Live Report - Tuska Open Air Metal Festival 2010 - Helsinki, Finland (feat. world premiere of Ziltoid the Omniscient - The Musical!)
Live Gig

Release year: 2010
Reviewed by Aleksie

To put it briefly, on paper this year’s edition of Finland’s most well-known summer metal festival offered sheer awesomeness. So much of it that beyond the stellar line-up, my only silly gripe when heading to the Kaisaniemi Park in the heart of Helsinki (the regular spot which hosted the festival for the final time before it moves slightly north to better accommodate the ever-growing crowds) was that there was even too much of it! Tuska’s annual system of alternating between one band playing on the Radio Rock main stage and two bands playing simultaneously on the two side stages (named Sue and Inferno in respect to their namesake Finnish music magazines) would inevitably cause me to miss complete sets from one awesome band or the other, even if I’d run between them to catch parts of both. Cases in point this year: Ihsahn and Obituary going at the same time on Friday while Overkill and Bloodbath duked it out on Saturday. Decisions, decisions!

Friday 2.7.

Walking in on Friday, I made the critical mistake of not coming in early enough and being crushed in the torturous waiting game that is even the press cue. I had already acknowledged that I’d miss the festival-opening bursts of Barren Earth and The Arson Project, but when the slug-like line stole over half of Testament’s set from me as well, one could definitely say that things could’ve gotten a lot nicer start. On the slight bright side, right in front of me in line was a man looking a lot like Mr. Jari Mäenpää, formerly of Ensiferum- and still of Wintersun-fame. This was confirmed when a random fan came to shake his hand, thank for all the contributions and also ask about the recording situation of the seemingly Chinese Democracy-rivalling Time. As far as Mr. Mäenpää divulged to the fan, I quite certainly caught that some songs were already finalized or thereabouts and the process was moving slowly but steadily (told in seemingly good spirits). As a fan of Wintersun’s debut, this was definitely good news. Hopefully the well-anticipated Time’s appearance will be counted in months rather than years from this summer forward.

As good as Testament sounded from the line with ye olde favourites like Into The Pit and Practice What You Preach mixed in with newer monsters like D.N.R., I fortunately caught the added visuals for the finale of the set consisting of the über-aggressive likes of Three Days In Darkness and The Formation Of Damnation.

While Insomnium was whipping up a doomdeathy storm of melancholy and local metallic old school hardcore heroes Rytmihäiriö was vibrantly wailing their tales of alcohol-fueled homicides, it was time to get me a snazzy Nevermore T-shirt before Tarot started grumbling on the main stage. The Hietala Brothers and their hairy compatriots were in fine, tight form with a setlist that consisted exclusively of their newer material (the oldest slices coming from Suffer Our Pleasures - Rider Of The Last Day is still so awesome).

Older fans might've been justifiably peeved and I can't say I didn't long for the likes of Angels Of Pain and Do You Wanna Live Forever, but their newer stuff kills damn well as well. A special treat during this gig was a full-fledged choir joining the band on almost all of the songs for a lot of added oomph! to the harmonized layers of vocals. Something probably very much lost on non-Finnish audience members was that earlier in the spring, Marco participated in a televised singing competition called "Choir War", where several top Finnish musicians helmed a choir of their own in a competition where one choir was eliminated from the program weekly - and it was the same choir of his from the program that got on stage with Tarot on this night. Marco's group came in second in the competition, losing the finale, but at least his choir got the prize of singing on the Tuska main stage. Not too shabby in my books.

Not being a big fan of either Pain, Swallow The Sun or the next main stage act, Satyricon, it was a good spot to hit the standard-issue expensive watering grounds of the beer tents. Through the lightly foamed haze of my pint, I did manage to see that Satyr had a very amusing mic stand shaped like a big, demonic trident.

After the malt I lounged for a while on the grassy knoll perched above the Sue-stage, where Ihsahn (yes, naturally of Emperor-fame) and his solo band soon started a rousing set with On Barren Lands. It sounded damn good but unfortunately way before his set ended (as I was later told to my dismay of missing it, with Thus Spake The Nightspirit acting as the encore), my body forced me to mosey over to the main stage to get prime positioning for the day’s headliner, the massively intriguing world premiere of Devin Townsend’s on stage-performance of his superb space musical, Ziltoid the Omniscient.

And what can I say except that it was a damn spectacle. While it must be pointed out that the zaniest rumours of massive stage sets, choirs and orchestras were exaggerated, there was a lot of additional fun layered around the music itself. The performance began with the infamous Meatball-mouthpuppet video blaring on the large video screen beside the stage, followed by a mash-up video of the VengaboysWe Like To Party featuring a jamming Ziltoid. I don’t particularly enjoy that song but dammit, it worked here very well.
A large Ziltoid-masked man came on stage midway to the set in the classic vein of Iron Maiden’s Eddie to rip on some guitar with Devin and later on, the devious space invader appeared on video screen to challenge Devin into a guitar solo duel. The mad genius of Canada accepted and the ensuing battle, especially the mid-solo banter and taunting between the participants, was without a doubt the funniest moment of the year for me. Oh yeah, and what about Chuck motherluving Billy of Testament special guesting as the Planet Smasher, complete with a ginormous cape and a sceptor made out of a coat rack, growling his parts in brilliantly world-destroying fashion? Greatness.
In addition to playing through the entire Ziltoid-album, the band culled two gems from Devin’s solo records – Kingdom, which was played right after intermission and the set-finalizing Deep Peace, which made the crowd go absolutely bananas. If I may go soft on ya’ll for a moment, the ending of the song, with the entire crowd chanting “It’s all going away now”, was a seriously touching moment and a superb ending for an awesome show and the day in general. Dont worry folks, you'll see the DVD, and maybe even more. I may have been delirious with euphoria, but I distinctly remember Devin threatening on stage that this performance could keep on going over the world and if so, "Finland is to blame for it". If so, you're welcome, world.

Saturday 3.7.

The second day opened up with a few yummy gulps of tar schnapps and question prepping to what was the first slightly-unnerving interview I had coming to me in a long time – Nevermore’s singer Warrel Dane, pretty much my favourite metal singer out there today (neck and neck with Matt Barlow). Not much to spoil at this point, you’ll get to reading the interview eventually. Very cool (and as expected, just a teensy bit eccentric under the coolness) guy, if seeming slightly flu-ridden at the moment. During the interview, Hypocrisy initiated the pits on the main stage and the background sound of the tape was distorted appropriately. After coming out I had to go for a cold one to settle down instead of seeing Crowbar or local hybrid headbangers, FM2000 up close. Gotta love those fanboy-shivers.

EXCLUSIVE: The magical fanboy-moment of Mr. Dane choking my chicken.

Said shivers were in a way kept up but in another way shaken off due to the massive crowd-activities by the next main stage mauler – The Devin Townsend Project. That’s right, maestro Townsend played TWO separate shows on back-to-back days at this year’s festival. That alone with Nevermore made this the greatest Tuska ever. To be honest, while the spectacle of the Ziltoid-stage show was great, I was anticipating this Project-gig even more – purely for the musical side of going through Townsend’s immensely good solo material. From the cuts off of his latest and awesome record Addicted (man how good did he sing on Supercrush) to ye olde gems like Deadhead, Truth and – good god hell yes! – Earth Day, this was to be my favourite performance of the festival. And Nevermore hadn’t even played yet! The crowd once again went über-bananas when Life closed the show. Unhinged jumping throughout the crowd, very loud singalongs and Devin dropping his pants during the solo and playing until the end of the set in his boxers. Gotta love the man’s sense of humour, which shined throughout the festival. Let us be proud of being huge metal nerds! It’s pretty apparent that having dropped the booze and other substances, Townsend is in a good place and enjoying touring again. Long may he roam. The Project's entire setlist as I remember went thusly:

Earth Day
Seventh Wave

Kamelot had a tall order as the next main stage-act to keep up with Devin’s posse but the YankNorwegian-prog power coalition held the fort nicely with their pyro bombs and grandiose melodies. The new track they played from the upcoming Poetry for the Poisoned-album, The Great Pandemonium, didn’t leave much of a mark yet except the impression that the proggyness will be upped on the new record (which is damn fine by me). And I must say that Center of the Universe is one of the finest power metal anthems of the last ten years.

It was a damn shame to consciously miss out on both Overkill and Bloodbath, but I cannot tell a lie – the prospect of tearing my head through Nevermore’s main stage-set from the front row was too enticing. Of course there’s always a wait, but there are several ways of amusing yourself even when pressed together nearly like sardines up front. For example, when the photographers came out minutes before the beginning, myself and a friend of mine noticed that one of them was wearing a Jurassic Park-cap. So nearly spontaneously we started to point at the guy and chant the movie’s theme song (one of numerous divine pieces from maestro John Williams). Soon enough, he turned around and realizing what the pointing was all about, chuckled with the rest of us.

And while missing (especially) Overkill was a bummer, I have to say it was worth it for the grinder Nevermore put on to close the day’s on-stage festivities. The band was mercilessly precise on all fronts and even though Warrel Dane looked peculiarly out of things from time to time when not on the mic, whenever it was his time to thrust forth the magic from his lungs, the man was on. As is usual with festival sets, their time was cut way too short, as they didn’t even get to pulling tracks from The Politics Of Ecstasy, but it was damn commendable that concerning the cuts from albums after that gem, they went for the jugular. Inside Four Walls, Beyond Within, The Heart Collector, Narcosynthesis, Born, TGE, Enemies Of Reality…all blended in powerfully with the new material that thrashed the front row proper and I can only guess what happened mere meters behind me in the pit. I do have to say that Emptiness Unobstructed still didn’t sit with me as a killer but with other cuts from their new album (The Obsidian Conspiracy) like the title track and The Termination Proclamation, one “just good” song in the middle won’t do much harm. The second time out of the two shows Nevermore has now played in Finland that I’ve witnessed from front row and I demand more!! Here’s the recollected setlist:

Beyond Within
The Termination Proclamation
The River Dragon Has Come
Inside Four Walls
Emptiness Unobstructed
Your Poison Throne
The Heart Collector
This Godless Endeavor
The Obsidian Conspiracy
Enemies of Reality

Sunday 4.7.

As usual, on sunday morning the vibes were turning slightly downwards. As great as many bands yet to come would be with the assorted fun attached, two days of scorching heat and heady headbanging had taken its toll on yours truly. But there was a job to begin with! After few strong gulps of ale, hearing the danceable mayhem emitted by one of the day's openers, Finntroll, I was past the gates (only abandoning most of my hope). I had to find Nuclear Blast's Finnish representative, who would direct me towards Nile's throat-ripping guitar wizard Dallas Toler-Wade. The interview with him went well (very laid-back dude), revealing among many other things that not only is he a big Rush-fan, but if forced to choose between 2112 and Moving Pictures, he would take Permanent Waves. The rest of said chat is forthcoming!

Entering the spilling fields, the PMRC-baiting veteran Blackie Lawless was leading W.A.S.P. onto the main stage. As many utterly classic songs as they have under their belts (along with one of the best metal concept albums out there with The Crimson Idol), I was not expecting much from this gig. W.A.S.P. had played Tuska previously in 2007 and in politeness, that gig was largely an exercise in phoning it in (no matter how commendably the band's bass player Mike Duda leaped around the stage). Maybe it was in contrast to this memory, maybe not, but Blackie's crew played an entertaining gig. The hits rained down from On Your Knees (paired as a medley with the band’s awesome cover of The Who’s The Real Me) to L.O.V.E. Machine and Wild Child while personally I was very pleased with the inclusion of Chainsaw Charlie (Murders in the New Morgue). During I Wanna Be Somebody, Blackie’s crowd singalong stretched into a slightly more elaborate form with the masses split in two for some volume-based competition, which made for a very cool audial despite the masses at large probably going on reserve generators at this point of the festival. In short, well done W.A.S.P..

Next up, the Inferno-tent was offering a rare treat from Warmen, the self-proclaimed project centered around keyboard player Janne Warman (of Children Of Bodom-fame) and his guitar-slinging brother Antti. Keeping the instrumentals to a very low number, the band ripped through a delightfully sung set that featured guest vocalists ranging from Timo Kotipelto to Alexi Laiho. The rarity of the moment stems from the apparent fact that this was overall the fourth live show Warmen have played in their career – a fact amusingly announced on their “Warmen World Tour 2000 - 2010” t-shirts. Pretty cool to know that I’ve now seen 25 % of a band’s 10-year world tour.

Next up on the main stage, the pits were opening (to hell or otherwise) as good ol’ Cannibal Corpse came in to serve supreme death metallic mayhem as one could only expect. I often think of CC as the AC/DC of death metal – going in to see them live, one pretty much knows that there aren’t going to be that many surprises coming, but you know it’ll not only be awesome, but a quintessential meat n’ potatoes-representation of their particular style that very few could replicate.
Both Corpsegrinder’s endurance and Alex Webster’s accuracy on the bass amidst all that headbanging continued to baffle me while the guitar tandem of Pat O’Brian and Rob Barrett were blasting out riffs like hatchets to the head. Classic all the way.

The deathy delights didn’t end there as the blast beats and bludgeoning riffage were commendably kept up at the Inferno-stage by America´s favourite egyptometalophilian sons, Nile. Raising the stakes of seemingly inhumane instrumental derringdoo while singing, the fiercely moshing troops before them responded with feverish fists and heaving heads throughout the band’s break-neck setlist (which was I believe as follows:)

Sacrifice Unto Sebek
Hittite Dung Incantation
Serpent Headed Mask
Papyrus Containing the Spell to Preserve Its Possessor Against Attacks From He Who Is In The Water
4th Arra of Dagon
Permitting The Noble Dead To Descend To The Underworld
Lashed To The Slave Stick
Black Seeds Of Vengeance

The task of capping off one heck of a high-quality festival was appropriately given to Megadeth, who clearly was the biggest overall name on the card. First off I gotta say that the current line-up of the band is absolutely vicious when it comes to playing tightly and zeroing in on all those twisted riffs and tempo tricks. Mustaine paired with Chris Broderick makes for some dazzling guitar work while the pairing of Junior Ellefson and Shawn Drover keeps a mean beat supporting the tornado of widdling. The only minus was that Elder Dave’s voice wasn’t in full form today. All the lower-tone sections and snarls went really well but whenever Mustaine went for the higher octave he sounded clearly worn and even out of tune for brief periods. I highly doubt that his voice is gone because just three years ago at the ´07 Sauna Open Air-festival he sounded great across the board so maybe this was a bad day or the tour has been taking a toll. In any case, with a setlist of hits from different eras and a good portion of Rust In Peace played in the vein of their recent tour celebrating the masterpiece’s anniversary (Five Magics and Dawn Patrol were very nice surprises), I couldn’t be bothered that much by the voice. As an amateur guitarist, the string-mastery on display alone was a worthy finisher for the activities on the festival grounds. To recollect Megadeth’s full setlist:

Wake Up Dead
In My Darkest Hour
Skin O' My Teeth
Holy Wars...The Punishment Due
Hangar 18
Five Magics
Poison Was the Cure
Tornado of Souls
Dawn Patrol
Angry Again
A Tout Le Monde
Sweating Bullets
Symphony Of Destruction
Peace Sells (with Holy Wars-reprise)

All in all, Tuska Open Air Metal Festival 2010 completely lived up to the hype I had implanted into my own head. While I could’ve enjoyed a dash more of melodic power metal in the overall line-up, I was brilliantly entertained on each of the three festival days, something that hasn’t been a given in the past. Although the festival will now change hosting grounds from the naturally pleasing forest-scenes of Kaisaniemi Park to, shall we say, slightly more industrial surroundings, I can’t recommend the event enough for all of our foreign readers. Size-wise, Tuska isn’t up there with the likes of Wacken or Hellfest, but by jove, in both quality and atmosphere, it is always a marvellous weekend of heavy flappin’ metal.

Killing Songs :
Aleksie quoted no quote
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