Tuska festival is one of the most important summer festivals in Finland and a must-attend for metalheads around the country. Every summer for 3 days, the center of Helsinki is taken over by a crowd freaky enough to make the local grannies stay home. The mascot for Tuska 2009 was a penguin, which naturally brought up quite a few sarcastic comments regarding the headliners of the first day – the Norwegian band, Immortal. But let’s start from the very beginning.
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Day 1 – 26.06.2009
The French band Gojira were the ones to open up the first day of the festival. This is always a challenge for any band – most of the people are either still standing at the entrance line or simply don’t bother to show up that early. Gojira was more or less lucky enough to get some crowd, although the stream of people was still flowing. The band might’ve deserved better, however, the songs from their latest release, The Way of All Flesh were welcomed quite warmly.
The next stop on the main stage was the metalcore band All That Remains, mostly to the sheer joy of the younger part of the crowd. They surely knew how to shake the stage and the audience with their insane rhythms and melodies. After that it was time for us to check out the Dutch thrash metallers, Legion of the Damned. The majority of Tuska-goers preferred to bang their heads to the music played by these guys instead of the Finnish grindcore band, Rotten Sound, who were playing at the same time on Inferno stage. Legion of the Damned are quite frequent guests on Finnish soil, which means they have their a good number of followers here. Yours truly didn’t share this opinion – the band’s performance seemed quite mediocre, the music was on a good level, but the band should definitely be more dynamic on stage.
Then Neurosis hit the main stage and I almost got a real neurosis. Despite the band being a known and respected name, they definitely didn’t make a very good impression on someone who saw them for the first time. Being an undoubtedly indoor band, their slow, brain-fuckingly depressing doom definitely didn’t work out very well in the hot weather and burning sun. After being killed by Neurosis, we got back to life with Ensiferum on the Sue stage. These Finns will definitely make you jump to their music. The tent was packed, people were dancing, inflatable Viking axes were thrown around – the standard jolly good atmosphere of any Ensiferum gig. The band’s vocalist, Petri Lindroos, was actively indulging himself in liquid refreshments during the show. At some point he encountered a truly Shakespearean choice of drinks – beer or lonkero? In the end, the answer seemed to be “why not both?”
As the day was coming to its finale, the Norwegian black metal monsters Immortal entered the main stage. The unsuspicious sun was still happily shining in the sky (the period of white nights in Finland), but little did it know, the band’s legendary vocalist Abbath wasn’t too keen on it. If you have ever gotten the chance to encounter Abbath personally, you would know that this is a guy you don’t really want to mess with. So once he ordered from the stage “Fuck the sun!” and blasted “The Sun No Longer Rises” – the shiny star quickly got covered by a cloud. This is a true story, dear readers; I am not trying to joke here. What I would like to joke about is the band itself. These honorable gentlemen were wearing leggings on stage – how can their black metal themes be taken seriously? Without trying to undermine their status – they have definitely deserved it – this could be the right time to retire to a hut in the deep Norwegian woods.
Day 2 – 27.06.2009
The second day started a bit later for us, because recovering from the previous night’s afterparty took quite some time. We showed up just on time to see the Americans from Faceless switched the places with the Swedes from Sabaton on the main stage, thus leading to Sabaton ’s performance starting a lot earlier than previously scheduled. The Swedes climbed on the main stage and unleashed hell. They literally blew up the stage with their pyrotechnics and their insane energy. Soon after that we went to see the Finnish band Profane Omen playing on the Inferno-stage. The tent didn’t have enough space for all the people who wanted to check these guys out, and it was steaming hot to be a part of this crowd. To no one’s surprise, Profane Omen ’s performance definitely smashed everyone off their feet and was undoubtedly one of the best sets at Tuska 2009.
The Finns watching Korpiklaani almost trashed the Inferno tent. Most of the audience couldn’t even get in the tent and had to stay outside. The band’s setlist included some of their all-time favorites, such as “Vodka,” “Korpiklaani,” and “Happy Little Boozer.” There was some moshing going on in the tent and I can only hope that each of the participants of this entertaining activity got out in one piece. Meanwhile, a large crowd was gathering in front of the main stage as it was time for Amorphis to blast their epic metal. This band doesn’t need any introduction as they are always warmly welcomed everywhere. Without any doubt, Amorphis are one of the most precious pearls decorating the crown of the Finnish metal scene. I can’t even point out which Amorphis song is the biggest hit, because somehow all of them are equally great. Just to name a few that were played at Tuska: “Silver Bride,” “Alone,” “House of Sleep,” “The Castaway,” etc.
At the end of the day, the legendary Suicidal Tendencies got up on the main stage. This must have been one of the greatest moments for anyone who likes crossovers. The music was quite upbeat, but the band’s vocalist Mike Muir resembled more of a crazy hamster running in a wheel. It was unbelievable to watch this, wondering where does he get all this energy from? Yet the strange barking man in white stockings, constantly running around the stage in circles, failed to impress us and we left the festival area before the end of the ST set. Later that evening, we got in a heated argument about whether Suicidal Tendencies kicked ass or were totally and utterly boring. The second option got the majority of votes, however, I do agree that this is only a matter of taste and am willing to give the band their deserved homage.
Day 3 – 28.06.2009
The first band worthy of checking out on the third day was Stam1na. These Finns made sure that everyone would definitely remember their performance. They went on stage wearing corpse paint, which was nicely mixed with the pink elements in the band’s attire. Hyrde (vocals) immediately got under a black umbrella that was attached to one of the mic stands on stage, and declared in a growling voice, “We’re Stam1na from Norway!” This was a sarcastic salutation to the headliners of the first day and Stam1na brilliantly pulled it off. Unfortunately, the band had to finish their set 10 minutes early thanks to someone who decided that throwing a bottle at the drummer was a fun thing to do (we disagree).
After Stam1na ’s insane performance, the Swiss folk band, Eluveitie, seemed quite mild by comparison. Maybe with another mood and another atmosphere their music could’ve made a different impression, but not this time. Even the use of some unusual and exotic instruments for heavy music has proved that such a band works much better in a closed space. However, if I thought that Eluveitie were dull, when My Dying Bride came on the main stage, it was clearly time to die. Despite their status of doom/Gothic legends, they look more than ridiculous on stage with the bright sun shining all over them. Those of us who still appreciate the little joys in life and don’t have the habit of cutting ourselves didn’t know where to hide from the sepulchral sounds of this orchestra.
Danish band Volbeat was closing the festival this year. These guys seem to be quite popular nowadays with their new brand of rockabilly music with a mix of too many genres to outline. All these elements make them sound maybe a little too commercial and tacky for my taste, yet they definitely have what it takes to make you shake that booty. Volbeat absolutely fulfilled their role as the festival’s headliners, bringing quite a crowd to the main stage. We left all the happy people dance to the sound of the modern heavy version of Elvis and retired for the last afterparty.
Tuska 2009 was definitely blessed to have appropriate summer weather, although the festival lineup was reasonably weaker than that of 2008. However, Tuska is definitely one of the most respected metal festivals and has its high status for a reason, which means that its heaviness and greatness are an axiom. Be there next year and you won’t regret it!
Text: Tanja Caciur | Photos: Jana Blomqvist | Ed: Amy Wiseman