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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

[Ed: we felt this required some explanation…]

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

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

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

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

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

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

EDGE NORDIC: Eskimo Callboy (mini-interview)

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Frosttide promo photo 2015

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MACHINAE SUPREMACY UNLEASHED: The Story Behind Phantom Shadow

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Skye's cryochamber
Skye’s cryochamber

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE END!

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

THE LOCAL BAND – Nosturi, Helsinki, 17.8.2016

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

THE LOCAL BAND @ Nosturi, Helsinki, 17.08.2016

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

SOTKAMON SYKE – Vuokatinhovi, Vuokatti, 13.08.2016

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

 

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

Turmion Kätilöt
Turmion Kätilöt

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

Shiraz Lane
Shiraz Lane

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

2016.08.13 03 Sotkamon Syke Mättö
Syke Mättö

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

Turisas
Turisas

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

Amorphis
Amorphis

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

Amorphis
Amorphis

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

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

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

SOTKAMON SYKE @ Vuokatinhovi, Vuokatti, 13.08.2016

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Amorphis

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(2016) The Devin Townsend Project: Transcendence

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BLUES PILLS – André Kvarnström, 2016

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Photo from Tuska 2015 by Maija Lahtinen

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

2016.04.13 01 Dakesis (11) @ Tavastia

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOHN SMITH FESTIVAL – Peurunka, Laukaa, 22-24.07.2016

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

 

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

2016-07-22 05 Amorphis @ John Smith
Amorphis

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

Stam1na
Stam1na

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

Amaranthe
Amaranthe

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

Sonata Arctica
Sonata Arctica

 

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

Turmion Kätilöt
Turmion Kätilöt

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

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

Sparzanza
Sparzanza

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

Helloween
Helloween

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

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

Stratovarius
Stratovarius

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

 

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

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

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

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

Stratovarius
Stratovarius

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

KORSO ROCK FESTIVAL – Korso, Vantaa, 15-17.07.2016

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

 

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

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

 

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

Volymian
Volymian

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

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

 

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

Blind Channel
Blind Channel

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

Blind Channel
Blind Channel

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

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

Encore:
9. Don’t (Ed Sheeran cover)

 

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

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

Crimson Sun
Crimson Sun

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

Crimson Sun
Crimson Sun

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

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

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

Crimson Sun
Crimson Sun

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

 

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

Text: Amy Wiseman | Photos: Miia Collander

KORSO ROCK FESTIVAL @ Korso, Vantaa, 15-17.07.2016

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Crimson Sun

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

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

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

More From Grotto over here!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(2016) Witherscape: The Northern Sanctuary (English)

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 8½/10, 4½ stars

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

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

(2016) Witherscape: The Northern Sanctuary (suomeksi)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arvosana: 8½/10, 4½ tähteä

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

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

KATATONIA – Niklas & Daniel, Tuska Open Air, 2016

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Niklas: And of course the cover! [laughter]

Daniel: Yeah, the cover is great!

Niklas: Judas Priest!

Daniel: Exactly!

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

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

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

Daniel: So do I.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel: But [the shows are] still fun!

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

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

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

Daniel: Early summer. May.

Niklas: Let’s stick to that.

Daniel: Yep.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks then, and have a great gig!

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

NUMMIROCK: Camping Special

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Aleksi: I can also be a lady!

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

2016.06.25 Festival extras (07) @ Nummirock

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Katy Perry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amorphis
Amorphis

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

Rival Sons
Rival Sons

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

Opeth
Opeth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voit kuunnella kaikkien neljän bändin settilistat tästä:

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

Amorphis
Amorphis

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

Rival Sons
Rival Sons

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

Opeth
Opeth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Jukka: Definitely.

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

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

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

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

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

Jukka: A really visual show.

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

Jukka: Probably that.

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

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

Joni: Yeah, Ghost!

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

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

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

 

2016.07.03 04 Tuska Crimson Sun interview 2

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

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

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

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

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

Sini: And growing stronger!

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

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

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

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

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

Sini: It’s the best!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016.07.03 04 Tuska Crimson Sun interview 3

 

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

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

Jukka: Not involving music in the vacation.

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

Sini: The chemistry is really important.

Jukka: Really important.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jukka: 8-string guitars!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Text: Amy Wiseman | Photos: Eliza Rask

TUSKA OPEN AIR – Suvilahti, Helsinki, 01-03.07.2016

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

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

 

Pre-Festival

Tuska-Kiska
Tuska-Kiska

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

 

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

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

Delain
Delain

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

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

Swallow the Sun
Swallow the Sun

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

Cain's Offering
Cain’s Offering

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

Lordi
Lordi

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

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

Testament
Testament

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

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

Behemoth
Behemoth

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

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

Avantasia
Avantasia

 

Day 2

Crimson Sun
Crimson Sun

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

Turmion Kätilöt
Turmion Kätilöt

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

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

Thunderstone
Thunderstone

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

Jess and the Ancient Ones
Jess and the Ancient Ones

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

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

Stam1na
Stam1na

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

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

Ghost
Ghost
Ember Falls
Ember Falls

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

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

2016.07.03 04 Tuska festival extras (38)

 

Day 3

Hatebreed
Hatebreed

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

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

Diablo
Diablo

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

Gojira
Gojira

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

Katatonia
Katatonia

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

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

Children of Bodom
Children of Bodom

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ghost

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

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

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Avantasia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Text: Atte Valtonen | Ed: Amy Wiseman

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

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

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

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

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

 

2016.06.29 01 The Raven Age @ Kantolan Tapahtumapuisto
The Raven Age

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

 

Stratovarius
Stratovarius

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

 

Amon Amarth
Amon Amarth

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

 

Sabaton
Sabaton

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

 

"The Trooper"
“The Trooper”

Enough of the opening bands though – I know why you’re really here! The crowd began getting properly loud as the 21:00 hour drew near. You could feel the electric buzz of excitement when their 1995 UFO cover, “Doctor Doctor,” started playing and the crowd began singing along. Iron Maiden kicked things off with the two starting tracks from The Book of Souls – “If Eternity Should Fail” and “Speed of Light.” Unfortunately, some big, obnoxious young guys began smashing their way up to the front, which was pretty uncool. It was sad to note right away that the sound problems continued – I can’t speak for the rest of the park, but if you were right up front, you probably didn’t hear a single high note from Bruce Dickinson throughout the show because the mic cut out every time, and again stayed this way for the entire gig.

So what do you expect from an Iron Maiden show? First of all, on an album release tour, you have to throw the dice and bet on which classics you’re going to hear. On this night, we were fortunate to hear “Children of the Damned,” “The Trooper,” “Powerslave,” “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” “Fear of the Dark,” and “Iron Maiden” in the main set. I might be alone in this, but I’d be really okay if they dropped out “The Trooper” and even “Hallowed be Thy Name” in favor for something else. They’re classics and definite crowd hits for sure – you haven’t seen a crowd roar until you’ve seen a “The Trooper” roar – but they’re also songs that I’ve personally heard so many times in my life that I don’t get all that much of a thrill from either of them anymore, particularly “The Trooper.” As for new music, we got a fair bit more than I expected. After the aforementioned two songs, we got to hear “Tears of a Clown” (naturally dedicated to Robin Williams), “The Red and the Black,” “Death and Glory,” and “The Book of Souls” (a story of the fall of a civilization and the hopes that history does not repeat itself) – a nice set of some of the best of their new tracks. I admit to some serious disappointment that “Empire of the Clouds” wasn’t included in this set. I understand that it would be a pain to drag a keyboard around for Bruce for the one song, and having a backing track is unspeakable, and it’s a long song that would take up the space of two other songs… but I imagine if they’re not playing it on this album tour, we may never hear it live, and that’s truly a shame.

2016.06.29 05 Iron Maiden @ Kantolan Tapahtumapuisto (2)
“The Book of Souls”

Dickinson himself was clearly not even remotely restricted by his brush with cancer, and if anything, perhaps has a new love of life as a result because in all the times I’ve seen them, he’s been energetic, but never this lively or straight-up goofy. During “Tears of a Clown” he was chasing his bandmates around on stage with a fire extinguisher (and at one point cracked up laughing so hard that he couldn’t sing), and for “Death and Glory” he had a stuffed orangutan around is neck that he proceeded to torment Adrian Smith with (“climb like a monkey,” and so on). At first we thought it might’ve been laundry day at Maiden HQ because he spent about half of the set in a back hoodie, but when the army jacket and Union Jack flags came out for “The Trooper,” we were reassured. For “Powerslave” he had a shiny luchador mask and jumped around like a gleeful child, and for “Hallowed Be Thy Name” he had a dramatized entrance with a noose. He also had a mad scientist jacket and gloves for “The Book of Souls”… but we’ll get to that.

The other thing you have to love in Iron Maiden’s gigs is the quality of the stage show. First of all, the props were incredible. I loved the Mayan style, ancient ropes, and overall jungle ruins -look of the whole thing. Their light set-up was phenomenal and they had flames and fog coming from everywhere, including an urn at the top center of stage that Bruce appeared behind as the show started. There’s no Iron Maiden gig without at least five backdrops, and I lost count at some point because they changed every two songs or so, blending a few classics in with a lot of the incredible new artwork. I’ll say it again – The Book of Souls‘ artwork is the best they’ve had since Derek Riggs. And the other requirement? At least one Eddie! The newest incarnation was the cover art version, and Bruce, in his mad scientist attire, managed to rip his heart out and taunt him with it, and Janick Gers at other times was dashing in and out from between his feet. I could feel myself getting even more hyped up when it showed up on stage. The same happened when the big inflatable Eddie slowly began to rise from behind the stage props, covered in tiny mechanical-looking devices that turned out to be small fireworks! So cool! We also got the big inflatable goat-headed devil during the first encore track, “Number of the Beast!”

Iron Maiden
Iron Maiden

The guys on stage continue to play exceptionally well, keeping to their standards. Dave Murray and Adrian Smith (guitars) are the laid-back solo artists and rockers (the latter consistently running out of picks because he kept throwing them to the crowd), while Janick Gers (guitars) is the showman, throwing his guitar all over the place. Nicko McBrain manages to still be one of the top drummers in this worldwide scene, flawlessly keeping time, and Steve Harris (bass) continues to prove why he’s a legend with his unique style! Together, they form one tight package that played songs new and old with equal passion and skill. Dickinson also mentioned that McBrain had also recently had a birthday, but since he doesn’t like to use the word “old,” he now refers to them as “legacy.” He also mentioned the “legacy” crowd, wondering who had been Maiden fans when “Children of the Damned” came out, and who hadn’t even been born yet (and wondered how many children may have, in fact, been conceived to that song). But back to McBrain’s recent birthday – it was actually really cool to hear the chants of “Nicko, Nicko!” come from way at the back of the stadium and wash forward up to the front like a tidal wave.

After “Iron Maiden” closed out the main set and we had heard “Number of the Beast,” Bruce Dickinson pointed out the fan clubs that have been following them around (they had their own shirts for Finland) and a few flags from people who had traveled great distances to see them, and expressed his sincere gratitude for people of all ages, races, genders, etc coming together from all over the world to see them play. In tribute, they dedicated “Blood Brothers” to the crowd. They then closed out the night with “Wasted Years” and left the stage to the now-traditional Monty Python track, “Always Look at the Bright Side of Life.”

 

This is one band you seriously should check out at least once in your life even if you’re not a fan. Even if classic metal like Maiden isn’t up your alley, it’s impossible to leave one of their gigs without being at least a little bit impressed. Dickinson has twice the energy and showmanship of men half his age and vocal range, and the rest of the band are tenured professors at the Metal Academy of Being Straight-Up Fucking Awesome. A big congratulations to these guys for getting their gold record backstage before the show, as they definitely earned it. The new material was even better in a live scenario and the energy was the best I’ve seen from them. Age be damned, these guys are still at the top of their game, and if you haven’t seen their live show yet… GET ON IT!

 

Setlist:
Intro (tape): Doctor Doctor (UFO cover)
1. If Eternity Should Fail
2. Speed of Light
3. Children of the Damned
4. Tears of a Clown
5. The Red and the Black
6. The Trooper
7. Powerslave
8. Death or Glory
9. The Book of Souls
10. Hallowed Be Thy Name
11. Fear of the Dark
12. Iron Maiden

Encore:
13. The Number of the Beast
14. Blood Brothers
15. Wasted Years
Outro (tape): Always Look at the Bright Side of Life (Monty Python)

Text: Amy Wiseman
(Sorry, no photo pass for this gig – I hope the crowd shots are better than nothing!)

NUMMIROCK – Nummijärvi, Kauhajoki, 23-25.06.2016

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For us, as well as many others, the countdown for Nummirock 2016 started as soon as Nummirock 2015 ended. All the more special, this year marked the 30th time the festival was arranged, and to celebrate the milestone, the first bands performed already on Wednesday evening – but that, of course, didn’t mean some troopers didn’t arrive a week, or even a month beforehand! Because, let’s face it, a common problem with Nummirock is that one night and two days are just not enough, and with the already long wait behind us, we feel deeply sorry – for ourselves, mainly – for not making it to Nummijärvi until Thursday. But, without further ado, let’s hear it from Essi, Lene, and Atte: was the 30th Nummirock once again worth the visit?

Don’t forget to check out the galleries from Thursday, Friday and Saturday!

 

Thursday
We got to start our Nummi-weekend with a rematch from a couple weeks back by checking out Blind Channel and seeing what’s new in their neck of the woods. The Relaamo tent with its merch booth, home-cooked food, battery charging spots, and cozy sofas was back in the same place as last year, as well as the various food carts and jewelry and clothing booths. The most significant difference was that unlike last year, the booze area by the shore was continued from the FOH booth all the way to reach the 3rd stage, which had gone through a name change since last time.

2016.06.23 01 Blind Channel (01) @ Nummirock
Blind Channel

Lene: “The newest sweethearts of every teenage metalhead, Blind Channel, had the honor of kicking things off at the newly named Kaaos stage. As some might remember, it was the same stage (albeit in a different area) where the bunch played 2 years back that earned them the opportunity to perform at Wacken Open Air, which guitarist Joel Hokka mentioned in his speech right away, stating it was an honor to be back playing at Nummirock. A lot has changed since then – I recall being a little bit skeptical back then, wondering if the band would even exist a few years later, and I’m rarely so glad to be proved wrong. In 2016, the violent pop troop looks and sounds all the better and wilder and does not apologize for their existence. Rather, they flip the bird to all metal purists while rocking pyrotechnics, going “gangsta,” and blasting a Backstreet Boys outro like it’s no big deal. It goes without saying that Blind Channel is one of my favorite live bands right now, especially the way the latest singles, “Deja Fu” and “Darker Than Black,” translate live makes me want to both dance and headbang my heart out every time. The only real downside I can think of was the change in festival area; you could only get to the front of the stage from the booze area and I bet that prevented some of the band’s most enthusiastic audience from enjoying the gig at front of the stage. Nevertheless, Blind Channel delivered an even better show for way fewer people at Nummirock than they did a week before at South Park, and that’s a more than excellent way to start our midsummer party.”

2016.06.23 02 Turmion Katilot (06) @ Nummirock
Turmion kätilöt w/ Netta Skog

The dance party continued with our second band of the day: Turmion kätilöt were ready and willing to rock our world on the Inferno stage, and the combination of Nummirock and Kätilöt never fails to entertain. It also seems to be something the Nummi-crowd is always looking forward to, and that certainly was the case on Thursday as well – the queues at the gates right before the show went nearly all the way to the camping area, a sight you usually see only before the headliners. The audience was treated with a heavy set of songs from latest album, Diskovibrator, dressed with a handful of older crowd pleasers like “Teurastaja,” “Tirehtööri,” and “Suolainen kapteeni.” “Hyvissä höyryissä,” “Vastanaineet,” and “Pyhä maa” also got an accordion glazing by the one and only Netta Skog (Ensiferum) joining the band on stage, which, naturally, led to a few accordion-related jokes – as you might know, “hanuri” in Finnish means both accordion and ass. Having gone through surgery a few weeks earlier didn’t slow MC Raaka Pee down much, and he even joked about having to take his medicine shot a few songs in, telling the audience that it was a “heroine injection sponsored by Barathrum,” and wondering if having to take your medicine mid-show means you’re entering your golden years. We would respectfully beg to differ on that last note, judging by the show on Nummijärvi’s shore!

2016.06.23 03 Fleshgod Apocalypse (07) @ Nummirock
Fleshgod Apocalypse

Essi: “My Nummirock started on Thursday evening with a new acquaintance. The Italian Fleshgod Apocalypse seems to be a rare sight on Finnish stages and this year marked their first time in Nummirock. This death metal band released their newest album, King, last February and has been on tour ever since. While waiting for the gig to begin I took note that there were plenty of Fleshgod Apocalypse shirts in the crowd. The front of the stage was soon packed while other members of the audience stayed back like me, observing and waiting calmly for whatever was lying ahead. Once the gig started I was surprised to see five men and a woman dressed in what looked like 18th century clothes. Was I going to hear chamber music played with electric guitars? Who was that lady wearing a mask? Why hadn’t I heard about this band before? Almost all of my questions were soon answered. Fleshgod Apocalypse did not perform heavy chamber music (why isn’t that a thing though?) and the lady was in fact an opera singer doing amazing backing vocals. The crowd was enjoying themselves from the very first moment, as was I. Metal with some symphonic background tracks and a dramatic stage appearance first gave me a tiny Nightwish vibe but obviously Fleshgod Apocalypse was nothing like them. The band really has its own thing going on, something I cannot but appreciate.”

2016.06.23 04 Altaria (22) @ Nummirock
Altaria

Lene: “Since this year was an impressive anniversary, Nummirock brought in a few acts from all across the past three decades, including two special shows from local bands, who are larger-than-life to some, one might add. We were lucky to catch the first of these; Pietarsaari-based Altaria was one of those power metal bands that crafted the soundscape of my teenage years, and since I never had the opportunity to see them before Nummi, there was no way I would miss their very last show. Funnily enough, I realized a few tracks in that I actually knew sadly few of their songs (namely “Prophet of Pestilence”, “Fire & Ice,” and a couple others), being a rather casual listener, so the purpose of witnessing the gig might have been mainly for the sake of nostalgia. That, of course, didn’t stop me from enjoying the show one bit; all vocalists – from Johan Mattjus and Jouni Nikula to Taage Laiho and Marco Luponero – appeared on stage one after another and finished the show together, giving the audience a great chance to marvel at the selection of top-notch power metal vocals. The whole band spent their last time playing together with joyous spirit and shenanigans, smiling through all of it, and I guarantee they weren’t the only ones after we saw them off with Accept’s “Balls to the Wall” as an encore. Fare thee well, and onward to new adventures!”

2016.06.23 05 Stratovarius (06) @ Nummirock
Stratovarius

The grand old flagship of Finnish power metal, Stratovarius, ended the day on the Inferno stage, proving to be worth checking out every once in a while even if you don’t feel like it. It really shouldn’t be a surprise to see how much people still love them, but admittedly, we really were not prepared to see such a loud and enthusiastic crowd at their show – all the singalongs were nothing short of epic! For the fans of oldschool Strato, the setlist offered some 90’s gems like “S.O.S.” and “Speed of Light,” and “Black Diamond” never fails to get the audience going. It could be considered a bit odd for a short festival set, but Stratovarius might be one of those bands that are more or less justified to have solos – even short ones – from all bands members, and we just have to live with it. Not that we’d complain – it’s always nice to give a moment of glory to everyone in the band. Singer Timo Kotipelto was visibly thrilled to be back in Nummi with the band and liked to return to the topic of their last visit (2004) in his speeches throughout the set, telling for instance that the last time they were playing there, Jens [Johansson, keyboards] was still looking for his shoes when the intro was playing. Good-humored jokes, all the classics needed for a small nostalgia trip in perfect harmony with newer material, and the magnificent audience guaranteed good times and left wide smiles plastered on our faces when we headed off to see the last band of the evening.

2016.06.23 06 Wolfheart (01) @ NummirockLene: “There’s a running joke that if you’ve seen one of Tuomas Saukkonen’s bands, you’ve seen them all. We can see where this stems from, as his bands tend not to be on the liveliest visual end of the scale, but after Wolfheart’s magnificent sophomore album, Shadow World, came out last year, I decided it was time to catch them live. As I had guessed, there was not much movement on stage, but the show was still visually interesting with flames, well coordinated outfits, and cool back- and side-drops – the overall feeling was very Vikingy, as the band logo was adorned with wolf motifs and what looked like a version of the ægishjálmur [“helm of awe”]. And amusingly enough, in case you’ve watched History Channel’s Vikings series, you might’ve noticed that Tuomas Saukkonen actually bears a striking resemblance to one Ragnar Lothbrok these days. As another neat visual note, the lights were coordinated with the albums – songs from Winterborn had a cold color scheme, whereas Shadow World’s tracks were adorned with mainly red shades. Music-wise you got exactly what you bargained for as the band delivered their set flawlessly. Out of my favorites from Shadow World, “Aeon of Cold,” wasn’t quite as impressive live I had hoped, likely because of the rhythm being a bit tricky for the late-night audience, but the tranquil C-part certainly made up for it, as did “Zero Gravity” towards the end of the set. The latter was definitely the highlight of the show, as the band bettered their run as they went on. With the Finnish parts on “Veri” sending chills down our spines, Wolfheart ended the day one on a high note with high hopes for Friday!”

 

Friday
After surviving the first night at Nummirock and actually managing to get some sleep, it was time for the first full day of festival goodness. The sun was shining and all the memories of the past 2 year’s freezing midsummer weather were wiped away. Our day was kicked off by Omnium Gatherum, a Finnish melodic death metal band who were actually celebrating their 20th birthday this year.

2016.06.24 01 Omnium Gatherum (17) @ Nummirock
Omnium Gatherum

Essi: “For me, Omnium Gatherum belongs to that group of bands I know I should have listened to a long time ago but never really got around to it. This was my chance to fix the situation and I took it gladly. Even though it might have been a bit early (13:45 to be precise) the crowd was ample and ready to mosh from the very beginning. Omnium Gatherum released their newest album, Grey Heavens, in February, and plenty of new songs were heard throughout the Nummirock set, such as the recent video single, “Frontiers.” Omnium Gatherum delivered a solid festival act with their energetic performance, and, in Lene’s words, it was worth risking sunstroke to hear “Ego” live before we took off to see the first main-stage band of the day.”

2016.06.24 02 Diablo (03) @ Nummirock
Diablo

Essi: “I would like to mention that one of the most eagerly-awaited acts of Friday was Diablo, who had an amazing comeback at last year’s Nummirock. This time the band performed in broad daylight but that did not affect the overall performance or the atmosphere in the audience. Being the first band on the main-stage, Diablo set the bar for anyone else who followed. I had to admit that it was somewhat enchanting to see and hear the audience shouting “perkele” in between the songs – a sight that made Diablo’s frontman, Rainer Nygård, gaze at the audience with a smile on his face. Even though the band took a long break, the second year in a row at Nummirock proved that the audience of this midsummer festival will always have a place in their hearts for Diablo.”

2016.06.24 03 Equilibrium (10) @ Nummirock
Equilibrium

Atte: “When it comes to live performances, I doubt that I’ve ever anticipated anything quite as much as Equilibrium on the Inferno stage. They were the only reason I embarked on a festival trip to Metalcamp in 2009, later to hear that there had been some kind of a mess-up between their management and the festival, causing Metalcamp to pull their name out of the roster only a few weeks after I’d already paid for the tickets, flights, and such. Last winter, my girlfriend and I already started saving up to fly to Germany just to see them live and we both completely lost our shit when we heard that Equilibrium was coming to Nummirock this year. At half past four, the band climbed on stage, and it’s pretty hard to objectively scrutinize anything that followed during the next hour. The audience was wild from start to finish, the band played marvelously, and the setlist, while leaning towards their latest masterpiece, Erdentempel, was rock-solid. I’m ready to call the inclusion of the video game Skyrim‘s theme song to their setlist a cheesy move, since they needn’t have done it to make the audience eat out of their hands, but one can’t complain as the audience was clearly filled with fans of both Equilibrium and Skyrim. Nevertheless, the greatest thing about the show for me wasn’t the fact that I finally got to see one of my favorite bands live, but rather the faces of the band as they were clearly stunned by the audience’s warm welcome. Think about it: you land in the airport in Helsinki, travel almost 350 kilometers to the middle of nowhere to do a show at a festival that you (probably) know nothing about, as well as don’t know what to expect. To see the whole band having the time of their lives on stage makes me wonder why Equilibrium hasn’t been to Finland before. Please come again and please do it as soon as possible! This was the best Nummirock show from any band in my 8 years of attendance, period!”

Next up on the main stage was Amorphis, whose last time in Nummirock was in 2011. The 5-year gap sounds surprisingly long considering that Amorphis is a rather frequent visitor of several other Finnish music festivals. Their newest album, Under the Red Cloud, received many excellent reviews, one of which was from our own Ville Karttunen.

2016.06.24 04 Amorphis (02) @ Nummirock
Amorphis

Essi: “Even though I am not one of the most enthusiastic fans of Amorphis, I have enjoyed their last few albums and find that they never under-perform while on stage. This was the case in Nummirock as well. The gig started with “Under the Red Cloud” and “Sacrifice,” both from the newest album. With bands like Amorphis, they always have a great deal of material to choose from. This time the band took a trip down the memory lane back to 1994 playing “Drowned Maid” from Tales From the Thousand Lakes. Even with a versatile setlist like this, the audience did not seem to get all that excited about the gig. Only “House of Sleep” seemed to wake the crowd up a bit with its singalong chorus. It was a pity, since I thought the gig itself was good and the band would have deserved a better reaction from the audience.”

2016.06.24 05 Dragonforce (04) @ Nummirock
Dragonforce

Atte: “DragonForce up next on the Inferno stage was a blast, as always. Deeply loathed by some, greatly loved by others, the London-based power metal group clearly fails to deliver a mediocre show. The guitarists, Herman Li and Sam Totman, shredded through their solos with loud grins on their faces, while the drummer, Gee Anzalone, blasted away behind the kit as furiously as his predecessor, Dave Mackintosh, used to. The singer, Mark Hudson, who replaced ZP Theart in 2011, has clearly cemented his position in the band, delivering the vocal lines impeccably as a charismatic frontman. The band’s setlist in Nummirock featured surprisingly few songs from their latest album, Maximum Overload, since only “Three Hammers” and “Symphony of the Night” were performed – “The Game” would have been a nice addition. I personally rank their 2012 effort, The Power Within, in the top spot in DragonForce’s discography and was thrilled to hear “Holding On,” “Wings of Liberty,” as well as “Cry Thunder.” If only the band would make “Fallen World” a staple in their live set… The set ended with their most famous song, “Through the Fire and Flames.” The song is probably a mixed blessing for the band, since, while being a great song, it will always be the one the audience expects to hear after being featured in Guitar Hero.”

2016.06.24 06 Dark Tranquillity (15) @ Nummirock
Dark Tranquillity

Essi: “Whenever you go to see a metal gig and you spot the vocalist smiling between the songs you can tell the band probably is not Finnish. Well, stereotypes aside, it would have not taken me long to realize Dark Tranquillity came from Sweden if I hadn’t known it already. The band is one of the representatives of the famous Gothenburg sound and you can really recognize it. I had not really paid attention to Dark Tranquillity before. For me, the Gothenburg sound is of course good and easy to listen to, but I never really got into those bands like In Flames and At the Gates, or Dark Tranquillity for that matter. I still might not be a huge fan of it, but when it came to the gig in Nummirock, the band was entertaining, energetic, and gave a good live performance. The audience seemed to agree with my thoughts. Even though the front row might not have been packed with the most loyal fans, there was still some singing along with the songs. After the gig I decided to add Dark Tranquillity to the list of bands I should listen to in the future – time will show if that will happen anytime soon.”

2016.06.24 08 Marduk (08) @ Nummirock
Marduk

Atte: “Before Mayhem was set loose on the main stage, one of Sweden’s most prominent black metal acts, Marduk, committed an hour-long assault on the Inferno stage. Having seen the band only once before, their set was just as anticipated as Mayhem’s. I haven’t been listening to black metal as much as I probably could have over the last few years, and the fact backfired as Marduk’s setlist leaned towards their latest album, Frontschwein, which I’ve just haven’t managed to listen through even once. Otherwise the set was delightfully diverse, featuring material from almost every studio album. My personal favorite, 2003’s World Funeral, was represented with “Cloven Hoof” and “To the Death’s Head True” (no “With Satan and Victorious Weapons” or “Night of the Long Knives” – boo!). Performance-wise, the band was as strong and angry as I remembered from last time with Mortuus screaming his vocals with a fervor to which many Finnish black metal vocalists could take note.”

2016.06.24 09 Mayhem (09) @ Nummirock
Mayhem

Essi: “The last act on the main stage on Friday was the legendary Norwegian black metal band, Mayhem. I am not a friend of black metal, and my thoughts about this band before the gig were “so this is the group where everyone was killing each other back in the days.” Even though the band’s history has been less vivid lately, I’ve still got my prejudices. I felt as if I was an observer from the outside trying to understand a foreign culture. There was scary-ass smoke creeping down from the stage, church bells ringing, and dramatic red lights. At first I could not even tell if there was anyone on stage because of the lights. Also, the players were wearing black capes. Needless to say, music-wise I did not really enjoy the performance. What I did kind of enjoy was the realization that the metal scene is much more versatile than people usually think; for someone who doesn’t care for heavier music it might all sound like shouting and senseless noise, but for friends of metal there is something for everyone – and that’s the beauty of it. In festivals like Nummirock you can concentrate on one big music genre but still have plenty of different subgenres.”

2016.06.24 10 Ajattara (10) @ Nummirock
Ajattara

Lene: “If there was one show I had anticipated from the day it was announced, it was the official return of Finnish black metal legends, Ajattara. Judging by the audience that was packed in front of the Kaaos stage a few minutes before the clock hit 01:15, I was most certainly not the only one, which led to the one thing I questioned about their whole show: why on earth they were playing on the Kaaos stage, out of all possible options? Thanks to the fences on the right that were separating the booze area from other parts of festival area, the bars on left, and the FOH booth being closer to the stage than the Inferno or main stage, the tiny space in front of the stage was more than crowded. But while I keep on wondering about this, I will state that Ajattara is still a 100% captivating live band after their 5-year break. True to their ways, the crowd (and photographers) got their first share of blood in the very first minutes of the show and the band members looked like they had been bathing in it, showering blood on the audience with every flip of their hair – not that they would’ve minded one bit. Lead singer, Ruoja, still has one of the most dominating stage presences I’ve ever seen and his distinctive nasal and rattling growls work up the perfect grim, scalding outcome for the dark trochaic-meter lyrics. With the setlist, the eager audience was offered a balanced cross-section of the band’s repertoire, starting with “Ilon päivä” and ending the hour-long set (which felt like the blink of an eye) to “Kunnes taivas meidät erottaa,” with a cavalcade of classics from “Antakaa elää” to “Naaras” in between. Frankly, I could wax poetry all day and night about the murky world of death, sex, and ruthlessness Ajattara brews into their music, but I’ll settle with just voicing the remark that the combination of the darkest hour of the nightless night, the tangy smell of blood and smoke, and the hexing sound of Finnish-sung black metal might just touch the untamed, earthly part of human nature in a way most folk and pagan metal bands could only dream of. Summing up our midsummer eve, we were more than happy to welcome Ajattara back from the dead like they were never gone.”

 

Saturday

2016.06.25 01 Martti Servo & Napander (05) @ Nummirock
Martti Servo & Napander

One might say nothing screams metal less than the Finnish Martti Servo & Napander. Then again, one of the greatest things about Nummirock is that everyone and everything is laid back – why not their music then as well? Martti Servo & Napander play iskelmä [schlager] music, and played themselves to the hearts of the metal people on that Saturday. Or are you telling me listening to songs like “Ufo tarjosi kaakaon” [UFO offered a hot chocolate] or “Hyvältä näyttää” [Looking good] would not make your day? There was dancing, there was letkajenkka (it’s a Finnish thing, look it up) – and of course, since it was a metal festival, there was a moshpit. Because why not? Also, it was not the first time the main stage’s first act of Saturday was something other than metal. Last year it was Steve ’N’ Seagulls, a few years back Eläkeläiset, and Martti Servo & Napander was a great addition to this group. We cannot wait to hear what the festival has in store for next year!

2016.06.25 02 Stam1na (01) @ Nummirock
Stam1na

Essi: “Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend the Sakara Tour where Stam1na, Mokoma, and Diablo gathered together for a 3-gig tour, after Stam1na had released their latest album, Elokuutio. Nummirock was my chance to hear the new songs live and I couldn’t wait to find out what was in store. The band had faced a bit of a misfortune since the vocalist Antti “Hyrde” Hyyrynen announced at the beginning of the gig that he had been a bit ill lately. He could still perform the songs but you could notice that he was a bit weary and wasn’t able to give it his all. With that in mind, Stam1na delivered a solid festival set. What was interesting was that the setlist seemed to differ from what I had been accustomed to with Stam1na. There was no “Viisi laukausta päähän,” “Lääke,” or “Muuri.” Instead, the band played songs like “Elokuutio,” “Luova hulluus,” “Panzerfaust,” and “Ristiriita.” The newest album was obviously on display but the band had decided to skip “Kuudet raamit,” the first single from Elokuutio. I was a bit disappointed about this choice, but it did not ruin the overall feeling.”

2016.06.25 03 Trivium (05) @ Nummirock
Trivium

Essi: “My only real experience with Trivium was listening to their album, The Crusade, back in my early metal days. Apart from that album, I never really had any interest in them. So prior to their Nummirock gig, I didn’t have any expectations one way or another. I didn’t really even know if they were in the “it-club.” You know, one of those artists who haven’t lost their charm or fanbase over the years. I did spot some Trivium shirts in the audience and a few minutes before the gig, the front of Nummirock’s main stage was almost surprisingly packed. I couldn’t help but wonder if I had really missed something for not listening more to this band. My original plan was to stay for the beginning of the gig to see how the crowd acted and how the overall atmosphere was, but I ended up staying through the whole gig all the way to the encore. The guys on stage were energetic, having fun and enjoying themselves, and the audience was no different. Guitarist and vocalist Matt Heafy took contact with the audience and encouraged them to mosh and move almost between every single song, and the people obeyed. Even though Trivium’s music did not give me chills, I really enjoyed their live presence and ability to move and excite the audience through the whole set.”

As usual, we spent a lion’s share of the weekend wandering back and forth between the Inferno stage on the shore and the green main-stage seeing bands, but luckily we had the time to sample the selection of food offered in Nummirock. You really won’t want to live the whole weekend on the grilled sausage and chips you bring to your camps, so even a small range of alternatives start to sound swell come Saturday afternoon at the latest. We still have to try the home-cooked food in Relaamo some upcoming year, and Asian food at any festival can seem like an unpleasant idea after a couple days of scorching sun, but we can and want to give you one excellent recommendation in Nummirock: the Black Dahlia Burger. Hand on heart, we swear it will be the best 10€ you’ll ever spend on a vegan, halloumi, or pork chop burger, and while we don’t know how or why the hell these guys are not in every place ever, we know that there is festival food that is so good it can make you cry. We’ve also never seen anyone looking at another person the way they look at BDB’s burgers, and that is undoubtedly the look of purest love.

2016.06.25 04 Mokoma (08) @ Nummirock
Mokoma

Lene: “As the evening was drawing close to its end, one of Nummirock’s acknowledged veterans, Mokoma, started their set, being the last band to play on the Inferno stage this year. There’s not much that hasn’t been said about their gigs before and I know I’m repeating myself and a plethora of others by saying that there’s definitely a reason or two that people love to go see their gigs time after time. They are always a solid pick, especially in Nummi, and even if the setlist was again quite a standard Mokoma summer festival set for the most part, one has to admit that even the “safe” choices are entertaining – if sauna-fresh guys drying their hair wearing only shorts and towels doesn’t say it, I don’t know what does. One of the highlights, however, was bringing in a rarity – it’s been a good while since they’ve played their Finnish rendition of Death’s “Open Casket,” “Avoin hauta,” and it was nice to see how thrilled the audience was to hear it. And on the topic of audience, Mokoma likely had one of the best in Nummi this year, delightfully loud and lively (even though the pit didn’t quite get wind beneath its wings, it seemed). What I really like at Mokoma’s gigs these days is definitely the audience; you can see someone go dead serious, shout, and then sing and smile the next second – I wouldn’t exaggerate much if I said it’s one of my favorite sights in the world. With the mandatory nu-metal jumping to “Pohja on nähty,” we headed off towards the main-stage and the last band on Saturday.”

2016.06.25 05 Children of Bodom (03) @ Nummirock
Children of Bodom

Essi: “And where to start with it? The last time Children of Bodom played on the shore of Nummijärvi was in 2013 and I got to enjoy the gig from the front row. In 2016, the band was back once again as the main act of Saturday and I took my familiar spot leaning against the fence. The crowd was plentiful, the night was getting darker, and once the band came on stage you just knew it was going to be great. And it was. Children of Bodom gave the Nummi audience what they wanted. Something old like “Lake Bodom,” or newer from their latest album, I Worship Chaos, and finally something blue like “Hate Me” from Follow the Reaper. Something borrowed was missing even though it would have been great to hear the band play their “Black Winter Day” cover, originally by Amorphis (which they recorded as a bonus song for I Worship Chaos). Well, you can’t have everything. Usually the special surprises on the setlist seem to be limited to club gigs but Children of Bodom proved me wrong in this. I cannot remember the last time I heard them playing “Children of Decadence,” but the biggest surprise was hearing “Trashed, Lost & Strungout” from Are You Dead Yet? The band apparently played the song live a couple of times after releasing the aforementioned album but took it off the setlist, stating that it just did not work that well live. The guys proved themselves wrong even though keyboardist Janne Wirman said later that he might have missed a couple of notes. I bet the audience did not even notice. Another special thing about the gig was that it was the first time the band’s newest member, guitarist Daniel Freyberg (Naildown, ex-Norther) performed with the band in Finland. It seemed like Freyberg was staying a bit in the background, not really interacting with the audience. He’s been with the band for only around 6 months so there’s hope that this will change.

Though my praise stems from 10 years of being a big fan of Bodom, I was not the only one who got enthusiastic over the Saturday’s main act. Words like “one of the best gigs ever” and “top 3 of this festival” were heard. So, to sum it up, if you were not in Nummirock to see this gig, I feel sorry for you. And if you were in Nummirock but did not see this gig, you should be ashamed.”

2016.06.25 05 Children of Bodom (09) @ Nummirock
Children of Bodom

 

You hear people stating every now and then that it doesn’t really matter who’s playing at Nummi, because you will be there regardless. While that is partially true, we couldn’t help thinking that it would have been nice and rather appropriate to commemorate the 30th year of Nummirock with something a little bit more special than a few bands from over the years and mentioning the landmark in the official merch. The few nice activities that were packed into the weekend, like the mölkky tournament on the beach, weren’t advertised until (nearly) the last minute on Facebook, and likely everyone who’s been to Nummirock knows that the network connections in the middle of the woods are somewhat feeble at best. Compared to last year when there was Steve ’N’ Seagulls playing on the back of a pick-up truck in the camping area, Whorion’s grill party, and Diablo serving communion, for instance, the absence of specialties felt even more evident. We wholeheartedly agree that the addition of a 4th day was an excellent idea, especially after people had been wishing for it so devoutly, but perhaps adding one bigger name among the local bands would’ve made it more worthwhile? The craft beer and whisky bar by the beach was also a nice touch, if not a little bit out of place, since, well… we all know what the camps are for.

And before you take this as complaining, we assure you, we had the greatest of times on the shores of Nummijärvi, as always – and that’s right in the core of the “problem.” You get what you bargain for in Nummi every year, regardless of weather, bands, or pretty much anything, but as we said, that’s what you get every year; when the festival you love rounds another decade, wouldn’t you want to make the occasion a bit more extraordinary? And it likely wouldn’t have required much – a few tweaks here and there, no need to turn the whole festival area over and make it a theme park, but something to go with the notorious Nummi spirit. There’s always room for improvement, even with institutions as old as Nummirock. But after all, it’s the people who make Nummi and with the festival hosting a record-breaking 40,000 visitors this year, not to mention the sun gracing us with its presence, it’s extremely, impossibly hard not to be happy having spent the midsummer in Nummijärvi once again. Congratulations on the 30 excellent years, and here’s to 30 more to come!

2016.06.24 Festival extras (02) @ Nummirock

 

Text: Essi Nummi, Lene L., Atte Valtonen | Photos: Eliza Rask, Lene L. | Ed: Amy Wiseman

NUMMIROCK – Festival Extras @ Nummijärvi, Kauhajoki, 22-25.06.2016

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Festival extras from Nummirock 2016.
Photos by Eliza Rask and Lene L.

NUMMIROCK – Day 3 @ Nummijärvi, Kauhajoki, 25.06.2016

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Day 3 of Nummirock 2016.
Photos by Eliza Rask.

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Netta Skog (ex-Turisas, Ensiferum), 2016

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Netta Skog with Ensiferum, Nosturi 2015 Photo by Marco Manzi

Netta Skog certainly needs no introduction. Before she was known as the accordionist in Turisas, but these days she can be seen on stage with Ensiferum as a permanent replacement for keyboardist Emmi Silvennoinen. And if that’s not cool enough, she won the 2015 World Championships in the digital accordion category! Here is the playlist of this very talented girl’s life!

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
I have no idea. Seriously. Maybe some Finnish songs my dad played with the piano. Probably.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
Trivium – “This World Can’t Tear us Apart” – Loved this one since the first listening. Still love it.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
Imogen Heap – “Hide and Seek”
The Killers – “On Top”

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre you play in)
Nightwish – “Dead to the World” – In 2006 I won the Golden Accordion competition in Finland (the best entertaining accordion player in Finland) with this song!

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
Biffy Clyro – “Many of Horror”

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Calvin Harris – “Summer”

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you were really excited to own
Spice Girls – Spice … Hey c’mon, I am from the 90’s. Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys were THE THING back then and I still definitely sing their songs at the karaoke bar! Hell yeah!

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Def Leppard – “Hysteria” – Just love. Pure love, Ah!

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Children of Bodom – “Living Dead Beat”

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Stam1na – “Viimeinen Atlantis”
Pink Floyd – “High Hopes”

NUMMIROCK – Day 2 @ Nummijärvi, Kauhajoki, 24.06.2016

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Day 2 of Nummirock 2016.
Photos by Lene L. and Eliza Rask.

NUMMIROCK – Day 1 @ Nummijärvi, Kauhajoki, 23.06.2016

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Day 1 of Nummirock 2016.
Photos by Lene L. and Eliza Rask.

(2016) Fates Warning: Theories of Flight (English)

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Artist: Fates Warning
Album: Theories of Flight
Release: 01.07.2016
Label: Inside Out

Progressive metal pioneers Fates Warning started enriching my record collection around the time their previous album, Darkness in a Different Light (2013), came out. After I’d become better acquainted with the rest of their discography, I came to the conclusion that it was a very solid comeback after a 9-year recording hiatus, but not all of the songs were exactly stellar, and it felt like the band was still clearing the cobwebs in preparation for something even greater. This brings us to the present, where the release of the 12th FW record, Theories of Flight, is upon us.

One of the first things that pops out while listening to the album for the first time is how many hooks there are. Some of the tunes are the catchiest the band has written since Inside Out (1994), but there’s enough complexity and layers in the music to give it balance and depth. This recipe is so successful that you find yourself listening to the album over and over again, almost to the point of addiction. The whole record feels like a synthesis of the best parts of every Ray Alder-era release without feeling like a retread.

The opener, “From the Rooftops,” is quite representative of the album’s sound and a good way to kick things off, but also my least favorite track. It’s a slightly surprising choice for the first single, given that there are even stronger and more accessible songs. “Seven Stars” is the spiritual successor of “Point of View,” as it creates a slightly similar vibe and is just as anthem-like, albeit slower. “SOS” is a melodically strong yet slightly mysterious piece with a powerful mantra (“sink or swim”) by Ray Alder in the middle. This song just screams to be played live!

Fans of Fates Warning’s introspective side will probably find the album’s 10-minute centerpiece “The Light and Shade of Things” most enjoyable, while the intensity of “White Flag” and “Like Stars Our Eyes Have Seen” should please those looking for heaviness. “White Flag” is hands down the best song on the album for me, including a great lyrical message of persistence (“No surrender, don’t give up / Never carry that white flag”) and impressive guest solos by long-time on/off member Frank Aresti and current touring guitarist Michael Abdow. Another highlight is the epic “The Ghosts of Home,” which deals with guitarist/songwriter Jim Matheos’ childhood experiences of having to move constantly. The music accompanies the topic brilliantly, beginning atypically in a major key before getting faster and heavier, but also including a beautifully wistful slower section. The title-track is an instrumental with spoken word samples that recalls “Disconnected Part 2,” though it is less ambient-tinged and ends the album quite abruptly.

The musicianship on the album is first-class as always: bassist Joey Vera and drummer Bobby Jarzombek are a monstrous rhythm section, and Jim Matheos weaves fascinating riffs that come to the foreground when you’re listening on your headphones and can clearly make out what the guitars are doing in each channel. The real MVP here, however, is Ray Alder: the man has lost some of his upper range over the years, but he’s learned to make the most out of what he still has left. I’ve always preferred his more mature voice on the later albums to his youthful wailing, and on Theories of Flight he’s outdone himself once more. Alder’s passionate and powerful singing is the cherry on the top of an already delicious cake.

Theories of Flight is an excellent album-of-the-year candidate that has everything a Fates Warning fan could ask for. It’s undoubtedly one of the milestones of the band’s long career and deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Parallels (1991), A Pleasant Shade of Gray (1997), and Disconnected (2000).

Rating: 10/10, 5 stars

Tracklist:
1. From the Rooftops
2. Seven Stars
3. SOS
4. The Light and Shade of Things
5. White Flag
6. Like Stars Our Eyes Have Seen
7. The Ghosts of Home
8. Theories of Flight

Text: Ville Karttunen | Ed: Amy Wiseman

(2016) Fates Warning: Theories of Flight (suomeksi)

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Artisti: Fates Warning
Albumi: Theories of Flight
Julkaistu
: 01.07.2016
Levy-yhtiö: Inside Out

Progressiivisen metallin pioneeri Fates Warning alkoi rikastaa levykokoelmaani edellisen albuminsa Darkness in a Different Light (2013) julkaisun aikoihin. Tutustuttuani paremmin bändin muuhun tuotantoon tulin siihen tulokseen, että albumi oli hyvin toimiva paluu 9 vuoden levytystauon jälkeen, mutta kaikki kappaleet eivät olleet varsinaisesti loistavia, ja tuntui siltä, että bändi oli lämmittelemässä jotain vielä parempaa varten. Tämä tuo meidät nykyhetkeen, jossa 12:nnen FW-levyn Theories of Flight julkaisu on käsillä.

Yksi ensimmäisistä mieleen pomppaavista asioista albumia ensi kertaa kuunnellessa on se, kuinka paljon koukkuja kappaleissa on. Jotkin biisit ovat bändin tarttuvimpia sitten Inside Outin (1994), mutta musiikissa on riittävästi monimutkaisuutta ja kerroksia antamaan tasapainoa ja syvyyttä. Tämä resepti on niin toimiva, että albumia huomaa kuuntelevansa yhä uudelleen lähes riippuvuuteen saakka. Koko levy on kuin synteesi jokaisen Ray Alderin aikakauden julkaisun parhaista puolista, tuntumatta kuitenkaan vanhan toistolta.

Avausraita “From the Rooftops” edustaa melko hyvin albumin tyyliä ja on hyvä alku, mutta myös mielestäni vähiten hyvä kappale. Se on hieman yllättävä valinta ensisingleksi, sillä levyllä on vahvempia ja helpommin lähestyttäviä kappaleita. “Seven Stars” on “Point of Viewin” henkinen seuraaja, koska siinä on samanhenkinen tunnelma ja niin ikään tarttuva kertosäe, vaikka kappale on hieman hitaampi. “SOS” on melodisesti vahva ja hieman salaperäinen tekele, jonka väliosassa on Ray Alderin voimallinen mantra (“sink or swim”). Tämä kappale vaatii tulla soitetuksi livenä!

Fates Warningin introspektiivisemmän puolen ystävät todennäköisesti nauttivat eniten 10-minuuttisesta “The Light and Shade of Thingsistä”, kun taas “White Flagin” ja “Like Stars Our Eyes Have Seenin” intensiteetin luulisi tyydyttävän raskaamman tavaran perään haikailevia. “White Flag” on itselleni ehdottomasti levyn paras kappale, jossa on sinnikkyyteen kannustava sanoma (“No surrender, don’t give up / Never carry that white flag”), ja vierailijoina toimivat pitkäaikainen on/off-jäsen Frank Aresti ja nykyinen kiertuekitaristi Michael Abdow soittavat vaikuttavat soolot. Toinen kohokohta on eeppinen “The Ghosts of Home”, joka kertoo kitaristi-lauluntekijä Jim Matheosin lapsuudesta, jolloin hän joutui jatkuvasti muuttamaan paikasta toiseen. Musiikki säestää aihetta upeasti, alkamalla epätyypillisesti duurissa ennen nopeammaksi ja raskaammaksi muuttumista, mutta sisältäen myös haikean hitaamman osuuden. Levyn nimikappale on puhesampleja sisältävä instrumentaali, joka tuo mieleen “Disconnected Part 2:n”, muttei ole yhtä ambientmainen ja päättää albumin hieman äkillisesti.

Soitto levyllä on tuttuun tapaan ensiluokkaista: basisti Joey Vera ja rumpali Bobby Jarzombek muodostavat hurjan rytmisektion, ja Jim Matheos kutoo kiehtovia riffejä, jotka pääsevät oikeuksiinsa kuulokkeilla kuunnellessa, jolloin on helpompi erottaa mitä kitarat soittavat kummassakin kanavassa. Todelliseen huippusuoritukseen yltää kuitenkin Ray Alder: mies on menettänyt äänensä yläpäätä vuosien varrella, mutta hän on oppinut hyödyntämään jäljellä olevaa äänialaansa. Olen aina pitänyt hänen kypsemmästä laulannastaan myöhemmillä levyillä enemmän kuin alkuaikojen kiekumisesta, ja Theories of Flightilla hän on jälleen ylittänyt itsensä. Alderin tunteikas ja vahva laulu on kirsikka jo ennestään herkullisen kakun päällä.

Theories of Flight on erinomainen ehdokas vuoden parhaaksi albumiksi, jolta löytyy kaikkea mitä Fates Warning -fani voi yhtyeeltä toivoa. Se on epäilemättä yksi bändin pitkän uran merkkipaaluista ja ansaitsee tulla mainituksi samassa lauseessa kuin Parallels (1991), A Pleasant Shade of Gray (1997) ja Disconnected (2000).

Arvosana: 10/10, 5 tähteä

Kappalelista:

  1. From the Rooftops
  2. Seven Stars
  3. SOS
  4. The Light and Shade of Things
  5. White Flag
  6. Like Stars Our Eyes Have Seen
  7. The Ghosts of Home
  8. Theories of Flight

Teksti: Ville Karttunen

PLAYLIST OF MY LIFE – Sini Seppälä (Crimson Sun), 2016

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If you haven’t heard of Crimson Sun, we suggest you hop over to Spotify or YouTube to check out their debut album from 2015, Towards the Light. This up-and-coming Finnish band is scooping up fans like an overpowered vacuum in Finland and if you get a chance to check them out, we highly recommend you take it! Today we’ve got the playlist of their singer’s life: Sini Seppälä!

1. The first song you remember hearing as a child
Pretty hard to remember the very first one, but one of them has
certainly been Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Bad Moon Rising.” CCR and
John Fogerty are one of my dad’s favorites he has been listening to as
long as I can remember. The guitar riff of the song echoes all the way
from my childhood.

2. The first song you can recall ever really and truly loving
I have to say Nightwish – “Sleeping Sun”; the intro still gives me
goosebumps.

3. A song that you loved as a teenager/reminds you of high school
One song that strongly reminds me of my teenage years is definitely
Children of Bodom – “Trashed, Lost & Strungout”

4. The song or band that got you into metal music (or the current genre
you play in)
It’s hard to go with just one band or song so I’ll say Nightwish,
Lordi, and Children of Bodom.

5. The most recent song to get stuck in your head
Ghost – “He Is”

6. Your guilty pleasure song/band
Well, I have this playlist on Spotify: Greatest dance hits of the 90’s..

7. The first album you bought with your own money/the first album you
were really excited to own
Lordi – Get Heavy was an album I was excited to own as I was really
fascinated by the band back in the days.

8. A song that makes you want to curl up on the couch with a hot beverage
Sentenced – “End of the Road”

9. A song to blast at full volume while you’re on the road
Danko Jones – “Full of Regret”

10. The song you’d most like to be played at your funeral
Halestorm – “Rockshow”

TAMPERE METAL MEETING – Ratinanniemi, Tampere, 17-18.06.2016 (suomeksi)

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Suurten, perinteisten suomalaisten kesäfestivaalien siirtäessä esiintyjärosteriaan yhä enemmän EDM:n ja hiphopin suuntaan, oli mukava kuulla alkuvuodesta uutisia kokonaan uuden metallifestivaalin, Tampere Metal Meetingin, järjestämisestä. Mm. Incantation Agencyn sekä Tampereen YO-talon yhteistuotantona syntynyt kaksipäiväinen tapahtuma juhlittiin kesäkuun 17. ja 18. päivänä, musiikkitarjonnan yhdistellessä tunnettua ja vähemmän tunnettua metallimusiikkia sen eri alalajeista. Metal Meetingin bändikattaus oli itselleni jo etukäteen kovasti odotettu, sillä mukana oli Kalmahin ja Finntrollin kaltaisia teiniaikojen suosikkeja, Whisperedin tyyppisiä jyrkässä nousukiidossa olevia ajankohtaisia nimiä, yhdistettynä suurelle yleisölle tuntemattomiin Deströyer 666:een sekä Demilichiin, joiden kaikki aikaisemmat keikat olen onnistunut missaamaan.

 

Perjantai
2016.06.17-18 TMM crowd (5)Auton nokka kääntyi perjantaina keskipäivän aikoihin Tampereen suuntaan, ja paikalle saavuttiin pari tuntia myöhemmin. Edeltävänä viikonloppuna Eteläpuistossa melskattu Radio City South Park oltiin juhlittu suurimmaksi osaksi tyypillisessä suomalaisessa kesäsäässä, sateessa, eikä tämäkään viikonloppu näyttänyt merkkejä paremmasta – päivä käynnistyi kevyessä tihkusateessa.

Saavuin porteille juuri perjantain ensimmäisen orkesterin, pari vuotta sitten paluun tehneen Convulsen, setin alettua. Meno tapahtuma-alueella vaikutti rauhalliselta, ja Convulse räimikin vajaan kolmen vartin settinsä kakkoslavalla kohtuullisen vähälukuiselle yleisölle. Itselleni Convulse oli tuttu vain nimeltä, mutta pidin bändin groovaavasta vanhan liiton death metalista, jossa tehtiin selvää pesäeroa 90-luvun vanhan materiaalin sekä comebackin jälkeen ilmestyneiden kahden kokopitkän välillä.

Puoli neljältä oli aika korkata päälava, kun paikallinen melodeath-lupaus Whispered nousi lauteille. Olen ollut bändin fani jo monta vuotta, ja odotin tuoreen Metsutan – Songs of the Void -levyn biisien kuulemista livenä. Setti lähti käyntiin Metsutanin avauskaksikolla “Chi no Odori” – “Strike!”. Bändi oli vedossa, kuten aina, mutta täysin luokaton lavaääni esti keikasta nauttimisen kohtuullisen tehokkaasti. “Strike!”:n aikana lavalta ei kuulunut juuri muuta ääntä kuin rummut sekä vokalisti Jouni Valjakan kitara, eikä tilanne käytännössä seuraavan kolmen vartin aikana muuttunut miksikään – bassoa ei kuulunut laisinkaan, ja kitaroistakin tuntui tulevan ääntä ainoastaan toisesta kerrallaan. Liekö Lars Ulrich ollut mikseripöydän takana? Harmittaa jätkien puolesta, Metal Meetingin keikka oli nimittäin kesän ainoita. Keväisessä levyarviossa toivomani “Tsukiakarikin” oli setissä…

2016.06.17-18 TMM crowd (3)Mikkelin lahja heavy metalille, Lord Fist, oli vuorossa Whisperedin jälkeen. Nuorehkoon ikäänsä nähden olen ehtinyt todistaa bändin live-esiintymisiä jo monta kertaa, ja taas kerran Fist oli aivan liekeissä tarjoillen tamperelaisyleisölle tiukan puolen tunnin annoksen kitaraharmonioita, vokalisti Perttu Koivusen vibratoa sekä viipyilevää lavaesiintymistä. Fist on ehtinyt kiertää maamme keikkalavoja jo useamman vuoden, ja kokemus näkyy selkeästi esiintymisessä. Harmi, että bändin Paras Biisi™, ensimmäisen demon “Super Sailor”, ei tällä kertaa mukaan mahtunut, mutta “Green Eyleen” ja “Who Wants to Live Forever” paikkasivat tilanteen, ja Wordless Wisdom -12-tuumaisen mainio “Headless Riderkin” oli tehnyt paluun settiin!

Lord Fistin keikka ehti ilmeisesti livahtaa vähän pitkäksi, sillä “Lord of the Nightin” loputtua Karhulan totocore-partio Omnium Gatherum oli jo täydessä vauhdissa päälavalla. OG:nkin tekemisiä on tullut tiukasti seurattua jo lähemmäs kymmenen vuoden ajan, ja ai että kun vaan paranee vanhetessaan. Setti potkaistiin käyntiin uutuuslevy Grey Heavensin aloituskaksikolla “The Pit” – “Skyline”, ja yleisö oli alusta asti täysillä mukana. OG on takuuvarmaa viihdettä: vokalisti Jukka Pelkonen on Suomen viihdyttävimpiä lavaesiintyjiä, joka ei todellakaan ota asioita turhan vakavasti vaan jutustelee kevyesti niitä näitä lauluosuuksiensa lomassa. Jarmo Pikan tilalla rumpupallilla jo hetkisen viihtyneen Demigodin Tuomo Latvalan soitto on hienoa seurattavaa – mies ei tee yhtään turhaa liikettä ja koristelee kappaleita kekseliäästi. OG:n setin aikana tosin tuli ensimmäistä kertaa tunne, että slotit voisivat olla pidempiäkin; kolme varttia oli mielestäni ehdottomasti bändille liian vähän.

Omnium Gatherumin jälkeen nälkä pääsi yllättämään, ja koska OG:n jälkeen aloittaneen Baptismin tuotantoa en juuri tunne, suuntasimmekin hetkiseksi pois festarialueelta. Ne pari biisiä, jotka seurasimme, olivat peruslaadukasta Suomi-blackmetalia. Takaisin ehdimme Baptismin jälkeen päälavalla aloittaneen The Man-Eating Treen setin puolivälissä, ja tyydyimmekin seuraamaan setin lopun kaljateltan tuntumasta. The Man-Eating Tree on ollut itselleni aina pienoinen väliinputoaja, jonka olen livenä aiemminkin nähnyt, mutta josta en vain löydä tarpeeksi koukkuja jotta bändi olisi löytänyt tiensä vakituisempaan kuunteluun. Uusimman, viime vuonna julkaistun In the Absence of Light -levyn kappaleet tosin kuulostivat paljon pirteämmiltä kuin aiempien levyjen tuotanto. Ehkä The Man-Eating Treellekin täytyy jossain vaiheessa suoda toinen mahdollisuus.

Circle
Circle

Töiden takia paikalle roimasti myöhässä saapunut kuvaajamme saapui juuri parahiksi paikalle dokumentoimaan perjantain ehdottoman tapauksen, porilaisen kulttibändi Circlen. Vuodesta 1991 kasassa ollut Porin eksentrikkokaksikko Mika Rättö – Jussi Lehtisalon luotsaama, päälle 50 pitkäsoittoa ja livejulkaisua tehtaillut bändi on jollain uskomattomalla tavalla onnistunut viuhumaan täysin ohi omasta tutkasta, ja tämän keikan jälkeen voin vain ihmetellä, miksi. Kauhtuneisiin verkkareihin ja spandexeihin pukeutunut kuusikko oli jotain, jota on vaikea kuvailla. Biisit koostuivat junnaavista stoner-riffeistä ja Mika Rätön jakomielisestä synansoitosta sekä laulusta, minkä lisäksi lavalla tapahtui jatkuvasti kaikennäköistä ulkomusiikillista oheistoimintaa. Uskaltakaapas missata Tuskan-keikka kahden viikon päästä! Olin viihdyttynyt. Circlen setin alussa myös aurinkokin alkoi viimein paistaa!

Moonsorrow
Moonsorrow

Ilta jatkui ja panokset kovenivat: toiseksi viimeisen päälavaslotin täytti Suomen kovin bändi, Moonsorrow. Bändi tuskin tässä vaiheessa maailmaa enää esittelyjä kaipaa, joten mennään itse asiaan: keikka oli taas kerran hävyttömän hyvä, joskin Whisperediä piinanneet miksausongelmat tekivät paluun – tällä kertaa koko bändi kyllä soi, mutta volyymipotikka oli unohtunut pihinä-asentoon. Moonsorrowin kerrostalon kokoisen pakanametallin täytyisi tulla PA:sta pihalle spinaltapmaisesti yhdellätoista eikä kolmosella, ja festivaalin Facebook-seinälle ehtikin ilmaantua asiasta pari välitöntä palautetta. Onneksi Moonsorrowille oli kuitenkin varattu tarpeeksi soittoaikaa, ja keikka olikin tunnin ja vartin mitassaan juuri passeli festariveto. Settilista noudatteli keväisen Jumalten Aika -levyn julkkarikeikan settiä, jossa uudet kappaleet sujahtivat vaivatta vanhojen klassikoiden sekaan.

Demilich
Demilich

Perjantain viimeinen bändi kakkoslavalla oli kulttimainetta nauttiva kuopiolainen Demilich. Antti Bomanin luotsaama death metal -orkesteri on ehditty kuopata jo useampaan otteeseen, mutta edelleen bändi kiertää kohtuullisen aktiivisesti lavoja. Bändin ainoa kokopitkä Nespithe on jäänyt harmillisen vähälle kuuntelulle, sillä Demilichin äkkiväärä dödis toimi aivan satanolla. Boman oli ehtinyt selkeästi hetkisen marinoida itseään viereisestä kojusta saatavalla pienpanimo-oluella, mutta esiintymiseen tällä ei ollut mitään vaikutusta. Välispiikeissäkin oli mainioita heittoja, ja vajaan tunnin mittainen setti hujahti siivillä.

Insomnium
Insomnium

Perjantain pääesiintyjän titteli meni tällä kertaa Joensuun suuruudelle, Insomniumille. Bändi juhli 10-vuotista kolmoslevyään Above the Weeping Worldia soittaen leijonanosan levyn kappaleista. Levy oli julkaisuvuotenaan allekirjoittaen kuunnelluimpia levyjä, joten nostalgiapärinä oli vahvasti läsnä. Bändin kakkoskitaristi Markus Vanhala ahkeroi taas kerran tuplat, olihan mies lavalla jo Omnium Gatherumin kanssa. Kamalan tarkkoja yksityiskohtia keikasta ei ylhäällä ole – hiukset heiluivat “Mortal Sharen”, “Change of Heartin”, “The Killjoyn”, “Last Statementin” ja “Devoid of Caringin” tahdissa sen verran voimakkaasti, että seuraavana aamuna niska ei juuri mihinkään suuntaan kääntynytkään. Insomniumin livekeikat on tullut viime vuosina ohitettua aika kepeästi, mutta Ratinanniemessä bändi onnistui taas muistuttamaan siitä, miksi se on ollut jo pitkään maamme menestyneimpiä metalliakteja. Toimi!

 

Lauantai

Ranger
Ranger

Lauantaiaamupäivä valkeni Tampereella huolestuttavan harmaana, ja säätiedotus lupaili neljäksi tunniksi ukkosta ja sadetta. Yöllä satoi aika paljonkin, mutta aamulla keli oli sentään “vain” pilvinen. Eilinen painoi vielä koko kropassa, joten päivän pari ensimmäistä esiintyjää, paikallinen death metal -akti Worthless sekä viime vuoden Nummirockissa vakuuttanut Sentenced-tribuutti Forever One livahtivat auttamatta ohi.

Päivän ensimmäinen bändi, jota ehdimme todistamaan, oli helsinkiläinen speed metal -lupaus Ranger. Lord Fistin tavoin Circlen Rätön ja Lehtisalon Ektro Recordsille levyttävä Ranger on ollut viime aikoina kovassa nosteessa, eikä syyttä – bändin musiikki jyrää eteenpäin sata lasissa ja homma on viimeisen päälle 80-lukuun kallellaan, rumpali Miko Sipilän puuttuvista resokalvoista vokalisti Dimi Pontiacin viiksiin asti. Kotona en Rangeria ole juurikaan kuunnellut, mutta livenä toimii aina!

Jess and the Ancient Ones
Jess and the Ancient Ones

Kuopiolainen Jess and the Ancient Ones oli etukäteen ajateltuna Metal Meetingin jonkinlainen outolintu edustaen kattauksen kepeintä laitaa. Bändin okkulttirock ei ole jotenkin ikinä kolahtanut allekirjoittaneeseen, mutta JatAO kuitenkin sopi aurinkoiseen (kyllä, ukkosesta ei tietoakaan) lauantai-iltapäivään kuin nenä päähän! Vokalisti Jess oli äärimmäisen karismaattinen esiintyjä, jonka katse porautui katsojan sisimpään, minkä lisäksi naisen laulusoundi on todella upea. Bändi soitti tiukasti yhteen, ja basisti Jake Luomajoelta sujuu selkeästi edeltävän päivän Demilichin dödiskoukeroiden lisäksi myös groovaavampi bassottelu. Eniten tuli silti äimisteltyä kitaristi Corpsen nykyolemusta; mies on sulattanut elopainostaan ainakin kolmekymmentä kiloa viimeisimpään nähtyyn Deathchain-keikkaan verrattuna. Kaiken kaikkiaan JatAO onnistui olemaan niin kova, että tuore Second Psychedelic Coming: The Aquarius Tapes -levy lienee pakko ottaa tarkempaan kuunteluun!

Barathrum
Barathrum

Jess and the Ancient Onesin räväkästä okkulttirockista siirryttiinkin sitten kertaheitolla tummanpuhuvampiin tunnelmiin, kun black metal -legenda Barathrum otti kakkoslavan haltuun. Henkilökohtaisesti en ole ikinä syttynyt bändin musiikista, mutta yleisöstä päätellen taisin olla vähemmistössä. Epätavallisesti kahdella basistilla varustettu bändi soitti tiukasti yhteen, vaikka jokaisen kisakunto oli varmasti parin promillen paremmalla puolella. Vokalisti Demonos Sova oli oma tuttu itsensä huojuessaan lavalla kainalosauvan kanssa ja näyttäen siltä, että voisi minä hetkenä hyvänsä kaatua suorilta jaloilta lavan lattialle. Ja rock-asenne muka olisi jo kadonnut maailmasta tyystin? Ei Sovan vahtivuorolla. Turvallisesti “Legions of Perkeleeseen”, “Last Days in Heaveniin” ja “Saatanaan” päättynyt setti sisälsi uuttakin materiaalia.

Kalmah
Kalmah

Seuraavana päälavalla vuorossa ollut Kalmah oli ehkä kuitenkin allekirjoittaneelle festivaalin odotetuin esiintyjä. Siinä missä muut suomalaiset melodeath-suuruudet, kuten Children of Bodom, ovat menettäneet relevanttiutensa jo vuosia sitten, Kalmah jaksaa viihdyttää edelleen. Bändi kaahasi biisinsä setin avausralli “Hook the Monsterin” ensimmäisistä tahdeista de facto -lopetus “Hadesiin” asti paikoitellen selkeästi levyversioita nopeammin, ja rumpali Janne Kusmin oli vaihtanut paikoitellen kompeissaan bassorumpujen trioli-iskut kuudestoistaosiin. Nykyään todella harvakseltaan Suomessa keikkaileva Kalmah oli silminnähden iloinen saamastaan vastaanotosta, vaikka vokalisti Pekka Kokko kovasti yrittikin välispiikeissään vitsailla siitä, että pitää soittaa vielä pari biisiä. Kokonaisuudessaan en ymmärrä, miksi bändi ei tee kotimaassaan enempää keikkoja. Yleisöä varmasti riittää täälläkin.

Nocturnus A.D.
Nocturnus A.D.

Toistaiseksi Metal Meeting oli sujunut pelkästään kotimaisin voimin, mutta seitsemältä lauantai-iltana oli aika laskea lavalle tapahtuman ensimmäinen ulkomaan-vieras, yhdysvaltalainen death metal -pioneeri Nocturnus A.D. Tässä vaiheessa allekirjoittaneen namedroppailu-taidot loppuivat kesken, joten täytyi turvautua Internetin tarjontaan. Nocturnus on alun perin perustettu jo vuonna 1987, mutta vuonna 1992 bändin perustaja Mike Browning potkittiin pihalle omasta bändistään. Nyt lavalle noussut A.D -versio on Browningin vuonna 2013 kokoama reformibändi. Bändin materiaalia yhtään millään tavalla tuntemattomana keikan seuraaminen oli yllättävän virkistävää. Ensimmäinen huomio kiinnittyi kokoonpanoon; havahduin vasta ensimmäisen kappaleen loppupuolella siihen, että rumpali Browning hoiti itse myös vokaaliosuudet. Synistin käyttö tekniseen death metaliin kallellaan olevassa räimeessä oli myös kohtuullisen epätavallista. Kimurantin dödiksen ystävänä pidin keikasta loppujen lopuksi aika paljon, vaikka en biisejä tuntenutkaan.

Finntroll
Finntroll

Toiseksi viimeisenä päälavalla oli vuorossa suomalaisen peikkometallin sanansaattaja Finntroll. Edellisestä ‘Troll-keikasta on aikaa jo monta vuotta eikä bändin viimeisimmästä tuotannosta ole mitään hajua, joten oli mukava huomata settilistan painottuvan tuttuihin vanhempiin biiseihin. “Slaget vid Blodsjälvin” ja “Nattföddin” kaltaiset klassikot nostivat tunnelman saman tien kattoon, ja Nifelvind-levyn avausraita “Solsagan” nyt toimii aina. Taas kerran olisin kyllä halunnut käydä keskustelemassa miksaajan kanssa: vokalisti Vrethin mikrofoni tuntui olevan puolet ajasta pimeänä, kun taas kiipparisti Virran potikat olivat välillä niin kaakossa ettei lavalta muuta kuulunutkaan. Rumpali Heikki Saaren (MörkÖ) soitto oli onneksi juuri niin kellontarkkaa kuin pitääkin olla.

Finntrollin keikan aikana kävi myös asia, joka kuumottaa jokaista festarijärjestäjää eniten: “Jaktens Tidin” ensimmäisen säkeistön aikana jotain pamahti ja päälavan PA mykistyi täysin. Bändi hämmentyi, yleisö hämmentyi ja mikserikoppi panikoi, mutta tilanteesta onneksi selvittiin noin 10 minuutin odottelun jälkeen säikähdyksellä. Bändin setti tästä tietenkin hieman supistui, joten tilannetta paikattiin soittamalla se pakollinen “Trollhammaren”, minkä jälkeen setti paketoitiin “Under Bergets Rotilla”. Kunnialla loppuun asti vedetty juttu!

Deströyer 666
Deströyer 666

Kakkoslavan viimeisenä bändinä sai kunnian toimia Australian black/speed -hybridi Deströyer 666. Bändi ei ole kovin montaa kertaa Suomessa käynyt, mutta olen jotenkin onnistunut missaamaan nekin vähät keikat. Keväällä ilmestynyt Wildfire-levy oli todella kova, joten tätä keikkaa oli odotettu, ja onneksi tällä kertaa pääsin bändin livekeikkaa todistamaan… ja olihan D666 nyt aivan hävyttömän tiukka livenä setin painottuessa vanhempiin Phoenix Rising– sekä Cold Steel… For an Iron Age –levyihin, ja kuultiinpa Lemmyn muistoa kunnioittaen “Iron Fist” –coverikin! Jos setistä jotain purnattavaa pitää löytää, niin Defiance-levy oli jätetty täysin paitsioon, mutta toisaalta niin kauan kuin “I Am the Wargod” ja “Satanic Speed Metal” ovat mukana, niin ei sovi valittaa. Miehet valittelivat kovasti kylmyyttä, mutta eihän keikan aikana edes satanut vettä!

Tiamat
Tiamat

Pahoittelen jo etukäteen, että raportti päättyy antiklimaattisesti, mutta niin tuntui päättyvän Tampere Metal Meetingkin. Tapahtuman pääesiintyjäksi oli kiinnitetty ruotsalainen Tiamat, joka ainakin nimenä kiinnosti etukäteen kovasti, mutta kun keikka lähti käyntiin, allekirjoittaneella oli täysi työ pitää mielenkiintoa yllä. Aikoinaan death metal -bändinä aloittanut Tiamat oli mukana muovaamassa ruotsalaista dödissoundia, mutta vaihtoi musiikkityyliään 90-luvun puolivälissä johonkin doom metalin ja goottirokin välimaastoon. Pimenevässä ja synkässä lauantai-illassa bändin materiaalin olisi luullut toimivan varsin mainiosti, mutta itselleni keikka jäi todella valjuksi. En tiedä alkoiko väsymys painaa muutakin festarikansaa, mutta väkeä katosi tapahtuma-alueelta suurin mitoin vielä Tiamatin keikan ollessa käynnissä. Edellisen illan Insomnium-keikkaa seurasi valehtelematta kaksinkertainen määrä ihmisiä verrattuna Tiamatiin. Lopulta oli pakko tunnustaa tosiasiat ja lähteä itsekin narikan kautta kohti lähintä ruokapaikkaa.

 

Yleistä festivaalista
2016.06.17-18 TMM crowd (1)Ulkomusiikilliset asiat festivaaleilla ovat usein lähes yhtä tärkeitä kuin musiikillisetkin, joten oli ilo huomata miten paljon asioita Tampere Metal Meetingissä oltiin saatu kerralla kohdalleen. Tapahtuman sijainti oli loistava: Tampereen keskustorilta käveli festarialueen portille vain viisi minuuttia. Portilla ei missään vaiheessa ollut tungosta sekä narikka ja rannekkeenvaihto toimivat. Alkuun ajattelin bajamajoja olleen melko vähän – ehkä 30-40 kappaletta – mutta jonottaa ei kuitenkaan tarvinnut. Bajamajavyöhyke tosin sijaitsi ainoastaan sisäänkäynnin läheisyydessä, joten kalja-alueelta joutui poistumaan vessareissulle. Ensimmäisenä päivänä paikalle ei oltu ilmeisesti saatu erillisiä kusilaareja, mutta toiselle päivälle vessa-alue oltiin järjestelty uudelleen ja paikalle tuodut pisuaarit olivat niin tuoreita, että porattujen reikien muoviroskat vielä uivat laareissa.

Kuulun itse porukkaan, joka kuluttaa äärimmäisen vähän festivaalin ruokakojujen tarjontaa, mutta sen verran mitä ohi kulkiessani panin merkille, tarjontaa tuntui kysyntään nähden olevan sopivasti. Hervannan Varjobaarilla oli oma hampurilaiskoju, jonka 10 euron hintainen Varjoburger oli mainion kokoinen ja makuinen. Muuten löytyi perinteisempää pyttäri/frittimuikku -osastoa. Levy- ja paitamyyntiäkin oli, joskaan näiden kojujen edessä ei liiemmin tungosta missään vaiheessa näkynyt.

2016.06.17-18 TMM crowd (4)Metal Meetingin juomatarjonta noudatteli nykyfestareiden linjaa, jossa olut on kallista ja siitä pitää maksaa pantti, jonka saat takaisin palauttaessasi juomatölkin. Seitsemän euron hintainen Foster’s on vähän jyrkän hintainen janonsammuttaja, mutta onneksi vieressä oli Hopping Breweriesin pienpanimotuotekoju, josta sai APAa ja IPAa “vain” euron kalliimmalla. Tuote oli ilmeisesti tehnyt kauppansa hyvin, sillä lauantaina loppuillasta myytiin jo eioota. Kaiken kaikkiaan juomamyynti toimi todella jouhevasti, eikä jonoja kertynyt laisinkaan. Parasta kalja-alueessa oli sen asettelu, jossa myynti toimi keskeltä, ja alue ulottui molempien lavojen eturiviin asti – alue oli pituussuunnassa halkaistu tavallaan kahtia. Todella toimiva järjestely, tätä lisää muihinkin tapahtumiin!

 

Kaiken kaikkiaan Tampere Metal Meeting oli todella hyvin toimiva metallifestivaali, ja tervetullut lisäys Suomen raskaamman musiikin kesätarjontaan bändikattauksen tasapainotellessa kevyemmän ja raskaamman, tunnetun ja tuntemattomamman metallin välillä. Myös etukäteen pahalta näyttäneet säätiedotukset osoittautuivat (onneksi) suurimmaksi osaksi epätarkoiksi. Launtaille luvatusta myräkästä ei näkynyt jälkeäkään, ja ainoa varsinainen sadekuuro taisi osua Finntrollin keikan alkuun, kestäen ainoastaan parin kappaleen ajan. Väkeä Metal Meeting tuntui houkutelleen tarpeeksi, ja heti festivaalin päättymisen jälkeen Facebookista löytyikin jo ensi vuoden juhlien ajankohta. Voin jo tässä vaiheessa nähdä itseni hyvin paikalla myös tuolloin!

Teksti: Atte Valtonen | Kuvat: Jukka Rahkonen | Ed: Lene L.

TAMPERE METAL MEETING – Ratinanniemi, Tampere, 17-18.06.2016 (English)

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As the large traditional Finnish summer festivals are leaning more and more towards EDM and hip-hop, it was a pleasure to hear news of the arrangement of a completely new metal festival, Tampere Metal Meeting. The event, produced by Incancation Agency and Tampere’s YO-talo to name a few, was held at Ratinanniemi on the 17th and 18th of June with a line-up combining prominent and more obscure metal acts from a variety of sub-genres. With teenage favorites (Kalmah and Finntroll), topical ladder-climbers (Whispered), as well as more underground names (Deströyer 666, Demilich), the line-up made TMM a highly anticipated festival for yours truly!

 

Friday
2016.06.17-18 TMM crowd (5)Our journey from Helsinki began around noon on Friday and we arrived in Tampere about 2 hours later. The weather forecast had predicted clouds and light rain, and as with Radio City South Park, which was celebrated in typical Finnish summer weather a week earlier, the predictions were unfortunately true. We arrived at the gates just after the first act, Nokia-based Convulse, had begun their set on the second stage. Looking at the festival area from the press booth queue, everything seemed quiet and tranquil as Convulse played their set to a scarce audience. The band wasn’t that familiar to me, but once we got inside, I enjoyed their groovy old-school death metal. Convulse’s newer songs, which were made after their comeback a few years ago, have a whole different vibe compared to their old 90’s material.

At half past three it was time to head to battle, as the promising local melodic death metal band, Whispered, took the main stage. I’ve been a fan of the band for several years, and looked forward to hearing songs from the new album, Metsutan – Songs of the Void. Whispered begun their set with the new album’s opening pair, “Chi no Odori” and “Strike!”, but while the band was perfectly on point, the completely abysmal stage mix made enjoying of the gig pretty impossible. During “Strike!” the only thing you could remotely hear was the drums and singer Jouni Valjakka’s guitar, and things didn’t get any better over the course of their 45-minute set – the bass was inaudible the whole time and the guitars only seemed to be working one at a time. Perhaps Lars Ulrich had jumped behind the mix booth? A total bummer for the guys, because the Metal Meeting set was their only summer festival gig this year. They had even included the new album’s gem, “Tsukiakari,” to their set.

2016.06.17-18 TMM crowd (3)Mikkeli’s gift to the world of heavy metal, Lord Fist, was up after Whispered. Contrary to the band’s young age, I’ve managed to see them play numerous times already, and once again Fist was in their element, serving a hefty 30-minutes of guitar harmonies and vocalist Perttu Koivunen’s intentional close-but-no-cigar -singing. Lord Fist has had time to tour Finland for a couple of years now, and the acquired experience can clearly be seen in their stage presence. Too bad that their Greatest Song™, “Super Sailor,” off their first demo, Spark for the Night, hadn’t fit in the set this time, but “Green Eyleen” as well as “Who Wants to Live Forever” were executed marvelously. It was also nice to hear “Headless Rider” off their 12-inch Wordless Wisdom of Lord Fist after a long time!

I didn’t manage to check if Lord Fist had exceeded their stage time, or if Omnium Gatherum started their set earlier than they were meant to, but at the end of Fist’s last song, OG was already in action on the main stage. I’ve been following Omnium Gatherum’s work for almost 10 years now and I have to say that everything they do is always better than the last time. Like Whispered, OG kicked off their set with the two first tracks, “The Pit” and “Skyline,” off their latest album, Grey Heavens, and the audience was in flames from the beginning. OG is a guaranteed hit: vocalist Jukka Pelkonen is one of the most entertaining people out there, not at all taking things seriously but instead chatting with the audience in between his vocal parts. Tuomo Latvala, who has been substituting for Jarmo Pikka on the drummer’s stool for some time now, is an amazing drummer – the man doesn’t do a single unnecessary move while playing but still manages to bring a whole new feel to the band’s songs with inventive fills. During Omnium Gatherum’s set I felt for the first time that the band’s time-slot could’ve be longer – 45 minutes of quality melo-death is not enough!

After OG it was Baptism’s turn, and since I wasn’t familiar with their black metal, we felt it was convenient to do a dinner break outside the festival area. We watched a couple of songs, which left us with a feeling of well-executed Finnish black metal: nothing special, but very good nonetheless. When we got back, The Man-Eating Tree was about halfway through their set. The Man-Eating Tree has always been one of those bands that never have really appealed to me, and I’ve found it condescending that they are always advertised with the fact that their drummer, Vesa Ranta, played in Sentenced. Having seen the band live before, we settled to watch the rest of the set next to the beer tent. In retrospect, the songs of their latest effort, In the Absence of Light, sounded way better than the material of the first two albums – maybe I’ll have to give them an another chance someday.

Circle
Circle

Because of work-related misfortunes, our photographer didn’t arrive until before Friday’s undisputed cult act, Circle. The Pori-based [insert fitting term here]-rock enigma has been around since 1991 and their two masterminds, Mika Rättö and Jussi Lehtisalo, have produced over fifty studio and live albums. Circle has been one of those bands that I’ve known about for years but never have had the time to get into, and after their set I feel ashamed not having done that. The band climbed on stage dressed in worn and torn jogging or spandex pants and blasted an hour of music that’s really hard to put into words. The songs consisted of hypnotic guitar riffs and Rättö’s utterly insane singing and keyboards, and for the whole time there seemed to be some completely non-related side action going on. If you were at Tuska, I hope you didn’t dare miss Circle’s set! I was thoroughly entertained. An added bonus was that the sun finally starting to shine during the gig!

2016.06.17 02 Moonsorrow @ Tampere Metal Meeting (2)
Moonsorrow

The stakes got higher and higher as the evening continued, as Moonsorrow – Finland’s greatest band – filled the second-to-last main stage slot. At this point the band probably doesn’t require any introduction, so let’s get to the point: once again, the gig was AWESOME. Unfortunately, the mixing problems that plagued Whispered’s set returned, and while the whole band was distinguishable, someone clearly had forgotten to turn the master volume way up – Moonsorrow’s pagan metal in its skyscraper-sized enormity needs a Spinal Tap-ish setting of 11, not 3! But there is no bad without something good, as Moonsorrow was blessed with an hour and 15 minutes of showtime, which is a perfect festival length for their songs. The band released their latest album, Jumalten Aika, this spring, and Metal Meeting’s setlist followed the set of the album’s release party, mixing old and new effortlessly.

Demilich
Demilich

Friday’s last band on the second stage was Kuopio-based death metal cult classic, Demilich. Led by Antti Boman, the band has been buried a couple of times already, but still they occasionally tour and that’s great. Demilich’s only full-length, Nespithe, isn’t as familiar to me as I probably would like it to be, since the band’s complex death metal worked like a charm. Boman clearly had had the time to enjoy the products of the nearby craft beer tent, but even while being visibly hammered, his growls and guitar work were unaffected – that’s some professionalism right there! His interlude speeches were hilarious, and combined with the band’s strong material, their hour-long set felt horribly short. Go see Demilich before they REALLY call it quits!

Insomnium
Insomnium

Finally, the headlining act’s title was bestowed upon Insomnium. The renowned Joensuu-based melo-death act is celebrating the 10-year anniversary of their classic third album, Above the Weeping World, playing most of the tracks off that album. On its release year, the record was one of the most-listened albums for me, so the nostalgia effect was strongly present. Insomnium’s second guitarist, Markus Vanhala, worked once again a double shift since he had already played with Omnium Gatherum earlier. The most accurate details from the band’s set were lost on me – I was too busy moshing along with “Mortal Share,” “Change of Heart,” “The Killjoy,” “Last Statement,” and “Devoid of Caring,” among others. Of course, all the jamming backfired the following morning when my neck was so stiff that it didn’t really move in any direction. I’ve been attending Insomnium’s live gigs pretty lightly over the last few years, but at Ratinanniemi the band managed to remind me of the things that make them one of the most successful metal acts in our country.

 

Saturday

Ranger
Ranger

Saturday morning in Tampere was unsettlingly gray and the forecast didn’t look too good either – there was supposed to be four straight hours of thunderstorm in the afternoon. It had rained considerably overnight, but when we headed off towards Ratinanniemi, the weather was fortunately “only” cloudy. With the burden of Friday still in our shoulders, we had no choice but to skip the first two acts of the day: the local death metal act, Worthless, as well as the surprise hit of last year’s Nummirock, Forever One plays Sentenced.

The first band that we made it to see was Helsinki-based speed metal squad, Ranger. Recording for Rättö’s and Lehtisalo’s (Circle) Ektro Records along with Lord Fist, Ranger has had a considerable amount of wind beneath their wings over the last few years, and not without reason! The band rumbled full speed ahead on the second stage and from drummer Miko Sipilä’s missing resonance drum heads to bassist/vocalist Dimi Pontiac’s mustache, the whole thing REEKS of the 80’s. Ranger is not one those bands that I would listen to at home, but they work very well on stage!

Jess and the Ancient Ones
Jess and the Ancient Ones

Prior to the festival, I thought that Kuopio-based Jess and the Ancient Ones were the divergent of Tampere Metal Meeting, representing the lightest side of the festival’s line-up. The band’s occult rock has never been that appealing to me, but little did it matter: the predicted thunderstorm was nowhere to be seen and the sun shone down upon Ratinanniemi as JatAO let loose an excellent performance, fitting the festival like a glove. The vocalist, Jess, was an incredibly charismatic frontwoman with her intense gaze and marvelous singing voice, while the bassist, Jake Luomajoki, nailed his groovy bass lines on top of previous evening’s complexities with Demilich. The most perplexing thing was still the guitarist Thomas Corpse’s current state: he has lost at least 30 kilograms when compared to the last Deathchain gig that I’ve seen. All-in-all, JatAO managed to be so good that I might have to dig into their brand new Second Psychedelic Coming: The Aquarius Tapes -album!

Barathrum
Barathrum

The transition from JatAO’s crisp occult rock to Barathrum was quite steep. I’ve never personally been a fan of the music of this legendary Finnish black metal act but I believe I was representing a small minority when looking at the audience. The band, unusually equipped with two bassists instead of one, played a tight set, even if everyone on stage was visibly shitfaced. The vocalist, Demonos Sova, was in his usual state: he supported himself with a crutch and looked like he could drop dead to the stage floor at any minute. And some people have the guts to claim that rock ’n’ roll has disappeared from the world? Not while Sova’s still standing. The set, while ending almost safely with “Legions of Perkele,” “Last Day in Heaven,” and “Saatana,” also featured new material from the upcoming album.

Kalmah
Kalmah

Next up was something really nostalgic and highly anticipated when Kalmah took the stage. While some other Finnish melo-death factions (*coughChildrenofBodomcough*) have become obsolete in the past several years, Kalmah still has something that makes them so charming. The band sped through their songs from the first beats of the set’s opener, “Hook the Monster,” to the de facto ending of “Hades” with considerably faster tempos than on their records, and drummer Janne Kusmin had changed the triplets into sixteenth-notes on his bass drum patterns. Kalmah does gigs in their home country very scarcely these days and probably because of this, the band seemed visibly impressed by the audience’s response, even if vocalist Pekka Kokko tried to joke about being bummed about having to play more songs. I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that Kalmah doesn’t tour in Finland more frequently. I would go to see them again right away should an opportunity present itself.

Nocturnus A.D.
Nocturnus A.D.

Up until this point, all the bands in Metal Meeting had been Finnish, so it was high time to have something from abroad. When the clock turned 19:00, Nocturnus A.D. from the United States climbed on the second stage. This was also the point where yours truly’s bank of namedropping had officially emptied, but fortunately the internet revealed that the original Nocturnus was founded in 1987, but in 1992, the founding member Mike Browning was kicked out of his own band. The Nocturnus A.D we saw is some kind of a reformed Nocturnus, playing the old material. Being utterly oblivious to the band’s material, watching the gig was actually very refreshing. The first point of attention was that, at first, I couldn’t see which member was singing, until I realized that it was the drummer, the aforementioned Mike Browning, using a Madonna mic. Incorporating keyboards into a technical death metal sound was also something one doesn’t see every day. As a fan of complex death metal, I enjoyed the gig a lot, even if I didn’t know a single song.

Finntroll
Finntroll

The second to last band to take the main stage was our own messenger of trollish metal, Finntroll. It’d been several years since I had last seen them live, and I haven’t been paying attention to their latest work that much, so the first thing to feel good about was noticing that their set leaned towards their older material. The audience loved classics like “Slaget vid Blodsjälv” and “Nattfödd,” and the opening track from Nifelvind, “Solsagan,” works every time. Once again, I would have loved to go and slap the mixer in the face, since vocalist Vreth’s mic was almost inaudible half the time, while at times, keyboardist Virta’s volumes were so high that it made the whole band sound just plain stupid. Fortunately drummer MörkÖ’s playing, as well as the mix, were perfect as usual.

When Finntroll got halfway through the first verse of “Jaktens Tid,” the worst nightmare of every sound technician came true as something broke down and the stage blacked out completely. The band, as well as the audience, were left confused while the mixing booth panicked, but the staff managed to fix the equipment in about 10 minutes. Of course, Finntroll had to tighten their set, so “Jaktens Tid” was left behind and the band jumped straight into the mandatory “Trollhammaren,” and the crowd went nuts. The set was wrapped up with “Under Bergets Rot” – what a nice conclusion!

Deströyer 666
Deströyer 666

The Australian black/speed metal hybrid, Deströyer 666, had the honor of wrapping up the second stage. The band hasn’t been to Finland that many times before, but I’ve still managed to miss all their previous shows. Their latest album, Wildfire, released in the spring of this year, was immensely strong, so the Metal Meeting show was a highly anticipated one for me. The band didn’t let the audience down: the performance was incredibly good. The setlist weighed towards their older Phoenix Rising and Cold Steel… For an Iron Age albums, and they even threw in “Iron Fist” by Motörhead to honor the memory of Lemmy Kilminster. If you had to dig up something to whine about, their 2009 masterpiece, Defiance, was left out of the set completely, but since “I am the Wargod” and “Satanic Speed Metal” were included, one just can’t complain. Being more accustomed to warmer climates, the Aussies lamented the chilly weather, but hey, it didn’t even rain!

Tiamat
Tiamat

This might be a bit of an anticlimactic conclusion for the report, but it felt a bit anticlimactic in general for the Metal Meeting when Swedish Tiamat climbed on the main stage as the final band of the festival. This legendary band – who started off as a death metal act and shifted towards Gothic rock and later to doom metal – was an interesting announcement, but when the Swedes kicked off their set, I had to put an enormous amount of effort toward keeping myself engaged. You would have thought that the band’s material would have worked marvelously in the darkening Saturday night, but I didn’t manage to get anything out of the show. I don’t know if fatigue started to take hold of the audience or what, but people started to move out of the festival area when Tiamat was still in the middle of their set. I kid you not, Insomnium had at least twice as many fans watching their performance on the previous night. Eventually we had to face the facts and start our retreat towards the nearest food joint.

 

Festival Notes
2016.06.17-18 TMM crowd (1)Food and drinks, as well as other non-musical aspects, always play as big of a role in the festival atmosphere as the line-up, so it was a pleasure to notice on how many of these aspects Tampere Metal Meeting had nailed on the first time. The location was perfect, as one had to walk a mere 5 minutes from Keskustori to reach the festival gates. There was no hassle at the entrance at any point and the coatroom as well as the bracelet exchange worked smoothly. At first I thought that the thirty or forty mobile bathrooms weren’t enough for the crowd, but the bathroom area wasn’t too packed at any point. On Friday, there were no urinals present, but on Saturday the area was reorganized and the provided urinals were clearly brand new. However, the bathroom area was placed next to the entrance, so unfortunately one had to leave the beer garden to take a leak.

Usually I don’t consume festival food that much, but based on what I observed, the selection seemed to be quite good. Hervanta’s Varjobaari had their own stall and sold Varjoburgers for 10€, which was a nice deal. Otherwise, the food selection was on the more traditional side of sausage hash and fried vendace – standard Finnish festival grub. The merchandise, record shop, and tattoo and piercings stalls were present as usual.

2016.06.17-18 TMM crowd (4)Tampere Metal Meeting’s drink stalls followed the present trend of expensive beer with an extra charge of 1€, which you get back when returning the empty can or bottle to the stall. A 0.44 liter Fosters for 7€ was a bit steep, but fortunately the local Hopping Brewsters brewery had their own craft beer stall, selling tasty Pale Ales for only a euro more. Apparently the crowd had enjoyed their products, since at least the IPA was already sold out during Nocturnus A.D. All-in-all, the beer garden functioned nicely and the queues weren’t longer than a few minutes. The best thing about the beer area was that it spanned from the front row of the main stage to the front row of the second stage, while the dispenser was in the middle. A great choice and a welcome feature for other festivals as well!

 

In conclusion, Tampere Metal Meeting was an exceptionally well-functioning metal event and a nice addition to the selection of heavier summer festivals with its line-up covering the full range of light to heavy, as well as more and less known metal acts. Nature was also on the organization’s side as the foul weather forecasts for the weekend turned out to be largely false for the most part. The thunderstorm predicted for Saturday afternoon vanished into thin air, and the only actual moment of rainfall hit between Nocturnus A.D and Finntroll, lasting just a moment. The festival seemed to have attracted a nice-sized crowd, and shortly after Tiamat’s performance, Facebook already had an event for next year’s Metal Meeting. At this point, I can already imagine being there again next June!

 

Text: Atte Valtonen | Photos: Jukka Rahkonen | Ed: Amy Wiseman

TUSKA OPEN AIR: Finland’s Favorite Metal Festival

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Tuska logos, 2006-2015

Tuska Open Air is one of the major summer metal festivals held annually in Finland, and is a summer must for metalheads new and old alike. Musicalypse is proud to announce that 2016 is our 10th consecutive year covering this festival, and as such, we’d like to give you some history on the festival, as well as some thoughts from long-time attendees, both concert-goers and bands alike.

 

TUSKA: NOW & THEN
You can learn about most of Tuska’s history from their website, but to get an idea of what the festival is like, where it came from, and what it’s becoming, I decided to swing by the Finnish Metal Events headquarters to have a chat with the current CEO/promoter, Eeka Mäkynen (formerly of Nosturi), to learn more about what Tuska is all about!

You’re a pretty well-known name in the Finnish music scene. How did you end up joining the Tuska team?
They called me. That’s all it was. I worked 10 years as the program manager at Nosturi. Of course, these days 10 years in one place is a long journey itself, so I thought what the hell? [Juhani] Merimaa called me – he’s one of the owners of the company – and said they need a new CEO here. “We need somebody here to hold on”; that was the line they said and I thought, “That sounds cool.”

Do you know how the original founding fathers [Tony Taleva & Pasi Kuokkanen] came up with the idea for Tuska? Where did the idea to have this festival come from?
There was nothing like [Tuska] at that time. [Those guys] were in the middle of the scene. They were the heavy metal scene of Helsinki. Nobody did big heavy metal events at that time. It was 19 years ago, it was a long time! If you think about what’s happened in 19 years, the world was different. There were hardly any clubs in Helsinki at that time. Hardly any metal shows. If you compare to the times now, I think this Friday there are probably thirty different live events in Helsinki held in twenty live music clubs around the city. The scene is different.

How many people were at the very first Tuska? The capacity now is seven hundred, so was it sold out?
Approximately, but I think there were two floors then. Then they’d have Semifinal as the second stage. But yeah, it was sold out.

How did Tuska move already the second year from Tavastia to an open air festival? Was it just due to the number of people showing interest? How did things differ back then?
There was so much interest in the festival. Tavastia was sold out so they put it up to the next level, then to the VR Makasiinit. Those were interesting places. It was a wild place, how the whole system worked there.

Actually, next year is going to be the 20th anniversary, so we’ve started thinking about how to celebrate the whole thing. We’re going to do a 20th anniversary book about Tuska, and that’s going to be full of pictures and anecdotes from over the years. The Makasiinit days, and Jone [Nikula], who’s still one of the hosts of Tuska, he and Wallu Valpio, there’s a picture where they’re naked on the stage introducing the bands. Of course, those guys were a bit famous at the time but now Jone is one of the faces of the metal scene. He’s everywhere, and he was introducing the bands naked. That kind of thing. There are a lot of fun stories in there. I think the whole concept was a bit more dangerous at the time, thinking of the black metal scene when there were bands like Barathrum, you don’t know what the hell’s going to happen on stage. They were on stage saying things that you couldn’t say now, like, “Pedophilia!” and everyone’s like, “Yeah, cool!” Those were wild times in the scene and at Tuska festival.

What is involved in organizing a festival? When do you start preparation for the next festival? How early does it start and how do you select the bands?
Usually we’ve got some bands in already [for the next year] when the festival is on in June-July. I would do it so that we would release the next year’s program already on the spot and start to sell tickets at the festival area, but unfortunately usually we don’t have the headliners locked in at that time. It depends, but usually not.

The timetable goes that after the festival – we’ve got a really good questionnaire at the festival – and I go through everything that we gather, info on the festival, how people react to different kinds of things, what they want more of, what they like, what kind of bands they like, I go through all of that. Jouni [Markkanen] is the promoter [who picks the bands for the festival] and has been ever since like the second Tuska. Jouni starts to get more offers in autumn, and the high season for looking for headliners is usually October-November. That’s when you’re locking the names in. Early autumn/late summer is the time when bands are doing their tours for the next year and then he’s picking up the bands.

Then time-wise, I’m starting to contact the cooperators, sponsors, and stuff in autumn and the end of the year. Then the start of the year is the time when we start to do marketing and start to plan things with our cooperators. We start to do that all the way from spring until the festival. Then looking at the map and all that, that goes all the way from autumn to spring. Now [April] we’ve got the map at the point where we know what kind of things we’ll have. We’ll do changes this year – there’s going to be a tent on the second stage. There’s going to be a fourth stage this year. There’s going to be speeches and interviews and stuff, so you can go in between bands and see [what’s going on].

So things are happening behind the scenes all the time. Of course we’ve got a new tent, we’ve got a new stage, I’m looking at new companies and cooperators with that, and basically the buzz is all year round in different areas. Then the production in the last 3 months is just that. This is the time now that we need to lock everything in and who’s coming where and who will pick them up from the airport, how many hosts we need, what we need for the backstage, what kind of gear the bands are touring with, stuff like that. Then there’s the license with Helsinki City and the security guys, that all happens 3 months before the festival. We really start to work on that and the conversations with the bands, the things they need and things that need to be changed. The last 3 months is that, plus marketing.

Do you tend to try and book certain genres more on some years than others? For example, in 2014 there was more heavy/black metal. Does that happen on purpose or is it accidental?
It’s both, because if you book Emperor as one of the headliners, then you need to have more than just Emperor, you need to book bands that give the whole experience for you. The same thing, if you just book Gojira and you don’t have anything like that, it’s not worth having Gojira there. You need to have the whole package. So that’s how it basically goes. If you get a power metal band, you need to have a couple of them. Jouni is always making sure that every year there is some thrash metal, every year there is some black metal, every year there is some power metal, etc. This year he’s been saying many times that we need to have some melodic heavy metal there. Of course you’ve got the big names, and then you start to work from there.
We’ve been thinking a lot, should we do genre days, like speed metal/thrash day and that sort of thing, but Tuska is a 3-day experience. It’s really hard to get bands on certain days. Usually you just need to say that these are the dates, are you available? Or then the bands say, “We’re available on that day,” and we’re not the ones to decide. And like I said, it’s a 3-day experience. Of course it’s better for us that people stay! The answer is yes and no.

How and why did Tuska move from Kaisaniemi to Suvilahti? There’s been a few rumors that the move was due to the sound restrictions in the center – is that true, or is it more size related?
We have the same license at Suvilahti – 22:00; that wasn’t the reason. There were two reasons. The main reason was that it was sold out already in February. Tuska needed more space. If you have a park limited to 11,000 people per day and it’s sold out a couple of months before the festival, you need to have a bigger area. Suvilahti came in as a new place with the capacity of 20,000 per day there, which is approximately what Flow Festival sells. So it was a bigger venue on one hand.

The second was that Helsinki City said that Kaisaniemi Park was going to be under construction. There were going to be some progressions there, so that was the second reason. Basically, Helsinki City wanted us to move there because Suvilahti was a new event place.

Is there any difference in organization between the two venues, other than structurally? Is it easier or more difficult to set things up at Suvilahti?
We are missing some things, as is the audience, at Suvilahti. At the park you’ve got the grass and trees and there are a lot of places to hang out. At Suvilahti there are a lot of good things though. You’ve got infrastructure there. If you go there, you can have all of your electricity from the walls, just plugged in, rather than have the generators and motors going on. So Suvilahti is much easier to do the show’s infrastructure. You’ve got a lot of places you can rent, like let’s say you want a third or fourth stage like we now have, you can also rent the hall and everything. It’s easier to do there. But in a way, what we are missing is the greener side of things.

In last year’s questionnaire I put out a thing about this because I was wondering if we should move back to Kaisaniemi and 80% of Tuska customers last year said Suvilahti is the perfect place for the festival. We’ve been there 5 years now, so moving now would be a good choice. But people are starting to see it as a Suvilahti festival, so we are glad to stay there. It feels good and our customers, the Tuska people, like it.

There have been some rumors that Tuska might eventually move up to Kantolan Tapahtumapuisto in Hämeenlinna – is there any truth to that?
We say a lot of things just to get things going. On the license for the noise limit, that’s really sucked ass for ages in Helsinki. We’ve been fighting that as long as Tuska has been around. A couple of CEOs before me, Stuba Nikula, who is now the head of culture in Helsinki, he was the one who led the charge on the noise limit thing, that this needs to change. On Fridays and Saturdays we had a license until 22:00. That’s madness in Finland’s capital. If you go to Hämeenlinna you can stay easily until 00:00 or have the license until 02:00. In different cities it’s like that. So we’ve been saying this, that fucking hell, we’re going to move from Helsinki if nothing happens.

In the end, after all of these conversations for ages, this year we’ll have a license for 00:00! On Friday and Saturday, this year Tuska’s going to be until 00:00. Or, the noise limit is until 00:00 so we’re open until 01:00, but the bands need to stop at 00:00. We’re really happy about this. It means really big changes for the whole experience of the festival. You can stay 4 hours longer at the festival area. Of course economically it’s a big thing for us too – we can sell beer to people for a couple of hours longer. On the Friday night, everything usually ends and you go to the nearest restaurant. It’s a big thing for us and it’s really nice of the city to try this. We’re hoping that this will be a yearly thing – it’s just a one-off now – so they’re trying to see what the influence is. The weekend festivals now have longer licenses. They’re trying to rethink the whole thing on noise limits, so we’re happy about the situation now.

Moving outside of Helsinki was just teasing that something had to happen with the noise limit or we would say bye-bye to Helsinki.

You’ve been having some interesting special guests – last year you guys had the Strong Scene Collective, which was fantastic. How did that go over and do you think you’ll do more things like that in the future?
The idea of Tuska is always that if something happens, we have to be [snaps] really fast and react immediately. Let’s see what happens this year. That [Strong Scene Collective] was in the papers I think 2 days before we released it, that we’d have the whole thing. It went really fast. When Lordi was on Eurovision and YLE said in what, 2008 or so, that they were not going to buy the bomb or pyrotechnics for Lordi, so Tuska went in immediately and made a phone-call, “We’re going to buy the bomb for Lordi.” In the end, there were a couple of other festivals like Sauna Open Air that were in also, to buy the pyros for Lordi. I think it’s really important that you’re focused and living in the moment and taking up what’s happening and reacting to those things.

So Tuska, as we were saying before, is a pretty exclusively rock/metal festival, but last year there was Atomirotta, which is more hip-hop. I don’t know much about him, but how did he end up on the roster of a metal festival?
Rane Raitsikka [Atomirotta] is more rock n’ roll than many metalheads together. He’s a cornerstone of rock n’ roll, so I think Rane Raisikka was playing with Lama, one of the bands that debuted the year before [2013], so that was a thing.

That makes sense. There have been a few others here and there, like Huoratron, that don’t necessarily quite seem like metal bands. Do you still consider yourselves an exclusively rock/metal festival or will you be opening the doors more to some borderline genres?
No, we’re still metal and we want to keep it that way. The festival is loyal to the customers and the customers are loyal to the festival. 64% of our customers say every year that they’re going to come back the next year, which is quite nice. So of course it’s something that we hold onto. But of course, we might have one band [like that] out of forty-five. It was funny looking at the reactions there. Of course everyone says, “I’m not going to watch that,” and they went to the beer area but just on the fence, so they can say, “I’m not watching the band,” but it was still a curiosity. After the show, the band said it was a win because in the end people were dancing and having fun there.

Lordi is playing this year and there are a lot of people who will say, “What the fuck?” but in the end we’re looking at the thing when we released it and it’s a retro show and they’ll do the Eurovision thing and all that, and everybody’s saying on Facebook that it’s reasonable that Lordi’s there. He’s a cornerstone too in his own genre. You’re not buying the ticket for Lordi, but when you come to see some band, you’ll think, “That’s cool, I can see the Lordi show there too.” I think that Lordi is our Atomirotta this year – sort of a borderline case in a way. And we’ll have all the old decorations! The old castle thing. That’s in storage somewhere in Rovaniemi and the band said they’ve still got the decoration from that tour, let’s bring it in, so that’ll be there!

What do you think is in store for Tuska in the future? Do you guys have any goals or do you just want to keep it going strong?
I have goals to have a few more people coming in. I’m aiming for 10,000 per day – 30,000 – I think that would be nice. Last year we had 25,000 so we’re aiming for a bit more. I think 30,000 for 3 days would be the best for Suvilahti, for the location.
We mentioned changes last year in the food. We had this “black dining” concept that had better food – not fine dining but a bit better food, like 20€ – that was sold out for the whole festival. We also had the sauna there and the Tuska Libre area where you could just hang out and listen to bands and go to sauna. We’re going to have the fourth stage this year with interviews and interesting people. I want to have a fifth stage and bring something weird there, so you can come to the festival and get surprised. That’s the thing that I’m aiming for. Of course, there’s the strong lineup, the strong attitude from Tuska, but these days people want the experience to be more than just the bands, you need to find something more, and I’m really happy to work on that. I’ve been in festivals all my life and I’ve been Roskilde-festival for 14 years now and I just love that festival. Every time you go there you get surprised, you’re like, “Wow, this is nice!” That kind of thing.

In Tuska we’re doing it step-by-step to get there. We don’t want to change the whole concept. Now it’s just food and all that, but Helsingin Sanomat did a review last year and said, “This is like metal Flow,” and I thought that was nice, because Flow is everything else than music now in a way, that concept. So we are getting the experience to become more now.

 

TUSKA FOR THE FANS
Tuska is more than just a festival where people get drunk and listen to music. For myself, it’s my weekend where I allow myself to let go and get crazy. It’s also a time when I get to reconnect with friends from out-of-town, or even just people that I don’t get to see particularly often. But don’t listen to me, 2016 will only be my 5th anniversary at a festival that’s 18 years old. That’s why we got in touch with some people who have been going to Tuska even longer (even longer than I’ve lived in Finland, in some cases)!

Milena Multaharju, 29
How long have you been going to Tuska/how many years have you been to Tuska?
I’ve been going to Tuska since 2009, so seven Tuskas so far and I’m adamant in keeping it up.

What brought you to Tuska the first time?
The fact that the lineup was a killer: Gojira, Neurosis, Immortal, and My Dying Bride to mention just a few – and the fact it was conveniently in my new hometown!

What has brought you back to the festival year after year?
By now it’s become a kind of a habit that is very hard to break. The lineup is one thing – some people complain about some bands playing there almost every year, but for me it describes the nature of the festival pretty well: a big bunch of friends getting together year after year to enjoy good music and maybe some booze as well… that’s pretty much it, it would just feel weird NOT to go to Tuska!

What is your favorite thing about Tuska as a festival?
My answer to the previous question pretty much covers this as well: it’s so easy to go to year after year, meeting up with friends you don’t see so often, seeing your favorite bands play, making new musical discoveries, enjoying the perfect Tuska weather…

How does Tuska compare to other festivals you’ve been to?
I think what sets it apart from other festivals, from my point of view, is the easiness: I don’t have to worry about arranging the trips to the festival and back, don’t need to worry about the accommodation etc., all I have to do is to go there and enjoy the party! Also, since it’s already a well-established event, things tend to work smoothly within the festival area and having been there year after year, it easy to move there; of course, going to some new festival, the Alice in Wonderland sensation is part of the charm, but Tuska feels like going to a friend’s place where you already know where the bathroom is!

Do you have any fond memories of Tuska you’d like to share?
There are plenty of fond memories, but I think one of the best is from 2014, when I was there with my sister and it actually rained most of the Sunday, yet everyone was having such a good time moshing and headbanging to Orphaned Land, Satyricon, and Emperor in their raincoats!

 

mika ringman by kenneth lehtinenMika Ringman, age 31
How long have you been going to Tuska/how many years have you been to Tuska?
My first Tuska was at 2009 and I’ve been in every Tuska since then.

What brought you to Tuska the first time?
Well, a couple of my friends from my old hometown were going and they informed me about it at around noon on the first day of the festival. I was broke, so I used some connections to get in.

What has brought you back to the festival year after year?
The people. The second time I came in 2010, it was the culture of drinking your own drinks on the lawn while watching bands. Oh yeah, this was the last year that you could do that. After that I was already serious about photography so I have been coming back to shoot the gigs and see other photographers.

What is your favorite thing about Tuska as a festival?
The atmosphere, the incredibly well-run organization, and the bands. It’s so awesome to be with like-minded people at a festival that does not have any hiccups because of the great organizers who know what they’re doing. Also, every year there has been at least one band that I seriously dig. And the security crew is fucking awesome! We the photographers work in the photo pit, which incidentally is the place where the security guys also work. The foreman, Esko, for example, has become a person I always look forward to seeing each year. We shoot the shit and laugh at things while waiting for permission to enter the pit. They also are concerned about our safety and the safety of our gear!

How does Tuska compare to other festivals you’ve been to?
Well as I said before, Tuska is a well-oiled machine. Everything from a press/VIP point of view have been working great. No hassle, no jumping through hoops. At some festivals, the media have to stand in line with other festival-goers to get inside from the main gate. It’s not an ego question, it’s a question of schedules. One festival I am not going to name made most of the media miss the first band’s photo-op by not having a press entrance. Small things like this make Tuska a great festival to come back to each year.

Do you have any fond memories of Tuska you’d like to share?
Ah… There are so many.

One special memory goes back to 2009 or 2010 when Sabaton was a rising band and they had a signing session at the EMP booth. The line was long and there were still a lot of people in line when the official signing time had ended. Their PR person came to tell the band that they’d have to wrap things up because the media is waiting for interviews. The band looked at each other and jumped over the table into the crowd and they ran from their PR person to make sure every single fan got a signature and a selfie to go with it. I remember the PR manager looking rather unimpressed.

 

Tuska 2014 Inka KarenInka Koivuniemi, age 29
How long have you been going to Tuska/how many years have you been to Tuska?
This year will be my lucky 13th year attending!

What brought you to Tuska the first time?
The very first time I wanted to go because of the bands, and because all the cool, older heavy guys were always saying that all the badasses go to Tuska, so I wanted to be a badass as well!

What has brought you back to the festival year after year?
It’s the atmosphere of the festival. And of course the awesome music, but it doesn’t matter if there would only be a few bands I’d like to see during the whole weekend. Heck, even if there wouldn’t be one single band I’d want to see, I’d probably still go!

What is your favorite thing about Tuska as a festival?
The atmosphere, definitely. It feels like home, like you’re having a huge picnic with a bunch of same-minded people and awesome metal music. You can make a new friend while standing in the beer line. Nobody looks at you funny because of the way you dress, because they dress the same way! Also many of my friends from all around Finland come to Tuska, so it’s good to meet them at the festivals as well.

How does Tuska compare to other festivals you’ve been to?
It’s clean! Tuska has always been a very clean and tidy festival, there’s no trash or clutter anywhere, the WCs are kept clean too. Also, I have never ever seen anyone fight at Tuska. And people seem to look out for each other, even the ones they don’t know. I’ve always had a very safe feeling at Tuska. Also the food is great!

Do you have any fond memories of Tuska you’d like to share?
I would have more if I hadn’t been so drunk every time, haha! Can’t think of anything particularly, but what I do remember from every Tuska I’ve been in is laughter. Smiling people, sunshine, happy screams, and indeed, lots and lots of laughter and joy.

 

Tuska 2015 Jari Rantanen by Marco ManziJari Rantanen, age 30
How long have you been going to Tuska/how many years have you been to Tuska?
I’ve been going to Tuska since 2001 and if I remember right, I’ve been there every year since then.

What brought you to Tuska the first time?
I decided to go there because of metal. And of course because it was so easy to get there when I was living in Helsinki.

What has brought you back to the festival year after year?
It has became a tradition for me to go to Tuska. It is a metal festival in the heart of Helsinki and many of my friends go there too. And there are good bands every year.

What is your favorite thing about Tuska as a festival?
Atmosphere, nice people, and location, although the old location in Kaisaniemi was better.

How does Tuska compare to other festivals you’ve been to?
Tuska like many other heavy metal festivals, is a festival where everybody is having fun and there are no fights and that kind of thing. Also, the music is focused mainly on metal. Bands stop playing much earlier than in many other festivals.

Do you have any fond memories of Tuska you’d like to share?
Hah memories… what memories? I have been so drunk every time =D But yes, the best memory is probably last year when I was king for a day and got on the stage with Amorphis.

How did you become the Day King last year, and did you enjoy the experience?
That was a Radio Rock contest that I won. There was a king for every day of Tuska and I won the honor to be the king for Saturday. In that contest, they asked people to share a Tuska memory or story to explain why you would be a good king. I don’t remember anymore what I wrote but I sent a nice picture of me at Tuska and won. I really enjoyed that experience! It was nice to have a entourage of my friends and it was also nice to meet lots of people who wanted to have a picture with me =)

 

TUSKA FOR THE ARTISTS
When you think about a festival, you can’t just think about the people who watch. These events are big for the performers as well. In the last 10 years, there have been so many bands that we’ve reviewed and photographed on more than one occasion, so we got in touch with a few of them and asked them some questions about their feelings about Tuska. Here are their thoughts:

Tuska 2011 AnnekeAnneke van Giersbergen (The Devin Townsend Project, The Sirens)
What’s it like playing at Tuska?
Tuska is a very special festival. Unlike most other festivals it’s near the city center, which is awesome. The organization and the people who work there are super relaxed and they make us feel very much at home.

How does it compare to other festivals you’ve played at?
I think especially compared to mainstream festivals, Tuska’s crowd is great. As an artist you can walk around, watch other bands, and people will always treat you with love and respect. No hassle, no awkwardness, fantastic!

Do you have any fond memories/interesting experiences from Tuska?
I have very fond memories of my gig with Devin Townsend. He was on fire that day for sure! I love playing shows with him and his band. That day I also got to hang out with my dear friend Simone Simons [Epica]. She did my make-up for the show 🙂 The last time I was there with The Sirens, we watched the Opeth and Alice Cooper shows after we did our gig. Both were really great!

Tuska 2015 AnnekeHow have things changed for you (as a band/artist) between the years you’ve played at Tuska?
I’m returning more and more to my heavy music roots, which makes it even more fun to play at Tuska. I have played Tuska as a guest singer with Devin and as a member of the The Sirens project – I would love to return one day with my own band!

Do you have any comments on the photos provided?
Looks like I am having fun 🙂

 

Tuska 2010 InsomniumNiilo Sevänen (Insomnium)
What is it like playing at Tuska?
Tuska is a very special festival for us and it’s always great to play there. First we played at the after-show clubs and now we’ve been on the main stage, so it’s been a long way.

How does it compare to other festivals?
It’s special that it’s in the middle of Helsinki city. Most festivals are somewhere on countryside.

Tuska 2012 InsomniumDo you have any fond memories/interesting experiences from Tuska?
A lot. Well, for example one time our crew members decided to prank us and come to the meet and greet line. They were the last ones in the queue and we saw them coming so we decided to give something back and told the security that those guys are not allowed near us. So the guards didn’t let them come any closer. Practical jokes.

How have things changed for you (as a band/artist) between the years you’ve played at Tuska?
First couple of times we played at the after-show clubs and I think I didn’t even see the actual festival area. Now we’ve played at the festival site already maybe four times and last time was on the main stage. Of course a lot has happened in the last 10 years and we’ve become a lot bigger band also.

Do you have any comments on the photos provided?
It seems that I’ve been enjoying myself in Tuska 🙂

 

Tuska 2006 Sonata ArcticaHenrik Klingenberg (Sonata Arctica)
What is it like playing at Tuska?
We’ve played at Tuska quite a few times and I really like the festival a lot. Everything works and since it’s in Finland, you always meet a lot of friends there.

How does it compare to other festivals?
A lot of festivals are situated outside of cities or downright in the middle of nowhere, so that’s definitely one of the things that stands out with Tuska, since it’s more or less in the city.

Do you have any fond memories/interesting experiences from Tuska?
Check below 😉

How have things changed for you (as a band/artist) between the years you’ve played at Tuska?
That’s a hard one, I think a lot has changed; the first time for me at Tuska was over 10 years ago so too much has happened since then. I guess the biggest thing that’s changed is that we’re a lot older now…

Tuska 2012 Sonata ArcticaDo you have any comments on the photos provided?
The year of the red pants 😉 I remember that Tony got a lot of feedback for those pants, not all positive, but he stood by his decision and went with it anyway. I heard that there’s even a Facebook group called Tony Kakko’s pants or something like that…

Tuska 2012: I remember this show very well. We played in Austria the night before and arrived in Helsinki at 06:00 in the morning. Our plan was to go to sleep at the hotel and be fresh and ready for the show at 18:00. What happened then was that all our luggage was left behind when we had a connecting flight so instead of going to rest, we spent the day calling local music shops and friends etc. to borrow gear for the show. We didn’t even have our stage clothes so Tony had to go shopping, otherwise it would have been shorts and a bright green t-shirt for him. Nevertheless we managed to scrape together enough instruments to do the show and I guess it went really well considering the circumstances. This kind of thing where everything got lost hasn’t happened before or since and we’re really happy if it stays that way.

 

Tuska 2007 TurisasMathias Nygård (Turisas)
What is it like playing at Tuska?
It’s a great festival to play. Everything runs like clockwork and artists are well taken care of. It being a home-turf-show for us, it’s of course always a little bit more personal, as there are so many friends in the audience.

How does it compare to other festivals?
The big difference is that Tuska is not in the middle of some muddy field in the countryside, but in downtown Helsinki. Can’t think of many other metal festivals like that. So instead of all the campground madness, you have bars and after-parties to attend.

Tuska 2011 TurisasDo you have any fond memories/interesting experiences from Tuska?
Playing Tuska was one of our first real big festival performances just after the release of Battle Metal in 2004. Everyone was super nervous before the show. However, I think the best memories (or lack of…) are from the years we haven’t played, but just been there as a visitor. It’s always a great party.

How have things changed for you (as a band/artist) between the years you’ve played at Tuska?
We’ve basically gone from newcomers to a fairly established act. Sometimes I miss having the advantage of surprise on our side, like our first performance in 2004. Nowadays everyone at Tuska would know us and what we are about. Or so they think… haha.

Do you have any comments on the photos provided?
Not really.

 

Tuska 2009 Stam1naEmil “Hippi” Lähteenmäki & Pekka “Pexi” Olkkonen (Stam1na)
What is it like playing at Tuska?
Emil: Always nice. The festival and all the arrangements relating to it are top-notch – catering, the technical side of things, etc. That makes it real easy for you to climb on to the stage in front of a huge metal audience.

Pexi: It’s really satisfying ‘cause it’s the biggest metal festival in Finland and everybody is there to celebrate metal music. It’s also a great chance to see some of our favorite bands.

How does it compare to other festivals?
Emil: We rarely get to play in a festival in Helsinki since there are not many festivals that suit us and of course it’s great to be able to play outside gigs in our capital. Also, it is a festival tailored for a mainly metal audience, which makes it possible to interact with more genre-dedicated fans and non-fans than normally. And bands also; in our free time we have the opportunity to catch up with metal acts you wouldn’t see elsewhere.

Tuska 2006 Stam1naDo you have any fond memories/interesting experiences from Tuska?
Emil: One of my best. We don’t always take our image as seriously as most other metal bands might and that eventually led to us painting grossly exaggerated corpse paint for ourselves in Tuska 2009. The picture of Kaikka is from that gig. I also, for some reason, was dressed in only pink women’s underwear. That time I was a bit scared walking onstage, to see how the occasionally rather serious metal fans would react to that. The gig went well and a picture of me got published on a national tabloid’s website.

Pexi: Sure. I used to go there as a visitor before we got to play there the first time, I believe in 2005 when our first album came out. We actually got to play on all of the stages over the years when the festival was in the park in Kaisaniemi. The black metal paint thing we did is probably my favorite memory as well. The least fond memory is the time when some idiot threw a bottle on stage with hit our drummer and we stopped the gig right there. That kind of behavior cannot be understood or tolerated.

2013.06.29 04 Stam1na @ Tuska (2)How have things changed for you (as a band/artist) between the years you’ve played at Tuska?
Pexi: Over the years the location has changed, obviously, and before that we played every year on a bigger stage than before as our fan base got bigger.

Do you have any comments on the photos provided?
Pexi: The picture of me is probably from 2006 when we were Saturday’s first act on the main stage. I remember the excitement ‘cause we hadn’t played on the main stage before. I also remember the crowd pouring in during the show and the sun was shining – what a great day!

 

Tuska 2010 DevinDevin Townsend (The Devin Townsend Project)
What is it like playing at Tuska?
Tuska is one of the best and most well organized festivals I’ve had the pleasure of being involved with at the level in which they operate. They do it right and the vibe of the show reflects that.

How does it compare to other festivals?
It stands on its own in many ways, the environment in Finland and the people make it a very pleasant experience on a personal level, yet in comparison to other festivals of its size, its easiest to compare it in the sense of how well organized it is and how good the food was =)

Do you have any fond memories/interesting experiences from Tuska?
Tuska festival took a huge chance on me, allowing me to perform the first Ziltoid album in its entirety while the DTP was unproven as an entity at that point. I will always have a soft spot for them as a result.

How have things changed for you (as a band) between the years you’ve played at Tuska?
Tuska 2011 DevinIt evolved in basically all ways, to be honest. Bigger, better, and more defined. The intention remains and the personal has solidified into a good band, but ultimately, like all things in my musical world, it has simply evolved to the next level of what it always was.

Do you have any comments on the photos provided?
At this point, when we had played Tuska the first time, I hadn’t moved into the ‘suit wearing’ phase, and the second time I had. Its nice to see photos from the past sometimes, it gives you a reference point to how things have evolved.

 

Tuska 2007 StratovariusTimo Kotipelto (Stratovarius)
What is it like playing at Tuska?
Tuska has always been a very nice festival to play at! Especially [because of] the central location in Helsinki. Quite easy for the fans to take the train from all over Finland and go to the festival site. Same goes with bands. Close to the Helsinki-Vantaa airport.

Of course by now we know the promoter and the people working behind Tuska. Super nice guys! For us Tuska has always been one of the best festivals to play at. And also somehow super difficult as most of the ”home gigs” always are 🙂

Tuska 2013 StratovariusHow does it compare to other festivals?
Tuska is basically only about metal, from extreme to hard rock. Metal fans can see all kinds of metal. There are never any fights among the fans; only brotherly beer drinking partying! I think the biggest difference to most metal festivals is that Tuska in located in the heart of the city! Period. Even with the new location it still is in the center.

Do you have any fond memories/interesting experiences from Tuska?
Lots of good memories from the gigs and some hazy memories from the after-show parties 🙂

There have always been a lot of people watching us and we are proud to have been in the line-up so many times!

Tuska 2015 StratovariusHow have things changed for you (as a band/artist) between the years you’ve played at Tuska?
Well, Tuska changed their location. And we have changed our line-up 🙂 Otherwise the feeling is still the same! Always a pleasure and a privilege to play there!

Do you have any comments on the photos provided?
Nice pics! They are quite small so I can’t really tell the details. But I guess two are from the last year and one is probably from 2005?

I recognize the bass player and the singer 🙂

[ed: the photos are from 2007, 2013, and 2015 respectively]

 

Tuska 2009 EpicaIsaac Delahaye (Epica)
What is it like playing at Tuska?
Summer festivals are always a great change from the club shows and tours we’re doing the rest of the year. There’s something special about them. You get to hang with friends in other bands; people you haven’t seen since the festival season the year before. Stuff like that.

And if you’re playing in a country which is the home base of countless great bands, it kinda feels like playing in front of a metal connoisseur audience so to speak. A little more pressure on our shoulders!

How does it compare to other festivals?
It’s a lot smaller than the festivals we have in our region. Wacken, Hellfest, Graspop, they are all huge with a million bands playing. Tuska is more intimate but still has a wide variety of bands. Seems like they only go for bands which are still relevant today, and less for bands which are only headlining festivals cause they’ve been around for five decades. More puristic, which I like.

Tuska 2011 EpicaDo you have any fond memories/interesting experiences from Tuska?
It’s been a couple of years since we’ve played Tuska, but I remember everyone talking about this small band playing indoor early afternoon. They were awesome and put on a great show. They’d become the next big thing. That band happened to be Ghost.

Other than that we probably hung with some friends backstage and got drunk. That’s what we did back in those days 😉

How have things changed for you (as a band/artist) between the years you’ve played at Tuska?
We played the festival at a time when Epica was a little lost. We toured so much on the Design Your Universe album and struggled with the deadline for the follow-up album. Looking back at that period we were on a roller-coaster and didn’t take the time to breathe and get our stuff together. We just went on recording a new album and went back on the road immediately. It wasn’t until Simone got pregnant years later that we stopped playing for a while. This gave us some time to reflect on what was next, to change some things we took for granted and to record -what I think is- our best album to date, The Quantum Enigma. This record, and all the changes that came with it, made the band bigger and really put Epica on the map once and for all. With a new album to be released this fall I can assure you we learned from our past and made another great metal album of which I’m extremely proud. Right now we’re setting up everything for the release of the album and the tours to follow, and it looks like there are exciting times ahead for us!

Tuska 2006 TarotDo you have any comments on the photos provided?
Hm… comments… 🙂 Ehm, they are live pictures, and ehm… that’s it 😀

 

Zachary Hietala (Tarot)
What is it like playing at Tuska?
We’ve been there so many times and it’s always been fun indeed.

How does it compare to other festivals?
Tuska is only pure metal festival in Finland and it’s atmosphere is unique.

Do you have any fond memories/interesting experiences from Tuska?
Tuska 2010 TarotWhen Marco did this TV competition, Clash of the Choirs in spring 2010, we got bigger production in the following Tuska. We got his choir on stage and it was so superb to play the whole set with them.

How have things changed for you (as a band/artist) between the years you’ve played at Tuska?
In early years it was a little indoor festival, now it’s one of the biggest outdoor festivals here.

Do you have any comments on the photos provided?
Tuska 2011 TarotBrother on stage 🙂 Ok this chromium-plated German war helmet was bit too much to some, but we have had humor on stage always, so it was ok.

 

CONCLUSION
So what can we say about Tuska? Not only is it an incredible event that is beloved by both fans and artists alike, it’s clear that the makers really and truly care about what they’re doing and the people they’re doing it for. Tuska is the kind of event that brings people back year after year, not just because of the great music, but because of the experience that the festival provides – great food, great atmosphere, and great company!

Musicalypse is proud to have covered Tuska for 10 years and we wish the festival an early happy 20th anniversary for next year. We’re glad you’ve let us in to cover things, and hope to continue following Tuska Open Air for another 10 years to come!

 

Text: Amy Wiseman

Tuska Reviews:
2006 (Deutsch), 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2015

Tuska Galleries:
2008, 2013 Day 1, 2013 Day 2, 2013 Day 3, 2014, 2015 Day 1, 2015 Day 2, 2015 Day 3

Photos:
Cornelia Wickel: Tuska 2006, 2007, 2012
Jana Blomqvist: Tuska 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011
Sanni Pasuri: Tuska 2013
Mika Ringman: Tuska 2014
Maija Lahtinen: Tuska 2015
Kenneth Lehtinen: photo of Mika Ringman
Marco Manzi: Day King photo of Jari Rantanen w/ Tomi Joutsen
Amy Wiseman: all other photos

BLIND CHANNEL – Niko/Joel, South Park 2016

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The violent pop revolution has begun and leading the charge are Finland’s own Blind Channel! These energetic young guys from Oulu aren’t just sweeping the nation and wiping the floor with the competition in the local music contests, but they’ve conquered the Baltics as well. After their recent tour opening for Simple Plan, we got a chance to speak with them at South Park -festivaali in Tampere to discuss their victories, their music, and the future. Even though they’ve only had a few short years behind them, these guys had plenty of great stories to share!

 

To start with, congratulations on your very solid start in the music business. You guys have already won the 2014 Wacken Metal Battle and YleX’s “Stage haltuun” [Taking the Stage] – how does it all feel?
Niko: It feels really great, winning those competitions. I think it helped our career really much.

What was it like being at Wacken? Had either of you ever been there before?
Niko: No, I think none of us had been.

Joel: It was a dream come true for 10-year-old boys, being on the big stage with tons of people. It was crazy all the time.

Niko: Yeah, both Wacken and the Sziget Festival in Hungary, we thought it was a taste of something that we’re aiming for.

You’ve also done a couple of shows with Machinae Supremacy and Simple Plan – what were those experiences like?
Niko: Those were really great – most recently Simple Plan, but also Enter Shikari in Helsinki. It’s been really great. It’s also a huge opportunity to perform to a wider audience.

Joel: A few more fans.

I can see you guys going hand-in-hand with Simple Plan, because your styles fit together nicely, but what was it like at a Machinae Supremacy show, considering they’ve got their own SID-metal genre? Was the crowd into it or were they a bit confused?
Niko: It’s definitely a different scene, and I think with Simple Plan, Enter Shikari, and Machinae Supremacy… the audience wasn’t that into us [at Machinae Supremacy’s show] compared to Enter Shikari’s audience or Simple Plan’s audience. It was a bit different but I think it was cool too.

You’ve been playing quite a few shows lately – have there been any crazy mishaps, Spinal Tap moments, or band pranks?
Niko: There have been too many [laughter]. Actually, at every show we have played there has been something happening, like “oh shit!” It’s kind of dirty. I don’t know how much I can tell you. Let’s just say that when something’s happening, it usually has something to do with Joel or Joonas. The guitarists are the ones who make the stories.

Do you remember when and where your first gig as Blind Channel was, and what it was like?
Joel: October 2013. We were playing a headlining show in our hometown with all of our friends in the audience.

Niko: It was called 45 Special. It’s actually a great story. It wasn’t supposed to be a headlining show. We were supposed to be supporting an Estonian band called Defrage, but the same day in the evening, they called us that their bass player had been drunk driving into the wall of a police station [laughter] and he was in jail. They were like, “I don’t think we can perform tonight.” We were like, “Okay, we’ll be headliners.” Then we got this other Oulu band called Facelift to support us and we were the headliners, so it was kind of lucky! We were like, “First gig ever and we’ll be the supporting act!” and all of a sudden we’re headliner. It just got crazy!

Do you think your live performance has changed much since then, and if so, how?
Niko: I think we are more confident. We do this crazy jumping and running around, and when we did that in the beginning we were out of control, but now I think we’re in control of those actions.

You’re doing it on purpose.
Niko: Yeah! We’re doing it on purpose. Because, when we went on stage, it was like we’d go there and then when we’d come back from the stage, we’re like, “What have we done?” We’d have to think back to what happened [laughs].

Go look on YouTube.
Niko: Yeah! Just like that. Now I think we’re confident and we can live in the moment and see what we’re doing on stage. I think it’s a bit more professional than in the beginning. But when we watched Simple Plan perform, we saw that we can get much more professional in the future [laughter]. Like in 20 years, but I think we’re getting there.

In another interview, I think Joel said that you guys prefer to build your success on your own, so competitions like “Uuden musiikin kilpailu” wouldn’t work for bands like you. However, since then you’ve done a few different competitions and contests and you’ve done really, really well in them – do you have any further comments on the original statement?
Joel: I can say that I was wrong. Actually, the main reason for our success right now is those competitions, so I was stupid.

Niko: It was in the beginning, but I remember we all thought that competitions are not our thing, but in the Wacken Metal Battle competition, it was all metal bands. One of our friends said, “You should go,” and we said, “We’re a violent pop band.” “I’m a rapper. Everyone’s going to laugh at us!” but then it was like… social pressure? [laughs] We were like, “We have to do this!” It turns out that’s why we won the competition. Then in the other Taking the Stage (Stage haltuun) competition, we really didn’t even know that we were participating. Our guitarist, Joonas, secretly put us in the competition [laughter]. Then came the audience voting and we were like, “Oh fuck, we’re in the voting and we cannot lose!”

Joel: Yeah, we cannot lose!

Niko: Since we’re in a competition, we cannot lose this, so we had to go all the way and it turned out quite well. We have never really been like, “Let’s go to competitions and we’ll become a big band!” That’s not the way we think.

Joel: Yeah.

2016.06.11 01 Joel Hokka, Niko Moilanen (Blind Channel)So this is your first time playing at South Park -festivaali – how do you like the festival?
Niko: I think it’s a really cool festival. Kind of like the weather [laughs]. The weather is like, the sun is shining and it’s raining…

Joel: I think this is a metal or rock festival, so we are kind of weird a band here because we’re playing pop stuff.

Niko: And I’m rapping! But I actually like it when I’m in the middle of a rock festival and I start rapping. There are a few – like two people – who are like, “Cool!” and the other ones are like, “What the fuuuck?” [laughter], but I think that’s kind of nice.

How did you [Joel] and Tuomas [Thomas Grove, Ember Falls] get the idea to guest star in each other’s hit singles on stage?
Joel: We were drunk after the On the Rocks show in Helsinki and I got the idea and then I actually forgot it, and then I got a Facebook message from Tuomas and he was like, “Hey, do you remember this?” and I was like, “… I don’t remember, but let’s do it!” Two days after that we made it, so it was really cool.

Niko: Yeah, it was kind of a quick decision, but we talked about… what was it?

Joel: The mini-tour in Finland.

Niko: It was us, Ember Falls, and Black Crows Break the Silence, and we were on tour and there were got into the featuring thing.

Have you been watching any of the other bands here, and if so, who has impressed you the most?
Joel: I’m waiting for Bullet for My Valentine. I’ve been a fan since I was a teenager. It’s really cool to see the band playing live.

Niko: I have to comment that, when I said that I’m going to an interview, I was told that I have to say, “Arion is the best band in the fucking world!”

I saw Lassi Vääränen [Arion] earlier – did he tell you to say that?
Niko: Yeah, they’re our label mates and they’re great guys! But Shiraz Lane played after us on the same stage. I really like Shiraz Lane. They are such great guys, they’re good friends of ours. It might just be the moment, but I really like the singer, Hannes [Kett]. I think he’s such a talented singer. And I really like Shiraz Lane. I think they’re an amazing band and have a bright future ahead of them.

2016.06.11 05 Joel Hokka (Blind Channel)Let’s talk music now! How did the band form and how do you all know each other?
Niko: It’s weird for this to come from me, but I was the last person to join the band. We’ve all been in the same school.

Joel: High school in Oulu.

Niko: A music high school in Oulu, where we are from. But we didn’t know each other when we were there. Olli is in the same class or same age group as Joel and Joonas, and they had a history of rivalry, competing with each other and were in different musical projects all the time, competing with each other, but what I understand is that they got over that rivalry and they put up a band together, and then Joel and Joonas started this band and Olli and Tommi, our bass player and our drummer, came from [Joel’s] past bands. You’ve known them from other music…

Joel: Yeah, I know them, and then you came in from the party.

Niko: I was the last to join the posse. Our drummer, Tommi, and our guitarist, Joonas, crashed a high school party I was attending. They literally crashed there. They were like, “WHAT’S UP EVERYONE!” and we were like, “Holy shit, somebody get those guys out!” We were drunk and partying and then they put an Enter Shikari song on the radio and I was like, “Holy shit, this is good, I love Enter Shikari too!” and they were like, “We’re putting up a band!”

Joel: So here we are!

Niko: They said, “You should come to our practice,” and I was like, “Well, one practice. I’ll come there and check this thing out.” That’s how it started!

So how did you come up with the name, Blind Channel?
Joel: We had many ideas, and it was the best idea. We had a rule that the band name had to sound like the band’s music, so I think Blind Channel sounds like our music.

Niko: Yeah, we wanted something organic and something mechanic – “blind” and “channel,” and we had many names. It was me who came up with the Blind Channel idea-

Joel: Yeah.

Niko: -but the crazy thing is that we had a long list of names and I don’t think we had even decided. We thought, “Blind Channel sounds kind of cool,” and 2 minutes after that we had a Facebook page called Blind Channel [laughs]. It was a spontaneous decision. I think it’s cool and it kind of describes our music. There are also some deeper controversial meanings, like nowadays everyone’s spending so much time staring at blind channels, so it’s kind of self-ironic, giving something real to stare at, the blind channel. Something like that.

How did your musical style become “violent pop” and how did you come up with that term?
Joel: Niko was the one who came up with that term.

Niko: What was it? We had to describe our music in an interview outside of Finland. The first abroad interviews we had. They were like, “Describe your music,” and it just came out, “Violent pop,” and then Joel did the hashtag thing. The first song we released was called “Save Me” and then we released the song called “More than You.” When it was released, Joel put on a hashtag.

Joel: #violentpoprevolution

Niko: I think many people were into the violent pop thing, and the violent pop revolution make me like, “Holy shit, this could be a thing!” It’s not just a random interview line like, “Our music is like violent pop,” but it’s a thing. We’ve been living up to that.

I like that you essentially made up your own genre. It helps you stand out from the masses.
Niko: It’s self-powering also. It’s like, [we’re] going to decide what violent pop sounds like. We can do really heavy songs and really poppy songs and it’s violent pop!

Do you have any themes that you’re interested lyrically, or messages you’d like to share with the world?
Niko: From the beginning, it’s been human struggle. We don’t write a lot of really happy songs [laughter]. Then I think, it’d also be great to be political and controversial about real things. I think that’s great about what Shiraz Lane is doing. Something like that, but I guess we have to figure out our own way to do that. Right now they’re very personal. I mostly write the lyrics, but I would never release lyrics that weren’t approved by the others. But, human struggle.

Joel: Emotions.

Niko: Dark emotions that everyone goes through. That’s kind of a theme we’ve had so far.

What’s been your biggest challenge as a band so far at this point? Or have you really had any?
Joel: I can’t say anything, because everything has gone like a movie. We’ve had some small struggles but everything has gone step-after-step and now…

Niko: Yeah, there haven’t been any really big challenges. I think, like every band, we’ve had good times and bad times and things go up and down-

Joel: What are the bad times? Tell me!

Niko: Not really bad times, but there are times when a lot of things are happening and there are times when you just have to wait and work hard. But they’re not really ‘bad’ times. I think a real challenge was the competition for YleX radio station! Blind Channel’s new single, “Darker than Black,” or Shiraz Lane’s “Wake Up” – which one is going to the radio playlist. That was a challenge! It was super exciting!

Joel: That was really crazy. We needed all our friends to vote for us.

Niko: Fortunately we had a lot of friends to do that.

Joel: We won!

Niko: It was just a day or two, but it was a challenge!

Joel: We didn’t sleep.

Niko: It was super exciting.

You’ve got an upcoming debut album in the works, and from what I’ve heard all of the songs are finished. Do you actually have a release date or an estimated release date at this point?
Niko: We don’t have a date, but we can say next fall, before the end of the year.

You’ve had Jonas Olssen on board as producer – what was it like working with him?
Joel: He’s a crazy musical genius.

Niko: He’s a super professional, very talented guy, and I think we learned a lot from him and we really hope to work with him in the future. He’s an amazing guy. He’s funny and when you’re working on an album in the studio, you do long days, like 12 hours, but with him it feels like 2 hours, so I think he’s really good at his job.

And you’ve also had Jens Bogren, who has worked with some seriously legendary bands (Opeth, Katatonia, Amorphis) – how did you get in touch with him and get him mixing your album?
Joel: It was Joonas who booked him.

Niko: We never actually met Jens. We just sent emails to Joonas and Joonas sent them to Jens. But we were super excited when we heard Jens Bogren was on board!

How would you describe the album to someone who’s never heard you guys? What would you say about it?
Niko: It’s fucking amazing! [laughter]

Joel: Very revolutionary.

Niko: Yeah, I think that’s what we’re trying to be. Revolutionary. And there are multiple different genres mixed together, like violent pop. There are easy songs, but also hard and heavy songs. I think there’s a theme that goes through the album, so you can hear Blind Channel in every song. I think we did fine with the album.

2016.06.11 02 Joel Hokka, Niko Moilanen (Blind Channel)To close up, here are a couple of random questions: First off, what’s the last band you’ve listened to?
Niko: Twenty-One Pilots!

Joel: This is very bad – Simple Plan. I started to listen to them after the tour because I can’t get over it. I’m dreaming about the shows all the time.

What’s the last album you bought?
Joel: I don’t remember.

Niko: We’re living in Spotify times!

What would be the ultimate festival line-up for you? Who would you like to see in a festival?
Niko: I already answered this today! My two favorite bands, Twenty One Pilots and Enter Shikari, who we supported. They are my all-time favorite bands. And Justin Bieber of course!

Joel: Metallica, Bring Me the Horizon, and Blink 182 [laughs]. Something like that.

Niko: I can’t believe neither of us said Linkin Park.

Joel: Nah, we saw it already.

Niko: We saw Linkin Park around a year ago.

Have you guys had any really unusual fan encounters?
Niko: We have really great fans who are traveling with us. At this point, there is a posse that travels with us. Every gig we play, we see them in the front row. That’s just amazing. That’s a sign that you did something right.

Joel: We got this poster with pictures from our shows.

Niko: They had made us a poster. Like a fan thing. It was really great.

Last question then – apart from the release of your album, what are you guys most excited about in the next year or so?
Joel: I would like to be on tour in Europe, supporting bigger bands and playing festivals outside Finland. That’s my dream, to get outside of this little country.

Niko: This experience touring with Simple Plan was too amazing, but something like that. I think when the album comes out next fall, it’s going to be a game-changer for us.

Joel: We hope!

Niko: Yeah. I think we’re really going to do that. We’ve always been aiming for abroad, outside Finland, but I think now we’re doing it even more when the album comes out, so I can’t wait to tour. Not only in Europe, but in Asia. Holy shit, let’s go to the States! Wherever!

Joel: Outside Finland.

I think you guys will do really well in Japan.
Niko: Oh, Japan would be…

Joel: I’d love that.

That’s all of my questions. Do you have any last comments to anyone who might be reading this?
Niko: Rock on! The album’s coming out next fall!

Joel: Rock on and see you on tour!

Thanks guys, and best of luck with everything that’s coming up!

Text: Amy Wiseman | Photos: Lene L.

 

Festival Season: Ticket Sale Scams and How to Avoid Them

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It’s festival season and many people out there will be selling concert and festival tickets for a discount because they aren’t able to get to the festival/show, and they’d rather sell a 125€ for 100€ than lose their money altogether. However, this is a common way for scammers to steal your money as well, so it’s wise to think things through carefully before you buy tickets from anyone online (particularly trade sites like Tori.fi and Huuto.net).

To help avoid getting ripped off, here are a few things you can do:

  1. Search for sales, don’t post requests!
    Scammers tend not to post their own advertisements (most of the time, not always), but they will reply to posts that go up for someone searching for tickets, regardless of whether the show is sold out or not. They will give you a fake story to make it sound legitimate too – you’re looking for one ticket, they might have two, the show is in Tampere but they’re in Rovaniemi and can’t make the trip down – they want it to be believable so you don’t question it. They are often quite quick on the draw too because they’re searching for people all the time, so if you put up an advertisement searching for a ticket and they respond in 30 minutes or less, that’s a red flag.
  2. Buy paper tickets, not .pdf!
    Scammers will rarely offer you a paper ticket, usually saying they will transfer a .pdf ticket to you via email; .pdf tickets are already questionable because if the person does have one, they could sell it to many people and you can’t be certain you’re getting the only copy, and it becomes a matter of who arrives at the venue first as to who gets to use it. If they have a paper ticket, there’s less of a chance of scam. Likewise, if you’re buying tickets from a retailer to a show that you’re not 100% sure you can go to, it’s better to buy a paper ticket than a .pdf so that people will trust you more if you have to sell it.
  3. Speak to them on the phone!
    Scammers use pre-paid phones and will use them to text you. As such, if someone texts you with an offer, call them back and discuss things in person. Scammers will never answer the phone.
  4. Arrange a false meeting!
    If you have the time to do this before the show (as in, if it’s still a day or two before the show), arrange a false meeting with the person. If they claim to be in Oulu with a ticket to a show in Helsinki, say that you happen to be there at the moment too, and could buy it off them in person. If they’re willing to meet you to pass over the ticket, you can tell them that you were just checking to see if they were real and not a scammer, and chances are they won’t hold it against you. If they’re a scammer though, they’ll make excuses. Better safe than sorry, right?
  5. Ask for proof of purchase!
    If the person selling you a ticket can’t prove they have one, well, don’t buy it! Scammers don’t post photos of their tickets because they don’t have them. You don’t need to see the bar code to know it’s real, just a photo of the ticket with the date and venue. Then, once you do have the proof photo, do a quick Google search to make sure the photo in question doesn’t match any other photos that could have easily been snagged online.
  6. Purchase in person!
    To be fair, we can never really be certain of what we’re getting when we buy used tickets, so if at all possible, buy your tickets in a way that you ensure that you’ll be meeting the person face-to-face and you can double-check that the ticket is authentic and the dates and venue are correct.

 

The Gentleman’s Rule
Let’s say you’re living in Turku and have a ticket to Tuska, and someone in Helsinki wants to buy it, but neither of you is going to be in the same city at any point before the festival. I propose a gentleman’s rule in that, if you’re mailing a ticket, the buyer pays half and sends some proof (screenshot or whatever), the sellers sends the ticket, and the buyer pays the other half. Usually it just goes that the buyer puts their faith in the seller, but that’s not entirely fair. This rule allows both parties to take a more equal risk with one another.

 

What if it happens anyways?
Okay, you’ve followed all these rules and still someone managed to scam you out of a ticket. What now? Simple: tell the police. Find your local police department and tell them what happened. You might feel foolish, you might now want to go to the police department, but do it anyways. If people don’t report these crimes, no one will ever get caught. And if you do, who knows, you might actually get your money back someday. At least I did.

 

It’s great to help people out by taking their tickets off their hands, and it’s a good way to save a bit of money, particularly with festivals, but be sure that you think things through before making a commitment to buying a ticket from someone who lives out of town. Safe purchases, and see you at the shows!

SHIRAZ LANE – Hannes/Miki, South Park 2016

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Last September, we got to meet Hannes Kett and Miki Kalske of Shiraz Lane before they opened the stage for Santa Cruz. Back then, they were excited and maybe a little shy/nervous, but it was clear they had a story to tell (pun intended). Some 9 months later at South Park -festivaali, we got the chance to talk to them again, and what a difference! These guys have grown in both confidence and, believe it or not, enthusiasm! The music world seemed to have treated them well, and we were glad to get another chance to speak with them during one of the first summer festivals of the season!

 

Nice to see you again! What do you guys think of South Park?
Miki: Awesome!

Hannes: Awesome! Actually, we came here yesterday with Joel to check out the feeling and the vibe here and it’s been great so far. We checked out Santa Cruz and Lost Society and they rock every time we see them.

Miki: Lost Society are fucking awesome.

Have you been watching the other bands here, other than those two?
Hannes: I’m sad I missed Lost Society, because they’re great guys and a fucking awesome band.

Miki: We watched Blind Channel.

Hannes: We watched Blind Channel doing some interviews and actually we’re going to go see our friends’ gig, Reckless Love. I love “Child of the Sun.” It’s a new song. I love it.

Who has been your favorite performance so far?
Hannes: Lost Society.

Miki: Shiraz Lane. [laughter]

Hannes: Those guys were okay. I think the singer sucks though. [laughter] Like Mickey Mouse on helium.

How does South Park compare to the other festivals you guys have played at, since you guys have been all over the place?
Hannes: This is the first festival of the summer for us, but…

Miki: Alll-in-all, I think I love it because the stages are near each other, so one gig stops, the other one starts, so the crowd just goes from one stage to the other. It’s awesome.

Hannes: It’s quite well-organized here. There’s always something happening somewhere.

2016.06.11 01 Hannes Kett, Miki Kalske (Shiraz Lane)It’s been 9 months since we last spoke to you and now you have an album behind you – a really phenomenal debut no less – how does it feel?
Hannes: Awesome!

Miki: Awesome!

Hannes: We love it! I’m glad to hear our fans love it as well. I haven’t heard any negativity at all.

What have you been doing now that the album has been out for a few months?
Hannes: Playing, rehearsing, writing new songs, playing gigs.

Miki: Actually, we did a Finnish tour with Reckless Love in May, the whole month. Before that we were in Italy and we did our album release gig in Tavastia, which was our own headlining gig there, so that was kind of cool and really special for us. Touring, rehearsing, making new songs, basic stuff.

Hannes: Hanging around with the guys playing NHL.

Can you tell us a bit about the recording process? What was it like being in the studio?
Hannes: A lot of fun. We were in Hämeenlinna. We recorded the drums there. The guys were playing along with Ana…

Miki: To get that “live” vibe.

Hannes: Then I sang on “Bleeding” and “Same Old Blues” just to get the bluesy vibe.

Miki: After that, we recorded separately the guitars and bass and string instruments and everything like that. And the vocals.

Hannes: I really enjoyed recording the vocals, because Ben Varon (Amoral), our producer and good friend… I love Michael Jackson, he loves Michael Jackson, so when I had some harmonies, he was like, “Oh yeah, MJ would love that!” So we had a lot of fun. It felt really natural to just fool around and find the right things for every song.

Well, you just answered my question about what it’s like working with Ben Varon!
Hannes: I think I speak for the whole band that he was awesome.

Miki: He was more of a friend.

Hannes: More of a friend than a producer. He was professional and did the producing part, but he was like one of the guys. He helped me with the lyrics.

Miki: Of course, if we disagreed on something we had a debate about it, but if we made up our mind about something then we just pushed our vision through, because that’s what we want to do. It’s our album!

Hannes: We had a song called “The Cure” and we rewrote it and it became “For Crying Out Loud” and at first he told us that the song sucks-

Miki: It’s a huge mistake!

Hannes: “A huge mistake guys! All the kick is gone.” We just told him, “Fuck off, this is an awesome song! We’re gonna do this and you better record it!” [laughter]

Miki: But after a while, [it grew on him] and he understood what