With midsummer looming at the end of June, it was that time of the year again – the time to pack our tents and sleeping bags, cameras and notebooks, and enough food and beverages to last at least 4 days by the shores of Nummijärvi! Once again, we had the best of times in Nummirock 2017, and as usual, we have brought you a plethora of stories in the form of a festival report. See for yourself what Lene, Essi, Hiski, Eliza, and Janne have got for you this time!
Wednesday – Day 1
For the second year in a row, Nummirock started as early as Wednesday, and some of our crew arrived early enough to set up our camps and begin the extended midsummer weekend with some good music. You may call it overachieving, as we set out to see two of the three bands on Wednesday evening already, but as you will soon learn, it was well worth it. The theme for the evening was ‘something old, something new’, as we started out with doom metallers Kaunis Kuolematon, and a while later went to check out a veteran in death metal, Shade Empire.
Lene: Kaunis Kuolematon is a band I didn’t know much about before the gig – genre aside – and one I definitely needed to check out after the festival. The tent was already packed as we walked in, with a group of extra-psyched fans at the front, and as it turned out, for good reason. It’s easy to say that I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard (it wasn’t so easy to see the stage, being a vertically challenged person) – I wasn’t really expecting anything, even though I had heard the band getting plenty of praise from our reporters and general audience. I immediately loved both singers’ voices and I have to give kudos to the sound guy for pulling off such good sound in a tent. All-in-all, judging by that gig alone, I think Kaunis Kuolematon is the most interesting doom-ish band I’ve had the opportunity to stumble upon in a while – I actually had a hard time finding out why I hadn’t listened to them before. While mostly playing by the genre’s standards, they sounded quite fresh, and I’d warmly recommend checking them out in case you’re like me and fashionably late to this party.
Lene: Next up, we went for the ‘something old’ part of the evening, in more than one sense. Kuopio-based Shade Empire has been around since 1999, and I was a casual listener of their stuff some 7-8 years ago – as in, casual enough that I couldn’t name a song if I heard it now – so it was about time to catch up and finally see them live. The only real question I had afterwards was, why did I ever stop listening to them in the first place? They play perfectly decent melodic and dark death metal with a nice groove, and I have no real complaints on the live performance front either. This time it was also a good idea to venture inside the tent, as the atmosphere was crazy good, with a proper pit where the space allowed it. The sound was still somewhat okay for the tent stage, but at some point we started to wonder if the drums had been turned up a fair bit after we had arrived – the rhythm section seemed to overwhelm the rest, even at the edges of the tent. Nevertheless, Shade Empire certainly made me want to reacquaint myself with them, and left me giddy for their new release, Poetry of the Ill-Minded. On that positive note, we wandered back to the campsite, waiting for Thursday to dawn with more bands and shenanigans.
Thursday – Day 2
On the second day, we took it a little easier, checking out three bands in total. For some of us, Thursday was kickstarted by Psychework’s melodic metal by the windy lakeshore…
Lene: As a nice contrast to the freezing wind from the lake, Psychework dosed us up with appropriately wild energy. It had been almost a year and a half since the first time I (or anyone) saw these guys live, and if they had played it a bit safe back then, there wasn’t the slightest trace of tentativeness in their performance this time. Singer Antony Parviainen took the small but eager audience with a firm grip right from the start, which is nothing out of the ordinary, but the sheer amount of enthusiasm he showed is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. The whole band seemed to have a great time on stage, and judging by one show alone, they look like they have found a steady feel-good line-up after some changes in their ranks. Setlist-wise, the crowd braving the cold were treated with a previously unreleased song, “Reflection Unknown”; not the first and likely not the last Psychework song that has made me long to see a proper pit at their gig one day. Here’s hoping we’ll get to hear the track on the upcoming album, and that we don’t have to wait for the pit much longer! It could just be me, but a little running around would probably have made the shore’s climate more bearable. But, to sum it up, Psychework was an enjoyable start for our second day, and only left us wondering if it’s difficult to mosh against the wind (it looked rather effortless, but who knows?).
Lene: When we got back to the shore-side later to check out Nicole, it was still positively freezing, but at least some lovely sunshine graced us with its presence. And, lucky for the crowd packed in front of the Kaaos stage, it was warmer with company, especially if it consists largely of a wild circle pit. The show was bit of a special one, for a few reasons – it was the first time the band had played in 1.5 years, ending a small hiatus before their 20th anniversary tour this fall, but it was also the last show bassist Jonne Soidinaho would play with Nicole. Things didn’t get too sentimental though, which naturally suits the stout Southern Ostrobothnian people; let’s play this gig here, have a bit of a pit, say thanks and farewell, and we’re good eh? We had quite a good time, as the show rolled smoothly from start to finish without distractions and only a few shenanigans – mainly, someone from the front row climbing up and planting a sticker on guitarist-singer Ilkka Laitala’s instrument right at the start of “Kaaos”, jumping back, and everyone continuing like nothing just happened. To be fair, there’s unfortunately little to say about a solid, no-nonsense set like Nicole’s, though: it happens, it’s nice to see and hear, it’s delightfully uncomplicated, and sometimes you just need a good fix of straightforward metal, served in a straightforward manner.
For the last band we picked on Thursday, we went with a trustworthy folk favorite, Ensiferum.
Lene: To be honest, I haven’t been too excited to see Ensiferum for a few years, but the last slot on the Inferno stage on Nummi Thursday seems to hold some special magic. The feeling catches you easily, when you see dozens of warpaint-clad faces in the audience while the sun starts to sink down as much as it can before rising up again. The band started off with “From Afar”, and if that already didn’t get the audience excited, “Token of Time” at the very latest had everyone going nuts! The setlist was peppered with older favorites, along with songs from One Man Army, and while I’m not the biggest fan of the latest album, the choice of songs was no excuse to not have a great time. And how could you not, with “Stone Cold Metal”, “Ahti”, “In My Sword I Trust”, and “One More Magic Potion”, one after another? Also, it could be so that, with all good or great bands, you need a break from their shows every now and then to appreciate them more, and at that point in time, it suited me quite alright. And by the looks of it, Nummirock is always ready for a good old folk party by the lake. With boisterous singing and dancing to “Lai Lai Hei”, we took one more stroll by the shore before calling it a night.
Friday – Day 3
Essi: For some, Friday already marked the third day of Nummirock whereas some were just arriving to the festival. I confess that I was one of those latecomers who hadn’t been able to sort their business out so that they could’ve arrived earlier. Then again, I had a good night’s sleep in a proper bed, so who’s the real winner here? …Obviously, anyone who came to Nummirock earlier than me.
Whether it was one’s first, second, or third day of pure awesomeness at Nummijärvi, Friday meant that it was finally time to see the first band on Nummirock’s main stage. The first one up was Finnish Battle Beast, who was last seen at Nummirock in 2015 (playing in the exact same slot).
Essi: Well, let’s just admit straight away that Battle Beast is not quite my cup of tea. I can’t really put my finger on it – maybe it’s the genre, the small splash of theatricality, or something else – but I just won’t find myself giving their albums a spin. That said, I do still enjoy seeing them live, thanks to their energy and attitude on stage – the band stays true to themselves and are clearly on a mission to entertain their audience. And… following the audience’s reactions and enjoying the atmosphere was exactly what I had planned to do throughout the gig. Battle Beast seemed to be the perfect start for Friday: the audience was abundant, considering most Nummi-goers were probably suffering from a hangover from the previous night, and were ready to have fun with the band. People got to warm up their necks and vocal cords with songs like “Straight to the Heart”, “Black Ninja”, and “Far From Heaven.” The emphasis was unsurprisingly on their newest album, Bringer of Pain, which was released last February. To sum it up, Battle Beast gave my Nummirock a fairly good start – still not a fan but neither am I a hater.
Essi: Next up on our list was Ukraine-based Jinjer. When I heard ‘Ukraine’ and ‘metal band’ in the same sentence, I couldn’t quite believe my ears at first. All the more the reason to head to the Inferno stage to see what all the fuss was about. I soon noticed that I was probably the only one at Nummirock that hadn’t heard about Jinjer before. As the band started playing, the crowd grew, and I soon realized the audience had pretty much doubled during the first three songs.
Jinjer went straight to my ‘top five gigs at this year’s Nummirock’ list. I loved their energy, and even more, I loved the vocal range of their singer, Tatiana Shmaylyuk. Women who can growl are still a rareish sight in the metal scene, so in that way, Jinjer was a fresh breeze in the otherwise male-dominated setting of Nummirock. Jinjer really got the crowd excited – and creative. At one point, instead of a moshpit, some of the crowd decided to sit down on the land and start rowing, because why not?
I wasn’t the only one who felt love in the air during the gig. Closer to the end of Jinjer’s set, the stage was briefly taken by a gentleman who told a story about his first date with his girlfriend and how they listened to Jinjer during that date. As you can guess, after telling this story, he popped the question and after cheering, the audience went quiet so the guy on stage could hear his girlfriend’s answer. Because Nummirock is a magical wonderland, the answer was obviously yes. Thus, a new engagement was formed, and after the crowd’s cheers, the band could go on and finish their set. Jinjer is returning to Finland in October with Arch Enemy, so if you missed the band at Nummirock, there’s a new chance right around the corner to check them out.
Lene: While wandering back toward the main stage, we decided that it’s a given that Swallow the Sun’s visual side doesn’t meet its full potential in bright daylight, but at this point it’s almost a tradition to see them at Nummirock in the middle of the day, whilst basking in the sun. And, ironically enough, their set may have been the sunniest hour-and-some during this midsummer. But hey, who are we to complain? Armed with ice cream from the food stalls, we took a seat by the main stage and enjoyed the view. The set was kicked off with “Rooms and Shadows” from Songs from the North I, followed by two tracks from New Moon. The next piece, “Heartstrings Shattering”, was spoken with a heartfelt nod towards the late Aleah Stanbridge of Trees of Eternity, and her voice was later heard in “Labyrinth of London” as well. With an extensive repertoire like Swallow the Sun’s, there’s always something left off the set that you’d like to hear live, but Nummi Friday’s set was indeed a nicely built one; personally, I won’t get tired of hearing “Out of this Gloomy Light” and “Don’t Fall Asleep”, and I can’t recall the last time I have even heard “Psychopath’s Lair” live. And while Swallow the Sun’s shows rarely offer you something completely outside their familiar patterns, I will admit that I was more than delighted to catch them after some time (and would have happily gone to spend some quality moshing time with the front row during “Swallow”, if I hadn’t been occupied by ice cream).
Lene: On our next musical pit stop by the Inferno stage, the new endeavor of some of the scene’s veterans, S-tool, gave us one of the most memorable shows from this year’s Nummi, and not exactly of their own volition. Due to technical difficulties, the show was cut short before the halfway point, as the sound disappeared entirely. The band and tech crew tried to locate and fix the problem for a good while, with little to no luck – at one point, something seemed to be getting through, and the band returned to the stage, but it was in vain, as the problems continued, and the audience gradually took off. On a more positive note, some devoted fans stayed to hang out, and drummer Aksu Hanttu proved to be the man of the hour, as he stayed behind his kit after realizing his mic was still working and started to chit-chat with the audience, and a moment later sang excerpts from various Finnish songs. What could have been a frustrated abandoning of the stage turned into an unfortunate but not entirely gloomy anecdote, and the rest of the band followed suit as singer Ville Laihiala climbed back on stage and made a few lewd gestures that were, naturally, greeted with applause. After some time and a bit of murky-humored banter, it was clear that the show wouldn’t continue that day, so the band thanked the crowd gracefully, and we took off back toward the main stage.
Essi: Nummirock would be nothing without at least one Swedish band performing on the main stage. This year the delegate from our dear neighbors was Raised Fist, who were playing in Nummirock for the first time. I’d probably heard a song or two from Raised Fist back when I was 13 and my friend had raided her big brother’s album collection. The band is easy to recognize even if you wouldn’t know the songs, since singer Alexander Hagman has quite a distinctive voice and style. Raised Fist turned out to be a pleasant experience, great for listening and enjoying from a distance with a cold drink in hand. They had great energy, an enthusiastic audience, and guitarist Jimmy Tikkanen, who entertained the crowd by singing Finnish singer Irwin Goodman’s “Ei tippa tapa” [A drop won’t kill you]. So, all-in-all: 5/5, would recommend!
A rare occasion occurred with the next band, as we realized that we had most of our crew in the same place for once, waiting for Ember Falls’ gig in the tent. Of course, the moment had to be immortalized, as you can see from our Instagram page!
Essi: I got to see Ember Falls last November when the band was opening for Pain at Nosturi. During that gig, I was convinced that this band was worth checking out again, and was glad to get a chance at Nummirock. Ember Falls performed on the OriGINal stage, which was the smallest stage inside a tent in the bar area. In my opinion, the band would have deserved at least the Kaaos stage, but the smaller stage did not make the gig any less great. Actually, the tent ended up having some perks as well – it had a club-like atmosphere, which suited Ember Falls well. It felt more like an intimate gathering or a small secret gig than just a normal gig in a summer festival. As the gig started, the tent was almost packed. With such an environment, the band could interact with the audience (and the audience could hand their drinks to the band members). The only thing I was worried about was the guys bumping to each other on the small stage.
The set was short but intense – the band played a nice range of songs from their debut album, Welcome to Ember Falls, which was released last February. I’m sure the band won over some new fans with their gig, so here’s hoping they’ll come back soon with another club tour.
Essi: DevilDriver on the main stage was the last band on my list for Friday. To be honest, at that point my thoughts were less on the upcoming gig and more on the campsite where my friends and drinks were waiting. Even still, I was ready to give DevilDriver a chance. I recall seeing the band in Ilosaari back in 2010 and thinking back then that they were quite alright. However, I wouldn’t trust my memories (nor the musical taste of a 19-year-old, for that matter ), so it was as if I was seeing the band for the first time. Well, they sounded just like I had expected: American metal; meaning that even though the songs are quite good, the stage performance has a kick, and the audience is excited, I still feel like something is missing. So, DevilDriver was a perfect festival band – not that intriguing but good enough that I didn’t feel like I was wasting my time, nor would I feel bad for leaving in the middle of the gig to enjoy the rest of the night at the campsite.
Lene: Not all of us had abandoned the festival area after DevilDriver, though; as midnight had passed and the darkest hour of night was drawing closer, the crowd set foot toward the Inferno stage and the upcoming Ajattara show. Once again, the gorgeous nightless night painted the perfect backdrop for the primitive black metallers, and as predicted last year, the bigger Inferno stage suited them much better than the small Kaaos stage behind the trees. So, in that sense, the atmosphere didn’t suffer from the lack of blood or more theatrical garb. The audience certainly didn’t mind either – the crowd didn’t need much persuasion to jump on command. And this is by no means undervaluing the crowd; more like a round of applause to the spell the band manages to cast on everyone, time-after-time. Even if there was a hint of wavering in the overall confidence – the band played four songs from the new album, Lupaus, without much rehearsal beforehand – it didn’t come across to the audience, and the people revered Pasi Koskinen’s words as usual, even (or especially) during the moments of almost uncharacteristic enthusiasm. Aside from the new songs, the setlist included live favorites like “Naaras” and “Saatana palvoo meitä”, and we’re rather confident “Ave Satana” will join those ranks sooner rather than later, if the audience’s shouting is anything to go by. After wrapping things up with the largest pit this year (so far) in front of the Inferno stage to “Kunnes taivas meidät erottaa”, we were almost obliged to quote one of Koskinen’s speeches – for one reason or another: “Vittu jee, namaste!” feels like the most appropriate way to describe the late midsummer eve Ajattara show.
Saturday – Day 4
One of the best things about Nummirock is their tradition of having something not-so-heavy as Saturday’s first performer on the main stage. This year it was Eläkeläiset, who had been summoned to get the crowd going for one more day. Last time Eläkeläiset was seen at Nummirock was in 2013, so it was obviously about time they made another appearance.
Essi: “I personally prefer seeing Eläkeläiset live at festivals, especially after you’ve stayed up way too late the previous night and are not quite ready for anything heavier. This time I enjoyed the gig further away from the stage, mainly because it was raining and I wanted some shelter. With Eläkeläiset, you always know beforehand what you’re going to get: humppa covers, humppajuna [humppa train] and some weird speeches between songs. And afterwards, you find yourself still humming “Humppaa tai kuole” and wondering what’s up with the raising of hands.
The dance party wasn’t exactly over after Eläkeläiset ended their set, as the crowd made their way to the shore for Korpiklaani’s folk metal bonanza.
Essi: When the line-up for Nummirock was announced, Korpiklaani was definitely one of the bands I was most excited to see. Even though my best folk metal days are over, I still enjoy some from time-to-time. With Korpiklaani, the thing that excites me the most is Jonne Järvelä’s voice and his shaman-like appearance. Their gigs are also always lots of fun since the band really knows how to get the crowd dancing. So, as songs like “Viinamäen mies”, “Pilli pajusta tehty”, and “Vodka” played, the crowd reacted with singing-along, dancing, and moshing. It might have been a chilly and rainy day, but after Korpiklaani’s set you couldn’t possibly feel cold.
Essi: The Netherlands should send Epica to the Eurovision Song Contest so that Europe can see ‘epic synthesizer guy’ Coen Janssen with his spinning synths AND curved synths.
…After this first thought about Epica, I could finally focus more on the gig. The band was performing at Nummirock for the first time, and based on how enthusiastically the crowd reacted, Epica had been very much longed-for. My personal reaction was somewhat milder… well, Simone Simons can sing. And she has probably the most perfect hair for moshing I’ve ever seen. And the synths were amazing. Apart from that, after the gig I didn’t really have any special engrams from it. If you are into symphonic metal, you’ll probably love them. Otherwise, they might not be for you.
Essi: Last year I missed Mokoma‘s traditional Nummi-gig since I was too busy holding my place in the front waiting for Children of Bodom. This year, I was determined to fix the situation, and went to the Inferno stage over 30 minutes in advance to ensure a place near the front row. This time, Mokoma had promised a speed metal set, and that they also delivered. “Kuollut, kuolleempi, kuollein”, “Sinä riität”, “Pohja on nähty”, “Saatanan kukko”, “Sinne missä aamu sarastaa”… my neck starts to hurt just listing these songs. It’s no surprise that Mokoma is one of Nummirock’s favorites. They are down-to-earth, interact with the audience, and look like they’re having the time of their lives on stage while performing. The audience is always ready to welcome the band back with open arms, so no wonder the guys on stage look so happy. This year, the band also made one fan’s long-time dream come true: it’s a tradition to see a sign that says “Viholliset [current year]” in Mokoma’s audience in Nummirock, and this year, at last, ‘Viholliset 2017’ became reality, when the song “Viholliset” was included in the set. Surely, the sign guy wasn’t the only one pleased with the outcome!
Unfortunately, the misfortune that faced S-Tool, also hit Tuomo Saikkonen, whose guitar lost sound during the last song, “Sinne missä aamu sarastaa.” Saikkonen did what any more-or-less sensible person would do – threw his guitar away and concentrated on singing and moshing. And what happened to the poor guitar? Check Tuomo Saikkonen’s Instagram (warning: violence toward instruments). Despite the small hardship faced, the gig itself was over too quickly. It’s going to be exciting to hear what kind of special set the band has in store for us at next year’s Nummirock (because why wouldn’t they be there?).
Hiski: As a huge power metal fan, Rhapsody’s 20th Anniversary Farewell gig was without a question my most awaited show at this year’s Nummirock. And what a show it was! After the obligatory (epic, I might add) intros, Rhapsody started off with “Emerald Sword” with the force of a formidably-sized army. From that song forward, up until the very end, the band offered their audience a best-of setlist with their finest pieces of Italian cheese. The sound was bombastic, the playing was tight and with heaps of finesse, and Fabio Lione’s voice was as majestic as ever. It seemed like the pouring rain was just another element to their grandiose show.
Although Rhapsody did not play the whole Symphony of Enchanted Lands album as advertised in advance (or perhaps they meant the 13-minute title track, which was indeed performed in its entirety), I was thoroughly pleased with the gig. A truly worthy farewell show of (the majority of) the original lineup! Apparently I was not the only one satisfied with the concert, as the merchandise desk was crowded by people wanting to buy one of the exclusive tour shirts, all of them with shiny eyes and big smiles on their faces.
This year’s headliner needs no introduction: Finnish Insomnium was the perfect choice for Saturday’s final band on the main stage. Even though it was cold and raining, plenty of people had left their possibly warm tents and cold drinks behind and arrived at midnight to see and hear Insomnium’s dark tunes.
Essi: In my opinion, Insomnium‘s music is very atmospheric, ethereal even. The dark summer night, alongside the rain and wind, formed a perfect setting for Insomnium’s set. And, as Lene mentioned later on, if there ever was the perfect timing for pouring rain at any show, it would be during “The Gale.” Speaking of which, the setlist was somewhat perfect: after playing the whole of Winter’s Gate, the rest of the show featured tracks like “Ephemeral”, “Promethean song”, “Only One Who Waits”, and “While We Sleep”, just to name few. The music, the weather, the dark night, the atmosphere – I’m finding it hard to properly describe what the gig was like, except that it was one of a kind.
After piecing our property, memories, and selves back together and driving back home, it was a good time to think about how the midsummer turned out in the big picture. Firstly, the selection of bands was enjoyable, as per usual, but at this point that’s pretty much a given. What else did we find positive, then? Well, someone may have heard our last year’s bemoaning of the lack of a more visible commemoration of their 30th anniversary and side events, and this year the festival was proudly presenting us with a cavalcade of goodies, from burlesque to a Frisbee golf tournament, and from a new café to characters from the upcoming horror movie, Backwood Madness, wandering around the festival area. Nothing overwhelming, very well-communicated, and well-done in good Nummi spirit, we wholeheartedly support this direction – even though, for various reasons, we somehow managed to miss all of the activities. What we found most disappointing was the narrower selection of food options, and some of them were sold out on the second or third day already. We especially mourn the absence of Black Dahlia Burger, but in general, the variety and availability was clearly downgraded a bit from usual. Along with that, we’d still like to see the booze area by the shore return to its 2015 state, and allow the minors back in the front row of the Kaaos stage – it may not be a huge thing, but can have a positive effect on the younger generation of Nummi-goers. What we’re still undecided on is the new VIP area; on one hand, it’s a great invention as it gives some more peace to the actual backstage and caters to the part of the audience who want something a little extra, but on the other, it never seemed to be in much use, and cut the traditional hangout area on the right side of the main stage out of everyone else’s use. Whether or not it will stay and pay off its place in the Nummi landscape remains to be seen.
To sum it up, we would collectively like to thank the festival staff, bands, and fellow festival-goers for yet another unforgettable midsummer in Nummijärvi. Always a pleasure, and you’ll surely see us again next year!
Text: Essi Nummi, Lene L. | Photos: Eliza Rask, Lene L., Janne Puronen