Festival Report: Tuska Open Air 2014

Even if the Finnish summer does its best impression of having a bipolar mental condition by throwing hail out every other day, there’s one thing you can count on in June and that’s Tuska Open Air Metal Festival held at the capital of Finland, Helsinki. The 17th Tuska was fighting an uphill battle with the visitor count being somewhat stagnant as the mainstream heavy metal boom is starting to wind down after Lordi’s Eurovision victory in 2006. World economy hasn’t improved much either and a lot of different things like Zirconium and Tony Little’s latest ab machine are fighting for people’s spending money. So how do Anthrax, Dimmu Borgir and Emperor fare in a tight spot?

by Mikko K.

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I missed most of Lost Society’s set due to people marching through the streets for equal rights and fucking up the tram schedules in the process. Anyhow, Lost Society seems to have come a long way in just a year. The youthful group of old school thrashers seemed to be fulfilling all the expectations they had built for themselves with their hyperactive live shows. Drawing conclusions from the last couple of songs, the whole show seemed to have been quite an awesome display of force once again. Another thing that seemed to materialize around the band is that they seem to be in a position where they’re being prepared to take the weight off the shoulders of some other, older, Finnish bands and carry on with the torch. I bet in a few years time I’ll be writing how they’re being force fed to us all and how the guys have become a bag of dicks, especially with a ton of young’uns wearing their shirts proving their fame, but let’s worry about that later.

Stone faced <drumfill>

Speaking of old farts, Stone was up next for their second, third or n-th ‘live’ comeback since disbanding in 1991. The group played most of the songs off their self-titled debut album, with “Get Stoned” starting the hail mary of speed and thrash. If Phil wanted The Illegals to be bigger than Metallica, Metallica must have wanted to be as cool as Stone back in the day, considering the similarities between “Enter Sandman” and the opening piece. Can’t blame ‘em though. Despite the age, Stone threw an adequately entertaining set and offered a worthwhile blast from the past, even if they haven’t offered anything new in decades. Maybe that’s the point? An important act in the Finnish metal canon, but I think I may have had my fill for a while now. As a completely irrelevant side note, with Stone and CoB the day earlier, Roope Latvala seemed somewhat tired and disengaged at times. Understandable.

MC Raaka Pee of Turmion Kätilöt

Turmion Kätilöt is a very European band, often compared with the likes of Rammstein and such, even though they’re essentially completely different in style. But I guess electronics, rhythmic riffing all sounds the same in the end… The band’s probably most well known from their stage antics that often meddle with the perverse as they reached the headlines some years ago by featuring live fucking on stage and apparently, some kids saw that show too. The horror.

The only tits on stage were man boobs and the only fucking was a bit of bumplay between the two singers (one being Mr. Spellgoth from Horna’s live shows). I haven’t really paid attention the group’s music on album, but it’s hard to deny the entertainment value. The band is capable and it’s no wonder why the more often than not vulgar songs, that combine European dance music and industrialized riffs, can be considered catchy like cheap Eastern European porn. The group tours actively and I can see why.

The quips on stage had me laughing over how low they set the bar — which is an achievement considering the stupid I vomit out of my mouth quite actively. “How many of you have touched a vagina? No one?” they asked before throwing the miracle of natural childbirth as the punchline. I later came to a conclusion that the world needs childish provocateurs and ‘stupid shit’ to function properly and possibly, to become a better place. Those fucking humanists.


I didn’t catch all of TK’s set as I went to the third stage to see what in the world Altair was about. The Swedes threw in some quite forgettable and somewhat generic deaththrash at the audience, but did it in an extremely entertaining manner — like bands like these often do. The group had some technical difficulties at the start of it, with the bass completely missing to which the singer chimed “We’re the band without a bass player… You wouldn’t hear it anyway”. The bassist got his technical wits together and joined the group with the next song.

For one reason or another, Metal Church has never really crossed my CD player for an extended period of time, so I was ill-prepared to enjoy the group’s gig wholeheartedly. The only thing I’ve really heard from the band is The Dark and Blessing in Disguise once… around 20 or so years ago. The band didn’t seem to want to waste any time, as they threw the classic “Ton of Bricks” right at the beginning to get the people moving, following it up with “Start the Fire”. That’s where my knowledge ended, but the show did convince me that perhaps I ought to recheck myself before I wreck my non-existent street cred further.

Metal Church

I left Metal Church to their devices and figured I’d go see a few songs of Beastmilk, as they seemed to gather a bit of hype some time ago. The band tampers with the dark arts, as they’ve torn open a portal to the ‘80s with their post-punk slash goth rock thing. I snatched their debut album Climax as part of some Internet bundle deal for a few bucks and was thoroughly entertained. And it seemed other people had been entertained by the band before, as the third stage seemed bloody packed! If bands like Joy Division, The Cure, Killing Joke, Sisters of Mercy and anything in between are in your album collection, then perhaps you ought to give Beastmilk a shot.

Tankard didn’t get help from the festival’s beer policies. Not that they needed any, really.

Tankard added to Saturday’s thrashy theme as the German ale specialists boozekrieged their way on the second stage. For someone who probably needs an intervention of sorts, and a gastric bypass, vocalist Gerre was a raging animal. The man was constantly in motion, rarely staying still for more than a few seconds and just tearing it up with the rest of the guys trying to keep up. Dude seemed unapologetic and rightly so! With a lot of young thrashers in the audience, Tankard must have gained quite a lot of new fans with their whirlwind show.

On the other hand, Tuska’s alcohol policy didn’t make Tankard’s job easy as drinking beverages was limited to the either the official beer bullpen or outside the festival compound. The official beer selection had improved but supposedly the festival had revisited some rules concerning the cloakroom..

After Tuska relocated from the Kaisaniemi park to Suvilahti, enjoying your own booze became harder as you couldn’t just take it in, drink at your will and enjoy the shows. People adapted and began to store their alcohol in bags full of ice bricks. The bags were then given to the guarded cloakroom against a few euros fee. Then, in between bands, people went to get their bags back, filled themselves up with the contents, gave the bag back and headed back to the festival grounds. This year however, the cloakroom services apparently asked for euros every time one asked to deposit a bag, making the pit stops a lot costlier.

Speaking of alcohol and festivals, the country seems to be gearing up for a full scale civil war at the writing of this as a lot of renowned, picnic friendly (and possibly ‘higher class’) festivals have put a ban on self-brought alcohol. It didn’t matter when a few metalheads lost the right, but by-gosh, when “normal people” start to lose their privileges… On a side note, Tuska has always been a honorary student with the police as there hasn’t been any notable problems or disorder within or around the festival. Booze or not.

Ari Koivunen became the Finnish Idol in 2007 with 57% of the votes

Some of you might remember Amoral from their technical death metal days, but going by the albums, those days are long since gone. The band caused a bit of ruckus years ago by parting ways with the original growler and replacing him and their sound with Ari Koivunen — the winner of Finland’s Idols 2007. Ari is of the school where guys like Timo Tolkki come from, with a slightly nasal and higher pitched delivery that takes a good while to appreciate. I’m still undecided as the guy does possess talent but I’m not sure if it’s my thing at all. On stage, he seems a tad reserved too and not the most energetic frontman out there, a fact underlined as former vocalist Niko Kalliojärvi came in to do vocals for some older tracks. The difference was night and day. However, even before Kalliojärvi’s appearance, the set actually seemed decent and overall, quite tight with the audience lapping it up without issues.

Bring Me The Horizon inspecting the horizon

Bring Me The Horizon was this year’s magnet to lure in all the pre-teens and teens. As the band was setting up on stage, someone in the photo pit commented at the handful of laptops on stage and wondered if the show would be canceled if they’d end up crashing. Once the Britons from Sheffield took stage, there really wasn’t anything going on that would set the band truly apart from n+1 of other similar acts with a tattooed up, cursing frontman. The bands are often extremely active on stage and Bring Me The Horizon was no different — as far as singer Oliver Sykes was concerned. Dude seemed to embrace his his role 101 percent and clearly took the large, young audience under his spell, even if his serious tough guy act didn’t stay on at all times. The rest of the band didn’t seem to want to take away from that, as they mainly tended to play for themselves. Circle pits, wall of death, sit down – jump up and throw your middle finger up in the air — all the tricks were used and the kids loved it. What piqued my interest was the amount of times Sykes dropped his microphone in an act of cool. Wonder how many of those he goes through in a year?

For you, the day Shining graced your village was the most important day of your life. For Kvarforth, it was Saturday.

Whereas Bring Me The Horizon seemed safe and expected, Niklas Kvarforth’s Shining still has an aura of unpredictability to it — even if the man’s antics are quite well documented by now. At some point Kvarforth wanted to have someone in the audience beat for yapping, but the rest of the people watching seemed to shrug it off. Jack Daniels, cut wrists, drank blood, fondled himself are just some of the other keywords, but for a Shining show, that seems a tad mild. What often goes unsaid, is that the group is tight live and responsible for one the weekend’s best shows. “Let’s feel together for Putin or Ukraine… Hail Satan!”. The man also spoke something about Danzig’s stuff on stage and I hoped for a cover, but sadly, that didn’t come. Might have been interesting.

Emperor Ming on Anthrax’s guitar

I’ve always been more fond of Testament over any of the big four acts, and out of the four, Anthrax has been the most elusive on my playlist. I didn’t have any huge expectations for them set up as I haven’t followed their new stuff at all and the last thing I remembered was some Bold and the Beautiful drama going on with the members.

Yet, with nothing left to prove really, Anthrax veni, vidi, vici-ed the stage (with John Dette standing in for Benante) as if to make a good spirited statement to any and all non-believers. I hate to say it, but the group swept the floor with Testament’s last year performance with ease and showed this year’s roster how it’s done; cementing the fact that Ian Scott & Co. were the clear headliners of the whole festival. I got surprised with my pants down and have no problems admitting it, especially with the band looking so eager to rock it out,  but especially Frank Bello dominating the stage by going hyperactive all the time.

There were a couple of curiosities worth mentioning. Before “In The End”, pictures of Dimebag and Ronnie James were put up and the band paid tribute to the two legends, with Belladonna throwing some Dio-like vocalisation. It wasn’t a total surprise, ‘cause Belladonna did a decent version of “Man on the Silver Mountain” some years ago at Sauna Open Air with his solo band. Anthrax also pummeled a cover of AC/DC’s “T.N.T” that seemed to hit the audience quite well.

A damn good show and makes me wonder if I’ve been missing out with the albums…

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