and a moment later sang excerpts from various Finnish songs. What could have been a frustrated abandoning of the stage turned into an unfortunate but not entirely gloomy anecdote, and the rest of the band followed suit as singer Ville Laihiala climbed back on stage and made a few lewd gestures that were, naturally, greeted with applause. After some time and a bit of murky-humored banter, it was clear that the show wouldn’t continue that day, so the band thanked the crowd gracefully, and we took off back toward the main stage.

Raised Fist

Essi: Nummirock would be nothing without at least one Swedish band performing on the main stage. This year the delegate from our dear neighbors was Raised Fist, who were playing in Nummirock for the first time. I’d probably heard a song or two from Raised Fist back when I was 13 and my friend had raided her big brother’s album collection. The band is easy to recognize even if you wouldn’t know the songs, since singer Alexander Hagman has quite a distinctive voice and style. Raised Fist turned out to be a pleasant experience, great for listening and enjoying from a distance with a cold drink in hand. They had great energy, an enthusiastic audience, and guitarist Jimmy Tikkanen, who entertained the crowd by singing Finnish singer Irwin Goodman’s “Ei tippa tapa” [A drop won’t kill you]. So, all-in-all: 5/5, would recommend!

A rare occasion occurred with the next band, as we realized that we had most of our crew in the same place for once, waiting for Ember Falls’ gig in the tent. Of course, the moment had to be immortalized, as you can see from our Instagram page!

Ember Falls

Essi: I got to see Ember Falls last November when the band was opening for Pain at Nosturi. During that gig, I was convinced that this band was worth checking out again, and was glad to get a chance at Nummirock. Ember Falls performed on the OriGINal stage, which was the smallest stage inside a tent in the bar area. In my opinion, the band would have deserved at least the Kaaos stage, but the smaller stage did not make the gig any less great. Actually, the tent ended up having some perks as well – it had a club-like atmosphere, which suited Ember Falls well. It felt more like an intimate gathering or a small secret gig than just a normal gig in a summer festival. As the gig started, the tent was almost packed. With such an environment, the band could interact with the audience (and the audience could hand their drinks to the band members). The only thing I was worried about was the guys bumping to each other on the small stage.

The set was short but intense – the band played a nice range of songs from their debut album, Welcome to Ember Falls, which was released last February. I’m sure the band won over some new fans with their gig, so here’s hoping they’ll come back soon with another club tour.

DevilDriver

Essi: DevilDriver on the main stage was the last band on my list for Friday. To be honest, at that point my thoughts were less on the upcoming gig and more on the campsite where my friends and drinks were waiting. Even still, I was ready to give DevilDriver a chance. I recall seeing the band in Ilosaari back in 2010 and thinking back then that they were quite alright. However, I wouldn’t trust my memories (nor the musical taste of a 19-year-old, for that matter ), so it was as if I was seeing the band for the first time. Well, they sounded just like I had expected: American metal; meaning that even though the songs are quite good, the stage performance has a kick, and the audience is excited, I still feel like something is missing. So, DevilDriver was a perfect festival band – not that intriguing but good enough that I didn’t feel like I was wasting my time, nor would I feel bad for leaving in the middle of the gig to enjoy the rest of the night at the campsite.

Ajattara

Lene: Not all of us had abandoned the festival area after DevilDriver, though; as midnight had passed and the darkest hour of night was drawing closer, the crowd set foot toward the Inferno stage and the upcoming Ajattara show. Once again, the gorgeous nightless night painted the perfect backdrop for the primitive black metallers, and as predicted last year, the bigger Inferno stage suited them much better than the small Kaaos stage behind the trees. So, in that sense, the atmosphere didn’t suffer from the lack of blood or more theatrical garb. The audience certainly didn’t mind either – the crowd didn’t need much persuasion to jump on command. And this is by no means undervaluing the crowd; more like a round of applause to the spell the band manages to cast on everyone, time-after-time. Even if there was a hint of wavering in the overall confidence – the band played four songs from the new album, Lupaus, without much rehearsal beforehand – it didn’t come across to the audience, and the people revered Pasi Koskinen’s words as usual, even (or especially) during the moments of almost uncharacteristic enthusiasm. Aside from the new songs, the setlist included live favorites like “Naaras” and “Saatana palvoo meitä”, and we’re rather confident “Ave Satana” will join those ranks sooner rather than later, if the audience’s shouting is anything to go by. After wrapping things up with the largest pit this year (so far) in front of the Inferno stage to “Kunnes taivas meidät erottaa”, we were almost obliged to quote one of Koskinen’s speeches – for one reason or another: “Vittu jee, namaste!” feels like the most appropriate way to describe the late midsummer eve Ajattara show.

 

Saturday – Day 4
One of the best things about Nummirock is their tradition of having something not-so-heavy as Saturday’s first performer on the main stage. This year it was Eläkeläiset, who had been summoned to get the crowd going for one more day. Last time Eläkeläiset was seen at Nummirock was in 2013, so it was obviously about time they made another appearance.

Eläkeläiset

Essi: “I personally prefer seeing Eläkeläiset live at festivals, especially after you’ve stayed up way too late the previous night and are not quite ready for anything heavier. This time I enjoyed the gig further away from the stage, mainly because it was raining and I wanted some shelter. With Eläkeläiset, you always know beforehand what you’re going to get: humppa covers, humppajuna [humppa train] and some weird speeches between songs. And afterwards, you find yourself still humming “Humppaa tai kuole” and wondering what’s up with the raising of hands.

The dance party wasn’t exactly over after Eläkeläiset ended their set, as the crowd made their way to the shore for Korpiklaani’s folk metal bonanza.

Korpiklaani

Essi: When the line-up for Nummirock was announced, Korpiklaani was definitely one of the bands I was most excited to see. Even though my best folk metal days are over, I still enjoy some from time-to-time. With Korpiklaani, the thing that excites me the most is Jonne Järvelä’s voice and his shaman-like appearance. Their gigs are also always lots of fun since the band really knows how to get the crowd dancing. So, as songs like “Viinamäen mies”, “Pilli pajusta tehty”, and “Vodka” played, the crowd reacted with singing-along, dancing, and moshing. It might have been a chilly and rainy day, but after Korpiklaani’s set you couldn’t possibly feel cold.

Essi: The Netherlands should send Epica to the Eurovision Song Contest so that Europe can see ‘epic synthesizer guy’ Coen Janssen with his spinning synths AND curved synths.

Epica

…After this first thought about Epica, I could finally focus more on the gig. The band was performing at Nummirock for the first time, and based on how enthusiastically the crowd reacted, Epica had been very much longed-for. My personal reaction was somewhat milder… well, Simone Simons can sing. And she has probably the most perfect hair for moshing I’ve ever seen. And the synths were amazing. Apart from that, after the gig I didn’t really have any special engrams from it. If you are into symphonic metal, you’ll probably love them. Otherwise, they might not be for you.

Mokoma

Essi: Last year I missed Mokoma‘s traditional Nummi-gig since I was too busy holding my place in the front waiting for Children of Bodom. This year, I was determined to fix the situation, and went to the Inferno stage over 30 minutes in advance to ensure a place near the front row. This time, Mokoma had promised a speed metal set, and that they also delivered. “Kuollut, kuolleempi, kuollein”, “Sinä riität”, “Pohja on nähty”, “Saatanan kukko”, “Sinne missä aamu sarastaa”… my neck starts to hurt just listing these songs. It’s no surprise that Mokoma is one of Nummirock’s favorites. They are down-to-earth, interact with the audience, and look like they’re having the time of their lives on stage while performing. The audience is always ready to welcome the band back with open arms, so no wonder the guys on stage look so happy. This year, the band also made one fan’s long-time dream come true: it’s a tradition to see a sign that says “Viholliset [current year]” in Mokoma’s audience in Nummirock, and this year, at last, ‘Viholliset 2017’ became reality, when the song “Viholliset” was included in the set. Surely, the sign guy wasn’t the only one pleased with the outcome!

“Viholliset 2017”

Unfortunately, the misfortune that faced S-Tool, also hit Tuomo Saikkonen, whose guitar lost sound during the last song, “Sinne missä aamu sarastaa.” Saikkonen did what any more-or-less sensible person would do – threw his guitar away and concentrated on singing and moshing. And what happened to the poor guitar? Check Tuomo Saikkonen’s Instagram (warning: violence toward instruments). Despite the small hardship faced, the gig itself was over too quickly. It’s going to be exciting to hear what kind of special set the band has in store for us at next year’s Nummirock (because why wouldn’t they be there?).

Hiski: As a huge power metal fan, Rhapsody’s 20th Anniversary Farewell gig was without a question my most awaited show at this year’s Nummirock. And what a show it was! After the obligatory (epic, I might add) intros, Rhapsody started off with “Emerald Sword” with the force of a formidably-sized army. From that song forward, up until the very end, the band offered their audience a best-of setlist with their finest pieces of Italian cheese. The sound was bombastic, the playing was tight and with heaps of finesse, and Fabio Lione’s voice was as majestic as ever. It seemed like the pouring rain was just another element to their grandiose show.

Although Rhapsody did not play the whole Symphony of Enchanted Lands album as advertised in advance (or perhaps they meant the 13-minute title track, which was indeed performed in its entirety), I was thoroughly pleased with the gig. A truly worthy farewell show of (the majority of) the original lineup! Apparently I was not the only one satisfied with the concert, as the merchandise desk was crowded by people wanting to buy one of the exclusive tour shirts, all of them with shiny eyes and big smiles on their faces.

This year’s headliner needs no introduction: Finnish Insomnium was the perfect choice for Saturday’s final band on the main stage. Even though it was cold and raining, plenty of people had left their possibly warm tents and cold drinks behind and arrived at midnight to see and hear Insomnium’s dark tunes.

Insomnium

Essi: In my opinion, Insomnium‘s music is very atmospheric, ethereal even. The dark summer night, alongside the rain and wind, formed a perfect setting for Insomnium’s set. And, as Lene mentioned later on, if there ever was the perfect timing for pouring rain at any show, it would be during “The Gale.” Speaking of which, the setlist was somewhat perfect: after playing the whole of Winter’s Gate, the rest of the show featured tracks like “Ephemeral”, “Promethean song”, “Only One Who Waits”, and “While We Sleep”, just to name few. The music, the weather, the dark night, the atmosphere – I’m finding it hard to properly describe what the gig was like, except that it was one of a kind.

 

After piecing our property, memories, and selves back together and driving back home, it was a good time to think about how the midsummer turned out in the big picture. Firstly, the selection of bands was enjoyable, as per usual, but at this point that’s pretty much a given. What else did we find positive, then? Well, someone may have heard our last year’s bemoaning of the lack of a more visible commemoration of their 30th anniversary and side events, and this year the festival was proudly presenting us with a cavalcade of goodies, from burlesque to a Frisbee golf tournament, and from a new café to characters from the upcoming horror movie, Backwood Madness, wandering around the festival area. Nothing overwhelming, very well-communicated, and well-done in good Nummi spirit, we wholeheartedly support this direction – even though, for various reasons, we somehow managed to miss all of the activities. What we found most disappointing was the narrower selection of food options, and some of them were sold out on the second or third day already. We especially mourn the absence of Black Dahlia Burger, but in general, the variety and availability was clearly downgraded a bit from usual. Along with that, we’d still like to see the booze area by the shore return to its 2015 state, and allow the minors back in the front row of the Kaaos stage – it may not be a huge thing, but can have a positive effect on the younger generation of Nummi-goers. What we’re still undecided on is the new VIP area; on one hand, it’s a great invention as it gives some more peace to the actual backstage and caters to the part of the audience who want something a little extra, but on the other, it never seemed to be in much use, and cut the traditional hangout area on the right side of the main stage out of everyone else’s use. Whether or not it will stay and pay off its place in the Nummi landscape remains to be seen.

 

To sum it up, we would collectively like to thank the festival staff, bands, and fellow festival-goers for yet another unforgettable midsummer in Nummijärvi. Always a pleasure, and you’ll surely see us again next year!

Text: Essi Nummi, Lene L. | Photos: Eliza Rask, Lene L., Janne Puronen

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Markus “Rabapagan” Teeäär, 2017

While Finland has some of the most famous folk and pagan metal bands in the world, there are a few gems to be found in other countries, such as our neighbors to the south in Estonia. The most well-known Estonia folk metal band is easily none other than Metsätoll, and this week we have the playlist of Markus “Rabapagan” Teeäär’s life for you!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
Maurice Ravel -Bolero.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
Faith No More – “Zombie Eaters”

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Prodigy – “Poison”; Obituary – “Infected”

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
W.A.S.P – “Jack Action”; KISS – “King of the Mountain”

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
Killing Joke – “European Super State”

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Lana Del Ray – “West Coast”

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

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

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Samael – “Rain”

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Rotting Christ – “Sleep of the Angels”; Leaether Strip – “Mortal Thoughts”; Gunnar Graps – “Onu Volli”

 

Check out our gallery from their last show in Helsinki HERE!

Or listen to their music on Spotify!

NUMMIROCK – Festival Extras @ Nummijärvi, Kauhajoki, 21-24.06.2017

Festival extras from Nummirock 2017.
Photos by Eliza Rask, Lene L., and Janne Puronen.
Read the festival report HERE tomorrow.
Check out days 1 & 2 HERE, day 3 HERE, and day 4 HERE.

NUMMIROCK – Day 4 @ Nummijärvi, Kauhajoki, 24.06.2017

Day 4 of Nummirock 2017.
Photos by Eliza Rask, Lene L., and Janne Puronen.
Festival report coming soon!
Check out day 1 and 2 HERE and day 3 HERE; Festival Extras are coming tomorrow!

NUMMIROCK – Day 3 @ Nummijärvi, Kauhajoki, 23.06.2017

Day 3 of Nummirock 2017.
Photos by Eliza Rask, Lene L., and Janne Puronen.
Festival report coming soon!
Check out day 1 & 2 HERE, day 4 HERE and the Festival Extras the day after!

NUMMIROCK – Day 1 & 2 @ Nummijärvi, Kauhajoki, 21-22.06.2017

Days 1 and 2 of Nummirock 2017.
Photos by Eliza Rask, Lene L., and Janne Puronen.
Festival report coming soon!
Check out day 3 HERE and day 4 HERE, as well as the Festival Extras tomorrow!

(2017) Cellar Darling – This is the Sound

Artist: Cellar Darling
Album: This is the Sound
Release: 30.06.2017
Label: Nuclear Blast

 

Let me be frank – I’ve been terrified to listen to this album. I really like Cellar Darling. I like Anna Murphy, I like Ivo Henzi, and I like Merlin Sutter. I appreciate their honesty, their straightforwardness, their passion, their heart, their soul, and I want more than anything to like their music. However, their first two releases, “Challenge” and “Fire, Wind, and Earth”, didn’t quite grasp me the way I had hoped. I’m also feeling like the chances of me being crucified by fans who will love their music simply because they love the people who make it is pretty high (though I am so glad to know that these guys have such loyal and dedicated fans before their album has already been released).

However, I also don’t want to judge an album by two songs, nor say that I don’t like the album before I’ve given it an honest-to-goodness chance. So I’ve put it on and listened to it a few times to figure out my overall impression of what these three lovely people are offering the music world.

Be sure to read our interview with these guys over HERE!

 

The album starts off very strongly with “Avalanche”, which has an eerie and moving intro, with some of the most interesting use of hurdy-gurdy that I’ve ever heard. Murphy’s creative way of singing the word ‘avalanche’ over and over manages to create a certain ambiance that I find vastly pleasing. I could certainly consider this for the most chilling song of 2017.

The album continues with another single that you’ve already likely heard, “Black Moon”, which is one of my favorites on the album as one of the heaviest songs, with it’s catchy and powerful chorus. Murphy again proves to be nicely diverse vocally, and I like her backing chants quite a lot.

Another single follows yet again in the form of “Challenge” – a song about rejecting complacency and always fighting forwards and challenging oneself. I appreciate this song’s message quite a lot, and this song gets stuck in my head like no other… unfortunately, while the lyrics are good, I find this song on the whole to be a bit boring, or perhaps repetitive. Credit where due though, the use of strings and hurdy-gurdy work very well in this, and I can definitely see why people like it so much.

“Hullabaloo” has a heavier intro, with a lot going on during the chorus – you can see the complexity of the writing shining in this one. The musical interludes are definitely fun, and I particularly like what’s going on around 2:45. A piano introduces “Six Days”, opening softly and darkly, with some cool guitar work, though the pianos take center stage in this track. Meanwhile, “The Hermit” picks up the pace and has a bright, cheeriness to it musically. “Water” changes the pace yet again, which I find somewhere between the mystical prowess of Ayreon and old classics like Led Zeppelin. It doesn’t last long though, almost acting as an intro or interlude before the heavier and more energetic “Fire, Wind, & Earth”, which I have to admit is growing on me a little at this point.

“Rebels” begins to shine when the hurdy-gurdy comes in, blending nicely with the guitars at the 1:00 point. “Under the Oak Tree” sounds almost like an alternative rock song, which is a nice switch-up. The song feels quite familiar stylistically, though I haven’t been able to pinpoint what it reminds me of. “High Above These Crowns” starts out sounding a lot like an outro track, with gentle backing music that emphasizes the vocals, which are clearly the focal (aural?) point to start out with. Even when the music kicks in, the song feels rather final or conclusive.

“Starcrusher” is another fun, upbeat song. Murphy’s deeper vocals kick things off, and this song actually starts to feel like a repetition of a few other songs on the album, making me wonder if there are a few too many songs on the album at this point – this is already track 12 after all. “Hedonia”, on the other hand, is the longest song on the album, clocking in at over 7 minutes, and Murphy is singing in another language that I’m afraid I don’t recognize. This is one of the coolest songs on the album again, picking up in a really interesting and fun way, and it definitely stands out as one of the more unusual songs on the album. “Redemption” again is feeling a bit like other songs we’ve already heard, and feels a bit less conclusive as an album closer than songs like “High Above These Crowns”, but it does end the album on a nice note.

 

In the end, this album is actually pretty good. It’s nice to put on in the background, and I’ll never groan if anyone I’m hanging out with wants to listen to it, that’s for sure. It has ups and downs, high points and points where you feel like you’ve heard a song already. Murphy’s voice is diverse and unusual, and while I adore her style, I might have hoped for more of her higher singing and less of the lower, deeper parts, that aren’t quite as melodic. The album is a bit on the longish side – it could be fine-tuned a bit, maybe extending some shorter songs, or combining a few that sound essentially the same. If straight-up heavy metal is what you were hoping for, this album will not satisfy that urge, but if you like hints of folk, alternative, rock, and metal blended together, it should appeal to you, as it does have very diverse influences. All-in-all, if songs like “Challenge” appealed to you from the get-go, I think you’ll really enjoy this, but as for myself, I’m already interested to see what their second or third albums are going to be like, now that they’re officially in the swing of things.

Rating: 8/10, 4 stars

Tracklist:
1. Avalanche
2. Black Moon
3. Challenge
4. Hullaballoo
5. Six Days
6. The Hermit
7. Water
8. Fire, Wind, & Earth
9. Rebels
10. Under the Oak Tree
11. High Above These Crowns
12. Starcrusher
13. Hedonia
14. Redemption

Jolly Roger Festival to kick off in Vienna!

Blue Moon Entertainment proudly introduce a new festival in Vienna, which will kick off for the first time on 02.08.2017. Alongside Amon Amarth, the festival will host Trivium, BelphegorThe Hirsch Effekt, Epsilon, Underside, and Cannonball Ride!

Line up

Swedish heavy metal vikings Amon Amarth announced their comeback in 2017 for a European tour for their newest album, Jomsviking. “We are having so much fun on our current tour that we were determined to come back!” We can safely say that a fantastic metal show – full of beer drinking, no less – is guaranteed. “Get all warmed up, prepare to fight, plunder, and raising your horns! RAISE YOUR HORNS!”

The primordial force of US thrash metal heroes Trivium is legendary. Their intense gigs are reckoned as some of the best out there. With their latest release, Silence in the Snow, Trivium have reinvented themselves anew. Frontman Matt Heafy has clearly shown once again that borders of genres are nonexistent for the aces in the field. Their latest tour brought Heafy and his comrades, Corey Beaulieu (vocals, guitar), Paolo Gregoletto (bass), and new drummer Paul Wandtke around the globe twice. Despite the tight schedule, the band found some time to compose new material for their upcoming album. With a pinch of luck, Trivium might just serve us some new songs at Jolly Roger Festival!

For Belphegor, masters of diabolical death/black metal in Austria, “tits, death, and devil” are to the band like, “amen at the end of a prayer” and proved their position with the masterpiece Conjuring the Dead. This was an opus, on which the band was possessed and more brutish than ever. Those ten compositions will release a hitherto unknown degree of brutality to mankind. The sound collages melodic monstrosity, powerful and violent sounds, with razorsharp precision execution. In your face, destructive axe attacks, machine gun -powerful drums, and vo-kills so sick that they put everything that has hitherto been present in the shade!

The Hirsch Effekt are back live with their new album, Eskapist. The trio from Hannover set new boundaries and used their new material to create an even more colorful palette of musical genres. The core of their music is still metal; however, the band immerses themselves in other subgenres like progressive-, tech-, black- and even sludge metal. Also, their orchestral and electronic side can be found in their compositions as new renditions. That creates a recipe for an energetic live show of new material and an anthology of previous creative efforts.

Exactly on the band’s 10-year anniversary, Epsilon went through a personal break: guitarist Schmidi (Defiled Utopia) and drummer Urge (Bastard Peels) breathed some new ideas into the quintet. After various live performances (among others) with Obituary, Benediction, with the highlight being Wacken Open Air 2012, eleven new songs were crafted, mostly by both guitarists and the drummer.

Underside formed in 2010, following the country’s civil war that lasted almost a decade and almost broke Nepal. They managed to play outside Kathmandu and carry their music across the country and after that, scored a tour in India, Europe, and Australia. In 2011, they started the Silence festival in Kathmandu, and it has now become the biggest metal festival in India and Nepal, attracting 4000 metalheads a year and bands like Behemoth, Sikth, The Algorithm, and Vader. After the earthquake in 2015, where more than 8000 people were killed and the city was in shambles, the festival had to be put to a rest. The band then launched the charity campaign “Metal for Nepal” – 18 shows in 4 countries helped to raise £12,000. As well, the show also managed to raise enough money to rebuild a school. As tough as nails, these guys are a blast! So you gotta see them on the 2nd of August at Jolly Roger Festival in Vienna.

Cannonball Ride, a modern metal bulldozer from domestic Ungenach near Vöcklabruck kept waltzing for more than 8 years on both Austrian and neighboring countries’ stages. After 2 EPs from (subsequently) 2009 (Breaking Walls and Building Bridges) and 2011 (Enchant the Flame and Let it Breathe) they got to release a full-length album in 2014 (Emerge&See). The latter was able to provide single-chart entry for the 5-person demolition squad. Cannonball Ride is still well-known in the brutal metal art field, always as melodic as ever and always keeping eye on the atmospheric elements. Get ready for your very own ride on a cannonball!

You can get the tickets on  www.myticket.at, www.oeticket.com, www.wien-ticket.at and at most well-known pre-sales locations from 44,80€.

August 2nd, 2017
Arena Wien, Open Air
Baumgasse 80, 1030
Doors open: 14:00
www.facebook.com/jollyroger.arrr

Text provided by promoter (Blue Moon Entertainment)

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Aleksi Holma (Creinium), 2017

Helsinki-based hybrid metal troupe Creinium have worked on their thing since 2012, and despite some heavy turbulence in the line-up, they successfully released their first full-length album, Hallucinosis, last summer. Their brand of technical and progressive metal is likely to tickle the fancy of those who enjoy Wintersun, Shade Empire, Dimmu Borgir, Keep of Kalessin, or Wolfheart, for example. With new vocalist Mika Tönning (ex-Catamenia) and guitarists Tom Aho and Valeri Tsatsishvili on board, Creinium is on its way to larger recognition. The mastermind behind their dystopian world, drummer Aleksi Holma, was willing to share the playlist of his life with us.

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
I guess it’s probably A*Teens – “Mamma Mia” from a collection CD called Hits for Kids. It was probably the first CD our parents complied to buy.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
Darude – “Sandstorm.” The song was everywhere when it was released and I, like many others, liked it a lot. I still do.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Daylight Dies – “Last Alone.” Me and my newly wedded wife used to listen to the album Lost to the Living in high school, when trying to wake up on a couch in the school lobby before the first lessons. We actually played the song during our wedding ceremony too. The whole album brings back a lot of memories. I just happened to listen to the album while returning home from visiting her place the very first time. It was a beautiful clear May evening, and the album always brings memories from that evening even now, 7 years later.

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
Nightwish – “Nemo.” I heard the song on some mainstream radio channel, and after its release the song was also everywhere, like “Sandstorm.” I borrowed the album, Once, from my friend and managed to crack the front cover (sorry, Eva!) which had the Nightwish logo embedded in silver… I then burned the album on a CD and listened to it more than I’ve ever listened to any other album since. Nowadays I don’t hold Nightwish in such high regard, but some of the songs from that album still kick ass – “Dark Chest of Wonders”, for example.

Nemo was actually the first song we rehearsed with my brother and our friend – the group that later became Path of Annihilation.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
“Careless Whisper” – the annoying saxophone part. Don’t even know original the artist… And with it I have this vision of the sexy sax man playing the melody in a mall or something. If you haven’t seen the video, you should (NOT!) check it out:

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Hmm, what should I say? I’m not too shy about my guilty pleasures, really. But I guess the song that stands out the most and I actually find good is Sash! – “Ecuador.” Not that I’d actively listen to it, but when I happen to hear it somewhere, I enjoy it.

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Darude – Before the Storm. I remember that it cost like 120 Finnish markka [marks]. And I think I bought it from Anttila, which by the way went bankrupt like last week. Nostalgic!

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Any Shape of Despair song. Although I’d swap the hot beverage for a huge glass of red wine. The music of Shape of Despair is so depressing, yet soothing and comforting. I actually have a playlist for daytime sleeping which consists mostly of Shape of Despair. It was quite handy in the army, because I could take a nap during the day with earphones and the music muffling all the noise.

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Infected Mushroom – “Vicious Delicious.” That’s a song with some kickass bass and it also contains the best rising and climax ever. If only I had a decent set of speakers in my car, not to mention some kind of noise reduction. But what can you expect from a 22-year-old car? Still love it though. Good earphones will suffice.

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Shape of Despair – “Night’s Dew.” That song would probably have a fitting atmosphere for the occasion. Also I wouldn’t mind if there’d be some grotesque death metal in my funeral.

 

Check out the new video for “Prometheus Through Immolation” here:

Or the video for “Project Utopia” here:

Or check out their 2016 debut album on Spotify:

(2017) Tuesday the Sky: Drift (English)

Artist: Tuesday the Sky
Album: Drift
Release: 30.06.2017
Label: InsideOut

 

It’s no secret that Jim Matheos is one of my favorite musicians. As the captain of progressive metal pioneers Fates Warning and the other half of the OSI duo, this American guitarist has crafted an impressive body of work, on top of which he’s made three solo albums and worked with ex-Fates Warning singer John Arch in Arch/Matheos. Tuesday the Sky is yet another addition to the ever-creative man’s CV; an instrumental rock outfit expanding on what was originally meant to be just a Fates Warning bonus track.

 

According to Matheos, the songs typically started with him experimenting with guitar effects and then coming up with musical ideas, rather than the other way round. The album should indeed tickle the fancy of guitarists and sound geeks: from the cool tremolo of “Far and Away” to the mysterious tones of “Dyatlov Pass,” Matheos masters the use of soundscapes. To give a brief description of the music on Drift, I’d say it’s like post-rock, except not boring. The drummer on the album is Lloyd Hanney of God is an Astronaut, which makes these genre comparisons even more inevitable. I’ve tried giving a chance to bands like Sigur Ros, but my general problem with post-rock is that the songs often seem to take an eternity to build up. Tuesday the Sky avoids this pitfall, as no song on the album grinds on and on endlessly – the 4-7-minute length within which the songs stay really is the sweet spot for this kind of music. The almost-self-titled track, “Today the Sky”, is a good flagship for what the album is all about, as the song grows and blooms gracefully from the quiet beginning like the prettiest flowers. “It Comes in Waves” is the absolute gem here, moving effortlessly from light to melancholy just like a day, from a sunny noon to a sunset. “Kite” should warm the hearts of shoegaze listeners (including yours truly), and the way the song maintains its beauty even during the sudden surge of noisy distortion at the end is incredible.

It’s cool how Drift covers plenty of new ground, yet at the same time you can hear Matheos’ mark all over the compositions and playing. A leopard can’t change its spots: “Dyatlov Pass” gets rather metallic and Fates Warning-reminiscent towards the end (maybe this was the song that got everything started?), the glitchy vocals (courtesy of Anna-Lynne Williams, who also lends her wordless singing to the serene “Westerlies”) on “Vortex Street” must’ve been influenced by Matheos’ OSI past, and “Roger Gordo” takes advantage of spoken word samples like both of the aforementioned bands have. Speaking of that, Matheos’ OSI collaborator – another hero of mine – Kevin Moore only appears on two tracks, although the project’s name is based on his obscure demo track “Wednesday the Sky.” Regardless, you can hear Moore’s musical fingerprints on these songs, as “It Comes in Waves” features his signature Rhodes, and the electronic sounds of the title-track are also typical of him. Although sadly new OSI doesn’t seem to be anywhere on the horizon at the moment, it’s comforting that the pair is still collaborating actively, since Matheos has also contributed some guitar to Moore’s new Chroma Key material.

 

The only weakness of Drift is that the album is quite front-loaded, as the best songs are in the first half. Don’t get me wrong – a track like “The Rowing Endeth” is good, but just gets overshadowed by the greatness of what’s come before it. That said, the soundscapes are fascinating, and the moods are varied enough to hold your interest – bright and warm, dark and haunting, organic and electronic. As someone who’s mainly a fan of music with vocals, I have to admit I’m not sure Drift will be on heavy rotation in my headphones, but it’s a really good record in its own right and absolutely worth your time if you’ve enjoyed Matheos’ previous work or atmospheric instrumental rock in general.

Rating: 8/10, 4 stars

Tracklist:
1. Today the Sky
2. Kite
3. Vortex Street
4. It Comes in Waves
5. Dyatlov Pass
6. Far and Away
7. Westerlies
8. Roger Gordo
9. The Rowing Endeth
10. Drift

(2017) Tuesday the Sky: Drift (suomeksi)

Artisti: Tuesday the Sky
Albumi: Drift
Julkaisupäivä: 30.06.2017
Levy-yhtiö: InsideOut

 

Ei ole mikään salaisuus, että Jim Matheos on yksi suosikkimuusikoistani. Progemetallipioneeri Fates Warningin kipparina ja OSI-duon toisena puoliskona amerikkalaiskitaristi on luonut vaikuttavan tuotannon, jonka lisäksi hän on tehnyt kolme soololevyä ja yhteistyötä entisen Fates Warning -solisti John Archin kanssa Arch/Matheosissa. Tuesday the Sky on jälleen yksi lisäys tuotteliaan miehen cv:hen; instrumentaalinen rock-projekti, joka sai alkusysäyksensä alun perin Fates Warningin bonusraidaksi tarkoitetusta kappaleesta.

 

Matheosin mukaan kappaleet saivat tyypillisesti alkunsa kitaraefektikokeiluilla ennen varsinaisen musiikin säveltämistä, eli päinvastoin kuin perinteisellä menetelmällä. Albumin luulisikin hivelevän kitaristien ja kamarunkkarien korvia, sillä Matheos taitaa äänimaisemien luonnin “Far and Awayn” jännistä tremoloista “Dyatlov Passin” salamyhkäisiin soundeihin. Kuvaillakseni musiikkia lyhyesti, sanoisin sen olevan kuin post-rockia, mutta ilman tylsyyttä. Albumilla soittaa rumpuja God Is an Astronautin Lloyd Hanney, mikä tekee genrevertailusta vielä välttämättömämpää. Olen yrittänyt kuunnella Sigur Rosin kaltaisia bändejä, mutta yleisenä ongelmana post-rockissa näen sen, että kappaleilla kestää ikuisuus päästä vauhtiin. Tuesday the Sky välttää tämän sudenkuopan, sillä yksikään kappale ei jauha paikallaan loputtomiin – 4-7 minuutin pituus, jonka sisällä biisit pysyvät, on optimaalinen kesto tällaisessa musiikissa. Melkein bändin mukaan nimetty “Today the Sky” on oiva lippulaiva levylle, kappale kun kasvaa ja puhkeaa loistoon kuin kauneimmat kukat. “It Comes in Waves” on ehdotonta voittaja-ainesta, liikkuen vaivattomasti valosta melankoliaan kuin keskipäivä auringonlaskuun konsanaan. “Kite” lämmittänee kenkiintuijottelun ystäviä (joihin myös allekirjoittanut lukeutuu), ja tapa, jolla biisi säilyttää kauneutensa jopa lopun äkillisen säröpurkauksen aikana, on ihmeellinen.

On jännä, miten Drift hiihtää uusia musiikillisia latuja, mutta samanaikaisesti Matheosin kädenjälki kuuluu vankasti sävellyksissä ja soitossa. Koira ei karvoistaan pääse: “Dyatlov Pass” äityy melko metalliseksi ja fateswarningmaiseksi loppua kohti (kenties tästä kappaleesta kaikki sai alkunsa?), “Vortex Streetin” pätkivään lauluun (josta vastaava Anna-Lynne Williams lainaa sanatonta lauluaan myös seesteiseen “Westerliesiin”) on varmasti vaikuttanut Matheosin OSI-menneisyys, ja “Roger Gordo” hyödyntää molemman edellä mainitun yhtyeen tavoin puhesampleja. Siitä puheen ollen, Matheosin OSI-kumppani – toinen sankarini – Kevin Moore esiintyy vain kahdessa kappaleessa, vaikka projektin nimi pohjautuu hänen demobiisiinsä “Wednesday the Sky”. Mooren näpit ovat kuitenkin vahvasti pelissä näissä kappaleissa, sillä “It Comes in Wavesissa” kuullaan hänen tavaramerkki-Rhodesiaan, ja nimibiisin elektroniikka on myös hänelle tyypillistä. Vaikka valitettavasti uutta OSI:ta ei liene juuri nyt näköpiirissä, on lohduttavaa että parivaljakko työskentelee yhä säännöllisesti yhdessä, sillä Matheosin kitarointia kuullaan myös Mooren tuoreessa Chroma Key -materiaalissa.

 

Driftin ainut heikkous on se, että parhaat kappaleet on sijoitettu levyn alkupuolelle. Vaikka esimerkiksi “The Row Endeth” on sinänsä hyvä, se jää hieman jo sitä ennen kuullun mahtavuuden varjoon. Levyn äänimaisemat ovat kuitenkin upeita ja kappalemateriaali ja sen tunnelmat riittävän vaihtelevia – löytyy niin kirkasta ja lämmintä, synkeää ja aavemaista kuin orgaanista ja elektronista. Pääasiallisesti lauletun musiikin ystävänä on pakko myöntää etten ole varma, päätyykö Drift tehosoittoon kuulokkeissani, mutta se on erittäin onnistunut teos omassa genressään ja ehdottomasti tutustumisen arvoinen niille, jotka pitävät ennestään Fates Warningista ja OSI:sta tai ylipäätään maalailevasta instrumentaalirockista.

Arvosana: 8/10, 4 tähteä

Kappalelista:
1. Today the Sky
2. Kite
3. Vortex Street
4. It Comes in Waves
5. Dyatlov Pass
6. Far and Away
7. Westerlies
8. Roger Gordo
9. The Rowing Endeth
10. Drift

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Nils Nordling (Silver Bullet, ex-Dreamtale), 2017

Nils Nordling might not be a familiar name to you, unless, perhaps, you’ve listened to a lot of Dreamtale over a decade ago. Norling sang vocals for Dreamtale from 2005-2007, but these days he’s known for a different band: Silver Bullet. We’ve already heard from Silver Bullet’s lead guitarist, Hannes Horma, so today we have the playlist of Nils’ life for you!

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
That must be either Boney M’s “River of Babylon” or Abba’s “Waterloo.” I remember that my father used to play these songs on road trips to our grandparents’ home in Porvoo when I was just a kid.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
This is a hard one. There are so many songs that mattered and made a huge impact on me. I remember when I was 10 or something and I got in to punk rock for awhile. There were a lot of tunes that I’ve liked but what was the first song that I’ve truly loved? Hmm.. Maybe it was a Finnish punk artist called Pelle Miljoona and a song called “Moottoritie on kuuma.”

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
In 1984 when W.A.S.P. released their self-titled first album, it hit me like a ton of lead. The album opener, “I Wanna Be Somebody” is of course a classic nowadays, but back then to a teenager, it was a whole new way to travel, and I’ve traveled that same road ever since.

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
This is easy. Without any question I must say that Thin Lizzy’s Chinatown album entirely and especially a song called “We Will Be Strong.” I was in a summer camp back in the days and lying in my bed, when my roommate put this album on a cassette player. It struck me immediately. I begged him to record a copy for me as well. Afterwards we became friends and he introduced me to the world of heavy rock and metal. Bands like Iron Maiden, Saxon, Judas Priest, Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep, Black Sabbath, etc.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
Again this is a hard one. I listen hard rock, classic heavy rock, progressive- and heavy metal music daily and pretty much all the time. It’s not once or twice per a day, when I caught myself singing some song while listening to my Spotify list on headphones, when I’m out to walking my dog. I have to say yet, in reference to your question, Pride of Lion’s “Silent Music.” That’s one catchy motherfucker.

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
I don’t know which is more shameful to admit, that I’m a huge fan of AOR and hard rock music or that I’ve actually liked some of the nu-metal bands in 1990s.

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Virgin Steele – Self titled (1982)

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
There is not such a song. What is the matter with you?;-)

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Dream Evil – “The Book of Heavy Metal” is a very good choice indeed. Yet again, it depends on what mood I’m in. Anything from Ronnie James Dio and Jorn Lande works as well.

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
I’m pretty sure that my funeral song hasn’t been composed yet. It could be one of my own written pieces or then again, maybe not. If I had to pick one song that someone else has written, I think in that case it would be Kamelot’s “House on the Hill.”

Check out Silver Bullet on Spotify here:

SIDEWAYS FESTIVAL @ Suvilahti, Helsinki, 09-10.06.2017

FullSteam’s Sideways Festival at Suvilahti, 2017, with crowd extras.
Photos by Feng Deng.

ROTTING CHRIST w/ BLOODTHIRST & SHODAN @ Firlej, Wrocław, 10.06.2017

Rotting Christ in club Firlej in Wrocław, 2017, with Shodan and Bloodthirst.
Photos by Maria Sawicka.

(2007) Sonata Arctica: Unia

Artist: Sonata Arctica
Album: Unia
Released: 23.05.2007
Label: Nuclear Blast

 

Major stylistic shifts are often frowned upon in the metal scene. Sonata Arctica got to experience this first-hand in 2007 upon the release of their fifth album, Unia, which was a departure from their power metal roots and a leap into a more ambitious and complex direction. After 2 years of heavy touring in support of the preceding album, Reckoning Night (2004), frontman and songwriter Tony Kakko was sick and tired of up-tempo and ultra-melodic songs and felt that making a radical change would be the only way for the band to survive, and the rest of the members agreed to make a different album. While various people – including Kakko himself – have named Unia the band’s finest hour, after 10 years it still seems to be a divisive record among the fans, and the split with guitarist and founding member Jani Liimatainen that took place a couple of months after the album’s release has only fuelled the ‘old vs. new’ arguments. Unia started a chapter that some could not get behind, but for others it only marked the beginning of their musical journey with Sonata Arctica – I belong to the latter group.

Listen along if you like:

 

Unia was my first Sonata album back in early 2008 – having heard “Paid in Full” on the radio and liked it, I decided to shell out some cash to buy the record. After my first listen, I was weirded out, yet intrigued, as I’d never heard of progressive music before, so the notion of not being able to recall what each song had sounded like was new to me. At first the only tracks I ‘got’ were the first two – “In Black and White” and the aforementioned “Paid in Full” – but something about the album fascinated me and drew me in, and after multiple listens Unia slowly but surely started to open up to me.

Kicking off the game with the two catchiest and most traditional Sonata songs may be misleading, but there are some links to the past to be found on other tunes as well, either lyrical or musical. “Caleb” – possibly my favorite SA song ever – is a prologue to the stalker saga, the previous parts of which included “The End of This Chapter” and “Don’t Say a Word.” The hard-hitting farewell message to Liimatainen, “It Won’t Fade” – another all-time favorite – continues the canon of wolf songs, which the band has had on almost every album. “Under Your Tree,” on the other hand, is a classic Sonata ballad in vein of “The Misery”, while “The Harvest” is just as fast as some of SA’s previous double-kick anthems, albeit more aggressive, and shifts in and out of a lighter acoustic interlude effortlessly – a testament to the band’s genius. “Good Enough Is Good Enough”, however, is a total departure from the Sonata sound, as the only instrumentation comes from strings and piano, and the cool-as-hell “Fly with the Black Swan” plays with interesting and complex rhythms, which you sadly don’t hear too often in the band’s music.

While relistening to Unia recently, it struck me that Kakko took his skills as a musical and lyrical storyteller to the next level on the album. The prime example of this is the horribly named but brilliant and adventurous “My Dream’s But a Drop of Fuel for a Nightmare,” which navigates through various moods, enhanced by strings, as the narrator falls asleep and experiences all kinds of bad omens. The way “Under Your Tree” describes the loss of a pet (or child?) by going through quiet melancholy, aching grief, and finally an attempt to let go is moving, and in “Caleb” the title character’s release of pent-up rage is complemented by Liimatainen’s furious solo. Then there’s the post-apocalyptic atmosphere of “The Worlds Forgotten, the Words Forbidden” – although it’s a rather short song, the music and lyrics paint a unique kind of picture together that no other SA song has managed to match. The music and lyrics just go perfectly hand-in-hand on these tracks, which is not always an easy feat to achieve, although the band came close on the more progressive Reckoning Night tracks like “The Boy Who Wanted to Be a Real Puppet” and “White Pearl, Black Oceans.” Kakko’s lyrics have almost never been particularly light, but in the past the upbeat music on tunes like “Victoria’s Secret” and “Kingdom for a Heart” managed to mask them somehow. Maybe Unia’s more in-your-face gloom and aggression is one of the reasons old fans had a hard time getting into it?

Besides the fact that the songs on Unia are not as fast and immediately catchy as on its precedessors, the balance between the instruments changed as well, since Tony Kakko’s vocals were pushed even more to the foreground, and there are loads of vocal layers in vein of his favorite band, Queen – as Kakko himself has stated, the freedom of recording vocals at home gave him room to experiment and lay down as many as hundreds of tracks on some songs. He sings in a more comfortable and natural register than previously, having gotten over his need to be the next Timo Kotipelto [Stratovarius], his English pronunciation is better than before, and he even reveals new sides to his voice on “The Harvest” and the quirky “The Vice.”

Guitar and keyboard solos, which used to be commonplace in SA’s early power metal sound, can only be heard on about half the songs. However, each instrument serves the material, and the impact of the solos is greater exactly because there are not so many of them – Henrik Klingenberg’s keyboard solo on “Paid in Full” is particularly memorable and was one of the things that made the song stick out to me and made me want to check out the band in the first place. Liimatainen’s performance on guitar is also surprisingly inspired, despite him already being mentally out of the band during the recording. The rhythm section work is more intricate and creative than previously – “The Vice” includes the underrated Marko Paasikoski’s greatest bass lines ever, and Tommy Portimo shows that he’s not all about speed, as his imaginative drumming and varied beats elevate even a track like “For the Sake of Revenge” that wouldn’t necessarily be too special otherwise. Guest musician Peter Engberg’s exotic instruments such as bouzouki also contribute to the experimental feel of the album and add some interesting sounds.

Last, but not least, Unia is easily the best-produced Sonata Arctica album – while I love the band’s music, it feels like they have a hard time getting a sound that I have no reservations about whatsoever. The previous releases (apart from 2001’s Silence) have a slightly thin and plastic early noughties sound that’s a little bit dated by now, and they seem to be aiming for something similar with the latest two records, while on Stones Grow Her Name (2012) and especially The Days of Grays (2009) the guitars sound too muddy. On Unia they got everything right: the guitar tone is thick and heavy, the drums sound natural and powerful, and the bass is distinct enough. No instrument buries the others, even though there are lots of vocals and keyboards, but there are also subtle details that you’ll find yourself noticing even after years of listening to the album, which makes it so fun to revisit time and again.

Unia will always have a very special place in my heart for being my introduction to Sonata Arctica and showing me that music doesn’t have to be straightforward to be good, which was a moment of revelation to me and later on led me into the world of progressive metal and rock. I had heard some long songs by Nightwish before, but they were typically one-offs on albums that were otherwise quite easy to grasp, whereas Unia was a tougher pill to swallow on the whole, yet ended up being a very rewarding listen that still speaks to me after all these years. Even discounting the nostalgia factor, I consider Unia Tony Kakko’s coming-of-age as a songwriter and the point where everything just clicked for Sonata. While Reckoning Night was the album on which they finally stepped out of Stratovarius’ shadow, it was Unia that solidified the band’s identity and made them a totally unique band within the whole metal scene.

Rating: 10/10, 5 stars

Tracklist:
1. In Black and White
2. Paid in Full
3. For the Sake of Revenge
4. It Won’t Fade
5. Under Your Tree
6. Caleb
7. The Vice
8. My Dream’s But a Drop of Fuel for a Nightmare
9. The Harvest
10. The Worlds Forgotten, the Words Forbidden
11. Fly with the Black Swan
12. Good Enough Is Good Enough

RED MOON ARCHITECT w/ KAUNIS KUOLEMATON – Nosturi, Helsinki, 08.06.2017 (suomeksi)

Kesäkuun alun sää ei ole Suomessa oikein osannut päättää, miten päin olisi – välillä on paistanut aurinko, välillä taas vihmonut vettä ja tuullut. Torstai-illaksi ilmatilalotto oli arponut jälkimmäistä, mikä tavallaan sopi tilanteeseen, sillä Nosturissa vietettiin intiimiä bändi-iltaa sangen synkissä tunnelmissa: kouvolalainen Red Moon Architect juhlisti vastikään julkaistua Return of the Black Butterflies -albumiaan, ja lauteet lämmitti haminalainen Kaunis Kuolematon. Keikat piti alun perin soittaa alakerrassa Elmun baarin puolella, mutta noin viikkoa ennen tapahtumaa Nosturi oli päättänyt siirtää bändit yläkerran saliin, ja mikäpäs siinä. Liputkin maksoivat nykymittapuulla naurettavat kuusi euroa, joten ainakaan budjetista ei olisi osallistumisen pitänyt kenelläkään jäädä kiinni.

Päätin suunnata paikalle heti ovien aukeamisaikaan, ja olikin tavallaan uusi kokemus päästä yläkertaan niin, ettei siellä ollut vielä käytännössä ketään paikalla – Red Moon Architectin valomies pläräili Nosturin työntekijän kanssa valopöydän nupikoita läpi, ja tiskillä oli pari asiakasta, mutta muuten yläkerta oli vielä tyhjä ja salin valotkin päällä. En myöskään muista olleeni Nosturissa keikalla niin, että koko sali olisi anniskelualuetta – koska keikan piti alun perin tapahtua alakerrassa vain täysi-ikäisille, tuttu baarialueen rajaava aita loisti poissaolollaan. Kauniin Kuolemattoman soittoaika oli merkitty vasta puolen tunnin päähän, joten älypuhelin oli ystävä. Porukkaa valui saliin pikkuhiljaa, mutta kellon lyödessä puoli yhdeksän ei voitu edelleenkään puhua mistään yleisöryntäyksestä, sillä lavan edustalla oli vain muutaman kymmentä ihmistä. Bändi antoi lopulta odottaa itseään, sillä lavalle noustiin vasta varttia myöhemmin.

 

KK on todella hyvä ja Suomen synkistelymetallin kentässä mukavan erilainenkin bändi. Kitaristi Mikko Heikkilän vahva puhdas lauluääni tuo hienosti kontrastia pääasiallisesti ääntä käyttävän Olli ”Saakeli” Suvannon syvään murinaan ja blackmetallisiin kirkaisuihin, eikä bändin materiaalikaan ole yhdestä puusta veistettyä. Maaliskuun lopussa julkaistun Vapaus-albumin materiaaliin keskittynyt setti seilasi nopeammasta juntasta (esim. ”Hurskas”) hitaampaan maalailuun (”Yksin”), vanhempia hittejä tietenkään unohtamatta (”Itsestään kuollut”, ”En ole mitään”). Viimeiseksi jätetty uuden levyn lopetuskappale ”Sanat jotka jäivät sanomatta” veti täysin hiljaiseksi: kaihoisa kitaraintro räjähti yhtäkkiä täyteen paahtoon, joka nostatuksen jälkeen loppui kuin seinään. Saakeli, basisti Jarno Uski sekä rumpali Miika Hostikka poistuivat lavalta, ja ainoastaan Heikkilä sekä kakkoskitaristi Ville Mussalo jäivät lavalle laulamaan viimeiset säkeet. Valot pois ja ”Kaunis Kuolematon kiittää”. Huikean hieno kappale!

Jos Kaunis Kuolematon ei ole tuttu, ole hyvä ja sivistä itseäsi! Suomi on täynnä lahjakkaita ja relevantteja metallibändejä, joiden suurempi tunnettuus on ainoastaan yleisön tietoisuuteen pääsemisen takana. Keikan loppupuolellakaan ei bändiä ollut seuraamassa noin viittä-kuuttakymmentä ihmistä enempää, mutta paikalle oli tosin eksynyt pari selkeää faniakin, sillä eturivistä kuului ennen keikkaa jatkuvasti taputusta. Nosturin valomies tuntui olevan ajoittain vähän hukassa, sillä osan ajasta valot eivät ehkä täysin palvelleet esitystä, minkä lisäksi Saakelin mikrofoni temppuili läpi keikan ja päästi ääntä sangen vaihtelevasti. KK:n soittajat ovat kuitenkin kaikki tekijämiehiä, ja jos tapanani olisi viljellä henkilökohtaisia mieltymyksiä, vaihtaisin samalle pallokentälle mahtuvista kotimaisista orkestereista esimerkiksi Wolfheartin saman tien vaihtopenkille. Molemmilla bändeillähän on keikka Nummirockissa, joten voitte käydä tarkistamassa asian myös itse.

 

Sitten olikin aika hidastaa tempoa ja rutkasti. Red Moon Architect on ollut jo pitkään nimenä tuttu, mutta en ole vain saanut aikaiseksi tutustua bändin materiaaliin. Keikan jälkeen olikin aika tyhmä olo – hävyttömän hyvää tavaraa! Musiikillisesti Red Moon Architect on keveimmilläänkin raskaampi kuin Swallow the Sun oli alkuaikoinaan, ja vokalisti Ville Rutasen murina tuntui tulevan jostain hyvin syvältä merenpohjasta. Oli myös hauska nähdä basisti Jukka Jauhiainen soittamassa hidasta doomia, sillä miestä on nähnyt viime aikoina lavalla Crimson Sunin kanssa hieman nopeammissa tunnelmissa – haara-asento oli sentään yhtä leveä. Hitaasti soittaminen on vaikeampaa kuin luulisi, mutta rumpali piti biisit kellontarkasti kasassa; kahville ei ihan olisi ehtinyt iskujen välissä, mutta melkein. Jos saksalainen Ahab saapuisi ikinä Suomeen keikalle, olisi Red Moon Architect täydellinen lämppäri.

 

Ehkä ainoa asia, joka keikassa lopulta hämäsi, oli puhtaat laulut upeasti hoitaneen Anni Viljasen sijoittaminen lavan vasempaan takanurkkaan. Ratkaisussa ilmeisesti haettiin ”laulu on vain instrumentti muiden joukossa” –efektiä, mutta kyllä nyt tällainen voimavara pitäisi tuoda lavan etuosaan. Bändin setti kulki taustanauhojen avulla eteenpäin käytännössä katkeamatta, minkä johdosta yleisön reaktiot biiseihin olivat tavallaan hupaisia, sillä kukaan ei oikein tuntunut tietävän, milloin kappale loppuu ja on aika taputtaa. Tunnelma oli pienehköstä yleisömäärästä huolimatta hyvin intiimi ja käsinkosketeltava läpi keikan. Pyydän anteeksi tietämättömyyttäni – pakkohan tässä on luukuttaa levyt läpi ja tulla seuraavallekin keikalle!

CELLAR DARLING – Anna Murphy, Merlin Sutter, & Ivo Henzi, 2017

By now, everyone knows that Eluveitie had a rough split not long ago, dividing the band. Merlin Sutter, Ivo Henzi, and Anna Murphy departed together, starting up their new band called Cellar Darling. With their debut album release on the horizon, we took the opportunity to chat with them about their new group and the feelings behind their music.

 

To get the obvious out of the way immediately, how are you all feeling as the release date of your debut is coming up?
Anna: Great! I’m exhausted, but in a positive way. We gave it our all, we poured a lot of energy and creativity into this album.

Merlin: We’ve worked on this album non-stop since the day we started the band, pretty much exactly one year ago… I would say it’s probably the most important release of our lives; at least it is for me. So there is certainly much anticipation!

How did you form your partnership with Nuclear Blast, and how is it going so far?
Merlin: As you might know, we’ve worked with Nuclear Blast with our previous band for nearly a decade already – we knew they have an outstanding team, and we knew they’d be among the first we would reach out to.

Anna: We sent them the two tracks we released last year (“Challenge” and “Fire, Wind & Earth”) and they immediately wanted to sign us. It’s going great, we’re very happy to work with them again.

Have you, at any point, considered adding more members to your band, or why have you decided to keep it as just the three of you? The obvious “missing link”, so to speak, would be a bassist.
Anna: No, Cellar Darling is the three of us and it works perfectly this way. Ivo is an amazing bassist, plays bass on the album and we’ll work with session musicians for live shows.

Merlin: I think a big part of the strength of this band is that we’ve been recording and touring together for years – we know what works, we know we work, and this established and proven symbiosis lies very much at the core of This is the Sound, too.

You played with Amorphis and Anneke van Giersbergen at the end of last year – what were some of the highlights? Were there any Spinal Tap moments worth sharing?
Anna: The first show with Amorphis was a bit shaky because of technical problems we had, but we still enjoyed the show and received positive feedback. The show supporting Anneke was much better and the entire trip was basically just one huge party. We traveled with a tour bus and brought all my friends along. Why? Because Amsterdam! 😉

How does it feel to have so few people on stage, as compared to before?
Anna: Definitely very different, I think every person feels like they’re more ‘on display’ than before. But that can also be a good thing, a lot of focus comes with it.

Ivo: It’s challenging too, but in a good way. Besides having more space on stage, it also opens up new possibilities for the live show.

Merlin: For me, there is more room for musicality; I can focus fully on what everyone else on stage is doing, and vice versa.

I’m not sure how the song-writing process went with Eluveitie, but I suppose it’s safe to assume that Chrigel was largely in charge? What differences, both positive and negative, did you notice now, working as a smaller collective?
Anna: Yes, Chrigel was the main songwriter in Eluveitie, with Ivo contributing a lot of riffs and songs and myself also being involved here and there. Cellar Darling songs are written collaboratively, based on ideas from Ivo or myself. It’s a group effort and you can hear that our songs are a symbiosis of us three and not one mastermind with a backing band. We experiment a lot in the rehearsal room and often also arrange whole songs together.

Merlin: From the very first Cellar Darling rehearsal, we played and explored ideas together in the same room – something which was entirely new for all of us, and something which I’ve enjoyed tremendously. We had been wanting to explore this way of working for some time, and it was quite surprising just how naturally it worked for us. The song we worked on during that first rehearsal actually made it on the album, albeit after many iterations!

How did it feel to work with so many fewer instruments now?
Anna: I don’t really perceive it as so much less to be honest. Besides the normal band line-up there’s the hurdy-gurdy, flute, strings, piano & even an Uillean pipe on the album. But of course, our music focuses on what three people play and that is less, but I think it’s great.

Does your current music feel simplistic in any way to you by comparison? And if so, is that a nice change, or is it a bit strange?
Anna: Not at all actually, I think there’s much more variety in our arrangements. Less instruments does not equal simple 😉

Ivo: It’s not strange at all. Having fewer instruments also means that each instrument has more focus, which doesn’t make the songwriting process any easier or more simplistic. In fact, this approach feels more natural to me instead of having a checklist of instruments which have to be on every song.

Do you feel as though the lyrics carry more power with fewer instruments backing them?
Anna: That’s not really something I’ve thought about… we just write music, impulsively, and that results in something. Too much thinking would ruin that magical process.

I’ve noticed that your music is extremely catchy; for example, “Challenge” gets stuck in my head every time I think about it, let alone listen to it. Do you write that intent in mind, or is it just a pleasant side effect of the process?
Anna: That’s nice to hear! I never write music with any intent, it just happens naturally.

Ivo: The music I write mostly starts with a certain mood I am currently in; it’s not something I can control on my own. We don’t sit down and “plan” to make catchy melodies, they just evolve during the writing process.

Many bands travel the self-titled road for their debut – how did you come up with This is the Sound for the album title (which I assume is taken from the line in “Challenge”)?
Anna: We had a long list of album title candidates and like with most things, we went with the option that just felt right. This is the Sound is a statement to ourselves – we found our sound with this album and we’re thrilled about that.

Anna has said in other interviews that she never directly addresses things in her lyrics (like the story of eating too much ice cream) – are there any stories behind songs on the album that are similarly metaphorical? And what might the original stories/inspirations be, if you don’t mind sharing?
Anna: I think pretty much all songs on this album are metaphorical 🙂 I noticed at the end of our songwriting sessions that a lot of songs deal with ‘the end’ in some way or another, whether that is in the form of death or the apocalypse… I guess I wrote about those topics because I was still processing the Eluveitie split without fully realizing it. It’s so interesting how our mind can tell us things and give creative hints like that. Another track that is very personal is “Redemption.” It’s about the people we love, yet manage to hurt, and the regret that comes with it. I turned it into a story about a magical moor that can take you in and give birth to you again as a new person. But with a price.

Are there any overarching themes or concepts on the album, or is each song an individual element? Is there any message you were trying to get across with the music or lyrics? What is the album “about”, if anything?
Anna: There is no lyrical concept; each song tells it’s own story. The only concept being the way the lyrics are written, as stories. I want the listener to drift off into another world, see pictures and colors. Like I do when I’m composing them, or when I’m listening to music that I like. My message is to use your imagination; it’s the most valuable and powerful thing you have.

The length of your songs is surprisingly varied – “Water” is a mere 1:54 minutes, while “Hedonia” is 7:29 – how did some songs end up so short, while others were so long?
Anna: Song lengths are never intentional, they just happen naturally. Here once again we just do what feels right to us.

Finally, the phrase “Cellar Door” has, for many, many years (a century even), been considered to be one of the most beautiful phrases in the English language. Do you agree, and do you think that “Cellar Darling” has a similar beauty, as it is phonetically similar?
Anna: I do actually! 🙂 I’ve always loved the combination of words, there’s something about them. Cellar is dark and Darling is light, like our music.

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Jaakko Metsäpelto (Block Buster), 2017

Block Buster is a young hard rock band from Kuopio, Finland, formed by brothers Aarni & Jaakko Metsäpelto. With only two EPs under their belt, the band has shared line-ups with many household names such as Bon Jovi, Gojira, and Children of Bodom. Earlier this year, Block Buster released a new single called “Bulletproof” and are currently working on their full length debut album. This week’s playlist comes from none other than Jaakko Metsäpelto.

 

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
The first song I remember hearing is probably this one song from Jerry Jeff Walker, can’t remember the name of the song or album right now but I remember the album cover; it was a part of my dad’s record collection and I think he still has that CD. I used to play air drums to that all day long when I was about 4 years old.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
I liked a lot of songs of different styles before discovering rock n’ roll, and I gotta admit, just like every other kid in my class in first grade, I really loved “Freestyler” by Bomfunk MCs. Hah! And The Simpsons theme. Let’s say I loved them both equally!

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Again, it’s hard to pick just one… basically any song from the Detroit Rock City soundtrack. I’ll say “Love Gun” by KISS and “Problem Child” by AC/DC. Obviously I still love those songs so I guess it’s not just a teenage-era thing.

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
AC/DC. I borrowed Let There Be Rock album and the Family Jewels DVD set from library and there was no turning back. Aarni (my brother) got into them big-time too, so we put all our money together and within few months we owned the whole discography, including all the live DVDs and such. We also had many of the albums on both CD and Vinyl. We used to spend days and days watching those DVDs and listening to all the albums, wanting to become as good as them.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
I’ve been listening to Ghost a lot lately and the main riff from “Elizabeth” has been stuck in my head for several days.

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
My girlfriend listens to a lot of Lana Del Rey at home and because of that I’ve become somewhat of a fan myself too… if that counts as ‘guilty pleasure’!

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Led Zeppelin ll might have been the first.

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Any song from the album These Days by Jonas and I. A great pop/folk band from our hometown, Kuopio; check’em out if you haven’t yet!

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
“Born to Kill” by Airbourne.

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
I don’t know… I would like my funeral to be my last party, so you might as well play “Party Hard” by Andrew W.K.

Check these guys out on Spotify:

BATUSHKA w/ WORMWOOD, KORGONTHURUS – Kåren, Turku, 03.06.2017 (English)

The black metal event, Turku Saatanalle V (Turku for Satan V), got its fair share of misfortune in February, when the venue, Gong, prohibited Naer Mataron and Sielunvihollinen from performing in the event, citing the bands’ alleged far-right connections. As if this wasn’t enough, the headliner, Batushka, as well as domestic Korgonthurus, had to cancel their appearances because of the bands’ members’ sudden illnesses. Fortunately, replacements were found swiftly and the event went through successfully, but a lot of people were bummed out by Batushka’s cancellation, including me – I was coming to Turku solely because of Batushka, but ended up selling my ticket.

The organizer, Metallihelvetti, had agreed with Batushka to hold a replacement show in Finland as soon as the band’s schedule allowed it, and soon after Turku Saatanalle V, the date was set on June 3rd in Turku’s Kåren. Korgonthurus was announced as a support band, with Sweden’s up-and-coming Wormwood to complete the line-up. The second time’s the charm, so we headed out on the Turku freeway on a sunny Saturday afternoon. I hadn’t been to Kåren before; acting as Åbo Akademi’s fraternity house, the venue probably wasn’t the most typical place to hold a black metal show, but then again, Tavastia, for example, doesn’t have artwork on the walls spanning from floor to ceiling.

 

As I arrived, there already was a queue spanning over 20 meters outside, but the ticket checkers were able to get the attendants in the doors quickly. Inside, the curtain-clad stage was lit with red light and Korgonthurus’ roll-ups were already in place. There didn’t seem to be a lot of people present just yet, but I had heard that over 200 tickets had been sold in advance. Korgonthurus started off at 21:30 and fired away for 30 minutes with their snarky and cold black metal. The first thing that struck me was the vocalist, Corvus, traditionally dressed in corpse paint and long-nailed bracelets; his high screeching voice is easily top-of-the-line in Finnish black metal. The rest of the band was also on point, though their performance was somewhat static, but you usually won’t see actual partying on stage during a black metal show anyway. I was almost bummed out about not being too familiar with Korgonthurus’ material outside their latest album, last year’s Vuohen siunaus, as I would’ve loved to listen to their set, also containing older songs, for longer. This is how black metal should be done – no unnecessary complexity, but aggressive yet still melodic ass-whooping. The sound was clear and the echo caused by the stone walls didn’t disrupt the show. In addition, the light tech got the best out of the pretty basic setup the stage had. A strong start – go check out these guys at Nummirock!

 

Up second was Wormwood. The Stockholm-based band, formed in 2014, released their debut album, Ghostlands: Wounds from a Bleeding Earth, in March, and this was the first time that they performed in Finland. The set was kicked off with “The Universe is Dying” and the band got hold of the situation pretty quickly – I don’t know how many people were familiar with their stuff beforehand, but after a slightly sluggish start, the audience participated surprisingly wholeheartedly. The good vibe was present on stage as well – Nine, the vocalist, was an energetic performer that couldn’t stay still even for a moment, and the rest of the band seemed to enjoy their warm welcome.

Musically, Wormwood operates somewhere in between more traditional black metal and acts like Thyrfing, also including more folky vibes – you should definitely check out their album in case the more melodic side of black metal is your thing. When it came to the sound, the situation got better as the show went on; the first song lost a bit of its effect on the overall mushy sound. In the chorus of “Oceans”, the backing track was incredibly loud for some reason, burying the whole band, but this didn’t seem to affect the audience. Compared to the two other bands, Wormwood was stylistically pretty different, but that’s exactly the reason why their show worked as a nice interlude before Batushka. Intensity-wise, Korgonthurus pulled off a better show, so switching places with Wormwood would’ve definitely worked as well, but the guys seemed to hurry back to Helsinki after their show, so I understand the scheduling choice.

 

Next up: Batushka! The band is actually a year younger than Wormwood, but their 2015 debut, Litourgiya, instantly elevated them to the frontline of the black metal scene, and since then they’ve been busy touring. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend last year’s Steelfest to see their show, but now the opportunity finally presented itself. Kåren’s curtains were pulled aside at 23:30, revealing a nicely decorated stage with incense holders, a Litourgiya icon, a human skull on a pedestal, and so on. The band’s roadies came out to light the incense, taking their time doing so. Finally, the eight-piece Batushka, dressed in black silk robes and face-covering scarfs, climbed on stage and began their show with a short intro passage. Afterwards the vocalist announced ”литоургиа!”, and off we went.

Absolutely all aspects of the show were on point. The whole Litourgiya album was played from start to finish without any disrupting speeches. Halfway through, before the fifth part, the band played a short interlude passage. The players, identities unknown, are all seasoned Polish metal musicians, which clearly showed in their performance. As a fun detail, the guitarist used an 8-string – you don’t usually even see 7-stringers in black metal. The vocalist was complemented by three backing singers. That’s about all that one can say to describe the show to someone who wasn’t there, as Batushka took the audience someplace very different, and the atmosphere that the band conveyed is impossible to put into words. An amazing show – I hope that you are at least sorry for not attending!

 

As a whole, the evening was excellent. Kåren worked nicely as a concert venue, even though my local friend was concerned about the bad echoing beforehand. In the end, almost 300 tickets were sold, and people were swarming all over the merchandise table already before Korgonthurus had started. I wonder how many people had kept their Turku Saatanalle V ticket, as a 5€ cashback was given at the door to compensate for Batushka’s cancelled show. A big thank you to Metallihelvetti for everything, and see you next time!

BATUSHKA w/ WORMWOOD, KORGONTHURUS – Kåren, Turku, 03.06.2017 (suomeksi)

Helmikuinen Turku Saatanalle V –tapahtuma joutui taannoin pahaan vastatuuleen, kun tapahtumapaikkana toiminut Gong esti tapahtumaan jo buukattujen Naer Mataronin sekä Sielunvihollisen esiintymisen vedoten bändejä kohtaan esitettyihin natsisyytöksiin. Epäonni ei tietenkään jäänyt tähän, sillä tapahtuman pääesiintyjä, puolalainen Batushka sekä kotimainen Korgonthurus joutuivat perumaan esiintymisensä sairastapausten vuoksi. Korvaavat esiintyjät saatiin onneksi buukattua ja tapahtuma järjestetyksi, mutta monia jäi varmasti hiertämään Batushkan peruttu keikka. Itsekin olin alun perin tulossa katsomaan nimenomaan Batushkaa, mutta uutisen myötä päädyin myymään lippuni pois.

Tapahtuman järjestänyt Metallihelvetti oli kuitenkin sopinut Batushkan kanssa, että bändi saapuu Suomeen korvaavalle keikalle heti, kun aikataulut antavat periksi, ja pian Turku Saatanalle V:n jälkeen korvaava keikkapäivä merkittiin kesäkuun 3. päivälle Turun Kåreniin. Perumaan joutuneen Korgonthuruksen kerrottiin saapuvan lämppäriksi, ja iltaman täydensi tuoreehko ruotsalaisvahvistus, Wormwood. Toinen kerta toden sanoo, joten auton nokka kääntyi kohti Turun moottoritietä hyvissä ajoin lauantai-iltapäivänä. En ollut käynyt Kårenilla aikaisemmin – Åbo Akademin oppilaskuntatalona tunnettu tila ei ollut ehkä tyypillisin paikka black metal –iltamalle, mutta toisaalta Tavastialla ei ole esimerkiksi koko salin korkuisia seinäpiirroksia.

 

Paikalle saapuessani Kårenin edustalla oli useamman kymmenen metrin mittain jono, joka veti mukavan nopeasti. Salin puolella verhoilla peitetty lava oli valaistu punaiseksi ja Korgonthuruksen julisteet olivat jo paikoillaan. Yleisöä oli paikalla vielä kohtuullisen vähän, mutta lippuja oli kuulemma myyty ennakkoon päälle 200. Korgonthurus aloitti noin puoli kymmeneltä ja paiskoi menemään reilun puolituntisen äkäistä ja kylmää black metaliaan. Ensimmäisenä huomio kiinnittyi perinnetietoisesti corpsepainteihin ja niittirannekkeisiin sonnustautuneeseen vokalisti Corvukseen, jonka korkealta rääkyvä ääni menee heittämällä kotimaisten black metal –laulajien parhaimmistoon. Muukin bändi soitti tiukasti, joskin vähäeleisesti, mutta harvemmin sitä black metal –keikoilla suuremmin irrotellaankaan. Melkein harmitti, ettei bändin materiaali ole viimevuotista Vuohen siunaus -täyspitkää lukuunottamatta kovin tuttua, sillä myös vanhempia ralleja sisältänyttä settiä olisi kuunnellut mieluusti pidempäänkin. Juuri näin black metalia kuuluu tehdä: ei turhaa kikkailua, vaan aggressiivista mutta silti melodiaa sisältävää turpaanvetoa. Soundit olivat selkeät, ja salin aiheuttama kaikukin pysyi hyvin aisoissa, minkä lisäksi valomies sai ruuvattua kohtuullisen yksinkertaisesta valosetupista hyvin lisätehoa esitykseen. Vahva aloitus – kannattaa mennä tarkistamaan Nummirockissa!

 

Toisena oli vuorossa ruotsalainen Wormwood. ”Vasta” vuonna 2014 perustettu tukholmalaisbändi julkaisi debyyttilevynsä Ghostlands: Wounds from a Bleeding Earth maaliskuussa ja saapui nyt ensimmäistä kertaa Suomeen keikalle. Setti alkoikin debyytin aloituskappaleella ”The Universe Is Dying”, ja tila otettiin nopeasti haltuun – en tiedä monelleko yleisössä bändi oli ennalta tuttu, mutta ehkä hieman jähmeän alun jälkeen turkulaiset pomppivat mukana yllättävänkin kovaa. Lavallakin riitti virtaa: vokalisti Nine oli energinen esiintyjä eikä tahtonut pystyä hetkeäkään paikallaan, ja muukin bändi tuntui selkeästi nauttivan positiivisesta vastaanotosta.

Musiikillisesti Wormwood seilaa jossain esimerkiksi Thyrfingin ja perinteisemmän black metalin välimaastossa, minkä lisäksi mukana on folkimpiakin sävyjä – debyyttilevy kannattaa ehdottomasti pyöräyttää läpi, jos melodisempi osasto maistuu. Soundien puolesta tilanne parantui koko ajan loppua kohti; ensimmäisen kappaleen tehot hieman sulivat puuroiseen kokonaisääneen. ”Oceansin” kertosäkeen aikana taustanauha oli jostain syystä hävyttömän kovalla ja peitti käytännössä koko bändin alleen, mutta ei tuo menoa tuntunut haittaavan. Illan kahteen muuhun bändiin verrattuna Wormwood oli tyylillisesti aika erilainen, mutta juuri siksi se mielestäni toimikin mainiona välipalana ennen Batushkaa. Intensiteetin puolesta Korgonthurus meni tosin edelle, joten myös lämmittelijöiden soittojärjestyksen vaihto päikseen olisi varmasti toiminut yhtä hyvin. Korgonthuruksella tuntui kuitenkin olevan oman keikkansa jälkeen kova kiire takaisin Helsinkiin, joten ymmärrän ratkaisun näinkin päin.

 

Seuraavaksi Batushka! Bändi on vuoden nuorempi kuin Wormwood, mutta toissa vuonna julkaistu debyytti Litourgiya nosti bändin saman tien black metalin kärkikahinoihin, minkä jälkeen keikkalavoja on kierretty äärimmäisen ahkerasti. Harmikseni en päässyt viime vuoden Steelfestiin todistamaan bändiä liveä, mutta nyt siihen tarjoutui viimeinkin mahdollisuus. Kårenin verhot vedettiin syrjään puoli kahdeltatoista, ja takaa paljastui hienosti koristeltu lava, jolta löytyi suitsuketelineitä, Litourgiya-ikoni, pääkallo jalustalla ja vaikka mitä. Bändin roudarit tulivat sytyttämään suitsukkeet, eikä heillä näyttänyt olevan mitään kiirettä asian kanssa. Lopulta kahdeksanhenkinen, mustiin silkkikaapuihin ja kasvot peittäviin huiveihin sonnustautunut Batushka nousi lavalle. Setti pääsi alkamaan lyhyellä introlla, jonka jälkeen vokalisti julisti ”литоургиа!”, ja sitten mentiin.

Kaikki aspektit keikassa olivat kohdillaan. Koko Litourgiya-levy soitettiin luonnollisesti alusta loppuun ilman tunnelmaa häiritseviä välispiikkejä – puoliväliin soitettiin sentään lyhyt välike ennen levyn viidettä osaa. Tuntemattomaksi jääneet soittajat ovat puolalaisia pitkän linjan metallimuusikoita, joten soittokin oli sen mukaista, ja yksityiskohtana tuli pantua merkille kitaristin 8-kielinen soittopeli – black metalissa harvemmin sahaillaan edes seiskoilla. Vokalistiakin oli tukemassa kolmen taustalaulajan sektio. Siihen loppuvatkin oikeastaan tavat kuvailla esitystä sellaiselle, joka ei ollut itse paikalla: Batushkan seurassa oltiin kolme varttia jossain aivan muualla, ja sen välittämää tunnelmaa on mahdotonta pukea sanoiksi. Aivan käsittämättömän hieno keikka – toivottavasti edes harmittaa, jos päätit jättää väliin!

 

Iltama oli kaiken kaikkiaan loistava. Kåren toimi keikkapaikkana todella hyvin, vaikka paikallinen kaverini ennakkoon kuumottelikin salin pahaa kaikuefektiä. Lippuja oli lopulta mennyt kaupaksi lähemmäs 300, ja merkkaripöydän luona kävi jo ennen Korgonthuruksen aloittamista kova kuhina. Monikohan oli säilyttänyt Turku Saatanalle V –lippunsa? Lauantain pilettiä vastaan sai vitosen alennuksen pääsylipusta hyvityksenä Batushkan helmikuisesta peruutuksesta. Erittäin iso kiitos Metallihelvetille asioiden järjestämisestä – nähdään ensi kerralla!

Rotting Christ to Play Two Gigs in Poland!

Knock Out Productions along with Left Hand Sounds proudly introduce Rotting Christ, who will be playing two concerts in Poland!

These Greek metal legends will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the band’s formation this year. The band will arrive in Poland during their European summer tour, and we can expect songs from the latest, very well-received release, Rituals, as well as some songs from the older albums as well. 

For a black metal ritual, we highly encourage you to book your tickets for either June 10th to Firlej Club in Wrocław or one day later on June 11th at U Bazyla Club in Poznań.

ROTTING CHRIST (Greece); black metal:
Rotting Christ must perform in Poland, and Polish fans need gigs from the Greek legends. A mere handful of months after their last visit to the land of the Poles, the Greeks are returning once more to perform two shows.

Celebrating their 30th anniversary, the band has had hordes of fans since the very beginning. Band leader Sakis Tolis has often mentioned that in the tapetrading era, Polish fans were the first to whom he’d send tapes with Rotting Christ demos. Today, many of their releases, including Thy Mighty Contract, Non Serviam, Triarchy of the Lost Lovers, or Sanctus Diavolos and Aealo (album of the month in Terrorizer magazine) are considered to be classics. What’s more, during the making of their 2010 release, Rotting Christ managed to contact the almighty Diamanda Galás, who gave them the green light to cover her score, “Orders from the Dead.”

For those who are just discovering Rotting Christ, here’s a beginners guide: the band started out playing black metal, tried Gothic metal for a while, and then went down the dark metal route, just to come back to black metal with even greater ferocity. But this time they’ve added very plastic, almost illustrative elements, and plenty of bits and flavours originating from traditional Greek music. Their latest release was, as we’ve mentioned, “Rituals” from 2016, with guest appearances by (among others) Nick Holmes from Paradise Lost and Vorph from Samael.

BLOODTHIRST (Poznań, Poland); black/thrash metal:
Originating in Poznań in 1999, Bloodthirst kicks their listeners relentlessly with unique combination of the rage and darkness of black metal and thrash metal. They themselves describe their music as “hateful antichristian thrash.” Like any other bringer of evil, guitarist/vocalist Rambo needs company (the more, the merrier) and he found companions in Rybosh (known also from In Twilight’s Embrace), Gregor, and Urpin. Bloodthirst have made a couple of demos and three albums, the last being Chalice of Contempt from 2014. Their latest addition to their discography is an EP released in 2016, Glorious Sinners.

Check them out at the below links:
http://bloodthirst.pl
https://www.facebook.com/bloodthirstpl
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKpgNNEf7uY

SHODAN (Wrocław, Poland); technical death metal:
Shodan is a tri-entity that emerged in 2013 in Wrocław and is proof that Polish bands can actually play interesting technical death metal. The band was created by former members of Extinct Gods, Michał Jarosz and Szczepan Inglot. Bassist Michał Rybak filled the missing spot in the line-up, but has since been replaced by Tomasz Sadlak. Shodan have played already couple of gigs, including Into the Abyss Festival, recorded the EP Zero K, and the very well received longplay, Protocol of Dying in 2016.

Check them out at the below links:
https://shodan.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/Shodanband
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGy6lCVqnY8

When:
Saturday, 10/11.6.2017

Where:
Wrocław @ Firlej, ul. Grabiszyńska 56
Poznań @ U Bazyla, ul. Norwida 18a

Prices:
70 zł – presale, 80 zł – at doors

Buy a ticket:
http://knockoutprod.net/sklep/

Text provided by promoter (KnockOut Productions)

MACHINAE SUPREMACY w/ BLIND CHANNEL, ONE MORNING LEFT – Nosturi, Helsinki, 27.05.2017 (English)

Sweden’s Machinae Supremacy doesn’t need much introduction in Finland. Hailing from Luleå, this nerd squad combines old Commodore 64 era sounds with metal, and tours extensively in our country, most of the time to near-sold-out venues, even though the more mainstream media still doesn’t recognize them. Having released their new Into the Night World album at the end of last year, the band did a whole spring tour in Finland, traveling through Kuopio, Tampere, and Joensuu, ending at the ever-so-welcoming Nosturi in Helsinki on May 27th, marking their fifth time performing there in this decade. The metalcore party unit One Morning Left was traveling as support, with Blind Channel joining exclusively for this show. Why not!

Check out the gallery HERE!
Lue suomeksi TÄÄLLÄ!
Or listen to the setlist on Spotify:

 

As always, I was almost late by arriving only a few minutes before One Morning Left’s showtime at 20:30. The front of the stage was divided surprisingly unevenly, regarding the attending minors, as only a few meters of space was left outside the bar’s fence. The small area was already filled with people, including the five (or six) girls that seem to follow Blind Channel wherever they perform, when the bar was basically deserted, with maybe 10-15 people. I barely got to order a beer before One Morning Left climbed on stage with a chiptune intro track and began their 30-minute set.

One Morning Left is one of those bands that I have absolutely nothing in common with, but this doesn’t mean that they aren’t entertaining live. The band’s chaotic metalcore, reminiscent of bands like Attack Attack!, is the type of stuff all metal purists just have to hate out of principle, even though the world is full of much more indifferent heavy music. The last time I saw these guys live was at EDGE:Nordic last fall, and in the course of these 8 months nothing has changed – the stage was still packed with action, the band surely can play, and there’s more going on within a single song than most metalcore bands can come up with on a whole album. One Morning Left’s material isn’t that familiar to me, but I think that the pure all-over-the-place-ness of their early material has been toned down a bit in their more recent work. The stage was plenty busy, including the unsuspected attack of three dancing girls, familiar from the latest season of Temptation Island Finland, armed with water guns. A special mention still goes to vocalist-guitarist Leevi Luoto, who completely overshadowed the main vocalist Mika “Misku” Lahti with his energy – Lahti’s microphone seemed to have a pretty bad volume level, though. As a whole, the show was fairly decent, and a good deal of people had arrived mid-set.

Setlist:
1. Bd_l3ftovers!
2. Hey Yo, Let’s Play Tycoon
3. !liaF cipE
4. Kings and Queens
5. Heavy Metal Finland
6. Reetu Inda House?
7. You’re Dead! Let’s Disco!
8. The Star of Africa

 

And now for something completely different: Blind Channel has made excellent progress during their short career, as the band – founded in 2013 – has already had a show at Wacken Open Air after winning their Metal Battle contest, and after last year’s debut, Revolutions, they’ve toured a fair bit both in and out of Finland. At 21:20, Blind Channel took the stage dressed completely in white and fired away with their almost obnoxiously catchy material for a good 45 minutes, and were welcomed with the loud screaming coming from the front row.

I don’t know what was wrong, but without counting the girls out front of the stage, Blind Channel had considerable difficulty getting the audience warmed up. The band sure can perform, and their musical output didn’t differ that much from the two other bands of the evening, but the audience’s reactions throughout the set were surprisingly lame. I guess this is something that, like One Morning Left, one isn’t just supposed to like? I caught a hilarious piece of conversation in the bathroom after the show: “I always try to find something good about everything, but I just didn’t get anything positive out of that band!” This actually completely proves that Blind Channel knows exactly what they’re doing, and because of it you definitely should go and see the band, even just once – Blind Channel disregards traditional heavy music conventions and makes music that only sounds like themselves, combining the sound of early 2000s American metal, pop-influenced choruses, and Niko Moilanen’s and Joel Hokka’s rap verses. The band also has talent when it comes to cover songs – the set contained both “Don’t” by Ed Sheeran and “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore, and without knowing the originals, one couldn’t have guessed that either were covers. By the end of the show the audience seemed to be warmed up to the extent that Moilanen managed to ask everyone to squat, and at the beginning of their latest single, “Alone Against All”, to jump back up. In the end, the deal’s the same as with One Morning Left: I probably wouldn’t listen to this at home, but I’d watch a show any day!

Setlist:
1. Enemy for Me
2. My Revolution
3. Bullet (With Your Name on It)
4. Deja FU
5. Can’t Hold Us (Macklemore cover)
6. Don’t (Ed Sheeran cover)
7. Unforgiving
8. Alone Against All
9. Darker Than Black

 

Lately I’ve watched Nosturi shows behind the mixing booth, but Machinae Supremacy is such an important band that I had to move closer to the stage. I think I’ve seen almost ten of their shows in Finland, and so far none of them have been anything less than excellent. At half past ten, the curtains were pulled aside and the show began with “My Dragons Will Decimate” and “Into the Night World” off the new album. Right after that, the band pulled a surprise by playing “Player One” from their commercial debut, Deus Ex Machinae. DE-CENT!

I remember, probably at the 2010 Nosturi show, being bummed that Machinae Supremacy doesn’t play their old classics anymore, as their fame is so cult-like that the audience surely would know all the songs anyway. Two years later, after the release of Rise of the Digital Nation, I came to the conclusion that who really cares – it doesn’t matter what they pick for their setlist, because every song is a sure hit. Over the years, Rise of the Digital Nation and 2010’s A View from the End of the World have clearly formed the backbone of their live shows, because missing out on songs like “Force Feedback”, “Nova Prospekt”, or “Rise of the Digital Nation” would feel downright weird these days. The new album was featured with great choices, as “Twe27ySeven” and “The Last March of the Undead” worked excellent live – before the former, the band invited Ingeborg Ekeland, the female voice on their records, back to the stage. The self-proclaimed party song of the set was, less surprisingly, “Indiscriminate Murder is Counter-Productive” – I think I’ve seen one MaSu show after the release of A View from the End of the World during which it wasn’t played.

Machinae Supremacy’s encores have always had a good deal of variety – this time ”Rocket Dragon” and ”Dark City” were heard before their de facto show closer and greatest hit, Redeemer’s “Through the Looking Glass”, again featuring Ekeland on additional vocals. A great set, and how good did the band sound! The mix was clear and Robert Stjärnström’s vocals had the perfect volume, and in addition the man pulled off his best performance in years – the first YouTube clips after the release of Into the Night World had made me expect slightly rocky vocals, but Stjärnström held his pitch flawlessly. The band’s line-up has been the same for several years now, and the players have clearly become a tight unit, with their performance turning out to be as sturdy as one would expect. Though unexpectedly, the guitarist Tomi Luoma had shaved his head – I could’ve sworn that I saw him on the side balcony with his hair ON during Blind Channel!

 

MaSu is an extremely important band in their effect toward bringing all the nerds closer to one another. They have also worked on behalf of music’s free distribution over the internet, since the band has encouraged their fans to share their music over peer-to-peer networks for over 10 years now. Their old releases are still freely available via their website. On top of all this, Machinae Supremacy is musically unique, and their material easily holds up in comparison with much bigger metal bands. I’ll see you guys next time – I wonder if “Winterstorm” might finally be included in the set then?

Setlist:
1. My Dragons Will Decimate
2. Into the Night World
3. Player One
4. Force Feedback
5. Laser Speed Force
6. Republic of Gamers
7. Truth of Tomorrow
8. Indiscriminate Murder Is Counter-Productive
9. Renegades
10. Nova Prospekt
11. Twe27ySeven
12. Rise of a Digital Nation
13. The Last March of the Undead

Encore:
14. Rocket Dragon
15. Dark City
16. Through the Looking Glass