Because there is no better way to spend midsummer, the Musicalypse crew was happy to once again attend Nummirock festival on the shores of Nummijärvi, Kauhajoki, from the 19th to 22nd of June, 2019. The 33rd annual Nummirock not only gave us great artists but also sunburns and the revelation that sometimes, on very rare occasions, the midsummer weather might actually be warmer than Christmas. See for yourself what Lene, Essi and Janne thought about Nummirock 2019.
Wednesday – Day 1
Lene: After setting up our tents, we early-birds decided to see what the festival had to offer on the fine Wednesday evening, and in a good wheel-of-fortune manner picked Suotana out of the three bands performing. Just kidding, I was interested in them before Nummi already – these somewhat, but not overly folk-ish bands have started to surface again lately after a few years of lull, so I wanted to see what’s currently up in that part of the scene.
What we got was a nice and rather Kalmah-esque band of merry gentlemen from up north, something I’ll be liable to add to my folk-y playlists. They had gathered a pretty good crowd for a smaller band on a Nummi Wednesday, and people seemed to be very into what they saw and heard; some clearly knew the songs, so my assumption would be that they have quite a nice fanbase already. Based solely on their Nummi show, I wouldn’t be surprised by that – even if this Rovaniemi-based bunch haven’t reinvented the wheel, the material sounded nice enough, and the only thing I’d complain about was the vocals being mixed too low. That aside, we had a good time listening their northern Finland -flavored melodeath (Kalmah, Eternal Tears of Sorrow, you know the vibe), and singer Tuomo Marttinen turned out to be a funny fella. Some of his speeches would’ve been hard to translate – or capture the hilarious delivery in text – but he did tell, among other things, that his favorite midsummer spell was rowing a boat shitfaced drunk to the middle of a lake, standing up and opening one’s fly, and seeing their future widow on the shore; and that Katri Helena’s [a famous Finnish iskelmä singer] “Joulumaa” is bullshit as the lyrics say that the journey there isn’t long, but it really is long everywhere from Rovaniemi (where Santa Claus lives in the aforementioned “Christmas land”, obviously). Humorous tone aside, they were an excellent start to our festival and helped us get into that good Nummi mood. Onwards to more good times!
Thursday – Day 2
After making ourselves at home the last evening, catching up with friends from all over the camping sites and whatnot, it was time to tackle the mighty Nummirock beast properly; thankfully it was not an early start, as we made our way to the festival area a little before five in the afternoon.
Lene: Our Thursday starter was a band I’d been anticipating for a couple years already, when Huora took over the shoreside Inferno stage at 17:00. I clearly wasn’t the only one – they had a great turnout from the get-go and people seemed to be thrilled about them, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering the number of Huora t-shirts and trucker caps we’d been spotting around the festival area. And it certainly wasn’t a surprise by the time the band got on stage – I knew Huora has been praised as a great live band, and they didn’t disappoint. I was still more familiar with their first album, Hukutaan paskaan, than the follow-up, Kosto elää! that was released last year, and had sort of deemed it better suiting for Nummi beforehand (more party and booze -related songs, obviously), but the material from the second album worked out wonderfully as well, from the not-so-subtle political commentary “Huhtasaareen” to hashtag worthy “Oispa kaljaa,” which was a pleasant surprise. This was Huora’s third time in a row performing at Nummirock and singer Anni Lötjönen commented that it’s the first time it was warm – it was clearly warm enough, as the pit during “Normaali?” raised a small dust cloud from the dry forest floor.
Truth be told, I spent a considerable amount of time pondering whether or not I could simply squeeze my review into the words “Anni Lötjönen let me love you.” She is like a shouting ray of sunshine, bouncing and dancing cheerily all over the stage in one moment, and then yelling hoarsely about the state of the country the next second. That being said, Huora has more or less everything I love about punk: an even mix of political and partying, bouncy ska-tunes and harder stuff, a singer who’s both out there to have a good time and to shout her lungs out, topped with a name that’s both mildly offensive and a base for so many jokes [Huora is Finnish for “whore”]. As one could imagine, the crowd started chanting the band’s name only about 15 minutes into the show, getting Lötjönen to beam even more and cheerfully comment that, isn’t it a nice name, as it fits everyone and does not discriminate. All-in-all, I was extremely pleased to catch Huora on this sunny occasion.
Essi: I probably hold the unofficial record of setting up a tent at the last moment, thanks to arriving at the festival an hour or so before the start of Omnium Gatherum’s set. The last time this band was seen at Nummirock was in 2016, and that was incidentally also the last time I saw them live. Well, after 3 years I still haven’t found my way to Omnium Gatherum’s music, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying their gig during this year’s Nummirock.
Omnium Gatherum had the honour of being the first band playing on the main stage, and this seemed to be a good call by the organizers. Judging by the size of the audience who came to see them, the band was highly anticipated. Vocalist Jukka Pelkonen had the crowd soon in his pocket with his laid-back speeches and energetic performance. Most importantly, the whole band seemed to enjoy themselves. Guitarist Joonas Koto was absent due to personal reasons, but he was replaced by Jani Liimatainen, who seemed to take care of his part well.
Though the musical aspect ought to be the most important part when one writes a report of a music festival, the most memorable moment of the gig was when one gentleman (whose identity remains unknown to me), appeared on stage in his birth suit. Well, I guess it isn’t a proper Nummirock unless you see someone naked – though I still prefer seeing people with their clothes on.
For me, the most memorable artist on Thursday was Norwegian folk metal band Trollfest, who was visiting Nummirock for the first time. Because I didn’t have any previous experience with the band, I didn’t really know what to expect, and I definitely didn’t expect what I finally saw on stage.
One-by-one, band members in a variety of… what could be called Disney Princess dresses, arrived to the stage. Lead singer Trollmannen also had a crown made of balloons. You know, the long ones magicians use to make animals. So there you have it: a group of princesses with face masks, lots of balloons, and an ecstatic audience.
I don’t think I’m far from the truth if I say that the most important thing in folk metal gigs is to have fun. Or at least I can’t really think of any other genre where dancing is as crucial as moshing. So, as Trollfest played song after song, you’d see people moshing, dancing, hugging… and of course doing the conga line because why not. If the band had been Finnish, instead of a conga the crowd would’ve been doing letkajenkka [a Finnish dance similar to the bunny hop].
To be honest, after Trollfest ended their set with a cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic” (which was brilliant), I felt like this gig would have been so much more suited for Saturday’s first band on the main stage, as Nummirock always has something special reserved for that spot. Ultimately, I believe Trollfest will be warmly welcomed to Nummirock in the upcoming years.
Lene: As I had skipped Trollfest (and now sorely regret that decision), I had quite a different folk-y closing for my Thursday, as I wandered early over to the lakeshore to see what Skálmöld was up to. Impeccable a cappella singing in Icelandic echoed across the shores, while bonfires were lit on the other side of the lake, making even the soundcheck an event – Nummi was really treating us this year with its midsummer magic. I was kind of expecting a bigger audience at the start of the show, but people kept steadily appearing from the forest, and while there could’ve been more, the Icelanders gathered in quite a nice crowd.
Trollfest’s spectacle may have been a hard act to live up to, but Skálmöld offered a different kind of show altogether. They are not from the most visually impressive end of the scale when it comes to folk metal, but easily evoked a similar mood – or an even better one – than their kilt or fur -clad counterparts; the clean singing and harmonizing especially fit the not-quite-dark but not-quite-light nightless night, where everything’s a little in-between two worlds. The same goes with Icelandic – it sounds familiar, but not familiar enough to be considered mundane. In short, they demonstrated wonderfully how a folk metal band doesn’t need elaborate garbs or a plethora of different instruments to take their listeners on a journey. Though… I’m not going to lie, their long-haired guitarist gave me a massive case of hair envy.
Unfortunately my understanding of Icelandic isn’t enough to have caught many song names, but I got “Kvaðning” and a couple other tracks stuck in my head so effectively that it’ll be easy to get into this band. They seem to have a nice tinge of medieval-like sound in their melodies, alongside a distinctively folky sound; I would imagine fans of Ensiferum, for instance, could enjoy this.
Friday – Day 3
As the eve of Midsummer arrived and people were waking up in their tents, panting as the sunshine had turned their dwellings into small saunas, it was time to welcome the first full day of Nummirock. We at Musicalypse began our day rather early, as the first band on the Inferno Stage, MyGrain, started their set already at 13:20.
Essi: In 2015 MyGrain announced that their path together as a band had come to an end. Or so we (and apparently they as well) thought. In 2018, we received the happy news about the band’s comeback along with three new songs. Time will tell how long MyGrain decides to stay active this time, but you’ll hear no complaints from us. Despite the early-ish play time, a good number of people showed up to enjoy the band’s set – clearly we weren’t the only ones happy about MyGrain’s comeback.
Even though it had been only a couple of years since MyGrain last was active, the gig had a bit of a nostalgic feeling. It might have been due to the fact that their last studio album Planetary Breathing (2013) was released 6 years ago. Nevertheless, it was like greeting an old friend, when you get the feeling that you can just pick up where you left off the last time. Of course the band also had something new to offer – in addition to their older material like “Translucent Dreams” and “Cataclysm Child,” MyGrain also performed new songs like “Lightless.” Once again, I hadn’t done my homework properly, but based on this, “Lightless” sounded very good. Time will tell whether MyGrain’s comeback is more permanent, but my hopes are high and I wouldn’t mind another MyGrain studio album.
If you check the Finnish summer festival performer’s list, you’ll probably spot Stam1na on most of them. In addition to being regular performers pretty much everywhere, Stam1na belongs to the Hall of Fame of amazing live performers.
At this year’s Nummirock, the band delivered yet another solid gig, even though part of our group was disappointed that there was no special costumes or other props on stage. Luckily the setlist itself offered plenty of pleasant surprises; the first of them was having Sonja Nurmela as a guest performer during “Gaian lapsi”; this song is pretty much my favorite from Taival and it has great to hear it live with guest performers. Maybe one day I’ll get a chance to hear the song live with Anna Eriksson (apparently this happened in this year’s Tuska and I wasn’t there, so that’s that).
Another pleasant surprise was “Sudet tulevat” with Skálmöld’s singer Björgvin Sigurðsson. As Skálmöld had played their own gig in Nummirock on the previous night, it was nice to see that the Icelanders had decided to stay in the festival. Apart from guests on stage, the setlist didn’t offer any surprises, but that didn’t matter. The band had, in my opinion, chosen mostly songs that were fast and/or from the heavier side. And as the moshpit started to spin, the air was soon filled with dust due to the dry, sandy land in front of the stage. This meant that we were all sneezing black goo until the next day. Ah, good times.
Lene: As the evening grew chillier, around 19:45, Soilwork enticed some impressive queues to the gates, as they drew in the biggest audience I’d seen in front of the Inferno stage so far this year. By the third track, “Nerve,” the stage front started to be positively packed. I have to admit that I haven’t been following Soilwork’s albums after Sworn to a Great Divide, so I wasn’t too familiar with a fairly large part of their set. However, the nice thing about Soilwork is that it’s easily enjoyable, regardless of how well you know them. Though… now I clearly need to update my familiarity with their albums, as tracks from 2019’s Verkligheten sounded really good live. Some bands had apparently had a few problems with sound this weekend, but Soilwork did sound pretty decent, save the backing vocals that didn’t always quite come through. But that’s really a minor concern with an otherwise good show – I’ll probably always be in awe of Björn Strid’s vocals and too regularly forget how incredibly pleasant his clean vocals are. In general, while not the most surprising of live bands, Soilwork always offers a good time like the professionals they are. Their Nummi show was a good reminder of how good they are, live and music-wise – they’re easy to like and appeal to large parts of the audience with their recognizable Swedish melodic death metal sound. With a nice nostalgia trip and proper singalongs to “Stabbing the Drama” as the second to last song, it was easy to continue towards the end of our Friday with high spirits.
Essi: The advantage we Finns have is that our Swedish friends visit us fairly regularly. So, among all the other European festivals, Hypocrisy found time to visit Nummirock.
Even though it’s been some time since Hypocrisy released new music (End of Disclosure came in 2013), the band returned to the stage last autumn and their calendar looks quite busy. Here’s to hoping this is a sign that we’ll get some new material soon enough.
One could tell immediately that Hypocrisy was an anticipated guest. A large crowd had arrived in time, and the front row was packed. According to the History of Nummirock, aka list of performers for each year, 2019 was only the second time Hypocrisy has played in this festival. Well, all the more reason for the crowd to be excited.
Hypocrisy has never really been one of “the live bands” for me, but I do enjoy their music, and seeing them in a festival setting was good. They played some of my favorites like “Eraser” and “Fire in the Sky,” and overall delivered a nice set. They were interesting enough for me to listen through the whole gig, though not interesting enough for me to squeeze in to the front.
Lene: Friday’s headliner – none other than ye olde Cradle of Filth – had me strolling towards the main stage with slightly mixed feelings. The 13-year-old me would’ve probably been very excited about this, and while the twice-as-old me wasn’t quite as enthusiastic, I was definitely curious about what kind of show they’d have in store, having not seen them before. The expectant atmosphere traveled through the crowd, and got me thinking about how there’s always a few bands across the genre borders who have that certain appeal, which makes them really work in a Nummi context. Whether it’s a small band at the beer tent stage, a bigger group closing out the night by the shore, or a main stage act like Cradle of Filth, Nummirock is an excellent platform to see bands you might not otherwise make a trip for.
When it comes to Cradle of Filth’s show, it was certainly entertaining. I’ll admit right away that for a non-devout fan, frontman Dani Filth’s characteristic screechy singing and the habit of doing a frog-like pose every now and then is highly amusing, but I have to give him credit for making the most out of his charisma while being vertically challenged – as a short person myself, I know it’s not an easy feat. He was very sparse with his speeches, to the point where I was surprised to hear him utter one, but the show and Filth’s performance didn’t really need them to begin with. On another note, I really can’t sing enough praises for the keyboardist and second vocalist Lindsay Schoolcraft – what a lady, with the most fitting eerie and haunting voice any band of the genre could wish for. And aside from Mr. Filth’s showmanship and Ms. Schoolcraft’s overall wonderfulness, I want to give a special mention to guitarist Rich Shaw for having one of most impressive styles of moshing I’ve ever seen – twirling around the stage while windmilling, his long leather coat twirling behind him. Graceful, truly graceful. And while on the topic of twirling, Cradle of Filth seemed to be the band that got people slow dancing this year, which is always a heartwarming sight. With the overall visual experience, a shot of nostalgia, and watching the audience enjoying the show, Cradle of Filth definitely made the experience worth it.
After the main stage had quieted, we still made our way back to the festival area for Stereo Terror DJs disco, which, to our absolute delight, would entertain us for two nights in a row and even have two sets on Saturday. Ever since hearing Shag-U and Hulk’s riot of a mix of metal, eurodance, and whatever the hell they want to play for the first time in Nummi a few years ago, they’ve been a band to anticipate just as much as the headliners, and this year was no exception. And it was amazing. As usual. And hey, how many times have you been at a DJ show with a circle pit? Or seen a tent full of metalheads dancing to Scooter and E-Type to their hearts’ content? So if anyone with any influence on what to book for the next Nummirock is reading this, you know… hint hint?
Saturday – Day 4
And so came the final festival day with rain and thunder, and for a couple of beautiful hours our camp really felt that this is the true midsummer/Nummirock weather. That is, until the sun started shining and the illusion deteriorated; thus our Musicalypse-heroes were up early once again to see the first band of the day.
Essi: I had a tough choice in front of me for the Saturday, since both Arion and Sepi Kumpulainen Duo played at the same time. Finally, I chose to put my nostalgic high school memories aside (back then Sepi Kumpulainen was kind of a thing among me and my friends), and headed shoreside to the Inferno Stage to see Arion.
I grew very fond of Arion’s debut album, Last of Us (2014), back when it was released, but for some reason their second album, Life is not Beautiful (2018), didn’t find its way onto my playlists. It had been a while since I had seen the band live, so all things considered, Nummirock gave me an excellent chance to revisit Arion and find out if they still appeal to me.
Despite the light rain and being the first band of the day, Arion attracted a good crowd of people to the Inferno stage. The setlist was divided about half-half between their two releases, and though most of their material is quite upbeat, it was a nice surprise that the band included “You’re My Melody” in the set.
Arion has certainly grown from a small club band to a more confident and coherent entity. One could see that the band was here to have fun and deliver a good gig, whether it would be 10 or 100 people seeing them. Personally, perhaps some of the appeal has worn off, but I still hope to see Arion back at Nummirock again, and in a better slot.
I probably noticed Leprous properly for the first time when I grabbed the program leaflet on Thursday and took a closer look at the timetables. I have to admit I had done my homework poorly, and thus I arrived to see Leprous without any prior knowledge about the band’s music.
As I heard the band playing, my initial thought was, “well this is calm and interesting.” Then I noticed that there were quite a few who had gathered to see the band. After the first three songs, I cut myself some slack and decided to head back to the camp – progressive music, even metal, is just not for me.
There’s no midsummer without Nummirock, and no Nummirock without Mokoma. The band had their 15th appearance at Nummirock this year, since true classics never get old. This time Mokoma performed on the main stage and had no problem bringing in a crowd to fill the field out front of it.
The band delivered a solid festival performance, giving the audience newer material from Hengen Pitimet (2018) as well as older classics like “Kuu saa valtansa auringolta,” “Hei hei heinäkuu,” and “Sydänjuuret.” It was soon clear that the audience did know their Mokoma, since Annala didn’t have to ask twice for the crowd to sing in songs like “Sinne missä aamu sarastaa” or “Punainen Kukko.”
When you’ve seen Mokoma as many times as I have, you start to feel like you’re just repeating yourself. However, what brings me back to Mokoma time after time is the warm atmosphere they create at their gigs, alongside Marko Annala’s lyrics and ability to use his voice in a variety of ways. To sum it up, Mokoma and Nummirock belong together, and if you don’t think so, you are wrong.
Lene: Even though seeing Swallow the Sun play in the brightest possible daylight at Nummi has become a bit of a tradition, if there’s ever a perfect backdrop created by nature for a festival performance, Nummirock has now hosted two of these shows: Insomnium headlining Saturday 2017, and Swallow the Sun closing the Inferno stage this Saturday. With the “Lumina Aurea” intro ringing in the cool night air, and opening the set with “When a Shadow is Forced into the Light,” the last, bright rays of the setting sun burnt their way across the lake, making the stage lights pale in comparison and I doubt anyone could claim that the band could have had a better slot during the whole festival. The poignancy of the setting seemed to not have been lost on the band, as one could imagine, and the audience followed suit – it reminded me of the reverent atmosphere at Hallatar’s shows last year, just with a fitting, fiercer edge.
The set was naturally heavier on the latest album, When a Shadow is Forced Into the Light, with older crowd pleasers like “New Moon” peppered in between. All-in-all, when not admiring the atmosphere and the sunset, I took note of how well-rounded the new album is, and how seamlessly the songs fit with the old material, but that could just be the Swallow the Sun factor. There’s an element of serenity combined with dynamic force, and that never fails to amaze me; they managed to bring complete tranquility even to a fourth day Nummirock audience. There’s not really a better word to describe what’s going on on-stage than “graceful.” With that thought and last notes of “Swallow” ringing behind us, we headed towards main stage to close out our festival.
Essi: Every 3 years seems to be a good time to visit Nummirock if you happen to be a Children of Bodom fan, since the band’s last visits were 2016 and 2013. This year was particularly good, since Nummirock offered the first chance for fans in Finland to hear the band’s new material from Hexed, which was released in the beginning of March 2019.
To someone who was hoping to hear some of the older material, the gig might have been a tad disappointing, since the band decided to skip songs from Something Wild altogether and played only a couple from Hatebreeder and Follow the Reaper. It seemed like the guys were particularly fond of Are You Dead Yet? since they played four songs from the album, while other albums deserved zero to three songs on the set (except for Hexed with four songs).
New songs from Hexed included “This Road,” “Under the Grass and Clover,” “Hecate’s Nightmare,” and “Platitudes and Barren Words”; the last one being one of my personal favorites from the album. I got the feeling the band wasn’t quite comfortable with the new songs yet, or at least Laiho seemed to need cheat sheets for lyrics, but the new songs worked live nevertheless. I was kind of hoping to hear “Knuckleduster,” since they re-recorded it for Hexed, but well, maybe next time.
Even though the setlist was good and the crowd were enjoying themselves, I could not help but think that the band wasn’t at their best when it comes to energy and connecting with the audience. Though that might not be that big of a surprise considering they had performed at Graspop the previous day. But, as they are a group of pros, the songs themselves didn’t suffer from the possible fatigue.
With “Downfall” playing as the last song and fireworks lighting up the midsummer night sky, I could still sigh with content: yet another great midsummer at Nummirock – would recommend.
After the afterglow from midsummer week had somewhat worn off and the post-Nummirock depression symptoms subsided enough, we sat down to think if our time in the woods had really been worth it again, and the answer this time can’t really be anything other than a big, resounding yes. The line-up was once again well-built, though that’s always a question of tastes too. However, Nummi really seemed to deliver something for everyone this year without being all over the place. The food situation, which was criticized over the past couple years, was considerably better this time around and it was nice to see the festival step up their game based on customer feedback. Options were plentiful, with most (if not all) dietary needs taken into consideration, and with good quality. It was especially nice that the update took place this year, when open fires were completely forbidden due to the danger of forest fires. We would like to specifically thank them for bringing Ruisherkku back.
Overall, the basic facilities for both camping and the festival areas were in good condition, and things seemed to be running smoothly all around – not a single thing comes to mind that could have been arranged better. Apart from that, the side events seemed to have evolved to a wonderfully Nummirock-y direction, from hangover bingo to rock yoga to Nummirock olympics, with sports like sleeping bag running to compete in. That’s why it’s a bit of shame that the number of visitors seemed to have waned a it this year based on the crowd size, but that could have also been a result of the fairly diverse selection of bands and the unusual opportunity to take a dip in the lake while basking in the sun.
To sum it up, Nummirock showed us once again why it still, after over 30 years, has an enduring spot in the Finnish metal and midsummer festival scene. And well, for what it’s worth, we’re planning our next year’s camping adventure already.
Text: Essi Nummi, Lene L. | Photos: Janne Puronen, Lene L.