TUSKA OPEN AIR: 20th Anniversary – Suvilahti, Helsinki, 06.30-07.02.2017

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The end of June has come and gone, which means that another one of our favorite festivals has come and gone with it. Tuska Open Air celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, from June 30th to July 2nd, and with a decent line-up present for the celebration, it was only natural for us to be back once more.

If you missed it last year, we did a special feature on Tuska Open Air, and considering Tuska is celebrating their own special occasion this year, you might like to check it out HERE!

Click for the galleries from Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and the Festival Extras!
Head HERE for our interview with Anneke van Giersbergen.
Or try HERE for our interview with Devin Townsend.

 

Day 1: Friday

Huora, Tuska 2017

We showed up bright and early on Friday in order to sneak in a quick interview with Anneke van Giersbergen before her first Finnish show with Vuur. The first band we watched, however, was Huora. Fronted by the totally adorable and badass Anni Lötjönen, these thrashy punk rockers impressed me with their pleasant melodies and strong stage presence, in spite of their style being one that I usually avoid. I didn’t stay too long, but anyone into 80s thrash might want to check these guys out. Or perhaps you already have, as they had a very impressive crowd for Kattilahalli so early on day 1.

Brother Firetribe, Tuska 2017

Next on our list was, of course, Brother Firetribe. This style of AOR was huge back in the 80s, but I can’t say that I was ever into it. However, I can’t deny that Brother Firetribe is a total blast to see live and their music is really fun. It’s exactly the sort of thing you want to see in the summer – perky, sunny music, and people on stage who are clearly having an awesome time. One of the new tracks, “Indelible Heroes”, proved to be even better live than on the album, as were, perhaps, most of the songs. I couldn’t help dancing to their music, and I found myself disappointed that so few people in their ample crowd were doing the same.

Vuur, Tuska 2017

One of the bands I was most excited to hear was Anneke van Giersbergen‘s newest project, Vuur. I love this lady and her incredible voice, though I can’t say I’ve ever been able to get into any of her solo stuff. However, with the release of “London” not too long ago as the first single and sample of Vuur’s sound and style, I had high hopes for their music; and Vuur did not disappoint! Immediately grasping my attention with a solid marching beat, they proved to be very fun and energetic on stage, with excellent live chemistry. They are probably one of the heaviest bands in which van Giersbergen is an official member, and musically they piqued my attention with ease. And of course, the vocals were incredible. Van Giersbergen is, as always, a very sweet and charming frontman (frontwoman?) and won the crowd over effortlessly. “London” was a blast to hear live, but I can’t say that it was even the best song they played. I am very enthusiastic to hear the album, now more than ever! I am not the only one, it seems – her crowd was massive, equally huge on the bar side and sober side. The music did a great job of emphasizing her vocal style and all of the feedback I heard was overwhelmingly positive.

Wintersun, Tuska 2017

Wintersun was already getting going as Vuur’s show ended on the tent stage, and so we hurried over to catch the beginning of their set. I was bummed out that our interview with Devin Townsend crossed over with Wintersun’s show, as I was hoping to catch some tracks from The Forest Seasons live. They started their set off with “Awaken from the Dark Slumber (Spring)”, but I have to say, I have trouble getting into live Wintersun songs when I don’t know them. That said, in the end it wasn’t too big a deal that I missed the first half of their set. I’ve never been a big fan of their eponymous album, so by the time I was able to get out to watch again, they were just starting “Sons of Winter and Stars” from Time I, and followed it with “Time”, which are the two songs on their set I knew and liked best. Of note, this was the first gig I’ve seen with Asim Searah replacing Jari Mäenpää on guitars – I’m not a fan of Searah following some of his performances with Kiuas a few years back; however, Searah performed Mäenpää’s parts admirably, and while it was quite visually odd to see Mäenpää without a guitar, his vocals were top notch and I can understand why he opted to focus on them on stage. If you saw this show, it’s likely that you’re eagerly awaiting the release of The Forest Seasons so you can familiarize yourself with the material!

At this point, it was time to check out the food stands. Tuska really upped their game with the quality this year, bringing a variety of burger places, vegetarian and Indian options, ice cream and hot dogs, as well as a booth called “Healthy Shit”, which I found pretty entertaining. We visited the Fafa’s Smokery each day over the weekend (not to be confused with the Fafa’s falafel joint), for their pulled pork, beef, and chicken burgers, all of which were sublime, though the other smoked and/or pulled meat place was also awesome. We then popped by the booth of a security group, where you could spin a wheel and win some prizes, all seemingly involved in making sure you never lose your keys, such as those balls that you put on your keys when boating so you don’t lose them if they fall in the water, or a keychain that ensures you that if you lose your keys, they’ll be returned. They were a fun bunch with a nice concept, so we hope you had a chance to stop by and check it out.

At this point I’ll also mention that I was very disappointed with the bar this year – while the traditional 1L Karhu and tall Koff beers were standard price, they dropped the Garage long drink and Crowmoor ciders down to the 0.33L cans, but only dropped the price by a little, meaning you have to spend a lot more money on a lot less booze. There was a lot of bad blood in the bar area about this, as not everyone out there likes beer, and making us pay more is not appreciated. On the other hand, props to the vast selection of other things to drink – they’re all quite expensive and again, you won’t get as much for your buck as you will with a beer, but if you don’t want the same old Koff-Karhu-Crowmoor-Garage, there are other options, like Jallu long drinks (I heard they were excellent) and what I believe was the famous Napue gin and tonic.

Suicidal Tendencies, Tuska 2017

We got back into the swing of things a bit with Suicidal Tendencies. This is one of those bands that’s never managed to get my attention, so we watched from the bar. While musically I can’t say much personally, my friends insisted that these guys were on point and doing great. Visually, they had a ton of energy and I’m quite sure that if you were looking forward to their set, you wouldn’t have been disappointed. They had perky, energetic, heavy music, with a hint of funk now and then. For their last song, they invited a whole ton of people onto the stage – I’m not sure what that was, but they filled it up with a wild, cheering crowd. Perhaps they were celebrating Tuska’s anniversary?

Insomnium, Tuska 2017

Insomnium was next up in the tent stage, and I was surprised to find out that they’re still playing Winter’s Gate in its entirety, especially in festival scenarios. Ultimately, I think that was really cool – people who’ve traveled to Finland or who might not’ve been able to see the full song/album in its entirety live got an opportunity on this day. Having seen it once already, at first I thought, “Oh no, this again,” but after listening for a very short time, I found myself once more enthralled and entranced by that vivid and magical song, it’s cold and brutal soundscapes, and the wonderful performances of all the guys on stage. It reminded me that I should definitely listen to that album more often, because it is truly a masterpiece. Once you start listening, it feels nearly impossible to stop. Also, I need to mention that the solos in that song are absolutely fantastic, and Niilo Sevänen’s vocals were on point! They closed out their set afterwards with a few of their hits, ending with “While We Sleep” and I left the show feeling a renewed appreciation for Insomnium.

Devin Townsend Project, Tuska 2017

Of course, if you’ve read any of my other reviews, you’ll know that the band I was most looking forward to – possibly over the whole weekend – was the Devin Townsend Project. I had promised a friend, who was seeing Dev for the first time, that it would be like watching an episode of Rick and Morty – lots of penis/balls jokes combined with awkward nerdiness; and of course, Devin Townsend delivered: “Are you ready to suck it?” he shouted as he took the stage, then said we look more like, “the nibbling types.” They kicked off their set with “Rejoice”, which I can now say I’ve heard with Anneke van Giersbergen on vocals live – something I’ve been dying for, and of course you can’t have these two at a festival together without her making a few cameos. Of course, Townsend talked of “tales of love, nerdiness, and penis jokes” in his speeches, and also asked if we wanted to hear something beautiful before “Stormbending” from the latest album and went straight into “Failure” without a break in between. “My name is Devin. I’ve been married for 27 years, kids, the whole works. Here’s a song about it,” he said, before “Deadhead.” The set was a little bit laid-back for a festival, but the collection of tracks were good, so no complaints there. Van Giersbergen returned again for “Supercrush” and “Kingdom”, always looking either super happy or like she can’t keep a straight face around Townsend. Townsend, of course, encouraged some guy to whip out his balls, before saying that he and Van Giersbergen would sing a slow song together, though he didn’t bring an acoustic guitar, which was rude of him. “I need you to sing so loud that this guy won’t show you his balls!” he shouted before they got into “Ih-Ah”; Townsend then paused a ways through, disappointed in the crowd’s lack of engagement, saying he had hoped it would become a Scorpions moment where everyone would come together to sing two words that mean nothing and sound like donkey noises, but was now enraged because it didn’t work and he failed to gain the validation he so desperately requires, and demanded a death metal growl instead, before continuing to sing in weird yet totally successful falsetto. “Grab convention by the pendulous sack!” he said, before ending the show with “Higher”; this is my least favorite song from Transcendence, but I do think it worked a lot better live and with a few helping notes from van Giersbergen to start it off. Overall, again, everyone was thrilled with this set and it was by far my favorite of the night, and in hindsight, the entire weekend.

Over on the tent stage, Mayhem was up next, but I’ll let Vincent tell you about their set, as black metal isn’t really my thing…

Mayhem, Tuska 2017

Vincent: “Mayhem had come that night to celebrate their 1994 album De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, one of the absolute staples of the black metal genre. They had the album cover as a backdrop, the dark blue-tinned castle fit absolutely perfectly with the blue lights and the excessive use of fog machines. The band even wore cloaks of black and (most of them) had corpse paint on. The atmosphere could not have been more perfect. The first song was, appropriately enough, “Funeral Fog”, as it was on the record, but they seemed to have a lot of trouble getting the tempo right. Everyone seemed to be on a different time. The vocals should have started quite quickly but could not be heard through the noise. Halfway through the song, however, the vocals came out and the audience cheered in wonder. Soon after that, the band began to play at the same pace. Up until that point, I had considered moving to a different location, but clearly that was not the crucial factor. It was evidently not something that was in their control and it only lasted half a song, so we can’t exactly crucify them for it.

Following that was “Freezing Moon.” The slow and trudging parts worked best in a live environment and the crowd was captivated. Some of the faster songs like “Pagan Fears” and “From the Dark Past” even inspired mosh pits. As usual, however, the black metal pits were modest at best, with most people preferring to keep their personal space. They played the album in it’s entirety, which was a treat to fans (like myself) for sure. A piece of black metal history was re-animated that night, and I’m glad to have witnessed it.”

Sabaton, Tuska 2017

Lastly, the night was closed out by a clear Tuska favorite, Sabaton. These guys have headlined Tuska quite a few times, even as recently as 2015 and 2012. They kicked things off at dusk with the traditional “Ghost Division”, and proceeded to play a high-energy, hard-hitting set. As far as Sabaton shows go, this was nothing too shocking – they played the collection of old standards, such as “Art of War”, “Swedish Pagans”, “Gott mit uns” (in Swedish), and “Carolus Rex”, as well as the standard three Finland songs, “White Death”, the newer “Soldier of 3 Armies”, and in the encore, “Talvisota.” The biggest event, perhaps, was that they played “Screaming Eagles” for the first time ever in Finland. I don’t even think they played it at Provinssi the day before, which really made it a special event for the long-time fans. “Shiroyama” remains a guilty pleasure for me, and I can’t deny dancing to it (while hating myself a bit) in the encore. All-in-all, Sabaton is just a great live band – they’ve got big energy, they put on a big show, big screens, big explosions, and really, that’s what you need from a festival headliner. These guys have got performance down to an art at this point, and I’ll never be sorry to see these beasts on the roster!

Sabaton, Tuska 2017

 

Day 2: Saturday

We decided to take it a bit easier on Saturday, as Friday had been so fantastic. Word on the street was that Lik put on a pretty awesome show early in the day in Kattilahalli, and Mokoma upheld their usual standard of festival excellence as per usual.

Timo Rautiainen & Trio Niskalautaus, Tuska 2017

We showed up in time to get a tour of the festival area from Eeka Mäkynen and Heta Hyttinen, the CEO and one of the announcers (respectively). They brought us to the backstage where we could see the stage from the side during Timo Rautiainen & Trio Niskalaukaus‘ performance, before moving on to see more of the festival area, where we learned about some of the inside jokes they play on each other behind the scenes. We popped by the tent sauna and met Timo Martikainen, the local sauna expert, who received some very enthusiastic praise from our host, before we headed over to the dining hall to see what the Black Dining was all about, and learned about the new things Tuska tries to incorporate each year. We closed out the tour in the VIP bar, where they showed us some artwork by a local metal smith done just for the 20th anniversary event.

Soilwork, Tuska 2017

After the tour was over, our next stop was to see Soilwork on the main stage. I’ve never had an issue with the way these guys perform, but the main concern always relates to the sound quality of their shows. The last time I saw them at Tuska in 2013 was a pure disaster – the sound was all over the place and was, as I recall, freakishly and even painfully loud for a festival, even with earplugs in. On this occasion, I won’t say that the sound was perfect, but it was a big improvement over the last time, and I’ll have to assume that it was better than the rough quality of their last show here with Kreator in the winter. Björn “Speed” Strid was, as always, a very warm and pleasant frontman, greeting the crowd enthusiastically with a “How the fuck are you guys doing?” and expressing that he’s enjoying the cooler weather in Finland, far preferring it to the 35 degrees they were recently experiencing at Hellfest in France. The set was pretty balanced as well, with some new stuff, but a lot of classics as well, ending, of course, with “Stabbing the Drama”, if I recall correctly.

Fear of Domination, Tuska 2017

The tent stage hosted stoner rock band Electric Wizard next, but before trying them out, we had to sneak back into Kattilahalli to check out Fear of Domination. The others have been raving about these guys for a while, so they were on the top of my list of bands to try out on Saturday, and I was clearly not alone – Kattilahalli ended up filled to capacity and beyond, to the point that there were people way outside the venue, trying and failing to get in. These guys definitely deserved a bigger stage, what with their crazy attire and glow paint, as well as their fun, energetic music and straight-up cool stage presence making them shoe-ins for a better slot in the future! On stage with them was guest vocalist Sara Strömmer, whom you might know from other bands in the past such as Crimfall and End of Aeon, and who, in a shockingly cool turn of events was no longer a guest musician by the end of the set! It was a memorable and perhaps even emotional moment, but Strömmer and FoD are clearly a match made in heaven as they worked perfectly together live and I can say with certainty that they are going to be a band to watch out for!

As for Electric Wizard… well, that’s not really my thing. While those on drugs may appreciate the repetition of a riff for many, many minutes, I find this type of music to be almost painfully dull. The riffs may have been nice, and the performing may have been all right, but I just can’t listen to this stuff that drags on and on with seemingly no end in sight.

Amorphis, Tuska 2017

Amorphis took the main stage next though, and they’ve been nothing short of a delight to watch live ever since the release of Under the Red Cloud. Every show has been fun, and I mean every show (and we have seen A LOT of Amorphis in the last year and a half). When they started their set up with “Under the Red Cloud” and “Sacrifice”, which are both good live tracks, though the sound was warbly and going all over the place in the former. This got fixed by the end of the first song, fortunately, and they continued with a surprisingly varied set, considering they’re still touring the same album. I was pretty happy to hear “The Smoke”, which… I could be wrong but I think that’s been absent from their set for a while. I also can’t recall if/when was the last time I’ve heard “Into Hiding” live, so that was a nice treat. “Death of a King” remains a live favorite, and one that I hope remains indefinitely on their setlist. Like many others over the weekend, they congratulated Tuska on their 20th anniversary, having been one of the most frequent bands to play at the festival. On the whole, I don’t have much left to say about these guys that I haven’t said in the last few reports – they’re a great live band and if you haven’t seen them yet, there’s no excuse.

Triptykon, Tuska 2017

Back so soon, having been at last year’s South Park, was Triptykon on the tent stage. Since I’m not a black metal fan, but had appreciated them last year, I made sure to get a drink in the tent-side bar so I could keep an ear on the show. Much in the same vein, it wasn’t something I would call myself a fan of, but I very much enjoyed the lights, the ambience, and the amiable stage presence. Oh, and also, my girl crush on Vanja Slajh continues – she’s so cool! The music didn’t even grate on me the way Electric Wizard had, and though it didn’t get my full attention, I enjoyed what I heard for the most part.

HIM, Tuska 2017

And then it was time for the main event, perhaps of the whole weekend: HIM. These guys recently announced their impending retirement, and so this year’s festival Saturday was sold out by people eagerly hoping for the change to see them one last time. Myself, I’ve never actually seen HIM live before, having passed or missed out on the few opportunities to hear them play since I’ve lived in Finland. And you should’ve seen that crowd, oh man! Everyone loves, or at very least appreciates these guys in some way – the people in front of the stage were from all walks of life: young and old, male, female, punk, Goth, black metal, or street clothes, you name it, someone was there representing! And with that in mind then, I have to say that the show was a total disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, they played all the hits, including the one song I had hoped to hear – their cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” – and they sounded phenomenal while doing it. But the reason the set was a disappointment was more related to the performance itself. At one point I looked up at the screen and Burton Puurtinen (keyboards) looked like he was so bored that he was ready to blow his brains out. I’m talking exasperated eye-rolling and the whole works. Mige Paananen (bass) was putting in a reasonable effort, but Ville Valo (vocals) and Linde Lindström (guitar) were more or less the living dead; every movement screamed, “We’re doing this because we have to, not because we want to,” and while Valo’s smiles seemed genuinely appreciative, he looked like a man who’s ready to say “fuck it” and be done with music forever. As such, after a few songs we abandoned the crowd and headed back to the bar, where the show became far more enjoyable – the music sounded great and as I said, all the favorites came out, even including another cover of Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell”, but I have to say that I was able to enjoy myself so much more without watching them half-assedly slogging around the stage. The best part of their set, visually, was the fireworks that ripped up the sky in the end – now that was worth turning your head for!

HIM, Tuska 2017

 

Day 3: Sunday

Battle Beast, Tuska 2017

And so the last day had finally arrived. After having taken my time on Saturday, I made an effort to try to be in town in time to catch at least part of Battle Beast‘s set, but the local transit disagreed with me and did its utmost to prevent my arrival. This was a shame for two reasons: (A) I’ve always kind of hated Battle Beast, until recently I’ve had to admit they’ve been growing on me and I’ve wanted to see them at a festival to give them another chance; and (B) I really like “King for a Day” and wanted to hear it. Much to my chagrin, their set ended 4 minutes early, which meant that “King for a Day” was playing as I was just reaching Suvilahti, and ended literally the second I dropped my backpack at the coach check. The last song, “Beyond the Burning Skies”, was not one that I was familiar with, but the show they put on was definitely lively and fun, and while I don’t like it when Noora Louhimo (vocals) does that angry scream-talking thing that she does, that woman has got some pipes on her when she sings! As someone who’s not into Baroness or Mastodon, this might have actually been the best performance (visually, at least) of the day, even though I only saw one song.

Dirkscneider, Tuska 2017

Dirkschneider was the first band we caught on the main stage. If you don’t know him, he was the original singer for Accept, whom we saw opening for Sabaton earlier this year. If you like your sweet, sweet 80s metal, you probably would’ve loved this set. Along with his solo material, Dirkschneider played some Accept classics like “London Leatherboys” (my favorite), as well as “Metal Heart” and “Balls to the Wall.” I have to say, after this show, I really can’t understand why people have a problem with Mark Tornillo (Accept’s current vocalist), because he and Dirkschneider sound pretty much the exact same. It seems age has not held this guy up, because he brought us back a few decades with full force. I don’t know anything about Dirkschneider’s own music, but it was a fun set and worth showing up for.

 

Baroness wasn’t for me, so again, I’ll let Vincent give you some thoughts on their set:
Vincent: “Baroness came on stage, beginning their set with “Kerosene” from the album Purple, and I immediately noticed the lighting was entirely purple. Sure enough, the second song was “March to the Sea” from Yellow and Green and yes, the lighting turned yellow. Despite their modest appearance, the band was full of spunk and had everything to prove. They used two-and-three-part harmonies with the two guitarists and bass player to the point of absolute perfection. Did I mention the new lead guitarist? Gina Gleason may have seemed like a Kristen Stewart clone at first glance, but she was a veritable metal goddess on stage. She not only provided some of the best guitar-licks of the night but also expertly complimented the two male singers with her vocals. She even growled later on in the set. A friend of mine literally showed me the chills he got. Her performance elevated the whole show.

Baroness, Tuska 2017

For the remainder of the gig, the lighting continued to correspond with the albums from whence the songs had come (the well-known ones being color-themed). Baizley’s banter between songs was very polite and to the point, which fit with their Georgia (“the please and thank you state”) background. Some of their lyrics have always perplexed me. They speak of gasoline and milk and chlorine and wine. These things I wouldn’t mix but if that’s what these guys have been consuming, it would explain some of these rhythm choices. Speaking of prog-metal, I spotted at least three members of Mastodon in the audience. Having seen this show, it would hardly be a stretch to imagine them fans, if not friends.”

Apocalyptica, Tuska 2017

One of the ‘events’ of the weekend was another special performance by Apocalyptica, who have been celebrating the anniversary of Plays Metallica by Four Cellos. Before the band hit the stage, there were two things of note: the first was that there were four spots for cellists, and the second was the crazy-looking drum kit. When the guys took the stage, again, we noticed two things – Mikko Sirén did not take his throne, but none other than Antero “Mr. Cool” Manninen took the fourth cello spot. If you don’t know the name, he was the original fourth cellist on their aforementioned debut album, so it was really cool that they got him for this tour; I had assumed this might be the case, but wasn’t sure as I had decided not to see their club show. Much as his name would suggest, Manninen does not have the same stage antics of the other three, but he did look pretty damn cool sitting there in his sunglasses (looking a little bit like Vash the Stampede), shredding like it was nothing. Of course, as this was a Metallica cover show but there were no vocals (with the exception of the chorus of “Seek and Destroy”), the crowd was given the task of singing. Sirén joined forces after “Master of Puppets”, and we got to hear the cool percussion attachments in “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, which made a really awesome and industrial effect; I confess I liked it better than the original (full disclosure: I’m not a big Metallica fan). I have to say though, that I was a little disappointed that they didn’t actually play the entire Plays Metallica album. I thought that was the whole kind of point and purpose of these anniversary tours, and I was all hyped up to hear “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” and that happened to be one of the ones they left out. It was a great set, but… that did leave me feeling kind of let down.

And suddenly, we were at the last band to play on Sunday. Before I get into this, I have to say that Sunday just blew past. I don’t think it’s correct to say that Sunday was boring, but Sunday was… even the high energy bands didn’t mask the fact that it went by really quickly and energy-wise felt kind of limp. I mean, the best set of the day, arguably, was by Battle Beast, and they’re a band I’m not even sure if I like. Okay, if you’re a fan of Baroness and Mastodon, I bet you really enjoyed Sunday, but those bands aren’t my style and without a good for-everyone headliner, the whole day felt kind of slow in energy, fast in execution, and anticlimactic.

Sonata Arctica, Tuska 2017

So why didn’t Sonata Arctica make this feel better, being good high-energy performers? They played a pretty tight set and they performed very well, so what was it? The answer is, simply, the setlist. As a fan of mid-era Sonata, and my friend who is a fan of the old era, we were both disappointed in the songs they played, as it was nearly exclusively all the new generic hits, and frankly, very few of their actually good songs. Okay, sure, “Fullmoon” is a fun track and always gets people moving, but really, the combination of “Closer to an Animal”, “The Wolves Die Young”, and “I Have a Right” in the first four was really disappointing. I still don’t understand why Finns get moist and/or slow dance when “Tallulah” plays, and while some people love “Black Sheep”, I’ve never counted myself among them (although getting all the EMP balls into the crowd for it helped). The highlight of the set was by far “Misplaced”, which they haven’t played for a while, and after that, all that was left was “Life”, which is kind of a guilty pleasure song at best considering its awful lyrics, and “Don’t Say a Word” with the “Vodka” outro, which, like “Fullmoon”, is a Sonata live staple that we’ve all heard a million times. So even though the show itself was great and full of sparks and stage effects (as much as they could manage on the tent stage), it just didn’t deliver in the way I might have hoped.

Mastodon, Tuska 2017

And so all we were left with was Mastodon, and while I promised my friends I’d give it a chance, I can’t say I had the energy left to listen to the whole let. Here’s what Vincent had to say:
Vincent: “At this point, the audience had had time to recover form Apocalyptica’s stunning live renditions of “Battery” and “Orion”, and Mastodon were poised to begin. Their first song was met with immediate praise as it was the opening track of their new album, Emperor of the Sands, “The Sultan’s Curse.” The song was a fantastic mix of everything we all loved about the band to begin with. It was heavy, proggy, and kinda catchy as well. The new album cover adorned the stage in a way the lighting could scarcely compliment.

The set went up and down their discography to find the gems. Some of the newer ones, such as “Ancient Kingdom”, “Ember City”, and “Black Tongue” were interspersed with more classic tracks such as “Divinations”, “Mother Puncher”, and “Megalodon” in a way that seemed fair. Many surely came for the new album and they were no doubt satisfied without alienating the old audience.

The band itself had two lead vocalists at first glance but even the bass player and drummer got full vocal solos at times. If KISS could be described as a band full of Ringo Starrs, then Mastodon were Michael Åkerfelds… the lot. The big screens had trouble keeping up with whom was singing, but to their credit, it would have taken more than a casual fan to nail it. The sound-guy, however, had it down pat. Never was the sound of any lesser quality than that of the records themselves.

The gig ended in an encore, wherein they played the classic “Blood and Thunder.” It was beyond a doubt a perfect performance. The sound was exemplary, the playing impeccable, the set inspired. Though not quite yet legendary, these guys proved they are well on their way to becoming such. For me it was the perfect end to my tenth Tuska.”

Mastodon, Tuska 2017

 

With that, Tuska’s 20th anniversary year was over. Overall, it was a great weekend, as it always is, though it’s a shame that it peaked on Friday. It seems Finns the country over were torn between Guns N’ Roses at Kantolan Tapahtumapuisto and HIM on Saturday, but they got their fair share of the business, as the crowds were admirable for all three days – even for the early time slots (which in the past have had weak crowds even on the main stage) and at the Kattilahalli club stage!

Ups and downs? Well, as I mentioned, the bands, particularly early on in the day, brought in crowds, even around 14:00 in the afternoon, which is impressive, as I’ve seen Ensiferum play at 15:00 in the past with shockingly few people present. Some said that the line-up was shit this year; I’ll say that there wasn’t much that was shocking, per se, or maybe creative in the schedule, but that didn’t stop it from being a good selection. Moreover, the food selection was fantastic, and the food court was in a nice location, as was the associated bar with the sauna and green space. Also, props for the ever-improving drink selection, though seriously – do not fuck over the cider/lonkero drinkers next year, please! And, considering that Suvilahti had some construction going on this summer, they still made admirable use of the space given.

My biggest complaint on the whole, however, was their treatment of foreigners regarding the 20th anniversary, and the anniversary specialty business in general. I have no idea what exact percentage of Tuska-goers are non-Finnish, but I do know that there are a lot of visitors to the festival every year. Both the Tuska song and the Tuska book were in Finnish, which effectively directly alienates any non-Finnish-speaking attendee or fan. I think that’s a bit uncool. As well, asking for 5€ for a song to go to charity without specifying what that charity is is also a bit sketchy – I’m very willing to buy a song for 5€ if it’ll go to a charity, but I’m definitely not willing to do it if I have no idea what that charity will be. They should’ve announced the charity before releasing the song. This way it just feels like they’re saying, “Oh, yeah, totally, we’re gonna do something good with that money, we promise!” but they never do.

In the end, I hope that they put a little more effort into giving Sunday some more oomph next year; I’d even go so far as to say that they should’ve had HIM’s show on Sunday to make more of a thing of it (like they did last year), so it feels like less of a wind-down day, but alas, such was not the case in 2017. Either way, I’m sure that I’ll be ready to rock n’ roll again next year when it’s time for Tuska once more! Thanks again to the organizers, the bands, and of course, the festival-goers. Cheers, and see you in 2018!

Text: Amy W., Vincent Parkkonen | Photos: Jana Blomqvist

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