Festival Report: Tuska Open Air 2011

This year Tuska Open Air was relocated from the middle of Helsinki to a new location. Just a five minute ride away to former energy hub, Suvilahti. The scenery had shifted from a dusty city park to pure industrial concrete jungle. With scorching heat and some 30,000 metalheads crammed together, Tuska Open Air’s three-day metallic meal, headlined by Morbid Angel, Devin Townsend and Amon Amarth, could’ve been the onset of the apocalypse. Was it?

by Mikko K.& Matti Manner

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2011’s Tuska also saw another improvement for Teeth of the Divine, as the site’s commando squad multiplied with Matti tagging along to cover more ground. And cover we did as there’s a wall of text waiting ahead of you, dear reader. We tried to keep it readable, we tried to keep it comprehensible and we tried to keep it at least slightly entertaining. Whether we succeeded is to be seen, but if reading becomes an obstacle, you can always admire the shitloads of photos we posted on our Facebook-page.

Without further a due, let’s get it ON!


Mikko K (MK): I’m not a morning person, I’ll tell you that. Even if I can get myself up and operate. I don’t like over-the-top heat either, so waking up on a Friday morning, I decided early that I’d be aiming to catch Forbidden officially open the festival on the main stage. Luckily, Teeth of the Divine’s new Santa’s helper, Matti Manner, informed me that he’d be at the festival grounds early. I was in no rush.

Matti M (MM): Even though I was the first of us to reach Tuska’s newly appointed area my trip was not without some complications, and not wanting to go into boring details, I can say I arrived later than I was supposed to. Nevertheless, Mikko was still lazying it up anyway. Yet, as things were as they were and as Tuska 2011 was the first time for me to attend a festival with an ‘at work’ state of mind, I had no time to get myself adjusted to the new area other than to hurry around the factory pipes and barracks that surrounded my way to the second EMP stage.

I managed to squeeze into the almost empty photo pit in a nick of time. While the Black Breath was a completely new acquaintance for me, a close friend of mine—who is more in the know on these up and coming American bands—had thrown around a few good words about the band, so this made me somewhat curious. Never underestimate the power of word to mouth. I rarely doubt few of my like-minded friend’s judgment and advice, and I didn’t have to suffer for my trust this time either.

Black Breath put on a good show, full of energy and filled with jamming thrash/punk sounds with shades of death metal popping up here and there; I was definitely hearing a combination of sorts where old Entombed meets new Darkthrone. Being one of the first acts of the day, and on the second stage, there seemed to be quite a few technical difficulties, but despite the glitches the festival started out on a positive note. Maybe I will go out and pick up Black Breath‘s debut album Heavy Breathing when time and funds allow.

At the same time, on the third stage, The Inferno tent, Finnish melodic death metallers Ominium Gatherum were serving up notes of aggression. Their name pops up every now and then, but I’ve never paid any special attention to them. Others must have, as they had a much bigger audience than Black Breath. I wasn’t served with a cup of tea, but the audience ate it up.

Mikko: When Tuska was held at Kaisaniemi (Park), all you had to do is find yourself a way to the Helsinki train station—located in the center of Helsinki—and walk a couple of hundred meters to the metal mecca. Now, things were slightly more complicated but not by much. One only had to take a metro to the festival area, walk a few hundred meters and bam!, you were in. The new location didn’t pose a problem.

Matti: When the EMP stage went silent, I looked at my clock and saw that there were fifteen minutes to spare before action flared up on the main stage. So before rendezvousing with Mikko for Forbidden, I headed back into the club stage where a two-headed monster called Cause For Effect were grinding on. The fourth, Club, stage was inside of an old factory building, called Kattilahalli (Kettle Hall). From the inside it was shaped like a church, a wide dark space divided with two rows of element columns that held the ceiling in place. An intimate setting.

As for Cause For Effect, they’re a duo comprised of two men: Ari on drums and Tuomo growling with a bass on his shoulders. Having seen them live a few times before, I knew what was to be expected from them. For those readers in the un-know, I can say that they are very minimalistic and very entertaining. Playing songs that average under a minute, they play a riffing mixture of jazz, grind, punk and metal with a smirk in the corner of their lips. They fit well on the Club stage and filled the industrial hall with a good amount of listeners.

After few songs however, I hauled my corpse to the Radio Rock main stage to find the already tired looking face of Mikko, who started to ramble about his last night’s odyssey of trying to find some bar that was not there, and his failures at being a social butterfly at some social gathering. After we had caught up with decent amount of shit talk and rejoicing, we double teamed on Forbidden.

Mikko: I arrived to the party right before Forbidden‘s set and caught up with Matti, all dressed up for some front line war journalism. Come to think of it, Tuska seems to favor thrash bands as main stage openers, but I’m not gonna back that up with any hard, cold evidence — aside from stating that Testament did it last year.

Remembering Teeth of the Divine’s Fred Phillips talking good things about Forbidden‘s latest album, I raised my expectations a few notches — even if my personal connection with the band stems almost exclusively out of blasting the shit out of Twisted into Form album. Quite surprisingly, that exact album was given very little attention within the set. The meat comprised of Forbidden Evil and the latest comeback album, Omega Wave. The band did its best to shake the sandman’s dust out of the audience’s eyes, but the technical issues with the mix hindered the experience quite a bit.

  • MM: The first thing I noticed was that the band looked old and that they had lived a hard life before climbing onto the stage.
  • MK: I suppose twenty-odd years kind of does that to you.
  • MM: But for a group of older gentlemen, their playing certainly wasn’t half bad.
  • MK: And the cover of Dio’s “Children of the Sea” was somewhat surprising.
  • MM: Too bad the rest of the stuff seemed to lack punchlines…
  • MK: That’s because they had forgotten about having Twisted into Form in their discography. As curios as Forbidden are to me, and I love me some  ‘80s/’90s thrash, I have to say I was left a tad cold too. But it was good to see Steve Smyth back on stage!

Matti: As a result of a coin toss between two bands that I had no real opinion about before hand, Mikko took EMP stage and Bulldozer while I headed into Inferno stage towards Hell. Good God! If Forbidden had given a nod to Dio earlier, Hell actually raised Dio’s corpse from the grave and enslaved his spirit to do their bidding as a bass player!

To be honest, the whole band actually looked somewhat half dead — even without the make up and gloomy get-up. From what I saw, these geezers could play and write catchy sounding songs that had a throwback effect to classic bands like Judas Priest. Combined with the occultist outfits and dark lyrics, there were evil forces at play…

While everything seemed to be in place and well thought out, I just could not dig it. By the second song I was annoyed by David Bower and his over-the-top theatrics. His faces and other gestures, along with the overflowing lyrical content per one song and banters—written beforehand—between them got to my nerves. The large audience was enjoying it though and a decent part of them could also sing along the choruses. Five songs in and I could not take it anymore, I took my chances and left to see Bulldozer.

  • MK: On a side note out of nowhere… Andy Sneap, producer extraordinaire, was manning the guitar.

Mikko: You might have realized it from my Sauna Open Air coverage, but I’m really out of touch with a ton of classic bands—big and small. Thus, Bulldozer took me by quite a surprise with their good-spirited, irony-filled thrash-y spectacle that saw old school heavy metal and songs dedicated to porn stars, A.C. Milan and social networks. I wouldn’t have minded hearing even more ranting from the mainman A.C. Wild, who addressed the audience from a bloody podium dressed up as Anton LaVey.

  • MM : Yeah, one look at the stage and seeing Emperor Ming [from Flash Gordon] preach, with a rough English accent, about Italy’s fucked up politics, I was already laughing my ass off.
  • MK : And?
  • MM : I became an instant fan. Too bad I missed the first half of the set due to Hell.

Mikko: I hate to be a hater, but as an overall experience, Arch Enemy are uninteresting and part of the reason falls to Angela Gossow. She’s a good front(wo)man, a certified performer on stage, but her growls are somewhat grating. The other reason is that despite some good parts here and there (for example, with the solos and leads), the songs have a hard time staying interesting. Angela was complaining about the heat on stage and at that point, I think the weather was bouncing between 85 and 90 Fahrenheit, so it was easy to relate to her agony.

  • MM: Well, at least the heat made Angela lose that thick leather jacket of hers.
  • MK: And why was that so important?
  • MM: I got mildly aroused. That`s why.


Mikko: Grave was celebrating Into the Grave‘s 20th birthday by playing nothing but the album, from start to finish on the third stage. It took a while for the audience to get a hang of what was happening, but not soon after, the center formed a circle and the pit got into gear. While Ola Lindgren helmed with a positive attitude, it was Tobias Christiansson that seemed to own the stage. As for the performance… all Grave through and through.


Matti: Electric Wizard did not hit me the way I expected. I really don’t know if it was because the time and place were not favorable—or what—but I didn’t get much out of the band’s set. Perhaps Tuska’s former, more organic surrounding in Kaisaniemi would have made a difference but Electric Wizard failed to resonate with me this time around.

  • MK: From what I saw, I agree. For reason or another, there was a clear lull between Forbidden and At The Gates; the audience seemed slightly disoriented and Electric Wizard suffered because of it. They had a good buzz going on, despite the sun, but the setting left it all a tad disconnected.

Mikko: Being an originator of sorts isn’t always just pure gravy as, in all honesty, I’ve often been more interested in the bands that At The Gates has inspired, rather than shout my full-blown devotion to the original gangsters. Thus, just like Arch Enemy moments earlier, I had a lot of problems trying to stay focused during At The Gates‘ main stage appearance—the only thing keeping my eyes fixed on the stage was the Swedish Tasmanian devil, vocal powerhouse Tomas Lindberg who gave his all through sweat, spit and a wide smile.

After half a set, still uninspired, I decided it was time for me to fill my body, mind and soul with some fluids and enjoy the general mood—even if things were just starting warm up—before catching Oranssi Pazuzu. Playing inside, the Finnish experimental black metal psychedelia received an ardent treatment, leaving the audience to drone off into a new world. Thanks to the session at the photo pit, I didn’t quite reach the peace and calm to fully appreciate what was unfolding in front of me, but I’ll definitely have to catch the band again.


Matti: Michael Amott and Sharlee D’Angelo made their second gig of the day with Spiritual Beggars taking Inferno stage—only an hour after they were done with Arch Enemy‘s set. Way back when I first listened to the band’s Ad Astra and On Fire records I got a weird love/hate relationship with the band’s music; they have some cool tracks and some that I would say are over-the-top cheesy. But live, they surely put on a solid performance. In fact, I have to admit that I enjoyed it all the while I felt my chest hair grow thicker and thicker, along every passing macho-mojo-hard rock-stoner song they blasted.

While I had jolly-good time seeing and hearing the Beggars perform live, I also felt torn between their gig and the other one going outside. One can say that I have been raised in a barrel, for it wasn’t until last year’s masterful Absolute Dissent album that I got into Killing Joke, forcing me to travel back in time to fill some dark spots in my life. So, I left half way through the Beggars’ set to see, what I consider to have been the best gig of the day hands down.


Mikko: Seeing Killing Joke on the second stage was a bit of a letdown; they deserved the larger stage and a larger role, seeing how they pretty much provided Friday’s highlight. Old men still rocking strong, even through some technical difficulties. Aside from their ’80s hits, I’ve never been that exposed to the band’s extensive discography but this one show made me a convert in an instant; from what I understood the material was bouncing between old and new but it all went together beautifully. Enlightening! Frontman Jaz Coleman chanted about Norway’s tragedy on stage, a move that went past the audience, as no one had any idea what had happened in the outside world at the time.

As I said, witnessing the band live was more than inspiring and eye opening. First of all, you had Jaz Coleman performing very, very visually. In fact, I’d say if I’d have to think about his possible heir, I’d say Primordial‘s Alan Averill would be a strong contender. I can’t say what Alan thinks of Killing Joke, but there are plenty of similarities in their performances and mannerisms that it’s almost scary. Not surprisingly, I’d also believe Rammstein‘s Till Lindemann has seen KJ live a few times. Strong, strong charisma! Aside from Jaz, you also have Geordie Walker on guitar and Martin Glover on bass, elegantly playing through the crushing songs as if it was nothing; the two men leave quite a few, headbanging technical string artists to shame with their somewhat casual act. I’m not sure if Paul Ferguson was on stage as well, drumming away, as the three men in front really had me mesmerized.

  • MM: Ferguson was not there. There was a much younger guy on the drums, who seemed to get the job done quite nicely. I agree with the statement that they should have been on the main stage, headlining Friday or any other day for that matter. Another thing I have to add is that Jaz, in his black jumpsuit, melting facepaint and robotic movements looked like a sinister arch villain from some old James Bond movie. Really good stuff.
  • MK: I just have to repeat myself and say, that the following band, namely Morbid Angel, was pop music compared to Killing Joke.


Mikko: So how about Friday’s headliner, Morbid Angel, then? The band caused quite a bit of Internet ruckus with its latest album Illud Divinum Insanus. As adamant as the band was in defending the album’s new sounds, they sure as fuck didn’t seem that confident in it on stage; they played only a few tracks and even those were the more purer death metal tunes (“Existo Vulgoré”, “Nevermore”) aside from “I am Morbid”, of course.

I say bullshit and I say it loudly: BULLSHIT! Personally, “Radikult” is the most entertaining track on the new album and they denied me from the pleasure of hearing it live. It’s a monumental song that defines a watershed moment in metal history. I was ready to be extrrrrrreme, I was ready to go all Cornholio by screaming KILLAAAARRRRRRAADIKULT. But no! DENIED! Talk about getting morbidly blue balled.

Instead, most of the set was pure fan service with songs like “God of Emptiness”, “Maze of Torment” and “Fall from Grace” to name but a few; perfect for those into the old stuff but as I’ve grown to be somewhat indifferent about it all…cast pearls before swine. All served with a tight enough performance. Vincent seemed to be into it, carrying a commanding voice, Tim Yeung looked and sounded like he was a good fit and Trey Azagthoth didn’t move at all — aside from his hands. Seeing the close ups of his hands on the jumbotron was quite something, as the sexual overtones to his playing were more than evident. Dude must have found his penis at a very young age.

Friday didn’t end there though, as returning to the HQ through the Helsinki’s train station, I came across the world’s shittiest Michael Jackson impersonator. Not only did he not look anything like Michael, he couldn’t dance nor sing worth shit either. But what he lacked in skills, he apparently compensated it with balls by not letting anyone’s reaction come between his dream to perform. I salute thee, even if you sucked ass through a straw.

Matti: After parting ways, I went out to have few beers with a couple of friends. While Mikko got to enjoy fake Jacko’s moonstalk, I had my own encounter with a Sexy Sax Man rip-off. Unfortunately, the impostor lacked the mullet. And sexiness. He had the right tune though, and the somewhat uneventful night ended up with me waiting at the train station’s bus terminal, listening to the sweet sounds of “Careless Whisper” played by some creepy Romanian dude in a deep v-collar. Gotta love me some after midnight sax.

  • MK: Maybe you should have George Michael-ed him up a bit so the night wouldn’t have been so uneventful…
  • MM: Ow, such a low blow. Maybe things would have ended up different should he have played “Desperate Cry” instead.

Mikko: The first day at the new place wasn’t without its issues. It seemed like quite a few bands were suffering from sound or mixing issues, and especially the bands on the main stage suffered from an echo bouncing back from the buildings. Overall, it took quite a while to adjust to the new setting and even the audience seemed a bit lost, dazed and confused at times. Things got better as the festival progressed.

Perhaps the biggest gripe that festival goers had concerned the drinking policy. Previous years, people could bring their own alcohol to the premise, enjoy the liquids whilst sitting under the shadows of trees and watch bands perform. Despite certain concessions, doing that was much harder this year. Even though one could go in and out of the festival area as pleased, the inside area had major troubles offering good enough spots to set shop and camp. People enjoying the music at the alcohol-filled areas had troubles following bands on stage. Plus, the beverages were expensive.

  • Call me Captain Planet all you want, but what I did not get was the fuckstick idiotism involved in throwing the squirt-sized free Coke cans to the ground in spots where there was a Coke labeled trashcan two fucking feet away. Learn how to flush! This kind of small shit annoys the hell out of me when the effort is not that fucking big. Anyways, free tip to Tuska organisers:. Get more trash cans near the big stages, it might help the after hours cleaning lady.

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  1. Commented by: Erik Thomas

    Fucking awesome write up guys. man that Turisas chick is smoking

  2. Commented by: gabaghoul

    fantastic pictures and I love the dual-reporter format too. and the texting sections too (is that what they are?) can you label the pics?

  3. Commented by: SludgeHammer

    Excellent read guys, sounds like you had an awesome time. ToTD should definitely do more gig/fest write-ups.

  4. Commented by: Ian Grey

    “I was surprised by the amount of young girls in the audience, trying to sing along; perhaps there’s still a huge need for proper female idols within the metal world. For a twisted bastard like myself, I don’t think there’s a yawn wide enough.”

    Well, the thing is, it’s like that add-on clause seemingly attached to every writers’ keyboard that’s pressed when writing about a band with a prominent female in it: “despite working in a male-dominated field…”

    That is, it only stays male-dominated as long as you keep framing it that way.

    Or rather, and I don’t mean this angrily or disrespectfully, but as long as female-dominated bands are under-covered or covered in relation to their tits and ass appeal, these bands will stay safely in a ghetto of the press’s partial invention while females increasingly go ‘Fuck this shit’ and move on to indie band mags and bands or other genres where they’re treated less insultingly.

    Meanwhile, it’s not like there’s a mass suicide impulse on the part of labels worldwide who keep signing every Nightwishy band that’s half-decent: obviously, there’s a market, and why would they be any less valid than the billion Cannibal Corpse or Meshuggah clones that are duly celebrated?

    Meanwhile, where’s the constant support and celebration of your Vanesa Noceras (Scarmaker, Wooden Stake) or Grace Perrys (Landslide Marathon)? Or Agnete M. Kirkevaag’s supernatural pipes (Madder Mortem) or the kickass guitar wranglers in Nashville Pussy or Kylesa and every women doing the astonishing almost everything in Subrosa or…we could be here all day. All these chicks have as much balls as 80% of any dude band and what support do they get? Zip.

    So, like, WTF? Do Nashville Pussy and Kylesa get covered simply because there are more swinging dicks in them?

    Because ain’t nobody gonna say they’re more inventive than Subrosa, or have more crazy-ass balls than Grace Perry.

    In short, when did super-powered fan appeal split according to gender-line? And this isn’t aimed at you, my TOTD brothers, this is aimed at every metal fan who likes the genres these bands are in and isn’t out there supporting the fuck out of them. because you certainly would be if they were dudes.

    In my super humble opinion. :)


    PS: Here in New York City, Epic will play a bigass theater on Broadway and sell that motherfucker out and there will still be a line of males and females up and down the boulevard.

    And don’t even talk about Arch Enemy. You just figure you’re not getting a cab for three hours when they play what with girls coming in from Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, New jersey, Long Island and fuck, Mars for all I know. So yeah–you could say there’s a market.

  5. Commented by: Ian Grey

    er– “Epica”


  6. Commented by: Apollyon

    Just to be clear here, even if Epica was full of raging viagra powered hard ons, their music would still go in from one ear and come out the other without ever evoking a notable emotion, thus being completely irrelevant for me. Same goes for Arch Enemy, with or without Angela. The music is simply wasted on me. Hence the yawn.

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