Festival Report: Tuska Open Air 2017


So it’s winter. 2018. New year, yet mankind is consuming the planet, waiting to be devoured by global warming and other cataclysmic events. So what’s a good way to get rid of all that negativity? Look back at the summer of 2017 and Tuska festival’s 20th Anniversary.

by Mikko K.& Matti M.

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SUNDAY

[MK] Sunday finally introduced actual, proper, burning sunshine to the festival. No more thick clouds or the pestering chance of rain.


Udo

Udo Dirkschneider was dishing out a cavalcade of Accept songs under the moniker Dirkschneider, since he can’t play that stuff under the simple Udo moniker. Then again, how many are there to listen to his new songs rather than hear him sing Accept? Nonetheless, if Accept is your thing, then Dirkschneider is your thing because the setlist was full of classics like “Princess of the Dawn” and “Metal Heart” with a somewhat not so stellar sounding “Balls to the Walls“ ending it.


Baroness live again.

It’s been awhile since Baroness last graced Finland. In fact, around four years ago at Tuska. Show director John Baizley commented on this and mentioned that the accident the band had some years ago contributed to the fact. The band’s lineup had changed since then too as Allen Blickle and Matt Maggioni had left in 2013, but also guitarist Peter Adams decided to carry on elsewhere only a month earlier. In his place stood Gina Gleason who didn’t show any signs of stage fright. Instead, she seemed to belong there. Personally, I’ve got no recollection of their last gig and truth be told, I’ve never given their albums a fair spin despite all the hype. Luckily Baroness performed with such dedication — mainly armed with songs off their latest Purple-album — that I fixed my personal flaw real quick after the festival and went through their discs. This is exactly the reason why I like festivals; you get to give a chance to acts you might have not been ready for before.

[MM] I would personally rank the Baroness set in Tuska 2013 as one of the best I have heard in my 7 years visiting this festival. At that point they were on tour with Yellow & Green -album — which still casually invades my playlists. I felt they were at some kind of peak during that Tuska show, performance-wise at least. Purple for me, felt a bit like an intermission record, or maybe some kind of a leftover from their previous longplays. Sure there are few shiny gems in there like “Try to Disappear” and “If I Have to Wake up”, but as a whole I personally was not as interested on it as I was with Yellow & Green, Blue or perhaps at the time even Red.

During the show I started to miss Peter Adams a bit, as last time he seemed to musically be the Ying to Baizley’s Yang. Not to take anything away from Gina, who did a great job out there where she still is a new replacement and understandably still getting adjusted. Her backup vocals especially carried a punch and brought something new into the fold. But currently her guitar played second fiddle to John’s stage presence, where Adam could be heard constantly upping the ante and at the right times, overtaking the limelight from Baizley. Overall Baroness were still a great live act. Plus, it looked like people were excited for them, as they keep on evolving towards more chill and experimental rock aesthetics — rather than follow the path of Udo Dirkschneider.


Antero Manninen with Apocalyptica

[MK] At some point during the year, Apocalyptica — the guys who play metal with cellos — decided to play their Plays Metallica by Four Cellos album in whole. That’s not a bad idea, considering the thing came out in 1996 and struck the band into the limelight. But when main spearman Eicca walked up to the front of the stage, said that they didn’t bring a vocalist this time around because they wanted the audience to be the singer, now, that’s a bad idea right there. I’m not sure where Apocalyptica had toured recently… most likely some South American country as those guys are devout about the band and know the lyrics to every other metal song anyway, so in that light I kind of see where Apocalyptica were coming from. “It’s gonna be amazing! A fucking one hour sing along that’ll go down into history books!”

Unfortunately, they must have forgotten about how Finland and Finnish fans function while on the road, because it takes a lot of fucking effort to get the crowd going here and you need to spell it out like you were aiming for the Spelling Bee championships. So when push came to shove, shit turned real awkward in an instant despite some foreign fans trying to lead the way. Granted, when their debut album came out, there weren’t any vocals on it either, but at least put up a karaoke video with Metallica’s lyrics in there to make it easy for people to tag along.

I never found out if the audience warmed up or not and if the band left their seats to rile up the crowd, as I figured Oranssi Pazuzu had more to offer. So I went to see their wall of noise instead.


Oranssi Pazuzu’s gig was somewhat unscripted

[MM] Top pick of LA Weekly’s “Top 10 scariest metal band,” Oranssi Pazuzu gathered a large and devout audience to the Inferno stage. Having missed a bunch of the band live concerts — three of which I had even bought tickets beforehand for — in the past four years for a multitude of unexpected reasons, I was extremely happy to make it this time. And it did not disappoint. The hour set was played like a one set piece that crashed and droned onwards without stopping to give a breather. No words between songs were exchanged, no extra efforts to engage the audience were shown, the music was the only shared platform which was offered. Straight from the get-go. The venue hall became a church of noise that offered glimpses into meditative spaces in its efforts to transcend the senses.


Sonata Arctica’s Tony Kakko wanted people to be friends with one another

[MK] Sonata Arctica’s debut album Ecliptica is fucking excellent and they’ve always been a somewhat cheerful live band, even if years ago vocalist Kakko suffered a bit with his live presentation. This time around however, something felt a tad off and incoherent. Like the band was following some great idea that just didn’t translate itself into a watchable gig for whatever reason. Or perhaps it was because I basically only know Ecliptica and it’s the only album that resonates on some level? It’s such a fucking buck wild album. Almost too fast, too potent for its own good. Rough around the edges but immensely charming. That re-recorded version of the album sounds fucking terrible though. Totally lost the charm that made it good in the first place. They fucked it up real bad. Am I digressing?

  • MM: Yes. Yes you are.

Mastodon

As for the whole festival’s headliner… I like quite a few Mastodon records but when it comes down to live stuff, there’s just something there that makes it all irrelevant for me. Perhaps part of it is because the band almost seems like it’s just another day at the office for them; like there’s no connection between the band on stage and the huge audience in front of them. Or maybe I’ve just gotten to see them at the worst of times, like opening up for Iron Maiden, and that’s made me jaded towards them, but what I hear and connect with on album just don’t seem to translate itself over to the stage at all. Maybe it’s to do with the fact this time that about half of the set consisted of Emperor of the Sand and how that album didn’t really do a thing for me and by the time “Mother Puncher” played, I was already sitting in a train back home.

[MM] I kinda dropped out of the fan van when The Hunter came out and made me feel “meh”, after the kind of cool Crack the Skye. At that time I also caught the band live twice. Both times one had to endure fully messed up sound mixing, resulting in a tally of disappointment and thus, ultimately, dropping Mastodon outside my radar’s coverage. Although, I did see and thoroughly enjoy that “butt rock” -video they made.

At 2017’s Tuska however, Mastodon came out with a pro sound, but unfortunately the band’s energy output was less than optimal. Not high voltage at all. The setlist was a mix of mainly new and some essentials olds. Overall, it lacked a common thread outside from getting to hear the assorted hits. Since I had to hitchhike a bus ride home, I did not get to see them finish, although in hindsight that didn’t really bother me at all. Generally, a cool band, but they didn’t really win me back this time around. Better luck next time.

On a side note, I don’t remember how much Brann Dailor sung in the past but he seemed to carry the leads more often than not. Thought that was a bit refreshing as he might have the best voice from the bunch. Especially when the band’s vocal work never really caught my attention in the past. Some did complain about the drums bleeding over a bit too much through the microphone used for Dailor’s vocals though.

Also, it was nice seeing Baroness roll out and mingle in the crowd during Mastodon’s set. It’s always nice catching multi-talented artists like Baizley appreciate the work others are doing.

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