Live Report - Tuska Open Air Metal Festival 2009 - Helsinki, Finland
Live Gig

Release year: 2009
Reviewed by Aleksie

It seemed like Mother Nature was working hand in hand with the gods of metal on the sunny Friday-afternoon that marked the beginning of Finland’s biggest annual metal festival, the Tuska Open Air. On paper, the 2009-edition wasn’t quite as stellar as its predecessor, but with 2008 boasting names like Slayer, Carcass and Morbid Angel, you couldn’t really be baffled at the “downgrade”. Even though Tuska has always been quite a versatile offering of metal with slight leanings towards a certain genre, intentional or not, this year the multitude of different styles was really apparent. From death metal to thrash to J-rock to metalcore to doom to folk metal to black metal…If you couldn’t find a band suiting your preferences this year, you’d probably be deaf.

Friday 26.6.

The opening ceremonies were handled with a heavy, heavy hand by Gojira. French metal has always been a bit of a blur to me with the exception of the quite good Heavenly, but with Gojira’s steamrolling brand of heaviness, the country’s reputation is in good hands. I think they mostly played stuff from The Way of All Flesh, good stuff. All That Remains put out a very energetic and fast-paced set to follow the brutal churn of the Frenchmen. Even though ATR’s brand of melodic metalcore didn’t get me grooving too much, the crowd was definitely digging them. The boys from Massachusetts seemed to be well impressed by their reception and pushed forth accordingly.

Every year in Tuska you may experience unfortunate problems in choosing between the two side stages, as the bands assigned to them always play in the exact same timeslots. This year, the first overlap of damnation was between Legion of the Damned and Rotten Sound. Granted, there would be a much greater chance for me to see the Finnish grind-merchants again before the Dutch thrash-patrol, but I had to run me some laps and check out both. High-energy beatdowns administered by both groups as the weekend’s share of pit-action was powerfully underway.

Following the rapidly blasting side stages, the main stage was taken over by the atmospheric meltdown of Neurosis. I’ve always thought of this band as an acquired taste, big time-fans absolutely worshipping them and many others not really knowing what to make of them. First off it was pretty clear that playing on the sun-lit main stage in scorching heat at 6:30 in the afternoon did not provide the band with the most accommodating backgrounds. As their ultra-heavy sludge dripped out of the PA-system, many less interested fans could be heard saying lines like “Is this supposed to be festival music”? Equally many fans could be found on message boards after Friday saying lines like “Talk about throwing diamonds to the swines with Neurosis playing for a crowd like that”. I could see the points of both sides and personally mainly thought that Through Silver In Blood sounded really damn cool live.

Unfortunately some work had to be done while Ensiferum and Black Dahlia Murder were dishing out their respective slabs of metal, but the disappointment was washed away when the glory of Immortal stepped on the main stage. Where Bruce Dickinson has “Scream for me” as a classic opening line, Abbath has “Fuck the sun”. High-larious. Besides playing a mean guitar and scowling like no other front man in metal, he was still the crab-walkin’ lord of the dance with passable firebreathing-skills as well. Horgh was awesome too. He’s horgh, dammit! Here’s what I think was their setlist:

-The Sun No Longer Rises
-Solarfall (YESSS!)
-Unholy Forces of Evil
-Sons of Northern Darkness
-Tyrants
-One By One
-Damned in Black
-Wrath From Above
-Unsilent Storms in the North Abyss
-Beyond the North Waves
-Battles in the North
-Blashyrkh!!!

Overall, Friday was a mixed genrebag of good shows – nothing mindblowing, but good led proudly by the corpsepaints of Immortal. Onwards we marched to a most glorious Saturday!

Saturday 27.7.

Remember what I said about the side stages in Tuska causing troublesome choices? Well gawd dammit, on Saturday there wasn’t a single side stage slot without a painful overlap! Deathchain and Dauntless, two excellent local death/thrash-groups opened up the stages. The brilliant Finnish metal patrol that is Profane Omen was slapped right there with Jon Oliva’s Pain. Evile, a band whose brand of thrash revival I was very keen on hearing, was paired with Korpiklaani, whose brand of ultra-danceable folk metal is ideal festival music. If these pairs weren’t enough, the most aggravating pairing of all was the overlap of Pestilence and Firewind. Sure, they’re two totally different bands genre-wise, so I can see why they were in these slots, but I love both of ‘em! I know, really not that tragic when considering that all of ‘em are great bands but it’s still a pain, especially for fans of many types.

Before the overlapping stages even started though, the day was kicked off by the highly spirited thrash-beating of Gama Bomb. No wheels were reinvented but dammit if it didn’t get the hungover and drowsy crowds going for a frenzied day. As I was wearing a Union Jack as a cape for the entire weekend, I wasn’t sure if displaying it in the pit in front of this Irish band would’ve been a great idea, so I stayed behind. Just in case they had any nationalist preferences or whatnot, harhar.

As expected, Deathchain and Dauntless both pulled off excellent sets of deaththrashing madness, if only they weren’t too very similar Finnish bands playing at the same time, gaaar! This pain was somewhat alleviated by the brilliant energy of Sabaton. These Swedish war-metallions left no one cold and they were very clearly impressed by the massive crowd response and chants of the band’s name during their set. Heck, I was surprised at it all! I knew they had many great albums (PRIMO VICTORIA!) but the audience got deafening at times, only fuelled further by the tight-playing band in their camouflage pants and chestplates (OK, only the singer – still awesome, though). Their setlist:

- intro: Sun Tzu Says
- Ghost Division
- The Art Of War
- 40:1
- Cliffs Of Gallipoli
- Attero Dominatus
- Panzerkampf
- Panzer Battallion
- Talvisota
- The Price Of A Mile
- Into The Fire
- Primo Victoria!!!
- Metal Machine / Metal Crüe

Unfortunately for Profane Omen, the Mountain King was calling for me too loudly that I had no other choice and no where to go from the front row as Jon Oliva led his men to pull off a great set in their criminally short timeslot. With only 45 minutes to rule, they understandably emphasised Savatage-material greatly. Not complaining at all, but I’m a big fan of the JOP-stuff as well. Of course, how could you go wrong with a set like this:

- City Beneath The Surface
- Sirens
- Through The Eyes Of The King
- Chance
- Gutter Ballet
- Believe
- Jesus Saves
- Hall Of The Mountain King

While Oliva doesn’t possess the smooth rock star-physique of his Gutter Ballet-days, his voice was still magic. It was really cool to see old time Savatage-fans in the front row with their Criss Oliva-shirts in tow actually breaking into tears during Believe which Jon dedicated to his brother. The troublesome haunted keyboard (Jon said it himself) tried to give the show a bad aftertaste, but to no avail. The Pain-dudes played very tightly and supported the man with the pipes brilliantly. If you have the chance to see JOP, do it!

I wouldn’t want to sound like a smart ass, but The Faceless is one of the most accurately named bands on the planet. Those guys could play like no tomorrow but I couldn’t remember a single note from the gig. Their singer was really appreciative of the crowd support as I think he was sick or whatnot, so points for him. A shame that their musical offerings were some of the biggest examples of ability over substance I’d ever heard.

Perhaps it was the anticipation for Evile but their “routine” treatment of catchy thrash metal didn’t quite reach the manic vibes that were produced by their “island rivals” Gama Bomb. Korpiklaani on the other hand was exactly as expected, a full-blooded party band that got the Inferno-stage jumping and dancing like a bunch of sugar-rushed monkeys. The main stage-presence of Amorphis kept the white and blue flying strong as the band plowed through a powerful mixture of classics like Magic and Mayhem and The Castaway and cuts from the brilliant new Skyforger-album, Majestic Beast and Sampo being the finest representatives. I can't begin to put in words how much Tomi Joutsen on the mic has revitalized Amorphis, both in the studio and on stage. It's ridiculously awesome.

As much as Firewind seemed to be heading for a great show, opening up nicely with Head Up High, I had to vacate the heroic anthems to see something veeeery much anticipated – Pestilence! The Dutch legends of techdeath did not disappoint as they grinded out a brutal collection of tunes throughout their recorded history. I’m not completely sure if they pulled anything from Spheres but the riff-roaring choices from, for example, Out of the Body to Land of Tears to Feeding Frenzy from the new Resurrection Macabre-album were pure gold. Top the songs off with flawless playing, Patrick Mameli’s unforgiving vocals and a Tony Choy-bass solo (divine!) and you’d think the best gig of this year’s festival just took place.

But no. No-HOOO! This year’s Tuska was topped by the crossover-hardcorethrashspeedgroove-call-them-what-you-will veterans from the good ol’ US of A, Suicidal Tendencies. I gotta say, I didn’t completely see this coming. The band was insidiously tight, going from a hardcore/thrash metal bash into a groovy funk-beat at the snap of a finger. On top of the skilled players, front man Mike Muir was still the embodiment of the persistent social outcast, preaching his lungs out every damn minute and getting the crowd riled up to circle up the biggest mosh pit I’ve ever dared to enter (Daaamn it was fun). When all the favourites like You Can’t Bring Me Down, Possessed to Skate, I Saw Mommy, War Inside My Head, I Shot Reagan, Feel Like Shit…Déjà Vu, Lost Again, Subliminal, etc. got the gears rolling, there was no stopping the adrenaline. During the final, Pledge Your Allegiance, Mr. Muir quite humbly invited the crowd on stage and the fastest climbers filled the main stage up. On estimate, around 100-150 people were on stage rhythmically chanting “ST! ST! ST!” with the crowd of thousands to show love to these crazy Californians. Suicidal is a band that I’ve often perceived as fun but nothing absolutely amazing on record but they have the kind of live show that you just want to experience again and again. No fancy sets or special effects, just precise playing, great tunes and energy and just a massive ability to connect with the audience in Mike Muir. Woah.

Sunday 28.6.

OK, I need to apologize for pulling a cop out, but seriously, I don’t remember much about Sunday’s bands because they just had absolutely nothing on Suicidal Tendencies. Eluveitie was there…as were Mucc and Girugämesh from Japan. Interesting curiosities. My Dying Bride played and they were OK. So was our Finnish squadron of amalgam metal, Stam1na. Well they're always brillaint live but still, no one stood a cycoing chance. A shame in, but then again, being the last day I was pretty wiped out anyhoo, so I understandably autopiloted back into reality and the coming weeks of just working and working some more. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If there’s one festival a year in Finland that you’d make your way to see, make it Tuska Open Air.

Killing Songs :
Aleksie quoted no quote
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