Festival Report: Tuska Open Air 2012 – Saturday

Teeth of the Divine’s battle worn assault squad is back to recollect the experiences and ordeals they went through on the second day of Tuska Open Air Metal Festival — held in Helsinki, Finland for the fifteenth time. Saturday not only saw heavy metal’s more empowering side, but its blackest as well. Thus, our report of epic proportions continues with the last day of June 2012. This is Saturday.

by Mikko K.& Matti Manner

…and we’re back! Friday was full of questions such as “where am I?”, “what is this?”, what are these… feelings?” and a bunch of other empty queries that only helped to prove how superficial our ‘heavy metal’ existence truly is. So if you missed that, go read that first and then come back to this, as we’re about to take you through Tuska Festival 2012’s second day.


Matti: The early bird catches the worm, but I still am just a man who needs his beauty sleep. Estonian folk metal band Metsätöll started day two raiding the main stage at half-past midday, but at that time I was still drinking milk and eating cereal. Metsätöll is a decent-to-good live band, but they’re one of those bands that tour Finland pretty regularly, and I had seen them on several occasions. So I had no hurry digging them Lucky Charms out of me milk bowl. After finishing my breakfast with a smile, I darted back to the trenches.

Anaal Nathrakh

It was a strong start to the second day as I arrived at the Inferno tent to take some photos of Anaal Nathrakh. For me, the band was a new acquaintance and—oh boy—they sure turned me into a fan! Shortly after their opening notes hit the air, I found myself totally losing my shit in the photo pit. I just wanted nothing else than to absorb the musical onslaught that invaded my every cell. The band sounded absolutely brilliant! A sound of all kinds of great things being stacked over and over on top of each other in a growing pile of awesomeness, without any threat of it collapsing in its grandeur. Anaal Nathrakh’s unique sound knits together influences from various kinds of sources, from black metal to grind to death to folk to post-metal, and mixed with some progressive stuff to boot. The list of possible references seems far too grand to put into a list.

One thing that really sticks in my mind, aside from the great whirlpool of riffing, was the somewhat unexpected use of clean vocals, which gave out a rare, Primordial kind of haunting vibe. Simple but amazing. After the photo pit had closed, I spent some time on the stage side listening to the band play. The stage side was untypically crowded, and I soon noted that Mr. Embury was hanging around next to me, inspecting the stage and nodding in approval. It was only later that I read he had also played with these guys.

Amoral’s gig was under control

Mikko: After being screwed over by Helsinki’s tram system, I arrived to the scene at the end of Amoral’s set, and completely missed Anaal Nathrakh’s first-ever performance in Finland. Major bummer, considering some named it the festival’s best gig. Makes you question why the fuck you’d put ‘em up on stage so early (1315 hours? On a Saturday? Goddamn!).

Mokoma at it again. Who else?

Matti: Next up was a widely popular Finnish thrash metal band called Mokoma. They had put up a poll beforehand and asked which album they should play from start to finish during their Tuska gig, and the most voted album was revealed just before the set. The winner—and biggest fan favorite—was Kuoleman Laulukunnaat, quite possibly the heaviest album in their discography and in my opinion, a good choice from and for the masses. Having had seen Mokoma so many times before, the band did little to surprise me during their set. They have always been a solid band with good live chops wrapped around them musical bones, so there was not much to complain about.

Mikko: I thought the audience chose wrong. I would have much more preferred Tämän Maailman Ruhtinaan Hovi, but I’ll let it slide. Mokoma is one of those bands in Finland that has toured the country backwards and forwards, and it really shows on stage. They don’t seem to have bad days and it doesn’t matter whether or not they’re performing on a small stage or stomping around the larger main stages. Professional group, in and out. I suppose the biggest surprise was a new track which has been in the making for years. It didn’t sound too bad for what it was, but it wasn’t anything exciting either. Kind of like their latest album from few years back.

Horna in black and white.

Horna brought its blasphemy to the tent stage, and their homage to Satan sounded far better live than I originally expected. Naturally, the 3pm playing time tried its best to spoil the mass—along with a heckler between the songs—but external factors aside, the gig was definitely one of the better ones on Saturday. Vocalist Spellgoth (more widely known for his pet project Turmion Kätilöt) also took the time to pay homage to satanic traditions by tearing up a bible and throwing the tattered remains into the audience. It might be an old trick, but it always gets a reaction from the audience. However, it appeared that Horna took the gathering far more seriously than the guys throwing up horns and laughs in front of the stage, so perhaps there was some kind of disconnect.

Textures’ vocalist Daniel de Jongh making diamonds

Matti: Whilst Horna was summoning Satanic spirits on the third stage, Textures, whom I had never heard of before Tuska, stepped onto the second stage. Apparently they have had some previous gigs in Finland, most notably at Frostbite Metalfest. That calls for a small detour to take a look at an important chapter in Finnish metal festival history.

Frostbite was a legendary one-off metal festival that was held in 2009. There was this one particular talk of the town back then, an 18-year-old chap who had a dream to bring all of his favorite bands to play live in his hometown, Lahti. Many promoters tried to give him advice and help him out, but their pleas fell upon deaf ears.

The final billing for this two-day-long metal extravaganza included bands like Lamb of God, Cradle of Filth, Mayhem, Arch Enemy and Gorgoroth. While some of these bands did end up playing, the whole thing turned into a total clusterfuck. The venue was oversized, the organization was faulty, and attendance was much, much smaller than what was projected. It also didn’t help that money was spent on limos to transport some of the bands from the airport, and that apparently, Lamb of God was given shitloads more money to play than what they would have normally asked for. Not surprisingly, the organizer/promoter/twelp wound up 200,000 euros in debt, and was nowhere to be found during or after the event. Legend also tells, that when shit really started to hit the fan, metal-extraordinaire and human Swiss army knife Tuomas Saukkonen (Before the Dawn and many other projects) wound up salvaging most of what was salvageable.

Tuska downtime

Frostbite also gave birth to one famous Finnish picture meme that spread around the Interwebs like wildfire through dry grass. The meme is a picture of a simple white paper sheet with the text “MAYHEM PERUTTU” (Mayhem canceled) written on it and taped to a concrete wall of the indoor festival area.

Okay, so why am I talking all this shit about some irrelevant thing in that happened way back when, and not the Textures performance at Tuska 2012? Well, mainly because I didn’t like it. It’s not that Textures is a totally talentless band or exceptionally bad at playing their instruments, just that their songs rely heavily on annoying metalcore gimmicks, and their “progressive” tempo shifts just do not fit the songs. The music was an utter mess, and did not work with me on any level.

  • MK: Yeah. Textures seems to have a good work ethic but when the music blows, it blows. The little I saw of the band brought back the memory of Mnemic or watching M.A.N. before Misery Index and Fear Factory back in 2006. Ugh! Thankfully, Napalm Death arrived to the main stage to wash away any and all ill-feelings.

People asked. Napalm Death provided.

Matti: Napalm Death were great. Barney’s stage presence forced me into a good mood and all that ‘T-rex arm flailing’ has to be the best in the business. The grandfathers of grind played songs from throughout their 30-year old history, including the cover version of the Dead Kennedys’ “Nazi punks fuck off!”. On that note, on stage Napalm Death felt more like a hardcore punk band than a metal act. I wonder how many calories were burned giving their little speeches about life in general and how too many of us are contributing to the current sorry state of affairs in the world.

  • MK: No doubt Napalm Death showed many of the young’uns in the crowd how to kill — and be political whilst doing so. Barney’s spastic stage antics deserve a second mention.

Battle Beast was nothing like the cartoons.

Mikko: Finland’s Battle Beast caters towards those that appreciate old-school heavy metal with galloping bass-lines. The music lingers somewhere between Judas Priest, Manowar and various Finnish power metal groups. Vocalist Nitte Valo provides a fresh, raspier take on female vocals that instantly draws connections to the ‘80s heavy metal world—before the unholy amalgamation between metal and Abba—where women weren’t afraid to show balls (say Hellion, Rock Goddess or Doro). Guitar shredder Anton Kabanen is everything that Manowar’s Mr. Karl Logan should be and then some. Good-spirited music in a live setting, but I think I’ll skip the albums.

  • MM: Battle Beast sounds like a throwback act so hellbent on nailing their sound that they’ve created an ultimate over-the-top metal parody. When I listened to them play, I felt my stomach starting to turn and my skin grow clammy with sweat. Must have been odd flashbacks of a night in a disco on a boat trip to Sweden, where I was absolutely wasted and flailing my limbs on the dance floor to some awful cover band playing Iron Maiden.
  • MK: Such negativity! Away with you! Actually, they should have chosen a different name — I half-expected to see people in animal costumes duking it out like it was the dawn of apocalypse. Damn, I miss my childhood action figures.


Matti: Running scared after hearing Battle Beast roar, I ended up indoors where Afgrund was about to climb onto the Musamaailma stage. Afgrund, a multi-national Nordic ensemble, played for what was most likely the smallest crowd at this year’s Tuska. The hall around stage four looked almost empty, with only a handful of hc-punk/hipster-looking people raising their tattoo branded arms and fists to greet the band. I think I caught the stench of their vinyl collections of Black Flag albums as I squeezed my ass into the narrow “photo pit” area. The small amount of attendees did not hold the band back though, as they opened a mixed can of whup-ass containing modern heavy hardcore, grind and black metal.

Sonata’s Elias Viljanen

Mikko: I’m starting to feel as if Sonata Arctica is stalking me. No matter where I go, or which shows I attend, somehow Tony Kakko and the rest of his merry band seem to be there as well. Look, I’ve got nothing against the group — they do what they do with skill, and Kakko is a likeable frontman. Hell, I secretly hold their debut album Ecliptica as one of the best pure power metal albums in the genre, period. However, enough was enough, and it was time for me to take a break before Poland’s biggest death metal act were due on stage.

On my quest to avoid Sonata, I found myself nodding my head in the shade of the third stage with Sweden’s Victims unleashing their aggression upon a dedicated crowd. From the little I heard, I became rather intrigued with the band’s explosive take on hardcore. Not a bad live act either. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for them. Also, I think the band got a decent boost in audience when it began to rain like a motherfucker (thanks Sonata!) and the crowd began finding refuge inside.

Swallow the Sun was swallowed by the color green

Matti: Struck by hunger, I don’t remember anything else about Swallow the Sun other than thinking that taking photos against backlight while smoke machines are going off full steam is a fucking drag. Also, there was this other notion of how Mikko Kotamäki had his lucky green cap on. I think he wore it during his set in 2010 Tuska with Barren Earth. Other than that, there wasn’t much else to note about their stage performance. Guess they did convey the needed sense of hopelessness and apathy that their music suggests.

Nergal followed Rob Dukes’ lead

Mikko: I was really expecting quite a bit from Behemoth—perhaps the outdoor setting was to blame—but unfortunately, they just didn’t quite reach the ferocity I expected. For a band that commands such a strong visual presence elsewhere, it all seemed a bit disappointing onstage, even if the musicians themselves were intimidating enough. Hell, Nergal’s short-haired look really works for him — it gives him a commanding Caesar-like presence.

Sure, the act was there musically, even if the set was slightly on the safe side. It was technical and impressive, and the riffs lend themselves to some proper headbanging action, but I’d still wager that the festival’s happier mood had a slightly poisoning effect on the show. Finland’s a hard place to be grim during the summer, and even during bad weather, there was plenty of light to drag the mood down. None the less, it was good to see Nergal look lively on stage.

For the Imperium tore the audience a new one

Meanwhile, For the Imperium was rocking the shit out of the smaller fourth stage. The band is still relatively unknown outside Finland, but over here, they’re making an impact of sorts, and after seeing the band live for the first time, I understand why. The whole band is a whirlwind of chaos, always and exhaustingly on the move onstage. The same goes for the actual music, which is complex but accessible at the same time, constantly shifting between jazzy tones, burst of aggression and catchier, pop-tinged hues. It’s quite telling that their roadie’s specialty seemed to be untangling badly-entwined cables. Definitely one of Finland’s most relevant live acts at the moment, or as they themselves joked: “We’re a shitty prog band. Sabaton is up soon.”

Matti: It was a breath of fresh air to watch these guys give it their all. There was definitely some good-spirited rock’n’roll antics going on, which brought the crowd alive straight from the get-go. I liked what I heard, even though at times it felt as if there were maybe too many different things happening, sound-wise. This in turn made me think that there might be a quick evolution ahead for these guys. Hard to predict where this will all end up, but they’ve got a lot of potential. They’re a very promising new band, and the guys seem to play with the right attitude.

Sabaton brought their own napalm

Mikko: I’ve been wanting to check out Sabaton in a live setting for ages now, but have never managed to do so. This time, I ran out of excuses as they were Saturday’s headliner. I finally got that off my bucket list. I’ve enjoyed the band since giving them a chance with their breakthrough album Art of War, and have had fun ever since with their blend of heavy/power metal and themes of war, decisive battles and human stupidity. The band’s albums feature plenty of songs that I presumed would fit the live setting perfectly. Turns out I was goddamn right. Take, for example, the slower singalong marathon “Price of a Mile” — almost a religious experience. Songs such as “White Death” and “Talvisota” had the Finnish audience pounding their fists up high. Not only does Sabaton offer plenty of chances for crowd interaction, the group’s material also caters towards nationalistic pride. That pretty much guarantees an epic heavy metal show, and Saturday’s set was just that: epic.

Sabaton had replaced most of its line-up not too long ago, and it was clear that the new guys were still being burned into the system. Even so, mainman Joakim Broden made up for any shortcomings with his energetic, good-spirited performance. When he’s running around the stage, riling up the audience and shooting the shit between songs, it’s clear that he’s living the ultimate heavy metal fantasy. Fantasy spiced with plenty of pyrotechnics.

The whole thing is nothing short of entertaining, even to those (I’d have to guess) who aren’t that fond of power metal. The show simply works on so many levels that it’s hard not to get carried away. It’s also pretty hilarious from a misanthropic perspective; the songs are all about death, war and humanity’s worst situations, yet here are people are singing along with the widest of smiles about a man killing hundreds of Russians (aforementioned “White Death”). Made the situation slightly absurd, if not cynically pleasing. It was a shame that Sabaton didn’t play “The Final Solution,” as it’s not only an excellent track, but it would have also been interesting to see if any of the Finnish newspapers or tabloids would have raised a shitstorm because of it.

Nonetheless, the band seemed to be enjoying themselves and Broden constantly kept reminding the audience how he had goosebumps. I think he mentioned being armed with an erect penis after some singalong as well. Excellent show, but Sabaton definitely needs to avoid Manowar’s mistakes. They shouldn’t repeat themselves from show to show (for example, according to YouTube, getting the audience to do ‘YMCA’ seems to be taking place at almost every show).

Nitpicks aside, Sabaton was Saturday’s highlight for me and all dissidents will be shot.

General Joakim Broden

Matti: Sabaton: A history of massacres, delivered with an upbeat tempo. Who could argue that the tragedy of war shouldn’t always be celebrated through song and dance? I wish Sabaton would start participating at the annual Eurovision song contest. Sabaton should take part in it from here to eternity and represent a different country each year. Then they could contribute a song about the selected nation’s history of violence and bloodshed, eventually building a bridge that would truly unite all of Europe. We would all come to terms with our past and own up to our present attitudes — namely, that we’re all a bunch of xenophobic, nationalist cunts. We could really start building a better future together as one, big, united clusterfuck.

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As expected, we’ve got more photos on our Facebook-page. Keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming final part.



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