The coldest Finnish midsummer in 30 years, a bunch of good bands, and hundreds of crazy metalheads in the woods. What happened, why and where? Musicalypse went to Nummirock to celebrate the nightless night, and Lene L. brought you back a report (without getting frostbite).
Picking up people sharing the car, a good one hour ride from Seinäjoki, and some anxious waiting: I was like a kid right before Christmas. It’s been a few years since my last Nummi and I confess, the withdrawals had been pretty bad. There’s actually even a (humorous and fake) medical diagnosis for this state, called Post Nummirock Depression; even though the diagnosis might not be on WHO’s lists, the symptoms are quite real!
Anyway, we arrived right in time to catch a few songs from the set Tapani Kangas Acoustic Duo offered in the booze tent for fellow festival goers. Luckily enough (or unfortunately, if that’s your thing) we didn’t have to engage in any camp-building activities, so we had time to try and adjust to the freakishly cold weather. Well, we didn’t succeed in that as much as we had hoped, but at least the mood in the booze tent was good. If you had expected an all-metal and rock acoustic set, it could’ve been a disappointment, since it turned out that nearly anything goes; from old Finnish rock (Popeda or Eppu Normaali will give you the right idea) to “Paranoid”; requests were taken and played.
Nummirock is sort of a “final frontier” in the city-based Finnish festival scene: it is located in the countryside of Western Finland, amidst woods, and by a lovely lake, Nummijärvi, which has provided the name for the whole area. Frankly speaking, it’s essentially in the middle of nowhere, around half an hour away from nearest city. Therefore, the campsite has become more than famous during the nearly 30 years the festival has existed under its current name. Some lucky ones have the chance to rent a cabin nearby, but they usually won’t be available for long, and all of them are booked way before the festival.
Thursdays tend to be a bit boring in Nummi, due to the fact that not many bands are playing and most people are waiting for their friends to show up. So it wasn’t that much of a surprise to see quite a few people watching Profane Omen‘s soundcheck; the band seemed amused by that, and had a bit of fun with the crowd before heading backstage. And when it comes to the show itself, you know those types of gigs that are an hour or so of nothing but running around like a lunatic and you’re just happy about it? Profane Omen’s show in Nummirock was a prime example of that; explosive is more or less the word to describe what went on (with or without the pyrotechnics taken into account). It was definitely one of best I’ve seen from the band, even though I prefer the older songs over Preset and the setlist consisted mainly of the new material. More than once I found myself wishing I could hand my camera over to someone and run straight into the moshpit, and if that’s not a sign of a good gig, I don’t know what is. As for the explosives, it was the first time I saw the band using them; nothing too complex, just plain old flames, and man did they fit the show like a glove.
Deals Death, who were up next, were quite good despite the smaller audience and the unfamiliarity of the crowd, but the crowd got into it pretty quickly. Their music is rather easy, though fresh-sounding Gothenburg metal, and it’d be nice to see them again on a better occasion; this time the evening was a bit too cold, so we decided it to be the best to take off a bit earlier to defrost our fingers and toes. Judging by what we heard afterwards from a few friends who stayed to the end of the show, I’m sure Deals Death earned themselves a bunch of new fans, if they still remember what they saw afterwards.
Two was all we managed on the first day. Onwards to warmer weather!
Our Friday started with Medeia on the main stage. Although they’ve been around for quite a while, they’re still kind of stuck between being underground and breaking through. Shows like today are hopefully a sign of them making it to bigger stages. Their new singer fits in with the band and the audience seems to have welcomed him as well. The band didn’t mind the early slot and pulled off a fierce gig, getting the crowd to let loose and party on. It was a good way to kick off the festival for real, and now, if ever, is the time to go see Medeia on any given occasion – this band is going to get bigger.
The next main stage band for us was Mokoma, and they brought the sun to Nummijärvi: their slot was quite possibly the warmest one hour there was during the whole weekend. The setlist was at least partially formed by a poll on Nummirock’s Facebook page, and knowing that, one would expect there to be more songs you don’t hear during their regular gigs. But, like the singer Marko Annala commented on the matter, the idea and the poll were good things, but the people had mostly voted for songs they play regularly. We couldn’t but agree that the mission had failed in a way, and even though most of those songs are good live tracks, in that sense the gig was a slight disappointment. There were still a lot of refreshing changes though, such as “Hyinen syli,” which I don’t recall hearing live before, and it was really nice to have “Ammu, hautaa, ja vaikene” in the set after a while. And as usual, you see the things you would’ve changed afterwards, but you really don’t think about flaws in their gigs when you’re there. For atmosphere and audience, it was as good as a festival show from Mokoma can be. Along with the sun, they brought in the biggest crowd by far, and the numerous singalongs were a joy to hear. Also of note, they were awarded on stage by the Nummirock staff for the 10th year of performing at the festival, and that’s quite a feat for any band!
Chrome Division, who replaced Iced Earth on short notice, played on the Inferno stage, and the brave people defying the coldness of the lakeshore got their dose of sleazy rock. It was also the band’s first time in Finland, and from what I know they are mainly recognized here by the fact that Shagrath from Dimmu Borgir deals with the rhythm guitar duties. While I’m not the biggest fan of the genre, they were alright, and the fans probably got what they came for.
There are always a few underground acts playing at Nummirock in the 18+ stage -area (though minors can watch from the other side of the gate), and this year four of them came via the Wacken Metal Battle regional events. The winner of the Battle was also announced in Nummirock, and the slot in Wacken Open Air was taken by Blind Channel. Musicalypse offers our congratulations! The best thing about this stage and its bands is that they are placed on the program like tasty snacks between the bands on the Main and Inferno stages. It’s a good showcase of what’s bubbling under the scene and there’s always someone enjoying the fresh music, even if they only watch a couple of songs. This time, the most memorable acts were Lahti-based Mörbid Vomit, whose death metal reeks of old school (and whose singer hadn’t gone to sleep the last night and told this to the audience by 7:00 pm the next day); Assemble the Chariots, a mixture of death and black metal with a delightfully bombastic, symphonic twist; and Fear of Domination, who really put on a show with their pyrotechnics, weird costumes, and guest singer Helena Haaparanta (known from bands like Tacere and Crimfall). If you like your metal with an industrial disco flavor, you should try them out!
After grabbing some coffee in the hopes of warming up, we went to see Stam1na, expecting pretty much nothing. They’re one of those bands you’ll see at every other Finnish summer festival, so you’d easily think they have fallen into a routine. On the other hand, this time we already knew that the show would differ from the usual, since the bass player, Kaikka Kangasmäki, had gone through a finger surgery a couple days earlier. They had found a replacement from Mörbid Vomit, but Kangasmäki came on stage with the rest of the band, and when we thought he’d just greet the fans and go to watch the show, he did exactly the opposite. He stayed onstage for the whole gig, singing backing vocals, playing his bandmate’s instruments with his healthy hand, and single-handedly (pun intended) took the whole stage and audience. Though he didn’t play, he may or may not have turned a regular show to one of those you’ll remember for a long time, and personally, it might have been one of the best I’ve seen from them. The setlist was refreshing, including songs from each album and a lot of those that one wouldn’t have expected. With a sheer burst of energy, coming from both the band and the peaking sun, Stam1na got the whole audience jumping!
Although not staying in the festival camping area this year, we took a chance to stroll around there whenever we had the time. Nummirock camping is a construct in itself; for those who have not visited the site, the best way to explain the concept is to try and imagine a combination of a modern day Viking/medieval camp and a post-apocalyptic tent village, with the exception of everyone having a great time, which I doubt would be the case in the tent village. Every year some Nummirock veterans come to the campsite as early as a week before the festival (this year someone had come 11 days beforehand), and the site is not exactly forsaken as soon as Sunday dawns. The way the camping area forms itself must follow some sort of chaos theory, but that’s definitely one of the quirks most Nummi-goers love. Some camps have been in the same place for years, and it’s easy to locate your friends once you’ve got your camp set up and ready for the weekend. Pretty much all of them are decorated in some way, from zombie garden gnomes to actual sofas, swimming pools, and whatnot. Most of camps are named, too, and you can spot banners like “Sail Hatan”, “Mangustiarmeija” [Mongoose Army], “Goodfellas Meeting,” and “The League of Socially Awkward Gentlemen.” In short, it’s a place filled with black humor, naked or weirdly dressed people, campfires, booze, and more than anything, it’s the cornerstone of all that’s glorified in Nummirock. It’s more or less where all those memorable stories one hears from Nummi happen, and you can count on someone with an acoustic guitar or pair of bongos to sing obscene songs with you, or even making new lifelong friends; few things create a bond like camping at Nummirock.
Last off on Friday was Behemoth. For me, they fall into the category of bands I like to listen when I’m in the mood for something more extreme and ridiculously heavy, but I don’t know much about them or their live shows, so I went there with an open mind. If I had to use only one word to describe the whole thing, it’d be “impressive.” If I was their fan, I think I probably would’ve been in some sort of a trance for most of it. They had a great light show to go with the eerie atmosphere, props like censer (which reminded me at least of Catholic and Greek Catholic churches), Egyptian style goat masks, and all that to support the visual image. All in all, the set was really entertaining to watch and listen to.
Poisonblack was the first band for us on Saturday, and they started things out excellently. Even though it was still horribly cold, especially by the lake, it was sunny and the overall show had a way better feeling in it than the one they played two weeks earlier in South Park. The setlist was exactly the same, but it does work well as it is, and the band seemed more laid back than in South Park, really having a good time on stage. It could have been the weather, but nevertheless we enjoyed it there.
It started to look like it wouldn’t get any warmer the whole weekend, but Santa Cruz was the perfect fix for that. Since we were not able see their gig in South Park, it was nice to catch them here, and they didn’t disappoint; their Nummirock set was a show not to miss in every way! A bunch of young lads playing good 80’s style hard rock, and if Reckless Love is your cup of tea, you’ll probably love these guys, and if not, well, you probably still would love seeing this band live. Loads of energy, some pyrotechnics, big smiles, all that jazz, and in the middle of the show, their guitarist Johnny Cruz jumped off the stage to play in the middle of the audience, and during encore, singer Archie Cruz climbed up the stage to hang from the roof. Needless to say, everyone had tons of fun. Wherever you are, if they play there, don’t miss out!
If we had any awards to give, the one for craziest audience would without a doubt go to the one that showed up for Turmion Kätilöt. The crowd literally danced and jumped up and down for the whole gig in front of the Inferno stage, more or less, and if it had been the coldest place in the festival area, it sure wasn’t during that show. Unfortunately their speeches are rather untranslatable, since they make quite a bit of the atmosphere, but to put it in short, it’s always profanities, bad humor, and making fun of the audience as well as themselves. And we love all that, for some unknown reason.
Along with the notorious campsites, costumes are also a thing in Nummi. This year we managed to spot at least an army of Santa Clauses, an elephant, a penguin, a few teddy bears, a chicken, one of the Hanson brothers (the hockey version), a Karjala-knight (or “juhannussoturi”, midsummer warrior), and we found Super Mario in the middle of a moshpit. Of course there was warpaint, kilts, and other sorts that are a must, but in Nummi, the weirder you get, the better. Or naked, that seems to be always an option, be it +3 or +23 Celsius.
W.A.S.P. was far better than in South Park; we decided to not shoot the gig and instead watched the show like normal festival-goers would. It sure as hell worked! The evening slot on Nummi Saturday fit them perfectly and the mood was just right. The set seemed quite the same as in South Park, and it was totally alright the way it was. Singing along with “L.O.V.E. Machine” and “Wild Child” with friends and all the other good people really does the trick.
Between bigger bands, we checked out an intriguing underground phenomenon called Whispered. Though hailing from Finland, they have taken a lot of influence from Japanese history and samurai culture in both how they sound and in their lyrics, and it shows in their stage costumes as well. There was an unfortunate event right in the beginning: the powers went off during the first song for about five minutes or so. Once they were back, they pulled off a great show, despite the small crowd. They’ve got some great songs, and it would be interesting to see if this samurai metal makes it to the next level!
Turisas was unquestionably one of the highlights of the festival. Nummirock holds a very special place among festivals in the band’s collective heart, and it truly shows. They usually have a great time on stage wherever they are, or at least look like they do, but you can’t fake that level of genuine joy. Locating them on the Inferno stage was a wise move; even though they do work out well on main stage, as noted a few years back, the old by-shore stage has an irreplaceable nostalgic value, as it was seen on their DVD from 2008. The setlist didn’t offer anything special, and at times it got a bit boring for those who would have wished that they had changed the set just a bit. Admittedly, at least for me, it was surprising to hear “Battle Metal” in the middle of the show. But what made it one of the best Turisas shows I’ve seen was the crowd and overall feeling it created with the band; no questions asked – it was the hugest and craziest midsummer dance party I’ve ever attended.
Saturday’s headliner turned out to be perhaps the best possible way to end the festival. Stone, a Finnish legend in metal, took their spot as they should, knowing they’re headlining this carnival and giving the crowd what they deserve, with the poise and calmness years in the scene have brought. I might have mentioned that I’m not that crazy about “big” bands and their gigs, but I’m always willing to make an exception for some bands, and Stone is one of them. A mellow atmosphere, good people, good music, ice cream while listening to “Sweet Dreams,” and yet another nightless night ahead; what more could you wish for?
Nummirock 2014 was definitely a midsummer to remember, even to the point of planning “I survived Nummirock 2014” T-shirts. We don’t know if this will happen or not, but how often you see people doing the horns with mittens and headbanging outdoors with knit scarves and caps? Despite the worst possible weather for a summer festival, the atmosphere in Nummi stayed warm from beginning to the very end, as it does every single time. It’s hard to explain the Nummi-feeling (and the aftermath with PND) to someone who hasn’t experienced it, but I personally recommend that everyone check out this festival at least once in their lives. If you don’t mind sleeping in a tent, mostly weird but loveable (and sometimes naked) people, and the possibility of mosquitoes, you’ll more than likely find yourself planning the next trip as soon as you leave Nummijärvi behind you. With those thoughts, we bid farewell to Nummirock, and promise to return next year. And the next one. And the one after that. And – yeah, you get it.
Text/photos: Lene L.