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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Woke up for the third day of metal festivities, took a look outside and the weather reports were against all odds, correct: shitty weather was a go! The sky was pouring down like piss in an R.Kelly autobiography. As I’ve probably reminisced in the past reports, Tuska has always gone against predictions and showered its heavy metal infestation with sun and shine, and for two days, that seemed to be the case this year too. My plan for the day was to see Neurosis so I didn’t succumb into making any dramatic moves, but instead opted to dwell in my own drool for a while.

I was interested in seeing if booking Taiwanese Diesear and mainland Chinese Ego Fall to play after one another on the same stage would cause an international escalation, but looking at the clock and the lack of stabbings in the news, I figured things must have went peacefully. And I thought metal was supposed to be dangerous? Then again, perhaps Orphaned Land had mediated a truce of sorts? Seriously speaking there’s a full-length video of Ego Fall’s gig floating around Youtube and it seems like it was a major event for the band, which is always a nice thing to see.

Insomnium was another act that I was bummed out about not seeing only after the festival when I dedicated time to their newest, and probably best album yet. I’d seen them three or four years earlier at Tuska and that performance didn’t leave that big of an impact. I’m older and wiser now, but not all bands thrive live anyway. Still, the new stuff would have been nice.

Orphaned Land was wet

The dark clouds didn’t discriminate or care for my own petty delays. When I arrived to the scene, I was soaked. I really should have used one of the disposable raincoats in my camera bag, but apparently I’d gotten the idea somewhere that it was somehow more metal to be a dumbass and take it all in like a trooper. The Israelis were manning the second stage, throwing a good natured set while trying to get a better reaction out of the surprisingly attentive audience. Fists in the air seemed fine, and some were even moshing along, but sing alongs didn’t really seem to go anywhere like the peace efforts in the Middle-East. I wasn’t particularly enthralled by Orphaned Land’s shindig aside from a moment here and there, but perhaps they’d do better in a club environment.

Satyr with a power level of 5000

Satyricon was next and the rain seemed to gain even more momentum. The band acted quite humbly on stage, thanking the audience for allowing them to do what they do, which I thought was somehow out of character behavior for Satyr. I might be jaded and somewhat lacking in common sense, but Satyricon seemed to be a bigger act than I would have originally given them credit, owning the main stage with their brand of rock and roll. After a while, though, I was done with the weather and went to the third stage to dry up where Speedtrap was rocking with everything but their cocks out. The rough, classic speed metal tour de force seemed ferocious on stage with little fucks given to surgical precision; attitude in your face is the key. The world seems to be churning out classic and retro sounding acts by the truckloads now and I came to the conclusion that live, this shit works, no doubt about it, but not sure if it’s something I’d actually care to spin on my own. After a while, the songs seemed to melt into one.

Neurosis’ Dave Edwardson, chillin’

Then came Neurosis and with them, a lull in the rain. The band stayed at the back of the stage, seemingly avoiding any kind of participation with the audience. I’d seen the band once five years ago at the same event, where they tore the place up even if the audience didn’t seem to realize it. That show was intense as fuck, with the entire band being engulfed in their wall of sound and Scott Kelly violently pushing the roadie away from fixing whatever needed to be fixed on stage. This year’s take was more subdued in performance, but despite that the show was still intense and intoxicating. Neurosis seems to divide the audience quite good, with the half savoring the mesmerizing moment while the rest question what’s the point. Now only if Neurosis would actually do some proper indoor shows as well! It’s not all dead serious though, as Dave Edwardson showed signs of humanity at times by smiling and seemingly enjoying the setting. The setlist was as of follows: Locust Star, At the Well, Water is Not Enough, My Heart for Deliverance, The Doorway and Stones From the Sky.

Ihsahn didn’t wear corpse paint but he did have fire

The festival’s headliner was no other than Emperor who came to play through their In the Nightside Eclipse album. At this point I have to admit my biggest shortcomings as an operator for this site, but I’ve gone all these years without forming a relationship with the band’s material. I’ve gone through them a couple of times but never given them a proper fighting chance. The set did however convince me to correct my ways and pay attention. It’s hard not to like the way Ihsahn & Co. go about with the live situation, going against the grain of some other blackened metal acts by performing without the need for a disguise, allowing the music to engulf more without the need for going overboard with the showmanship (granted, the lights and pyros did still add a bit of flair).

Unfortunately I didn’t end up enjoying Emperor all the way as I had a time limit to attend. The train would wait for no man and by that time, I think I was already done anyway with a dwindling attention span and a withering condition — three days of alertness and the earlier rain had taken their toll. Apparently Emperor ended their set by playing a couple of other tunes and finishing it all off with acover of Bathory’s “A Fine Day to Die”. At that point I had already euthanized my festival experience with a goddamn Whopper meal, served by one of Finland’s only two Burger Kings. I guess progress and freedom take time to land up North.

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