METALLICA w/ BOKASSA & GHOST – Kantolan Tapahtumapuisto, Hämeenlinna, 16.07.2019

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Metallica fans rejoice, because if you hadn’t gotten enough of Metallica during the Worldwired Tour, another opportunity came in July 2019. The Kantola Event Park – host to other big events like AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses, and Iron Maiden – hosted Metallica, along with Ghost from Sweden and Bokassa from Norway.

Check out the gallery HERE!

Check out the setlist playlist on Spotify too:

Since the gig was taking place at the Kantola Event Park [tapahtumapuisto] in Hämeenlinna, we left Helsinki early to find our way to the venue, which holds 55,500 people and was reported to have sold out. Arriving in Hämeenlinna, we followed the parking signs only to discover that they were charging a fee of 20€ (or more in other places) to park, which is pure extortion, especially considering that they hadn’t seemed to have arranged any shuttles to the venue which is a disturbing 4km from where we were parked. Remember, this was official pay parking too, not just a random parking place in Hämeenlinna.

With interviews with Bokassa at 16:30, we thought we had plenty of time to get to the venue since we arrived an hour beforehand, but between finding parking for a more reasonable price and then walking four clicks to the venue, we were not so fortunate. Once we found the place where we could pick up our tickets (there seemed to be two entrances), we then had an extreme hassle getting the wristbands for the golden circle. At first it seemed that no one knew who was giving out the wristbands, even though everyone we talked to was holding a stack of them! It seems they wanted attendees to collect their wristbands at the entrance to the golden circle, aka one of the busiest places in the park. Once we had our own wristbands, we then realized that not having a separate place to trade the tickets also resulted in queues forming for people who should’ve just been able to flash their wristbands and enter the golden circle. Needless to say, the event organization was a pretty big shit show.

After our interviews, we were at least in a good place to catch Bokassa‘s set. They started right around 18:45 with some catchy droning guitar riffs. It was comedic to a degree, to see three musicians on such a massive stage with a catwalk, but despite the relatively chill music, Jørn Kaarstad and bassist Bård Linga made as much use of the space as possible.

Kaarstad greeted the crowd after the first song, saying that Finland is known for licorice, symphonic metal, and 70s television series about alcoholism, or so he was told. He then made a somewhat overlong speech about if Finland could handle this much rock, and how the sky exploded (we had gotten a bit of rain before), but it was all good and time for some of the aforementioned rock. I’m not a big fan of this particular style of punk/stoner rock, but the band did a good job performing and were able to play for an admirably large crowd.

Bokassa’s setlist:
1. Impending Doom
2. Last Night (Was a Real Massacre)
3. Mouthbreathers Inc.
4. Only Gob Can Judge Me
5. Captain Cold One
6. Vultures
7. Immortal Space Pirate (Stoner Anthem)
8. Walker Texas Danger

Ghost was up next a short 30 minutes later. Due to the heinously long queues for food, we saw the end of Bokassa and the first few songs in Ghost’s set before we were able to eat. Yes, we waited in line over 45 minutes to get food because there were only two burger joints for 55,500 people. Again, the organization here was nonsensical.

Ghost is one of those bands that are at their visual worst on a half-cloudy, lightly breezy night, as it was neither dark nor still enough for them to have the needed ambiance. A nice sunset or black sky would suit the music far better, though despite nature’s setback, they did still have some really cool stage props with faux stained glass windows and rain protectors for the drums to make up for it.

Papa Em… wait, sorry! Cardinal Copia and the Ghouls put on a very nice show. While the vocals sounded strange from afar in the Burger Beast queue, when we returned to the golden circle the music sounded far more balanced.

We heard some random favorites, like “Ritual,” “From the Pinnacle to the Pit,” and “Miasma,” and after they had played for nearly 45 minutes, the stage was firing pyrotechnics and the crowd was screaming. Cardinal Copia chatted for a while about… their music biting our asses?… before announcing a song that would bite and make-wobble our asses. After that, our taints were tickled and then they played one of the grittier songs of the night, “Mummy Dust.” They then went full disco with the shamelessly catchy “Dance Macabre”; the Cardinal offered us one more and we loudly accepted the offer. They finished up their set with “Square Hammer,” ending the set on a high note.

Ghost’s setlist:
1. Ashes
2. Rats
3. Absolution
4. Ritual
5. From the Pinnacle to the Pit
6. Faith
7. Cirice
8. Miasma
9. Year Zero
10. Mummy Dust
11. Dance Macabre
12. Square Hammer

Metallica started 15m late??? at 21:30 with the traditional “Ecstasy of Gold” intro (from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly) before the quick “Hardwired” intro played and they came out to “Hardwired” itself. The stage had some strange inflated balloons above the stage that exploded into sparks at the song’s climax and were then quickly sucked back into the rig, which was a unique stage effect for sure. This was followed immediately by “The Memory Remains.” James Hetfield then greeted Hämeenlinna (6.5/10 on the city’s pronunciation – not too bad) and promised some material from all eras, then wasted no time starting up “Disposable Heroes.”

The sound balance started out a bit messy, but smoothed out fairly well around three songs in. Metallica aren’t stage showmen like Iron Maiden or KISS, focusing more on performing and running around than using the stage to create drama. What was a bit odd though was, with a budget like they surely have, why they had such an unfitting setup. There was no roof overhead, and the entire backdrop was a screen; unfortunately it was so light in the Nordics that even after 22:00 it was hard to see anything clearly. The huge Metallica-stylized M and A adorning either side of the back of the stage were purely decorative, save for changing colors throughout the show. It looked like someone had put some effort into the lighting, but without walls or a roof on the stage, the lights were lost in the evening light. Not to say it wasn’t a big or cool stage, but the a smaller center-venue stage where they can play to a crowd in all directions (like they had last time at Hartwall Areena) makes much more sense than trying to make four people use up such a massive stage for no real reason.

Hetfield tried again to pronounce “Hämeenlinna,” with his success starting at a 3/10 to a 9/10 with help from the crowd. “Moth into Flame” was later dedicated to people struggling with depression, and during this song there was a wandering flame, drifting back and forth across the stage as if someone’s bonfire grew sentient and escaped the firepit. We wondered how many people even noticed the moving fire, but they surely noticed the big blasts that followed from the stage and its rig. Hetfield then thanked the crowd for coming and letting him not have a “real job.” He then said that he heard Finns like heavy music, getting the crowd rowdy for “Sad but True.”

We were genuinely surprised to hear the intro to the usually-orchestrated “No Leaf Clover”; Hetfield didn’t have his best vocal performance in this song, though it was actually very interesting to hear the song stripped down and simplified without the orchestra in the backing. As a personal favorite that I didn’t expect to hear, I was thrilled by this particular inclusion in the set, though I could’ve done without the weird effect in the vocals that occurred a couple times.

Hetfield then introduced his brothers, Robert Trujillo and Kirk “The Ripper” Hammett, and informed us that they had some fun planned. These two are known for picking some local songs to play at each gig, and we were genuinely impressed with Trujillo singing “Kuuma kesä” by Popeda in full Finnish. It wasn’t bad-sounding Finnish either. Knowing how hard Finnish is to learn and memorized, it’s really incredible that these guys do this pretty much everywhere – kudos!

One of the other coolest moments of the night was the simulated war between the stage and the sound booth with pyros and sound effects, ultimately ending in every single pyro blaster on stage errupting at the same time to the sound of a bomb going on. It was pretty epic, which makes it a bit of a shame that the performance of “One” was a little sloppy and weak on the whole. They completely made up for it with “Master of Puppets,” however, which was by far one of the tightest songs of the night.

The night began to wind down as songs like “For Whom the Bells Toll” played, eventually leading to the end of the main set with “Seek & Destroy.” They returned for three more songs, starting with the newer “Spit Out the Bone,” and ending with classics from the black album, “Nothing Else Matters” and “Enter Sandman.” Alas, knowing it would be hard to get to our car, we opted to bail out during the encore in order to beat the rush, but we’re sure they probably launched some epic fireworks at the end – it would be disappointing if they hadn’t, at least.

Metallica Setlist:
Intro: “The Ecstacy of Gold” by Ennio Morricone
Hardwired Intro
1. Hardwired
2. The Memory Remains
3. Disposable Heroes
4. The God that Failed
5. The Unforgiven
6. Here Comes Revenge
7. Moth into Flame
8. Sad but True
9. No Leaf Clover
Trujillo & Hammett jam
10. Frantic
11. One
12. Master of Puppets
13. For Whom the Bell Tolls
14. Creeping Death
15. Seek & Destroy

Encore:
16. Spit Out the Bone
17. Nothing Else Matters
18. Enter Sandman
Outro: Frayed Ends of Sanity

Ultimately, the problem with the event was more in the organization than the bands. Bokassa was a funny choice, but Metallica is known for picking their favorite small bands to bring on tour. It’s always a pleasure to see Ghost live, and I’m getting more and more fond of the band every time I hear them. Metallica, of course, was the main course for this musical meal though. Their set was pretty decent by my standards (accepting the presence of the newer songs due to it still being a tour for the album), though I might’ve expected such seasoned musicians to be a bit less sloppy. Hetfield has become kind of a dad these days, making some cheesy jokes on stage, but that sometimes feels inevitable as people grow older (and stop all the drugs and/or alcohol). The whole thing actually might have been a fantastic experience if it hadn’t been so frustrating and stressful to be at the venue. Here’s hoping the next show there runs a bit more smoothly.

Photos: Janne Puronen

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