Finland has a worldwide renowned reputation for its metal music. And what does every Finnish metalhead wait for the most throughout the year? Summer festivals, exactly! In Finland, it seems like every village has its own rock/metal festival. Naturally, one of the most important ones is the festival held in the capital: Tuska Open Air! Three days, three stages, a freaky but friendly crowd, and the most Finnish type of fun you can ever get. The festival takes place in the center of Helsinki at Kaisaniemi park. Or should I say “took place,” because this year was the last time that the metal crowd would take over the city center. Starting from next year onward, the festival will be moved to the industrial sight, Suvilahti. Now I assume this doesn’t ring a bell to anyone living outside of Finland, so let’s finish here with the weird names.
This year, all 3 days were completely sold out and tens of thousands of crazy metalheads gathered for a celebration of summer, alcohol, and the best music in the world. During recent years, Tuska has been accompanied by very hot summer weather – quite unusual for the local climate.
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Day 1 – 02.07.2010
Putting a great band at the beginning of the first day is a trick many festival organizers use to bring more people as early as possible. It doesn’t always work, however, this year it was surely the right move to have San Francisco Bay Area thrashers, Testament, to be the first ones to come on the main stage. Despite the merciless sun, there was a massive crowd slamming in front of the stage. The others were simply enjoying the show, hoping not to melt away. The band is a frequent guest on Finnish soil, fortunately, so Chuck Billy and the guys are always welcome here. Many people from the audience would find themselves drunk out of their minds by the end of the day, but at that moment they were still full of energy, so the moshpit was enormous. Someone’s shoes were flying out of this insane mess, and I was expecting to see body parts to soon follow. After all, what is a thrash-metal show without a few bruises (and some broken noses), especially when it’s Testament – one of the strongest pillars that still hold thrash at its finest. “More Than Meets the Eye,” “New Order,” “Practice What You Preach,” “Over the Wall,” “Into the Pit,” and more songs that made Bay Area history were played to make the Finnish audience go berserk. It was great to see that so many years later, the current generation of kids still appreciates the grand ones.
Next stop on the Sue stage were the favorites of this year’s Finnish Metal Awards: Insomnium. By the time I got there, the area in front of the stage was completely packed and fists were shaking in the air with full force. Musically, Insomnium represents the true essence of Finland, its people, its principles, its ways of life, and especially its darkness. Their sound is full of melancholy with a hint of depression maybe, but at the same time it’s exquisite, which puts it on a totally different level than all the “let’s stab everyone and die” bands. Insomnium’s music is made by intellectuals for intellectuals.
The timeless titans of Finnish metal, Tarot, came on the main stage afterwards. For those of you who don’t know, Marco Hietala (Nightwish) and his brother Zachary are the masterminds behind Tarot. With all due respect to the brothers, I honestly enjoy listening to Tarot… at home. For some reason, they fail to get to me with their live performances in spite of having it all: two great vocalists, amazing guitarists, pure metal music, yet I am bored whenever I see them on stage. As if the band has heard my complaints, they had a special treat for Tuska. This winter Marco took part in a local TV-show, Clash of the Choirs, so he brought his choir onto the festival stage. The most entertaining part of it all was the fact that the choir’s director actually had a whip.
Tuska 2010 had a couple of double bills for some of the performers. The first one was the Swedish guest Peter Tägtgren, who showed up on Friday with his band, Pain. It was getting too hot at the Sue stage and even though Pain has some catchy tunes, it was impossible to move or enjoy the set. Going on with the Scandinavian bands, the Norwegians from Satyricon entered the main stage to unleash hell. Being some kind of glamorized and overly popular black metal act, Satyricon has never been my cup of tea, so I gladly skipped it, yet I heard the crowd was really appreciative. While running around the area, from one stage to another, I spotted people with Metallica and Slayer flags, which was a bit odd. Slightly wrong festival, fellas!
Headlining the first day was yet another artist to play two shows during the festival weekend. It was Devin Townsend performing his Ziltoid the Omniscient musical or whatever this strange performance is called. It was impossible to have mixed feelings about this show: you either thought it was crap or pure genius. To me it seemed more of a stand-up comedy show than an actual gig, yet I would go for the “genius” part, simply because it’s unusual and one-of-a-kind, if nothing else. Have you ever seen anyone having a guitar contest with a green alien on the screen? Devin had a special guest appearance to sing “Planet Smasher” – Chuck Billy from Testament. There couldn’t have been a better personification of a “planet smasher” than Chuck wearing a black cape and holding something which looked like a coat-hanger. They surely smashed the planet of Tuska!
Day 2 – 03.07.2010
The second day seemed to be less exciting, at least for yours truly. It was mostly dedicated to seeing old favorite Finnish bands whose solo gigs I rarely visit these days, being as jaded as I am. The first band on the bill for me was Sotajumala on the Sue stage. Even though I’m not exactly a death metal fan, these guys never fail to kick my ass. Sotajumala manage to mix the distortions of death metal with pretty cool beats, which actually allows you to make use of some dance moves other than headbanging. However, this does seem more appropriate if you’re a girl. Their vocalist Mynni Luukkainen is a very colorful and charismatic personage. I would even dare to call him the Finnish version of Slayer’s Kerry King, even though he doesn’t play guitar. Sotajumala have released their third album recently, which brought the band to a new step, so be sure to check them out! Going on with death metal wave, it was time for Peter Tägtgren’s second appearance with his other band, Hypocrisy, on the main stage. Always tight, always on top and straight to the point Hypocrisy is just another proof that Swedes know how to forge their metal.
After that the main stage saw the second coming of Devin Townsend, this time with his namesake project. Now this seemed much more like a proper show with music that sent electric shock through your spine, making you feel each of your vertebrae separate. I wasn’t able to watch the whole set, but I heard that Devin didn’t fail to impress people even without the green alien… and took off his pants on stage.
Back to Finnish death metal, Survivors Zero – another one of my favorite live acts – came out on the Sue stage. The festival area was like a frying pan by that time and standing in a tent in the crowd of people definitely didn’t make it any fresher. But Survivors Zero sound even better when you have to suffer for it! Their music basically pumps energy into your body, but you are absolutely dead once it’s over.
Soon Kamelot brought their drama to the main stage. I kept on thinking that it won’t take long for the vocalist, Roy Khan, to faint due to heatstroke. He was wearing his usual stage outfit of a long black coat and the burning sun was shining right on him, yet he somehow pulled it through. Must be years of practice. Kamelot were never among my preferences, so I went backstage to chill a little.
The thrash metal legends from Overkill came up on the Sue stage next. I’m a sucker for some good old thrash, but all the heat and dust made it almost impossible to enjoy the show properly. Overkill was never a big name in Finland, but the followers of the genre know its most important bands. The 30-years of experience allowed the band to throw a fist-tight performance and got everyone going, in spite of such aggravating weather conditions. Mastodon was supposed to be headlining the second day and I almost wet my pants out of excitement. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen as Mastodon got cancelled and replaced by Nevermore, who turned out to be a disappointment for me. They might be a known and respected band, but they don’t have what it takes to headline a festival. Hell, even the main stage was too much for them, so there was no point in wasting my time there. As the great E. A. Poe wrote: “Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore.’” The after-parties were calling!
Day 3 – 04.07.2010
This day was the most awaited for my part, because it was the MEGADAY! But let’s start from the very beginning. The openers of the day were two popular Finnish bands: Turmion Kätilöt on the Sue stage and Finntroll on the Inferno stage. This was quite unfair, as I wanted to see both bands. Going 50/50 was not a solution, because if you didn’t manage to enter one of the tents at the very beginning of the show – you’re out. As the Sue stage was bigger and had a little more fresh air, I went to see Turmion Kätilöt. These guys are by far the most entertaining Finnish band. One of their vocalists, Spellgoth, was sporting a full latex suit with a mask on his face. That was no French perfume over there, I’m sure. Together with the second vocalist, MC Raaka Pee, they fired up this insanely hot day and gave the crowd one hell of a workout! Or was it “rock out with your…” No, wait, that’s a whole different story.
Continuing with the bill of legendary names, we had W.A.S.P. on the main stage. All the “wild children” gathered around to salute the one and only Mr. Blackie Lawless. Age is taking its toll, yet this man still has the same fire burning inside which brings out tears of nostalgia in the eyes of those who first saw the band when they were still teenagers. I’m just glad they are still hanging out there and can pull off a better show than most of the young up and comers.
I had to skip Cannibal Corpse and it was fine by me. The headliner of the last day was the legendary Megadeth and I’d been counting the hours and minutes until their set the whole day. Despite Mustaine’s voice sounding like someone stepped on his balls, musically the band’s performance was exceptional! To everyone’s delight, they played some of their best songs, such as: “Skin O’ My Teeth,” “In My Darkest Hour,” “Hangar 18,” “Trust,” “A Tout Le Monde,” “Sweating Bullets,” and “Symphony of Destruction” (in no particular order). David Ellefson and Chris Broderick were blazing with their guitars – true masters of their craft, they created a wall of guitar riffs crushing the skulls of the people in the crowd. Mustaine’s guitar-playing was also outstanding beyond words, but he was too busy running from one cameraman to another. There simply can’t be anyone else on the big screen when Dave Mustaine is on stage with “his orchestra.” The encore was “Peace Sells” and Tuska was totally buying it.
The sad part during the last riffs of the encore was that we all knew that one of the most awaited summer events was now over. A dirty, bruised crowd of kids in torn clothes was heading over to railway station. Just a moment ago they were riding the wave, and now reality threw them ashore – it’s time to get back to normal life. Thank you, Kaisaniemi Park, and thank you, Tuska 2010. We will rock Suvilahti next year!
Text: Tanja Caciur | Photos: Jana Blomqvist