Festival Report: Tuska Open Air 2018


Holy shit. Look at the time fly. It’s winter. It’s -20 Celsius outside and here we are, publishing our experiences from 6 months ago when we attended Tuska Open Air metal festival (again for the ~9th time.) We weren’t originally planning to go, as other obligations had gotten in the way, but seeing how a band like Body Count was headlining, we knew we had to make the arrangements — no matter the cost. Unfortunately this meant that we could only stay for two days instead of three, but hell, two’s better than nothing. Especially with Body Count and Gojira on the bill.

by Mikko K.& Matti M.

FRIDAY

Crowbar played early and by some accounts, they threw in one of the best shows of the weekend. The only problem was that they had been scheduled for an early slot and thus all we had to go by was hearsay. In general, festivals like this should only book local acts for starting slots — especially on Fridays when people are traveling to the festival grounds from all over the country. Turmiön Kätilöt were having their ‘normal’ TK show on the main stage. They always put on an energetic show. With a year and a half under his belt (or so), the new vocalist Shag-u (who also pulls vocal duties in Fear of Domination) seems to have gelled with the band. The biggest take away though was how fucking loud everything seemed to be this year. Maybe it was due to some renovations made to the area or what, but things just seemed absurdly loud all around.


Moonsorrow

On the second stage, put up again in a tent, Moonsorrow played live again — I’ve not seen them in a long while — yet I felt disconnected with the material from Jumalten Aika and couldn’t really get into it. “Kivenkantaja” was nice but in the middle of it I decided it was better to go snatch something to drink.


Mike Patton of Dead Cross

Dead Cross, featuring Mike Patton and Dave Lombardo, were keen on fucking up the audience’s ears with a high feedback noise that kept ringing through their speakers throughout the whole set. At first I thought it was a technical glitch that they’d sort out, but maybe it was just a mood-setter for their violent, scream-out-your anger hardcore. Whatever it was, it sure made things a lot more oppressive. I basically couldn’t tell one song from another, but Dead Cross did play some moody instrumental sort of stuff at some point. That shit sounded extremely promising and I wouldn’t have minded had they had their full set like that. At the end, the group figured they’d do an encore. “Where’s Ice-T? Is Ice-T in the fucking building? Where is the fucking guy?,” Patton questioned. Then they commenced the shortest encore in history by playing “Nazi Punks Fuck Off”. (MK)

I can appreciate when bands are in touch with their past and can let loose but at the same time, I couldn’t but help think that maybe Dead Cross’ angsty output is more suitable for youngsters. I mean, you can still love things you liked as a teenager, but it was kind of amusing to watch a bunch of well seasoned geezers play like they are purposely trying to hide all their talent and experience. Even Henry Rollins knew when to move onwards and leave most of the screaming to the kids. Patton is still the man though, but Dead Cross is one of the least impressive projects he’s been tangled up in. (MM)

There aren’t that many good reasons to miss out on Leprous playing live, especially if they’re an arm’s length away. One such reason: queuing up to shake hands with Ice-T and Ernie C, along with the rest of Body Count. For the first time in nine or ten years of covering shows (and quite possibly the last), we stood there for an hour waiting our turn like two little fan girls — just to meet and greet a single band. While it felt perverse, it was something that had to be done. (MK)

Ice-T had a rockstar attitude from the very start, but the rest of the guys were really enthusiastic. Ernie C especially seemed genuinely excited to meet fans and exchange pleasantries. And yeah, even by the end, Ice-T seemed to relax and open up a bit. While we did miss out on most of Leprous’ gig, we caught the last few couple of songs and agreed that yeah, they’re a pretty damn good band. (MM)

I’ve run out of “Jeff Loomis is being wasted in Arch Enemy” jokes, so I’m gonna say something positive for once. The last time I saw the band, Angela Gossow was still fronting and they didn’t leave much of an impression on me. They’ve always had the means and in parts, they sound awesome, but the songwriting overall never leaves a long lasting impression. This time around, I gave ‘em another chance and they sounded actually pretty okay and ‘fitting’ for a metal festival. I think I also prefer Alissa White-Gluz’s output too. Decent gig, but not one for the memory banks or renewed album listens. Interestingly, Arch Enemy was selling a fan jersey at their merch booth with a Finnish flag motif on it. Customized stuff for the fans instead simply slapping tour dates at the back of a black t-shirt? That’s quite nice.


Meshuggah

There’s something about Meshuggah that makes people go crazy. Maybe it’s the rhythmic bombardment that sends people into a tribal trance. It’s easy to get lost in the band’s impressive, all-consuming wall of sound – especially in the confined space of the venue tent. Not sure it would have gone on a more open stage.  Some people literally went crazy due to the barrage of sound. I got almost knocked the fuck out by a guy who was clearly on something more than a few beers — he thought he could take on four security guys alone. Turns out he wasn’t a superhuman after all, no matter how appropriate the background music was. (MK)

If not for the rare delight of having Body Count out there waiting, Meshuggah could have as well manned the headline spot for the day. The large and bit more intimate tent stage worked out nicely with the band’s menacing sound and sensory overloading visuals. The sound quality and mixing was on point on the second stage (as it was throughout the festival), and here it paid dividends. You could really hear and appreciate the band’s precision. (MM)


Ice-T

Body Count – MK’s Take

The main attraction for me at this year’s Tuska was definitely Friday’s headliner, Body Count — with a silly “featuring Ice-T” subtitle in the marketing materials. Body Count came back in 2014 with the excellent Manslaughter album and then followed it up with more vitriolic excellence in 2017 with Bloodlust. Their debut self-titled, Born Dead, and Violent Demise also received a ton of play throughout the years, along with Ice-T’s Home Invasion and his audiobook The Ice Opinion. In a way, it’s pretty sad that since their comeback, Body Count is still one of today’s most relevant bands, seeing how little things appear to have changed since the band’s inception, what, some 28 years ago? Shit’s still fucked up… now sports!

Usually bands dabble with Slayer’s “Raining Blood” and how it’s often the most requested song to be played at any metal concert, no matter who’s performing. So it was refreshing to see Body Count start out their set with their cover medley of “Raining Blood/Postmortem”. And when you also have Dave Lombardo at the fest (remember, Dead Cross), you get his ass on that drumkit! And so they did. Genius way to get the crowd pumping.

It was also interesting to see how the band constructed their setlist, considering they actually have a lot of good songs to pick from. Surprisingly enough, they treated some of their bigger hits as normal setlist material, rather than build around them or end the gig with them. For example, “Cop Killer” was played in the middle, as did “Talk Shit, Get Shot” and “No Lives Matter.” Since the set was limited to an hour and a half, a lot of songs had to be left out, like one of the band’s heaviest songs “All Love is Lost” (from the latest album). Violent Demise was also completely absent from the setlist — not a single song from that release (and nothing from Murder 4 Hire, album that I’ve never been able to listen to with any proper attention due to the production. Maybe there’s a good bangers there too?)

Musically, the band is fucking tight. They suffer from a similar misconception as GWAR did, where people placed the group into certain non-serious category without giving them a proper chance. As with GWAR, the actual musicianship is there and so is the songwriting — especially now. It’s also maddening how little Ernie C’s excellent guitar work is talked about. Dude has written some great fucking riffs throughout the years and on stage, a pure joy to watch & listen.

And then there’s Ice-T. He’s 60! And he seems very much at home on stage at a metal festival. Dude knows how to entertain and he’s got the swagger and admirable arrogance to back it up. He even coined a new term: “virtual encore.” The audience pretends the band had walked away (they didn’t) and has to call the band back. Other bands exit the stage to milk an actual encore, but this is “I’m too lazy to actually walk away so yell for an encore anyway.”

All in all, Body Count brought one of the most diverse crowds to Tuska that I’ve ever seen and it was well worth whatever troubles we had in attending this year. Excellent booking, excellent show. Amazing booking!


Vincent Price of Body Count

MM’s Take:

I first heard Body Count in the mid/late ‘90s when my brother brought in a random set of metal on C-cassettes. One of those was Body Count’s debut, and with the first gunshots and the riffs from “Body Count’s in the House,” I immediately became a fan. Even today, that album still sounds as fresh and tight as it did back then. It’s really one of the handful of albums that truly had an impact on my impressionistic teenage mind back then. The few recent albums have been pure fire, so it’s nice that the band still has it, even if not all of their songs have always been up to par.

Seeing the band live, even without most of the original members, was a dream come true. And after all these years, it was well worth the wait. It was nice to hear most of the classics during the set as they fit seamlessly with the newer stuff. Ice-T had ramped up his energy and presence significantly since the meet and greet, and took the stage with aggression and enough cock-rock attitude to fill the stage and then some. Major charisma.

Ernie C seemed to be having the time of his life throughout the whole set. It was also heartwarming to watch the band commanding such a large following. Between now and the early 90s, the crowd spanned multiple generations from old to young, from metalheads to rap fans and everything in between. At least before Manslaughter, I’d thought the band was pretty limited and obscure to Finnish audiences so it was great to have that proven wrong.

If I can get a bit political, in Theodore Parker’s words (which Mr. King also later quoted): “The arch of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Some things are so integral to how we humans are inclined to behave, it’s kinda hard to get rid of tribal tendencies and insecurities — even when given decades to vigilantly better them. I believe many things, as well as people in general, have changed towards the better since Body Count first came out with “There Goes the Neighbourhood”, even if we are still struggling with related issues.


Ernie C

SATURDAY

 

When the main songwriter got kicked out from Battle Beast — his own band! — he didn’t stay on the dole for long. Nope, he went right out and set up Beast in Black. As we were walking towards the festival grounds, we caught the second half of their set from a mile and a half away. Sounded like Battle Beast with a male singer, which is good for the fans I guess, since Battle Beast sound like a different Battle Beast nowadays anyway. (MK)

  • MK: The fans got two bands to cheer for. I just wish they’d have their beasts duke it out in a no-holds-barred cage match, WWE style. I’d come early to see that.
  • MM: This is more like the war between Smackdown and RAW (or NTW, TNA or whatever), except this time it’s “Beast Wars”. Two promotions, in head-to-head competition, for the same restricted market, while providing more or less the same product. “But who has Hulk Hogan?” I don’t care enough to even ask.

We figured we’d go check out the merchandise booth while 69 Eyes were playing in the tent close by, but oh man were they fucking loud. Could hardly hear my thoughts. I’m not sure if it was just me, but this year, both festivals (South Park and Tuska) felt fucking loud compared to previous years. It’s like they’d lifted the decibel limits or stopped giving a flying fuck about them altogether.

  • MK: It’s funny to see capitalism in action at the merch booth, btw. On Friday, as Body Count’s shirts started to sell well, the price went up a few times.
  • MM: Haven’t you heard? Ice-T has been a marketing wizard even since he ran the street game. He knows and he plans this shit out. Scarcity creates value. It’s also logistically easier and cheaper to fly in with ten Fruit of the Loom shirts in the bag and sell them for a hundred a pop, than it is to pack 100 shirts and sell them for a tenner each. Recognize game?

We also took part on a behind-the-scenes tour of Tuska which was mainly aimed at international visitors. It started with a view of the main stage from the sidelines as Mokoma were performing, and then went through the key locations around the festival area which make for good stories: the sauna; dining options where you can reserve a spot for some fine dining inside a quieter environment (sold out for the most part); also how various artists collaborate with the organizers to make the festival ground a bit more lively.

The tour underscored Tuska as an urban metal festival (instead of being held in a field somewhere) and how the audience expects more than just bands playing. (Whisky and cocktail bars, for one!) We did learn how 1 out of 4 visitors is new to the fest and after the locals, Germany and UK are the main sources for visitors. I’m quite surprised the organizers haven’t made a promotional video that captures all of this in an informative, but entertaining way. Have some charismatic, high profile and entertaining celebrity do it. Then again, they’ve got a bunch of Youtubers (or “influencers”) running around the festival doing content so maybe I should just get on with the times by clicking like, commenting below and then subscribing to one.

For us, the tour was a nice change of pace and offered something ‘new’ vs just running between the three stages to try and cover everything (while forgetting to actually appreciate the small things that are easily overlooked).


Carpenter Brut live

I’ve listened to my fair share of synthwave like everybody throughout the year, but I never thought Carpenter Brut was part of the genre. For some reason, I thought they were a death metal band. Nope, they aren’t. I guess ‘Carpenter’ should have been my first clue there. Their set featured Outrun (the video game) music with real instruments. The set’s highlight was an appearance by Beastmilk/Grave Pleasures singer Mat McNerney. Really like that dude’s output and it’s a shame Grave Pleasures were performing on the last day when we wouldn’t be there to see them. Otherwise, Carpenter Brut sounded pretty much like most other bands in the field, i.e. not bad but they didn’t really stand out either. I’ve heard better. While not related, it reminded me how genius it was to book Huoratron to play his pummeling set some years ago. That show was an awesome, brutal sensory overload. Should bring him back. (MK)

MM’s take: I regard Dark Synthwave or Retro Synthwave or whatever it’s called as something one plays in the background while doing something else. It’s a sound that does not annoy or take much effort to digest. I guess I can recognize and name around five artists from the ever-growing bunch and Carpenter Brut is one of them, so I was interested to see how their music would work as a live show.

Ten minutes in, I started to feel some secondhand embarrassment and had to shift to an angle where I could no longer see the stage. I can appreciate electronic music in live venues, but it’s hard for me to watch live performances where the shenanigans make me question the authenticity of the show. For one, the guitar sound seemed to change tunings and distortions mid-riff, and I didn’t see any meaningful pedal work going on. Call me old fashioned or a purist, but it felt wrong and incoherent. I would not have minded if the whole gig were just a pure DJ gig. Granted, everything looked energetic and people seemed loved the sound, so perhaps it is better to just pipe down. (MM)


Samoth of Emperor

Nothing like black metal with the sun shining like it’s the happiest day of summer. Emperor summoned the sun as they were blasting through the entire Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk album. (Some years ago at Tuska, they did the same with In the Nightside Eclipse). Since I don’t have that big of a personal connection with the album (HERESY!) or the band, I admired the set for a bit and then went onto different things. This just wasn’t the gig to finally sell me on their greatness. I would have actually preferred to see Ihnsahn’s solo gig instead, but unfortunately that was saved for Sunday.


Tomi Joutsen, Hallatar

It seems like Tomi Joutsen has something against Pasi Koskinen. Not only has he helmed Koskinen’s old band Amorphis for a long time, his gig (Hallatar) with guitarist Juha Raivio (Swallow the Sun) and drummer Gas Lipstick (HIM) has him trying to outdo Shape of Despair in the doom and gloom department too. Not that I’m complaining — the guy’s voice and range suits those feelings perfectly, and it’s nice to see him doing something new. Aside from hearing a song from Hallatar eons ago, this was my first larger introduction to the group. The material didn’t sound bad at all as it kept me captivated throughout, fondling my anguish and encouraging me to brood on further. (MK)


Kreator

Once again visitors from Germany left no bridge unburned (see: Lapland war, ed. note) as Kreator played a set that killed everything under the midday sun. The Teutonic thrash metal missionaries are always pleasant to check out and without question, they always put on top quality entertainment. (Or maybe it’s just great to always see a thrash show, period?) Kreator have had a warm place in my heart since my teen years. There simply is no replacement for Mille’s unique vocal delivery, mixed with the lyrics filled with violence and paranoia and topped off with relentless drumming and blistering riffs. 30+ years in and there seems to be no pumping the brakes with this band. Like their contemporaries in Testament, Kreator love playing live and thrashing it out on stage. I’ve never seen a subpar gig from these bastards and this was no exception. Pure class. (MM)


At The Gates

For what seems to be the first time in probably, well, ever, I actually finally ‘got’ At the Gates and enjoyed their set quite a bit despite seeing them a few times before. Don’t know what was different this time around that made things different, but I’ll take it. Maybe it was that the songs from their new album “To Drink from the Night Itself” gelled seamlessly with the old but gold stuff t0 make a proper, well-balanced show? (MK)


Gojira

Gojira are no stranger to Tuska, as they’ve appeared on the bill what, three times or so. They’ve always been better than great, yet when I heard that their fourth time would have them headlining on Saturday, I thought, “Huh?” Aside from their own club gigs, I’m not seen them in a headlining spot before. First time for everything! Nonetheless, the French took the stage last and showed that they deserved to finish out the day. They truly are ‘headline’ worthy and are able to fill stage of any size.

What made the feat truly special was that according to the band, they weren’t sure if they could even play the gig as their shit got stuck on some German highway a day or two back. Luckily, the organizers and their crew were able to pull off a miracle so that the band could perform another stellar show that made me appreciate Gojira even more. They’ve truly risen up the ranks to top tier territory and the craftsmanship is borderline unfair to most other bands.  Gojira has an amazing way to make complex things seem simple, if not effortless. Mokoma’s Marko Annala and I think Amorphis’ Holopainen were watching the show and at different points, both left in a hurry. We laughed and joked that they were probably inspired – no, driven – to pick up their guitars and get back to work.

Only thing Gojira could have done to top off their set would have been to play “Global Warming.” Next time!

 

THE END

Usually the third stage houses a lot of surprises, hidden gems, and hungry bands putting out great shows. Unfortunately, we had our hands full between absorbing the two main stages and trying to maintain our sanity. We’re not getting any younger as we become more and more assimilated with the ‘default’ Tuska-goer who seeks experiences, comfort, and services. Luckily, this year the two stages provided plenty of valuable entertainment with two killer headliners in Body Count and Gojira, with decent support in between. The two days we had were plenty enough, even though it meant skipping out on acts Clutch and Grave Pleasures. Sometimes you just need to accept that you can’t have everything… or more like, you don’t need everything.

All in all, a fine short weekend.

 

AND THIS YEAR?

Tuska’s line-up seems to be forming up quite well for this year: SLAYEROpethDimmu Borgir just to name few of the headliners. Heilung should be interesting too. Question is: will they let us back in? Who knows.

Check out www.tuska.fi for more information.

Check out our Facebook-page for more photos from Tuska 2018.

 

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